Thursday, August 27, 2015


    The terrible loss of Alison Parker and Adam Ward is more tragic because of the senselessness of it. A malcontent and troubled former colleague robbed the life of two young journalists denying them a future.
     I used to hire and manage people like Parker and Ward. Those of us who worked in broadcasting can picture our own young colleagues and their families and loved ones. And we can recall versions of the accused from our own experiences.
    In reacting to the tragedy national organizations have cited the increase of violence to journalists who have become a new target of terrorists, criminals and the deranged. I know what it is to be a victim of violence intended to intimidate or stifle reporting. In two car bombings, being bound and robbed in my home, being roughed up or shot at I was doing investigative reporting. Parker and Ward were doing a light feature in a morning news cast. My attackers had a motive and were not merely unbalanced or evil. Journalists in war zones or doing investigative work are willing to take the risk. Injury or loss in those instances is still heartbreaking, but not so senseless. A San Francisco crew was robbed and pistol whipped earlier this year, simply for being on the street and reporting. 
     Too often people with gripes or vendettas go off. I don't know how that can be prevented, but there is a stain of violence in our culture and it has many faces.
trained violence
     A local case is more sinister than the all too frequent NFL thug crime report-spousal abuse, assault, murder.
     A high school senior and his parents have been given judicial approval to seek punitive damages from a well respected San Luis Obispo High School, its football coach, a former captain and his parents in a case of violence made even more disgusting by the "logic" of a couple of lawyers.
     Here's the background-In a practice last year a player bested the team captain. The suit contends an assistant coach then ridiculed the captain. The San Luis Obispo Tribune reports on the next play "the captain used his helmet to smash into" the other kid. Apparently the captain continued to smash into the other player repeatedly. The victim was diagnosed with a concussion, a brain stem stroke and sensory deficits.
     Where were the coaches and the other players? 
     After the injured boy went to the hospital, the law suit says he was bullied by the captain and others and taunted including in social media until he quit the team. 
      The high school has refused to talk to the media but the lawyers for the captain and his family say he was only playing aggressively.  They say "this type of gamesmanship is an integral and inherent part of football."
      Even more disturbing these legal aces say "football is a game that requires players to assault and battery to play the game." Let that one sink in for a moment. Required A&B. The Superior Court Judge Martin Tangerman said the lawyers argument was "misplaced."  Amen!
     A ray of light in this tome. The LAPD is being told they are to be transformed from "Warriors on Crime" to "Guardians" of the city.  The word is going out from the top brass to all new officers. 
       It is an attitude thing. Officers are being told they are to "watch over" the community.  The shift in thinking is to make the department more empathetic. The brass believe it will affect how and when officers use force or their weapons and the attitude they evince.
       It will take time to see a difference, but the LAPD has continued to reform. This is the kind of mind set that local police departments should adopt. Out here in the old west they used to be called "Peace Officers."  "Guardians" could be a good start to something.

      See you down the trail.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015


   There's been an unusual amount of commotion along the Cambria to San Simeon shoreline this year.
Photo by Mike Griffin
   The warmer ocean has brought an extraordinary number of humpback whales closer to shore.
    It is a great enjoyment to hear the oohs and ahhs and wonderment of tourists who maybe seeing their first whale up close.
   The Central Coast has been a beautiful western stage this summer.
     I am an unabashed fan and enthusiast of Yosemite National Park, wishing that everyone could visit and feel the experience.
     The park prepares excellent video reports and this piece on bears, featuring some almost unbelievable historic footage is too good not to share with readers of this blog.

  We recently discovered the Leaning Pine Arboretum on the Cal Poly campus in San Luis Obispo.  What a jewel it is!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
    See you down the trail.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


    One of the great signs in our locker room was the bromide WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH GET GOING. 
     It's one of those things you never forget and it's advice many seek to follow, especially western citizens living through historic drought. Published reports indicate sections of the central valley, America's key agricultural zone, are sinking two inches a month because water is being pumped from aquifers in such volume. 
     We study maps, satellite images and thermographic interpretations, like reading tea leaves hoping to find something that assures us El Nino will bring rain to parched earth and concerned taxpayers. 

