Friday, June 22, 2012

Hooray for Hearing Aids

Tree fern

It’s day 3 of my life with hearing aids. So far, it’s like having my own SFX streamed into my ears, similar to sitting in the dark and hearing the crystal clear soundtrack of a movie.

Except that I’m sitting on my terrace, writing by hand – a power cut has stopped me vacuuming, an Essential Energy cherry-picker truck and crew are out front replacing the cable between my house and the power supply.

I don’t mind. I will enjoy the sound scape. It is Friday, AM, a busy day. Before, I’d hear an undifferentiated cacophony of industrial noise emanating from Tyres and Batteries in the second yard from mine.

Now I can hear every wrench clattering to the concrete floor. The compressor chugs non-stop. The continual hiss-and-clack of the compressor-powered tool to loosen nuts and tighten them after the wheel is replaced. Air released from a tyre hisses out on a descending scale. The jack-on-a-trolley is dragged from one car to the next. There’s hammering on the wheel rims. The finished wheel-and-tyre bounced a couple of times before being rolled to its car.

Close-up sounds are just as amazing. Although I can’t hear my pen rolling out the ink onto the paper, I can hear my hand scraping over the page taking the pen on its journey. The crisp rustle of the humble scrap book page. Every stroke of my nail when I delicately scratch an itch on my head seems to resound through my skull. Whenever I move my spectacles over my ears, or my sunglasses, or hook my hair back, I hear that sound of two bits of polystyrene rubbing over each other. A sip of tea gurgles down my oesophagus.

Sound suddenly has a depth of resolution – I know this refers to pixelated images but am using it for want of knowing the appropriate term – that I have never noticed. In other words, each sound has components. I’m not hearing simple, flattened sounds.

My refrigerator for example hums, chugs, whinges and has a metallic wheeze that sounds like it needs a bit of oil. It is getting on.

Air conditioners too have their suite of sounds, depending on their settings. A lot of them rattle. I’m surrounded by air conditioners. My house and yard sits in the L formed by a motel and medical clinic. Some air conditioners whine rather unpleasantly. An extra, good thing about my hearting aids is that I have a remote and can turn down irritating noise.   

I hear many more birds. I had thought the increasing industrial/commercial activity had scared them off. But I heard half a dozen today down by the riverside. In the trees there.

There were a bunch of pups playing somewhere, I assume snapping at each other, with baby growls and whines.

The school buses were being parked along the back road as usual, but this time I also heard the drivers chatting and driving off in their cars.

Wind blew through the many Alexander and bangalow palms with the sound of water clattering over stones. Tree fern fronds moving against the bangalow palm trunk sound like an animal, a lizard hunting perhaps, moving carefully through vegetation.   

As I lift my coffee mug, my breath into the increasing space remaining sounds different each sip I take.

Across the road out front a garden tap squeals when it is turned on and off.

The wind shuffles through winter-dry canna lily leaves near at hand.

The cherry-picker truck out front is let hissing down off its legs. The hammer with which to test power poles for rot and termite attack, is thrown clanging into a metal locker. The extended ladder is folded with a lightweight aluminum clatter and shoved up onto its stanchions on the truck. Cabin doors are slammed shut. Pip pip pip, the truck drives away.

The washing machine continues its interrupted cycle, and finishes with its usual climatic slam.

I could go on and on.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Salting in the Detail

Reaching for Ideas in the Swamp of My Mind
As well as 'seeding' plot starters for the eventual working out of larger ideas, a story teller needs to 'salt' the text with information necessary to a reader's understanding of the world that the story is set in.

I was struck by the following example of salting in George R R Martin's A Storm of Swords (Book Three of A Song of Ice and Fire Series).

In one of Arya's sections, starting with 'She was grubbing for vegetables in a dead man's garden when she heard the ... ' comes the line, "Two miles upstream," said Tom. "A league at the most."

Yes! I knew a league was two miles. Or rather, I used to know and had temporarily forgotten. There is a lot to know in the world. I was glad to learn it again, because my idea of the distances in the story were getting a little screwed up.

In amongst the mainly non fiction research reading that I am doing at the moment, I am still reading the Song of Ice and Fire. Not just because there are still new things to learn from the way the story is told.

It's also a comfortable read, now that the fever of suspense and expectation is burned away. I have the book of the moment lying open, wherever, ready to pick up for a minute or ten of relaxation. Or when I'm having my lunch. Or when I have ten minutes between things-to-do.

Though, mind you, these ten minute slots are when I was going to be reading on my new Kindle, reading the short stories collection I have had sitting on my computer for over two years. ASIM have new collections out here: ASIM's Best Science Fiction Collection

I think you'll have realised am not totally in love with my Kindle. (Yet?)