Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Testing... Testing...

I've been neglecting doing any potential blog entries, because I've been captivated by the biggest Reality Show taking place via the illusion of the Presidential Election.  They've whittled away the competition down to the last two holdouts, and the stakes have never been higher.  At some point, I should compile the amusing commentaries I've made on social media (with accompanying links to explain their relevance) But the sheer amount of material available had very little for me to give any relevant feedback.  Like Trump's outrageous comments, one scandal simply spills over to the next.  And this wasn't made any easier with running Republican Vice President Pence's permission to let Trump go ahead and speak his mind.  Trump truly took these words to heart, feeling that he was now finally freed from the confining restraints of the Republican Party, despite all evidence that he was doing whatever he felt like.  That meant that up to this point, we'd been dealing with the calm and rational Donald Trump.

At this point, the prospect of a Trump victory is looking more and more to be a fantasy.  The only question is how many more people is he going to drag down kicking and screaming in his death spiral?  If you want an idea of where your politician's true values lie, just remember after putting up token resistance, who cozied up to a man who enjoys pushing people around.  Because, let's not bandy words about - Trump's natural state is a bully who likes to pick on opponents who can't fight back.  Since he's not finding any success at intimidating Hillary, he's going after weaker targets, who won't strike back, like Republicans or Beauty Contestants.  Hardly the kind of temperament who'd stand up against Vladmir Putin.

His usual strategy of intimidating his opponents by sheer bluster and insult isn't working against a candidate who isn't willing to treat him with kid gloves, and knows all his triggers and weak points.  And none of his usual blustering tactics are having any effect.  There was also his attitude at the end of the first debate where Trump thought his microphone wasn't working - Hillary kept ignoring his mansplaining interruptions.

Like The Hulk, whose a force of unspeakable rage, who is constantly hounded by puny Bruce Banner, Trump's biggest enemy isn't Hillary or the GOP, but Trump is his own worst enemy.  There's been so many instances where Trump could've benefited from having Hillary face media scrutiny.  Only, he's so vain and egotistical, he can't stand the idea of having attention diverted away from him onto her.  So he doubles down on spouting insane rhetoric in the hopes that it'll draw the cameras away from the dull woman back onto the media spectacle, HIM.  Whether it's wondering out loud why women don't go complaining to Obama about his infidelities, to threatening to jail Clinton, to blaming the "international bankers", to casting rumours about potential voter fraud.  (to avoid looking like a loser when he doesn't win).

Adding to Trump's long list of grievances, he's upset that his spur-of-the-moment un-PC quotes have been used for Clinton Attack Ads, Taken Totally Out of Context.  No, wait, their message are just the same as they sound IN context.

For a while, it looked like Trump would want to bow out of doing the Third Debate after having abysmally lousy and declining approval ratings, despite all his internal convictions that he did perfectly well with no prep whatsoever.  But, like the proverbial forced trilogy that milks the series popularity, rather than stopping while they were ahead, Trump decided not to pass up the chance to appeal to an ever-increasing audience and let Clinton steal the spotlight away from her.  (Good thing too, since Clinton's approval ratings only go down when Trump's not calling attention to himself)  After the hilarious meltdown of the first debate and rather lukewarm second debate, the third can only be a mix of the first two.

It wasn't until recently that he challenged Clinton to a drug test for controlled substances that I recalled a similar comic run I could tie this latest bout of insanity to.  Like Duke's run for Presidency, chalk this up as another parallel to the Trump campaign without actually referencing the man.

The only way this cunning strategy could possibly backfire is if Trump was asked to do some drug testing of his own, which could show him being overly dosed with multiple over and under-the-counter medications.  Which wouldn't be entirely out of place, considering his acting like a dope fiend during the last debate.  Besides stalking behind Clinton, wandering around the stage and clutching his chair in an attempt to stay conscious, he was also sniffing like a coke addict with allergies.  Most people took his actions at face value, while others paid closer attention, and observed the pattern that, like a politician whose lips move, Trump lies whenever he sniffs.

