About this blog…

“Every blog should have a niche subject,” apparently. This blog is personal and covers way more than one topic. Use the categories and/or tags if you would like to filter out certain types of posts. Over time more posts from the past may be imported from other blog platforms.

Ear nuggets!

Ear nuggets!

These are my purple ear nuggets! I got them from ACS in 2016 after developing hyperacusis; they helped me return to every-day life with all its noise(s) and now allow me to go to the cinema and to gigs again.

They filter the sound you hear, reducing or blocking out the worst/loudest noises while still allowing you to answer the phone or follow conversations around you. (As a downside of that, people who can’t stop talking during performances or folks eating crunchy snacks throughout a movie become more noticeable —as if they weren’t annoying enough…!) As yet I haven’t been able to get used to the different sound of my own voice* when wearing these ear plugs, so I prefer not to talk, but in my case that’s not necessarily a downside.

Custom ear filters not cheap, but I think they are worth the investment; alternatives for someone with hearing sensitivity issues might be to withdraw from a normal working and social life and/or spend months on NHS waiting lists for an audiologist, otologist and/or therapy (if you can even get the referral). Once my GP had confirmed my ears were free from infection and, after syringing, free from wax as well, ACS created moulds of my ears. A couple of weeks later I received my custom hearing protectors, which essentially do the opposite of hearing aids, except there aren’t any batteries involved; you choose a specific ‘strength’ of filter in advance, and if that turns out to provide either insufficient or excess noise reduction, you can opt to buy a different type. All in all the process took 3-4 weeks and a significant amount of money (£170-180 + travel time & expenses), but to me that was less of a price to pay than the alternatives I mentioned would have been.

I started off by wearing my custom ear plugs pretty much all day every day (either in addition to or in place of noise-cancelling headphones), and then slowly reintroducing myself to sounds and noise, by taking out my ‘purple ear nuggets’ and wearing standard in-ear headphones (<£20 Skull Candy earbuds provide a soft, warm, non-screechy sound while blocking out outside noise, yet without leaking much sound themselves); first with pink noise (something I’d already used with my noise cancelling headphones), then without noise (pink or otherwise), and then slowly reintroducing the music and podcasts I love at increasing volume, or wearing no ear buds or ear plugs whatsoever. My aim was to build up my pain threshold in relation to my hearing, and I figured this might work best by practicing with those sounds that I used to love before sound and noise came to equal pain.

Nowadays I only wear hearing attenuation when there are loud sounds around me (building work, loud music I didn’t pick played through crappy speakers, noisy old tube trains, a vacuum cleaner, the washing machine during its spinning cycle, low-flying helicopters and so on), be it at home or elsewhere. I’ve worn my ‘purple ear nuggets’ whenever I’ve gone to the cinema, and at the time of writing this I’ve just attended my first rock gig wearing them (not wanting to force things I didn’t enter the venue until after the support act had finished, only attended the main act, and didn’t stick around for any afterparty).

Custom ear filters like ACS’s are clearly great for gig-goers, clubbers and ravers and the like, and although they can also be a great aid for anyone affected by hyperacusis, they’re by no means perfect for the latter, as they don’t block out the horrid hiss of office air con or rainy-day traffic on wet roads (noise-cancelling headphones** may work better for those).

Also, the little cord ACS supplies with each set of ear plugs is useful to attach when you’re wearing the ear plugs to crowded events where you could be at risk of losing them (it even has a clip to attach to your clothing), but the way the cord itself conducts sound into your ears via the plugs is a hyperacusis sufferer’s nightmare; the same applies to the cream supplied with the plugs: comfortable, perhaps, if you hardly ever wear the plugs, but not pleasant if you’re a regular wearer with hyperacusis or another type of (hyper)sensitivity to sound.

Because I found very little had been written about using custom hearing attenuation as a (fast-tracked) means of dealing with hyperacusis or other hearing sensitivity issues, I decided to write this in the hope it may help someone else in a similar situation to mine.

Please note I am not medically trained and have written this only to share my personal experience and my opinions based on this experience, and not to provide any medical advice. If you have any issues with your hearing, please get yourself seen by a doctor; it’s what I did but perhaps I left it a bit too late — and that’s not something I’d advise anyone.

For more information about the specific hearing protection pictured, go to acscustom.com/uk/products/hearing-protection/pro-series.

To learn more about hearing sensitivity issues, visit braininjurysociety.com/information/acquired-brain-injury/hyperacusis-noise-sensitivity-hearing.

