i've solved my issue.
information from these two posts along with trial and error led me to the solution:http://forum.arturia.com/index.php?topic=84287.msg118898#msg118898http://forum.arturia.com/index.php?topic=82040.msg110221#msg110221
basically, what i've learned is that the firmware upgrade process is error prone and unreliable, and how OS X handles midi controller names may be partially to blame.
if your keyboard is stuck in a weird mode (probably firmware upgrade mode: the character LCD displays all solid blocks), get the newest midi control center and then do this:
open "Audio MIDI Setup" (it's an OS X util, ships with the OS)
go to Window -> Show Midi Studio
select anything that says keylab88 / keylab 88 upgrader (or similar) and Remove it.
note that you can probably only remove a device if you have it unplugged / powered off.
then go into Midi Control Center (the arturia app that you update the keyboard in) and try to upgrade the firmware.
if you run into problems...
after it downloads the firmware update and tells you to reboot the keyboard to put it into upgrade mode, if your keyboard isn't going into that mode (lcd shows all blocks)...
turn the keyboard off, remove all keylab88/upgrader devices from "Audio MIDI Setup" util (described earlier), then force the keyboard into upgrade mode:
hold edit+multi+sound buttons while powering it up, and the lcd should show all blocks... then press OK in midi control center to flash the firmware it had downloaded.
good luck guys.
you can close my ticket, artuira.
thanks for your help... not sure why you couldn't tell me how to do this last week