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March 31, 2006

it's worse than most of us think

Mark Crispin Miller gave an impassioned, persuasive, and deeply unsettling keynote address at the Communication in Crisis conference held at UMass-Amherst today.

He focused on the findings contained in his new book, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They'll Steal the Next One Too. I followed some of the controversy as it was covered by Tom Atlee of The Co-Intelligence Institute. Miller presents a compelling array of "copious evidence" that touchscreen voting is a major culprit of vote fraud, and discusses the fear and denial driving major political figures and the media in general to avoid this most crucial fact of our times.

Part of what intrigued me about Miller's presentation was his unabashed characterization of a cadre of religious fundamentalist apocalyptics who have hijacked the Republican party in order to enact their paranoic vision of being the most discriminated against group of people in the US. He compared the zeal of these believers as being "the same animus" that drove the Crusades. Miller also spoke about waves of "fervor" that are roused during war and then "don't just go away" - citing the documented increases of domestic violence after World War I and the first Gulf War. In other words, it seems to me that he is talking about large scale group relations as theorized in AK Rice terms.

The image of the huge historical sweeps of these irrational forces - individuals, families, and groups-of-various-configurations - caught up in various projections of their own fears and their own evil capacities, is not only disturbing but absolutely downright terrifying. It would remain at that level if, in fact, we (supposedly!?) rational types didn't have some tools for putting these beliefs and actions into perspective. I felt Miller was particularly cogent on a few key points - specifying that there are many Republicans, conservatives, and evangelicals to whom the attribution of religious fanaticism does not apply and who did not, and do not, support the policies of the Bush-Cheney administration. Miller is also incisive that various and sundry ideological battles between the Right and the Left are not the most important point right now. What is at stake is the most essential foundation of democracy - the right to have our votes accurately counted.

If you didn't follow any of the previous links, I suggest you go back and do so. If you have, and you're not yet convinced how bad it really is, check out The Constitution Restoration Act, which seeks to establish "God as the sovereign source of law". In other words, to completely undo the separation of church and state and establish a christian theocracy. One might say it's another step (in keeping with many others) that seeks to hasten a biblical 'end times'.

Some recommended reading: With God on Their Side and Cruel and Unusual.

Posted by Steph at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2006

"hidden" in plain view?

Anuj parachuted in just in time to wave at Don before the movie began. (I received the clandestine codes: spongecell and backpack. shhh)

"There's something hidden in the long, static closing shot of Cache—a clue, an answer, a red herring, an epiphany. It's embedded deep, somewhere back in the shadows—or, perhaps, it's right up front, hiding in plain sight. It vastly alters everything that preceded it, demanding a total reevaluation of the film—or it just further complicates this already profoundly inscrutable mystery. It is a conclusion both languidly drawn out and violently abrupt, stunning in its simplicity, infuriating in its opacity."

It kept me tense, that's for sure. Was the entire movie made for one scene? And who made the videos? Why does it matter who made the videos? Majid is dead. Is he dead because of the videos or for another reason? Why now? Re-traumatization after he obviously had managed to make a life for himself? or is the point what hell wreaks itself upon a guilty conscience? Is it better to whet one's soul on the sharp edge of guilt or pass let it pass disinterested into the maw of forgotten memory?

What was hidden, besides a guilty conscience? A possibly illicit attraction? A nation's neglect of an immigrant population?

I wondered about the boy whose house Pierrot winds up at overnight, unannounced. I thought it was him (Francois?) engaged in animated conversation with Pierrot on the school steps in the final scene but apparently it was Majid's son: "The last shot in the film is of his son and the son of Moroccan man who once lived with the protagonist as a child." Did they plot together? A younger generation in cross-ethnic alliance against the deeply-buried sins of their parents?

To cap the undecidable weirdness of the evening, as we walked to the car afterwards, a young man with wild hair and clothing strikingly akin to Pierrot's strolled by in the cool spring-ish night air. We had just been talking about ghosts . . .

Posted by Steph at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2006

trust the universe

My interpreting teammate, "Wanda," kinda upset me today. There are object lessons all the way around! First, I should've spoken up but was in some kinda 'mood', so I didn't. Second, I could have trusted that the universe would 'get even' with or without my assistance, but by then I was fuming . Third, none of it mattered anyway - at least not in the grand scheme of things.

What happened? (Sounds kinda dramatic, doesn't it?!) I was waylaid en route to the job by one of the leaders (not deaf) telling me about a videotape to be shown that my team interpreter had suggested we could take turns viewing in advance (during the job). I inquired about some of the particulars. Audio challenges, of various sorts. Yeah, a preview would help, but was it necessary? Of course, she was just trying to be responsive to previous feedback that it is really helpful for interpreters to be able to preview uncaptioned videos.

Then I entered the room and Wanda told me the same thing. There was a video and we should take turns previewing it.

I was annoyed.

Why was I annoyed? Who knows. Maybe I thought they'd wrested control away from me, or made decisions without my input. Or maybe I was just in a grouchy mood and was looking for something to be pissy about? At any rate, I was disgruntled but tried to put a good face on things. After all, it was a gorgeous early spring day and everyone else seemed in fine spirits! Who was I to put a damper on things? "I'll just go along," I said to myself. "Don't make waves."

"Do you want watch it first or...", my voice trailed off. "You can," Wanda states (definitively, in my view. There goes my attitude up another notch!) I wheel the tv/video cart into the next room, plug in and settle down for 28 minutes of viewing pleasure. At least it is a good video. I won't mind watching it twice in short succession. I return to the meeting room and relieve Wanda. Who sits down with the obvious intention of not going to watch the video! "What the...?!???"

I sign an aside during a lull in the interpretation. "Are you going to watch the video?" "Yes, I will," Wanda says. Going nowhere. Do I have a bug up my butt or what?!!! Soon, the leaders discuss the course of events....finish this, watch the video, do something else. "Can you take over?" I ask, steaming. Because obviously now there's no time for equal prep and I'm going to have to do the whole thing. Hmmph!

And so it goes. Wanda interprets until the short break before the video, at which time she's ready to dash off to watch the first ten minutes or so. I told her not to bother. My attitude is s-h-o-w-i-n-g! and I know it, so I confess, I'm annoyed that you'd made this plan without consulting me to begin with and then changed it and I didn't know what the heck was going on....blah blah whine complain.

Turns out Wanda has had her own stress! I go out to view the video and the meeting begins with a dense exposition of material that is extremely challenging to understand without supplementary context. One of those we-all-know-what-we're-talking-about-and-you-don't kind of coded conversations. Wanda panicked because I'm not there to provide feeds and moral support. ("Serves her right," I mutter.) No, I didn't really. LATER we laughed about it together, but in the moment we had to just carry on. She suffered through mis/non/incomprehension while I scowled at a tv screen. (Vindication? Apparently the prep did improve the eventual interpretation of the video - and I guess my disgruntlement didn't show.)

The real rub? It wasn't even Wanda's idea to do the previewing! She went along with a suggestion by the group leader! So both of us were duped into a set-up that didn't work for either of us (and hence, not at peak efficiency for the group using our services).

Two lessons. REAL previewing of videos is still a way good idea. Which does require planning and coordination.

Noting those scritchy feelings when they come up is good professional practice. Better practice is being able to somehow figure out what the scritchiness is about and resolve the situation before it leads to ulcers and other communication debacles.

Posted by Steph at 11:21 PM | Comments (4)

March 28, 2006

press under fire in Belarus

The news filters through, maybe, if one actually listens to or watches the local or national news. There might be a quick quip on the morning radio during rush hour. Independent journalists in Belarus have been arrested, at best.

Posted by Steph at 7:24 PM | Comments (0)


"... Argentineans have overwhelmingly rejected violence and demonstrated a commitment to peaceful solutions."

