Thursday, July 27, 2006

327: just an odd thing

Click here if you're from Texas. Or if you're Deaf.

326: thurs am coffee on the train

Reading a lot of talk about Deafhood in the blogosphere through Ridor's tunnel of gossip: awesome! Will be posting some links to cool websites soon.

Also working on a long blog about "It's All Gone Pete Tong," a movie which, for me, answers the question: "If you take away everything nonessential from Deafhood, take away everything but the most basic means of communication, what's left? What is pure Deafhood?"

Reading like crazy too. Just finished "The Great Deluge" which is still heavy on my mind. "Killing Time," by Caleb Carr, a great one IMHO. Just finished Terry Bisson's "The Pickup Artist;" this guy's famous for his "They're made of meat" story - funny as hell; I was first introduced to it by my Physics teacher in MSSD (compare that to what mainstream teachers are like with deaf kids.) Now in the middle of Neil Gaiman's "Anansi Boys," and next on the plate - and I have to run to the library today to restock - is Carr's "Italian Secretary," a sort of add-on to the Sherlock Holmes series.

Wal is away, so I keep my mind busy. We miss each other like hell, but he's not in control of his own transportation. Which brings me to ask... How many of you had luggage childhoods? What's a luggage childhood, you say? I mean a childhood where people didn't take too much trouble to communicate anything but the need-to-knows with you, so you would go around in the back seat with the family, never sure of where you were going or why you were going there... Finally around the age of 15 I started fighting grumpily, demanding to know where we were going and to be treated like a proper individual. (I'm good-natured, essentially, and go along with most things till I get perturbed, then I get a grumpy look and am impossible to move.)

What can I say about the news? Lebanon and Hizbollah is terrible no matter how you look at it. The difference I can see between conservative and liberal coverage? Liberals are horrified by the war and so condemn everyone but will always be concerned for what they see as underdog; conservatives want to pick sides, so they discuss the merits of the casus belli, and neither way is necessarily bad but both should be aware of what they're doing.

OK, enough for now. Must walk into office.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

325: dispelling the sentimental myths of sound

I've often reflected that I'm disturbed by certain techniques used by people who sell hearing aids and cochlear implants. One specific technique is to invoke sentimentality, the extreme sort. "Get this device and you'll hear your baby's first word!" "Get this device and you'll be able to talk to your family!" "Music," people say, rapturously, eyes rolling to the ceilings as they clutch iPods with sweaty hands.

Take music. The truth is while some hearing people find music enjoyable on a sophisticated level, most hearing people seem to hear it on about the same level we 'feel' it - a collection of thumps. Look at this study on Cognitive Daily, where they point out that only a small percentage of people - usually musicians - can really totally enjoy music. The rest can't even tell when it's out of tune - obviously they're just feeling the bass, maybe in a wider sense than Deaf people but not much differently. So the argument is really just based on sentimentality, because no technique or piece of equipment today can make a Deaf person hear even as much as an average hearing person. It's not scientific, therefore, to invoke music as a reason to get this equipment... but it is certainly a great selling point, and one guaranteed to become a placebo which at least invokes the feeling of pleasure people are "supposed" to feel when they hear music.

They do say that there is a chance people who study the issue increase their range of perception - in which case, we could see music appreciation classes designed for CI users and HA users (and I'd love to see something for Deaf people, wouldn't you?) But to simply imply astounding music perception beyond that of the ordinary hearing person is rather pushing it.

As for hearing your baby cry - well, how do you argue that one? But I'd like to. I'd like to make the point that underneath the sentimental feeling we get when we're presented with the words "your" "baby" and "cry," we're just not confident of having that deep connection with our child - nobody is, hearing or deaf. I wonder how many people are really having that fear of isolation exploited.

Fear of isolation is one of the three most deep-seated human fears - most advertisers try to sell products based on taking advantage of this fear. But isolation has nothing to do with one's condition in life, but how one responds to one's condition. Many hearing people are very, very isolated - hey, look at all the cat lady stories! They can hear, but they're still weird and spend a lot of their time alone petting furry males like Ricky Taylor.

I think they are playing way too hard on our fears of isolation. Now if they came to me and offered me a business suit and said "With the implant you'll be able to hear all the live, unsubtitled things on CNN, and detect nuclear weapons for the United Nations," that would be kind of cool... but then maybe I'm just not a passive person. If I can't make music (and how many implant doctors say "You'll be able to compose fucking Beethoven?) I don't see the point.

Friday, July 21, 2006

324: friday morning news and coffee roundup

Deaf people don't read, they say. (Obviously never observing Deaf people with sidekicks, laptops, and closed captioning.) We read all the time. But every now and then I like to point out fresh perspectives on news articles.