But then, strategy has never been Trump's strong suit.  In an attempt to take down Hillary's weak points, Trump started off by accusing Hillary of having the same kind of infidelities as her hubby, because the sins of the Prez are visited upon the wife, or some such nonsense.  All while forgetting that he wouldn't be exempt from his hypocrisy for HIS affairs with his to-be wives.  Interesting that all the so-called admirable traits Trump fosters about Hillary, "She's a cheater, a Liar, a Robber, she knows Nothing, Can't be Trusted", are more applicable to himself.  He's basically projecting at this point.

When Trump took the low blow route of accusing Hillary of having an affair, it sparked an as-yet unconfirmed conspiracy in my head, not seen elsewhere.  As you know, there's the theory bandied about that Trump is a Clinton plant, designed to breed dissent and distrust from inside the GOP, breaking the old-boy's club mentality.  That's because years ago, Trump & the Clintons were once close friends.  So much that Trump once recommended Hillary for President.  (How times change...)

Thing is, if Trump ISN'T a plant, what would he be doing differently than what he's already doing now??
Though most of his actions have bordered on the incomprehensible and unbelievable.  He goes above and beyond the call of saboteurs where rational decency & logic would demand they stop.  But then, Trump isn't most people.  If this election were an airplane paperback, the premise would be thrown out for being too implausible.  My theory was that Trump was so confident that Hillary had an affair (not because rich & powerful people are an aphrodisiac, of which he's a prime example) but because he & Hillary had an affair themselves.  If true, the whole election would be a lover's spat on the world stage, the likes of which have never been seen.  I could only imagine the argument going something like this:
Trump: You had an affair with me, and you know it!
Hillary: (Smugly) Prove it.
Trump: All the evidence is right there in your deleted 33,000 emails!
Hillary: Release your tax forms first, and I might decide on it.  Might.
The only flaw with this theory is that Trump prefers going out with women his daughter's age, and wouldn't bother cheating with anyone who's less than a 10.  Though walking into women's dressing rooms or talking about grabbing their private parts is fair game.  After all, they're ranked 9 or less, and not worthy of his gaze.
"See, there are all these videorecordings where I DIDN'T assault them. I just gazed lovingly at their attractive forms, trying to best figure how to make them look better. They could use some breast implants, they could stand to lose some weight. At no time do you see me grabbing them by the pussy, no matter how much I wanted to."
So far, apart from telling voters to look up a porn video that didn't exist, Trump has appeared in more Playboy videos (Fully clothed, not like the naked statues) than any other candidate.  And this wasn't helped any by his disparaging comments about wanting to grab women by the crotch, which he put down to typical Locker Room Talk.  And yet, despite these atrocities, he still has support of his loyal fans from respectable institutions such as the Catholic Church, promoting their values.

Man 1: "Man, that's a real fine piece of Ass! I wouldn't mind taking her forcibly against her will, thrashing her in every room in the house, having her crying in tears all the while!"
Man 2: "Dude, she's Six Months Old."
Man 1: "What are you getting all offended about? You should feel complimented that you've got a daughter worth banging!"
One of the widest miscomprehensions is that this election is a contest between two underdogs.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Trump isn't interested in fighting for the common man.  His interests don't extend beyond establishing his (now tarnished) brand.  Trump isn't the underdog in this scenario - Hillary is.  She's faced countless scrutiny from opponents on both sides of the political divide for daring to speak her mind, and been vilified in all kinds of ways, from her opinions on the issues to the way she dresses.  No matter what she says, even if somebody agrees with it, they'll argue until they're blue in the face and try to convince others why she's in the wrong.  Chances are, if she'd been born a man, she wouldn't have to deal with all this hypocrisy.  (There'd also be the unfortunate relationship with Bill Clinton, but that's a hypothetical scenario not worth exploring)
"But... who'd play the part of the intern in this remake?"
The thing is, Trump doesn't really work either as an Anti-hero or an Anti-Villain. He has no self-awareness for that. He's more like a Thermonuclear Strawman. A vast venerable collection of all the worst humanity has to offer bundled up in a convenient package.

I suspect sometime in the years to come, after all this madness has died off, and the volunteers for the Trump campaign have released their tell-all stories behind the scenes (which'd be on the best-seller list for months) we'd be treated to a new genre of novels where scrupulous politicians seek to convince an over-the-hill business celebrity to go over to their opponent's side with the intent of sabotaging them, only for said celebrity to wind up succeeding beyond their wildest dreams, and being unable to pull them out once they've done their job.  The first title will probably be, "The Plant."

