Category Archives: A blogger’s musings

Sail cats flying low over the Las Vegas desert

In our previous post, we described the origins of one bit of law enforcement lingo, the creepy-crawler, but only eluded to meaning of another, the sail cat.

So here’s a repost of a 13 January 2011 offering, about how a 19-year-old cub reporter learned just what exactly is a sail cat.

Way back in the late Pleistocene, esnl landed his first job on a daily newspaper.

The venue was the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a heady place for a 19-year-old’s introduction into the world of daily journalism.

Among the beats we covered was night cops, “because that’s where we start reporters with no experience,” explained the editor, Jim Leavey.

But covering the cop shop in Sin City after the sunset was anything but a dull beat, particularly so when I was the lone reporter working for the night edition, a street paper written to shock jaded casino workers out of their dimes at shift change.

“Beef it up, Brenneman,” was a frequent command from night editor Dick Calhoun, leading to lots of adjectives to paid six-paragraph stories into ten, twelve, even twenty grafs: “A homeless man set himself on fire” became “Flames seared the corpse of a Las Vegas man.”

Working the cop shop also required a sharp ear to catch the all the squawks from the newsroom bank of police radios.

We’re a quick study, and within a couple of week’s we’d mastered the “ten codes” and the Nevada Penal Code sections needed to decipher the otherwise cryptic, static-laden calls that formed a constant background beat to the ongoing symphony of teletypes, ringing phones [they actually rang back then], and sometimes boisterous newsroom chatter.

But one two-word phrase left me stumped: “You gotta sail cat on Paradise just south of Flamingo,” or “Handle a sail cat on Sahara just north of the parkway.”

Back in those days, reporters could look over the crime reports filed by responding officers, a task which required a request to the desk sergeants at the police and sheriff’s departments. But nowhere in the reports did I ever come across the words “sail cat.”

One evening we heard the mysterious phrase just before setting out on our rounds, prompting a question to the burly, grizzled officer behind the desk at the LVPD.

Usually the officer was a study in surly indifference, but this time his eyes briefly lit up.

Cocking his head back, he suppressed a smile, pursed his lips, then gave a little snort.

“Well, kid, it’s like this.”

We nodded.

“You know how sometimes cars run over cats?”

We nodded again.

“Well, if you get to ‘em right away, they’re a real mess to clean up.”

Another nod.

You got all that blood, and sometimes there’s guts , brains, that type stuff. A real mess.”


“If you’re a few hours later, they can really stink. And then there’s all those flies. Pick up one of those things an you’ll never get rid of the stink in your car.”


“So what ya do is wait til the sun and the pavement bake all the juices out. And the traffic smashes up all the bones.”

“Yeah. . .”

“By then, they’re just a dry flat hairy circle on the pavement.”

Another nod.

“Well, then all you have to do is pry it up off the pavement and flip it off into the desert like a Frisbee.”


“So that, son, is what ya call a sail cat.”

Homeless in one of California’s richest cities

We started reporting in California back in 1967, just as hippies started flocking to California’s sunshine in hopes of, well, who knows what?

Many of them arrived in old Volkswagen vans and battered panel trucks, mobile homes for those with little money but high on hope [and a lot of other stuff, too].

We had moved to Oceanside, working for the late, lamented Blade-Tribune.

Every newsroom back then had police scanners, tuned to the frequencies of local police,m sheriff’s, and state law enforcement agencies, so we kept our ears attuned to code numbers for significant crimes as well as the occasional cop-to-cop banter.

We also had to learn another kind of code, the peculiar terms used by local cops to describe people, things, and activities. [One such term we learned a couple of jobs earlier was sail cat.]

In Oceanside, we started hearing a new term, creepy-crawler.

Which I soon learned meant hippie.

When parking becomes a matter class politics

Oceanside was booming, thanks to the Vietnam War, because the engine of the town’s economy was the adjacent Camp Pendleton, a veritable factory for turning out well-trained Marines to fight in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

You saw the occasional pickup truck with a camper or a trailer, even cars like the Nash Ambassador with a front seat that dropped back level with the back seat to form a very comfortable bed, as we know from personal experience.

Until the creepy-crawlers came, the occupants of those vehicles had either been tourists or folks visiting Marines at the base, people who in any case looked like everybody else and contributed to the local economy by spending on meals and other things.

Creepy-crawlers, on the other hand sucked money out, what with their panhandling and all — or so the reasoning went.

But even worse, they freaked out the straights and scared people off, what with their long hair, unshaven skin and those weird clothes, the beads, and all that pot and other weird shit they were taking.

Not exactly what you wanted in a town where to official motto was Tan Your Hide in Oceanside.

Like many other cities up and down the coast, California began enforcing new or rarely used parking ordinances, aimed at hippies while simultaneously also banning those who had once been tolerated, thanks to all those pesky civil liberties lawyers who were fighting against selective enforcement.

In other words, the unwillingly unemployed and the working classes were also victimized along with the creepy-crawlers.