A student in my Mass Media class at UNH, Kirk will be presenting on alternative media in class soon. The excerpt above comes from Left Turn: Notes from the Global Intifada.

I'm curious about the history of the press's name, when, why and how did they choose intifada?

Posted by Steph at 7:13 PM | Comments (0)


Here's a cogently argued critique of the conservative bias that seems to permeate the film.

Also posted (as a comment) are excerpts from UNH-Manchester students' quality reflections on the film.

Posted by Steph at 10:16 AM | Comments (6)

the truth will out

Right in time for the Censure hearings this Friday, some mass media outlets finally change their tune.

"White House Memo" Drives a Stake into the Heart of White House Lies

Bob Fertik writes, "Something remarkable happened Monday: the Corporate Media finally got sick of Bush's endless lies about Iraq, and started to tell the truth. The immediate cause was a front-page New York Times story about the "White House Memo," which proved Bush was determined to invade Iraq no matter what. Now we have reached a turning point in our "long march" for Truth. Everyone in the world knows in their heart that Bush lied. Soon everyone will say it out loud: Bush Lied. When millions of Americans say those two simple words - and the media finally joins us - Bush's reign of fear will come to a crashing halt. Let's make that happen now."

Truth Seeping Through Media After Ten Months
David Swanson writes, "There is something about this week that feels better than the average one for bringing a child into the world. I have hope that others will have hope, and that this will let them press hard for action. And there is something about bringing a child into the world that makes me want to push harder for a full measure of truth, and not be satisfied with the thrill of seeing bits of truth squeeze through. Someone said: He not busy being born, is busy dying. That certainly goes for democracies."

My state gets into the action and other news follows:

Kit Created to Help Towns, Cities, Counties Pass Impeachment Resolutions
Brattleboro VT has joined nine other towns and cities, five state Democratic parties, and 19 local Democratic committees in passing resolutions urging the impeachment of George Bush and -- in most cases -- Dick Cheney. ImpeachPAC is working with Progressive Democrats of America and local activists to pass similar resolutions around the country, and has created a kit to assist local organizations in the task. Take a look and give it a try. Put your town on the map of the impeachment movement!

Calling all Vermonters
Led by the spiritual descendants of the Green Mountain Boys (including carpenter/musician Dan DeWalt), Vermont is making real progress towards impeachment. Their next goal is to persuade their state legislature to formally adopt an impeachment resolution. Send this link to everyone you know in Vermont:

Impeachment Movement Gaining Steam
Funds raised by ImpeachPAC: $63,316 from 1,656 donors
Candidates Endorsed by ImpeachPAC: 3

Congress Members sponsoring H Res 635: 33

Senators Supporting Censure: 3

Americans Favoring Impeachment: between 26 and 53%


Tell Senators on Judiciary Committee to Support Censure on Friday

The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up Senator Feingold's censure proposal on Friday. FireDogLake.com has come up with the idea of faxing members of the Senate Judiciary Committee with these words at the top of your fax: "U.S. Constitution: Do Not Shred."

Here are the FAX numbers for the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Arlen Specter, Chairman - Pennsylvania - Fax (202) 228-1229
Orrin G. Hatch - Utah - Fax (202) 224-6331
Patrick J. Leahy - Vermont - Fax (202) 224-3479
Charles E. Grassley - Iowa - Fax (515) 288-5097
Edward M. Kennedy - Massachusetts - Fax (202) 224-2417
Jon Kyl - Arizona - Fax (202) 224-2207
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. - Delaware - Fax (202) 224-0139
Mike DeWine - Ohio - Fax (202) 224-6519
Herbert Kohl - Wisconsin - Fax (202) 224-9787
Jeff Sessions - Alabama - Fax (202) 224-3149
Dianne Feinstein - California - Fax (202) 228-3954
Lindsey Graham - South Carolina - Fax (864) 250-4322
Russell D. Feingold - Wisconsin - Fax (202) 224-2725
John Cornyn - Texas - Fax (972) 239-2110
Charles E. Schumer - New York - Fax (202) 228-3027
Sam Brownback - Kansas - Fax (202) 228-1265
Richard J. Durbin - Illinois - Fax (202) 228-0400
Tom Coburn - Oklahoma - Fax (202) 224-6008
You can sign up for an eFax 30-day trial and fax for free here:


Tell The Committee Chairman To Speak Up

Senator Arlen Specter will chair the hearing on censure. Specter has repeatedly denounced Bush's illegal wiretapping. But he refuses to do anything to stop Bush from doing it!

Call/fax/email his offices (numbers below) with this simple message:
Speak Up Specter! Censure Bush for illegal wiretapping!

Senate switchboard: 888-355-3588
D.C. office direct line: 202-224-4254
D.C. office fax: 202-228-1229


Two Months Later, Better Than Never, New York Times Covers White House Memo
AfterDowningStreet.org began demanding coverage of the White House Memo almost two months ago. Finally, the New York Times has written about it, and acknowldged that -- contrary to Bush's claims -- Bush was intent on going to war and not attempting in any way to avoid it.

Read Jonathan Schwarz on Bush/Blair Excuses in Face of Evidence

Read Bob Fertik on how the New York Times is still lying for Bush

Read Editor and Publisher on what Bush and Blair were saying publicly at time of White House Memo


Bi-Partisan Group of Congress Members to Call for Debate on War

A bi-partisan group in the House of Representatives has sent around this "Dear Colleague" letter asking other Members of Congress to join in calling for an open floor debate on the war.

Urge your Congress Member to sign on!


There Is Blood on Our Hands

"We the People" must accept the responsibility for the killing of innocent civilians. Our tax dollars are used to fund the illegal war in Iraq and we must now act, collectively, to put an end to this.


A New Book

In the United States, our best journalism is published in books now and talked about on the radio and the internet. If you get your news from a television or a newspaper, you live in another world. This no doubt contributes to how divided we are politically. Dave Lindorff's and Barbara Olshansky's book could help bridge this national divide. The genius of this book is in its brevity. Lindorff and Olshansky have boiled the list of Bush and Cheney's documented crimes down to an amazingly concise summary, one that however gives a real flavor of the goings on in this criminal administration. I work on these issues and still learned a great deal by reading this book. If each of us who knows some of this and is able to process it easily buys ten copies to give to people who get their news from TV, this clear crisp book might just help save this country. -- David Swanson



Constitution Dictates
March 28, 7:30 p.m.
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now hosts a panel discussion featuring Michael Ratner, Bill Goodman, Shayana Kadidal, and Maria Lahood, attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights and authors of a new book, Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush (Melville House). At The Culture Project, 45 Bleecker Street, NYC (corner of Bleecker and Lafayette Streets) Admission is free - seating is limited - first come, first served LINK

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on Censure
March 31, 9:30 a.m.
Senate Dirksen 226

March to Redeem the Soul of America
April 1 – 14, 2006 in Texas: Irving – Dallas – Waco – Crawford
ConsumersforPeace.org, Crawford Peace House, Dallas Peace Center, Texas Peace Action

April 1, Atlanta will host the largest anti-war march in the history of the South. The date, APRIL FIRST, links the 3rd anniversary of the war, March 20, with the 38th anniversary of Dr. King's death, April 4. Activists are organizing contingents from Birmingham, Alabama; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Memphis & Nashville, Tennessee; Tallahassee, Florida and all corners of Georgia.

Guantanamo on Capitol Hill
On April 6, 5pm
A reading of the Tricycle Theater’s production of Guantánamo in the Rayburn House Office Building, The House of Congress, Capitol Hill, Washington DC.

Easter in Crawford, Texas
April 10-16
Join Cindy in Crawford. Everyone's welcome!

Sign up for these events, find others, and create your own at

See Also UFPJ:

And PDA:




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Posted by Steph at 9:44 AM | Comments (2)

March 27, 2006

labor unrest

Not only is the French public up in arms about changes to their system of employment security, immigrants in California are also challenging new restrictions.