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Designated Survivor Barely Hanging On

In the vast TV wasteland of potential attention-grabbers, there's the recent political TV show Designated Survivor, starring Kieffer Sutherland, of 24, better known as The Jack Bauer Power Hour, where he'd get into increasingly convoluted terrorist plots to save the President.  Only, this time, instead of protecting President Obama - er, Palmer, HE'S now occupying the role of the highest position in the land, and all the pressures and responsibilities that entails.  One of the faults of 24 was that, for all it's ambition of showing the minutiae of foiling massive thought-out terrorist plots laden with contingencies, the writers had no clear logical path towards their conclusions at the end of the action-packed day, and basically just wrote as they were going along.  (I found it a shame that Sherri Palmer was killed off too early)

Just as Tom Kirkman is facing the looming threat of being shuffled off from his perfunctory position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a mysterious explosion at the Capitol renders his job relocation moot as well as the convenience of killing off all his political rivals.  But that's not the true mark of democracy.  You win an argument when you've made your point succinctly to the opposing side in the hopes of winning them over, not by having them knocked off by forces unforeseen.

If there's a glaring fault, it's that Designated Survivor telegraphs all its punches too easily.  You can practically see the impacts coming, which weakens their shots, which should be emotionally draining.
His wife reassures his shot down proposal by saying, "Well, you're not President of the United States," and then he is.  A speechwriter lays his lack of confidence in the sudden replacement to the man in the next stall... who just so happens to be the replacement President.  Who then instantly recruits him to write his next speech.  A zealous army general is making rumblings of wanting the sitting President to become more hawkish in times of turmoil, and actively seeks ways to change his mind, or replace him entirely, during a time when tensions are already running high.  The populace had already lost the majority of their electorates - forcibly changing the replacement wouldn't ease their worries much.

And the constant comparisons of the attack on Capitol Hill to 9/11 are annoying enough.  There's a capitol bombing, we get it.  Accept it and move on from there.

Then there's how Tom Kirkman approaches the position of President.  The premise that I got from an early article was that the script would focus on wanting nothing more than to pass on the role of President, and find ways to get out of doing his duty.
"This guy doesn't even want this job," said Sutherland. "Literally, through the first five episodes he's trying to find an exit."
But so far, that hasn't happened yet.  Tom Kirkman is still managing to reluctantly hold his own, even in the face of outright resistance.  If there was any sign of seeking an out, it hasn't been explored.  They've devoted more time to family squabbles and recapping themselves over the fact that their lives have changed forever™.  Further compounding the show's faults is the lack of mental or intellectual stimulation.  Apart from dealing with internal infighting and indulging in political trickery with troublesome politicians, there hasn't really been anything of substantial worth.  It's an amusing sideshow diversion, but not really considered binge-worthy.

All I could think of was that the premise sounded very reminiscent of a Frank Miller's satirical comics of Martha Washington; Give Me Liberty.  Frank Miller has been attacked for his recent comic output, but back then, he was one of the leading innovators of the field, and Give Me Liberty ranks among his strongest and best.  It helps that it's drawn by Dave Gibbons of Watchmen fame, who's more suited for showing moments of humanized facial expressions that are more varied than Frank's limited macho style.

In there, a low-ranking politician in a lowly cabinet position, Howard Nissen, suddenly finds himself thrust into the higher role of Sitting President, which he is vastly unprepared for.  In no time at all, he manages to rework the system to his liking, finding favorable solutions to the issues of the day, rerouting armies towards more suitable areas worth defending.

Unfortunately, that youthful idealism is undermined later during his term when he has to deal with political upheaval from both sides who've grown unsatisfied with him being in charge.  Amidst the internal squabbling of a staff that can't agree on which positions to take, Nissen starts indulging heavily in drink.  And that's even with how great things are going. There's just no pleasing some people.

We're never explicitly shown the criticism or reasons for the sudden blowback, but it shouldn't be considered too much of a stretch.  Every politician winds up being unpopular at one point of another, regardless of their efficiency.  And the position of President, for all it's lofty glory, can be an emotionally draining position.  Before and After photos of candidates show how haggard and aged they've become even during brief intervals of just four years.  Their hair becomes whiter, their skin droopier, and their overall demeanor becomes more exhausted.

