Tuesday, October 31, 2006



I am currently curled up in the dark watching what is perhaps the ultimate horror film for we, the few, the proud, the damaged, the gimp-Canadian/gimp-American-community...


Monday, October 30, 2006

Not deaf enough.

Gallaudet's incoming president removed

Edit: Mike let me know the link above pointed to "http://" ... and nothing else. "The possibilities are endless," he mused, "but a little guidance would be helpful."

The link to the article above has been fixed, and as a bonus I'll throw in a link to this interesting follow-up story, "Gallaudet controversy exposes debate over 'deaf culture'".



Sunday, October 29, 2006

Above and Beyond.

Since American football - or basketball, or baseball, or something - ate what I was originally going to watch tonight, I was channel-surfing when I stumbled across something almost unprecedented.

It was a movie, featuring actors speaking in what was unmistakeably a Newfoundland dialect.

No, no, no, I don't mean some cartoon "Shipping News" "B'y?" "B'y!" caricature of "Newfinese" which is what you always get in these movies. (Usually because they're filmed outside Newfoundland and the actors hired are not from Newfoundland.) I mean a genuine Newfoundland dialect, like I grew up with, can still speak, and would hear on the streets of St. John's today.

The source? This movie. It has everything - a true WWII storyline, airplanes, Newfoundland history. Even some NB history in the form of the depiction of Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, noted son of Bathurst, NB who went on to hold the critical posts of Minister of Information, Minister of Aircraft Production and Minister of Supply in the UK during the war. (Coincidentally, his heirs are currently trying to reclaim a number of valuable paintings which Lord B. donated to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, claiming they were loans, not gifts. I gather the old family fortune hasn't held up well throught the successive generations of horsey-set spenders-not-earners. The court case is making for daily must-read journalism in the local papers.)

I hadn't even heard that the movie was being made, but was hooked at first sight. Or maybe at first sound, when the young air traffic controller looked at the American soldiers arrayed below him and said, pityingly, "They must be dyin' with the flies."


Grey is such a complicated colour. It makes my brain hurt.

You have to give Bill O'Reilly credit for having the balls to appear on David Letterman's show last week after Letterman's humiliation of him was the talk of the internet for days after their first dustup. ("I have the feeling," Letterman said, during that encounter, "that about 60% of what you say is crap.")

Maybe he thinks he's smarter than he is. Those types often do.

Whatever. The internet will be abuzz for the next few days with people commenting on Letterman's second complete dismantling and exposing of O'Reilly for the ridiculous shill he is. The most common quotation from the confrontation being circulated is Letterman's testy claim that "You're putting words in my mouth. Just the way you put artificial facts in your head." I found another exchange to be much more compelling - and telling.

O'Reilly: Let me ask you something. And this is a serious question. Do you want the United Sates to win in Iraq?

Letterman: Well, you know in the beginning, here is my position in the beginning and I, I think I - I sort of felt the way everybody did, we felt like we wanted to do something, because something terrible had been done to us. We did not understand exactly why, all we knew was something terrible, something heinous, something obscene had been done to us. So while it didn't necessarily make sense to go into Iraq as it did perhaps to go into Afghanistan, I like most everybody else felt like yes, we needed to do something. And as the weeks turned into months, years and one death became a dozen deaths and hundred deaths and a thousand deaths - then we began to realize you know what? Maybe we're causing more trouble over there than the whole effort has been worth.

O'Reilly: Possible, but do you right now? Do you want the United States to win in Iraq?

Letterman: First of all, I don't -

O'Reilly: It's an easy question, If you don't want the United States to win -

Letterman: It's not easy for me because I'm thoughtful.

The full transcript is at Farleft.



Friday, October 27, 2006

Until this moment, Mr. Limbaugh, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.

You've probably heard about the flap surrounding Michael J. Fox's ad in support of a candidate who supports stem cell research. (A bit of a hot button for me, as embryonic stem cells have regenerated "hair cells" when implanted into the cochleas of deaf mice.) Anyway, you also probably knew that Rush Limbaugh said that Fox was either "off his medications" or "exaggerating" his symptoms when filming the ad.