Posted by Steph at 9:31 AM | Comments (0)

American Indian sovereignty test

The Oglala Sioux in South Dakota have committed to open an abortion clinic on the Pine Ridge Reservation to enable women to have abortions in this state which just passed the most restrictive anti-abortion laws since Roe v. Wade.

Posted by Steph at 9:27 AM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2006


Arthur Rimbaud makes an appearance in a song lyric I recently included in a homemade playlist.

I do not, however, draw too direct a parallel with the referenced tumultuos relationship nor overmuch resemblance to the love letters.

Still...it hasn't been exactly happy. :-/

Posted by Steph at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)

powers of ten

Here's another item I'm sure I've posted before but obviously didn't catalog or code correctly for later retrieval. At any rate, I saw this short video on the powers of ten when I interpreted a science class some years back for upper elementary school students (possibly fifth-graders). I find it a useful metaphor for this notion of social metonymy that I keep trying to articulate as a means of linking the microsocial with the macrosocial and vice-versa.

Posted by Steph at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)


I know I've posted this info before but can't seem to locate it. Anyway, I'm doing my best to get to this cultural studies conference in Istanbul this summer...

Posted by Steph at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

"Stuff Happens" - like Vendettas?

My main exposure to theatre is from running the lights for a few high school plays and musicals. This one is priced out of my league, but sure sounds intriguing, at least as described in this NY Times review.

The playwright, David Hare, says, "How powerless intelligence is against cunning really is one of the themes of the play." Which reminds of V for Vendetta, the movie adaptation of which I saw - and very much enjoyed - with Viera and her son last night. In it, cunning based on raw political power meets cunning of a more intuitive sort: "There are no coincidences," asserts V.

I am no doubt attracted as well to the revolutionary message of resisting corrupt and/or oppressive government, and appreciate the mediated re-creation of The Gunpowder Plot as an homage to the idealism of Guy Fawkes rather than ideological patriotism of saving the King.

Posted by Steph at 9:30 AM | Comments (0)

Tent State University

The superb activists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, are organizing this event and have already listed it in wikipedia.

There is a listing of daily events, history, and explanatory material.

Mission Statement: "Tent State University (TSU) is a week-long, outdoor university with open classes, workshops, forums and cultural activities shaped by students, workers and community members. TSU calls for equal access to education and it creates an example of what a university should be: a democratically controlled public space that brings together diverse groups to exchange ideas, art, and culture."

Posted by Steph at 9:06 AM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2006

"the lane thing"

It's just a minor driving issue. Turning left from the right-hand lane. My current protege is quite casual about it. I'm calmer too, after surviving Korean driving lessons last year, the Romanian version seems like old hat.

We did pass through the infamous Hun Ju intersection. A full vehicle stop occurred in its proper place.

Posted by Steph at 2:38 PM | Comments (0)

farewell Octavia Butler

I love her work. She's the only SF author I've read who had humanity lose to aliens. Our Achilles' heel? The instinct for hierarchy.

Posted by Steph at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2006

summing it all up

Everything is the way it is because everything was the way it was.

Posted by Steph at 7:08 PM | Comments (0)


Did some research on honeybees this past week and found the Latin, Hymenoptera Apis mellifera.

I'm wondering about etymology of hymen, because Derrida plays with its inside/outside doubled nature. It appears to have only minimal crossover from referring to a thin skin or membrane to ... the wings of a genus of insects.

Honeybees have two kinds of dances to indicate the location of food: the round dance and the waggle dance. Waggling (!) involves fixing the coordinates of the sun with the hive and the pollen. Awesome.


Posted by Steph at 5:44 PM | Comments (0)

buck up!

Ruth sends this:

Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow. - DOROTHY THOMPSON

Missing from among the other quotes on courage is this one from Amelia Earhart:

"Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace."

Posted by Steph at 5:34 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2006

missing him :-(

Until we are able to scatter Sam's ashes as he requested, over the Connecticutt River Valley, they remain in a vase that belonged to his mother.


Posted by Steph at 5:40 PM | Comments (0)


Linguistic sustainability: a forum and article on pluralism... by Albert Bastardas i Boada.

There's been a discussion about using more than just English on the AoIR listserv. I missed several messages, might be worth finding them all and seeing if other reference sources have been mentioned. Fascinating discussion in and of itself.

Posted by Steph at 5:06 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2006

Under One Sky

Muslim women challenging conservative Islam by engaging in activities traditionally reserved for men; and simultaneously challenging conservative North American ethnocentrism by wearing the veil.

Is the hajib only/always about ideology?

Themes: freedom (what to wear, when, how), gender, and identity. The feeling isn't against 'the West', but it is about cultural imperialism: when the West tries to assert that it is a 'neutral' culture.

Posted by Steph at 8:10 PM | Comments (8)

March 21, 2006

problematic moments (theory)

As James and I have discussed and theorized the role of time in group interaction, I think a PM might come down to the incursion of a diachronic element into the synchronic. As long as the ritual elements of an essentially linear unfoldment of moment-after-moment occurs as expected (familiar) then synchronicity secures enough stability and predictability that one can exercise various forms of control (over self, over an interaction, over a process, perhaps even over an outcome). When the synchronic is disrupted by the diachronic, however, unpredictability and instability emerge, threatening the established order. [I'm not sure "order" here must necessarily invoke power; it could just be regularity, routine.]

Hmmmmm, it could be that diachronic emergences at the individual level are able to be subsumed into 'the routine' - even if they are disruptive to the group - and thus don't constitute a problematic moment at the level of the group's operational constitution. But if there is a synchronicity of diachrony among several members then it becomes a group-level event, which necessarily evokes the power structure and calls it into question?

There might be some equation between the scale of perceived threat and the intensity of backlash....

Posted by Steph at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

a deliberative option for Tehran

This is a strong opinion piece about a strategy for dealing seriously - and potentially effectively - with Iran's nuclear threat. Ms. Mathews offers an insightful critique of present schisms within the Bush administration that undermine US credibility with other nations, thus providing openings for the Iranian government to duck and wheedle their way to continued nuclear development and the disconcerting prospect of more war.

Posted by Steph at 9:58 AM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2006

"A New Hope"

It's hard to imagine there's a person with any access to media who hasn't seen the original Star Wars movie, Episode IV, A New Hope, released (ohmygosh) in 1977 (six technical Oscars). I saw it in the theatre six times. The only other movie I've seen so many times is Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Its reviews are awful, but the album by The Beatles "is often cited as the most influential rock album of all time," according to Wikipedia.

Those two movies pretty much sum up my 9th grade year in Florida, except for playing soccer (goalie - "you can't be stupid...but perhaps you must be a little crazy"), and personal encounters with pervasive racism. I wish I could say I found respite in someone besides the Bee Gees but...that's not the way it happened. :-/

(Wow, that was a tangent!)

Just-in-Time, in fact, never had seen ANH but somehow managed to enjoy it despite the occasional admonition to visualize the size of the Imperial Cruiser on the big screen and "imagine the sound coming from all around you." Not to mention enduring gasps of glee, outbursts of recognition, and various and sundry triggered tales associated with our first viewings.

We spent the rest of the weekend eating (I think I gained three pounds), and checking out Mei Mei the travel cat, who appears no worse for the wear.

For the record, I was only accused of being inspired by The Force once.

Posted by Steph at 9:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2006

satire or irony?

Perhaps parody? I'm still trying to sort these out. This new old-style animated show might be an excellent site for learning these distinctions. Minoriteam is styled (at least aesthetically) after my own favorite comic book author, Jack Kirby. I so loved the Fantastic Four, Captain America and the Falcon, the X-Men, and others. More a Marvel gal than a DC fan, I was.

