SUNRISE AT DEATH VALLEY-Photo by Tom Cochrun

Thursday, February 26, 2015

DOES HE PROTEST TOO MUCH? MUSLIMS AND TERROR

MAGIC HOUR
   Four pieces of sun play. This series was shot within an hour in Park Hill, Cambria.
   The frame below is my favorite.  I love how the light plays with the lines, angles and brings the plant leaves to life.


TROUBLES FOR A BLOW HARD
    Things are a little tough in the "Spin Zone" eh? Maybe a little of that spin is puffery huh?
     In my edition of the Mind's Eye Dictionary, Bill O'Reilly's
picture illustrates the definition of pompous.
     It's been fascinating to watch him wiggle over accusations that he exaggerated his reporting experiences.  Some of his former colleagues dispute what big, bad, Bill has said. He's been accused of doing a "Brian Williams," inflating his resume. 
      Have you too been surprised at O'Reilly's threats to other reporters who have called him out? That's not how a journalist responds to those who pursue a story? To quote Shakespeare's Queen in Hamlet "He does protest too much, me thinks!" 
      Fox News bashers have said, "Well what do you expect from Fox News?"  Not fair. O'Reilly has passed from the ranks of working journalists, as have others of that networks personality "stars." He's one of their "franchises" albeit a blowhard and bloviator. What's "truth" got to do with his spin and opinions? He's in show biz and is busy making millions. For the record though, the truth about his reporting career should affect his credibility in our eyes.
MEANWHILE, IN THE REAL WORLD….
     TROUBLE IN GOD'S NEIGHBORHOOD
      Things are not going well under God's banner, nor has it ever, I guess, as long as bipeds have breathed the air of this garden planet.
      It seems nastier and more worrisome now. Perhaps because we are close to it-it's in our time, the information age. It looks as if we have slid backwards.
     Jews in Europe are targets of increasing anti Semitism.
     Racism in America bubbles to the surface, giving lie to the claim things were "fixed" years ago.
     We've become multi cultural but I wonder if we've lost  the civility that attended the idea of the "melting pot?"
      Economic divide rips the cultural fabric and exacerbates  problems.
SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND
     History reveals that all religions and faiths have extremists. As the band of criminals calling themselves the Islamic State continue to grind on in their pursuit of the 7th Century, religion takes a hit.  
     It is no more fair to Muslims to consider them and their religion an agent of terror than it would be to consider Christians as such. Muslims, Christians and Jews all have seen devotees of their belief do violence, kill, and behave  inconsistent with the principles and higher calls of their faith.
     Fundamental extremists can be troublesome, meddlesome, narrow and irrational, but they are not dangerous unless they take their God into the practice of violence and lethality. Terrorists do that, perverting articles of faith. ISIS does a lot of what I'd call evil, including destruction of their own alleged faith. They are a mutant virus.
    The earth has always had zealots, true believers, armies of violence, maniacs with visions, ignorance with a thirst for power, barbarians, and those with a blood lust who ordain themselves as God's agents. Different now is a global media awareness and the huge number of dislocated, disenchanted, unemployed and somewhat hopeless generations raised in war. ISIS has become quite good at media manipulation. The Nazis were also masters of propaganda.
NO FINGER POINTING PLEASE
     There was a time when the three Abrahamic religions were all on the fringe and counter to the larger culture. They became normative not by violence, rather by the values they inculcated, by moving their society into a future, where human life is sacred and where community has value. Education, science, medicine, artistic visions co-exist with faiths and beliefs in a variety of hue and texture. 
    The violent extremist's toll on modern life, diversity, and faith principles totals a negative sum.
ACCURACY PLEASE
     Not all white male teens are school mass killers, not all young blacks are thugs, not all cops are insensitive or ignorantly racist, not all Christians are killers of planned parenthood doctors, not all Jews throw stones at modernity and not all Muslims believe in terror.  
     Changing the equations and balancing the life in between is a challenge for all of us.
     So, Bill Maher shove that into your partially closed and  prejudiced head!


