SUNRISE AT DEATH VALLEY-Photo by Tom Cochrun

Thursday, May 26, 2016

THE BRIDGE & THE WRITERS BLOCK

WRITERS BLOCK
    It was chilling, prompting a sense of foreboding.
    "Get 'em outta here!  Get 'em outta here!" commanded Donald Trump at a recent rally beset by protestors. Trump had been bragging that he would claim "40%" of Sanders voters when the clamor began.
     There are smarter and elder political analysts and journalists but I have not seen a more viscerally divisive presidential candidate since George Wallace, who's campaigns I covered and who I interviewed. It is odd to write this, but Wallace was eminently more qualified than Donald Trump. Wallace was a self admitted segregationist. He was a racist and a hate monger. Trump is worse. He has no policy positions, no electoral or government experience, is fueled by  ego, rides a wave of anger and appeals to the worst in America.
       An important message to the nation was sent by 450 of our top writers.You can link here to read their open letter to the American people. While I think Trump is a danger to the Republic in many ways he is also like the canary in the coal mine, a warning of sorts.
      American politics is broken and people are rightfully angry. Our wrath should be directed at the big money that has turned politicians into whores. We should be furious with the increasingly selfish nature of those who lobby and who have turned government into commerce. A loud mouth and insensitive sexist, racist, ego freak with no government experience and an appalling lack of familiarity with international complexity and who is a bully is not the way to change what infects us.
      Why do you think we have become a nation with so much fear, anger, selfishness and with a lack of a desire for common good? Why are people taking to Trump? 
      As you ponder and respond, take a moment to consider what some of our brightest have said. The warnings are becoming more numerous.

RAIN ROCKS
    Every time we drive the majestic Highway 1 we marvel at the engineering that produced the road with spectacular views including here in the Big Sur area.
    Highway cuts, switchbacks and  bridges--there are natural challenges to keeping traffic moving. The frame below is a recent overhead look at what locals call Rain Rocks. 
   This is an area that frequently was closed, due to slides of the mountain onto the narrow patch of the Pacific Coast Highway.
  You can see how the tunnel like structure is built into the mountain and shelters the road from boulders and rocks that  litter the roof.
   It is an amazing structure and engineering masterpiece that we watched be pieced together over the last 4 years. 





   The previous frames speak to the massive size of the structure. But in the frame below it dwarfs into just one more pass on an extraordinary road.

    See you down the trail.

Monday, May 23, 2016

SWEET & SOUR...ALLURING PLACES, BAD NEWS ON RACES


     Since the first reading of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, palm trees have had a special place in my heart, symbolic of something exotic.
      They represented escape from the Indiana landscape of my youth.  In time palm trees became synonymous with vacation retreat, away from snow, ice and gray.
  Years later there is still a special pleasure evoked by lounging under palms.
  Places with palm trees also provide natural color.


Race in America
A Failing Grade
     Segregation in America is getting worse according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. The GAO report find the number of racially and financially segregated schools has doubled in the last 13 years.
      The report finds that 61% of schools with high concentrations of poor students were racially segregated-schools that were at least three quarters black or Latino.
      The US Secretary of Education says fixing it must be a priority.
      This finding on top of the growing economic disparity in the US speaks legions about the ineffective response to what is a dangerous fault line in the American body politic.


Celebration of the Mediterranean spirit

Food and wine pairings are special. Stolo Family Vineyards in Cambria features a great barrel room tasting. 
   Le Vigne in the Paso Robles Appellation saluted Wine Festival Weekend with a charming dinner. 

  Vineyards abound in beauty.
  
   Between palm trees and vineyards, life provides good reason to say Cheers!

   See you down the trail.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

WAITING A LIFE TIME TO SEE IT plus WHEEL TO WHEEL and WALL STREET WELFARE

Desert Blooms
    Lana said she had waited most of her life to see a saguaro cactus bloom.
   In the stretch from Phoenix to Prescott Valley and Sedona  the desert scrub is populated by the massive uprights and spears.
   Closer examination of these saguaro, that can age to 2 centuries, revealed blooms. Blossoms appear only when a cactus is at least 35 years. They grow their first arm at between 75 and 100 years.

   The blooms are short-lived and open at night during spring. The saguaro blossom is the state wildflower of Arizona.
  Other worldly and exotic they are native of the Sonoran desert in Mexico and Arizona, the Whipple Mountains and Imperial County area of California. In Arizona it is against the law to harm a saguaro.


