Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Is he the future?

   In a striking way, Dr. Stephen Hawking may have been the first of the new breed of human being. He charted new horizons and boundaries in science and left an intellectual imprint that is among the giants of all bipeds who have inhabited this terrestrial ball. He did it of course despite a body that was betrayed by a disease. 
   It was the brain and the spirit of Hawking that lived while his body barely did. That he defied the odds of his demise for a half a century is in itself extraordinary, then we are left stunned by the output of his life, mind stretching output. Hawking defined the point of a human life. The intellect and what we do with it. All of our bodies will fail eventually, either by age or disease and the sum of our existence will derive from the output of our brain and our spirit. What did we do?
    Wealth, fame, athletic accomplishment last for only so long, no manner how grand they may be. Hawking shows us that human spirit and the mind is unlimited.
     Who knows what awaits human kind as we continue to poison and despoil our planet, as disease, famine, and war, continue to threaten as they have through all of history, or as we surrender our mental health to screens, entertainment, commercialization and when materialism erodes spirituality and intellectuality. Regardless of any or of all of the above, Hawking demonstrates true human potential resides in that unique link between the on board human computer-the brain and our uniquely human essence, the spirit. 
      It may be that our progeny will live more as brains, human computers, cyborg fused connections of mechanical bodies. They may live where birth right, disability, illness, are simply complications that are transcended and barely relevant to the power of mind and the capacity of our spirit.
     We are in debt to Stephen Hawking for being a great intellectual power and scientist, but also for overcoming the frailty and certain failure of physical existence by living powered by his mind and spirit. In the vernacular of our age he was the real Super Hero.

     As if we really need another indication, but the dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by social media demonstrates the despicable nature of the person in question. It is the act of a coward, unfit and unqualified and completing lacking of character.  
     The man who occupies the oval office is as far from the standard of a good or worthy human being as we can imagine. He is as far from a Stephen Hawking as light is from dark.
     I am no less convinced of the danger he poses now than when I was first reviled by the slimy way he conducted himself in the republican primary. We had warnings from his previous life. And it was back in the election cycle that dozens of former military, state department, intelligence and political leaders took the unprecedented action of warning the public about him.
    Though he is perhaps the most reviled and unpopular president in history, he has defenders, still.  And so on this day when we mourn Stephen Hawking, the president is a kind of litmus test or bell weather of how far down the road of selfishness, greed, depravity, lack of knowledge and stupidity this nation has stumbled. That is why the extraordinary life of Stephen Hawking is such an inspirational antidote. 
     Hawking is human worthy of celebration. The president is a low life hustler worthy of our contempt. Let's close with one of the president's main stream media friends-of course it's tabloid, just like him.

     Sorry, but we can't accept this regime as normal. It remains a danger to the republic. 

      See you down the trail.

