Posts Tagged ‘Angelina Jolie’

Letter From Claverack 09 04 2017

September 4, 2017

It is an excruciatingly beautiful day at the cottage, the sun is warm, a wind blows to temper it, the only sound is soft jazz in the other room.  I have just finished a late lunch of eggs, sunny side up, steak and toast, eaten on the deck.  The first leaves have begun to fall, scattered on the table top, reminding me of the fleetingness of time.

Soon we will be in another season, fall, which I love and loathe, as I always seem so alive in the fall and, at the same time, so painfully aware life is short and death is long. It’s been that way ever since I was a kid, walking down the leaf strewn streets of south Minneapolis, knowing winter was coming and being entranced by the magic in the air.

It is Labor Day, 2017.

“According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the holiday is ‘a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.’ Labor Day is a ‘yearly national tribute’ to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and wellbeing of our country.          Newsweek, 9/04/2017

And it is a holiday with a bloody history.  “Labor” wasn’t always celebrated.  Suggested reading: Walter Lord’s “The Good Years.”

The summer is unofficially ending when this day becomes part of history.  When I was a kid, it meant school was starting the next day so this was a day I always endured fearfully.  Today, I am not fearful about returning to school.  There are other things…

Kim Jong-Un has me a little fearful as does having Trump be the president who is facing him.  There was some analysis this morning that the timing of Kim’s tests of bombs and missiles has more to do with tweaking President Xi of China than with President Trump.  The latest bomb test came just as Xi was greeting officials from the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China.  Took the wind out of Xi’s sails in terms of making news.  Kim does these things lately just as Xi is set to make some news.  Hey, I’m HERE, President Xi!  Got it?  I’m here and I’ve got some pretty big toys!

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has said North Korea “is begging for war.”  President Trump is saying, “All options are on the table.” This might not end well.

Down in the Caribbean sits the Dutch island of Saba, part of the Leeward Islands, which I visited in February.  Friends have retired there and are sitting directly in the path of Hurricane Irma, now a category 4 storm.  An email today said they will be in the eye of the hurricane tomorrow and were busily preparing, friends helping friends prepare for what could be a very nasty ride.  If you pray, think of them.

Michael Eros, son of my longtime friends, Mary Clare and Jim Eros, is returning to Houston today after the Burning Man Festival.  He left Houston before Harvey hit and he will now find out what it has done to his city.  He and friends built a giant figure which they burned, leaving behind the metal shell.

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Harvey will likely be the most expensive storm in history; it is believed 180 billion dollars of damage has been done.  Ted Cruz is having a hard time now explaining why he voted against Sandy help now that he is asking for Harvey help.  The phrase, “people who live in glass houses,” comes to mind.

There are joyful things happening in the world. Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child.  Peggy Whitson has returned from the International Space Station, having notched more time in space than any other American.  There will be another Indiana Jones film, without Shia LeBeouf’s character.  A young girl in Harvey’s floodwaters got herself and her family rescued by asking Siri to call the Coast Guard, which rescued her as she was slipping into a sickle cell anemia crisis.

Bad things will happen.  Good things will happen.  All we need to do, to keep moving forward, is not to blow ourselves up.  I’ll pray for that.

 

 

Letter From Claverack 09 23 2016 And what Springsteen said…

September 24, 2016

It has been days since I have written a letter.  Partially it is because I have been socially busy when I am usually not.   Lionel and Pierre are here.  Yesterday his sister and brother-in-law and their son Harry arrived from Australia.  Tomorrow they are leaving for a cruise in the Caribbean.  While they’re gone, I will be caretaker for Marcel for most of the time, a task I will both enjoy and of which I am afraid.  In less than a month, Marcel will be 16 years old.  He is a little old man who soldiers on with bravado.

Fall has officially arrived and leaves are beginning to flutter down upon the cottage.  Every few minutes an acorn falls on the roof.  While still warmish in the days, it cools significantly at night.  A cold front is arriving, the weatherman says.

It has been a hectic day, starting early with documents to review, followed by a string of conference calls and then more documents to review.  When I went online to post something for my class, I discovered that Blackboard is offline, as it is every Friday at this time, for maintenance. It will have to wait until morning.

Social busyness was the cover for my not wanting to write, to not think about the world.  I read the New York Times Briefing every day and have found discouragement in its contents.

More people have been shot.  A white female officer in Tulsa has been charged with manslaughter in the case there.  In Charlotte, North Carolina, the town that prided itself as being the epitome of the “New South,” is still parsing the death of a black man there while protests have grown violent, leaving one more dead.

