Friday, March 29, 2013


     Jerusalem confronts and embraces you like no other city in the world.  The intricacy of its history and the depth of its impact on life seems to fill you at once with sound, echoes, aromas, textures and scenes that might well be planetary memories, broken into shards that you can feel and even seem to intuit.
     As Christians observe and celebrate Easter this weekend, the Weekender provides a beautiful and panoramic glimpse of this city like no other.  Watch this in the largest format  you can.

Luke and the Greenman
      To those to whom it is appropriate, Happy Easter!
See you down the trail.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


   That is coming up, after first we share light, breezes, color and relief for those of you in places like Minnesota, Indiana, New York, and wherever else winter continues to assault you.


    We made our periodic visit to a grazing land to collect cow chips that we use in our compost.  I was thinking a lot about Dick Cheney.
    I was fuming a bit about the arrogance of man I consider a criminal, on several counts. Last night I watched the RJ Cutler documentary The World According to Dick Cheney airing on Showtime. The reviews are mixed though this LA Times piece by Mary McNamara hits on one point with precision.  Her father warned her to beware of a man with no regrets.  Cheney says he has no regrets.  
   Cutler zeros in on and documents two of the reasons Cheney should be tried.  One is the absolute lies, totally fabricated falsehoods he told Dick Armey to swing him around to approve an authorization to invade Iraq.  Remember those WMD's, suitcase bombs, etc, etc.  Cheney is a liar.  The other instance was when he told President Bush to ignore Justice Department rulings that domestic spying Cheney had ordered was illegal.  Cheney had intentionally kept W, who was already way over his head, in the dark about the building firestorm in the Justice Department and FBI about the illegality and irregularity of what he had done. Even the FBI director was threatening to quit if Bush did not change the guidelines. 
    I have said Bush was an idiot and I think I can prove it.  Cheney knew he had an intellectual light weight for a boss and he abused him, abused power and abused the American public.  Cutler's documentary is not at all a hatchet job, in fact it even lends a tacit credibility to a man who went from being a drunk to being drunk with power. Yet he does expose how even W, slow as he was, learned of his machinations and finally told aids not to take Cheney's calls and not to schedule meetings with him-this while they were both presiding over the needless deaths of American kids in a war that Cheney wanted, got and that his buddies at Halliburton and subsidiaries profited from.
    This is only the beginning.  As historians continue to examine and study the disastrous years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, his puppet master, Cheney's already low ratings will decline and his villainy will be further exposed.
    I hope the criminal lives long enough to be indicted.

   See you down the trail.

Monday, March 25, 2013


     I was sorry to read that Bob Cuddy a reporter and occasional columnist at the San Luis Obispo Tribune is retiring.
       It was obvious to me from the first time I read his work that he'd been around the block and was a solid journalist. Over the six years we've been on the central coast I've appreciated his skill, balance and good reporting.  His columns offered insight, good sense and posed questions when they needed pushing.  
      In the column announcing his retirement he quoted a John Steinbeck character who questioned if he had contributed to the Great Ledger. Cuddy questioned if all of his years in journalism mattered.  I think they did.
     Journalism is a tough job where you make few friends but can anger many simply by trying to get the facts.  From my view of his last six years, he did a great job. At a time when there are fewer experienced journalists who care enough to ask such an introspective question, the departure of an old pro like Cuddy is a loss.  His work had worth indeed.
                      RIP TO ANOTHER PRO
     Pulitzer winner Anthony Lewis died at his home in Cambridge Mass. at 85.  The former New York Times columnist was must reading for young reporters of a certain age in the late 60's.  He redefined legal reporting and court coverage.  Reading his column Abroad at Home or Home Abroad, depending on his location at the time of composition, was enormously helpful to those who cared about journalism, the judicial system and democracy.

A moment of relief for those of you still afflicted by winter.

   See you down the trail.

Friday, March 22, 2013


      On an assignment in Israel I spent time with a team of diplomats from both Israel and a Palestinian coalition.  They had been working together for a couple of years on purely business issues; access to air lanes, trucking, water and resources, shipment of material and finished goods and the like.  Their logic was that if the two sides were busy doing business, they would be less likely to be at war.  It was a back channel kind of diplomacy, but it was working. And the representatives from both sides had become friends, even entertaining each other in their homes.
       My friend Beverly sent this video which goes a long way to make that point.  Ending a week when the President visited Israel, our Weekender Video is an inspiration for what is possible.

