Archive for August, 2015

Letter From New York 08 14 15 The Way It Was Is The Way It Is…

August 14, 2015

A couple of generations ago, when I was a young man out of Minnesota, freshly burped up on the sunny shores of a foreign country called southern California, I found myself working at KMPC Radio in Los Angeles, then a powerhouse, now long gone, gobbled up by the Disney Empire.

I was Assistant Director of Advertising and Promotions and was well liked by the sales department, having done them a couple of good turns along the way.

One of the sales people, Al Gottfried, invited me out to his house one holiday season. His brother-in-law was a big muckety muck in television movies at the time. Over crudité he and I talked about how he got started in television movies.

He told me that when he was younger and had ideas for television movies, he thought he could go pitch the networks directly. Nope, not the case, he quickly learned. Because he had never done it, he therefore couldn’t do it. It was a Catch-22. He learned his ideas weren’t bad but he just couldn’t get access.

His solution was to marry himself to an established production company for TV movies. Eventually, people got to know him, trust him and he could launch his own company.

A few years later, I was lucky enough to open the West Coast office for A&E and I entered the world of cable, which I had wanted to find my way into for three years. I learned a lot during the six years I ran advertising sales for A&E on the West Coast, followed by a stint with Discovery.

Cable was the new technology. We were gnats to the broadcast networks, annoying but not to be taken seriously, even if their parent companies were big investors in cable networks. No one worried about us.

But it became a world in which creators found new canvases; producers shut out from the broadcast networks found homes in the world of cable. Movie channels like HBO and Showtime had time between movies that needed filling. There was a busy business in programming those empty spaces. Odd programming that would never have had a chance in “television” found homes on cable – and audiences.

An example of this is “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, a delirious hoot of a program that began on a local station in Minneapolis, moved to The Comedy Channel, which morphed into Comedy Central, ending its run on SciFi, now called SyFy.

Branded entertainment is the catchword of the day, when it’s not being called “native advertising.” Cable was doing that in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. Bob Bolte of Clorox’s Media Department had a program running on USA for years that was the harbinger of things to come. A&E was doing “promercials.”

When I said that cable would one day have as much viewing as the broadcast networks, I was laughed out of the room. Then the day happened, sooner than I thought. Cable grew up.

It began to need ratings to feed the financial expectations of their owners. Cable is part of the “television” business now, no longer derogatorily called “cable.”

It has major businesses to protect. Cable needs big hits. No more “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Cable needs hits as much as broadcast networks. And in needing those hits, cable has followed the lead of its broadcast brothers. If you haven’t already done it, you can’t do it. So producers wanting to break into cable now have to partner with established producers until they make their own name. The lively, sometimes crazy kids, who produced for cable in the early days, became grown-ups but there are still wild, crazy kids who want to create content.

They turned to YouTube and Vimeo, Instagram and Vine. Suddenly you had Michelle Phan and PewDiePie, who have millions of viewers and helped spawn MCN’s [Multi Channel Networks]. Digital is the new cable and as companies who owned broadcast networks invested in the upstart cable networks, the established cable networks are investing in the upstart digital companies. A&E has put $250,000,000 into Vice, the upstart digital news service, and is giving them H2 to program.

The way it was is the way it is. We just have different upstarts this go round; as there will be other upstarts in the next go round.

Letter From New York 08 13 15 Of nice days and atrocities…

August 13, 2015

This morning I woke early and took the third train into town. It was stunningly beautiful at the cottage and I was regretful about leaving and coming into New York City. I’ve been away for a while and it’s always a bit of an assault when I get off the train for the first time after an absence.

Today was no different; Penn Station was summer madness and I felt jostled by the crowds as I made my way down 7th Avenue to the Greek Corner, the little diner I frequent at 28th. The Spanish waitress who serves me seemed genuinely glad to see me.

Eating my egg white omelet, I read a book and then went on to my noon meeting. Some of my day has been productive; some of it not so much. Though all of it has been pleasant.

In the morning, I have a breakfast meeting and then am off to the train, back to the country and a full weekend there. Lionel and Pierre are arriving for the weekend and on Saturday a couple of neighbors are coming to my house for drinks and “nibbles and bits.”

Hopefully, the brilliant weather will continue and we can stand and sit on the deck, looking over the stream. As I rode the train down into the city, the river glistened with the morning sun. I was reading the Times on my iPhone.

The story was horrific.

