Archive for May, 2015

Letter From New York 05 31 15 Musings on a dark and sullen day…

May 31, 2015

It is a dark and sullen day; at ten in the morning it looks as if night is about to fall. The sky is dark and leaden. Wind whips through the trees outside my bedroom windows. Rain fell in the night, puddling on the deck outside.

After a troubled night’s sleep, perhaps from caffeine too late in the day, I woke early and have begun to do household duties. The second load of laundry is already in the washer and I am deep into my reading of the Sunday NY Times. The chimes of the clock in the foyer have just sounded the top of the hour.

While I was in Delhi, I learned that its air was the worst of any city in the world, worse than Beijing. This morning’s Times had a story about the terrible Delhi air effect it has, particularly, on children. I thought of my friends there, Raja and Jag, whose daughter, Noor, is eight. She has trouble with the air sometimes and, as I recall, needs an inhaler.

Sidelines at soccer games are littered with inhalers, the report said. India has 13 of the top 25 polluted cities. Beijing, which I had always thought was number one, is actually 79th.

The cost to children in such polluted cities is hard to calculate but it is huge, with permanent damage being done to the most vulnerable in the population. It is a sobering fact.

While the day is dark and sullen, the air in the Hudson Valley is absolutely pristine compared to places such as Delhi.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of Narendra Modi’s election to Prime Minister of India. For the most part, he seems to be getting good marks though in the religious diversity arena he gets rather poor marks. His party, the BJP, is avidly pro-Hindu and after his election there were forced conversions and attacks on churches across India. He remained too quiet about the matter until prodded by President Obama during his State visit there earlier this year. The Ford Foundation has been put on a security watch list because it has funded an Indian group that has had conversations about religious violence. 9000 NGO’s have had their licenses cancelled.

Not a good way to project its mantle as the world’s largest democracy.

Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, succumbed yesterday to brain cancer at the age of 46. He was a promising politician and was planning on running for Governor next year. He had served a tour of duty in Iraq with the National Guard. It feels as we have been deprived of what might have been a valuable future voice.

Secretary of State John Kerry broke his leg in France while bicycling and is now on his way to Boston for treatment by the same doctor who replaced his hip. The peripatetic Mr. Kerry has been on the road for 356 of the last 365 days. This will tie him down for a while and he will be attending at least one conference by video link.

In Nepal, the country is attempting to return to some form of normalcy. Schools have been reopening while remote villages still struggle to get supplies. Normalcy is a long way away for that country but the first steps are being made.

A magnitude 8.1 earthquake shook Japan yesterday with 12 injured but no major damage. Still it was the sixth largest earthquake since 1885.

“San Andreas” set off a tremor at the Box Office, bringing in $53 plus million over the weekend, while Bradley Cooper’s “Aloha” bombed. We love our disaster films, apparently, especially with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The U.S. and China have toned the rhetoric down a bit about the artificial islands being created in the South China Sea but we’re a LONG way to any kind of resolution.

With my second load of laundry done, I am going to depart for the Red Dot and my usual Sunday brunch there, perhaps adding what I can to the weekly solving of the NY Times Crossword Puzzle – and that usually isn’t much.

Good Sunday, all!

Letter From New York 05 29 15 Riding up the Hudson, ruminating on the world…

May 30, 2015

It is a stunningly beautiful day as I ride the train north, having slipped out of town early. To my left, the Hudson runs wide with sun glints coming off the silver grey surface of the water. It is sunny and warm, with a soft breeze blowing with low humidity. Saturday will probably be like this though there is rain in the forecast for Sunday with cooler temperatures.

My mood is better today; I feel less weighted by the world and its events. I feel more accepting that there is ONLY so much I can do individually and that as long as I feel I am doing that, I can breathe a little easier.

It is still a crazy world. In my home state of Minnesota, a Muslim couple was picking up their son at the home of one of his friends. While waiting for him in the car, they were approached by a woman with a rifle who forced them out of the car and marched them at gunpoint to the house where they told her their son was so that they could prove it to her.

