Sunday Lowdown #206


Although school started last week Thursday, it didn’t feel like the start of school because you have a “syllabus day.” You know, run through the policies and preview major assignments, like research papers, etc. So, this past Monday was the first “real” day of classes, you could say. And for some reason, my neck muscles were absolutely trying to strangle me. This used to happen to me a lot, but it’s been getting better with therapy.

Basically, I carry a ton of physical tension in the front of my neck, which feels like choking. However, I’ve been doing a therapy exercise called progressive muscle relaxation, and not only does it help you first tense a muscle group and then relax it, but it helped me figure out exactly which muscles I’m tensing. I kid you not, in most cases I cannot tell. Throat muscles constrict when you do a “forced smile” or clench your teeth, when you pull the eyebrows up or furrow them deeply, and even when you squint your eyes hard. So many muscles attached to the front of your throat!

But on Monday, I did my exercise and it didn’t help. I spoke more to the therapist about it Tuesday to try and understand my emotions, behaviors, and physical tension (the triangle of anxiety, I’m learning). She said that sometimes we experience physical tension and we just have to say, “Okay, my body is doing this right now and I’m going to accept it.” Because otherwise I start having anxiety about being unable to control my body. And on what planet did any of us ever truly believe we could control our bodies?!

In ASL this week we studied classifiers more, considering how to switch back and forth between representing nouns and manipulating them into action and then becoming part of the scene itself. At one point, I got so into becoming a person on a bucking horse that I banged the back of my head on the wall.

And then we had the lab portion of ASL, which seems to consist of drills from the ubiquitous Green Books, which were created ages ago to help students study ASL grammar and sentence structure. It’s hard to look at glossing (the term for ASL in written form) and sign at the same time. Next week, I’ll try and memorize the conversation in the book before I class, so I can focus on accuracy. I got overwhelmed after the lab because these students have been together for three semesters and know how things “go” without explanation. For instance, at the end of class we were told to get out a piece of paper and number 1-20. I’m frantically signing, “Why?? What are we doing??” and then winging it. The students have been incredibly kind in answering my many questions.

Despite all my time in academia studying and teaching writing, I’m facing a new beast in Introduction to the Study of Language. The professor is a linguist, and right now we need to memorize the International Phonetic Alphabet. Holy moly. And it goes beyond that; where in the mouth do you make each sound: bilabial, labialdental, interdental, alviolar, palatal, glottal, front, back, high, low, glide, dipthong. And there are people who flap. Aaaaaack (this is not a term, just a shriek). I forgot that one of the reasons lower level classes are so hard is because you’re mainly memorizing information. Later, in 3rd and 4th year classes, you’re applying information to ideas. Somehow, Former Me, circa 2005, was great at having an opinion and arguing about it without having a good foundation of memorized information. Current Me realizes the value of having information stored in your brain parts for later use.

I suppose that leaves the Fundamentals of Interpreting class. Our first assignment is coming up: parroting. We’ve been tasked with finding a video on YouTube that we hate, like, something that just gets under our skin. Then, we must say exactly what the speaker says in the same tone, delivery, and with the same words, just a brief moment after the speaker says it. Can anyone guess what topic I’m going to choose?

We’re also learning more about the history of the interpreting profession, and I need to memorize important dates. I know the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) was started at Ball State Teacher’s College (now University) in 1964 because 1) I live in Indiana where Ball State is located, and 2) Malcolm X was assassinated in February of 1965, so the RID founding was the summer before. I know when Malcolm X was assassinated because I taught his autobiography for, oh, six years. And this is how my brain works: attaching bits of information together to create a tapestry of history. Ask me to just know a date without something to hitch it to, and I giggle at your absurdity.


I feel so bad that I recommended Kicking and Dreaming by Ann and Nancy Wilson so adamantly to Biscuit, and it’s not available at her library! It’s on Hoopla, so chances are your library may have it, but Hoopla works as a subscription service for which libraries can set a price range. They’ll subscribe to books that cost from $A to $B, and patrons can access those books. Her library must not have the cost set high enough for a Heart memoir!

Anyway, I was surprised how many of you have never even heard of Heart, but then as I sat here, I really couldn’t come up with too many bands from your countries either. Does Keith Urban count? He had that one CD circa 2004 that I owned . . . I definitely know AC/DC so thank you, Australia, for that. The Rolling Stones, sure. Led Zeppelin. That’s some U.K. As for the Canadians, we have Rush. Plenty of new-ish bands from Canada that I know. Interestingly, Heart comes up as a Canadian band because they were formed in Canada, despite all members being American.


