Thursday, September 28, 2017


Sculpture by Lana Cochrun

    The recent work by Lana seems an appropriate symbol of this post.The woman wears life and the cumulative affect of unseen forces and her manner is haunting.

Photo by Playboy 

     Hugh Hefner's passing at 91 is a moment to consider who we are and what we have become.
     It seems a mistake to consider only the lifestyle of Hefner who seemed to patent the idea of a playboy. There is much about how he portrayed and used women that people can find offensive and demeaning. But Hefner and Playboy made an impact on America that is to our benefit.
     He was an early advocate for racial equality and took bold steps to make an integrated society the norm.
     He was a tireless advocate of free speech and expression. He fought against censorship and a government's heavy hand.
    He was an advocate and supporter of feminism a maturing of his own sexual views.
    His early TV show was the essence of hip, cool and intellectual discussion and fostered a new format.
    Playboy brought sexual behavior and practice out of the bedroom and into the light of analysis, study and public discussion. 
     And as cliche' as it may have been, he provided a forum for writers, published excellent literature and journalism. It published scores of brilliant articles and probing interviews. 
     He advanced music, art and genuine scholarship.
     In a roundabout way he helped launch Gloria Steinem's writing career.
     Yes, he published pictures of naked women. But the naked human body is nothing to be ashamed of, it is a rather marvelous signet of life on this planet. 
      One's view, on possibly everything we consider, may well change over time and the arrival of heirs.
       I did not hope that my daughters would grow to be Playboy Bunnies, and there was a time when both of them thought the magazine was exploitative. As they aged they came to see modern sexuality in their own enlightened ways. Hugh Hefner contributed to America's maturation.
      As a high school and college boy I enjoyed the magazine, including the beautiful women. I make no apology for that. My hormones were kicking on, sexual experience was a very present motivation in my life and I enjoyed the slick and polished style of Playboy magazine.
     In college I was able to visit a couple of Playboy Clubs and enjoyed the experience. Later, as a journalist and speaking with "Bunnies" and Playmates I gained a broadened view about what those women experienced and the difficulties of it. I saw the truth behind the pretense.
     As a correspondent I profiled one of the magazines leading photographers and accompanied him as he and his crew shot for a feature on mid western women. Let me explain a moment that forever changed my attitude about the models.  
     I'll start with the finished photo. It featured a beautiful young women, partially dressed with a come hither seductive look on her face. The truth is she was an 18 year old kid who found poses only because the photographer's assistants helped her attain them. The seductive look on the page of the magazine was in real life a confused "what do you want me to do?" expression. There was nothing sexual in her mind or behavior and the "look" the magazine was trying to attain was an accidental moment that a skilled photographer was able to glean. The "sexiness" of the shot was nothing in that kid's mind or experience.
       I met Hefner and he was an endearing man, well read and highly intelligent.  Years later I interviewed his daughter Christie when she became CEO. She too was endearing, articulate and deep thinking. 
       In later years Playboy seem an anachronism and even a bit silly.  Hefner's lifestyle seemed the same and perpetually adolescent.  But that does not negate the innovation he brought or the good battles he fought. He was an original.

     It surprised some the NFL Owners and Commissioner lined up with the players in the battle of words with the occupant of the White House. 
      It would be nice to think these plantation owners firmly believe in the full benefits of free speech and expression. But consider another angle.
      The players and the league are locked in a battle over the NFL's policy of dropping player's medical insurance after a time. That time is usually about the time the players begin suffering the maladies of the game's brutality.
       The biggest concern now and one that some of the public is finally starting to pay attention to is CTE. The statistics of former NFL players with CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is shocking. Many are wondering if it is not a matter of IF, but WHEN NFL players begin to experience the disastrous destruction of their brains and their lives.
       Getting locked into a battle with the twitter in chief is a great diversion from the CTE concerns. Remember this is a league that tried to prevent a popular movie about CTE from being made, released or advertised. Changing the subject is like an audible change made at the line of scrimmage. 

