Archive for the ‘Columbia Greene Community College’ Category

Letter From Claverack 11 14 2016 The world we are waking to…

November 15, 2016

On Sunday, as I was returning to my pew post communion, one of my fellow parishioners, Susan Schuette, reached out her hand to me and asked if everything was alright?  She had noticed a dearth of postings since Election Day.

Wednesday, the day after the Election, I had cataract surgery [which went very well] and it gave me the perfect excuse to be at home with the blinds drawn, to not listen to the news, to eat comfort food and to binge watch on Amazon Prime.  I ate enough mashed potatoes with gravy AND butter for a family of five.

In the slightly hungover state from the relaxants they gave me while working on my eye, I sought to absorb the absolute fact the Donald Trump, television reality star, billionaire real estate mogul, orange tinged with the magnificently weird hair, was President Elect.

Rejoicing is being had on the right while the left is shattered and, quite frankly, totally at a loss as to what has happened.

My dear, dear friend Sarah, known since we were three, and I spoke today.  She lived for seven years in Franco’s Spain and feels we are moving in that direction, to be living in that kind of fear.  A social worker, her Hispanic clients are terrified, if undocumented they fear a door to door search for them.  If documented, they simply fear being profiled and harassed or worse.

Events since the election have fueled all our fears.

At an Episcopal Church in Maryland, the times for Spanish language service were torn down, replaced by graffiti that said: Trump Nation.  Whites only!

At the University at Pennsylvania, incoming African American students received emails from a group called “Mudmen,” announcing a “Nigger” lynching every day.

In Wellsville, NY a dugout was spray painted with the words:  Make America White Again, with a swastika.

dugout-hate

The swastika seems to be a much used symbol for those who are doing these things.

It has been reported in St. Louis a group of high school students marched through their school halls with a Trump sign shouting, “White power!  White power!”

A Muslim woman at the University of Michigan was approached by a white man, demanding she remove her hijab or be set on fire.

Ah, yes, the milk of human kindness…

When asked what I think, I say that I expect the next few years are going to be experiential.

A friend phoned me on Thursday and we talked about the election and he said, well you don’t have anything to be worried about.  After all, Pence is the one who is going to be running things after all.

Pence is homophobic.  Mentioning that to my friend, I said I did not feel safer as a gay man in America since this election.  Some of Trump’s supporters say unpleasant things about us though Trump did say in an interview with Lesley Stahl for “60 Minutes” that gay marriage was the law of the land.

He also told, in a bit of milk toast sort of way, that his supporters who might be doing anti-Semitic actions or harassing Hispanics to stop it.  It didn’t sound all that forceful.

The New York Post has called “fake” incidents of hate crimes since the election.  Maybe they would have happened anyway.  I’m not convinced.

It is a sobering time.  It is now my responsibility to be vigilant and to work against moments of hate.  It is my responsibility to work to restore a more liberal voice in this country and I will.  I’m not sure how but I will find some way to do it.

Republicans own the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives and 32 of 50 gubernatorial posts.  They have the run of the land.  Let us see what they do with it.

And let us be prepared to be the loyal opposition.

At Christ Church Episcopal on Sunday, safety pins were given out.  They are to say to those who are frightened because of color, sex, race, religion, disability that you are a person they can be safe with.

Safty pin.jpg

Mine will be worn tomorrow.  It maybe I will offer them to my students.  It is my hope we all continue to be safe and that we are not falling into my friend Sarah’s fear that we are living in a time that will evolve into Franco’s Spain.

 

Letter From the Train 09 15 2016 Thoughts Heading South

September 15, 2016

It is stunning today as I am riding south to the city.  It is a perfect September day, low humidity, temperature in the 70’s, sunny with glints of silver reflecting off the water of the Hudson while low puffy clouds rest behind the Catskills.

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Tonight I am on my way to the city [New York] to have dinner with my friend Ann Frisbee Namye, with whom I worked thirty years ago at A&E and who I have not seen for twenty years.  She connected with me through LinkedIn and we set a dinner date while on a business trip to New York.  I’m excited.

To be truthful, I haven’t let much noise in over the week.  The days have been too special for that.  I woke up happy this morning and didn’t disturb that happiness with a burst of news.  Besides, I had a lot of organizing to do as I was teaching this morning and had lots of handouts for my students.