The boy was there.

The woman is facing charges of assault, terroristic threats, terroristic threats-reckless endangerment and maybe some more.

This kind of occurrence just strikes me as so un-Minnesota like. You know, Minnesota nice, it’s baked into us.

She must have skipped that part of the cultural indoctrination.

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is being charged with lying to the FBI about cash withdrawals from banks that allegedly were going to “Individual A.” Apparently, Hastert was paying hush money to a man for inappropriate behavior years ago when he was a schoolteacher and a wrestling coach. Everyone who knows the Former Speaker is shocked as he always was a “stand-up” kind of guy.

He has made no statements but has resigned from his law firm and from the Board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

In reading about this I was reminded that the Speaker of the House is second in succession for the Presidency. The thought of John Boehner being two heartbeats away from the Presidency is sobering, at least to me.

In the midst of probably the worst sports scandal in the last century, FIFA President Sepp Blatter was re-elected. While it seems unbelievable to me, he had a lot of support from Africa and South America, enough to propel him back for another term. The aftershocks of this affair will continue for a long time and there may be more arrests.

Cuba has been taken off the list of states that sponsor terrorism, paving the way for the normalization of relations. Visiting Cuba is on my bucket list, has been since I read Hemingway who had a home there.

Dressed in a burka, an IS devotee blew himself up at a mosque in Saudi Arabia, killing four, including himself.

In Pakistan, gunmen hijacked buses and ended in a battle with security forces. Nineteen civilians were killed.

North Korea, widely suspected of the hack attack against Sony Pictures, has something called Bureau 121, a cadre of 6000 hackers devoted to discovering ways to create digital trouble. Apparently, many of them operate out of China, some in the basement of well-reviewed restaurant.

Not a happy thought.

Out in California Michael Jackson’s fantasyland named “Neverland“ is for sale for $100,000,000. But now it’s called Sycamore Valley Ranch. It’s a stunning place for those who have a spare hundred mil.

The rain ravaged states of Texas and Oklahoma are going to be receiving drinking water from the breweries of Anheuser-Busch, which halted production of beer at one plant in Georgia and switched to canning drinking water, which is desperately needed. At least thirty-seven are dead in the two states.

Amazon is planning to create its own private label for a variety of foods. Called Elements, its first products were diapers and baby wipes. It is also opening data centers in Ohio that will employ about a thousand people. Amazon just keeps on growing…

Ross Ulbricht, creator of Silk Road, a dark Internet site for the sale of drugs, was sentenced to life in prison today.

The train is rolling into Hudson and I need to gather my things up and make my way over to my car for the short drive home before dinner at the Dot!

Letter From New York 05 28 15 Things that make me cringe and things that make me smile…

May 28, 2015

I both look forward to the moment in the day when I write my blog and also dread facing the blank digital piece of paper on my screen. Usually, it’s a time to wrap my head around the world and do a bit of sorting out.

Today I am feeling a bit more dread than usual and I’m not sure why. Is it because I have fears about the state of the world today and don’t want to face the news? I’m doing one post a week, at least, on my field, media. I post it on LinkedIn then, too, and it’s been getting some reads.

The media today is filled with the FIFA fallout. Some brands are nervous but no one has cancelled yet while everyone is watching to see what everyone else is going to do.

I wake up in the morning, most days in the city. I have my morning cup of coffee, having cut down from three to one and, with the background of city noises, read from the New York Times and generally take a look at the news on my BBC iPhone app.

Finding out that Boko Haram is using girls they have captured as suicide bombers doesn’t brighten my day – at all. Nor does the plight of women in most countries. Today there was an article on how Tunisian women have endured years of violence, cruelty and rape from the police of that country. The Indian rape problem is well known and well documented and mostly not spoken about there.

Though the Brits have just named the first female Vice-Chancellor of Oxford. Good for them.