     See you down the trail

Monday, September 25, 2017


   As a kid in school or later sitting in an office or newsroom I always wanted to be outside. I could satisfy that urge in my reporting days, though was stifled when I got to the executive suite. 
   A day with a good portion of it spent under the sky is a good day.
    But when I see something like this I begin muttering about the intelligence and even parenting of those responsible. 
     This is under a bridge on a trail to the coast near Harmony California. It's a state park and a magnificent trail, so how a slob ends up there dumping trash is beyond me. And I wonder how anyone can be that arrogant and disrespectful!

it broke the nation
    Watching The Vietnam War, the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary series on PBS has been rough because it evokes old wounds, though it is important we do so.
      Analysts have observed that Vietnam fractured the nation as much as the Civil War did. The divide remains a half a century later and many live in and with residual pain.
     Novick and Burns tell the story on a human scale and it is expansive. We see and experience it personally; North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, and Americans. We are immersed into the political machinations of all of the governments, military organizations and the battle field. And we see the insanity of war and its dehumanizing and evil impact. 
    Our generation fought the war and fought against it and we  lived with nightly television news that was graphic, painful and dangerous to gather. 
    Over the years there have been many thorough historic volumes and accounts. I've read a lot of them and have talked with the authors; soldiers, journalists, intelligence operators, politicians and anti war activists. But most Americans have not. And even those of age during the war have tried to put it all out of mind and move on. It just hurt that badly. Living through it was emotionally searing.
     Despite the intentional avoidance most of us have experienced those moments or an occasion when something said or done would move us to the fault line fissure the war created. It was politic or polite to avoid going there. It was a way to avoid the pain and anger. But no longer.
     Novick and Burns give us a history we must address, national sins and errors we must confront. There is time for the generation of the war to square it in our hearts before we are gone. If we will but do that. There is much to learn about ourselves and our national experience in the Vietnam war and our response to the vets. 
     It is not courageous to face the truth, it is wise. Wisdom comes with a price, and that price has been paid so we must  remember the accounting. This documentary series does that. It also leaves a telling for our heirs. 

     See you down the trail.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


   Dominica is one of my favorite places. The little volcano mount rising out of the eastern Caribbean in the Leeward Islands is one of the more untouched places in our hemisphere. It has now been crushingly touched by Hurricane Maria. 

   Structures like this cannot fare well in a Category 5 storm.
Dominica appeals to me for its lack of development. It is natural, native, local and unpretentious.  It is the "Nature Island" and great place to immerse in nature and away from commercialism.
    Documentary and news assignments allowed me to spend a lot of time in the Caribbean. The people of Dominica were among the most genuine and hardworking I've encountered. 
     Fishing is a major source of income and the small boats and harbors the Dominicans workout have been seriously assaulted. 
       Awaiting casualty reports and other news I reviewed memories and shots taken during an assignment on Dominica.
       Late one evening my colleagues and I were having dinner at a local family restaurant on the main street when we heard a cacophony below. Car horns, drums and other percussion sounds. It was late and we were the only people in the place when the waitress and cook began a nervous dialogue rich in patois. 
       What is it I asked?
       "Oh my, it tis Lapo Kabwit" she said, "not allowed now."
      It was a growing crowd of dancers and chanters moving through the darkened street. They were led by a drummer playing a tambou le'le' and they were dancing backwards.
       Someone had connected a car horn to a battery and others were banging sticks creating an African-Caribbean rhythm.
     At the time of this assignment Lapo Kabwit-an hypnotic sort of Carnival dance was forbidden because there had been outbreaks of knife fighting and violence.
      We left our dinner on the table and took gear in hand to join the snaking crowd under a clear star field and to record the event.
      Our hostess was pleased we returned safely and she warmed our meal. Eventually Lapo Kabwit was allowed to return to a formal Carnival celebration, but authorities frowned on the spontaneous late night eruptions. I could never square the idea of Dominicans fighting with each other as they are people who seem to appreciate the rare peace and beauty they enjoy.
      Now I worry about their well being and their long road back.

     See you down the trail.

Friday, September 15, 2017


    Spoiler alert-there is a bit of positive thought ahead but first the news.
    Child psychologist Dr Ava Siegler says we are in the midst of a "national disaster" and parents are the first responders.
    Dr Siegler and others in psychology says decency, civility, knowledge and truthfulness "are not values of the trump government."

data points
     The recent George Washington University poll finds
  • 71% of voters say trump's behavior is not what they expect from a President
  • 68% of Americans believe his words and actions could accidentally get us involved in an international conflict
  • 63% of Americans say the country is on the wrong track
    Another study tells us what we learn from the news, most Americans are anxious about trump's affect on the surge in white supremacy.

the therapy
    David H. Rosmarin a professor at Harvard Medical school and the director of the Spirituality and Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital has good advice.
    Rosmarin says we should set aside 1-3 minutes a day to worry about the worst things that can happen and accept the reality that we are not in control. 
     He suggests we take time off from the news and social media. 
     Dr Rosmarin and many of his colleagues tell us that in these days of trump we should eat well, work out, and work on personal relationships.
     There is a consensus we should spend time with friends and loved ones and focus on enjoying the company and the good feelings of the moment.
     Indeed many of us feel a sense of depression. Normally mellow and relaxed people are trapped in a sense of anger and even rage. 
     As parents and grandparents we should tell children the meanness, selfishness, ego centricity  and lies of the president and some of his supporters and advisors are anti American, wrong and-this is important-will eventually be punished or corrected. 

