Thursday, January 19, 2017


ladies and gentlemen
boys and girls of all ages....
Presenting the "golden shovel" at a Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus
Your blogger is in the red hat-details below
    The sun was not up yet when my mother woke my brother and me and told us to get dressed because they had a surprise for us. Groggily we obliged and got into the car. After a short drive, dad pulled into a field near a rail road track where a line of train cars had stopped. From a block or two away we could hear and see commotion in the dawning gray light.
     Elephants were being led down a ramp from one of the cars as dozens of people scurried about. In the next hour we watched as poles were set, tents were erected, cages, equipment, rigging, and other paraphernalia were put in place. The circus had come to town. It was in fact the Greatest Show on Earth, as signage on the train, tents and outbuilding indicated.
     It was the early 50's and the beginning of my love affair with the Circus. As lad I saw the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey extravaganza a few times. One year I got to talk with the World's Tallest Man, another time I got spritzed by a clown. I held by breath as the men and women on the flying trapeze flew somersaults above our heads. I worried about the man with the chair in the Lion cage, thought the women on horses or elephants were the essence of beauty, laughed at the antics of the clowns as my head spun trying to take in all three rings full of color, dazzle and spectacle. We did not get our first television for a few years yet. It was a different world.
     Fast forward, decades. As a correspondent for a syndicated television magazine we found ourselves on the train with a Ringling Brothers traveling show. They put us up close to the clown cars. Despite the antics, gags and laughs we still had time to see behind the grease paint and glitz. Circus life was hard, constantly on the go, living either on a train or in a recreational vehicle, caring for the gear, animals, making repairs, putting up or taking down, trapped in a kind of traveling tube, day after day. It was a job, unique, but still work.
member of the Flying Farfans acrobatic team
photo courtesy of
    Later the Big Top began to give way to arenas and stadiums and week long stays. One year, as I anchored at an NBC affiliate, I made arrangements to take my eldest daughter "back stage" to Clown Alley to be made up in costume so she could march in the Clown Parade.  It was not until we there and ready to be costumed that she told me she was terrified of clowns. She'd never let on, until we were in a chair, ready for the paint. As I recall it was one of the Flying Farfans who offered to sit with Kristin as I joined the parade. I quickly learned my job was to walk behind the elephants and keep the path clean. You might be surprised how active the lower digestive track of an elephant can be in the short circuit around three rings. 
     The picture at the top finds me in the red hat being presented my keepsake Golden Shovel, for services rendered. I still have that shovel and have used it for years. Strong, durable and for the long haul. I am sorry The Greatest Show on Earth itself could not have been more durable, but for almost 150 years it not only offered the adolescent dream of running off with the circus, it presented spectacular, live entertainment without peer. Hollywood, Cirque du Soleil, virtual reality, television, games and big time sports have changed the world, rendering the Greatest Show on Earth a bit of an anachronism, but there is nothing like a 3 Ring Circus.

sunset on dignity
    Without comment on policy or politics, the departure of President Obama comes with a loss of dignity and class.  The Obama family has graced our national stage with a sophistication that we will miss. The administration is the first in modern history without a hint of scandal. They have conducted themselves in an exemplary manner. They did so in the face of rude and racist commentary and a bitter political environment. Remember how tough it was when it began with the pledge by a jack ass that the republican's primary job was to guarantee a failure of the administration? Despite what one may think of his politics, Obama served  as a man of character and gravitas. Get ready for a change.
     Speaking of a circus! It remains hard to believe that a man who began his political rise by accusing President Obama of not being born in the US and who himself is a sexual predator, serial liar, tax cheat and a narcissist could get anyone to vote for him. How people could suspend the truth about the vulgarian to think he is capable of leading this nation is frightening. Well, stand back, the swamp is coming to the White House.  

