SUNRISE AT DEATH VALLEY-Photo by Tom Cochrun

Monday, September 22, 2014

DOING SOMETHING ABOUT BANNED BOOKS-PLAY-THE NEW TRIP-WHERE DID THE WATER GO?

FIGHTING BACK
    The battle over book banning will play out in this window 24 hours a day for the next week.
     Tim Youd will essentially live in the front window of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial library as he types, on a typewriter no less, the entire Fahrenheit 451 written by Ray Bradbury.
     The effort is spurred by the American Library Association's continuing fight against the banning of books.  The Vonnegut is a natural as his Slaughterhouse Five has faced occasional banning and even burning since the 1970's.
      Full disclosure here; I'm a member of the Vonnegut Memorial Library and a great fan of the Indianapolis native. A previous post takes you to the Vonnegut Memorial Library which you can read here. Being a first amendment absolutist I abhor book banning, even those that I might consider trash, subversive, offensive or any other such subjective objection.  Free is free.
PLAY
    As work spaces go, the office, winery and tasting room at Halter Ranch sets an example of great modern California architecture and a nice place to work.
   The drive in is pretty sweet as well.
   Harvest time is underway in the Paso Robles west side.

THE TRIP TO ITALY
    If you enjoyed Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in THE TRIP, you will probably enjoy the THE TRIP TO ITALY.  
    Plenty of laughs, gorgeous Italian country side and a foodies delight of kitchen, restaurant and meal scenes.
    We left and headed to Giuseppe's for Italian grape and repast. We couldn't help our self. 
Here's the trailer
THE DROUGHT CLOSE UP
   California's need for rain is critical.  This scene, from between Paso Robles and the Pacific Coast Highway is all too common.
    
   See you down the trail.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

HITTING WHERE IT HURTS-A MUSICAL CHRISTENING-MAKING MEMORIES-A WAY BACK THROWBACK

HITTING THE NFL HARD
     Something good may come of the domestic brutality cases haunting the NFL. People are talking about the pathology of abuse and abusive relationships. Sponsors are flexing their muscle and putting pressure on the league and individual team endorsements. That too will help raise consciousness and provoke more talk. 
    Perhaps the major sack out there is the effort to revoke the tax exempt status of the NFL. If you were unaware, the league has estimated revenues of 9 Billion dollars but is tax exempt, as a not for profit entity. Incredible you say?  This link takes you a Mother Jones article that explores the matter.
       There is also the matter of the 44 Million dollar salary of the non profit's Commissioner.The story of Roger Goodell's salary and the NFL Not for Profit status reported here by Esquire Magazine.   
   These are fluid times for the NFL, teams and those who help fuel the giant entertainment dynasty.
WHERE TIME IS NOT IDLE
    As the old TV soap opera announcer intoned, "Like sands through the hourglass, these are the Days of our Lives."
    That was a favorite of my grandmother and great aunts so I heard it often. I think of it often as I watch the surf erase foot prints in the sand."
   Jackson Browne wrote in These Days "These days I seem to think a lot about the things I forgot to do for you…"
 Visiting with friends we are reminded of the swift flow and the wisdom of not leaving things unsaid or kindnesses undone,
  or of the joy in keeping the child in us alive. 
     When we arrived in Cambria, recent retirees and just beginning the throttle back process, our wise plumber Phil told us to go out to Moonstone beach, settle into the sand and search for moonstones. "That'll help you relax."  Indeed it does, still.
   A concert served as the inaugural event at the old Woodland Garage where, as promoter Steve Crimmel said, "nothing had gone on" in decades.
 Austin based Eliza Gilkyson and guitarist extraordinare Nina Gerber initiated the new venue in a Painted Sky presented concert that blessed the old place with sweet sound, vibrant energy and remarkable artistry. 
   The old garage has been refurbished to provide relaxed seating and lounge space.
   Who would have thunk the old garage would grow up to be a nice funky concert venue?  We hope Steve will book more shows into the Main Street gem.

 THROWBACK TO THE THIRD GRADE
    This blogger is in the class photo from Garfield Elementary School. Want to guess where?

     See you down the trail.

