Friday, November 30, 2012


       Ever have a word or idea just leap into your head?  Not sure why or where it came from?  That's how Ish Kabibble got here.
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia
       Kabibble was a radio and movie player in the 40's and 50's, part of Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge which my parents listened to.  In chasing down the origin of this odd and invading name, I come back to my mother and a great aunt who used to laugh at Kabibble, or at least the name.
     He started off to be a lawyer, Merwyn Bogue, but his comedic skills landed him in Kay Kyser cast.  Maybe the atmospheric storms raking the California Coast dislodged the funny man from deep in the brain.  BTW Ish Kabibble is said to be from a mock Yiddish expression meaning "I should worry?"  
    Here's a sample of the Kay Kyser comedy from a simpler time in America.
   It's the early 60's and this very white kid in middle America is searching the radio dial at night for music that had soul.  Some people in those days called it "race music."   I could dial in a station from Nashville, WLAC that filled the night with R&B, Rhythm and Blues. I heard music there unlike anything else on the airwaves.  
    Somehow, by a fluke of nature which radio engineers have told me was impossible I also heard the strains of something called Ska.  It was from Jamaica and was the progenitor of Reggae and Rock Steady.  
    There was an artist that my middle class, middle American, white friends could never imagine-Justin Hinds and the Dominoes.  This is the first step on the path to Reggae.
       Rock Steady and then Reggae were more up tempo, and a richer form of music that would have immense impact on Rock and jazz.  What may be curious to some is that Ska, like early Reggae was also equal parts politics and religion.
"Better to seek a home in Mount Zion High
Instead of keeping oppression upon an innocent man
But time will tell on you, you old jezebel

As the musical idiom grew and gave birth to Reggae
Justin Hinds and the Dominoes changed too

       So to both of my daughters, true Reggae fans, this has been a little footnote to your dad's history-how on dark midwestern nights a white teen searched the atmosphere for a sound that all of these years later thrills you.

    Ish Kabibble to Reggae?  All on the radio!
    Must be some powerful atmospheric currents bouncing between the Pacific and the mountains eh? What, I should worry?

     Happy listening.  Have a good weekend.
     See you down the trail.


Thursday, November 29, 2012


    California's central coastline is roiling with strong surf
     driven by the first of three punches of wind and rain 
     coming in from the north.  Storm #1 left a half inch in our gauge and debris on the beach.
      15 to 20 foot waves are expected through the weekend.

    The power of the sea rakes the kelp beds.
     Writers, painters and nature lovers take inspiration from
the seasonal brooding.

     Appliances in our homes and offices that remain in stand by (televisions, chargers, microwaves, computer boxes) cost us hundreds of dollars a year.  David I. Levine at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business wrote an eye opening piece for the LA Times. 
     Unraveling this string of circumstance may lead us to an uneasy truth.  Many clothing shoppers seek the lowest price, sometimes even over quality. Manufacturers seek to lower production costs. Clothes are made abroad, in nations with "cheaper" labor and without benefit of health and safety standards.  
     The 112 people killed by a fire in a Bangladesh garment factory were making clothing for Wal-Mart, Disney, Sears, Sean Combs, Teddy Smith and Edinburgh Woollen Mill as reported by the Associated Press. 
      When asked about these tragedies, and there have been several, retailers and even manufacturers often cite contract language and explain how they are sometimes duped by sub-contractors over which they have no control.  Some of that may be true, but it is also disingenuous and refuses to accept responsibility. 
      Retailers award contracts to those who can make their product most cheaply. That maximizes their profit while offering a product that we can buy less expensively. So we are back to our role in perpetuating sweat shops where humans are abused because of profits and low prices.  
      I've heard people explain how the poor of other nations are at least given work.  Yes, but under what conditions?  And at what cost to American workers, put out of work by out sourcing to cheap labor markets?  We really can't escape our blame in these tragedies.  Well, maybe my mom could have.  Before her passing, she made a habit of never buying any thing but Union and or American made goods.  She even returned gifts if they did not pass that test.  Wonder if that is even possible today?
      See you down the trail