So I checked into the news once I boarded the train.  Panic at the poll numbers is upon us.  Trump is closing on Hillary and fright walks the land and one Democratic friend of mine may actually have another panic attack over this.

It is my choice not to panic and to read the article that tells me that the polls are meaningless at this moment.

Though the thought of Trump as President is scary.  His Presidency would be one long fright night, I fear.

He released a letter from his doctor of thirty years after a physical on Friday, stating he was in good health.  He was the same doctor who earlier wrote a letter in five minutes stating how healthy Trump was.

When I was in college, many friends made extra money by driving cabs.  Now they’d be driving for Uber.  And those opportunities may go away if Google and Uber and Lyft and the car companies get their way.

Uber has launched a pilot program in Pittsburgh with driverless cars.  They have a back-up human for now but eventually the back-ups will go and then some day there will be no taxi or Uber or Lyft drivers for that matter.  Gone the way of the Dodo…

In yet another gun tragedy, police in Columbus, Ohio shot to death a 13-year-old black robbery suspect.  He apparently pulled from his belt a BB gun that looks almost exactly like standard issue weaponry for the Columbus police.  What adult would allow a child to have such a weapon, such a thing?

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said, “A 13-year-old is dead in the city of Columbus because of our obsession with guns.”

And in a stunning additional gun tragedy, a 77-year-old resident of a Senior Home shot two other residents and a staff member, fled the scene on a bicycle and then killed himself as officers approached.  Apparently, he was upset about poker games.

Jackson Grubb, a nine-year-old from West Virginia, took his life on Saturday because he was being bullied.  I feel like crying.

Today in class the subject of the exploding Samsung Note 7 came up and one of my students almost exploded out of her seat.  It was the first she had heard of it.  Another Note 7 blew up as owners are not listening to the recall requests.

If you have a Note 7, go to the phone store and get it replaced.  Please.  I saw what one did to a jeep the other day online and it was horrific.  This was not a small explosion.  It looked like the vehicle had been car bombed.

Filipino President Duterte, who apparently called President Obama a “son of a whore” is now being accused of ordering extrajudicial killings while he was Mayor of Davao City.  The Senate of that country is investigating.

And now I am caught up with the dreck that is happening out there beyond my world and have inoculated you with it – not in the sense of giving you a vaccine but in planting thoughts.

Today in class I was talking about persuasive speaking and one of the points I made was that a persuasive speaker inoculated their audience by planting ideas that would lead to change.

Perhaps some of these facts will inoculate you to work for change.  Fewer guns, a way to end bullying, more sensible politics…

And I woke up happy and I plan to go to bed happy.

 

 

Letter From Claverack 09 08 2016 A Creekside view…

September 9, 2016

Three days of grey clouds portended but did not produce rain.  Tonight, after seeing Woody Allen’s “Café Society,” I left the theater to be greeted by a soft rain falling, driving home over glistening roads.

Mixed reports had me slightly ambivalent about seeing “Café Society.”  Some said it was good.  Some said it wasn’t.  One wag commented, “It isn’t the worst Woody Allen film.”  No, it definitely wasn’t.  It wasn’t “Annie Hall” or “Manhattan” or “Bullets Over Broadway.” It was a slightly overlong, mostly charming view of a family in the late 1930’s in New York and Hollywood.  As usual, there was a pantheon of stars giving good performances including Jesse Eisenberg, Steve Carrell, Blake Lively [the first time I have liked her], Parker Posey, Corey Stoll and Kristen Stewart.

Mostly it looked beautiful and poignant and timeless and full of love gone round the wrong corner.

It was the second day of class and we’re all still alive and at least all my students seemed moderately engaged, except, perhaps, for the young woman who seemed to be fighting off falling asleep.  When I did a survey, all but three of my students are working jobs as well as attending school.  Some of them, many of them, have full time jobs as well as being full time students.  No wonder they sometimes yawn.

Out there in the world, beyond my quiet Creekside world, the strident tone of politics continues.

Last night, Matt Lauer moderated interviews, not at the same time, of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, supposedly about their views on issues related to national security.

