Tuesday, February 25, 2014


     An agonizing disappointment to boomers is the new crop of racism that seems to be the spearhead of a wave of bigotry and narrow mindedness in the US.
     We spent the early and mid 60's fighting to end segregation, American apartheid and blatant discrimination. The entire culture was swept up in the drama and federal legislation moved to excise intolerance and set up an even playing field, imperfect and flawed though some of the legacy efforts have been. Feminism followed in that wake, connecting with efforts of earlier generations of suffrage campaigners to even the score for women. Still it seems as though it has been for naught.
      New studies and reports find a complex mix of racist attitudes in American today. Some of the young, the reports say, don't know or have not been taught what discriminatory or prejudicial behavior is.  "Post racial" is a term that is used.
      Then there is a poster child of our new dilemma, the matter of NIGGER. Some of you maybe offended seeing it here. Back in our youth it was a phrase never used in civil or polite conversation. Today its use is a map of how confused we seem to have become. Is it OK for African Americans to use the term, but not for anyone else? Though people of color divide on this. Is it wrong for a Caucasian to criticize its use or even to use the word? Depends on who you ask, doesn't it?  
       Remember the early argument about weather Black's could be racist?  Some who suggested that a person of color could also be a racist were themselves called racist. Today most agree that a person of any color or ethnicity can also be guilty of being racist, ethnocentric or bigoted in other ways.
        LGBT people have probably garnered more media attention for their struggles for equality in the last few years, though old fashioned racism has not disappeared. Classism stalks modern western life even as women still fight to overcome, the barrier being their birthright.
        From where I stand on this planet there is plenty of evidence of narrow mindedness, discrimination, fear, prejudice and hatred. The targets are men and women of all color, all ethnic origin, all gender identity or sexual preference. And so too are the perpetrators.
       It is easy to paint the broad stroke villain as being white men-Anglos/Normans/Saxons and in America in particular there is a sad history of invasion, genocide, land theft, broken treaties done by our government run mostly by white men. However there are many other guilty of such insensitivity and crimes around the globe with different casts of color, ethnicity, heritage and land of birth. We know that Africans too were partners in the horrible sin of slave trading. Patriarchy is written into the history of cultures north, south, east and west. American white men are in fact easy targets for criticism, but then if that is all who you see as offenders, you suffer tunnel vision and are not looking on a large enough scale of history and geography.  
      One of the most economic and employment vulnerable
today are legions of men, 50 plus, who were dislocated by the Great Recession and who are still out of work, unemployable or underemployed. Who in today's political climate are likely to carry their banner? Perhaps I should go cautiously here, less some of the dunderheads in our legislative branch of government who fail on intelligence about or understanding and sensitivity to half of the human specie, just might pick up that standard.  
     Our ability to find a commonweal, a set of normative values, a framework of equality, a true open-mindedness is honorable and necessary work for this democratic republic. It will be challenging, painful and will demand our better angels. To continue as we are with confusion, ignorance, rampant narrow-mindedness and condoned bigotry will lead only to apocalyptic political and cultural landscapes.

      On a recent hike I saw a couple of young California Striped Racers crossing the trail, enjoying the sun.
     The area was the scene of a recent "controlled burn."
     The sky was a palate of contrails.
   The paper editorialized today that William Randolph Hearst would have approved of Lady Gaga's recent adventure at his famous Castle, now a state park.  Nick Franco, the highly respected local State Park Supervisor has been suspended, for mysterious reasons, since approving of Gaga's use of the Hearst Castle for a production shoot.  
    Lady G paid some $300 thousand for the use, left additional funds to underwrite a water use study, did a promotional piece and a public service message about water conservation. The Hearst Corporation approved "loaning water" and the entire undertaking. Governor Jerry Brown wrote approvingly to Lady Gaga.
    The paper hints that perhaps some bureaucrat's nose may have been out of joint. Maybe or she is angry they missed their moment of closeness to her Lady G.
     Tsk, tsk, tsk.  Stay tuned.

    See you down the trail.  

