Wednesday, November 26, 2014


   Highway 46 overlooking Morro Bay.  Thanksgiving will be green this year.
     The tinge was prompted by three light rain events, the most significant accumulation being 1.2 inches. It is a start.
    Cattle trails appear on the slopes as lines on weathered hide.
   We are also grateful for the green of Thanksgiving and the promise of more rain.
   November 1976, our cabin home in the woods in southern Indiana where we continued a tradition begun years before-our Friend's Thanksgiving. It began before we were parents and when many of the friends were single or just getting hooked up. 
   By 1976 it had become a feast indeed and our little cabin was full of great and grateful friendship.
  After the ample meal your's truly did the best he could to fight the affect of L-Tryptophan. 
  Frequent readers of the blog have noted periodic references to or comments from The Catalyst-AKA Bruce Taylor. Here is an early 80's iteration of said madman!
  BTW-it was on his blog this week where I raised the issue
of "authenticity" of this holiday of thanks. 
   The first Thanksgiving may have been in or near what is now El Paso Texas and in 1598. A young spanish scion of a family with Royal alliances and who had done work for the King of Spain in this New World, launched an expedition in the summer of 1597. They were to travel to a land grant holding the young man earned near what is now El Paso.
They commenced from southern Chihuahua near Santa Barbara (Mx). It was a hellish a go. Drought, flooding, hostiles, near starvation before crossing the Rio Grande. Later after a period of recuperation the young Juan de Onate arranged a feast of thanksgiving. The Spanish provided game, the Indian's provided fish, a mass was said by
Franciscans and apparently a happy event was launched. Historians have said this celebration was one of the significant dates in the history of the American Continent. 

It seems the feast we gather is identified with the English, who as you note, gave thanks more than a half century later.

    His follow up post includes a notation that some scholars believe the Spanish celebrated even earlier in Florida. Despite the historical debate, it might be good to add a Spanish, Texan or Mexican touch to your traditional feasting.
   Regardless of origin, a day given to being thankful is cool.
So too is this-VERY GOOD PRICE- for California!
Safe travel.  Happy Thanksgiving.

See you down the trail. 

Monday, November 24, 2014



    It's the time when the sun's angles are harder and fleeting
but the light bursts.
     Fog ghosting out of valleys at sunrise
   or clouds surfing on the setting sun offer themselves.
   Disappearing afternoon rays offer Hemingway a patch of warmth.
 In the east a moon pokes above the mountain top.
   In the west, the nightly dunking.
   On this evening a crescent moon presides over the afterglow.
   The earlier post regarding Lindsey Graham's destructive comments and their legacy have been removed.  They do not warrant your attention as we watch the evolution of events resulting from the grand jury report in Ferguson.
  The posturing of Graham and other Senate Republicans may derail hopes the party could return to more practical, pragmatic and traditional positions and leadership. There will be more appropriate times to wade into that. 

    See you down the trail.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


   New life is being built into the iconic Cayucos Pier with its bay view of Morro Rock.
   It was built in 1872 but a Pacific storm last year did damage that forced it closed.  
   People have raised $500 thousand to repair the Cayucos pier that includes putting in 14 new pilings. The original pilings were pine from Cambria, just up the coast.  
   Cayucos was the maritime capitol of the north coast as steamships made almost daily trips to and from San Francisco and Los Angeles. For years it was also the starting point of commercial fishing. It has been a recreational pier since the 1920's.

   Under gray velvet skies workers are installing new life to the popular tourist and recreational icon.
   It's the 1974 Indiana Democratic State Convention and there was a helluva credentials fight underway. This is the closed meeting of the credentials committee. It was closed until an Indianapolis Star photographer and I crashed the party.
    The African American man in the patterned jacket in the left of the frame was a certified delegate, one of many, who was being denied voting privileges on the convention floor. I was reporting live on the flap and decided that while the fate of many votes was being decided in a closed door room, I'd take my live microphone, giant headphones and the public's interest right to the spot. The Star photographer followed. I suspect he thought he'd get a shot of a journalist getting tossed out.
    The big man, third from the right, is the credentials chair, Tiny Hunt and he was cross checking lists and signatures. Earlier I had reported about dead phone banks, lack of access and other political chicanery that a well connected political machine had orchestrated against an opposition candidate. Ah, the good old days.
    By the way, the man was certified and so were several others. From my vantage it was obvious. I don't know how it might have turned out had there not been a pushy and nosy reporter looking over their shoulders.

