I have always been intrigued by geometry and interesting shapes and perspectives in pictures. In fact, going through school, geometry was my favorite math class and not just because of the beautiful logic proofs, but I digress. In photography, sometimes a rather mundane scene can be fascinating when approached from a unique angle. Other times, the shading can even make common shapes pop. As mentioned in previous essays, I have spent a lot of time wandering through the exhibits packing the various Smithsonian museums over the years. While the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C. is my favorite Smithsonian location by far, I also appreciate several of the others in its vicinity. The Museum of Natural History has much to offer, and although the easiest way to get a good picture there is to buy one of their brochures which are filled with many elegant professional photographs, where is the fun in that? It’s far more satisfying to discover a unique perspective and capture it directly if possible. Continue reading
Dan Brown is known for writing entertaining adventure stories centered on his fictional character, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon. Langdon is drawn as a kind of super-sleuth who uses his knowledge of symbols, particularly religious symbols, to solve earthshaking crimes. Brown’s 2013 book, Inferno, is the fourth in the Langdon series and takes a rather Malthusian look at the world as it intertwines imagery and symbols from Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno in a plot threatening human existence. Although written in 2013, the story has unexpected relevance now as the world takes steps to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Continue reading
Tabard Theatre, in partnership with Silicon Valley Shakespeare, is exploring several important questions through their current production of Shylock, a play by Mark Leiren-Young. The playwright deftly confronts several considerations surrounding the questions of how artistic works should be presented to a modern audience. On the one hand, should audiences be shielded from that which makes them uncomfortable when imbued with current cultural sensitivities, particularly for works from another time? Should they be spoon fed the intent of a given work, or should they be allowed to come to their own conclusions? More directly, the play uses the controversial character of Shylock and questions how he should be portrayed to a modern audience or even whether a company should mount a production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in the first place. Continue reading
As mentioned in an earlier installment of this series, I traveled to the Washington, D.C. area frequently at one point in my career. While I was a complete weather wimp being used to a very temperate climate in the San Francisco Bay Area, I found the mid-Atlantic intriguing in a number of ways despite loathing the oppressively humid summer weather. On the other hand, I rather enjoyed the other three seasons, even winter with its bone chilling cold from time to time. The two months of the year I enjoyed most in that region were October and March. October was by far the most comfortable month. The summer humidity was gone, the days were often warm and quite comfortable, and the nights were cool and crisp. Beyond that the leaves always started changing color at that time. My previous essay in this series opened with one of my favorite scenes from the greater Gaithersburg, MD area, Lake Whetstone on a nice October day. In this essay, I return to a Montgomery Village neighborhood adjacent to the lake, but this time in March. Continue reading
I’ve had an obsession with reflections in photography ever since high school when my mother showed me a prized black and white photograph she took of me as an infant. She captured a picture of my grandfather gently holding me in a hooded baby towel after a bath, and she not only captured a very sweet picture of us, she also captured a reflection of the shot in the bathroom mirror. As a result, I have played with reflections from time to time with varying degrees of success. Continue reading
Artistic expression can take many forms, and so far, A Good Reed Review has focused on music, theater, and the written word. This essay expands that focus a bit and opens an ongoing, non-chronological series on my photographic journey.
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that is very true although the number of words can certainly vary depending on the story behind the picture. I eventually hope to write a book discussing my family’s photography given my parents had a keen interest and significant expertise in that art form and instilled a love of photography in me. While I’ve spent most of my creative energy in music and writing, I have a natural inclination toward photography as well as bit of an obstacle. Continue reading
My journey through Part 5 of this series hasn’t been all that unusual. Like many others I studied music throughout my childhood and college years, and even though I pursued a lengthy career in the sciences, I never left my music too far behind. I was fortunate to live in an area where musicians of all levels could find opportunities to play and continue to grow musically no matter their primary career paths.
The pit orchestras in which I’ve played or directed have been composed of talented musicians of all ages including advanced young music students and adults from a wide range of professions, some musically related, some not. Beyond straight music endeavors, the San Francisco Bay Area enjoys a vibrant theater community at all levels that draws large, loyal, local support. The community of musicians that supports the musical theaters has thrived for decades … until that fateful year, 2020, which brought unprecedented challenges. Continue reading
Historically, the bastions of higher learning were centers of intellectual stimulation where students could gain exposure to myriad concepts, ideas, and philosophies and could participate in scientific advancement. The learning process gave students not only exposure to a broad spectrum of ideas, it helped them learn to examine those ideas critically to separate fact from fiction. It also taught them important skills to deal with intellectual and social challenges. It sometimes made them uncomfortable and encouraged them to use that discomfort to stretch themselves and grow. They learned the great value of being challenged intellectually as well as skills necessary for conflict resolution without resorting to violence. Starting around 2013, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt noticed a disturbing trend that was beginning to assert itself and was antithetical to the broad pursuit of knowledge on which colleges and universities thrived. This trend was exemplified by a combination “three Great Untruths:”
- The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
- The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
- The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.
These three concepts are the basis for Lukianoff and Haidt’s 2018 book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. They use the following criteria to determine if something is a Great Untruth (it must meet all three criteria):
- It contradicts ancient wisdom (ideas found widely in the wisdom literatures of many cultures).
- It contradicts modern psychological research on well-being.
- It harms the individuals and communities who embrace it.
Isabel Wilkerson ends her latest book with a powerful truth:
“A world without caste would set everyone free.”
The book is Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, and it should be required reading for everyone, particularly in the United States. Most people in the U.S. are aware of the nation’s history of slavery that was theoretically vanquished after the Civil War. As many historians and journalists have written, it wasn’t really, and there is a much deeper pathology at play. Wilkerson crystalizes the formation and perpetuation of the caste system that persists to this day in the U.S. through a detailed exploration of how it relates to caste systems in India and in WWII Germany in her latest book which is part personal essay, part investigative journalism, and part history text. As difficult as many of the stories she relates are, she also offers ideas on how we might address and reform this vicious hierarchy, though to do so will require effort on all our parts. To do so would also allow us to finally achieve the key ideal set forth in our Declaration of Independence, i.e., true equality of all people. While the founders didn’t actually mean everyone, or even all men, the ultimate ideal expressed is still one to which we should all aspire. Instead, we have to date been plagued by a system of equality that is based on inequality. In other words, for the favored members of society to be equal amongst themselves, all others must be unequal. This U.S. system has been based on caste since before the founding of the nation despite the advances in equality stated in the law. Continue reading
At the end of Part 4 of my journey, I was regularly playing in three community symphonic bands, a couple of small ensembles, and playing in the pit for musical theater any chance I got. I was playing between five and eleven musical runs a year in between everything else while also continuing my software/systems engineering career. Outside of work, my routine amounted to a cycle of practice, performance, and repeat. This included a minimum of three rehearsals per week and a maximum of either a performance or rehearsal every night along with an added rehearsal or performance during the day on the weekends. On those rare occasions when I didn’t have an organized rehearsal or performance in the evening, I would practice on my own for an hour or two when I got home from work, and even longer on the weekends. For the first three years after getting back into organized music, I was also taking flute lessons one evening a week and getting in a bit of flute practice every day or evening at some point. I suppose in some respects, I was making up for all that lost time during my 17 year hiatus from organized music. Continue reading