Wheel to Wheel on the Pacific Coast Highway
    The Amgen Tour of California raced past Cambria in Stage 4-Morro Bay to Monterey-on the famed Highway 1.
   The lead of the pack as they approached the south edge of Cambria having just come up a long hill.
    Immediately the racers began to use the level stretch for changing positions.

    Just as rapidly they were past the first access to Cambria and on the way toward San Simeon, Ragged Point, Big Sur and Monterey at speeds of 25 to 35 mph. 
       Here they are just a few miles into a 133 mile stage.
    The Amgen Tour of California finishes in Sacramento.

WALL STREET WELFARE
    This may feel like a kick in the head. Oxfam America recently published a study that reveals for every dollar America's largest companies paid in federal taxes from 2008 to 2014 they got back $27 in loans, guarantees and bailout funds from the Federal Government. Once more--the top 50 American corporations pay a dollar in taxes and get back $27. Is that the kind of tax plan you are on?
      Oxfam reports that for every dollar spent on lobbying by the largest corporations they get $130 in tax breaks and $4,000 in federal loans and guarantees.
      Ray Offenheiser, President of Oxfam, says, "The global economic system is becoming increasingly rigged." Oxfam is a federation of groups working on poverty and economic disadvantage in some 90 nations. They've been a respected player since the 1940's.
      Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times writes that a recent study found that tax dodging by major corporations "costs the US Treasury up to $111 billion a year."  Imagine the infrastructure repair, increase in pay and benefits to police, fire and veterans and improvements to schools and teacher training and pay that could be accomplished.  Kristof notes that since 1952 the share of corporate taxation in federal revenue has declined from 32% to 11%, but as you know from your own paystubs the portion of payroll taxes has increased. 
      To paraphrase Shakespeare-Something is rotten and this time it is not in Denmark.

      See you down the trail.



Monday, May 16, 2016

NIGHT MOVES & THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO JON

Noir
    A challenge to photographers, night images have a special appeal. There is a delicate balance to achieve in light value to capture a genuine mood and night shots are full of mood. In the frame above I like the way the light from the street lamp pools while the clouds, house lights and trees hold their own value.
    Night images hold mystery. I was first fascinated with light values in the darkness when I delivered a morning newspaper route in my teens. From a sidewalk or street an illuminated room shines as though a stage.
   Shadow play is fascinating. Capturing an image, offering detail, architecture and shadow is another balancing act. Here we see the multiple textures of the tree, the brick weave, the feature of the fountain, block in the wall and still capture the shadows.
   Night scenes around water offer textured views.

JON THE BEARER
     Pundit, social critic, wit and bright guy Jon Stewart's comments to David Axlerod at the University of Chicago are some of the truest words of the 2016 campaign.
      He told the former Obama political wiz the Democrats and the Obama administration are responsible for what he called the man-baby of Donald Trump. Stewart said their inability to show the American voter an efficient and effective government helped pave the way for what he said was an "ass hole like Donald Trump" whom he also called a demagogue.
     His toughest words for Hillary Clinton have people either ready to take off his head or nodding in approval.
     "What do I think about Hillary Clinton is, you know...I imagine her to be a very bright woman without the courage of her convictions."
      Stewart challenged Clinton to be "authentic" and genuine and to show if "there is a real person underneath."  He said her campaign and communication style reminded him of Magic Johnson's attempt to be a talk show host. It was too much of an act and not real.
       I wonder how many others miss Stewart's nightly presence and the insight of his rapier wit?

       See you down the trail

Thursday, May 12, 2016

ADJUSTED & UNDERCOVER IN THE TRUMP FEVER TENT

New Horizon
    There was more than one left turn as our friends Bruce and Judy drove us beyond scenic Jerome Arizona into Verde Valley Wine Country!  Yep, Arizona Wine Country! Who'd thunk it?!
   Their good recon work put us outside Cornville at scenic Page Springs Cellars.
    Judy is the undisputed queen of the picnic. Lana has been emulating her since an incredible repast in Red Rock Canyon country on a first visit many seasons ago.

