Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

Letter From Claverack 04 30 2017 Without hope, we have nothing…

May 1, 2017

It is a Sunday evening at the cottage.  Jazz is playing, the lights splash the creek.  I have made myself a martini.  It was a typical Sunday, up early, read the NY Times and a few articles from the WSJ online before the shower and then off to church, where I did the readings and then coffee hour, errands before settling at the Dot for a long and lazy brunch, reading more off my phone and chatting with a few people, home to the cottage, put away laundry, got the trash together and sat down to write.

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Very hygge.

Because I need the steady rhythm of familiar things in this Age of Trump.

His aides were caught off guard when he extended an invitation to President Duterte of the Philippines to come visit him during a Saturday call.  If you haven’t been following it, President Duterte has been accused of extra-judicial killings in that country’s current “drug war.” Now those surprised aides are preparing for an avalanche of criticism as it’s hard to find a world leader disliked as much as Duterte by pretty much everyone.

Then, after unleashing a problem for everyone around him, Mr. Trump jetted off to Harrisburg, PA for a campaign style rally to “record breaking crowds,” where he railed to his supporters about the media which was, at the same time, roasting him in DC, even if he was not there.  In two events, the official White House Correspondents’ Dinner and the Samantha Bee hosted “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” withered the sitting President, the first to have missed this event since 1981, when Ronald Reagan was recuperating from an assassin’s attack.

I wake up in the morning and find I am in a state of continuing bemusement in what is going on in Washington.  It is reality television, which is what we should have expected when we elected a reality television star to the Presidency.  With Reagan, we had an actor who knew how to deliver his lines.  There aren’t really “lines” in reality television.  There is direction but no script.  We have a President who is making up his script as he goes along, knowing he knows better than everyone else.  Even if he doesn’t.

The WSJ, a deeply conservative publication, to which I now subscribe, seems to be wanting to support him and just can’t find a way not to point out that it’s all a little…off.

And it is more than a little off.

Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff, said the White House was looking at ways of changing the libel laws to make it easier to for Trump to sue media organizations who criticize him.  Imagine how the Democrats responded to that, not to mention many Republicans?  Not pretty.  Do we not remember the First Amendment?  Or is Trump being inspired by Erdogan of Turkey who has been arresting thousands of people he suspects of being disloyal while cracking down on the press?  Cracking down makes it sound nice.  He is dismantling any vocal opposition to him.

One thing we should note is that the economy grew at the slowest rate in three years in the first quarter of Trump.   Maybe it’s a holdover from Obama or maybe it’s the fear of Trump.

We are in a political Wild West except in this Wild West we have nuclear weapons.

It’s a dark time in American democracy and we need to remember, in this “of the moment” world in which we live, this has not been the only dark time in American democracy.  We had the Civil War, dark time.  We survived Andrew Jackson, a really, really not nice President [who, by the way, our current President seems to identify with].

We will, God willing, live through this.

In the meantime, I will play jazz.  I will drink martinis.  I will write and I will hope, because without hope we have nothing.

 

 

Letter From Claverack 03.05.2017 From a very worried place…

March 6, 2017

It is a very chill night, here at the cottage. Jazz is playing softly.  It came to me tonight, that Alexa has been learning about my jazz likes and so when I say “Alexa, play jazz…”  Well, it seems she’s learning my favorites.  I am interfacing with artificial intelligence.

Tonight, I am spending it with me.  And I feel like I’m good company tonight.

It is good to hygge at the cottage tonight.

The noise in my world is incredible right now.  My closest friends on Facebook send numerous posts every day, every hour about our political situation.  Dinner last night was non-stop. At today’s brunch at the Dot, his name wafted through the air. My client is the Miller Center for the Presidency.

Donald Trump owns the conversation, ladies and gentlemen, in my head anyway.

His ratings are through the roof!

And that’s what he likes.

For twenty minutes, I have been sitting here working to find an un-trite way of saying:  I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime.

This is a global phenomenon, our President Trump.  He’s a global big deal and I can’t believe what’s happening.  Come on, whatever side of the aisle you’re on, this is not a normal presidency.

Just isn’t.

Every tweet generates frenzy.

And the Russians are coming…

Every time I turn around, there are the Russians.  Did anyone in the Trump camp NOT talk to the Russians?  Enquiring minds want to know.

Everyday there is a Trump story that carries the news beast through another day.  On good account, I have it that people in the news business are run ragged these days.

Let’s face it: we have a ratings obsessed President.

And his ratings are HUGE.  Which is what he likes.

It’s just not like anything I have ever, ever seen.

It’s not like anything any of us have seen.  If anyone has, let me know, please.