Posted by Steph at 9:46 AM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2006

"with a little help from my friends"

List of things to work on:

1) Get new phone/ repair old phone...SOON
2) Do not read paper sent about a month ago
3) Request current version of paper
4) Plan trip to Columbus
5) Train cat
6) Stay well and happy
7) Learn to cook. Cook for friend
8) Continue being a pain in friend's butt
9) Call friend

Posted by Steph at 4:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2006

"blog fodder"

Dan's on to me. "You don't come to bowl, you just come to collect stories for your blog!" Then he went on to set a personal best. He continued by speculating that blogs are the trainspotting of the decade, with someone checking in on how Anuj does every week. (He's been doing better and better! Not only at bowling: check out his latest minute of fame! He's way high on the cool factor too.) Turkish did not repeat her record performance from last week. Alas. LB couldn't hit a spare to save his life but did still win a game or two, much to the dismay of the brothers who felt the need to record one of his lowest scores ever.
Not that there's any rivalry beyond outright sabotage.

This week's variation included speed bowling on two lanes, culminating in Lava's two-handed double bowl. ("Not worth it," he muttered to me and Zeynep, wringing out his left wrist. I was impressed both his balls actually stayed in their respective lanes!) There was some confusion in the rush to manage turns on two lanes, and Anuj killed one of Luscious' strikes getting only "1" before anyone realized it was not his turn! (Then he went on to roll his own strike. hmmmmm.)

Luscious decided it is NOT the second game but the third game that is the best. (For Luscious this week, it was almost "no game" until Come Back Time in the 4th game when he went from a 30 in the 7th frame to nearly 100.)

My blognotes came through unscathed this week, although there were spies and an issue with boogers. There's something quite charming about the individual strike swaggers, as well as the expressions of disdain when all the pins don't fall. Alex put it into words: "It's rare for me to actually hit the spot I'm aiming for but when I do...? I really don't understand this game." The other memorable quote of the evening?

"What if my girlfriend comes and smells beer in my shoe?"

Posted by Steph at 9:08 PM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2006

Newton Did Not Sleep Here

a poem by Ursula Leguin, in Always Coming Home

I don't care if I am possible.
What are the bridges between us?

Wind, the rainbow,
mist, still air.

We must learn to step on the rainbow.
(Even Old Jealousy
called it a covenant.)

We must learn how to walk on the wind.
What links us (O my sister soul)
is the abyss between us.

We must learn the fog path.
What parts us (O my brother flesh)
is our kinship of one house.

We must learn to trust thin air.

Posted by Steph at 5:35 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2006

I love life!

The only one I can't find to download, poo!:

I love Life by Melissa Lefton.

Posted by Steph at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

Zeynep! Zeynep!

Will we have a repeat? Last week's record 153* (frantically tied by LB as he desperately sought to stave off this dark horse competitor) was roundly cheered by all. The regulars were all there (not the full extended crowd), mixing it up on Goth night - shifted from the dance club across the way because of a competing event. I truly thought I'd jumped dimensions when I walked in to the black lights, strobes, and fashion nightmares (and you think I dress poorly?!?): "It is still Tuesday, right?" I confirmed with the staff. A couple of times. :-)

It was a busy night, what with the main event being supplemented with collaborative art night, and the live dj rolling tunes about cats that seriously distracted the boys. There was a dark corner that kept trapping LB (the 7 pin) and Lava (the 10). Anuj got (what I thought was his first) double, and also "got shot", spilling wine on his previously bright white t-shirt. After the art work on it was complete, he was adorned with a lacey bra, a peace symbol, a wine bottle and glass, and a naked woman. (Doesn't he just wish?!)

Luscious says "the second game is the best" - LB hit a 161, if the notes are not mistaken. (There was no attempt at graffiti this week, although "Dinky" a.k.a. Bowler K.A. Master did sign an informed consent form...)

btw - if you missed the birthday boy's night, check out the balloon-sporting gang at Anuj's blog.

*The scores are Luscious 104; Lava 130; Anuj 111; Raz 153; and Zeynep 153!!!!!

Posted by Steph at 8:54 AM | Comments (1)

too good to pass up!


Posted by Steph at 8:52 AM | Comments (2)

Bleep II

"Many physicists today say the waves that symbolize quantum possibilities are so fragile they collapse with the slightest encounter with their environment."

This is the central point of a fairly scathing critique of What the Bleep, Down the Rabbit Hole, the successor to the first badly made, overly proselytizing What the Bleep film about quantum physics and consciousness.

The point is that connections (a.k.a. dialectics?), as shown more in "I heart Huckabees" are the roots of structure, rather than any configuration of disparate elements. I would argue, though, that fragility in and of itself doesn't rule out the possibility of intentional change. It does rule out the possibility of controlled or directed change: outcomes might be probable but they are never, ever certain, most especially in human affairs.

Posted by Steph at 8:04 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2006

wikipedia (research references)

Wouldn't you know that Wikipedia has a link on discourse? :-) I followed some of the debate on the Association of Internet Researchers Listserv (last fall). There was a strong bias to traditional sources. Not because they're traditional (which doesn't hurt) but because of the peer review process (which has plenty of its own problems, eh?). I came down on the side of allowing students to use online sources for data and as a beginning for research, but that "facts" should be verified through an academic library.

Then I read the Wired 14.03 ping by Joi Ito, who said:

"I wish people would stop comparing a living organisim to deadwood."

Posted by Steph at 8:37 PM | Comments (0)


"People can't distinguish, it seems, between describing dissent and being dissent." Celia Farber, journalist for Harper's, in an article about the link between HIV and AIDS, which she reports is questioned by some.

I've no clue about that debate, but I do know that publicly voicing concerns about possible disagreements is punishable. How to pursue a line of critique without succumbing to personally-directed aggression is the challenge. I've actually managed some humor this time around, trying to enact Burke's comic frame instead of the tragic one. We did it in Stephen's class some time back, when Shannon presented on defamiliarization. In particular I'll repeat the quote on perception; it uses vision as a metaphor:

"Humans, too, are victims of selective blindness. We often fail to see things around us because they are too familiar and seem to convey no new information, or because we are focusing our attention elsewhere. We don't know nearly enough about attention though it's a vital survival function. Visual attention seems to be a pair of processes. The first, the process of focusing on a stimulus or idea, has received a lot of research. The other equally important process involves concurrent decisions about which stimuli to ignore. Let me emphasize that. Visual attention is always partly, and often largely, selective blindness to other stimuli considered to be irrelevant at the moment" (from How a Poet Sees).

I'm being told (in no uncertain terms, mind you) what has fallen outside the range of my vision, beyond the blinders of my focused attention. My actions have been psychologized and my intentions impugned. My own ear has been sculpted over time to certain tunes and pitches, to frequencies that rub (push, pull) in conditioned ways.

It has been suggested that my style of presentation appears "teacherly", as if I am trying to convey something that I know which others don't. Oy. If this is how I've been read (heard, received) no wonder the rejection is so intense. I imagine myself more as an explorer. I suppose this is problematic as well? But one must understand my orientation - I do not think I'm leading, rather I'm one of many on a journey together. I guess I'm not convinced any of us is actually qualified "to lead" this journey, so I'm not willing to submit passively to authority or procedures that strike me as arbitrary or simply conditioned by precedent.

So, I dissent. Not only that, I dissent incorrectly. She can't follow the rules for anything, can she?!! Because my conformity quotient is so low, I have to describe my dissent as dissent, instead of as .... whatever attributions it garners. In my case, does this mean that describing dissent and being dissent are indistinguishable? I name the interpellation. Someday, I might have to work out the distinctions between interpellation (as a function of ideologies) and valence (as a function of group relations). I've equated them before.

Posted by Steph at 9:42 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2006


Now, why does Nietzsche (or the translator?) need to use this word, acroamatic oral would suffice? Is it because he needs to emphasize both the speaking (oral) and hearing (auditory)? Or because it is confined only to the Aristotelian method? But what delineates this mode as necessarily esoteric?

