Saturday, October 26, 2013



    A favorite stop in Washington-The Newseum.  An incredible display of history told through the lens of journalism, it is also a temple to the First Amendment. The message reads clearly in the neighborhood.

  A current exhibition is a moving look at a pivotal moment in the life of boomers.

    Riveting clips of television coverage of the historic moments highlight the powerful exhibition.

   Another emotional stop is the memorial to journalists, killed in the line of duty.

    A stroll provides a glimpse of the Washington Monument
under scaffolding.
 There is still middle ground in Washington.
     See you down the trail.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


     Harvest carnivals, autumnal rites and the turning of the year.  
     Merchants launch Christmas longings even before we observe that night of dress up and masked extortion of candy where now social media provides a "safe house" map and GPS guide.
     In the last push of this 2013 we'll remember it has been 50 years since JFK inspired us. We remember vividly our own piece of history now a half century on. Boomers have become seasoned vets of the season. In Thanksgiving rituals we intuit another Yule, Holiday, Christmas, Advent and yet another rapid change of calendar.
      When days shorten and night becomes longer we reflect, remember and marvel at where it all goes, cued by  nature gone melancholy. Regret and hope ballet on our mood. This time of year is an acquired taste.  The more of it we sip, the better we appreciate the vintage. Still, can it really be time for this end of year run through the holidays and memories?  Already?
     So there in the photo of the cabinet, next to the pin striped Secretary of State is the secretary of the Internet in a black T shirt and jeans.  Intriguing?  
   As the Obama team, so slick at campaign social media, struggles to get the new Affordable Care market exchange computer system operating, maybe it's time to ask, should we elevate all federal government information and computer systems and programs to a single department or agency?  Do we need our own Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison or Steve Jobs?  Yea, I know the curse of a federal agency is first a growing bureaucracy and a diminishing efficiency, but if we imported some "google think"  or "oracle management" or "apple genius" it could spill over to the bloated federal mind set.  
     Better design and more efficient testing of the health care market place system probably would have been a product of a Facebook, or Google team.  And besides this embarrassment is the very real matter that most of everything today moves via technology platforms.  Should we trust the big picture, high altitude view on this to the snoops and investigators of the NSA and FBI or CIA or to the high platform warriors of the Pentagon?  Commerce certainly can't hack it?  Maybe we do need a son or daughter of silicon valley to mix it up with the Cabinet.

     See you down the trail.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


     In a nutshell the film revolves around a line spoken by Julian Assange "editing reflects bias."
     That is a great premise for a debate and reminds me of  countless conversations by journalists. A variation of the theme is do we reflect the culture, like a mirror, or do we shape it by our very presence? Such philosophic pondering and navel gazing seems hopelessly old century by comparison to director Bill Condon's treatment of the Wiki-leaks story.
      The idea of Wiki-leaks is profound, but its impact on the world is more shattering.  Screenwriter Josh Singer took a book by a former Julian Assange colleague, Daniel Berg and created a rich pastiche of culture, journalism, legal boundaries, personality and a dramatic timeline that centers on Assange and his desire to strip bare all pretense and leave us with a world of transparency.  In his world all organizations loose proprietary control of information and only whistle blowers and leakers are protected.  That's a helluva conversation to have.  But there are intersecting points of view including those of news organizations like the New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian, plus agencies like the State Department with privileged and covert information.  It makes for a compelling film that transcends mere entertainment and approaches an ethics tome or philosophic debate.
       Condon infuses the work with a strong international accent, with a particularly heavy dose of Berlin artistic, avant garde and hacker culture.  Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant, nuanced, conflicted and spot on as Assange.  Daniel Bruhl is compelling as Daniel Berg who fell in and then out with Assange in his quixotic mission.
      The production style and graphics are as contemporary as your Droid or iPhone.  In a few years they may seem dated, but now they are slick and help move the story.  The opening montage is incredible.  I told a professor friend that he could use that as a history of communication set piece.
       The on screen debate over the release of the Bradley Manning documents is a good microcosm of the larger debate implicit in the film-the philosophic gist of hacking, complete transparency and openness and who gets to set the rules and control the information.
       Cumberbatch, and Condon's direction do a good job of portraying Assange's personal journey of commitment or obsession. Assange says the film is a propaganda attack on Wiki-leaks.  I don't agree.  As major news organizations battle against release of un-redacted cables, Laura Linney, as a State Department official says, "He's bigger than the Times."  And that is the core of the premise.  
        If you care not about the underpinning premise, it's still a fine film, just for the drama and entertainment value.  Condon has directed God's and Monsters, Chicago, Kinsey and Dream Girls.  He is a gifted film maker.  Singer wrote many episodes of West Wing and Law&Order and has talent and experience at making the complex move through good dialogue and strong characters.
        This is one of the most important films I've seen and is sure to add to what is a needed and clarifying debate.  

