Archive for January, 2016

Letter From New York 01 10 16 Thoughts in a worrisome world…

January 11, 2016

It is Sunday evening and I am at the dining room table, looking out at the creek, lit by the floodlights I have set up to illuminate the creek at night.  Soft, classical jazz plays in the background.

For the most part, Christmas is behind me.  The tree is down and headed for recycling now that most of the lights have burned out.  I think I’ve had seven years from the tree so I can’t complain.

Though I realize as I look around I forgot a few things which I’ll have to take down over the coming week.  There is still a wreath on my door and one hanging in the dining room.  How I missed that I don’t know.

My heart is not into taking down Christmas.  I tend to become a bit melancholy in the process and apologized to young Nick about my moodiness as he dismantled Christmas while I assiduously cleaned up after last night’s dinner party.

While I sit here writing, the world is gearing up for the Golden Globe Awards, which I won’t watch but is the official opening of awards’ season.  I did my PGA voting as soon as it came in because I didn’t want to forget.

The question being asked in this awards’ season is whether “Revenant” will finally propel Leonardo DiCaprio towards an Oscar?

I don’t know nor do I much care, truth to be told.

Since 1992 I have been a member of the Television Academy and my membership is up for renewal and while I suspect I will renew I am not sure why.  It feels much less relevant than it did when we were fighting to make cable an integral part of the Academy and then to make a place in the tent for “new media.”

I salute my friend Bob Levi, retired now from Turner, who with Jeff Cole and myself and a few others fought and fought hard to make a place in the Academy for those digital pioneers way back in 1999.  Jeff and I were the Founding Governors for the Interactive Media Peer Group though I have discovered since then there are others who make that claim.  Excuse me!  I was there.

It’s Sunday night and most people are wondering what the market will do in the morning.  Continue to swoon or make a comeback?  Don’t know.  I’ll check the futures in the morning.

Sean Penn did an interview with Mexican Drug Lord “El Chapo” at his HQ in the Mexican jungle.  It appeared in Rolling Stone.  Some laud it, some hate it but it is interesting reading.  Celebrity triumphs in journalism in this case…

Ted Cruz was born in Canada of an American mother.  Donald Trump is questioning whether is he meets the legal requirements to be President.  Some time ago Ted Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship but that hasn’t stopped Trump who is currently trailing him a bit in the polls in Iowa. 

I think it will get worse between now and the caucuses in Iowa.

The world is an unbroken trails of woes right now – and I’m not talking about the Republicans. 

Merkel’s generosity to refugees is under question after New Year’s attacks on women by men described as North African or Arabic. 

We have people of white origin holding a bird preserve in Oregon demanding a rollback of Federal control of lands in the West.

North Korea may or may not have tested a hydrogen weapon but it did test an atomic something which is always worrisome.

And, you know, everything is worrisome.  It always has been and will always be so and so tomorrow I will get up and live my life as best I can in this worrisome state.

Letter From New York 01 07 16 Thoughts on a hard day…

January 8, 2016

Stock market rout   Jamison Teale   Christ Church  Hudson  Roy Moore   Alabama Gay Controversy  Tiffany Martin Hamilton  Tommy Ragland  Charlie Hebdo Anniversary  Oklahoma earthquakes  Netflix  Bill Clinton  Hillary Clinton  John Kerry  Syrian Peace Process  Iran  Saudi Arabia  California storms  Ted Cruz  Burns, Oregon

Well, I was smart enough today to not look at the market as it was another BAD day as China’s market shudders riled every other market in the world.  While they were plunging, I had a pleasant day. 

Answered emails, ran errands and wrote out the first draft of my syllabus for my class that starts on the 20th.  It was actually kind of fun, if headache inducing.

Now it is evening and I have turned on the lights outside, classic jazz is playing and I think I will light a fire as it is going to be chill again tonight.

My Christmas tree is still up and I am not taking it down until Sunday.  Having been gone for two weeks, I feel I deserve a little more time with it.  It is a white artificial tree and I think this is its last year.  But it has been a beautiful, for me, tree.

