Tuesday, July 29, 2008


As an occasional connoiseur of artistic refuse of various media, I find that MOBA, the Museum of Bad Art ("Art Too Bad to be Ignored"), is a virtual oasis. Some of the accompanying descriptions of these masterpieces are hysterical. Cheers!

The actual gallery location is in Dedham, MA. Will be a must next time I'm up that way.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Your Daily Nic Fit

Far be it from me to endorse the habit of smoking those filthy cancer sticks, but, this L & M commercial from the last days of such television advertising is as well produced a spot as I've ever seen. Fluidly edited, crisply shot. A true guilty pleasure.

Bonus: dark humour potential! Look at all the self-satisfied expressions! They undoubtedly changed when the habit got the better of them.

In any event, call me a malcontent, but I'll take this over those too-clever-by-half Truth ads. I like my propaganda with a wee bit more reliance on my discernment abilities, thank you very much.

Catchy jingle, to boot. Let go!


Monday, July 14, 2008

A Great Prayer

I wasn't able to transcribe it verbatim, but I wrote down some pretty potent words as delivered by teaching pastor John Poitevent (of The Ascent at Christ Fellowship CityPlace) this past Sunday. I think its essence should be every Christian's cry:

"Lord, squeeze me like a grape this week. Daily extracting from such sweet fruit the glorious wine of Your grace to flow about us..."

I love this imagery.

So THAT'S What It's Like Up There!

Some weeks back I taught Dr. D's graduate Aural Rehabilitation class. He was away at a tinnitus conference in Sweden. To say I was nervous beforehand is putting it very mildly. Even though I'd become confident in my public speaking skills these last 5 years, this was brand new. Teaching. Conveying ideas and facts. Helping, making students understand. Complex topics such as central auditory processing, hyperacusis, and the vestibular system. Granted, topics I deal with almost daily in my work, but still.....

As I came up through grad school, a multitude of oral presentations were expected of us. With each semester, we were required to coordinate PowerPoints and Q & As with increasing skill. Somewhere along the way, it became, dare I say, enjoyable?! I began to rehearse the heck out of my presentations. I would run them down like an actor obsessively learning his/her lines, until it became natural. Natural enough that I would not have to read off the slides. Reading off slides virtually guaranteed the glazing over of eyes in the collegiate audience. I hated when instructors did that.

In 2007, I co-presented at the American Academy of Audiology convention in Denver. It was an enlightening experience. Somehow (read: God) I was even able to manage an audience member who insisted on interrupting my flow with questions that should have waited until the alloted time. But, curve balls like that are what I needed to get better. Later that year, I presented research data at the Florida Academy of Audiology meeting. The presentation laptop contained an earlier or later Microsoft Office that was incompatible with my flash drive and for the first 10 minutes while the techies struggled to get my visuals rolling, I had to merely describe rather than show my carefully prepared slides. At first, I was horrified. But within a few minutes, I was really into it. I knew my stuff. What a concept. Preparation. Who woulda thought? It really does pay off in a pinch.

I'm not recounting any of this to toot my own horn. I just wanted to provide some history. Even with these experiences under my belt, teaching a class of graduate speech-language pathology students was rather daunting. "They're sharp," warned Dr. D. "Don't think you can snow 'em!" I prepared over a week's time, but by the last few days I felt a peace (read: God again). This experience also proved to be quite winning. In addition to my spiel, I was able to break out the markers for the white board and answer some nuts & bolts audiology inquiries. I had another of those out-of-body moments right then. I watched myself, standing in front of a class, explaining concepts that had been explained to me only a few years earlier. Odd, so odd. That trek from reticent desk dweller to teacher seemed so rapid, but it was paved with blood, sweat, and tears.*

Two days later, I returned to proctor the students' final exam. This was also quite heady; I was handing out tests, writing the time remaining on the board, answering questions. Dr. D even encouraged me to grade some of the tests before he returned. I didn't mark a one. I didn't feel right doing it, even with all the other transitions I had made. Plus, the students asked that I not grade them, as Dr. D was always more than fair with points.

I liked being up there. When I get a little older, I'd like to be up there a lot, I think.

*Promised grad school entry forthcoming. Someday.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Reminder From Teddy

Maybe it's a bit late for this? No, I think it's pretty timeless.

