SUNRISE AT DEATH VALLEY-Photo by Tom Cochrun

Friday, February 5, 2016

LATITUDES AND ATTITUDES

SEEING THINGS
       This west coast lays in the eastern US and the sun's descent drops not towards Hawaii and Japan, but toward the US mid-west.
        After being acclimated to the far western edge of the US, things seems different here. Silly of me I suppose, but I considered drive ways and garage doors as being for the use of cars.  Not sure how this Naples Florida arrangement works. Carefully I presume.
       I've been spoiled by village life in our enclave on the true west coast. We too have our share of senior drivers-of which I am one-and we drive in varying degrees of caution, or erratic dashes, but there is a variance here-volume and a healthy, or unhealthy as it may be, mixture of younger and/or aggressive drivers. Aggressive drivers in volume, working their way through the slower and perhaps erratic others makes for an adventure I'm content to do sparingly. Our dear daughter sounds like a parent, as her parents are about to venture out to play in traffic.  
    "This is season. We have heavily medicated drivers who are just back in town and it's crazy.  No, I mean it is really crazy."  
     Our daughter is wise, bless her heart. This is like LA at half the lanes, at 40 miles and hour but with that hybrid brew of medicated seniors, just back in town for season and the already ticked off locals who probably harbor mad max fantasies of rolling right over them.
      So back to daughters quiet enclave, to enjoy a quiet walk and to privately cherish the ability to shower without turning off the water between soaping and soaking. We can even let the water run until it gets hot. And brushing teeth with water running and not feeling guilty.  Changes in attitudes.
      Even if the sun doesn't set on water!

       See you down the trail.

Monday, February 1, 2016

DAZED AND WONDERING

THINGS CHANGE
     Here's a scene in which we have all played a role. The baggage wait.
      Where to stand, where to look, check the phone, eye the others wondering if some nefarious sort might get to your bag before you. It's all made more dramatic by a long flight, sleep deprivation, wondering if the rental car will be ready, where's the shuttle to the lot and why haven't the bags arrived yet ?           Why don't they test or train Public Address announcers before turning them loose? Little things-speak clearly, don't eat the microphone-speak slowly, especially if English is not your first language and don't sound so bored. Also, it might be nice to cue them into those gag names, still in play. And by the way, why haven't those bags arrived yet?
OTHER MYSTERIES
     We've come a distance to celebrate our eldest daughter's first child and to get acquainted with that delicate and sweet little bundle of joy who warms our hearts into membership in the grands club.
       Such innocence and purity. I can watch her endlessly as she stretches arms and legs, opening tiny little fingers, pursing dainty lips, hoping mom is somewhere in range. Little moves in a big world.  She is still gaining vision so her eyes labor to focus and to begin to make sense of this strange new surrounding. What extraordinary mystery this must be. I whisper to her that it's like the big wake up, or so I assume and tell her that it will all eventually make sense. Unspoken and in the back of my mind is the time when she reaches an age and looks at this big world and her human co-inhabitants and wonder why human ways sometimes don't make sense.
       But all of that is a sea of time and wonder away. Now each second is a time of learning, discovery and an opportunity to experience love and caring. She is lucky, she has a loving mommy, aunt and a couple of grand parents. She has a comfortable home in a safe neighborhood in a land that is at peace. Clean water and air, schools and doctors are available to her. So many children are not so fortunate. 
     And so this sweet child will awaken to her blessings, day by day and her granddad will ponder the wondrous mysteries of such a life and the stretching of time.  Our daughters expanded my sense time a few years ago. My granddaughter just hit the warp drive into hyper time.
      See you down the trail.
     


