SUNRISE AT DEATH VALLEY-Photo by Tom Cochrun

Monday, October 20, 2014

FALL'S EYE PLEASURE and GONE GIRL AS A JOKE?

AUTUMN PAINT
  Tis the time of year when the blogosphere fills with fall color. Here's a contribution.
   Mid October in the Sierra Nevada is a treat. Providence provides a majestic palette.



















   Perpetual gratitude to Ruth Armstrong who first alerted us to the wonders of the eastern slope and to Art Edis who suggested a fall color expedition in the June Lake region.
     Color hunters from around the globe share the mountain roads, lakesides and vistas in a joyful and hushed reverence. 
GONE GIRL
a divergent view
   The David Fincher film based on Gillian Flynn's well read book and powerfully written screen play is getting a lot of buzz. Fincher is a superb director and superb too are actors Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Kim Dickens. Pike's role is award nomination worthy. Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry bring a lot in their small but important supporting roles.
   Some reviews have focused on the tight intrigue and mystery while others have plumbed the portrayal of marriage, manipulative madness, deceit and how truth can be quite a relative thing.  Fincher does all of that while moving a compelling story line ahead.  All of this is good.  Some of this is serious.  The brutality and deceit are troubling.  Still I left the theatre thinking what a clever joke it had been. I don't know if that is because of Flynn's writing or Fincher's directing or my sense of things after a life in journalism.
    Gone Girl was entertaining, with an emotional ride, but in the end was a kind of satire.  Look at how silly the media, especially cable news, and stories that spark feeding frenzy mobs really are. What does it say about the media and those who consume this stuff?  Look at how mercurial are fame and reputation.  Look at how vulnerable and relative "truth" is.  Look how a clever and deceptive mind can lead police, justice and media astray. Look at what happens in relationships.  Look what is says about honesty in being who you are.  Yep, Gone Girl does all of that and I think Fincher and company did it all in such a way that at the end we really need to chuckle and perhaps shake our heads. 
     I suspect most viewers wonder what happens next. You may have your own theory. The audience at our viewing left with a range of reaction and vocally so, which I understand happens with this film. Intense, even searching drama it was, but I wonder how many may see the humor in it all?

     See you down the trail
    

Monday, October 13, 2014

CONNECTIVITY AND LIFE INTERNETTED

LIVING BENEATH THE MOON
    Shooting the moon, the recent blood moon, gave me a chance to tweak around with a new camera.
WEBS
  Spider webs are forever fascinating.



THE HUMAN WEB
NEW CONNECTIVITY'S
    It would have been nice to know this woman's father.
   Jim Hayes was a beloved journalism professor who mentored an impressive retinue of high calibre users of words.
    Dayle Hayes paraphrased the Norman Maclean novel A River Runs Through It in remembering her father when she said, "There is no clear line between religion and words." She said in her father's life words were religion.
    Dayle opened ADVANCING INTEGRITY IN JOURNALISM AND COMMUNICATION-JIM HAYES SYMPOSIUM at Cal Poly.  The impressive  presentations that followed underscored the legacy her father seeded in practitioners as well as the confounding issues that challenge 21st Century journalism and communication.
     Presenters included Peter King Director Public Affairs, University of California and former LA Times reporter, editor and columnist.  David Kerley ABC News Correspondent, Judy Muller professor at USC's Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, NPR Commentator and former ABC Correspondent, Robert Logan of the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, Kevin Riggs former television newsman and now a senior vice president of Randle Communications, Patrick Linn professor of Philosophy and Director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences group, an author and expert on artificial intelligence and robotics, and Karen Miller Pensiero editor of Newsroom Standards for the Wall Street Journal.
     Pensiero's Keynote affirmed the need for ethics and core values even as journalism and communication morph into new methods of gathering and distribution. She eschewed the idea that social media is self correcting. 
     Pensiero observed that news group "brands" must now co-exist with  the "franchises" of some of their own employees. She was responding to my inquiry about Ezra Klein leaving the Washington Post for Vox Media, the Wall Street Journal's own Walter Mossberg departing for his new Re/Code and Nate Silver's taking of his 535 franchise from the New York Times to ESPN and his own private label. "I see no end to it," she said noting it is part of the new world.
    Judy Muller played the iconic clip of Walter Cronkite choking back a tear as he announced the death of President Kennedy. She said that was "emotionalism" in journalism in a 1960's world. By contrast she played clips of Anderson Cooper  angrily going off on Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu for political back patting as victims of a Gulf storm continued to suffer and as bodies laid on streets. She played a clip of CNN's Jake Tapper being emotional as he covered disorder in Ferguson. I asked her to reflect on the differences of Tapper's emotionalism to Tom Pettit's coverage and that of others during the 1960's civil rights disturbances. She said she thought if they could have used the same live technology they too may have been more emotional.  
      It's my view the jury is out on that assessment. Everything was different then and those who practiced journalism saw themselves as distillers and handlers of information. Our emotions were not to be a part of the coverage and in fact the entire process was a series of filters.But Muller is correct, emotionalism and commentary are a part of the current delivery, like it or not. Her suggestion for Media Literacy training for students is a wise idea.
 
