Geek in Thought

The Deafinite Response

The first time I ever put in a hearing aid it felt like I had experienced a 6th sense. Something like a third eye.  It was always hidden yet in plain site. And it was horrible. No one wants to speak to ghosts, and no one wants to hear everyone’s thoughts. So why would I want to be able to hear absolutely everything that happened around me?

There’s a short cartoon that stuck with me for a long time in Drip Drippy Donald (1948)  Donald Duck struggles to sleep. And if you haven’t watched this before please do so as it’s still very funny.  As continuous events prevent him falling asleep, but especially a while a tap drips, and with the dripping that becomes an increasingly irate Donald struggling to sleep.  The tap never finds new and innovative ways to keep him awake.

I have never had this problem.  My sleep at best is disturbed from an open blind, but never a dripping tap.

But it’s the best way I can convey why those little noises become so obtrusive in your everyday life when you spent your entire life never hearing them.  

I found it a little uneasy that everytime I picked up a piece of paper it was so prominent in my brain.  Footsteps were elaborate. Doors were louder. The wind suddenly had a character in its sound. To be millennial about it: I was woke.

And these are just the peripheral reasons why I don’t wear them day to day.   

So when I tried using them at work I thought it would cure all my woes. I’d finally hear what all those awesome conversations were about that were just out of reach for me.  But it all felt useless. The outside conversations people love to dip into I was either not interested in or I could never focus on the words when I needed to. They weren’t my ears I was listening from.  There was a wall there, it was as if I was climbing over to see the grass but I never on the field.

And of course, there’s the hearing aids themselves.  I was given two of them, as technically both my ears are knackered. I remember I would put them in, take them out, stare at them.  Interestingly, whenever you insert a hearing aid you hear a whistle. So I would insert them, hear the whistle, take them out, put them back in, hear the whistle. Rinse and repeat.  It was a new toy I was fascinated with, something I would need to work out as an extension of myself.

But it became increasingly difficult.  They become easily lost, expensive to replace, and expensive maintain.  Batteries are not as cheap as you hope they will be, and more importantly, they recommend that the batteries are changed every day.  That’s a lot of batteries (environmental reasons alone, that’s insane.)

As generous as it is to have hearing aids on the NHS and through Specsavers respectively, it still cost £60 for a replacement, and that’s a basic hearing aid.  If my level of hearing was extremely poor I’d have no choice but to pay out of my pocket for a basic human requirement. You are given a box of batteries free when you’re first given the hearing aids but then it’ll cost you.   (This is more a reflection on the state of the NHS now than it is a jab at any of these services, as we’re lucky to have what we have, but I feel there’s an agreement that money’s there for the NHS that just isn’t being inserted into it.)

But there’s more to it than just battery life, and easily lost hearing aids, and a lack of budget for the hearing aids from the government (although that does lead into my next point).

The quality of hearing aids provide a basic function and don’t provide for life in 2018.  It’s not a surprise to anyone who knows me that about 80 percent of my day is spent listening to music.  I’m not the world’s biggest expert but I am passionate about it. So when I don’t have a hearing aid that compensates for volume in a music venue, through speakers, then it just makes me feel like a robot that only hears everything through an auxiliary port.

What that comes down to is lifestyle and wellbeing.  If a device you use is unable to allow you to go about your life in the way you did before, then ultimately it affects lifestyle and mood.  For me I’d rather listen to music organically (as organically as you can through earphones and headsets,) I’d rather not have to listen to the sound of dripping taps, or linger to the words of a mundane conversation about the weather. I like my bubble of murmuring voices that blend together as if it’s a prelude to a greater album. That’s been my life so far and until my basic human requirements are completely jeopardised I will be staying away from them.

