It was 2003 when I met Katie-Jay Scott. The Janjaweed Militias were killing thousands and raping thousands more in Darfur Sudan. Many of us who believed that the words “Never Again” meant “Never Again to ANYONE”, not just to we Jews, were part of a huge “Save Darfur” rally in Washington DC. Around the country, several smaller rallies were occurring coincidentally. One of those cities was Portland, Oregon.

I participated in creating the Portland rally as part of the American Jewish Committee. With me were Marty Fromer and Jane Kristof of Amnesty International, many friends from Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, the Unitarian Church, and many in Portland’s black community.

Portland Save Darfur Rally, 2003

Then there was, perhaps the greatest among us all, an independent activist with a heart of gold and a passion beyond any I’d seen; a 20-something young woman named Katie-Jay Scott.

Katie-Jay Scott (Photo taken from the iAct website)

Katie-Jay graduated from Portland State University with a B.A. in Sociology and a focus on Community Development. She was the founding Board member of Education Network for Global and Grassroots Exchange (ENGAGE), an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer Coordinator with “I Have a Dream” Foundation-Oregon, and the founding Coordinator of the Portland Coalition for Genocide Awareness, Katie-Jay got involved with iACT in April 2007 took on the executive directorship in 2019, Her job was to oversee programs, campaigns, partnerships, fundraising, advocacy, and policy. Katie-Jay was also trained in Trauma-Informed Yoga, Healing Yoga, and mindfulness practices.

KTJ as she was fondly known, and her husband, an equally passionate humanitarian activist named Gabriel Stauring, died this week in a tragic automobile collision in Manhattan Beach California and my heart is broken.

I did not know Gabriel until he came to Portland to discuss his humanitarian work with the American Jewish Committee. I quickly came to adore him and I’m proud to say that I am the one who invited KTJ to hear him speak. He was a dear friend and I’m so sad that he has left us so young.

Gabriel was an extraordinary activist. He began supporting people displaced by genocide and mass atrocities because he believed that community and compassion, when coupled with personal empowerment, was a key to improving the world. Gabriel graduated from California State University at Dominguez Hills with a degree in Behavioral Science and, before founding iACT, was a Family Consultant, providing in-home therapy for abused children and their families.

Astonishingly, Gabriel made over 30 trips to visit refugee camps on the Chad-Darfur border, Cameroon, Tanzania, and the Central African Republic. He also led events like the 100-Day Fast for Darfur, Darfur Freedom Summer Vigils, Camp Darfur, Darfur Fast for Life, and iACT’s award-winning programs including Little Ripples, the Refugees United Soccer Academy, and Darfur United. In fact, it was at the Darfur United event, here in Portland, that I last saw Gabriel.

With Gabriel at a Darfur United Event in 2019

Gabriel is well known in the NGO community. So much co that he is featured in The Enough Moment, a book written by activist John Prendergast and actor Don Cheadle.

Gabriel and Katie-Jay died, along with Christian Mendoza, in a four-vehicle pile-up at approximately 9:45 p.m. Tuesday at Sepulveda Boulevard and Marine Avenue. The preliminary reports indicate that a vehicle was traveling at a very high speed when it broadsided another vehicle, resulting in a chain reaction.

My dear friends died at the scene.

Three other people, including two adults and a Gabriel and Katie-Jay’s child, were immediately taken to local hospitals. Eyewitnesses reported to police that one of the involved cars may have driven through a red light. According to the Manhattan Beach police department, the catastrophic nature of the collision and the amount of debris at the scene indicated that at least one of the drivers was speeding.

In September of 2019, my dear friends and their colleagues from Darfur United came to Portland. The true sense of joy I felt at seeing them was equaled by the genuine sense of joy and love that they exhibited upon seeing us. The last photo I will ever have of these wonderful humans is this one.

I will cherish it forever.

And there is one more thing that now has a special place in my heart. Just a few months ago I received a package in the mail, from Gabriel. Along with a wonderful personal note, Gabriel sent pe an official Darfur United team jersey. I will always remember this amazing gesture. Through it, I will also always remember two people who I’m lucky enough to have known and who the world is blessed to have upon it.

RIP Katie-Jay and Gabriel. Your love lives on.

“Whoever saves a single life is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world.’

-Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 37a

Save a Life / Save a World

I was taught, long ago, the concept that to save a life is as critical as if you have saved the entire world. For a long time, I did not understand that. I also did not understand the most common answer I got from my elders: “Because we are all made in the image of God“. For one thing, you have to believe in God for that statement to have any possible meaning. This is to say that it would not apply if you were an athiest, a Buddhist, or anyone who does not believe much theology. I found it to be a poor reply because I wanted one that applies to everyone, even the non-religious.

