Posts Tagged ‘Kim Jung-un’

Letter from Claverack 08 11 2017 Wanting to be home before the apocalypse…

August 11, 2017

As is not unusual, jazz is playing in the background as I am sitting at the kitchen table of my brother and sister-in-law’s home in Bloomington, MN.  Last night, after my arrival, a magnificent thunderstorm slashed across the sky and I sat for a while, watching out the window.  In a strange way, it felt warm and comfortable, evoking some good childhood memory.

Sleeping in later than usual, I found myself feeling plastered to the mattress from a heavy sleep that had wrapped itself around me.  Morpheus kept blowing tenderly on my face.

The weather today promised more thunderstorms though none arrived, though the sky is mostly leaden and threatening.  Soon a friend from high school will pick me up and we’ll go off to see other friends.

When and how I return to the cottage is undecided.  I arrived by train and maybe I will train back, maybe fly or drive or…

For reasons I don’t understand but which I accept, I am wanting not to feel boxed in by a defined schedule even though I am scheduling lots of time with family and friends.

Ah, I looked up and a soft rain has started.  Best I take my umbrella this evening.

This morning, I deleted every email that contained news.  I didn’t want to know until after a couple of cups of coffee because our world does seem more and more unsettled.  A few minutes ago, I opened Google News and the top story was “Meet Kim Jung Un, A Moody Man with a Nuclear Arsenal” from the New York Times.

Well, as I pondered whether I was going to click on the link, I thought of our president, who I think of a as a moody man and he has a bigger nuclear arsenal than Kim Jung Un and I just don’t know what to think any more about much of anything.

As I am away from my home as I write this, I jokingly [but not totally] said to a colleague, I want to be back home before the apocalypse.

The president has raised the verbal ante and has declared we are “locked and loaded,” which, according to reports from retired generals, we are not anywhere near.

China has declared it will remain neutral if North Korea strikes first and not if we do.  Russia is saying we are both being belligerent and they’re right.  We are. Well, President Trump is being belligerent; everyone else is trying to keep things calm.  I feel sorry for John Kelly, now Chief of Staff.  What a job he has! And not one I would want.

The president is taking on Mitch McConnell, which pundits are saying is not a wise move.

And do we expect wisdom from this president?

Not now, not ever, I am sad to say.

 

 

Letter From Claverack 08 08 2017 Thoughts from a moving train…

August 9, 2017

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As I begin this, I am rolling through the lush green country of eastern Virginia; we will cross shortly into West Virginia and then begin moving leisurely north through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and then to Chicago for I am on Train #29, the Capitol Limited from Washington, DC to Chicago.

The sun is still high in the west, the side of the train on which I am riding, ensconced in a bedroom compartment, about the size of my bathroom at the cottage; very amenities complete.  Dinner is at 6:45 and I am eager to find out who my dining companions will be.  Everyone in the past has been a memorable character and I see no reason why this time should be different.

For reasons that have eluded me, yesterday and today, I have been on the cranky side.  Yesterday was full of errands to be done before I left and every one of them took more time than allotted.  Racing up to Albany, I made a doctor’s appointment exactly on time when I was sure I was going to be late.  There was a delicious moment when I felt I had caught up with my day.

Then I was told I had arrived forty-five minutes too early.  Stunned, I decided to go get a cup of coffee as I had yet to have any.  Returning, there were different receptionists who chided me for being late.  Disbelieving of me telling them I had been on time, I finally convinced them.  The first receptionist had apparently misread the calendar.  Discovering they were all upset because I was to have tests I had not been told I was going to have, I did something very uncharacteristic of me:  I was not a good boy.

Taking the forms, I put them down on the counter and said I was upset and would call them when I returned from my trip.

Today was much better and still, though, a little on the cranky side until I rode out to the train with a woman from Greenville, SC.  She wanted to see a picture of my creek and when I showed it to her, she said:  you’re blessed.

And I am.  How quickly we get caught up in the shoelaces of our lives and forget the bigger picture.  Taking a very deep breath, I have now settled into my compartment and am enjoying the view out my window: trees in the full flush of green, a river and a bridge crossing it with the sound of clacking train wheels.  It is a good moment.

Not so good is the news flash that North Korea, with its pudgy, petulant and unpredictable little dictator has probably miniaturized nuclear warheads to go on top of those ICBMS he has been testing.

