Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Photo: Lydia Callis’s Face for NYC Mayor
She has been called “a bright light in dark days” (NPR) as well as the breakout star of Superstorm Sandy.  I refer, of course to Lydia Callis, the American Sign Language interpreter who stood at the side of New York’s Mayor Bloomberg as he issued his frequent emergency management updates.

Mayor Bloomberg may have been doing the talking, but my eyes were riveted to Ms. Callis, whose amazingly expressive facial expressions made her signing fascinating... and almost intelligible to someone like me who has no clue about ASL.  In a better world, she would be teaching a Ph.D.-level course at the Colorado School of Mimes.

Sign language is not funny business, especially when serious messages about Big Events are being delivered.  And yet, expressiveness - even exaggerated expressiveness - is an important component of ASL’s ability to convey information.  What at first glance may seem ridiculous or comedic is actually a legitimate aspect of physical communication.  I will be interested to hear Elder Daughter’s take on the matter, given that she is currently engaged in graduate studies of advanced performance art.

If there is not a Saturday Night Live skit featuring someone playing (and not being quite as interesting as) Ms. Callis, I will be both shocked and disappointed.  And I wish her a long, happy career.

On a more serious note, our prayers and best wishes go out to those affected by the blow variously known as Hurricane Sandy, Superstorm Sandy, and Frankenstorm.  Our family in the New York area has, thankfully, been spared any major consequences aside from the ubiquitous power outages... but not everyone has been so fortunate.  May their burdens be lightened swiftly.

Update: Sure enough, SNL has checked in:

(Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to both Bou and the Mistress of Sarcasm for the link!)


Teresa said...

I hadn't seen this yet. I love it. Of course I have friends who have partially deaf children and know what you mean about it being a very important part of communicating, but I have to say her complete body expressiveness is impressive and even lightens things up a bit.

mostlycajun said...

Okay, it may not be a movie for the highest of brows, but "What's the Worst That Could Happen?", a movie starring Danny Devito and Martin Lawrence has a couple of excellent and hilarious segments with a sign language translation near the end.

Here's a Youtube clip of one.



Bou said...

That's awesome!

Most family is fine. We have a cousin that is... not so well. Three feet of water in her home and it smells of gas and oil. They can't turn on their furnace for fear the house will blow. It's not a good situation. That said... they are alive and they didn't lose anything. So they are still among the blessed. Just the stressed blessed.

Jim - PRS said...

This woman is amazing. It truly is a thing of beauty. However, I must admit that I would get a huge kick out of seeing her sign an Andrew Dice Clay performance.

Bou said...

OK, here you go. SNL on Saturday. Frickin' hysterical. And you get a Joisey interpreter too.