Friday, July 28, 2017


     Those who think equality is essential might take a lesson from spiders. They spare no corner of opportunity. Despite adversity they persist.

caged by identity
       He was always alone, off to the side. I figured he was shy. I was not so much shy as reserved, content to watch and study, learning who was who and what was what. It was an integrated elementary school and we studied and played together, but he seemed somehow adrift. Let's call him Mark.
      The term in those days was "mulatto." He was light skinned though a bit darker than white kids and had an unusual kind of freckling. I liked him. He was athletic, neat, had good manners and was the kind of kid my parents said I should associate with. But on the playground he stood back and, as I began to observe, he was shunned by some of the black kids who knew him and by a couple of the more boisterous white boys. 
      Mark lived on the other side of the park and though it was nothing we thought much about, it was the boundary between black families and white families. Mark lived black. I lived white, but we were a lot alike and a natural friendship developed. Mark came to my house, though I was never invited to his. He didn't like to talk about his mixed race parents or the struggles he faced. We just did the kind things a couple of athletic and active young guys did. We were friends. 
       In a couple of years we were in separate classes and a year after that my family moved to another city.
      His older brother became a noted educator and administrator courted by universities for executive positions. He was an advocate for equality, across the board. He had  been an outstanding student and athlete and not shy nor deterred by his birthright. That is as it should be. 
      I don't know what became of Mark, but I thought about him as I read about an incident in a nearby California town.
      The police department is being sued over claims of racial bias. A black man who's family had been to the beach was on the way home when he stopped in front of the police department to stretch his legs and smoke a cigarette. He figured the police department would be a safe spot. He says as he got out of the car he was "accosted" by a policewoman who said he looked "suspicious." The officer asked his white wife "why she was there and if she was OK?" The couples two children observed this. You get the idea. 
       There have been victories in the struggle for human dignity and equality but the war is nowhere near being won. While unenlightened attitudes persist so do efforts to carry the light and build webs of understanding, regulation, law and  political culture to deliver on the promise of our democratic republic. Here, every birthright is guaranteed equality, regardless. No cage of identity. Or we are collectively a fraud and a failure. There is work to do.

a champion napper
 Hemingway is a cat after Garfield's heart! 

scout's honor
On my honor I will do my best
to do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times:
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

Physically strong, mentally awake, morally straight?
sexual predator, serial adulterer, habitual liar 
business cheat, slob?

"Fake leader"
Failed man

     The Scouts apology for the travesty of the jamboree helped clear the air, but only slightly. 

      See you down the trail.

Monday, July 24, 2017


Echoes of a frontier-Eastern Slope of the Sierra

   I wonder how many of us are as tough as our ancestors.
   Seeing a shell of a cabin in the windswept high valley of the Sierra I marvel at the men and women who cut lonely lives in hostile and isolated environments. They were made of tough stuff.
   So was the WWII "greatest generation," especially the Brits. Their survival of the German blitz-the bombing campaign against London is heroic. There's an epic new film that adds another chapter to that kind of tough-Dunkirk.
    When up to 400 thousand British and French Soldiers were cut off, pinned down by Germans along the French shore across the channel from Dover, a hellish slaughter was imminent. The best the Churchill government could plan was to evacuate some 30 thousand. That was until British citizens created the most unlikely armada in history and evacuated more than 300 thousand troops.
    Director Christopher Nolan has created an ingenious, multifaceted way to recount one of the 20th Centuries towering achievements. Dialogue is sparse-but the acting is brilliant. Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy and Harry Styles imprint this heroic story deeply in your mind.
    There it is, in large format, the kind of history we need to know. When I heard the words of Churchill, famous words now, I could not escape a comparison to Donald Trump.
leadership and character
   Thank God we were led by men of character, stature, intelligence and courage, qualities that do not exist in the barely literate megalomaniac who angry and disturbed people put into office, against the majority. 
     Character counts and that is proven by history. We can hope Providence protects us from an epic occurrence as long as trump remains in office.
    He is not tough. He is a bully instead and he continues to betray his appalling ignorance. Recently he accused the New York Times of interfering with pursuit of a terrorist. He was summarily body slammed by the facts, again. 
    Generations of ancestors have proven they are tougher than challenges that descend upon them, or enslave them, or deny them, or cheat them, or seek to destroy them. Our generation faces the accidental challenge and assault from our own president. 
     John McCain's illness is tragic. He is a genuine hero and I hope someone pushes trump to offer an apology. That a blogger even need write such a thought, bespeaks how far this leader is from being worthy to be called a commander.
    We are tougher and smarter. America is greater and bigger than the trump aberration. 
     It is not unlike the German bombers that struck London, or tried to kill lines of troops on the sands at Dunkirk, they did not prevail. Many of them went down in flames, just as this White House is in the midst of doing. 

