Saturday, October 14, 2006

What an unforgettable image!

Tim Rarus, the DPN student leader from 1988, hangs limply, dressed for the office, not jail, as three security officers carry him away
(Image of Tim Rarus being arrested borrowed from

This has been the strangest Friday the 13th so far, and one for the deaf history books.

135 people voluntarily got arrested for protesting Jane K. Fernandes (JKF)'s nomination before the student leaders called an end at 2 AM. The announcement of the arrests started 7 PM and arrests started at 9 PM. That is 5 hours of arrests, in the biting dry fall cold last night.

My fist kept going up and pumping itself in a cheer while reading the reports last night. Such courage. I have had to take a crash course in Gallaudet politics since this started, and I'm still hunting for my cliff notes. Ah, here they are.

Most of the arrested were students. Gallaudet has an enrollment of 1,100 students this year (significantly down from my era). That's over 10% of the student body at a rough guess.

Last May, soon after Fernandes was named, the faculty passed a no-confidence vote with a 70% majority. Current estimates indicate that half or more of the student body are actively in favor of or supporting the protest directly. Alumni are also a strong force. Even the National Association of the Deaf has expressed grave concern over the situation at Gallaudet.

Common sense says that no person can strongarm herself into a leadership role like this without seriously injuring the institution she is meant to lead-- LEAD, not rule.

Each action she (JKF) in fact has taken since May has actually added fuel to the protest, except for two: She resigned as provost, and Michael Moore talked to the students as the interim provost. However, that grand gesture from the administration to lend somebody to talk to the students came too late, after the pepper-spraying of students by campus security.

What are we, a plague of pestilient grasshoppers to be sprayed with Raid?

I wish she would consider this: what is she going to do at her inauguration? Be sworn in at an undisclosed location? Pepper-spray the whole university? Arrest all the students as often as possible? Have them attend classes from jail?

We will never quit.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Achenblog is all agog about the new species of mouse with large heads found on Cyprus. Other than its ability to be invisible to scientists up to now, just how did this species persist even with all the invasions of house mice and rats that kept coming ashore from ships?

Adaption. Cyprus may have specialized flora with large nuts that the foreign mice couldn't deal with, but the bighead mice could... large nuts like, maybe, coconuts? Rats might outcompete them for the nuts, but come a famine year and the mice may well do better than the rats because of their smaller size.

I'm tempted to propose the theory that these mice got so big-headed because they had to be brainy to avoid well-fed commando kitties.

Except that theory wouldn't explain the earlier discovery of another island mouse with a large head. This following is a photo of a Luzon island mouse.

Luzon island mouse photo. The mouse has light yellow-orange fur over dark grey skin, and is quite small.. its hindfoot is perched on the small finger, and its forefoot is resting on the index finger as it clings to the hand holding it in the picture. Its head appears to be a third of the body, and seems comparable to a hamster in proportion, but what do I know about rodents? The tail seems much longer than the mouse itself, and the tail goes down under the hand and peeks back between the second and third fingers

Okay, we've spoken of mice today. Next post: MEN.

-- Wilbrod the Gnome.

I was dickering with some teachers recently about the No Child Left Behind Act. You might not know this but by its standards deaf children would have to begin reading by age 3. Ridiculous! I started reading at age 4 and it never hurt me any.

Language delay is inevitable early on with blind or deaf infants, but they can catch up as time goes by with intensive and efficient teaching. Besides, think about it. Who is teaching the kids at age 3? Certainly not the school systems. What's next, taking kids away from parents unqualified to teach 3-year olds to read?

Now I just read another outrage. The No Carrot Left Behind Act.

Photograph of carrots arranged in a circle by color. The carrots range from nearly black-purple, white, orange, yellow, red-orange, and eggplant purple in color. The Photograph is by Stephen Ausmus, on the web courtesy of USDA / Agricultural Research Service

Before you get all excited about anthocyanins, you can get red carrots in India, as well as white and purple carrots. It's not hard to BREED better carrots. You don't have to torture carrots with knives and forced UV light to make them cyan.

-- Wilbrod the Gnome
(Incidentally, the carrot photo is by Stephen Ausmus, on the web courtesy of USDA / Agricultural Research Service.)
A large, shadowy and very black animal is perched on a windowsill, with the sunrise and a tree behind him in the window. The head details cannot be seen against the dark curtains, but the sunlight shows off very chiseled leg and chest msucles. This mystery animal appears to be a large lab-sized dog with the agility of a cat. Who might this be? we wonder

It's Friday the 13th, and I don't have normal bad luck even today. Instead of hordes of black cats streaking across my path to trip me up, I had a jumbo black one come through my window this morning. At first I thought it was a dog, but I'm not sure a NORMAL dog can stand on windowsills.