Ultimately I came to my own conclusion, which I found quite satisfying. It is this:

Every life is part of an infinite continuum of life with innumerable preceding generations and, more importantly, INFINITELY many subsequent ones. So the loss of one life is actually the loss of an infinite number of potential lives. Saving one life saves infinitely many future lives and, hence, an entire world of lives.

Believe, or don’t believe in God. It does not matter. If you believe in genetics, it works.

My Kindertotenlieder

Let’s talk about 19 murdered children and 2 murdered teachers this week. Let’s talk about people who preach about the sanctity of human life but who only seem to care about it before it gets out of the birth canal. Let’s talk about politicians who speak of the sadness associated with the murder of children and then get onto the flight for an NRA convention. There is a world of duplicity out there.

If saving a life is as important as saving a whole world then every dead child means an infinite number of dead potential generations. So, destroying a life means destroying a whole world. A teenager killed 19 children and thus destroyed 19 future worlds. American politicians will do nothing about it – we know this because we ask the question every time – and, perhaps, that’s because they don’t care about the future.

But what about the present? Nineteen dead children have 38 grieving parents and 152 grandparents. So, right there you see an effect on the present moment far more than an order of magnitude larger than the number of children shot. And brothers? And Sisters? And Aunts, uncles, cousins? And friends? So this is not just about the future. It is about everything across time.

In Memory of the Children

I have deep respect for the men and women who have died serving our country. (I do not have any respect for those who participate in atrocities and war crimes and we have plenty of those. But this is not about them). I proudly display my flag in their honor on Memorial Day.

But today is different. Today I dedicate my Memorial Day celebration to the 19 children and 2 teachers who, this week, gave their lives in the name of a distorted view of the Second Amendment – distorted by ignoring the first clause of that amendment which explicitly states that the right to bear arms is the result of the need to arm a private militia (which we no longer do) and that it is to be “well regulated“. To allow arms manufacturers to maximize their sales through NRA lobbying, 19 more children have been murdered.

This Memorial Day I remember the children, their lost innocence, their grieving families, and the infinite future generations whose worlds will never come to be.

And, rest assured, this Memorial Day, I also remember those political forces who do nothing, who care for nothing, and who pretend that they care about life but don’t give a damn about it or anyone.

And, for the record, I have no issue with guns or responsible gun owners. I think they are just as cool as the next guy. My problem is valuing them ahead of life. Guns are cool but they are not sacred. Children are both. My vote goes to the children. I mourn for every one of them and I wish nothing good for those who murder them nor those who empower their murderers.

Interpret this plea as you will: Pray for the children.

By: Steve Bilow, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Telestream (

Recently we have focused on the analysis and diagnostics of IP media networks because we published a superb technical paper on that subject. It’s been a while since we’ve discussed other applications so, for the sake of application breadth, let’s turn back and journey further along the path of audio monitoring which we began several months ago. Today we will dive deeper into audio analysis using the surround sound display in the PRISM waveform monitor family.

Why is There a Surround Sound Display in the PRISM Waveform Monitor Audio App?

The greater the number of audio channels in a program the more difficult it is to manage and diagnose issues. That’s why we have optionally included a unique surround sound characterization tool in the PRISM Waveform Monitor. With it, you have an intuitive visual display to characterize your multi-channel image.

The surround sound display sits on the left side of the audio bars in the audio app. This is the same location when you would generally see the Lissajous display. In a surround environment with 5.1 or more audio channels, this display will provide tremendous insight into the characteristics of your aural environment.

The Surround Sound Display in the PRISM Waveform Monitor
The Surround Sound Display in the PRISM Waveform Monitor

Expanding on the Prior Discussion

As we discussed previously, the surround display (option SRND) can identify center channel and LFE correlation problems, find and isolate phase issues, help to balance downmixes and simplify balancing the stereo image width between any 2 adjacent channels (including front/rear pairs).

Our earlier post included a video that focused primarily on the “Total Volume”, “Dominance”, and “Center Channel” indicators in the middle of the display. It briefly described several other capabilities and now it’s time to explore them further. Because we focused on the Total Volume, center channel, and dominance crosshairs last time, in this post we’ll skip those and look at a couple of other components that run around the periphery of the display: the phase and phantom source bars.

Before moving on to those, here is a quick review of the entire surround display. The individual indicators are below.

Components of the Surround Sound Display in the PRISM Waveform Monitor
Components of the Surround Sound Display in the PRISM Waveform Monitor

Monitoring Phase using the Surround Display in the PRISM Waveform Monitor

The Surround Display can show main phase relationships between adjacent channels in a surround image. Phase correlation between left and right rear (surround) channels is particularly critical because, when they are out of phase then, the surround image will sound “blurry” and the position of sounds within the space will be indistinct.

