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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

For the week of February 22, 2004
The Wonder Of It All…

Media, as we know it, is pervasive. As is the technology that delivers information. Impossible to turn out and turn off.
I’m not a compulsive media junkie. No ticker tape of data of any kind floats on my computer screen. E-mail alerts are not programmed to be sent to me. doesn’t float about as my home page.
I generally wake to the sound of NPR; I usually turn on TV news shortly after I find the first cup of coffee – a superhuman effort for an individual who is NOT a morning person. Fortunately, I live with a kind person who has the coffee brewed and a cup ready when I bumble into the kitchen.
During the coffee, I start to come awake. I boot up the computer and start checking e-mails and listen/watch the news as I acclimate to the day.
But I am not a person who lives on the absolute cutting edge of information gathering. I am comfortably back from the cliff but closer to the edge than the majority of people. I am and have been an early adopter of technology. I dove for USA Today when I saw a picture of a one pound computer being introduced which sounded to me like the answer to my aching shoulder’s prayers.
There is a pda in my life but it’s not wireless and I’ve not succumbed to the Blackberry. [Truth is, I own one and I stepped back from using it, asking myself: do I really want to be all THAT connected?]
So, while not a Luddite, I also do not take for granted the plethora of devices that surround me. I do remember using an IBM Selectric. Wangs? Yes, I remember them. Faxes were something I championed when people said to me: what’s wrong with Fed Ex? In other words, I am middle-aged but not prematurely old. I love Wi-Fi and can help my clients with their simpler software issues, like how to open a Word attachment to their e-mail and to explain what a zip file is.
For the last two weeks, I have gone away from as much of the tumult of our contemporary life as I could. John McCormick, the man I call my godfather, had died and was memorialized. John was not really my godfather but it was the only label I could use to help anyone understand the place he and his family have in my life. His passing was fast and profound. It was like a force of nature had been wiped out of the universe and I mourned. My breath was taken away and I was out of step with myself and my time.
Cell phones and technology allowed us to find each other at airports and to coordinate complicated familial movements and manage expectations and to connect conveniently with significant others.
But in that mourning, I slipped away further from the edge of technology. I did not watch television or listen to the radio. Newspapers seemed irrelevant. I did not care about the primaries. Voice mail could take calls and “silence all” was a feature to be embraced.
As you can tell from my excitement at a potential full powered one pound computer, my hiatus from technology has not endured but it did give me pause and a realization that a pause is sometimes needed. I didn’t give myself enough of a one because my Catholic Compulsive self kept nattering at my other selves to get back to work and so I did.
As I rode the Metro in Washington, D.C. my mobile phone vibrated and I spoke to a colleague who was calling me from his cell phone in London to discuss with me a Russian woman he had found who was reputed to have x-ray vision and to confirm an appointment with me on Monday in New York.
It was only later when he phoned me back with another issue and I handed my cell to Rita Mullin, with whom I was meeting, so she could speak with him, did I think about the wonder of it all.
It is wonderful. It is science fiction. But it is not all of life. John’s passing reminded me of the need for silence as well as the value of communication tools.