Yazidis are not Christian nor Muslim nor Jewish. Because they are not “people of the book” they have been targeted by IS for particularly harsh treatment. The Times reported on manuals that have been written for IS soldiers explaining to them that raping these women is an act of worship and brings them closer to God. They pray before and after the rapes.

In Yazidi towns that have been taken, men are separated from the women. Boys must raise their shirts and show whether they have hair in their armpits. If they do, they go with the men. Most of them are told to lie down in fields and then are shot to death. Women are bussed away, sold into sexual slavery. One woman who had been purchased was set free when her “master” finished his suicide training and had no more use for her. He gave her a paper, signed by IS officials, that allowed her to leave IS territory and reunite with what was left of her family.

The reality of this happening is almost beyond comprehension. But it is happening. Frankly, almost any horror seems within the ken of IS.

A Croatian national, Tomislav Salopek, working in Egypt for a French company, was kidnapped outside of Cairo by a gang that demanded ransom. Then nothing was heard until IS began to demand the release of Muslim women prisoners from Egypt in exchange for him. They now claim they have beheaded him. Everyone fears the worst while waiting for confirmation.

Then there is the news that IS has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in a Baghdad vegetable market that killed 67 and wounded hundreds. IS has been busy this week, getting itself into the news, rejoicing in knowing their atrocities are being reported.

I clench my hands and wonder what I as one individual can do? I do not know but I wish there was something.

On a brighter note, tomorrow the US Flag will fly above our Embassy in Havana again. Kerry is on his way to Cuba to be present for the official re-opening of the American Embassy in Cuba.

Investors are fleeing Russia, just preferring to do business somewhere a bit more predictable. Everyone is trying to read the runes of Putin’s actions but a former Kremlin insider posits he just not that interested anymore. He acts like a Tsar but has no succession plan. Right now Putin is Russia and he is disinterested…

I was not disinterested to find out that “Sesame Street” is moving to HBO for its first run and then to PBS and it’s being cut from an hour to half an hour. I am still getting past it. Good if it keeps “Sesame Street” on the air. As my friend Medora Heilbron once said: no deal too strange to make.

Letter From Claverack 08 12 15 An interesting evening in Claverack…

August 12, 2015

Yesterday, the world was drenched with rain; it continued through the night and when I went for my morning coffee the deck was sodden but the sky was bright with sunshine and hope for the day. The creek was a muddy brown and high from all the rain.

There was a bit of a chill in the air; so much so that I didn’t want to venture out onto the deck for that morning cup of coffee and a perusal of the Times. I returned to bed and read there, sipping coffee and enjoying the warmth of my bedroom.

I had an 11:00 AM meeting in Hudson. Finishing that, I went down to Relish and had the soup of the day, wandered up to Ca’Mea for a glass of wine while finishing reading the book I had and then home. It was a thoroughly civilized afternoon.

Now I am at home; jazz is playing on Pandora. I am on the deck. While the creek is still a bit muddy, it is reflecting back the green from the trees in that wonderful mirror like quality it can have. The setting sun is warm on my back; the threatened thunderstorms have not materialized today.

As I often do, I feel content here on the deck, looking over the creek, music in the background. It fills me with an enormous peace.

However, while I have been living in the peaceful bubble of Martha’s Vineyard and the cottage, the world has not been peaceful.

In Tianjin, China at least seven people have been killed and at least 300 injured in a blast. That is not peaceful. And it is not peaceful in the markets today. The Chinese are devaluing the Yuan and that is causing market hysteria. Something is askew in China and the devaluation of the Yuan is the harbinger. They are in trouble in China and these moves are reflections of those troubles. The markets in China have been crashing. Something profound is going on in China and we all need to pay attention because it will affect everything in our lives. China is now that big. They’re in trouble and are trying to contain that trouble.

A Croatian, kidnapped in Cairo, has apparently been beheaded by IS in the Sinai. That, too, is not peaceful.

Jimmy Carter, the best ex-President we’ve had, is 90 years old and now suffering from cancer. Well-wishers are coming out of the woodwork. I didn’t vote for him but wasn’t sorry he was elected. His Presidency was flawed but his presence since then has been unflawed. We are nearing the end of his life and I will be sorry to see him go when he does, probably farther in the future than we imagine.

