Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Those of you who know me personally are aware that I am -- how can I put this delicately -- obsessed with film. More than obsessed, really. For some, it might appear to be a bit disturbing. Clearly, it's a passion of mine. Next to spending time with my family, there's nothing else I'd rather be doing than watching a flick or a really good television show.

Back in college while I was learning the movie trade by viewing dozens of films a week, I started keeping a journal of sorts. You know, some jottings about the films or programs that moved me. It was an outlet, a way for me to express my undying love for the art form.

I kept up with this journal over the years. Not too much, but enough to add a fresh entry every now and then. I enjoy writing about the things that I love, though I'm not very good at it. Actually, some of it may not even make much sense, but I really don't care. It just feels cathartic to get it out of my system.

Since I've recently discovered blogging, I thought it would be a good time to reinvent my decades-old journal and display it in a format that is more pleasing to the eye than a few dozen dry Word documents. I also want to be able to update it while on the go, thanks to modern technology (i.e. my awesome iPhone).

Last month I started the process building this new blog devoted to my love for the moving images. I took the content of my old journal entries and began transforming them into readable, coherent blog entries. I've also added fresh content to spruce up the place. I still have a long way to go before everything is properly transferred, but I'm in no rush. I have no deadline. I'm actually enjoying the gradual process of revisiting my old writings and giving it a fresh look.

I'm not doing this for anyone else but me. If the site gets one visitor a year, that's fine with me. I'm not advertising it for the world to see. In fact, I may have to warn some of you to stay away. Peering inside of someone's unhealthy obsession can be a traumatic experience.

Some people collect stamps. Some build cars, play fantasy football, hike the tallest peaks of the world. Some take pictures of food, collect international pornography, watch birds, run marathons.

This is what I do. This is a part of me.

The Flickers site is live. Feel free to stop by, but remember: you were warned.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thumbprints and Dead People

The Hearing Journey website, a place where CI recipients can talk, share their experiences and practice hearing in the "listening room," has a Thumbprints Placement Test that I have been giving myself every other month to mark my progress. A word is spoken and I have to choose which of the 4 words displayed is the word that is said.

Example. For one question, the choices are: pat, pass, right and rice. One of those words is spoken aloud and I have to determine what it is. The goal is to distinguish vowel sounds (a vs i), as well as front consonants (soft R vs hard P) and final consonants (hard T vs soft S). There are 50 words in all.

These are my scores:

Oct 19 = 58%
Dec 1 = 66%
Feb 17 = 74%

That's what I call progress! It's slow-going but there is a steady improvement in how I'm distinguishing those sounds. For a while, I could not distinguish between sss and shhh (sew vs show) but I seem to picking it up more these days. My latest mapping (this past Friday) brought up some of the higher frequencies, which is key to understanding pivotal speech sounds. There are still more adjustments to be made, but I think my brain is beginning to become aware of how to listen to speech. Front consonant, final consonant and vowels.

Vowels are the hardest and most complex. You may think there's only a, e, i, o, and u, but there's so much more than just the letters in the alphabet. Look at these 15 words, for example.

meet, mitt, met, mat, cup, cop, boo, book, bought, name, mine, go, use, house, boy

Each of these words sound different. Cup and book, for me, sound very very similar. Mitt and met sound similar as well. When spoken singularly, without the aid of lipreading or context, it's like flipping a coin. I could not tell one from the other. But context is everything. When spoken in a sentence, it makes all of the difference in the world ("I need to return the x to the library".... it sounded like it could be cup, but listening to the entire sentence, I'm going assume the word is book. This is where college education comes in, folks.)

A lot of my conversations are based on assumptions of what the talker is saying. If I can't read lips or get a sense of body language or understand the topic of conversation, I have a lot of blanks to fill in. If I can pick up most of the sentence, chances are I can make sense of the entire sentence.

Before captions came along, I used to watch a lot of movies and TV shows simply by filling in the blanks. You don't know how many times I would talk to someone about the movie and discuss details that never really existed. I would make up my own damn movie. This is why I always dreaded seeing mysteries; I would make up my own clues and then when it ended with the big reveal, I'd be completely lost. It happened with The Sixth Sense, which I saw in the theaters by myself on day it came out. No one knew anything about it. I did not realize that Bruce Willis was dead during the entire length of the film until a week after I saw it. I still loved the movie anyway because, dammit, I had my own ending and it was just as good as theirs.