     In this time of Ebola and media inspired fear, Logan's presentation dealing with weighing best evidence and providing contextualization was a healthy antidote.
     Based on the accounts given by presenters, Hayes must have been an extraordinary "teacher/editor." The audience included alumna and alumni, professionals, a few retirees and students, though the information has value to all who use any form of media.
      Ethicist and Artificial Intelligence expert Dr. Patrick Lin, blew a few minds when he put three news briefs on the screen. Each had been written by a robot. It was part of his discussion of Algorithmic Curation, the affect of data mining and organization that you may see in your own life. Here's what I mean. Research a new camera for example and suddenly web sites you visit feature camera ads. Lin said present generation algorithmic writing programs are very effective at correlation but bad at determining causation. Correlation is not causation. An example he cited makes the point. Traffic fatalities decrease when there is an increase in the import of lemons from Mexico. Artificial Intelligence can spot a correlation, but can't make the judgement there is no connection.  
      Lin made good points in noting that values change with time and we seem to be witnessing what he called a "democratization of news." He concluded that ethics is a competitive advantage.
       With more demands placed on journalists-the need to tweet, blog, shoot video, edit and report at the same time, with demanding editors and a hungry news machine to feed-it is reassuring to know the values taught by a fellow who must have been a helluva good professor have been enshrined in what I hope will be an annual symposium on integrity. The world needs it.


       See you down the trail

Thursday, October 9, 2014

LIMITED BLESSING-A POLITICAL THROWBACK

LIMITED MERCY
    A blessing of this area is the coastal fog, especially so in this third year of California drought .
     The marine bank begins to thicken and roll when temperatures rise on the eastern side of the Santa Lucia range.  
   Here on the western slopes, fog trickles around sunset and begins to billow into valleys.

   During the night it may remain in the valleys and cling to the slopes,
 or fill the sky and obscure the pristine star field over the mountains and pacific. Some nights it hovers thickly as though written into the moors by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but  will quickly wisp away revealing an ocean of galaxies. Coastal dreams are woven beneath this dance of misty gossamer.
  Morning will dawn under a damp blanket of moist relief and cool.

   It is a dose of mercy.
    By late morning sun angles on the grazing slopes, orchards and vineyards.
     The great golden light and saturated color returns.
     Tender shoots nurtured by the fog and the cool are quickly gone. A dry land and its inhabitants await the start of a rainy season.
     And we hope.
THROWBACK CLASS OFFICERS
    Ball State University Sophomore Class Officers 1966. John Yount, Joe Peach, Joy Novak, Sally Staley, Tom Cochrun.
     See you down the trail.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

SERVING TRUTH-TOPPING MORRO ROCK-EATING IN A BARN

WISDOM FROM A YOUNG MAN
   "The highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself…In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation."
                     John Kennedy October 25, 1963

MORRO BAY TOPPING
    Morro Rock is perpetually fascinating in an infinite variety of light or cloud.
     It is one of "seven sisters-" tectonic/volcanic mounts that ridge the central coast from Morro Bay to south of San Luis Obispo.
   On our first trip to this area in 1969 we stopped to pick up fish and oysters on the docks of the fishing port next to what we called "the big rock."
   The cars and people in the foreground give you a perspective to its size.
BLUE DUTY
BARN DINNER
     In coaxing brother John and I into the world of good manners Mom would offer "Mind your table manners. You're not eating in a barn" a variation of "Close the door, you weren't born in a barn" which made sense as she was a farm girl in her youth.
     Mom would get a delight in this. I relied on those manners, including which fork and knife for what course, recently in a barn!

   Hope you can read the menu, because the Halter Ranch Wine Club Ancestor Dinner was first class.




   The lemon-pine nut pot de creme' desert, that I failed to photograph, was served with vin de paille.  The frame below is vin de paille in the making. Vin de paille, or straw wine, is similar to ice wine.  The grapes are permitted to dry for an extended time, building up the sugar content.  
    Another Paso Robles wine maker uses a syrah grape, dried in the vineyard.  La Vigne's Amerone is a superb wine too. The Paso appellation is rich with creativity and great wine.

   Lest those of you in other climes come to think that Epicurean delights are all Cambrians pursue, here's an update.
    Sunday morning a group presented a personal account of a recent back packing adventure across an 11 thousand foot passage on the John Muir trail in the high Sierra.
     The trek was not without incident, some got lost which raised the very real thoughts of life's fragility. It all ended well and each of the team presented personal insights, observations and reflections. It was a meaningful and enlightening time.
                              HOME TOWN POLITICS
                                           

   A standing room only crowd filled the Unitarian Universalist Community meeting room to see the six candidates for the Community Service District board of directors election. Two of the incumbents are up reelection and face 4 challengers.
  The CCSD board serves as the government in this village where everyone has an at least one opinion and where everyone is correct and knows the absolute right way things should be. Just ask anyone!
   Water is a big issue in year three of a drought. So too is growth in this village, the last population of significance on the Pacific Coast Highway between here and Carmel. It's good of these neighbors-everyone is a neighbor in a village of this size-to put themselves out there.
    Stay tuned. In the meantime my favorite Cambria heroes are the artists in this enclave of originality.

   See you down the trail.