Outcasts and Angels: Stories featuring the Deaf

By BitcoDavid

Nadine Gordimer and David Grossman

Nadine Gordimer and David Grossman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As many of you know, for about the past 3 weeks, I’ve been working to translate and caption the video “What is ASL?” by Deaf activist and Signing whiz, Lilcoco Love. But she’s a native Signer, and I’m… well… I’m me. It’s an awesome video, and she’s got a lot to say. About ASL, Deaf culture, and the belief by some English speakers and even some Deaf, that ASL hampers English and reading development. We’re friends on FaceBook now, and I’m hoping that not only can I get her help with the video, but perhaps I can get her to write a piece for us, or even to record a new video. I’ll keep you posted, either way.

In the meantime, there’s this:

I originally posted this on ASL Learners by DeafInPrison.com – our FaceBook group – and received some interesting comments. my comment was about how the girl in the video, sits down with an ASL book, spends one night in the diner, studying it – and is a Signing genius the following night. In my post, I said that I’ve been struggling with immersion level learning, for at least 2 years now, and I’m not as good as this girl, after a night of cramming. I go on to say, that I thought I’d have this knocked out in about 6 months, and my tutor, Randy Tweedie, tells me that I’m still looking at about 4 more years to become conversational.

ASL in family

ASL in family (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again, let me stress that ASL is a language, and just as you wouldn’t attempt to learn German, or Japanese – from a book, overnight – nor can you learn ASL that way. Furthermore, since ASL is not a spoken or written language, it’s actually even harder for 2nd language users to learn.

But, I’m a cynic.

On the other hand, I also received a comment that really hit home. This commenter simply asked, “Why doesn’t the Deaf kid ever save the Hearing kid?”

Really. Why are there so few strong Deaf leads in literature and film? Well, there are. You just need to know where to look for them. Enter “Outcasts and Angels - The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature. This book, edited by Edna Edith Sayers, features short stories written around Deaf characters. And best of all, our publisher, Joanne Greenberg has 2 entries. She’s joined by such names as Ambrose Bierce, Isak Dinesen, Nadine Gordimer, Flannery O’Connor, Juozas Grušas and Julian Barnes.

It is available through Amazon, or from Gallaudet Press.

But wait. There’s more. For those of you who follow us on FaceBook, you might get a kick out of Jack’s new page. That’s right. Everybody’s favorite Internet Rock star and Dog-about-Town – Jack – now has his very own FaceBook page. There’ll be no living with him now.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

SI5S Provides the Ability to Write in ASL

By BitcoDavid

Can you read this

 

It’s written in an ASL finger spelling font, that is available for free download, from Gallaudet via LifePrint. This is useable as a novelty font, allowing the user to write English in the ASL finger spelling alphabet. But what if Sign actually had its own alphabet – or Digibet, if you will?

For 12 years now, Robert Augustus has been working to create a universal and reliable writing system for ASL. He calls his system si5s. The digibet consists of 80 characters as well as diacritical marks and grammatical symbols.

Some argue that ASL is not indeed a unique language, because it has no written form. There have been several attempts at creating written Sign language, but these tend to be hieroglyphic, and have not been widely adopted.

I’m not a neurobiologist. All I really know about brains, is that they taste great, sauteed in olive oil. But in order to understand this concept, you need to know that spoken language takes place in a part of your brain, aptly named the language center. The more spoken languages one learns, the more brain area is occupied. This forces the creation of new pathways, and makes learning non-language sciences easier. In short, the more spoken languages you learn, the higher your I.Q. becomes.

But ASL is not a spoken language. It’s a visual one. So it takes place in a different area within the brain. In native signers, this visual center creates innate links to the language center, but those of us who learn ASL as a 2nd language have much more difficulty forging those cerebral links. This is why learning Sign is so much harder than learning say, French or German. It’s easy to memorize vocabulary, but we still need to translate internally, that vocabulary back into an auditory form. We need to sub-vocalize, much as we do when we read.

This character is manually expressed by the image on the front cover of the book. Image: si5s.org (edited for size and color by BitcoDavid)

This character is manually expressed by the image on the front cover of the book. Image: si5s.org (edited for size and color by BitcoDavid)

But this system, si5s, can change everything. Writing is the basis of teaching, and learning. Writing is how Mankind records his thoughts and ideas. Writing is how we convey information without having to relay it directly to our audience. Writing is the foundation of the Internet, and without it, computers as we know them could not exist. Even the computer itself, speaks and internal numeric language, and that language is internally recorded in a text format. If a written form of ASL could be adopted, and taught in Deaf schools alongside of traditional Sign, it would have untold benefits.

