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May 1, 2013 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Jonathan Coulton has been discussed many, many times on the blue, and most folks here are familiar with his inimitable First of May song. But seeing it performed in ASL really is a new kind of great. (If you've not heard the song before, the lyrics are very NSFW; the ASL video itself is completely tame, so long as you have headphones.)
posted by shiu mai baby (17 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Rabbit rabbit.
posted by ColdChef at 8:23 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

(Also: this is great.)
posted by ColdChef at 8:23 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

(a) How in the world is this not a double?

(b) I have been told by people who actually know ASL that this translation is kind of crappy.
posted by kenko at 8:36 AM on May 1, 2013

Linked in comments (twice), but I guess that doesn't a double make.
posted by kenko at 8:38 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm curious : How do deaf people feel about music involving infrasound? Any here gone to parties with infrasonic subwoofer?
posted by jeffburdges at 8:38 AM on May 1, 2013

Three guys, two womb brooms, one pudge? Yeah, I'm not in this for the long haul. Cute song though.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:51 AM on May 1, 2013

the ASL video itself is completely tame

Only if you don't know ASL.

The two backups finish by just bopping to the song while making the sign for "fuck" to the beat.

Yeah, I don't know much ASL either, beyond the vulgarities I learned in nerd camp from the deaf grad student who babysat our dorm floor.
posted by ocschwar at 8:54 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I watch this video every May 1. There is also the related video which is the guy and his friends performing it live with JoCo. Stephen has been doing ASL videos for five years (hour long reflective video about this) and he talks a bit here about how he now works for Apple and isn't really doing the ASL video stuff so much anymore and discusses how he's not fluent in sign. I was just thinking of redoing my ASL signed songs post from six years ago because there are so many great new ASL songs out there, though this one is always going to be my favorite. Thanks for the post.
posted by jessamyn at 9:06 AM on May 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

Disappointed that there is no button on YouTube for "Flag as appropriate."

Also, nice visual rhyme of "squirrel" and "fuck."
I remember in class being warned not to confuse the two.
posted by LEGO Damashii at 9:11 AM on May 1, 2013

Jessamyn, I really hope you do update that post. Thanks to Phire, I have just been introduced to this utterly fantastic ASL cover of "Super Bass." My life is just a little bit brighter now that I know that video exists.
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:39 AM on May 1, 2013

I don't know ASL (so I wouldn't know if the translation is crappy or not) but I really enjoyed this, in particular the vaguely horrified looks of the background dudes when he got to the part about fucking like literally everyone within range.

In general I think these ASL videos are like superfun, and I hadn't seen this, so thanks!
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:58 AM on May 1, 2013

This is my favorite ASL song interpretation. I asked a cousin of mine who is Deaf if she could give me a gloss, and she mailed me back and said ". . . no. This is too complicated for linear language. Sorry!"
posted by KathrynT at 11:00 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Jessamyn, that's awesome that Stephen and his friends performed live with JoCo! The expressions on Stephen's face are just priceless. He's a great performer, really entertaining to watch.
posted by misha at 12:03 PM on May 1, 2013

I couldn't take my eyes off the fedora.
posted by mrnutty at 12:18 PM on May 1, 2013

First, realize that there is no such thing as ASL translation - doesn't exist as far as I know. It's interpretation, which is an acknowledgement to that challenges faced in the process of going either way.

Stephen Torrence (ie, Captain Valour) tends to be very literal in his signing and it's closer to Pidgin Signed English than ASL, AFAIK. But he's still awesome for putting it out there. More on that later.

Madonna University does a program that includes student done ASL music videos.

There are two that I particularly like: 100 Years, which has some little quirks to it, but it definitely carries the appropriate amount of poignancy. At least I tear up when I watch it.