at bay

out on a limb

more tough
    Can't help but marvel at the mental toughness of Jordan Spieth. The newly crowned and young British Open Champion overcame his own bad game and control. He was almost out of it when his steel became apparent and he prevailed to claim his first British title. Cheers!

     See you down the trail.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Sequoia National Park

      Being in the presence of an ancient can do a lot to widen your view. Beholding a 2-3 thousand year old tree puts a perspective on human endeavors and foibles.
 Audubon Society Sweet Springs Nature Preserve Los Osos Ca.
    Even a less august eucalyptus grove displays endurance,  the contortions, changes and adjustments demanded of life. 
     Are humans any less subject?
 Sweet Springs Preserve
    And we are grateful for green spaces, preserves, national and state parks where that which is older is paid respect. And where we can rest, focus and gain clarity.

    Do you think we'd see a different behavior if House and Senate members did a nature centered retreat-a kind of outward bound recess? I like to think that a thread of decency would appear even in the contemptible Mitch McConnell.
    He's even more of a "gloomy Gus" these days, a weakened and failed leader who has presided over a colossal failure and collapse of majority politics. 

    It is good for all of us the mean spirited and punitive Republican Health Care plan seems to be dying. Surprising that a party that controls everything-White House, Senate, House and that has been shrilly condemning the Affordable Health Care Act for 6 years, can't govern, can't legislate and has no vision for America and can't do what they said they would do "on day 1." It is a disastrous administration and nations see us as weaker and unreliable.

    So maybe a couple of weeks of hiking and camping in Yosemite, or the Bridger Teton Wilderness or in Denali could do our Senators and Representatives a world of good, and us too.
    I wish we could get our bloated, sexual predator and lying tweeter in chief into the wilds. Oh boy, could you imagine? But that would probably result in a blown body part and would sadly end the camp out.

    Being in nature however clarifies an undeniable truth. Behind our politics, regardless of stripe or affiliation is an assumption about the power of human life and its durability. We move through our days owning an attitude of perpetuity. It ain't so!
    We are merely passing through. The best we can hope for is 7-9 decades. We are all amazed at how quickly it passes. 
    So why do we behave the way we do? We damage, scar, despoil, deplete our planet. And we brutalize, terrorize, destroy and kill, including each other. And for what ends?

     The health care plan is a case in point. Since all of us, even the most healthy, have limited days how can we be punitive or restrictive? 
      Providing health care to everyone is right. Arguing "there have always been the poor," or the fact that some can't afford coverage is "just the price of modern life" or "the way it is," is wrong.  Politics that enshrine those attitudes are mean and venal.
     Health care should not be a political doctrine, it is a matter of health, and if it is not a right, then it is our responsibility to each other. There is also the deep and complicated topic of the role of "profit" in the practice of health and healing. 
     I am one of those who believe our higher aspirations and greater good is to be just and merciful. Any thing else is delusional bull shit, the sort of which that leads humanity to our inhumane treatment of each other and our only planet.

