Monday, October 31, 2016

Roughhouse Coast

boys being boys
  Young male elephant seals are back and have taken over the colony beach.
    It's the season when the sub adults and young males come in from feeding and practice sparring. Soon the females will be back and many of them will be pregnant. Birthing season follows in early winter. The peak of mating season is valentines day
    Now the young males practice the battles they'll do with the bulls, the 5000 pound Kings of the beach. When they arrive the big old boys divide the beach among their harems.
    Never too young or small to start learning the skills that are required to carve out a harem.
   "I'm tougher than you" they seem to taunt each other.

  In the surf as well as on the beach they size up the competition.

   Most could save their energy. It is rare for a young male, like those currently in residence, to successfully challenge the old boys.
   Their glottal deep well barks echo along the beach South of the Piedra Blancas Light Station on the Pacific Coast highway. Compared to the basso profoundo rumble of the adult males, these fellows sound like tenors.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The night returns


     The sound of something wakes her. It is 6:00 AM and the 45 people in the church fellowship hall are stirring. She stretches and her cot creaks. She sits up rubbing the sleep from her eyes and feels that her back pack is still there. She is nine and her every possession in the world is in that back pack.
     Her mother has already brushed her hair and gotten her coffee and tells her to get an orange juice before it is gone. Soon they'll line up for a bus ride to the day shelter where volunteers will offer smiles and cereal. If she is lucky she may get a muffin before another bus takes her to school as her mother meets with a case worker trying to help her find a job and housing.
     She will spend the day at school, maybe wishing she had a phone or a better change of clothing, or that her mother had a car. Unable to afford after school activities she will take a bus back to the day shelter where she will get a chance to take a shower and wile away time until dinner, served by volunteers. Then she and her mother and other women and children will be bussed to a church to spend the night. Lights out at nine.
      This is a representation of a day for a homeless child in San Luis Obispo. She could live in any city or town. Grace Macintosh of Community Action Partnership provided the details and narrative of this girl. Social workers in every city and town in America can provide their own cases.

      As a case in point, some 1,515 homeless have been counted in San Luis Obispo County. 35% are women, 15% are under 18 and 87% are unsheltered.  There are fewer than 150 emergency shelter beds through out the county.  The specific numbers are significant, but more important is to understand that similar statistics  are replicated across the nation. 
       As Grace said, "Just imagine what that is like for that 9 year old?"
       The increasing number of homeless is a problem. These are not refugees of war or disaster. These are people who cannot afford housing, victims of an economic system that leaves them short either of money or employment. There are working homeless as well.
        We've all read of fights to prevent the building of shelters or housing options-"not in our neighborhood." That too is common in most communities. 
       Social workers are seeing more seniors as "newly homeless" because a death, loss of income, support, medical bills, or other changes of fortune upend their world. Imagine being in your 70's or 80's, a product of a stable life but suddenly without a home. 
       In addition to those made homeless by economics are those who are on the street because of mental illness, addiction, transients who work a circuit and who may panhandle or do crime. That too is a growing population of Americans, especially young men and women.
       What are the solutions? What options do we have? What can be done?  The more cynical among us opine "there have always been the poor and there will always be." But what kind of answer is that? 
      No matter where you read this, these scenarios play out, not too far from where you are.

    See you down the trail.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Taking for Granted?

California Persimmons-Mill Street, San Luis Obispo

for granted?
    Blogging brother Mike, keeper of the Genial Misanthrope found in the Rich Blogs list on the right of this page, launched  a rumination with his Just A Late Fall Day post.
     His thoughts on our peaceful and bountiful lives, vis a vis most of the earth's population, punched my guilt button. Assignments put me in some of the most desperate and fearful places in the world. Upon returning home my gratitude for how good we have it pushed that button too. I regret that too many of us take too much for granted. So, motivated by Mike's reflections we will today celebrate some thoughtful, creative and simple but wonderful things.