   Jonathan Gruber, an economist from MIT has evoked a hue and cry from some for a comment he made in 2013. He was quoted as saying the Affordable Health Care Act, aka Obama Care, was passed because of the stupidity of the  American people and because of a lack of transparency by the Obama administration.
   A few facts-Gruber was not on the staff of the White House or Health and Human Services or the Democratic Party. He was a consultant paid to measure and analyze the impact of something called the "adjusted community rating"--in essence it is the affect on prices based on pooling clusters of insured patients.
    Gruber is reported to have said the health care act was written in such a way as to hide these price variances.
     A couple of more facts. The President talked about that price variable in February of 2010.  The Congressional Budget Office wrote a letter to Indiana Senator Evan Bayh in November 2009 saying that the result could be increased premiums for younger and healthier workers. In fact there are several other instances where the price and premium variances were discussed openly by Democrats and Republicans.
     Gruber is probably not a stupid man, but he certainly acted like one with his own "stupidity" comment.  He was very well paid to perform his analysis.  He's entitled to his view, but it was stupid to say what he did because he was incorrect. There had been plenty of transparency even if many American voters were not paying attention.
     Now this will not go over well with some, but in fact many Americans display behavior that would indicate stupidity. Even with all of the news and information services available fewer people are spending time reading or consuming news. The majority of those who do choose their network or news outlet based on political or ideological leaning. Does preaching to the choir resonate here?  Americans are however very well entertained. 
     The streaming networks, premium cable, basic cable and the old fashioned broadcast networks do well in harvesting millions of viewers for a variety of entertainment programs. Gaming is reaching staggering new levels of popularity, but news programming continues to decline. Newspaper readership is also precarious. 
       Let me just drop these comparisons.  Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty or Frontline and Charlie Rose. 
     Perhaps the drop in circulation and viewership reflects dissatisfaction with the quality of the product. Perhaps not! A friend who is a former newspaper syndication executive and who has a particular political preference will still consume a broad spectrum of national and international news sources. She comes to her views from a studied perspective and she, like people with intelligence, holds a variety of perspectives. Conservative on some, liberal on others. Sadly most people are not so discerning.
    A good case can be made that many Americans display signs of stupidity on issues of health, fitness, diet, public safety, diversity, cultural understanding, civility, standards, manners, understanding of history, distracted driving and etc. Now, when this pool is adjusted to political participation you are bound to get manipulation, exploitation, low information voters and stupidity.  Frankly I've heard comments from sitting members of the US Congress who convince me they are what I call "mouth breathers." And isn't it stupid to vote on a piece of legislation that you have not read?
     Back when Izzy Stone was alive and publishing I.F. Stone's Weekly, American Journalists would have known and read the full legislative package and would have raised hell if members of congress had not. Sadly American journalism misses that kind of determination, drive, attention to detail, even boring detail.  
    Tons of information and data are available now, but you have to go get it. Fortunately it's at the end of your finger tips thanks to the same digital age that is robbing us of privacy. I guess it's a trade off.
     So yes Mr Gruber and Mr and Mrs America, some of you are stupid. Maybe we are all stupid in our own way-but just not the way you think we are. Eh?
      By the way, the now notorious Jonathan Gruber had a 
previous client before he worked on Obamacare.  He 
performed the same role for Massachusetts. There its been called Romneycare.

    I understand why Rosewater is collecting so much acclaim. The story is important and compelling and Stewart has done a superb job of converting Maziar Bahari's book (and life changing event) into a screenplay and film. Gael Garcia Bernal is brilliant as Bahari and Kim Bodina is masterful as Rosewater, the interrogator. So much of the orbit of the film is around the interaction of these two and they deliver extraordinary performances.
   I had some of the same feelings in seeing Rosewater that I had in seeing Costa Gavras' 1969 classic Z, that dealt with repression in Greece. Heavy handed government thuggery still exists and the challenge of journalism, even in the 21st century, sometimes is to simply endure repression by idiots and zealots.
    Jon Stewart has moved into directing with talent, finesse and great chops.  

      See you down the trail.