I also really like King of Anything. I'm told by a professional interpreter that it's done very well. I really wish they'd put in the gloss and I'm certainly not an expert, but this gives you an appreciation: at this point, the lyrics are:
So let me thank you for your time
And try not to waste any more of mine
Get out of here fast.
I think the best way to express the gloss is
You come to me - thanks
I push you away - No.
Now here's the challenge - all that was done with a big smile and that 'No' was being signed with a really long opening to it. To me, it's more like a good solid sarcastic, "Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh-no." which is all kinds of awesome.

I picked up what little I know (and I sign like a child) from using PSE which is ASL signs for nouns and verbs for the most part in English word order. I did this in order to bootstrap language in my oldest. As she got older, it struck me that even though she no longer relies on sign for primary communication, there is still a benefit to trying to integrate part of this into our lives. So we watch the Stephen Torrence videos that are appropriate and she learns the songs and some of the signs, because it involves signing, singing, memorization, breath support and well, being creative. So we did The Future Soon, and in between all the hamming up, you can clearly see her signing "speak" (for "making dolphins speak" and "gun-attach" for "building them one laser gun at a time", and she just goes to town on the bridge, which is a shame because it's out of frame.

But - and this is where I see the huge payoff - she's interpreting too, because she transfers some of the signs onto me - during "piece by piece I replace myself" she (out of frame) signed "machine put in me put in me put in me" then she signs "put in you". The kicker is "I still feel so alone", which she signs (more or less) "I alone/sad" and nails the facial expression. Then she transfers it to me. That's fantastic synthesis.

So flash forward 8 months, we decide to Chiron Beta Prime as a little holiday amusement for family and friends (and now all of you) and I worked with Alice for a couple days to sing the song together. I did not work on sign at all. She was remembering all that from a couple years earlier, which was the last time we did that, which surprised the hell out of me. I didn't think she knew the sign for 'Christmas' but it's in there. Hell, she's doing her damndest to fingerspell 'soylent green'.

So yeah, there's the entertainment value of other his videos and other ones, but there's an educational opportunity in there too and a great thing to share.

I'm thinking the next one with be either "Re: Your Brains" or "Blue Sunny Day". She wouldn't be able to keep a straight face in "Re: Your Brains" because the signing for "colleagues chewing on the doors" cracks her up every time.

I really do go long form, don't I?
tl;dr: ASL music videos are awesome, Stephen Torrence is a little literal, there are other great ones too, I love my daughter very much.
posted by plinth at 12:41 PM on May 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

First, realize that there is no such thing as ASL translation - doesn't exist as far as I know. It's interpretation, which is an acknowledgement to that challenges faced in the process of going either way.
This is an interesting point. All the sign/spoken interpreters I know are referred to 100% of the time as "interpreters", but often when there are two spoken languages interfacing, the term "translator" can be used. However, even when you're going between, say, Japanese & English, there are expressions that can't be directly translated, and so "interpretation" is perhaps more accurate there.

That "Ice Ice Baby" interpretation doesn't quite seem right to me. Partly because I have no idea what the setting is. But it seems a bit too iconic. The pant-leg-rolling-up? What?

I am pleased that this is a thread where I can link again to the ASL Ignition (Remix).
posted by knile at 12:54 AM on May 6, 2013

That "Ice Ice Baby" interpretation doesn't quite seem right to me. Partly because I have no idea what the setting is. But it seems a bit too iconic. The pant-leg-rolling-up? What?

I think he's doing a stand-up routine for a group of mostly Deaf people, but pretending he's in a room of hearing people and is the Deaf interpreter. So at first he's just "What is this guy saying?" and trying to do basic signed English, and then he decides that what needs to happen is to get more ASL and evocative/emotional (conveying the general meaning and not as much worrying about the literal words) and then the fake person in the audience says "No, I want signed English" and then he goes all nuts trying to fingerspell everything. It's entirely possible I've been laughing at it the wrong way. Here is another bit he does where he's trying to do signed English for words in Baby Got Back that are clearly not the right ones for the sing.
posted by jessamyn at 8:01 AM on May 6, 2013

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