Thursday, May 28, 2015


prickly yes-pampered no
     Case in Point
     Considering matters of intellectual and academic freedom, we start with a related anecdote.
     The Governor was growing increasingly angry. He was upset with the questions and unhappy being on camera. 
     He told me I should not ask him again. I did. He said I was out of line and if I did not stop he would leave. I asked again. He stood up and started to bolt for the door. The lavaliere microphone, still attached to his tie, caused him to jerk back at the end of the tether.
      "You'll ruin that nice tie Governor. Why don't you cool off, sit down and answer the questions?" I said as photographer Steve removed the camera from the tripod and walked toward the Governor, tape rolling.
       "You cannot treat me this way! I am the governor."
He glared at Steve now zoomed in on him. "Is that camera on?" he barked.
       "Yes it is. You are loosing your cool. Why don't you just answer the question?" I asked again.
        "I order you to turn off that camera," he pointed furiously, now free from the mic. "Do you hear me?"
        "Governor, you can't order us to turn off the camera. We just want you to answer our questions."
        "I order you as the governor to turn that camera off."
       There was more exchange as he and an aid bolted through our conference room door and started down the hall, Steve and I in pursuit, camera on. He was yelling I couldn't treat him that way, he was the governor.
      As he bounded down the stairs toward our lobby he boomed we could never use the video on the air. I said that since he was an elected official we could ask him "any thing, anytime, anywhere."
      And that's the point. More in a moment after a final word on the furor. It blew up a storm of controversy and news coverage from other media. The confrontation was on a Friday evening.  On Monday morning the State Board of Accounts sent an Auditor to the television station for an unscheduled audit and investigation. 
       I was reporting a story on how state supreme court justices were selected and the influence the governor had. It was not an unfair or unnecessary question, but that is another matter. 
       In our democratic republic freedom of speech is a foundational right. To that end all of us should be able to speak and inquire freely. I hold to the idea that if someone is elected to represent the public interest they are indeed on notice to answer any question anywhere. They're paid by taxpayer dollars so any taxpayer, they need not be a reporter with a camera, can ask and should expect an answer to their question.
       Extending that premise, such rights and extension of free speech should certainly apply at state schools. In fact nothing should be off limits in academia, even that which some might consider offensive, if for no other reason than others might not consider it offensive. There is a better reason. It's not the tone or offensive nature of something that matters-what matters is the very nature of intellectual inquiry which must be free and unbounded. It is troubling that Universities have sought to soften the hard nature of inquiry by limiting what can be discussed or by requiring warnings. Please permit me a couple of legacy expressions, "poppycock and balderdash!"
       The University of Chicago is praised for leading the way to how it should be in academia. The University says it is not right for a school to shield students from opinions or ideas they find disagreeable or even offensive. 
        Purdue University, led by a former political logician and thaumaturge, also seeks to extend intellectual freedom to consider and study on a broad latitude and there is an encouraging twist in this. 
        Mitch Daniels as a Governor criticized Howard Zinn's A Peoples History of the United States. As a University President he probably hasn't changed his opinion, but understands academic polemics is different than political conjuring. In the world of study all ideas have a seat at the table and they survive or perish based on merit. 
       It is sophomoric and unsophisticated to satirize or mock religious figures and sacred images yet a free society blessed with freedom of expression can tolerate such "offenses" under the guise of creativity. One may be self indulgently outrageous but we draw the line at desecration and destructive or violent behavior. However in the realm of a place for the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, ideas and words exist in a state of pure freedom.
      Civility, intellect and knowledge are great stages upon which bad ideas destroy themselves in light and under the preponderant weight of enlightened examination.
       And so we may end up with ridicule.

   As another case in point, the anti immigration Californians for Population Stabilization has begun a campaign blaming California's drought and water restrictions on immigrants, especially those from Mexico.
     Laughable, except those who hold those views walk and drive amongst us. In our arena of free speech and thought they are entitled to their voice and their critics are entitled to calling them stupid. 
     I wonder if some are not trying to turn the evolution of human intelligence machine to reverse.

    The annual Succulent show in San Luis Obispo brought other worldly sights from the earth. 

     See you down the trail.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


      Has how Memorial Day resonates with you changed over the years?

