Sunday, July 25, 2010

Deaf Musician

What a kick. The story of Sean Forbes’s rise to success as a rapper reminds me that there is much to still love in this deteriorating world. People like Sean make it worth getting out of bed in the morning. Sean lost almost all of his hearing when he was a baby. That has never prevented him from feeling the rhythm in music. Rap music is particularly well-suited to his sensibility because he can distinguish the low percussive tones of the bass and the drum so prominent in rap. As a teenager, he taught himself (with help from family and friends) to learn the words to songs and, with the beat guiding him, started to sing along. More than that, he eventually learned to play the bass and the drums, began writing lyrics, and was soon on his way as a musician in his own right. Now 28 years old, he is a rising star in the rap music world. His album entitled “I’m Deaf” was released in May 2010. In 2006, he founded D-PAN, the Deaf Performing Artists Network, to showcase the talents of deaf actors, writers, performing artists, directors, and producers and to create performance works particularly suited to the deaf and hard-of-hearing. After the release of his album, he performed in his hometown of Detroit to a packed house. Because he couldn’t hear the applause from his audience, he asked them to sway back and forth so he could see the impact of his music. Just google his name to find out more about this dynamic young musician. You go, Sean!
Listen to Sean sing here.
Sean Forbes

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Song Communication

I’m so proud of my friend Nancy, who is a speech, language, and swallowing therapist. She has been selected to present at the national American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) conference in the fall of 2010. She will speak about her techniques for helping stroke victims regain their ability to speak through singing together with others. I am particularly pleased about this because she hired me to edit her proposal to ASHA so I was personally invested in her success. While I worked with her, Nancy taught me a little bit about what she does; and it’s fascinating. The cutting edge research about language loss and reclamation demonstrates that people who have lost the ability to speak because of a stroke can often communicate through song. Apparently the part of the brain that processes language is a different part of the brain from the part that processes music. So some people can learn to speak again through singing therapy. Go figure. The brain is a mysterious instrument. Imagine if you could only communicate in song? That would be a challenge for me, I’m sure; however, my husband knows so many tunes that he probably would be able to say whatever he cared to say by singing a line from a song.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Gardening in the Suburbs

My garden is perhaps a metaphor for my life in the suburbs since we moved off the Ranch. My neighbors are nice to me, and they are lovely neighbors. But I get the impression that much of the time they are humoring me. Behind my back I suspect that some of them call me eccentric, nutty, and (horrors) liberal. I recently discovered that one of my neighbors has taken it upon himself to lobby my other neighbors to help him change my mind about my landscaping program. He is unhappy that I am killing my lawn. He is chagrined that I have failed to rake the leaves up under my oak tree. Oak trees drop leaves, that’s what they do for a living. That’s what the underneath of an oak tree looks like in the wild. Leaves. I do not have the time to fight that tree by raking leaves every two weeks. I can’t afford a gardener, like all my neighbors. I am the gardener. The tree is happy. I am happy. The neighbor can stay in his own yard, which, by-the-way, is two-thirds rocks and one-third grass. His rocks are gray and so nondescript that I can’t tell one from another. I guess he likes rocks. I know he dislikes birds because I’ve seen him out there shooting them.

What is it with a lawn? It is as boring as, well, grass. It is almost as boring as nondescript gray rocks. It lays there and does nothing. It drinks gallons of water. This is Cali, with drought and water conservation. My lawn is not the boss of me. I have evicted my lawn. Bye-bye. The oak leaves do a good job of killing off the lawn and the leaves are free. My tree makes them in quantities and charges me nothing to place them strategically on the ex-lawn. I have two sections of front yard, one under the oak tree and one in blazing sunlight. The section under the oak tree will have to wait until next year for a makeover. I’m working on the other section this year. I have a budget.

If I had the bucks, I’d hire a landscaping company to whoosh in, rip out this godawful sod, and replant (both sections). Within a year, I’d have a drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, heat-loving, magnificent, flowering, scented, and brilliant garden in front of my house. Alas, it is necessary for me to build slowly, buying plants at a discount over time, waging war against the sod inch by inch. Starting out with small plants and waiting for them to grow. I’m patient. I can wait. My neighbors need to chill. Growing a garden is like raising children, it’s a long-term process. And I’m enjoying the journey despite the ornery neighbors.

I like the way my yard looks and don’t particularly get off on my neighbor’s rocks. He gets off on his rocks and lawn and pristine yard. I like a less-than-pristine yard. I am not in it to tame nature. He is in it to beat nature into submission. But he is entitled to his preferences (and I am entitled to mine). I don’t tell him what to do in his yard. He shouldn’t tell me what to do in mine. And more than that, neither one of us has any basis on which to assume that our preference is the right way of doing things. That’s the lesson. I feel much better now, thanks for listening.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Applliance Virus

I had fair warning, I suppose, but I didn’t read the signs. My water pik stopped working three weeks ago. Just ffffttt fizzled and came to a halt. Had to call the company and ask for a replacement. It’s still under the one-year warranty. They will put one in the mail. That was the beginning. Next, last week my fridge stopped working. Flat. Fortunately I have a little deep-freeze in the garage, so I moved the frozen stuff out there. I knew I was in trouble when the repairman informed me that he had to “take the unit into the shop.” I should have said my farewells then. I’ll never see that fridge again. It turns out it has a fatal error. Some type of birth defect. It’s been declared irreparable. It was a Maytag Whirlpool, by the way. Top rated.

But I didn’t get too bent out of shape. I have an extended warranty. I’ve only had it two years. You would think the warranty would cover replacement. My last fridge is over 15 years old and still chugging away up at the Ranch. Well, it turns out that the extended warranty only covers part of the replacement cost because they depreciate the fridge, now deemed worth less than half the purchase price. I’m blazing furious. The local appliance company and Maytag are a hair’s breadth away from losing my business for the rest of my life. To be continued on Tuesday, I’m going out kicking and screaming on this one. I don’t think I should pay a penny for a new fridge.

Meanwhile, two days after the fridge checked out and moved on to green pastures, the electronic control panel on the two-year-old stove quit. We can knock on the door but no one answers, press any button, nothing happens. The appliance store doesn’t have a replacement electronic panel in stock so they have to order it. Tuesday, since Monday is a holiday. It takes a week to come in. Meanwhile, we can turn the burners on but no exhaust fan so no frying. And the oven is not functioning whatsoever. I’m pining for my ancient Wedgewood from Milivia Street in the old Berkeley days.

Today is our annual Soul Food Dinner (4th of July), with friends from the Bay Area converging for the potluck feast. Forget the fish fry, we’re BBQing. And Amy will learn how to bake mac ‘n cheese in a convection oven. Shrug. Life’s speed bumps.