Hippies are, for the most part, long gone, but the poor remain, today’s victims of laws drawn up in a different era.

How a Santa Barbara tackles the problem

A few years after we worked in Oceanside, we took an interim job in Los Angeles, where we I handled printing jobs for an NGO. We met a graphics designed who lived in Santa Barbara, a town to the north I’d only passed through on the Pacific Coast Highway.

What’s it like? I asked.

You know what they say about Santa Barbara, don’t you? she replied.

Allowing as how I didn’t, she responded: It’s the home of the very rich and the very poor, the newly wed and nearly dead.

Just as Oceanside was middle class, Santa Barbara was home of some of California’s richest, and remains so today. And in very few places do the rich exercise their control so openly, with the shameless assistance of the local newspaper.

And in Santa Barbara, laws against folks sleeping in their vehicles are strictly enforced.


Homeless in the Shadow of Santa Barbara’s Mansions

From the accompanying report:

Twelve years ago, the Safe Parking program, run by the nonprofit New Beginnings Counseling Center, began offering a provisional solution. Its program places those sleeping in their vehicles into 20 private parking lots scattered around the city and provides bathroom facilities and some security. The parking lots are available only overnight and the cars must move by early morning. The group estimates they take 125 vehicles off the street every night and help more than 750 people a year.

The stories that Safe Parking’s clients tell me often involve a catastrophic financial loss precipitated by unemployment, domestic violence, injury or illness and the resulting medical bills. Most are working, although they have often lost secure, decently paid jobs and now struggle to make ends meet with multiple part-time jobs. A growing number of those forced to live out of their cars are families. All have been priced out of a brutal housing market.

Rents in Santa Barbara have skyrocketed in recent years — 20 percent in the last year alone — with one-bedrooms priced at $1,500 or sometimes significantly higher. The simple calculus of supply and demand is partly to blame. With a vacancy rate below 0.5 percent, a crisis figure, the housing market is at the mercy of landlords. Nor are there enough subsidized units to make up the shortfall for low-income renters — or plans to build sufficient numbers of new ones to meet the need, advocates say. “Santa Barbara’s housing market is broken and has been,” explains Chuck Flacks, executive director of the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness.

A fond farewell to Carrie Fisher, friend for a week

Carrie Fisher is gone, and I’m sad.

It’s not because of her Star Wars roles or her books, though we have nejoyed both.

It’s because of five days we spent as guests at John Denver’s ranch in Aspen, Colorado.

The event was a “human potential” seminar run by a fellow named Marshall Thurber, and it happened just after the publication of the first book I’m written under my own name, Fuller’s Earth, a day with Bucky and the Kids.

Buckminster Fuller, that brilliant poet, mathematician, inventor, and designer, was an icon of the 1960’s and ‘70’s, the self-educated scion of a family of Boston Brahmans known for their patronage of the arts [Margaret Fuller, that brilliant writer (she was America’s first woman book critic), women’s rights movement pioneer, and a member of Boston’s famous transcendentalist circle was a great-aunt].

The event was organized by Marshall Thurber, a lawyer and real estate developer who runs a network of movement to teach business skills with a emphasis on developing cooperation skills to better the human condition.

He was also a mentor to Tony Robbins, the infamous self-help huckster who soared to fame by holding seminars culminating with firewalks [that is, until people started to get burned]. He later held seminars in the White House for the Clintons and their staff]. Robbins was also there that week, and did his firewalk thing — pitched as a near miracle, but easily grasped by folks with a knowledge of physics, and yes, I walked the coals that week].

Two other folks with Bucky Fuller connections were also there that week. Allegra Snyder, Fuller’s daughter, and Amy Edmondson, his last student and his chief engineer, and now Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School.

The seminar was, as Fuller’s daughter whispered to me, “just a bit too California woo-woo,” filled with self-affirmation declarations and singing. and I had no specific role other than to serve as a catalyst, so I got to hang out.

Thurber also made the mistake of bring out the staff of Fuller’s World Game, a very socialist endeavor with the aim of devising the fastest way of bring an equitable share of the world’s resources to all of its inhabitants. They made what to Thurber’s mind was a great mistake, “a downer”, by very graphically revealing what would happen to the planet in the event of a nuclear was by tossing plastic disks representing the area nuclear weapons would destroy onto a vast world map. This was when the Cold War was at its peak under Ronald Reagan and the year Soviets very nearly launched their missiles when their early detection system malfunctioned and war was averted because of the reservations of a single Soviet air force officer.

Very quickly Carrie Fisher, Amy Edmondson, and I started hanging out, talking, laughing, joking.

I was the elder of the group, then 37 and ten years older than Fisher and 13 years older than Edmondson, but somehow we clicked,.

I don’t remember the details of our conversations, only that we were uniquely sympatico. What I do recall vividly with the several hours the three of us spent dancing and laughing way into the wee hours under one of he vast tent structures Denver had built on his ranch for gatherings such as Thurbers.