Kim Jong-un, that pudgy little North Korean dictator, has been executing more people that don’t agree with him. He lines them up and lets a huge cannon blow them to smithereens. Just the sort of thing one expects from him. The most recent victim seemed to have disagreed with him on his forestry policy. Ouch. Not a pretty way to go.

When I was young I wanted to be an Egyptologist. It is not what happened with my life but I am still fascinated. There are those who say that behind the walls of the tomb of King Tutankhamen may lay the tomb of his mother, Nefertiti, who has entranced us forever. I spent an hour with her statue in Berlin a year or so ago. She is a haunting creature that has captured our attention for thousands of years. I will wait for this story to play out. I am fascinated by it. Never became an Egyptologist but doesn’t mean I’m not interested.

The sun sets in the west. It is a beautiful evening in Claverack. I rejoice in being here, far from the madness that rules the world.

Letter From Claverack 08 11 15 Through torrential rains to safety…

August 11, 2015

Outside my window, it is grey and daunting. I am sitting at my desk, looking out at my drive that, not so long ago, was a lake. When I woke up this morning on Martha’s Vineyard, it was raining but not hard. Jeffrey, Joyce and I went to Behind The Bookstore and I had breakfast and then Jeffrey dropped me at the ferry to Woods Hole. Still not raining badly but by the time I reached my car, I was drenched. So I pulled a dry shirt from my suitcase and changed into it before I left the parking lot.

It was a fairly quick trip home, though I had to pull over a couple of times to answer texts. When I got close to Hudson, I needed to deal with a wire transfer that hadn’t gone through and while I was doing that, the heavens opened and torrential rains came down, the kind of rain Noah must have known.

When I reached the cottage, I left my luggage in the car and made a mad dash for the door. It was may have been only ten feet but by the time I opened the door I was drenched and had to get into dry clothes for the second time today. Not long ago, the rain stopped and I was able to retrieve my luggage without drowning. The lake in my drive has receded and I think I am safe for the night. The creek is a muddy ochre color and high.

So now I sit at my desk and write tonight’s blog. It is a great desk, found in an antique store not far up from the road that is no longer there. Stenciled on the back of it is that it’s for First Class on a White Star ship. White Star was the company that owned Titanic. Obviously the desk is not from Titanic but from some cousin ship of hers. When I saw that, I knew I had to have the desk and so I have the desk. It is where I do most of my work at the cottage.

Jazz plays in the background. While driving, I found there were few radio stations in eastern Massachusetts that my radio could receive so I put in a CD of baroque music and listened to that.

Before I left Martha’s Vineyard, I did a perusal of the news and noticed that the debates left Donald Trump where he had been at 24% while Jeb Bush declined from 17% to 12%. My goodness, where is all this going?

While amazed, I am amused.

Letter From Martha’s Vineyard 08 10 15 Absolute peace vs. absolute violence…

August 10, 2015

Edgartown harbor is awash with golden light; boats are moving in both directions in front of me, to and fro, mostly using power rather than sails as the wind is light this afternoon. It’s been a lazy day; without the wind there is no sailing. I spent the morning on the veranda, reading a book, checking a few emails and taking in the breathtaking view.

Later, Jeffrey and I went down to Behind The Bookstore and had lunch, at the same time a rep was in offering wines to the restaurant. I sipped a very good Muscadet and a lovely Mont Gravet. I had a lamb burger and fries, wandering after lunch into the bookstore to pick up a copy of “All The Light You Cannot See” which had been recommended to me by my friend Neva Rae Fox.

Following that, we returned to the veranda, Jeffrey to do a bit of work and for me to write.

Tomorrow I will leave and go back to the cottage, spend a day there and then head down to the city for a couple of days. It is peaceful here; it is peaceful there.

There is not much peace elsewhere.

The one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO was marred by gunshots at the police. Responding, the police shot a man, 18-year-old Tyrone Harris, injuring him critically. He is being treated and has been charged with four counts, including assault on a police officer. Police were pelted with objects; there was another drive-by shooting and St. Louis County has declared a State of Emergency.

In Dubai, an Asian man prevented lifeguards from saving his twenty-year-old daughter when she began to drown. He felt their touch would “defile” her and he would rather her be dead than defiled. He got his way. He was arrested.

Pakistan is wracked by a child abuse scandal in a town near the Indian border. It is alleged a gang of fifteen to twenty men would force children at gunpoint or under the influence of drugs to have sex. They would take videos of them and then blackmail them and/or their families to keep them from being released. If they couldn’t pay, the children were expected to supply another child for abuse. It is estimated in the last years 280 children may have been used by this ring.