Thursday, January 28, 2016

IS THIS TRUMP A TRICK

REMIND YOU OF SOMEONE?
The Donald
Nature's perverse humor
      I keep searching the side of the political coverage scenes, looking for a flash of Joel or Ethan Coen or George Clooney. Seeing them smirking around the edges of the political swamp would bring relief, this is all a joke.
    Warning bells are ringing. No less a traditionalist than conservative and Republican David Brooks laments and pleads for sanity arguing that neither Trump nor Cruz can be elected, he hopes.  Ditto for Sanders. They are not stable he argues so America will not take them on as long term companions. But the venerable Mr. Brooks is not convinced so he says he will spend the next few months in denial. He's not alone in the GOP, the Gagging Old Party.
    It's now an old joke-TV News has become all Trump all the time. There's far too much truth in that. It's the funny pages moved to the front page. The freak show moved to the big top. Donald is so colorful the modern journos can't help themselves.
    Ah, but they can.
Rachel pounds Flint 
    As so much of the media universe was making silly over the entirely over rated politically active Iowans and Donald Vs. Megyn, or basking in the annual Super Hype, Rachel Maddow did something different-real journalism. Like her or not, approve or disapprove of her tilt, she had the presence of mind and conscience to focus a big media light on an  unbelievable American disaster. 
    The story of lead contamination of 100 thousand Americans, including 9,000 children is symbolic of how broken, morally bankrupt and politically corrupt this nation can be. The story of Flint is something you'd expect in Russia or North Korea.
    Her town hall meeting was a tangible and credible effort at understanding yes, but also a beginning pursuit of doing something about it. Honestly, Flint is a helluva lot more important than the Iowa Caucus, New Hampshire Primary and the clown car media carnival they have fostered. And more honesty-crumbling infrastructure is not the exclusive problem of Flint.  How wide spread might it be? If you really want to know, pull up a map and begin counting every major city in America. When you've counted them all you'll have your answer.
KERMIT WAS RIGHT
   The modicum of good news in this post is the picture above. Moisture and green, in California. It hasn't been easy.
    We are sorry El Nino has produced serious problems elsewhere, but here on the California coast and into the high Sierra we are getting relief from four years of drought. Nothing is back to normal yet, but it is getting better. Lakes are no longer bone dry and the mountain snow pack is healthy. We have several more weeks in this rainy season and we are grateful for the additional moisture on the way.
       By the time the political circus comes to town out here our lovely green may have begun to fade into our golden season. The June primary here will be the end of the preliminaries and the eve of the national conventions. In the last few years the conventions have been nothing more than television programs, a sort of perverted telethon. There has been nothing to decide, so the delegates gather to party and offer up platitudes. This year could be a bit different.  We'll see. And how I hope I see the Coen's.

     See you down the trail.

Monday, January 25, 2016

NEAR AND FAR

STARTS
SHARING HARMONY IN CAMBRIA
     Regular readers may recall Chef Giovanni of Harmony Cafe and his ability to delight all. Giovanni has moved from Harmony California, population 18, to Main Street, Cambria. He brought along the culinary magic.
        These, from his current monthly lunch menu, are examples.
    At the top the polenta and wild boar ragout with lentils. Just above is the sausage burger and cannellini beans.
  As you may discern after study of this recent lunch menu, making decisions here are a challenge. He tells me he stays up late thinking of new offerings. 
 Chef Giovanni has moved into Cambria's famed Pewter Plough Playhouse, decorated with caricatures by the New Yorker's late Al Hirschfeld. 
   True to Cambria's bohemian and art colony nature, the unique wooden tables are the creations of craftsman David Plumb who is a singer and minstrel extraordinaire'.  
  We share this with trepidation. Locals enjoy the masterful and inventive culinary skills and time to chat with Giovanni, a delightful character. When foodies discovered his location in rustic Harmony we found ourselves sharing it with those who came from LA, San Francisco and further afield. But great is great, so if you get to California's central coast, Cafe Harmony at the Pewter Plough is guaranteed to be an authentic joy.
    In a future post we'll tease you a bit with some of his homemade dessert and coffee creations and his garden patio.
HARD STORIES FROM A DISTANCE
   After seeing Beasts of No Nation I told friends that all of us, everyone, regardless of politics or belief, should be held accountable for something that has been reported but largely ignored, the weaponizing of children. 
     It happens in many places, but director Cary Fukanaga tells the story of an African orphan turned into a solider by a charismatic commander played masterfully by Idris Elba. Elba's performance is cited as being ignored by the Academy Awards nomination process. It's a shame there's no category for first time roles. Abraham Attah, the young Ghana native  who plays the orphan is extraordinary. His final monologue, as he relates to a therapist what he had endured changing from a gentle boy who prayed regularly and loved his family to a hardened killer is both a chilling and haunting performance. Tragic reality undergirds this difficult but important film.
     Straight Outta Compton, posted previously, achieves something important as well that I failed to note. It provides a sense of the life that explains better than any politician, professor or activist why young blacks can grow up with an attitude about police and the larger society. Though some will bristle, as they did at the time, NWA was justified to have the anger and frustration they spoke so boldly.
     Revenant is an epic. Its scale as story, production and ultimately as a film is huge and overwhelming. I understand why DiCaprio has been nominated. His work is phenomenal. However, in my estimation at least, Eddie Redmayne's performance in The Danish Girl is even better. Redmayne shows more diversity, range and complex emotion than did Di Caprio, as good as he was as a frontier scout fighting for survival. 
      In the last analysis the Oscars come down to something more than mere performance. Politics, culture and money are involved and DiCaprio's film is larger in all ways. That could make a difference. So too the fact Redmayne won last year for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking.  
     