We will examine a few examples in a moment. For now, here’s a reminder of the functions these indicators perform.

Phase and Correlation in the Surround Sound Display of the PRISM Waveform Monitor
Phase and Correlation in the Surround Sound Display of the PRISM Waveform Monitor

The surround display includes 2 sets of lines that run between the channel indicators. they serve as phase correlation meters. These lines compare the signals in the two adjacent channels and show the correlation between them. Green means “correlated”, yellow is “uncorrelated”, and red is “out of phase”. The movement from green to yellow on the correlation displays surrounding the tool corresponds to the “inward” and “outward” movement of the four sides of the “box”.

For example, if we place equal frequency tones into each channel so that correlation is identical (i.e. r= +1), all sides of the Total Volume Display will “bulge”. (Out = Correlated). if we created completely uncorrelated inputs to these channels by feeding each an incoherent noise signal instead of a sine wave (so that r = 0), the lines would be completely straight. (Straight = Uncorellated.)

Correlated signals in all Channels the Surround Sound Display of the PRISM Waveform Monitor

By changing the frequency of tone sent to the Rs channel by a few Hz that channel is no longer completely correlated with the front right channel and the connecting line segments bend inward. (In = switched polarity)

Mixed Correlation in the Surround Sound Display of the PRISM Waveform Monitor

You will also see that because the 2 channels are only slightly different in frequency the tone will “beat” and the channels will go in and out of phase. In the diagram above the right phase correlation display has turned red because, at the moment the screen was captured, the 2 signals were out of phase.

Here is another example of a highly correlated set of channels. You can see this from both the convex nature of the Total Volume Display and the color of the Phase Correlation bars. Notice, also, that I’ve further lowered the amplitude of the rear channels (Ls and Rs) so that the surround image has both become very narrow and has moved toward the front of the space.

Highly Correlated Signals with Narrow Surround Images in the Surround Sound Display of the PRISM Waveform Monitor

Finally, by creating phase anomalies among all the channels we can see that every channel is now out of phase with its nearest neighbor (except the front L and R channels). A front stereo image, possibly with dialog, is depicted here; the rest of the environment will be muddy and indistinct.

Out-of-Phase Channels with Mixed Correlation in the Surround Sound Display of the PRISM Waveform Monitor

Admittedly, all of the examples above were simulated with test signals. The question remains: “How can all of this be applied with real live audio sources?” If you have ever diagnosed a surround system with an SPL meter and your ears, it’s probably clear. This type of tool can help identify phase issues resulting from wiring, timing errors, and many other causes. It can let you see – visually – when there is dialog from your center channel and, more importantly, find and correct low center channel presence issues. It can assist in balancing relative channel volumes to tune the width, size, and shape of a sound field. And it can give you many insights that you would not easily have without it.

Phantom Source Bars in the PRISM Surround Display

Finally, let’s have a look at the Phantom Source Indicators. The Phantom Source Indicators provide a visual representation of the center and width of each stereo image. From these simple colored lines, you can see the perceived position of the sound for a listener (a moving white dot), the width or spread of the image (the length of the bar), and phase correlation (where Good=Green, Unrelated=Yellow, and Swapped Polarity=Red).

These indicators are very similar to the phase correlation bars in that they help you to understand the relationships between each of the channels in a surround environment. The main difference is that they make it easy to identify the location of a sound in a stereo plane from the perspective of the listener.

More Information

The surround sound display in the PRISM Waveform Monitor was created in partnership with RTW GmbH. Additional information about their tools is available on their blog. Check it out here.

For more information on the PRISM family of software-defined Waveform Monitors visit our website here.

I’m not posting this to turn my blog into a poetry critique class. There are plenty of issues to complain about here. I’m posting it because I wrote it 20 years ago this week, while sitting in a hotel room in Amsterdam. Take it for what it’s worth and remember all those who died 20 years ago today.

September 11, 2001:
	Three planes
               destroy three buildings
that once stood
         taller than the
		cedars of Lebanon.

Tijuana, 1963:
	There’s a picture of mom,
               and dad, and me
with sombreros.
	I don’t remember.
		To early.

Nearly three-thousand people die:
	Business or pleasure?
No. Life or death!
        In the same week we Jews
pray for renewal.

San Diego, 1979:
	A wedding in powder blue.
Yes, it’s true,
	powder blue

Just a few crazed bastards,
	some barely 30 years of age,
		chose death
to harvest and discard
	the entire infrastructure
		of humanity.

And where are
	the Pope and Dalai Lama now?
And where are
	the Moslems who defend life?
And why retain
	compassion now?

