Tag Archives: Western Australian Locations

A memory walk through Cottesloe of the past

I never miss reading Robert Drewe’s column The Other Side in the Westweekend liftout of Saturday’s West Australian newspaper every week, because I have come to love the city that I grew up in and live in, and Drew’s pieces either provide a good laugh or an insight into the history of Perth, often both.

I couldn’t help noticing that in last week’s piece (June 13th 2015), Drewe describes some experiences that are a version of the method of loci memory technique. He writes of experiencing visual memories of past scenes of now-demolished Perth landmarks as he travels past the locations where they once served the people of Perth. Hamburger vendors on Mounts Bay Road and the Cottesloe foreshore are some examples given. I’m sure such experiences are common, and this is why anyone is able to exploit this type of memory experience using this ancient technique for memorizing a sequence of items encoded as visual memories. I have a special interest in the method of loci as I was I believe the first to describe, at this blog, a spontaneous experience experienced by myself and synaesthete kin in which we spontanously encode synaesthesia-like associations between concepts and visual memories of scenes, in a way that is similar to, but not the same as, the method of loci. My theory is that us synaesthetes have a greater tendency to memorize than most people, to the degree that we encode very robust long-term memories unintentionally and spontanously, just from being a passenger in a moving vehicle vacantly looking at passing scenery while listening to interesting news or stories on the car radio.

Drewe’s column unearths lost memories for readers week after week, which accounts for it’s appeal, so it is no surprise that his writing strikes a resonance with a piece that I wrote for this blog a while ago, detailing my inner visions of past year’s displays overlaying the current year’s display at specific well-used display sites at the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition at Cottesloe Beach. Like Drewe, I can’t be at that spot on the Cottesloe foreshore without “seeing” Van Eileen’s hamburger joint, with the semi-circular deeply sandy and untidy carpark area surrounding it. The odd thing is that my memory of how that spot is currently landscaped does not come to mind with any ease. Even if I was there, at that very spot, right now, I suspect that the green and well-tended vista would not seem quite as real as the memory, with associated sand in my shoes. It isn’t the real Cottesloe.

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Another type of thing that can be recognized visually, with useful applications

Do I have this right? The daughter who had been callously abandoned by the Englishman who migrated to Australia and became the Chief Librarian at the Reid Library at the University of Western Australia discovered a letter that was supposed to have been written by herself, but she knew she hadn’t written it, and she recognized the handwriting as that of her father’s second wife, who was the Perth literary identity and celebrated Australian writer Elizabeth Jolley? Well, I guess if I have that right it proves the personal importance and the forensic and historical utility of another type of visual recognition and visual memory – handwriting recognition. I doubt that personality can be read in handwriting, but it certainly gives a good clue to the identity of the writer.

I was once a student at UWA and I’ve spent many a happy hour reading at the Reid Library. I’ve also volunteered as a study subject a number of times at “U-dub”. I also studied at the institution of higher learning which produced the calendar shown behind Elizabeth Jolley in a photo shown in the Australian Story episode linked to below. In the 1980s I lived next door to people who knew Jolley as a friend and who celebrated her literary career. Am I shocked or surprised that a hero of 1980s Perth had a definitely sinister side? Nope. I’m also old enough to remember watching friends and family waving and cheering on the footpath on a bend of Stirling Highway in Cottesloe, some time in the 1980s, as an open car was driven past carrying a group of local heroes. I can still see Alan Bond’s smiling face like it was yesterday. Was Brian Burke also in that car? Perth has always been one crooked town.

http://www.abc.net.au/austory/specials/lettersfromelizabeth/default.htm

A super-recognizer moment

I’ve been looking at stuff from the WA Museum and Lost Perth on Facebook, and there was a photo of the Perth fashion designer Aurelio Costarella taken with a department store Santa Claus when Mr Costarella was seven years old. The instant I saw the photo I recognized the santa (or the Father Christmas as we would have said back then) as the same one who was in a old Santa’s knee shot taken of me when I was around ten years old. I always thought of this santa as looking a bit too much like the character Zachary Smith in the 1960s TV show Lost in Space. I think that is what we might call a super-recognizer moment. Lost Perth also featured a photo of the old Bairds department store which was in the Perth CBD. I can still remember the interior of that store like I was there yesterday, and I think that might be related to the fact that it is one of the many memories of scenes that I experience as synaesthesia concurrents evoked by thinking about specific concepts. There’s nothing like an old photo, and a sometimes-photographic memory, to bring the past alive.

https://www.facebook.com/wamuseum

https://www.facebook.com/LostPerth

Another Perth sculpture depicting a personified object

Whimsical sculpture at Glendalough Train Station, title and artist unknown

Sculpture at Glendalough Railway Station

If anyone knows the details of this whimsical sculpture at Glendalough Railway Station on the Joondalup Line which looks as though it is made of bronze, please let me know. Tourists do like to use it as a seat, which is a bit of fun. I guess the inspiration was the phrase “legs of a chair”.

