Thursday, April 30, 2015


   Red rock country near Sedona Arizona-
   Nature induces spirituality, contemplation, meditation and awe.

    A fraternity brother, now a retired psychologist said it well the other night; "If I was a young black man, no sense of future, poor education, unemployed and grew up watching police violence on other black people, I'd be angry too."
    Violence and looting will only make things worse, but cities, especially police departments, need to see the root causes. An economic underclass breeds discontent. Put police brutality and insensitivity into the mix and you have an explosive trigger. Baltimore police have paid out some six million dollars in settlement claims in the last few years because of inappropriate conduct. Unemployment among minority youth in Baltimore is stratospheric compared to other cities.
     There are many guilty parties in this kind of hellish problem and no one should get a pass on personal responsibility but it's foolish to expect a standard of behavior from people who have not been trained, educated and given an opportunity to grow up in a non hostile, non threatening world where the definition of civility means something. You can't do it if you don't know it. How to fix that is complicated, touchy and will require commitment from people and government. This much is sure, inappropriate police conduct and lack of understanding will only make it worse.
    This is one of the better films you can see. Excellent theatrical performance in the interpretation of an ugly, grinding piece of history.
    Helen Mirren, who again is astounding in her acting, portrays a Jewish woman Maria Altman, trying to reclaim a painting that was stolen from her family by the Nazis and which remained in the clutches of an arrogant Austrian government that at the time acquiesced to the Germans and since refused to admit guilt and theft.
    The entire cast is superb.  I'm a real fan of Daniel Bruhl who lights it up, even in his small role.  Two brief but wonderful character roles come from Jonathan Pryce as Chief Justice Rehnquist and Elizabeth McGovern as Judge Florence Cooper. Ryan Reynolds is a believable Randol Schoenberg. Charles Dance evokes a gut response to his character's arrogance and shortsightedness. He's so good at evil. Tatiana Maslany is hypnotic as a young Marian Altman, looking like Mirren. But Mirren's performance alone is a reason to watch, though the storyline, the quest for justice and the historical foundation are too important not to see and ponder.
     A line from Schoenberg about the "two Austrias" is not so vaguely reminiscent of the type of divides that exist in America on matters of race, sex, gender and economic class.

   See you down the trail.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


   The CSNY lyrics have been playing in my head the last few days. Life's trail has delivered us to another side. 

      "And you of tender years 
     can't know the fears that your elders grew by.
     And so please help them with your youth,
     They seek the truth before they can die."

     There was a time and it doesn't seem so long ago when we stood on one side of that time scape, but now the view has changed.

   The door opened on these musings when my long time pal, one time colleague and mentor began plans for his 75th birthday.
    Bruce Taylor, aka The Catalyst of the blogosphere, is one of the old guard and he has friends of the same ilk.
     These old boys were once hell bent for leather newsmen.
We were of the generation that worked hard in the pursuit of the evening's news, because it was a good thing to do. Family time, meals, days off, hostile weather or surroundings, distances, dangers and the like were of less concern than getting the story and getting it told. I guess we sensed a kind of entitlement because of the importance of what we were about and so we'd push it. 
     At the party our mentor, second from the left, reminded us of the old adage, "it's better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission." We lived that way. There was no place off limits, no question unaskable, no speed limit or big shot so important as to stand between us and the job-a job we believed was being done for the public's good and right to know.
    We were of a generation of smoke filled news rooms or edit bays, with colleagues that worked, played and drank hard. Sometimes too hard! But that was then.
        I'm happy to see my old pal living the genteel life of a retiree, enjoying the beauty of his surroundings. But it launches ponderings about where is it all going and so quickly. Once we were on the edge, now we are on the sideline.

  I hope he'll tell me someday what thoughts were behind this expression as he beheld his 75th. This is one of the all time great deadline kings, raconteurs and madmen! So if he is 75, is it time for us to grow up?        Naw!
  Thanks to Judy and Gail for preparing such a wonderful feast and two days of party. It was good to connect with a couple of other older boys as well.  
   So as I ponder the complexities and mystery of the calendar and passing equinoxes I offer a series of shots, as a kind of advice for Old Taylor, cat lover that he is. Maybe we should all do a little more of this.