Lauer, who, once upon a time I liked, devoted a third of Clinton’s half-hour to her email server issues.  Then, according to the news reports, didn’t handle the rest of the interview well.

It is the general consensus of the press that Lauer screwed up; was unprepared and unable to stand up to Donald Trump when he repeated he had been against the Iraq War when, in fact, he is on record of supporting it in 2002.

Alas, no TODAY for me going forward.  Shame on NBC for blowing this opportunity.  Shame on Matt Lauer for blowing his opportunity.

Depending on who you listen to, Trump is beating Clinton or Clinton is beating Trump.  The polls are rocky right now. There are only 60 or 61 days left to the election.  While I can’t conceive of it, there is a possibility Donald Trump will be President.

Libertarian Presidential nominee Gary Johnson, who has been getting close enough in the polls that he might be included in the debates, made a major gaffe the other day when he had no knowledge of Aleppo.  “What is Aleppo?”

Aleppo is the epicenter of the catastrophe that is Syria, where it has been reported Assad’s forces used chlorine gas on citizens.  There are frightful images of Syrian civilians needing oxygen.  Chlorine gas was the scourge of the WWI and now it is back in Syria.

In news of the future, Google and Chipotle are experimenting at UVA with drone delivery of burritos.  Buzzing in the sky will become normal…

In other news from the present, Apple’s stock was down 3% today after the announcement of the iPhone 7.  The no jack situation has many people [and investors] spooked.  Me too.  My iPhone 5s will not connect, for whatever reason, wirelessly with my speakers.  Everything else, easy peasy, but not from my phone.  And, in the end, I might succumb to the iPhone 7 Plus but might end up choosing the iPhone 6 Plus because it has a jack.  I have been waiting for the iPhone 7 and feel just a little cheated. Much thought ahead.

Fifteen years ago tomorrow, my now ex-partner and I made an offer on the cottage, from where I write this.  Which means that two days later we will have the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11.

It is an anniversary that always brings me back to my experience of horror on a scale I had never known.  It takes me to the corner of West Broadway and Spring Street, looking at the Towers burning and feeling stunned and knowing at that moment there was nowhere to turn.  We had just turned a page in history.

 

Letter From Claverack 09 06 2016

September 7, 2016

The day painted itself grey this morning, from the moment light crept into my bedroom, it was grey, the kind of day that promises rain and provides none, save a few drops when I was running an errand on Warren Street.

Fresh from what I thought was a successful first day in the classroom, I stopped at the Post Office and picked up my mail and sat on my deck, opening it, and just staring out at the day.  The air was lightly water touched by not too much.  But for the grey, it was a perfect sort of day.

At the college, I talked with one of my colleagues for whom there is terminal election fatigue.  She knows for whom she is voting, nothing in the shouting is going to change her position and so she feels no need to participate more.  It simply makes her crazy.

As it has for many people in this oddest of election seasons.  A few months ago, a commentator I was listening to said something like:  Who knows?  It’s 2016.

And that remains true.  It’s the wild and wooly 2016, an election season they will be talking about as long as politics is discussed, which is a very long time.  We are still discussing the politics of the Athenian democracy 2500 years later.  Countless tomes have been written about the Romans, their Republic and their Empire.  A thousand years from now some crepe skinned academic will be dissecting one small sliver of this campaign in a form of media we probably can’t conceive of but it will be happening.

Me?  I generally wake up happy and go to bed happy and know there is only so much I can do to shape events but what I can do, I do.

Tonight, I am writing earlier than I did last night and the verdant green in its grey frame fills my window.

Directly in front of me are two Adirondack chairs made for me by John McCormick, father of my oldest friend, Sarah.  He had made some for his daughter, Mary Clare, for her home in West Virginia.  When I bought the cottage, he asked me if he could make anything for it.  Adirondack chairs I said and there they are, in front of me, a wonderful bonding to a man now gone and a testament to all he and his family mean to me.

In this calm and quiet, I feel celebratory to have made it alive through the first day of class.  As I was preparing to head over to the college, I played music that pleased me, from the Great American Songbook.  Tonight there is no music.  The only sound is the ticking of an old clock that has been in my family for more than 125 years.  I think of it as the heart of the house.  But it drives some people crazy.  It just makes me smile.