This is awwwww-worthy:
Michael, 14, who was born deaf and wears hearing aids in both ears, was out walking his dog Benji when he saw Bradley waving and shouting for help while his group of friends looked on, horrified.
Michael, a pupil at the deaf and hearing impaired unit at Castleford High School, said: "I saw Bradley in the water splashing around and noticed his face change and look worried.
"I ran as fast as I could to help him and by the time I had got there he was at the bottom of the quarry. I didn't really think about what I was doing, I was just frightened he was going to die."
Michael, a strong swimmer, leapt from the quarry edge into the water and pulled Bradley out by his hair before dragging him on to dry land.
Michael, who lives with his mum on Throstle Row, Knottingley, said: "After I pulled him out he was choking so I hit him on the back a few times and he started breathing again."
The quick-thinking teenager then ran to Bradley's home nearby and told his father what had happened.

More importantly: more hospitals providing ASL terps. Which is great - most Deaf people with mental problems who can't advocate for themselves, still don't get terps that easily. But it still provides problems, because terps are much more effective when they get speciality training in the medical field. Think I'm bitching too much? In 1997 I entered Haverford College and had to take required science classes. Loving science, I was eager. But the interpreter situation was impossible. I had a few people actually stand up and leave because the material was too complicated. Since my field wasn't in science, I decided to reduce my own struggles by transferring... eventually I had to finish up in geology. In some ways you are limited, when you use an interpreter, to the interpreter's abilities...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Light blogging

323: light blogging heat

Blogging has been light due to many things. Including my birthday. Crazy, isn't it? As a depressed kid I never thought I'd make it this long. Rather pleased. Now if I can just survive global warming, meteors, solar flares, hurricanes, civil unrest, and whatever the hell is going on in the Middle East, I'll be good.

Global warming is really obvious right now with record temperatures hitting LaGuardia and three NYC trains out because of heat (they seem to be back up now.) ConEd has asked people to not use "unessential" appliances such as air conditioners (do they really expect people to take this seriously in poorly ventiliated apartment buildings? Besides, how do they get this message out to people? They don't. They just make a public statement to cover their arses...)

I was stuck on one of those trains this morning, not a pleasant experience. The AC just died, people began fainting, AC began dripping over all of us... I took off my hearing aid to protect it, but this freaked me out a bit, because people were talking and you can feel them talking and you don't know what's going on and with people packed in so tightly... well. Cover your pockets and pray for the best is all you can do.

Plus a tropical storm formed off of the coast of NC this morning.

But this is cool.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

322: rainmound cleaning

Scrubbed the bathroom today when I got back. Looks much whiter. I am happy. Someone mysteriously moved my bleach, so I had to go buy a new bottle: hurrah whitey scrubbedness!

Spent the weekend up in Greenwich, CT at the wedding of friends of the W.'s. It was gorgeous - the wedding was outdoors; we sat in makeshift pews of white folding chairs, under a huge lightning-struck tree. One great branch of three had been peeled off, leaving the inside of the third, a vein-like network of branches, visible to the human eye. A Celtic ribbon tied around their wrists, and the couple walked back into the great Edwardian-style mansion to the rear of the Episcopalian church, surrounded by a bouqet of white flowers.

A wedding party had been cunningly set behind the house: bars with servants producing wine and beer and cappucino; a short staircase down from the wooden patio onto a stone path which ended in a clearing filled with tables and chairs, under a great white canvas pavilion.

It was fun, and with the hotel I felt a bit spoiled really. And now a bit broke. But a nice few days away from the city, breathing.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

321: one thing that drives me nuts about interpreters

Sometimes you will be sitting in class or in a meeting and you will have a question. You'll be watching the interpreter: you know she will be "behind" the conversation/lecture, so you're being as active and on top of things as possible. Hell, sometimes you have questions from readings and see the mention of something in relation to your question and decide to attempt a clever segue. You'll interrupt the class vocally or through the interpreter-either way, the interpreter takes the time at some point to say this, or similar:
They're done talking about that, now they've moved on to a new topic, sorry, interpreter behind!

To the interpreter: I know you're behind. I'm used to this situation. I'm deaf. I'm in the middle of class/the coordinator of this meeting/etc. It's not a big terrible secret-they don't have some conspiracy-theory explanation about this woman doing intepretive dance with her hands in front of the room. Why mention it to me?

My suggestion? Tell the classroom instead. Do it slow and sign at the same time. Something like -
Excuse me, could I just explain something? I keep up with the conversation, but it always has a couple seconds' lag between communications from one language to another language.
Then just sit down. Don't say the former: you quash my commitment to participation.