One thing that Cerebus lamented about his role as Prime Minister was that the people under his charge would constantly second-guess his decisions, trying to weave their influence into him.  According to his rationale, the people chose him, so he should make the hard decisions.  If his advisors wanted somebody else to make their choices, shouldn't the populace have chosen them instead?

Curiously enough, in this pre-9/11 world of Martha Washington, the new President makes no move to retaliate against the terrorist force that suddenly plunged him into the rapid promotion he got.  (Though, 67
separate organizations claiming responsibility would make narrowing who was responsible somewhat difficult)  Rather, real chaos erupts after the replacement President (and rebellious staff) is caught in another insider explosion.  Only, this causes the country itself to become further fragmented and divided, seceding several states in the process.

Shifting attention back to the premise of Designated Survivor, it's a study in contrasts.  When the Capitol is bombed, an investigation is already underway to find out who's responsible.  The lack of credit puts strains the credulity of a lone investigator who figures this attack is just the start of something bigger.  There's reluctance to openly blame the first obvious choice, based on the scant evidence available.

Once there was a hacking done to leave a single video claiming credit for the attack, I immediately grew suspicious.  After much hemming and hawing over who to blame, a decidedly helpful shadowy source decides to help out by leaving evidence of who was responsible?  Questions could've been raised asking why this video wouldn't raise confirmations of responsibility.  I could think of three:

1.  Consider the source.  The video came only after someone mysteriously hacked into the White House, leaving all other records untouched.  Considering the damage they could've done, it seems like a lot of effort to just deliver this message on their doorstep, when any other method of communication could've done the job easier.  Not to mention that the supposed terrorists in charge chose doing this, rather than instantly taking credit upon detonation, when it would've been more effective.  And from an organization whose computer skills could be considered dubious at best.

2.  The Terrorist leader's words were so superficial and non-specific to allude to any definite information that could connect with the attack.  There's no details mentioned, no words said that could differentiate from any other attack carried out elsewhere, no timestamps to signify that this wasn't taken months ago, and alluding to anything else.  It was a boilerplate announcement intended to intimidate others through a form speech.

3.  Strange that this helpful piece of information should just happen to turn up while the new President is remaining steadfast not to move on until there's 100% certainty of who's responsible.  It's one thing if niche organizations take credit for random bombings they had no business with, piggybacking on the success of others.  But there was NO ONE taking credit for the Capitol Hill bombing.  It's almost as if someone wanted to draw attention back towards the most obvious choice.  If it WAS an inside job, then whoever's in charge is utilizing vast amounts of resources to convince the remaining leaders in charge to divert their energies towards an incendiary target.  Seeking a way to further fragment an already fragmented country.
Sadly, neither of these arguments were made in the process.  It's a sad thing when I have three thoughts when one is barely explored.  It's a wish fulfillment fantasy made in hindsight, that we didn't instigate the invasion in Iraq based on the flimsy premise of stockpiled weapons and a tenuous connection between the actual perpetrators and those the people in charge wanted to punish for past grievances.  If only we'd had somebody in charge to see past the glaring obvious holes in logic, we could've avoided this whole mess...

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Secret Haunt

This month's allotment of not-Far Side Cow ads is easier than previous entries, since not many of them have captions in them.
The one ad that does have text is rather self-explanatory in itself:
Why should I??
After all...
'Tis naught but a birthmark!! 
The other exception being this comic below:
...which I scanlated for someone else a long time ago.  I would've done the others, but was too lazy to get around to doing it.
Last but not least is what I consider to be the definitive of Paul Brazeau's Milk Ads.
In closing, the penultimate of the UFO Labatt Bleue beer ads.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Understandable Pet Peeve: Exorcist Heads

I often make a point of nitpicking certain traits in comics that I find personally annoying.  Most of these faults comes not from wanting to bash a childish medium, but from caring too much.  There are certain problematic elements, from making silly preventive mistakes on page layout, or repeating stock poses that, once innovative, suddenly become overused.  Take for instance, the "landing from a distance when knocked back" pose.  In the past, athletic heroes had difficulty rolling with the punches, which usually resulted in their getting knocked out, or falling flat on their backs.  Nowadays, everybody seems content to lie their legs flat, with an outstretched arm and spread fingers.  Sure, that's cool and reliable, but surely it's not the only landing pose possible, is it?  How about a somersault flip to land softly?  Of brute force land, sinking the upper body, hidden beneath two outstretched knees?  Use your imagination, people!