Monday, November 17, 2014



Yucca plants thrive in desert zones and give the terrain a populated feeling.

 They add color and texture to the brown and sand scape tones. They remind me of clusters of gesticulating dancers.

    Following three years of drought Californians are beginning to see tinges of winter green. Two small rain showers in the last couple of weeks have charged the grazing slopes with something on which to graze.
  There is precious little green but even that softens the concrete gray and brown of the dry slopes. 

    Everything about INTERSTELLAR is big. Big name cast, director, story, themes, concept and running time. 
     Christopher Nolan is an accomplished director and movie maker. He uses his full skill range in writing a storyline and then turning it into a film that is adventure, heartwarming, thrilling, mind bending, and stunning.  But it is long.
     Mathew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jane Chastain, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, John Lithgow and Michael Caine  live up to their reputations.  Josh Stewart and Bill Irwin as TARS and CASE, on board computers, were terrific. In fact I'd love to have one of those around here.
      Planet degradation, government cut backs in science, family dynamics, parental love, black holes, and time space continuums are all treated as part of the story line.  Unexpected but nicely handled was the scene where a teacher upbraids McConaughey and his daughter for using a text book that teaches about the Apollo flights to the moon. The teacher insists that was all propaganda by the US to force the Soviet Union to spend more than they had on space research. 
      There is a lot to this big and epic film and you'll need to enjoy sic-fi, science, space, action and mental riddles to love it. Lana enjoyed it less than I did. A buddy with whom we saw the film said it was a bit long.  However there is an act, series of scenes, where time, a moment in time, is portrayed across a spectrum of realities, dimensions and time itself. It was stunning to see as it played and I've found that I continue to roam back over the concept and the visualization of it. If theoretical physics could have been taught in such a way, I might have been seduced by that sense of "reality."  It will stretch your head a bit.  Or not! At any rate I'd like to put TARS or CASE on my Christmas gift wish list.

    See you down the trail.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


   Sunrise was too pretty to ignore. My admiration of it woke up that corner of the brain where vexing thoughts are caged, waiting to leap into a blank space. 
   One of the troubles with the news business is the derogatory but not inaccurate sobriquet for a style of news "If it bleeds it leads." To be clear that means if it is crime or disaster, tragedy, plane crash, wreck, fire, explosion, or etc. it's the first story of a newscast. Fortunately not all television news rooms operate by that ethos, but too many do. The more competitive the market, the more likely there's a station that follows that path.
   NIGHTCRAWLER starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a stringer (freelance) photographer is a well done examination of the pathology of that kind of news, as played out in Los Angeles.
    One of the brilliant elements of this film is the extraordinary visual treatment of Los Angeles at night. Oscar winning Cinematographer Robert Elswit offers a rich and stunning essay. Seeing his work, especially the open sequence, is worth the price of admission. 
    Director Dan Gilroy plumbs the exploitative, crass world of sensationalism that passes as a kind of tabloid television.  Rene Russo, who coincidentally is married to Gilroy, is marvelous as a desperate news director, once a beautiful young reporter now trying to hang on to a job at a low ranking station by spiking the ratings with overnight gore gathered by Gyllenhaal.  
     Gyllenhaal's character is a solitary whacko. I think of him as a slick cousin or even brother to Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. Gyllenhaal's performance is incredible. As Jon Stewart joked he only blinked twice in 2 hours. Indeed Gyllenhaal's eyes and manic delivery are so riveting it'll give you the creeps.  It is a great character by which Gilroy can explore the senselessness of exploitative content and the tyranny of ratings.
     I know of situations where station reputations and staff integrity have been destroyed by this cheap and trashy management and style. Still, there are enough viewers who thrive on tabloid journalism that it exists.

PROFESSIONAL and/or Citizen Journalists
  How deeply should newsrooms go in utilizing or pandering to social media? The debate continues and the first episode of NEWSROOM, the excellent Aaron Sorkin HBO drama mines the issue set against the Boston Marathon bombing.  
   NEWSROOM is to journalism what WEST WING was to politics, only much better because it is more realistic, drawn from real critical judgements and experience. Plus the acting, writing and directing are all worthy of the multiple Emmys.  

