Updates from December, 2009 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • dtoub 12:59 am on Sunday, December 13, 2009, 12:59 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: face meets fist-fist wins, suburban incidents   

    damn, my nose hurts 

    Just got back from the local ER after a pretty eventful night. We were spending the day with some friends visiting from Maryland and I dropped them, along with my family, off at a restaurant in Southampton, PA and went to park the car. After waiting a bit for a nearby space (it’s really cold out right now), I pulled in and saw a sign indicating 45 minute parking only, so pulled out. I saw a spot that was open in the next lane over, so quickly went to grab it before it got taken, and before rounding the bend saw a woman walking several feet from my car and I passed her by. When I got to the next lane in the parking lot, I saw this 45-ish, guy with a beer belly in a red shirt and white hat running towards my car yelling that I had “almost hit” his wife with my car and he started punching my window as I passed, demanding that I get out so we could have it out. I started driving away, but realized everyone I had come with was inside the restaurant so I had to come back, and even if I parked a bit away, someone deranged enough to punch my car window is probably crazy enough to smash my car windows if I made it inside. So I turned down another lane heading back towards the restaurant hoping to find a place to park and wait for the guy to just leave before I left my vehicle. But he was waiting for me, and again came up to the car and punched the windows on the driver side, so hard I thought he was either going to smash a window or fracture his hand. I started driving off again to avoid a confrontation, but then just came to a dead stop a few feet away hoping that my stopping would call his bluff and he’d walk away. But he didn’t. He started hitting my car again, demanding I get out (to duel like gentlemen?). I rolled down my window a little bit and told him to stop hitting my car or else I’d call 911. He said go ahead. I whipped out my iPhone and started to dial when he opened my door (note to self: when confronted by a deranged, possibly dangerous individual, step one is to make sure the friggin car is locked). At that point he punched me twice in the face, nice and hard. I felt a lot of blood running down, but didn’t have any sense of what the extent of the injuries was at that point. But I did slam the door closed and locked it (finally) and dialed 911. He stood there, joined by his wife who didn’t exactly do much of anything, and told me to “go ahead and call 911.” While I was on the phone with the police dispatch, a police car pulled up behind me (a witness had already called the police) and as I was telling my story from my car to the police officer, the crazy white dude and his wife must have walked away (so much for “go ahead and call the cops”). However, the police officer’s companion in a second car stopped him before his car left the parking lot. There were witnesses and they also gave their accounts to the police. I finally got a look in the mirror at what happened and it was pretty ugly-a lot of blood everywhere, a large right-sided inner lip laceration, copious blood and clots dripping from my right nostril, some minor superficial lacerations near the bridge of my nose, and a ton of pain and crepitus over the bridge of my nose consistent with a nasal fracture.

    Meanwhile, no one from my family or friends inside the restaurant knew this was going on. While I had been waiting for the cop to come back to my car with instructions, I did the normal thing while waiting with little to do but bleed: I sent out a quick tweet on my iPhone. This was followed by a ton of really generous messages of concern, including several from folks I don’t know but who either were in the area and noticed a local tweet or who must have seen this on the public timeline for twitter. My daughter Arielle had gotten concerned about how long I was taking to park and asked my wife to call, which she did and immediately came outside after I told here what was going on.

    Got into the restaurant and tried to get things cleaned up. My coat was pretty bloody, as were my jeans, and the blood still was coming out so I figured it was best to go to an ER. I went to Abington, where I was seen very quickly and professionally. There’s nothing much to do-nasal fractures just have to heal on their own, lip lacerations generally aren’t sutured (I did suture someone’s inner cheek once as an intern, but perhaps that was the practice then, or perhaps some of us did stuff like that for practice?), and nosebleeds just have to be dealt with in terms of supportive care unless really bad. So for now, I’m taking amoxicillin for the lip laceration (probably not needed, but as I’m flying to Mexico in the AM for work, I really don’t want to try to deal with pus coming out of my mouth in another country  or even another state for that matter), packing some kleenex for the flights tomorrow, and putting ice on my face. Hopefully I can get to sleep in a little bit because I’m really tired and need to get up early.

    One thing that didn’t surprise me, but that was very nice to see was how fast word disseminates via twitter and Facebook (I had initially only posted about this on twitter, but I got talked into posting on FB as well because, as my wife put it, “You post everything on Facebook that you’re doing-doesn’t this count?”). And we’re not talking about an Iranian revolution-level event here, just a simple assault. Social media, for all its faults, can work really well when major events happen. That’s important to keep in mind the next time someone belittles social media as “just a bunch of teenagers sending crap over the Internet about what they’re eating.”