(I can understand why Limbaugh would want to protect stem cells. Each and every one is a life form of greater worth and higher intelligence than he.)

But did you know that Limbaugh was mocking Fox's motions while talking about it on the show? Keith Olbermann (who IwishIwishIwish we got on cable) has the disgraceful video here.

One is reminded of Joseph Welch's famous words to Senator McCarthy : "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness...Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

And this from a person who cheerfully took advantage of the scientific advances that allowed him to regain his hearing, which it has been theorized he might have lost through years of oxycontin abuse, which has been linked to hearing loss.

When called on his comments, Limbaugh whined that the left always marches out victims to support their causes, victims who no-one can argue with.

Limbaugh may think Fox is a "victim". Fox doesn't.

Have the drugs addled your perception, sir? Have they numbed you to the point where you have lost all compassion for your fellow human beings?

Have you left no sense of decency?


Postscript: William Saletan has a clear, concise and eminently readable article on how out-of-touch Limbaugh and his listeners have become with reality today in Slate.


¡Soy estúpida!

I have learned a few words or phrases in several of the languages people speak around the office, mostly Arabic, Swahili and Spanish, in addition to my bad French. I use them sometimes roughly (as you'll see below), but the intent is usually appreciated.

Today a Spanish-speaking co-worker brought me a form to sign and date. I did so, but the wrong place. When the error was pointed out, I said "Oh! Excusa, por favor. Soy estúpido!"

She said, "Oh, ronnie, you no estúpido!"

I smiled and said, "Oh, gracias."

She said, "You are a woman, so you are estúpida."



Thursday, October 26, 2006

«O splendide Nouveau Monde/Qui compte de pareils habitants!*»

I went to a dinner hosted by an anti-tobacco group last night. It was associated with a health and wellness conference and I went on behalf of the organization I work for.

The keynote speaker was a gentleman who told us about his personal experiences with the results of smoking, which included getting cancer. He was speaking with the aid of an artificial larynx.

So there's this old gentleman telling his story via an electronic voice so that it can be heard and understood by a woman via an electronic ear.

I guess the strangest thing was that I could understand him perfectly. I would've expected his voice to have been harder for me to understand than someone else's. If anything, the opposite was true. Two robots co-sympatico, I wonder?

He is an Acadian from northern New Brunswick; and he and told his story with frankness and a wry and earthy humour. It was a great privilege to meet him.


*La Tempête (Acte V, Scène 1)

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Wasn't this just on?

If you missed last week's Liberal Party Leadership Debate, fret not - by far the best, most honest and most astute play-by-play review of the debate is on Frog Lady's blog.

And even if you're too busy to read her bitingly funny review of the debate, just turn on the TV. Liberal Party Leadership Debates appear to be like buses - if you miss one, just wait a little while and another one will be right along. This campaign - which has been ongoing since January, when Paul Martin resigned - is beginning to feel like the entire party is hitting itself in the collective head with a hammer because it's going to feel soooo good when they stop.

Boy, are they in for a surprise!



Wednesday, October 18, 2006

So, what does a Deaf protest sound like, anyway?

Salon's Explainer feature today answers the question of what a protest at Gallaudet University looks - and sounds - like.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My absolutely, definitely, positively last Christmas present of 2005

Remember the friend I mentioned in the last post?

She had my Christmas present in her closet, too.

<== This is what she got me. I don't know what she's getting at, exactly, but as I said, she is a bit of an odd duck.

I do like the crazed look on the Crazy Cat Lady's face, though.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ladies who lunch

Today I went to lunch with a friend.

You know how sometimes you meet someone and you are so immediately, instantly, intimately connected, it's kind of like, "Oh, there you are! I've been looking for you for years! What took you so long?" Sometimes it's a love match, and sometimes it's just pure friendship, and in our case, a little over 10 years ago, it was an instant and genuine friendship.

She is such a good friend and I have known her for so long that I couldn't understand why I'd lost contact with her, why I - for God's sake - had her 2005 CHRISTMAS PRESENT in my closet. How did this happen? How did we lose track of each other?

