Letter From New York August 4, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

As I write this, I am sitting outside, on the deck, overlooking Claverack Creek, sunlight glinting off water so clear the bottom of the creek is visible; cicadas thrum in the woods that surround the cottage, NPR plays on the radio, amusing and informing me.

There was no letter last week as on Sunday, when I sat down to write, I found myself locked out of my computer – turns out I needed a keyboard replacement, and so I found myself without my trusty laptop for a week while it was worked on. I discovered myself feeling very edgy, as if I were constantly searching for something I had lost. I write this in my time away from the office and in my time away from the office I did not have my trusty MacBook and found it difficult to work. So, late on Thursday, I was overjoyed when the laptop was returned to me in working condition. Now I have to plow through all the emails that have accumulated to see if there are any I might have missed as I was improvising in finding ways to answer them.

This unfortunate incident happened while I was weekending at the home of my friends, Joyce and Jeffrey, who summer on Martha’s Vineyard and had generously invited me to spend some time with them there. It was while I was languidly sitting on their veranda, soaking in the beauty of the water lapping on the boats at anchor in Edgartown harbor while listening to the coughing splutter of the launches puttering from boat to boat that this misfortune befell me and, at first, I felt it was a sign from the universe that I shut off work and continue my literary indulgence of reading Sherlock Holmes short stories, digestible bites of innocent intellectual satisfaction.

Returning to work, it was another story, certainly more painful and certainly revelatory in the degree of dependence I have upon my main digital device – deprivation from which was quite like, I suspect, being denied a necessary medication upon which one has become dependant for functioning. In other words, unpleasant.

While I was somewhat disconnected from the digital universe, the universe itself continued on…

Chelsea Clinton got married to her long time beau, Mark Mezvinsky, on Saturday in the lovely Hudson Valley hamlet of Rhinebeck, an event I noticed mostly because my Friday train home crawled out from Rhinecliff Station [Amtrak stop for Rhinebeck]. The train tracks apparently run directly along the edges of the estate where they were married and there was concern some luckless paparazzi would lose his or her footing while crawling on the embankments over the tracks and end up on them rather than above them.

Vastly more important than the Clinton wedding was the leak of tens of thousands of secret Afghan documents by Wikileaks.org, a website devoted to, well, leaks… From what I’ve cleaned, it is a site run by volunteers, 1200 around the world, and led by a man named Julian Assange, a former hacker out of Australia. They didn’t uncover the information; they simply published it. The actual whistleblower is suspected to be a 22-year old soldier who allegedly smuggled classified information out of his office disguised as Lady Gaga albums. He then provided them to Wikileaks and then Wikileaks made an alliance with the New York Times, the U.K.’s Guardian and Germany’s Der Spiegel and the rest is history…

Secretary Gates has questioned the morality of what they have done – names were named and it is possible, perhaps even highly likely, there will be reprisals. The leaked documents raise the question of whether or not the Pakistanis are working with us or against us. Apparently the documents can be read either way. The Administration points out, perhaps futilely, that the documents are all at least two years old, all 80,000 of them. What they do, it seems, is provide a history of the Afghan War, a long and bitter fight from which we are far from finished.

They are also a testament to the changes being wrought by the technology we utilize; thousands of documents can find their place in the sun with a single keystroke, igniting controversy and providing more information than we would have been able to obtain in another age, all because someone seemed to be using Lady Gaga for cover…

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