Monday, September 15, 2014

WE CAN'T CHANGE THE PAST---STILL CONTROVERSIAL

GETTING PERSPECTIVE
Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society and Indiana University
     To quote Ed Murrow "this just might do nobody any good." To paraphrase his 1958 speech to the Radio TV News Directors Association (RTNDA), at the end of this a few people may misunderstand what I'm saying, but here I go.
      We need to find a balance point where those who wish to address and treat sins of the past do not also destroy history or use deconstructionism without restraint and/or the balance of intellectual buffers.
      A case in point-The Thomas Hart Benton mural.
Controversial when it was created in the 1930's it is said to make people uncomfortable now. Why?  The depiction of the KKK. An honest appraisal of Indiana history cannot ignore the Klan. 
       If you are disturbed by the Klan portrayal consider proportion and perspective. The hooded terrorists are counter weighted by a white nurse attending to an African American child. More visual counter punch is the left anchor of the Benton panel composed of the press, an editor/writer and reporter that challenged and broke the Klan's extraordinary control of Indiana politics and the 1920's Republican party.  
      The media's battle with the Klan is iconic. Pulitzer awards have been given. I was awarded a National Emmy for my investigative documentary of the modern Klan in America. I've been an enemy of discrimination and prejudice, including racism, sexism, ageism and other manifestations of bias. My body of work is deep in reporting on these issues.
      We should find a way to be aware of sensitivities without trying to edit the past. The mural is not, as some have said, a glorification of the Klan, rather it is a depiction of fact. Reality, regardless of pain or absurdity cannot or should not be retrospectively edited or worse, deleted. Knowledge dictates that we recognize historic truths.
     History appreciates with understanding and by sifting nuance and seeing things in context through an honest assessment.  Later we may come to advanced understandings, gain insight, change our minds, learn, discover information and evolve, but the ground from which we and knowledge derive is historic fact. What we see and call history must be understood not only in the context of our time-but in the framework of what people knew and did in their own time. 
     As a high school kid I spent time in the city room of the Indianapolis Times. A giant replica of the front page announcing the Times winning a Pulitzer for their investigation of the Klan adorned a wall. It made a huge impression. When I took the stage in New York to accept the national Emmy for my own investigation I stepped into a slip stream of iconic history. The Benton art tells part of that story. 
    Though you may think the behavior is offensive, the painting itself of klansmen and the burning cross should not be regarded as offensive in intent  but rather as part of that stream of history. In the painting the Klan is seen as small, yet the nurse doing good service and the press loom more significant and impressive.  And if you look carefully you will see the klansmen are dominated and overridden by circus performers. There was a time when most circus acts wintered in Indiana. I think Benton was expressing a bit of poetic contempt and mockery by that juxtaposition.  
     No the Benton mural is not offensive, and those who think it is are simply wrong. It is history and should be taught and respected as such. And as I study it again I am reminded there must always have been those who like to ignore or even forget as well as those who may be rightfully upset with our past, who would like to expunge it. We can not help but analyze by virtue of what we know, but we must keep in mind that we are only as effective as we are fully and historically informed. 
       We cannot change the past.
PROJECTS
a time of season
   A bath modernization is underway and so….
  the master bedroom is a staging area-complete with new appointments
  while the deck is a work and storage area.
  For a curious guy, watching the craftsmen has been a fascination.
  Lana's recent kitchen project-a less enduring output.
  While I'm going to war with gophers.  Is it ok to call them bastards?!

  Despite the noise of tile saws or hammering, or my grumbling about gophers, Hemingway's project is to emulate Garfield.
   I think he's got it all figured out.

