Monday, September 29, 2014


Living Legend
     If there was a Mount Rushmore of rock and roll, Brian Wilson would be up there.  More than two hours of high energy performance and what you get is hit, after hit, after hit.
    The principal Beach Boy was joined by his pal and an original Al Jardine for a powerful evening at the Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles. Jardine lives just up Highway 1 in Big Sur.
    When you open with California Girls, Dance, Catch a Wave, Hawaii, Shut you Down and Little Deuce Coup you set a mood and the audience was into it.
     Wilson has assembled about as tight and solid a band that a living legend can get. Scott Bennett and Darian Sahanja lay in vocal support that is every bit as good as what Wilson got from the Beach Boys. He is a musical savant and still pushes the edge. Who else would stage a live performance of Heroes and Villains-a tricky number even in the controlled environment of an edit studio? He introduced a fully instrumental Pet Sounds and asked the audience to "just listen what a band can do without vocals."
     Wilson's rapport with the audience was warm and genuine. It appeared as though he and Jardine enjoyed sharing the stage again.
      The maestro introduced God Only Knows as his "greatest song writing accomplishment." His "best!" But there were plenty of others, In My Room, Little Surfer Girl, Then I Kissed Her, Don't Worry Baby, Wouldn't It Be Nice, Sloop John B, Help Me Rhonda, I Get Around, and etc. It seemed as though the Amphitheatre jumped up in mass when they played Do You Want to Dance. And the place practically levitated when he lead into Good Vibrations.
      By the way, Jardine's voice is magic. He still sounds like a kid in his 20's. Brian is older, the band is bigger, but he's still a musical magician and can make you feel like kid and as if you are in perpetual sunlight. 

Here's how some of the big kids arrived-

Are you paying attention NFL?

     Those of you who have been following this blog for a few years will recall the posts about my friend and former colleague who wrote of his battle with leukemia including a bone marrow transplant.  I'm happy to include recent thoughts and a photo from Bob Foster.
   Photo Courtesy of Iowa State/Bob Foster
Never did I imagine that I would again be testing the wireless broadcast system on the sidelines at Jack Trice Stadium before a Big 12 game.  Resuming duties as a game site producer on a Big 12 Football radio broadcast seemed no longer possible.  Saturday afternoon was very emotional.  I wept several times and knelt in sprayer of thanksgiving before the game began.  Now, I am better prepared mentally and emotionally to approach with intensity the game broadcast at Texas on 10/18.  It is all because of Jesus I am alive.
Bob Foster.

See you down the trail.


Thursday, September 25, 2014


    Speculation and politicking has begun though Attorney General Eric Holder says he won't leave office until his replacement is confirmed.
      Who's in line to replace the most liberal member of the Obama government? What's next for Holder, the Supreme Court?
       There's been a not so silent pressure on Justice Ginsburg, the eldest of the Supremes, to step aside. She's been quoted recently as saying she has no intention of going. A logic being voiced is that if she goes now, Obama can replace her with another liberal, but if she waits and if the Senate majority changes, the President's nomination would face trouble. Pundits have a new political wrinkle to toy with and about which to exhort. 
      It will be interesting to watch as Holder has been one of Obama's closest associates.
      The Holder record is mixed and a source of controversy.
He was strong on enforcement of civil rights, pushed for same sex unions, voting rights, a change in drug sentencing laws and pushed for what he called a more fair criminal justice system.  At the same time he approved NSA snooping of American phone records even those not charged with or even suspected of a crime and he approved and directed the use of subpoenas at journalists. He was part of the brain trust that has made access to some government records more difficult, if not impossible, at the same time as putting a chill on leaks and even conversations between reporters and government employees. 
      These last matters are key in what I consider to be among this administration's failings.
       The debate over the confirmation of a new AG will likely be another circus.
     An unexpected benefit came to mind as I reflected on the recently concluded Roosevelts-An Intimate History aired on PBS. I gained what I can best describe as a sense of awareness of my parents. 
      Writer/director Ken Burns and writer Geoffrey Ward delivered a series that is a rich immersion into the times and mood of America then. Seeing it in such vivid detail gave me a setting from which to better understand and "know" my parents.
      Karl and Mary Helen were born when Woodrow Wilson was President. Teddy Roosevelt died when they were youngsters. FDR and Eleanor were huge characters on the public stage during their young adulthood. 
     They were active in politics. Dad was a combatant in the South Pacific and later worked for the post war government before going into private business. Mom remained a political activist. She was a business woman before my birth and returned to work when my youngest brother was in high school. She remained committed to issues of workplace fairness and equality. They were among the survivors of the war, depression and the accelerated changes and adjustments in the world from WWII forward. They were of the Roosevelt era. 
      My mother met Eleanor as she was assisting a friend who had suffered from polio. In the reception line at a women's event Mrs. Roosevelt asked my mother and her friend to meet her for a private conversation.  In that chat Eleanor took an interest in the well being and treatment of mom's friend, as well as an interest in my mother, at the time a young army wife. That moment had an indelible imprint on my mom and was a kind of measurement by which she judged all public figures from that time forward. 
     The PBS series is a rich compression of history and culture both fascinating and highly informative. The connection with my parents was an unexpected joy.
   Terry Gilliam continues as a master of surreal artistic movie making.  The American born Brit and one of the Pythons delivers another dazzling visual and mind tickling treat in The Zero Theorem
   Oscar winner, Christopher Waltz is superb as a neurotic data cruncher who awaits a call that he thinks will give his life significance and meaning. He waits as he undertakes trying to solve a mathematical and computer based theorem. From the opening scene, Gilliam serves up his psychotropic wonderment and you simply take a ride through a fantastic world that throws a few bon mots about the nature of existence, the meaning of life, love, intimacy and such.
   If you like Gilliam's work you'll enjoy this in what he considers the completion of the trilogy of films including Brazil and 12 Monkeys.
    The mid to late 60's had not yet turned to the "summer of love" and the arrival of FM rock.  It was the last of the era of  AM "hit radio" when this was a "cool" promotional shot.
    Pretty young ladies, a Jaguar XKE and radio personalities just hanging out in the middle of the antennae field-something we did every day, right? In a year the ties were gone, the hair was longer and cool was morphing into groovy.
     I wonder where I got those shades?