There are things in the news that brighten my day. The French have passed a law that rooftops on new buildings must either have a garden or be equipped with solar panels. That makes me smile.

It doesn’t make me smile to know that Putin has declared military deaths a state secret – another step in his plans to keep the lid on Ukraine. Independent researchers using YouTube, Google Street View, Instagram, Twitter and Russia’s version of Facebook, have concluded that the Russians are conducting military moves in the rebellious east. It’s been done by the Atlantic Council, a Washington based research center. It’s all open source data and that’s the kind of thing that makes Vladimir seethe.

Not making me seethe was a glowing report in the U.K.’s Daily Mail, on today’s Royal Garden Party for 8000 held on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. The Queen, accompanied by a bevy of her family, wandered around greeting people, including a 92-year-old survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The Queen will visit there when she makes a state trip to Germany. It sounded so British and regal and so comforting and very, very far away from the fighting that is consuming other parts of the world.

500 bodies were exhumed from mass graves in Iraq while IS killed twenty more at the ruins of Palmyra.

Perhaps we should feel better that the Al Qaeda chief in Syria has no plans to attack the West? He has received instructions from Al Qaeda central, wherever that is, not to but if the bombing keeps up, who knows?

What is also fearsome out there in the world is Mother Nature. People are digging out in Texas even as it continues to rain. In India, 1500 have died in the current heat wave and hospitals are being asked to make victims of the heat their priority.

And lest we forget, aid has still not reached some of the remoter parts of Nepal, which is now trying to get back to some normalcy though it will take years. Classes are being held under tarps, with the first weeks devoted to play and talking about the earthquake that ravaged the country. Many schools were destroyed and those standing have been used as shelters. Three million people are homeless in Nepal. The World Food Program has hired 20,000 porters to carry supplies to where the roads have gone.

$423 million was pledged to Nepal but only a little over $9 million has arrived.

In the tech world, Yahoo will have to face a class action lawsuit for spying on people’s emails in order to better target advertising. Google is going deeper into Virtual Reality.

What is not virtually real but actually real is that I need to clear up and go off to a meeting.

It’s a wild world out there. I think a martini is in order.

Letter From New York 05 27 15 FIFA in trouble with Germany “a bordello”

May 27, 2015

It is a warm day in New York City, a day that started cloudy and is ending with sun shining down. In not so very long, I’ll be off to a restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen to meet my friend Caroline Ely for a drink. It’s been awhile since we have seen each other and time to catch up.

While drinking my morning coffee, the news was being splashed all over the place that FIFA officials had been arrested early in the morning in Zurich, Switzerland. The Swiss made the arrests in an understated way, giving the men time to dress and gather their belongings and, in at least one case, had the hotel staff hold up a sheet to shield the arrestee from the news people who had started to gather.

It’s another blow to FIFA, an organization that has been dogged by rumors of corruption for years. American officials are seeking the extradition of a number of FIFA officials for having taken over $150,000,000 in bribes, “year after year, tournament after tournament,” according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

In Texas, hundreds have been ordered to evacuate after at least fifteen people have died in weather related accidents, as storms pounded the state with torrential rains. Oklahoma, too, is suffering from the pounding from Mother Nature, who, my friend and writer, Howard Bloom, has pointed can be a b**tch.

The Republican race for the Presidential nomination has become more crowded now that Rick Santorum, last seen in 2012, has thrown his hat into the ring also. There will be enough of them soon that they can form their own team though I don’t think they will want to as they’ve got some intense competition going on between them. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana set off a storm when he tweeted that Rand Paul was unfit to be Commander in Chief.

I don’t see the two of them cooperating on the field of play.

Jindal is only thinking about joining the Republican fray but it’s likely he will. Rand Paul is already in.

The Vatican has declared that the Irish vote to constitutionalize same sex marriage is a “defeat for humanity.” I feel a little defeated that they feel that way.