THROWBACK TO JOE COLLEGE
   
 Mid 1960's at Ball State University as our chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha was planning for a national fraternity leadership event.  George Spasyk, who went on to years of distinguished and innovative national leadership is the national rep on the left. Bill Moorhous and Tom Maddox from Ball State are seated. The name of the other gentleman eludes me now as does how I was so thin in those days.

   See you down the trail.

Monday, February 23, 2015

THE BIG MOMENTS AND FRESH AS FRESH CAN BE

OSCAR SHINES
    Everyone sees it their own way. I liked the politics of it. The big stage saw big moments of poignancy.
     Patricia Arquette's rally plea for equality for women and ecological sanitation in the developing nations scored points. It's something to see Meryl Streep standing, pointing and seemingly saying "You go girl!" 
     The overwhelming standing ovation for the emotionally staged Glory was topped only by John Legend and Common's powerful acceptance that repudiated racism and the over incarceration of blacks.
      Powerful were the tears of Selma's Martin Luther King,  David Oyelowo, as Glory filled the Dolby Theatre.
     Moving were the comments of Graham Moore telling how unfair it was that Alan Turing could not stand on a stage as he did. Moore won for adapting the Turing story into The Imitation Game. The brilliant Turing, an inventor of an early computer that broke the Nazi code in WWII, died of an apparent suicide after the war when he was exposed as being a homosexual.  Moore said he too considered suicide when he was 16 because he felt he was weird and different.
     There were plenty of candid and emotional moments at the microphone.
     It was stunning to see Julie Andrews emerge from the wings after Lady Gaga performed an incredible 50th anniversary tribute to Sound of Music.
      It was probably surprising to some to see the vocal skill and range of Gaga, who is better known as a costumed rocker. I've been a Gaga fan for a few years and have taken a few barbs from friends. The worst criticism of her are those who say she's a Madonna knock off. There is no way Madonna could have nailed the Sound of Music like Gaga. Nor could she perform as brilliantly with Tony Bennett as Gaga, who is a skilled musician, composer and artist. But I digress.
     All in all some major political and sociological planks got a good showing at Hollywood's big party. 
    For the record I think Neil Patrick Harris performed well, but some of the writing was shallow, self indulgent and weak. I'm sorry Richard Linklater didn't win for his epic production Boyhood. And while I raved about Birdman, I don't consider it film of the year. But hey, it's show biz!
FRESH
     One afternoon the next door neighbor where we were staying on Oahu asked if I could help him with a fruit tree.
   He had tied rope around a bundle of bananas and asked If I'd hold the end as he cut. The effort would prevent the fruit from crashing through other limbs and onto the ground.  It worked as they were undamaged.


  Within minutes, we were enjoying fruit as fresh as it could be.
COOKING LARGE
   Delivering the Paella at Tolosa's pick up party. Yum!

   See you down the trail

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

DEW WOP DOO DOO

PRISTINE
   Lana and daughter Katherine, taking a break from nursing school, came in the other morning after making a round of the garden and flower bed. Better get your camera they said.








   The dew and pollen combined to create some nice scenes. It is, apparently, appetizing as well.

    THE KID COULD HAVE PLAYED IN INDIANA
   All season I've been reading about the local high school basketball team and a kid I remember serving us clam chowder on a day the blood drive unit parked in front of the restaurant his father manages. That was 8 years ago and Gehrig not only has grown up he's become a great ball player.
   I may assume knowledge in a lot of topics, but I know basketball. I grew up in Indiana and started playing team ball in the third grade. I continued to play until we moved 8 years ago. Those are my bona fides.
    Gehrig has a great work ethic, a terrific sense of the court and flow of the game, is a smart ball handler, great playmaker and selfless.  His father Steve is a friend and a dedicated community volunteer and activist. His favorite game is baseball but he said he realized years ago Gehrig liked the larger ball that bounced and that you threw through a hoop instead of the hard little ball you threw past a batter. Dad says son would hit the school yard court for self motivated shooting practice every day for years. A kid from Indiana used to that. In fact a lot of Indiana kids did that but one in particular was Larry Bird.
     Gehrig passes like I saw Bird pass. He can drive, draw the defense and create an open player to whom he can make clean passes and scoring opportunities.
     A tennis partner and I were talking about Gehrig and his teammates when Steve, who works with the Soccer team, passed the court and we chatted.  He said his son has gotten into scoring "only to help out" because his favorite thing to do is to assist. He is that kind of player. He's the kind of kid who should have the ball when things get tight.
     He's a senior, but he's not a big kid and as his dad says he's playing for one of the smallest schools in California, in the smallest league in the state. Life is full of trade offs. Had he been raised in Indiana he would have played bigger kids, tougher conferences, more demanding coaches and would have gotten more looks. But, he's been raised in an almost storybook community, environment and climate and most importantly he's had fun. But despite missing the hybrid climate of basketball in Indiana, this kid is the real deal.   
     Village life has its special charms.