Our president has warned him in no uncertain terms that if he uses them he will “face fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

So, we have an unpredictable barely man dictator with nuclear weapons facing an unpredictable aging man boy petulant president who has the nuclear codes to the biggest arsenal on earth.  Could this end badly?

Unfortunately, yes.

If it does, I want to be home. At the cottage, with jazz playing and a good martini in front of me because I will absolutely need it.

There are two very huge egos at play here and no one knows how the China card will play.  Probably, hopefully, pray God it is, this will all be okay.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, even more than my parents did, I knew, as a child, we were in a dangerous place.  We are again and don’t have a John Kennedy and his team,  for all his crazy faults, to pull us out.

We have Donald Trump, with all his crazy faults and few strengths I can find, and a team that seems more like The Three Stooges.

 

Letter from the Train, returning… Passover arrives and Tillerson departs…

April 10, 2017

The train is rumbling north from Baltimore to New York City where I change trains to Hudson, arriving there around 3:30 this afternoon.  It is a sunny day and the fleece pullover and winter jacket needed on the way down are unnecessary on the way home.

Hudson River

As I travel north, I have trimmed down the email inbox, sent some electronic Passover cards and started reading how to make large quantities of scrambled eggs as this coming Sunday is Easter Sunday and I am in charge of preparing the Easter Brunch that follows the 10:30 service.

It’s my hope that Mother Eileen’s clipboard filled with some people to help me. If not…

The weekend visit with Lionel and Pierre and Marcel, the poodle, was wonderful, overflowing with good food at various venues:  Modern Cook Shop, Peter’s Inn, Red Star, Rusty Scupper, Nanimi, Petit Louis.

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On “The Avenue” [36th Street] I shopped the antique stores and found some Christmas presents, tucked in my luggage; that it is expandable saved me from buying another piece.  At BJ’s with Pierre, I stocked up on Excedrin, Prilosec and more.

Long train rides give one a time to think and I enjoy them for that, for being able to see the countryside glide by without the responsibility of driving.

Pierre sings in the choir at the Church of the Advent in Baltimore.  While Lionel and I were preparing to go to hear him at church, the television flashed pictures and video of the Palm Sunday explosions in Egypt, targeting Coptic Christians, who represent about ten percent of that country’s population.  Last word I heard, forty-seven have died and scores are injured.  At Christ Church this week, I will light a candle for them.

In response to the bombings, responsibility for which was claimed by IS, Egypt has declared a three-month state of emergency.

Rex Tillerson, our low-profile Secretary of State, heads to Moscow for meetings, either strengthened or weakened [depending on your view] by the US bombing of the airfield in Syria where chemical attacks against a rebel city were initiated.  Tillerson called the Russians incompetent for allowing Assad to keep chemical weapons.

Putin is thinking of revoking the award he gave to Tillerson.

This should be an interesting week for watching Syrian affairs.  How are they all going to react?  Niki Hailey is talking regime change; Tillerson is not. Trump is unpredictable and Putin a risk taker; Assad seemingly a wily survivor who managed to turn peaceful protests into a civil war no one seems capable of winning or willing to negotiate an end.

Syria is bringing five questions about the situation to the head, outlined in an article in Bloomberg, available here.

We have ships moving toward the Korean peninsula, possibly to be in place in case there is a decision to attack North Korea and its pudgy, vindictive, unpredictable little dictator, Kim Jong Un.

President Xi of China and Trump managed to get through their summit without damaging each other and we will await to see what China will do vis-à-vis North Korea.

In 2013, Democrats used the “nuclear option” and McConnell said they would live to regret it, which they did last week when Gorsuch was successfully nominated to the Supreme Court and sworn in this morning.

Marine Le Pen, the far-right French candidate for president, has declared that France was NOT responsible for the deportation of Jews during WWII, a statement that has created, as one might imagine, more than a soupcon of controversy.

New York is the first state offering free four-year public college to its students in families with incomes under $100,000, a move to help residents avoid crushing college loans and to help the state have a work force ready for the future.

May it work.

For all my friends celebrating Passover tonight, Chaq Kasher veSameach! [Happy Passover!]

