Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Cole’

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 05/04/2017 The time is nigh…

May 4, 2017

Well, the time is nigh.  Today Republicans voted, successfully, on “Repeal and Replace,” hoping to end the Affordable Care Act with their own American Health Care Act.  “Obamacare,” long despised by Republicans, may be gone and they will have had their way and many of them will be holding their breath that it does not go badly wrong because if it does, the piper will need to be paid.

We will find out if, as President Trump says, pre-existing conditions will be covered or as Democrats are saying, they will not.  If they are covered, it does seem coverage will be much more expensive.

Not a fan of Jimmy Kimmel, I was profoundly moved by his discussion of his newborn son’s heart surgery.  If you haven’t seen it, you need to watch it.  It is from the heart. [Yes, pun intended.]  Please look here.

As I ponder this, I am, not surprisingly, listening to jazz, being all hygge at the cottage, sitting in my favorite corner on the couch, starting preparations for a Friday night dinner party.  Have I mentioned I tend to look at the Food Section of the New York Times before I read the news?  First thing, comfort and coffee, and then I hit the hard stuff.

Yesterday marked the month anniversary of my once a week radio program.  My first guest was Jeff Cole, CEO of the Center for the Digital Future at the Annenberg School of Communications, part of USC.  We talked futures.  How we are changing and being changed by technology.

His great concern, and I share it, is how we will, as individuals and society, adapt to the coming advent of AI, artificial intelligence, which is already shaping our lives.  Last night, as I was heading to bed, I paused and asked Alexa to set two alarms for me and they went off flawlessly, a soft chirping sound in the dark which could be eliminated by a command:  Alexa!  Snooze! And she snoozes.

I am experimenting with Siri, changing her responses from American English to British English.  All fun and games until we get to the moment when the machines decide we are superfluous.  Think the Terminator movies or the Hyperion novels which, to me, are more likely than the Terminator scenario. [In some respects, particularly Book One.]

Since I was very young, I’ve been a space enthusiast. Stephen Hawking, the phenomenon of a physicist, has warned us we have about a hundred years to get off the planet.

We could do it if we put all our energies to it but I don’t think jihadists are going to put down their guns to get us into space.

Outside, there are soft sounds and the trees are blooming.  In the morning when I wake, I thank God that I get to look out at the creek and am here, in Claverack, a place that centers my soul as no other place ever has.  When I look out, I am sometimes nostalgic for the time fifteen years ago when the geese formed a flotilla on my waters.  They are mostly gone now.

It sometimes reminds me of an episode of “Star Trek: Next Generation” in which Jean Luc’s brain is infused with the memories of a dead civilization and one of the signs of their passing was the drying up of a creek.  Occasionally, I stand on the deck and think: if the creek is gone, so are we.

However, today the creek still flows.

Generally, I am not fond of George Will, the conservative writer.  Today, I read an article of his that encapsulates my ongoing sense of unreality.  Read it here.

Encased in the safety of the cottage, I am doing my best to live in hope because we must live in hope. Hope is what has driven the race forward; it is what has brought millions of immigrants to our shore, who have shaped the country in which we live.  My great-grandparents, on my father’s side, were among them as were my grandparents on my mother’s side.  They came to the United States, buoyed by a sense of chance, of opportunity.

It’s hard for me to think that could change.

 

 

 

Letter From the Train 04 06 2017 Thoughts through mist and fog…

April 6, 2017

It is dusty grey; mist and fog lay lightly on the Hudson River as I head south toward New York City and then on to Baltimore to visit Lionel and Pierre.  It will be a long weekend; I return on Monday.

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It had been my intent to drive but when I woke this morning to predictions of thunderstorms and tornadoes along my route, I opted for the train.

Last night, I sat down to begin a letter and could not find words.  Ennui swept over me and I wandered off to bed, watched an episode of “Grace and Frankie” and fell asleep, waking early to prepare to leave.

Yesterday was my first day as host of the Wednesday version of WGXC’s “Morning Show,” from 9 AM to 11 AM.  The night before, I had a night full of crazy dreams in which I got to the studio on Wednesday morning only to find they had changed all the controls and I had no idea on how to work them.  In another dream, I decided to sleep at the station the night before to make sure that I didn’t miss the program but did anyway.