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

-Theodore Roosevelt - The Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Another Vacancy

A little light has gone out of the world. Yesterday, I learned that the elderly couple who shared the unit adjacent to my previous abode had passed away within the last month. If you recall one of my earlier posts, I described how I had lived with my mother in a 55 + community for a number of years. While there, a very vocal Italian couple moved in to Apt. "C", mere feet away. Both were quite vocal for a variety of reasons. The wife was naturally boisterous, but more practically had to shout so her all-but-deaf husband could acknowledge her. I'll bet the entire complex heard her ask that the $#@^% television be turned down. Although, with all of the retirees in the complex, televisions could be heard blaring from most units at any given moment....

Over the years, I got to know this couple fairly well. First, smiles and waves as I left for and returned from work/school. Then, some mid-parking lot exchanges of increasing weight. The wife began to tell me how difficult it was to care for her much-older companion. He was deteriorating rapidly, physically and cognitively. His driving privilege ended one weekend after he absent-mindedly and blissfully unaware drove some 80 miles in the opposite direction from home, setting off an hysterical search party effort.

A month or so before I moved out, there was an urgent midnight knock on the door. It was the Mrs., frantic that she had locked herself out. Her husband was asleep or just unable to hear her door pounding. She remembered that she had given my mother a spare key. By this time, my mother was in the hospital, unreachable, and I had no idea where to even look. But I finally found it, and the Mrs. was relieved and overjoyed. She thanked me and then delivered a long sililoquy about how she felt her mind had finally gotten away. She feared for her future, for her husband's. She was not a woman of faith, but I told her I would pray for them.

In July of 2007, I moved away, but I had several occasions to revisit the complex, as my grandmother still lived/lives there. I saw the Mrs. once or twice more. She seemed more despondent each time. More prayers.

Now I've learned that the wife had a heart attack, and died in the hospital. Her husband, who had finally been admitted to a nursing home some months before, died a few weeks later. It is unclear whether or not he was aware of his wife's death. I like to think he was, that their hearts were inextricably linked, that one could not go on without the other. About ten years ago, one of my co-workers passed away following a coronary event. Her husband took his own life a month later. I didn't know all of the details, but having known this couple, I now feel that much the same rationale was at work. Terribly sad, and crushingly romantic all the same.

Even though I no longer saw my Italian neighbors on a regular basis, just glimpsing the light in their window gave me some sort of sense that in spite of hearing impairment, aches, and memories, these two were still together, still clinging to the vows they had uttered so long ago. When I visit my grandmother, it will weigh on my heart, not seeing that light.

RIP. Each of you demonstrated exemplary compassion and love. You've left indelible impressions on me.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Spinning Spun Yarns

In one of my earliest entries I stated that I desire to write creatively again. It has been nearly 5 years since I penned anything other than that which is related to audiology. Currently, I am co-authoring a journal article based on a research project of late. Very streamlined, technical writing, rife with statistics and minus any "fat".

But the characters are a-calling. Again. Clamoring, begging for me to tell their stories, to express their insights. I step away from the keyboard, ignore the muse, but I always return. The sirens began their wail some, I dunno, 30 plus years ago? I remember writing short stories in elementary school, even creating construction paper covers (with crude artwork) for them. Writing has always been a perversely pleasureable pursuit. Huh. That was alliterative! Anyway, I've long had this thing about strings of words, thoughts. Sometimes, cohesive narratives occur. While I create these worlds, I also feel as if I'm slowly slicing my wrists with shards of glass. I suspect many writers experience this. Masochistic process, it is. The end result makes it worthwhile. Martin Scorsese expressed as similiar sentiment in regards to film directing.

Many writers also experience long periods of inactivity. My last productive period occured in late '02/2003, but then graduate school forced me to put the fluorishes aside. Before that, I actually had a few pieces appear on online lit sites. I would certainly love to be published. There is still a part of me that doesn't feel like I've really been published until my words on on actual paper, bound between covers you can touch. Although, in this age of e-books that ideal may be dated.

So in the next few months, I will complete the travails of a certain Mrs. Hildebrandt, whose bittersweet exploits I began to detail but never resolved. There is so much to express, so many ideas to gel in my mind, and on paper. I can still pluck bits from real life, then combine them with fantastical scenarios. It's a part of me.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Utterly Equilateral?

