Saturday, May 26, 2018


     Scottsdale sunset

     John choked back tears. His grandson had been a floor above the most recent school shooting. The students hiding in a closet heard gun shots below. John, a fraternity brother of 50 years had spent the day on the grounds of the school, including a desperate time waiting with families for the children to emerge. He was spent, drained by the tension and emotional.
      "What are we going to do to stop this? What can be done?" he asked.
    A 13 year old 7th grade girl was shot repeatedly. 29 year old science teacher Jason Seaman ran at and tackled the shooter, a student. Seaman was hit by several bullets.
    John's grandson was unhurt by gun fire but, are the kids of school shootings uninjured? John teared up as he spoke of seeing "all these beautiful children, people's babies" being brought out of the school, terrified. 
    Children should not fear for their lives when in school, but they train in sheltering drills. We, all of us, no matter politics or bent, regardless of our station in life, philosophy or belief, all of us have failed them. 
     There has been approximately one school shooting a week this year.

what is this?
    I was struck by the hues and shape. Tell us what you see.

bad moves
    Though they are within their rights and can muster the power, NFL owners resemble plantation owners with their edict about standing during the national anthem. 
     Don't you believe a free country means freedom to think and act, within the law? Kneeling to express concern over the imbalance of incarceration, or the all too frequent police shooting of unarmed black skinned people seems a respectful way to honor the flag that flies over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

bad moves aplenty
     My contempt for the Trump administration is a matter of record here. I agree with dozens of Republican, Democrat and non-partisan former CIA, NSA, State Department, Defense Department and National Security Council, directors, officers, executives, brass, agents, analysts, cabinet officers and former Presidents who have said Trump is unfit and unqualified to serve.
   While I think he is despicable and unlearning, most agree he has blundered. Leaving the Paris climate accord and the Iran deal are foolish and costly in their own right, but when measured in the dawn of a Korean peace deal and a standing down, they are incompetent. This administration has a signature-amateur and forever at war with itself. In runs on whims. This time is it Bolton or Pompeo? And isn't that either/ or the bottom of the barrel?   
    Here is what Tim Shorrock of the Korea Center for Investigative Reporting said to interviewer Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. 

TIM SHORROCK: Well, this is a terrible insult to the South Korean leadership and President Moon, in particular, the fact that they did not tell him in advance, though he’d been there just a few hours before. That’s an incredibly—I mean, it’s really historic incompetence, colossal incompetence, on the part of Trump, on the part of Bolton, on the part of Vice President Pence, to repeat these—you know, Libya solution, which is basically regime change on steroids for the North Koreans. And they keep talking about this sort of Libya option, as if it’s not going to faze North Korea. Well, of course it will. And they spoke out very strongly. 

    I take strength in the thought of how historians, political scientists, novelists and film makers are going to treat the Trump administration. What material! This nation may well spend the next 25 years, measuring and repairing the damage. We can find solace pondering how he and his supporters will be ridiculed, and how the ridicule and shame will be part of our healing and recovering. History is brutal to idiots and it is the last word.

in the family
   Some of you are readers of Bruce Taylor's Oddball Observations blog. You know Bruce and Judy have been our friends longer than any of us may want published. Bruce posted about our visit recently. Here are a few snap shots.
        The Catalyst, SWMBO, and Blackwell.
        Judy is not only a genius in the kitchen, she knows how to pick an incredible restaurant. The Iron Springs Cafe is worth a trip to Prescott and Prescott Valley, in itself.  I put the gumbo just a notch below Paul Prudhomme's when he was at the K-Paul Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans!
        Bruce and I are former colleagues. He was an excellent broadcaster and this idyllic setting is where he hung up the head phones. This is a classic old radio studio building.

one more credit for Lana

      My beautiful artist bride also grows a delicious artichoke.
Bon Appetit and Cheers!

      See you down the trail

Monday, May 14, 2018

the land is alive...

