Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

Letter From Claverack 10 03 2017 Not making sense of Las Vegas, or much else…

October 3, 2017

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It’s a day of exquisite autumnal beauty and I am squirreled up on the deck, dressed warmly as there is a chill in the air but I want to be here, surrounded by the peace of this setting, this day, because out in the world, it is a grim and gruesome place.

It has not been possible for me to process the Las Vegas shootings.  There are only two people I know who live there, my friends Chuck and Lois, and I found out they are only a couple of hours from me, visiting their daughter, safe.

But safe? We might need to find a new definition of safe.

Until about ten years ago, I made an annual or bi-annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for conventions.  While I don’t have a soft spot in my heart for the place, I have, because of business, visited regularly since 1980 and have a sense of familiarity.  The Mandalay is a hotel I’ve been in more times than I can count and I’ve walked that part of the Strip.  All before we began to need a new definition of safety, which is what the last sixteen years have been about, since hijackers used box cutters to attempt to bring down an empire.

It has seemed the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are running rampant and there are some who are reading into these events a portending of the end times.

And it’s a little hard to blame them.

Just in the last weeks, we have had Harvey, Irma, Maria, two enormous earthquakes in Mexico, heart wrenching images of refugees from all over the world, from Myanmar to Syria, from Libya to the coasts of Italy and Greece.

And now, Las Vegas, an event I can’t process.  What made Stephen Paddock decide to gun down hundreds, killing 59 at last count?  What? What?

And the number of dead will likely mount as dozens of the injured are in critical condition.

The numbers could have been worse, if not for the many acts of individual bravery, like Jonathan Smith, who led at least thirty people to safety behind a row of cars before a bullet found his neck.  He will live.

There are tears in my eyes and there have been tears in my eyes too many times recently, crying for people who are suffering and for brave people who scorned danger to save others.

Maybe it’s a good thing it’s hard for me to process Las Vegas because it will live with me just as Sandy Hook lives with me, like 9/11 will never not be part of my life while I live.

It’s no wonder we are searching for distractions, which is what the twenty plus thousand people at the Las Vegas concert were doing.  Looking for fun, celebrating life, seeking joy and then were subjected to unbelievable violence.

Following is a great summation of what late night hosts said, men who are finding themselves in the uncomfortable place of feeling society is demanding they raise their voices.  Here.

Paul Ryan announced today that because of Las Vegas a vote will be delayed in Congress about making it easier to get silencers for guns.

Trump was in Puerto Rico today handing out supplies and, according to some reporters, making sure “the optics” were good.  Not particularly caring about optics, read what this DC chef is doing in Puerto Rico. Here.

Tonight, as I finish this letter, I find myself feeling very alone, not personally frightened but frightened, in a broader sense, in the sense I can’t make sense of Las Vegas or fill in the blank.

Come Sunday, I will light more than one candle for Las Vegas.  And before I sleep tonight, I will say prayers for the victims and will pray for Spain as Catalan announces it will be declaring independence within days and I will pray for the refugees streaming out of Myanmar and for people who are undoubtedly being tossed about the Mediterranean tonight as the summer season winds down, before heavy seas prevail.

There is no end of things for which to pray.

 

Letter From New York 09 28 15 Dealing with Putin, Obama, VW, NASA and IS

September 28, 2015

Super Moon. Putin and Obama at the UN. Water flowing on Mars. An independent Catalonia? Taliban rising, again. Living on $17 a day. More on Volkswagen.

Last night, when the eclipse came at 10:47, I was already deeply in the arms of Morpheus. I had thought I might be able to make it but I was asleep before ten, drifting off, like many other days, reading a book.

Now I am on my way into New York City to have dinner with my godson, after a meeting this morning in Hudson. The day, which I thought was going to be sunny, has turned gray and mournful. The Hudson River looks like a sheet of beaten silver. Leaves are beginning to turn though I suspect it may not be a too colorful fall; the leaves that have turned haven’t much color and look as if they had just surrendered to winter, without a final burst of brilliance.

Both Putin and Obama spoke today at the UN. Even though he is meeting Putin today, Obama questioned Russian motives while leaving the door open for a constructive working relationship. That feels a little hard to imagine, a day after Russia, Syria, Iraq and Syria made an agreement to collaborate with each other on IS, without alerting or consulting the U.S.

But who knows what will happen behind closed doors with the two of them?

NASA now says that water flows intermittently on Mars. While it may be briny, it does flow at times which opens the doors wider for life on the Red Planet at some point in its past or present. Wouldn’t that be amazing? [And you’re correct, I am eagerly awaiting the Matt Damon starrer, “The Martian.”]