Fisher was wry, witty, profound, silly, exuberant, and able to see the world with a faintly cynical detachment, and very, very human.

That night of dancing was perhaps the happiest time of my life.

I never saw either woman again.

When I returned to California, my spouse of one year was very jealous, but she had nothing to fear. And it was that lack of sexual tension which had, perhaps, enabled the brief, intense, bonding of that week in Colorado, a memory I cherish.

So I bid a fond farewell to a remarkable and singular person, a woman of deep passion and conflicts, exuberant, thoughtful, and compassionate, a woman who gave me one of my fondest memories.

Goodbye Carrie, you are missed.

AT&T Internet, the worst service ever

We haven’t been ale t post today because our Internet service has been down,. We’ve had three different technicians out, and yet this morning we were down for four hours.

We’re up again, but for how long we haven’t the foggiest.

For the last three weeks or so, service has been terrible, and just why they can’t seem to determine.

Meanwhile, we’ll keep posting.

When we can.


Internet went down to most of 10 days

AT& sent one tech out who didn’t fix the problem, and it too four days to get another one out.

Thus, almost no posts except for a couple of windows when it was working.

Hopefully, things are fixed now.

Image of the day: Daughter and granddaughter

Just a simple case of grandfatherly indulgence, featuring daughter Jackie and granddaughter Sadie Rose:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 14 October 2016, ISO 1600, 4.3 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.3

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 14 October 2016, ISO 1600, 4.3 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.3

UPDATE: We couldn’t resist adding another image,featuring Sadie Rose and her rocking pig:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 14 October 2016, ISO 1600, 9 mm, 1/60 sec, f4.4

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 14 October 2016, ISO 1600, 9 mm, 1/60 sec, f4.4

Politics and the strange silence on financialization

Random musings on a Saturday night. . .

The financialization of active citizens, reconfigured as passive consumers, is the keystone of the game, creating a demand for all that stuff peddled by corporations a peddled as objects of desire both in advertising through placement in media content as symbols of wealth, power, and sexual desirability. Note to that those media, like the the corporations selling the stuff, are owned in large part by investment banksters and massive pension funds, public and private, while a new class of billionaires arises through the flood of cash generated by all that stuff — at least in advanced economies but to an alarming extent in second- and third-tier economies.

In addition to direct profits earned by manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers, even more wealth is generation by the financialization that makes it all possible. Without a scale of consumer credit unparalleled in modern history, banks generate vast sums through interest payments and fees charged for the borrowed cash that make us seeker out in order to accommodate all that stuff we’ve financed on credit cards.

And then there’s all the money needed to finance two car loans, because a second car is essential for many families with two income earners rather than the one that was the norm back when esnl was growing up in the 1950s.

And then there are those student loans you’ve got to get to land a job that gives you a crack at all that stuff, loans bigger than a lot of home mortgages and taking just as long to pay off.

Our blog flag features some very perceptive words from Aldous, Huxley, even truer today than when written more than sixty years ago:

Armaments, universal debt and planned obsolescence — those are the three pillars of Western prosperity.

The U.S., of course, by far the world’s largest arms merchant, and planned obsolescence is the prime directive of the “information economy,” where folks by phones every year chasing the latest gotta-have-it features and computer software that comes in an unceasing parade of enumerated editions, with creations made on an early version oftens unreadable by the latest programs. [For the first decade as a journalist, we wrote our stories on typewriters, many of them newsroom veterans older than we were. In those days, modst folks had one telephone, a heavy black two-piece contraption that never borke and you kept as long as you owned or rented your dwelling.

Similarly, back in those days credit cards were unheard of and when folks wanted to buy something like a television of some living room furniture and they couldn’t pay in full couldn’t pay, stores would put the item on lay away, holding the item until the customer was able to make a series of payments over time to cover the item cost. Or, if you had a good reputation in the community, you might get store credit and have use of them items whilst paying them off.

But when federal law changes allowed banks to operate across state lines, credit cards exploded on the scene and private debt soared.

Issues unspoken during the election

These are the most important issues confronting American society today, along with the recrudescence of racism stirred up by the President-elect.

Yet only Bernie Sanders raised the debt/financialization issue, generating the ire of Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, even though they were classic staples of New Deal-era Democrats.

Trump exploited the ire generated by the loss of class position and the hope of advancement that once inspired the American working class, but he focused that anger on the least powerful and most oppressed among us.

We had a race between a candidate who measures her wealth in the hundreds of millions and one who wealth is somewhere in the billions. Neither candidate worries about whether they can pay the rent, and the daughter of the Democrat is married to a Goldman Sachs star, whilst her opponent craps on a gold-plated toilet.

Welcome to Trump’s America, where things can only get worse.

And we’re officially on hiatus for a week. . .

Or maybe more.

We’re moving this weekend, and there’s lots to be done.

From Berkeley to Gardena, what a move.

We’ve made some good friends here in Berkeley, and we’ll miss them, but in Southern California we’ll have a two kids and a granddaughter close by.