     Since our move to the California Central Coast we have
discovered that Paella is a favorite of many.  Here's a sampler.  Enjoy
    Have a good weekend.  See you down the trail.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


     It is the sort of thing working journalists would debate, fret and talk about endlessly-the quality of the work we did and the pressures that conspired to keep us from doing a better job.  Not enough people, not enough resources, upper management more concerned about profit than quality of product and in the case of electronic media less time to "think" about a story in the demand for more live coverage.
     Well, the problems have not gone away, but increasingly the consumers are.  The Pew Research Center documents the diminishing following of news out lets in this well presented and graphic rich State of the News Media 2013 report.  A New York Times piece on the report can be linked here. A bottom line is that viewers and readers believe they are getting a poorer product, less news and therefore are paying less attention and or reading less.
     The Pew report raises a fundamental factor-very few news consumers are aware of the drastic cuts in news gathering staffs, but they can sense that something is not right.
     After I retired from my post as a news executive I would hear from colleagues around the country as to how the recession was savaging their staff sizes.  In the industry there was plenty of attention given to the huge layoffs and cut backs, but very few of the public got that message.  They only saw smaller newspapers, lighter newscasts, fewer  original stories, less investigative works, more fluff and they've decided they don't like what they see.
     I had my share of animated discussions with corporate management about the economics of doing a good job and I was lucky to work in a non recessionary economy.  It was still tough.  Corporate wanted more profit, less operating costs while journalists simply wanted the ability to do the job people expected of us.  That might require more overtime, more personnel to handle the expanding expectation of not only feeding the hungry television but also the Internet and mobile platforms, new camera and editing gear to keep up with the demands, better graphic and support technology and so forth.  When the great recession hit, many news staffs were decimated by layoffs, cut backs though the demands for product were not reduced.
     The resource issue is one problem.  Another is the actual time, attention and energy it takes to produce material not only for a single edition or one or two news casts as in the past, but for an increasingly hungry media beast.  Now journalists work to produce for the paper or the main newscasts, but also must blog, tweet, post on Facebook, feed the web and be prepared to be on live, almost endlessly.  
     Sounding like an ancient now, when I started it was typical to cover an event, while a photographer shot film.  You'd drive back to the studio and while the film was being processed, you'd have time to think about the story, write it, edit it and put it on the air.  One of the last major stories I covered as an anchor involved rushing to the scene of a mid air plane crash, arriving at the scene even before fire and rescue crews, and going on the air almost immediately, continuing to report from the scene for 4-5 hours, gathering information live.  Had that happened today I suppose I would also have been expected to Tweet or send Instagrams.
     The more reporters are expected to do, the thinner the product becomes.  Another contributor to this "thinning" of the product is the relative age of the producer, reporter or writer.  We all started young, but there were some old hands around, who had institutional memory, understood nuance, could offer suggestions on how to add depth or history, or as we used to say, "knew where the bodies were buried."  Not so any more.  
      As I was explaining to a talented former colleague the other day, so many of today's working journalists in television and the Internet, don't have memories of how it used to be, they know only the manic and very shallow style of today's content production. And sadly, largely because of the marriage of the web and our celebrity worship, so much of what passes for news is gossip, celebrity coming and goings and items of no real significance.  Network morning news programs are also guilty of this thinning and shallowing.  So much of what they broadcast is hype for their own programs, or new movies. Cable news has decided to fill hours with pundits, pontificators, yakking egos, and a silly swill of what really is nothing more than a waste of time. There is a dearth of exploratory, investigative, serious, significant and explanatory journalism.
     So it should come as no surprise the Pew study finds that people are paying less attention and think they are getting less news.  They are, getting less that is.