Redondo Beach, 1984:
	There’s a picture of my
		tai chi group on the beach.
	I remember
		all too well!

Paris 1987:
	A café on the “boul miche”,
		with coffee and scientific dictionaries
and the writings of
	Pierre Boulez,
		by the IRCAM sign.

Nearly three thousand people die:
	For a cause no one understands.
With hand written instructions for piety and
	the roots of liberty are torn from the earth,
in the same week I read about John Adams.

Paris, again, 1989:
	A café on the “boul miche”.
		with a wedding,
	in black
		and white.

Just a few crazed bastards
	choose prayer then death.
Clear-cutting over three thousand

Valencia, 1982:
	A music degree.
A military industrial complex grows.
	An actor for president.

And the law changes now:
	They can now tap your phone
		by name, not simply number.
The National Guard

And pity the man who
	visits a pornographic website,
now that they can track the history
	of all his visits.

Big Sur, 1967:
	A seven year old at Esalon?
No. A family trip
to see “General Sherman Tree”.
        Foreshadowing three grown children
		whose liberty now stands shaken.

	the threats,
Those few crazed bastards
	rightly die.

And where are
	the Pope and Dalai Lama now?
And where are
	the Moslems who defend life?
And why retain
	compassion now?

Los Angeles, 1960
	Would I have come into a world
		so devoid of human values,
for a lost liberty, in a land of sadness,
        had I known and had a soul
               to chose?

As my gift of liberty wanes, I fear.
the pope and Dalai Lama
		and Moslems who defend life
are overshadowed by the evil.
	Tearing the roots of joy from
               the tree of life.

Yet, succumb to fear
	and lose compassion
and WE discard
	the entire infrastructure of humanity!

Los Angeles, 1960:
	I think
I have
	my answer.

And where are
	the Pope and Dalai Lama now?
And where are
	the Moslems who defend life?
And why retain
	compassion now?

September 11, 2001:
	Today compassion was torn from the earth
		like the root-ball of a redwood;
taking with it
	a rich mass of soil
		forty-one years in diameter.

  (c)2013 Dandylines Books [From "The New Poetics of Isolation" ISBN 9781490907659]

Bless you all and may this stand as a memory of both those who died in America today and those who died in 20 years of war that, for a variety or reasons, should not have taken thousands more lives and billions of dollars from our children.

Classical Reform Jewish theology has no mandate to see the Temple rebuilt because we have no need for the sacrificial cult. For this reason, when I was growing up, our movement rejected mourning the Temple’s destruction.  Frankly, I don’t want to return to animal sacrifice, either.  After all, I do call myself “Almost Rational” not “Wildly Irrational” (although there are plenty of others who could write that blog just fine).

My movement did not gather to pray or to chant the book of Lamentation on Tisha B’Av; we did not even fast. But, I have always approached this powerful day with awe. It is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, for good reason aside from the temple cult. Sitting on the ground and chanting the book of Lamentations is a transformative experience.

The ninth day of the month of Av commemorates the destruction of both the first and second temples. I don’t care whether both temples were destroyed on the same day. What matters is that the most sacred space in early Judaism was twice destroyed and is now crowned with the Muslim’s Dome of the Rock. The Temple is not my big concern. I care more about the history of Jewish Tragedy. Reform Judaism now cares about Tisha B’Av: because, to us, it represents every tear, in the vast ocean of tears, ever shed by our people. We remember every disaster, calamity, show of hatred, murder, antisemitic act, genocide. and horror . Many horrific events and lamented on the 9th of Av because our people has suffered to a greater extent than nearly any other Western culture.

So, momentarily, let’s set aside 586 BCE and 70 CE and think about the bigger picture..

We find the first event that is supposed to have occurred on the 9th of Av in Numbers 13 – 14. Twelve spies are sent by Moses to reconnoiter the promise land and all but two come back scared as hell.  Only Joshua and Caleb  have faith in Adonai and, lacking faith, an entire generation missed out on the promise land. I’m going to be heretical and say that I won’t believe that story until I see grapes as described therein that are organic and non-GMO (but that’s another story).  I also have no reason to believe that it happened on the 9th of Av. Still, we Jews have no shortage of lamentation worthy historical events!