Once we’ve got a new Internet connection, we’ll be back up and running, though posting will be slow as we get settled in.

Oh. We may add an occasional posts during the remainder of the week as we pause for a breather, but don’t count on it.

Meanwhile, enjoy the show!

Well make the rest of our signoff graphic:

First, from the Sacramento Bee:

Jack Ohman: Give him a small hand. . .

BLOG B Ohman
Next, from the Arizona Republic:

Steve Benson: Donald Trump’s teapology

BLOG B Benson
We give equal time, first with the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Steve Sack: The Hillary Clinton stash

BLOG B Sacks
And from the Indianapolis Star:

Gary Varvel: Clinton Foundation money

BLOG B VarvelAnd finally, the show must go on, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Mike Luckovich: Faux

BLOG B Lucko

Destructive ‘afterslip’ followed Napa earthquake

And free books, too

We’ll begin with the free books.

We were once buried in books.

It was at 0136 hours on 3 September 2000 and we were sitting in our recliner in the livingroom of our apartment in Napa California when the lights went out and we were pummeled repeatedly by invisible assailants.

It was a magnitude 5.2 earthquake, and our assailants were books, an avalanche vomited forth by falling and collapsing bookcases.

We’re moving this weekend, and we again are buried in books, too many to carry south to L.A., so every day this week we’re putting lots of them out on the media between sidewalk and street, free for one and all.

The address is 2032 Prince Street in Berkeley [one house south of Shattuck Avenue between the Starry Plow and the Ashby BART station], and subjects range for brain/mind science to history, science, biography, media, and much more.

Fresh offerings daily through Saturday.

And the afterslips from another Napa quake

A map shows the location of the August 24, 2014 earthquake just south of Napa, California. In a new report, scientists from MIT and elsewhere detail how, even after the earthquake’s main tremors and aftershocks died down, earth beneath the surface was still actively shifting and creeping — albeit much more slowly — for at least four weeks after the main event. Image: Gareth Funning/University of California, Riverside

A map shows the location of the August 24, 2014 earthquake just south of Napa, California. In a new report, scientists from MIT and elsewhere detail how, even after the earthquake’s main tremors and aftershocks died down, earth beneath the surface was still actively shifting and creeping — albeit much more slowly — for at least four weeks after the main event.
Image: Gareth Funning/University of California, Riverside

A fascinating story from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

Nearly two years ago, on August 24, 2014, just south of Napa, California, a fault in the Earth suddenly slipped, violently shifting and splitting huge blocks of solid rock, 6 miles below the surface. The underground upheaval generated severe shaking at the surface, lasting 10 to 20 seconds. When the shaking subsided, the magnitude 6.0 earthquake — the largest in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1989 — left in its wake crumpled building facades, ruptured water mains, and fractured roadways.

But the earthquake wasn’t quite done. In a new report, scientists from MIT and elsewhere detail how, even after the earthquake’s main tremors and aftershocks died down, earth beneath the surface was still actively shifting and creeping — albeit much more slowly — for at least four weeks after the main event. This postquake activity, which is known to geologists as “afterslip,” caused certain sections of the main fault to shift by as much as 40 centimeters in the month following the main earthquake.

This seismic creep, the scientists say, may have posed additional infrastructure hazards to the region and changed the seismic picture of surrounding faults, easing stress along some faults while increasing pressure along others.

The scientists, led by Michael Floyd, a research scientist in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, found that sections of the main West Napa Fault continued to slip after the primary earthquake, depending on the lithology, or rock type, surrounding the fault. The fault tended to only shift during the main earthquake in places where it ran through solid rock, such as mountains and hills; in places with looser sediments, like mud and sand, the fault continued to slowly creep, for at least four weeks, at a rate of a few centimeters per day.

“We found that after the earthquake, there was a lot of slip that happened at the surface,” Floyd says. “One of the most fascinating things about this phenomenon is it shows you how much hazard remains after the shaking has stopped. If you have infrastructure running across these faults — water pipelines, gas lines, roads, underground electric cables — and if there’s this significant afterslip, those kinds of things could be damaged even after the shaking has stopped.”

There’s lots more, after the jump. . .

Continue reading

esnl becomes a septuagenarian. Godfrey Daniel!

For those who might not recognize those last two words, they were employed by the late, great comedian W.C. Fields to elude the film censors of his day, who wouldn’t allowed the words “God damn!” to be uttered from the silver screen.

esnl, left, was feted by good friends from UC Berkeley, Ignacio Chapela, center, and Gray Brechin, right, and Chapela’s family for a delightful evening of great food, good wine, and delightful companionship.

UPDATE: We had an extra cause for celebration, since it was only four years ago our oncologist told us we have only a 17 percent chance of making it this far. . .

29 July 2016, PanasonicDMC-ZS19, 4.3 mm, 1/60 sec., f3.3, ISO 160

29 July 2016, PanasonicDMC-ZS19, 4.3 mm, 1/60 sec., f3.3, ISO 160

Repost: Our two most popular photo posts

For some odd reason, of the many of our own photographs we’ve posted, two images draw esnl readers back time and again, so we decided to repost both.