It makes me shudder. Yesterday Behind The Bookstore was crawling with children of the age of the abused in Pakistan. All that innocence destroyed.

Bombs have gone off in Afghanistan. That nation’s President blames Pakistan. Two gun-wielding women targeted the US Consulate in Istanbul; one of them was wounded and captured. In various attacks in Turkey, nine have been killed.

Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, a Mexican activist, was found slain in his taxi today. He played a prominent role in the search for the 43 students who have been missing as well as others who have disappeared. There are no suspects at this time.

Two men apparently killed a man and a woman in the cookware department of an Ikea in Sweden, about 100 kilometers from Stockholm.

That’s the sort of day it has been out there in the world. It keeps on with its violence while I sit on the veranda and absorb the peace of Martha’s Vineyard. A sailboat glides by, running on its engine, towing a dingy behind it. It is picture postcard perfect here in Edgartown.

Letter From Martha’s Vineyard 08 09 15 Musings from “the land of off…”

August 9, 2015

It’s nearly 6:30 here on Martha’s Vineyard; the entire day has been grey and blustery, no chance for a good sail today. When I woke up at 7:15, seeing how grey and drear it was, I slipped back into bed and slept another ninety minutes. Jeffrey and I went to Behind The Bookstore and had breakfast, watching what seemed an endless flood of vacationers fill the place. It was a little like watching a reality television program.

The afternoon before had been spent in a long four-hour sail out beyond the harbor. Jeffrey, Tim and “Bash” [short for Sebastian] Reeve, who is the nephew of the late actor, Christopher Reeve, crewed. Bash’s girlfriend, Jane, and I were passengers.

He has all of his uncle’s good looks, is studying to be a doctor in Boston and teaches sailing during the summers. His family has a farm on the Vineyard. His aunt, Sarah Sterling, lives in Hudson, is a local politician and a slight acquaintance of mine. He described seeing the President’s helicopters fly low over the farm while on their way to depositing him on the island for his vacation.

For a while I closed my eyes and rested, thinking. When I opened them, the world appeared to me as if I was seeing it through a camera lens with a filter over it. The water looked black and the waves crested with silver; everyone on the boat seemed sepia toned. It was magical.

A rubber dingy was floating about, having come untethered from another boat. We swung round and hooked it, to drag it back to shore. Intercepted by the Shore Patrol, we were asked to release it. Jeffrey requested rum and some women for it but the Shore Patrol lacked a sense of humor. They didn’t even say thank you. It added some excitement to the afternoon.

We attended a party last night on Chappaquiddick at a house that had the most magnificent view of the sunset. Several young musicians performed and we slipped away as they were playing so that Jeff and Joyce could make a final stop at the bookstore and café.

Last night, as I have been lately, I feel asleep reading a book, with the light still on. While I was sleeping, a skunk sprayed Lettie the dog, and Joyce cleaned him up. Apparently you use a solution of baking soda, peroxide and dishwashing soap. It worked. I didn’t smell anything on Lettie when she came and snuggled up to me when I came down in the morning.

Jeffrey calls the Vineyard “the land of off.” It feels like that. I have let two days slip by without focusing much on the news of the world.

There was a poetry reading at the cafe at four; I did some shopping and Jeffrey and I returned to the house.

Since coming up to my room to write my missive, I have been pouring over the headlines to catch up on The Donald and other goings on in the world.

Donald Trump offended many by his comments about Megyn Kelly, the Fox newscaster who asked him hard questions during the debate. He tweeted later he could see the blood coming out of her eyes, ears, everywhere. Some took it to mean that he was accusing her of attacking him because she was menstruating. Nonsense, said The Donald. Unabashed as ever, he refused to apologize and said he’d be great for women.

He was excluded from a Republican gathering after that but he bashed them too, for doing that. He’s taking credit for the whopping ratings of the debate. He is, as he says, “a ratings magnet.”

Trump has even offered the job of Treasury Secretary to hedge fund billionaire Carl Icahn.

The Republican race has become all about Donald Trump, like it or not.

Frank Gifford passed away today, a Houston man is in custody, accused of killing six children and two adults, Singapore is celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence, on Friday jobs grew by 215,000 which depressed the market as Wall Street can see a rate increase clearly on the horizon.

Israel continues it crackdown on Israeli terrorists with new arrests.