While I was wrapped in the arms of Morpheus, worshipping the god Somnus, the Taliban seized most of the city of Kunduz in Afghanistan, giving them a prize they have long desired. Afghan Security Forces and UN Personnel fled to safety as defenses collapsed.

It is the first time in fourteen years that the Taliban have managed to swarm into a city rather than attack with isolated bombings and individual acts.

Far to the west, in Spain, the Catalonian region held elections yesterday. A year ago, the region held a referendum on independence from Spain and those who wanted to leave outvoted those who wanted to stay. Madrid declared it unconstitutional and Catalonia remains part of Spain.

In yesterday’s elections, secessionists won a majority of seats but conventional wisdom seems to be thinking that Catalonia doesn’t really want independence but it wants a better deal from the Central government. This election helps strengthen their hand.

17 Florida legislators, mostly Democrats, are going to live on $17.00 a day for a week in a gesture to support a law to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. They figure that $17.00 is what a minimum wage worker has left over to live on when all the basics are paid.

We all know that Volkswagen had some really good code writers for the software they used in their diesel cars. It fooled testers into believing the cars weren’t emitting pollution when they were.   Now the former head, who stepped down after the scandal broke, is now being investigated for fraud. Martin Winterkorn intimated he knew nothing but the German authorities aren’t so sure.

VW has lost a third of it market capitalization since the crisis exploded and the 78-year-old company is facing its biggest challenge.

More dull economic news from China resulted in more losses for the markets today. No denying it’s a global economy.

Nor can I deny that the sun has come out as I am passing the slowly rising new Tappan Zee Bridge. It burst through clouds and now glimmers off the silver water.

The train is well over an hour late and the conductors are being bombarded by questions as to when we’ll get to New York. One poor man is attempting to catch a plane out of Kennedy. He might JUST make it.

I will make my dinner with my godson and for that, I’m grateful.

Letter From New York 07 16 15 Observations as I have wandered the town…

July 16, 2015

It has been a lovely day in New York City. The day dawned warm, sunny and not humid. As I walked up 93rd Street to the subway, I cherished every moment, looking up at the trees, moving slightly in the wind. People were out walking their dogs, chatting with them as they did morning duty. There is a bulldog I see occasionally; he has a face only a father could love. He walks sprightly with him on many a morning as I am making my way to Broadway and the subway.

As I took the 1 train to 28th, my car had scattered bunches of tourists. There was a young French couple, a small group of Germans; some folks with mid-western twangs. It is the fabric of the city this time of year. Later in the day there was a group of older tourists from Italy on Fifth Avenue, getting their bearings before strolling down the block.

Today, having only had a light dinner, I was hungry and stopped at the little Greek diner on the corner of 28th and 7th, appropriately called The Greek Corner. The menu has Santorini splashed across its cover. Once I asked the waitress if the owner came from Santorini. She shrugged and said: no, he’s from Sparta. I suspect he thought Santorini more beautiful than Sparta.

She is from Spain and was not terribly friendly at first but now she smiles a little when I come in. She now expects me not to need a menu though, like today, I sometimes ask for one. She always tries to serve me coffee even though I have never had a cup there.

Places like The Greek Corner are disappearing from New York City. There are articles in The Times chronicling their vanishing in all the boroughs.

As I was eating my food, another aspect of New York shuffled through the door, a homeless man, looking for water, smelling of dirt and urine. He was being respectful and the Spanish girl filled a cup for him with water and he shuffled away. It breaks my heart to see men and women like this, scattered all over the city.

As I walked down 7th Avenue to 30th, there is a woman who is there everyday, selling fruit. Yesterday, I wanted to ask her about her story, how she came to be selling fruit on 7th Avenue in New York, far from her homeland.

Since my last letter, a deal has been announced with Iran on its nuclear program. I am not sure how I feel about it, good or bad it is a path that is being played out. The Republicans and some Democrats have vowed to scuttle it and Obama says he will veto any legislation that will stop it. Rouhani of Iran is attempting to sell it through to his people and the all-powerful Ayatollah Khamenei. Neither of the men have an easy job.

The Iran drama has just reached a new stage and for some reason elicits a sense of exhaustion from me for reasons I can’t quite name. Despite the agreement, there is the reality of Iran, Saudi Arabia, the US all vying for position in the Middle East.

The Great Game continues, I guess.

TLC has cancelled, officially, the suspended “19 Kids and Counting” after the oldest son admitted abusing five underage girls, including two of his sisters. There was a celebration on Twitter that was quite amazing, I’m told.