     See you down the trail. 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Did the Hunt Find a Witch? and Dramas in Twilight

     A few moments of gloaming evoked a sort of pensive tranquility. In looking at these frames I thought of impressionism as the quality of light and color seemed in motion, changing rapidly.
      Speaking of which, do you think we are entering the twilight of the trump regime?  Thoughts on colluding and conspiracy follow this visual therapy.  

 the light of the foreground trailing off into the distance-with the hot spot of a moon rise
the lace and feather like quality of forest against a painted sky 
very soft shadows decorate a mission, white and calm
the moon and the tapering shapes have an almost Flemish oil feel
the battle of portraits

   Reading artist/writer Stephen Hayes recent Chubby Chatterbox blog post about the fate of a portrait of Winston Churchill reminded me of an amusing juxtaposition in the halls of the State Capitol in Sacramento.


     The Reagan portrait, like those of the other Governors is traditional and stately. Governor Jerry Brown's is modern and creative but apparently controversial at the time it was hung in 1984. 
     Brown, who served his first two terms from 1975-1983 reportedly said the painting looked "unfinished" and that it reflected his "unfinished work" as Governor.
     Artist Don Bachardy said Brown was a tough subject, uneasy at being painted, not content to sit as the artist worked. 
     Unkind things were written and said of Bachardy's work in the early '80's. Frankly I think it has become a classic in it's own right. Modern, perhaps even a little pop, out of the mainstream which very much bespeaks the remarkable political career and service of Jerry Brown.  
     Does a repeat Governor get a second portrait opportunity? Brown looks different than he did in the 1980's, don't we all?

the conviction of colluding "junior"
    Shall we dispatch with the judicial process now that televisions comics and pundits have convicted Donald Trump Jr. of collusion and conspiracy. Man have they ever! Almost expect to seem him marched to the guillotine as the old man celebrates the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille, the beginning of what became the "reign of terror " that included cutting off the heads of the likes of the "one percenters." The trump clan more than likely would have felt the "the national razor." But we get ahead of ourselves.
     Has the so called fake news and "witch hunt" found a witch? The news is no longer fake.  From the beginning I was not sure there would be provable "collusion" with the Russian attack. The Don Jr. e-mails may change that . There in fact may be a "there" there in the probe of the Russian meddling in our election. 
     We trust the Mueller team will plumb how deep and how extensive was the Russian attack. 
     Juniors acknowledgment and "love" of the information being supplied by Russian sources, likely Russian agents, raised an historic question--
what did the president know and when did he know it?
    Doesn't it strain credibility to think that when his son and his son in law, plus others, knew about the Russian attack and met with (colluded?) foreign nationals to screw with the American election, he-king trump of the tower, didn't know about it? One of the meetings happened in his gold and glass tribute to poor taste. 
      We remember the function in this is to let investigators, prosecutors and the judicial system "prove" or not, and render a decision. What you and I think, and what the TV says doesn't really matter, except to us. However when the word treason is being used, it seems appropriate. 
a republican response would be nice, 
about now!
      Republican Joe Scarborough said it well. It is disgusting how republicans are selling out the party's core values. He asks what many Americans have-why haven't party leaders spoken out against trump's racist remarks, boorish behavior, his turning the white house into an extension of his family business? I wonder why they haven't demanded a cogent and consistent foreign policy? Why haven't they filled critical positions in the government? Scarborough asks "what are they willing to do, how far are they willing to go" in backing trump for their own means?
the big question
      Why would the party, known for its strong national security, defense support and hawkish policies, not be "ballistic," at least "operational," in response to the Russian attack? Imagine what President Eisenhower, Reagan, HW Bush and even W would say and do?
      At best Republicans have been tepid in their response! 
Now the president's son and his trusted ace advisor/son-in- law are caught with their hands in living Matryoshka dolls, why isn't there a loud condemnation? Or at least an admonishment that to cooperate with a foreign national to undermine our government is treason?
      Instead Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are trying to revive a dead skunk so they can give the trumps and the other richest of the rich a tax break while breaking our already fragile health care network and jeopardizing the well being of millions of not so rich citizens. 
      For the sake of the party and its self respect, and for the sake of the future, those Republicans with a sense of honor and patriotism need to drive a wedge between the trump regime and the party. Time to say enough is enough. If not then the Republican party will be owned by trump. He is probably already gold gilding the elephant and replacing GOP and Republican with another trump sign.  
      If we are lucky we'll see some of the trumps wearing orange jump suits and doing a perp walk. 