     See you down the trail.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Finding Focus

     Something is going on, changing deep in the inner universe that is consciousness, mine and perhaps yours too.
      Maybe it is age, or the jarring reality of recent social change. I'm at a bridge where personal interests are being over taken by a concern for those who will live when I no longer do. 
      No, this not that sort of post or motivation. Certainly am not rushing wanting to depart. I'm fortunate to enjoy life and living but some measurements are beginning to change, lengthening and even broadening.
      Climate, resource protection and reclamation, changes in nature, pressure points in the human food chain, ethical treatment of human suffering and misery, political order, anticipating the impact of artificial intelligence, burgeoning medical technology, the wonders of regenerative medicine, evolution of our specie, preserving life in an interdependent eco system, genetic manipulation and more that present us with profound issues and questions. First, are we even mature enough to deal with the consequence. 
       There is a positive charge in engaging in something that will go beyond our own shadows. Strategizing, trying to establish and enable dynamics, systems and adaptations for a future. I am no scientist as my chemistry lab partner Janice Anderson discovered many years ago and as I have been reminded many times when I struggle to read science tracts and research. I am awed by those who advance knowledge and understanding. I appreciate their touching the arc of history and from time to time I have interpreted their efforts for a reading or viewing audience. I am not a man of science, but a man of words.
        Words matter too. They are the glue that gives our purposes structure. Getting older, reflecting on a life in journalism, study of philosophy, spirituality, religion, creeds, social compacts and decades of politics I think I have emerged as a kind of postulant ethicist. No one appointed me. There are few professional ethicists, but it is the "ethics of living" that have begun to calibrate and reboot in my inner mind, making me an unwitting accomplice in this concern about the future. As the latest iteration of human bipeds perhaps we all should consider the ethics of human existence on this verge of something.
         Living in the orbit of Silicon Valley, I am perpetually fascinated at advancements in artificial intelligence, mixed reality, virtual reality, bio medicine, big data and the like. But I have begun to also note that we make jumps and leaps without giving prior thought to what it will mean; i.e. how will this likely change things, or how could this go wrong, could it be weaponized, that sort of thought.
       We make giant leaps at a time when more people think only as deeply as 140 characters, or their Facebook news, when we see increasing evidence of a decline in critical reasoning skills, when history is barely known, when classics are replaced by Marvel, as we seek happiness in what we buy or own.
      Have you given any thought to what it means to be a human being? What makes us human? A brain, a heart, emotion, love, what?  Now consider how many implants or  replacements, or memory chips in the brain, or bio mechanical organs, prosthetics or synthetic blood do we need before human life, as we know it, ceases and something new emerges? 
       These wonderful but profoundly changing circumstances will have more impact on our children and grand children than us.
      Probably few people have given it much thought and that in itself is an ethical issue. We cannot nor should we impede science and research or healing systems and technologies. In just one simple query-how well equipped are societies for extended life spans?
       Isn't now the appropriate time that humanity deliberates, before epochal changes? Sci-fi writers and directors have long toyed with these themes but would we be content to see life imitate art?

     For the record we've had 8.7 inches of rain on the California central coast since January 1. That is more than we had for the full year 2013-2014. Total for the season is 20.93 making it the most since 2010-2011. Yes, there have been mud and rock slides. Historic Santa Rosa Creek road caved and it will be some time before repairs are made. Scenic Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, has also taken some abuse, but after 4-5 years of drought, we are happy we've been blessed with the rain.
The bluff trail north of Cambria
standing together
    A lot of people are pushing the White House Correspondents Association and other Washington based media groups to push back against early signs the new administration intends to play rough and dirty with some media outlets.
    Tough questions are simply part of the process. An adversarial relationship is the nature of the game and everyone, the White House, the media and the electorate are served when the media plays a watch dog role.  
     Divide and conquer is a technique of this administration. Combine that with the too common "careerist" motivation of some of the press corp and we could be on a slippery slope. Reminding the outlets that if one is targeted or banned, all could be has been the effort of many around the country. This is no time to forget the important role of the 4th estate.
     One thing they need to do a better job of is pressing this administration for details. We still haven't seen the health care plan that is supposed to replace the Affordable Care Act. Nor does the president elect ever give much detail. At some point we hope he realizes he's got to be presidential. He seems stuck in the mode of being the hustler on the campaign trail.  He's done nothing to convince me he's not an narcissistic idiot incapable of a complex sentence, let along thought. But maybe I'm wrong.
     See you down the trail.