    Some other important points: I chose not to take this guy on outside of my car. Sure, it would have felt good to fight back, but in all honesty, let’s ditch the macho stuff; someone who felt the need to hit a car window with enough force to almost shatter it would have been perfectly comfortable doing the same to me with his fists. Or, if he were packing, with firearms. Also, it occurred to me afterwards that it would have been helpful to either photograph this guy (in case he eluded the police) or else videotape the situation after I had been hit and locked the door. Hindsight is always clear, and fortunately there were witnesses (and the volume of blood in my car and not in the parking lot should make it pretty clear that I hadn’t gotten out to fight with him and was obviously assaulted in my own vehicle). But as someone told me via Twitter, I could have had a viral YouTube video had I gotten a video on my iPhone.

    My nose hurts. I have to be up early. So I’m going to bed. Ice awaits.

    • Paul Muller 10:47 am on Sunday, December 13, 2009, 10:47 am Permalink

      Don’t wanna minimize what happened to your nose but the guy who punched you obviously has anger management issues. He was clearly frustrated at something – and it probably wasn’t the parking lot safety situation. It’s just possible that the beating you took would have been given to his wife later – and I’ll bet she already has been beaten in the past. Maybe this will force the issue out into the open and save someone.

    • dtoub 9:53 pm on Sunday, December 13, 2009, 9:53 pm Permalink

      Great point Paul-thanks.

    • everette minchew 10:09 am on Monday, December 14, 2009, 10:09 am Permalink

      maybe he wasnt a fan of minimalist music

  • dtoub 12:49 pm on Monday, September 14, 2009, 12:49 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , US Airways: fail   

    odds and ends 

    My usual 7:45 AM flight to San Francisco got cancelled so I have some time on my hands here at Philadelphia International and figured I should do a quick update of some sundry items:

    • I went to a Sharing Ramadan event at the Foundation for Islamic Education in Villanova, PA last night to break the fast with a lot of wonderful folks of all different backgrounds and faiths. I was very struck by how diverse the local Muslim population is and how accepting they are. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, white or of color, etc. Everyone shares with everyone else and there is a genuine community. There are so many similarities with Judaism, but at the same time I don’t know that every synagogue is really that welcoming or open to people of different backgrounds. There are indeed Jews of color, but they are often marginalized or dismissed (or worse, mistaken for the “hired help.”). The other thing that delighted me was how much the Muslims I spoke with truly want dialogue and friendship with those of other faiths. We need this, and badly.
    • Still working on the torture memos piece very slowly. It’s coming along, though. I am also thinking of trying to put together a piece for harpsichord as well as another piano piece. Now, all I need are the ideas.
    • I was really happy to have had two radio premieres in two weeks. I guess that’s not too bad for a gynecologist.
    • Speaking of gynecology, I’ll be at the next AAGL meeting in Orlando. We have three abstracts being presented there. Also not too bad for a gynecologist.
    • I think Twitter is starting to replace blogging, but slowly
    • Great, the flight I got booked on leaving over six hours after the flight I was supposed to take is oversold. Should I take a voucher to wait some more for a flight that gets me in to SFO six hours later than I will now? Uh, I don’t think so…
  • dtoub 2:44 pm on Friday, July 31, 2009, 2:44 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAGL, , , , ,   

    brief update 

    Lots of good stuff going on, but I’ve been swamped so have not had time to blog.

    • Next Thursday, August 6th at 7:30 PM, Bill Solomon and Mike Lunoe will be premiering my work for six marimbas titled bs piece (double canon for bill solomon) at the Berkman Recital Hall, Hartt School of Music in W. Hartford, CT. I’m listening to their latest rehearsal tape right now and it’s absolutely incredible. How they manage to play this without getting lost while syncing with a tape of the other four marimba parts and counting accurately how many times to repeat each measure (17x is not uncommon in this piece) boggles my mind. Kudos to them both for not just taking on my music but for realizing it so perfectly. The score is here. I’ll be posting a MP3 of the performance and possibly even a video once I get it from Mike and Bill.
    • Just got an e-mail inviting me to be on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology, the official journal of the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists. Obviously they’re extremely desperate.
    • Composer/performer/MIDI artist Steve Layton is going to be releasing his realization of textbook: music of solitary landscapes in hyperspace (piece for IPS) via iTunes in the coming weeks. Steve’s realization is excellent and took him at least two weeks to accomplish. The piece is over two hours and is continuous, although it will be broken into individual sections for downloading.
    • kraig Grady 1:27 am on Monday, August 3, 2009, 1:27 am Permalink

      Congrats on the premiere and what sounds like a good performance in the works.

  • dtoub 12:45 am on Wednesday, April 8, 2009, 12:45 am Permalink | Reply

    one-year anniversary of david’s waste of bandwidth 2.0 

    Just realized it’s been a year and two days since I switched this blog from my old iBlog-based site to WordPress. Glad I did—iBlog bit the dust (a two-year beta and incompatibility with the latest version of OS X signals bad juju for certain) and aside from not being able to handle javascript, WordPress.com has worked well so far.