the great experiment
      This is the pin I received 62 years ago as a Polio Pioneer.
I'm grateful my parents agreed to let me take part in America's largest public health experiment. 
       Polio ravaged communities in the 1950's. In 1954 600 thousand school kids became the first to take the Salk vaccine as human guineau pigs. 443 thousand of us got shots of the experimental vaccine while 210 thousand got a placebo. It worked and soon inoculations were offered to all.
       Today is World Polio Day. The disease has almost been eradicated though there is more work to do, and remembering is a part of that. I don't recall being terribly frightened about taking the experimental medicine. I was more frightened about the disease which had crippled or killed in our hometown. 
      We also realize the Polio Pioneer public experiment was one of the first society changing events involving boomers.

it takes a village  
        There are places where this election year has been a joy. A couple of weeks ago candidates for our village government, the Community Services District, gathered for an open forum. By the way that really is Ed Asner at the far left. He began the evening by saying he "had a big mouth." He was there to help moderate and to offer his own brand of humor. 
         The forum was civil, intelligent, helpful and was evidence that when approached properly, representative government is as good as it can get, a real conversation among neighbors about a common future.

party in the garage
    Friends who are nearing completion of a major construction project invited friends to a "bless this building" dinner in the new garage.
     Shame on me if I ever take hospitality and friendship for granted.

    Regardless of what it is, seeing a plan come together brings satisfaction.

   Celebrations are for remembering.

    No one can see around the bend. No one lives in constant bliss. Complex problems, changes, the hurt of dear ones, health and so many other matters are real. But there are moments, memories and situations where the best response is to simply be happy and grateful. 

     Mike, thanks for getting this train rolling.

    See you down the trail.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Give them guns & It was this big....

let's just end this stuff
     I've been listening.  I'm a good listener. As a reporter I'm a professional listener. 
     So, you listen long enough and some place in your cranium rationality gets strangled, choked by exhaust fumes we call politics. Used to be one could take it in and, like the energizer bunny, keep on clicking. That went south sometime in the last year. We are talking survival now.
     Give them guns. Give all of them guns. The candidates, the handlers, the pollsters, the traveling media, the anchor set media, the studio audience, the protesters, the t-shirt billboard wearing partisans-who may already have guns, the House of Representatives, the Senate, except Mitch McConnell, K. street firms, every PAC, the Koch brothers, George Soros, Ken Bone and find old Joe the Plumber and give him a plunger and mop.
       Give the rest of us a bunker. And then give us an all clear when the last round has been fired. Then fire up the band with some John Phillips Sousa. Then cue up Moby's latest -Moby and Void Pacific Choir's These Systems are Failing. Then we'll just listen to the quiet and concentrate on our breathing and then try something entirely new-thinking.
      (Will this qualify me for the NRA Golden Gun award?)

it was this big
     My friend Ray fishes in the Sierras. He's partial to float tubing on alpine lakes on the eastern slope.  Three times this year the weather has conspired against his gentle floats under blue skies. Wind, chop, rain and snow have conspired against him, but Ray is a fisherman and he persists. Thank you Ray.
      This baby was 18 inches and some four pounds as he encountered Ray's lure as a gale was bout to beach him, again. Instead it "got landed" before Ray. Rays says he'd left the net behind and so this guy was in the tube and out of the tube and back in the tube where it stayed, before it was iced.
    A day later it was in my fridge and the next day it had been celebrated as such. Lemon infused olive oil, dill, lemon wedges and thyme bathed and pampered it in a "spa moment." It then got to the sauna, 400 degrees.  Normally it would have been saluted on a grill, but the muse said, "bake this big boy." 
    Soon it was further decorated, celebrated and added to another ring in the circle of life.
     Thanks Ray.  God bless the high Sierras and those who dwell there in, in all of their incarnations.

      See you down the trail.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Effect

      Mid Rain
     gauging it
       The net-.7 of an inch. The first rain of the new season.