    The Kilauea volcano is impressive, even from the International Space Station. Astronaut Drew Feustel posted this shot over the weekend.
    Kilauea had a profound impact on me.
    The frame above is called a "skylight." It is an opening burned into the surface of the earth by the molten lava flowing below the surface. It radiates an intense heat. Anything too close melts, immediately. I needed to protect my camera lens and I could feel the soles of my hiking boots begin to get mushy.
     This photo taken by G.E. Ulrich of the USGS is the Pua'O'o crater in June 1983 shortly after it began to erupt.
    I shot this from David Okita's helicopter as we flew over Pua'O'o in 2001. I was producing a documentary for Discovery. USGS Volcano expert Donald Swanson and I were flown to the lip of the crater and stood staring down into the caldera.
      On this July day in 2001 the Pua' O'o crater was the gas and sulfur belching center of a crumbling mountain. We needed to pay particular attention to where we were as fissures and cracks cross hatched the rim where we stood looking down into this cauldron of earth. It resembled a pile of rocks or debris perhaps, but it was a furnace of sorts. 
     Here are notes I made 
David Okita then lifted Don Swanson, Chris and I to the north rim of Pu’u ‘o’o, one of the worlds newest mountains.  Pua’o’o’ is about 18 years old and was created when Kilauea began erupting. We stood on the north rim looking down into the crater.  From a distance the crater emits huge clouds of vapor.  We stood on a narrow precipice looking into the source of the vapor clouds which had been visible from miles away. The caldera was an engine of vents for steam and for sulfur dioxide.  The steam blew like a white cloud, while the toxic sulfur dioxide leaked as a bluish or gray vapor. When the wind blew from our back it would clear the crater and Don and I clicked away, shooting pits, remnants of a fountain cone, and various volcano aftermath. A sound would rise out of the depths, sounding like surf crashing or wind blowing.  After one particularly loud surf sound, Don said “Oh,” with a sense of real wonder “Oh.” He then radioed to the observatory and asked if the seismic data had recorded a gas piston tremor. He explained the sound was gas escaping from below the cap, escaping in a major way. The Piston tremor was a kind of earthquake and the ground vibrated beneath us."

One of those tremors roared like a jet engine and everything in my world shook. The acrid dark sulfur smoke enveloped us, my throat hurt, it was difficult to breath, and I felt sickly. I understood in that instant that planet earth is still creating itself with a force unlike any thing of human scale. I radioed for David to bring the chopper back to base of the mountain and Donald and I trekked down to rejoin my crew mate Chris who wanted nothing to do with standing on the edge of a live Volcano.
Later I learned the tremor was equal to a strong earthquake. 
Above gas chemist Tamar Ellis works on one of the fumarole vent fields where gas and steam leak from the earth. BTW, Tamar gave Donald and me the "what for" treatment when she learned we had gone up to the rim without respirators. The inside of my nose felt the affect of the gas leaks for many weeks afterward.

We hiked one evening across old lava fields to a place where we could watch the hot material flow into the Pacific.
This is an act of creating earth. As it cools, it adds a new bench of earth to the island. It is how the Hawaiian islands have grown into existence. Earth, giving birth.
The USGS captured this image of lava moving across the road, just a few days ago.  
Kilauea has erupted many times in its history, but this current eruption began in 1983 and is the longest volcano eruption in history. In the last couple of weeks it has become even more active and is claiming more land with lava that will eventually cool to look like the frame below.
Journalism, reporting and documentary production has provided a life of adventure and fascination. Many things have touched me. When I stood at the edge of the Kilauea Volcano I was humbled and stunned by how this old mother earth of ours is still baking itself, still growing and lives. Solid ground or terra firma have less credibility with me. 
Our helicopter pilot David Okita is an Hawaiian, a life long surfer and a most mellow gentleman, one of the most relaxed people I've had the privilege of knowing. David is forever fascinated by the volcanoes and offers a simple but wise truism, "The land is alive!"

If you are interested in volcanoes or the "ring of fire"
you may wish to link here to an account of flying to and climbing on Alaskan volcanoes, also an assignment for the Discovery Channel networks. 