Jamison Teale, the Senior Warden at Christ Church [where I attend services] and his longtime companion, James, were married on New Year’s Day by Hudson’s first woman mayor in her first official function.  They are coming for dinner on Saturday with the church’s Musical Director, Tom Martin, father to Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton of Hudson.

One of my errands today was to find them a small wedding present.

While James and Jamison married easily here in New York, the Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, Roy Moore, has ordered that state’s probate judges not  issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  Federal authorities immediately ordered them to do so.  Some have thrown up their arms and aren’t giving marriage licenses to anyone.

Ah, Justice Moore, this has been decided.  No back pedaling allowed I think.

One probate judge, Tommy Ragland, summed it up best, saying, “We have a Chief Justice who is confused.”

One of the other errands I did today was to look for a clock radio to replace my ancient one that no longer works.  You know, they are rather hard to find.  Not nonexistent but hard to find.  I am going online to see what I can find there.

My toaster also broke and I looked at those too and thought they all looked shoddy.  More investigation needed.

It is the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.  Let there be a moment of silence.

The French police killed a man brandishing a meat cleaver today, who was screaming “Allahu Akbar [God is Greatest].”  He was wearing a fake suicide vest.  That confuses me.  Why bother?

Oklahoma had a swarm of 70 earthquakes yesterday.  In 2013 they had a couple of hundred.  In 2014 they had over 5,000.  That is an exponential increase.  2015 statistics are currently being gathered.  There is a suspect:  fracking.

Earlier this week Netflix was available in 60 countries.  Today it is in 190 countries.  130 countries “turned on” Netflix while its President and CEO was giving a speech at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

I’ve attended a couple and they are always mind boggling.  This year is not quite so much according to pundits but still generating lots of wow.

Politics continues.  Bill Clinton is stumping for Hillary in Iowa.  Lots of people I know would like him back but since he can’t….

Cruz is cruising in Iowa which frightens the bejesus out of me. 

California is pummeled by storms and that worries me about friends there though I hope it is helping the drought.

In Burns, Oregon the unlawful occupation of a wildlife center continues.  On social media people have been asking what would be happening if the occupiers were black or Muslim instead of gun totting white guys who are outraged over Federal land policy?

There are no easy answers to anything.  Kerry says that the Saudi Arabia/Iran feud will not slow down the Syrian peace process but how can it not?  I mean, how can it not?

I am taking solace in the cottage and in my hope that our better angels will prevail.

Letter From New York 01 05 16 Musings as heading and reaching home….

January 6, 2016

There is a pinkish tint to the sky as I head north on the train, heading home after thirteen days of being away.  The sun is beginning to set and the Hudson River flows south on my left.  We have just passed Bannerman’s Castle, a munitions depot that blew up long ago on a small island in the river.  Its wracked remains still stands and, sometimes, in the summers it is used to create a light show.

Bruce Thiesen, who reads my letters from time to time, commented that 2016 might test my optimism and it already has.

Yesterday, the market had a nose bleed after the Chinese market plummeted.  On its way to closing, it is up modestly today but hardly enough to get anyone breaking out champagne glasses.

Donald Trump has found himself used in a recruiting tape for terrorists.  He shrugs his shoulders about it, indicating there is nothing he can do about it.   While he is doing nothing about it, the British Parliament is getting ready to debate whether or not they will ban The Donald from Britain. 

That would be interesting.  I don’t think that’s ever happened before. 

The Sunni Saudi Arabian kingdom executed a leading Shia cleric and government critic.  The Shia of Iran rioted and burned the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran.  Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran, further inflaming the Mideast.

The Iranians have announced this will not cover the crime committed by Saudi Arabia but today one of Iran’s generals condemned the attack on the Embassy. 

Meanwhile, the Iranians are showing off another underground missile, likely to give conniptions to the US and some others who hoped the nuclear treaty would lessen Iranian obsessions with things military.