Unfortunately, it’s said that hearing decreases more rapidly without hearing aids. Similar to eyesight. If you don’t wear the right prescription you are more likely to lose your sight faster. But I’m on the mindset that the disintegration of my veins between my ears and brain will at least appreciate the ignorance of knowing what I don’t know.  With that in mind here’s a song about disintegration:



I’m Being Deafly Serious


Background information for anyone who’s wondering. I’ve officially been ‘deaf’ for 3 years, finding out after a heinous employer was becoming increasingly frustrated with me for not hearing her.  And I beat myself up, because this was a regular occurrence throughout my life. I mean I could hear her? Couldn’t I? I just couldn’t quite make it out, so I let it go. As I had so many times in my life, trained myself to let that shadow of a sound fall out of my eyesight as it was not worth the effort of chasing the problem.  

I believe my mind trained itself to tune out whenever there was ‘shadow noise’.  So when in groups, or classrooms, or offices my brain would go into autopilot has it had so regularly done because I would never catch anything that was going on.  Often looking at people with a really dumb smile agreeing with whatever they had said, only to realise they had said nothing to agree with.

The point I’m making is that ultimately it affected my confidence. Subconsciously at least, especially throughout university and high school.  I felt I wasn’t getting much out of lessons, although I knew I was learning from what they had to say. What was the missing link? And each time I would go back and back again to the same thought process: attention issues, shadow noise.  Don’t look directly at the problem.

In literature, they call this ‘slipstream’.  You see something in your sight but you choose to not acknowledge it because it’s a problem you can’t deal with (homeless people are a good example of this).  So although I felt there could be a problem I would talk myself out of it “the earphones are probably broken, you’re tired and you’re imagining it, the television is so quiet, I’ve always liked things a bit louder. It’s just a preference.” Is it a preference Ben, is it, it it really!?

I was never bad enough to need to read lips.  And I’m jealous that people can. I’ve never felt smart enough to learn to sign language, and even if I did learn I know very few people who know it so it would just mean making new deaf friends. What’s wrong with the ones I have now I ask? And besides all these points my hearing isn’t terrible.  If it was a tank of gas it would be just under half empty. It would get you far but maybe not all the way you wanted it to.

So just after my thirtieth I finally took the plunge to get them checked.  The doctor said I had twisty ear canals (that’s a thing apparently).

More background information: When I was 18 I went swimming and some kid dropped his goggles at the bottom of a deep pool.  I dived fairly deep to fetch them for him but as I came out of the water I went totally and utterly deaf. If we still want to use the gas tank analogy here, the warning light just came on and you’re caught in heavy traffic on the commute to work.  It was pretty bad. People yelled at me and I could not hear them at all. I was that way for 2 weeks until they syringed my ears. And syringing sounds a lot worse than it actually is. So when I didn’t think I was deaf it’s because for 2 weeks I had experienced a whole other level of what it was to be deaf.  It wasn’t all stubbornness.

Anyway the doctor told me to get have my ears tested. They sat me in a medical phone both while the sound of wind blew while different pitches of beeps played in my ears.  It was quickly apparent my right ear was shit.

MRI scan time. My heart goes out to anyone who has ever had one.  If ever I experienced anything close to an alien abduction it’s an MRI scan. The noise and claustrophobic experience of it all was harrowing. Think a coffin with bright white lights while someone plays Bomb sirens: the musical in your ears.

Results weren’t great. It came down to my right ear being below average and my left being just about average.  It’s a strange feeling receiving results to confirm what you already know. One on hand you now know that the cause of your hearing loss is not twisted ear canals, water in your ears, wax, but a real medical condition.

I should mention what the cause of the loss is. Those who know me, and even those that don’t tend to go to the obvious reason: music.  Well curses on all of you, you’re all wrong.

No, my hearing didn’t leave me because I was standing too close to the amps at gigs, and yes, I always had my music on loud but it wasn’t what led to my loss.  It was in fact just a shit genetic problem. I apparently was given a bad hand, and I’m not talking about that third thumb I was born with (whole other blog post there.) Apparently, the nerves that connect from my ears to my brain started to deteriorate, as commonly seen in old people. And before you say it, knock it off, I’m only 33 *crawls into fetus position and enters existential dread*

Life is only ever seen through the viewpoint of oneself. With this in mind I tend not to be too tough on myself for not noticing it sooner.  How would I know that my hearing was bad if that hearing was all I ever knew? Perhaps it was always as bad as it was but somehow I slipstreamed,  leaving the shadows in the light rather than casting them back into the dark. Perhaps there’s more I’m not seeing now that I’m blocking out. I’m not sure if I’ll ever will see it, but I know I’ll be listening out for it.