Derrida clarifies (if it can be called that!): "Abstraction itself: the ear can close itself off and contact can be suspended because the omphalos of a disjointed body ties it to a dissociated segment of the father" (1985:36). Ok, the omphalos here is the scar where the umbilical cord used to be attached. Is he arguing (metaphorically) that the ability to 'turn off listening' is an act of death/dying comparable to cutting the umbilical cord to one's mother, a.k.a. "life"? And, therefore, that this ability (to not listen) is only possible through some "tie" to a similarly-scarred feature of male parentage/parenting?

(The whole mother-father dichotomy is so riddled with heterosexuality I find it somewhat awkward to wrap my head around.)

Posted by Steph at 2:09 PM | Comments (0)

what the heck is an exergue?

Derrida argues that Nietzsche borrowed his fame in advance (took on a debt) by extending credit to his name. He argues the unfixability of the date of the signing of this loan despite the fact that Nietzsche did date and sign "an outwork, an hors d'oeuvre,, an exergue or a flysheet whose topos, like (its) temporality, strangely dislocates the very thing that we, with our untroubled assurance, would like to think of as the time of life and the time of life's récit, of the writing of life by the living – in short, the time of autobiography” (11).

The whole passage puts in mind of that song about the Cherokee: Indian Reservation.

Posted by Steph at 1:23 PM | Comments (0)

About face! (inversion?)

I mentioned reading Derrida (slowly); his subject is Nietzsche (slower still). "...do we hear, do we understand each other already with another ear?" (1985:35).

Derrida is discussing the inversion of Nietzsche into Naziism, in which "what passes elsewhere for the 'same' utterance says exactly the opposite and corresponds instead to the inverse, to the reactive inversion of the very thing it mimes" (30). He goes on to discuss how language is always "the double of the other", that "the one can always be the other" (32).

So, I wonder, with what "ear" have I been heard by colleagues in the CGSA? If it was the opposite, the double, the other of what I meant, then I'd have to flip the Bahktinian schematic around the other way. In other words, from my peers vantage point, *I* operate as "the centrifugal force" pushing us apart while they reflect back to me the centripetal forces they perceive pulling us together. This might be one reason why translation has been so arduous - coming from different 'centers', as it were?

Also, I think the emphasis on discourse has led me a bit astray. To the extent that discourse (in groups) is my "pet project" (how nice to be known!), it is only a tool. What's coming into clarity for me now (yes, not prior, not before, not on the timeline that would (?) perhaps have been more easily received, sigh) is that "the problem" I've been sensing and trying to address (go ahead, say it, in my regretably fumbling manner) has to do with the relationship between discourse and structure.

The discourse of CGSA, as reflected in its public documents, the supposed "norms" of conduct in meetings, even including interventions with me in private, presuppose that dissent is undesirable. I object! (It is ironic, given my consensus background, that this is where I find myself, now.) Yet, this is my understanding of what democracy entails. "Aha," you say! (Me, too, smile.) There WAS an "agenda"!

If you don't really know me yet, let me explain my "way". I am less deliberate than impulsive (a personality trait or character flaw, depending how one wishes to read it); I have definitely been operating on a democratic assumption which I now recognize may or may not be shared. I want to be part of a democratic process in as close to an ideal sense as possible, which means a process (system, structure) that proactively resists its own entrenchment, its own tendency toward paternalism (e.g., aren't we taking care of everything?) and even fascism (for example, what "mandate"? and when did we all agree that meetings of the CGSA representatives would be confidential?)

(Oh my god did I really write that?!)

Yeah, I did. Shoot me now and get it over with. I want accountability (all ways - from representatives to the rest of us, from the rest of us to the representatives, from all of us to/with each other: this is what I understand as a commitment to collective action). I want democratic mechanisms that a) guarantee unpopular and minority views get a full airing before the whole graduate student body and that b) bind us - explicitly and overtly - to joint action, or at least to conscious and intentional community support of actions taken 'in our name'.

I'm not proposing that these mechanisms be applied rigidly or without exception (necessarily), but I am proposing that they be in place should anyone ever feel the need to use them. I think the four-step procedure outlined by the brainstorming process last December adequately (even simply) covers the basics.

In point of practice, as Joanna stated, the procedure is (almost) what has occurred. Steps 1 and 2 have occurred. What hasn't yet been done is to carry out step 3 (discussion and analysis) and step 4 (majority vote) in regard to a specific instance. A tension (perhaps not the only one, but a biggie) is that I'm asking the CGSA to institutionalize the procedure first, and (at least some people) want to experience it in action/application. It is unclear to me whether or not "going through the motions" will lead to adoption of the procedure, or just reinforce the status quo of dealing with each item independently and informally. I could re-bring the example of the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights if folks want a trial run (I do still think it'd be cool for us to become a signatory), but I'm hesitant as to its efficacy as a more-or-less neutral example (especially since it would set me up to talk more - the horror)!

Perhaps someone else could propose an issue or cause to serve as a test case?

Posted by Steph at 9:32 AM | Comments (5)

March 11, 2006

trading races

A study on this show where "blacks" and "whites" trade places would be fascinating.

Posted by Steph at 2:12 PM | Comments (0)

management versus labor

Which side will you be on? Since the successes of the New Deal - when all of the US safety nets were put in place to protect people from abject poverty and unions secured benefits for workers - management, owners, and stockholders have worked to dismantle the laws that structure these mechanisms which enable the vaunted individual "pursuit of happiness".

The assault on worker's rights has gathered momentum since the 1980s. When will the tide turn? Now, according to the NY Times, labor leaders are being equated to some of the worst political characters in history through the commercial battleground of advertising.

Posted by Steph at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)


Dr. Wafa Sultan is an inspiration. I hope she is right about having "walked the first and hardest 10 miles."

Posted by Steph at 9:52 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2006


Note to self: when most confident, be most wary of unrecognized assumptions.

I did think, going into the Communication Graduate Student Association meeting yesterday, that the handouts were practically self-explanatory. I had distributed the first handout the day before in order to jog people's memories of the brainstorming session in December. I covered it very fast (time limit) and moved into the second handout, which I also covered quickly.

I was then pulled under by the discursive currents with the very first comment. I do not remember who spoke, or what was said, except that I was instantly fighting for my life. I felt desperate and appeared as such, speaking with increased volume, intense diction, and sweeping generalizations. My attempt to pull (to bind centripetal forces in a formal procedure) and others' (centrifugal) countering pushes thickened the borderzone where “a group” is constituted. I was sucked deep into the maelstrom.

It took a while for me to re-establish the kind of balance necessary to float, to be relaxed enough to trust that my head was going to stay above water.

I appreciate the advocacy of our Australian buddy (especially when she very diplomatically told me to shut up! - something to the effect of a particular line of inquiry not being very productive). She stayed after the meeting with some others to try and hash out the confusion and did a great job of translating me. After several rounds of back-and-forth, with folks arguing that the procedure I'm advocating is already in place and me insisting that current procedures are not the same as what I'm proposing, Li articulated two assumptions and their temporal juxtaposition. The difference, he said, is at the starting point. I'm beginning from an assumption of cohesiveness (that we all do belong and are always already "members" of an extant group), and others are beginning from an assumption of essential individuality (the independence of the self, the freedom to choose whether or not to belong at any given moment or regarding any particular issue).

These differing assumptions may be (probably are) part of heteroglossic equations of discourse about student governance that require translation into mutually intelligible language.

[I could not have said this yesterday. This is 'new knowledge' cohering in my mind as I reflect on the critical feedback and supportive interpretations presented in conversations with various colleagues during and since the meeting. Some part of these thoughts are also influenced by reading some pages in Derrida's Otobiographies yesterday afternoon and this morning, to wit: "A prejudice: life. Or perhaps not so much life in general, but my life, this 'that I live,' the 'I-live' in the present" (1985:9).]