     So in the meantime, you of a certain age,

    "teach your children what you believe in
     Make a world we can live in…"
    "…and feed them on your dreams
    the one they picked, the one they'll know by…"

    See you down the trail. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


    Earth Day was born in a setting very much like this. In fact the actual site was 2 hours south along Santa Barbara. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson had seen the ugly tragedy of the 1969 west coast oil spill and conceived of a day to spark an awareness of planet health and to take advantage of the political activism of that era.
    It was a far different age in 1970.  Democrat Nelson got the cooperation of California Republican Pete McCloskey to serve as his co-chair and the rest is history. But what kind of history has it been?
    Environmentalism is an international movement, but some deride environmental awareness. Nations now have Environmental Protection Agencies and clean air and water laws, but politicians in cahoots with industry find ways to put money first.
    Precious forests are being cut or burned, waters are poisoned, there are dead zones in the ocean, the air is unbreathable in cities, the climate is changing and industry groups pay billions to stop remedial efforts or change laws.
    An alarmist view is sounded by author Naomi Klein who says the world's economic systems are at war with planetary health and well being. At another extreme some refuse to acknowledge the planet's climate is changing at all, even by natural causes.
   We can recall Earth Days that have been celebratory, noting passage of laws and clean ups of hazardous sites and spills. Today Earth Day strikes me as an effort at emergency triage. We know what's wrong. We know how to prevent or fix most of it. But we seem emasculated. Rather than vigorously pursue planetary health which is also the health of human kind, we continue sewing seeds of demise. The leading player in this tragic farce is greed.
    Earth Day is too important about which to become passé.
What do you think?  Do we need a shot of activism? Would it make difference? What do you think is to come?
   A group of folks gathered recently at lands end and on old earth and seabed to learn from geologist Dr. David Chipping.

    The play of earth and sea never ends.  Faults and other forces of nature create and change terra firma.

  The story of centuries are written in layers of rock and stone. As Dr. Chipping said of the cut away below "There's a nice picture. It tells a story."  
   Layers that speak to ages of sea, wind, sand and earth in continuous dance and tumble.
   Warmer than normal Pacific waters teamed with wind currents have produced an unusual phenomena along the central coast-millions of Velella velella. They are zooids but rather mysterious. Something like Portuguese Man of War, they have a sail that carries them over the water. In the last week, they have been washing ashore along California beaches.

   They bleach out and loose the top sail and the vibrant blue, but become a kind of wave marker.
  Recently saw Walter Becker and Donald Fagan and friends, AKA Steely Dan in a kind of pre-tour warm up. They will hit the road for a major tour this summer, sharing a bill with Elvis Costello.  If they come to a venue near you, and if you like mastery of sound in a rock/jazz fusion, make sure to see them.
  They lay out a sound structure, like a building. It is an intricate combination of individual instruments and voices that you can follow or you can widen out and hear some of the most intricate, complex and sweet musical creation on the planet.  
   These guys stopped touring until they could master the intricate sound system required to capture the artistry they produce.  This is a link to a quick look at some of the best musical players on mother earth.

    See you down the trail.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


    My brother John was apparently an effective psychotherapist. Even psychiatrists, with the capacity to order medical intervention, hired him to work with extraordinarily troubled patients.
    I was fascinated by an experimental technique he employed where in he had schizophrenic patients draw maps of their brains, including neural circuits. He would,  step by step, navigate them through a thought or reaction beginning with the sensory cues. The therapy was to "reroute the traffic," to find a new way of thinking, responding and reacting.
    As the 2016 Presidential circus launches don't we all need  a similar "intervention" as regards the mix of information and its delivery and how we feel or reason? Coverage is obsessively about the horse race and is more silly, shallow and of dubious focus and proportionality than during Obama-Romney. Much of it is ideologically or politically skewed and overly generous with pundits and hot air. It is long on entertainment and presentation value and short on thoughtful, non pack, intellectually independent journalism and inquiry.
   Electoral politics also populates the prismatic effulgence of the Internet. Almost no view is left unstated. And we've all got one, at least, so there is a law of diminishing returns at work. 
     It is a renegade American Idol. We'll see the parade of GOP hopefuls in a traveling fight and we'll wait for Hillary to stumble or crumble. Independents and Democrats either like her or they don't. Those who are Republicans must come to accord with one of their multiple choice field. But can there be many undecided or non-committed between D's and R's. Is there enough to compose a "significant difference" in the interim? 
    Before the media and campaign gillies roll, minds are set, but the carnival will go on for a reason certain. Money. Politics, especially presidential politics, is an industry and commerce is good. Billions are churned and much of it gets spread around the media that has no interest in shortening the season, silly or otherwise. They're in it for ad dollars. 
    Plan on plenty of silly, inane, irrelevant, hyperbolic, partisan, mean and self important. Analytical numbers, polls, probabilities and indexes, will be creatively displayed. At the game's end, numbers win.  
     Sadly much of this will play without benefit of Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report. David Letterman is riding off into the sunset too. Yikes! We're being left without our media "neural circuit" traffic cops. What is our protection? 
     Cheers to the inventor of the off switch!

    See you down the trail.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015



     Some change is more difficult to abide. The change to Cambria's rare Monterey Pine forest is heart breaking and so too is big change in a little church.

   Slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains, hill sides and canyons display the unmistakable damage, wrought by drought, disease and management practices. It is sad to see though a reminder of the tenuous grasp of life and health.