Thursday, March 8, 2018


     Sanctuary is a voluble topic in California, taken seriously and now it's a fighting word.
      The trump administration is suing California, Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Xavier Becerra because of three California laws. The Sanctuary laws restrict how state and local law enforcement  may interact with federal immigration agents. 
      The Feds say the California Values Act and the Immigrant Worker Protection act are a deliberate attempt to hamper enforcement of federal immigration law. Brown says the  state laws protect the progressive attitudes that California embodies.
      The US vs. California on immigration, and other issues too, is a demarcation line. Relative to your view of course, California stands on the side of progress and modernity while the trump minions like Jeff Sessions represent regressive views and attitudes.
      Jerry Brown calls the trump lawsuit "a political stunt." He adds, "It's not about the truth. It's not about protecting our state. It's about diving America."
       Divisive pandering is what won trump the republican nomination. 
       California lives with one foot in the future and for that reason has been a cultural force and attitude determinate since mid 20th Century. 
       Then there is Jerry Brown's straight speaking. In defending the laws passed by the California legislature he said,  "These Laws do not protect criminals.  We have millions of of people here who are here without papers and some of them have been working for 10, 15, 20 years. They've been servicing the economy. A lot of them have been doing the dirty work, whether it's washing dishes, or picking the fruit and now the attorney general is basically initiating a reign of terror."
        ACLU executives spoke about the Bill of Rights at a Dinner Fellowship meeting this week and the conversation turned to sanctuary and the attendant issues.
       Could a group, a church or organization of some structure, provide sanctuary as an extension of the right to free speech and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances? The logic here is to list unfair ICE enforcement or the enabling laws as the grievance and the establishment of a sanctuary as the act of the petition or the exercise of the free speech?
        It gave the ACLU exec pause who said that kind of civil disobedience carried with it the risk of jail. 
        Jail for doing civil disobedience is a staple of American history and our path toward a fuller realization of liberty, freedom and the democracy component of our democratic republic. The suffragettes, the protests of veterans and most notably the lunch counter sit in and protest era of the civil rights movement.
         Out here in the California Republic millions believe ICE, under trump and Sessions, is behaving like a gestapo. Sanctuary spaces are a way of fighting back.
       I spoke with an activist pastor who said when a church decides to create a sanctuary they also assume responsibility for the person or persons; housing, food, and all forms of support because if someone seeking refuge were to leave they would be subject to arrest. Churches are doing it.
      America 2018 and we are possessed of vastly different ideas of how to live together. When I read cases of good people, beloved by their community, tax payers, fully employed, parents, Sunday school teachers, and the like who have been here for 15 to 25 years being shackled and deported, I cannot help but to reflect on how my ancestors were part of the underground railroad that helped slaves escape. I am a descendent of one of the earliest abolitionists.
They violated bad laws that needed changing. They were changed, after effort. 
      If it were all left to regressives like Sessions and trump and their sycophants we might still have slavery markets. 

     a flashback future
    This is from Kyle Communications blog/newsletter.  The Kyle is Kyle Niederpruem who founded a public relations, communications management and content company. I first met Kyle when she was a dogged, diligent and soon to be an award winning newspaper reporter. She was the best of old school journalism. Watching her career and the embrace of communications culture has been a kind of bellwether of how culture has changed. Kyle is still on point and leading the way. Here's link to her site.

on the march
       Dave Congalton is a California central coast radio icon and host of an issues centered interview program. He's also a screen writer and former college professor. I substitute hosted for him one day recently and featured Dawn Addis, a founder of the Women's March out here. The next horizon event for the Women's March movement is The March for Our Lives, an outgrowth of the most recent school slaughter.
      I first covered US protests back in the era of the civil rights movement and then the anti war movement. How could we not be impressed by the millions of Americans who marched after the election and then on the first anniversary.
     This is a wave in American politics that is a high surf. And now I am stunned by the articulate and emphatic intelligence of the school kids who are in our face, as they should be. Dawn, and women like her across the nation, are mentoring and this generation is impressive.  They are not really millennials who were born from the mid 90's to 2000. I interviewed Rutik, an 18 year old, who has grown up in the age of mass slaughter. That chilling reality gives them a unique perspective and we owe it to them to listen. More importantly we need to do a better job of protecting them. Rutik was quick to say they are different and will behave differently, and will not take the same old tired rhetoric from politicians. A high surf indeed.

    See you down the trail.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

why we do it...

