Posts Tagged ‘Brad Pitt’

Letter From Claverack 09 25 2017 Fear, fear mongering, theater and more…

September 25, 2017

While it is now officially fall, the weather is summer-ish, scraping at ninety degrees today.  The train is rumbling into the city where I will be attending a talk today by my friend Jeff Cole of the Center for the Digital Future on “Driverless Cars and the Battle for the Living Room.”  I’m eager to see how those two very disparate topics get pulled together – or not.

Yesterday, I returned to the cottage from Provincetown where I had been visiting friends and attending the Tennessee Williams Festival, now in its twelfth year.  Mixing Shakespeare with Williams this year, I saw five plays, the most laudable being “Gnadiges Fraulein,” an absurdist Williams from the tail end of his career in which some see an allegory for that career.

The Festival was marred by weather from the last of Jose for the first three days; yesterday was magnificent.  Leaving after Shakespeare’s “Antony & Cleopatra,” I drove home, listening to the omnipresent exegesis of President Trump’s Friday comments on kneeling during the national anthem and Sunday’s reaction by athletes and owners of teams.

Trump had said that owners and coaches should get “the son of a bitch” players who kneeled during the national anthem off the field, suspending or firing them.

Owners and athletes defied the President.  Even Tom Brady locked arms with his teammates.  The Steelers stayed in the locker room until after the anthem had been played. All but two of the NFL’s owners and CEO’s issued statements calling for unity.

Some fans booed.  Most didn’t walk out.

Trump praised those who booed.

Such is life in today’s America.

And I’m on the side of the players and the owners in this kerfuffle.  The right to protest is as American as apple pie.

My weariness is growing daily with this President’s ability to be divisive.

Defying top aides, he has escalated the war of words with North Korea to the point that as I am writing this, the foreign minister for the pudgy, pugnacious little man who is the ruler of that country has said that Trump has declared war and they have the right to shoot down American planes.

This will not end well, I fear.

In Germany, Angela Merkel is on her way to a fourth term though diminished.  The far right AfD has won a troubling 13% of the vote and will have a place in the German parliament, a feat that no other far right German movement has managed in decades.

It is representative of the fear that threads its way through our societal fibers, in Germany and here at home, in France and the Netherlands.  The world is changing and change often results in fear and the world is changing so quickly right now.

Abe in Japan has called a snap election, riding high on North Korean nuclear fears.

The Senate is desperately working to pass another bill to repeal Obamacare but with McCain, Rand Paul and probably Collins and possibly Murkowski against it, tough sledding is a generous description of what is facing McConnell.

Trump is saying today that Congress doesn’t have “the guts” to repeal Obamacare and I’m hoping he’s right as this version seems to be the most mean-spirited of all the versions proposed so far.

I’m off soon to the presentation.  I’ll let you know how driverless cars and the battle for the living room fit together!

Have a good day!


Letter from Claverack 07 28 2017 Needing places and moments of refuge…

July 28, 2017



A gray, foggy morning yielded to a fairly sunny, rather cool afternoon; whenever the sun slipped behind a cloud I was tempted to come into the house from my perch on the deck while the cleaning crew spiffed the house.

Now, with cottage clean, I am sitting at the dining room table, sliders open to the deck.  Birds are singing and music from the 1940’s is playing on my Echo.

Returning from the Vineyard Tuesday, I made myself a martini, wrote a poem, and found myself purchasing Christmas presents from a site that emails regularly, from which I buy irregularly and, yesterday, had some things I wanted.  Saying there were only four available, I pounced.  I think they were being clever as the number available never went below four.

Insane for Christmas shopping in July?  No.  It saves so much stress come November.  In January, I saw something I thought would be perfect for my friends, Nick and Lisa, and thought: if not now, when?  And, you know, I have been back to that store several times and not seen the item again.

All this, the creek and future Christmas shopping, visiting my friends on Martha’s Vineyard, is very hygge.  And I need all the hygge I can get.

Monday or Tuesday I received a scree from a relative who supports Trump that was filled with things that made me flinch, a repudiation of most of the things I think are advancements.  Should we go back to the days of a segregated America?

