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
tuxedos.

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.
This
	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,
thankfully,
	in black
		and white.

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

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
	checks
		baggage.

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.

Considering
	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.

Endnotes

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.

z”l

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!

The title says it all. Spots are limited to 20 per session so sign up now!

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.

Fifty-Nine year old Cheryl Tiano, was an agent who represented film, TV and game composers at the Gorfaine-Schwartz Agency. She passed away on Monday night, apparently due to complications from heart surgery.

The Society of Composers & Lyricists told Variety:

“Cheryl had long ago taken her place amongst the top tier of composer agents in the entertainment industry. Her clients loved her, and she loved repping them. She is an enormous loss to our media music community.”

I’m sure that’s true. But I did not know her as a rep. I knew her as a joy-filled, very energetic, extremely intelligent member of the CalArts student body in the early 1980’s. I knew her as a friend and as someone who was extremely kind to me in my ancient days as an introverted guy who needed all the extroverts I could find to surround me. Cheryl was wonderful.

Over the past couple decades I have lost several friends and mentors who I dearly loved. My composition teacher and friend Lucky Mosko, his wife the great flutist Dorothy Stone, my friend Art Jarvinen, my best friend in Oregon Pablo Esteve, my tabla teacher Pandit Taranath Rao, and several more. Cheryl now becomes part of that list of those whose memory alone ties me back to an earlier life. I miss that. I am at least as sad about this as when these other dear CalArts friends passed over the years.

Cheryl was one of my “electronic music” colleagues, hanging out in B303 and B304, the Buchla studios at the CalArts of the 70’s and 80’s. In fact, when I had both electronic pieces and chamber music performed in the Composer’s Concert that I call my “graduation recital” Cheryl handled the recordings for me. I used to be a little disappointed that I had to remaster these in ProTools like 20 years later because they were way too hot. Now that seems like a stupid thing to be disappointed in. <sigh>

I remember going to Cheryl’s home for dinner several times. She was a beautiful soul and I’m deeply saddened to hear of her passing. When I think back to my years at CalArts, Cheryl is one of the people I always think of and will always remember. Her passing is a terrible loss to the industry but to me, personally, it’s another loss of someone of whom I hold cherished memories.

One of Cheryl’s clients, Sean Callery, who worked on “24” said it best, I think:

“If God ever needs an agent, he sure has one now.”

Considering what an insane world we live in and how God’s name is used to justify so many odd behaviors by so many people, I imagine She does need a rep who will never put her on hold!

While I can’t imagine them ever reading my blog, I do want to send my deepest condolences to Cheryl’s husband Frank Gerechter, her dad, Hi Tiano (who I’m sure does not remember me but who I remember), and her sister Linda Tiano back east. May her memory be a blessing for all the Tianos and all who came to know her.

z”l

Dear Judge Barrett,

Congratulations on your confirmation. You are not the Justice who I want and people really should stop pretending that you resemble the genius of Justice Ginsburg. Who knows, you might. But, like RBG, only the time you take to prove it will tell. It will be a tough sell and I’d encourage you to try you hand at being rational despite the person who nominated you.

I see nothing that makes me think you are an immoral or unethical person. In fact, you just said exactly the right things about the separation between your personal beliefs and the law and your separation from political aims. Only time will tell if you act as you have spoken. I hope you will.

I’m always one to respect people until they give me reason not too. Sadly, the guy who nominated you and virtually everyone who voted for your confirmation has fallen into that latter category. That doesn’t mean you will. Think rationally and give all people their share of dignity and perhaps you won’t damage the union too much more.

Now, there IS something that will put you into my disrespected category very quickly. That is if you make decisions that are neither founded in rationality, nor in your Christian morality, nor in you scholarly knowledge of constitutional law. If you make decisions based on politics – as you said 5 minutes ago you would not – and contradict the morality that I hope you possess, then you move to to my disrespect list. Forever.

Here’s what you absolutely must remember. Assuming that you are qualified for this job, and sincere about what you just said about the law, you owe Donald Trump nothing. You owe Mitch McConnell nothing either. Don’t make irreversible decisions based on owing evil forces a debt. You don’t!

