+
More

Tommy Edison watches movies for a living. He's never actually seen one.

If you're only watching movies, you might be missing out.

True
Perkins School for the Blind

Tommy Edison was born blind. That didn't stop him from falling in love with movies.

If your first reaction upon reading that was to wonder how a blind person watches movies, Edison understands. It's a question he's answered a lot in his job as the Blind Film Critic on YouTube.

"I'm always asked how I can enjoy films without being able to see them," he said. "But for me, there's so much more to the experience — there's story, there's dialogue, there's music and sound. It's a lot more than what you watch on the screen."


For blind movie lovers like Edison, knowing that there are actors and action on the big screen is only a small part of experiencing cinema.

‌Tommy Edison, the Blind Film Critic. Image via Tommy Edison, used with permission.‌

"For me, the biggest part of a film is the story," he said. "Movies like 'Goodfellas' or 'Clerks' don't even need the visuals — their storytelling is so strong and the performances are so skilled. As soon as those movies started, I was right in the story."

Even if a film doesn't have amazing performances, it can make up for it with an excellent soundscape. "There was an incredible movie called 'The Grey,' starring Liam Neeson, a few years back," said Edison. "Most of the action took place outside, and the sound editors took advantage of the surround sound in the theater to make it feel like we were right there with them. I could hear the rain all around me — so much that I wanted to wipe it off my head, it felt so real."

At the moment, a lot of big-budget movies revolve around action sequences without dialogue — a challenging situation for blind moviegoers. That's when audio descriptions are helpful.

‌A woman listens with headphone to a movie playing on her laptop. For blind movie watchers, hearing the action is just as good as seeing it. Image via iStock.‌

Like closed-captioning for the hearing-impaired, audio commentary helps vision-impaired or blind people follow along with TV and movie action during scenes with limited dialogue.

According to the American Council of the Blind, three American theater chains — AMC, Cinemark, and Regal — offer audio descriptions on all of their screens. Blind or vision-impaired moviegoers can go to the theater and wear a set of headphones that will play a narration track describing the film's key visual elements like costumes, sets, and other moments only sighted people would experience. Best of all, the track only runs during pauses in lines of spoken dialogue, ensuring non-sighted moviegoers don't miss anything.  

For Edison, an audio description track changed his understanding of one of the most famous movies of the '90s. "I tried watching 'The Matrix' a few times without audio descriptions. I couldn't make it through more than about 20 or 30 minutes of it," said Edison. "The descriptions changed that; they helped me understand what it was about, and how cool of a film it was."

While Edison is appreciative of technological advancements like audio descriptions, he'd rather they weren't necessary.

If he had his way, Hollywood would simply get better at telling stories, rather than showing them.

‌This empty green-screen set could become an entire scene in a superhero popcorn flick. For blind moviegoers like Edison, that's a big problem. Image via iStock.‌

"The one genre that doesn’t really work for me as a blind audience member are the superhero movies," he said, conspiratorially. "'Thor,' 'X-Men,' 'Superman' — it all sort of seems to be eye candy. They have all these incredible performers, and they all know how to act — studios need to give them something to work with! At the very least, they need to talk to each other more during fight scenes, not just grunt and roar."

Movies and TV shows are part of our shared cultural fabric — whether we're watching them for the action on the screen or listening to them for the stories they tell.

While, as Edison said, "there's nobody audio-describing our lives," anyone can appreciate the moviegoing experience of blind people on their own. So next time you settle in for a night on the couch or head to the theater for a break (and some $12 popcorn), maybe try closing your eyes and listening to the film instead. You might end up seeing it in a whole new way.

Tommy Edison was born blind. That didn't stop him from falling in love with movies.

If your first reaction upon reading that was to wonder how a blind person watches movies, Edison understands. It's a question he's answered a lot in his job as the Blind Film Critic on YouTube.

"I'm always asked how I can enjoy films without being able to see them," he said. "But for me, there's so much more to the experience — there's story, there's dialogue, there's music and sound. It's a lot more than what you watch on the screen."

For blind movie lovers like Edison, knowing that there are actors and action on the big screen is only a small part of experiencing cinema.

‌Tommy Edison, the Blind Film Critic. Image via Tommy Edison, used with permission.‌

"For me, the biggest part of a film is the story," he said. "Movies like 'Goodfellas' or 'Clerks' don't even need the visuals — their storytelling is so strong and the performances are so skilled. As soon as those movies started, I was right in the story."

Even if a film doesn't have amazing performances, it can make up for it with an excellent soundscape. "There was an incredible movie called 'The Grey,' starring Liam Neeson, a few years back," said Edison. "Most of the action took place outside, and the sound editors took advantage of the surround sound in the theater to make it feel like we were right there with them. I could hear the rain all around me — so much that I wanted to wipe it off my head, it felt so real."

At the moment, a lot of big-budget movies revolve around action sequences without dialogue — a challenging situation for blind moviegoers. That's when audio descriptions are helpful.

‌A woman listens with headphone to a movie playing on her laptop. For blind movie watchers, hearing the action is just as good as seeing it. Image via iStock.‌

Like closed-captioning for the hearing-impaired, audio commentary helps vision-impaired or blind people follow along with TV and movie action during scenes with limited dialogue.

According to the American Council of the Blind, three American theater chains — AMC, Cinemark, and Regal — offer audio descriptions on all of their screens. Blind or vision-impaired moviegoers can go to the theater and wear a set of headphones that will play a narration track describing the film's key visual elements like costumes, sets, and other moments only sighted people would experience. Best of all, the track only runs during pauses in lines of spoken dialogue, ensuring non-sighted moviegoers don't miss anything.  

