Philip Seymour Hoffman, Another Senseless Victim of Addiction

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Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman

This morning I clicked onto the headlines to see what was happening around the world and was jarred by the sad news that actor Philip Seymour Hoffman had died at 46, apparently from a drug overdose.  Hoffman was one of my favorite actors, perhaps one of the finest actors I have ever seen. Each time a new movie would come out staring Philip Seymour Hoffman, we wouldn’t wait for the DVD, we would go to the cinema to watch it. His performance in “The Master” was one of the most powerful pieces of acting I have ever seen.  He was brilliant in “Doubt”, electrifying in “Charlie Wilson’s War” and masterful in “Capote”.

Drama as a genre is my favorite.  In my DVD’s you’ll find movies starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Michael Shannon, Robert Di Niro and Al Pacino. My movie collection contains an equally magnificent assortment of films with women like Dame Judy Dench, Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett.  I relish great acting, and feel sad at the prospect of never seeing a new film from Philip Seymour Hoffman ever again. All day I’ve been trying to come to grips with the loss, it’s going to take a while to accept.

What makes it harder as a long time fan of Mr Hoffman’s work is speculation he died from a drug overdose, a heroin overdose, and had been separated from his partner since October, and that he was a Father to three middle school aged children.   Was it hopelessness? Was it heartbreak?  Was it boredom? Was it selfishness? What was it that allowed the dark vines of addiction reach out to such a gifted man and pull him back under? A talented, complex man like Hoffman would be hard to truly figure out based on the body of work he left us. The depth in each of the characters, the intensity, the passion.  In “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead“, Hoffman played Andy Hanson, a man who had been embezzling money from his firm, and was about to coax his younger sibling played by Ethan Hawke into joining him in a scheme to rob his parents business so they could benefit from the insurance money. In the movie there were scenes where Andy would visit a heroin dealer who would inject him. The apartment was a new age, feng shui, high end Manhattan apartment, much like the $10,000 per month abode Mr. Hoffman had been renting since October. These scenes seemed a little out of place in the movie, a little too raw for my own taste. I wonder now if these scenes might have posed a risk of triggering Hoffman.  When he died, he had been clean for 23 years.

I will never understand drug addiction. Heroin is a killer. Last week I heard about a new blend of heroin that’s made with Fentanyl, a powerful pain killer, more powerful than  morphine. Twenty eight addicts had died in one town in just two weeks. Truly frightening.  Heroin scares me.  I once started to watch the film “Trainspotting” starring Ewan McGregor, but was so disturbed by the heroin scenes, I had to turn it off.   Heroin has killed so many of our most beloved artists and musicians. Drugs in general are killing thousands.

Tonight I am sad for Mr. Hoffman’s family, his little children and the acting community who have lost one of the greatest actors of our generation. It will take me a long time to get over Philip Seymour Hoffman. I am truly gutted.

Deafness and relationships

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Stephani met me when I was in my early 30’s and by then my hearing loss had started to manifest its self, mostly in social settings, where I had started to retreat from loud environments.  She puts up with a lot. It must be tough having to repeat yourself constantly.    My hearing loss is profound in my left ear, and partial on the right. If I can control my environment, sitting in a particular seat in relation to a gathering I am more comfortable, however, if I end up with someone to my left, event with my cross-aid hearing aids, it can be a real challenge understanding what is being said to me.   The other thing is misunderstanding things completely if I am not wearing my hearing aids.

This video was published on the Phonak “Hearing Like Me” site.  It encapsulates a very upbeat version of what life is like for a hearing impaired or deaf person vs. what it is like for the hearing person.   I think reality is somewhat less rosy than this lovely picture, particularly when you balance things like the stresses of traveling with a hearing impaired individual, anxiety and confusion with other emotions like pride or fear of humiliation.   If I could put my life experience into one sentence it would be “bashing through it, one day at a time”.   I’d give anything to have my hearing back, honestly I would.

So, what has your experience been? If you are similar to us, what is life like for you?

Ricky Gervais on the moral of Humpty Dumpty

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Ricky Gervais is a funny man.   Watch this video and try to not laugh.. Impossible.