I implore you not to mess with this American election, to respect precedent, and to not destroy someone’s legacy just because Donald Trump has a vendetta against a great black President. The country is now largely in your hands. Please don’t contribute to destroying it just because out current President wants. They may be evil; you need not be. Prove yourself worthy of your new position by being beholden to no one.

Good luck.

I did not write this but the author gave me permission to share it. In a time of great challenges, Rabbi Shelton Donnell held a Seder via Zoom. Many of us are doing this but Rabbi Donnell’s post-seder thank you note was so touching and educational that I want to share it verbatim.

Next year in Jerusalem (or…. really… anyplace but Cyberspace).

Remember to love your relationships.

Chag Pesach Someach!

 


 

Dear Family and Friends,

Wendy and I want to thank you all for joining us for our Seder last night. To say the least, this was one of our more memorable Passover experiences. These have been very difficult times for all of us, all the more so because we are challenged to reevaluate so many things, activities, and services that we usually take for granted. This has also brought to the fore how important people and relationships are to us. Ironically, the social isolation that prevented us from holding our usual Seder, brought us “together” with many people with whom we rarely have contact. Granted, looking at your faces on a screen simply was not the same as having you in our dining room but, I must say, it made me feel connected to you as well as our tradition, and that was very meaningful for me.

This season marks more than our Passover Seder, tonight we begin the “Counting of the Omer,” the period of seven weeks between Passover (marking the Exodus from Egypt) and Shavu’ot when the Torah was revealed, transforming the ragtag refugees into a people, and a nation with a unique destiny that continues to evolve even today. When the Temples stood in Jerusalem, pilgrims brought the “Omer” — offerings of the first and best of their grain harvest. Centuries later, this joyous period took a dark and traumatic turn. Today, the period of Counting the Omer is observed by traditional Jews as a time for semi-mourning — pleasurable pursuits, new enterprises, and celebrations are suspended, following the customs of those who have lost a loved one. Why? The Babylonian Talmud tells us that during the Roman occupation of the Land of Israel, the conditions for Jews and Judaism were oppressive. Eventually, the Jews rebelled for a second time (the First Revolt from 66 to 70 C.E. saw the Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, one of the greatest existential traumas faced by our people). The Second Revolt, led by Bar Kochba, deepened the tragedy and resulted in the Diaspora of the Jewish people and the last gasp of the national aspirations of the Jewish people until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

During the period of the Hadrianic persecutions prior to Bar Kochba’s revolt, we are told that tragedy struck the students of the great Rabbi Akiva. Legend has it that 24,000 disciples died in a very short time. The rabbis of the Talmud attributed the deaths to a lack of mutual respect and concern by the disciples. Another explanation is that the students were brought down by a vicious plague. It is because of this incredibly sad memory that the period of the Counting of the Omer has transformed from a time of unbridled joy to semi-mourning and introspection.

Okay, so why do I bring this up? The story that I just related has a brighter side and a message that I think is very appropriate for us today. According to that same legend, a miracle happened on the thirty-third day of the Counting of the Omer — the plague stopped, and the devastation wrought upon the rabbis and their students ended, enabling them to renew and rebuild the rabbinic tradition that has come down to us today.

I find it interesting that predictions and projections about the trajectory of the coronavirus suggest that we may (please God) see a significant bending of the arc of contagion and death around the time of Lag B’Omer, the day on which we give thanks and celebrate the end of the plague that threatened Judaism itself. And more, the rabbis and their students appear to have learned a lesson about mutual respect and concern, so that they could actively make a positive difference in their situation and persevere against threats both physical and spiritual.

Our gathering last night for our Seder reminds me of the power of the human spirit and the importance of connecting through mutual respect and concern for each other. I believe that it was that faith in the human spirit that enabled our ancestors to survive that ancient plague and go on to thrive as a people, a nation and a faith. For me, that message is a beam of light in these dark times.

Wendy and I want to thank you again and pray that we all will remain safe, healthy, filled with hope and faith that we can do more than survive this modern plague, that we can use the lessons learned from it to make our family, our community, our nation and the world thrive. That, for me, would be a wonderful miracle.

With blessings for a happy and healthy Passover,

Shelton