Monday, March 18, 2013


    Will Murphy, a former colleague and friend departed this life a day short of St. Patrick's Day.  Will Patrick Murphy probably would have gotten a kick out of his timing, but in the last few weeks his life had been ravaged by disease and for an independent eccentric such as Will, that was a horrible existence.
    Frequent readers may have noticed that Will, =w= as he signed off, was a frequent contributor to the comments to these posts.  In earlier days he would occasionally refer to himself as God's Will, ever the wit.  In those days he was one of the best journalists and storytellers working.  
   He was the State House Bureau Chief when I was hired by a large radio news operation.  Will did the work of at least a couple of people, though other staffers would be assigned through the day to assist with committee hearings or legislative debate and the like when he was already committed.  And man, did you need to gather the right sound, or ask the correct questions or Murph, God's Will, would let you know your shortcomings.
   He was a tenacious reporter, usually ahead of the pack on most stories of state government and politics.  He even rooted out political corruption in a couple of elected state offices.  He once so infuriated the Governor, he was ordered out of the State House.  Of course the Governor did not have that power and it was only an hour or so before the State Press Association and other legal sources pounded on the Governor soundly.  Will returned in a kind of triumphant humility.  You'd have to know Will to understand how that can work. 
    Will worked longer hours than any of his competition and to this young reporter, his work ethic was a gold standard.
    Once, many years after we had both left for other postings, Will showed up at our house with a couple of cookie tins full of Lebanese pastries.  He was fresh off a plane, after being the last US reporter to be evacuated from a section of Beirut, during a time when things were particularly bad.  Before he left, he'd rented a car and made a mad dash through a city imploding in warfare, to get the goodies. He loved drama.
   He never talked a lot about it, but he had been in a seminary preparing for the priesthood before he turned to journalism.  He had the most uncanny ability to get people to open up and talk.  He could always find a unique human touch to a story. He had a melodious deep voice, and was a world class talker and wit. People felt comfortable talking to him. 
   In his later years, after a career in broadcasting including award winning years in Kentucky television, he returned to Indianapolis where most of the television news directors, senior producers and main anchor talent would receive Will's critiques on language lapses or miss-use, or sloppy reporting.  He was a stickler and not at all reluctant to send a zing or a jab where needed.
    He was a great humanist, and had an eye for the so called little person or common man or woman.  His father, who ran an Irish bar in a working neighborhood, was murdered during a robbery.  Will understood life from the street up.  
    Will was a ham.  He loved to perform, but he also knew when to step back and simply listen.  I chuckled yesterday when I spoke with his sister Katie.  His body is being donated to medical science, so in a very real way, Will is 
going to continue to have an audience.  I think he'd like the way I reported that.
    Last October the eventuality was becoming apparent to Will and he wrote a note to a few of his friends.  I print it here, as it bespeaks the quality of a unique Irishman, who's wit, talent, kindness and eccentricity left a mark on any who met him.

WILL MURPHY in his own words.

