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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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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
August 31, 2003

Falling Into the Future

At the beginning of David Lean’s film, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, there is stunning
scene of Lawrence riding his motorcycle through the sun shadowed, leafy back
roads of Britain.

I thought of that scene as I was driving up and down the roads of Columbia
County this past weekend. The weather was marvelous and the sun played tag
with the leaves as we drove into Hudson, where we spent an afternoon
browsing the stores and catching a late lunch at Brandow’s.

It was a perfect, restful weekend in the country, treasured as it was the
first weekend we were there post blackout and it was good to go home and
spend a couple of quiet days surrounded by the trees and next to the creek.

Sunday morning it was just chill enough I had to get a sweater to be
comfortable sitting on the deck, drinking coffee and reading my pile of

The summer is coming to an end. Labor Day Weekend is the psychological end
of summer if not the actual date when summer slips to fall. And the
impending end of the summer has been on everyone’s mind.

I suspect everyone feels like they should be given a free pass this week.
Hey, Labor Day is coming, give me a break – I don’t want to deal with
anything serious.

Unfortunately, everyone is dealing with serious things right now, right now
when we really don’t want to be. At least it seems everyone I know is.
Business is intense right now for everyone I know, a time of reevaluation,
reorganization and rebuilding.

None of which are things we think we should be doing as the summer drifts to
its end.

But it is the way it is.

A friend of mine is producing a special for NHK about the reactions of
Americans as we approach the second anniversary of 9/11. Has it only been
two years? I put a meeting into my calendar for 9/11 and I found myself
staring at the date, realizing that I would not ever again see that date
without a reaction.

Media will not be making much of this anniversary; the acknowledgement will
be respectful but not everywhere, all the time.

As we approach that anniversary though, there are constant reminders to us
here in New York. The largest controversy is about whether or not the
government lied to the city about the quality of the air in New York in the
days and weeks just after the disaster.

There are again ads suggesting people get help for issues such as depression
and addictive behaviors that have continued or accelerated since then. And
we are inundated with local ads telling us that we need to have our “go”
bags prepared. They’re very clever, a whole series of ads, with many local
and national celebrities intermixed with ordinary folks, which direct us to
get a booklet to help us prepare…

Prepare to run for it is what we’re supposed to be getting prepared for.

It is just a little schizophrenic, this world we live in. Bucolic weekends
in the country with the beginning of the autumnal nip in the air contrasted
with living in a city that is using up its PSA allowance to encourage us to
be ready to make a run for it. Mornings of sweet Columbia County air
contrasted with lengthy articles in the Times about air quality issues from

I have a sense there is a feeling that 9/11 is an event we should be putting
behind us, getting over, getting on. But its reminder is in every newscast,
with every release of new transcripts and documents and ongoing lawsuits,
reborn with every story about the Iraqi occupation, with every event in the
western world that is unusual.

Was that power outage in London, two weeks to the day after New York’s, just
an unusual circumstance or was it more than that? There are those who didn’
t question the New York blackout but are now… London? New York? Isn’t
there an interesting symmetry there that should be put under the conspiracy
theory microscope?

Ah, sweet schizophrenia! Welcome to the future.