      See you down the trail.

Monday, February 16, 2015

WHISPERS, CAKE, PRETTY YOUNG WOMEN IN SWIMSUITS

DEPENDS ON HOW YOU LOOK AT IT
   A promise of what?
   What is this?  See it in context below.
  An afternoon whisper, excluding one? 

  The partner pictures follow below, but first


SLICING CAKE
    There's a lot about Cake that is improbable.  Most obviously is Jennifer Aniston. The glamorous star turns in an extraordinary performance as an actress, more than a marquee star. She portrays a woman horribly tortured by life and loss. Gone are her beauty and the often formulaic or predictable roles.  
    In CAKE she suffers from chronic pain, heartbreak that is slowly and effectively revealed, dependence on drugs and is not a nice person, though as the story unfolds you understand why.  Aniston moves in a way that makes you hurt for her and she brings life to those who must live with chronic pain, physical and emotional.  It is a powerful performance.
    Patrick Tobin has been writing for years and without a great deal of success. A few years ago his short story Cake started creating a buzz in Hollywood and Tobin adapted it for film. He's got a great new credit on his resume. 
     Anna Kendrick, Felicity Huffman and Sam Worthington turn in fine performances. Adriana Barraza as the long suffering and loyal house keeper Silvana is brilliant.
    It's a good film but even better as a kind of gentle slap in the face. It is easy to forget how absolutely difficult the simplest things in life can be, or how painful for some. If nothing else this film alerts your empathetic synapses and can make you aware of what it is to live with afflictions. This is a departure from normal entertainment fair. Cake's fresh story and the performance of its unexpected star give it more impact. Those who see  Cake are likely to see Jennifer Aniston in a new light.

THE SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SWIM SUIT DEBATE
     There's less than unanimity in this house, and a few others about the SI Cover.  
      Is the pose of model Hannah Davis lowering her bikini bottom, inappropriate, lewd or worse?  Depends on who you ask. 
      The SI Swimsuit issue is a kind of annual social divide.
Awful, exploitive, sexist or art, beautiful, sexy?  Eye of the beholder land here. 
       Some say it's terrible that men who could be their fathers or grand fathers leer at the models. Is it anymore terrible they look now than when were the models age.  SI has done this with a generational history and it seems the same arguments ensue. Are the readers "dirty old men?"
      Given all the other things people argue, fight and war over in this world, this annual debate is refreshing. I certainly look forward to it each year. And to the magazine as well!
THE NOT SO SI COMPANION PICTURES
   The more complete ballet.
   Sea spray.
   Left out. Were the two above, whispering about her?
   Peace descends and dreams are launched.

   See you down the trail.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

REPUBLIC OF SNARK and THROWBACK TO NEWS JUDGEMENT

HAIR TRIGGER NASTINESS
     Maybe it's all the caffeine, or 24 hours of cable news yackers. We are wired and wireless and trending and our analytics are almost important as the Dow. Whether it's the spirit of our tweet or post or actual comment in a meeting, we've become a nation obsessed with snark, the 2015 version of snide. Invective has infected.
     It will take social archaeologists to explain why. In the meantime we all seem to suffer through a prolonged season of nastiness.
     Television maybe the greatest purveyor, or perhaps it's social media, but its omnipresent and it is making jack asses out of many of us and it threatens civilization. At least it threatens civilized conversation, dialogue and even debate. So many seem driven to be, dare I invoke a 20th Century and politically incorrect phrase, bitchy.  No gender reference here, simply the attitude. Nasty.
     The Brian Williams sadness has been a magnet for a lot of invective and scorn. It doesn't take much, but this has been a bonanza for snark masters.
     The masters of nasty live in the comments section of the Internet. I picture desperately unhappy and unbalanced people unloading on all the failures, misery and unhappiness of their lives with their lethal toned diatribes and rants. Most of this carping deserves to be ignored. But for many it is bait and thus the word battle of the nasties ensue. 
     "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"  If we can genre and time hop and borrow a sentiment.  Life is too precious to permit others to show their butt headedness.  It's time for an attitude change, on tv, in social media, at the coffee shop and anywhere else where sarcasm has replaced reason.
Let's get back to plain old fashioned arguing without the snide, eye rolling, tongue clucking, sassiness.
IT'S THAT TIME
 A tribute to California spring as an antidote to those of you caught in winter.






