Friday, December 29, 2006

392: The National Deaf Economy, what?

Today's Question, for Deaf Community Members:

How do you see things in the nation as a whole for Deaf people? Are Deaf people more likely or less likely to be employed today than ten years ago? Are Deaf people more or less likely to be moving up the income ladder today than ten years ago? Are more or less of your friends employed? Is this better or worse employment? Have any of your friends lost jobs this year? What are your feelings about the future: fear? Confidence?

I'll post my thoughts over the weekend. Maybe in a vlog, if I have time; I want to do more.

Monday, December 25, 2006

391: For Your Hands Only: holiday possessiveness edition

What present did you earmark for yourself this holiday season? Come on, we all do it: we see something we've really wanted, we go "Oh no, I shouldn't!" and we do. For me it was a Koie slingbag, "the must for the urban warrior who needs a simple, uncomplicated backpack..."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

390: Working While Deaf; or, Existential Deafhood

Thursday at work my friend RD, whose daughter is at Gallaudet now, stopped me to tell about Sophie, Miss Limousin of France. This go-getting Deaf girl was fighting for the crown of Miss France when an interpreter got in her way. Not to be floored, she kept her smile and chose to try speaking for herself when she encountered a barrier. Shane Feldman has the goods, and a link to the video.

It's funny. I keep thinking about the word assimilation while watching the film. In my head I always sort of interpret words: assimilation always comes across as a sign that looks like fitting you into our puzzle. A few times in the last weeks I've seen the "Hearing World" abomination around, again. I'm starting to understand why people say that. It is only partially about doubts about ASL and Deaf culture. Mostly it's because, in this world, you often have to give something up, to get something else done. Miss Limousin had to make such a choice - when the interpreter failed her, she needed to find some way to get her message across. Some might say she should have asked for her rights and fought for a certified interpreter; others might say she should do what is right in the moment. To me it was always clear that she was Deaf and she was a Person. She was very much in control. And in some ways, it was a good opportunity for her to show she would try no matter what. That took courage, I think. Would YOU be willing to use your voice in front of millions? *eep*

The Hearing World Abomination is this: when people say you must do X because you live in a Hearing World! When you're working in TEH HEARING WORLD!!!!! and living in TEH HEARING WORLD!!!!! and fighting your ass off to keep up with and even be better than the huge assortment of jerks in TEH HEARING WORLD!!!! you just can't help but wonder what all the fuss is. We hear the words every day, without explanation. (They said it was a man's world at one point, too.) None of this, you think, is actually designed to make me happy or feel comfortable or anything like that. We should be able to tell people what we need in terms of communication and have that respected, or at least have that start a discussion on how to handle communication needs. We should also fight to find answers of our own. It is essentially a problem of "How do I make sure the mirror is reflecting me properly?" How do you make sure YOU are coming through the way YOU want to be seen, when you are no longer in control of your own words? I'm sure soon people are going to criticize Limousin, either for speaking or for signing: someone always does. But whether she was speaking or signing, Sophie Vouzelaud was trying - with passion - to create a clear picture of her self for judges - something we struggle with every day, we Deaf people fighting to work in environments with a majority - in most cases a huge majority - of hearing people.

New York has a reasonably-sized interpreting community and though I am sometimes thirsty for communication I am never parched. I can go to a hospital and know I'll have at least some visits interpreted. (I think the rate in NY State is something like 60% of medical appointments are interpreted, disappointingly low in terms of simple volume - should we only understand 60% of our health information? Isn't 60% a losing grade in high school?) And I can figure out how to get interpreters for events and venues more easily than those in states with less people to justify the cost. But I have no way of guaranteeing an interpreter will be able to take my words in ASL and make them very palatable words in English. That 60% of appointments are filled by quite a variety of interpreters... now I'm a writer. I care about my words. It hurts me when I go to gender studies classes and sign "The determination of gender roles is entirely arbitrary, but certain types of biologically-determined behaviors which have been classified as part of those roles are not," and have this terped to (and I had to lipread every word of it, and wince) "I want to decide what is the gender role, is it maybe, is it definite, biology decides, we behave in class to divide those roles, don't we?"