  • dtoub 11:58 pm on Tuesday, April 7, 2009, 11:58 pm Permalink | Reply

    new theme 

    As much as I’ve liked the WordPress theme for this blog, I just decided to mix it up. What you’re now looking at is a new theme with what I imagine contains a lot of AJAX code (asynchronous javascript and xml) that permits a good deal of interactivity. Note the keyboard shortcuts and the ability to have all comments visible for all posts. I also think the resemblance to twitter is quite intentional. Let me know in the comments if you like it or not. I’m already not liking the limitations of composing in this template:

    • no bulleted text
    • no way to add images or categories. Or links (WTF? Isn’t that one of the big features of blog entries?)
    • lack of control over the title and permalink

    So how did I just add in these bullets (and add a category and tweak the permalink)? By going into the WordPress dashboard and doing it all in the code editor. Which is exactly what this template is supposed to obviate. Sigh…I’m going to give this template a chance, but if I find it cumbersome, I’m going back to the old one. I think this template is great if you don’t do much more than what you do with twitter. But I use twitter when I want to microblog. This blog isn’t a microblog. Can you tell I’m conflicted?

    • Paul H. Muller 11:44 am on Thursday, April 9, 2009, 11:44 am Permalink

      I like the format for reading, even if you find it problematic for writing… It’s clean and the comments are right there. I really, really like WordPress. It doesn’t even have to be a blog – by using pages instead of posts and linking them you can build an entire website – I think I have four or five now… I wish there was more flexibility in the templates, but what you get is pretty reasonable to work with.

    • dtoub 8:15 pm on Thursday, April 9, 2009, 8:15 pm Permalink

      Thanks Paul. I’m making it work.

  • dtoub 7:53 pm on Monday, March 30, 2009, 7:53 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , trivial pursuits   

    some quick thoughts, in no particular order 

    Got back from vacation Saturday evening and I’m already back in the rat race. Even so, here are some brief thoughts before I forget them:

    • I’ve been loving MobileMe’s wireless sync between my iPhone, MacBook Pro and the cloud now for several weeks. This is how it should have worked last June. No complaints so far.
    • Finally figured out how to get my TiVo programs from my laptop to my iPhone. There are AppleScripts out there along with some open-source apps, but I haven’t gotten them to work. Instead, I finally figured out that Toast Titanium, in addition to downloading content from my TiVo to my MacBook Pro, can also encode the content for an iPhone or iPod. It’s hidden, but if you click on the Convert button, you can take it from there by selecting iPhone/iPod Touch as one of the destination options. Now, Toast will freeze forever if I try to batch several TiVo files at once, and even sometimes with just one file. But it works about 50% of the time if I just convert one file at a time, and it’s smart enough to dump it into iTunes when finished.picture-6
    • The CD we got of all of us swimming with dolphins near Marathon, FL was blank, but a new one is on its way via snail mail, so I should have them posted to FaceBook and my photo gallery in the coming days.
    • The Pope is wrong on condoms vis a vis HIV/AIDS. And by saying that I’m not being “anti-Catholic” or hurtful. I’m calling out the head of the Catholic Church, who is also a world leader, for comments that are, from a medical standpoint, harmful, potentially disastrous, and frankly stupid. I’d be as critical if it were a Chief Rabbi saying crap like that.
    • Punishing the conductor of a Palestinian youth orchestra for leading a concert in front of Holocaust survivors is as bad as if Israel were to punish David Barenboim for leading concerts in front of Palestinians. Which Barenboim does. And Israel doesn’t punish him. Look, I’ve been severely critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians and Israeli policies towards citizens of Israel who are not either Jewish, or Jewish enough for the Orthodox theocrats there. But the concert by a Palestinian youth orchestra was a good thing, and a very positive thing. Just as Israel needs to accept that the Naqba is a painful historical event for Palestinians, the Palestinians need to come to grips with the significance of the Holocaust. Trying to ignore the Holocaust and to even claim that the Naqba was worse than the Holocaust is historically and intellectually dishonest. It’s also just wrong.
    • I’m going to get some parts for zichron together for Brian Kauth and his colleagues. Yes, Virginia, it’s playable. And it’s stimulated more comments on  my blog than any other post. So far, no one has told me it’s a piece of crap. So that’s good news.
    • JC Combs has been really great about including my dreck in his Friday Improv podcasts. Check them out on his Web site.
    • What’s next for my music? I’m probably going to develop a synthesizer piece I’ve been toying with. I don’t know that I’ll actually notate it, but I might leave it as a synthesizer piece and maybe just preserve it as a Reason file as well as MIDI and MP3 output. We’ll see. Beyond that, I’d love to try to develop a better recording of digitals, because it’s a pretty decent piece and the realization I made a few years ago really isn’t that great.
    • I’m probably getting together next week with a composer I’ve wanted to meet who wrote an amazing, long string quartet I used to listen to on LP many years ago when I was in college. Looking forward to it. And no, I won’t say who it is until after the fact.
    • J.C. Combs 9:06 pm on Tuesday, March 31, 2009, 9:06 pm Permalink

      Hey, David, thanks for the mention! I’ve been busy w/ these mini-style projects so they probably seem clumped together. I have “Amaranth Radio” which is the podcast of nonpop composer works.