Here is a partial list of subsequent 9th of Av tragedies:

  • 586 BCE: The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians.
  • 70 CE: The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans.
  • 132 CE: The Bar Kokhba’s rebellion was overturned.
  • 133 CE: Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the Temple and everything surrounding it.
  • 1066 CE: The Granada massacre took place on 30 December 1066 when a Muslim mob stormed the royal palace in Granada. They assassinated the Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacred most of the Jewish population.
  • 1095 CE: The First Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II in 1095, killing 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities through Western Europe.
  • 1190 CE: The day that the Jews of York, England were slaughtered
  • 1290 CE: The Jews were expelled from England.
  • 1305 CE: A mass imprisonment of the Jews in France
  • 1492 CE: The Jews were expelled from Spain.
  • 1493 CE: The Jews expelled from Sicily. About 137,000 Jews were exiled.
  • 1496 CE: The Jews expelled from Portugal and from many German cities.
  • 1571 CE: Italy ghettoized the Jews of Florence
  • 1648 CE: The Chmielnicki massacres occurred from in 1648-58. Tens of thousands of Jews were murdered throughout Poland and the Ukraine
  • 1660 CE: The destruction of Safed by the Druze occurred during the rein of sultan Mehmed IV. Both Safed and Tiberias had large Jewish communities that were destroyed entirely,
  • 1670 CE: Austria forced all Jews out of Vienna.
  • 1775 CE: Mob violence against the Jews of Hebron.
  • 881–1884, 1903–1906, and 1918–1920 CE: Three huge series of pogroms resulted in the murder of tens of thousands of Jews in Russia and Ukraine.
  • 1914: World War I began.
  • 1942: On Erev Tisha B’Av the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka began.
  • 1994: The Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina was bombed on July 18th, killing 85.
  • 2006: The Seattle Jewish Federation shooting occurred on July 28, wounding 6, killing 1
  • 2012: In Toulouse in the month of March 4 Jews were murdered and in Bulgaria, an Israeli tour bus was bombed killing 7 and wounding many more.

So, here’s the deal: Even if you don’t believe that destruction of the Temples, the overthrow of Bar Kokhbah , the Spanish expulsion, and the start of WWI all happened on the same day; even if (like me) you have no desire to pray for a return of the sacrificial cult; there are thousands of years of Jewish tragedies to mourn. Perhaps most important to me is my contention that it is insufficient to mourn the Holocaust only on Yom ha Shoah. That is the most despicable thing to ever happen to Jewish culture and life, the survivors are nearly gone, and time and again people say we put too much emphasis on it. Nonsense. It was not the only, nor the first, nor, sadly, the last of our tragedies. So, if you care about nothing else, use Tisha b’Av to commemorate that.

Lamentations 5:1-3 states:

  • “Remember, O Adonai, what has befallen us; behold and see our disgrace! Our heritage has passed to aliens, our homes to strangers. We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows”.

So long as those words ring true to our ears, we must never forget the murder of a single Jewish soul. We owe it to ourselves, our communities, and out heritage to share in the sadness of Tisha B’Av!

Thanks to the traveling Virtual Reality show sponsored by the 2020 Venice Biennale and exhibited at the Portland Art Museum, and the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, I have been lucky enough to see both the VR and the traditionally produced versions of the Argentinian film project “4 Feet High“. It is a splendid exploration of the queer experience, the disabled experience, teenage sexuality, and the meaning of both beauty and eroticism in a world of western, fashion-oriented, stereotypes.

4 Feet High” is really a mini-series / film and a VR project all rolled into one. It was directed by María Belén Poncio and Rosario Perazolo Masjoan and it concerns a 17-year-old blue-haired girl named Juana who is confined to a wheelchair because of a physical disability. Juana enters a new high school and quickly connects with a group of LGBTQ+ students who are fighting to be given effective, modern, sex education. Juana seems to want some sex education as well – but she wants it in a more visceral way.

Rosario Perazolo Masjoan is, in real life, wheelchair-bound and believes it’s important to cast actors with disabilities to play characters with disabilities. Marisol Agostina Irigoyen, who plays Juana, demonstrates how amazing it is when an actor brings real-world experience. to a part. This is her first role but, man, you’d never know it!

Despite her physical limitations Juana wants to be treated as a normal student. Particularly impactful for me is a scene where, having been called to the principal’s office with one of her activist friends, Juana insists of receiving the same punishment even when offered an “out”. She also wants the same sexual experiences, even when that means explaining to dates how to lift her from her chair and onto the bed. She’s struggling with her sexuality just like those without disabilities She is also struggling against a world that wants to desexualize her because of her limitations. I was particularly affected by as scene where a boy without a disability tells her that she’s “amazing“. She tells him not to say that. He asks why. She says: “Because we don’t say those things to people we want to kiss.” He leans in, emphatically states “You’re amazing,”, and kisses her.

There is so much more I can say about this film but I don’t want to ruin the surprises. It has a wonderful experimental animation component to it and it’s beautifully edited.