The EpiPen conversation goes on.  Some say it actually costs only $30.00; some say it’s only about a dollar that goes into the actual medicine.

Isabelle Dinoire, the world’s first face transplant recipient has died, aged 49.  She was transplanted when her face was mauled by a dog.  RIP.

Obama cancelled a visit with the Philippines President after he called Obama “the son of a whore.”  Later President Duarte regretted his comment.

There was an incident when Obama arrived in China.  No one seemed to have agreed upon the protocol.  Everyone looked bad.

Kim Jung Un, the little paunchy, pudgy dictator of North Korea, celebrated Labor Day by sending off ballistic missiles that landed within 300 kilometers of Japan.  No one is happy except for the pudgy dictator who is now facing a new set of sanctions which he doesn’t care about.  He will let millions die because of them as long as he keeps his power, his toys and the instability he creates.

One can only imagine what this man’s childhood was like…

Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift have broken up after three months. This is HUGE news.  OMG!

Fox has settled with Gretchen Carlson in her lawsuit with them and Roger Ailes.  Twenty million dollars.  At the same time Greta Van Susteren has left the network under cloudy circumstances but then what is not cloudy in the world of Fox News these days?

And now it is dark.  I will turn on my floodlights and enjoy the creek at night.

It is a good day.  I survived the first day of a new class and felt good about it.

Today I woke up happy and I go to bed tonight happy.  May all of you who read me do the same.

 

 

 

Letter from Claverack 09 05 2016 On a Labor Day…

September 6, 2016

It is evening.  The floodlights illuminate the creek and we are losing daylight at the rate of about two minutes a day.  A month ago it would not have been this dark.  It is Labor Day, the unofficial official end of summer.  We start with Memorial Day and we end with Labor Day.  And Labor Day is ending as I sit here tapping out words on my laptop.

Tomorrow I start teaching and I have now pushed past my anxiety and am looking forward to the moment when I walk into class.  Oh, okay, ask me in the morning.  I am sure I will have anxiety in the morning but I will do it.  I’ve agreed to do it so therefore I must do it.

I have spent most of my time this weekend at home, secluded in the cottage, enjoying my home and being alone, having a good time with myself.  Yesterday, though, I went out to Larry Divney’s guest house, located a couple of miles from his own home.  There was a great and grand barbeque which included gluten free things, as that is what I am working to do.  Larry knows and so he took care of it, as is the way with Larry.

During this weekend, I have not paid particular attention to the world.  What is going on right now is redundant.  Syria continues to be a catastrophe.  Trump and Hillary continue their march across the nation, each besmirched by their own failings.  I will vote for Hillary because the idea of a Trump Presidency sends me to thoughts of expatriate life.  While flawed, deeply flawed, she is at least sane and not bombastic.  Could neither party come up with less flawed candidates?  Apparently not, because this is what we are dealing with…

We are also dealing with the first real beginnings of climate change.  Towns like Norfolk, VA are experiencing flooding that threatens them.  They are not the only ones.  It has, I am afraid, begun.

The Governor of Texas vetoed a bill to give assistance to the mentally ill based, at least in part, on a group of Scientologists who told him mental illness was a falsehood.  Texas gets the Stupid Award of the week.  Mental illness is not false; it does exist.  It is a plague upon the land and can we not find a place to help these poor souls?  Not in Texas.

The night has descended.  I alleviate it with my floodlights but it is here.  The fall is arriving.  And while I look forward to the fall and winter with Thanksgiving and Christmas, I will miss this soft summer and its delights.

 

 

 

 

Letter from New York 05 26 2016 Thoughts while overlooking Edgartown Harbor…

May 27, 2016

It is blissfully quiet this moment, except for the drone of the Harbor Patrol boat in Edgartown Harbor.  I am sitting, at this minute, on the veranda of my friends’ home overlooking that harbor.

View from the room

Yesterday, I arrived on Martha’s Vineyard.  I am here for awhile, that while yet undetermined. My friends, Jeffrey and Joyce, own the Edgartown Bookstore.  About six weeks ago, reading “All The Light We Cannot See,” a book I purchased last year at their bookstore, it occurred to me they might need some help at the beginning of the season.  So I volunteered.  And here I am.