     See you down the trail.

Monday, September 22, 2014


    The battle over book banning will play out in this window 24 hours a day for the next week.
     Tim Youd will essentially live in the front window of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial library as he types, on a typewriter no less, the entire Fahrenheit 451 written by Ray Bradbury.
     The effort is spurred by the American Library Association's continuing fight against the banning of books.  The Vonnegut is a natural as his Slaughterhouse Five has faced occasional banning and even burning since the 1970's.
      Full disclosure here; I'm a member of the Vonnegut Memorial Library and a great fan of the Indianapolis native. A previous post takes you to the Vonnegut Memorial Library which you can read here. Being a first amendment absolutist I abhor book banning, even those that I might consider trash, subversive, offensive or any other such subjective objection.  Free is free.
    As work spaces go, the office, winery and tasting room at Halter Ranch sets an example of great modern California architecture and a nice place to work.
   The drive in is pretty sweet as well.
   Harvest time is underway in the Paso Robles west side.

    If you enjoyed Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in THE TRIP, you will probably enjoy the THE TRIP TO ITALY.  
    Plenty of laughs, gorgeous Italian country side and a foodies delight of kitchen, restaurant and meal scenes.
    We left and headed to Giuseppe's for Italian grape and repast. We couldn't help our self. 
Here's the trailer
   California's need for rain is critical.  This scene, from between Paso Robles and the Pacific Coast Highway is all too common.
   See you down the trail.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


     Something good may come of the domestic brutality cases haunting the NFL. People are talking about the pathology of abuse and abusive relationships. Sponsors are flexing their muscle and putting pressure on the league and individual team endorsements. That too will help raise consciousness and provoke more talk. 
    Perhaps the major sack out there is the effort to revoke the tax exempt status of the NFL. If you were unaware, the league has estimated revenues of 9 Billion dollars but is tax exempt, as a not for profit entity. Incredible you say?  This link takes you a Mother Jones article that explores the matter.
       There is also the matter of the 44 Million dollar salary of the non profit's Commissioner.The story of Roger Goodell's salary and the NFL Not for Profit status reported here by Esquire Magazine.   
   These are fluid times for the NFL, teams and those who help fuel the giant entertainment dynasty.
    As the old TV soap opera announcer intoned, "Like sands through the hourglass, these are the Days of our Lives."
    That was a favorite of my grandmother and great aunts so I heard it often. I think of it often as I watch the surf erase foot prints in the sand."
   Jackson Browne wrote in These Days "These days I seem to think a lot about the things I forgot to do for you…"
 Visiting with friends we are reminded of the swift flow and the wisdom of not leaving things unsaid or kindnesses undone,
  or of the joy in keeping the child in us alive. 
     When we arrived in Cambria, recent retirees and just beginning the throttle back process, our wise plumber Phil told us to go out to Moonstone beach, settle into the sand and search for moonstones. "That'll help you relax."  Indeed it does, still.
   A concert served as the inaugural event at the old Woodland Garage where, as promoter Steve Crimmel said, "nothing had gone on" in decades.
 Austin based Eliza Gilkyson and guitarist extraordinare Nina Gerber initiated the new venue in a Painted Sky presented concert that blessed the old place with sweet sound, vibrant energy and remarkable artistry. 
   The old garage has been refurbished to provide relaxed seating and lounge space.
   Who would have thunk the old garage would grow up to be a nice funky concert venue?  We hope Steve will book more shows into the Main Street gem.