The most important thing I noticed, and this is what the film is really trying to contribute, is that despite her contorted body, Juana is beautiful. Despite her limitations, her sexual life is erotic. In other words, the Vogue Magazine stereotypes of beauty and eroticism are just that: stereotypes. Beyond what contemporary western media wants to portray, beauty goes far beyond the stereotypical and body-type does not limit the ability to desire or to experience love.

If you have a chance to catch “4 Feet High“, on a screen – big or small – or within a your VR goggles, take the time. You will broaden your view of the beautiful and, perhaps, find the erotic is some unexpected places.

The Clouded Mirror of Memory

A couple of decades ago, I wrote a poem called “Memory” that was published in 2013 in my book “The New Poetics of Isolation“. It was a poem about repressed memories and memories of actions that could have had different consequences. One particular stanza was about my father:

“I summon memory / and pause upon the pathway / leading to the rear edifice / within which father’s / chemistry was taught / with plastic molecular models. / A retrograde reality / where polymers build atoms; / not vice-versa”

That was a play on the fact that the model atoms were made of plastic. (Hey! I never said I was going to be a great poet… just a poet.)

That poem ended by saying:

I could have / learned much / had my ego / not prohibited / my assumption / of apprenticeship.

This poem did not speak only of my father. But, with his recent passing, I have come to view it with greater clarity. I missed so many, many opportunities to learn from him. I don’t think it was my ego alone that got in the way. I think it was the clashing of both of our egos. Still, one does not have control over others and must, thus, be satisfied with finding and acting with the best within ourselves. That means taking responsibility and that is why I put this on myself.

Brilliance in Context

Dad was a brilliant guy and had he tried to talk to me in the context of things I was interested in – cooking, the creatine / glycogen cycle during my weightlifting workouts, etc. – I would have been damn interested. I was not taken by polyimides and heat shields, and wire coatings and that’s on him. But, I own the responsibility because I could have done something too. Like:

“hey, dad, why do I always want to eat so much after being around all those people taking bong hits in the Toys-R-Us parking lot on Saturday night? No, dad, it must be from secondhand smoke.”

Joking aside, I could have pivoted to my interests and asked him questions in my context. I didn’t and now I regret that.

Here’s why I say dad was a brilliant guy:

A CV in Plastics

My father received his BS in Chemistry in 1949 from Rosevelt University in Chicago. He went on to the University of Chicago where he earned an MS in 1952 and his PhD in 1956. He authored countless papers and, by the end of his career has amassed over 100 patents, all in Polymer Chemistry and primarily in High Temperature Polyimides. These plastics formed the foundation for electrical insulations, lubricants, ablative materials, and polyphenylenes. In the vacuum of space, many materials outgas and can be damaged by the recondensation of volatilized gases. These plastics were able to avoid failing in these environments. Perhaps the best known applications for we non-chemists would be as conformal coatings used in aerospace applications such as to protect electronic devices and wiring from the intense heat of spacecraft reentry.

My father was pretty self-absorbed with his career. We kids, could say “dad…. dad…. DAD!!…” and he would not even answer. But to get his attention we need only whisper, “hey… Doctor Bilow’…” and BOOM! we got his attention. When I think about how odd that sounds, I also think about how committed he was to caring for his family. He worked so hard so he could put us through college, help his brothers, care for his mother, and raise a family on one of those 1960s single incomes. Doctor Bilow committed himself to his career for all of us, even when it did not always seems that way when he was at Moffit Field, or chairing a Sigma Xi conference. Think about it…

When dad decided to become a chemist nearly 75 years ago, polymers were in their infancy so he began his career at Dow Chemical Company developing polypropylene. At that time, anyone who was a bit creative could come up with projects which they believed warranted development and products which they would like to see invented. He, thus, went on to spend 25 years at Hughes Aircraft Company in Culver City, CA where he led laboratories in Polymer, Physical, and Analytical Chemistry and served as Senior Scientist for the Advanced Materials Lab.

The position that dad held at Hughes was largely the result of the space race. The USAF and NASA requested proposals to develop polymeric materials which could char efficiently but still retain physical integrity. These government organizations anticipated developing spacecraft which could enter the earth’s atmosphere at high reentry temperatures and this required high-char plastics to maintain structural integrity. Dad was at Hughes and his team submitted a winning proposal. That led to a lifetime of these materials (and, frankly, the possibility for a space program from which vehicles and humans could safely return!).

Family Matters

That use of my father’s brain-power is what allowed him to purchase a home in the San Fernando Valley, to support the Jewish Community, to get us through our B’nai Mitzvah and weddings, and to send his electronic-musician / photographer / mediocre scholar son to CalArts – a world class private art institution while simultaneously helping my sister through UCSD. His work was for him and, as a teenager and young adult, it seemed like that was the end of the story. But, as a 60 year old who has been nowhere as successful as he, my “old curmudgeon” perspective is very different. I’m now 5 years older than dad was when he first retired and I’m not close. He had a whole second career ahead of him though.