And today is the seventieth anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. A memorial was held there; the Mayor and hibakusha [survivors of the bomb] used it as an opportunity to protest Prime Minister Abe’s efforts to grow the Japanese military.

The world has been ticking on while I have been sailing and resting in “the land of off.” I wish it could be as peaceful as the scene outside my window, boats joyfully dancing at anchor, the sun appearing for the first time today to cast a golden glow across the harbor.

Letter From Martha’s Vineyard 08 07 15 The day after the night before…

August 7, 2015

Sitting at the kitchen table at my friends’ home on Martha’s Vineyard, I have a stunning view of the harbor in Edgartown. The sky is a muted blue, I am facing Chappaquiddick, sailboats bob at anchor. I came in on the ferry from Woods Hole and Jeffrey picked me up in his motorboat, the “Mata Hari.”

It seemed fitting, as today is the anniversary of her birth, back in 1876. The French executed her as a German spy in October 1917.

The easiest way to get to Martha’s Vineyard from the cottage was for me to drive to Woods Hole and take the ferry from there, which I did. The drive was about 4.5 hours, longer than it needed to be because I made a few stops.

Listening to “The Roundtable,” a morning panel discussion of the news on Albany’s NPR station, WAMC, I heard an exegesis of last night’s Republican debate, dominated, as all supposed it would be, by The Donald. One of the panelists, when asked what he thought, stuttered for a moment and said, “It was good television.” Not necessarily a good debate, but good television.

Telling for what was to have been a serious policy conversation. My friend, Jan Hummel, wrote to me once that she did think Trump was saying what was on his mind and she wished all politicians would do that and stop their political correctness. Trump declared the Presidency of George W. Bush “a catastrophe.”

Apparently Ohio’s Kasich presented himself well. It was 50/50 on Jeb Bush. Good marks for Fox’s format and a fair amount of commenting on the amount that Roger Ailes, President of Fox News, involved himself but that’s not unusual for Ailes, who is more “hands on” than most Presidents.

The talk then turned to our state’s Senator, Chuck Schumer, who came out against the Iran Nuclear Deal. The panel felt it came down to the fact he is running for re-election and needs, politically, to be against it. Schumer, who is Jewish, is very close to Netanyahu and strong armed Democrats to go to the speech Netanyahu made to Congress. Most of the emails coming in during the broadcast castigated Schumer though some were supportive.

It is a problem for Obama [who arrives today on the Vineyard for his two week vacation]. It gives cover for other Democrats to say no to it.

Jon Stewart said good-bye last night and the reviews of the show were very good. As suspected, even if I had been able to watch, I wouldn’t have been awake for it. I dozed off about 9:30; book tumbled to my side and woke up at 4:30 with the light still on.

IS captured a town in Syria and, as they do, rounded up a number of citizens, including dozens of Christians, and herded them up a mountaintop. There is no word as to their fate.

A typhoon is bearing down on Taiwan, thousands are fleeing and two are dead already.

North Korea is creating its own time zone, moving the clock back half an hour. It doesn’t want to be in the same time zone as South Korea and Japan. It wants to break free from Imperialism. When the Japanese occupied Korea they brought the peninsula into coordination with their time zone. So there!

Some reports are saying that the piece of 777 debris washed up on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean is from MH 370. Some are saying that it probably is. The conflicting statements are causing anguish for the survivors of those onboard. Some feel there is a great cover-up occurring and that their relatives and friends may be alive somewhere but hidden.

What is not hidden from me is that Jeffrey has finished his shower and is now ready to get a drink in town. So I need to get myself ready to join him.

Good evenings, all!

Letter from Claverack 08 06 15 Thoughts while watching the creek…

August 7, 2015

It is still light in Claverack; the sky is now pearl grey. The creek is mirror still and there are birds chirping all around me. This morning, while on a conference call, an elegant bird that looked much like a pelican swooped low over the creek and then stood across from me in the water, standing proud on tall spindly legs. This afternoon, returning from the post office, a doe and her fawn crossed the road as I negotiated the curve. I’ve seen few deer of late so this was a particular pleasure.

The packing for my long weekend on Martha’s Vineyard is near completed. In the morning I will throw in my toiletries and be on my way. Depending on my mood, I may go into Hudson and breakfast at Relish, where I lunched today while reading my book.