Our first and most popular image was original posted 19 January 2012, along with an essay:

The view from the gunfighter’s seat

Nikon D300 16 January 2011, 20mm, 1/250 sec, f4.5

Nikon D300 16 January 2011, 20mm, 1/250 sec, f4.5

Two phrases from the days of the Old West still resonate in modern speech. The first, of course is “Shotgun!,” the call made when claiming the front seat next to the driver.

The term originates from the days when folks traveled by stagecoach. When passing through dangerous country or when the stage contained a valuable cargo, an armed, shotgun-toting guard as assigned to sit up top on the bench beside the driver.

The other term, less well known, is “the gunfighter’s seat.” It’s the chair in the corner of the room farthest from and facing the door. Its name comes from its preference by ever-vigilant armed men who lived in daily expectation of violent confrontations with other armed men.

Sitting in the gunfighter’s seat gives a panoramic view of everyone in and entering the room.

We snapped this shot the other day while waiting for a friend at a local tavern. The Stetson belongs to esnl. Appropriate to our theme, it’s the Gun Club model.

Back in the 1970s, we had a friend who’d been a Los Angeles Police officer before signing up with the Central Intelligence Agency, then retiring to take a job in private security in the corporate sector.

We took him to a nice little French restaurant in Santa Monica, and planted our posterior in the gunfighter’s seat, which left him, the former cop and spook, seated facing the corner of the room.

We talked a few minutes, and then he stopped. His eyes lit up, followed by a grin, then a quick shake of his head. Then he fixed me with a bemused smile and intense gaze, followed by a laugh as he shook his head again.

“Brenneman, you son of a bitch, you did it on purpose!” He didn’t have to say what “it” was. I’d put him in the one seat in a crowded room certain to make to make him the most uncomfortable.

I smiled. He nodded.

We’ve always picked the gunfighter’s seat, a lesson our children quickly learned, sometimes to our disadvantage, as when they prankishly plant themselves in our chair of preference, forcing us into the blind seat because they know it’ll bug us, just as it did our ex-spook friend so many years before.

The journalist and the gunfighter

In many ways, the mindset of a journalist shares many traits with the gunfighter of yore, most particularly a peculiar sort of hypervigilance, attuned to changes and anomalies in the environment.

Because of our life circumstances, we’re particularly attuned to environmental changes and out-of-the-ordinary events.

We’d like to think that we turned what might have been a handicap into an asset, as is the case of many of the best journalists we’ve met during the course of the decades we spent behind first a lens and a typewriter, and later, a lens and a word processor [what an infelicitous pair of words].

Some of the best journalists are misfits. Why else would smart, perceptive people work at a craft where they earn much less than they might had they opted for law, medicine, business, or countless other “careers”? We suspect a lot of good reporters heard the same phrase we heard from our mother more than once: “Why a reporter? You could’ve been a doctor!”

Journalism, at least for us, is a calling, an engagement with the world that evokes the fullest possible use of our abilities, knowledge, and experience, turning an innate and potentially enervating vigilance into a positive force engaged, hopefully, for the benefit of the larger community.

But such is life in the Gunfighter’s Seat.

And the second image, originally posted 18 January 2012. . .

Isle of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

Shot from the Bridge of Sighs [Ponte dei Sospiri] on a cloudy summer day. Folks aren’t supposed to take cameras into the Doge’s Palace, but the staff was gracious enough to let me take my camera so long as I didn’t shoot interiors. Lord Byron gave it a name, poetically describing the last gasps of prisoners marched through its artful enclosure to the prison across the canal.The church with the dome and spectacular Romanesque facade is Andrea Palladio’s 16th Century Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.

To see the photo full size, go to the original post and click on the image, since WordPress no longer offers that option on newer posts:

29 August 2006, Nikon D70, 38mm, ISO 320, 1/2000 sec, f4.2

29 August 2006, Nikon D70, 38mm, ISO 320, 1/2000 sec, f4.2

Here’s a romantic addition to the original post from the Wikipedia entry on the bridge:

The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. It was designed by Antonio Contino (whose uncle Antonio da Ponte had designed the Rialto Bridge) and was built in 1600.

The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name, given by Lord Byron as a translation from the Italian “Ponte dei sospiri” in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. In reality, the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built and the cells under the palace roof were occupied mostly by small-time criminals. In addition, little could be seen from inside the Bridge due to the stone grills covering the windows.

A local legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile toll.

Intermittent posting back on the agenda

Our move has been delayed for a month, but there’s much packing to do, so we’ll be posting on a much reduced basis over the next few weeks.

That’s it. We’re officially on a brief hiatus. . .

This will be our last post until we get settled in our new digs in Los Angeles. Or maybe Redondo Beach. Or wherever.

