Misophonia – in five voices

This is a ghostwriting exercise in which I attempted to write an article using the voices of five famous people or characters – one for each paragraph. The voices are those of Christiane Amanpour, Whoopi Goldberg, Stephen Colbert, Alex Jones (yes, I went there), and Bernard Black. Can you match the voices with their paragraphs?

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Let’s talk about misophonia. No, it doesn’t mean eating miso soup while talking on the telephone – but that would really annoy someone with misophonia. The word misophonia comes from Greek and means “hatred of sound.” It’s also called “sound-rage,” which coincidentally was the name of my metal band in college. A person with misophonia has intense emotional and physical reactions when they hear certain trigger sounds. Doctors aren’t sure what causes it, and it’s difficult to diagnose because it’s a mental problem and not a hearing problem – a person with misophonia has normal hearing, but sounds affect their brain or nervous system differently. It was officially recognized in 2001 – before that, it was just called being a social curmudgeon.

People suffering from misophonia are triggered by many different noises. Roughly 80% of triggers are mouth noises, such as gum chewing, slurping, crunching, talking with one’s mouth full, sucking and loud breathing. Repetition is also a factor, and people with misophonia often develop visual triggers as well – merely seeing someone pacing, chewing silently, fidgeting or bouncing their legs may trigger a reaction. Reactions are both emotional and physical, and can include intense rage, anxiety or panic, a desire to cause physical harm, disgust or hatred, leaving the room or dinner table and even suicidal thoughts.

If someone you love has misophonia, know that they really do mean it when they say a noise bothers them. Their emotions are valid, and their needs are valid. If they ask to eat in another room, be sympathetic. It’s not that they don’t love you; it’s just that the trigger noises are too much for them and they might be afraid of acting on the emotions that come up and going crazy in front of you. Don’t take it personal – they don’t see it that way. Remember they will have to deal with thoughtless people every day who won’t take them seriously, so make sure you’re not one of them. Even though more people are becoming aware of this disorder, lots of people still respond like this:

“We live in a world of trigger warnings. They’ve got these millennials all coddled with their safe spaces, and microaggressions, and PC jargon. That’s the old news. The new news is that just eating your dinner could be a trigger for some people. Misophonia, they say. What is misophonia? It’s an excuse for so-called sufferers to whine about everyone else. What’s next, a war on chewing gum like Singapore? This laundry list of phony disorders is just the beginning. Next we’ll have people claiming disability just because they can’t cope with real life. Total bull! The doctors who diagnose all this crap are puppets of the government, and what they want is a dumbed-down population that can be easily controlled.”

Ignore rubbish like this. You need a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a place where people will leave you alone. There is no cure for misophonia, but you can live a perfectly normal life if you stay away from filthy monsters who eat crisps in your space. Some clinics have developed programs like counseling, sound therapy and exposure therapy. Join social media support groups so you can complain about your triggers without actually having to go out among people. If you need any medication, just ask your therapist – or the local pub.

One article, three ways – a ghostwriting exercise

As a ghostwriting exercise, I decided to write an article myself, and then rewrite it in the voices of two famous people: Stephen Colbert and Christiane Amanpour. For Stephen Colbert, I used his “speaking” voice – the article was rewritten as he would have told the story on his TV show, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. This was a challenge because much of Colbert’s humor is conveyed through his intonation, facial expressions, and body language. While writing this piece, I imagined all of this, but it cannot be completely conveyed in written form. For those of you familiar with Colbert, I hope you can imagine it too. Christiane Amanpour is best known for her interviews, but I modeled my rewrite on her written articles. Her writing style is clean, concise, and fact-based.

Disclaimer: This article is a work of fiction. I do not wish to contribute to the spread of fake news. The bluegrass performers are fictional. However, I would not be surprised to learn that two women just like them exist in Nashville, Indiana.

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Bluegrass Performers Roast Trump (version one – my own voice)

It’s November 19th, 2016, and protests continue to rage across the United States. Just over a week ago, Donald Trump was elected the 45th president despite losing the popular vote by a wide margin. Trump, a businessman and reality TV star with no political background, has been blamed for stirring up hate across the country with his blunt campaign speeches, in which he has threatened to ban Muslims from the country, called Mexicans “rapists,” mocked a disabled reporter, and hinted that African-Americans should be “stopped and frisked.” In addition, he is notorious for making numerous sexist remarks: calling a beauty contestant “Miss Piggy,” crudely suggesting that a female moderator was menstruating, commenting on (and touching) his daughter Ivanka’s body in an inappropriate way, and boasting about his ability to sexually assault women due to his star status.

Not all protests take place in city streets, however. In the small town of Nashville, Indiana, neighbors, sisters-in-law, and long-time best friends Evelyn and Rachel Krauss have been making their voices heard in their own way – through bluegrass music. Today, I sat with the performers in the Story Inn restaurant. Evelyn, wearing a faded Bernie Sanders t-shirt, showed me pictures from their concerts. “We’ve been performing together for almost 40 years, singing about whatever was important to us at the time” stated Evelyn, who plays the banjo and writes most of their material. “There’s a history of using bluegrass music as a social protest, especially about problems in the coal mining industry. Well, coal’s not such a big deal here in Indiana, but we sing about the things politicians do that affect our lives.” The duo have, in fact, composed music about President George W. Bush just before his 2004 re-election, about the arrest of protesters of the Dakota pipeline, and against the war in Iraq. Evelyn sometimes composes her own music, but other times uses the melodies of existing bluegrass songs for her original lyrics. For example, she fixed the lyrics of her 2004 song “Dubya is done” to the tune of popular bluegrass hit “Cora is gone” (written by Odell McLeod).