       Iris and peonies, cut and given tender care by a great aunt and the Sid Collins radio broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 are the earliest vivid impressions. Now the sensors gather something quite different. It's evolved.
      In those early fragments my parent's mood was out of the norm. That dad was driving my Grandmother, his mom, and her sister to cemeteries was odd enough. That he and mom "worried" about flowers and managing a couple of older women brought an additional tension. A different kind of purpose to a day was in the air.
      And after all, it was a day about those who were gone and those who served. Radiating lines of white crosses,  placing those cut flowers and my great aunt speaking of "mamma." It all was serious, if not somber and seemed to be part of something that went back beyond my knowing.
      By now Memorial Day pondering is a space of gratitude, as well. This year I remember those who have served as "Nightlights."
      "Nightlights" was the analogy Linda Harris relayed to the audience at Cuesta College but specifically to the 40 people who had completed two years of intensive training and the learning of medical skills. Those 40 were about to be "pinned," the post graduation tradition to being an RN, like Florence Nightingale who Harris had social media morphed to "Nightlights."  The "Nighlights" mean comfort, support, help and treatment in pain, suffering and all manner of medical need from birth to death.
       One of the graduate statements was especially close to my heart. Katherine, our junior daughter was commencing with 39 others. I expect they all will be special. The "Nurse Culture" with clear headed and skilled compassion is an attitude with an history of service.
       'Angels of mercy' a friend said about Katherine, her classmates, her colleagues to be and those who preceded them at bedsides, in war zones, epidemics, disasters, birthing rooms, hospitals and slums for generations.

  That smile is joy at completing school and long hours of study, rotations and labs.
   The warmth of heart that comes with being a proud parent is also joy and a blessing without equal, even with pounding heart and moist eyes. 
   So my Memorial mediation this year starts with a gratitude for the wonderful devotion and caring that is Nursing and for those who make it real and who have done so during all of our lives and for many before us. 
    It's a new adventure that awaits the young peers. I wish them all well. The rest of us will be better off because they choose to live lives of service as RNs.

    Thomas Hardy's classic Far From the Madding Crowd is nicely handled in the new release and comes in at about two hours, but they are a rich two hours. (The 1967 version seemed to be a bit long as it approached three hours though one scene remains vivid.)
       Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts and Michael Sheen turn in marvelous performances. I had not seen Schoenaerts previously, but his Gabriel Oak is a masterful portrayal. Mulligan has a special quality that is tough, coy and vulnerable all at once.
       I believe a major factor in the pace of the 2015 version, directed by the Dane Thomas Vinterberg is the superb job of editing done by Claire Simpson, maybe one of the best ever. It helped move a long and intricate 18th century romance, written with flourish and detail into a solid entertainment for 21st Century sensitivities.
       Expectations were vastly different when the great director John Schlesinger produced his 1967 work. Though long he got good performances from Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Peter Finch and Terrence Stamp. The sword scene in Schlesinger's version turned with a bit more of an erotic take. That could have been Julie Christie and ambient hormones of the 1960's or so I recall, vaguely now.
      The latest release is entertaining, rich and reminds us of how well written and told novels can be.

    The first batch of our beloved Fava beans.
   A take home bonus after a morning of "gleaning" for a homeless shelter. Thanks Lana.