Patricia Highsmith captivated me with her intense, icky-feeling thriller Strangers on a Train, so when Carol, a film based on a Highsmith novel, came to theaters in 2015, I saw it. Completely different type of story! Based on Highsmith’s own life, and celebrated as a story of lesbian romance that doesn’t end in tragedy, the book is a classic. It was originally titled The Price of Salt, but the name was changed for the movie. I’m still not sure what the novel title means, except maybe the pillar of salt from the Bible? So, I understand the change for cinema viewers. Some new copies of the book are now titled Carol, too. Review Wednesday.


Books Bought Since January 2023: 0


Another Samatha Irby! The chronicle of her life continues, and I’m so glad. The Survivalist book popped in a newsletter I’m subscribed to; I’m used to seeing this author on Twitter cracking jokes, so a full-length story could be interesting. And Aubrey Gordon — so excited. These are all new releases. If you’re interested in new releases from marginalized people, sign up for the newsletter. It’s free, emailed to you once per week, and you can sign up for events hosted online with amazing authors, also for free.


  1. I don’t think I commented on your Heart post. I saw the intro, and thought, “I don’t know Heart” and got distracted. I do know many American bands but I’m presuming Heart is your era!

    I did some linguistics and phonetics at university and really enjoyed it, but didn’t follow it through because I felt it was going to become too scientific for me – boring! (Aka, I didn’t want to learn that stuff.) But I loved the intro and feel it was well worth doing. My mum loved phonetics and linguistics, and did more than I did. Recently, when I was going through her papers, I found a piece of paper on which she had written my son’s first words – how he said them – in the phonetic alphabet. I loved that because I find myself listening closely to how our grandson says words.

    BTW your comment about memorising in early university years interested me. I don’t think the distinction between early and later years, in that regard, is quite so marked here. I think by the time we get to unversity here the focus is more on analysis and thinking than memorising. There are always some things you do just have to learn (like the phonetic alphabet) though, isn’t there.

    What a sensible but fascinating exercise to have to sign something you hate. I love hearing about what you are learning – and here l’ll close because I really should read, but l wish you well for this week and hope you become an expert at muscle relaxation.


    • Heart was actually at their most popular in the 1970’s, and I didn’t get here until ’85. So, not really my generation, but they stand out for being amazingly talented musicians who are women.

      I love that your mom wrote the phonetic way your son spoke. Interestingly, our pronunciations would be different due to accents. I think the international phonetic alphabet covers that, though? I’m not sure. We’re going to learn a lot about linguistics but never go in depth, the professor said, which means lots of memorization, but not complex material.

      Oh, the assignment you commented on is actually speaking. So, the person says something and you say the exact same thing only a moment afterward, and you use the same tone and delivery as the speaker. I’m not sure in what way this is used in interpreting, but I’ll find out!


      • Oh, interesting. I think my hey day of interest in popular music finished around mid 70s. I mean, I started to listen to more classical music then, and also got more interested in folk and singer-songwriters (which maybe Heart were?)

        Yes, I understand the Intenational Phonetic Alphabet is supposed to let you capture sounds in all accents and languages.

        Maybe the assignment idea is that practising speaking in the same tone of delivery is useful before you practise signing?


        • Heart is interesting because they are definitely rock, but Nancy Wilson loves the acoustic guitar, so they tried to let her get that in there as much as possible, so you do end up with a bit of a folk sound in places.

          I’m not sure what the linguistic alphabet is all about, but I do think the course is required for ASL interpreters because the other half of being an ASL interpreter is being an English interpreter. We have to pass a written portion of a state test, actually, to prove we are actually competent in English.


  2. For the topic you hate, I’m guessing it’s something like a “wellness” person espousing weight loss advice?

    I’m sorry you experienced the physical anxiety about your neck, but I love what your therapist said. Good therapist! It’s not easy, though.

    I love how you’ve included a tally of how many books you’ve (not) purchased. Accountability!

    Looking forward to reading your thoughts on The Price of Salt/Carol. I’ve never read it but I’m interested.


    • Laila, you win the prize! I think I’m even going to go more specific and choose something about “new year, new you” because I especially hate the guilt tripping in the early weeks of January.