For Edison, an audio description track changed his understanding of one of the most famous movies of the '90s. "I tried watching 'The Matrix' a few times without audio descriptions. I couldn't make it through more than about 20 or 30 minutes of it," said Edison. "The descriptions changed that; they helped me understand what it was about, and how cool of a film it was."

While Edison is appreciative of technological advancements like audio descriptions, he'd rather they weren't necessary.

If he had his way, Hollywood would simply get better at telling stories, rather than showing them.

‌This empty green-screen set could become an entire scene in a superhero popcorn flick. For blind moviegoers like Edison, that's a big problem. Image via iStock.‌

"The one genre that doesn’t really work for me as a blind audience member are the superhero movies," he said, conspiratorially. "'Thor,' 'X-Men,' 'Superman' — it all sort of seems to be eye candy. They have all these incredible performers, and they all know how to act — studios need to give them something to work with! At the very least, they need to talk to each other more during fight scenes, not just grunt and roar."

Movies and TV shows are part of our shared cultural fabric — whether we're watching them for the action on the screen or listening to them for the stories they tell.

While, as Edison said, "there's nobody audio-describing our lives," anyone can appreciate the moviegoing experience of blind people on their own. So next time you settle in for a night on the couch or head to the theater for a break (and some $12 popcorn), maybe try closing your eyes and listening to the film instead. You might end up seeing it in a whole new way.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Oregon utilizes teen volunteers to run their YouthLine teen crisis hotline

“Each volunteer gets more than 60 hours of training, and master’s level supervisors are constantly on standby in the room.”

Oregon utilizes teen volunteers to man YouthLine teen crisis hotline

Editor's Note: If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Mental health is a top-of-mind issue for a lot of people. Thanks to social media and people being more open about their struggles, the stigma surrounding seeking mental health treatment appears to be diminishing. But after the social and emotional interruption of teens due the pandemic, the mental health crises among adolescents seem to have jumped to record numbers.

PBS reports that Oregon is "ranked as the worst state for youth mental illness and access to care." But they're attempting to do something about it with a program that trains teenagers to answer crisis calls from other teens. They aren't alone though, as there's a master's level supervisor at the ready to jump in if the call requires a mental health professional.

The calls coming into the Oregon YouthLine can vary drastically, anywhere from relationship problems to family struggles, all the way to thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Teens manning the phones are provided with 60 hours of training and are taught to recognize when the call needs to be taken over by the adult supervisor.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Buffy Sainte-Marie shares what led to her openly breastfeeding on 'Sesame Street' in 1977

The way she explained to Big Bird what she was doing is still an all-time great example.

"Sesame Street" taught kids about life in addition to letters and numbers.

In 1977, singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie did something revolutionary: She fed her baby on Sesame Street.

The Indigenous Canadian-Ameican singer-songwriter wasn't doing anything millions of other mothers hadn't done—she was simply feeding her baby. But the fact that she was breastfeeding him was significant since breastfeeding in the United States hit an all-time low in 1971 and was just starting to make a comeback. The fact that she did it openly on a children's television program was even more notable, since "What if children see?" has been a key pearl clutch for people who criticize breastfeeding in public.

But the most remarkable thing about the "Sesame Street" segment was the lovely interchange between Big Bird and Sainte-Marie when he asked her what she was doing.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Mom shares her brutal experience with 'hyperemesis gravidarum' and other moms can relate

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a severe case of morning sickness that can last up until the baby is born and might require medical attention.

@emilyboazman/TikTok

Hyperemesis gravidarum isn't as common as regular morning sickness, but it's much more severe.

Morning sickness is one of the most commonly known and most joked about pregnancy symptoms, second only to peculiar food cravings. While unpleasant, it can often be alleviated to a certain extent with plain foods, plenty of fluids, maybe some ginger—your typical nausea remedies. And usually, it clears up on its own by the 20-week mark. Usually.

But sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes moms experience stomach sickness and vomiting, right up until the baby is born, on a much more severe level.

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), isn’t as widely talked about as regular morning sickness, but those who go through it are likely to never forget it. Persistent, extreme nausea and vomiting lead to other symptoms like dehydration, fainting, low blood pressure and even jaundice, to name a few.

Emily Boazman, a mom who had HG while pregnant with her third child, showed just how big of an impact it can make in a viral TikTok.

Keep ReadingShow less

The cast of TLC's "Sister Wives."

Dating is hard for just about anyone. But it gets harder as people age because the dating pool shrinks and older people are more selective. Plus, changes in dating trends, online etiquette and fashion can complicate things as well.

“Sister Wives” star Christine Brown is back in the dating pool after ending her “spiritual union” with polygamist Kody Brown and she needs a little help to get back in the swing of things. Christine and Kody were together for more than 25 years and she shared him with three other women, Janelle, Meri and Robyn.

Janelle and Meri have recently announced they’ve separated from Kody. Christine publicly admitted that things were over with Kody in November 2021.

Keep ReadingShow less

Finally, someone explains why we all need subtitles

It seems everyone needs subtitles nowadays in order to "hear" the television. This is something that has become more common over the past decade and it's caused people to question if their hearing is going bad or if perhaps actors have gotten lazy with enunciation.

So if you've been wondering if it's just you who needs subtitles in order to watch the latest marathon-worthy show, worry no more. Vox video producer Edward Vega interviewed dialogue editor Austin Olivia Kendrick to get to the bottom of why we can't seem to make out what the actors are saying anymore. It turns out it's technology's fault, and to get to how we got here, Vega and Kendrick took us back in time.

They first explained that way back when movies were first moving from silent film to spoken dialogue, actors had to enunciate and project loudly while speaking directly into a large microphone. If they spoke and moved like actors do today, it would sound almost as if someone were giving a drive-by soliloquy while circling the block. You'd only hear every other sentence or two.

Keep ReadingShow less