Phenomenologically, I swim against the current. Somehow, I need to remember that its countervailing force is not necessarily deliberately directed against "me" (or anyone else), but is rather an effect of momentum and historical flow. The confusion voiced by some members of the group was (and may still be) genuine: I was "too abstract". Some resistance was, also, specific and particular: "It's too dangerous to be political in academia right now." "I don't want [the potential of] a majority view imposed upon my minority view."

How do I become more concrete for those who are struggling with the abstractions? I could give another "for instance" that is more tied to where we (graduate students) are right now in terms of negotiations with management about space. We've lost the graduate lounge and the present computer lab. We've been given a different space that has no natural light, no air-conditioning, and no wiring. We've been told the work and materials needed to remedy these deficiences is too expensive. Negotiations with management about these issues continue in "the spirit of cooperation and collaboration."

Why did we give up the present computer lab? I suggest at least one reason we gave it up is because we don't have the collective willpower to be confrontational enough to demand respect in the form of adequate resources. We haven't sought alliances with each other that would protect individuals enough from the risks of "being political" in order to say (hypothetically - let me rush to qualify!!), this department literally could not function without us. Chances are good we wouldn't be on our own (as graduate students only) if faculty knew how unhappy we are. They need us, and I imagine they'd rather have us satisfied than disgruntled!

Posted by Steph at 1:43 PM | Comments (9)

March 8, 2006

"a politics without guarantee"

Viewing (again) the MEF video on Stuart Hall, Race: The Floating Signifier, in the intro to mass media course. Hall says the only way to move out of racism (and, by implication, other "isms") is to enact right practices, because outcomes can never be guaranteed (no matter how much we might wish such could be the case).

from Kathang Pinay's blog:

"Stuart Hall is famous for saying that we must practice a “politics without guarantee” because we can and must not rely on the guarantees formerly provided by religion, science, and anthropology to secure our sense of comfort in the world; that these are the very same ideologies that cemented the racial, ethnic, sex and gender, and class divisions in the modern world. But a “politics without guarantee” must always be a politics of critique of hegemony and injustice. Part of the injustice in U.S. culture is the invisibility of the privileges of race, ethnicity (white), sex and gender (straight), and class (elite) – they are invisible because they remain unmarked, and I suspect, not usually a part of the discussion of aesthetics or poetics from the postmodern perspective. When a postcolonial person calls attention to this invisibility, one may be instantly accused of politicizing poetry and therein the machinations of power begin the work of silencing."

Hall elaborates upon W.E.B. DuBois' statement about "the grosser physical differences of color, hair and bone". Here is a powerful presentation defending affirmative action.

Posted by Steph at 7:04 PM | Comments (0)

intervening to clarify - when?

When my team, "Wanda" glanced at me uncertainly and signed what she thought she heard, I immediately cast my attention into short-term memory: what had I just heard? I thought I'd heard, "making the visible invisible" but what I saw signed was the other way around, making the invisible visible. Shoot! Did it matter? Was it a crucial concept? Could I ask to clarify? The speaker went on, so did Wanda. I perseverated. When and how could I ask? Should I ask or let it go?

Last week we'd had a moment where we had both misheard a term in the same way. "Kenyan" did not seem to fit the situation, but then again - this group regularly (several times a day) refered to a wide range of ethnicities and nationalities; it could have been a new example that interpreters weren't familiar with but members of the group knew. We'd let it go until after the meeting....and then the speaker couldn't remember the context (and neither could we, fixated only on what the single word might have sounded like instead of the context in which it was said).

So today I wondered actively about whether to seek clarification or not. The whole notion of making obvious things disappear is of immense interest to me, how is it that "the elephant in the living room" can't be seen? I was so busy attending first to what I'd heard and seen, and second to my own process about whether or not to ask, that I missed an important communicative exchange between Wanda and the Deaf interlocutor (participant), who indicated that the goof was no big deal. I didn't find out that the two of them had "resolved" this between themselves until we discussed it at break, after I had found a moment to ask for the clarification. (Oops.)

So, here I am, the back-up interpreter. My team has cast a look my way for help and I didn't have it to give in that moment. As happens almost always, the group carried on, either unaware or trained not to be too curious about what the interpreters are doing. The person speaking couldn't have seen the hesitation as Wanda was behind her, so she kept on talking. While she spoke, I pondered: is this my question or a legitimate question for the group? No one else is asking - but they all read the material being summarized. We hadn't. (Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we get away with not reading, sometimes we don't.) So the other non-deaf ("hearing") members of the group probably heard what they expected to hear, but if we heard and therefore interpreted differently than it was written, would that throw off the Deaf member of the group? Unless she knew what was written, recognized the goof, and - knowing what the speaker intended - just moved on with the overall discussion. Or, she could have not been clear on what was written and a misinterpretation here could lead her down a path of misunderstanding...

Wanda and I had both felt a pang of guilt for not clarifying the "Kenyan" comment the week before. It was probably just an adjective describing a case that was one particular example among a broad pattern. Not vital. But then again, "just an adjective" - whoa! What if that adjective clued a group with a unique experience that everyone knew about, except for the Deaf member who never got the reference because the interpreters were puzzling between ourselves....did she say "Kenyan"?

I mulled, what's the difference between asking in one instance and not the other?

In the "Kenyan" instance, it did seem like "just" a descriptor; not the main point. In the "visible/invisible" instance, it seemed more like a general concept that could be generalized and needed to be understood. So I justified to myself that I ought to ask. When the presenter finished speaking, there was a brief pause:

"Can I ask a clarification for the interpreters? It's been awhile back, but we're not sure we heard it correctly, was it the making the invisible visible or the visible invisible?"

The presenter clarified, it was making the visible (the obvious) invisible (unspeakable, hidden). She then went on to expand on what this meant, maintaining eye contact with me. I was, after all, the one who asked the question! Even though I'm not supposed to be part of the group. That ol' conundrum! When she was done, one of the instructors built upon this point, so it served as a segue (although probably a different one than would have occurred if I hadn't asked).

During the break a half-hour or so later, I asked the non-deaf speaker how it felt for me to ask. She was fine with it, and another non-deaf person added that if we (the interpreters) didn't get it, probably someone else didn't either. Ah yes, but then is it our responsibility to 'fix' that for the group or theirs? Oh gosh! If it's theirs, I should have kept my mouth shut! When I asked the deaf person her point-of-view, she said she had known, in that instance, what was meant, but that if she hadn't it could have been a problem not to have the clarification. So - my bad for missing the cue that all was good. However, the deaf person went on to say that a) she liked how I asked because I was very clear it was for the interpreters, and b) that the speaker's expansion (all that additional information) was quite good and useful.

Which brings me to my last point, that part of the judgment about whether to intervene or not may have to do with some expectation or assumption about what the person being clarified (an act usually experienced as a form of interruption) will provide in response.

Posted by Steph at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

March 7, 2006

no time like the present

I admit, I was elated when Crash won the Best Picture Oscar. Some colleagues and I discussed it, with readings ranging from "most conservative" to "inspiring". It was interesting to hear one of the recipients thank the Academy for honoring this "movie about tolerance".

This New York Times article credits the setting (Los Angeles) and the independence of the Academy for Crash's surprise win. What struck me, is it was the only nominated film about contemporary times. While themes from the other Best Picture candidates resonate today - homophobia, McCarthyesque repression, addiction, terrorism - only Crash located itself in our era. While this may or may not have been a factor in the way votes were cast, it pleases me that current affairs were chosen over historical reenactments.

Posted by Steph at 8:53 AM | Comments (0)

March 6, 2006

how to conclude?