For those of you who still have nightmares/flashbacks about your SATs.

See the Glory

July 4th was especially festive this year. We spent half the day with friends on a southbound shopping mission and the remaining half celebrating both the nation's day of independence and the birthday of Sonia's boss, Rita, an immigration attorney. The occasions were celebrated at a causal outdoor eatery called The Key Lime House. About 30 family and friends gathered, many of whom stood up and recounted what made the birthday girl special. When it was the guest of honor's turn to say a few words, she rather elegantly paid tribute to our beloved country, and her clients, those who seek to be legitimate citizens. Those who undergo the long, tortuous paper trail that has only become more labyrinthine since that horrible September day almost seven years ago.

Sonia and I compiled a mix CD of tracks dealing with immigrants, the process of immigration, and life in the U S of A. as a birthday gift for Rita. Some obvious choices: Genesis' "Illegal Alien", Sting's "Englishman in New York", as well as some odes to the perils of the journey sung in Spanish, and other curious ditties found on iTunes. Of course, several songs came to mind after the compilation was finalized (yes, seeketh the Vol. II). One of the unfortunate omissions is the stinging title track to Steely Dan's fabulous 1976 album, The Royal Scam. I listened to it again today and its bitter (and frighteningly accurate) lyrics hit me with a sort of clarity I hadn't experienced before, in my 20 + years of awareness of this tune. At once I conjured stark images of so many whose dangerous sojourn lead them to Rita's office. Many before them, not so fortunate. As you recall this past holiday and all of its connotations, think on the words of this sad old tune:

And they wandered in
From the city of St. John
Without a dime
Wearing coats that shined
Both red and green
Colors from their sunny island
From their boats of iron
They looked upon the promised land
Where surely life was sweet
On the rising tide
To New York City
Did they ride into the street

See the glory
Of the royal scam

They are hounded down
To the bottom of a bad town
Amid the ruins
Where they learn to fear
An angry race of fallen kings
Their dark companions
While the memory of
Their southern sky was clouded by
A savage winter
Every patron saint
Hung on the wall, shared the room
With twenty sinners

See the glory
Of the royal scam

By the blackened wall
He does it all
He thinks he's died and gone to heaven
Now the tale is told
By the old man back home
He reads the letter
How they are paid in gold
Just to babble in the back room
All night and waste their time
And they wandered in
From the city of St. John without a dime

See the glory
Of the royal scam

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Portrait of the Artist as an........

I often post song comments at Radioparadise.com, an awesome web radio station that harkens back to the golden age of FM when DJs actually put some craft and nuance into their playlists. The forum provided for song commentary by listeners is one of my favorite features.

One comment that seems to come up fairly often involves the personality of the artist, i.e., can one appreciate the music if one is aware that the artist was a wifebeater, arsonist, serial killer, or mere all around jerk? I'm aware that many will boycott an artist's work with such knowledge. My mother refused to watch a certain actor's films upon learning that he had left his wife to marry someone much younger.

I've always been able to separate the artist from the art. To me, the art itself takes on its own identity, even if (of course) the art is unavoidably infused with what made the artist unique. I'm sure that much of the music, printed matter, and film I've admired has been produced by hissable individuals. The argument comes in the form of: "how can you endorse a man who subsidized genocide" or "....married his cousin" or any number of dispicable acts. As if my purchasing or spending time with the art somehow portrays me as concurring with the artist's lifestyle. No, not at all. The art is released from the creator, and it breathes on its own.

Would I purchase a painting that took my breath away if I learned it was born of the palette of one A. Hitler? His being the artist alone would not influence me either way, and I know that would horrify some people. I recall film director John Waters getting some flack once for his purchases of paintings by Ed Gein, the serial murderer upon whom Psycho was based. If I bought something created by a monster, would my money somehow be funneled to further some heinous cause? Food for thought. We don't really know where any of our entertainment dollar goes; I've yet to peruse an itemized breakdown.

My take is that if you only allowed yourself to enjoy the work of artists who are decent folks, you wouldn't have much with which to amuse yourself. Sometimes ignorance most certainly is bliss.

Honestly, I don't care what the artist's political persuasion or paradigms are, as far as their work goes. If they are "bad" people in any definition of the term, I'll pray for them.