      And then we have ImprovFriday, which is more or less submitting improvisations, be them from the past or like what I do, which is to to improv right before I log into Twitter at 6 p.m. Takes about 10 minutes 😉 And we don’t care what kind of improv it is either. Can be looped, free, whatever. And I think sharing music from the ligeti, cage, feldman, riley, et al, is cool as well. Keeps things moving in my blip.fm playlist.

      And umm, you were the 1st to join me on improvfriday, you should know this lol! 😉

      Hope you join us again this fri!

  • dtoub 12:50 am on Sunday, February 22, 2009, 12:50 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: religious intolerance   

    i hate intolerance 

    (Warning: this is a long rant. If you’re like most people and have better things to do, feel free to skip this. I won’t take offense.)

    I’m embarrassed to post this, because it reflects poorly on some of my coreligionists. But it needs to get exorcized from my system. Earlier today, my 13-year-old daughter Arielle attended a bas mitzvah (the female counterpart of a bar mitzvah) of a friend at our former synagogue. We had belonged there for many years because we liked the former rabbi (who recently left) and, well, there weren’t any other options where we used to live. This was a Conservative synagogue, and we’re anything but. We finally realized that we were Reconstructionist Jews trapped in a Conservative synagogue, and it was easy to leave using the excuse that we were moving to Wyncote,. The reality was that we were miserable there. That synagogue didn’t reflect our liberal values, and represented a lot of what I have resented about how Judaism is practiced in this country since I was a kid. I’m also not sure it would have gone over well if I had publicized my atheism, and I can say that my criticism of Israel and support of the Palestinian’s aspirations definitely was not well received at our former synagogue. And then there was that time I asked the Israeli ambassador why they were assassinating people against international law…

    Anyway, I digress. At the bas mitzvah today, a friend of Arielle’s who happens to be Asian was writing something down very quickly on a sheet of paper when the executive director of the synagogue, who I guess is to that synagogue what the Taliban were to Islamic practice in Afghanistan, came up to the girl and said “Well, I guess you wouldn’t know this since you’re Asian, but we don’t write on the Sabbath.”

    Her comment was mind-boggling, and deeply offensive. For starters, it ignores the fact that this girl could indeed be Jewish. My wife has Asian relatives who are, in fact, members of the tribe, and I’ve known at least one Japanese American who was Jewish. But even worse, it’s damn patronizing and inappropriate. Even more absurd is the fact that for all this woman’s talk of keeping the Sabbath, how did she and everyone else get to this synagogue? I know they didn’t walk. Note to this executive director: driving is just as verboten on the Jewish Sabbath as is writing or cooking, if you’re religious and all that. 

    I remember when I was a kid. I attended Episcopalian Mass every now and then (long story). The first time I attended Mass I went up for communion. I had no idea what communion was, but a lot of folks were going up there so I didn’t want to be rude by staying in my pew. When I got up to the alter, the priest didn’t look at me and say “I guess you wouldn’t know this since you’re a Jew, but only those who accept Christ can take communion.” Rather, someone politely informed me that I don’t need to take communion, and I took the hint and sat down, totally non-offended.

    But today I am quite offended, and especially since I’ve had similar bad experiences with this executive director in the past, wanted to bring it to someone’s attention. I wrote a e-mail to the executive director, cc’ing their new rabbi. Within minutes I got a response from the rabbi. Unfortunately, he totally missed the point, minimized the entire incident, and essentially discounted anything my daughter reported since it didn’t happen directly to her (in other words, Arielle’s reporting of the comment is irrelevant since her friend, to whom it was directed, isn’t reporting it). In essence, he cannot believe his executive director could possibly have said anything inappropriate, as she’s only the best person in the world, has cured the lame and the sick, is developing the cure for cancer, blah blah blah blah. Whatever.

    By this point, I’m not only offended. I’m pissed. At a rabbi. One whom I’ve never even met.

    So I shoot back with another e-mail where I don’t hold back at all (other than withholding a lot of profanities pertaining to his executive director). I indicate that he should at least take seriously what my daughter is reporting. Why is a 13-year-old more offended by a clearly inappropriate and hurtful comment directed at an Asian teenager but not a rabbi? In the end, this got me nowhere, as the rabbi tried to deal with my e-mail through sarcasm and finally declined by offer to discuss this over the phone and broke off communications. Now Arielle just fired back with an e-mail to him informing the rabbi that he should not be discounting the word of a 13-year-old. I doubt that will change anything.

    I could write a tome about how Conservative Judaism is imploding, how it’s irrelevant, how its stance towards gays and interfaith couples is wrong, how its knee-jerk support of Israel to the detriment of all else is harmful, etc. But I won’t. I will say that this rabbi should have just responded to me the first time by thanking me for bringing this to his attention, that this is indeed an offensive comment, that he would take this seriously and speak with his executive director and try to ascertain the facts, etc. That’s what most folks would have done, especially in a leadership position. So why not this rabbi? 