No psychiatrist is needed to interpret these dreams.

And the program went well; there was much praise from friends and colleagues and I relaxed, thinking I can manage this.  It was fun and for my first guest, I had Alana Hauptman, who owns my beloved “Red Dot.”

Probably no one remembers Texas Guinan anymore; she ran the biggest, best, brassiest, funniest, speakeasy in New York during Prohibition.  She was loved and admired and imitated.  She was known for her big heart and saucy character.  Alana is all of that and is the Texas Guinan of Hudson.  The Red Dot has stood for nineteen years and been an anchor to the town and certainly my world.

There is a slew of people lined up to be guests on the show including the folks who run Bridge Street Theater in Catskill, world premiering a new play shortly and Jeff Cole, who is the CEO of the Center for the Digital Future at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication as well as Howard Bloom, who is a multi-published author and once press agent to every major rock group in the 1970’s and ‘80’s.  And Fayal Greene, who has lived in Hudson for a long time, civically active, and is leaving at the end of the month for Maine, where she and her husband will live in a retirement community near their summer home and many relatives.

The farewell party will, of course, be at the Red Dot.

All of this is very hygge.

And I roll around in the hygge-ness of my life as outside my bubble I am often stupefied by my world.

Politics has never been this raucous in my lifetime and perhaps not this much since the founding of the Republic, which, I understand, was a very raucous time.

As I was getting ready to board the train, Representative Devin Nunes, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has now recused himself from the Russian investigation over ethics concerns.

In Syria, eighty plus people, including children, died in an apparent gas attack.  Trump says the incident crossed “a lot of lines for him.”  Tillerson has said that it was undoubtedly Assad’s regime.  Assad is saying bombs ignited a store of gas weapons in the attacked town.  Russia is demanding the US lay out its cards on how to solve the Syrian problem.

This all sounds like a lot like another replay of the last few years, with some new players and no new results.  In the meantime, Syrians continue to suffer; something like five million of them are refugees, many living in squalor with their only drinking water coming from septic tanks causing typhoid and a further circling down into this hell that has been created.

A radio report from a Syrian refugee camp yesterday may have been the cause of last night’s ennui.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is meeting with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago today and tomorrow.  It is a high stakes meeting reports say.  Wide chasms exist in trade with Trump the candidate picking on China through most of the campaign and the Chinese, unlike some Americans, have long memories and play a long game.

If this turns out to be the pivot point for the United States, future historians might look at our tendency to be focused on short term goals as a factor in creating this pivot.

And in this miasma of non-hygge news, is a report that Jeff Bezos, second richest man on the planet, is selling a billion dollars of Amazon stock a year to finance Blue Origin, his space venture.  That makes me smile.  Money at work on building the future.

 

 

Letter From the Train, going south 10 28 2016 Mindful and grateful…

October 28, 2016

The bright sun that launched the day has become hidden behind clouds as I progress south on the train into New York City.  The fall colors still show themselves and we are definitely making a walk toward winter.

hudson-river-10-28-2016

It snowed yesterday, three inches, quickly gone with the cold seeping deeply into my bones while I layered clothes for the weather.

Today and tomorrow, I am going to be attending “Produced By,” a conference held by the Producers Guild of America, of which I am a member.  There are several sessions that should be helpful as I work on producing “First Guru,” a film about Vivekananda, who brought Yoga and Hinduism to the US in 1893.  WTTW, the PBS station in Chicago, will be the presenting station.  Near the Art Institute of Chicago, where Vivekananda gave his first speech, there is a Vivekananda Way.

There is much talk in the world today of “mindfulness,” pausing a moment to find yourself in the clutter of noise that surrounds us.  As I was writing that sentence and attempting to be mindful of myself and the beauty around me, I received an email that put me out of mindfulness into gratitude.

Several weeks ago I was requested to submit a proposal to The University of Virginia’s Miller Center for Presidential Politics and Policies to do a consulting assignment for them and an email arrived while I was on the train that they had accepted my proposal and wanted to start moving.