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 08 12 15 An interesting evening in Claverack…

August 12, 2015

Yesterday, the world was drenched with rain; it continued through the night and when I went for my morning coffee the deck was sodden but the sky was bright with sunshine and hope for the day. The creek was a muddy brown and high from all the rain.

There was a bit of a chill in the air; so much so that I didn’t want to venture out onto the deck for that morning cup of coffee and a perusal of the Times. I returned to bed and read there, sipping coffee and enjoying the warmth of my bedroom.

I had an 11:00 AM meeting in Hudson. Finishing that, I went down to Relish and had the soup of the day, wandered up to Ca’Mea for a glass of wine while finishing reading the book I had and then home. It was a thoroughly civilized afternoon.

Now I am at home; jazz is playing on Pandora. I am on the deck. While the creek is still a bit muddy, it is reflecting back the green from the trees in that wonderful mirror like quality it can have. The setting sun is warm on my back; the threatened thunderstorms have not materialized today.

As I often do, I feel content here on the deck, looking over the creek, music in the background. It fills me with an enormous peace.

However, while I have been living in the peaceful bubble of Martha’s Vineyard and the cottage, the world has not been peaceful.

In Tianjin, China at least seven people have been killed and at least 300 injured in a blast. That is not peaceful. And it is not peaceful in the markets today. The Chinese are devaluing the Yuan and that is causing market hysteria. Something is askew in China and the devaluation of the Yuan is the harbinger. They are in trouble in China and these moves are reflections of those troubles. The markets in China have been crashing. Something profound is going on in China and we all need to pay attention because it will affect everything in our lives. China is now that big. They’re in trouble and are trying to contain that trouble.

A Croatian, kidnapped in Cairo, has apparently been beheaded by IS in the Sinai. That, too, is not peaceful.

Jimmy Carter, the best ex-President we’ve had, is 90 years old and now suffering from cancer. Well-wishers are coming out of the woodwork. I didn’t vote for him but wasn’t sorry he was elected. His Presidency was flawed but his presence since then has been unflawed. We are nearing the end of his life and I will be sorry to see him go when he does, probably farther in the future than we imagine.

Kim Jong-un, that pudgy little North Korean dictator, has been executing more people that don’t agree with him. He lines them up and lets a huge cannon blow them to smithereens. Just the sort of thing one expects from him. The most recent victim seemed to have disagreed with him on his forestry policy. Ouch. Not a pretty way to go.

When I was young I wanted to be an Egyptologist. It is not what happened with my life but I am still fascinated. There are those who say that behind the walls of the tomb of King Tutankhamen may lay the tomb of his mother, Nefertiti, who has entranced us forever. I spent an hour with her statue in Berlin a year or so ago. She is a haunting creature that has captured our attention for thousands of years. I will wait for this story to play out. I am fascinated by it. Never became an Egyptologist but doesn’t mean I’m not interested.

The sun sets in the west. It is a beautiful evening in Claverack. I rejoice in being here, far from the madness that rules the world.

Letter From New York 12 23 14 The Eve of Christmas Eve

December 24, 2014

It is the eve of Christmas Eve and I am freshly back from my friends Lionel and Pierre’s where I had a wonderful Shepherd’s Pie. They will come tomorrow at three for us to exchange presents and then again at 6 for dinner. I am cooking pumpkin soup, a salad of haricot verte, followed by ham, yams, asparagus and other things.

I have spent the whole day shopping for the next three days as I will be cooking for the next three days. I have organized menus and purchased food and prepped as best I can for the Holidaze.

In the background Christmas sounds are playing. I have a couple of presents left to wrap but I’m done. And I’m glad I’m done. It feels good to have organized it all and to have it all [almost all] wrapped and underneath the Christmas tree.

It all feels good. The chatter of all the troubles in the world seems far away.

Who knows the reason the Internet in North Korea went down? Was it a “proportional” response on our part or was it just an accident? I don’t know though I am suspicious.

It might have been the Chinese, who seem to be getting a little annoyed at the North Koreans. Not a good thing – the Chinese are about the only people who actively prop up the North Koreans. Oh, sorry – Putin has invited Kim Jong-un to Russia.

But Putin has his own troubles. The falling price of oil and the collapsing ruble and those pesky sanctions against him are causing a bit of a free fall in the Russian economy.