Yesterday, I left the cottage and had a giddy thought.  If I should decide not to teach in the fall, after the Vineyard, there is no place I have to be for the rest of my life.  It was both liberating and frightening.  I felt like my head was filled with helium.  I have acknowledged, at last, I am adrift in the world and that the boundaries I am now setting are the ones of my own choosing and no one else’s.  

I took a picture of the rhododendron as I left the house.

IRhododendrens at cottage

As I also took a picture of the creek before I left.The creek on May 25th 2016

As I was sitting in my car on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, Jeffrey texted me: don’t eat!  They also own “Behind the Bookstore,” a restaurant that has a great reputation on the island.  We were treated to a tasting course of everything on the dinner menu and dinner service begins tonight.  It was all extraordinary, with the exception of the sweet pea gnocchi, which is still a work in progress.

The young chef is fresh out of Chez Panisse in Berkley, Alice Waters’ signature restaurant.

Tonight, after my first day in the bookstore, where I did my best to earn my keep, I am sipping a martini and looking at Edgartown harbor and thinking how fortunate I am to have this experience.

I am enjoying the moment.

Unbelievably but not perhaps unpredictably, Donald Trump has cinched the number of delegates he needs to be nominated.  I am appalled and don’t want to think about it.  So I am enjoying my view.

Let’s admit it.  I am scared to death if he wins the election.  Scarred to death.  He has no credible credentials to be President of the United States.  And I must decide if I will engage in this fall’s election to defeat him or stay on the sidelines and pray to all the gods in all the universes.  I suspect I will do my best to defeat him.

But Hillary!  As we were driving to “Behind The Bookstore” last night, Jeffrey said, and rightly, that there was no problem that the Clintons couldn’t make worse.

And it is so effing true.  They stumble into things and don’t claim responsibility and just manage to make things worse and worse and worse.  And the polls are showing that Hillary could lose to The Donald. 

Oh my! Lions and tigers and bears… Oh my!

I am going to focus on the moment right now.  I have to.  I am sitting on a veranda on Martha’s Vineyard, looking out on Edgartown Harbor, calm and peaceful.  The storm may be about to erupt on our heads but not tonight.  I will savor tonight because not to do so would be foolish.

Letter From New York 05 13 2016 Thoughts on mortality….

May 14, 2016

It is Friday the 13th, a day feared by many as unlucky.  It has neither been lucky or unlucky for me, so far…

The cottage is ripe with the good feelings from a lovely dinner party last night.  There were six of us.  We had appetizers, soup, salad, fish, lamb or pork or both, baby gold Yukon potatoes, sautéed carrots, green beans with butter and ice cream and berries for dessert.  People arrived at seven and left after midnight.  A good time was had by all.

I am now in my fourth load in the dishwasher.  We had cocktails, champagne, white wine, red wine, cordials.  It was a long, delightful evening of food and wonderful conversation.  It was a moment of recognition of how lucky I am, to be in the cottage, to have friends, to be alive.

As I returned from the city on Tuesday, I got a text letting me know that Vinnie Kralyevich had died the night before.  He was fifty-two, was on the treadmill, collapsed and could not be revived.  He was someone I worked with a lot about nine years ago and I was staggered to learn he had passed.  I am older and there was another moment that reminded me of my own mortality.

I am at an age when mortality is knocking at my door.  The people who mentored me are growing older and are leaving the scene.  I have younger friends who are cursed with terminal diseases and are leaving me.

For more than fifteen years my friends Medora Heilbron and Meryl Marshall-Daniels have had a weekly call to check in and support each other.  It’s a phone support group.  Medora ran development for USA Network when I was out pitching shows.  Meryl got me involved with the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  I was on the Board of Governors when she was the Chair of the Academy.  Medora reached me on 9/11 just before I lost phone service to check on how I was.

It is a deep and rich sharing, once a week, except when one of us is out of the country.

Medora shared today that Bruce Lansbury, brother to Angela, a producer of great renown and who gave Medora her best break in the business, was suffering from Alzheimers.  Angela and Medora live in the same Los Angeles neighborhood, run into each other in markets but Medora had never introduced herself to Angela but, for some reason, she did this week at the Whole Foods in Brentwood.  She was devastated by the news that Bruce was alive but gone.

