Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Caption Hunt: 30 Days - Living on the Navajo Reservation

Show Viewing Date: 7-8-2008
Show Title: 30 Days: Life on the Navajo Reservation
Reviewed By: Mike Wilkerson - 2GuysTalking.Com


Ah, the cultural submersion-gift that is 30 Days strikes a very familiar chord today. I can remember both my mother and grandmother telling us about the "line of Cherokee indians in our family", that as it reached me is surely watered down quite a bit. I currently have no Cherokee tradition, knowledge or familiarity at all with my "indiana roots' but still - this episode brings something strange into the mix that I CAN relate with. The continual eradication, both perceived and real, of a culture that fewer are learning and even fewer are interested in resurrecting.

Previews/Commercials Captioned: No - All of the commercials featured during this episode of "30 Days" weren't captioned, with the flimsy note depicted during the Outback Steakhouse that featured some text stating that specials discussed during the commercial were "Limited Time Only." Shame, FX. Let's get the commercial potential for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community in action already. Featured also was a completely uncaptioned trailer for a new X-Files movie that "looks" incredibly vanilla. Even the 30 Days commercial for next week wasn't captioned?? Amazing.

Opinion Review:

There are many in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community that say that, like the Navajo language and culture, THEIR culture is dying - and I can't disagree with them. Over the last 10 years of my life in St. Louis, a traditionally "oral" Deaf area, I have seen many dilutions of culture. One that strikes me the hardest is something that Morgan addresses specifically toward the middle of this episode. The explosion of the reliance on technology has hit the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community hard, and it's one of the most explosive things I've ever seen. The scale of addition of handheld devices is simply unbelievable in most Deaf and Hard of Hearing circles. While I cannot always agree and trumpet the additionally connectability that devices like this offer, it strikes at the very heart of what usually is the bond between every single culture, including the Navajo - SOCIALIZING. I remember going to a Deaf/Hard of Hearing event several years ago, where rather than having conversations, and being able to look across a room at people who were sharing rich, American Sign Language stories with each other, I witnessed something very disturbing. With the exception of some older folks, and very young children, almost everyone in the gathering hall had their FACE stuffed into a handheld device, with both thumbs clacking to scribe a newfound piece of greatness into their mini computers that are slowly taking over events like that one, and - you guessed it - dissolving a rich, vibrant, visually historic culture that just simply has become different with the advent of personal electronics. Morgan sees MANY of the same things, with an overwhelming difference being that promises made by the US Government to the Navajo people, were nota nd continue to not be fulfilled. I was struck also by the lack of jobs available in Navajo nation, where a single page of newspaper was devoted to job listings, all for menial labor in general, where a local city newspaper had hundreds of jobs available across a wide demographic. I find this akin to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community as well, as finding/placement for jobs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is often very challenging. Trying to step over the bounds of fear, ignorance, and acquired social responses is something that the Navajo are clearly being affected by just like the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community is.

For those that don't know me in general, I am a 38 year-old Hard of Hearing ex-Interpreter living now as a graphic and web designer/Talk Show Host/Podcaster who lost a lot of his hearing when he was 18 years old. While I wear hearing aids, I had a leg up in that 3 of my best friends in high school were also Deaf, giving me an "in", where much of my skills as an Interpreter have come from but also my ability to blend into the Deaf Community. I can "be" a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Community Member but there is always a "speedbump" to get over. I have often tried to explain the experience of "not being Deaf" enough to people and I was struck by several comments in this episode that make me want to share those details again. Just like there are peope that are not "black" enough or a different enough "color of brown", or as Morgan stated here, different social levels of "being Navajo", one can also "not be Deaf enough" to "hang" with other Deaf people. The ability to better oneself, to strive for something better than what others have attained and thereby helping others achieve as well, is not only a trait of the Navajo culture, it is one sadly of every culture. It is one that hurts everyone, and leaves no winners, especially those that become frustrated at whatever system is in place who finally surrender to that frustration. That is the "legacy" of what is much of the Navajo culture as depicted in this episode of 30 Days, and it's sadly something that I can truly see in many people in the circle I frequent. It also seems to be at the heart of the most striking "negative" that confronts the Navajo Nation: The eventual extinction of their language.

Morgan touches base not only with a skilled and heartfelt instructor about it, but also experiences it first hand while trying to communication with the elder Navajo in the Denison Family, Grandma. While he's enjoying the time with her, and is trying to communicate with her as best he can (even by trying to learn the language by labeling his house with post-its laden with Navajo vocabulary) - the fact of the matter is that Navajo is just a hard language, and it's not the focus currently at most if any schools that teach children and if the children aren't learning it, and the aged mentors that can pass it on are dying, that means that the odds of losing a very rich, specialized, GIANT part of Native American history is quickly frying from the surface that is the skillet that is the Navajo Reservation. A very sad thing indeed.

But, just like every culture and situation, there ARE bright, un-spotlighted traits to the Navajo culture, that Morgan helps to showcase in this episode. A young, vibrant rodeo rider, who is learning the hard lessons of life, but IS learning them. The sparkplug Navajo grandmother, that clearly sees that Morgan is trying to learn something that even some of her own KIN aren't taking the time to recognize, learn and perpetuate. The proud father that has worked and continues to work hard all of his life so that his family can have an education and appreciate the things that they DO have. The young Navajo business owner, who continues to triumph over the odds against him in creating a new Navajo-created business back in the heart of his own boyhood city. A very PROUD and and clearly generous relationship between the Earth, Life, and the force that is a "person" that greets life daily, as the sun rises to "drink life into all of one's body."

The captioning for this episode is also well done, presented in the standard black bar with white lettering format that I wish every single sample of "captioning" could be presented. It's very easy to read, the "cadence" for the captions is right on, and with one subtle difference when mentioning "10" days, and it stating 13 in the captioning, it's all right on and a perfect representation of what is provided in this excellent episode. (Whispers... Now if we can ONLY GET THE COMMERCIALS captioned :) ) It is the gold standard so far in the Caption Hunt archive. Kudos, FX.

There is much of the Navajo culture that I truly wish others, including MY family would envoke into their lives to understand the past, to revel in the current, and praise those things as we strive for future improvement and fulfillment. All of those things, along with some of the regular BAD, are all things included in this episode of 30 Days: Living on the Navajo Reservation and I appreciate the time that Morgan and company took to show them.

They ring out clearly to me, and while I'm not ready to do a 5am run every morning, I am very appreciative of the images, stories, and snapshots of Navajo life that were shared with me this evening. "Ahhee", (thank you) Morgan - I shall drink in more of the sun's spirit, and your show's advice, as I watch the sun set as I conclude this entry.

Overall Caption Rating: 5

Overall Show Rating: 5

Total Rating: 5

Do You Recommend This Show to Others Who Depend on Captioning?

– Mike Wilkerson
Creator/Graphic Designer/Talk Show Host
- The 2GuysTalking Podcast
2GuysTalking Original Content Podcast Network – 314-229-7683

[Mike is a professional entertainment critic and talk show host for The 2GuysTalking Podcast Network, a multi-media podcasting company specializing in the broadcast of opinion, thought and ideas. Be sure to visit 2GuysTalking.Com for more information.]