   After being away from this spot for a while, I return by asking you for a moment of personal reflection-privilege as they call it in Congress and parliamentary bodies.
    According to Blogger analytics this is my 1,115 post since I joined this part of the cyberworld in 2010. In 42 years of journalism and broadcasting work, jobs I loved, I was always a bit envious of the columnists, despite the fact friends who did that work said the demand was crushing. They were very good and eventually they phased from a daily deadline.  
    Retirement was an adjustment for this adrenaline junkie hooked on deadlines, travel, the rhythms of news rooms, production suites, the board room, the corner office, corporate conferences, network and other negotiations and far flung producing and directing. At first, I must have driven a few friends crazy with my manic photo downloads as we explored our new and beloved California. One of them, Maura, a precocious, bright, world traveler and world class writer and story teller asked "why don't you write a blog?"
     Maura's idea coincided with my need to build a social media profile as I was finishing my third novel and laying the ground work for another. It was certainly better than napping.
    And so as I decompressed and adjusted from a life of motion, tension and decision making, I looked on blogging as my chance to be that columnist. 
    In a parody of an old bromide, just like the holes in California sandstone, there are a million stories in retirement and leisure.
      Long time readers will remember this began as a daily effort. Soon I was disabused of that fanciful notion. But a new rhythm set in and with it became my sense of obligation and even purpose. 
      This blog has won no pulitzers nor stopped a war, but it's had a seriousness of intent-at least from this side of the keypad. 
      With time it has morphed to include social relevance, politics and opinion examination. And I know it has irritated some, including friends who think I'm a fuzzy headed polemicist.
      So with Lana's recent surgery, my own medical adventures, the arrival of a second grand child, the changes in the life of our eldest and her child's presence and obligations in the community, I've been variously occupied and have been pensive. We've spent time taking long views and pondering.

       A few years ago Bruce, the Catalyst of Oddball Observations and a long time friend and former newsie colleague asked why I cared or spent so much time on some of these topics. "Relax. Enjoy. You're retired. You can't do anything about it anyway. Our time has passed."
       He's right. We no longer have our hands on the controls, but I still care deeply about many things. But in this recent "ponder" I have come to understand it is not for my life span that I am concerned, agitated, motivated, inspired or active. No, it is for a longer deadline, certainly my daughters but even more so for the grand children. 
     Lana and I are somewhat late to grandparent hood, so some of you have crossed the threshold already. 
    Issues matter. Politics, policy, attitude, citizenship, leadership, war, peace, the environment, safety and health all impinge on their future.
     So until I'm beamed aboard a mother ship, or recruited into a tripping, smiley face, "everything is beautiful" cult, or join a revolutionary cadre of the Avengers, or get lost with a band of lotus eaters camping in the Elysian Fields, or hit by a comet, I may irritate or disagree with a few of you. 
     It is my sincere hope that whatever intellectual product is left here, what ever photo images I capture of this life and planet I love so dearly, will be a record for my daughters and my grand children, a trace of what mattered to dad, pops and poppi, and perhaps an element of wisdom, warning, guidance or evaluation. I've come to think of this as a set of post cards from the past.  

    See you down the trail.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I'm with the kids....

Peace-William Strutt 1896  
In the public domain
Family Print brought from England
     I've been thinking about this William Strutt work, Peace.
    The framed print above is one of my earliest memories. It hung in the entrance hall of the three story house shared by my widowed grandmother and her sisters; a widowed aunt, and two additional aunts and their husbands. The women were English, and the two uncles were Scots. As the lone child in the lively hub, I found fascination and retreat in the print. Peace was a psychological icon and it is a lodestone.
      Seeing the Parkland kids with their direct and honest confrontation of "business as normal" has been a catharsis. A dread that our current low information, bully populism was a trap door to bad getting worse is now tempered by our children calling our BS. 
     Children mobilized, because of the slaughter of their friends, is not the back story we'd expect but it leads now to a hope. The Strutt is therapeutic. 
     Peace hypnotized me. I remember standing on a stool, staring at it, endlessly. 
     It is frequently called "And A Child Shall Lead Them" and that leads back to the kids. 
    I presume I am one of millions who hope children are  leading us now, the children of Parkland Florida and the school children of America who are walking out, marching, protesting and challenging the hypocrisy and prostitution of elected officials. They lead in naming names of house and senate members who are on the payroll of the NRA, calling out trump for rescinding an Obama administration regulation that made it more difficult for people with mental illness to get guns.
     A theological note; Strutt's painting is based on words from Isaiah, "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them."
     People have diverse interpretations of its meaning. Strutt had his own of course, depicting the verse and calling it Peace. I like that.
     But I've always favored the idea of the innocence of a child as being a model for how to live and believe. An important pronouncement for followers of Christ is to protect and revere children and to adopt a child like purity of mind and belief, "for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." 