We hope to be back up in a week or so, but until then, a little something for your amusement from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

Hungry For Power Games: Democratic National Convention Edition

Program notes:

Julius Flickerman and his pet weasel Caligula are back, descending into the belly of the beast to report from the DNC in Philadelphia.

We’re saying adios to Berkeley, gentrification wins

We can no longer afford to live in Berkeley, after our rent was jacked up by $800 a month.

We hate to leave the San Francisco Bay Area, which has the best climate we’ve ever experienced. but we’ve been gentrified out.

Our own neighborhood used to be mainly African American, but it’s now a haven for Anglo professionals, a phenomenon that’s happening throughout the region, recently named as the country’s most expensive place to live..

So we’re headed to Torrance in Southern California, where two kids and a grandkid live, and two bedrooms in a home in Torrance where our younger son and his spouse live.

We’ll be leaving behind the best friends we’ve ever had, the kind of friends who’ll stick by you when times get rough.

We’ll keep posting here at esnl, though infrequently till the move is over.

We’ll keep you updated.

Jeff Danziger: Choice 2016

From the nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist:

Uncle Sam, 2016 presidential race, Trump, Hillary, political cartoon

Which prompts a graphic response to a graphic. . .

Trump and why the media can’t beat him

The news media and their critics are full of columns and op ends on the deplorable Mr. Trump, all revealing that The Donald is a sociopathic hustler willing to say anything to keep the attention focused on the man with the orange adornment and diminutive digits.

But all the rant and raving doesn’t change a thing, and Trump remains a genuinely viable candidate for the commander in chief of the most powerful military on earth.

Admittedly, Trump’s viability owes much to the loathsomeness of his opponent, a candidate who, unlike the exuberantly spontaneous Trump, seems to be a product of a calculating artificial speech technology that hasn’t yet managed to find the way to add warmth to its synthesis.

So while you can’t believe anything Trump says, you do somehow get the sense that he believes it, even though it contradicts something he said five minutes earlier.

In other words, Clinton is a cold, calculating liar, while Trump is a passionate impulsive and wholly egotistical liar.

Back to the question

So why doesn’t all that media fact-checking and hand-wringing make a dent in the Donald?


Because Trump’s supporters don’t trust the media, save for Fox News, and that only with qualification.

They know that the media really are run by a liberal elite, that “effete corps of impudent snobs” as former Spiro Agnew speech writer Pat Buchanan once described them, those “nattering nabobs of negativity.”

Now having spent our working lifetime moiling in the vineyards of the newspaper craft, we must add that most of the journalists we worked with were good, honest folk who really worked hard to report on matters of vital import to their communities.

But during those same years, we also saw journalism debased as locally owned publications either closed down or were subsumed by conglomerates, more interested in pandering that in community service.

The rise of social media, devoid of any filters, has unleashed both a powerful organizing tool [just ask Hosni Mubarrak if you have any doubts] and transformed a medium of public discourse into the digital equivalent of bathroom graffiti, allowing us to indulge both our highest aspirations and our basest instincts.. . .Occupy and cyberstalking.

Trump, the message of the media. . .

Our new media landscape is a perfect fit for a Donald Trump, a man who, as with most sociopaths, is preternaturally attuned to cunningly manipulating feedback to gratify his own infantile needs.

Trump plays to suspicion and fear, the offers simplistic and easily graspable — and thoroughly flawed — solutions, conveying with them a promise of security.

Trump eagerly lays blame — sometimes, and sadly, quite accurately — at the feet of the media for ignoring or trivializing the deepest concerns of his target “marks.”

To an audience well-primed by their own experiences, Trump can easily brush off all that fact-checking and hand-wringing as simply ploys by the establishment to his pursuit of a White House he vows to use in support of their interests, not those of the establishment elite.

That it’s an elite he was born into is ignored, as is the fact of his irreligious hedonism and his life of serial polygamy.

The Trumpian art of the deal is the art of the sociopath, an art sufficiently refined to overpower the reason and self-interest of his marks.

And then there’s Hillary. . .

Let’s put it this way. If Trump was a little bit more sophisticated he’d beat Clinton in a heartbeat.

esnl won’t be voting for the candidate who, as Secretary of State, pursued policies instrumental in the rise of ISIS, a candidate who refuses to tell us what she was so highly paid to tell the people who brought the country to the brink of total collapse. The kind of folks her own daughter married.

That’s why esnl won’t be picking up either revolver come November.

Farewell to one of American journalism’s greatest

Sydney Schanberg was the greatest boss I never got to work for.

Back in 2001, I talked extensively with Schanberg about a new weekly newspaper he was preparing to launch in New York. He agreed to hire me, though the pay wouldn’t be much at first.

No problem, I said, eager to work in the most powerful city on earth for a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for whom I had deep respect.

We had a lot in common, two stubborn men who had each been driven out of prestigious journalism jobs, his at the New York Times and mine as the lead investigative reporter for the Sacramento Bee, because we had dared to ask important questions about very important people.

But then came 9/11/ and with it, funds for the new venture evaporated.