He was loved

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It’s been an emotional day.  We attended a beautiful mass in Fountain Valley for Stephani’s cousin, Tony Cardullo Jr., who passed away suddenly in mid November over in Thailand. We heard so many moving eulogies. It was a day of tears.

Following the service Tony’s parents hosted a very special reception at the Huntington Beach Hilton. Hundreds of people who knew Tony came together to celebrate his life.  And what a life it was. Today I learned that Tony was in a band in the 80’s, even played the same festival as No Doubt back in the day. Listening to his brother Andrew describe him,  Tony was a driven, but kind and compassionate man who lived the life he wanted to live.  Red tape, bureaucracy, procedures that hold us all back did not exist for Tony.  He was a person who always looked on the bright side of life, always gave others the benefit of the doubt, and later in life became something of a local hero to the people in his community, volunteering his time, working with the homeless and less fortunate.

Tony was a very successful business man. While working on a film in Thailand some years ago, he fell in love with the place and decided to set down roots and become part of the community. He was loved by so many people.  He took care of his employees, and was very generous and compassionate to his fellow man.

Listening to his friends and family speak today, all of them still very broken up by his loss, I had a real feeling of regret that I had but a few scant opportunities to spend time with Tony.   He was a person who initiated and nurtured friendships. He was a true friend.  I could use a friend right now.  The world seems like such a lonely place without Tony in it.


Irish Getaway

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I’ve been in Ireland with Stephani for about 10 days visiting family and exploring the parts we missed out on last time. The last time we were in Ireland together was 2008 and our visit involved a day trip to Dublin and return train to Belfast five hours later, so this time we made sure to book ourselves hotel for five nights so we could thoroughly explore.

On the first part of the trip, we stopped in to setup my Mum on broadband, her first experience using a computer in the form of an iPad which I am hoping she takes to. While in Belfast we went to PRONI (Public Records of Northern Ireland) to lookup information on my great grandfather who had worked in the shipyards, taking part in the build of Titanic in the early 1900’s.  We also got to see exactly how large Titanic was, walking the marked off concrete on the exact location of the former dry dock.

Samson & Goliath Cranes - Belfast

Samson & Goliath Cranes – Belfast

In Southern Ireland, our friends Mark and Jill flew over to take us for an amazing day trip to the Glendalough Valley where we explored an ancient village and wonderful nature walk in the crisp Irish air.  My head feels much clearer from it.

So, we are sitting in Heathrow waiting for our flight to begin boarding so we can make the last leg of the trip home and get back to our work-rest-play-work-rest-work routine.   I’d like to spend more time visiting Ireland and England to see more of where I grew up and find out more about my family origins.


Bob Dylan is a Genius

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Bob Dylan - Infidels

Bob Dylan’s “Infidels” (1983)

One of my favorite Bob Dylan songs is “Sweetheart Like You” from his Infidels album. When I first heard it I was taken aback by the words, how Dylan was able to weave such a poignant story with cinematic qualities. That’s why there will be no songwriter in our time quite as good as Bob Dylan.

When I listen to this song I picture a seedy bar, almost empty and a sweet little old lady who cleans up after the drunks.  I couldn’t have imagined these scenes in my mind without Dylan’s words. Dylan creates these visions for us lyrically.

It was Bob Dylan who wrote “Make You Feel My Love“,  not Adele.  Adele is a great singer and songwriter in her own right, but you have to hand it to her for admiring greatness like that.

Here are a few lines from “Sweetheart Like You” by Bob Dylan.

We’ll the pressure’s down, the boss ain’t here, he gone north for a while.
They say that vanity got the best of him, but he sure left here in style.

By the way that’s a cute hat, and that smile’s so hard to resist. What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?

You know I once knew a woman who looked like you, she wanted a whole man, not just a half. She used to call me sweet daddy when I was only a child, you kind of remind me of her when you laugh.

In order to deal in this game, gotta make a queen disappear, it’s done with the flick of a wrist. What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?”

Take a listen and tell me what you think, does this song move you in the same way?