Which generated a flurry of activity as I reached out to thank my references for graciously supporting me.  Followed by other things and setting up a conference call with The Miller Center for Monday afternoon and before I knew it, the train was gliding into Penn Station.

After stopping at Tracks Restaurant in the belly of Penn Station for a bowl of their clam chowder, I am now at the apartment, finishing the letter before going off to the first session of the conference.

As I was driving to the station today, I noticed that there were many Trump/Pence signs and no Clinton/Kaine signs.  Pondering that, I wonder if the liberals in Columbia and Greene Counties tend to be “closeted.”  Political discord can run deep in the Hudson River Valley.  I’ve been told the tale of a Greene County resident who years ago registered himself as a Republican because until he did his County services were, shall we say, spotty…

There is another FBI look into Clinton’s emails.  The two big burly men seated next to me at Tracks as I chowdered were none too happy about that.

Anthony Weiner, who fell from Congress because of his sexting problems, apparently had some emails that somehow connected to the Clinton case on the computer the FBI seized after his most recent sexting troubles.  His wife, a close confidante and aid to Hillary Clinton, left her husband after it was discovered he was sexting someone while their son slept next to him.

The “Produced By” Conference is being held at Time – Warner Center.  Time Warner has just been purchased by AT&T.

The single most catastrophic merger in the history of corporations was the merger of AOL and Time Warner.  Now, it is hoped that Time Warner and AT&T will do better.  But as a friend of mine, Jeff Cole, Executive Director of USC’s Annenberg School of Communications Center for the Digital Future, has observed that it is a little hard to imagine a phone company meshing well with a Hollywood behemoth.

We will see, if the regulators allow it to happen.

And, in Jerusalem, researchers have opened, for the first time in centuries, what is believed to have been Jesus’ tomb.  Since the days of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, there has been a building there to make the spot.  Constantine sent his mother, Helena, to Jerusalem to find it.  [Maybe a good way to get a pesky mother off your hands for a few years?]

Marble has encased the slab where is body is said to have rested.  Careful archeological work will be done over the next months and years.

Off to the conference…

 

 

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 11 22 2015 The world goes its crazy ways…

November 23, 2015

Anniversary of Kennedy’s death. Lionel White. Pierre Font. Brussels. Paris. National Registry for Muslims. Donald Trump.  Marco Rubio.  Jeff Cole. George Stephanopoulos. Jeb Bush. Ebola. Liberia. Earthquake in Afghanistan.

It is the 22nd of November and for some reason I remembered that today is the 52nd anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy.  When I was reading the Times this morning with my first cup of coffee, it struck me.

I was in middle school and the principal came in and whispered to the teacher, who told us and we were all sent home from our Catholic School and began a mourning that I am not sure we are over.

It was a grayish day today and on the chill side but tonight there was the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen in my time here.  The sky was a lush red that filled the horizon.  I attempted a photo but it didn’t do the colors justice.IMG_1062

Also, the deer have returned.  There was a family of them scattered on the road, on my property and across the street at Lionel and Pierre’s home.  Standing proudly in Lionel’s yard was a young buck, watching as his family crossed the road in front of my very slowly moving car.

While I listen to jazz and wait for Lionel to arrive for Thanksgiving week festivities, the world itself goes on its crazy way.

Brussels seems to be in a virtual lockdown and a series of raids have been held during the course of the evening.  The city is on the highest level of alert, the Metro will not run tomorrow and schools are closed.  People are being advised to stay home and inside.

In Paris, they are searching for a third suspect and some are saying many “red flags” for the attacks were missed.

The world has changed, again, since the Paris attacks.  Trump is talking a “national registry” for Muslims.  He also claims that on 9/11 “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered as the Towers fell.  He claims to have seen it himself, on television.  Really?  George Stephanopoulos reminded him that the police say it didn’t happen.  But it did, George, but it did.

The Washington Post did an evaluation of the top Republican candidates and estimated that the nominee is likely going to be Marco Rubio, which my friend Jeff Cole suggested when we had lunch six weeks ago.

