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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

The Beat Goes On?

The staccato beat of the news this week has been? odd.

On one hand, I have hardly been able to turn on the television without seeing Tom Ridge, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, gravely announcing that we should expect that Al Qaida will attempt to attack us this summer and may be well over 90% of the way through their preparations. [Am I the only one that finds the term "Homeland Security" ominous and faintly fascistic?]

As I walked across the West Side Highway and up to Broadway for the subway, I wondered if the somber looks on the faces of everyone didn't have something to do with living in New York, working near where the World Trade Towers had once stood; having awakened to grave announcements that the folks who brought us 9/11 were actively planning to bring us more.

No one I saw this morning, including myself, seemed to be acting as if this were just before the start of the first long Holiday weekend of the summer.

On the other hand, Scott Peterson seems to be back in the news a lot. There is a lot of chatter about "Shrek 2"; "Troy" seems to have just about faded; "The Day After Tomorrow" is about to open, visually showing us what to expect for our flagrant disregard for the environment; we are scrutinizing the price of gas as the sales of full size SUV's fade while being replaced by sales of smaller SUV's.

There seems to be no lack of interest on the part of tabloids in the foibles of the rich, famous, or merely photogenic.

The television upfront went on last week. The chatter is that the new network shows are pretty good but not good enough to stem the steady erosion of viewers to cable. However, it will be interesting to see how the mega media companies utilize their broadcast and cable outlets to maintain quality and manage costs.

Last Thursday, I had lunch, along with several others, with Bernie Brillstein, the entertainment legend, at Trattoria Del Arte to discuss a PBS project he wants to do. Steve Friedman, formerly producer of the Today Show, currently doing a project for PBS, stopped by to pay his respects, as did Mark Itkin, the super packaging agent at the William Morris Agency, as did at least eight others, none of whom I knew. It was rather like watching folks kiss a bishop's ring.

Ellen won an Emmy.

Statistics demonstrate that New York is a very safe big city while a drama student was murdered in Central Park.

In other words, the natter continued unabated in our lives.

As did the deaths in Iraq; assassination attempts in Baghdad and storms in the Caribbean that almost defy the use of adjectives. The political campaign continues as does Bush's fundraising. Several friends discussed, seriously, their international options if Bush is re-elected while others discussed their despair about the future if Kerry wins.

I wonder about all these things: the celebrity natter, the effect of gas prices, the celebrity fixation of our society, a murder in America's safest big city, musing about what higher interest rates will do to the economy and the price of housing. I savor the thrill of lunch with legends and experience of living in the city that calls itself "the capital of the world" while observing and participating in the American political process.

These are the ordinary things of life.

What has not been normal or ordinary is the undercurrent of fear I feel walking up Broadway to the subway. What is not normal is riding the train last Monday and having half the train staff and passengers checking out a "suspicious" individual. What is not normal is the abuse of prisoners by American soldiers in a scandal that just keeps expanding.

When I got to the office this morning, I checked out the location of my "go" bag, the escape kit I keep, as I have been directed to since 9/11.

That, too, is what I do not find ordinary, that I have a "go" bag and escape plans.