Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I'm with the kids....

Peace-William Strutt 1896  
In the public domain
Family Print brought from England
     I've been thinking about this William Strutt work, Peace.
    The framed print above is one of my earliest memories. It hung in the entrance hall of the three story house shared by my widowed grandmother and her sisters; a widowed aunt, and two additional aunts and their husbands. The women were English, and the two uncles were Scots. As the lone child in the lively hub, I found fascination and retreat in the print. Peace was a psychological icon and it is a lodestone.
      Seeing the Parkland kids with their direct and honest confrontation of "business as normal" has been a catharsis. A dread that our current low information, bully populism was a trap door to bad getting worse is now tempered by our children calling our BS. 
     Children mobilized, because of the slaughter of their friends, is not the back story we'd expect but it leads now to a hope. The Strutt is therapeutic. 
     Peace hypnotized me. I remember standing on a stool, staring at it, endlessly. 
     It is frequently called "And A Child Shall Lead Them" and that leads back to the kids. 
    I presume I am one of millions who hope children are  leading us now, the children of Parkland Florida and the school children of America who are walking out, marching, protesting and challenging the hypocrisy and prostitution of elected officials. They lead in naming names of house and senate members who are on the payroll of the NRA, calling out trump for rescinding an Obama administration regulation that made it more difficult for people with mental illness to get guns.
     A theological note; Strutt's painting is based on words from Isaiah, "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them."
     People have diverse interpretations of its meaning. Strutt had his own of course, depicting the verse and calling it Peace. I like that.
     But I've always favored the idea of the innocence of a child as being a model for how to live and believe. An important pronouncement for followers of Christ is to protect and revere children and to adopt a child like purity of mind and belief, "for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." 

     After each mass slaughter there is a public outcry. There was a moment when it appeared members of the House and Senate were listening. Congress was poised to tighten laws and do something constructive, but then, as always, Wayne La Pierre and his cultural terrorists go to work. Big money gets pumped into PACs and politicians, who are threatened with "primarying" if they don't do the NRA's bidding. There is an abundance of spineless, cowardly weasels to tumble to the NRA once again.
     Once more the NRA and La Pierres's finger prints are on the mass shooting. They've distorted and propagandized the Second Amendment. The NRA is really only a marketing force and lobby for the gun makers and sellers. They are a big reason why 17 more victims have been claimed and while we will likely see another Parkland, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marysville, Rancho Tehama, Santa Monica, Virginia Tech, Red Lake, West Nickel, Northern Illinois, Umpqua Community College, Oikos University in Oakland, and this is only a partial list of just school shootings. If you wish you can compute your own list of mass shootings in total. 
      Mr. LaPierre, how many of these victims do you take responsibility for? How many more bodies do you and the NRA desire to see?
     The child in the Strutt, and the children who lost friends tell us there is a better way. We should listen and get out of their way and let them lead.
a pause for beauty

   See you down the trail.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


     Lana's knee replacement surgery meant I spent a few days at the hospital, a rich tableau for an old reporter and watcher of people.
     One thing I am sure of is that nurses run things. Doctors matter of course and so do the administrators, but the nurses are the heart and soul and a good portion of the brains. It's similar to the army, where Sergeants run things. Nurses and sergeants know things based on practical experience on top of their considerable training. If you want to know something, ask a nurse. If nurses offer advice, take it.
     I'm biased because my youngest daughter Katherine is a nurse and so are several of our good friends.
     Maybe this nation would be a lot better off, if nurses were running the show.

there's a cure for that
        branding and castration in Templeton California

        I take it as my patriotic duty to rail about a couple of items and offer up a solution as pictured above.

         A military parade? Just one more warning sign on the growing checklist this guy is separated from reality,  normalcy, decency and intelligence and that he's acting so like a banana republic dictator he represents a danger to our democratic republic. He's got no politics or policy that we could fight about it, it's just his ego insanity, arrogance and lack of knowledge.
         Scores of experienced men and women warned us in the campaign, he's unfit, unqualified and lacks the intelligence to do the job. He won't even read the daily presidential briefs, he spends hours doing his "hair," comes to work late, leaves early and cannot be trusted.
         Yea, I know I'm sick and tired of it too. But we cannot for moment let this tyrant go unchecked or unchallenged so some times we have beat a dead horse. 
        There is the vexing matter of those who continue to support him, and the republicans who refuse to rebuff him. I submit they will be remembered by history as fools and a cancer on the great American experiment. 
         Wouldn't you love to see this bloated over the hill playboy and scammer meet justice-Batman or Avengers style? Or from a cowboy like those pictured above.