  Things are growing well in "Indiana" with a bumper crop of lettuce.


THROWBACK TO JUDGEMENT
   As the sad destruction of Brian Williams and NBC's credibility plays out before us I post a shot of what I will call the "safety bench."
   This is the conference table where for 3 years I presided as the News Director, the senior news executive, of a division that provided programming for CBS, CW and Univision affiliated television stations. 
    We met here in the morning with our day side staff and again in the early afternoon with our evening staff.  We were responsible for at least 7 hours of programming each day across three stations and the accountability started here.
     Reporters, producers, photographers, editors, graphic artists, assignment staff and promotion people would gather as we planned a days coverage and approach.  But we also evaluated.  What did we do well in the previous 24 hour cycle?  Where did we mess up?  Why?  How could we have done it better?  What can we bring to coverage that will make the viewers investment of time worth it?  Every day.  It is not common for the senior executive to guide the session, but I thought it needed to be done. I had the best support staff available in my assistant News Director Kevin, executive Producer Stacy, Assignment Manager Jim, unit managers and a great team of producers.  
     There was a tendency in many shops to "get rolling," to get out of the meeting.  We took the time to evaluate, analyze, criticize, compliment and to measure our work product against our mission/vision statement and our operating principles.  
      Our team did well, very well. As I read about the Brian Williams credibility issue, I can't help but wonder how it might have been different if he had been held accountable by a process that didn't allow ego, big salary or title to filter him from the scrutiny our staff sustained everyday.
            I am thrilled to hear from former employees and colleagues who say those were great years. Some tell me they were the best of their careers. It was all about a mission, a purpose and putting the interests of viewers above all else.

       See you down the trail.
      

Monday, February 9, 2015

TELLING IT LIKE IT IS

CAPTAIN OF THE WALK
Twilight in Morro Bay
TIME FOR A CAPTAIN TO GO
     Naming Walter Cronkite and Brian Williams in the same sentence is somehow inappropriate but now inevitable. 
     They had the same job title, but the world between them is profoundly different. Williams appears to be a likable guy, big personality, glib and facile mind but he's no longer right for the job.The NBC Nightly News anchor and managing editor has benched himself for a few days during the furor over his indiscretion. As hard as it would be to do, he should step down and find another role. 
     In the age of Cronkite, Huntley, Brinkley, Smith, even Jennings, Brokaw and Rather he'd be out. Rather's demise at CBS News was linked to his voicing a report, prepared by a producer, that claimed documentation they did not have. Later those documents were evident, but not when CBS claimed they were. Williams, kindly put, exaggerated. More pointedly he hyped or lied about being on a helicopter hit by ground fire. His credibility is shot.
     Back to my lead sentence.  Walter Cronkite was a journalist who spent years in the field and learned the craft first as a writer and reporter. Eventually he became a broadcaster.  Williams is of an era of "studio babies."  There are many of his generation who have spent most, if not all of their career in studios. That is not a skill to be discounted, but it is nothing like being in the field, gathering facts and data and sorting through experiences.  
    I know the difference. I've been a reporter on his own and I've been an anchor in the field, surrounded by producers, and other support staff.  When a network anchor leaves the studio for the field  there are many who accompany them.    
    The current gold standard for a television anchor today is personality, looks, style and communication skills. There was a time when journalistic tools, writing and reporting were the skills that moved a person to the anchor desk. It is a different world and while standards and roles have changed, an appearance of credibility still matters. 
     I can't begin to understand how Williams could have confused reality. I don't know why he would need to inflate his resume and experiences. I don't buy the excuses he offered. 
    I've covered stories with gun fire. I've reported from war zones. I've had a gun jammed into my chest by a young combatant. My crew and I were the only unarmed people in some situations. Memories like that remain focused, even when you try to forget or bury them. 
    I'm sorry for Brian Williams, but I'm old fashioned enough to expect my anchor person to be honest and to understand the most important part of the role is the news, not them-self. The task is to get it right and to be honorable and honest.
GRANDEUR IN DECLINE