In Chattanooga, TN, a shooter was killed after he had killed four others. The man identified as the shooter has an Arabic sounding name and one official, at least, has said it probably is a case of domestic terrorism. It happened at a military facility. The young man was born in 1990, which would make him twenty-five. He was so young to choose a path of violence. What rage burned in him? In any of these young men and women who seem to find killing so easy?

To no one’s great surprise, Dylann Roof, accused in the Charleston killing of nine churchgoers, had a troubled childhood. He grew more silent and withdrawn as time went on, using drugs and having non-violent run-ins with the law.

Tomorrow, North American Muslims will be celebrating Eid al-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting observed by Muslims. There will be gifts given and much family time enjoyed.

The potential for hate crimes makes it hard for some to enjoy. Recently, a man in New York fractured the jaw of a 19-year-old Muslim woman, while spewing anti-Muslim remarks.

As I write this, the world is waiting for the verdict in the case of James Holmes, who killed twelve and injured seventy in a shooting in a theater showing “Batman” in Aurora, Colorado. Before I post this, we should know.

Tomorrow is the year anniversary of the downing of MH17, brought to earth over Ukraine. There are at least two investigations going on. One has indicated it believes the most likely scenario is that Ukrainian separatists brought down the plane. There is talk of a UN Tribunal. Mr. Putin thinks it “premature.”

Lest we forget, Emmy nominations were announced today. Streaming services rise and broadcast slips in numbers of nominations.

The phone has buzzed three times. The verdict is in for James Holmes; he is guilty of murder and faces the death penalty.

Letter From New York 06 11 15 Past wrongs righted and other things…

June 11, 2015

Outside it is warm and a bit humid and the sun shines down on Manhattan. According to weather reports we were to have bad thunderstorms right now but they haven’t evidenced themselves. This may be the second time this week that we have missed the thunderstorm bullet.

I woke up this morning with a very unhappy stomach. Something I had eaten definitely had not agreed with me. So I spent the morning in the apartment, reading a book and staying close to home. Not sure that I would make a 1:00 meeting that I didn’t want to delay, I fretted through the morning but began to feel better around 11 and managed to get to it.

Having had nothing to eat today, I am rather famished but am holding off on eating anything until later. Everything felt fine except my stomach, which was growling back at me for whatever I had done.

Reading one of Lindsay Davis’ Roman mystery novels kept me distracted. I love her way of bringing ancient Rome to life and the feeling she gives of being there.

Having left my laptop at the office, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do except answer a few emails from my iPhone.

Christopher Lee, a great British actor, famous for his villainous roles, including Dracula and Fu Manchu but also as evil wizard Saruman in “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” died in London a few days ago. He was also Count Dooku in two of the “Star Wars” prequels. He was one of Hollywood’s go-to bad guys.

Perhaps because I have been thinking about mortality I read an article in the New York Times Magazine about British writer Jenny Diski’s work as she approaches the end of her life from lung cancer. She writes and lives with a wry wit, and is carrying that through to the end. I am going to now look for some of her work. The Times called her one of the most brilliant essayists alive; fame, though, has eluded her.

As a young child I was fascinated by Greek myths and ancient Egyptian history. I told people that I wanted to be an archeologist when I grew up. While I have made several trips to Greece, I have never been to Egypt. The Egyptian Tourist Industry, slowly reviving from the violence of the last few years, suffered new blows this week. There have been two attacks on tourist areas, one at Luxor and one at Giza. Doesn’t look like I will be going this year.

Twenty-one years ago, I chaired a Committee for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. We produced the Superhighway Summit with a keynote by Vice President Gore. One of the panelists that day was Rupert Murdoch. He ran Fox then and he does today, though this was the day it was announced he would step down to be succeeded by his son, James. Eras end.

In the “crime doesn’t pay” category the winner today is Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security chief. He’s been sentenced to life in prison for having taken bribes, the latest Communist official to fall to the corruption crackdown in that country.

In the “not good to be naughty” category, four Western tourists have been arrested in Malaysia for taking nude shots of themselves on Mt. Kinabalu shortly before a major earthquake that killed sixteen. They are being blamed for causing it, as Kinabalu is sacred to many tribes. Six others are being sought as they, too, apparently exposed themselves on the mountain and helped the quake come along.

Making up for past wrongs, Spain past a law allowing Sephardic Jews to apply for citizenship, five centuries after they were expelled from the country by Ferdinand and Isabella, the monarchs who gave Christopher Columbus his funding. They ordered Muslims and Jews to convert or leave. Many left. Those who choose to apply do not have to give up citizenship of their current country.

The light is still a soft gold and it looks like thunderstorms will not pelt us today. I am off to a Producer’s Guild meeting and then, if my stomach feels sufficiently sorted, off for some food.