The US has remained silent about the executions as it needs Saudi Arabia in its fight against IS, which is mostly Sunni as are the Saudi Arabians.  The Iraqi and Syrian Shia get huge abuse from IS as do any others who don’t believe as the Shia do, including Christians and others.

In Washington, President Obama has issued Executive Orders regarding gun sales while surrounded by victims of shootings, including some of the parents of children killed in Newtown.

The proposals are modest but Rand Paul has already denounced them and the NRA has called them theatrics to deflect from his failed presidency. 

Anti gun advocates are gathering some big donors like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and are working state by state to tighten gun laws.

One result of his actions will be that the gun issue is now politicized and will be sure to be a topic of debate in the 2016 elections.

Not too surprising if disheartening is that gun sales have soared since news of Obama’s actions leaked out.  It is a good time to own Smith & Wesson stock I guess.

The journal Science is calling for more human computational effort in solving the world’s problems.  It took only ten days for humans using a computational game to solve a protein problem associated with HIV.  Let’s do more of that, say scientists. So do I.

I am now back in the cozy clutches of the cottage.  Returning home, I discovered my kitchen pipes have frozen and I am working to thaw them out.  Nothing, thank God, burst.

It was also forgotten by me that I left behind the detritus of my last night here.  I emptied the dishwasher and reloaded it but can’t run it until the pipes thaw.

Before I left, I checked the 14 day forecast and it was all in the 40’s.  That changed as it hit 4 degrees last night, the point at which the kitchen pipes freeze. 

Having missed the season premiere of the last season of “Downton Abbey” I am off to catch up.  It’s good to be home, more than I can tell you.  Here, I feel cosseted by the comforts of my cottage and the joy it brings me. 

The world outside is dangerous and it is tempting to retreat here and ignore it, I can’t.

The world exists and I must live in it.  As must we all…

Letter From The Train 01 03 16 Optimistically riding into the future…

January 3, 2016

New Year 2016. National Cemetery at Antietam. War Between The States.  Racism. States’ Rights. Martinsburg, WV Obama  Crossing the Rubicon  Racism   Homophobia  Xenophobia  Koch Brothers  Rockefeller  Carnegie 

It is nearing noon on Sunday, the 3rd of January.  I have discovered I’m having no difficulty thinking of this as 2016.  Usually, I have trouble turning  the date, thinking of it still as last year.  Not this year…

I seem ready for 2016 and what it will bring.

It feels like a fresh, blank piece of paper, ready to have events written upon it.  For me.  Events have already been happening out in the world and the story of the year has begun to be written.

It still feels fresh to me.  Unsullied…

To make sure I was on time for my train, I drove a rental car into the city.  It gave me time to think.

Driving past the National Cemetery at Antietam, I thought about the Civil War.    Not so long ago I read an article that southern states are re-writing the history of the war so that it was not about slavery but about states’ rights.  I thought the victors got to write the history of a war but apparently not in this case; some revisionists are successfully revising.

Unlike some friends, I find no endless fascination with the War Between The States. 

Driving past Antietam this morning, I felt a wave of sadness not so much because of the war but because of the harsh legacy slavery has left us, a legacy from which we are still recovering.

Returning from picking up the rental in Martinsburg, WV I listened to an interview with a youngish African-American who was involved in Obama’s election campaigns but now is in local politics in Atlanta, I believe.  He spoke of the bitterness he felt at the treatment of Obama while he has sat in the White House.

Unfortunately, I think some of the political obstructionism from Republicans and Democrats that we have seen in the last seven years has been because Obama is black.  It is never said but it lingers in the air around him. 

He crossed a line that has never been crossed.  Electing a man of African-American   heritage crossed the Rubicon and the world will never be the same.  And some resent one more step into a future that will prevent the past from ever being reclaimed.

For a country so young, we obsess about our past, ever yearning for “good old days” that were never quite as good as they are remembered.

Growing up in mid-century America, I can look back and see endless examples of racism, covered in polite mid-western turns of phrase.  There was homophobia and xenophobia mixed with middle-class snobbery. 