The Queen, Elizabeth II of Great Britain, arrived today in great pomp and circumstance to deliver “The Queen’s Speech,” which she has done sixty times during her reign. Before she arrives, the Houses of Parliament have their basement swept by the Queen’s Guard to ensure there is no Guy Fawkes in waiting. He led the Gun Powder Plot in 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament.   He has a day named after him in England.

What the Queen said was dictated by what Cameron wants but it gets said with such grand style.

Tony Blair, once Great Britain’s Prime Minister, has been, for the last eight years, the envoy to the Middle East. He will step down next month. He resigned to Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the UN. He had been working on the behalf of the Quartet [Great Britain, the European Union, the United States and Russia]. Diplomacy gets complicated.

Angela Merkel is the most powerful woman in the world, according to Forbes, ruling a country that has now become known as “the bordello of Europe.” Germany legalized prostitution in 2002 and a huge sex trade has built up worth $16 billion a year. There are fancy places for the prostitutes to practice their trade and sex tourists load onto busses and head for Germany. It doesn’t seem to bother Angela much.

Also in Germany, there was an evacuation of part of Cologne today when WWII bombs were found undetonated while working on a construction project. Apparently happens not infrequently. Something like a thousand bombs were defused last year. They are a hazard out in the North Sea where wind farms are being built. Clearing bombs is more than a cottage industry in Germany.

I had coffee with a friend this morning who told me that Germany blew up two “dirty” nuclear bombs during the final days of the war. I had never heard that and when I attempted to research it, I found stories about it, including one that Hitler was a German traitor, actually an Illuminati and he did what he set out to do, break Germany’s back.

There is a lot out there on the Internet and it’s not all true or pretty. Beware.

And now I am going to publish this and head for drinks with my friend Caroline.

Letter From New York 05 26 15 Of mergers and mania, notes from the media world…

May 26, 2015

The sun has darted in and out behind clouds all day. I woke up fairly early but had decided not to take my regular train into the city but the one after that; after a long Memorial Day weekend, much spent on the deck watching the creek flow by, I got up, had my morning cup of coffee and started perusing the news.

Pushing to the head of the news today was that Charter Communications will acquire Time-Warner Cable in a deal that is worth about 78 billion dollars, only a few weeks after Comcast withdrew its bid for Time Warner Cable because it looked like it would not receive regulatory approval.

This time the chances are better. Why? It’s not Comcast that is doing the acquiring but Charter. Comcast also holds lots of other assets besides its cable assets, including a small company called NBC Universal.

In the interesting and byzantine world of cable, Charter’s largest shareholder is Liberty Media, a company controlled by John Malone, a cable pioneer who built the nation’s largest cable company, TCI, and sold it to Bell Atlantic back in 1994 for $55 billion.

John Malone’s TCI financially backed and gave carriage to a number of struggling cable networks, including Discovery which has gone on to being its own small behemoth.

In those days, he earned the sobriquets of “Darth Vader” and the “King of Cable.” He dominated the cable business from his office in Denver. Liberty Media is a conglomerate with interests in lots of companies here and abroad. John Malone is personally worth about $8.6 billion and is the largest landowner in America.

The combined companies will be the number two cable and broadband supplier in the country, after Comcast. But the fact that it will only be number two and won’t control about 50% of broadband connections is what will make it easier for regulators to say yes to this while having said no to Comcast.

In the days when cable customers are beginning to shift their loyalty to streaming services such as Netflix, cable operators are seeking partners to bulk up to face the challenge.

Recently, European operator Altice purchased Suddenlink, a smaller cable company. It will be interesting to see who is where when the music stops.

The music stopped for ITV’s purchase of The Weinstein’s TV division. Too caught up in the movie business of the Weinstein brothers and ITV has no appetite for the film business.

This story is days old but keeps repeating. Media bosses make good paychecks, especially if you work with a company that has John Malone on the board. Several of the companies that Liberty is invested in have CEO’s who have rich compensation packages.

David Zaslav of Discovery Communications, in which Liberty has an interest, is the highest paid exec of a publicly traded company. He earned something like $156,000,000 last year, after extending his contract.