This is where existential deafhood comes in. How do we find our own answers for this problem? Deaf studies and deafhood give our lives and existences validity. All of our experiences should be recorded because they all feed into and are fed by Deaf culture in some form - from acceptance to resistance to celebration. ("It is what it is," my younger sister says, in the Deep Voice which means she's just uttered something from the Lifetime Channel.) We struggle for a perfect way to make the worlds fit together, but they don't. They did not come cut from one and the same puzzle; their edges do not meet. There is no deaf world and there is no hearing world. There is one world, with many inhabitants.

And it's okay. You don't have to force them to fit. (You don't have to accept what happens because they don't fit, either.) You don't have to jam the thing that looks like a thumb into the piece that looks like it has an eye socket. You can make your own collage, shapes of your own device, pieces lying on top of each other in three dimensions, layer on layer. I respect Miss Limousin for her choice. (What else should she have done?) I regret she has to make it. She had to make it because the OTHER clients - the judges - had no understanding of, or way to assess, the level of skill of the LSF interpreter, who might look perfectly competent in spoken French. Both sides in this instance need to realize the interpreter is there for both people. That LSF terp was there for the judges as well as the candidate... just as an interpreter in the Deaf person's working environment is there for the employer as well as the employee. Terps aren't at fault here. There's not enough of them-even today. But-accepting the least-common-denominator of access isn't a solution. And we don't have to let ourselves be pushed into impossible situations - like that of Miss Limousin. I admire her strength. Vive la France!

(P.S. Happy Holidays.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Interlude: Internet Scams and Deaf Culture

It seems we have finally achieved minority status: as erfo noted tonight, nigerians are now deafians:

British Deaf Association International
Headquarters: 60 Merriman Road
Blackheath London SE3 8RZ
Good day to you,
I am a representative of the UK Government in London. I will really love to pass this information to you and I hope you are the honest one that is ready and willing to take good care of 5-year-old deaf girl. Her mother came from unknown area in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire and they live in UK their mother MARIE HARTLEY died in Bomb Blast in London Terrorist Attacks on July 7TH 2005, and she left the sum of 3 million pounds in her account , now that she is no more the money automatically belongs to her only daughter, anyone that adopts the girls would be a beneficiary to the money inherited by the girl Named Elizabeth and when you convert the 3 million pounds into USA dollars its about 6.5million dollars.

We Are looking for an honest deaf male or female who is willing to adopt the girl and take good care of her and every 4 months the UK government will always come to check on the girl and how your taking good care of her. And such person will be given the three million pounds to take good care of the kids. Please write me back if you are interested so that we can contact the bank that whole the money as soon as possible and also contact the UK government so that they can sign and give you all the legal documents and also an agreement of adoption and legally keep the girl under your care, and also entrust the 3 million pounds the girl inherited from her parents in your care. Endeavor to contact me as soon as possible at, (email address left so the spambots can go nuts -ed.) so we can brief you on how to go about the adoption and also the requirements for the adoption. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Regards

It's kind of cool that people now use us in spam. Maybe next we can get the Brooklyn Bridge.

Monday, December 11, 2006

388: Review of Brilliant Traces

Brilliant Traces, by Cindy Lou Johnson. An oil worker's self-enforced isolation in a house in the Middle of Nowhere, Alaska, is disrupted by the arrival of an unbalanced woman in a bridal gown. Having had his peaceful limbo disrupted, Henry Harry refuses to allow Rosannah Deluce to leave until she finds reconcilation within herself. This latest production by the actor/director Frank Dattolo surprisingly pleases: the ethereal advertisements for the show made it seem like a bizarre trip (the insane bride, a la Lucia di Lammermoor, didn't help), but it's actually a tour-de-force of human psychology.

