A World With Choice Reversed

By Ande Jacobson

Alex was musing over something that had long bothered her about humankind. Humans were the only species that had the capacity to use external intervention to voluntarily control or even stop their population growth and reach a steady state either by preventing a pregnancy from happening if it was the wrong time, or freely choosing whether to take a pregnancy to term or terminate an unwanted one. Unfortunately they kept getting bogged down with in-fighting surrounding forcing people to complete pregnancies whether they wanted to or not based on religious convictions or control issues. A few years earlier, she had read a fascinating work of fiction where a mad scientist genetically engineered a virus that over the course of a single week infected every human in the world, and as a result randomly sterilized a third of the human population. He had engineered the virus to modify and become a part of the human genome so it was inheritable, but the trait only turned on about a third of the time permanently reducing the human population over subsequent generations to something more sustainable. Continue reading

The arts are alive again in the SF Bay Area

By Ande Jacobson

Since California’s reopening on 15 June 2021, the performing arts in the San Francisco Bay Area have come alive. Over the 4th of July holiday weekend, picnics were accented with live community band concerts galore. Most of these bands had very limited outdoor rehearsals to prepare, but many of the musicians have enjoyed meeting in person to play together again, and in addition to the larger concert bands, several smaller ensembles have been cautiously resuming rehearsals in person over the last several months. Continue reading

Confessions of a Trekkie

By Ande Jacobson

I was lucky. I grew up in an era when Star Trek was new. This was the original series where so many of the pressing problems of the time were solved long ago in the storylines. Although I was a little young to catch the first season in its prime time slot because it was after my bedtime, I initially saw the show when the first season summer reruns aired earlier in the evening. I loved space and the idea of space travel to explore new worlds. This was during the era of the Apollo program, and the first moon landing occurred just a little over a month after the final episode of the original Star Trek series first aired. Continue reading

‘Shylock’ explores crucial questions at Tabard

By Ande Jacobson

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

Photo journey: South Meadow Fence Road

By Ande Jacobson

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

Photo journey: Reflection obsession

By Ande Jacobson

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

Photo journey: My quest for the perfect capitol shot

By Ande Jacobson

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 magical, musical journey: Part 6 – outside challenges

By Ande Jacobson

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

Are we training people to fear rather than think?

By Ande Jacobson

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:”

  1. The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
  2. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
  3. 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):

  1. It contradicts ancient wisdom (ideas found widely in the wisdom literatures of many cultures).
  2. It contradicts modern psychological research on well-being.
  3. It harms the individuals and communities who embrace it.

Continue reading

To dream of a world without caste

By Ande Jacobson

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