At times, frankly, it makes me want to crawl into bed with a chill bottle of vodka and a straw.  More and more people are telling me they are tuning out the acrid political scene of this year.  They have determined which way they are going to vote and have no need to be brutalized anymore.

The first of the debates are upon us and I may steel myself to watch it.  I just don’t know how long I will last.

Two of the most deeply disliked individuals in America are running for President.  There is no joy in Mudville.

Palmer Luckey is one of the founders of Oculus, the VR hardware company scooped up by Facebook a bit ago.  He is funding an anti-Clinton, pro-Trump group and a small group of developers are now dropping their support for Oculus because of his politics.  It’s far from a boycott but is unusual and probably unprecedented in the gaming world.

Once nominated for President, candidates get Secret Service protection.  The Secret Service reimburses campaigns for the agents’ travel.  In Trump’s case, it goes to TAG Air, a company he owns.  It has received $1.6 million so far.  I get it…  Sort of… Kind of…

Looking for things to distract me from drownings of refugees, our sordid political landscape, I turned tonight to Entertainment News, which is what feeds the American mind most of the time.

“Magnificent Seven” reigns at the box office, headlined by Denzel Washington.

The more than decade long spectacle that has been “Brangelina” is coming to an end as Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.  It was a good show, classier than most, most of the time.

The Emmys have come and gone.  All reports [I didn’t watch] was that it was a good show.  Jimmy Kimmel was highly praised for his hosting but the back slapping industry love fest plummeted 22% from last year in ratings.

And Jim Parsons, of “Big Bang Theory” is now TV’s highest paid actor, with $25,000,000 coming in for the next, and possibly last, season of the show.

Oh, and Bruce Springsteen called Trump a “moron.”

 

 

 

 

Letter From New York 03 16 2016 Riding into New York…

March 16, 2016

The Hudson River is nearly mirror still as I rumble south on the train, into New York for a visit to my gastroenterologist for a [ugh] colonoscopy, a follow-up to my stay in the hospital last month.

The morning was full of news about the primaries.  Trump, as had been expected, trounced Marco Rubio in his home state of Florida and Rubio, also as expected, withdrew from the race.

Bernie Sanders is wondering about what next as Hillary Clinton handily beat him in Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina and, of course, Florida.  It is looking like she eked out a win in Missouri, beating Bernie by a mere 1500 votes the last time I looked.

Kasich took his home state of Ohio so he is still playing the Republican game of musical chairs.

53% of Americans would choose Trump to be the Republican nominee.  61% don’t like him.  Go figure.

Trump is preening in his victories, winning everywhere but Ohio.  He claims there will be riots if the Republican Party denies him the nomination.  Even in victory he summons images of violence.

While there will likely not be physical violence, there will be much name calling and shouting now that Obama has nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by Scalia’s death.  Republicans have vowed not to move on the matter until there is another President, keeping their fingers crossed a Republican will occupy the White House.

Congressional chaos…

In the streets of DC and its environs there was another piece of chaos on the streets.  After two electrical fires within the last year, the new head of the Metro ordered it shut down for twenty-four hours while they inspect it to ensure it is safe.

Having once lived in DC, I can only imagine what the day was like and be grateful I wasn’t there.  It’s how I usually get around DC.

Also, the Fed is being dovish about raising rates.  The dollar falls, gold rises as do the markets, modestly.

In Brussels, an Algerian, illegally in the country, was killed in a raid by police.  At least two others were detained; an Islamic flag was found with them.  Belgian police are promising more raids.

In Nigeria, two female suicide bombers killed twenty-four at a mosque.  A bomb placed on a bus in Pakistan killed fourteen.

Angelina Jolie has met with refugees in Lebanon and Greece in a bid to bring the spotlight on them.  Germany’s Merkel thinks only Turkey can stem the flow and has called for a Pan-European meeting to address the issue.

The Kurds in Syria are calling for a Federalization of Syria, creating more independence for them.  No else seems very much in favor of the solution, especially Assad, who sees it as the beginning of the break-up of  his country.

Putin has announced in the last couple of days that Russia has accomplished its mission in Syria and is beginning a withdrawal of a majority of its forces.  Indeed, half the Russian planes have departed but eyebrows are raised as to whether this is actually going to be the kind of withdrawal that Putin intimates.