an example of the decline
          It was an item many would have missed. The Sinclair Broadcast group, the nation's largest owner of TV stations, is fighting for deregulation so they can amass more stations. That alone is a topic for discussion, but the point today is Sinclair asked executives, including news executives and local news directors to contribute to the legal fund.
         They are nuts! They are turning their back on 50 years of journalistic cannons. All major news organizations, ABC, NBC, CBS, FoxNews, and CNN forbid journalists from contributing to candidates, parties or political organizations. Frankly, as a journalist, you wouldn't want to. It helps eliminate conflict of interest or the perception of a bias.
        "I've never seen anything like this," says Professor Lewis Friedland of the University of Wisconsin and a former TV producer, "it's blatantly unethical."
        Sinclair's senior vice president of strategy and policy said there was nothing wrong with the request since it did not go to reporters, anchors or other newsroom employees. Rebecca Hanson said the news directors "were solicited as a result of being part of our managerial level, not because of their role in editorial." Ms Hanson, you cannot have it both ways.
        I was a news director at the flagship station of a TV chain and a member of the management, but also responsible for day to day news operations and content on three stations. Journalists and news people always put priority on content. Hanson's comment and lack of understanding of the ethical violation is so typical of profit driven corporate management where the only thing that matters is the bottom line. And it is not unlike the logic of those who can support donald trump. Oh, by the way, Sinclair mandated that local stations run pro trump commentaries, right wing harangues and pro trump news stories. Mandated that! They are further right than Fox News and they plan to challenge Fox by purchasing new stations, but first they must challenge the Federal Government. 
        I would not, nor could I have, worked for Sinclair. They are a bane on real journalism, but this is the age of trump, where someones opinion carries as much weight as facts, science and truth. It's an age where money and lies persuade.
       There are days when I wonder if traditional American values or principles of fairness, honesty, experience and the value of intelligence and history can survive an age of Facebook, social media, news by flavor, right wing news bias, low information citizens, big money and swindlers like trump and Putin. Maybe not, but not without a fight and a full defense of the constitution and bill of rights. 
        The staff person who was tasked with explaining to the president what the 10 amendments that are bill of rights were says he got to the fourth, trump rolled his eyes, used his finger to blubber his lips and that was it. It is a good bet donald trump has never read the constitution, doesn't know what the separation of powers or checks and balances are -but he's pretty sure his button is the largest.  

        See you down the trail.


Monday, February 5, 2018



      There was a time in the 60's when California was the ultimate in cool. There was the music, beach party movies, Disneyland and something new and fast, drag racing.
      The Beach Boys and the likes of Jan and Dean gave the sport a personality and so did Mr. C--in the car above and on the left below.

    Mr. C was Gary Cochran, my cousin, my cool California cousin. Much of the Cochrun clan moved to California in the 20's. My father's dad became ill and returned to the mid-west though most of the family stayed out west, and even endured the spelling change because that is how everyone wanted to spell the name. My father had fallen in love with California and stayed in touch with the family.
   Gary was a few years older than me, but a family star. After high school and the air force he became one of the early pioneers of the new sport drag racing. In California they ran on old air bases and desert flats and experimented with design and engine power.
    Gary ran the exotic top of the class at the time the sport was being organized and specs were being formalized.
    There's been a lot written about Gary and this link provides a good overview of his contributions.
     It was family lore about how he had been flipped over, on fire and at 200 miles an hour, but he always stayed cool,
   Gary and his crew based out of my fathers house and garage when he came to run at the US Nationals in Indianapolis. As a school kid my bothers and I were knocked out by the exotic design of the racer and Gary's unflappable cool. He was ultimate California, always smiling, mellow in his style, wore great T-shirts, and seemed to enjoy life even when working hard and trying to win. Winning was not unimportant, but enjoying the pursuit was at least equal to it.
    Gary talked about the change that was coming to his sport, started by hobbyists and guys who built and raced their own designs. He saw the infusion of the factory teams, the big money, the big advertisers, and knew the days of fun had become a business. 

    Before he finally retired he had taken the arc from pioneer to professional but never lost his sense of humor or cool.