However, that's not what I want to talk about, though it becomes tangentially relevant later.  In my last blog post, I mentioned the annoyance of not being able to see people's faces while they're talking.  In other mediums, you have the convenience of having the camera firmly fixated on the character's face in full view.  And that also includes people who are being knocked back.

One thing that often annoys me about serious American-style art is how static the majority of it is.  We see someone throwing a punch, and someone's head knocked back, but we don't get the sensation that they've been hit.  And when two guys fight, fight, they make a point of showing their muscular abs towards the screen, rather than how they'd ACTUALLY look confronting towards each other.  There's way too many examples to list, but here's a sample that bothers me in this otherwise excellent tutorial of people getting hit:

It's minor, but you can see both character's chests, when it'd functionally make more sense to have the punchee's stance facing his attacker.  But then, you wouldn't get to see both their impressive chests.  In this stance, it looks like the puncher's assaulting from sideways.  EscherGirls has a reputed legacy for posting the most outrageous contortionist positions females (and the occasional male) will twist themselves in order to show their sexy bits at all times.  (Mostly from a misunderstanding of how men's bodies can twist, and being appealing to the male gaze)  What's less remarked on is how often heads will do a full 180 to talk to someone while they're doing something else.

This is something that's so subtle that you don't even notice it, even when the perspective of their anatomy screams otherwise.  We're so used to seeing the character's faces that we feel alienated if all we see is the back of their heads without any interesting background details.

In fact, we're more likely to be put off if we don't see someone's face.  The horseman from Erstwhile Tales (Iron Hans) here is looking back at the peasant from a position that should be impossible, but because we're so distracted by his excited reaction, we don't even notice the disparity.

This is prevalent even in children's entertainment.  Here's a page from the Golden Shape Ernie & Bert Book.  In his task to show the convoluted line of process to rationalize putting a pot on Bert's head, Ernie leaves the room to gather the next item he's put to replace the previous misplaced object.  While going away, Ernie looks back, and we think nothing of it, because he's a Muppet.

Sometimes, it can be the result of a rushed job.  The Foobiverse used to be a repository of snarky commentary and observations about For Better or for Worse in its declining years.  But that same barbed attack lost much of its power when focused on the early years, when FBOFW was at its best.  Its saving grace is finding the hidden commentary that, like Al Capp's Lil' Abner, only becomes apparent in hindsight.  One of these discoveries lies in the cartoonist's need to meet her deadlines, via Lynn Johnson's abhorrent refusal to use erasers.

While this looks fine at first, the first commenter edited a panel to show that Elly should've been dragging stuff out of the impressively-sized crawlspace duct, rather than reaching over her shoulder.  From the wrong side.  (Though there's a lot of empty space, since the vinyl recordings are missing in the redrawing)

In other instances, it can be so subtle we don't notice at first, and either try to understand what we're seeing, or just overlook it and press on, figuring it as a minor annoyance, and wanting to get to the meat of the story instead.

For a long time, I was confused about baby Zenith's position, until I took a closer look, and realized why:  She was clutching her mother, while also looking back at the pool in horror.  If you look at her legs, it would've looked like she was dislocating all her limbs in the process.  However, if you consider that it's just her head that's twisted around, then her position makes much more sense.

Now, these disjointed heads look perfectly normal when faced head on.  That is,  as long as we don't have to face the nightmarish perspective from Tsuge Tadao's Trash Market:

Just an example of how cartoony art helps to tone down the body horror that would look downright disturbing if viewed the other way.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Matter of Interpretation

For the longest time, if you wanted to watch the latest blockbuster hits, but happened to be Deaf, you would have to wait until it came out on VHS or DVD, which would keep you out of the loop for up to six months to several years;  all the while, more movies would be released, keeping you further backlogged and unable to discuss potential spoilers without looking up second-hand plot summaries.  Only recently was there technology that would allow hard-of-hearing viewers to enjoy the experience of action movies.  Other than the explosions, half the fun comes from the inane catchphrases thrown about.

