Archive for July, 2010

Letter From New York, July 19, 2010

July 19, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

Another week, another celebrity meltdown… This past week, we’ve been privileged to learn more about Mel Gibson’s private life than we ever wanted to know as his now ex-girlfriend released alleged tapes of his mad phone calls to her – so full of invective and threats and just plain craziness that most of America threw up their arms in disbelief. Sounding more like a love crazed teenager than a fifty something year old man, Gibson’s ranting so alienated people that his talent agency, William Morris Endeavor, dropped him from their list of clients. It is so bad that pundits have declared his career dead even as he finishes a film directed by Jodi Foster. I’ve never been a fan of Mr. Gibson’s; I do find this public descent painful to watch, embarrassing and sad though many feel he is only getting his just disserts.

There are thankfully signs of hope down in the Gulf of Mexico. The most recent cap on the leaking well seems to be holding though everyone is cautious. BP’s comments are very careful, in consideration of the number of gaffes it has produced in the months since the Deepwater Horizon caught fire and sank. Doug Suttles, BP COO, who when describing the apparent success of this cap, was so careful with his words that it was a bit hard to decipher the good news contained in them. If all continues to go well, the flow may stay contained all the way through the completion of the additional wells that are being drilled to seal the leak.

Against the good news, there was a scary story I found on Google News that sounded a bit like the conspiracy theory of the week – apparently the reason that both the government and BP are keeping the press so far away from everything to do with the oil spill is that they are concerned we will all find out that the real problem isn’t the leaking oil but all the methane that is building up. 55,000,000 years ago the planet Earth went through an extinction level event because of methane going boom! in the Gulf of Mexico area. Pretty much wiped out life on the planet as it was known then and this article was worried about a repeat. This is something I need to consult with my friend Howard Bloom on – he knows more than anyone else I know. More later, after I talk with him.

While the drilling continues into the earth to stop the Gulf Oil Spill from continuing, and while some are worried about the methane being disturbed by the drilling, the technology pundits keep turning attention on the elegant new iPhone 4 which has reception problems. There is an antenna fault and attempts to dismiss it as a software glitch haven’t gone down so well. Owners of iPhone 4 [I’m not, yet] are being given covers that mask the problem. Consumer Reports informs us that duct tape works as well – thank god for duct tape. Though this all seems “much ado about nothing.”

Last week we had Russian spies going back to Moscow; this week we have an Iranian defector un-defecting and going back to Tehran. He says the U.S. kidnapped him, but we deny that. Apparently he leaves behind $5 million we gave him for information. Certainly he is going to be facing lots of questions now that he is back at home and I suspect not all of them will be pleasant.

Elena Kagan will be coming up for confirmation this week. Argentina has become the 9th country to legalize gay marriage. George Steinbrenner, “The Boss” of the Yankees passed away after a colorful career as a team owner. More suicide attacks in Baghdad. Nelson Mandela celebrated his 92nd birthday. Louis Oosthuizen won the British Open. Busy week this past week, lots of news, good and bad.

Me? I enjoyed the fawn that crossed my path in Claverack this morning and the family of geese that waddled across the yard on their way down to the creek. I celebrate those moments while pondering the methane down in the Gulf…

Letter From New York July 11 2010

July 11, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

Who has been able to miss the endless replays of Lindsay Lohan breaking down in court as she was sentenced to three months of jail time plus three months of rehab? This train wreck has been happening for a time but only really broke through to my world when her sentencing became “breaking news,” causing me a moment of bemusement as certainly her sentencing to 90 days jail time didn’t strike me as “breaking news” worthy but, hey, I am not an editor trying to get ratings while living as we do in a celebrity fueled culture.

I suspect there is going to be some culture shock for the ten Russian spies –oh wait, excuse me, unregistered agents for a foreign government – who are now in Russia after a spy swap on the tarmac in Vienna in a scene worthy of a decent spy novel. Ten of theirs for four of ours. This has been going on for twelve days. New York tabloids have been smitten with one, Anna Chapman. Ready made for tabloid fodder, she is a beautiful red head looking as if she could have been cast as a Bond girl. With a taste for the high life, a fixation about bedding the sons of Princess Diana and an ex-husband who sold racy pictures of her to the papers as well as salacious stories of their sex life, she was front-page tabloid fare if ever there was. The NY Post trumpeted we should keep her when news of the swap leaked out. We didn’t; she’s in Moscow though I suspect we haven’t heard the last of her. She had “stardust” as far as the tabloids were concerned.

