HRC Gala and Michael Buble

Saturday evening Benjamin and I attended the Austin Human Rights Campaign Annual Gala. This is our third year to attend and also marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of the organization. I heartily agree that this year’s event was the best organized from a participant’s perspective. Benjamin and I are HRC Federal Club members, a distinction obtained by contributing over a certain amount to HRC of the course of a year. We’re frequently being invited to Federal Club events although we haven’t attended any of them to date — mostly because we don’t know anyone in the organization. Before the Gala this year the Federal Club gathered for a Pre-Gala Mixer to sip on free wine/champaign/cokes and meet this year’s speaker, Joe Sol., the head of HRC nation wide. Benjamin and I attended and sipped our champaign (Benjamin) and coke (Casey) and proceeded to stand in the corner and talk to each other for about 30 minutes. Yup, we totally copped out and stood in the corner looking like dorks — total affirmation why we don’t attend the more frequent events throughout the year. The silent auction before the dinner was well done. Benjamin and I bid on at least 10 different items and at the time the dinner started was looking to be out about $1k. Luckily (nor not, depending on your perspective) someone went in during the dinner and outbid us on most items. We still walked home with a marble vase, a chandelier (that we discovered has a few missing parts – arg), tickets to the Alamo Drafthouse, tickets to a Zach Scott performance, and gift certificates to Which Wich (a sandwich joint downtown who is building a location on Parmer across from the old Randall’s).

On Sunday we got up bright and early and headed to church. The young deaf woman who has been attending regularly was there again and was particularly attentive during the sermon. I felt I provided a good interpretation although I need to ask Terri the signs for a few words (race, racial, prejudice among others).

Directly after church we drove down to San Antonio and spent the day on the Riverwalk until the Michael Buble concert started at 8pm. The weather was oddly nice in San Antonio despite it being rainy and cold in Austin when we left. The concert itself was very good. I wasn’t sure what to expect really as MB’s sound seems to target a large audience. If you’re not familiar with him, MB is a modern day Frank Sinatra. He has a jazz/big band sound that seems to appeal both to the younger teenie-bopper crowd as well as older folks like my grandmother. Given that diverse fan base I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a crowd surfing concert or a classical recital. Oddly enough it was a little of both. He had a live jazz band on stage and sang songs off both his major albums. There was only one song that Benjamin and I didn’t recognize. MB is a great entertainer. He didn’t just get up there and sing, he worked the crowd making jokes and such during the breaks between songs. The beginning of the show featured his fast songs that got the teenie-boppers rushing the stage (yes, rushing the stage) to take his picture. The tickets specifically mentioned that photography and recording of any kind was expressly prohibitive so Benjamin and I made a point to leave our camera and both cell phones in the car like good little citizens. Apparently not everyone was so inclined. Between one of the songs MB said “you know, you paid good money for these tickets, take as many pictures as you want” so of course, everyone did all throughout the performance. After a couple of songs the bouncers got the area in front of the stage cleared (which I’m sure the people in the first 5 rows who paid $$$$ for their tickets were glad of). He then switched into a slower song set and threw in two other fast songs at the very end (and the teenie-boppers rushed the stage again). Benjamin loved the performance and admitted that he would love to be one of the folks rushing the stage. I liked the music but would have enjoyed the concert more if the teenie-boppers had just stayed home. It illustrates again how different we are. All in all, the concert was well worth the price of the tickets. If you have a chance to see MB in concert, I highly recommend it.

Marathon Results – Take 4

Three weeks and 4 emails after the fact and I finally have official results for the Austin Freescale Marathon. As I mentioned in a previous post – the point of having an official time was to enable me to have a placing in the Austin Distance Challenge.

After some digging I found my splits. It looks as though they have my halfway time (2:42:34) and my 30k time (4:08:25) but not my 10k time and obviously not my finish time. I need to see about getting my chip checked out as I’m thinking it is defective.

Finally – closure!

Signing Music

As some of you may know, I’m proficient (but not fluent) in American Sign Language (ASL). I regularly interpret for the deaf at my church on Sundays. While I’ve had no formal training, I have taken several classes as the Austin Sign Language School (mostly vocabulary classes) and have interpreted for a few deaf individuals. I’ve considered taking the test and becoming certified in Texas however my receiving (ie: reading ASL) is very poor due to my lack of practice.