And while I look out at my sun kissed creek, I read that Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, has published a 252-page pamphlet on how to deal with a North Korean nuclear attack.  That was something I needed to read a couple of times.  Hawaii is also preparing for such an event and I am holding my head to keep it from exploding.

Somewhere along the line in my now longish life, I read that one of the contributing factors in the fall of Rome was lead poisoning.  Romans lined their wine amphorae with lead which leached into the wine they drank and we all know lead poisoning isn’t good.

Sperm count has dropped by 50% in the western world in the last forty years.  Gives me pause to wonder what historians will say about the cause.  Pesticide poisoning? Another reason?

President Trump addressed the Boy Scout Jamboree this week.  What you thought of his speech probably depends on which side of the political spectrum you are on.

Speaking of our President, his relentless attacks on Attorney General Sessions seem to have many Republicans up in arms, particularly in the Senate where Sessions was a member for a lot of years and it’s a tight club.

Republican Senator John McCain, with whom I have often not agreed [particularly in his choice of Sarah Palin as his VP choice], made a speech for bipartisanship after returning from surgery for a brain tumor.  If you want to both hear and read what he said, click here. It reminded me of the times I have liked him.

Our president is not going to allow transgender individuals to serve in the Armed Forces.  It’s not necessary for me to elucidate the storm that has created, not the least of which happened in the Pentagon, caught off guard by a Twitter announcement of a policy change.

The president made mention of medical costs for transgendered individuals which turns out to be less than what the Army spends on Viagra each year.

The cynic in me feels it was announced to please his base and divert attention from all the White House chaos.

Hello, Anthony Scaramucci!

The world in which I live seems so mad on so many levels that I am grateful I have the ability to sit here and look out at my canopy of green, look down into my creek and see the bottom of it through the clear, clear water, that I can listen to music and celebrate it, that I have had the chance to stare out at Edgartown harbor thanks to the kindness of my friends who invite me to visit them, that, even though I think the world right now more mad than it has been since my adolescence, I have places and moments of refuge.






Letter From Claverack June 1, 2017 And they wonder why…

June 1, 2017

Thunderstorms pummeled the Hudson Valley last night.  This morning is as sweet a morning as one might wish.

The sky is a color of blue for which I cannot find a word; sweet, clear, refreshed from the rain.  The sharp green of the trees outside my window almost glow in the sunlight cascading down in an almost magic morning.  It is not hard to imagine that across the creek woodland nymphs are gambling in delight.

A big mug of strong coffee is at my side and jazz is playing, upbeat and uplifting.

A letter has been fermenting in my mind the last few days, ever since a couple of my friends who are supporters of Donald Trump questioned me on why he has had such a vitriolic reception as President?

I found myself surprised by the question.

It surprised me they did not understand; didn’t see what I see and I need to remember we are all individuals who are interpreting current events in different ways.

We have a President who didn’t win the majority vote and is still the President of the country, an event that has happened twice in this century, brief as it has been, and that has made a lot of people angry, uncomfortable and questioning our Founding Fathers’ wisdom in setting up the Electoral College.

We have a President that doesn’t seem to know the truth.  We like our Presidents to at least sound like they’re telling the truth.

We don’t like them saying things that are verifiably not true, things that are conflations of their own imaginations.  People notice things like that. It does not breed respect.

His Inauguration speech depicted an America which inspired despair, not hope.  His picks for almost every office inspires deep concern for many people.  Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA? Rick Perry as Secretary of the Department of Energy, the department he couldn’t remember in a debate that he wanted eliminated.  Sort of a come down from people like the Ph.D.’s who were running it before.

NOTHING this President has done is very Presidential.

In his European trip, he may have handed the mantle of the leader of the Free World to Angela Merkel.

He is picking a trade fight with Germany but not addressing the real issues and potentially hurting workers in the South, where German car companies have been manufacturing.  People who elected him may be the victims of this fight.

If he repudiates the Paris Climate Accords, he will link us with Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not agreeing and will be doing another thing that will cede leadership to China, which remains steadfast in its support.  And is capitalizing on it.  China’s Premier is in Europe right now, cozying up to Merkel.