Schanberg went on to write columns for the Village Voice and I would soon be hired as managing editor of the Berkeley Daily Planet.

And today, Sydney Schanberg is gone.

From today’s New York Times obituary by Robert D. McFadden:

Sydney H. Schanberg, a correspondent for The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for covering Cambodia’s fall to the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and inspired the film “The Killing Fields” with the story of his Cambodian colleague’s survival during the genocide of millions, died on Saturday in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 82.

His death was confirmed by Charles Kaiser, a friend and former Times reporter, who said Mr. Schanberg had a heart attack on Tuesday.

A restive, intense, Harvard-educated newspaperman with bulldog tenacity, Mr. Schanberg was a nearly ideal foreign correspondent: a risk-taking adventurer who distrusted officials, relied on himself in a war zone and wrote vividly of political and military tyrants and of the suffering and death of their victims with the passion of an eyewitness to history.

Indeed, if folks today remember Shcanberg it’s probably because of the hit film based on his book about the Cambodian genocide.

Here’s the trailer for the critically acclaimed 1984 feature film:

The Killing Fields

Program notes:

OSCAR WINNER: Best Supporting Actor – Haing S. Ngor, Best  Cinematography, and Best Editing.

A New York Times reporter and his Cambodian aide are harrowingly trapped in Cambodia’s 1975 Khmer Rouge revolution. After the war, the adviser is imprisoned in Pol Pot’s work camps in Cambodia, and the journalist lobbies for his release. Sam Waterston, John Malkovich and Oscar winner Haing S. Ngor star in this shattering true story.

Schanberg won a Pulitzer for International Reporting for his coverage of the Cambodian killing fields, and his return to the Big Apple should have marked the beginning and a rise to the top.

But Schanberg had a problem as one of his Times colleagues explained to me: “He covers the city like a damned foreign correspondent.”


Consider this excerpt from journalist Edwin Diamond’s 1993 book From Behind the Times: Inside the New New York Times:

In the fall of 1977. . .Sidney Schanberg, his distinguished overseas service behind him, was back in New York, on a senior editing track, and being talked about as the “next Abe Rosenthal.” Like Rosenthal a decade before, Schanberg was running the Times Metro desk and seeing New York with the fresh eye of a a foreign correspondent. In a memo to Rosenthal, Schanberg proposed major new treatment of the homosexual community of New York, which he described as “ large and increasingly middle class. According to Schanberg, “many people still think of homosexual life in terms of interior decorators, Fire Island, and leather bars, but increasingly it’s also very much a world of lawyers, physicians, teachers, politicians, clergymen and other middle-class professional men and women who, aside from their sexual experience, live like their ‘straight’ counterparts,”

Rosenthal replied that while he would always give attention to Schanberg’s ideas, he didn’t “want a whole bunch of stories or a series. A great amount of coverage at this time would simply seem naive and deja vu. It was “a question of perspective” for the Times. “Yes, there are many homosexuals, just as there are many of almost everything in New York, I have a gut feeling that if we embark upon a series for now or a bunch of pieces, it would be overkill. And here he set down his principle of inclusion-exclusion, old hand instructing the new man: There is also a question of what we want to do with our space. Space is gold, The proper use of space is the essence of our existence, because it reflects our taste and judgment. . .It is the areas of taste and judgment that, in the long run, are our most important areas of responsibility.” Schanberg’s ambitious series never appeared.

Chris Hedges, a former New York Times colleague and fellow Pulitzer winner, described Schanberg’s experiences in a 17 July 2013 interview with The Real News Network:

Sydney Schanberg, who worked for many years for The Times, was eventually pushed out of the paper as the metro editor for taking on the developers, who were friends with the publisher and who were driving the working and the middle class out of Manhattan (so now Manhattan’s become the playground of hedge fund managers primarily), says correctly that your freedom as a reporter is constricted in direct proportion to your distance from the centers of power. So if you’re reporting from Latin America or Gaza or the Middle East as I was, or the Balkans, you have a kind of range that is denied to you once you come back into New York and into Washington.

Hedges had more to say in a 27 June 2011 essay for Truthdig:

Many editors viewed Schanberg’s concerns as relics of a dead era. He was removed as city editor and assigned to write a column about New York. He used the column, however, to again decry the abuse of the powerful, especially developers. The then-editor of the paper, Abe Rosenthal, began to acidly refer to Schanberg as the resident “Commie” and address him as “St. Francis.” Rosenthal, who met William F. Buckley almost weekly for lunch along with the paper’s publisher, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, grew increasingly impatient with Schanberg, who was challenging the activities of their powerful friends. Schanberg became a pariah. He was not invited to the paper’s table at two consecutive Inner Circle dinners held for New York reporters. The senior editors and the publisher did not attend the previews for the film “The Killing Fields,” based on Schanberg’s experience in Cambodia. His days at the newspaper were numbered.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

And now for something completely different. . .

Believe it or not, esnl was something of a geek in his younger years [yah, we know, it’s obvious].