“The Happiest Place on Earth” is Disney owned.  However, the happiest country on the planet is Denmark, which has held the top spot for three of the four years that the World Happiness Report has been issued. 

Next are Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, The Netherlands,  New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

Poor Burundi is the unhappiest country.  Just above it on the list are Syria, Togo, Afghanistan, Benin, Rwanda, Guinea, Liberia, Tanzania and Madagascar.  Poor and riven with war or disease or both, they are at the bottom.

You’re wondering where the US is on this scale, aren’t you?  We’re number 13, actually a little higher than I thought we might be.

Russia is number 110 and China is 83rd and India is 118th.

If interested in Hollywood and the often salacious stories that come out that place,  a new book is due out, “James Dean: Tomorrow Never Comes,” by Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince, claiming that James Dean and Marlon Brando had an on/off sadomasochistic sexual relationship from their meeting to Dean’s death in a car accident in 1955.

Long dead but still capable of steaming up the book sales.

New York approaches.

Letter From New York 12 30 14 The changing landscape around us…

December 30, 2014

Just as I sat down to write today, a veritable herd of deer crossed the yard, followed by one straggler who was obviously hurt, bounding as best she could on three legs while the rest were far ahead. It was touching and I instinctively wanted to run out and see what I could do for her – but I wouldn’t know and she is now long gone.

The sun is setting in the west; today, unlike the days before, was bright and sunny with brilliant cheer, chill but definitely not Minnesota cold. My brother told me it would be seven below there this morning. I woke to twenty-seven degrees. All the snow is gone now; the world looks more like a barren fall landscape than a winter wonderland.

The year is ending and everyone seems to be coming up with a top ten list, some of winners, some of losers but magazines are counting. Deadline Hollywood came up with part of its top ten films, which included FURY, UNBROKEN, AMERICAN SNIPER and Rory Kennedy’s documentary, LAST DAYS IN VIET NAM. Four of the five were war movies, which seems to have been on our mind this year.

It’s not surprising; we have been living with war for a long time now. Afghanistan is formally over and done but there are still boots on the ground and NATO still has a presence. Iraq and Syria burn and we have, of course, the Boko Haram in Africa.

Steven Pinker, author of THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE, argues that overall violence is down from where it has historically been. This morning in The Times that sentiment was echoed with the caveat that because of Syria and Ukraine there has been an uptick in the last year but that there are “only” something like eleven conflicts happening when there used to be dozens.

Perhaps it just seems to be more to us in America because we have had Iraq and Afghanistan for so long and they don’t seem to be going away. We’ve had to face ISIS this last year, too. But all in all, over the course of my lifetime, it appears that overall violence has declined and while I find that hard to believe sometimes, the empirical evidence seems to point that way.

And that is good.

Now there is a pink tinge to the sky as the light of the day begins to fail; the bare trees claw the sky and make for a magic scene out the windows by my desk. It is a perfect time for contemplation and thought; soft jazz plays in the living room on Pandora.

Lights are beginning to come on around the neighborhood, soon the automatic lights will snap on as the dark descends.

As I sit in this bucolic setting, I say a quiet prayer for the families of the people on the lost Air Asia flight. Bodies and wreckage have been found; another Malaysian linked plane has been lost, the third this year.

My mind also goes to Alexei Navalny, the Russian dissident who was given a suspended sentence for fraud. Thousands gathered in Moscow to protest the sentence and he joined them and was arrested again. It is suspected he was given a suspended sentence to avoid his becoming a political martyr. Putin has taken on all the powers of the Tsar, Autocrat of all the Russias. He just hasn’t crowned himself. Perhaps before it’s done, he’ll follow the example of Napoleon and put the crown on his own head.

Ah, darkness has fallen. The automatic lights have clicked on. I must go and prep for dinner with friends, in the seemingly unending string of dinner and cocktail parties.

Tomorrow, I must make a decision as to which of the two parties to which I am invited I will attend to ring out the old and bring in the new. Not bad decisions to have to make.

Letter From New York 12 12 14 Not all storms come from nature…

December 12, 2014

In the background I am listening to Christmas Carols playing softly on Pandora. I have three Christmas stations bookmarked there and I rotate between them and before the Holidays are over, will probably add one or two more to keep me company as we count down to Christmas.

The tree is up, the crèche is set and almost all the Christmas presents are taken care of…

This afternoon I will go out and purchase the last couple of things I intend to give and probably will go on to do Christmas cards tomorrow and wrap the few presents that remain to be done.

I am in pretty good shape this year.