Scenes, scenes, scenes, my idle thoughts are filled with scenes

While trying to get my finger into the groove on the inner side of sticks of celery to wash them properly scenes of Leederville around the area of the Luna Cinema and the Leederville TAFE or tech or whatever they call it these days flashes into my mind automatically. There is no logical or temporal connection between celery and Leederville that I know of. This is just another example of my fine motor task – visual place memory synaesthesia. I named it myself. As far as I know I’m the first person to ever describe this type of synaesthesia in detail. I experience it all the time, and it is such an ordinary part of my life that I barely notice it. I’ve also described other types of synaesthesia that are either triggered by seeing scenes or which have visual memories of scenes as the surprising thing that is triggered by doing things such as household manual chores or thinking about particular concepts or reading or listening to a narrative story or non-fiction account that has scenes in it.

The stuff of thought is scenes and visualizations. In my opinion the front of the brain is over-rated for importance in thought compared to the back end and the under-side of the brain, which does visual processing. I believe we need to take a new LOOK at the way the brain works.

Another sculpture of personified fast food

small sculpture of personified soft-serve ice cream cones at a new playground in Western Australia

Cool for Kids by Judith Forrest, located at Agora Village Square Park, Trinity. Alkimos, Western Australia

a playground at Trinity at Alkimos Western Australia
Playground at Agora Village Square Park, Trinity at Alkimos.

Macca's burger monster sculpture on drive-thru bollard

Burger monster sculpture on drive-thru bollard at a McDonalds restaurant

Scene at sunset from picnic seating at the playground at Agora Village Square Park, Trinity at Alkimos.

Scene at sunset from picnic seating at the playground at Agora Village Square Park, Trinity at Alkimos.

I don’t know what inspires a sculptor to create a work depicting a piece of fast food with human characteristics, but I think it does demonstrate how much the personification of things that aren’t persons is a ubiquitous part of human psychology, not only for those of us who naturally personify numbers and letters with one variation of synaesthesia. Judith Forrest might be horrified if I compare her work with those cute hamburgers with faces that decorate the tops of poles in the drive-thrus of McDonalds restaurants, but I will anyway. Another odd fact which I can’t explain is that this new playground isn’t the only one in the Perth metro area which features one or more sculptures of personified objects. The Piney Lakes Sensory Playground south of the river includes many striking and whimsical sculptures including some personified letters of the alphabet, which for me, a multi-synaesthete with ordinal-linguistic personification, have a special appeal. I think those sculptures might be the work of Anne Fine, and I’ve written about them in the past.

The inclusion of sculptures in a new playground is some indication of the level of quality of this new property development. I’ve spent many a happy hour supervising kids in WA playgrounds, but I think this small playground is the best example I’ve seen of bringing the beauty of the natural local landscape, flora and fauna into a park and playground area. This is an attractive, intelligently-made playspace with play equipment that kids genuinely enjoy, and recreational areas for families that are a pleasure to use. The only issue is a lack of toilets, but I guess that is because this park was created for local residents. If you sit still, tiny blue wrens can be seen darting about in the bushes of WA coastal native plants around the playground at sunset. I wish the Opportunity Playspace on Scenic Drive in Wanneroo (Rotary Park) was a bit more like this wonderful playground. I don’t know exactly who created the Agora Village Square Park, but I’d like to say you’ve done a top job.

Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe Beach, memories and the method of loci go together so naturally

Even though I no longer live near Cottesloe, I make a point of visiting Sculpture by the Sea every year, with at least one of our kids in tow. We love it, and we love swimming at Cott Main Beach (not too deep though, we aren’t that daring). In the last few years I’ve visited with the child of ours who has as strong an interest in the sculptures as I do, so I’ve been able to take my time to really appreciate the pieces, and in doing this to memorize the sculptures seen, in context in their locations. This means that as I tour through the various highly memorable locations along the foreshore of one of Perth’s oldest beaches, I get to visually experience things that are there, and also things that once were there at that exact location. The organizers of the exhibition unavoidably re-use many specific locations for situating sculptures from year to year, so when I look at a sculpture I also often see in my mind’s eye a sculpture that was at that spot last year, or maybe in a year before that. This is an example of the unconscious or unintentional employment of the method of loci memory technique. I have written other posts at his blog about similar experiences of mine and our children in which we have memorized stuff with this or a similar method by accident, and I have even given a name to this phenomenon; involuntary method of loci memorization or IMLM for short.