At least I'm not big kitty kibble this morning-- namely because I simply read to it from the headlines this morning and it fled in horror.

Wilbrodog took a few lessons from how I taught a blind man sign by touching and moving his hands to where they should go. Today Wilbrodog then decided to target my hands with his nose and then touch where he wanted them to go. Touch hand, touch hand, both hands to touch belly. Score! Then he went right to pointing to my mouth. "Hungry... eat/food." Sure enough, his kibble bowl was empty.

You gotta love it when an animal decides to turn the tables on the trainer, but this isn't unusual when you use clicker-based techniques.

It's decidedly a surreal morning so far. Black dogs suffer greatly from superstition, and they take longer to adopt from shelters, since people prefer "blonde fluffy." I get really annoyed with the local news stations because everytime an animal bite is reported on TV, they always use a stock still of a snarling rottweiler, even if the dog who bit was a golden retriever, for heaven's sake. Yes, most guard dog breeds are black with tan markings. So? Not all of them are trained people-masticators.

Ironically, in 2005 black dogs were considered extra-lucky in India because they help ward off Saturn. People have paid extravagnant prices in India just to get a black doggy.

In parting, I leave you with this tune cootie:

"How much is that doggy in the window?"

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I'm a little disappointed that that excellent article on deaf poetry didn't have enough examples of deaf poems.

Since Joel A. also suggested that I recycle my old writing, here's a poem that's been unfinished for over a decade back when I was a disillusioned collegiate smart-aleck.

What the heck, it's good enough for the internet.

Schroendinger’s cat

Began the Big Bad Wolf:
“If there's free will (bwa ha ha ha)
If Schrödinger’s cat can decide whether it’s alive or dead
Why do we all do the same thing
Get born toilet train eat sleep wake follow crowd worry die
Pack instinct, they call it
but it’s the rack instinct, every last billiard ball.

Bang, and you’re it
Can’t stop, gotta go with the break
Gotta get somewhere
Off the table ain’t in the game
Gotta go with the green
Change opinions, beliefs, identity
That ain’t free will, that’s friction”

“What of my mind? Surely you can’t deny that, I think of what I will do”

“You got big thoughts?” jeered the Big Bad Wolf
“All the better to see the inevitable hole coming up
Which by the way happens to be my handsome maw
That kitty doesn’t have a clue what dead or alive is
Even if it had the choice
But you do, you do, and so what, you’ll go and die

Oh, maybe you’ll find yourself shouting in the hole
‘Somebody open the box and see if I’m alive or dead.’
But you gotta have the free will and where’s that

Yesterday’s truth is today’s lies and forgotten tomorrow
Heroes of today are the demons of tomorrow
Ever noticed that? It’s all Brownian motion, baby
People march with the crowd or against the crowd,
Always to the same tune of the times
Like I said, it’s not pack instinct, but rack instinct

What you gonna do, you gonna do, gonna do, what you gonna do?”

(c)-Wilbrod the Gnome

By the by, does anybody have any answers to the Bad Wolf's final question?
Deaf Artist Linkage.

Kb recently commented she didn't know that George Catlin, the artist of Indians, was deaf. Yes, he spent a bit more than 1/3 of his life deaf.

John Carlin is another artist who was born deaf, and he was also a poet.

Here is some artwork by Chuck Baird. I have never seen a photograph of the Technicolor Anatomy painting, but maybe somebody will find an image of it somewhere and let me know.


- Wilbrod the Gnome

I don't really want to think about what is going on right now at my alma mater, Gallaudet. My walk on memory lane goes instead to the Gallaudet Cafeteria, of all places, back when I was a freshman. There I look at a painting that Chuck Baird (I believe) painted to symbolize deaf culture, hanging up high so it is best viewed from the second floor of the cafeteria; looking at it from the first floor creates a danger of neck strain or being run-over by somebody with a tray.

The etch-a-sketch in my head tells me it had roughly 8 humans without skins whatsoever. No clothes, hair, no ears, no skins. This is the new level of nude painting.

Those humans were visible from the waist up with amazingly anatomically correct and well-drawn muscle striations. One feels that a med student could easily study over dinner just looking at the painting.