That is, unless you happened to live in Montreal, with its unusual Draconian language-protection laws.  Feeling that their French language was under attack from being bombarded via easy access to English media, Bill 101 was abused to go after any store signs or packaging that didn't have FRENCH emblazoned in large font, and an English version below in smaller font.  There would be grand fights over whether Eatons or Eaton's with an apostrophe was proper or not.  There was also the crackdown on a menu for having pasta on it's menu for sounding too Italian.  This would be on par with claiming that Sushi sounded too 'Asian'.  These were literal Grammar Nazis who could threaten to close a small business if it wasn't part of a larger franchise name.

With this backstory background in place, the following event may (or may not) make more sense.  Jeffrey Liebman, a deaf man was all set to enjoy the latest Star Trek movie, only to be told that he wouldn't be able to access the captioning device.  The reason?  They refused because there weren't any French subtitles available.  If the French Deaf can't enjoy the movie, then the English Deaf couldn't enjoy it either.

I'm not a regular movie-goer, much more preferring to stay in the comfort of my home, where I'm not easily distracted by the crowd, and can control the pace of the film to my liking.  But my sister's more of a social animal than me, and was only able to have some subtitles available for Deadpool, the 'Merc with the Mouth' who, ironically enough, has his mouth covered for pretty much the majority of his screen time.  (And even if he DID have his mouth shown, it's doubtful she'd be able to understand him, given how decomposed his fleshy area is.)  Her husband pretty much had to go and argue with the theater manager for a long time in order to get the necessary captioner device in place.  They're fitted in a cup holder-like slot to face the viewer, and aren't disturbing to other movie fans, since the text only shows up in front of their seat.  He went to the theater ahead of time on the day to check that the captions worked. When they got there that evening, they didn't work, and he had to go find a manager to sort it out. Turned out someone forgot to turn on the machine in the projection room.  The closest controversy these things could present is that they have the script for the movie embedded in their electronics, but unless you have someone with the necessary know-how to hack into the device, the risk assessment is significantly small.  (It's similar to reading a theater script before seeing the actual play)

Even independent film reviewers aren't immune from this problem.  You'd think that preventing bad publicity from someone who had a license to publish scathing editorials would be a consideration, but apparently, that's not a high priority.

All this could be attributed to a gulf between the English/French divide.  But another explanation is the lack of compromise between the Hearing/Deaf.  As an invisible handicap, Deafness doesn't have the exploitable visibility of blindness or motor function loss, and thus, people aren't as willing to be as forthcoming unless we wear a sign saying "I'm Deaf" for the world to see.
For the uninitiated, the last cow has her ears hooked up to the cowbell.
For the most part, regular hearing people are simply unwilling to throw a bone, simply because accommodating a Deaf person understand what's going on is too much of a hassle.  Well, sorry that the mere prospect of not being able to hear properly is so inconvenient for you.

Even though I don't go out to movies that much, I'm still extremely limited in other aspects of being able to socialize normally.  If I want to understand group discussions, it's absolutely imperative that I have an interpreter present, so that I can understand what's going on.  By the time someone's stopped talking, I'm still playing catch-up with the first word.  Even if I paid intense attention, I'd still only catch snatches of the beginning or ending of sentences being bandied around the table.  It's a game of conversational ping-pong that I'm grossly outmatched in.

Regular hearing people just don't understand the mere prospect of how difficult life can be when you're Deaf. As if the mere prospect of "you just have to listen harder" would wipe away the discomfort of being unable to hear properly.  What most hearing people fail to understand it the scope of how difficult it is to make use of a talent that's already frayed to begin with.  It's not as if constant use of our ear muscles could hope to strengthen the weakened eardrums or hair follicles after vigilant use.  That's not what being Deaf means.