    Honestly, on those rare occasions where we’ve had to go back to attend an event at our old synagogue, I’ve come away feeling like I need to be deprogrammed. We love our Reconstructionist synagogue. It’s not perfect; nothing is. But it’s fully egalitarian, supports LGBT rights, is supportive of interfaith couples, does not believe in this “chosen people” crap, rejects the notion that the torah was written by god, etc. And I can say beyond a reasonable degree of medical certainty that no one at our current synagogue would ever, ever, chastise someone of a different race, religion or culture for inadvertently violating a religious custom they would not have known about.   

    As I think about it, this executive director had a teachable moment here and she blew it. She could have very politely mentioned to my daughter’s friend that many religious Jews don’t write on the sabbath and out of respect, their particular synagogue would prefer that everyone within its walls observe and respect its customs. This could have led to a respectful discussion of why the more religious Jews do not write, drive, cook, or do anything that could be construed as work on the sabbath. The same way that at Arielle’s bas mitzvah, our rabbi politely invited anyone up to view the torah up close, realizing that many of our guests were not Jewish and might be interested in learning more about why Arielle was doing what she was doing. That’s not at all threatening. That’s not at all patronizing. That’s not a putdown of another religion or culture. But what the executive director of our former Conservative synagogue did this morning was indeed threatening, patronizing and disrespectful to another culture and religion. It was also really rude. Who knows what that Asian teenager thinks of Judaism in the wake of how she was treated earlier today? I doubt her respect for Judaism was enhanced by this encounter.

    I’m ashamed and angry that there are people in my faith who seem to work overtime to convince others that Judaism is about feeling superior to others. Now I’m not religious in any way, although I strongly identify culturally with my Jewish heritage and appreciate the fact that a belief in god or the adherence to rituals are not required in order to be Jewish. But even a totally secular Jew like me knows that there is something deeply wrong with telling someone in a patronizing manner that he/she is violating a local religious custom. Unfortunately, that synagogue’s current rabbi has no clue why that comment was offensive. I suppose I could offer this as another example as to why Conservative Judaism is as irrelevant as the GOP.

    • Paul H. Muller 1:32 am on Sunday, February 22, 2009, 1:32 am Permalink

      The executive director DID have a teachable moment – and blew it. Well, that happens – people just screw things like that up all the time. “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”

      I’m an active Lutheran and its fairly common for people to decide to leave a congregation for one reason or another. Sometimes it seems to involve some great theological disagreement, but mostly people just want a change.

      Conservative religion – whatever the denomination – has appeal because it seems to offer more certainty. These days that appeal may be stronger than ever and rationalism will seem the poorer alternative. Look at the GOP, their religion of the Free Market is melting down in front of their eyes yet Republicans in Congress have suddenly discovered fiscal conservatism.

    • J.C. Combs 11:53 am on Sunday, February 22, 2009, 11:53 am Permalink

      I love this clip re: intolerance.

    • Richard Friedman 5:02 pm on Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 5:02 pm Permalink

      Any religion that starts off by calling its members “the chosen people” is going to have problems from the get-go.

      I’d rather associate myself with the Knish-culture than with what goes on in the temple.

      My parents, who grew up during WWI in NYC, and suffered the depression, discovered the irrelevance of the temple very quickly. My brother and I were not bar mitzvah’d.

      My dad, who grew up in a seriously orthodox immigrant family, always pointed out the stupidity and inconsistencies of the temple-folk. In my time, a bar mitzvah served only one purpose, to show off to the rest how well-off you were. It had nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with chopped-liver.

      My skepticism and anti-religious views extend now to all religions.
      Show me where any religion has done the world some good, or that actually practice what they preach. How many people have died because of what they said, or didn’t say? Or the shape of the private parts.

      My point is, what did you expect? The attitude expressed by the director is typical of the temple-folk. Extend it to its natural conclusion, and it’s what got Jews in trouble time and time again: We are chosen, you are not .. so get out of my sight.

      Mankind will not be free to exercise its full potential until all religions become irrelevant, unacceptable, forgotten, like mad cow disease.

    • dtoub 8:23 pm on Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 8:23 pm Permalink

      Richard, I totally agree with you. I’m a Jew culturally, and respect what I am. But I don’t want to have anything to do with religion per se. It’s an interesting topic to learn about—I am pretty well read on Islam, Mormon and the like. But I’m with you; I’m not sure what good it’s really brought.

      In terms of chosenness, it’s a bad concept. I joined the Reconstructionists in large part because they totally reject such language. They even changed a lot of the liturgy to reflect this, which confuses the hell out of folks who were raised in a different denomination (ie, most of us). I can definitely say that no one I know in my shul would have ever even thought to make such a ridiculous statement. But having grown up in Northern New Jersey, I was appalled by the materialism I saw within our local Jewish community. That was not what it was like when I was younger in Newark. And it’s not representative of the religion as a whole, in large part because of its diversity. But it gives all of us a black eye.