Breathtaking.

As we move into the negotiations for advertising next year, in what is called “the upfront” there are a couple of trends to be noted. One is that traditional TV dollars are down while digital is growing strongly, 21%.

Big brands are having a tough time in packaged goods. Consumers are beginning to gravitate to smaller brands that feel more “authentic” than say P&G or Clorox. It’s going to be a tough fight out there over the next few years for the hearts and minds of consumers, particularly in latching on to young consumers who are consuming media in such different ways.

Kellogg is pulling advertising from YouTube until they get better numbers, a blow for the service. They want someone like a Nielsen to come in and verify the numbers. The trend is growing and Kraft Foods is saying its probably going to follow suit with some platforms.

Branded entertainment is growing but is still a fraction of traditional advertising. It’s still hard to get some buyers to buy.

Cowen and Company, a research company, is predicting that by 2020 Netflix will have one hundred million subscribers and about 17 billion dollars in revenue, domestically and internationally.

They have just acquired all the 1990’s episodes of “Bill Nye The Science Guy.” Go Netflix.

Being a Netflix fan I will probably go home after a bite or two at a favorite place and watch something off the service.

Have a good evening everyone!

Letter From New York 05 24 15 Remembering 9/11

May 24, 2015

The sun is beginning to set in the Hudson Valley, after a brilliant day that was perfect, the sky is now grey with the portends of rain that are indicated for tomorrow.

I have had a wonderful day. I woke early, read the NY Times and then went down to Christ Church in Hudson for their Sunday service. It is Pentecost, with lots of incense and circumstance.

There is a family that often sits in front of me. A mother, father, daughter, grandchild, usually there in the pew in front of mine. I noticed today that the father was on crutches. I was going to ask him what had happened when I realized his right leg had been amputated below the knee. It was far more serious than I had realized. And while I know them from their often being in the pew in front of me, I didn’t think I knew them well enough to ask what had happened.

I am a frequent attender of services at Christ Church but not quite a member of their community.

From there I went to the Red Dot for lunch,; Eggs Benedict on potato latkes. It was, as always, exquisite. I went from there to Ca’Mea, where I greeted my good friend Larry Divney and then went to my friend James Linkin’s house. We sat and chatted and came back to the cottage and sat and watched the creek flow by; the neighbor’s dogs plunged joyfully into the creek.

Since the dogs have arrived, the deer have gone. I miss the deer. They are afraid of the dogs.

Susan, Jim’s wife, came to join us and I made martinis for us. They went off to have dinner at Vico, a restaurant on Warren Street in Hudson.

I am not sure how we got on the subject but it seemed appropriate for Memorial Day. We began to talk about where we were on 9/11.

Susan had just flown in the night before from Europe. Jim was working. I was up, prepping for a conference call with Brazil. When I was in the shower, I felt something and thought: if I were in California I would think we had just had a small earthquake.

It was, of course, the first plane hitting the first building.

It felt right, this Memorial Day, to be remembering that day. The day when the world changed.

Everything has been different since then. We have a Department of Homeland Security. We have Iraq, the never-ending story. We have IS. We have huge debts. We have so much that it boggles the mind.

The world changed. Forever. I don’t know whether it was for good or bad but the world has changed forever. I suspect not for the good but history will tell.

Letter From New York 05 22 15 Musing on Memorial Day…

May 22, 2015

It is a little after noon on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. I am headed north on the train for the long weekend, planning a restful time at the Cottage. There is a little work that needs to be done around the Cottage and a few things I need to work on but I think I am going to be spending my time this weekend largely on the deck, reading a book.

Right now, I am devouring Erik Larsen’s “Thunderstruck.” I am sure I’ll finish it this weekend after having stayed up later than I planned last night after getting wrapped up in the story of Marconi and a murderer.