If you do not suffer from any issues relating to your hearing, but you do love music and you love going to clubs or gigs, hearing protection is worth considering, anyway. In my opinion – and I stress, it’s my opinion only, based on personal experience alone – good hearing protection will not take anything away from the immersive experience (whereas turning down the overall sound may) but it does prevent pain and damage.

*This issue – called occlusion – is more of a problem with standard foam earplugs than it is with custom plugs; for me, the problem is not so much the sound of my own voice but rather the volume, in that I have no idea whether I am speaking too loudly or softly when wearing my custom ear plugs.

**Note: If you’re going to invest in noise-cancelling headphones: my Sennheiser PXC 250-II are fab on aeroplanes where everyone’s cell phones are switched off or on the tube in tunnels where there is no signal; but attached to or near some – not all – mobile devices the GSM buzz they pick up can cause sheer agony for anyone with (hyper)sensitive hearing. I had to buy my noise-cancelling headphones in a rush, with no time to research or shop around, but I wish I’d known this before I spent an arm and a leg on them.

Film review: Imperium

While I don’t often write film reviews (aside from short opinions on iTunes, perhaps), once again I felt compelled to; this time after watching the dross that is Imperium.


British actor Daniel Radcliffe plays an FBI agent who goes undercover with white supremacists and for the most part he does a good job. It’s just that his American accent occasionally slips and his short stature affects his credibility as his character’s undercover alter ego. Clearly, this lack of credibility is only obvious to the viewer, because on screen, Radcliffe’s character Nate has no trouble fitting in with various groups of neo-Nazis and appears to infiltrate with comfortable ease and at remarkable speed, deflecting any tension with wit and intelligence. Hopping from one racist clique to the next, Nate is always the smartest in a room full of white guys; he has an answer to every question and an explanation in response to any doubt raised. If it wasn’t for all the other white blokes being so thick, no doubt his cover would have been blown faster than you can shout ‘White Power.’

Meanwhile, Radcliffe’s Australian co-star Toni Collette‘s American accent is better than his, but her problem in this film is that she seems to parody rather than just play an FBI supervisor. In Wittertainment parlance, it’s a performance turned up to eleventy stupid. The less said about it, the better.

The most believable acting performance in Imperium comes courtesy of Tracy Letts. By the time we learn the truth about the radio presenter he plays in this film, I sincerely wonder how many broadcasters, columnists and other professional opinion-givers in the real world have built their careers on a similar earning model to that of the fictional Dallas Wolf. It makes sense. He makes sense. Letts’ convincing performance is let down, however, by how poorly his part has been written into the plot; it’s a storyline that might have worked better before internet radio and podcasting blurred state lines and country borders, but I’m not sure it stands up in 2016.

Taking cues from American History X and The Firm —the one with Gary Oldman, not the one with Tom Cruise— only illustrates how good those films were and how not-very-good Imperium is. Moreover, unless my memory is deceiving me, there’s one specific scene early on that I feel I’ve seen before, at the end of I.D.:

What, if anything, did I learn from this film? Two things. Firstly, that going undercover doesn’t require FBI training or experience; reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People should suffice. Secondly, once you pretend to be a white supremacist, you will no longer need your glasses; then, when you stop pretending to be a white supremacist, you will need your glasses again. (Mind you, with a frame as ill-fitting as Nate Foster‘s, I doubt glasses are of much use in the first place — he must have been peering at the rim more than through the actual lenses.)

Imperium is currently on limited release in UK cinemas and available to stream from We Are Colony and Amazon Prime (other options or services may be available) For a proper film review, I refer you to Mark Kermode’s one here.



I really have a lot of faith in properly trained doctors and evidence-based medicine, but going by some of my own experiences I can’t blame people who seek solutions with
Dr Google and, more dangerously, snake oil sales(wo)men.
Still, I’m a firm proponent of general healthcare a.k.a. western medicine, vaccinations and drugs. But I am also exasperated by the “I can’t see anything so there’s nothing wrong” attitude of some physicians, to the extent that, honestly, I don’t care how many godforsaken years they’ve spent learning their profession, they’re in the wrong f__ing job.
There are plenty of people who will play football for years and years, never missing a training session, and yet they never make it to professional level. (On a personal note,
I spent years trying to learn to play the bass guitar and ended up barely knowing how to hold the darn thing… ditto tennis/rackets.) Why would this be any different for musicians, managers, accountants or… doctors?
I forgot who the comedian is who said something like “I’m not a helicopter pilot, but
I don’t need to be one to know that when I see a helicopter hanging in a tree, it’s in trouble.” By that same token I feel entitled to say some doctors are s__t, while other doctors are merely afraid of saying “I don’t know.” (Perhaps because they studied so long and hard they feel they (should) have all the answers? And/or possibly aided by the thought the patient in front of them is not “their” patient and they may never see them again?)
So they choose to ignore or dismiss the patient in front of them, possibly even throwing in a (deliberate?) misdiagnosis. Which hurts and upsets. And no matter how many nice-but-inappropriate tablets they prescribe, none can make the patient feel better. 