At 55, dad retired from Hughes and joined Furane Products Co. as director of R. & D. At Furane he got to experience what I experienced through my years at Grass Valley, corporate mergers and acquisitions. After a merger with Rohm & Haas, dad became manager of research, and, a couple of years later, Ciba-Geigy bought Furane so he ultimately retired again; this time from Ciba-Geigy. Of course, in the spirit of good old American M&A, the company was by now part of Novartis. At Furane dad dealt primarily with polyurethane foaming processes. This is a far cry from the space program but his work ultimately led to another amazing change in the world – an entirely new mattress market. From space to bed, that’s my dad!

In the Community

There is another thing I think a lot about now-a-days. That is my early involvement in ACM OOPSLA conferences, my book review editorship and columnist position at several computer magazines, and even the involvement I have with the SMPTE Journal Board of Editors and my ACM volunteerism. That came from Doctor Bilow, too.

Dad was also an active part of the research community. He was a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, a member of the American Chemical Society, and a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemists. In both 1970 and 1974 he was presented with the Industrial Research Magazine IR-100 Award, first for his work with wire insulations and second for a family of thermosetting, high-temperature, addition curable polyimides. Dad also had the high honor to serve as President of Sigma XI and to receive Hughes Aircraft Company’s coveted Lawrence A. Hyland Award. He was no stranger to awards!

Hidden Influences

I ask myself, often, why a PhD Polymer Chemist would support his son in getting a degree in Electronic Music Composition at an expensive Art School when he knew the power of the sciences and the difficulty of the arts. Well, he and I had vastly different tastes, but he loved the arts. He loved paintings (not what I liked) and classical music (which I adored even while going to Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Grateful Dead concerts.) And he LOVED to DANCE (he danced, I watched Twyla Tharp and Bella Lewitzky, and got certified as a teacher of “Movement Expression” – so, again, we differed but he led the way). And…. man…. he could dance!

Doctor Dance

Those of you who knew my father well will know this, but most people will not. Dad was a marvelous ballroom dancer. He and my mother were extraordinary on the dance floor. Even as a hand drummer I could not count as well as my dad did when even casually waltzing (God…. I just this second realized that this may well be why I am addicted to Leonard Cohen’s “Take this Waltz”!!!)

Mom and dad were both proud of this and well into his 80s dad’s “dance card” was full up at the Burbank Senior Center. As they aged mom because the greeter at the senior center door while dad danced up a storm with all the “young” ladies. Once in a while, while visiting LA, I would join them but I was generally too self-conscious to dance with or around them. To me, it was like singing in a karaoke contest with Placido Domingo. I could not do it but it sure made me proud and it sure made me happy to see them smile. They were much more stylish than the folks I hung out with at “Dance Home” above the Radio Shack in Santa Monica.


I want to close with some thoughts I should have opened with:

  1. My father used to sit in Norm’s Restaurant, time and again, while I was as Cedar Sinai Medical Center having my many regularly scheduled esophagus dilations. His worrying gave him an ulcer but never did he complain. Dr. Bilow… I love you.
  2. My father used to bring home dry ice and liquid nitrogen to use at our Cub Scout meeting so that we could freeze hot dogs and smash them with a hammer. Dr. Bilow… I love you.
  3. My father helped me adapt our bathroom so that I could use it as a darkroom with my first Kodak enlarger sitting on the toilet, when I was 12. Dr. Bilow… I love you.
  4. My father helped me convert the storage closet beneath our stairs into a darkroom so that Jeff Brown and I could process our rock concert photographs. And he pretended to believe I only inhaled second-had smoke out back. Dr. Bilow… I love you.
  5. My father drove to Valencia to attend every one of my CalArts composer’s concerts, family in tow, to support me even though he could not understand why he was paying soo much money for me to write music that he had to sit in the dark to listen to on an Ampex Quad Machine through giant JBL Speakers. Dr. Bilow… I love you.
  6. I never demonstrated this very well, certainly not as well as my siblings, but I want to tell you something. Dr. Bilow… I love you.

As my wife said when her father passed away “I’m an orphan now”. In it’s own funky way, that’s true. But I will say that, perhaps because of that, I realize more now than ever what a blessing it was to be the son of the son of Russian immigrant who made good, went to a university I could only dream of, helped put humans in space, supported his family so well, and set me on a solid course for my own journey.

Dr. Bilow… I love you.

Dr. Bilow… I miss you!

All the rest is commentary.


A lot of folks tell me about how important it is to keep a “gratitude journal”. I used to do that but I haven’t for a long, long time. With everything so strange because of COVID and the recent election insanity it’s easy to think that the world sucks. So this Thanksgiving I thought I’d share how easy it is to find gratitude if you just look around.