      Personally, I think atheism, while identifying strongly with my Jewish background, works for me. But I like your last paragraph very much.

    • J.C. Combs 10:57 pm on Thursday, February 26, 2009, 10:57 pm Permalink

      I can’t speak for Judaism, but I know for a fact most every sect, cult, branch, whatever term you please, of Christianity, feels they are chosen.

      The problem is two-fold. Its not just the religion that seeds the illogical behavior, its the bible which seeds the unquestioning believers who in turn lay their crap on us.

      In my opinion, the bible helped ancient humanity behave in civil terms relative to the times. However, now the bible, for the most part, teaches people how to be uncivil and ancient, barbaric, etc. Does “intolerance” fit in there somewhere? I believe that’s pretty obvious!

      Lets just think about this for a second… How can a book of behavioral rules teach multiple time periods of humanity the same lessons with the same language? Impossible. You know, don’t eat this kind of animal, don’t have sex with an elephant, don’t coat your house with gold plating, don’t carry an axe and behead people on the way to work, etc. These principles are COMMON SENSE now. Yeah there are people who don’t know this inherently, but nothing is going to help them. In fact, if they find religion, these are the exact idiots who are going to misunderstand the simple teachings of the bible re: humility and humbleness, etc., and start firing off at the mouth about hellfire and how you aren’t as good as them, since they are Godly and are going to Heaven, somewhere they KNOW you most absolutely aren’t going. They are comforted to know that you’ll be baking in EVERLASTING suffering with all those SIIIIINNNNNEEERRRS RaaaWR!

      But I digress…, there are great parts of the bible and some deep passages. But if someone put together the parts that sound totally outdated, I wouldn’t be surprised if it outweighed the parts that come off as reasonable lessons for the 21st century.

    • david 9:18 am on Friday, February 27, 2009, 9:18 am Permalink

      I think both the old and new testaments contain a lot of bad behavior and hatred. I can’t get past the two sections where, in each of them, it essentially says it’s ok to let your daughters be gang-raped while you offer hospitality to a stranger. There’s a lot of that nonsense in both testaments, particularly the old one.

      I think the late esteemed philosopher George Carlin (DPhil) of Oxford (Miss) University got it right.

    • Chris Becker 1:52 pm on Friday, February 27, 2009, 1:52 pm Permalink

      “Mankind will not be free to exercise its full potential until all religions become irrelevant, unacceptable, forgotten, like mad cow disease.”

      You’re forgetting that a lot of incredible music wouldn’t exist without religious faith.

      I’m not defending intolerance (I hope that’s obvious). David’s post is painful to read and I can relate to his frustration. I myself believe in God but I do lean more towards being an agnostic than anything. The way I define “God” ain’t the old man with a beard up in the clouds definition…

      But to say mankind won’t reach its full potential until all religions become irrelevent…uh…doesn’t that reveal a wee bit of…intolerance???

    • dtoub 3:58 pm on Friday, February 27, 2009, 3:58 pm Permalink

      Chris, I won’t speak for Richard, but I really do think that George Carlin said it best in that video clip I linked to in my comment above.

      I think Bach and the others who wrote some great “religious” music would have written great music regardless of whether or not they were religious. The religious topics were the excuses or rationales for writing them, I suppose, but their “secular” music wasn’t bad, either.

    • Richard Friedman 4:39 pm on Friday, February 27, 2009, 4:39 pm Permalink

      I was going to add that at Bach’s time the Church was the biggest employer for the arts. So I’m not surprised that so much great music and art is “religious”. But David is right. This was mostly work-for-hire, and they would have produced great music even if it wasn’t the Church. So much of Mozart’s music was done for the aristocracy in Salzburg and only indirectly for the Church.

    • Chris Becker 5:08 pm on Friday, February 27, 2009, 5:08 pm Permalink

      Well I’m not arguing your points about Bach although everything I know about the man indicates he was “religious”. But I said (carefully) in my response “religious faith” not religious institutions.

      And we can consider a broader spectrum of composers and musicians beyond Bach can’t we?

      Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
      Leonard Bernstein
      Elvis Presley
      John Coltrane
      Albert Ayler
      Olivier Messiaen
      Sister Rosetta Tharpe
      Osvaldo Golijov

      In fact, it may be that religion has helped “mankind” reach some of its potential or at least provided a means of navigating the journey of a creative life.

      I’m just not comfortable comparing religion to mad cow disease.

      However, George Carlin brings me to tears…I saw him live when I was a teenager but I appreciate him so much more now that I’m 40.

    • Richard Friedman 5:18 pm on Friday, February 27, 2009, 5:18 pm Permalink

      I understand religious feeling. I think I am confining my remarks to Religions with a capital R.

      It’s the conformity to Religion, which has been at times forced by societies to tragic ends, that I object to.

      Believe what you will (e.g. the Giant Pumpkin), but don’t force your belief system on anyone. And, as Carlin says, keep it to yourself. (And I’m using the plural form of ‘you’ here.)