I am a fairly emotional person. Apparently I display it only through my work. Now, that I think about it all of my feature reporting for TV and Radio has been based on what I feel must be right. Then I would find someone with those virtues and extol them.  These found me.
 Just the other day as I got out of my car a man (and his wife) came towards me from their position of waiting. I thought it might be for a bus, but they were not in the correct spot. Maybe he would ask. Then he told me they were waiting for a taxi to “go see the maples.” My first impression was that they were Japanese. He corrected me. “We are Korean, visiting from Chicago. We came by the big GreyHund last night. I have been here 35 years and no learn English.
 I convinced him his language was fine. I did not tell him he was miles away from the color of “the maples.”  Then the taxi came to take them back downtown. They could not get a hotel there last night since they had no credit card.  Somebody referred them five miles out of the center city for a fifty-dollar night. We met; I did not really help. I did not give directions miles away to the colorful trees. But he felt the need to talk about it. He came to me with her in tow. Then they were gone.
 At their elderly age they were ready to get up and go to see things. They had no plan. They just went. They had a purpose. And they just went. Happily.
 This was the same day I went… to hear the beginning of my prognosis for prostate cancer which has become very aggressive since we first took note in early December, last year.  Since then there has been a plan and a purpose but it did not seem obvious to me. Every three months I receive a hormone shot to maintain the speed of the cancer growth into the lymph system.  Happily, the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test shows a great reduction in numbers indicating cancer. But that is almost too late.
 A full-body bone scan early this year indicated the presence of lesions in my liver, possibly in my pelvis, and maybe more. A month ago it was determined with a new MRI that a major growth on my left femur just below the hip was the reason for a major complaint while attempting walking. That curtailed my part-time position as a tour-guide inside the Lucas Oil Stadium for a while.
Immediate surgery to “burn” the tumor off the bone with RFA (radio frequency ablation) proved it was the same cancer which had traveled from the prostate.
 Confirmation is one thing. Consternation is another. We are advised as older males to be constantly vigilant for the prostate problem.  It can arrive in young males too. It is the most prevalent cancer in males, after skin cancer. Prostate Cancer can start with no symptoms. Apparently mine started without me. It was immediately labeled aggressive and has been so. I have been told not all cancers are detected. I have one which slipped through.
 The doctors mentioned many months ago that there would be no cure, just maintenance. Maybe two to five years of maintenance. They mentioned it again this past week… along with the fact that several other methods could be used, including some new ones just on the market. Each month there will be a shot (Xgeva) to maintain the bone loss (which allowed the tumor outside the femur) plus another attempt to curtail the growth in the lymph system.
 Many friends constantly ask the regular question “what did the doctor say?” This, then, is an effort to compile the words he said along the way. Mostly it has been a wait and see procedure. Now, it will be a more aggressive approach to an aggressive cancer.
For now, there is no radiation or chemo planned but that may change.
 I am an emotional man who lives alone, but I am not lonely. I have many friends around the world. And I have my family here in Indianapolis, my hometown.  On the way home from the doctor I became suddenly aware of my future while listening to one of my favorite styles of music. It prompted many tears… of realization of how good I have it with my medical treatment.
 I have a plan. I am pleased, too, that I met that Korean couple just passing through Indianapolis to see “the maples.”  I will continue to follow this adventure of mine, as far as it goes.  –w- 10-11-12 -w-
Goodbye God's Will.  You made big memories.
See you down trail.

Friday, March 15, 2013


    Frequent readers may recall my cautionary concerns about the surrender of information autonomy to convenience, communication and the aggregating power of algorithms.
    As an aside in this battle, I'd prefer to write the word, rather than have the spell check, auto write function fill in or begin to assume the word I wish to say. But this is the age of information warfare and collateral damage comes in many forms, so we all soldier on. Hopefully, wisely.
    Well, this is The Weekender and we try to keep the mood light and entertaining, so it is in that vein we bring you this video beware.  It's a pitch, but the message makes sense.
A leftover of sorts-an image in this case-from a
Friday Lunch Flash Mob treat.
A Hearst Ranch all beef foot-long hotdog, Sebastian style.
Have a great weekend. See you down the trail.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


      Far more lucid, expert and impassioned analysts and players have critiqued the failure of American government and the political process that feeds it.  But for my two cents worth it appears most political animals lack imagination and creativity, or they certainly don't evince it.
      Energy policy is case in point.  I've heard every President back to Nixon proclaim that we need a new energy policy that leads to independence.  How much older are you since then?
      California doesn't hold the patent on original, and there are plenty of old school political issues here as well, but activists have begun building a fresh approach to a new energy future.  I like the idea because it is simpatico to something I've advocated.  I'd like to see neighbors form small energy cooperatives, and jointly fund the placement of solar and or wind energy technology in the neighborhood to feed our individual needs and then to dial excess energy back into the grid, for which the neighbors association would get cash, credit or some compensation.  
      SLO Clean Energy, which you can learn more about at this site proposes to work on a similar model, using communities in an aggregation. Of course this moves on the power of the current power companies-Big Business and Big Political Contributors-two of the greatest evils in our political life.  
      Eliminate big money influence and you are on the way to making giant strides of improvement in government and politics.  In this case of "power to the people," that is exactly what could happen.  
      Radical?  Not really. It is simply a method to put leveraging influence or control to those of us who pay taxes and live without the perks and influence of those whom we elect and the fat cats who lather up politics, legislation and government with money for favors.  
     I'm hopeful emerging generations will find imaginative and creative solutions to old problems that even the once idealistic boomers have failed to fix. Neighborhood or community energy alliances could be a start.  They are doable.
     New, fresh and cutting edge in California art is front and center in Paso Robles.