The weekend has been consumed by parsing Mr. Trump’s tweeting that the Obama Administration ordered wiretapping of his phones during the last days before the elections.

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said she’s “seen no evidence” and that we need to deal with evidence, not statements.  Bravo.

Senator Richard Burr, also a Republican, and Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said they would follow where the evidence leads in the Russian investigation.  Kudos to you, too.

Senator Rubio posits the President may have information the rest of us don’t.

And, I think, if he does, he should reveal it.

Right now, as I’ve said, one of my clients is the Miller Center for the Presidency at the University of Virginia.  Because of my work with them, I find myself thinking about the presidency and our president a lot.  A lot.

At church today, I heard very little of Mother Eileen’s sermon because my mind was racing on what I should say in a report to them I need to submit this week.

While I am very hygge in my cottage, I am more than a little unnerved by what is going on in Washington.  And that is seeping deeper into my life, the concern I have for the fabric of the country in which I grew up and in which I live.

Oh, yes, I know we will get through this. And I want to be sure we get through this in as healthy a way as possible.

I am one little man, sitting in a cottage on the Claverack Creek in upstate New York.  And I, one little man, can do things to influence how all this plays out.  God help me, I am politically active.  I called my Congressman’s office from Saba to articulate my concerns.

It is time for participatory democracy, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican.  Which means dialogue.

And right now, we aren’t dialoguing.

We’re living in an either/or world and that’s not healthy.

We need to pay attention.

Really, we do.

 

 

 

Letter From New York, February 4, 2011

February 5, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

Last week in DC, the 13th Annual Real Screen Conference, a gathering of non-fiction filmmakers from all over the world, was held. Approximately 1500 filmmakers and executives gathered in DC at the Renaissance Hotel to survey the state of non-fiction filmmaking, to learn what might be coming next, to postulate about the meaning of changing technology to both the art and the business of non-fiction. It was the biggest Real Screen to date.

The meeting took place against a turbulent landscape, both inside and outside the particular slice of an industry being examined. Out on the great stage of the world, the hotel monitors displayed the ongoing protests in Egypt that are re-shaping the geo-political landscape. In that country, the unthinkable is occurring: Mubarak is falling. Now. Perhaps today. What comes next is the biting question. Out of Tunisia has come a wind of unrest that is unsettling the entire Middle East and leaders are scrambling to hold back the deluge.

All of this has been facilitated by the new technologies, by Twitter and Facebook, the presences of networks like Al Jazeera, not to mention CNN and all the other windows on the world technology has provided over the last two decades.

And technology has provided an enormous number of new outlets for non-fiction films over those same last two decades. Cable networks have been growing up and have become powerhouses. Their ratings are beginning to reach parity with broadcast networks, their stars fill the covers of the celebrity rags, and their programs are water cooler worthy. A lot has changed since Real Screen first gathered thirteen years ago to discuss Fair Use in documentary films.

You know an entertainment sector has become important when Hollywood agents descend upon its event and they were here in force this year for the first time. CAA, WME, APA, and ICM – all the big initial agencies had their minions present in numbers. It was the most commented upon fact of this Real Screen. The clubby atmosphere of years ago is fading.

What’s hot? Let me share with you something I have run by a number of network executives, none of whom have disagreed: bring a network LARGER than life characters, in interesting, perhaps exotic, hopefully life threatening situations who will give you an embarrassing amount of access to their lives and you probably have a chance at a show. That’s the basic formula right now as far as I can tell.

To me, it’s a bit sad. I admit to missing the more straightforward docs of yesteryear. But there are those executives and filmmakers who feel that today is a Golden Age of documentary filmmaking. Regardless, right now it’s all about the characters.

There is soul searching going on, wondering what the newer new technologies mean for the older new technologies and their futures, their business models and what the value of their brands will be as the proliferation of distribution platforms continues to accelerate. How big a threat is Netflix? Is it additive? Or not? Netflix now has over twenty million subscribers, second only to the world’s largest cable company, Comcast, in the number of subscribers. How can content providers monetize their investment against this kind of landscape? And not just the providers but also the creators, who are feeling incredibly squeezed by their network buyers to produce more on less money with no rights maintained for future exploitation.

It’s a tough world out there for everyone even while the business has never done better. Ratings are up for most. History Channel has pummeled its competitors and is probably the leader of the pack these days among male oriented non-sports non-fiction networks. Ice Road Truckers is a monster hit. Larger than life characters, etc.

Real Screen is an industry event. Perhaps not seemingly important to Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea unless you think about the fact that much of what you will be seeing on non fiction cable networks in the coming year will have been pitched and perhaps purchased during the last week.