Being deaf means being unable to hear sounds in the normal noise range, and that can be attributed to general confusion about how loud decibels can be.  Every ten decibels is not ten plus louder than the previous level, but ten times louder than the previous incarnation.  One decibel is the standard base.  10 decibels is 10 times louder, 20 decibels is 100 times louder, 30 decibels is 1000 times louder, and so on.
The average deaf person can have a hearing loss of 60 decibels, which at first sight, doesn't seems so much, but means that they hear 1,000,000 times less than usual.  MY hearing loss is between 90 to 120 decibels, which is between a billion to a trillion times LESS than the average human.  Without my hearing aids, the only noise I could hear would be a rock concert next to a roaring jet engine.

Given that most teenagers prefer to play their music at full blast, imagine how frustrated they'd be at having the dial turned down all the way from Eleven to one.

When I was in Grade school, I was outfitted with an FM System where I had the teacher wear a mini-microphone device around their neck that would repeat whatever was said through an electronic device connected to my hearing aid.  I can tell you from personal experience that I NEVER understood a single thing I heard from the electronic, and only went along with it for years simply because I was told to.  In my remaining years of High School, I found the contraption to be so useless to me that I simply stopped giving it to the teachers, which must've come as something of a relief to them, and solely relied on an Oral Interpreter for understanding the going-ons of the classroom.

My mother fought long and hard to ensure that there would be enough funding for me and other Deaf students to have Oral Interpreting throughout my High School years.  In College and University classes, Deaf students are allowed to have interpreters present to help them understand what's happening in class.  So why wouldn't it make sense to have these helpful assistants available during High School during our peak years when learning is most essential?

"But don't you have hearing aids that can help increase the amount of stuff you can hear?"

Yes, but as effective as that tool is, it's still inefficient in other ways.  While a hearing aid helps tremendously in letting me hear sounds that otherwise wouldn't pass detection (via an extremely LOUD whistle when not lodged inside my ear canal), it's not very efficient in weeding out variable noises.  See, a hearing aid doesn't just amplify the sound of the person talking next to me, it amplifies ALL noise in the room.  From the background traffic to the hum of the radiator to the people chattering in the background.

Such advice is equivalent to telling a double amputee that they shouldn't have much trouble tying their shoelaces, since they've got prosthetics to do the job for them.  "They're perfectly capable of working, so what's the problem?"  If weeding out all these sounds were as easy as it sounds, the average person would be able to understand with perfect clarity what someone on a telephone is saying in a noisy environment.  It's the same principle - when your only source of sound comes from one place and it's a confusing hodge-podge of noise, how can you possibly understand anything that's being said?

"But can't you simply read lips to understand what they're saying?"

Normally, yes, but not everybody is as avid in reading lips as I am, and that came from years of experience from constant intervention, interaction and filling in the blanks and double-guessing what everybody's saying.
When you watch TV shows or movies, you're granted the luxury of the actor showing their valuable face time by making sure their handsome and beautiful mugs are in full view of the audience whenever possible.  But that convenience is sadly lacking in real life where you're more likely to see the back of someone's head while engaging in conversation.  Good luck reading lips from the wrong side.

And even if you position yourself into an ideal place (without being in a bad lighting spot), seeing both side's lips is rarely likely to occur in reality, since people are hardly going to rotate themselves around to me.  When people are engaged in conversation, they're likely to forget the presence of someone who can't hear their every word, and trying to play catch-up with both sides changing dialogue at a moment's notice means I'm constantly a few seconds behind, and wind up missing crucial key words that could help crack the whole conversation open.  And that's not even taking in account the nefarious "silent letters" so prevalent in English language.  It's enough to discourage the amateur lipreader from even trying in the first place.

And that's not even accounting for all the letters that look alike when no sound is present.  Names and addresses are the worst.  They're easily the hardest words to understand, especially if they're from places we have no familiarity with, save for how they're spelled.  Getting the slightest word wrong can throw the whole conversation out of context if you're not aware of the subject.  Otherwise, you'd wind up speaking non-sequiturs when you meant to make a point.

Often enough, having to constantly double-check everything that's being said can be an exercise in exhaustion.  Sooner or later, even the most devoted Deaf person will rely on making guesses as to what someone's saying so as not to slow the conversation down and inconvenience everyone.  While this may seem helpful at first glance, missing out on large snatches of what's going on can wind up being detrimental in the long term.

Asking questions all the time may be the hallmark of a curious person, but asking too many runs the risk of being too inquisitive.  Being unable to contribute meaningfully to group discussions can foster deep resentment even among the most well-meaning of friends who simply can't understand how someone seemingly smart can be so distant.  Well, not catching everything that's being said is a guaranteed formula to cause alienation.