As I head north, the Hudson River is choppy and bronze colored. White caps tip the waves as the sun shines down brightly; in the distance a few clouds scud across the horizon. The hills have turned green and we sit on the verge of summer. Against such idyllic circumstances it is not hard to slip away from the world and to focus on the nearby, the familiar and the comfortable. I’m sure many of us will be doing that this weekend.

Memorial Day was established to remember those who died in our armed forces in service to their country. There are over a million men and women who have. It grew out of the devastation of the Civil War in which over 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers had died. Women went out to cemeteries and laid flowers on the graves of those who died. Originating in the south, the custom moved north during the years following the war, becoming a formal holiday in the 20th Century.

As a child, we went on Memorial Day to put flowers on the graves of the grandparents I had never known and on the grave of the brother I would have had if he had not died two days after birth. It felt somber and real and was considered a duty.

Not so much today. We have a more nonchalant attitude today to Memorial Day for the most part; it marks the unofficial beginning of summer with Labor Day marking the unofficial end. It was only in 1971 that it became the last Monday in May. I think I should remember that but I don’t.

I’m not sure that all that many go out to mark the graves of relatives with flowers these days. The VFW and other such organizations see that soldiers’ graves are marked with small flags. It is a tradition in the cemetery on the road to the Cottage. There will be parades.parties, barbecues and picnics, especially parades. It’s a big day for parades.

Hudson may have one but its big parade day is Flag Day. No one has ever explained it to me but that’s the day the City of Hudson pulls out all the parade stops.

On Memorial Day, the flag will be at half staff until noon and then raised to its full height to represent that after honoring the dead we will continue to protect the liberty for which they gave their lives.

Meanwhile almost 5% more Americans will be traveling this Memorial Day weekend than last year, availing themselves of the cheaper gas prices than last year’s though higher than earlier this year. Most people will be driving to their destinations.

Gradually I am getting toward my destination, looking forward to being at the Cottage. The sky is marginally cloudier, the market is down marginally, more boats are on the river and I am looking forward to the long holiday weekend but will do my best on Monday to remember those who served and died and also to think about those currently serving, men and women who are probably not enjoying the pleasant vistas I have.

Have a good Memorial Day Weekend.

Letter From New York 05 21 15 From Palmyra to Santa Barbara…

May 21, 2015

It is the Thursday before the Memorial Holiday weekend and people are fleeing the city; driving through the park was the easiest I’ve ever experienced when I was taking a cab back after a morning appointment on the East Side. It is also another grey day in New York, one in a series though the forecast for the weekend is supposed to be better than what we’ve had.

The media news of the day has been a full blast of coverage of the final show for David Letterman, who for thirty-three years has worked the late night hours, longer than anyone else. The New York Post had a columnist who did an exegesis of Letterman’s career, feeling he had gone from unique to mundane but the majority of reports were glowing and regretful that he was leaving the scene. He bowed out with grace and humor, didn’t shed a tear though those in audience did. Bon Voyage!

Also trumpeted across the headlines today was that Palmyra in Syria has fallen to IS and now IS is in control of 50% of Syria. Palmyra has given it control of a hub of roads that are major Syrian connectors as well as major gas wells. Fears have grown that the magnificent ruins on the outskirts of the city will be ravaged by IS militants. In the meantime, the city’s residents are cowering in fear of their lives. A house–to-house search has been going on as IS looks for Syrian soldiers. 17 have been reported killed, some by beheading, because they were associated with the government.

Adding a new wrinkle to the already messy situation in the Middle East is that Putin is putting his finger in the puddle now. Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Abidi is in Moscow and Putin is making him feel very welcome. The Russians are talking about expanded trade and delivery of military weapons to the Iraqi armed forces. The Russians have also been cozying up to Iran, which has been helping Iraq. An interesting mix is developing here and it can’t be making Washington happy. One gets the feeling that maybe we’re being outflanked.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Chinese are taking some tiny spits of land in the South China Sea and artificially making them much larger. One of them will have an airstrip big enough to take very big planes. These islands are being used by the Chinese to expand their territorial claims. To refute those claims the U.S. has been sending planes through what we consider international airspace and which the Chinese now consider their airspace. The tension is rising over what effectively amounts to a stationary aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.

