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Reader feedback - 11-15-06 

The mail


As a conservative Republican who has been involved politically, both as a candidate for public office and in party leadership, I am appalled and frustrated by the recent election. The electorate overwhelmingly repudiated the policies of the Bush administration, especially so in regard to the Iraq war, where billions of dollars continue to be squandered, along with the tragic loss of lives, in a conflict that offers little if any semblance of being resolved.

As a conservative, I bemoan this ill-advised waste of finances and heartily endorse the "cut and run" approach to Iraq rather than the Bush "stay the course" policy that can, if continued, ultimately bankrupt our nation.

It is indeed clear that the current Republican brain trust has failed miserably, as evidenced by the loss of both the House and the Senate. The need for restructuring is clearly evident if the GOP is to maintain its role as a viable force in national politics and avoid a future debacle like that which characterized the 2006 election results.

Raymond Lee Snider, Garson Avenue, Rochester (Snider is a former Monroe County Conservative Party chair.)


I can't stand it anymore. Moshe Safdie comes to town, serves up half-baked ideas ---a cylindrical shape for a new theater (has he never been to Toronto's nuclear silo, Roy Thomson Hall, just renovated for over $6 million to replace atrocious acoustics?), reducing a 400-seat hall to 200 for flippant reasons --- and local "leaders" go "Ooo" and "Ahh."

What gets me most is the acquiescence of the area's arts establishment. They're the same cowards who were on a planning committee for new theaters. The head of the committee, Thomas Mooney, swore them to secrecy and threatened to throw them out if they divulged anything to the media. And they agreed.

The committee ignorantly dictated that Rochester should build a 2800-seat theatre for the Rochester Broadway Theater League, something that will not benefit a single local artist but only RBLT, which brings five or six road shows to town a year. So now the arts establishment accepts this as gospel and moans about needing to raise money for what it desperately needs: a 1500-1800-seat theater to accommodate the Rochester Philharmonic, Garth Fagan Dance, Rochester City Ballet, and possibly Mercury Opera. The money is already there, if they've got the testosterone to go for it by submarining plans for an unneeded road house.

The Eastman Theatre is gorgeous and comfortable but an acoustical disaster for the RPO, with inadequate stage space for large shows.

My recent visits to six new halls, including two openings, have been highly instructive. The Nashville Symphony's new home is not what Rochester needs, because it's a single-purpose orchestra hall in which dance and opera wouldn't work. But how the people in Nashville got it built is most instructive.

1) They knew what they wanted.

2) They got out of town. The powers-that-be took a private jet, visited seven halls in six days hearing five concerts, and returned knowing that Vienna's Muskverein and Amsterdam's Concertegouw halls were their models.

3) Their architect and acoustician worked together from the start. To do otherwise is to plan for failure (as in Philadelphia).

Results: They built their hall on time and on budget ($123 million). As the architect and acoustician said at the opening, "The best halls result from clients who know what they want."

The Ferguson Center for the Arts, opened just a year ago on the campus of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, is what Rochester wants: a 1700-seat, visually sumptuous theater for orchestra and ballet whose acoustics have a visceral impact, an equally sumptuous 400-seat theater for drama, and a black-box theater whose 170 seats can be arranged in any manner. And from the outside it's stunning, too.

Cost: $56 million, thanks to an architect and acoustician who knew how to skimp without compromising acoustics, visual esthetics, or comfort for the audience or performers.

Not until the leaders of the RPO, Garth Fagan (why they even bother staying in town is a mystery), and Rochester City Ballet band together and go for the money that is already there, then "get out of town" and come home with firm ideas, and finally hire an architect and acoustician who work together --- not until then will they get the theater that Rochester truly needs to be built. They'd better hurry.

Gil French, Wisconsin Street, Rochester(French is Music in Concert editor of American Record Guide, which reviews classical music CDs and performances.)


Atheist Sam Harris appears stuck in anti-religious mode ("One Nation Without God," October 18). The rigidity he decries goes far beyond religions, and further, religions may offer some insight into life.

"There's no question that religion emerges from deeply ingrained cognitive traits...." No, in a recent speech Steven Pinker acknowledged, "The universal propensity toward religious belief is a genuine scientific puzzle." He also points out that the simple (adaptationist) explanations for religion don't make sense. That we are born with a divided sense of body and soul (Paul Bloom, "Decartes Baby"), coupled with our ability to re-experience this profoundly in near-death experiences, is noteworthy.

"[Religion is] one of the principal impediments to developing a genuinely sustainable global civilization." Please! The main challenge to sustainability is that we humans innately could care less about it. Hopefully, governments will pressure us toward sustainable behavior, if only for the sake of future humans.

Is there a better model for sustainable living then that of the (religious) Jains? Furthermore, perhaps the most striking national move was directed by Iran's religious leaders in reducing fertility from 7 to 2 kids per couple. I don't buy the underlying argument that non-religious people are more moral.

To blame religion for violence, you would have to separate it out from our underlying violent tendencies. Look at religion-free nature. The long terrorizing, suicide-bomb-using, Tamil Tigers are not religious. A better approach to the war on terror would be to stop using Middle East oil (a good way to jump-start climate responsibility), exit the region, and find better things to do. Without the support of oil money, what would happen to the jihad scene?

Finally, consider the support for a common religious belief, the continuity from life to life ("metempsychosis" in my encyclopedia). Some children are born with remarkable knowledge of a previous person's life and correlated behavior (Jim Tucker, "Life Before Life"). Over half the variation in personality is not explained by genes or environment (Judith Rich Harris, "No Two Alike"). This is most visible with conjoined (always monozygotic) twins: they're remarkably different. Finally, there appears to be almost no connection between genes and longevity ( This also appears to be true for other animals.

These are huge, mostly off-limits mysteries for science, but not for many religions. A Hindu, for example, could see the health-gene disconnect as a footprint of karma. Evidence for "metempsychosis" could certainly boost interest in sustainability.

Ted Christopher, Lilac Drive, Rochester


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