Monday, January 9, 2017


Fiscalini Preserve Cambria Ca

    What a transsexual California inmate and Donald Trump are doing is intolerable. Our explanation is on the way, but first....

for the love of the game
Photo by Greg Baker, Associated Press, China
      Under assault by all manner of absurdity we can shelter safe in the glow of this extraordinary image captured by Greg Baker on assignment for the AP in China. These lads have fashioned a basketball court near a community encampment in a cave.
     That the game James Naismith created at a YMCA in 1891 has penetrated deep into China is hope for this world.
      Naismith a Canadian-American, the son of immigrants from Scotland was a physician, chaplain and physical educator. He was 30 when he invented basketball in Massachusetts. He said in the first game the boys began tackling, kicking and fighting, ending up in a free for all. He changed a few rules and the game evolved. It became a kind of religion in Indiana.
     Most large high school field houses and gyms are in Indiana the state that provided the truth for the movie Hoosiers. I shoveled snow and ice encrusted driveways to play in the dead of winter wearing galoshes, stocking caps and gloves. We played on uneven alleys with busted cement and one with a hill, in barns-dirt floor and barn flooring-uneven bounces, but we never played in a cave. 
     Good things can happen when a game, like basketball, is part of our international conversation. Is it possible to have too much in common with our planetary brothers and sisters?

intolerable, continued
    Given the narcissism it's simple to understand why Trump would be displeased by the fact Vladimir Putin directed a campaign to defeat and discredit Hilary Clinton and to elect him. He does not want to accept that his election is illegitimate. I presume he wants to believe the outcome was of his own doing. Truth interrupts Trump's pipe dream. 
     Putin manipulated the American election but still a majority of voters rejected the vulgarian. He is not only a minority President, but his administration will always be regarded as illegitimate. That's not the worst of it.
    Trump has openly demeaned and ridiculed our intelligence community. As a journalist with familiarity I understand the community is neither perfect, nor has it always been right but it, like everything else in government, is a human endeavor. And successes go without credit. What is different here is the unanimity of the multi agency community, where competition and budget envy exist. The truth, the findings, the facts are a bitter bill for a man of his character. A President may have differences and criticisms with his intelligence agencies, but they should be a matter for private conversations. Doing otherwise is stupid, disrespectful and is dangerous. It accomplishes precisely what Mr Putin delights in, seeing our nation loose confidence in itself and it's ways. 
     The Russian cyber operation was designed to cause Americans to loose faith in their government. Donald Trump is trying to make that happen. He operates as a Russian stooge. We are witnessing an historic open war between the man to be inaugurated and the American intelligence and security community. What could go wrong?
   There is at lest hapless Mike Pence. He's been around long enough to know. He's back pedaled on some of Trump's statements, trying to bring a touch of big boy reality to Donnie's "I know more than they do" bluster and nonsense. We are about to turn the keys over to a stooge, though the trumpster might say idiot. Either way Mr Putin is sleeping well.

also intolerable 
     California prison officials have agreed to pay for a sex change operation for a 57 year old killer with no hope for parole.
      Shiloh Heavenly Quine was convicted of first degree murder, kidnapping and robbery for ransom. He is serving a life sentence. It is thought this first such approval will allow other transgender inmates to apply to receive state funded sex reassignment surgery. It doesn't take long to calculate the cost. 
     If you want elective surgery which government agency can you to turn to get it paid for? Hmmm. Guess you could commit a serious crime?  
     Does anyone think longitudinally? 
     Government has better and more deserving ways to spend its money, don't you think so, or not? 

      See you down the trail.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


     A telling meme in circulation depicts the Twilight Zone's Rod Serling standing in front of Donald Trump in the oval office.
     The US is about to pass into uncharted territory. It is like a launch without calibrations. More doubts, questions, legal challenges, character faults, inconsistencies, lies and division hang over this transition of power than any in modern history.
      Old time wags used to speak of the "ship of state." A Matrix hovercraft like the Nebuchadnezzar or Blue Dreamer is a more apt analogy, given the pace of cyber warfare, omni present surveillance, social media battles and the complexity of real diplomatic intrigues. This old democratic republic has never seen the likes of the incoming gang nor a more divided electorate. A surrealistic carnival is about to open in the land of post-truth. In another borrow from the Matrix, which pill will most people take-the blue or the red?
      As for me, I'd prefer to sail off in a wooden shoe on a river of crystal light with the "never afraid three," Wynken, Blynken and Nod. A grand daughter may indeed be my antidote.

strange juxtapositions

    Do you ever feel like a tennis shoe at a tuxedo and gown ball, or bib overalls on a rack of swim suits, or like you got on the wrong bus? I've just returned from that place.
      Look at these happy and engaged people.