    After these moments, clean air and lots of smiles on the central coast. Hopes for a good rainy season.

on killing Black men
    FBI Director James Comey hit the nail on the head. He said videos of police killing black men is driving a narrative; "biased police are killing black men at epidemic rates." Comey added "It's a narrative given force by the awesome power of human empathy."
     But Comey notes there is no way to know if the number of black, brown or white people being shot by police is "up, down or sideways over the last three, five or 10 years." There is no national data base or tracking of people killed by cops.
     This writer finds that inexcusable in this age of data and algorithmic analysis. The Associated Press reports the FBI is moving forward with plans to establish a national data base on police use of force. In the meantime I wonder why, as a gesture of public service, police departments don't post their own internal data on use of weapons, lethal and otherwise?

    See you down the trail

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The First

the front
    The western sky performed a dramatic rain dance.
It delivered. The California central coast is getting its first measurable rain of the season. Looks like the soaking will extend into Sunday evening. It is welcome.

      See you down the trail.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

American Originals

the sound of the place
     John Steinbeck's words about the Salinas Valley, central coast and Monterey Bay fix in you a place and feeling. 
     A pending release of Americana folk storytelling puts music to Steinbeck's literature. Characters, stories and settings are set alight by the music of Larry Hosford and the words spoken by biographical dramatist Taelen Thomas.
     The Steinbeck Country recording and release is the doing of Dino Airali, who heard Hosford's music many years ago.
      Hosford is a Salinas native who's been in the Santa Cruz music scene for decades.Read about him here. His sound is native to this part of California, western country with a honky tonk or roadhouse vibe. His pieces are drawn from the author's pallet. About Salinas, The Red Pony, Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, Tortilla Flat, About Ed Ricketts and Fremont's Peak are part of the 21 pieces on the CD. 
     Gosford's telling and his music plus the dramatic words of Thomas make this a rich and one of a kind release. Thomas interprets with what passes as an authentic take. Link to his bio here. 
      Airali a veteran music producer and promoter with a rich professional history has a great ear and eye for talent. He wanted to do this project years ago, but legal and estate fights among Thom Steinbeck and his father's wife's heirs was tangled and created roadblocks. Now it moves forward.
     Hearing Steinbeck woven into the authentic music of Hosford is special.  I wish the team well. If you're interested in knowing more contact Dino Airali at PO Box 213, Cambria, Ca  93428

new theater
     More than 40 years ago Tom Alvarez was the first "theater person" friend we had. Tom, fresh from anti war politics in Washington and a tour in stage companies, was a television producer and breaking barriers. He was an artistic provocateur as well. His resume is impressive. Full disclosure, Tom was my co-producer on an Emmy Winning and groundbreaking documentary James Dean and Me.
      Now, when a lot of boomers are thinking about kicking back, Tom is touting what promises to be an exciting new production, Calder, the Musical.
     It was the dominant hit at this summer's Indy Fringe Festival. You can sneak peak and hear from Tom and his production partner here. What is particularly nice in their appeal is that Calder, The Musical, explores the artist's commitment to a world without evil. As Tom and Dustin say
"in a world filled with discord, violence and war-art has the power to inspire peace, hope and harmony."
     This is another creative venture that deserves a good break.