Well, when I reached out to her, mounted a campaign in fact, 'cause her email and phone number had both changed in the last few months, it turned out that she was working through some mixed-up personal stuff that happened to her, not related to me, and other stuff related to Husband's Dad dying back in February. And then she felt so bad about not contacting us when Husband's Dad died that eventually she didn't know how to contact us. And, for her, things and emotions kept piling up and piling up until she didn't know how to contact me at all anymore. From February until, well, I started looking for her in September.

Me, all this time, all I knew was, I missed my friend. So I dropped by her office on Tuesday.

Which led to her confessing all the mixed-up feeling stuff. And us making plans to have lunch today. Which we did.

One of the things I said to my friend today during a long and emotional lunch, was, "You know, your problem is that you just don't understand - or don't believe - in unconditional."

She said, "Like unconditional love, you mean. Or friendship."

"Yeah," I said. "You're always weighing and weighing your relationships with people. Like, whether you're worthy of them. Or whether your friends are judging you. You've never been able to accept unconditional on its face."

I like her - I love her, unconditionally. Many of you are blessed to have people in your life who feel the same way. Don't fail to respect and enjoy and be enriched by that.

My point in repeating all this to you? Because I know - I read your blogs too - I know that a lot of us do things like not knowing how to respond to stuff, and then time passes, and you kind of feel awkward, like, how do I approach them now? And it's been, like, three months, do I mention the (death, divorce, fire, accident, loss)?"

And what we're doing is wrapping ourselves all up in layers and layers of guilt and baggage and pain. When, you know what?

Those people we're obsessing over? They would be so happy to just get an email or a phone call saying, "Hey. I was thinking about you."

"You wanna have lunch?"


Friday, October 13, 2006

DPN Through the Eyes of Yoon K. Lee

Earlier I mentioned the Deaf President Now protests, in which students at Gallaudet University, the United States' only liberal arts university for the deaf, occupied their campus for a week to protest the appointment of a hearing President.

Yoon K. Lee was a 24-year-old deaf student and photographer in 1988. DPN Through the Eyes of Yoon K. Lee shares over 100 of the remarkable images he captured through a week of protests, rallies and action.

They're stirring images of an incredibly important moment in Deaf culture and history. Maybe it's hard to understand if you haven't had the experience of people treating you like you're mildly mentally retarded because you're deaf. Or unless you've spent your whole life being casually referred to as "a dummie". But at the time, and now, DPN was really, really important, a sea change in the way Deaf people saw themselves, unequalled, it would seem, since the University itself was established and deaf access to higher education was established as a norm.

Meanwhile, today at Gallaudet, students are once again occupying their campus over the appointment of an incoming President - probably, in spite of student leaders' denials, because English is her first language and she didn't learn ASL until she was 23. Jane K. Fernandes has been quoted as saying that some people do not consider her "deaf enough" to be President.

This time, the motives for the protest are much murkier, the goals are much less clear, and this protest doesn't feel very inspiring to this late-deafened, late ASL-learner at all.



Sharing culture a slice at a time.

Sharing food is one of the easiest and most pleasant ways of sharing culture, and people in my multi-ethnic workplace often bring traditional foods or treats to share with others. Yesterday I decided to return the favour and I brought something into the lunch room during break.

"This is a traditional Canadian treat," I said, "We always eat it this time of year. Americans eat it, too."

"What is it?" they asked, one opining dubiously, "It doesn't look very good."

When I explained what it was and how it was made, it was greeted with some incredulity. What an odd combination of ingredients! A type of squash, dairy products, eggs, spices? And this was a dessert?

Forks were produced and my friends - some of them very new to Canada - had a try. Most weren't very daring at first, taking a sample little bigger than a pea. A couple didn't like it at all ("It no good!" said one girl firmly) but most were pleasantly surprised, and the rest of my offering disappeared within five minutes as people helped themselves to bigger servings.

So that's the last of the pumpkin pie!



Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How deaf is Deaf enough?