       We spent time with Gary and Marie as we made our move to California, completing the family odyssey. Neither one of us were the young men we had been all those years ago, but Gary had that quintessential cool that comes with a life in California, years at the beach, years on the fastest tracks on earth, years on the golf course and enjoying friends.
     His health had been failing when I talked to him a couple of months ago. Facing serious challenges he could still laugh at the circumstances in that mellow, laid back California cool style.
         We lost Mr. C and that California Cool last week. Gone at 79 and from where I stand, that is entirely too young. His records and his accomplishments and the adoration of his fans will continue, as it does for pioneers and heroes.
      We send our love to his Marie and to Dawn and Teri.

      See you down the trail.

Thursday, February 1, 2018


Cambria Ca

     There's a great wheeze about three theologians sitting around and discussing when life begins.
     "We believe life begins when the egg and sperm cells unite. It is at that moment, even before the zygotic process that life begins," observes one of the scholars.
     "Well, I understand your view," the second nods, "but we think life doesn't fully bloom until the fetus emerges from the womb and breaths independently for the first time. It is as though the oxygen in the lungs, free from a maternal link, signals the beginning of life," the theologian opines.
      "Well, those are wonderful ideas, and beautiful too I might say," the third says scratching his goatee, "but as for me, I says life begins when the kids leave home!"

     But seriously folks.....
     The older I get the more I sense there is almost nothing of the most profound nature of human existence where we can find consensus. Our differences emerge early. So with that as prelude:
     I wonder if any of you have given thought to what it means to be a human being? How do we classify human existence? What is our hard line definition? What makes it so? Heart beat, brain function, blood flow, vital signs? What?
     Let me stretch this question with a few posits. Many of us are hopeful that new medical processes and technologies will improve and even extend life. Immuno therapy offers new horizons. Wonders to ponder in gene engineering, in vitro diagnoses, cloned, banked or engineered replacement parts and organs, interaction with neural circuitry, other brain health advances, and in fact a cascade of innovation and discovery that we have yet to threshold with understanding. People talk now of pushing life expectancy, and with a confident expectation.

      Years ago I covered rookie training camp for an NBA team as a participant. I checked into a room at the college, was issued all the material and was expected at work outs, practice sessions, meetings, and ate at the training table. Everybody was very understanding that I was just a reporter, but they seemed to appreciate I was busting my butt to report a story.
      One day I was in the training room, nursing an old knee injury on a cybex machine, flexing the knee. Next to me was a genuine star, Len Elmore. Even back in the 70's he was not only a great athlete, but an intelligent and deep thinking man.
      As we flexed away, Elmore said that perhaps someday the professional jocks would be more artificial-better working mechanical knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists and etc. 

     I can't tell you how many times over the years that idea has marched across my brain. But now we live with a kind of fulfillment. The idea of a cyborg is no longer an outrageous fantasy.
     Wouldn't a patient with brain loss jump at the opportunity of an implanted chip that could make up the deficits, or failing kidneys accept an synthetic transplant, or a failing heart supplanted by a technology, etc, etc, etc.
    In fact the dawn on this age has already come and we living into it, but I suspect without a longer arching view about what does it mean, where does it end, what are the implications?

    There are some in silicon valley with seemingly unlimited financial power and an interest in pushing the boundaries of old fashion physical death, even to the point of eliminating it. For some it is personal, for others, it is an art of science.
   There are creative and great minds pondering the coming impact of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and have sparked an important debate about weaponizing computers, robots, and giving machines sanction to take human life.
     See, we have backed into a future where the very existence of a human life can be extended, mechanized or artificialized while never defining the nature of a human life.
     When do we cross a Rubicon and evolve not so fully flesh and blood and human aspiration but also manufactured or engineered and algorithmized?  What makes us human?
     Does the fact that our lives are finite, even fragile make us more fully human than say a future iteration where bio mechanics or living cellular chips or some such can make us almost immortal? Is there a point where machine intelligence is so much more efficient as to render human instinct, spiritual inclination or devotion, creative musing, sensuality, and a range of human emotion as out of date, no longer valuable, irrelevant?

      Before this rambles into some shadow game of Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Arthur Clark and company, it seems some basic definition, delineation, or understanding might be helpful. It won't be easy. Like those theologians talking about the beginning of life, we'll be taxed by a diversity of thought but in the asking we might learn a bit. And it could make a big difference someday, perhaps not so much to us, but to our grand kids, who already live in a world vastly different than our own.
San Luis Obispo
   All it takes is a little blue sky and a patch of sun and an urban sideway becomes a mini vineyard.

From Griffin Park, Cambria

     We enjoyed the recent eclipse but failed to bring home a great shot. Still after stumbling from sleep a few times between 3:00 AM and 5:30 AM you need to show something for your efforts. We are only human.

    See you down the trail.