Category Archives: brain research

Mrs. Diehl.

Erie, Pennsylvania has been straining, lately.

The Commonwealth is being alarmingly recalcitrant about sending sufficient funds all the way to its northwest corner, as if defying the entropic forces that pull all assets toward the valley is just too much effort, too much of a threat to the homeostasis of those driven to entrench an already archaic class war; as a result, the School District of the City of Erie is in total crisis – closing high schools, losing five thousand students with only the scent of enough loaves and fishes to feed those who remain.

And, even the contingent of otherwise-safely retired teachers bite their nails, wondering if the time will come when somebody decides to dip into their rightful, guaranteed pensions, that portion of their salary which they deferred for twenty five to forty interminable years on the promise of that guarantee.

Mrs. Diehl doesn’t have to think about any of this. She’s long been dead.

Her daughter, however, just passed away. Today. Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong’s life ended in federal prison, her body succumbing to cancer, the disease which often overtakes those who are otherwise hopeless.

Marjorie, a troubled child taken in and adopted by the Diehl family, as accomplice to what would become the stuff of national tabloid news had managed to cap her life in Erie by participating in the most bizarre crime in the city’s history: the case of the “Pizza bomber.” Details of the morbid scenario included a frozen body, a bank robbery, and an innocent delivery man whose life came to an end in that bank parking lot in the blazing sun, the bomb strapped to his neck exploding in front of an entire flank of helpless law enforcement officers and medical personnel.

But, Mrs. Diehl had lived a generation before.

She first appeared at Lincoln Elementary School as a substitute teacher. In those days, substitute teachers paid their dues, and those dues were sure to be rewarded; show up enough times to cover the random classroom, and the offer of a secure, full time position was assured.

I first saw her, seated, at the upright grand piano against the wall, which ran parallel to the teacher’s desk in virtually every classroom at school. She wore perhaps a dark green Chanel styled suit – boxed jacket, small lapels, simple sheath skirt; on another day, a dark blue and black plaid shirtwaist, its full, pleated fabric draping the piano bench. Her lipstick was scarlet, and her hair raven black, classically curled around her ears and neck with the dramatic upward swoop over the forehead which marked a woman of real class who’d come of age in the 1940’s.

It was customary, during the 1960’s, to begin the school day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a silent prayer. But, if the teacher played the piano, there would also be a song. And, this is why I loved Mrs. Diehl.

Already seated as we entered the room in the morning, Mrs. Diehl would already be playing that piano. Full on, with the grandest of gesture, her arms arching and diving from bass to treble, the strains of “America the Beautiful” resounded like a cross between a rousing march and a triumphant anthem. There was nothing, absolutely nothing rudimentary about this woman or the music she made, and the result was utterly infectious. Had we slept restlessly the night before, or endured the screechings of a “We Can Do It”, post-wartime mother frantic to get her children off to school so she could get to the machine shop without being late, the sound of Mrs. Diehl at the piano dispelled any and all angst of such a hyperventilating morning with one, windswept burst of song.

Furthermore, after we had stood to Pledge, to pray, and to sing, only to dutifully be seated, Mrs. Diehl would continue to play. And, for myself, a budding young musical student already being chauffeured off to the Erie School of Music every Thursday at 4:00pm for my own piano lesson, I was deeply transfixed, listening, watching. Several minutes would pass, as Mrs. Diehl, never once making eye contact with any of us, her countenance intently introverted by her voluminous musical mind, played song after song. She would become my first true model of performance, giving herself totally to the enterprise, instinctively knowing and manifesting the inherent value of the music itself.

Other cultures on this planet also know the inherent value of the musical art. They make certain to include music and music related activities in as much as 50% or more of their student curriculum. And, research scientists who devote their efforts to the study of the human mind and the brain which drives it are consistently putting out data in support of the multi-level value of music as both a discipline and art form. Now, there is enough evidence to defy all detractors; those who make music, and specifically those who play the piano, have some of the most highly developed brains on the human spectrum.

Mrs. Diehl may have been a superior musician, but she was also a woman of compassion. No one knows for sure how or why she adopted the girl who was called Marjorie. But, she did. Yet, just as every human is capable of both strength and profound weakness, of confident stride and defiant misstep, Marjorie made a rocky pattern out of her life. And, Mrs. Diehl did not live to see the culmination of her daughter’s actions, a blessing indeed; diagnosed with mental illness, Marjorie very likely did not receive the benefit of music therapy in her lifetime and, in the end, even her mother could not alter the behavior potential of a starling child, though she had made the effort of a lifetime.