It would facilitate faster learning for both Deaf and Hearing ASL users. In fact, if Deaf children were taught ASL and si5s in conjunction with English reading and writing, we’d raise a generation of non-aural geniuses, who would probably go on to develop things like Warp Drive and personal teleportation. Maybe even time travel. Who knows?

si5s Logo

The logo includes the symbol that represents the handshape used to sign “3D”, alluding to the three-dimensional nature of this language and the need for the written system to express that nature.

Here’s a link to Augustus’ page:

http://www.si5s.org/

You can order the complete textbook here:

http://www.si5s.org/store/

You can download his font package in .zip format, but it unzips to a series of .gif images, and you won’t be able to use it as an embedded Truetype font. That doesn’t matter however, because using this system is not writing in English. In the above example, I wrote an English sentence (Can you read this?) in finger spelling font. Using si5s would be beneficial in learning – and writing in – ASL, but not for writing English.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Short Survey Helps HEARD and Deaf Inmates

By BitcoDavid

Modern TTY with acoustic coupler for text-to-speech. Image - Wikipedia

Modern TTY with acoustic coupler for text-to-speech. Image – Wikipedia

The Internet has been a huge boon to the Deaf Community, and it can be leveraged into a great asset for Deaf inmates as well. One major problem facing the Deaf in prison, is access to telecommunications. There are numerous factors that go into this problem. Numbering among them are, time required to place calls, cost of calling out, and availability of useable technology.

About 75 years ago, a system was invented by which the Deaf could use the telephone. That system was known as TTY. TTY stands for Teletypewriter. This is a device with a QWERTY keyboard, and a LED or LCD readout. The system translates voice into text, for the Deaf user to read. The receiver must also have a TTY terminal. TTYs have a separate number, and the Deaf user can only call other TTY machines. The ADA states that TTY phones must be made available to Deaf inmates, and most facilities do have them.

The problem is that most modern Deaf, can’t use them. People raised with ASL as a first language, may not be able to read – or read well enough to utilize the machine. Even well educated Deaf – those with a Baccalaureate reading level, or above – are not likely to be familiar with – or to use – these machines. You may be an excellent driver, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to drive a Model “T” Ford.

The analogy is apt. We’ve had generations to become accustomed to automatic transmissions, electric starters, fuel injection and even turn signals. The Model “T” had none of these.  So, a law stating that you are entitled to your own Model “T” will be of little benefit to you.

The modern equivalent of the TTY system, is Video Relay. This system works by utilizing an interpreter to read the Deaf caller’s Sign, and translate it into English for the Hearing receiver. It is slightly slower than normal full duplex communication, due to the time required by the interpreter, but by comparison to TTY, our analogous Model “T” becomes a McLaren Corvette.

If the caller and the receiver both Sign, then Skype and other Internet alternatives would be even better.

OLPC: XO internet access

OLPC: XO internet access. Image – Wikipedia

The problem is that most jails and prison facilities in this country, don’t have VR, and don’t allow Internet access. To the Deaf, this is tantamount to Solitary Confinement. Even if a Deaf inmate can learn to master the clunky, unreliable and inaccurate TTY system, he is charged at the same exploitative rate, as his hearing counterparts. But a TTY call can take up to 10X longer. The cost of such a call, can be staggering.

HEARD has been working for several years now, on getting Corrections Departments to begin using VR, and so has DeafInPrison.com. Beyond that, I would like to see Deaf and Hearing inmates alike, allowed limited Internet access. They’ve been doing just that, in Sweden for a decade now, and it has worked out very well. Classes, support groups and even social networks could be established that would greatly benefit inmates, and in so doing, benefit society as a whole. And for the Deaf, it would allow them the same freedom in communication with family and friends, that is afforded the Hearing. It could also be used to take control away from exploitative Telecom companies, and reduce the cost of making or receiving calls, behind bars.

Most people are aware of the high currency value afforded cigarettes, in prison society. But what many do not know, is that phone time holds a similar value. The price gouging Telecoms set this situation in motion. Inmates are commonly victimized – beaten, robbed or even killed – for their phone cards. Free Internet access could change that.