(I think they're trying to help, I just don't think that's a successful way.)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

320: deafhood not militancy

Someone on deafDC called Paddy Ladd a militant, for his statements against cochlear implants and mainstreaming (despite the fact that the man is in another country, where different conditions obtain.)

Paddy Ladd is hardly militant. Listen, ok? Other groups have their intensive studies - women, for example; african-american studies is quite popular now. Religious studies, of which I took quite a few, in an old barn where the moonlight drifted through the roof.

Deaf studies has always existed but it was primarily conceived of as an admixture of educational methods and audiological measurements. Ladd's book boosts it to a new level. Hearing people were already studying psychology; he is attempting instead to paint the psyche.

It is a job for which maybe he is the only appropriate one. He approaches Deaf people both as a Deaf person and someone from outside the Deaf community - his history with music (Bob Dylan comes to mind) is as not-Deaf as you could find (although I know plenty of people who have plenty of Deafhood who would argue otherwise.) He has earned his Deafhood, but he still has knowledge from outside the community. The figure in Deaf history he is most like is not Clerc, but Clerc's teacher: Massieu, who also moved between two worlds. Massieu was the wild intellectual; Clerc was the patient, but sometimes slow thinker. Massieu was the rebellious one; Clerc was the "good boy." Massieu was the rock star, with the cool watches.

Which is much more the point to Deafhood than militancy. It's not about making good music. Leave that to fucking Beethoven. Deafhood is about performance. You know what? I think you find your Deafhood when you stop apologizing to people about who you are and stop being embarrassed by it. You know that old story about a Deaf person who doesn't know their neighbors? You know why he doesn't know his neighbors? He has no confidence. He has no Deafhood. He has lost touch with his human curiosity about the world. He has accepted boredom as part of his lot in life. He has accepted a kind of slavery.

One of my friends is extremely Deaf, and sometimes a bit weird. But he has a ton of Deafhood. It's what finally made me want to be friends with him. You know why? He knows everyone around him. Deaf, hearing - it doesn't matter. He lets nothing stop him from talking to anyone. And he still manages to be totally himself - and totally a Deaf person - while doing it. That's real Deafhood. It's pretty cool. It isn't what you usually consider a "Deaf militant," is it? The boogeymen who, people say, prefer ASL ONLY and say FUCK YOU to English?

My friend zLotte? Also lots of Deafhood. She refuses to be put "in her place" by anyone. In fact, I would say pretty much all of my friends have achieved a degree of Deafhood. I think a lot of people posting here have achieved some. The rest of it - implants or hearing aids, ASL or English - really just details. But a lot of people haven't achieved jack shit, and the point of Ladd's discussion on colonization is to point out how much of that is due to being oppressed by opportunity-seekers who position themselves between Deaf and hearing people, who actually create walls of shame, culture, and embarrassment, and actively promote a state of confusion about what it means to be a Deaf person among Deaf people, among hearing people.

Gay people get this. This is why so many gays and lesbians know sign language. Have you noticed that? They get the part where we stop apologizing for being who we are. So do people from other groups, races... It's in large part what makes up the things some people call "Deaf culture" which aren't cultural but are: the distance, for example, which we like to keep between us when we're just chatting, because of our visual needs (and yes, people who don't sign do this too, for lipreading, and just really for personal awareness.)

Maybe I'm being all hyperbolic and shit, about the rock stars. But really, to me this is it. And if you think about this and understand this, it can help you understand the point behind advocacy of ASL and the point behind concerns about cochlear implants, at least for myself. It's about ensuring the complete health (physical and mental) and independence of the Deaf individual.

Let's remember that there was a great period in this country where Deaf people, like those who tried to attend the conference in France held before Milan (what was the name? Some idiot has my copy of WTMH - I'm so cross) were shut out of the educational process - and this resulted in harm to Deaf people. No matter that the technology now is improved - much of the structure is still the same. We question this because we have a duty to to fix the problems we see - and ensure that Deaf children, like women, like gays and lesbians, have the ability to be themselves.

Maybe that's wild. Some people are Clercs. Some people are Massieus. It does take all kinds to make a world. But that's not militancy, to get back to my original point. Militancy is unthinking, lockstep agreement with a single opinion - and Deafhood as I've described it leaves plenty of room for variation. Has to. The point is development. You can't develop in a cage. (Break out.)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

318: a little more Deafhood in my pants

Chris, who used to beat me in lipreading contests at MSSD, has put up a blog called "To be Deaf or deaf" where he discusses deafhood:
The list goes on and on. I believe every one who is deaf has a right to be recognized as members of deafhood. Just like Tom Humphries’ definition of audism did not really emerge until the late 1990s, we are seeing the use of a new word emerge, and its definition come under fire — as well as who should be considered members of deafhood.

This is a good time as any to open dialogue on who, how, where, and why “deafhood” should be used.