It is what all of us fear.  I do.

While I write this, on a day which has been dark and drear, a soft fog is descending around me, enveloping the creek, the end of a rainy, dismal day. And the view in front of me is a bit magical.  One could imagine woodland nymphs dancing in the distance.

However, there are no woodland nymphs dancing tonight in American politics. 

Trump has a butler who is now retired but still gives tours at his estate in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, built for Marjorie Merriweather Post, a cereal heiress whose daughter, Dina Merrill, was an accomplished actress.

He called Obama a “muzzie” who should be hung.  The Trump campaign is working to distance itself from those comments.  A “muzzie” is a Muslim, by the way.

I had a long chat with my client, Howard Bloom, who has just finished a new book, “The Mohammed Code.”  It is an exegesis of the roots of fundamentalism in Islam. We have battered back and forth about the book because it exposes the roots of ISIS and I am hoping will reflect the differentiation between fundamentalist Muslims and the majority of Muslims who have renounced the ugly parts of their religion.

This is the great conversation of today. We must come to peace with Islam and they must come to peace with us.  Not easy but must be done…

Letter From New York 05 09 2016 Thoughts on the last day of teaching…

May 9, 2016

For the first time in a week, the sun is out and the day feels spring like.  Sunlight glitters off the Hudson River as the train I’m riding heads south to the city.  I have a couple of meetings this afternoon and tomorrow and then will head back north after the last one is completed. 

Hudson River from Train

Today, I gave the final to my class.  Once they’re graded and handed in, I am finished unless I am asked back in the fall.

It was genuinely hard for me to see my students go.  I will honestly miss them, even the reluctant ones among them.

They are all interesting characters and I worry about them because most of them are graduating and their academic skills are less, for the most part, of what I would expect of students finishing their second year of college.

They range in age from twenty to forty.  One is a mother who missed a couple of classes because she went to her own daughter’s graduation.  Another is a vet, who is back after years of service, a man of thirty something who carries weight in his soul.

They follow Facebook and spurn Twitter.  Instagram and Snapchat are their social media of choice.

No one remembers anything.  They turn to their phones for the answers for anything and everything.  As has been posited, if you can Google, why remember it?

Today was the first time they were not nose to nose with their phones.  Their phones rarely leave their hands and if they have left it behind someplace, they are a shot out the door to retrieve it.

One of my tasks was to teach them to be better, smarter consumers of media.  I challenged them to go a day without media.  The one who came closest, went out to a farm and stayed there and even he couldn’t make it the full twenty-four hours.

The rest of them barely made it more than a few minutes.  All have a better understanding of how pervasive contemporary media is.

Anxiety is apparent when they are separated from their phones, even for relatively short periods of time.  When I threatened to remove a phone from one my students as she wouldn’t stop playing with it, I was greeted by genuine terror in her face.

Most of them suffer a higher degree of nomophobia [anxiety of being separated from your smartphone] than I had expected.  The older they were, the less it was, the younger they were, the higher the degree.  It was both fascinating and a little unsettling to observe.

Many of them write as if they were texting and some, to my great concern, have almost no skill in writing at all.  I mean zip.  And while they have more than moderate intelligence, they lack the skills to communicate their intelligence in writing.  One of the smartest people in my class in native intelligence is incapable of getting his thoughts on paper.  How can I not worry about him?

Most of them have an appalling lack of historical knowledge in general.  They live in an ever constant present, skimming the waves of history, passing over it rather than through it.  And what happened centuries ago is something which seems irrelevant to them.  As I’ve mentioned, if they need to know about an event, they can Google it.  [A disturbing tendency I have found in myself.]

Major device for connecting to the internet?  The phone, of course.  Most video viewing done?  On the phone.  Music consumption?  On the phone.  Everything is on the phone.

I am convinced they came away with a better understanding of how to approach and interpret media as they experience it and I am glad I have helped make them, please dear God, better consumers of media, less open to manipulation, more discerning, more interpretive because they really weren’t when they came into class.

I am afraid that is the case of many students today, at every level.