     After each mass slaughter there is a public outcry. There was a moment when it appeared members of the House and Senate were listening. Congress was poised to tighten laws and do something constructive, but then, as always, Wayne La Pierre and his cultural terrorists go to work. Big money gets pumped into PACs and politicians, who are threatened with "primarying" if they don't do the NRA's bidding. There is an abundance of spineless, cowardly weasels to tumble to the NRA once again.
     Once more the NRA and La Pierres's finger prints are on the mass shooting. They've distorted and propagandized the Second Amendment. The NRA is really only a marketing force and lobby for the gun makers and sellers. They are a big reason why 17 more victims have been claimed and while we will likely see another Parkland, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marysville, Rancho Tehama, Santa Monica, Virginia Tech, Red Lake, West Nickel, Northern Illinois, Umpqua Community College, Oikos University in Oakland, and this is only a partial list of just school shootings. If you wish you can compute your own list of mass shootings in total. 
      Mr. LaPierre, how many of these victims do you take responsibility for? How many more bodies do you and the NRA desire to see?
     The child in the Strutt, and the children who lost friends tell us there is a better way. We should listen and get out of their way and let them lead.
a pause for beauty

   See you down the trail.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


     Lana's knee replacement surgery meant I spent a few days at the hospital, a rich tableau for an old reporter and watcher of people.
     One thing I am sure of is that nurses run things. Doctors matter of course and so do the administrators, but the nurses are the heart and soul and a good portion of the brains. It's similar to the army, where Sergeants run things. Nurses and sergeants know things based on practical experience on top of their considerable training. If you want to know something, ask a nurse. If nurses offer advice, take it.
     I'm biased because my youngest daughter Katherine is a nurse and so are several of our good friends.
     Maybe this nation would be a lot better off, if nurses were running the show.

there's a cure for that
        branding and castration in Templeton California

        I take it as my patriotic duty to rail about a couple of items and offer up a solution as pictured above.

         A military parade? Just one more warning sign on the growing checklist this guy is separated from reality,  normalcy, decency and intelligence and that he's acting so like a banana republic dictator he represents a danger to our democratic republic. He's got no politics or policy that we could fight about it, it's just his ego insanity, arrogance and lack of knowledge.
         Scores of experienced men and women warned us in the campaign, he's unfit, unqualified and lacks the intelligence to do the job. He won't even read the daily presidential briefs, he spends hours doing his "hair," comes to work late, leaves early and cannot be trusted.
         Yea, I know I'm sick and tired of it too. But we cannot for moment let this tyrant go unchecked or unchallenged so some times we have beat a dead horse. 
        There is the vexing matter of those who continue to support him, and the republicans who refuse to rebuff him. I submit they will be remembered by history as fools and a cancer on the great American experiment. 
         Wouldn't you love to see this bloated over the hill playboy and scammer meet justice-Batman or Avengers style? Or from a cowboy like those pictured above.