    This blogger is in the class photo from Garfield Elementary School. Want to guess where?

     See you down the trail.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society and Indiana University
     To quote Ed Murrow "this just might do nobody any good." To paraphrase his 1958 speech to the Radio TV News Directors Association (RTNDA), at the end of this a few people may misunderstand what I'm saying, but here I go.
      We need to find a balance point where those who wish to address and treat sins of the past do not also destroy history or use deconstructionism without restraint and/or the balance of intellectual buffers.
      A case in point-The Thomas Hart Benton mural.
Controversial when it was created in the 1930's it is said to make people uncomfortable now. Why?  The depiction of the KKK. An honest appraisal of Indiana history cannot ignore the Klan. 
       If you are disturbed by the Klan portrayal consider proportion and perspective. The hooded terrorists are counter weighted by a white nurse attending to an African American child. More visual counter punch is the left anchor of the Benton panel composed of the press, an editor/writer and reporter that challenged and broke the Klan's extraordinary control of Indiana politics and the 1920's Republican party.  
      The media's battle with the Klan is iconic. Pulitzer awards have been given. I was awarded a National Emmy for my investigative documentary of the modern Klan in America. I've been an enemy of discrimination and prejudice, including racism, sexism, ageism and other manifestations of bias. My body of work is deep in reporting on these issues.
      We should find a way to be aware of sensitivities without trying to edit the past. The mural is not, as some have said, a glorification of the Klan, rather it is a depiction of fact. Reality, regardless of pain or absurdity cannot or should not be retrospectively edited or worse, deleted. Knowledge dictates that we recognize historic truths.
     History appreciates with understanding and by sifting nuance and seeing things in context through an honest assessment.  Later we may come to advanced understandings, gain insight, change our minds, learn, discover information and evolve, but the ground from which we and knowledge derive is historic fact. What we see and call history must be understood not only in the context of our time-but in the framework of what people knew and did in their own time. 
     As a high school kid I spent time in the city room of the Indianapolis Times. A giant replica of the front page announcing the Times winning a Pulitzer for their investigation of the Klan adorned a wall. It made a huge impression. When I took the stage in New York to accept the national Emmy for my own investigation I stepped into a slip stream of iconic history. The Benton art tells part of that story. 
    Though you may think the behavior is offensive, the painting itself of klansmen and the burning cross should not be regarded as offensive in intent  but rather as part of that stream of history. In the painting the Klan is seen as small, yet the nurse doing good service and the press loom more significant and impressive.  And if you look carefully you will see the klansmen are dominated and overridden by circus performers. There was a time when most circus acts wintered in Indiana. I think Benton was expressing a bit of poetic contempt and mockery by that juxtaposition.  
     No the Benton mural is not offensive, and those who think it is are simply wrong. It is history and should be taught and respected as such. And as I study it again I am reminded there must always have been those who like to ignore or even forget as well as those who may be rightfully upset with our past, who would like to expunge it. We can not help but analyze by virtue of what we know, but we must keep in mind that we are only as effective as we are fully and historically informed. 
       We cannot change the past.
a time of season
   A bath modernization is underway and so….
  the master bedroom is a staging area-complete with new appointments
  while the deck is a work and storage area.
  For a curious guy, watching the craftsmen has been a fascination.
  Lana's recent kitchen project-a less enduring output.
  While I'm going to war with gophers.  Is it ok to call them bastards?!

  Despite the noise of tile saws or hammering, or my grumbling about gophers, Hemingway's project is to emulate Garfield.
   I think he's got it all figured out.