     Birth of A Nation is a tough film but important as well.
If your history fails you, Nat Turner was a Bible reading young slave boy who grew into a preacher. He will be remembered however as the leader of an 1831 bloody slave insurrection in Virginia. It did not end well, but it is etched in our soiled American history. Director writer Nate Parker's premise is that slave uprising birthed or helped to give rise the abolitionist movement and eventually the black struggle for equality and freedom.
     Birth of A Nation won the Audience and the Grand Jury Awards at the Sundance Film festival.  It is an upclose look at the brutal reality of slavery and the inexcusable attitude of whites. It was wrong, but it persisted and the ignorance of the white race is apparent and well portrayed. Parker powerfully and charismatically plays the role of Turner, Arnie Hammer is excellent as Turner's master, Samuel Turner.  Penelope Ann Miller is brilliant in her portrayal of a sympathetic white woman who saw hope in young Nat but was powerless against the male dominated white slave owners. Gabrielle Union and Aja Naomi King extraordinarily portray abused slave women who none the less maintain dignity and human decency in the face of degenerate white behavior.
    Deepwater Horizon is a disaster film, but it is more than than as it also tells history and pays tribute to men and women lost in the 2010 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
   Director Peter Berg is a skilled story teller and he gets a boost from an excellent cast and the truth. Truth first- BP's greed and irresponsibility were behind a series of bad decisions that resulted in the explosion that killed 11 workers and the worst oil spill in history. I thought one of Berg's crowning achievements was the scene where a role call is taken after the rig has been evacuated. Those are the names of the real victims.  Then later in the credits, you see those men and women in photographs from their lives.
    The cast includes John Malkovich as BP's Donald Vidrine. Kurt Russell as the rig master Jimmy Harrell, Mark Wahlberg as Mike Williams who performed heroically in reality. Kate Hudson is convincing as Williams wife, unsure of his fate. Gina Rodriguez and Dylan O'Brien are very good as crew mates.
    The truth underlying this disaster makes it more than just special effects which are overwhelming, especially the sound. There were a couple of times I felt like ducking when bolts were blown loose. The sound effects deserve an Oscar nomination. This is a big budget film and meant to thrill, but it also tells history and portrays what was real valor. People with a technological or engineering interest will also find this film rich.

    See you down the trail.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

And Now More Disconnect and What They See

     Someplace near the Cupertino and Mountain View exit signs an idea began to emerge. As I routed through what the world knows as Silicon Valley it took shape. The United States is not. Not only are we not united, but this behemoth nation straddles a couple of centuries. The divide is obvious  as we look to federal Washington.
     Research and development, business, investment and the attendant cultural vibrations in this part of California are about the future. The current US electoral mania is a symbolic foil. The morass in which most government grinds to near irrelevancy is a further proof of the disconnect. 
     On the modern campuses arrayed between southern San Francisco and San Jose new horizons are being mounted. Apple, Facebook, Google, Stanford University, NASA's Ames Research Centers along with a web of smaller tech and communication companies are striding with systems, applications, models and advances that disrupt old ways of business, living, doing and being. 
     Data, sensors, nano architecture, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, space exploration, transportation revolutions and more cascade in a fountain of discovery and advance in this area oblivious to whatever moribund and retrograde shards of society that seem to fill our media. (IBM, New York based, is apart of this historic arc with its AI program Watson.)
     Whether it is in perhaps the most unpopular and unwanted presidential candidates in history, or the obsession with celebrity, racism, more guns and violence than any nation on the planet, crumbling cities, poisoned seas, waters, land and air, lowered expectations, failing schools and climate changes, it is as if a deadly inertia spread shroud like over the nation. There are pockets of bio technology and advanced research elsewhere, but it's not in the air, rippling like an energy force as it is here.
     It is easy to despair how this nation seems committed to getting more stupid and uninspired, until we ponder the extraordinary things that are happening out here.Government  is not sought for solution, inspiration or leadership. California watches tech genius, innovators, visionaries work through modern and future matters. Culture, ways of business, expectations and attitude are being changed.
     I may be working too hard to make a point, but so much of what has shaped our way of living in the last 25 years-data-communication-technology is new. They are amazing things sprung from creativity, imagination and invention. Washington on the other hand and by extension politics everywhere, is about money, power and the desire for it. Yes, there is money, big money in the Silicon Valley axis, but it comes from making something new. Politics is a business and so is government. It is increasingly bought and sold, has lost direction and is venal. Principals of public service have been subverted. It is harder for good people to do good because politics is now inhabited by so many losers without a hint of an original idea or the desire to make something better, let alone new. There is a breed of politician and their beltway bandit allies who think they are pulling something over on us.
     It is a time for vision and visionaries. Time for those who are in it for themselves to join the scrap heap. Until then, the disconnect continues. Government and politics could become irrelevant. 
natural agin

   Driftwood on Moonstone beach offers a never ending visual treat.
   People say the image below reminds them of a local sea otter, on its back. Does your imagination get you there?

a debate post
     Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper expended energy to maintain control, focus and observance of time restraints. They did an excellent job and did not allow themselves to be bullied nor did they let the candidates get away with avoiding the question.
      Bob Schieffer of CBS had what I thought was the best summary and he asked "How have we come to this?"