See you down the trail.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

seeing beyond the fog

   Our state flower springs from an unlikely spot, but it will be revered despite that. We are partial to the California Poppy.

the changing atmosphere
        Something about the Gina Haspel nomination to the CIA deserves pondering. There is something else out there.
       And there was something out there over the Pacific. The drive north on Highway 1 was accompanied by the bank of marine fog, waiting off shore. The light was crisp and the atmosphere was clear, but it is the time of year when heat on the other side of the Santa Lucia Mountains, in the Paso Robles region draws the ocean cooled hair through the Templeton Gap, bringing the blessing of fog and atmosphere to our coastal village.

    The bank creates a breeze. A careful look at the photo below reveals the small white caps pushed by the wind.
     The line of clouds below line up behind the marine fog and sock in the back bay of Los Osos and Baywood. Morro Bay also disappears in the gray.

   clearing the fog
    It's not unlike some of the fog surrounding the nomination of Gina Haspel to be director of CIA. There is a reality that should not be occluded. 
    I tend toward a view that contradicts the opinion of people I respect, including journalists, politicians and thoughtful analysts.
    Gina Haspel is an institutional person. She is a veteran of the CIA and that is important. Former directors, deputies, chiefs of stations, and many other professionals in the security and intelligence community endorse her. This is particularly important at this time, given who the President is and remembering his war on and disregard for the intelligence services.
   It is fresh before our eyes, the devastation this administration has wreaked on the US Department of State. An outsider, non professional, abetted by inexperienced political appointees disrupted or destroyed an agency that is vital not only to our security, but to keeping peace in the world. We dare not permit such wanton recklessness with the intelligence community.
greater concerns 
   I understand the aversion to torture and agree it should not be the policy of the US. The role of Haspel and the agency under George W. Bush was vetted by the White House, and it was a directive of that administration. It was rolled back by the Obama White House and the practices were roundly condemned. There are divergent views as to that sort of interrogation and it's effectiveness. 
   The CIA was doing what was considered necessary in the war against specific terrorist groups. Haspel should not be sacrificed on the altar of past wrongs, and especially not now.
   While this administration with its reactive, inexperienced  and non professional wobbling remains in a position to do harm and be ignorant, the director of the CIA should be a safeguard if not foil. It is good Haspel is there or we could see another politico or hatchet man nominated. Frankly we are lucky a CIA vet has been tapped to replace a short timer from the political side of Washington. 
    Haspel is an institutional survivor, widely experienced, tough, smart and has been in the labor of the citizens of the US for decades. She is smarter than the President, has more real world experience, more courage, a more studied background and has given more of her life to service.  
    Given the past 30 years of her life and work compared to that of the President, I'd give her the conch shell*. 
(*As in the symbols of order and civilization in William Golding's Lord of the Flies)
    It's a crazy world, getting crazier and having in charge a veteran who knows about the beasts and evils of the world is assuring.

california spring delights

      The succulents seem pleased with spring.  

      See you down the trail.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

When We Had Hair...

1969 Program from Hair-London

    There was a time we had hair (as in courage). We, the corporate we; a generation, media, people with ideas and vision.
     We make note it was 50 years ago this April when Hair opened on Broadway. Lana and I saw the London performance a year later. A few scenes follow below, but first  notes about how time has been unkind to the passions of conviction that mid wifed the birth of Hair the musical.

the woman with the curly hair and the stiletto mouth

   I agree with Matt Taibbi's take in Rolling Stone on Michelle Wolf's performance at the White House Correspondents dinner. She said nothing more gross than what the current President has said, except she spoke truth as well as rapier wit. 
   A few years ago several serious journalists and their organizations thought it was unseemly to mix and mingle in the smarmy climes of lobbyists and lawmakers and the press  swilling champagne, seeing and being seen and watching the power tables.

    We need a moment of historical clarification. The role of the media as the Fourth Estate of the American Republic is be a watch dog and monitor. It is by nature a cautious and adversarial relationship. There was a time when being friends with those you cover as a reporter was either out of bounds or were relationships that you built carefully and with ground rules.

