Monthly Archives: April 2008

Tamales need to get steamed

It’s amazing how long it takes for people to forget. That idea came to mind as I discussed the “Golden Days” of Highlands with a friend who attended college in the ‘60s.

What impressed me the most was her recollection of the old Student Union Building, called the SUB, which should have been called the HUB, as it linked many departments and buildings and was the de facto center of the campus.

Decades ago, the old SUB was supplanted by the Communication Arts Department, and for the last years of my career, I had an office and taught classes there. But this isn’t so much about the building; rather, it’s about interesting people who “lived” there and led some of us to believe they’d become SUB-human.

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Old 78s were made of adobe

Under the heading of “I don’t understand classical music but I know what I like,” I confess an addiction to much of it. We used to call it “long-haired music,” a glimpse of the likenesses of 18th-century composers will validate.

In the hippie movement of the ‘70s, with groups like “Three Dog Night,” the term “long-haired” took on a different meaning.

My addiction took hold at an early age, and it’s afflicted all of my siblings as well.

My mom, ever the pragmatist, didn’t care for Beethoven’s symphonies and passed off her lack of interest by complaining, “me da calentura.” What? The Eroica symphony making Mom feverish?

She’d explain that it seemed as if the thousands of notes that make up a Mozart concerto, for example, had been forced through a tube. “And then it’s like they’re playing it backwards.”

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This Bigot was something else

It never fails. I win the bet every time but will never win again once people catch on. It’s simple: I like to tell people that they cannot correctly count backwards from 10 to 1. I add that somewhere in the middle numbers there’ll be an inadvertent tangue-toungler to cause them to flub.

Instinctively, they rattle off “10, 9, 8, 7…” and immediately I cut them off with, “You messed up.”

Why? Well, because they didn’t follow directions. If their job is to “count from 10 to 1 backwards, that means they need to follow the 1, 2, 3 sequence.

It’s really a silly little trick, one that has made me so wealthy I’m building a dozen retirement cottages in Pendaries. Well, maybe just a pup tent in my backyard.

It’s the same kind of confidence I exuded when reacting to an e-mail from Joann Martinez, the former Carnegie librarian. The message asks us to pronounce certain words correctly the first time.

I was up for the challenge, and to keep things honest, recorded myself.

Try it yourself: Continue reading

Divide (by 11) and conquer

Math anxiety is a term universally understood as the condition in which a student freezes up or manifests other anxiety symptoms such as dizziness, sweaty palms, nausea, headaches or fatigue during consideration or before taking an examination on fractions decimals or algebra.

Interesting that one doesn’t hear much about grammar anxiety or history anxiety or various other anxieties. Many colleges, including Highlands, routinely offer sessions on coping with math anxiety.

Math anxiety must never be confused with or compared to writer’s block, an affliction what latches on only to graduate students. It’s characterized by days of waiting for inspiration for that all-American composition and features wastebaskets full of crumpled paper untimely ripped out of the typewriter. A modern-day version of writer’s block includes White-Out on the laptop screen. Continue reading