Posts Tagged ‘Diana Sperrazza’

Letter From New York 10 25 15 Back and Forth…

October 25, 2015

Diana Sperrazza. Hudson River. My Townie Heart. Catholic Synod. Pope Francis. Vatican. Tony Blair. Iraq as a mistake. George W. Bush. Chris Christie. Amtrak Quiet Car. Law and Justice. Hurricane Patricia. Kristy Howard. Princess Diana. Titanic. Biscuit from Titanic. Maureen O’Hara. Thomas Sternberg. Staples.

The fall colors are luscious as I ride south into the city on this grey day; without those colors the world would be a very drear place. The Hudson River is a sheet of slate grey; the weekend boaters have mostly dragged their boats to land. Sunday morning sails have been discontinued until the spring.

My friend, Diana Sperrazza, is having a book signing party for her recently published book, “My Townie Heart.” She labored for fifteen years, finished it and had no luck finding a publisher until one day she did.

Find it here, on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=My+Townie+Heart

Good read.

A three-week summit, or Synod, of Catholic clergy in Rome has come to an end, finishing with a document that is considered by some to be very ambiguous on matters of divorce and homosexuality. In his closing remarks, Pope Francis seemed to be chastising the conservative faction of the Church, encouraging the clergy to be more generous and understanding. He reminded them that the Disciples of Jesus had ignored the blind Bartimaeus but Jesus did not, stopping to engage him. Francis spoke of the “temptation of the spirituality of the mirage.”

One of the things we like about this Pope is that he asks all of us to be better Christians and, if not Christian, better human beings.

Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the U.K. at the time of the Iraq invasion is offering some apologies for the invasion. He’s sorry about the wrong intelligence and some of the wrong decisions that were made after the invasion. There was a lack of understanding of what would happen when the Saddam Hussein’s regime fell. That’s an understatement. Hello, IS!

Once the U.K.’s most popular politician, he has been since branded by some as a “war criminal.”   It has been a stunning turn for the man who, for a time, seemed more popular here than his counterpart, George W. Bush.

New Jersey’s Governor, Chris Christie, who is also a candidate for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination, was booted out of an Amtrak “Quiet Car” this morning for talking too loudly. He was returning from Washington, DC, where he appeared on “Face The Nation,” accusing the President of promoting lawlessness because Obama supports “Black Lives Matter.” I would like to have seen him being kicked out of the “Quiet Car.” I am sure it was a small spectacle.

Patricia, the strongest hurricane ever recorded, slipped in status by the time it made landfall and Mexico and Texas have been spared the worst.

In Poland, a right wing party, Law and Justice, seems to have won elections there with 39% of the vote.

A young British woman, Kristy Howard, has died at the age of 20. She had raised millions of pounds for Francis House, a facility opened in 1991 by Princess Diana. She had been born with a back to front heart and was given a few weeks to live when she was 4. Her brief life astounded many, including me.

We have had an unending fascination with RMS Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage in 1912. Some memorabilia from it will be auctioned this week in London. A biscuit from one of the lifeboats sold for about $23,000. It was saved by a passenger on the Carpathia, which picked up the survivors from the ill-fated liner.

Maureen O’Hara passed away yesterday. I remember her from sitting in front of the television watching NBC’s “Saturday Night at the Movies.” I saw all kinds of great films, including hers. She made it to 95, dying at her home in Boise, Idaho. She had moved there not too long ago to be near her only child, a daughter.

Also gone is the man, Thomas Sternberg, who co-founded Staples.

The world continues moving along.

As I am moving along, now heading back north after the book signing, the sun having come out to play, giving the afternoon a vitality the morning did not possess.

Letter From New York 07 10 15 From Hudson to Greece to Ukraine

July 10, 2015

For the most part, today has been sunny and warm, not too humid, the sun slipping in and out between the clouds, more out than in. I’m sitting at the dining room table at the cottage, looking out at all the green that surrounds the cottage.

For two days, I didn’t write a Letter From New York. I had a feeling I had run out of things to say or that what I had to say wasn’t all that important. Perhaps it was just a case of emotional inertia but as the afternoon wore on today, I wanted to put fingers to keyboard and see words appear on the electronic white page on my MacBook Air.

Waking early, I had coffee, scanned the Times [NY], dashed off a few emails and then ran errands. I picked up prescriptions, I dropped off shirts at the laundry, went to Lowe’s, had the car washed, filled it with gas, all pedestrian things that need to be done, usually Saturday chores but done today because I was home.

Last night was my first night at the cottage in twelve days and I reveled in being home and in my own bed, surrounded by the coziness and my books. I finished reading “My Townie Heart” by Diana Sperrazza; I sent off a congratulatory email.