About bad music

WARNING: This posts contains a lot of quotation marks. And by a lot I mean there are probably too many. Oh well…

I know it’s really cool to hate on Coldplay right now, but I’m old anyway so I don’t care about my lack of coolness.

However much I dislike most of Coldplay’s music, I cannot label it as “bad”; it’s just not to my taste.

“Bad” music is when I can’t hear a natural vocal or an actual musical instrument being played and three lines of lyrics repeated endlessly in a song which was apparently written by four people and required six producers.

Don’t even get me started on “DJs” selling out “live gigs” that involve little more than them sticking a USB stick into a sound system.

“Activism, slacktivisim, borderline fascist rhetoric…”

WARNING: Very long rambling post – click away now if you can’t handle reading anything longer than the average tweet or Facebook status update. For a TL;DR version: read only the bits in bold text.

Dear people who think their high horses could ever be any higher than mine,

Assuming that people overlaying their social media profile pictures on with French flags do not care about Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Afghanis or goodness knows whoever else is perhaps a shortsighted observation. Just because people select one, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about the other.

Just because people’s profile pictures on social media featured green overlays some years ago, that didn’t mean they cared only about Iranians’ democratic rights.

Just because people’s pictures featured rainbow overlays a few months ago, that didn’t mean they stopped caring about fellow human beings that are heterosexual, bisexual or asexual.

Just because some people don’t wear a poppy early November nor feature one on their online profile pictures, that does not mean they do not care about war veterans.

Just because some people do wear a poppy early November or feature one on their online profile pictures, that does not mean they are proponents of war.

Just because some people display yellow ribbons to point out their own or their loved ones’ endometriosis, that isn’t to say they don’t care about AIDS; just because some choose red ribbons, that doesn’t mean they care about AIDS but not about cancer; just because some go for pink ribbons, that doesn’t mean they wish to convey a message that breast cancer is worse than testicular cancer… I could go on.

I don’t take offence to anyone changing their profile picture to feature a Tricolore overlay, nor do I take offence to Facebook offering you the opportunity to do so within a few simple clicks, however I do take issue with those claiming (or feigning) offence at people doing so or at Facebook offering that opportunity, and then substantiate their (faux) outrage that with the shortsighted narrative that those people and/or the powers that be at Facebook “don’t care about” whatever the country, cause or people that feature higher on their own agendas than the victims of the attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015.

“Activism, slacktivisim, borderline fascist rhetoric…” could be the start of a new rhyme of sorts, like the jokes begin “An X, Y and Z walk into a bar…” whereby the X, Y and Z are replaced with people or other creatures of different races or creeds. But I am not that creative and it would probably be as lame as most of those jokes anyway.

My point is: You are not a better or nicer person for pointing out ‘other’ or ‘worse’ ills in the world to someone expressing public sorrow for any particular cause or event. Not everything is formulaic, let alone binary.

Moreover, whatever you are seen to do or not do can make you look like a nice person or not but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are the kind of person that you are trying to appear as or that people perceive you to be.

Whatever your grounds are for having a flag, overlay, badge, ribbon or whatever on your profile or not… they are yours, however deep or shallow.

Up till now I’ve only ever used the term slacktivism in a derogatory sense, because personally I don’t believe picture overlays, ribbons, pins or wristbands can make a world of difference. Today found a new appreciation for it:

When something bad happens beyond our control and we cannot undo it, or when none of us seems to be able to stop our own or other people’s loved ones from suffering or dying, slacktivism seems the best and at times only way to convey to the world: “I don’t quite know the right words to say or the appropriate thing to do, but I am thinking about this” or merely “I feel therefore I am”. Situations in which we are powerless do not mandate we keep our silence.

I still think that slacktivism won’t make any difference, but I get that it’s not entirely meaningless. And I also suspect there will be plenty of people not putting much thought behind their slacktivism, or at least not as much as I give them credit for above. But there is no need to attack anyone for publicly expressing their sentiments about one thing and not about another. Silence does not by default equal indifference.

Stay safe and seek substance.

Yours self-righteously,