Thanks to Carl who gave me a heads-up to this story about students at Gallaudet University (the "Deaf" university), occupying a building on campus to protest the University's choice of a new President.

Their main bone of contention with incoming President Jane Fernandes? Well, student leaders speaking on the record say she was "appointed without merit" or "has failed to show leadership". These rather mushy reasons may or may not hide another reason - unhappiness with the fact that Fernandes was "mainstreamed" in school, and only learned ASL later in life.

To those who know a little about Deaf* history and culture there's a little deja-vu-all-over-again about this. The famous (or notorious) "DPN" ("Deaf President Now") protests of 1988 broke out when a hearing candidate was chosen as Gallaudet President over, it was probably fairly felt, at least one strong Deaf contender. It is frequently referred to as the "Deaf Stonewall" - the point-of-no-return moment when Gallaudet's Deaf - indeed, many more deaf and Deaf - were no longer willing to be led exclusively by the hearing.

I admire those who led the DPN protests. Deaf education and culture - and if not at Gallaudet, for heaven's sake, where? - had matured to the point where the leadership was there, was ready, and a hearing President was no longer the right option for Gallaudet. Not if there was a qualified D/deaf candidate.

So what about this protest? I have mixed emotions. There is, let there be no doubt, a thick black line drawn between the deaf, and especially the Deaf, and the deafened - people like myself who were born hearing and went deaf. That can take the form of exclusion or condescension. Don't get me wrong - Deaf people have been some of the kindest and most helpful people in my life since I lost my hearing. My ASL instructor is D/deaf. But it was perfectly clear to me that my deaf status would always be inferior to culturally Deaf peoples' Deaf status. I would never be truly Deaf, would never speak ASL like a native.

That's fine, for me. I dont want to be Deaf and couldn't be if I wanted to, any more than moving to Mumbai tomorrow would make me an Indian. I'm a deafened hearing person and a deaf person. But where does it leave people like Jane Fernandes, who apparently is deaf - but not Deaf enough, due to her mainstream schooling and her learning of English as her first language and ASL as her second?

Is it reasonable for the student body of Gallaudet - composed almost entirely of people who identify as proudly Deaf - to expect their President to have experience the world primarily through their own first language and their own culture?

Or is it elitism and exclusionism?


*It is a convention to use the capital D when referring to Deaf culture among those who recognize Deafness as a full and complete culture with a shared language, history and identity. Use of the small-d refers to the physical condition of being unable to hear.


A country drive

As noted above (and in spite of any of my Yankee readers' protestations to the contrary ;) )The first Monday in October is Thanksgiving Day in Canada.

Mom O. decided to have a full turkey dinner with all the fixings on Sunday, rather than Monday, and a near-full contingent of the New Brunswick family turned out to devour it, along with its accompanying stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, squash, corn, broccoli, carrots, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Whew!

As you can imagine, then, much of Monday was spent recovering from that. However, we felt spry enough by early afternoon to take a drive - it was such a beautiful day - through the autumn foliage, which is absolutely at the height of its colour and breathtaking right now. The photos, of course, don't do it justice, but I thought I'd share a peek with you.

We drove up the Saint John River Valley towards Woodstock. We took pains to stay off the highway, toodling down every little country lane that caught our curiosity or interest.

We crossed the river at the Nackawick Bridge and began to return home along the north side of the river. Before that return, however, we just had to stop at the World's Largest Axe in Nackawick. Placed in commemoration of the importance of forestry to Nackawick's past (and future - there is still a mill there), it is, um, one big axe. (That is Husband you can't see standing next to the blade. Only you can see him, a bit, if you click on the image.)

It seemed like half of New Brunswick was doing something similar. We passed dozens of motorcycles and convertibles, exotics and antique vehicles, as everyone took advantage of one more beautiful autumn day before it is time for their babies to be put to bed for the winter.