       See you down the trail.


Monday, July 10, 2017


      North of Cambria, early July
    The president's foreign trip underscores a universal acknowledgment, the leader of the US is no longer the most powerful nor is he the "leader of the free world" as we used to say.
    International leaders are joined in chorus by analysts and writers from the right and left-America's role has been diminished by Trump. They agree Vladimir Putin has more moxie, finesse and muscle than the American president. Other leaders are assuming the moral and ethical leadership role, previously played by the American President.
     If Trump has a cogent policy, it has not been articulated. What the world hears is "America first," warnings about enemies, the freakish, petulant, embarrassing behavior and a serious lack of grasp. At least he can read a teleprompter. 
      We take a deeper dive, later.

not speaking?
    I can't help but chuckle at this. The body language and pose is hilarious. 
    In fact Lana and our pal Grif are looking for other friends, but the symmetry of the snap is amusing.
    A delightful reality that struck us some 10 years ago on our migration to Cambria is it's similarity to a big Arts School. 
    Cambria loves music. It's an art colony and home to musicians, writers, guild and craft artists from Hollywood and television, bohemians of several generations, free thinkers and free spirits. Of course there are others too, master gardeners, dog lovers, cat lovers, nature lovers, hikers, surfers and people of every conceivable political stripe and attitude. We have our one percenters too, but not nearly in the concentration you find further north, or south. There is a large cross ideological percentage who love music and hanging out.
    We've watched this joyful past-time and we followed its change of venues. The Painted Sky recording story in its evolving locales. The departed Wise Owl was a guaranteed good evening. Now popular singer/songwriter Jill Knight has organized for a new venue-Centrally Grown, formerly the Hamlet. 
     In the scene above Jill is joined by the accomplished Eric Williams and Billy Foppiano. 
    She will perform and so will others from the deep bench of Central California talent. The constant party has a new location and we boomers remain in our suspended state of a big high school crowd waiting for the next party.
   A wood fired pizza, glass of wine or beer, great music, friends and a lovely California evening has to be high on the list of "as good as it gets."

and there is much to recover from
   I've been reading the conversation among Republican, Libertarian and Conservative friends who have tolerated my pragmatism and political agnosticism for years. They are not trump supporters. They certainly are not liberals, Democrats, or anything other than what we consider traditional moderate to right center Republicans. 
   I agree with their notion the trump vote commission is wrong. It is federal overreach, dangerous, sinister and anti American.
    It is a nefarious attempt to gather and collect data the Federal government has no need of, nor right to expect. To turn it over would pose the risk of likely abuse and manipulation by the trumpist/extreme right wing cabal or others. There could be no guarantee the data would be safe, anywhere. We can't forget this administration had to be shoved into acknowledging the Russian cyber attack on America.
    (Getting to the bottom of that attack and determining if there was participation on the part of US citizens is a national priority.) 
    The states that have flashed the bird at the trump election commission requests are to be applauded. 
     Another nagging thought. Mike Pence is quietly working to build his donor base. While his boss is watching a big screen television and tweeting, the VP has been hustling money and preparing for a post trump world. This very guy whose Indiana Republican party was ready to depose because of his nefarious right wing schemes and embarrassments to the state, would have access to, if not control of, the private voter data the trump commission has been asking for. That should also give you the willies.
     See you down the trail.

Friday, July 7, 2017


     Beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, it is also where you find it. And it depends on mindset.
     Super gardener Lana sees this year's abundant thistle crop as evil run amok, nature's symbolic response to the election perhaps. Everything nasty about thistles is true, but they can possess a photographic beauty.

     Still they are nasty self propagators and they have flourished in this first post drought year. They are hard to cut and clear. There is a lesson in that for you of political persuasion. More about that later.

