This photograph, taken in 1826 or 27, shows empty streets when in fact there were horses and carriages moving along them.

With the tragedy of the Thomas fire in Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties this week I’ve been taking a lot of images, which got me thinking about how photographs record history. This morning’s Los Angeles Times has an interesting piece by Paul Manseau about how 2017 may be the year we argued about the evidence in front of our eyes.

Since their inception in roughly 1825, photographs have been used to inform and deceive viewers on what actually happened. The first example illustrated in the story is about a photograph taken by Louis Daguerre showing a street scene with a man getting a shoeshine next to empty streets. In fact there were horses and carriages on that street but because of the delayed exposure time needed to create the photograph, they had come and gone before the image finished.

Fake news has been around a long time but has reached its zenith due to slanted news organizations and the rise of social media, where anyone can deliver information to the masses.

I spoke to an attorney friend of mine this morning who reminded me that for photographs to be admissible in court, they have to be attested to by an eyewitness.

The old average adage what you see is what you get is no longer accurate.



Omega Man

Erik Brady, from USA Today, is my wife’s cousin’s husband.  And after 35 years, he still works there.  In fact, he is the last founding staffer (which they call ‘founders’) from the original 320 people who started the paper back in 1982 (also known as the Pleistocene Age). The word founder was an honorific given those who began working for the newspaper during 1982.  Perhaps a different word than ‘honorific’ could be found as it is perhaps too similar to words more foreboding (horrific, etc…).

Back then, A guy named Al Neuharth had a vision for a national newspaper with brief news stories that could be read in a minute.  Maybe two for the longer pieces.  He realized two things:  many people were too busy to read long form journalism (too bad really as it is contributory to the decline of western civilization) and that if he could publish really tight smaller newspapers, he’d make more money.

And so with much fanfare, USA Today was launched.  Since that time, it is most widely known for short stories, inventive newspaper vendor box design and for occupying hotels large and small throughout all 50 states.  And it lives on today (although I haven’t read one for quite a while).

Erik had one of the best jobs in the world, covering sports.  Whether it be the Olympics, Super Bowl or other penultimate sporting event, Eric was there.  I’ve been jealous from afar for a long time.

One last quip – Neuhearth was fond of being a hard nose to those who worked for him, often writing in the margins of memos that made it to his office FIX IT.  He meant it.

After reading a book about him decades ago, I took that to heart and sometimes find myself even now using his plain speaking manner to get the best out of the people I work with.  In this tough business, nothing else will do.

Read Erik’s piece about his time at USA Today below:


Long Time Gone

Today begins my 35th year in newspapering.   When I got into the business,  a relatively new industry  was growing in strength into its zenith years of mid 80s to early 90s.    The product was called ‘alternative newsweekly’ , the reference being that it was an alternative voice to mainstream daily newspapers and traditional network news.

Most alt-weeklies were independently owned and operated by men and women who cared to tell interesting stories in a truthful way, not beholden to corporate sponsorship pressures.

I still believe in the mission of these newspapers endeavor to do every day, but admit that the term ‘alternative’ can no longer be used for this industry.

The term has now swirls from lifestyle choices to what the New York Times yesterday mentioned as far right wing agitators.  John Herrman’s piece speaks to how such people and groups have co-opted the term and space that once was the domain of progressives.

It made me think of the differences between the two sets: the former  chanting the mantra of peace and love in an effort to stop and unjustified war; the latter co-opting the words hate and fear to divide the country.

I’ll take the former, please…


Difficult discussions

It seems to be a natural human trait to avoid difficult discussions. Especially when it comes to the ultimate discussion, about death and dying. In the LA Times today was an interesting piece about how doctors, who face death and dying every day, we’re given very little training on how to properly communicate that to patients and their families.

The old saying of it’s not what you say but how you say it applies in this case.  In my mind, it’s a combination of both things…


Anything can happen


Remember ‘Gary from Chicago’, who along with his fiancé walked off a tour bus and into the front row seats at Sunday’s Academy Awards show Sunday night? Now get to know his unexpected past in a story from the LA Times.  Never say never…


Santa Paula’s Fear of ICE

imageThe front page article in this morning is Los Angeles Times speaks to the fear that has run rampant in communities like Santa Paula. Although ICE did conduct raids in neighboring cities, none occurred in SP. still, fear and rumors abound…

Krappen on da vindow

When I was a young lad I went with some friends to see Woody Allen’s film Bananas. But it was the short film that played before that left the larger impression on my brain. Titled De Duva, this 13 minutes send up of Ingmar Bergman’s filmmaking left me in stitches. I recently found it on YouTube and want to share it with you here.

Never mind that you don’t know Swedish. The language used in this film is completely made up but more English than anything else. And if you watch carefully you’ll see a famous actress who was in another black-and-white film classic, Young Frankenstein.



Truth is a four letter word

We live in strange times. Having been involved in reporting the news for nearly 35 years, I think that we’re in an era where facts are less valued than at any other time in my life.  Two points here:

And article in the Los Angeles Times points to a soon to be published UCLA study that indicaties that conservative Americans believe false news more readily than liberals,especially when the news is negative.



And a New York Times piece explains why the President of the United States can continue to misinform seemingly with impunity. While news organizations continue to point out these falsehoods, too many people are either believers of these ‘alternative facts’ or are not concerned enough to take action.  This is dangerous in the long run.  Taken to the extreme, such thinking can erase from society’s collective memory the true facts regarding important issues such as climate change, racial issues and even the Haulocost.  Dangerous indeed…

Filled Pauses

A while back, Harry Shearer – the radio personality, did a piece on the somewhat common use of the word ‘so’ at the beginning of sentences. Like him, I am annoyed that the use of this adverb to begin speaking.
Yet it seems that the millennial generation uses it often…


But that’s not what today’s comment is about. An interesting piece from Atlas Obscura defines the term Filled Pause as those words that we use in between thoughts while speaking. One example of this is President Obama who used the word ‘and’ to give himself time for his thoughts to catch up with what he was saying next. Other commonly used words in English are uh and um. But this have it is not just an English – it occurs in many other languages with different words being used.

The spoken word is different then the written word. When we use such word usage in the written form, it is an intentional inclusion. When we do it while speaking, often times it is ah subliminal.

I know that Toastmasters group’s ring a bell when you say such words while speaking in effort to have you become more conscious of using them in an effort make your spoken words clear and concise. In this age of 140 characters, wouldn’t that be nice…

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-mystery-and-occasional-poetry-of-uh-filled-pauses Read the rest of this entry

Just because your paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you…

Photo by Dan Winters

Photo by Dan Winters

The threat of nuclear war has been a reality for four generations now. It’s influence ebbs and flows with the tensions between hostile nations worldwide. Some decades are more dangerous than others.

It appears that we are entering one of the more dangerous periods, with North Korea, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Irael and the Trump administration all ratcheting up interest in arming themselves further and saber rattling.

Whether real or imagined, this threat has driven some people to take very serious invasive actions.

An article in the New Yorker explains how the very wealthy are preparing themselves for what could happen in the future. Buying executive style housing underground at former bunkers in far away places of heartland America is one example.

This very long but very interesting article gives you a glimpse into the thinking of some billionaires from Silicon Valley, New York and elsewhere and the fear that wrestles in their brain.

Read the piece here:  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich Read the rest of this entry