Aldershot Turning Into a Ghost Town

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Aldershot Wellington Statue

I grew up in Aldershot, am proud to say that’s where I hail from. Aldershot used to be the home of the Army. Wellington settled the troops there after Waterloo. Aldershot was a Historic Military Town in the truest sense.

This weekend I have been participating in a sentimental trip down memory lane on Facebook in a group setup by Keith Bean, an Aldershot local. We have been remembering our teachers, the football team’s struggles, the trouble we used to get into, and how far away from Aldershot many of us now live.  Some of us moved to other parts of England, some of us ended up down under in Australia and others like myself are in America.

Even though I am half way around the world in glorious, afluent Orange County, I still care about the place I grew up. I really wish Aldershot could rise like a phoenix from the ashes and become a thriving metropolis.

Here’s a little video taken inside Aldershot’s Wellington Centre mall, the main mall in the town center. When I visited the town after 25 years back in 2008 it looked the same, and this video made a year ago November 12th confirms the place is a ghost town. It makes me sad to see the place I grew up going through such hard times.

Watch Video

When the Army left, it blasted a gaping hole into the infrastructure which had kept the town going for many years. The town had been in general decline for decades, but the Army leaving was the final nail in the coffin.

Here’s a two-part documentary I filmed back in 2008 in Aldershot.

Part 2

I hope there is some master plan that we don’t all know about which includes a solution which will turn the situation around in Aldershot.

Hat’s off to Keith Bean for creating such a vibrant group.

On Old Pictures and The Shining

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Do you have a shoe box or old cigar box full of old photos?  I do. I like to pull it out every so often to glance at them.  None of the pictures are older than 30 years or so, I wish I had more of my grandparents and great grandparents.   My great grandfather helped to build the Titanic so they tell me. Would love to know if there are pictures of him floating around, would love to know what he looked like.

Photos help to link us to our past. They help to connect us to who we are, or who we were. When I look at old pictures of myself, I can’t believe how relatively normal I look, while remembering how insecure I always felt about how I looked. I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life where I have felt happy with my appearance.  Today I am happy. I can look in the mirror and accept that this is my 49 year old version. I try not to be so hard on myself, after all, we all get older and our bodies change, we lose our hair, the wrinkles come a creeping.

There’s a great scene at the very end of the film “The Shining.”  Music plays from the roaring twenties as the camera pans in on a large photograph of a New Years Eve party which took place at the Overlook hotel. The camera zooms right in on the main character, Jack Torrance, laughing, dressed in a tuxedo, having the time of his life.   Sometimes I wonder if there is a photo floating around of my great grandfather doing the same thing.

So, do you have a shoe box or cigar box full of old photos?  Send me a tweet so I can take a look.


Thanks to Apple Design, Partially Deaf Can Enjoy Music

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Options for Hearing Impaired are Excellent

Options for Hearing Impaired are Excellent

One of the things I find most frustrating about being deaf in one of my ears is the experience I have listening to music on headphones. For many years technology companies ignored this problem, thinking that everybody who had headphones could hear the music in both ears. On recordings made in the 60’s and 70’s it was quite common, due to track limitations, for essential parts of a song to be heard either on the left or the right. This is called panning. One of my favorite songs is  “Substitute” by The Who. The song opens with a strident guitar riff playing in the left channel, but because I’m deaf in my left ear all I usually get is a tickling sensation, the indication that sound is being pumped into my ear but indistinguishable. If I turn speakers on sure I can enjoy the song, but at work it’s next to impossible.

I recently purchased a new iPhone 5s from Apple, it now contains my entire music collection. This morning I was amazed to see how far along accessibility settings had come for the deaf and hard of hearing. They now include a setting for mono audio which will blend the sound from a stereo track into a mono track that can be heard in both earphones evenly. This has been an absolute godsend  for me because I can only year out of one ear. Since I discovered it this morning, I’ve been sitting here listening to all of my old 60’s and 70’s songs on the iPhone enjoying every riff, every chord as if I were listening on speakers. The engineers at Apple have clearly responded to their customers by building in these exciting features. I imagine many partially deaf people have written to Apple imploring them to do something and they responded brilliantly in this software release.

Thank you Apple for enabling me to enjoy my music.