Jeb Bush comes in at number 5.  Number two is Donald Trump.  Is this really happening?  I have stopped laughing because The Donald might just pull it off and that is a really scary thought.

The Paris attacks have changed the tone of our electoral campaign and will continue to influence it as we progress toward this, to me, most bizarre of electoral cycles.

Sadly, Ebola has re-emerged in Liberia and 153 people are being watched to see how it develops in them.

There has been a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Northeast Afghanistan, bringing even more misery to that land of misery.

Thankfully, the jazz is soothing and the fire cheery.  So I end the day, curled up in the comforts of the cottage, Tempting as it might be, I am not yet retreating into blocking out the news of the day.

When I was younger, globe trotting, I felt like a citizen of the world.  I still feel that way.

Letter From New York 03 04 15 Dazed and confused?

March 4, 2015

It is a grey and damp afternoon in New York City, warmer than it has been with a weather advisory for tomorrow indicating we will have as much as six inches of new snow. Once I have finished a meeting tomorrow around noon, I am going to scamper back to the cottage to finish prepping for the annual income tax adventure.

I have just returned from lunch with my old friend Jeff Cole, who is the Founder of the Center for the Digital Future at USC in California. He is one of the foremost thinkers on the future of media. We’ve known each other for over twenty years, since we were both working on The Superhighway Summit for the Television Academy. He travels more than anyone I know and is off to China, Australia and Columbia the week after next.

We talked of media, as we always do, but wandered far afield over our two-hour lunch.

We discussed an article in the New York Times yesterday about the plight of Afghan women who have fled their families. Women who leave their families or their husbands seem to be fair game for honor killings. We also discussed an interview done with a man in jail in India, sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a young woman two years ago. He resolutely feels the whole thing was the victim’s fault. No decent woman would have been out past 9:00 PM, he said, and besides, she fought back.

These are stark reminders that we live in a very different world from much of the rest of it.

In Iraq, General Qasem Soleimani of Iran seems to be guiding operations in the assault on Tikrit. The Iranians, who are Shia, have been arming and supplying Iraqi Shia militias that are joining the Iraqi army in the assault against the Sunni IS. There are fears from many, including some here in the US, that the Shia will take their revenge on Sunnis who have been living under IS control for the deaths of many Shia soldiers who lost their lives when Tikrit fell to IS last year.

In what is a masterstroke of irony, we find ourselves on the same side with Iran in the desire to defeat IS. There is no formal coordination.

The Boston Marathon trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has begun on a surprising note. The chief defense lawyer declared in her opening statements that, “It was him.” He did it. He killed and maimed those people. But he was under the influence of his older brother. She is not trying to get him acquitted; she is trying to save his life.

In another terror trial here in New York, Abid Naseer, was found guilty of providing support to Al Qaeda while planning to detonate a bomb in the New York subway.

While declining to press charges on Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, MO police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown last summer, the Justice Department at the same time condemned the Ferguson Police Department of widespread racial discrimination. Attorney General Eric Holder has called for “immediate, wholesale” action to counter this.

The speech by Netanyahu yesterday continues to provoke responses. The BBC used the word “scathing” to describe Obama’s response. Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, thought it insulted the intelligence of the American people. Republicans have hailed it and it seems to be getting a mixed review back in Israel. It was good if you like Netanyahu and bad if you don’t.

Also provocative was the ongoing fallout from Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a personal email account during her tenure at the State Department. This revelation has caught many Democrats off guard and scrambling to respond. Their fear is that it will strengthen the perception that she is secretive and controlling.

The US Supreme Court heard arguments regarding Obamacare today and seems sharply divided on the issue. Chief Justice Roberts, who may be a deciding voice in the matter, said very little today. A ruling will come in June.

And in yet another dizzying turn of events in Alabama regarding gay marriage, the State Supreme Court has ordered judges to stop issuing marriage licenses for gay couples, in direct contradiction of a federal ruling that to do so is unconstitutional. Is it any wonder that judges in Alabama feel a bit dazed and confused?

Not feeling dazed and confused, I am leaving shortly to attend a screening of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a follow-up to a film of nearly the same name, set in India and starring Maggie Smith [Downton’s Dowager Countess] and Judi Dench.