      That said, I am strongly devoted to Messiaen’s music, for example. The textual references have little, in my mind, to do with the effect the music makes on me. Because, my belief system extends to the idea that music means nothing outside itself. It just is.

    • Chris Becker 7:42 pm on Friday, February 27, 2009, 7:42 pm Permalink

      “And, as Carlin says, keep it to yourself.”

      Right. But George Carlin would also frown upon self-censorship. And I in my experience, a certain level of self-censorship does exist in the creative music community when it comes to matters of religious practice. There are exceptions to this – maybe the so-called Radical Jewish Culture scene in New York which produced some very lively cultural debate (in addition to some incredible music). But speaking openly about religious belief systems, rituals, and faith will often get you some pretty sarcastic, intolerant, mean spirited responses – as if you’re telling people you sincerely believe in Santa Claus (or, “the Great Pumpkin”).

      I just think we need to check ourselves once in awhile so we don’t find we’ve become just as “intolerant” as the Rabbi David describes.

    • dtoub 9:24 pm on Friday, February 27, 2009, 9:24 pm Permalink

      I don’t think any of us are suggesting we ban religion or otherwise become intolerant of the religious among us. That said, I’m with Richard. I’ve long been able to get past Messiaen’s hyperreligiosity (which I suspect was some manifestation of his neurological anomaly that also gave him synesthesia, the ability to “hear” colors) because his music transcends all the religious context. The Vingt Regardsare great music, irrespective of their religious basis.

      I’m not sure what radical Jewish culture you’re referring to, but radical anything usually isn’t a good thing. In terms of other composers who wrote religious music, Bernstein and Stravinsky’s weakest works, I think, were the ones with religious contexts (Kaddish has some great moments, but is one of the most overindulgent works I’ve heard since Turangalila). Bloch wrote some great things that were based in religion, but his best music is the stuff that has nothing to do with his Jewish background. One of the great tragedies, I think, is that Bloch got typecast as a “Jewish composer” (so Bach, I guess, was a “Christian composer?”) and that totally eclipsed his much greater, and much edgier, non-religious music. Again, religion has nothing whatsoever to do with writing great music. If anything, I think there’s greater potential for religion to fuck it up.

    • J.C. Combs 1:13 am on Saturday, February 28, 2009, 1:13 am Permalink

      Composers and religion are horrible examples. First off, composition IS NOT science. Not scientific. Math?? sure. But we know the Islamic faith was into that as well.

      Anyway, I think its pretty fair to say that many well known composers have been either (as stated above) working for the church (who knows their true intentions when their work would have been surely cut off for not believing) and secondly the other composers were mentally ill. Mental illness goes along only too well with fanatical religious zealotsy, I know this only too well. You can ask my friend (or ex-friend who believes I’m going to fry in hell) why he jumped off that bridge because God told him to. He’s not inclined to the arts, but there have been many artists who attribute their hallucinations to God and in turn become quite annoyingly religious.

    • Chris Becker 9:52 am on Saturday, February 28, 2009, 9:52 am Permalink

      David: Maybe music inspired by religious faith to your ears “transcends” religious dogma? So that even if you yourself do not believe in a God, that doesn’t mean you can’t be inspired by a piece of music composed by someone who does?

      Can we entertain the notion that each of the composers I named (and there are many more) can speak or spoke about religion, theology, and history with a level of sophistication that would baffle Sarah Palin or (ugh) the current governor of Louisiana?

      JC, do you think its possible that there may exist composers and artists who believe in God who are not 1.) under the duress of a religious institution and/or 2.) mentally ill?

      “…but radical anything usually isn’t a good thing.”

      Well…what about radical composers?

      Like me!

      I don’t think the Radical Jewish Culture I referred to had a formal organized agenda – it was more of a loose collection of Jewish composers from many musical spheres (not just jazz, but so-called new music, hardcore, dub, klezmer, etc) who found a way to explicitly refer to their Jewish heritage and history (and all the variety contained therein) via their musical output. http://www.tzadik.com That said, I have read interviews with Elliot Sharp and Marc Ribot expressing serious reservations with some things that were born out of this “scene” (specifically, similar levels of intolerance that David describes in his post). So this is not a dogma I’m describing but something more confusing and perhaps the richer for it…

    • dtoub 11:09 am on Saturday, February 28, 2009, 11:09 am Permalink

      Chris, of course I can be inspired by a piece of music composed by someone who is a theist. I love Messiaen like anyone else. But I love it as music, not as a religious experience.

  • dtoub 5:30 pm on Saturday, February 21, 2009, 5:30 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: more waste of bandwidth   


    • As I was riding home on the train from the airport, I caught last night’s video podcast of Countdown. Interesting item about Alan Keyes, to say the least. So Obama’s a “radical communist” who needs to be stopped?