     Frequent readers may recall an earlier post on the early roll out success of Calder The Musical. Full disclosure here-a co-writer and producer is a friend and associate of decades, Tom Alvarez.
     The CD is now in release as Tom and his partner Dustin Klein take the show to the next level. And that's the point of this review-get to CD Baby where you can sample and buy your own copy.
     There is an infectious joy and energy in the music of Calder the Musical from the rousing opening Ton of A Man to the closing Dance With Me, which makes you want to do just that.
     There is a message here in this tribute of "art to life."  Alvarez and Klein bring life to this art of theater with the universal advice of following dreams. This is an inspiration to follow your path and it is told in song in a way that is a joyful coaching for the young and a reminder for those of us who are not, to reclaim our passion.
     Tom has been a barrier breaking producer and talent and an impresario of creativity for as long as I have known him. I take a great joy in imagining how he and Dustin conceived and gave birth to this fresh and exciting new production.
     It is hard to pick a favorite song from this show. That's For Sure is catchy. A Prize in the Sky is simply beautiful and in league with some of theaters all time best. Were It Not For Me will also work it's way into your heart and mind. 
      It is an energetic soundtrack with range and diversity and will have you swaying or wanting to dance through out. It has the kind of music that will leave you humming or singing.
       Alvarez and Klein make musical magic and give us an innovative take on life, art and a famous name. I didn't want the CD to be over. Calder the Musical leaves you wanting more. 
     I wish Tom and Dustin all the best as they work to share Calder the Musical on more stages.

     The women's division of the Cambria pie eating contest
packed in the crowd and gave us a chance to forget about the American divide.
     Everyone, even those who identify as conservative and/or republican seems embarrassed by the president's behavior this past week. His personal attack on a media personality and that childish tweet of him attacking CNN were new lows in the American presidency. His numbers continue to dive.
     Like those nasty thistles and their pernicious impact, uprooting the trump impact on the US and its values will take work, by true republicans and democrats as well as traditional conservatives and liberals. The president is none of the above. Time for the round up and weed begone.

    See you down the trail.


Monday, July 3, 2017


A glimpse of California summer. Mellow afternoon in San Luis Obispo.

founding father trouble maker
    Thomas Paine would have been the leading blogger or social media star of his era-the American Revolution.
     His pamphlets fueled the rebellion. Common Sense was read by most of the Revolution's leaders. As we celebrate Independence Day this year, it seems more than appropriate to let the radical speak for himself to 2017 America.


     It did not end well for Paine who continued to speak his mind, regardless of who it might offend. He quarreled with George Washington, irritated Christians, and was jailed in France, where he observed their revolution. Future American President James Monroe pulled strings to get his freedom.     
    He wrote Age of Reason, The American Crisis, and The Rights of Man and was perhaps the most influential writer of the American Revolution. 
     One could argue a foundational piece of the great divide between liberals and conservatives goes to Paine's criticism of Edward Burke, a founder of conservatism.  
     Paine is a god-father to liberals, libertarians, left-liberals, feminists, democratic socialists, social democrats, progressives and free thinkers.
     He was one of the first to advocate for emancipation of slaves. He may have been the first to advocate for old age pensions and guaranteed minimum income. 
      Paine said he believed in "one God" but not in religious doctrines or churches. 
       He had the ability to infuriate. But he continued to expound. There are reports only 6 people attended his funeral.
      But had it not been for the instigation of Thomas Paine, our Independence Day might be a moot point.  No less than John Adams said "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain."

       Independence Day 2017....hmmmm!

American Hero
     Conductor/educator Michelle Brosseau-Tacchia is one of those Americans who have kept America great-for years.
     She is the leader of Symphonie Jeunesse from San Bernadino. You can link here.
         Students who do not otherwise have the resources may learn to advance their musical skills under Brosseau-Tacchia. Instruments, lessons, rehearsal and even touring expenses are the result of a charitable spirit and effort led by Michelle. Lives of young women and men are enhanced and changed. 
      The frame above is from their most recent Central California tour. We have been fortunate to hear Symphonie Jeunesse several times. They are wonderful and leave audiences always shaking their heads that what they heard was performed by students. They are indeed extraordinary thanks to the extraordinary devotion of a dedicated educator. An American hero.

      See you down the trail.