I was asked (!) to write a summary of my ongoing interpreting research for a sign language interpreter's journal in the United Kingdom in which I would discuss similarities and differences between spoken and sign language interpreter's experiences. I've hammered out a first draft but am lost for a conclusion. I need help! I've written to an audience of "insiders" - but I hope it is understandable to non-interpreters as well. I would love any and all feedback regarding clarity. What will help the most, right now, is if you would share with me your thoughts and reactions to what I've written. Do you agree/disagree? Does it lead you to certain questions or help bring a particular dilemma into view? I'm honestly curious about whatever comes to your mind while considering about what I've written.

The framework I'm writing from - my research lens - is critical discourse analysis. I don't explain that here at all (that's for the dissertation).

Thanks. :-)

Dynamics of Simultaneous Interpreting in Speech and Sign

I was thrilled at how familiar it felt to talk with spoken language interpreters at the European Parliament last spring. I interviewed more than sixty professional conference interpreters, trying to get a feel for their view of the effectiveness of interpreting in the largest multilingual organization in the world. They complain about the same things that bother sign language interpreters: lack of prep materials, speeches read from written texts at blazing speed, inelegant and disorganized speakers - how many tangents can one squeeze into a single sentence? As a professional, I enjoyed their wit, finely honed intelligence, and broad knowledge of social, economic, and political issues. (I didn’t meet any of the dull ones, although I heard rumors of their existence. They lurk among us.) While I was there in the role of a researcher, my work as a sign language interpreter would often become part of the interview as we shared anecdotes, questions, and musings about similarities and differences in ‘the work’.

Most of the differences don’t matter much. Not that they are inconsequential, but they are specific to the languages, cultures, personalities, contexts, and agendas of each situation. Even the mode divide – the verbal/auditory mode of speech or the visual/gestural mode of sign – is, in and of itself, not particularly significant as a difference for the doing of interpretation. (None of the interpreters I interviewed hesitated to accept sign as real language, although I was surprised how many thought it might be universal.) The differences that stick in my mind have more to do with the ways these spoken language interpreters tended to discuss problems of meaningfulness more than problems of practice. It’s been over a decade since my interpreter training program in the US, so I don’t want my reflections here to be taken as a judgment on the state of the art – curriculum may have evolved quite a bit. But the kinds of workshops I see advertised and occasionally attend regarding sign language interpretation are usually skills-oriented. The discussions and conversations that occur in these settings are problems of practice: what would you do in this situation? How would you handle that kind of thing? What if such-and-so occurs?

Now, it could be that my memory is skewed, or that there’s some way I handled the interviews that brought questions of meaning into the foreground among the spoken language interpreters I was fortunate enough to meet. By problems of meaningfulness, I mean, “Is interpreting worth it?” Does interpreting have intrinsic value as a human talent? Does it offer something unique to intercultural communication or structures of cross-cultural social organization? Is the need for highly skilled professional interpreters an economic and political resource requiring protection and cultivation? Or, is interpreting a communicative choice of last resort? Should it be? Sign language interpreters do discuss concerns of collusion with oppression (audism) and how to avoid impeding Deaf empowerment, but there is little apparent concern over the demise of the field. There are concerns, centered in the Deaf community, that recent technological advances in video-relay telecommunications equipment will irrevocably alter the character of Deaf Culture by allowing an increasing percentage of communication to be conducted from the home instead of in person. The popularity of this service among people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing is to be expected, as the technology allows a wider range of options, giving access to privileges of privacy and convenience that non-deaf (“hearing”) persons have long enjoyed. Interpreters have, in general, embraced the new technology with equal enthusiasm, albeit with growing wariness about occupational hazards running the gamut from increased risk of repetitive motion injuries to basic exploitation by employers intent on maximizing their profit margin.

While the field of sign language interpreting grows and diversifies, at least a dozen spoken language interpreters informed me that they would not advise a young person to pursue professional spoken language interpreting as a career. Conference interpreting was characterized at least once as “a dying profession”, and those who don’t think it will fade completely believe the range of venues where it is used will continue to shrink. Few imagine the possibility that community interpreting could become a growing market (despite large populations of immigrants and refugees all over Europe), because maintaining linguistic and cultural integrity for non-European "others" is undervalued and drastically underpaid. Conference interpreters recognize the value and necessity of community interpreting – some even saying interpreting in the community is more vital to people’s lives than conference interpreting because at the governmental level there are so many checks and balances, while at the community level a real person is dealing with an immediate situation with actual, possibly dire, consequences. However, without a marked increase in status and remuneration very, very few conference interpreters perceive community interpreting as a viable option.

It is possible that the focus I’m highlighting here has to do with the radically different socioeconomic and institutional levels of work between spoken language conference interpreters and sign language community interpreters. The pool of interpreters I interviewed at the European Parliament are without question in the elite ranks of the profession. This does not necessarily imply a hierarchy of skill (I would argue that community interpreters can be just as talented in the doing of the job), but it is a reflection of the political environment and Parliament interpreters' proximity to power. Community sign language interpreters work in the every day world of (hopefully) routine appointments with doctors, lawyers, and therapists. We work in myriad social service and educational settings where deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals seek institutional support to live their lives and pursue their dreams. We also interpret for large corporations and small businesses, for political organizations and self-help groups, for weddings, funerals, parties, and protests. The commonality across these situations is that the minority language user is rarely the person in charge, is rarely the boss or the person with the power to decide how things will be.

Spoken language interpreters at the European Parliament, however, not only rub shoulders with national political figures and world-renowned leaders, but are integrally a part of negotiations that establish the rules for institutional structures that will dictate the life chances of millions. There are still issues of minority and majority languages, although these are typically described as “larger” and “smaller”, and spoken language interpreters are quite attuned to ways that smaller language users sacrifice their linguistic power by frequently choosing to use a larger language instead of their own. The pressures on Members of Parliament and the officials who administer the institutional apparatus to speak a lingua franca rather than use interpreters are subtle and overt, economic and political, and disquietingly pervasive. These are different manifestations of the same ethic of homogeneity that have plagued deaf persons and immigrants in the US for generations. Beginning with the banning of sign languages at residential schools for the deaf and proceeding through English-only movements and recent repeals of bilingual education laws, all of these moves presuppose monolingualism as a superior mode of communication. They assume understanding is unproblematic, or at least less so, if communicators use a common tongue.

Anyone who has experienced a relationship fall apart on the basis of misunderstanding knows differently. Anyone attending to political negotiations between entrenched parties knows each side is likely only to perceive what they already believe. “Understanding” is a concept mired in magical thinking and a facile faith that if one just uses “the right words” everything will go as one desires. Spoken and Sign language interpreters share the intimate awareness that the right words are a gift: never a guarantee. Words often are not right in the beginning, they grow into “rightness” over time, as situations unfold. Words are uttered and their rightness confirmed by how they are received. Sometimes words are “wrong” because of inaccurate diction, skewed perception, or incomplete information. What matters at this point is the choice made by communicators about how to address the misunderstanding – does one openly note that understanding has been missed or does one turn the error into a missile? How does one recognize something has been missed, and what does one do about the missing? Interpreters are trained – consciously or otherwise – to anticipate potential misses and attempt, if possible, to avert them. A difference between sign language and spoken language interpreters may be the relative degrees of power each has to mediate the misses that inevitably still occur.