I'd like to note Paddy Ladd is working on a new website to support his book Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood. Dr. Ladd has been called "The Father of Deaf Culture" in the UK. While I wouldn't go that far - they had Deaf people before he was born - I would happily agree he's one of the founders of modern Deaf Studies thought, and applies a comprehensive psychological, linguistic and anthropological perspective to the field not really seen in the past. He's also one of my favorite people. An assortment of reasons why: he started the group "The Grateful Deaf," teaches Deaf Studies at the University of Bristol, devised the Blue Ribbon Ceremony to remember the Deaf people who died in WWII... You can read a poor and incomplete biography here, and another one here, with a photo. He was the Doctor Chair of Deaf Studies at Gallaudet. I hope a lot of people start reading his book to understand HIS concept of Deafhood.

I saw a lot of commentors on Chris's blog try to say we should do away with these concepts. To me this is silly; it implies they don't wish to understand themselves or the world they live in. While I understand searching out your own psychology can be scary and frustrating, it's also a necessary process if you want to move forward with yourself and your life. As I wrote on my blog before, and on Chris' blog:
Ladd meant the term to UNITE people not DIVIDE them and as his student I’m NOT going to let people pervert “Deafhood” to mean “we sign faster than you, so get the duck out.” It’s not going to be USEFUL that way.

My feeling? Those militants you complain about are as uncomfortable with their Deafness as anyone else. It’s just their personalities show how they express the complex emotions in their own Deafhood, and this determines how they relate to other people. If they don’t take time to think about this - think about where their feelings and insecurities about ASL and being a Deaf person lie - they will never really understand their own Deafhood.

Same thing for anyone else, including others on this thread. When you find yourself getting angry - STOP! It’s a warning sign! Think about it! Why does this discussion make you feel angry? Where does that feeling come from? We’re talking about a word!

Ladd in his book points out the tireless efforts of “gatekeepers” - hearing people who work within the Deaf/deaf communities and become the go-betweens. These people have tremendous power-they decide what info passes to Deaf people and often control their organizations. They often form the discourse around Deaf people. The terms “hearing impaired” and “hard of hearing” were not natural; they were invented terms, used to sell hearing aids. There are indeed degrees of deafness; there are also degrees of skin color. We have to learn to see the separation between the body and the spirit…

Deafhood is about something you have inside. As a deaf person, you begin to develop it. It leads you to contact the community. I went to MSSD arrogant, made arrogant by a life of people telling me I was better than other Deaf people because of my skills in English and reliance on speaking rather than signing. I didn't want to sign at all; I've told the story on my blog about Rae Johnson, my MSSD English teacher, getting me to stop signing while speaking - it led to me understanding both languages far better. When I had to find a good translation for Shakespeare in ASL, WHILE RESPECTING BOTH LANGUAGES, it just opened up for me. Before I was repeating words: now I was finding meaning. But first I had to be shocked into giving up my own prejudices. Learning to sign proper ASL didn't make me retarded. It didn't destroy my relationships with hearing people. I was scared because the gatekeepers had made me so. What do people tell you which forms your opinions of Deafhood/deaf people/everything else? How much of it is true?

For example, I spoke with an interpreter the other day who's worked for a ton of people. He claims that the reason the U.S. Government is supporting CI research and technology is because, basically, ASL is too expensive. A CI could cost the individual $30,000 over the years; a hearing aid, more. ASL interpreter? Costs - to the government, or the employer, for facilitation of communication - Assume two hours of interpreting a week (which is all some Deaf people in mental hospitals get, by the way) times $160 times 52 weeks a year-$8,320 a year. Considering Deaf people live quite a long time, the implant seems a MUCH cheaper option for the government, for business, for everyone - but the people who have to go through the surgery who would prefer to be as they are; the people who have been sent through the surgery without a choice, who would have preferred to be left alone. But have you ever considered that perspective? I hadn't. But it's true - there's got to be pressures everywhere on this. None of it means anything by itself - it's just facts - but....

To be wounded by the tool which frees us. Ironic, isn't it? But let's enlarge this. Are there similar pressures going on with other cultures? What about the attempts by conservatives to recognize English as our national language? Follow the money there too - and realize how much they spend to accomodate diversity. Publishing everything in more languages costs! Teaching the Bush Chimp to imitate "Hola?" probably costs too. There are tireless efforts by certain groups to eliminate diversity. Disabled people don't have these problems - they often need simple, one-time changes. Cultural groups need to be accomodated for life.

In Brooklyn they say Always follow the money... Of course, there are other options, which could be implemented... and

Deafhood can be a process of discovery and enlightenment, for the individual as well as for the community. If you approach it right it can let you see a far, far bigger picture. More later. J.