My binge viewing has declined. My binge reading has increased. I am now in book four of Stephen Saylor’s series, “Roma Sub Rosa.” My Kindle will go with me to the Vineyard. There are twelve books in the series. I wonder if I will read them all?

I suspect so. I am enjoying the characters.

It has been another mostly perfect day in the country. The temperature was moderate and most of the day the sun shone down pleasantly. Up early, I sat in my bathrobe on the deck and sipped my coffee and read the Daily Briefing from the New York Times.

I am sure that Fox News will get staggering ratings tonight for the first Republican Debate, starring Donald Trump who reportedly has not prepared for it. He is what he is and will say what he will say. I am curious of course but I have cut the cord and have no cable.

It is also Jon Stewart’s last night as host of “The Daily Show.”   I really would like to see that but alas, I won’t and suspect I will be asleep before he takes his bows. It will be the talk of tomorrow.

The markets had a bruising day today, driven by a media stock meltdown. Disney issued a guidance, Viacom was off as their networks are not doing so well and so there was a little bit of panic about all old media stocks while Netflix rose another 2+ percent.

Media decline is still more perception than reality. However, the great change is coming and the landscape I grew up with is being irreversibly transformed. I was a bright young man when I opened the West Coast office for A&E and that was the beginning of the gnawing on the bones of broadcast networks. Now cable is feeling the bite.

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. A child at the time it was enacted I really didn’t understand the significance. But I do remember a phrase from my childhood. You could do anything you wanted as long as you were “free, white and twenty-one.” I have been thinking about that phrase lately and realizing that it was an expression of deeply rooted racial discrimination.

And there STILL seems to be a determination in this country to disenfranchise people from voting, by any means possible. Our racial record is really disturbing to me.

My sister once reported to my mother that I had called a man a “nigger.” I had not. My sister didn’t like me much and did her best to get me in trouble. My mother washed my mouth out with soap. I still remember it.

Sometime later, my brother wanted to bring home a friend from medical school who was black and my mother forbade it. She and I had a confrontation about it. She acknowledged she had prejudices with which she had grown up and could not shake but did not want us to have them.

Race relations in this country are, at best, fraught. It’s that pesky legacy of slavery.

Across the creek are the sounds of wild animals. I think it is coyotes howling. My neighbors have seen them skulking in the field across from their house.

The sky is still pearl grey. It is closing in on 8:00 PM. I am happy and grateful I am able to write this while on my deck. Tomorrow I will be on the Vineyard.

Letter From New York 08 05 15 Thoughts from the train heading north…

August 5, 2015

The last letter I wrote was from a train headed south. This one in being started while riding north, headed back home for a day before a quick trip to the Vineyard. I’ll arrive on Friday and leave on Tuesday with a day back in Claverack and then to the city for a couple of days.

The Hudson River is steel grey and the sun is shielded behind clouds, giving a grey hue to the whole world. I am happily munching popcorn and sipping a Diet Pepsi while the river glides by to my right. It feels good to be headed home and I’m looking forward to my time on the Vineyard.

I’m having a good afternoon. I’ve been grumpy the last two days and this morning became dissatisfied with being grumpy and determined not to be. So far, so good.

The field has been declared for the Fox debate among the top ten Republican candidates. Leading the pack: The Donald. Almost everyone I know of is panting to watch the debate, eager to see how he performs because it will be a performance.

My family was Catholic. My two siblings and I attended Catholic school through high school. My brother’s entire education was in Catholic institutions as well as my sister, who, after high school, entered the convent. I rebelled and went to the University of Minnesota. My sister left the convent, got married, got divorced, got remarried. My brother is also divorced and remarried.

Today, Pope Francis encouraged Bishops to be gentle with divorced Catholics, to not treat them like pariahs. Still no communion or confession but a little reconciliation can go a fair way. Not deviating from church teaching, Pope Francis still managed to sound conciliatory and healing.

The Malaysian Prime Minister announced today that the piece of a 777 found on Reunion Island in the western Indian Ocean is from MH 370, the first piece of evidence regarding the fate of the flight that has been found. At lunch, a friend said to me: at least we now know aliens didn’t abduct them.

Obama is working hard to sell the Iran deal, lobbying via speeches at various places. He has written off the Republicans and is hoping to convince wavering Democrats to stay the course with him.