Some helpful tips in talking to Deaf people - emphasize certain key words, like Videogame characters in Quest missions.  And if a word is too hard to make out, substitute it for another one.  For instance, "Take statistics attendance on nicotine" is impossible to lipread, since there's hardly any lip movement, but "Smoking addiction numbers" is much easier in comparison.

If the subject you're talking about is too difficult to ascertain upon first utterance, replace the unnaturally longwinded spoken prose with more succinct suitable substitute words.  In short, if the person doesn't understand what you're saying, use different words with the same meaning, rather than repeat a word that could be easily mistaken for something else.  Also, use pantomime to illustrate what you're talking about.

Another common myth is the belief that talking to a Deaf person simply requires shouting louder and louder until they understand what you're talking about.  Not true.  I need to be facing whoever's talking, and have instructions pointed out step by step and spoken slowly and clearly, but not so exaggerated that your actions make you look like you belong in the circus.  (Though I'm more likely to remember instructions if they're written down, since I have a terrible auditorial memory.)
Also, don't stand so close - some distance is needed to see the speaker's lips.
Despite this early intervention, there still seems to be some general confusion about just what an Oral Interpreter's function is.  Some people seem to think that an Oral Interpreter is a barrier to social contact, because they're the only person that I communicate with.  Not true - the interpreter is the solid reliable source for deciphering all the surrounding noise in a room.  Being focused on a solitary target that repeats what's being said is much more reliable than constantly moving my head around trying to catch snippets of half-gleamed conversations, which I'd probably misunderstand anyways.

And Oral Interpreters like Doctors & Lawyers, have a code of privacy.  They're not going to reveal any confidential information that may pass from people's lips.  They may occasionally interject themselves into the conversation, but only to further clarify something the Deaf client is trying to say.  The function of an Oral Interpreter is not to interfere with the conversation, but make it easier for the Deaf client to understand what's going on.  This is accomplished by giving up-to-date sentences said in the heat of the moment, and giving a condensed summary of what people in a group are talking about.  Otherwise, after everybody's finished talking, you'd be left with no real context of what just went on.

Sadly, for all the technological advances made, there's still not much that can be done for basic human ignorance over the most obvious issues.  Even well-intended Deaf organizations aren't immune from making novice mistakes such as:

  • Having your only form of communication for Deaf clients being a telephone number (no email address), and wondering why no one ever calls.
  • Holding an auditorium meeting with dim lighting and the speaker obscured by the microphone and stage platform.
  • Having conversations with a hearing person and a Deaf person, and always facing the hearing person, while facing away from the Deaf person, despite the knowledge that the hearing person is more likely to understand the speaker if they turn away than the Deaf person ever will under similar circumstances.

And yet, despite the immense helpfulness of an Oral Interpreter in social situations, getting one can still be a huge hassle.  They can only be available in certain conditions, such as upcoming meetings, social functions, and an Interpreter has to be scheduled well in advance, and not on the spur of the moment.  Getting an Oral Interpreter for a bi-weekly group gathering is an uphill struggle even though it only costs like, $75 a session.  Neither organization - the Deaf or the Social - were willing to be up front on compensating for the cost, which would be a pittance in their overall budget.  I still can't get an interpreter for a single class on Creative Writing, simply because it's considered a non-essential course, even though I'd greatly benefit from hearing what other people in the classroom would be saying.  It's ironic that someone in a wheelchair would have more access to places than I can.

Ironically enough, one of my most frequent complaints towards people who have difficulty understanding me is, "What's the matter, can't you hear properly?!", as if my speech pattern was perfectly decipherable.

Today's technologies are now considerably smaller and faster, but the stigma still remains.  Trying to tell regular hearing people to control their speech patterns when talking to Deaf people remains an exercise in repetition, since they're bound to fall into their usual traps of regular conversation, such as moving their head, constantly smiling (it's hard to read lips when all you see is teeth) and regularly falling back to fast-paced conversation when talking to a normal hearing person, usually turning their heads away from the conversation.  As mentioned earlier, it's hard to read lips when all you can see is the back of someone's head.