      Through the end of March the YOUNG SAVAGES show will hang at the Studios on the Park on the square in Paso Robles.
     Full disclosure here, YOUNG SAVAGES is curated by my daughter's friend, Neal Breton. I think Neal has done a great job in building an energetic and exciting show. Here's how it was reported in the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

 Studios in the park is a great art space to begin with. The
work of the Savages adds even more life and spirit.

   Several art patrons have made it a good show for a few of the Young Savages.  Skulk, the piece below, done by Neal,
is one of the pieces that has been purchased thus far.

This is for those of you where spring comes later than it does here on the west coast.  This is what will come your way, eventually.

    See you down the trail.

Monday, March 11, 2013


    For those of you who riddle life's frustrations with the  old chestnut "WWJD-what would Jesus do?" or who seek a Taoist path of "going with the flow," my questions are out of your comfort zone.  
      But growing up on the south-side of Muncie Indiana taught a direct course of action gets results. My ire is simply one of a chorus who legitimately ask are there any thinking people who manage or supervise in CalTrans? (For readers outside California, CalTrans is the agency responsible for highway planning, construction and maintenance)
      Since last year a 25 mile stretch of iconic Highway 1 north of Cambria to the Monterey County line has been the object of puzzlement, frustration, controversy and anger. It's been the cause of broken bones and windshields. We can attest to the windshield issue. Bicyclists have been injured.
      Caltrans resurfaced the road and they blew it. Man, did they ever?!
      Apparently because it was cheaper, they used a larger than normal crushed rock in what they call a chip and seal repaving.  The San Luis Obispo Tribune reports the rock they used was twice the size of normal.  
       Twice the size?!  Hello CalTrans?  Anybody with a measurable brain wave in there? Did the Caltrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbins personally look at, approve or maybe even think about the implication of that?  Did anyone called a supervisor ever take their brain to work during the long repaving project?
       You probably know the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most visited, scenic and bicycled roads in the world. Since the idiot job was first done, bicycle riders, clubs, organizations, federations and race planners have all tried to reason with Caltrans over how they have practically ruined a highway.  Caltrans, to whom we give hundreds of millions of tax dollars so they can maintain our highway has put on one of the best shuck and jive, obfuscate, divert attention bureaucratic bull shit Stepin Fetchit fests in history.  Sorry, I apologize to Stepin Fetchit (Lincoln Perry)  and his fans. Though controversial his laziest man in the world character made him a millionaire. Unlike Caltrans, Perry had talent. Caltrans is foot dragging because they are real fools.
       What are they doing about it?  Studies, they say they will do.  Analysis and comparisons, they say they will do.
      How about dragging your public dollar paid fannies out to the road where you can walk it, drive and bicycle it?  I suspect the rough ride might even jigger on a synapse or two in your apparently dimwitted and certainly intelligence starved cranial cavity, which I hesitate calling a brain, because so far there has been no evidence of such higher  function.  Other than to collect your salaries that we paid while you have tried to ruin a highway and evinced nothing but arrogance since, that is.
     Well, the battle is being stepped up.  A Chamber of Commerce, hotel and motel owners, travelers and visitors bureaus, antique car owners and their associations, even organizers of the public service Best Buddies bike ride are chiming in.  Business owners say they are in jeopardy of loosing seasonal income.
     County government representatives and state assembly men are getting involved.  As one county supervisor who has been on this for months told the Tribune, Caltrans response has been "frustrating?"  Frustrating?  How about like something from cold war era Russian government.
     So, back to riddling questions. How to get through to these dunderheads?  Reason seems to be a skill set they are not capable of.  Back on South Ebright Street, back in the cinder alley, we found that a few rounds of bare knuckle logic could work wonders as a motivational device and behavior modification.
      But, let me take a few deep breaths, look at the rolling green mountains and cobalt blue sky and trust that enough citizens, groups and local government officials can, figuratively, draw a little blood from Caltrans and get them to repair their mess.

    See you down the trail.