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


     A documentary that aired recently stirred memories that I have been unable to put out of mind.
     The HBO series Witness, that chronicles the work of photo journalists in troubled spots, dredged up scraps of my past.  The piece on Eros Hoagland in the slums, "favelas," of Rio jarred me back to the time I too was there.
      My assignments took me to slums around the globe and I had conveniently pushed those realities to the back of my mind, until seeing how unchanged those bleak realities are.        I am particularly haunted by a slum in the south of Brazil.  It is an island in the Guaiba River, made mostly of trash, hauled out of Porto Alegre and the city of Guaiba.  
           Trash and refuse were scattered everywhere.  The homes were built with what ever the people could re-use.
       Pigs, dogs and chickens, roaming free, fed on the offal of the cities up river.  Each morning men and boys took carts up river to haul away the trash and garbage which they brought to their island favela where it became food, building material or where it rotted. The smell is unimaginable. 

    As bad as it was, there was less violence here than in the urban slums.  In that was a small blessing.
     It was just as the military dictatorship had given up decades of rule and turned the government back over to an elected civilian control.
     The currency was in crisis and sustained repeated devaluations during our assignment.

    What haunts me now are the kids. What has become of them? There were so many.  One of those is the boy in the frame below.  His name was Marcos and he trailed photographer Steve Starnes and me all day.
    Steve helped him look into the camera on play-back, to see himself and his family. The smile of fascination he wore
   moved me to tears.  We told him if he was a good boy, and studied at school, maybe he too could someday become a photo journalist.
     A Belgian nun who had worked with the people of those slums for more than 60 years, told us we have given Marcos a gift, that of hope.  She had devoted her life to doing that.
Teaching hygiene, training children of the favela to become teachers for their brothers and sisters, teaching men carpentry skills, instructing women how to weave.  I wonder  about Sister Marie Eve, Marcos and if anything ever gets better for the residents of the slums.  And I wonder why I could easily filter away that reality.  And though it seems there is little that I can do, I appreciate that HBO stirred these ghosts to life.  And I appreciate the generation of journalists who are in the slums, refugee camps and battle zones of the world today.  
     There is a cautionary note.  Hoagland wondered aloud about how he could fly away and return to a clean, safe world while those he caught on film stayed behind.  I remember that conversation with myself, many times. How easily I forgot.  Shame on me.
    See you down the trail.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012



     If you are not a "cat person" you may think those of us who are kept by cats are a bit silly. I was taken by the expression of our poly dactyl, Hemingway. (Ernest Hemingway's cats at Key West had six toes.  Our little guy has six toes on each paw.) 
     A feral kitten, dropped by his mother as she ferried her litter over a fence, he was rescued by a Paso Robles woman.  He's the first of his line to be "domesticated." He is a link between wild DNA and being a pet. He seems perpetually curious and maybe a little bewildered. He's got an easy going personality with his greatest interests being eating and napping. He's learning quickly isn't he?
    Our old college friend was back at our Alma Mater and making news.  David Letterman's interview with Oprah created lots of interest.
    In so many important ways, Dave and Oprah are people
to look up to.  
   An easy first impression of these frames is that the valley and lake are a low altitude flatness surrounded by the distant peaks which surround and frame the images.
   Partially correct. The valley and the lake are at 7,000 to 8,000 feet.  This is the northern edge of the Owen Valley and Mono Lake which nestle, if such a massive space can indeed nestle, in the Sierra Nevada high country, bounded by the Sierra and the Excelsior mountains in Nevada to the east.  
     The peaks of the Excelsior range between 7 and 13 thousand. The Sierra Nevada peaks are at 13 and 14 thousand.  
      As the settlers trekked west they climbed to reach the big valley, only to face the more rugged eastern slope of the Sierra. Beyond that lay the central valley. 
      What an extraordinary inner drive to lift and buoy the spirit to overcome the sheer struggle.  

      See you down the trail.