      After all, the Oscars are not about curing disease, winning wars, ending oppression, bringing justice or anything earth shattering.  They are professional awards given by an industry where the bottom line is just that-commerce.

     See you down the trail.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

IS OSCAR COLOR BLIND OR BLIND?

AVOIDING BEING WASHED UP
    Something is amiss in Hollywood and friction over the Oscar nominations is the smoke signal.
     The make-believe world of the film industry cannot use special effects to escape a few painful realities. Debate over to or not to boycott this years Academy Award presentation is  one plot turn. Another is will the Academy do something about its award deciding process?
      The Academy is made up of Branches, relating to the various skills and crafts of film making; directing, acting, cinematography, writing, design, editing, and etc. Membership comes only through a sponsor and though the Academy is private about who belongs, an LA Times investigation revealed statistics that show it is a predominately white male organization. Some say the representation of male and female membership is roughly equivalent to the percentage of people working in film, but there's no way to be sure. Even that however does not speak to a couple of other story lines.
       The film industry itself is a largely white enclave notably in the film studios and leadership, and mostly male as well. As George Clooney noted recently the current debate about the whiteness of this year's nominees goes mostly to the lack of African American talent but says little about Hispanic under representation that Clooney says is another problem.
       Close to the core of this friction is a legitimate debate-Many believe the Oscars should recognize achievement and not be about pushing for diversity. It is an award, not social engineering. That's touchy in this age of racial sensitivity and lingering racism. It's even touchier when one consider the majority of Academy voters are white and male. True, the Academy is the private club of an already self indulgent professional culture so in a theory, one can argue, they can run the club house however they wish. But this is the 21st Century and we know about colonialism, imperialism, feudalism, racism and bias. And after all who makes the industry important? Movie goers! The fans are the ultimate power here. 
         Though we are marketed to, hyped, pitched and hustled we decide fates and fortunes by deciding to watch or not. If we are more than white males, it would follow what we get should be about more than white males. And that is true, but the disconnects exists.
        Personally, I can't understand why Will Smith did not get a nomination for his courageous role in Concussion-based on  a real character who too was brave and historic. As I watched Straight Outta Compton I wondered why Oshea Jackson, Jason Mitchell or Corey Hawkins were not considered for supporting actor roles. I have yet to see Beasts of No Nation, but people whom I respect say Idris Elba was excellent in his role.
         Nothing against those who have been nominated. I've seen most of the nominees and indeed there has been masterful work. But I have to wonder if there were more women, more men and women of color in the process of selecting and eventually electing the winners, would we see more diversity.  I think so.
        The end of this drama is to be written. Will we see a large scale boycott? Will Chris Rock emcee or boycott? If he works, how will he handle the issue? Will a presenter or a recipient do a Marlon Brando?  Will viewers shun the telecast?  Will commercial sponsors show guts?  Could an ad agency advise a big sponsors to tailor a special message respecting the quality of the nominees but lamenting the lack of diversity? Perhaps the biggest mystery is what will the Academy do about fixing what is clearly a problem in a system that bears a lot of resemblance to a plantation?
A MOMENT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE 
    We pause here under our blooming Jade, a sign of good luck, prosperity and friendship to congratulate our eldest on the birth of her daughter, our first grandchild. Congratulations also to our other daughter, an RN who was part of the delivery process. Everyone is doing well, including grandmother who can't stop smiling. Grandad got the news on the tennis court and had to wipe away a few tears before he got back to playing. 
     God bless that little darling and all of her generation. It gives this boomer more incentive to care about justice, fairness, peace and planetary health.

      See you down the trail.