Standing and looking at many locations along the Cottesloe Main Beach foreshore also evokes memories of family and personal visits to the beach in past years, in addition to the over-laying of more recent memories of the annual sculpture exhibition which has been operating in Cottesloe since 2005. Memories evoked include the time we ate fish and chips there when we were still unmarried, the day I unexpectedly met an elderly aunt (she’s long-dead now), then paddling with her and being shocked by finding a scallop that was unexpectedly alive, memories of many visits with my mother, a sibling and a grandmother which are sometimes also evoked by listening to a specific piece of music from the 1980s, and memories of swimming with my sibling at night in the cold fresh-water pool that was once situated near the groyne, the water tasting strangely sweet following the taste of salt water from swimming in the sea. I could point out the specific locations where I saw the dead whale and also where I touched the rough skin of a large dead shark that someone had displayed like a trophy at the shoreline, both events witnessed when I was a child. There probably isn’t a public place in Perth that evokes as many memories for me as Cottesloe Beach. If there is a neuron or a location within my synaesthete brain “for” Cottesloe Beach, it is surely thickly surrounded by many connections.

The 10th annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition at Cottesloe will be open from March 7th to March 24th 2014. I can’t wait.  http://www.sculpturebythesea.com/exhibitions/cottesloe.aspx

Doubts that legendary memory performer had any advice for prosopagnosics

On the weekend we visited “the hills”. Communities in picturesque forest locations a bit away from the city tend to have a lot of arts and crafts and historical attractions and also lots of second-hand book shops. They are a lot like Fremantle, but not a port and there’s less foreign tourists and probably not nearly as many junkies. Can any community have too much “arts and crafts”? I think it is possible. Why paint life badly when you could be experiencing it instead? Browsing second-hand bookshops is also a questionable use of time, but I can’t keep out of them. I know the vast majority of their stock has a value that is close to landfill, but now and then I come across a forgotten book that adds something unique to a current interest. In one second-hand bookshop I spotted an old, stained and overpriced copy of a book about recognizing people written by the legendary mnemonist Harry Lorayne, whose specialty was memorizing the names of people in the audience in incredible quantities, presumably mentally linking names with faces.

For a person with a scientific interest in face memory, a performer like Lorrayne is of interest. How did he do it? Did he have superior face memory? Did he have a technique for improving face memory? I didn’t buy the book by Lorrayne, but I scanned through it to get an idea what all of the chapters were about, and as far as I can tell, there’s no technique in the book except  mnemonic techniques for creating and memorizing visual images that are visual-conceptual mnemonics for linking people’s names to their faces. As far as I can tell Lorayne’s techniques are all about linking names with faces, but offer no tips or help in visually memorizing the faces. As far as I can tell, Lorrayne takes normal face memory in the reader for granted, so I doubt that a prosopagnosic would find anything to help in his book. I can imagine that a face-blind person might have bought this book in the hope that it would help, and be left disappointed and confused. We should be very grateful to the researchers in psychology and neuroscience who are giving us more and more real information and advice about face memory and prosopagnosia and other perceptual abilities and disabilities. Reliable information, useful tests and the latest research findings can be found through the internet. Ignorance should be left behind in dusty old second-hand book shops.

Plan to use CCTV and crowd-sourced face recognition to shame Highgate street-whore customers

City of Vincent mayor Alannah MacTiernan said “she wanted the CCTV footage featuring the faces and vehicle licence plates of kerb crawlers to be released publicly in a bid to shame them and deter others”. Ordinary law-abiding citizens have our faces viewed and recorded whenever we go out in public in the city and much of the suburbs, so I don’t see why images of kerb-crawlers in public places shouldn’t also be recorded and scrutinized.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/wa/16584880/plan-to-shame-kerb-crawlers/

Swans

Here’s an odd observation from a young child who has since infancy displayed an odd talent at visual recognition of things that are barely noticeable, possible synaesthesia and a marked tendency toward pareidolia.

While travelling in a booster seat at the back of a car the child was looking at the road directory. The child declared that she knew why there are swans on the Swan River. The child was looking at a map of the Perth Water section of the Swan River. She insisted that when the swans were flying around, they look down and spot a section of river that looks like the shape of a swan, which gives them a nice feeling of familiarity, so they fly down and land there. You can see this if you look at the map, but I never would have picked the swan shape unless I had it pointed out to me. Kids!