Friday, February 21, 2014


     Have you followed the firestorm of comment about a proposed FCC study into newsroom decision making?  It's off! The FCC has junked the idea, as it should be.
       The concept, introduced late last year, was stupid for many reasons, not the least of which is that it was wrong. No one, no government agency, no consumer advocacy group, no corporate sponsor, no dunderheaded general manager or broadcast division ceo, no one should be involved in editorial, coverage, or content decision making except journalists and news personnel.  That is not because we are sainted with divine knowledge or know more about social good. No, in fact we can and have made poor decisions, but the right to make those decisions, in a nation where freedom of the press is constitutional, is the role of the press.  Over the long haul of American history, journalistic decisions have been more often right than wrong and more often in the public interest than against it.
       To work properly, the press needs to be free from interference of any sort.  Now we can argue about how well the press functions today, but that is an entirely different discussion. Still, the judgements made about what you read, see or hear from the news media need to emanate from a process that honors and hews to standards and judgements that are based on canons and codes of journalism and not from outside forces.  Historically we have been well served by the system, if not perfectly.
        Aside from the constitutional issue, there was the Orwellian level absurdity of the idea that a study could determine your, mine, or any one's "information needs"? Yes, we may have desires, curiosities and even a need for information, but in the beauty of this democratic republic the specifics of such are based on individual choices and lives. Community needs? Who determines "community?" 
        For a survey to try to ascertain "needs" and then measure or analyze how those "needs" were being met by newsroom decision making just opens so many trap doors on what is supposed to be a constitutionally protected process as to be fitting of a Paddy Chayefsky and/or George Orwell world. Or  even more fittingly a Stalinist or Hitlerian world of gulags and camps where offending journalists and readers are taught what happens to people who think for themselves or who dare to have "information needs" other than those proscribed by Big Brother or who may be in a "community" that is not sanctioned or deemed worthy or out of favor. See the hellish rat hole that ensues?
      This weekend I suspect liberals, conservatives, libertarians and anarchists can bang beer mugs, wine or cocktail glasses with real journalists in toasting the end of a bad idea. Here is an issue on which all of our tribes can agree. One less idiot idea, trotted out by a mindless Federal agency without serious forethought or consideration of implication. Free is free-even if you don't like what you see, hear or read. To the First-Cheers!
First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
        You can read the latest post from Tim Cavenaugh here.  He first broke the story on the CIN. 

      On the way back I noted the additional message on the back of the Danger-Warning sign.
    Differing "community needs" maybe?
      See you down the trail.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014



     Two current works have put Matthew McConaughey on the screen as an actor who has mastered the role of an agonist.  
      Most of the current buzz and accolades are for his remarkable role in Dallas Buyers Club. That role personifies this idea of a man in conflict-a hard partying rodeo cowboy/electrician homophobe who becomes an advocate- combatant in the early HIV/Aids crisis.
      True Detective writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto has given McConaughey the role of Rust Chole, a vehicle where the actor has taken complexity and a cosmic level of brooding to a new level of brilliance in a haunting performance that achieves mastery
      Pizzolatto's story line has McConaughey and partner Woody Harrelson as Martin Hart, move backwards and forwards in time as they encounter a bizarre and grizzly crime. The evolution and spin in the character Rust Chole, the nuance, ticks, tautness and unique personality is absolutely stunning to see. The ownership and  demonstration of the character is powerful enough that his behavior in the internal affairs interview process will establish a level of interpretation like that of Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle.
       Truce Detective is an acquired taste and its field of play is more gritty than some will appreciate.  As a young reporter I spent a few years on the street, during which time I covered the police beat and became friends particularly with a couple of homicide investigators. These guys lived that twilight reality 24/7 while I was merely a tourist. I am still haunted by things I encountered in that world where work begins after someones violent death. Pizzolatto, McConaughey and Harrelson weave a pattern of that life in an exotic drama. Once you see McConaughey's work, it will sear an impression upon you.  Powerful stuff on the screen.

    Evidence of a diverse yield from the Pacific was splayed around San Simeon Cove on a recent afternoon stroll.
      Wave action reveals pilings from an old pier, perhaps the original that William Randolph Hearst constructed to unload artifacts and remains of European villas, churches and objects of art for his own castle up the mountain.
   Pieces of whale vertebra are being unearthed by the sea.

     And only barely more lively are elephant seals, who have wandered far from the colony to find peaceful venues for a snooze.

      While this more junior member chose a spot on the parking lot.
See you down the trail.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


meditations on a setting sun

    Bistro workers in the last of the sun's rays. Quiet before the crowd.
   The bistro exudes invitation as the darkness falls.
     A quiet moment before the hum of diners and merry-makers. The scene below conjures romance or intrigue.
     Musical venues abound on the central coast.  Below, virtuoso Keith Saunders shows why he's beloved in New York, LA and San Francisco. He was appreciated by Jazz Artists Series listeners at D'Anbino Wineries' music stage.
Sportscaster Dale Hansen on an openly gay NFL player


    See you down the trail.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


    Last year's designation, by a leading wine magazine, as the best wine region in the world has assured the Paso Robles appellation of continued attention. But it is also a burgeoning olive growing district. This view is from Kiler Ridge where some great olive oil is grown and processed. 
    The dry heat, when it should be damp or rainy cool, has confused nature. The drought continues. These hills should be green.  
    Coastal California has three seasons, golden, brown and green, but the drought has taken us from brown to concrete gray.
    These are scenes from 2 years ago, the last season we had adequate rain.