This play is performed in both English and ASL by New York Deaf Theater, and both translations are well-fashioned. Anne Tomasetti and Aaron Kubey provide the necessary character for this character-driven play-and then some! I was absolutely delighted by Tomasetti, who has the expressive range of Audrey Tautou and all of the charm; Kubey's performance resembles that of a more psychologically sophisticated version of Stanley from Streetcar, as his character convincingly moves from timid to terrifying. Indeed, the connection between the two actors strongly called A Streetcar Named Desire to mind, as their give-and-take of sanity and insanity goes from madness to lust to the kindness of strangers-a Streetcar where the prison of marriage is replaced by that of a blizzard, and this 'Blanche' arrives drunk-but quickly runs out of alcohol.

This is one of those well-directed productions which, adapted for ASL, finds clever ways to include voice interpretation which add, not detract, from the production. Two grey-costumed interpreters fade into the desolate, minimalist stage, seeming to represent the former lives of the characters (Kathy Walley, who voices for Tomasetti, even wears a slightly ruffled dress, hinting at the wedding dress Tomasetti takes off earlier in the stage.) Frank Todaro, for example, looks at the recumbent Tomasetti early in the production in a way which echoes the later looks of Kubey. That the two voice actors are speaking different language from the actors only enhances the weird ghostly connections. It emphasizes the bond between the two lost ones, as they dance verbally and physically on stage. Ordonez' costuming is also well-chosen; Tomasetti's dress is replaced by a plaid-and-jeans uniform matching Kubey's, hinting again at the prison-like nature of their exile.

Traces is a long piece-as one audience member said, it's weird (especially in this age of meaningless reality tv!) to see two people just relating for an hour and a half. The ending, however, more than satisfies, though free of resolution; the lights go off with madness in Rosannah's face. Tomasetti and Kubey pull off what must be an exhausting performance, keeping the audience interested and involved in a way which previous productions seem to have had trouble doing-this reviewer, despite a winter cold and a corneal abrasion, nonetheless squinted to catch every word. You could feel it in the audience when Henry kissed Rosannah. Their passion quite literally rattled the set - and the audience, which sat talking about what they'd seen a solid ten minutes after the lights went up. It's no wonder this production is sold out.

Brilliant Traces. Performed at the Gene Frankel Theater. 24 Bond Street New York, NY; NY Deaf Theatre.

387: Davila's Speech: with coffee

So it has turned out to be the famous Dr. Robert Davila, who I unexpectedly like. (And sir, if there's any jobs available in your administration, let a man know!) Seriously, you can see video of his speech here, straight from Gallaudet. My thoughts as the man speaks:

There's some introductory speech (UPDATE: by Pamela Holmes, chair of the BOT), then Davila takes the stage at 19:34 (is it just me, or is Gallaudet intent on using outmoded video players? This was clunky...) He gave a very interesting speech.

He states he has to deal with the lack of open communication on campus by establishing a non-affiliated person for students/faculty to talk to, an email hotline (no word on if this is anonymous!), etc. etc. "We need to open things up for you. We need to make people feel like when they speak on this campus, they will be heard." (Yes, I did find the last sentence funny.) He wants to find ways to put such paying-attention systems into place, to aid his successor; Davila will, he states be president for 1 year.

This sounds good, but at this point I was reminded of Fernandes and Jordan repeatedly stating: We hear you. We just don't agree with you. And I remember reading that Glickman book on Deaf Health and Mental Health where the author stated he found his employees and clients were most comfortable when they were allowed to set the parameters of their own communication.

What I mean is there has to be more than listening, at Gallaudet. When a Deaf person can go to a hearing college, get an interpreter provided for full communication (like I had,) why go to Gallaudet if they can't understand all the teachers? The benefit is supposed to be barrier-free education. That's Gallaudet's value-added - what makes their education special for Deaf individuals. Gallaudet needs to get back to making the campus barrier-free. They need to go through the whole campus like a Deaf person and find out all the spots - like DPS which can't sign - and make them accessible. For so many reasons.