But, Mrs. Diehl did contribute to the nurture of hundreds and hundreds of Erie’s children, mentoring other teachers as well, and is remembered by many as a remarkable educator. She also left distinctive, inspiring musical renderings in the minds and hearts of everyone who entered her classroom. Lest the community of Erie and those who view it from afar regard the story of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong as a tragic stain, a moment of honor is due her mother, whose efforts painted an elegant, graceful picture of enduring nourishment. Perhaps her story, and those of Erie’s best teaching professionals, should be celebrated instead.

Erie, Pennsylvania could use just such recognition and encouragement.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  4/4/17       – All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect for those whose story is told herein.

littlebarefeetblog.com

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Watch What Happens.


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[*THIS was the post that disappeared. Let’s see if it sticks, round #2.]

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No fiction to anyone, we live in an increasingly hostile world.

The Information Highway has opened up access to far more than the latest navigation options; rather, because anybody can now say anything – even fabricating and mobilizing back up witness to their cause – be it noble or nefarious what is borne is a sea of data, swarmed by both predator and prey.

So, how does one ascertain the truth?

Suppose we borrow from the tactician.

Remember an old movie, “The Sting”, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford?

The criminal mind is, to varying degrees, shrewd; stealthy; meticulous; even rash. But, the criminal? In spite of his or her level of sheer intelligence, human weakness is never more easily manifest – and, can be capitalized upon to productive end.

Should one seek to prove out the actions of a suspect, one need only create a scenario. Choose as the setting a work of fiction, being sure to include key, identifiable facts known only to the guilty; in this way, only the incriminated will know for sure what is being portrayed. To these, the story becomes a revelation.

The novels of Tom Clancy, et al, come to mind, here, as do numerous Hollywood blockbuster thrillers. To quote “Fats” Waller, in “Ain’t Misbehavin'” : “One nevah knows, do one?”

Awhile ago, I published another chapter in my series’ category, Short Stories. After leaving the piece up for a couple days, I pulled it.

Interesting things began to happen.

First, a certain individual promptly extracted from all contact with me on social media.
Then, the individual’s extended associates behaved strangely; though the time stamps showed evidence of their having been viewed, chat messages were ignored. No further voluntary contact with myself was made by any but one of them.

In fact only one, solitary associated player has maintained any communication with me since, said one at a very great distance from the rest, though closest to me emotionally.

Now, the most useful aspect of logic is its immoveability.

Were one innocent, of any implicated actions discovered in a work of alleged fiction, one might simply respond not at all; conversely, should one believe one’s actions to be exposed, one might set about – either voluntarily, or subconsciously – to react.

The scientific method is loosely applied, in this case, but serves our cause fairly.

The Bible says: “Be sure your sin will find you out.” This holy admonishment merely provides caption; those who know full well what they do are already branded.

And, these need no story to tell the tale.
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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   12/29/16     — All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. Judge not, lest ye be judged. Selah.

littlebarefeetblog.com

SOCIAL MEDIA: It Was Supposed To Be A Party.

 

Dear Social Media:

[The ones who haven’t hidden my posts.]

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It’s been 7 years. Is this the itch?

Here’s what I think of our relationship. (Like a good therapy patient, I’ve made two lists): Good Stuff and Not So Good Stuff.

Good Stuff:

  • Re-acquaintance with old friends, remote family, DNA determined ancestors, and former students;

  • New friends, some special and close;

  • Community Bulletin Board announcements, including:

          a.) “In a ‘relationship'”; b.) marriages, c.) births; d.) pet acquisitions; e.) deaths;

  • Photos and video of fine art, music, dance, soccer goals, and drama;

  • Promotion of performance based events;

Not So Good Stuff:

  • False picture of the social landscape in the real world;

  • Subconscious drive to “keep up with the Jones’s”;

  • Political proselytizing, not always fact-based;

  • Passive-aggressive verbal warfare;

  • Flat out braggadocio;

Consequently, each of us has unwittingly submitted to a cinematic characterization of ourselves that distorts public perception.

The Introvert, Extrovert and Ambivert: It’s a @#$% Party!

Introverts rarely post; they read, and draw conclusions. Extroverts enter one liners, then leave the house to actually go and be with their people. Ambiverts, caught between creating in print and communicating with intent, post excessively – leaving themselves wide open to extrapolation and interpolation, only to wonder why cliques shun them in public.

The Interpretation

We have come to interpret reactions to our persona on social media with far too much of the alternate angst, delusion, and regret. The Blocking Feature has been deadly, cutting off all hope of public reconciliation; it’s as if that 3 foot barrier in three dimensions has taken on an anti-gravity shield, distinct from any currently being employed by the alien civilization presently closest in proximity (sic) to earth.

And — how many of us knew it was just a @#$% party!?

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  9/30/16    – All rights those of the author. Thanks!

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