   See you down the trail.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

FOOTBALL ABUSE, A JUDGEMENT-BETTER DAYS AT YOSEMITE-DROUGHT TOLERANT AND A THROWBACK

AN INEVITABLE JUDGEMENT
   A group of us sat around a table talking about the concept of judgment. I offered that most of us, despite any differences on other matters probably agreed about Ray Rice, the now suspended NFL star seen knocking out his fiancee.
   The current Sports Illustrated asks what the Ray Rice matter tells us about the NFL?  It's a huge enterprise, enormously wealthy and feeds a massive audience. At the bottom it is all about money, even greed perhaps.
    The league has serious troubles in that many of the gladiators are barely above the rank of street thug. Football programs since their childhood have permitted if not contributed to the condition. Schools tolerated only a pretense of education so star talent could play. Young men learn athletic skills but may know little about civility and how to be mature men. Character is rarely coached or taught. Strength, power and athleticism is valued. Off field violence and run ins with the law are all too frequent. The NFL has been woefully negligent in caring about much more than the big show and the big dollars.
    I know good men of up standing character who have been NFL players and even stars. There are many and some are truly extraordinary. Tony Dungy is a man I admire, respect and hold up as a role model. But all of the good men in the league, be they coaches, players or team executives, have less influence than the real power-that exclusive club of team owners whose primary interest is money. The Commissioner is their employee. They make the rules. They own the players. Sometimes they bilk money from cities to build huge stadiums where they can earn many more millions. They have extraordinary control and they can and should do a better job of riding heard on their combatants. 
      A small little personal experience is a window into the owner run league. When the league can tell a local television station where they can and cannot shoot, when they can and cannot shoot, even in a municipally funded stadium-public space, even if it is not football footage, it demonstrates the autocratic power they exert. So the democratic balance of power should be such that society can tell the league to get serious about criminal activity. They can control their fiefdoms, but the public can demand enforcement of regulations that respect and honor public law and statutes.
       There is news the owner of the San Francisco 49'ers suspended a team broadcaster for comments that could have been interpreted as insensitive. I think he just made a simplistic or even stupid comment about women who are victims of abuse. It is not just a matter of a victim speaking up as his comments implied. I don't think the radio announcer wanted to come even close to saying he condoned the abuse, but his comment underscores how little the public knows about the psychology and pathology of this kind of abusive relationship.  Still, he's out for two games. Yet you have to wonder about players, who are still playing, despite previous offenses of spousal abuse or criminal behavior. It's probably easier to penalize a broadcaster than bench a star.  Who's going to put the most money back in the leagues pocket?
      So, yes, there is a lot opportunity to judge. A judgement most of us have made is that if there had not been video of Ray Rice knocking out his fiancee, he'd still be playing. What does that say about how serious is the league?
DROUGHT TOLERANT
      It is a fascinating mystery how Coyote Brush can remain green when all around it withers and browns in drought. Also called Chaparral Broom it is not only drought tolerant, it's a nectar source for wasps, butterflies and flies.
    Wild fennel also tolerates drought.
   We've hiked past this plain when its nature as a wetland is apparent. Life here awaits rain.
   A lot of nature seems stressed by the third year of the California drought.  The owner of this Live Oak said he's never seen it produce acorns, let alone such an abundance.
   Those who know say it is a type of self protective response. 
   Dying Monterey Pine will often produce an abundance of cones, apparently as a kind of last hurrah. So many rhythms and subtexts in nature.
WHERE YOSEMITE BURNS
   Revisiting shots taken on a trip to Yosemite-trying to get my mind around the fire.
   More than a hundred people were helicoptered out the area near half dome. About 4,500 acres have been burned. 400 firefighters and 8 helicopters have it about 10% contained.  Hoping for cooler and damp weather to help.
     Those who helicoptered from here have adventures to tell.
 THE THROWBACK
     1965- On assignment, covering a county fair. That square microphone and cable?  They connect to a reel to reel recorder, now ancient technology. I was a college freshman, working on room and board. This is the first "promotional" shot I participated in. That's a polaroid I'm holding, probably the photographers test shot.

See you down the trail.

Monday, September 8, 2014

DESPITE THE CLIMATE DIVIDE--NOT WHAT IT SEEMS--DIVINE COLOR?