One of my sociology books in middle school proclaimed that being American citizens allowed us to stride the world with the same ease and pride that Roman citizens could within their empire.

I’m not sure the Roman Empire was exactly something that young Americans should have been taught to admire.  While remarkable, it was a cruel world that had little regard for human rights.

Minnesota was not as bad as some places I visited.  The first time I visited Oklahoma my hair was shorn for a role in a play at the University of Minnesota.  The second time I returned, it had grown longish.  The same checkout women at the grocery store who had been so nice to me when I had been shorn, shunned me when my hair was longish, not long, only longish.

In Arkansas, a friend fretted for me because I was “a long haired blonde white boy from the North” and they didn’t much like them kind there.

The world is no doubt a better place.  Obama was elected.  We are scrutinizing actions of police toward people of color.  Questions are being asked and young people are sloughing off their parents’ bonds, as every generation does.

We are in, as we have so very often been, at a critical juncture, a country feeling around for its future, as we always have done.  It has been attributed to Churchill that he said:  you can count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have tried everything else.

It always seems like we are trying everything else.  But history has taught us that somehow we manage to do better each generation than the last.  While we have the Koch brothers today to vilify, in the past we have had Rockefeller and Carnegie.

Against all the odds, I am entering this year optimistically, eager to find out what the future has to hold, for me, for the world, the country and for you.

Letter From Shepherdstown 01 01 16 Bounding into the New Year…

January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!  It is another grey day in Shepherdstown, WV, which has had nothing but a string of grey days since I arrived here almost two weeks ago.  The day, while grey exteriorly is sunny inside, surrounded by old friends.  My nephew, Kevin, is prepping to make bacon to go with waffles.  His wife, Michelle, is reading the news on her phone and I am beginning my letter while waiting for a call.

My friends, Medora Heilbron and Meryl Marshall-Daniels, and I have convened most Thursdays or Fridays for almost fifteen years to share our week’s experiences, our highs and lows and to love and support each other.  It is a gift the universe has given us and we have helped each other through a whole variety of things and have celebrated our successes and supported each other in our bumps in the road.

When one of us is traveling and the call doesn’t happen, it doesn’t feel like the week is quite right.  It’s good to be starting 2016 with a call.

I can’t quite believe it is 2016.  I never thought I would live this long but here I am, slowing moving into old age and having a better time of it than I thought I would.

My stomach bug has lifted and I woke this morning in fine fettle, eager to burst into the new year.  I texted friends to wish them Happy New Years and then came down and made coffee and read another 25 pages of my textbook.

The world, of course, is not coursing as quietly or as joyfully as my life in Shepherdstown.

A suicide bomber struck a restaurant in Kabul last night.  Five were wounded in the French restaurant, one of the few still catering to foreigners.

During New Year’s Eve celebrations in Dubai, a luxury hotel and apartment building caught fire and competed for attention with the fireworks at midnight.  Officials are investigating the cause of the fire. 12 were injured but there appear to have been no fatalities.

Wayne Rogers, “Trapper John” from the TV series “MASH” passed away last night, surrounded by family.  A much beloved star, he was also a shrewd investor and successfully managed money for a variety of clients while also acting.

Less than an hour ago, it was announced that Natalie Cole, one of the great voices of the 20th century and the daughter of the legendary Nat King Cole, passed away.  She was 65.

In a Tel Aviv pub, two were killed and four seriously injured by a gunman.  Investigators are working to determine if it was a crime or terrorism.  Isn’t terrorism a crime? Yes, I think so.

In Turkey, President Erdogan, who was Prime Minister for ten years, is seeking to change Turkey’s constitution to make the President, not the Prime Minister, the senior position.  An example he quoted:  Hitler’s Germany.  He did not elaborate.  No wonder the world thinks he may not be committed to democracy.

What I am committed to today is to enjoy feeling well, my spirits boosted by the sun breaking through the clouds and the camaraderie of friends and family.