   See you down the trail.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


The writer on the David Letterman Show September 29, 1980
    The day before Dave Letterman departed Indiana for what has become an historic future, we had a picnic on our wooded property in southern Indiana.
     His pick up truck was loaded and he was a bit apprehensive. He and his then wife Michelle and Lana and I had packed a lunch and were there to give him a send off. Dave was in what Jay Leno would refer to as his Dinty Moore fashion stage. Dave had calculated how long they could survive before he or she got jobs. He was ready to work at a gas station if need be.  
    We had been a big supporter of his move. I was convinced he'd make it, big. Dave was, as he often can be, more doubtful. But the point was, he was giving it a go.  Oh, how things would have been different for all of us if he had not spooled up the courage to give it a shot. It took guts going from Indiana to Hollywood.
     In the last couple of months I have been interviewed by people from the New York Times, magazines, papers and local television stations. I have said repeatedly, as I have since the late 70's, Dave is one of, if not the most, innovative user of television and technology. Way back I told an author writing a book about Dave that he was able to build on the innovative genius of Ernie Kovacs in terms of how to use the medium and technology to entertain. He raised the bar and created a new standard for the format even disposing of what was a kind of artificial formality about television programs.
      I remember sitting one evening in our east side Indianapolis apartment watching our favorite, the master, Johnny Carson.  Johnny was doing his Carnack bit, supplying questions to the answers read by Ed McMahon. Dave was supplying his own lines and they were better than Johnny's.
     In the early days I hosted a morning radio magazine show  broadcast on two stations. I hired Dave to write a kicker "essay" to run two or three days week to close out the hour.  He'd write, call me to run through it, then later we'd record it. Often he was not sure what he had written was funny. I tell you in all honesty it was brilliant. I remember laughing so hard sometimes that I'd almost drop the phone. It was a genesis of his  brand of humor that is now so well known. But being original and cutting edge there were a few in news management who did not appreciate it. There were times when getting the checks to Dave was delayed because the boss had not written a requisition, so there were weeks when I paid him the $25 to $50 out of my pay, which at the time was $150 a week. Neither one of us had much money, but it didn't matter. The important thing was to get his work on the air.
      A couple of years before that Dave took my shift at a little AM radio station in Muncie Indiana. Lana and I were married in April and we were going to honeymoon in Europe until August-that was back in the days of Europe on budget plan. Dave took over my mid-day shift which included doing news casts and then an afternoon drive time shift of playing hit music. I told him he'd need to play it straight doing the news, but could have fun on the DJ shift.  He did both. And as I have said before, "Look where it got him!"  That is facetious of course because what got him there was a rare and unique sense of humor and amusement.
     I'm a bit stunned that my old friend is wrapping up 33 years, an historic television record. I told someone many years ago that I thought Dave would be in the pantheon with names like Carson, Benny, Hope, Kovacs, Allen, and Berle. He's there. He's made us laugh and he's been clarifyingly honest. He's inspired generations of new entertainers. He is indeed one of the greatest.
     I think of all of his bits and shtick what I enjoy most is hearing Dave laugh, when he is genuinely amused. I'd love to again spend some time with him, but what I hope most for him in his retirement is that he'll find a lot of reasons to laugh, genuinely. 

       And Dave, next time I'm on your show, make sure the graphics operator knows how the name is spelled.
   Lana tries her hand at comedy writing as a salute to Dave.
    10- Open a Pizza Parlor in Muncie
      9-Be a judge in the Westminster Dog Show
      8-Teach Harry how to mow the lawn
      7-Run off to Italy with George Clooney
      6-Be the oldest Rookie at the Indy 500
      5-Open a Hardware Store
      4-Play bocce on Thursday with Jon Stewart
      3-Become a florist like his Dad
      2-Move to California and smoke weed with Ophra
      1-Finally get a real job!

       See you down the trail.

Monday, May 18, 2015


     The series finale of Mad Men revealed the origins of that famous old Coca Cola commercial "I'd like to teach the world to sing…" 
           It was a "new" Don Draper, fresh from Big Sur and an Esalen style institute who presumably returned to the New York ad world, retooled and re grooved by the hippie love and peace ethic and the magic of the California coast. We were left with a meditating Draper, breaking into a smile and then we see the Buy the World a Coke commercial.
       Many central coast Californians recognized our neighborhood in scenes of Draper reclaiming his soul midst the Big Sur coastline and in the ultra sensitivity sessions of a coastal retreat.
   The mythical Draper worked for the McCann Agency and in a kind of Oliver Stone version of history there is a little truth, but only a little.

   There's a lot of buzz about the way the highly acclaimed and historic series ended.  For the record, I loved it. And I wish Coke would bring back that creative  masterpiece.
     During the run of Mad Mendirector, writer, creator Matthew Weiner was fastidious with playing it close to history, matching plot development with actual events even down to the weather. His payoff with the 1971 commercial
and the changing ethos of his characters and the mood of the nation was just one more gleam of brilliance in an historic and enjoyable television event.
    Russell Crowe is also a brilliant director. His The Water Diviner is an epic film and a haunting, moving story that puts a face on war you'll not soon forget. That it too conjures history, easily over looked and conveniently forgotten is also powerful testament to his creative vision. The horrendous offense of war in the course of human existence is as poignantly stated here as in any film or novel, though it does not preach. It is the also uplifting story of the power of a father's love and guilt and the beautiful love of brothers. And the story of romantic love healing broken hearts.  
       Crowe uses film like an artist and fills the screen with emotion, pathos, beauty, action, hope and truth. 
    Spring Wine Festival in the Paso Robles appellation has many faces.
   A covered bridge dinner in the Halter Vineyards.