      While The Price of Salt was interesting, I don’t know that I would read it again and like Strangers on a Train much better. The Hitchcock movie version is different from the novel, which I find much, much creepier.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like classes are off to a galloping start. I carry stress and tension in my shoulders and never thought about the front of the neck as a place for tension. Your therapist sounds great. And I had to laugh about accepting we can’t always control our bodies. I’ve had plenty of times where mine refused to do my bidding and it’s so frustrating. Who’s in charge here? Clearly not “me.” Also, what are people who flap doing?


    • I can’t believe we’re on week 3 in school! My old college hasn’t even started up again. I think they start… today, January 18th, actually.

      Holy crap, do you ever wonder if your body is some kind of alien entity that your spirit is trapped in, and the two of you (body and spirit) must form a symbiotic relationship, but we really suck at it? Or is this just weird crap I think of?

      “Flap” is when people turn “tt” sounds into “dd” sounds. For example, we say “liddle” instead of “little.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can’t say that I feel like my body is an alien entity sometimes, though I think my husband does with his MS weirdness. I am just disappointed when it doesn’t do what I want it to do, or that I can imagine awesome dance moves in my head that look nothing even close to what happens in reality 😀


  4. I do know of quite a lot of US musicians, because I used to listen to a lot of jazz, which of course is a genre that has American origins. The only classic rock bands I really know though are ones my dad listened to when I was growing up and I don’t think he listened to Heart.


      • I looked some of them up and they are mostly British, but a few American bands in there – Cream, Jethro Tull, the Who, Caravan, Genesis, Yes, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Toto. Lots of prog rock in the mix because Dad loves jazz even more than I do. And there are a few bands or artists that I love on my own account – Janis Joplin and Fleetwood Mac are the ones that spring to mind, though I am sure there are others that aren’t occurring to me right now!


  5. Sorry to hear about your tension – everything you’re learning sounds really fascinating but it does sound like a lot! Makes sense that you’d be feeling stressed out.

    I wonder if you’d know more Canadian bands than you think or if I just think Canadian bands are more famous than they actually are! I actually always forget that Rush is Canadian…


    • Thanks for letting me know, Bill! Take your time; you know I’m here and you’re there and we will meet in the middle of the internet when we’re ready. So glad you read Cowgirls. I’m already convinced you related to it.


  6. OMG New Samantha Irby???? So excited for this!

    Your example of your throat muscles constricting sounds like a real bummer, but good for you for dealing with it in such a responsible way. I’m interested in this triangle metaphor, because I struggle with bladder pain (weird, I know) and I so resent when my body holds onto this pain, it causes me so much anxiety to know I’m not in control of my own body! Sometimes I feel like I’m held hostage by it, but then I feel like such a whiner, because compared to many people I’m very healthy in most ways. Sigh.


    • If you’re able, seek out a therapist who does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. That’s where they talk about the triangle of thoughts, behaviors, and physical tension. I also remember you talking about having intestinal issues, which I’ve had in the past and is/was related to anxiety.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I carry all my tension in my face. Leading to lifelong Resting Bitch Face. D:
    Keeps creeps at bay though. First week of class is always so easy for the exact reason you said. I like it but it’s misleading when the real work begins lol.
    I need to pick up a book soon! I’ve read one so far this year and I have one I’ve been working on on my lunches at work for months. I need to polish it off already.
    The book title’ “Quietly Hostile” feels like it could be written by you. 😉


    • I think I used to have more tension in my face, but when I learned that interpreters have to match the face of whomever is speaking, I had to work really hard on undoing that.

      Do you ever read nonfiction as a way to supplement school? Like, if you’re taking macroeconomics and you hate it, find a book that is more readable on the same subject so you get more out of the class? I do that with interpreting and Deaf culture classes. I figure a textbook is one perspective, and if I get more perspectives, I’ll remember the material better.

      You know, I do think “quietly hostile” describes me, though I’m working on it! LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ooh I love phonetics and all that. I did 20% of my English degree in English Language, which helps. Flaps! Yay! Schwas! Anyway. You will get there. Interesting about the tension: I carry mine in the back of my neck and shoulders and you’ve reminded me to pump up my Swiss Ball chair which helps when it’s fully pumped up! I do conscious relaxation at the dentist, etc., and it really helps.


      • Oh that is hard to explain, the allophone. We have one in our household where we pronounce the same L differently, which I think is clear and dark L – if I think about it, I say seaL whereas my husband says seaW (although if I’m not thinking and/or I’ve been around someone else from Kent, I will slip into seaW, too). Now I’m doubting that’s a proper example, though! So I’ll say the L in ceiling and seal the same and he’ll have two different sounds.


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