an example of the decline
          It was an item many would have missed. The Sinclair Broadcast group, the nation's largest owner of TV stations, is fighting for deregulation so they can amass more stations. That alone is a topic for discussion, but the point today is Sinclair asked executives, including news executives and local news directors to contribute to the legal fund.
         They are nuts! They are turning their back on 50 years of journalistic cannons. All major news organizations, ABC, NBC, CBS, FoxNews, and CNN forbid journalists from contributing to candidates, parties or political organizations. Frankly, as a journalist, you wouldn't want to. It helps eliminate conflict of interest or the perception of a bias.
        "I've never seen anything like this," says Professor Lewis Friedland of the University of Wisconsin and a former TV producer, "it's blatantly unethical."
        Sinclair's senior vice president of strategy and policy said there was nothing wrong with the request since it did not go to reporters, anchors or other newsroom employees. Rebecca Hanson said the news directors "were solicited as a result of being part of our managerial level, not because of their role in editorial." Ms Hanson, you cannot have it both ways.
        I was a news director at the flagship station of a TV chain and a member of the management, but also responsible for day to day news operations and content on three stations. Journalists and news people always put priority on content. Hanson's comment and lack of understanding of the ethical violation is so typical of profit driven corporate management where the only thing that matters is the bottom line. And it is not unlike the logic of those who can support donald trump. Oh, by the way, Sinclair mandated that local stations run pro trump commentaries, right wing harangues and pro trump news stories. Mandated that! They are further right than Fox News and they plan to challenge Fox by purchasing new stations, but first they must challenge the Federal Government. 
        I would not, nor could I have, worked for Sinclair. They are a bane on real journalism, but this is the age of trump, where someones opinion carries as much weight as facts, science and truth. It's an age where money and lies persuade.
       There are days when I wonder if traditional American values or principles of fairness, honesty, experience and the value of intelligence and history can survive an age of Facebook, social media, news by flavor, right wing news bias, low information citizens, big money and swindlers like trump and Putin. Maybe not, but not without a fight and a full defense of the constitution and bill of rights. 
        The staff person who was tasked with explaining to the president what the 10 amendments that are bill of rights were says he got to the fourth, trump rolled his eyes, used his finger to blubber his lips and that was it. It is a good bet donald trump has never read the constitution, doesn't know what the separation of powers or checks and balances are -but he's pretty sure his button is the largest.  

        See you down the trail.


Monday, February 5, 2018



      There was a time in the 60's when California was the ultimate in cool. There was the music, beach party movies, Disneyland and something new and fast, drag racing.
      The Beach Boys and the likes of Jan and Dean gave the sport a personality and so did Mr. C--in the car above and on the left below.

    Mr. C was Gary Cochran, my cousin, my cool California cousin. Much of the Cochrun clan moved to California in the 20's. My father's dad became ill and returned to the mid-west though most of the family stayed out west, and even endured the spelling change because that is how everyone wanted to spell the name. My father had fallen in love with California and stayed in touch with the family.
   Gary was a few years older than me, but a family star. After high school and the air force he became one of the early pioneers of the new sport drag racing. In California they ran on old air bases and desert flats and experimented with design and engine power.
    Gary ran the exotic top of the class at the time the sport was being organized and specs were being formalized.
    There's been a lot written about Gary and this link provides a good overview of his contributions.
     It was family lore about how he had been flipped over, on fire and at 200 miles an hour, but he always stayed cool,
   Gary and his crew based out of my fathers house and garage when he came to run at the US Nationals in Indianapolis. As a school kid my bothers and I were knocked out by the exotic design of the racer and Gary's unflappable cool. He was ultimate California, always smiling, mellow in his style, wore great T-shirts, and seemed to enjoy life even when working hard and trying to win. Winning was not unimportant, but enjoying the pursuit was at least equal to it.
    Gary talked about the change that was coming to his sport, started by hobbyists and guys who built and raced their own designs. He saw the infusion of the factory teams, the big money, the big advertisers, and knew the days of fun had become a business. 

    Before he finally retired he had taken the arc from pioneer to professional but never lost his sense of humor or cool.

       We spent time with Gary and Marie as we made our move to California, completing the family odyssey. Neither one of us were the young men we had been all those years ago, but Gary had that quintessential cool that comes with a life in California, years at the beach, years on the fastest tracks on earth, years on the golf course and enjoying friends.
     His health had been failing when I talked to him a couple of months ago. Facing serious challenges he could still laugh at the circumstances in that mellow, laid back California cool style.
         We lost Mr. C and that California Cool last week. Gone at 79 and from where I stand, that is entirely too young. His records and his accomplishments and the adoration of his fans will continue, as it does for pioneers and heroes.
      We send our love to his Marie and to Dawn and Teri.

      See you down the trail.