      See you down the trail.

Monday, October 14, 2013


    A couple of extraordinary things struck me in an otherwise excellent film, directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks, who seems incapable of anything but masterful. Hank's acting when he portrays Captain Phillips in shock, and the extraordinary low key cool of the real navy personnel who play acted their real life roles, are more than worth the ticket.
     Hanks emotional volume and visceral acting in this act were stunning. 
      As the operation drama reaches a peak, the screen fills with military and medical staff who are the real deal, apparently getting a pass to portray a role. They evince an √©lan. It is all about mission-efficient and in control.
     You see technology and intel being brought to conduct in the planning and execution of the operation. These touches are an additional layer of film making skill.
      The film is an enthralling adventure.  There are present issues with the real Captain Phillips' navigating and some of the Phillips' behavior was directorial interpretation. Though not unimportant, they do not affect the storytelling or power of engagement in Greengrass' film. For his part, Hanks has such a facile way of digging into a character and making them live he trades on credibility and you believe.   

     How do you define a low information voter?
     If the recent work of Pew Research is indicative "low information" might be giving too much credit. Is stupid more appropriate?   How do you measure up?
     Link here to take a quick News IQ QuizYou may have your own editorial comment after you've seen your results and those of fellow voters.

    We treasure village life.  
    The simple pleasures are magnified, as when the grounds of the Cambria Historical Society became the gathering center for a Harvest Market-a kind of tag sale, ice cream social and music venue.  For those who do not know our village nestled in Monterey Pines between the Pacific and the Santa Lucia mountains, here are homespun autumn snapshots. 

a desert that is an appetizer
    See you down the trail.