Evelyn White and Rachel Vance began playing bluegrass together in 1978. They were both Indiana University students then, Evelyn studying English and Rachel studying Folklore, with a concentration in Ethnomusicology. Both then returned home to Nashville and married their high school sweethearts, Bob and James Krauss. When they’re not performing bluegrass, Rachel is the program developer in the T. C. Steele State Historic Site and Evelyn writes books about local history.

“Indiana is a red state,” Rachel acknowledged, “but Nashville is a bit more liberal. There’s the art colony, you know. And people come down from Bloomington to listen to us too.” Rachel plays the fiddle and sings the high tenor vocals. “We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Rachel continued, “But Trump just brings out the fight in everybody. People who don’t usually protest, people who aren’t interested in politics even, are protesting him. I think we’re getting double the crowd we got when we were singing about Bush.” “Trump’s been good for business at least,” joked Evelyn. “We’d mostly been singing about trains and lost lovers these past eight years.”

Growing crowds aside, I wanted to know whether or not the performers had received any negative attention or feedback. “Well, there was that guy from Martinsville. He showed up at one of our concerts with a ‘Trump that bitch’ t-shirt and a megaphone, yelling that we were traitors and that Trump would make America great again – very original stuff!” dryly remarked Evelyn. “I think he proved our point. Maybe he made that concert even better!” Rachel added that someone (a local prankster is suspected) had stolen one of her garden gnomes and left a red Trump baseball cap on the other. “Other than that and a few trolls on our website, nothing,” she remarked. When asked about their future plans, Rachel laughed and sang a line from one of their songs:

“As long as there’s life in these bones
And I have a voice of my own
Until my death –bell starts ringin’
I’m gonna keep on singin’!”

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Bluegrass Performers Roast Trump (version two – Stephen Colbert)

And speaking of rotten pumpkins that need to be thrown away… Donald Trump.

As you may know, there have been a lot of protests lately; people are forming a wall around Trump Towers. That’s right, with two months to go until the inauguration, he’s already kept one campaign promise! Maybe we’ve misjudged him.

Anyways… we’ve found a couple other people who’ve joined the anti-Trump riots or, as I like to call them, “Trumpots.” (A photo appears on the screen of Evelyn and Rachel Krauss) Two middle-aged bluegrass musicians named Evelyn and Rachel Krauss from Nashville, Indiana have been singing songs about the Donald, and people from several nearby cities have come to hear them. Roll the clip, Jim!

(A video appears on the screen. In it, two women are singing, one of them playing the fiddle and one playing the banjo. These are the lines they sing:

Well he came down the escalator to “Keep on Rockin”
Said: “I’m gonna build you a wall”
But this ain’t Trump casino; this is our friggin’ country
And we all reckoned he’d fall.

But he won the nomination, went after Clinton
Said: “I know how to win
“I’m really rich; stop and frisk
“Make America great again.”

The video finishes, leaving the picture of Evelyn and Rachel Krauss on the screen. The camera returns to Stephen Colbert, who is smiling as the audience laughs and cheers.)

Yeah. Evidently they sang similar songs about George W. Bush ahead of the 2004 election… and we all know how that turned out. These snarky seniors have been performing bluegrass for almost 40 years and say that Trump is, quote, “good for business.” Well at least he’s good for something! What do you think, should Trump invite them to play at the inauguration? (In the voice he uses when imitating Trump) “I found some broads who just love me. This is yuge, even though they’re threes.” (Audience laughs and claps. The band starts playing.)

Stick around, we’ve got a great show for you tonight! Mark Ruffalo is here!

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Bluegrass Performers Roast Trump (version three – Christiane Amanpour)

Protests continue to rage across the United States following last week’s election, which Donald Trump won despite losing the popular vote by a wide margin. Trump himself has falsely accused the media of inciting professional protesters to demonstrate against him.

But not all protests take place in city streets. In the small town of Nashville, Indiana, bluegrass performers Evelyn and Rachel Krauss are using their music to speak out against the president-elect. I sat down with the musicians in the Story Inn restaurant.

“We’ve been performing together for almost 40 years, singing about whatever was important to us at the time” said Evelyn. “There’s a history of using bluegrass music as a social protest, especially about problems in the coal mining industry. Well, coal’s not such a big deal here in Indiana, but we sing about the things politicians do that affect our lives.”

Evelyn and Rachel Krauss have also composed music about President George W. Bush just before his 2004 re-election, about the arrest of protesters of the Dakota pipeline, and against the war in Iraq. Their career began at university. Today, Rachel is the program developer in the T. C. Steele State Historic Site and Evelyn writes books about local history.

“Indiana is a red state,” Rachel said, “but Nashville is a bit more liberal. There’s the art colony, you know. And people come down from Bloomington to listen to us too. We’ve been doing this for a long time, but Trump just brings out the fight in everybody. People who don’t usually protest, people who aren’t interested in politics even, are protesting him. I think we’re getting double the crowd we got when we were singing about Bush.”

“Trump’s been good for business at least,” noted Evelyn. “We’d mostly been singing about trains and lost lovers these past eight years.”

Evelyn also said that most feedback had been positive so far. Negative feedback consisted of a single protester at a concert and a few comments on their website. That has not discouraged the performers, who intend to continue performing as long as possible.