    After Wolf did what she does, we witnessed the absurdity of some of these privileged A list alleged journalists criticize the jokes, the jokester and come to the aid  of a faux "victim."  Some of these folks are the very ones to whom the obfuscation, prevarication, and political hackery is directed. 
   The ballroom at the Hilton is as much about careerism, ego, social Darwinism, and pretense as it is about saluting young journalists, giving scholarships and roasting the current regime. 
   When I did my tour as President of one of the nation's oldest press clubs I wrestled with the philosophic issues that came with the job. Years before our club had been opened to non press, including government employees and lobbyists. They helped pay the bills and as nature divined it, the club was a place where a lot of off the record, background as well as observation occurred. But we had ground rules. 
   Full disclosure, over a career I became friends with some of those I covered. I played basketball with a governor, dined with other politicians, hosted spies, feds, and enjoyed adult beverages with any number of apparatchik. But we had ground rules. One of the guys called it "drunk back ground denial," a term of art more than fact. They knew that someday I might be after them. I knew that someday they might deny me information. We knew we could eventually take aim at each other. It was a tight rope walk, but a reality.
    One of the people who was most critical of Michelle Wolf is a person who was a romantic partner of a national security advisor, and who eventually married a chairman of the Fed. Good for them and no doubt there were advances on inside information, but for heavens sake don't apologize for a comic taking her professional shots at a woman who has lied, for her boss, another known liar. 
     Taibbi speculates that Wolfe hit too close to home when she told the alleged journalists in the room they made Trump into the monster he became and now they are advancing their careers, selling books, newspapers and television shows because of him. 
       Back in our day our Gridiron scholarship fundraiser featured a gag newscast-real fake news. The senior anchors and producers of the television stations would spend weeks writing phony and funny news stories, manipulating video tape and being outrageous. Yes, we were in the same kind of  clime with the politicians and the beautiful people but we delivered sarcastic, lampooning and withering ammo, that could be devastating, though appropriate, and got laughs. I can't recall any of our press corp apologizing to the governors, senators, congressmen, lobbyists, basketball coaches or state office holders. It was all about the jokes. But it was a different time. 
     There were no trigger alarms, or micro aggression alerts. But mostly there were no sacred cows and just maybe there was a greater dedication to craft and job and not so much obsession with celebrity.  
        One of the things some of the people who voted for the current President said they disliked was the elitist, insulated, privilege of "Washington." Well, the current regime has no shortage of privileged wealthy, some of whom have been caught taking advantage of the public coffers, so don't you think the press,  there to be a watchdog, should be more like a Michelle Wolf junkyard dog than a lap dog, or pussycat? 
      The Washington Monument will not fall, and the Republic will not dissolve if the Correspondents Dinner and the faux celebrity show it has become, were to change or go away.

it takes hair
    Eventual media giant Robert Stigwood was a mere 33 when he got behind the convention shattering musical playing the Shaftesbury.
       Hair created a stir and evoked lots of reaction. The nudity, sound of the music, lyrics, the frenetic energy and the story were non traditional. 
    Most of the casts, in the US and in London, were young.
We saw Tim Curry, #26 in his earlier personhood. Some of you may remember him from the later Rocky Picture Horror Show.

      The moon may have been in the Seventh House, and Jupiter may have aligned with Mars, when peace would guide the planets and love would steer the stars. But in 1968 the dawning of the Age of Aquarius had some other heavy players. 
        Hair opened on Broadway just a couple of weeks after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed. It was six weeks later that Bobby Kennedy was killed. It was a couple of months before the Chicago Police Department went on a riotous, rampage beating people at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. It was at a time the Viet Nam war was killing thousands. It was the year Richard Nixon was elected President.
       That bold raucous, controversial, convention shattering Tribal Love Rock musical seems so innocent and 50 years later just as hopeful-

        "Harmony and Understanding
        Sympathy and trust abounding
        No more falsehoods or derisions..."
        Ready for the mind's true liberation?
        Ready to let the sunshine in?

       It takes hair, metaphorically! 

     See you down the trail.