I can be jealous of people who have more money, bigger houses, cooler cars, etc. I can think I’m not as lucky or not as talented as some. But the fact it, like all of you, I’m blessed. You just need to look around.

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement” 

– Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

For example, here are a few things I’m grateful for…

  • Patt. My wife and life partner of 31 years who was in my Christmas stocking on Christmas Eve 32 years ago and who put’s up with all my unique traits 🙂
  • A brother and sister who still love each other even after 50+ years.
  • My friends from Cafe Marzocca who have made a year of COVID-19 bearable even while standing outside in the rain 6 feet apart and wearing masks. And, who, by the way, share with us cookies and scones from their kids, home made masks, invitations to their fundraisers, lively political discussions, and especially the kindness of lending an ear when I talk too much about myself and my little problems.
  • Eric, the best barista in the world.
  • Johnnie Walker Blue Label – and the fantastic attorney who so graciously gave it to me for my 60th birthday.
  • A Torah Study Group that shows up for class even when thy know I’m teaching instead of clergy.
  • Rabbis that honor me by asking me to lead Torah Study in their absence.
  • My old friends from CalArts who keep me in touch with a past so different from today and so important in my life.
  • SMPTE leadership who gave me the huge honor of asking me to edit 2 issues of the Motion Imaging Journal this year, got me a byline in TVB Europe, and asked me to host a session at the 2020 conference.
  • The old leadership at BlueVolt who gave me a chance to work with them when I needed it.
  • The new leadership at BlueVolt who gave me the chance to continue on and to learn so many new things.
  • My Weight Watchers group who supports me even though I’ve been at my goal weight for, like, 2 years.
  • Doctors Kubicky and Jaboin from OHSU who have become trigeminal schwannoma gurus
  • My guru (speaking of Gurus) whose instructions on meditation I rarely pay enough attention to but who I know won’t ever give up on me and my karma.
  • My dear friend Traci, who is my Oregon sister and always will be.
  • My financial planner who keeps telling me that I may someday retire.
  • The tens of millions of people who agreed with me about the need for a fundamental shift toward empathy and compassion and away from vitriol and voted to change our nation’s leadership.
  • The few Republicans, Libertarians, Objectivists, Evangelical Christians, and others who’s views differ from mine who are willing to discuss issues and philosophies without anger, meanness, or insults. I wish there were more of us on both sides. But, I’m deeply grateful for those I can still speak to, rationally.
  • That I was able to turn our dog Zimrah from a PTSD rescue dog who destroys venetian blinds when not on Prozac into the best canine friend I’ve had since Sydney died.
  • That Bluebell has lived for 17 years.
  • The memory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Lewis, and C.T. Vivian among the many awesome people who left us this year.
  • The memory of my mom, who I miss every day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Well, friends, as we can see from the all uppercase cry-baby tweets this morning, Dear Leader is a bit out of control and the Democrats have won the “adult For President” part of the election. But you can also see that Dear Leader has lots of lawyering yet to do. So, the presidential battle is not yet won.

We all know that Biden has won the election battle so we who do not think Mr. Trump is the right executive for our country rightly rejoice. But I feel compelled to remind you that the battle for human dignity is still just beginning.

Close to 1/2 of the entire country finds Donald Trump an acceptable representative of the moral compass of our country. The majority of those people actively embrace him. Personally, I know some very smart people and some very loving people who are in that camp. I don’t understand but I know that I have work to do.

What this says is that we have won the political battle but we have lost the moral battle. And, I do mean lost.

People who have never studied world history and who can not spell the name Mussolini have said terrible things to me about my contention that President Trump has been playing from Mussolini’s playbook. They will quickly insult me but just as quickly back away from giving me examples that prove me wrong.

This is not their fault; it is mine.

Why? Because I care about a world without fascism and without dictatorial regimes and if I can’t make that clear to people who I know are intelligent, loving people then I have not done my job.

Now, there will always be neo-Nazi, white-supremacist, evil people in the world. I don’t expect us to change them. What I do expect is that we will not get complacent once Trump is out of the White House. So, today, as I enjoyed a celebratory adult beverage at 10AM and feel good about that. I’m also mindful of the fact that, until I can convince those who are not on the fringe that Trump has been our fastest path to dictatorship, my work is not over.

Alternatively, I can simply choose to believe that 1/2 the country is not particularly smart. That’s the easy way out. But I know from experience that it’s not true. So let’s not be complacent. Let’s keep fighting from a position that I believe to be the moral high ground for a world of freedom and liberty that moves away from, not toward, authoritarianism.