The surveyor came and I paid him for the work he did on seeing if can get me from needing flood insurance. We chatted for a while and then I went off to mail some things to my cousins and headed into Hudson for a long, leisurely lunch with Peter Spear, who does market research. We haven’t sat down in years and it was good and fun.

As I did my errands, I heard the cheering on the radio as the Confederate Flag came down in South Carolina. There were eulogies for Omar Sharif, who passed away today in Cairo, best remembered for his role as “Doctor Zhivago.” It is in that role that I first remember him, a breathtaking film that made me curious about the period in Russian history when the Empire gave way to the Soviet Union.

The markets were buoyant today, as it appeared to many that a Greek deal would be done. The Germans are still not convinced but we will see what the weekend brings. There will be more meetings. Greece is taking up a huge amount of Europe’s political bandwidth.

There is an argument to be made that Greece today is worse off than the US during the Great Depression. Then the US joblessness rate topped out at 26%. Greece is at 28% now and it could conceivably go higher.

The deal Tsipras is selling to the Greeks is essentially the one they rejected last week but it feels, in the news reports, like they will go along with it.

Dylann Roof, who allegedly killed nine in Charleston, SC, bought a gun to commit the deed. It was revealed today by the FBI that he should not have been able to buy it; he should not have passed the background check. He slipped through the system.

Prevented from falling through the system was a young, homeless seven-year-old Filipino boy. Photographed studying on a stool by the light of a local McDonald’s, the photo went viral and aid is being delivered to he and his mother, enough money to get him through college. He wants to grow up and be a policeman.

Tunisia has declared a state of emergency to deal with terrorist threats. Some tourists are leaving, cancelling trips to the country and at least one cruise line is not going to be calling there this year and next.

Shanghai, the largest city in the world by population, is battening down the hatches in advance of Typhoon Chan-hom, which will be upon the city tomorrow. While not a huge storm it is the first time in near 65 years that a storm this size has hit Shanghai.

Angela Merkel of Germany and Hollande of France, when not dealing with the Greeks, are putting pressure on the President of Ukraine, Poroshenko, to begin giving autonomy, promised in the Minsk Accords, to the rebels in the East, something he is dragging his feet on doing. Merkel and Hollande are becoming very blunt about it, something that usually doesn’t happen in diplomacy.

The sun is setting in the west, light is filtering through the trees and I will soon head down to Hudson for a light dinner at the Dot. It’s been a lovely day.

It was good to write again. Hope you enjoyed it..

Letter From New York 07 07 15 Of anniversaries and Quaaludes…

July 7, 2015

The forecast for this afternoon was scattered thunderstorms, dark and gloomy with possible flash floods but… It hasn’t turned out that way, yet! Right now the sun is shining down; it’s warm and more than a little muggy but no torrents of rain have appeared.

Today I started the day with a long conversation over coffee with my friend, Robert Murray, who mentioned that his daughter, Fiona, likes art. I am going to recommend he take Fiona to the John Singer Sargent exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

That was what I did after coffee with Robert. I went to the Met, met my friend David Wolf and strolled through a beautiful array of Sargent’s work. He was considered the greatest portrait artist of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. An American born in Florence, he managed to stride both sides of the Atlantic, earning kudos almost everywhere.

One painting caused a Parisian scandal. It showed a woman with one strap of her dress slipping down on her arm. Sargent had to depart Paris for London until the scandal simmered down.

Following our museum experience, David and I lunched at a small French bistro on 86th Street on the east side. I felt quite the boulevardier this morning and then went off to the office and have been grinding through emails in the afternoon.

It is the tenth anniversary of the London suicide bombings that claimed the lives of 52 people, the worst terrorist attack in that city’s history. Two days afterwards, I arrived on a business trip and walked through a city that felt not unlike New York in the days after 9/11, stunned, silent, mourning. As I rode in a black taxi to my hotel, the silence was pierced by a wailing siren as a motorcycle policeman roared by, answering the call of a jittery citizen.

It was a beautiful summer day that day. The normally crowded London streets seemed rather empty. A few days later, on the tube to go to dinner with some friends, a man entered my car, wearing what seemed to be too many clothes for the temperate evening. I was nervous, as was everyone else in the car. He was revealed to be a homeless person. The tension was palpable.

Ah, I spoke too soon. Rain has just begun falling, splattering against the windows of the office where I’m working, big, heavy drops.

ESPN has pulled a game from a Trump golf course as a sign of protest for The Donald’s remarks about Mexicans. It is a celebrity charity tourney held to benefit a foundation that provides cancer help for minorities.