One of the things I love to sign is music. I don’t have much of a singing voice (that’s Benjamin’s department) but I have been told by both the deaf, interpreters, and others that I have a knack for signing music. In fact, just last Sunday a hearing woman came up to me after the church service and said that my interpreting was so beautiful that it almost brought her to tears. I, personally, think that’s over the top — but apparently it does move some people.

I should probably take a moment and describe a little bit about our church for you to better understand the rest of this post. I attend church at Gateway Community Church. It is a non-denominational church here in Austin that is very uncontemporary. Each and every Sunday the live band covers a song that 80% of the audience knows and would hear on the radio. To give you an idea, I’ve interpreted at least one song from each of the following: Madonna, Matchbox 20, Hootie and the Blowfish, U2 (lots of those), Green Day, Nickleback, Sherryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, The Police, Sting, The Eagles, Coldplay, and many, many more — you get the idea, this isn’t your normal Baptist Hymnal.

Interpreting music is a bit different than interpreting someone speaking. Typically with music you get the lyrics ahead of time so you know what you’re going to have to interpret whereas with someone speaking you’re good to know the general topic. On the flip side, with someone speaking you just become a living conduit — hear what they are saying into your buffer, parse the meaning, translate that into sign (using a huge mental thesaurus), and sign it a couple of seconds after the speaker has said it while still filling new input into the buffer. The delay really isn’t that important as we’re obviously going for content — the delivery itself just has to be comprehendable. Music on the other hand goes through the same general buffer but to capture the true meaning of a song, the delivery can often be more important than the content being delivered. The interpreter’s movements have to mimic the music, not just convey the meaning, to be truly enjoyable to the deaf. I personally believe that a good song interpretation is part dance.

Interpreting music for the deaf is often very challenging. Think of the last song you heard on the radio. Do you actually know what every word was? If you actually do know all the words think quick: what did the artist mean with those words? Could you explain it to another person? How much of the song’s enjoyment is from the play on words? The rhyming? To interpret a song and do it well you have to break the song down into it’s core meaning and interpret that into signs that convey the same meaning in a way that is visually appealing. Just as a poet or artist might choose a different word to better fit their work, an interpreter might choose a different sign with the same meaning to better fit in with the previous and following signs to make it look better. Now imagine doing that on the fly while trying to maintain sync with the music. Without previous exposure to both the lyrics and the music this is virtually impossible.

There’s a very interesting article titled Keeping deaf fans rockin’ that I saw linked from Fark. I think the article does a great job of showing some of the challenges that deaf interpreters experience when signing songs for the deaf. The article discusses a great deal of the same topics that I’ve touched on although in a much more succinct way.

I’ve interpreted several concerts although all of them have been in a church setting. I’ve interpreted a mini-concert by Wide Awake, Malford Milligan, and others although their names escape me. Usually I have about a week’s notice of the concert and if I’m lucky I can borrow a CD or two from someone to listen to during the week and “get into” the music. I’d like to do more music interpreting but if I’m going to go down that path I really need to get certified first. No time for that now however.

Casey gets a new label

Yet again an event has occurred in life that grants me another label. Two days ago (Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at roughly 7:15pm CST) I was bestowed the title of “Uncle Casey”.

Allow me to introduce Kooper William Peel. He is officially a “big boy” at 9lbs 4oz and measuring 21.5 inches.

I began thinking about labels over the past couple of days. It is interesting how we’re given some and some are given to us. Regardless of their origins some are objective and some subjective. Some labels change over time, from subjective to objective or from involuntary to voluntary. I was involuntarily given the subjective label ‘Casey’ roughly 27 years ago although after a few years I have internalized it and accepted it as objective (one could argue that after the label was put on my birth certificate that it then became objective, but I digress). Likewise just 1.5 years later I was involuntarily given the objective label ‘brother’ when Kelly was born. Since then I have taken actions that have caused me to give myself labels such as graduate, employee, Software Engineer, Performance Lead, fiancee. I’m more proud of some of these labels than others. Not sure how I feel about Uncle yet. I played no part in receiving the label although I have a feeling that a great deal of work will be required for me to live up to the title, much in the same sense that a ‘father’ (one who fathers a child) is not necessarily a ‘dad’ (a father who is deeply involved in his child’s life).