24:03 - Davila mentions a rumor going around in the blogs - already retracted by Ridor, as I noticed in my last post - that he is not supportive of ASL as a language. Kind of shows the power of reporting, doesn' t it? But also, Mr. Davila, as you say later, we're our own worst critics, and Ridor honestly and immediately retracted his statements.

Davila goes on to clearly - and honestly - explain the problems now facing Gallaudet, including the MSA problems. I was impressed with his speaking ability. His signing has personality, and he definitely has the Old Deaf running through him - not in a bad way - he's a pleasure to watch! He reminds me a little of Malzkuhn, and Doug Alker who was President of the BDA in England. Finally, a real leader, who isn't just reading from a script - he knows his subject, he looks at his audience... Could it be someone who signs well might be recognized by the world as a real leader?
We need to be our own worst critics because if we're not, other people will take that role - and that's not a position we want to be in. (38:21)
Mr. Davila - this is exactly my philosophy. This is the blog philosophy - we have to work hard on our writing and positions. I wish you the best of luck at the University over the next couple of months. Remember you have young minds to guide and grow, not herd and control. This is not a madhouse with inmates; this is a school with young people. When people tell others about their boundaries and limitations, they need to be listened to - and if not agreed with, respected. When Jordan and Fernandes forgot that, they had already lost, though the protest hadn't begun.

Davila goes on to actually confront the PART report (something Fernandes and Jordan had yet to do) and state the first part of the plan to deal with it - is to collect information, which (if you read between the lines) is exactly what Fernandes and Jordan failed to do. Kudos to Davila for dealing with this!

Around 39:50 - talks about going back to Congress to get funding "restored?" Wants to take advantage of the Democratic Congress. I wonder if he could say a word about savedeaftheater?

40:30 - this seems like a big bombshell to me - there is information badly needed which Jordan doesn't have available or has not yet made available to Davila. This is starting to anger me, because I see a pattern. Ridor has been accusing the Jordan administration of corruption for a while. I have not gone that far. But the failure of the PART report is basically a failure of accountability, and if you see exactly what Gallaudet failed, it mostly has to do with honesty and providing accurate numbers and paperwork. Bascially, you get points for writing your name down if you show up, okay? That's what this is about. I feel terrible for Mr. Davila - it's a horrible thing to take over a job and be so far behind in the work your program needs to accomplish, and requires a lot of sleepless nights.

43:23 - has a deep respect for faculty governance systems. Was a member of many, and understands their importance. Will be setting up discussion panels. (I wonder, will he be sending letters to parents about the protest? Parents of Gallaudet Students, I mean, because I remember reading somewhere that Jordan never reached out to parents who wrote with their concerns about the protest. Davila may need to take over that part of continuing and resolving the Unity for Gallaudet protest.)

44:39 - nice comment from Davila - that both the other candidates for this position have skills that he wishes to tap in the pursuit of resolving the issues he faces on assuming leadership of the University. Seems they are already both involved. I think he's giving a message to people: We have 18 months. Let's get busy. (Update: Marshall has thrown his weight behind Davila.)

Can you tell I warmed up to Davila? I really did - he's obviously a mentor to a huge variety of minds, which is what a University is supposed to be about. He looked at his audience like an experienced professor and leader, and he spoke with emotion, even passion in some places. Could this be the man - this man who speaks before the Hill with such success, while still retaining an excellent ability to sign - be a model for students to achieve Deafhood? Will he remove the barriers which have risen on campus?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

386: Who's Who For the Gallaudet Interim Presidential Position

So who will it be, friends and neighbors? Here's some first impressions after my first reading of their biographies and letters.