    The more complicated or the more pieces-like 1000 !-the happier and the more engaged they become. Bill, Marcos, Bob and Lana love, really really love to spend hour after hour pouring over sadistically jig sawed pieces, straining eyes to master another Wentworth or some other exotic puzzle.
    I'm cut from other stuff. I'll wander in from time to time and even spend a while searching for a fit. It is a short while I spend and rarely do I connect a match. Many attempts perhaps, dashed in frustration and aborning a silent loathing.
    Morning, noon and night these people actually seem to enjoy the labor. I read, maybe nap, take a walk as on and on they work. Bob and I snuck in some football watching. 
    The finished puzzles are something to behold and our fine and patient puzzlers do seem to take a moment of pride. But I think it is more about the journey than the destination. When it comes to puzzles of this sort, I guess I'm a destination guy.
     How about you?  A puzzle worker? The journey or the destination?
     Although I am very interested in the Washington puzzle.
Will Republicans find unity or will the extreme wing chew on their own? Will some semblance of a Republican party dance with the Donald or will they regard him as rude, crude and crazy? Will the Donald understand the Presidency requires real work and exists beyond the Twitter stream?  Will the Democrats find their way? Will the two parties find a way to cooperate? Will the Republicans kill the Affordable Care Act BEFORE they have a workable alternative?  How long before the conflict of interest whistle blows? When will we hear the first rumblings of impeachment? How long before those angry and desperate Trump supporters realize he's created a government full of Billionaires who care less about their needs? How long before the sexual assault charges resurface? And on and on.  Actually I think I'd rather join the fishermen three in their wooden shoe on the ruffled waves of dew.
     See you down the trail.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Passing it on

trails in the slipstream

     It was a quiet moment, a relaxed pause in holiday saturation, a deep sigh.
     "I think it's so neat the girls are carrying on some of our traditional things," Lana said looking at one of the home made gift tags Katherine created.
     Sentimentalist that I am, I've kept some of those tags, even dating back to when elder sister Kristin was a wee one.
     Traditions and rituals are the stuff of this season including taking measure, a self imposed exam we tabulate when we see old man time limping for the door. 
      Resolutions and reflections go hand in hand.

      We are fond of the Kennedy Center Honors, a seasonal glitter of tribute. This year's celebration came with an announcement that a year long remembrance of JFK's devotion to the arts and creativity will cast a major presence in Washington. I'm struck by the resurrection of the lights of Camelot in a capitol presided over by a reality television star. JFK and Jackie looming over the Donald and Melania. Good juju.

the embrace
      Do you think the significance of the US and Japanese ritual is fully appreciated and understood? 
      75 years after the entry of the US into WW II two hated foes crossed a chasm once thought impossible to bridge. Though we are nominally allies with Japan two visits this year seared wounded hearts with deep and cathartic healing.      
      First President Obama visited Hiroshima where America first used an atomic bomb. He embraced survivors, said the souls of those who died speak to us and he urged the world to purse a future without nuclear weapons. 
      Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor, that they attacked propelling the US into the war, was another bridge. The significance of those first visits of former combatants to the historic sites of war may seem to be only protocol or ceremonial but in the arc of history they are momentous. Two blood enemies acknowledging the deepest blackness of their hearts in order to move forward in a better world. The ritual of forgiveness on a global scale.

        Does irony not strike again? The end of a year, the end of an administration, two principal adversaries of a World War talk of burying hatred and nuclear weapons as a President-to be-talks of a new arms race.

the fist salute
        Every four years as the Times Square ball drops, an adjustment begins to move over the US as the transition of power turns closer to inaugural day. It is a marvelous tradition  and sends up the message things are normal, life continues  and all is well. This year the peaceful transition will occur, but a majority of Americans know things are not normal and all is not well. 

       A fist salute next to a Christmas tree?! A Christian celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace met with a kind of power fist salute. No things are not at all normal or well.

winter green

dedicated to resilience 

     See you down the trail.