USA Today had a good editorial about the deal today. It argues there is no real alternative; if it fails because of the U.S., the coalition that has brought Iran to the table will fall apart. Here is the link:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/08/05/iran-nuclear-deal-obama-congress-editorials-debates/31067637/

Tomorrow morning at 8:15, a temple bell will toll and tens of thousands of people will be silent. The representatives of a hundred countries will be present. It is 70 years ago since the first atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima. The U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, will be there.

To some degree, we all have lived in terror since.

The survivors are called the hibakusha. Every year the names of those who have died since the last memorial service are added to the peace park’s cenotaph.  In total, there are 292,325 names inscribed.

The train arrived in Hudson and Jerry, my favorite cab driver, brought me back to the cottage. When I first moved here, he taught me how to pronounce the name of my town, Claverack, as if I were a native and not a weekender.

I am now sitting on the deck with the creek glittering in the setting sun. A chipmunk is settled on the deck near me, completely unfazed by my presence. The birds are chirping, the sky is blue with a light splattering of clouds.

The peace of the moment is overwhelming.

Letter From New York 08 03 15 Thoughts trundling south on the train…

August 3, 2015

The west bank of the Hudson River is a verdant green as the train slowly rumbles south toward New York. It is a bright day, warmer than it has been but still very sweet. I am coming down to New York for a few meetings and a lunch and then am heading home to get ready to go to my friend’s Jeffrey and Joyce’s home on Martha’s Vineyard on Friday.

I’ll linger with them for four or five days and then head back to the Cottage and then down to New York for a meeting on the 13th. Jeffrey calls Martha’s Vineyard “the land of off” and it seems that way though I am not sure how “off” their summers have been since the bought the Edgartown bookstore. It will be interesting to see what changes they have made since I was last there two years ago.

They had ambitious plans and I am sure they have been realized.

The water in the Hudson is browner than usual; the river stirred by the recent rains. It quietly laps the shore. For some reason, it is causing me to think of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis where we’d go as children to swim and sail.

Having spent a few days surrounded by a delicious amount of natural beauty, it seems reasonable that President Obama is issuing today a set of environmental regulations that is intended to reduce, sharply, the amount of greenhouse emissions from power plants. They promise to remake the industry.

There is a controversy happening in Columbia County regarding new power line towers. Most people I know think we don’t need them and intend to fight to stop them from blighting the natural beauty of Columbia County. They are strongly supported by Democratic Governor Cuomo. It is going to be an interesting fight.

And Obama’s regulations will set off a firestorm of lawsuits. Again, it will be interesting to watch. At the end, I suspect there will be change and the lawsuits will determine the extent.

At one point in my life I spent several months in Canada and was impressed with Canadian friendliness. Some Canadian researchers built a “hitchBOT,” a robot that hitchhiked its way across Canada and most of Germany and the Netherlands. He came south two weeks ago to attempt to cross the United States. He was found destroyed beyond repair around Philadelphia, “City of Brotherly Love.” Shame on whoever did this. He was only the size of a six year old and reportedly quite charming.

IS, which is known for its clever and relentless use of the Internet to tell its stories, is now relentlessly cracking down on those inside its territory who are using the Internet. Anyone connecting must now do it through an open network that is being watched. IS is showing signs of fear.

The French are leading the investigation of the wing fragment found on Reunion Island in the western Indian Ocean. Islanders are searching for more debris to see if it might be from the long missing Malaysian Airlines MH370.

The Chinese are having trouble with their escalators. Not so long ago a woman died saving her child in an escalator accident. Today, a man lost his foot and his leg had to be amputated. Both incidents, I believe, happened in Shanghai. Be careful.

Secretary of State John Kerry is making a round of visits to Arabic neighbors, drumming up support for the Iran deal. He seems to be having some success though I am sure it comes at a price, weapons and new pledges to counter Iran.

Donald Trump is still leading in the polls. The Republican mainstream is running in circles, unsure how to counter The Donald. The Koch brothers, rich as could be, with eighty some billion dollars between them, are simply freezing him out. David Koch and Trump are reputedly friendly but the organizations they fund have not given him any opportunities to speak. They own data firm i360, the best data and voter analytics company on the right, and it won’t do business with the Trump Organization.

The big winner at the Box Office was Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation” which not only claimed the top spot in dollars but also garnered very good reviews.

Without doubt, this is the longest it has ever taken me to get to the city on Amtrak. I have been traveling now for three and a half hours. Traffic ahead. The compensation? The Hudson River is beautiful. I’ve had time to read and write and contemplate.