Monday, November 26, 2012


     A few Republican lawmakers are doing what should have been done years ago, telling the self righteous and dangerous Grover Norquist to go pound sand.
      Dangerous?  How else would you describe an ego freak who collects "pledges" from federal lawmakers to abide by his view of government or else face a challenge by a Norquist lackey, funded with millions of dollars. Norquist really believes that a pledge to him is more sacred than any oath of office, or the unfettered performance of the duties of the office to which his "pledgees" were elected. He likes to strut, bantam rooster like, before a weekly gathering of political operatives, mostly conservative and mostly Republican, who are there to kiss his keister.
      Really, where does Grover Norquist get off thinking that he alone can control Republican tax policy and votes?
Who appointed him to this extraordinary power?  By the way, Norquist is a bit of a fraud.
      He's been an associate of Jack Abramoff, the convicted power broker who found plenty of ways to use and divert federal tax funds.  He's also an associate of the phony Ralph Reed, who has ripped off and manipulated Christian rightists with his own brand of sleaze.  Why Norquist has not been tossed over simply because his association with those scum probably goes back to those pledges that he collects and his threats to unseat anyone who challenges his view.
      Norquist calls himself a boring Methodist. He is of a particular ilk of Methodist though, one who is married to a Palestinian Muslim who worked for the Islamic Free Market Institute. The Islamic Free Market Institute was founded by Norquist.  That's cozy isn't it?  The Institute also took money from two organizations that were linked to SAAR-the organization with ties to international terrorism.  Norquist should feel right at home since he employs a kind of political terror on the Republican party.  And Norquist's wife worked with USAID.  USAID of course pumps US tax dollars into foreign venues and initiatives. Boring Methodist hardly seems an apt description for such a master of double talk, phoniness, duplicity, sleaze, self aggrandizement and zealousness.  
       If the late director Alan Pakula were doing the film, Norquist would be brought down by his own self importance and fraud.  If the Wachowski's were directing Norquist would be vaporized by a drone  as he preened before the Wednesday gathering of sycophants.  But since this is real life it is men like Senator John McCain, Speaker John Boehner, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Tom Coburn and Senator Bob Corker who may be the founding architects of the movement to depose the self exalted would be dictator.
       Senator Tom Coburn called Norquist's pledge "a tortured vision of tax purity."  The inclusion of torture and Norquist in the same sentence seems to bring this screed full circle. What goes around, comes around. 
     Proprietors of the historic Cambria Pines Lodge have 
added to their already well visited Christmas lights display.
This year they have added a Christmas Bazaar. 

     See you down the trail.

Friday, November 23, 2012

THE WEEKENDER-Singing Anchors

     In the television news business, the anchors, correspondents and reporters are referred to as "Talent." Some are, as in talented.
     The gold standard used to be experience in the field, as a reporter. The influence of consultants-they used to be called news doctors-and the advent of cable news led to a sea of talent who were essentially good at looking good.  In some cases, little else accompanied the package.
      There are still good, intelligent and skilled journalistic talent working.  As a news executive I looked for life experience and journalistic experience ahead of the cosmetic factors. I was able to hire many good talent. And then there was the extraordinary guy.
      He was a young guy still, not too long out of school and was working in one of our broadcast divsion's smaller markets.  I had known his father, when we were street reporters, back in our youth. Since then Phil had gone on to a solid and illustrious broadcast career in the tough Chicago market.  Phil had another son Dan who also had followed him into broadcasting.  So I knew Anthony had great news "genes," on top of his own intelligent and capable work. It was an easy hire.  
     When he arrived I learned that he was also a concert pianist and a vocalist.  A talent with real talent.
     In what I think must be a book waiting to be written, Phil, Dan and Anthony practice their skill in Chicago. At this years Newzapalooza charitable fundraiser, brothers Dan and Anthony displayed a talent, deeper than that required on a news desk.  Ironically they perform their tune THE ANCHORMAN.  
    Enjoy the Ponce brothers, and have a great weekend.

Dan, Phil and Anthony Ponce in Chicago.
Photo courtesy of Yvette Marie Postani for The Chicago Tribune
See you down the trail. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Dad used to remind us to make the most of each day.
This day, set aside as a special time for reflection, family, friends and celebration is a great pause on our journey.
Make the most of it. Enjoy.   

  May you all know the serenity and strength
of the ancient Sequoias.

 Happy Thanksgiving!  See you down the trail.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


      I'm grateful for a walk my mother took with me one autumn day as the oaks, sycamores, elms and maples were resplendent.  She said it was one of the most beautiful falls she had seen.  It was an unusual thing, a hike in the park with my busy and laboring mom. As we strolled beneath old and ancient trees ablaze in red, orange, yellow and crunched over the leaves on the path I noticed the world, maybe really for the first time.
     Natural beauty stirs a deep awe in those who are sensitive to it. 
Seeing it again

subtle changes in seconds

     Thank you to the cosmic set designers!!
     See you down the trail.