THE INTERVIEW, the silly movie at the heart of so much controversy, may actually get a limited release in some movie theatres. Something praised by the White House. Congress would like to have some screenings so they can see what all this ruckus is about and they might get it in the New Year.

Outside my window, at the desk where I am writing, Christmas lights burn.

On Friday, I will have a “Boxing Day” party. It’s the day after Christmas and according to some, it was the day the servants got to celebrate in England after having spent the last couple of days dancing on the whims of the Lord and Lady of the Manor.

It was also, according to legend, the day children in England went around with boxes to collect alms for charity.

But, whatever, the day after Christmas is Boxing Day in the Commonwealth countries and I have given many a Boxing Day party and this year will be doing one for about twenty folks, neighbors and friends, a chance to continue the celebration of the Holidays.

I shopped for that too, today. Never in my life has my grocery basket so overflowed! Never have I been so grateful to gather together the elements of celebration. It feels good to be gathering folks to the Cottage for the Holidays.

I love bringing people together at Christmas; it is a natural outgrowth of my upbringing when it seemed that every Christmas our house was full of friends and relatives, celebrating and feasting.

So let us celebrate and feast! Let us sing the songs of Christmas. Let us drink [carefully or take a cab!] and make merry. It is Christmas.

Letter From New York 12 21 14 Io, Saturnalia!

December 21, 2014

There was a light dusting of snow when I woke this morning, just enough to return a little Christmas magic to the countryside. It was a usual morning for me, coffee and the NY Times and some household chores. Right now I am doing a load of napkins in the washing machine so I have an ample supply for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.

Things have been organized to go to the cleaners including a couple of tablecloths that need pressing to bring them up to Holiday snuff. Recipes are scattered across the dining room table to put together the shopping lists for the next few days. Everything is humming along.

Household cleaning is scheduled for Tuesday and the marathon of quiche making will happen later today and tomorrow. Marcel, Lionel and Pierre’s poodle, is sleeping on the settee by the front door, quietly waiting for them to come back from church. Jazz versions of Christmas carols play on Pandora.

It’s a pretty good day at the cottage, a soft, sleepy sort of day.

While wanting to shut the world out this morning, I didn’t do it. The NY Times beckoned to me too much and I curled in bed with coffee and my iPad to read the major stories of the day.

They’re not very Christmasy.

A man who had posted on social media that he was out to kill some policemen gunned down two police officers in Brooklyn in an execution style killing. He had just shot his girlfriend in the stomach, who will live. He headed to New York from Maryland and had committed the murders by the time the warnings came to be watching for him had arrived. He said they were retribution for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. He then committed suicide in a subway station.

Kim Jung-un, the North Korean dictator, is threatening us. I’m not sure exactly what he’s threatening us with but he is threatening us. He’s not happy the United States doesn’t want to take him up on the offer of a joint investigation of the Sony hack. So he is threatening us with mighty mischief.

So, the world is still a pretty bleak place out there but Christmas is arriving and thoughts of the Holiday fill the world. Thank goodness!

“Io Saturnalia!” used to be the greeting that filled Roman streets during the weeklong festival they celebrated in the middle of winter, starting around December 17th. They exchanged presents and ate and drank to excess. Sound familiar? Christians co-opted the festival in the 4th Century AD, turning it in to Christmas. Since some Christian historians believe that Christ was actually born in the spring, early Christians moved the date up to coincide with the popular Saturnalia.

Our Puritan forefathers didn’t celebrate Christmas. Apparently you could get in a lot of trouble with them if you had any parties around December 25th. It was a very naughty thing to do.

But the Puritans couldn’t hold down a good party; Christmas became legalized in the 1680’s and America was off and running in making this Holiday uniquely its own. It was a frenzy of gift giving, not to everyone’s appreciation. People were lamenting the commercialization of Christmas back in 1904. People have been lamenting that ever since.

This year I have pulled back some and focused on a few good friends and relatives. I make quiches for other friends and my neighbors. It feels good to be simpler this year. It feels good to be giving presents from my kitchen.

There was, of course, splurging on a few people. For them, I managed, I think, to find things for them that would both be useful and, hopefully, treasured in years to come.

I’d like to think my Christmas gifts would speak to the recipients in years to come, fostering enjoyment and recollection even when I am not present in person.