Every human was painted a different bold color straight from a child's paintbox--- purple, green, brown, blue, orange, with eyes in similar artifical and clashing colors. Hapless freshmen when they first saw this painting over a meal would visibly shudder, gag, and then turn their back on it. 
But for those who had the intestinal discipline to study the painting, their paradigms would shift; for every single one of those skinless humans in the painting had something to sign to the viewer.
One major movement of the painting was the line formed by the arms of a human tapping a person bent over in prayer with his outstretched left hand while signing "Look" with his right to a glow surrounding a pair of disembodied hands in the upper left corner.
The hands could be saying "book", "open", "close", "here", or "ask". To figure this out would require scholarship above and beyond what is in the Da Vinci Code. 
The mere mortals are much more easily readable, exhibiting various emotions of ectasy, startlement, anguish, and so on, with accompanying signs.
The second major message of the painting is how the painting left a gap in the middle for a conversation between an smiling adult signing "Me too" to a yellow child's open-eyed and open-mouthed question-- "Deaf you?" The expressions were perfect, and adorable. You almost forget they are skinless escapees from anatomy texts.
Over time, many freshmen started getting used to the garish colors and often would spend some time reading the painting. Many openly compared their gradual attitude change to the painting to the process of becoming comfortable with their own deafness and deaf culture.

Was that painting was placed out of sight in the cafeteria on purpose because it was so disgusting and disturbing that it could not be shown elsewhere? Because it was the only open, empty wall big enough for the painting? Because it could not be so visible to the student body elsewhere? The answer may long have been lost.

As far as I know, that painting is still hanging in the cafeteria to kill students' appetites.
Now, another art memory I have from my freshman year is of the christmas cookie party at the president's house on campus. I did not know what to expect, but the first floor, which was obviously used for receptions, with the living quarters upstairs being cordoned off, wasn't it.

The walls were coated with a medley of artworks, mostly small frames no more than 10-14 inches square, studding the walls so there was more surface covered by art than was empty.

In a small side hall, there were lots of Lincolnia, very apt since Lincoln signed the charter for Gallaudet University. Nice breath of history what with the photographs, papers, and paintings, but with irrelevant paintings enroaching somewhat. American Indian sketches and Lincoln? Looking carefully, I recognized the signature of George Catlin, a 19th century deaf artist who had travelled and sketched Indians out west. I suspected those were not his best work. I kept looking and more and more artworks seemed to be unpleasant neighbors to each other, marring the walls. Many of them were by deaf artists, but not particularly about deaf culture, merely portraits and musty relics from the 19th century.

It looked like a museum's backroom of "rejected paintings", except they were not discreetly draped.
The piece de resistence that revolted me was an exceptionally large painting of "Drowned Ophelia", as I call it--of a moaning woman in shimmery blue-green. I disliked it because of poor anatomy with extreme distortion of the limbs, arms, and head. Not to mention the plain fact that hair is not neat or straight underwater, and that the "white dress" didn't hang right either.
I automatically analyzed it as a fault of not using models rather than prurient imagination for such a large painting, then trying to cover up the mistakes by painting blue all around to make it look elegant. It failed. Amateur art gives me worse chills than the skinned humans ever did.

I wondered at that moment, exactly how it would feel to walk past that painting of Drowned Ophelia everyday on the way out of the house? Or to have so many tiny portraits coating the walls staring out at oneself. Surely a college president with a Ph.D. in psychology would be more sensitive to the effects of his environment?

My eyes found blissed relief from the horrors of heritage art in two tiny watercolors of pretty pink flowers in the asian style. I asked President Jordan about them. It turned out to be the only 2 paintings they themselves had bought-- in Hawaii, incidentally.

--Wilbrod the Gnome
By the way, I should also link to some other blogs, so these bloggers will not flog me before the fo'sc'le.

ACHENBLOG It calls itself a humor blog.

An explanatory guide to this can be found at Mo's website

Rabid fanhood of the Achenblog can be found at TBG's site.

And for a Yuropean perspective, check out the bigot-fighting Superfrenchie.

For "Amazing Race" fans, sweat your hearts out or finds Fomas with Yellojkt (Don't ask ME.)

Good pointy-sciency blogging here at Bc's playhouse.

Wilbrodog is getting the leash for a flogging, so I think maybe he is indicating he wants his own blog. Only when he learns not to drool on the keyboard.
Humble introductions all around. I and my talking dog routinely inhabit the Achenblog. However, after a few but quite persistent hints from other Achenbloggers that I should take my sparkle and wit somewhere else... Here I am, nailing up some content and trying to straighten out the template to my liking. Pardon the dust and cobwebs in this shabby shack of a weblog.
We do have great dreams for our blog, but dreams are all we can afford right now. I'm unfortunately an unemployed gnome at the moment, having been laid off in one of those pragmatic business decisions where the company is taking a new direction, whereas I'm apparently too short-legged to keep up. Whatever.
Time to network and shop my talents around the area and move out of my cupboard sometime soon, hopefully to a Brave New World where gnomes don't get the raspberry from prospective employers who find that I come short of their expectations in spite of my impressive resume and amazing talent.

BTW, you're welcome to snoop around while we're out, but don't steal the silver or paw the china. And hands off the Cupboard!

--Wilbrod the Gnome