A Father-Son Revisit to Monkey Island.

I first visited Monkey Island with my Dad. I remember seeing 11 discs carefully laid out on the right of the keyboard.   He would slot them in seemingly at random. Whatever he was doing it looked special and at the time the most impressive thing I had seen since was the Walkman. So to see so many discs being used in one game was genuinely impressive.

With three older siblings it was never going to be easy for me and my Dad to bond. But having something to talk about helped see past the father figure and to see the person underneath. Sure, it wasn’t football or rugby, they were activities for the other kids in the family. Me and Dad, we were the wannabe pirates. On a journey of swash buckling and problem solving that would bring together father and son to take down the evil pirate, LeChuck!

So for years it bothered me so much that he completed the game without me. We had gone through so much of it together. And what especially bothered me was how so close to the end we were. With Guybrush was trapped in LeChuck’s grasps, we were so close. It was almost a way of him saying ‘if you want to reach the end, you’ve got to work for it.’

It wasn’t until another 20 years later when the game was released in HD that I played it again and finally completed it. And for a moment, while I was working out the puzzles, I was briefly in the mind of my Dad. It was an uncanny.   He had died over 8 years ago and here I was, revisiting his thought process from over twenty years ago. For a brief moment he was still alive.

Years later, before he died and when I was in High School, I remember my Dad looking at my fingers nails, and showing me his. We were both biters, with our fingernails nubbed to the bone. It was a vein attempt at trying to find something in common with one another. He lived miles away from me and the brothers and he wanted that one thing to show me that I was his son.

But the bottom line was that we were drastically different people with very different minds it was almost impossible to find that common ground. And then I think back and realise we did, at least once. It was just was on Monkey Island.

Superman II: It Sure is Windy, Zod

The Richard Donner Superman films will go down in history as the benchmark for other Supermen films. He established a tone and identity for a hero what could have been easily too camp, too patriotic (he’s patriotic but it’s not over done too much), too easily forgotten. Instead, he used cinematic landscapes, a orchestral soundtrack what hits hard and is familiar and well remembered and instead of creating a super hero film out of studio wants and profiteering what could have been discarded as it came, he instead created a stylised film in its own right.
Part of what made the films so great was the inane attention to detail, each scene was so carefully thought over there was a watermark left where you knew every idea was thrown at it. Sometimes this attention to detail pushed the film into a canon of films what stood out above the rest, other times however you get the impression they wanted to just make a Hollywood summer blockbuster and literally threw everything they could think of into one scene, this is about the latter.
So when a normal filmmaker needs to establish its windy, they may go ahead and use the odd trick in the book. Alas, this is a Donner film and as such when a group of Kyptonians blow air, there’s going to be more than one way to show that the winds blowing.

1. Flying Cardboard

Nothing says windy like flying paper.  It’s used in virtually every following scene, I imagine the thought process behind this was ‘if there’s no flying paper how will they know? Perish the thought they think it’s only mildly windy!’

2. Flying Wig

Because dammit, sometimes flying cardboard isn’t enough.  We don’t need to question why the woman with hair is wearing the wig and the bald man is happily showing off his magnificent scalp, nope, we just want to see some whooshing locks.

3. Upturned Umbrella

There’s just something about the upturned umbrella ever since Gene Kelly sang Singing in the Rain, although this guy really doesn’t seem to realise that he could just let go of that umbrella. Kudos for the dedication.

4. Homeless Guy Predicting the End of the World

You see, not only is it really windy, it’s also General Zod making it windy.  This is the end of the world!  What strikes me about this more than any of the others on this list is that there are people who don’t have the ability to even stand up and there’s a car sandwiched in cardboard apparently totally able to keep his balance.

5. Chicken?

Because not being able to eat deep fried chicken is the epitome of windy… right?