I have included a link below, to a short survey by HEARD. I took it. It only takes about 15 seconds to complete, and the aggregate data will help HEARD in their work with the FCC and other organizations responsible for prison Telecommunications.

http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=5ef6628ab98fb3b95eaa08a7a&id=4a471a595e&e=7c38cfb9e6

or

http://goo.gl/hnWnvk

I urge you to take this survey, share it on FaceBook, Twitter and other social networks, comment and write to some or all of the organizations listed on the site. We need to address these problems if we’re ever to attain inmate equality.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Press Release Video From Sachs Media

By BitcoDavid

This video was created by Dave Heller, and sent to me by Porsche Haynes of Sachs Media Group, via Pat Bliss. It can also be seen on Vimeo.

Pat has shared with me, some of the monumental effort she put into this hearing – the travel, the personal financial expense, the sleeplessness and the endless meetings and interviews. She assures me that she will be submitting posts on the hearing, including Felix’s reactions to this devastating news.

She also told me that although we didn’t get what we wanted, we’re not complete losers in the outcome of this case. Felix’s next parole hearing will be in 3 years, which could have been 7. And he has received a 1 year reduction in the overall sentence. Frank on the other hand, whose hearing also took place on the same day, did not receive any of these benefits.

Here’s a link to coverage on Tampa Bay Times.

DeafInPrison.com will continue to work towards obtaining justice for this innocent Deaf man, and will continue reporting on this story, whenever we have information to share.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Some Thoughts on Sign Videos

By BitcoDavid

Stephen Torrence made Sign Language versions of popular rock videos, and he’s not alone. He’s not the first, and he won’t be the last, but he’s the first to shut down his channel, and halt all future production. He has also taken down his revenue channel.

Torrence is Hearing, but has an interest in ASL, as well as acting and dance. He combined those talents – and with others, both Deaf and Hearing – helped to launch a burgeoning new artform. Sign Language Music Video. He states that an outcry from the Deaf Community, citing the damage these videos do to Deaf culture, as his reason for stopping the work.

I strongly disagree with Torrence on this, and with those members of the Deaf community who pushed him into that decision. Here’s why. Many of us who are struggling to learn Sign, can use these videos as a tool to aid in our mastery. We already know the songs, so there’s no distraction with subtitles or listening to an audio interpreter. That allows us to concentrate solely on the Signing, and to follow the translation directly.

Furthermore, many Deaf can hear music – at least to some degree – and this allows them to benefit from the songs, creating a further inclusion into mainstream culture.

What’s more, these translations tend to be more Signed Exact English, rather than strict ASL. That’s because songs aren’t written in ASL grammar, and because music lyrics tend to be metaphorical. Katy Perry wrote a song called, “Firework,” about bullying. The gist of the song is that victims of bullying need to look inside themselves for their own self-esteem, and shouldn’t let others dictate their self worth. But the lyrics never actually say any of that. The song is metaphorical, with the title line – you’re a firework – representing the inner beauty and power of the bullied individual. Watching ASL interpretations of this song, helps us to learn ASL idioms and advanced communication methods that we might not get from other ASL learning sources.

ASL is a language, and as such is no longer owned by the Deaf community. French people don’t get angry when others learn French. And French authors certainly don’t get angry when their books are translated into English, or any other language.

English: ASL sign I-LOVE-YOU (wikt:en:ILY@Side...

ASL sign I-LOVE-YOU (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nations conquer other nations. People intermarry and conduct trade. Language – all language – is living, communal, subject to constant growth and change, and never owned by its originators.

I’m a music lover, a video professional and an ASL enthusiast. As such, I couldn’t be happier about the emergence and popularity of this exiting new artform. Long live ASL music videos. And Mr. Torrence – please reconsider.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Cop Block Video on Kelly Thomas Case

By BitcoDavid

This is the most in depth telling of this tragic story, I have ever seen. As always, I put forth the invitation to anyone in Law Enforcement, who can present a cogent rebuttal to this film.

Don’t forget to send a birthday card to Felix. Suppose you had served 33 years of a life sentence, for a crime you didn’t commit. Imagine on top of that, that you had been discriminated against and isolated because you were Deaf. While in prison you had been raped, beaten and abused. When you went to the infirmary for help, the advice you were given was that you should kill yourself. Imagine all that, and then ask yourself – wouldn’t you like to see birthday cards from your supporters? The address to send cards can be found here.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

The Pay Off

By BitcoDavid

All the Online study, all the DVDs and all the meetups have culminated in this. DeafInPrison.com’s first ever ASL video jokes. Please enjoy these immensely funny jokes, presented in full video splendor.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

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