Now, only a tinge of green
    The rolling hills have taken on a gray cast, instead of the normal winter/spring "Green as Ireland" look. Believe it or not we are pleased by the tinge that you may be able to spot on the western slopes.
     This is normally a lagoon, used by birds and water fowl.

     For the time being central and southern Californians are hoping and praying for more rain, so we'll see more of this-a product of the only 3-4 inches we've had this season.
   This narrow strip near the road and mailbox is the most green we've seen.  Wish those who have had an abundance of rain or snow could pipe it west.  
    See you down the trail.

Monday, February 10, 2014


    Pacific coast evenings are the stuff of novels or cinema.

    Cozy, eclectic and exquisite dinning with family,friends   and sometimes with "show biz" luminaries. Part of the unique vibe.
     I don't understand why there is such a disparate range of reaction to George Clooney's latest project-The Monuments Men. I wouldn't nominate it for a film of the year, but it is a good film, entertaining and important. Important because it tells history, revealing a little known aspect of the larger destruction of WWII. But some simply do not like it and find faults that I did not see.  It's a great cast, with subtle but studied performances. The film moves by story line, a creative treatment of what actually happened. Had it not been for this special team the Nazi horror and the Allied bombing response would have extracted a cost that fortunately  we do not have to calculate.  Still the film has moments of poignancy as we contemplate what Germany under Hitler did, the barbarity of his mad plans and the extraordinary human toll. It reminds me of a good 1940's film. There is a kind of reminiscence of combat films I saw as a kid, but minus all of the shoot 'em up with more emphasis on the team played well by the entourage cast.
    Is a painting worth a human life?  President Truman asks that question but getting to the answer requires a bit of knowledge and Professor Clooney provides that in a history lesson, entertainingly delivered.  We are better because of knowing it. Thank you Robert Edsel for the book and Clooney and Grant Heslov for the screenplay and movie.

Here's a project
      I read once there are more original VW buses on the road in California than anywhere else. After 7 years of residency, I guess I agree having seen more in the last few years than maybe the previous 40 in Indiana. Most are in great shape, but occasionally you see a "project."

     The regional office of the Anti Defamation League (ADL) responded quickly with a packed house community forum after a jerk crawled out of their rat hole. A cranky woman confronted a new pharmacist and said "you look like your Chinese. I don't appreciate you coming into our town taking jobs from white people."  The pharmacist was born in the Philippines and has lived in the US since he was 4. He had recently purchased the pharmacy. As THE CAMBRIAN columnist John Brannon reported, the man got two "nasty notes" in his mail box. It frightened his wife who cares for their 18 month child. 
      More than 100 people jammed into the auditorium of the Cambria Center for the Arts to affirm support for the man and his family and to discuss how to respond.
       The panel included, from left, history professor Emeritus and columnist Daniel Krieger, Commander Jim Voge of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriffs Department and a Cambria resident, Dr. Elizabeth Myer of Cal Poly, an educational expert in bullying and Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Pay It Forward and 24 other books, representing the LGBT perspective.  Moderator Deborah Linden served ADL and as a former Police Chief in San Luis Obispo.
      As Commander Vogue and former Chief Linden affirmed, a hate crime incident is so out of character for Cambria. NO HATE HERE buttons, posters and bracelets are showing up around the village. Many have made a point to voice their support of the pharmacist. In more than one way, it takes a village.
       See you down the trail.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Photo by Kristin Cochrun
    Kristin, our eldest, surprised me many years ago when she asked if she could borrow my Nikon for a shot of a Water Lily in a fountain in Key West. She was very young and I was was a bit nervous as she held the camera over water, but she got a beautiful exposure and she's been a great shooter all her life.  She grabbed these shots of a hawk at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria. 
Photo by Kristin Cochrun
Hemingway wants to picnic
  There is no place where Hemingway is not comfortable, nor where his curiosity is not aroused.
   She is of a oft mingled blood line, a bit of a mutt I suppose, but a sweet natured cat.  Her markings reflect her rich heritage, her coat is extraordinarily soft and for some reason her tail is always up and angled over her back.
   Unless she is perched in the bottle brush tree, where she spends a lot of time, probably watching birds.
This needs to be seen to be appreciated, perhaps.
See you down the trail.