Monday, January 18, 2016

AFTER KING & SEAN PENN'S FAILURE

MLK ANGER
     Anger.  The ML King Memorial speakers provoked an anger.  I was angry that a university cross culture staffer was also angry enough to rail against cultural bias.
     Angry that an African American woman student confronted the kind of racism mostly borne of ignorance. Micro aggression she called it, white boys would date her, but only in private, never in public. Insidious racism in questions about how often black students wash their hair, or did she have any thug buddies?
     Angry that a pastor who grew up near Selma and who worked in Birmingham said even all these years later "we still have work to do."
     Angry that indeed the battle is far from over. Angry that prejudice and racial intolerance are still enemies of the Republic.  Too many battles, too much suffering, too much residual poison, too much anger for too long. All of this should have been fixed decades ago.
     I wondered as speakers pointed to old enemies, that should have been vanquished, if Dr. King would not now be pointing to the enemies of economic disparity, sexual and gender discrimination as well as the kind of racism seen in police murders of black citizens, or voter registration entanglements or a Mitch McConnell saying on day one of the Obama administration his job was to prevent the president's re-election.
      Hats off to Pacifica Radio Archives for finding a "lost" Martin Luther King speech.You can link here to learn about and listen to a 1964 speech in London, just days before he received the Nobel Prize.
       By April 1967 Dr. King had grown angry. If you are interested you can hear the address delivered at historic Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967, a year before he was murdered. The speech was called Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break the Silence. It is considered the most controversial speech of his life.

SEAN PENN'S FAILURE
   Sean Penn told CBS's Charlie Rose he considered his interview with the Mexican drug kingpin a failure, because it failed to foster a wider conversation about America's own failure, the long and tired War on Drugs, being waged since the Nixon administration.
    Some have attacked Penn for doing the interview, faulting him for his lack of journalistic perspective. Penn challenges what he says is a failure in American journalism. 
     What Penn offered up in Rolling Stone was a personal piece, his experience with and his take on the drug Lord.  It was not meant to be a thorough and full examination of the Mexican cartel, its leader and his violence. It was however the first public comment from a twice escaped international fugitive in hiding. That he got him to speak, even under conditions is better than anyone else has done. Did his interview offer great illumination? Probably not, but it offered more than we knew previously. 
       It is not the kind of journalism being celebrated in the Academy Award nominated Spotlight, but it was a snapshot of a public enemy while on the run. Penn may have wished for more.  Envious journalists and embarrassed law enforcement may take their shots. Still on balance, Penn risked his own well being, displayed a curiosity and produced an honest account that on balance brought up the information level on a legitimate story. No great success perhaps, no Pulitzer winner, but neither was it a failure. At the very least Penn deserves credit for giving it a shot.

    See you down the trail.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Puzzling

UNLIKELY CHALLENGE

    Lana, a decades long veteran of jigsaw puzzle work says this ditty from Liberty Puzzles is the toughest she has confronted.
    Alone and with friends she has worked much larger puzzles and with hundreds more pieces. This wood puzzle with interesting shaped cuts may be small, but mighty.
POLI PUZZLING
    Al Hunt is one of the last of the old boy political analysts, descending from a craft where watching and observing were the tools. Unlike most talking heads now, eager to predict or pontificate, Hunt watches and takes measure, often finding foundational facts. Hunt believes what Eric Sevareid said many years ago, you cannot predict politics.
     The other evening as a pollster and other political technicians were doing a horse race assessment and talking about likely outcomes, Hunt reminded them it was impossible to predict what could or might happen or how it could affect a race.
      Too much time and too many words are spent  handicapping outcomes. Coverage is numbers crazy, doing the simulated sports coverage of the campaign, how to win or lose the game. A lot of wordage seems motivated by career posturing or boosting a media profile. Missing in the heat is illumination or thoughtful analysis. Attention spans and historical perspective seem to suffer a deficit disorder.
      Spend a couple minutes here, time traveling to 1977 when television news analysis was indeed thoughtful and provided depth and significance. Sevareid provided this role for CBS News. You'll better know  the quality and intellect of that time and work by seeing this, Sevareid's last comment at the time of his retirement. Walter Cronkite's follow also shows us a perspective that we miss.

GRAZING
cow and lens
    San Simeon Creek Road, northern San Luis Obispo County, California

  
     See you down the trail.