    The "field kitchen."
   Food as art!
   An evening deep in merriment.
  The staff that delivered. Superb work by Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles!
  An afternoon grill, bocce and friendship at Hearthstone.
  The beat continues at Kenneth Volk and Four Lanterns.
   The extraordinary group of Danny Weis, Jill Knight and Eric Williams and the watchful eye of Willow.
    A central coastal afternoon,
  with approval from Tashi
    and a young Californian.  

    The west side hang out.

    See you down the trail.

Friday, May 15, 2015


     This is a shirt with a lot of history.  It's a genuine Lyle Tuttle, purchased by Lana in 1970. It's been handed down first to our eldest daughter, then to her sister and has now come back to Lana.
    Tuttle is the famous San Francisco tattoo artist who's own body is the basis for the shirt.
     Lana wore the shirt the other day and I was stunned to see it again. I'm amazed at what great shape it's in after about 45 years! In passing it on to Kristin and Katherine she asked them to care for it. Obviously they listened. 
     The free spirited, colorful, expressive and even a little kooky time of the late 60's and 70's looks great these days and produces a joyful mirth.  And it should not be left unsaid that it's cool how Lana can still rock the shirt! 
      Yeah, we live in California. 
     Most of the "furor" over George Stephanopoulos and his contribution to the Clinton foundation is more about snark, "gotcha" and buzz than substance.
     First, the ABC Anchor should have acknowledged his contribution, only because he's in a position to be reporting about it. Same would be true if he, or another journalist, were to contribute to the American Heart Association, or Doctors Without Borders, etc. Journalists should not be banished from making charitable contributions simply because of their prominence or likelihood of covering a topic.
     (A Sidebar-I did not vote in primary elections when I was a working reporter, because I did not want to declare a party preference. How I voted in general elections was my own business, same as everyone else. I contributed to charities and if ever the group came up I would add a line in my broadcast- for example, "full disclosure. I contributed to United Way.")
    George did nothing wrong by making the contribution.
He used to work for Bill Clinton and, as he says, believes in some of the issues the Clinton Foundation embraces-aids, deforestation and others. The foundation is not funding Hillary's presidential campaign and Stephanopoulos wouldn't need to gain inside favor any way. 
      The Clinton Foundation is a kind of "boogie man" now and that is especially so with the right wing. Still, there are serious questions about the relationship between Bill's foundation and Hillary and between Bill and Hillary going forward.  What about his agenda's and initiatives should she be in the White House? How will that work?  There are issues about what was expected in return for some of the "gives" when she was Secretary of State. But those are issues related to the former President, his Foundation and Mrs. Clinton.
      Politico's Jack Shafer seems to be on the spear point of being indignant about Stephanopoulos. Shafer is a "pot stirrer." Some times he's right and sometimes he's just a hype merchant looking for the new media currency of buzz and trending. Shafer himself said it when he wrote
"As long as you can do the work, the journalism profession doesn't care if your last port of call was a federal penitentiary."  That says a lot about Shafer and his sensitivities, shared by many who call themselves journalists. Believe me, standards today are much different than they used to be.  
      There is an attitude today that if someone is hit and bleeding, the pack moves in for a kill. That's what this hype is all about. 
       Full disclosure; I'm not a Stephanopoulos fan and thought his hire by ABC was ill advised, but he has worked hard and done a good job to earn his spurs as a real journalist. He is not one of those "party cheerleaders" you see elsewhere.  Yes he should have told us he contributed, but that is no big deal, especially in a world where Pulitzer winner Seymour Hersh has reported the Obama administration engaged in deception about the Bin Laden killing. There are other real stories that need attention and exploration. This is more about modern media entertaining itself or vendetta.
    Now, how's this selfie thing supposed to work? Where are you supposed to look?

     See you down the trail.