Saturday, December 24, 2016


     In that moment when Patti Smith missed a lyric, apologized, nervously began again and was met with a warm applause that grew even warmer upon completion of A Hard Rains A Gonna Fall at the Nobel literature presentation the love of this season was personified. Sincerity, compassion, tenderness, love and joy were all in that moment.
      The grand spiritual and philosophical architecture of this epoch of human habitation on this planet is constructed by singular acts, one at a time. They exist and in fact they abound if only we will see them, or create them.
      Regardless of your most intimate and deepest belief please allow me to wish you and yours Merriment at this Christmas season. May you all experience joy, peace and the light of love.

     See you down the trail. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016


Clouds over the Santa Lucia range, Cambria Ca
     The ability to change is a great human skill, perhaps the most powerful tool to survival. Intellectual growth, physical strength, psychological, emotional or spiritual maturity are necessary for the person and for the tribe or culture. Change is a constant, a process.
    Reminders of that came in a recent series of things; the passing of a brilliant mind and public servant, seeing a film, thinking about the changing of the guard in America and the power of this time of year.

   Bill Hudnut who served as Mayor of Indianapolis longer than anyone in history, who also served in Congress, as Mayor of Chevy Chase, as the senior Pastor of major Presbyterian churches and as an academic passed recently.
   As his health devolved and his heart failed over the last couple of years I was among those who read and responded to his reflections on a gifted and serving life. One cannot watch the demise of another and not reflect on your own temporary lease on life. Great and profound understandings can be found along that ridge line on the edge of the great mystery.
    Bill wrote in his valediction-"I leave this earthly life at peace, with faith and trust in a future that will carry me beyond the bourne of space and time, but also with wariness of plotting the furniture of heaven or the temperature of hell. There is much I cannot fathom about the afterlife. Will there be recognition? What part of me, if any, survives? Forever, or just until I am forgotten? A little reverent agnosticism seems to be in order, because “now we see through a glass darkly.” More positively, “we walk by faith and not by sight.” the sea...
     Kenneth Lonergan's  elegy to grief, love and family, Manchester By The Sea is brilliant clarity. His film is so honest you find yourself between the characters in a reality that beats with your own heart. Much has been said about Casey Affleck's performance. There are insufficient superlatives to give him his due. Lonergan's directing makes film making, logistics, acting and all of that disappear and he gives you more than 2 hours worth of honesty that crawls into your mind and heart. his words...
    It comes late in his life though the President-elect needs to learn the power of truth and the measure of words.
     The trouble with big talk and obvious lies is that it diminishes the worth of words. He must be made to realize that his behavior up until now is not suitable for the role he will assume. Hype, overstatement, lies, ego enhancement and predatory behavior may have been condoned in life before, but his life is no longer his own. Words matter. Context of words in a complicated world of diplomacy and subtlety and subtext are tools and strategy. 
    Those who voted for the man do not like to read this type of analysis, but they must know it matters. If they voted for him, they must own what they bought. the light...
   Those of Jewish faith will soon move into Hanukkah or the festival of lights. It is a time of reflection and re dedication.
    Christians are deep into Advent-awaiting light in the darkness or peace in chaos. The heart of Advent is the Christmas story, the birth of pure innocence, the Christ child, the Prince of Peace. The object of the season is to prepare room in the heart for the Christ to be born and dwell.
    These celebrations of light come as the cosmos dances its annual move of deep darkness, followed by the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night. Then days lengthen and nights shorten. A natural cycle. Faith traditions see it as cosmic poetry. In light there is hope.

   Transformation. Change, alteration, metamorphosis, modification, evolution, conversion, progression. And it seems an implication on the purely human scale is that we adapt and evolve or we perish.

...forbidding mourning...
   As my friend Gary Pedigo says, "No one gets out of here alive." More transformation work to come.

    In his Valediction Forbidding Mourning Bill Hudnut wrote-
"I would not have chosen a long, slow slide into complete heart failure, but I tried to cope with it with “gaiety, courage and a quiet mind,” to borrow from my mother who in turn was quoting Robert Louis Stevenson."...I depart this life believing with St. Paul (I Cor. 13):  “Love can outlast anything; it still stands when all else has fallen.”

As Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote, “O Lord, support us all the day long, till the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done, and then in Thy great mercy, grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last.  Amen.”

Keep Me In Your Heart For a While

      See you down the trail.