        See you down the trail.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Give the moderators a whistle

no nonsense 
   It was another era and some of us miss it.
   The lad with the earphones looking over the shoulder of the men at the table is me. I was a political reporter covering a mid 70's state convention. The Africa American with his back to the camera was in the midst of an appeal and protest about being cheated out of his vote by political bosses who opposed the candidate for governor that he supported. That is the credentials committee at work. He was trying to be seated as he was elected. In those days a diligent journalist would not let a closed door keep his curiosity at bay. I was on the air live at the time.
     no way to run a debate
   That anecdote is by way of building credential. In those days and for a couple of decades to follow I moderated political debates. General election and primary debates.  Governor, US Senate, Mayor, Congress. I enjoyed the challenge.
     I watch political debates these days and feel sorry for the moderator.
     There was a time when on my cue the booth director could cut the microphone of any candidate who blathered on longer than the allotted time. 
     In one debate I had a coaches whistle and told the candidates that should they not stop when their time is up, I would blow the whistle. No one smiled.
     Politicians have become masters of answering by avoiding the question and cutting directly to one of their well rehearsed ad libs or talking points. I would interrupt and remind the candidate they were prevaricating, obfuscating, or dodging the question. I would even challenge them and ask "are you afraid to answer? am I speaking over your head?" A couple of times I asked the candidates to respect both the audience, who had tuned in, and the process and "simply answer the question."
     I don't know what kind of restrictions may be placed on the moderators in these recent cycles, but they and all of us would be better served if they could simply tell the candidates to cut the bull shit!
     By the time of my last moderating job I was a known commodity, for better or worse. I was fortunate to have two intelligent candidates with whom I had history through years of coverage. I knew them and they knew me. It was October 14, 2008 and was a contest between then incumbent Governor Mitch Daniels and the Democratic challenger former US Representative Jill Long Thompson. It was staged by the Indiana Debate Commission before a full house in the Indiana University Auditorium and was broadcast statewide and into the Louisville Kentucky and Chicago Illinois television and radio markets. Being a debate moderator is not a popularity contest. Done properly it can bring understanding. I think we should give them whistles.

     See you down the trail.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Down The Path and Reel Stuff

 life altering experience
the tree once had more lofty goals and heights to reach. it adapts

reel stuff
   As the negative commercials and political bombast continue, the big screen offers a couple of great diversions.
    Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger is an enduring American hero, someone to celebrate and who lifts our spirit with the knowledge of our ability to be great. Tom Hanks is a great and timeless actor and Clint Eastwood is in a rare supreme category in film directing. Obviously Sully is worth your time. Everyone should see how our NTSB system functions and how the US Air landing on the Hudson was handled, where blame spreading and butt covering was an intent. Hero judgment and response saves the day, again.
    Some of us were so caught up in the Beatles mania we were not thinking about the impact they had on touring and what touring did to them. 
     They were the first to do arena and stadium rock-long before the mega equipment and rock tour entourages.
      The Beatles-Eight Days a Week-the Touring Years is a Ron Howard handling of archival film and recent interviews with Paul and Ringo and others. 
       Those earlier boys were bright, entertaining and capable of conquering the world. We revisit those days with annotations from now. The music, footage and infectious joy and mania are like a sip from a time machined brew. It leaves you high with a dose of the expansive and youthful feelings of the sixties and seventies. It feels good to channel those years. Howard does a brilliant weave of moments so that one feels part of the tour. It is an intimate look at the real boys to men.

missed opportunity?
some see a bloom
others see an old choke
perhaps you see a missed side dish

 down the path
  don't you think pathways are one of our better ideas? they can be inviting, especially so at sunset
 an ice cream truck awaits
   The arrangement behind the wine barrel, the stack of "spears" is the business end of an old hay rake. A ranch tool.
the shadows lengthen and a party awaits 

   See you down the trail.