Outside it is a winter wonderland. White, crisp and clean. A family of deer just ran by my window. All is tranquil.

It isn’t tranquil in Los Angeles. They had heavy rains there last night and northern California was pummeled. 200,000 people are without power and there are fears of mudslides due to all the land that was burned clear during the summer fires sliding away.

On the front page of the L.A. Times, there are stories about the storm but there are also headlines about the hacked emails of Amy Pascal of Sony Entertainment and Scott Rudin, the producer. There is open speculation that she may not be able to keep her job post the “racially insensitive” emails about President Obama the flowed between her and Rudin.

Both have come out and apologized but apologies may not be enough. Shonda Rimes, she of the golden fingers who created Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy and owns Thursday nights on ABC, tweeted something almost unquotable about the situation. It was something like: you can put a cherry on a pile of s*it but it don’t make it a sundae.

Wow.

Lots of unpleasant things were said about talent, including Angelina Jolie. And Kevin Hart. And Mark Ruffalo. And and and…

Apparently a lot of executives are spending time on the phone with agents and managers apologizing while also letting them know there might be more to come.

Ouch.

I think the group claiming responsibility for this hacking mess is something called Guardians of the Peace. They object to a comedy coming out on Christmas Day called The Interview, which is about an attempt to assassinate the leader of North Korea. Just how assassination attempts become a comedy I’m not sure but it stars James Franco and Seth Rogen so I am sure there is some bumbling involved.

North Korea denies responsibility for the hack while at the same time praising whoever did it. Good on you, they say.

So it is storming in California and not all the storms are of the natural kind.

Letter From New York, June 21, 2011

June 22, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

Twilight is settling on New York City; it’s a Monday night as I begin writing, the end of one of those beautiful days that are perfect – not too warm, not too humid, sun blessed with light warm winds. I walked home, past at least a dozen restaurants with their sidewalk seating jammed with people yearning to soak in the grand beauty of the day.

As I walked, I wondered what I would write about this week. Certainly I was thinking about the weekend – I spent Saturday with an electrician who was fixing the damage done to my electric wiring when lightening hit a tree near the house when I was out in California. I was lucky: the house didn’t burn down and it might have. Mostly I was thinking I was lucky.

I thought, as I walked south down Broadway, past all those New York restaurants with sidewalk seating, about how nice a city New York can be. It was a lovely day and people were being lovely – it was hard to have a fault in this day.

Walking down Broadway I thought how blessed I am with friendships. Last night I had dinner with my friends Lionel and Pierre; we have shared many things and they always take great good care of me. I thought of my friend Maura, who has come to New York, working with me at Odyssey and what a journey we are both on, trying to help figure out how to help Odyssey grow and prosper because each of us believe fiercely in what Odyssey is doing. It’s doing great things and we’re attempting to help it understand its future. There is my friend David Fox who once described me as his newest oldest friend. He had surgery today and was manning the phones by the afternoon. Wow! I would have taken the whole day off; surgery is a good excuse for a get out jail card. I thought of Mitch and Mitchell, new friends David and Bill, my brother, my sister, my sweet sister-in-law, more names than can be counted in any missive…

I am an enormously fortunate man. I split my time between New York City and a sweet little cottage on a creek in the Hudson Valley. I work on interesting projects and am intellectually engaged in my life. I listen to jazz and smile and think about a lot of things while tapping away on the laptop in my lap.

Gay Pride, which just happened in Hudson and which is about to burst upon New York City, underscores this is a huge time in New York State for gay issues. Gay marriage is in front of the legislature as I type. Governor Cuomo is pushing to have it approved; rallies pro and con abound. I remember ten years ago having a conversation at a wonderful breakfast at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel with my friend Medora who asked me what I thought about it and I told her I was amazed it was a topic of conversation in my lifetime.

My friends Gary and Angel are getting married in September. They will do the official deed in Connecticut, which has approved gay marriage, but will celebrate it in New Jersey where they have a home. Wow! This is happening in my lifetime. Who would have thunk?

I am amazed at the changes in society in my lifetime. Not just gay rights – let’s think about the changes that have happened for African-Americans in the last fifty years. This country has absorbed so many different groups of people. That’s one of the amazing things about America – it has absorbed so many from so many lands. We have always felt a little challenged about absorption but we seem to work it out.

So all I am saying is that we are at an interesting crossroads in our life, as we always are. America is changing, as it always has. Learning how to embrace those changes are the essence of what has made America great.