Thursday, February 1, 2018


Cambria Ca

     There's a great wheeze about three theologians sitting around and discussing when life begins.
     "We believe life begins when the egg and sperm cells unite. It is at that moment, even before the zygotic process that life begins," observes one of the scholars.
     "Well, I understand your view," the second nods, "but we think life doesn't fully bloom until the fetus emerges from the womb and breaths independently for the first time. It is as though the oxygen in the lungs, free from a maternal link, signals the beginning of life," the theologian opines.
      "Well, those are wonderful ideas, and beautiful too I might say," the third says scratching his goatee, "but as for me, I says life begins when the kids leave home!"

     But seriously folks.....
     The older I get the more I sense there is almost nothing of the most profound nature of human existence where we can find consensus. Our differences emerge early. So with that as prelude:
     I wonder if any of you have given thought to what it means to be a human being? How do we classify human existence? What is our hard line definition? What makes it so? Heart beat, brain function, blood flow, vital signs? What?
     Let me stretch this question with a few posits. Many of us are hopeful that new medical processes and technologies will improve and even extend life. Immuno therapy offers new horizons. Wonders to ponder in gene engineering, in vitro diagnoses, cloned, banked or engineered replacement parts and organs, interaction with neural circuitry, other brain health advances, and in fact a cascade of innovation and discovery that we have yet to threshold with understanding. People talk now of pushing life expectancy, and with a confident expectation.

      Years ago I covered rookie training camp for an NBA team as a participant. I checked into a room at the college, was issued all the material and was expected at work outs, practice sessions, meetings, and ate at the training table. Everybody was very understanding that I was just a reporter, but they seemed to appreciate I was busting my butt to report a story.
      One day I was in the training room, nursing an old knee injury on a cybex machine, flexing the knee. Next to me was a genuine star, Len Elmore. Even back in the 70's he was not only a great athlete, but an intelligent and deep thinking man.
      As we flexed away, Elmore said that perhaps someday the professional jocks would be more artificial-better working mechanical knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists and etc. 

     I can't tell you how many times over the years that idea has marched across my brain. But now we live with a kind of fulfillment. The idea of a cyborg is no longer an outrageous fantasy.
     Wouldn't a patient with brain loss jump at the opportunity of an implanted chip that could make up the deficits, or failing kidneys accept an synthetic transplant, or a failing heart supplanted by a technology, etc, etc, etc.
    In fact the dawn on this age has already come and we living into it, but I suspect without a longer arching view about what does it mean, where does it end, what are the implications?

    There are some in silicon valley with seemingly unlimited financial power and an interest in pushing the boundaries of old fashion physical death, even to the point of eliminating it. For some it is personal, for others, it is an art of science.
   There are creative and great minds pondering the coming impact of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and have sparked an important debate about weaponizing computers, robots, and giving machines sanction to take human life.
     See, we have backed into a future where the very existence of a human life can be extended, mechanized or artificialized while never defining the nature of a human life.
     When do we cross a Rubicon and evolve not so fully flesh and blood and human aspiration but also manufactured or engineered and algorithmized?  What makes us human?
     Does the fact that our lives are finite, even fragile make us more fully human than say a future iteration where bio mechanics or living cellular chips or some such can make us almost immortal? Is there a point where machine intelligence is so much more efficient as to render human instinct, spiritual inclination or devotion, creative musing, sensuality, and a range of human emotion as out of date, no longer valuable, irrelevant?

      Before this rambles into some shadow game of Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Arthur Clark and company, it seems some basic definition, delineation, or understanding might be helpful. It won't be easy. Like those theologians talking about the beginning of life, we'll be taxed by a diversity of thought but in the asking we might learn a bit. And it could make a big difference someday, perhaps not so much to us, but to our grand kids, who already live in a world vastly different than our own.
San Luis Obispo
   All it takes is a little blue sky and a patch of sun and an urban sideway becomes a mini vineyard.

From Griffin Park, Cambria

     We enjoyed the recent eclipse but failed to bring home a great shot. Still after stumbling from sleep a few times between 3:00 AM and 5:30 AM you need to show something for your efforts. We are only human.

    See you down the trail.