 A once stately building on Oahu provides an interesting photo op.
  
A MOST INTERESTING FILM
   JC Chandor seems to have mastered the art of making a film that has a mostly singular focus, immersing you in a tight and enthralling struggle and delivering extraordinary and unique work.
    A MOST VIOLENT YEAR is not for everyone, but if you enjoy a compelling tale, realistic in style and scope and full of brilliant acting, you'll want to see this.  Chandor wrote and directed A MOST VIOLENT YEAR. His previous work was the solo performance of Robert Redford in ALL IS LOST.
   Oscar Isaac is marvelous as the New York fuel dealer who trys to play it honestly in a business full of corruption and violence.  Jessica Chastain is also superb as his wife who's family ties are to the other side of the street. Albert Brooks demonstrates his great acting chops as Isaac's partner.
    The film is not full of violence, despite the title, though it is a marvelously taut script, brilliantly directed and unpredictable through out. And it is a tribute to honor and honesty.

    See you down the trail.
   

Thursday, February 5, 2015

DUBIOUS CONFUSION

TRUTH IN THE SHADOWS
 AND HARD TRUTHS
     We are at a couple of challenging junctures in American history. 
     The growing clamor and controversy over vaccination of children is evidence of a profound division.
     As social commentators have noted, the far left and the far right have found common ground in their skittishness toward vaccines. The nexus of the issue is the right of individuals to think and act as they wish vis a vis the well being and greater good of the general society.
     The other issue came to mind as we made our annual visit to the Monarch winter migration grove in Pismo Beach.
    Again this year fewer of the winged beauties were evident. There are a couple leading explanations and they are related to what civilization has done and is doing to the natural world.
    Decimation of wild spaces, pesticides, herbicides and other effects of changed agriculture and modern building have thrown nature out of balance for these winged beauties.
     That is the point of Naomi Klein's latest book,This Changes Everything:Capitalism vs. the Climate. 
     Even liberals and environmentalists are gun shy in raising her premise, for fear of being considered "too radical."
       With a lot of research and scientific scholarship Klein says the world's economic system and our planetary system are at war. 
       She covers food production, consumption, energy use and production, pollution of air, water and land, resource management practices and can measure how the bottom line of economics and especially profit motive trumps rivers, lakes, landfills, oceans, crop management, and etc. Protection of resources, even to worry about something like monarch butterfly populations, costs money and corporate boards are there to maximize earning and stock value. Regulations that might mitigate natural damage add costs and/or decrease earnings. 
       People are frightened by what Klein says. Her research should be read.  Truth is sometimes a 2x4 over the bridge of a nose or more gently an annoying prophet disturbing the peace of a dinner party or social tea.
      People are entitled to their views but when we live in a wired global village there are instances when the commonweal takes precedence.  Health is one such instance. 
       It is preposterous that suppressed or eradicated diseases are making a comeback in an age when science has never been more advanced.  There may be genuine concerns about efficacy and delivery of vaccinations, but this strange stew of resistance based on conspiracy theory, fear, superstition, half baked notions and now politics is frankly evidence of how silly we have become. Silly, maybe even stupid and with extraordinarily dangerous consequence.
THROWBACK SWEETHEARTS
   Not sure of the occasion in the early 90's, but it pictures,
 front to back, my youngest, Katherine, now finishing nursing school after a BS and a year of advanced permaculture study, my god-daughter Celia, now a PhD and working in Childhood Trauma psychology, my sainted late mother Mary Helen and a younger less gray version of your blogger. 
     I'm still concerned about the future that awaits those two bright, and still bright, faces.

    See you down the trail.