In the world of television, summer scripted series are swooning in the heat, drawing abysmal ratings and giving, I’m sure, some network executives in the television world are having the equivalent of heat stroke.

Subway is having a public relations problem. Jared Fogle, their spokesperson, is being investigated for child pornography. They have suspended their relationship with him.

Bill Cosby is in the spotlight again over his drug and sex scandal as court documents have been released from a case settled out of court where he admits that he gave the woman in the case Quaaludes. Oh my. BET and Bounce TV have pulled re-runs of his program from their schedules.

Greece has until Thursday to put together a new set of proposals for its creditors. They will then hold a meeting on them on Sunday. The IMF came out with a report that states Greece will need some kind of debt relief, causing the other EU creditors to feel a little cranky.

Some of them are beginning to think they need to give Greece some debt relief while the others are demanding a continuation of austerity.

The markets here closed higher while China’s sank some more. The Shanghai index is down 30%, much of it happening while the world was watching Greece. The Chinese are upset with the government for not doing something about it quickly enough.

The original deadline for the Iranian Nuclear talks was June 30, pushed to today and now the deadline is being pushed again so talks can continue. So close yet so far.

Three people got too close to the bulls in Pamplona as the Annual Running of the Bulls and were gored.

Jerry Weintraub, legendary Hollywood producer [“Ocean’s Eleven” among many others] died after his colon ruptured and he suffered two heart attacks. RIP.

The rain has stopped. I am going to use the pause to finish and then head up to the UWS for a bite. I am reading “My Townie Heart” by my friend Diana Sperrazza, who was Exec Producer on a couple of my projects at Discovery. It’s good.

Letter From New York 01 28 15 Pondering Artificial Intelligence

January 28, 2015

Heading down to New York, the train is running alongside the Hudson River, a sheet of white as yesterday’s snow accumulated on the river’s ice. The sun gleams down, reflecting enough that it causes eyes to squint when looking out. It is a scene of rough beauty.

In the city tonight, there will be a reunion of several of us who worked on some programs together for the Discovery Times Channel during its brief and glorious moment. Two of the people, Jon Alpert and Matt O’Neill, have gone on to be nominated twice for Academy Awards for their documentaries. Diana Sperrazza is still at Discovery, working as an Executive Producer for the Investigation Discovery Channel.

We don’t get together often so this is a special occasion.

I will slip into the city today and will probably head home tomorrow or at the latest early Friday.

Traversing south I am passing the mightiness that is West Point, a severe redoubt on the opposite bank. It is hard to be tired of this ride, one of the most beautiful in America according to most who categorize such things.

Along with the NY Times, I often check out the stories on my phone’s BBC app, an interesting re-cap of news with a British perspective. The story I found this morning most interesting was one that was headlined: AI will not kill us, says Microsoft.

How can one resist that kind of headline?

I couldn’t.

Eric Horovitz, Microsoft’s Research Chief, has an opinion markedly in contrast with some others, including physicist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Elon Musk, both of who are warning that Artificial Intelligence could supersede us and destroy us. Hawking has said that AI could “spell the end of the human race.” Musk has put up ten million dollars to prevent it from happening.

We are experiencing this first wave of artificial intelligence in things such as Siri, the voice-activated assistant on our iPhones or Contana on Windows Phones, which will be integrated into the next version of the Windows OS. There is a little device from Amazon called the Echo, which comes equipped with Alexa. She is the subject of an article in today’s USA Today, outlining her benefits and her limitations.

My friends, Lionel and Pierre, have an Echo and I’ve been getting to know Alexa the last couple of weeks. She’s very friendly. Her voice is silkier than Siri and she plays music well. She answers basic questions but you can’t have a conversation with her the way one could with Data, the humanoid robot of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But you can sense it’s coming.

It’s both exciting and a little eerie. We are getting tastes of things that will come. And come they will. Because we can make them happen, we will make them happen. One day we’ll be having a conversation with Alexa’s descendants and the next they may be plotting to rid the planet of the messiness of humans. People like Horovitz suspect that one-day machines will be self-aware and where will we be then?

Back to Stephen Hawking, who has said, “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.” That’s a sobering thought: being superseded. Elon Musk thinks, “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.” Ouch!

Mephistopheles, get away!

According to the BBC, Sir Clive Sinclair, inventor of the Spectrum Computer, believes it is unavoidable that artificial intelligences will wipe out mankind. Double ouch!

But can AI appreciate the wonders of a ride down the Hudson River the way I can? We don’t know that yet. If they become self-aware, perhaps they will.

Science Fiction writer Isaac Asimov had his robots built with three unbreakable rules. “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.”

I wonder if those who are developing AI have thought about including The Three Laws into their work? Might be a safeguard from The Terminator.