Both governments played the swap in a very low key fashion; relations are getting better between us and them; no one seemed in the mood to let a little old fashioned espionage get in the way of thawing the chilliness that had come during the Bush years. When looking at pictures of the American plane in Vienna I wondered who was Vision Airlines? Apparently an airline used by the U.S. for special trips like this – or for renditions, of which they have been suspected.

There are no suspicions about this being a dangerous world. Suicide bombers have been striking in Iraq and Pakistan. I found myself staring for a long time at a photo in the Financial Times of a father in Iraq carrying his dead infant son. It is a scene repeated too often in that part of the world.

The Gulf states are repeating a Day of Prayer this Sunday; it may be there is some good news in the offing. BP is starting a new effort to cap the well and if everything goes well this could actually contain the flow. I am sure nearly everyone will be praying that all goes well. The oil spill now covers an area about the size of Belgium. Oh, heck, Belgium is just a tiny country…

Not far from the real Belgium, new technology literally had its moment in the sun when the Solar Impulse, a plane powered entirely by the sun, flew for twenty-six hours over Switzerland, safely landing at dawn after having flown all night on stored energy. It is a glimmer of energy hope.

On the medical horizon there has also been a glimmer of hope; some advances have been announced this week in the search for an HIV vaccine, a disease that still ravages even as we have grown better at extending the life of its victims.

A friend of mine told me she no longer reads the papers because the news is so grim. Though grim it is, there are those glimmers that lift our hearts like the solar plane soaring or a small movement towards stopping a disease that has killed millions, including my friend Richard Easthouse, who I still miss and am haunted by the desecration the disease worked on his body.

So the news cycle clicks on; a mixture of good and bad, of things that give hope and provide despair.

Letter From New York July 4, 2010

July 4, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

Sometime during the Graduation Ceremony for the Hudson High School Class of 2010, I thought that everyone should attend a high school graduation once in awhile. The entire ceremony was an uplifting, enlightening moment in time, inspiring and hopeful, reminding me of some of the many good things that are happening in the world.

I was there was because I had been invited by Christopher Wollcott, a graduate of the 2010 class of Hudson High School. I have known Christopher since he was about ten years old. I first met him on a Saturday morning at my favorite bistro, the Red Dot. I was having brunch on a rainy day and Alana, the owner, had found he and his sister out wandering in the rain. She brought them in. They sat at a table and dried out. I don’t know whether that was the first time he was at the Dot but he has been pretty much a fixture around there ever since. He graduated from odd jobs to bus boy to waiter all the while guided by Alana, who took him under her personal wing. I love Alana, not the least for what she has done for Christopher.

He was a kid who might have not made it through high school. He could have been one of the ones who dropped out. Certainly, many of his friends didn’t make it all the way through. But Christopher did.

He eventually came with me on Saturday afternoons, helping me with errands, stacking wood, sorting things for me from business – a little of this, a lot of that and always cheerful company. As he grew, he developed into a responsible young man. He is special and has won the support of many a folk. Dini and Wendle, who own one of the town’s B&B’s, have had him work for them. Steve and Judi have helped him get the orthodontic work he needed. He is a loved person. And he loves back.

So it was with a great deal of emotion that I walked into the auditorium of Hudson High School. We stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and I found my heartstrings pulled. When the National Anthem was sung, tears came to my eyes. There were speeches by the Principal and the local State Assemblyman. The Principal called the Class of 2010 a special class, one of loving individuals. They seemed to be all of that. They made national news when they elected two gay boys the King and Queen of the Prom. There were no outraged protests from anyone, either at school or in the town. The Class was giving a nod to two of their own, with perhaps a wry wink.

The Valedictorian was a young man from Bangladesh who had arrived in Hudson at the beginning of his freshman year, unable to speak more than a few words of English. Hard work, very hard work, had propelled him to the top of his class. The Salutatorian was a young lady who thanked her family, all of them, from mother and father to step-mother and step-father, brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters.

The crowd stood and applauded as a high school diploma was granted to a Viet Nam vet who had never gotten one. There was a moment of silence when the parents of a student who had died during the year came to the stage to accept an honorarium from the Class of 2010.

The diplomas were given out. Several high-spirited young men moon danced their way back to their seats after picking up their diplomas. Cheers were given when the last diploma was handed out and the crowd, as one, stood to give a standing ovation to the Class of 2010, about to go on to the next phase of their lives.

It was altogether a fabulously moving experience, one that will resonate with me for a long time to come because it brought together so many good things: patriotism, love, generosity, caring, mourning, celebrating, exuberance all married together in one afternoon in America.