Monday, October 7, 2013


    My first big city newsroom boss told me we weren't doing our job unless both democrats and republicans were mad at us. As you read on, know that I invoke that principal, as I have over the decades.
     President Obama has himself to blame for many of his problems.  And he has the mutant spawn of the old Gipper for the balance.
     Obama emerged as America looked for and needed a change.  He was fresh, historic, appealing to new generations and with communication savvy. David Axelrod read the mood of America, fashioned a political campaign in response and unleashed a passion for change.  Hope, you remember.  
      But there were two shortcomings.  Obama himself, a smart young man, but without the wisdom that comes with years of survival in Washington or the learning that comes with being knocked down a few times. The other was the naive belief that controlling the White House meant you had the most power, or the biggest club in the fight.
      When they had the chance, back when American was sick and tired of W and Cheney, and as the economy was coming undone, Obama, Axelrod and team should have built a true political movement, a gradual revolution if you will.
      They could have, in fact should have seen that a compliant congress was necessary to affect the CHANGE they promised. Instead of the White House only, they could have been effective in bringing about a wholesale change-House and even in the Senate.  There was a time in America when a campaign for the Presidency was a product of a top to bottom party movement-state legislative races, Congressional Districts and Senate campaigns. A full package. More than anyone in the last couple of decades, they had that potential and capacity.
      And there is the diffident, distant, professorial and even arrogant style of Mr Obama himself.  Had he been around the Senate a little longer, he would have learned the wisdom of the old boys and girls.  Collegiality, friendship, schmoozing.  For those of you old enough, think of Sam Rayburn, Lyndon Johnson, John McCormack, Carl Albert,  Tip O'Neil, Ronald Reagan, Ev Dirksen, Charlie Halleck, even the depraved and aberrant Newt Gingrich. They could deal, horse trade and find a way to make things happen.
     In addition to their shortsightedness and inept use of power there is the buzz saw of the Tea Party. Here's where I lay its ancestry to Reagan.  The great communicator spent years telling people the federal government was the problem. He was very effective at selling that point of view, even though all the while he was himself adding more debt and growing the government.  But one thing he and his guru Michael Dever understood was that it's all about appearance and image.  So the great Conservative/Neo Con progenitor unleashed a couple of decades of a "the government is the problem" mantra until latent generations believed it. Enter the disgruntled if not overly bright Tea Party players.
      Old fashioned traditional Republicans worry the Tea Party, who represents a strident, loud, belligerent and obstinate base, minority though they are, will continue to make the once GOP a laughing stock or kill it by a suicide of ignorance.
       I agree that Speaker Boehner is like a besotted eunuch  when it comes to political combat, with his own charges even. The recent SNL parody which had him parading around in panties and vamping was brilliant. But I am not so sure my Republican sources aren't a little out of phase. I sense that an increasingly tribalized American body politic, fed by an increasingly stupid media, mainstream and partisan, and a growing number of low information voters only plays into the hands of those who's intellectual depth goes to bumper sticker slogans.  Currently I fear that thought, analysis and a sense of history has been eclipsed by volume, rancor, selfishness and presided over by inept government.  It is a bit as though our highest level of aspiration or accomplishment is to look like a Greek or Italian government in search of yet another spiral down. 
       Maybe it is time to give each member of the house a walking stick and to urge them to use it as a tool of persuasion.  We have a long history of Congressional fistfights. Link here as you ponder if it might not be time to let them rumble!!  By the way, my money would be on Barry Obama to take crybaby Boehner down, quickly!
   After enduring that rant you deserve something nice.  This is about as nice as it gets.  Included here are scenes from a hike that began at about 9 thousand feet and continued around alpine lakes and mountain streams to just below 11 thousand feet.  This is from Rock Creek Lake, in the eastern Sierra over the Mono and Morgan Pass trails to some of the most pristine sights on the planet.

   The frame above and below was our view as we paused for a back pack lunch.

     We were impressed by the "landscape painting" in the striation of this boulder.
     This is where the trail ended for us. Lana had a bad altitude headache.  I had no desire to hike alone as you can see the trail was becoming a little more difficult.
    So we decided to settle in and simply be overwhelmed by the quiet, serenity and beauty of creation.
    See you down the trail.

Friday, October 4, 2013


     It was a late autumn afternoon when mom told me to put on a jacket and my tennis shoes.  She said we were going for a walk, one I'll never forget.
     I was a typical pre-teen boy, interested only in basketball and football and never seemed to see much else in the world.  On this afternoon we walked to a city park, full of oaks, elms, maples and sycamores.  It is the first time I remember seeing leaves afire in oranges, reds, yellows and rust.  Honestly, never noticed the colors before, at least not in a way that registered.  Sure I remember raking dry old brown and crisp leaves and building leaf forts, but on this particular afternoon my world gained a sense of color.
    I still enjoy the color and again this year our drive took us to the eastern slope of the high Sierra.

   Here are a couple of versions you may not be familiar with, but they will provide you with a quarter hour of memories.
   First the incredible Eva Cassidy illustrated by the paintings of Leonid Afremov. 
    And the styling of Eric Clapton
   Happy leaf hunting.
   See you down the trail.