     This reminds me of the "bad things happen to good people" advice and help books. Most of us have faced challenges and difficulties, uncertain of outcomes. In those periods we are counseled to rely on those we love and care for, people and belief, to understand however desperate a situation there are things for which to be grateful and to remember, all things change, this too will pass. 
     I'm not advocating this, but simply reporting-as we have communicated with our grand daughter, and even with  adults, about how wrong is the behavior, tone and mood of the president, especially his pathological lies, we feel better.
    Telling the truth and affirming the positive values that once undergirded this democratic republic is a one day at a time way of combating the tension, toxicity and corruption of this time in America.

catch the good beams when you can

    See you down the trail.


Thursday, September 7, 2017


    The "Dreamers" are Americans.
    I heard a young would be nursing student talking about the 15 years he had spent in the US, becoming as "Americanized" as anyone else and now he and 800 thousand others are targeted. It is not only wrong, it is stupid!
     Donald Trump has lied again and while that is no surprise the scope of the reaction of Americans and certainly American business is. Almost everyone knows the idea of ending "the dream" is a repulsive violation of what we think and believe.
     Perhaps the opposition of business and industry and the law suits by states and others will help keep the dream alive.

Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society and Indiana University

(This is a repeat of a post first published September 15, 2014. The complaint and issue has again been raised)

     To quote Ed Murrow "this just might do nobody any good." To paraphrase his 1958 speech to the Radio TV News Directors Association (RTNDA), at the end of this a few people may misunderstand what I'm saying, but here I go.
      We need to find a balance point where those who wish to address and treat sins of the past do not also destroy history or use deconstructionism without restraint and/or the balance of intellectual buffers.
      A case in point-The Thomas Hart Benton mural.
Controversial when it was created in the 1930's it is said to make people uncomfortable now. Why?  The depiction of the KKK. An honest appraisal of Indiana history cannot ignore the Klan. 
       If you are disturbed by the Klan portrayal consider proportion and perspective. The hooded terrorists are counter weighted by a white nurse attending to an African American child. More visual counter punch is the left anchor of the Benton panel composed of the press, an editor/writer and reporter that challenged and broke the Klan's extraordinary control of Indiana politics and the 1920's Republican party.  
      The media's battle with the Klan is iconic. Pulitzer awards have been given. I was awarded a National Emmy for my investigative documentary of the modern Klan in America. I've been an enemy of discrimination and prejudice, including racism, sexism, ageism and other manifestations of bias. My body of work is deep in reporting on these issues.
      We should find a way to be aware of sensitivities without trying to edit the past. The mural is not, as some have said, a glorification of the Klan, rather it is a depiction of fact. Reality, regardless of pain or absurdity cannot or should not be retrospectively edited or worse, deleted. Knowledge dictates that we recognize historic truths.
     History appreciates with understanding and by sifting nuance and seeing things in context through an honest assessment.  Later we may come to advanced understandings, gain insight, change our minds, learn, discover information and evolve, but the ground from which we and knowledge derive is historic fact. What we see and call history must be understood not only in the context of our time-but in the framework of what people knew and did in their own time. 
     As a high school kid I spent time in the city room of the Indianapolis Times. A giant replica of the front page announcing the Times winning a Pulitzer for their investigation of the Klan adorned a wall. It made a huge impression. When I took the stage in New York to accept the national Emmy for my own investigation I stepped into a slip stream of iconic history. The Benton art tells part of that story. 
    Though you may think the behavior is offensive, the painting itself of klansmen and the burning cross should not be regarded as offensive in intent  but rather as part of that stream of history. In the painting the Klan is seen as small, yet the nurse doing good service and the press loom more significant and impressive.  And if you look carefully you will see the klansmen are dominated and overridden by circus performers. There was a time when most circus acts wintered in Indiana. I think Benton was expressing a bit of poetic contempt and mockery by that juxtaposition.  
     No the Benton mural is not offensive, and those who think it is are simply wrong. It is history and should be taught and respected as such. And as I study it again I am reminded there must always have been those who like to ignore or even forget as well as those who may be rightfully upset with our past, who would like to expunge it. We can not help but analyze by virtue of what we know, but we must keep in mind that we are only as effective as we are fully and historically informed. 
       We cannot change the past.


    See you down the trail