     Imagine a small town rich with diversity of intellect, life experience and birthright. Picture a charming little church where people of all sorts gather in friendship. This is a cast of actors who represent a cross section of ideas, politics, influence, economic profiles, levels of education and attitudes. 
      See this extended family stand by each other in good times and bad. They celebrate together and they comfort each other as they mourn. They know they have their differences, in the secular world, even in theology, but it is their unity and family which holds them together, so they may grow as people and believers. And they do.
      Then a Pastor tells them a danger is lurking. It is the danger of homosexuality and forces in the larger church and world who advocate for equality and full human dignity. But  gay and lesbian people are sinners he says and the church should take a stand. 
       A division shakes the happy family. Some protest that all people are God's children, made in God's image. Others act as sheriffs "enforcing" the Bible. Whispering begins. Distortions are spread. Friendships unravel. Couples quarrel. The men who wrote the Bible are on the most quoted list. Others say look to what Jesus said and did. The Bible becomes a tool of verbal warfare. People are sickened, sad, angry. There is no joy in the once happy little church. Some depart. Others warrior on, convinced they must take what is left of the little church to a new order where gays and lesbians absolutely will not be permitted to be a preacher.
        One group says all humans deserve dignity to teach and preach and be regarded as fully human and equal. They say it is good to have a diversity of view and to discuss and debate even our deepest beliefs. Another group says no, those are progressive ideas, we are meant to be bound by the authority of the word.  Which word, the others ask, which interpretation, which translation? The words of Paul and other men or the words of Jesus? And so it goes.
        This imaginary little church learns about change.
       Droughts of spirit and love, disease of anger, fear and management practices must also affect imaginary little churches.
       Change is hard. Sometimes imagination can help. 

*John F. Kennedy is credited with the quotation. The complete sentence is "Change is a law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."
     See you down the trail.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


    Dear Sirs,
          California and the federal government have an opportunity to partner in problem solving while advancing technology, creating employment and improving quality of life. The state and federal government should design and build ocean desalination plants and a network of pipelines to deliver water to communities and the agricultural zones including of course the Central Valley.
          California abounds in technological and engineering knowledge and has been the crucible of innovation. California produces food that feeds America and much of the world but we can't make it rain nor end an historic drought. However we can respond with imagination and progress.
          A state and federal partnership accomplishes a great deal; regulatory compliance and clearance and a capacity to get it done. Think such a venture is impossible? Consider the extraordinary response of this nation to the crisis of WW II. Consider also the zeal and achievement of the American space program when the nation was committed to a moon landing. This nation could benefit from a good swift kick in the butt to get back on a path to excellence. This project would do that and you can make it happen.
          More good happens in California than in Washington DC. Bipartisan government occurs and while it is not perfect, things get done and problems are managed and solved. Aside from the public business of California, there is also the extraordinary success and life changing impact of technology, communication, transportation and space businesses. But we cannot make it rain. 
          Life depends on water and entering the fourth year of  historic drought clouds are on the horizon and they are not rain clouds. Historically this part of the US has sustained life altering droughts. There is meteorological and climate science now that suggests we could be in another such  period and that it could extend decades. It is arrogance to forget it has happened, repeatedly. Unlike previous eras and epochs we have science and technology to interact with the Ocean.
          The Pacific must be protected and proper environmental and ecological management is mandatory. A state and federal oversight can work to those ends. The peril is too severe to leave such things to a free market, profit making set of values.
          The design and implementation can be founded on the best science and engineering and most of that is already here and could be augmented by others in a critical review and project management.
         As the project(s) move forward each community could  undertake an ascertainment of need including the calculation of a sustainability index. i.e., how much water is needed now vis a vis anticipated growth? how is that water used-commercially, in homes, for agriculture, etc.? what are optimum growth and expansion frames? what are fair water rates in a tiered system?  What is a community's sweet spot to be truly sustainable? All of this would be managed and navigated by an oversight process that is long on academics, scientists, economists, planners and engineers with project management expertise drawn from the best and brightest in business-e.g., Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison and such peers. Think of that quality of individual to be your managing partners.
         Notice who is peripheral to all of this?  Elected politicians. Once the public's business was the trust of the United States Congress and Senate. Recent history only disqualifies them from running and likely delaying or destroying such a venture. Of course this will take funding and in that way they will need to be stakeholders, but how to affect that and how to contain their negative influence  is what you both are being paid to do as Chief Executives.
         Private investment could be tapped, in lieu of tax or other incentives. All business has an interest in the viability and sustainability of life and agriculture.
         Mr. President, Mr Governor you wield power and influence and have the ability to summon the "best and brightest" and to establish and pursue vision.  Even if we can water ration and restrict and even if it suddenly starts to rain laying siege to the notion we are in extended drought or climate change, we know that on a strategic world stage, water supply is a critical pointer. We even plan for future wars being fought over water. California and the federal government could evince a scenario that tends to a present need and allows for good options in future need.
         Executives lead, this is your way to lead us through problem solving and to create a legacy that includes a better way of doing things.


   See you down the trail.