   As a television news director I guided an evolution of a traditional and historic news organization into digital news gathering, processing and dissemination.  We changed the technology on which we wrote, edited and the cameras we used to capture the pictures.  Our remote trucks changed from microwave to satellite. We changed our work flow from television only to television and Internet. We moved from thinking only about the big screen to feeding computers, pads, and phones. We changed our graphics, our presentation style and our pace. In changing how we worked, we also advanced the output and our approach to thinking about what is news and how we cover it.  
    I've been retired a few years now, but even back then we were starting to wrestle with blogging, the ethics and legality of using material from personal phones or on line chatter. Now Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other micro blogging and social networking realities impinge on how a news shop operates. I'm not sure they've got it figured out, or properly.  But as my old friend and former broadcast journalist the Catalyst AKA Bruce Taylor cajoles me, don't worry about it. You can't do anything about anyway.  It's another generation's problem. Yea, probably so. But it makes great fodder for film, television or having a drink and bullshitting, or posting about.
     It may still wake me, but Bruce is right. It's someone else's job now.
Late Afternoon
Post Sunset
could have been the national bird
Heavy Weather on the way
Turning on the night lights
    My late brother Jim, at the wheel and yours truly enjoying a day of golf in the late 70's or early 80's.  Dad was an extraordinary golfer, Jim and I not so much.  But we had fun.

      See you down the trail.

Monday, November 10, 2014


     Olmsted Point, one of America's iconic locations, offers a view of the north side of Half Dome, one of the planet's most incredible spots.
   It seems appropriate this powerful view is named for a family that exerted powerful influence over how we live with nature.
   Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. who designed New York's Central Park is considered the father of American landscape architecture.  His son Frederick Jr. followed his path. Jr designed Biltmore and worked on Acadia, the Everglades and Yosemite. They understood the importance of nature,  setting and the quality of timelessness.
  Now generations come to this high spot in Yosemite and inspire their own muse.
Photo by Lana Cochrun
     Millard Fillmore, a Whig, was President when the Onyx Store opened in 1851. Today the store gets high ratings for its sandwiches, though there are not many places around this Kern County establishment in the town of 475.  
     The Onyx Store opened two years after the California Gold Rush began.  As an historical footnote, it was the year Moby Dick was published, the Yacht America, from the New York Yacht Club, won the first Americas Cup race and Virginia decided that all white males had the right to vote.
      A piece of the old west survives. What stories it could to tell.
     Michael Keaton in Birdman is one of the all time great performances. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu weaves a quirky comedic tale powered by incredible acting all around. Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Zach Galifinakas and the rest of cast are all simply superb. But Keaton leaves us with a theatrical work of art.  In fact the film is very much like excellent theatre and coincidentally is shot at and around the St. James theatre, all of which adds texture and nuance to what we see. Seeing Keaton work is a joy.  
     There is a scene where Norton is trying for a role in the play Keaton is staging. The two do an audition rehearsal and as characters they realize there is a magic in the way they interact. Fact is, you get that same pop and awareness from your seat watching the play in the film and realize there is some talent at work, in combine.
      If you get to see this work, pay particularly close attention to Keaton's eyes. Masterful work. Hope the politics of the Academy work in such a way he gets a nomination for this performance.

      See you down the trail.


Thursday, November 6, 2014


putting elections and other foibles in perspective
    Power, force and mystery collude in the mountains to impose a sense of permanence. It is here that all human designs are rendered as temporary and passing. But it is in the mountains that humankind is also inspired, even in a mystical union and state of awe.
Life on the edge
Cosmic furniture moving

Layers of Time
How many millions of moon rises have these mountains seen?

Peaceful but powerful 
God's Marbles

Between a rock and a…..

   A couple of observations about this 1967 radio promotion photo. This was a benefit and the queen and her court are "pinning" us. Note that all of the "pin-ees", even the chairman of the health association are looking at the camera, except yours truly who seems more taken by the princess. 
   That tie! Well, it was the age of "mods". Side burns too.
   The WERK KREW jocks, Big Joe London, Wild Bill Shirk, "Mr. Show Biz" Gil Hole and Tommy the C. Yea, it was an age for nicknames too.
since you can never see enough
   It loomed large as it poked up over the Santa Lucia range. Color from the not yet set sun splashed over the mountains.
 Just above the horizon it looked like a special effect.
  As it continued its rise it began to get smaller.

    See you down the trail.