While spoken language interpreters at the Parliamentary level have an enormous amount of prestige, they are tightly constrained by a bureaucratic system and traditional codes of professional behavior. Because they usually work in an environment with numerous colleagues, the work of spoken language interpreters is under constant evaluation and their conduct under steady surveillance. There is little room for innovation or creativity in the performance of the work for fear of community censure. Indeed, the spoken language interpreters I spoke with disagreed whether or not there is any creativity in interpreting at all, with some minimizing specific translation decisions and others lauding them as potentially art. Sign language interpreters, on the other hand, often work alone or – at most – in pairs. Occasionally there are more complicated venues that require larger teams (such as conferences with breakout sessions), or a large enough population of individuals with disparate communication needs that require specialized access services (for instance, persons who are deaf and blind require tactile interpretation). These events are usually cause for celebration – the chance to work with several peers on the same job is a treat for sign language interpreters. The trade-off in power to affect the actual communicative situation, however, is significant. Because sign language interpreters are often the only ones present who know both languages, their decisions are generally not questioned: this opens up a range of options for dealing with misunderstanding – including interrupting, asking for repetition or clarification, requesting time to work with a concept to be sure it’s clear, and sometimes even designating turn-taking.

Conference interpreters are under much tighter control. The boundaries of professional etiquette circumscribe the mediation or negotiation of a misunderstanding. Because they are constantly being watched and listened to, there is little room for experimentation, let alone actual deviation from the established norms. Indeed, spoken language interpreters are often physically prevented from intervening because they are stationed in a space apart from the direct communicators: they speak of being “behind the glass” and “in the booth”. Sign language interpreters have historically been in the room with communicators, and with no one to criticize their choices, can essentially act in whatever way they think is best for the situation. This can include switching between simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, clarifying confusing exchanges, providing salient background information, even asking communicators to rearrange seating, lighting, or the pace of interaction. In other words, sign language interpreters have more local or immediate power because of the freedom granted by working either alone or with only a few peers. Spoken language interpreters, by contrast, have hardly any power within the constraints of conference interpreting. It is almost a paradox, except that there is nothing that holds these limits in place besides convention.


And so . . . ! Therefore . . . ? help! :-)

Posted by Steph at 7:11 PM | Comments (2)


Second lesson today. Ten degree improvement in 20 minutes. Supposedly (!), this means my "psychological system is very elastic". With practice, I ought to be able to warm my hands at will, regardless of external (or internal) stressors: this is known as field independence. This paper by Musser places field independence/dependence firmly within cognitive studies and examines its affects on learning.

These definitions seem limited - bounded by the assumptions of cognitive science. They are useful, in context. My first association of the term, field independence, is with Gestalt theory and group relations, particularly the ability to self-authorize.

Posted by Steph at 11:15 AM | Comments (1)

March 5, 2006

rm 2006

Rethinking Marxism will hold it's 6th annual conference at UMass next fall.

Posted by Steph at 12:08 PM | Comments (0)

the Oscars

I'm not the only one who noticed: "And This Year's Oscar Goes to ... a Movie That Takes a Stand."

Posted by Steph at 8:38 AM | Comments (0)

Sam Achziger

June 28, 1925 - February 12, 2006

The official obituary for Sam appeared this weekend in the Brattleboro Reformer. It is also printed in the local paper in Longmont, Colorado.

Sam's Obit Photo.jpg

Most of my visits with him over the last three years are recorded here. A timeline of major events in his life is here.

Posted by Steph at 8:22 AM | Comments (8)

March 4, 2006

weird things

"Beliefs that do not stand on our best reasons and evidence simply dangle in thin air, signifying nothing except our transient feelings or personal preferences" (3). How to Think About Weird Things (except I've got the Third Edition).

Posted by Steph at 3:06 PM | Comments (0)

#1 Treasure

We celebrated a friend's new job last night. It will be very interesting to watch the future unfold!

Posted by Steph at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

March 3, 2006

Oh Johnny...

We were again a more subdued group of rapscallions last night at La Guarida, taking in Johnny Cash and June Carter's story via the Oscar-nominated Walk the Line. Did we like it? I'd say the general mood was, 'it was ok', but perhaps that's just my take? Not being familiar with Cash's music, I was introduced to him and his music at the same time. Talk about moody! His affinity with the criminals in Folsom Prison was a bit disconcerting - not because of his recognition of their humanity, but because he seemed to enjoy a vicarious violence through association. Not that he came across as a particularly gentle guy...

La Guarida's head honcho took a significant risk leaving seven of us untended in his lair. No doubt he was relieved to find his easel still standing. Celebration was in the air as someone passed her comps!!!! I wouldn't say anyone was eager to leave afterwards, although when it became common knowledge that the witching hour had been passed there was a concerted effort at departure.

Next week...a comedy?

Posted by Steph at 5:39 PM | Comments (0)

March 2, 2006

Not to be left out....

What the heck is CHEA? Which got added to the chalkboard today. Or chea chea, as it has appeared in the writing class's wiki?

The wiki is not quite ready for a full public unveiling, but perhaps by the end of next week...?

Meanwhile, some students clearly have not laughed enough, or hard enough, having apparently never snorted a drink out of their nose. I wonder if any of them have the rarer talent of blowing a beverage out of their eye? [No demonstrations, thanks.]

Posted by Steph at 7:43 PM | Comments (1)

"Where is the love?"

Now we're starting to get somewhere! Amanda and Chantel gave me a boatload of grief for taking so long to learn their names. Rich and I mudwrestled our way through a series of generalizations and imprecise language to a driving metaphor (his) about politics: the right and left wings are like the right and left tires keeping a car going in one direction. What was Adam's quip about the motorcycle? :-)

I want to clarify the concept of canalization, which is a broader term that can be used in many situations, not only technically in advertising (as I said in class): in general, it is management through specified channels of communication. My second thoughts on Rich's driving metaphor are still that "canalization" is not exactly what the political extremes "do" (their large scale function)in their interaction with each other. If my own thinking is clear, canalization refers to situations where communication (language, media) is used to deepen values or attitudes, whereas the notion of tires bounding or directing the "steering" is more a matter (function) of containment.

Meanwhile, Kirk has Carey's definition of communication down. :-) This essay compares and contrasts Carey's definition with that of Stuart Hall.

Posted by Steph at 3:58 AM | Comments (0)

March 1, 2006

floating sunshine out his butt

That was the birthday boy, trailing his balloon parrot down the bowling lane. It was an eventful night, with two personal all-time highs: Anuj, spinning 147, and Zeynep with a 122. Lava had a turkey and he and Luscious both had four baggers. Lava actually rolled five strikes in a row (there was a game break) and had an 8 frame streak with 7 strikes and 1 spare. (Ok. I admit it. I was impressed.)

Someone(s) contributed quite actively to this week's notes, editing, drawing, revising, and altering the codes to obscure their originally intended meaning. The uncertainty this inspired occurred simultaneously with the recounting of an earthquake dream resulting in sleepwalking. "We have earthquakes all the time in my country - 'Get out of the house!'" Don's need to publish a paper continues to trump blog-updating. They don't make cup sizes large enough for 9 pounders. (Welcome to my world.)

Bowling continued, per usual. "It's my hair," when things didn't go quite as one planned. "Be humble," when you get a strike (as if!) When trouble begins to loom (not that it would, not with us), "I don't speak the language." There were a few fingerpuppet associations. I was the monkey, in desperate need of advice from the parrot. The elephant whipped our butts in game one but moaned that I'd scored higher than him in later games (not new!) There was the frog that roared, the goose/swan that wanted to be a duck, the panda (or was it polar?) bear, gopher, and lion (chosen for being of the feline persuasion).

The lion was selected by the birthday boy, affectionately known as poonte, who may have been a tad bit overoiled for the evening's serious competition. I mean, come on! Luscious actually catapulted Lava right through the air onto his back! This was after Lava had tossed a 10-lb bowling ball at me and before he nearly knocked the b'day boy over and the two practically wound up in a wrestling match. [Note: bowling is a non-contact sport.]

Any gender confusion at the bowling alley was left there when we moved to the Iron Horse for salsa. I received a number of good lessons and a showing-up by the birthday boy himself in terms of knee-dexterity. I had a serious problem bowling straight tonight, but I was a good foil for dancing. I mean, how much trouble could a guy get into if he was dancing with me?

Posted by Steph at 2:13 AM | Comments (0)