   See you down the trail.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


   A group of us sat around a table talking about the concept of judgment. I offered that most of us, despite any differences on other matters probably agreed about Ray Rice, the now suspended NFL star seen knocking out his fiancee.
   The current Sports Illustrated asks what the Ray Rice matter tells us about the NFL?  It's a huge enterprise, enormously wealthy and feeds a massive audience. At the bottom it is all about money, even greed perhaps.
    The league has serious troubles in that many of the gladiators are barely above the rank of street thug. Football programs since their childhood have permitted if not contributed to the condition. Schools tolerated only a pretense of education so star talent could play. Young men learn athletic skills but may know little about civility and how to be mature men. Character is rarely coached or taught. Strength, power and athleticism is valued. Off field violence and run ins with the law are all too frequent. The NFL has been woefully negligent in caring about much more than the big show and the big dollars.
    I know good men of up standing character who have been NFL players and even stars. There are many and some are truly extraordinary. Tony Dungy is a man I admire, respect and hold up as a role model. But all of the good men in the league, be they coaches, players or team executives, have less influence than the real power-that exclusive club of team owners whose primary interest is money. The Commissioner is their employee. They make the rules. They own the players. Sometimes they bilk money from cities to build huge stadiums where they can earn many more millions. They have extraordinary control and they can and should do a better job of riding heard on their combatants. 
      A small little personal experience is a window into the owner run league. When the league can tell a local television station where they can and cannot shoot, when they can and cannot shoot, even in a municipally funded stadium-public space, even if it is not football footage, it demonstrates the autocratic power they exert. So the democratic balance of power should be such that society can tell the league to get serious about criminal activity. They can control their fiefdoms, but the public can demand enforcement of regulations that respect and honor public law and statutes.
       There is news the owner of the San Francisco 49'ers suspended a team broadcaster for comments that could have been interpreted as insensitive. I think he just made a simplistic or even stupid comment about women who are victims of abuse. It is not just a matter of a victim speaking up as his comments implied. I don't think the radio announcer wanted to come even close to saying he condoned the abuse, but his comment underscores how little the public knows about the psychology and pathology of this kind of abusive relationship.  Still, he's out for two games. Yet you have to wonder about players, who are still playing, despite previous offenses of spousal abuse or criminal behavior. It's probably easier to penalize a broadcaster than bench a star.  Who's going to put the most money back in the leagues pocket?
      So, yes, there is a lot opportunity to judge. A judgement most of us have made is that if there had not been video of Ray Rice knocking out his fiancee, he'd still be playing. What does that say about how serious is the league?
      It is a fascinating mystery how Coyote Brush can remain green when all around it withers and browns in drought. Also called Chaparral Broom it is not only drought tolerant, it's a nectar source for wasps, butterflies and flies.
    Wild fennel also tolerates drought.
   We've hiked past this plain when its nature as a wetland is apparent. Life here awaits rain.
   A lot of nature seems stressed by the third year of the California drought.  The owner of this Live Oak said he's never seen it produce acorns, let alone such an abundance.
   Those who know say it is a type of self protective response. 
   Dying Monterey Pine will often produce an abundance of cones, apparently as a kind of last hurrah. So many rhythms and subtexts in nature.
   Revisiting shots taken on a trip to Yosemite-trying to get my mind around the fire.
   More than a hundred people were helicoptered out the area near half dome. About 4,500 acres have been burned. 400 firefighters and 8 helicopters have it about 10% contained.  Hoping for cooler and damp weather to help.
     Those who helicoptered from here have adventures to tell.
     1965- On assignment, covering a county fair. That square microphone and cable?  They connect to a reel to reel recorder, now ancient technology. I was a college freshman, working on room and board. This is the first "promotional" shot I participated in. That's a polaroid I'm holding, probably the photographers test shot.

See you down the trail.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Warning-this post includes notes on climate science.
    Cambria artist Bruce Marchese said he was experimenting with an abstract work. Bruce is best known for his rich color and realistic capture of people and scenes so I was intrigued. His vivid abstract piece now hangs at the Art Center. It's a brilliant representation of Eucalyptus bark. I see why he was so captivated.
    These Eucalyptus stand in a grove at San Simeon state park. They have competition in the color department though.
    This living abstract is the peeling bark of a Madrone.
   Hey Bruce, if you have success with the Eucalyptus you might consider the Madrone as your next model!
   This grand citizen of planet earth is one of the largest living things and one of the oldest.
     The only place in the world where you find these 2,000 to 3,000 year Sequoias is in the Sierra Nevada. Jim Robbins of the New York Times has published an article linked here that details the concern of biologists that climate change, especially longer or more frequent droughts, may peril the existence of these masters of the mountains.
    Sequoias, a type of redwood, have no disease or insect enemies and they can survive fire, but they need water, either in rain or snow melt.
    I've pondered if there isn't a message in this for humankind. Could there be something in the bark or essence of the largest and oldest living things on earth that could provide a molecular blessing?  Disease free, survive fire? What other living thing has such a resume?
    There is something else to these living spires. I am never  in a redwood forest or among the Sequoias that I don't sense a palpable spirit. Yes, there are differences on questions of the Divine, spirituality and faith, the degree and nature of climate change, but there can be no dissent on the overwhelming awesomeness of the power and survivability of the big trees. I think of them as the planet's silent sentries. What wisdom do they hold?

 See you down the trail.