        The Santa Lucia range coastal slopes are hazy. The usually pristine and cobalt blue sky, thickened by wild fires including one in our county. Thousands of firefighters and national guard troops  are at war with burning nature. It's that way in Washington, Oregon and around the globe. 
      The misery is indeed global. Possibly the greatest refugee migration in history continues, while Muslims war with each other. Tom Friedman recently put it in plain terms that I paraphrase-while they fight about to whom did God give the holy land, mother nature is at work.  She doesn't do politics, only physics, biology and chemistry.  Friedman noted it isn't Sunnism, Shiaism, Whabism or fundamentalism that counts. The only ism that matters is environmentalism. Muslim fighting is destroying nature as well as humanity and political regimes are being turned on their ear as people demand electricity and air conditioning. Hot areas are getting hotter.
       China's recent explosion underscores how that giant, and lesser nations are doing their worst to despoil the planet, ruin water and foul the air. 
      Tough going on this blue marble. Business as normal ain't working. Even meddlesome good intentions fall short. Serious science now addresses prospects of an extinction. Don't you think it's time to think as planetary citizens, doing our best to overcome those old and artificial boundaries of nation, sect, tribe and race. Your problem is my problem. Solutions are to be shared. Even the most wealthy and powerful cannot live without clean air, water, food that be can trust and inhabitable space. It is as Fuller said, spaceship earth.  It's the only one we've got.

   Your blogger and the intrepid Catalyst blogger in 1985 somewhere on a ledge.  30 years ago we'd go the edge in moccasins and sandals and nearly bare legs. 
    And on that Arizona adventure we had more tranquil moments. Left to right, SWMBO, young Kristin, Lana and Bruce, AKA Catalyst.  Long time ago with long time friends.
   Mid 80's first visit to California for Katherine. Something must have clicked. She's now a California RN and still loves the Pacific.

   See you down the trail.

Monday, August 17, 2015


   There was a time when I thought he could become the first black President.  It was the late 60's and his articulate and cool response to issues of race, even platform and credential matters in the Democratic party demonstrated intelligence, class and true leadership. I interviewed Julian Bond several times over the years I covered civil rights, race issues and politics. He was a key source in KLAN the documentary I wrote and directed that won the Emmy.
    Bond had charisma, a great sense of humor and was an eloquent leader. His passing serves as a reminder of the fragility and temporal nature of life, especially poignant to me since he was once "a rising star" and a generational peer. It is also a reminder of the power of intellect and temperance even in the face of mindless bigotry and hatred. One person, acting with dignity, conviction and reason can make a difference.
   Julian Bond was a light in the struggle for equality.
   David Simon, who has won awards and fans for WIRE and TREME has started his new HBO series SHOW ME A HERO by pealing the layers of racism and anti Semitism in historic Yonkers.
    The mini series is based on New York Times reporter Lisa Belkin's book and details the late 80's and early 90's struggle to build federally mandated public housing in Yonkers.
    Paul Haggis directs the series starting Oscar Issac. The first two episodes feature terrific acting including a knock out job by Jim Belushi as an embattled Mayor. 
    It promises to be a brilliant series. It is also a case in point of how difficult it has become in this republic-layers of competing governmental interests, individual attitudes both good and bad, partisan politics and plenty of unbridled short sightedness and personal interests above common good. It is a lot of human grist for the nuanced script written by veteran journalists. Art imitating life.

   See you down the trail.