Warning-this post includes notes on climate science.
TREES AS ART
    Cambria artist Bruce Marchese said he was experimenting with an abstract work. Bruce is best known for his rich color and realistic capture of people and scenes so I was intrigued. His vivid abstract piece now hangs at the Art Center. It's a brilliant representation of Eucalyptus bark. I see why he was so captivated.
    These Eucalyptus stand in a grove at San Simeon state park. They have competition in the color department though.
    This living abstract is the peeling bark of a Madrone.
   Hey Bruce, if you have success with the Eucalyptus you might consider the Madrone as your next model!
NEW WORRIES IN CLIMATE CHANGE
   This grand citizen of planet earth is one of the largest living things and one of the oldest.
     The only place in the world where you find these 2,000 to 3,000 year Sequoias is in the Sierra Nevada. Jim Robbins of the New York Times has published an article linked here that details the concern of biologists that climate change, especially longer or more frequent droughts, may peril the existence of these masters of the mountains.
    Sequoias, a type of redwood, have no disease or insect enemies and they can survive fire, but they need water, either in rain or snow melt.
    I've pondered if there isn't a message in this for humankind. Could there be something in the bark or essence of the largest and oldest living things on earth that could provide a molecular blessing?  Disease free, survive fire? What other living thing has such a resume?
    There is something else to these living spires. I am never  in a redwood forest or among the Sequoias that I don't sense a palpable spirit. Yes, there are differences on questions of the Divine, spirituality and faith, the degree and nature of climate change, but there can be no dissent on the overwhelming awesomeness of the power and survivability of the big trees. I think of them as the planet's silent sentries. What wisdom do they hold?

 See you down the trail.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A MONSTER ENEMY-PERFORMERS FROM THE DEEP-AND WHY THE LONG FACES AT THIS BIRTHDAY

DESTRUCTION OF THE ISLAMIC STATE
     If you've been paying attention to foreign policy experts you've heard a wide range of views of what to do about Islamic State. There is consensus that something must be done. Russia, China, Europe as well as the US are duly concerned about the onslaught of these primitivist barbarians. Their immediate threat is in the middle east.
     The outrage at the beheading of a second American journalist is natural, and indeed justice must be done even if it takes chasing them "to the gates of hell" as Vice President Biden pledged. 
      The need to stop IS goes beyond judicial vengeance.  Barbarism and inhumanity is not unknown even in the middle east, cradle of the world's leading religions and faith systems, but such butchery, done in a flaunting and antagonistic way needs a harsh response from the rest of the world. The IS sadism says a lot about the nature of this enemy.  Indeed they are an enemy of civility, humanity and modernity.  They've been called evil. Comparisons to the inhumanity of the Nazis, Josef Stalin or Pol Pot have been made. They are zealots, on what they think is a holy mission, apostles of a cult of death and frighteningly, they are very capable. Somehow the established nations of the world need to find a way to destroy the Islamic State.
THEY ALSO SERVE WHO INFORM
      The beheading of Steven Sotloff, like that of James Foley underscores the extraordinary risk that journalists undertake to present us with information.  Before they were captured and eventually murdered Sotloff and Foley worked in war zones. Unlike military personnel, or intelligence officers, journalists, medical and NGO relief workers endure the dangers of combat, without weapons. The death of a reporter or aid worker is no less than that of a warrior. Those who kill the unarmed are nothing less than cowards. Those who wear masks and do so must be chased down and be made to pay.  
   
AN EXTRAORDINARY SHOW
     Ocean conditions have been perfect for plenty of this-
Humpback whales feeding on a bait ball, just yards off the pier at San Simeon Cove.
      I'm sorry I did not think to put the camera into a video mode so as to capture the awesome sound of these behemoths exhaling, breaking water and diving.

  It was a spectacular show with whales feeding, dolphins playing, otters passing by, seals making an appearance and a variety of water birds taking advantage of the anchovies feeding on phytoplankton. Gulls, pelicans, cormorants and thousands of shearwaters created clouds on the water. 

    The dark ring is the massing of thousands of shearwaters surrounding a "puff" that is the spout from a whale about to surface.


  To do justice to this show of nature, one needs gear like this.

    Several nationalities were represented in the growing throng of excited observers.




   Thousands of images were captured  and my guess is some of the best came from the shooters on the kayak.
  THE UNHAPPY BIRTHDAY
THROWBACK
   It was brother John's second birthday. He is standing between Susie, the blonde and yours truly, the big brother. None of us look too happy.  Kathy, the little gal on the left must be looking at her mom off screen.  Sorry I can't recall the name of the little gal in tears.  Mickie too seems mesmerized by something off camera. John looks perplexed and I look a bit sad that it's not my cake, that or it was nap time!

   See you down the trail