Then when we got home, there was an e-card from my cousin in Nashville wishing me Happy Canadian Thanksgiving. (BIG SHOUT-OUT TO MY ROCK STAR CUZ!) Husband rejoined his Mom and brothers and their families for hot turkey sandwiches for supper. I was all turkeyed and tuckered out so I had some couscous and snoozed with the kitties, then wrote my letters to my MP, Andy Scott, and to PM Stephen Harper, registering my objection to the recent spending cut announcements. Participatory democracy. Having my say.

Family, food, fun, freedom. If there is a better way to spend a weekend in order to really feel thankful for where you live and what you have, I can't think of it.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Thanksgiving Throwdown

Last week, the Harper government made a series of particularly bone-headed funding cuts, including one I expressed concern about earlier in this blog.

Among other things, they:
That isn't even the whole of it. They cut programs aimed to assist Aboriginals and to preserve our country's heritage (a series of museum program cuts hits painfully close to home, as that is my sister's area of employment).

But it's only over if we roll over on our backs and play dead. This afternoon I got an urgent email from the NB Status of Women's Advisory Council mailing list reminding us that this is Thanksgiving weekend, a long weekend when we'll have more time than usual to turn our minds away from just keeping up with the regular workload and on to more lofty issues. They also point out that our MPs will almost all be in our home ridings over the Thanksgiving Weekend and it is an ideal time to reach them with a phone call or letter.

It also occurs to me that there is no better time to speak up on these fundamental issues than at Thanksgiving, a time when I am usually thankful to live in a country that respects and supports diversity, minority rights, and a form of benign social democracy that usually - usually- is based on the principle that as you make your way in the world, you turn back and hold out a hand to those coming behind you. That leads the way in developing and offering social programs, not slashing them.

This government has, just six months into their mandate, and with a record budget surplus stretching its coffers at their seams, already forgotten that.

If none of that is enough to move you to contact your MP, maybe this hysterical (and I use the word advisedly) press release from so-called "Real Women" (COUNTER-ATTACK BY FEMINISTS) will convince you that they're still scared and for good reason: there is time to ameliorate these short-sighted cuts to social programs, and to our very core values as a country.

Here's your MP. You got a long weekend coming up. Do something before we see the beginning of the unhappy slide to the loss of freedom, liberty and civil rights our friends to the south are suffering under.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Average deaf person.

If there's one thing I've come to understand, it is that there is absolutely no "average deaf person". There are the congenitally deaf, the culturally Deaf, the adult-deafened, the elderly deaf, the absolute spectrum of the "hard-of-hearing", the resentful deaf, the disabled deaf, the proudly deaf, the proudly Deaf, the employed deaf, the under-employed deaf, the unemployed deaf, the CI-implanted child deaf, the CI-implanted adult deaf, the...

Well, you get the picture.

But every now and then I meet a deaf person who still surprises me, so unique is their experience of deafness or deafening.

Take D. for example. D. is a woman who went deaf as an adult, after a terrible accident, while in a coma. All D.'s friends and family agree that prior to the accident, D. was a perfectly ordinary hearing person in her 30s. But she fell into the coma a hearing person, and she woke up a deaf person.

Now, here's the thing. D. recovered from her coma and regained much of her prior physical and mental ability - she can walk, she can talk, her motor skills are quite good - although she is still on that long road all us damaged individuals are. But she has absolutely no recollection of ever being able to hear. She doesn't remember sound, and she doesn't remember hearing. She says she can't imagine "sound" in her head.

She reckons it is pretty much what it would have been like if she had been born deaf and had had the accident and the resulting coma, only without the benefit of growing up deaf, learning sign language, learning to lipread, and so on.

She can still read and write, thank god, which is what has kept her sane. In fact, she seems remarkably sane, given the circumstances. But I get the impression that she is downplaying the incredible oddity of her situation. She seems almost too sanguine about it. My memory of sound was a very important tool to me when I went deaf at 39. The experience of growing up deaf is very important tool to those people I know who did so.

D. is somewhere in between.

She's working her way through the world remarkably well and I admire her. But hers is a type of "average deaf person" I simply can't compute.



Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bear drunk in hammock. Film at 11.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


This is a screenshot of CNN.com a few minutes ago.

Here's a close-up.

It's the juxtaposition that makes it, really...