    In cooling shade and near the Page Springs flow just off the nearby Oak Creek, the culinary magic happened again.
 Green white soup accompanied the cheeses, pate's, olives, fruit and more.  
    Arizona Wine Country offered up its own special charms as well.
   After a previous tasting we settled on a bottle of Vermentino as we sat near the budding crop.
   OK, full disclosure here. I was skeptical. After about a decade of living in the Paso Robles appellation, I guess I have become a "California snob," but winemaker Eric Glomski does a fine job. He did his training at a California winery and is helping to establish a burgeoning wine culture in Arizona.
   Page Springs Cellars is a lovely spot, featuring menu items grown in their nearby garden. It has lovely views and even a massage tent near the vines and the flowing Oak Creek.
    I belong to the school that believes wine is one of the great socializers of the world. Through history wine has been a source of collegiality. Most states now boast of wine growing and Arizona's adds to the virtues of The Grand Canyon state.

UNDER COVER IN
THE TRUMP FEVER TENT
    He and a couple of his pals decided to check out a Trump Rally in their Utah town. They were there to see the spectacle and to let someone know their sentiments, should the occasion arise. He's a sharp young business man, the son of dear friends. One of his buddies was a former newspaper colleague who we were told is uninhibited in his political expressions, especially his disdain for all things Trump.
    As fate would have it they were in the right spot as the  Trump goon squad began syphoning in a couple hundred folks from the some 3 thousand who had gathered in mass. In a moment they found themselves face to face with secret service and other security, being patted down and frisked before being ushered into a tiny theater. These would be hecklers were front and center. Our friend said his first impression was "Hate and racism are alive and well in Utah." 
    Clearly the trio was outnumbered and since they were not wearing cowboy hats and football sized belt buckles they were immediately targets of suspicion.  That is when his heart started to pound bit more rapidly. It ticked a bit more when the Trumpeters began handing out signs and banners as they spewed their Trumpisms. He said of course he needed to take one of the signs, not to do so might have landed him on the front page as another Trump protester being pounded by the Trump true believers.
    A few Utah right wingers and political sorts came to "warm up the crowd." This is when our friends son thought he might just end up pulp.  As a Congressional candidate began extolling the virtues of Utah and a piece of legislation he had backed, the young man's uninhibited friend began to heckle the speaker with a sign he had turned into a megaphone.  He said he could feel the force move, that would be the dark side. He sensed they were being surrounded by the Trump cowboys. His friend continued to heckle the speaker saying he was a sell out, a member of the establishment, part of the problem in government. He challenged him as not being a true Trumpeter. This was when the young man detected a significant shift in the vibe. Now the Trumpeters were giving the razz to the earnest Utah Republican who was eventually jeered off the stage as being an establishment lackey. 
     Ah, the poetry of it!  True Trumpeters, being led in the insurrection by a guy who had turned up to protest the Donald himself. Instead he was able to whip up this Trump Rally into booing out one of the few republicans willing to show up.
     As for Trump himself?  They decided just to listen. Our friends son said in his 20 minutes on stage it was more about show business, a kind of call and response. "We're going to build that wall!"  Massive response! "We're going to make American great again!"  Massive response!  And so it went.
The young man said he can't recall Trump completing one full sentence, or for that matter a full thought without jumping into some line that drew a response.  He said it was clearly performance.  But the rabble loved it. 
     It makes for a great dinner story. But it also makes for great insight. And so the Trump movement-moves.

     See you down the trail.

Monday, May 9, 2016

SPECIAL PLACES, PEOPLE AND TIMES

CATCHING THE CATS
    At home with the Catalyst and his buddy Blackwell. My longtime pal and mentor Bruce looks right, as his beloved Blackwell looks left. It is a special moment, being with dear old  longtime friends.
    
    The evening made even more special with this Indonesian feast prepared by Judy, aka SWMBO. We've been stealing recipes and food prep tips from Judy for a few seasons now. We are adding another page to the book.
     Bruce has blogged about our get together and you can find that to the right of this post in the Rich Blogs roll.

PRISTINE
      You are looking at a rare "pristine" culture of native species. This ledge, Arroyo Del La Cruz, is on the Pacific coast north of the Hearst Castle on route to Big Sur.
       It is one of the last patches free of non native and invasive vegetation. The shelf overlooks a secluded beach hidden to those who travel the famous Highway 1.
    It is an alluvium deposit patch of California begun in Lompoc some 95 miles south. Silt, clay, sand and gravel compressed and was moved by natural forces some 150 thousand years ago.

    Someplace near Lompoc there is chunk of earth that is a body double for this alluvium deposit.

    That mound in the frame below is a midden, a kind of refuse pile left by native residents centuries ago. Theories vary as to what tribe left the deposit-Salinan, Chalon, or Esselen. 

    See you down the trail.