William Marshall, a dedicated leader of the Gallaudet University faculty, who has led the University Faculty Senate (the one whose votes of no confidence so harmed the Jordan/Fernandes position) for the last several years? His publications focus on adademic discipline, how to make a University run efficiently, dealing with politics and power structures. He would seem to be the "healing" option - the man who by familiarity with the community and academic world might be able to lead the Gallaudet community to understanding and healing from the political and social uproar of the past year. His plan includes structure for whoever takes over the Presidential position to ease into their role. He interestingly seems to have stopped publishing in 99 and not again until 2006 - wasn't this the time period Jane Fernandes was Dean of the University? It's probably meaningless coincidence... all in all he seems capable, slightly conservative, highly efficient. His ASL skills have come under attack (see for yourself) but I think this is possibly unfair-Marshall is hardly claiming to be a beautiful signer, unlike Jane Fernandes who Jordan called "fluent." And as Erfo says:
"Marshall doesn't sign too badly. He's got personality... and he obviously has a lot of Old Deaf running through him. I covered his face for part of the presentation; I'd say 70% legible... when any fluent signer gets on the stage at Gally legibility drops to abt 40%-60%."
The worst people say of him that I've been able to see is that he is stiff and inflexible - but maybe Gallaudet needs the comfort of routine and a strong direction.

Robert Davila, a man who seems to play the center politically and has a fantastic fundraising track record, a respected academic leader of various institutions, a familiar face with Congress, a highly impressive resume... and extremely well known at Gallaudet (take this test!) He's the first Deaf and Hispanic man to receive a PhD in the United States, a feat which I applaud (and which my father would also; as an immigrant my father wasn't able to take advantage of education in America much.) Davila would seem to be the power option - the man who might be able to reconcile Gallaudet to the world and prepare for what, until a Democratic American majority took hold of the House and balanced the Senate, were hints and rumors of potential government cuts - such as those which rocked the world of Deaf Theatre. Perhaps his leadership qualities, diplomacy, political connections are the more important considerations.

Stephen Weiner was a guidance counselor at MSSD and a former New Yorker as well as a Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor in various other depts. Despite this, I don't know him very well - I was still revelling in being at a Deaf school for the first time in my life and annoying everyone with silly questions. At first glance, his resume doesn't appear as extensive as the other two candidates. Looking at it more closely helps you realize the structure is completely different. His research and publications are on Deaf clubs, Deaf people, Deaf society. I wonder if Weiner is meant to be the "community option" - the man who might reconcile Gallaudet to the extensive community (and its supporters) which turned out in the thousands to show support for their University during the protest. His having administrative experience is also as a member of Boards of various Deaf schools (including Lexington, which he himself attended), a doctorate in Education, and strong ties to the Deaf community. A review of his resume shows presentations nationally and internationally on a huge variety of subjects. His obvious commitment to his community might be what Gallaudet needs for the interim while the best Presidential candidate is sought.

Three very interesting people, who are also sort of refreshingly transparent. MishkaZena and Ridor also have their analysis (Ridor follows it up with a retraction.)

Why is this important? While the position will be short-lived, the Gallaudet community is hurting now - and needs treatment, counselling, the works. While the community is lying injured on the ground, people are hardening opinions about what happened. We need a voice to bring the community back together, prevent hemorrhaging of donations, maintain our political support, and keep the community on the path towards dealing with audism, both internal and external - and get the Gallaudet community ready for a new President and hopefully an upward climb. And as goes Gallaudet, so goes acceptance and opportunity for Deaf people around the nation. Sometimes we forget that without such a center of learning for Deaf people, we wouldn't have the exposure/visibility we do now. Regardless - they'll be announcing the leader soon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

385: weds am poetry: the Lion in Cancer

Something unfinished I thought I'd share during busy times.

The reason I'm pacing the cage is:
it doesn't matter how good we are, how well we speak
there will always be some form of discrimination
there will always be the need for independence
there is never the confidence that one's projected oneself clearly
(am I looking docile and sheeplike when I read lips?)
there is never the freedom of being able to show emotion
(if I show my anger on that or this issue - could I lose my job -)

I see these walls
bowing but not breaking
I pace
like a lion: padded paws,
withdrawn claws,
chin to ground. No loud sound
makes me raise my lidded eyes;
and when they lead me to the ring
and make me sing (O mighty roar)
and chew my enemies to dust -
Still I am looking at the floor