Friday, August 14, 2015


   Street wise and an over comer, Ricky was a friend and a great truck operator. We ate together frequently, shared an appreciation of boxing and worked on deadline to do live television. Ricky's problem was not his.
   He'd come from a neighborhood that required a toughness to simply grow up. His arms bore burn scars from his time  working in a foundry. He began as a studio camera operator. He became an engineer/operator who would "scramble" a microwave unit to the scene. It was a truck full of electronics and television gear. He was fast, smart and enabled the news department to get on the air. That was not a problem.
   Ricky and his wife, a marketing and promotion specialist, lived on the North side, in a suburban community grown from a farm village into homes, condos, apartments, appreciating businesses with a village setting and near mega shopping. Ricky was frequently stopped by the local police.
    As an African-America Ricky was a profile stop.  Though he explained where he lived, worked and produced a car registration, Ricky was stopped repeatedly.  That was an offense to Ricky and to police work and the larger society. 
   Black lives matter.
    I investigated, covered and tangled with racist hate groups for 4 decades-racism close up, urban, rural, north, south and abroad. Many reasons for it. It breeds anger and response.
     All lives matter-not to diminish the inherent and special importance that creates and imbues the mentality and philosophy of Black Lives Matter.  It is not meant to be flip  to say-Of course they do. It is an affirmation only and should  not be construed as anything else.
   How police departments and black citizens interact is a nexus requiring a fix. It is critical. Police officers need  training to help buffer and to see things with a wider sensitivity. Training for state and city police agencies can condition officers to make critical decisions influenced by a better understanding of presenting conditions and a codex of alternative tactics to employ so as to defuse and stop a tragic escalation.
    All training academies and the departments they provide can up their performance. I've reported how local and state academies train, have watched as local police take advanced training at the National Academy and spent 16 weeks following a class of agents through the FBI Academy at Quantico. 
    There are good learning systems, exercises, drills and practical application training that can focus on race, including history and perspectives. I participated in a fire arms training program where my actions and shot placement were captured, analyzed and used in the training. It required a series of critical judgements and action.  After completing a simulation scenario, where you could shoot or be shot in the interactive life like reality, you were grilled by instructors asking what you saw, heard, when and why you made decisions to do what you did and the actions you took, etc.  Its intense and the examination pulses up the heart rate and certainly engages the mind.  It's a good program and such systems can make our local cops better at what they do.
    Lives matter.
 Humpback Whales frolic in warmer Pacific on the central California coast.  
    Pelicans fly air support.
   Canoeists launch for a blue ride.

Your blogger, caught in the act by eldest daughter Kristin
Caught here at Jackson Browne concert by Mike Griffin

     A final thought. Ricky and I often drove to a spot in a near east side neighborhood where they sold deep fried cat fish on white bread with mustard. As the only white man in a place, or even in that part of the neighborhood I was never stopped. It was probably more odd for a white man to be hanging out on that block in that hood than for Ricky to  drive to his apartment.

    The sandwich was world class!

     See you down the trail.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Despite Everything and a Bizarre Presidential Scenario

     Here's a crazy thought. The Donald could be liberal and progressives best friend.
     If Trump continues to gather a base and manages to win the GOP nomination, he makes a Bernie Sanders candidacy much more viable. Talk about a shootout between opposites!
     Eric Sevareid said you never say never in politics. Political prognosticating is a fools errand and as bloggers, web writers and cable commentators prove there are many fools. 
    With that as a disclaimer-Ohio Governor Kasich impressed even Democrats. Trump is such a bullyboy and ego freak he is a force the Republicans have to figure out.
     Hillary is precarious, despite her clear advantage. Joe Biden is the secret favorite of many traditional and liberal Democrats. If Hillary begins to falter, Joe is there.
     But wouldn't Trump vs Sanders be a kind of Cohen brothers scenario?
 with apologies for invading his space

"Feeling fine on Elderberry wine…" the Elton John song comes to mind. 
   Despite the drought, the elderberry crop seems to flourish. 
     So we dedicate this golden oldie to the crops-including squash with good posture.  

       See you down the trail.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


   There is something inherently perfect in seeing Jackson Browne under the stars on a California summer night.
   A warm breeze stirs a life of memories choreographed and scored by Browne. Past edges and pieces gather in the music. Browne is a poet singer who continues to mine human complexity.
 His sense of social and planetary justice in the 21st Century rises from the roots of the music that fed and called us when we were younger.
   It's a rich fabric he weaves. Balladeer, conscience, rocker, activist, artist and star who gladly shares the spotlight with his extraordinarily talented players.
  And seeing this California minstrel who shaped the music of the West coast performing just up the coast from his roots is a special joy.
   Browne's California sound filled our Indiana home, car and places of good times and sad, moments of anger, frustration, love, loss, celebration, work, striving and spiritual quest. And his music was an allure, bidding us west.
   We've seen him many times, but this time on a California August night, it was better. As we and our concerns age, the minstrel rises again to soothe and stir us again in a way that makes the continuum of our lives one masterful song after another.

His range is still full tilt and his band are long time friends. Bob Glaub-bass, Mauricio Lewak-drums, Jeff Young-organ/piano-Greg Leisz-lap steel, pedal steel guitar, Aletha Mills vocal.
   STANDING IN THE BREECH, is the product of a mature artist who reanimates the power of our passions and conscience. In the breech is where we should be.

   See you down the line.