6. Ice Cream in the Face

Let’s not ask why this guy was eating ice cream, or better yet why he just bought ice cream when Superman was clearly struggling to defend Earth right outside wherever he was, or why he hadn’t even taken a lick till there was a man conveniently placed next to him.  This is what’s called movie magic at its finest, nonsensical and slapstick.  I am impressed at how well maintained that ice cream as postured itself after being flung from gale force winds.

7. Flying Cars

What kind of Hollywood blockbuster would Superman be with a car flying into another car then into a building? Not a very good one.  We can tell things are getting serious!

8. Flaming Car

Did you not just see the flying car? Now there’s another car… but on fire.  Things are heating up.

9.  Man on phone I: Setting the (dial) Tone

The dedication on this guy is excellent, this guy should get his own film, anyone should get their own film to be this dedicated to stay on the line during turbulant winds an invasion of evil Kryptonians with power breathe. Kudos to you sir.

10. Man on Phone II: Wrong Number

Like all good films the Man on Phone deserved his own film in a film, of course our original protagonist was wiped out only moments ago to pass on the torch to this individual. Nothing will stop The Man on Phone!

11.  Man on Rollar Blades?

Dude, I don’t know what kind of person throws on a pair of skates when Metropolis is going to Hell, but you’ve got my respect for your dedication to your trade.

12. Lots and lots of Blowing

I mean look at him go. Just, look at him. You go, Nod!

And that’s only the tip of the ice burg.  Jokes aside it really makes you appreciate that in this one minute and thirty second scene they composed at least twelve different ways to show that it’s windy, to represent how much terror the evil Kyrptonians possess.  Flicking though and screen capturing these images were a pain, because they were so close together, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments all aimed at a slice of entertainment.  There’s a lot to be learned from the Superman films, not at least because they put more care and effort into even the minute details but because they laughed at themselves and urged others to laugh.  Superhero films are becoming far to serious, and are forgetting that the most value aspect of their being is to entertain.

Fearing Dr Robotnik

Dr Robotnik was once a threat.  He was a person who you waited for, the person who was next to impossible to win against when you found yourself against him with no rings.  The classic games are so far behind us now that it is easy to forget he was once a formidable foe.  If you were introduced to him via any of the new games it is something you would never know.

He was not just a shadowed figure who only appeared at the end of the game once his minions had failed he was there to battle you at the end of each zone, he did not want you to succeed, he did get his hands dirty, Dr Robotnik was a bad ass who has now turned soft.  The dark Saturday morning Sonic cartoon (not the ‘Adventures of’ but the self titled version) depicted in the future is a prime example of this.  In it you get a glimpse into why he was such an intimidating threat, he would wipe the memories of all of Sonics family and friends and turn them into mindless robots, he was evil, he was the main character of that one horror movie that gave you nightmares.

They should have never softened or made Dr Robotnik into comical relief, having your main villain as the same person who lightens the mood of a game is contradictory and it is a bizarre and haphazard move.   They should not have been afraid to keep him imposing. Children can handle being scared; many times, they thrive on being scared, in fact, why not encourage them to be scared then get them to play the game to conquer game that caused them to be frightened?  Who wants to work tirelessly hard throughout a game to defeat some bumbling enemy who acts so incompetent he probably would fail on his own anyway?

The entire purpose of the original games dedicated themselves to beating one evil scientist who turned helpless animals into to menacing robots of destruction.  Quite simply you were just a hero.  There was no personal motivation for doing the right thing, the right thing was just something that you did,  and if there is any moral lesson you want to be teaching children it’s not beat the bad guy because he’s kidnapped your girlfriend but beat the bad guy because he is a bad guy.

In the new generation of games they seem to either keep Dr Robotnik out of the boss fights entirely or put him inside some over sized machine where he is miles away from Sonic, he is further than arms reach away.  He’s become more cowardice, less enthusiastic, it’s almost as if Dr Robotnik is just going through the motions and has given up entirely or has somehow lost the will to put up much of a fight.  Nothing else was as satisfying as watching his flying pod burst into flames, it was rewarding, it gave a sense of accomplishment.  You were never just beating a game, you were being a hero; you were defeating a fear.

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