    “Obama is a radical communist and I think it is becoming clear. That is what I told people in Illinois and now everybody realizes it is coming true,” said Keyes who ran unsuccessfully against Obama for the Senate in 2004. “He is going to destroy this country and we are either going to stop him or the United States of America is going to cease to exist,”

    I always knew Keyes was a jackass (I’m being charitable—no disrespect to donkeys, mind you), but this is not only something that suggests desperation. It suggests sedition. What exactly does Keyes mean by “stop him?” And regardless of what he meant, does no one think it can be misinterpreted by some of the crazies out there as marching orders to do some harm to our President? I’m a free speech advocate, but threats against the President do not qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment. Why isn’t Keyes being investigated for this?

    • Eric Holder was correct in saying we’re a nation of cowards for not adequately addressing race in this country. But I also agree with Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton when she writes that Holder didn’t go far enough—he should have indicated what concrete steps his Justice Dept. will do to hold people’s feet to the fire when there is evidence of racial discrimination. It’s great that we have Obama as president, but we’re still hardly a race-blind country. Remember some of the racial attacks on Obama during the campaign, or the “He’s a Muslim” tactic of the far right? And need I mention that NY Post cartoon?
    • Almost done with a new piece for saxophone quartet. Another few days locked up in a hotel in Palo Alto, CA and I should be fine. Now I just have to hope it’s playable by the quartet that asked me to write it…
    • Just received my second replacement set of ProCable earbuds for my iPhone. This one lasted less than two months. The first pair had one channel die on me for no apparent reason, and its replacement has almost no sound in the left channel. To RadTech’s credit, they shipped out a new set that got to me in PA in two days. But they deny there’s an issue. Their consumer forums would suggest otherwise.
  • dtoub 12:15 am on Saturday, February 21, 2009, 12:15 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: flying, travel madness   

    travel tips 

    I travel a lot. Right now, I’m at San Francisco Airport (SFO) writing this as I listen to some music on my laptop and simultaneously download a video podcast of Countdown with Keith Olbermann. I fly on the order of 50% or more each month, and have gone from being a Silver member on US Airways to the Chairman’s level, which just means I get occasional upgrades and better seating options. 

    Flying, as everyone knows, is a nightmare. And I’ve had my share of them. That said, having flown perhaps 150k miles over the past year or so, I’ve gotten into a routine to try to prevent complications as much as possible. Here are some tips, in no particular order.

    • Go to FlightStats and register. This is a great free site that provides comprehensive information about flights, airport delays, etc. It’s indispensable for me. I remember one time getting to an airport gate and wondering why no one was waiting for the plane. Not trusting what the airport kiosk displayed, I went online and checked FlightStats and got the correct gate. That’s how up-to-date its information is.
    • I don’t check luggage. Ever. Unless absolutely necessary. 
    • Because I always have a carryon, it’s critical to get on board sooner than later. On US Airways, at least, good luck with the overhead bins if you’re seated in zone 4 or higher; you won’t get your bags on because everything is full by then. I check the seat options online a few days before I travel, since it is occasionally possible to switch for a better seat, and one where you can board earlier and hopefully get your bag on with you.
    • Unless absolutely impossible, fly direct. The probability of having at least one connection be late or cancelled is not trivial.
    • I avoid the bulkheads if possible, since I’d have to put my laptop case in the overhead bin as well as a carryon suitcase. That doubles the possibility of not having space for your bags.
    • I train it to Philadelphia International from my house, since it’s reliable, relatively inexpensive (much cheaper, at least, than parking the car for several days at PHL), and on weekends always stops near my house on the return leg. It’s also better for the environment.
    • I also try to become familiar with airports I frequent, especially with regard to where AC outlets are. If I’m on a long day flight, like out to SFO, I try to top off my laptop’s battery at the gate.
    • Since I don’t carry a second laptop battery, at least so far, I turn the screen down on my MacBook Pro all the way and make sure WiFi is off. I can get at least 3-3.5 hours of battery life this way, enough for a few TiVo’d episodes of The Daily Show and Colbert. 
    • Be aware of other frequent travelers—you’d be amazed how many people also commute to the other coast for work on a regular basis. 
    • For red eye flights, a travel pillow and eye covers are essential. It’s impossible to sleep when some vantz next to you is keeping the light on all night or the person across from you is watching a DVD on his 17” laptop all night long. And while I’m at it, I also get my iPhone on to a wonderful application called White Noise. I listen to that all night, particularly the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach, and it’s much easier to drown out cabin noise and just sleep.
    • I prefer aisle seats mainly because it’s easier to get off the plane faster. When you have to catch a Septa train home, that’s essential.
    • If I park my car at one of the off-site parking services, I call them as soon as my plane lands. This way, by the time I’m outside the airport, it’s arriving.
    • ks 6:00 am on Saturday, February 21, 2009, 6:00 am Permalink

      Great tips. Although I prefer window seats because it gives me something to lean on. And I never check bags – if it doesn’t fit in a carry-on, I don’t bring it.

  • dtoub 2:29 pm on Thursday, December 25, 2008, 2:29 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: david letterman, dustin hoffman   

    too funny 

    My holiday present to you: I laughed my ass off at this one.

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