In Baltimore, six officers have been indicted in the Freddie Gray death that incited days of violence.

Santa Barbara is cleaning up its oil spill, not the worst they’ve had but bad enough.

And the state in which Santa Barbara resides, California, is learning to sip water rather than guzzle it. Though there are those who are fragrantly keeping their lawns green and their pools filled. It is a stark picture of the economic divide.

The President of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton, announced that he would not revoke the charters of groups that allowed gay councilors.

Ireland is voting tomorrow on whether or not to allow gay marriage. It is looking as if it will pass as polls indicate as many as 70% are in favor of it. Flights from America to Ireland are fully booked as Irish citizens are returning for the historic vote. Trains and ferries are being organized to take the Irish from the UK home for the vote.

Too bad Americans don’t take voting that seriously.

I must seriously end this, as shortly I will have to go meet my friend Paul Krich to have dinner in celebration of his birthday this week.

Letter From New York 05 20 15 A stark world on a moderate day…

May 20, 2015

First of all, I made a mistake in my “media musings” yesterday; last night was not the last night for David Letterman. Tonight is. Last night was his penultimate show. I must have read the article incorrectly. Sorry about that.

Today, I am in New York City and will be until Friday around noon when I am heading up to the cottage for the long weekend. I have no plans for the weekend and expect it will be a quiet one with some reading and binge viewing. I am hooked on “Frankie and Grace,” the Netflix show that stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston. It’s an adult comedy, feels a little rough around the edges, as if it hasn’t quite figured itself out but it is very endearing.

Today in New York, the day is caught between spring and fall; not quite sure what it’s about. Sort of warm, sort of cool but not just right. I had coffee with my friend Erica Gruen this morning and it was delightful to catch up with someone I hadn’t seen for a while and then had my quarterly lunch with David Arcara. I met him casually years ago and we have settled into what he called our quarterly “lunches with Andre.” Nothing is off limits in the conversations and they are always satisfying.

The world is atwitter about revelations today of documents seized when Osama bin Laden was killed. He told anyone who would listen to not think about an Islamic State but to stay focused on killing Americans. He left a will, enjoining his wife [I wonder which one, he had several] to marry his daughters to jihadi or, failing that to “good people.” As has long been rumored, it was confirmed there was a stack of porn but that was not released. We will have to remain curious about what turned Osama on.

Speaking of IS, which is very much a reality despite bin Laden’s admonitions, it has advanced into the Syrian town of Tadmur, near where lie the ruins of World Heritage Site Palmyra. It has also been reported that the ruins themselves are now under the control of IS.

An ancient queen of Palmyra was named Zenobia and early on local rebels, fighting Assad, called themselves “Grandchildren of Zenobia.” The ruins have emotional significance to both the anti-Assad forces and to those loyal to him. IS has no emotional attachment to the ruins and it is feared they will destroy them as they have other ruins and loot what is portable to sell to help finance their campaigns.

The fall of Palmyra in the west and Ramadi in the east show that IS is able to bounce back from setbacks like the fall of Tikrit. It is vexing for Obama because any strikes against IS in the area near Palmyra and Tadmur will mostly benefit Assad, a man for whom Obama has called to be removed.

Ratcheting up the world’s level of nervousness are reports that North Korea has miniaturized nuclear weapons so they can be mounted on missiles. North Korea has recently also claimed it has long range missile capability that can get as far as the West Coast of the U.S.

It is believed that their boast of being able to launch a missile from a submarine is not yet true. Looks like the photos were doctored.

But, at the end of the day, we have a pudgy, grumpy, paranoid little dictator in Kim Jong-un and he has nuclear weapons. This is not good.

Gloria Steinem, along with Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate from Ireland and Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate from Liberia are in North Korea with a number of other women to stage a peace march through the DMZ on Sunday.

Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the UN, was to have made a visit to North Korea tomorrow but Kim Jong-un cancelled him. He would have been the first UN Secretary General to visit the North in two decades.

A couple of years ago it was revealed that a popular British performer, Jimmy Savile, was a serial sexual predator of adults and children. The British formed a group called Operation Hydrant to look into historical child sexual abuse cases. The publicity surrounding the Savile case has the abused coming out in droves, over 1400 so far and thousands more expected before the end of the year. Among the alleged sexual predators are sports figures, politicians, and music industry elites. The picture that is being formed is “stark.”

It is a stark world out there and there is not much about the starkness that I can do, except do my best to be not stark. I am off to the New York Video Meet-up and then for a bite to eat.

Letter From New York 05 19 15 Media Musings

May 19, 2015

Today started out grey and grim in New York City, a morning fog left us feeling a bit like London. It was damp, almost chill. Then as the day wore on, the sun began to peep out and then it filled the sky. The rain promised hasn’t appeared though I brought my umbrella.

Also, today, I am going to do something a little different. I work in media but don’t write that much about it. Most of my take is on what is going on in the world around us, from migrants in the Mediterranean or the South China Sea, to the sorry advance of IS, to the efforts to put Humpty-Dumpty together again in Nepal.

But today I am going to take a quick look around some of the media stories that captured my attention. I may do this once in awhile.

First of all, the Cabletelevison Advertising Bureau has been renamed the Video Advertising Bureau and it will include both cable and broadcast networks. I had to blink and rub my eyes when I read that. I grew up in cable and broadcast networks did their best to ignore and make fun of cable until cable starting really nibbling into the bones of their business.

That they are beginning to work together is breathtaking. But they have to because they are the bastions of linear television, shows that start on the hour or half hour.

Collectively, they are beginning to feel the heat of the digital revolution and are banding together to stand up to the digital alternatives. They are talking a lot about “premium video” and the place it holds in the advertising plans of brands. And the largest cable companies such as Time Warner are joining them in this effort.

It has a bit of the feel of the Persians assembling their massive fleet at Salamis only to be outmatched by the smaller, swifter Greek ships, resulting in a Persian rout that has been called one of the most important battles in history.

So the networks, broadcast and cable, joined by cable companies are assembling their ships to fight off the digital upstarts who are beginning to take some of their meat, advertising dollars.

Wow, I am still getting a grip on this.

Last night were the Webby Awards, the Emmys of the Net. Ellie Kemper won as Best Actress for “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Here’s where you will find her being presented with the award and her thank you speech, which is limited to five words by the Webby rules. It is adult humor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9Lsm0xuwJ8&index=3&list=PLWeKJ75kFs5QWrndBSmGllaHSJx7zz2uL

The press today was filled with reports from yesterday about how Obama as President of the United States is now on Twitter as @POTUS. There were witty back and forth comments from Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and Vice President Biden. I wasn’t sure it deserved all the hoopla but then we need to think about other things than the loss of Ramadi.

Tomorrow you may want to watch CBS’s Morning Show as it will be broadcasting from atop 1WTC, the building previously known as “The Freedom Tower,” the one built on the site of the old World Trade Center. They promise a preview of the building, which officially opens on Friday. I will look for the YouTube cuts.

Everyday I get The Daily Digg, highlighting the top stories of the day. Today I found out that Shell Oil Company’s legendary band of futurists is predicting that the world will probably get four to seven degrees warmer sooner than later, which is why it makes sense to go to the Artic to drill for oil. We’re not moving fast enough to turn back the tide.

They seem like a merry band, these futurists. They establish scenarios for best and worst-case scenarios. But it seems they think the best-case scenario for global warming has missed its boat and we had better prepare for worse.

And, lastly, tonight is the finale for the long and storied run of David Letterman on CBS, who is signing off “The Late Show with David Letterman” for good. Sayonara, David, and good luck!