If we are disrespectful, it is because this man has given us so little to respect – from my point of view and that is not the point of view of everyone. I acknowledge that.

My family was Republican.  The first President I remember is Dwight Eisenhower.  Wow.  Dwight Eisenhower then.  Donald Trump now.  Is it any wonder I shiver at night?

Weeks ago, I texted one of the smartest people I know, an Independent, who has voted both for Republicans and Democrats, not married to a party.  I asked him what he thought of Trump.  There was no response, until this weekend.

He said: I used to think Trump was just a jackass but he seems to be a jackass and an idiot.

Our White House is occupied by someone who seems a jackass and an idiot who is being unfaithful to the people who elected him.  Everything he has proposed is supportive of his class and destructive to the people who elected him.

He is bringing the Billionaire’s Boy’s Club to the White House.  He’s not cleaning out the swamp. He’s enlarging it.

Bucking a long-standing tradition, he hasn’t, still, released his tax returns.  His aides have “forgotten” meetings with Russian officials during the campaign.  His sons have contradicted him in terms of his financial relations with Russia.  There are all kinds of dangling Russian connections that are, at best, unseemly, and, at worst, criminal and maybe treasonous.

So, I shiver at night and tremble when he speaks.

This is all, of course, my humble opinion.

And thus, I do things that are very hygge to comfort my soul, make me feel at one with the universe, and give me a smile, such as enjoying and savoring the view out my window, like enjoying this cat on display on Main Street in Catskill, where I was doing some errands yesterday.


Or enjoying this reflection by Thomas Pesquet, a French astronaut, as he readies himself for his return to earth.  See it here.





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, August 21, 2011

August 21, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…
I am back from the Vineyard and ensconced this morning at the cottage, curled on the couch, as the early morning sun becomes hidden behind incoming rain clouds, rain that has been predicted all weekend but which has held off now until today, Sunday.

I realized that the cottage is my land of “off.” I arrive and feel a weight lift from me, for a moment I am away, mostly, from the deluge of email, some of which feel like they “e-maul” me.

And the lovely sight of Claverack Creek lazily flowing is more than soothing and over each day I am here, I want, as much as possible, to let the soul rest as well as the body, to enjoy quiet and to recoup from the wear and tear of life. Even though I know my life is magic compared with so many in the world – almost all our lives are – I also know we are not immune from the vagaries of life.

Earlier this week, I read that western nations are more deeply plagued by depression than underdeveloped nations. Is it, I wonder, the result of complex lives, the juggling of so much beyond the basics that our brains malfunction from the strain of processing? Is depression a by-product of technological development? At least on the scale from which we seem to suffer from it?

I don’t know the answer to that but the question has scratched around my brain since I read that factoid in an online article earlier this week while researching something completely different. So I went online and googled “depression and technology” and found out I am not the only man on a laptop who has questioned that this might be the case. “Depression and technology” brought up 131,000,000 items in 0.17 seconds [oh, how we love you Google]. There are also indications that technology can help with depression, particularly among seniors who are beginning to feel isolated and feel they have lost their autonomy.

It is complex and fascinating and a subject I am going to delve into more as time goes on. One writer ruminated on what he felt was the impossibility of the human mind at this time successfully processing all the information we are presented with [I’m saying ‘at this time’ because gosh knows we evolve; perhaps we are at a stage similar to the first creatures that crawled out of the sea to conquer land living?]. But certainly the human brain has had to cope with a dazzling degree of technological evolution in the last hundred or so years.

My Google search revealed people were beginning to wonder about it in the 1920’s and if they were wondering about it then…

Just think about how many of us get anxious if we haven’t checked our email on our smartphones in the last twenty minutes? How many people do I know, myself included, who roll over in the morning and check their smartphone to see what has occurred during the night? Many. Almost all of the people I know are information obsessive and feel anxious if they are cut off.

And this probably is not a good thing. Perhaps a very bad thing? Perhaps a road toward depression?

So I am going to do my best the next few days and pay attention to information overload, be sensitive to it and hold it a bit at bay while still accomplishing my duties and yet thinking about the role technology may play on us, individually and nationally, in encountering psychological distress as the price of technological innovation.

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.