We fell in love with film very early, because we were going to movie theaters before we ever had a television at home. We’d either sit very close to the screen or up in the balcony [the latter if it was a horror film, the former for cowboy flicks, then a staple of Saturday matinees at the Plaza Theater in Abilene, Kansas].

We were six when we got our first TV, but it was always film that was our first choice.

We were in high school when we became conscious of directors, in part because one of the greatest, Alfred Hitchcock, had a weekly crime series on the tube.

But the first director to compel out attention was the great Stanley Kubrick, who shot movies the way we would shoot still photographs — understandable, we later learned, because he was also a passionate still photographer, with an incomparable eye for composition.

Four films he made during the 1960s would revolutionize our experience of film, starting with 1960’s Spartacus, a film that played a central role in last year’s Oscar-grabbing Trumbo [which, strangely, neglected any role for a Kubrick character].

We were a passionate student of Roman history, and Spartacus brought to live an era and people we had studied in our high school Latin class. And for its time, the film was a true spectacular.

The following year came Lolita, and then in 1964 came the film that changed our life, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the stark and brilliant filmed devastating satire on the horror that lurked in deepest recesses of everyone’s mind at a time when children learned“duck and cover” exercises in the classroom and weekly nuclear attack siren tests shrieked out every fourth Friday at noon, chilling every spine at the height of the Cold War. The film was a profound catharsis, forcing us to laugh at the thing we most feared.

And then in 1968, that pivotal year in Western culture when Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were shot and students revolted in Paris and Chicago, came 2001: A Space Odyssey, probably the greatest psychedelic film ever made [and, yes, we were stoned the first time we saw it, as were most of the people in the audience in a geodesic dome theater in Orange County, California].

Other equally memorable films followed, but it was that four that awakened our deep appreciation for film, along with those Ingmar Bergman films every college student with intellectual pretensions flocked to back then [and, yes, they, too, were brilliant].

So what made Kubrick’s films so compelling?

For that we turn to a video from Channel Criswell Extra:

Stanley Kubrick – The Cinematic Experience

Program notes:


0:24-1:39 Handel – Sarabande
1:37-4:40 Schubert – Piano Trio In E-Flat
5:08-6:09 Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
6:20-8:45 Strauss – Voices of Spring Waltz
9:11-10:46 Rossini – The Thieving Magpie
10:50-12:22 Handel – Sarabande (Duel)
12:45-13:47 Gene Kelly – Singin’ In The Rain
13:53-15:44 Dr. Strangelove – Try A Little Tendreness
15:44-16:40 Mozart – March From Idomeneo
16:57-18:12 Beethoven – Ode To Joy
18:12-18:41 Strauss – The Blue Danube
18:46-20:04 – Strauss – Thus Sprach Zarathustra
20:05-20:30 Dmitri Shostokavich – Waltz No.2

It wasn’t just Crisswell and esnl who were permanently affected by Kubrick’s masterpieces.

The folks at a certain TV show were, too.

From via Really Dim:

#kubrick – The Simpsons – Candice Drouet

Program notes:

Stanley Kubrick And The Simpsons – Candice drouet

Here you have 25 years of visual references

Music (Midi) : Christian Cabrera /
Paths of Glory / Dr. Strangelove / 2001: A Space Odyssey / A Clockwork Orange / Barry Lyndon / The Shining / Full Metal Jacket / Eyes Wide Shut

And the deed is done, the last offspring hitched

We know that few things are more boring than looking at pictures of the wedding of folks you’ve never met.

Nonetheless, we can’t resist sharing the joy of the nuptials of the last of our four offspring, Samantha Marie Brenneman, to a high school friend, Kyle Brandon Troupe, the event officiated by a third high school pal, the same fellow who had brought them together on the suspicion that there was, indeed, something there.

The venue for the day was the Bellvue Club on the shores of Lake Merritt, and the day was glorious, as seen from the window of the gallery where festivities commenced:

30 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 100, 1/800 sec, f/4, 4.3 mm

30 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 100, 1/800 sec, f/4, 4.3 mm

Before the main event, Samantha paused for a quick snap by her doting father:

30 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 500, 1/250 sec, f/4.7, 10.3 mm

30 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 500, 1/250 sec, f/4.7, 10.3 mm

And bridal niece Sadie Rose, the flower girl, managed to sit still as her floral crown was affixed:

30 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 800, 1/60 sec, f/3.3, 21.8 mm

30 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 800, 1/60 sec, f/3.3, 21.8 mm

On to the main even and the exchange of vows, followed by the exchange of rings:

30 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 400, 1/60 sec, f/5.4, 4.3 mm

30 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 400, 1/60 sec, f/5.4, 4.3 mm

And the kiss of the newlyweds:

30 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 500, 1/60 sec, f/3.6, 5.4 mm

30 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 500, 1/60 sec, f/3.6, 5.4 mm

Followed by the reception and dance:

30 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 800, 1/60 sec, f/4.8, 11 mm

30 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 800, 1/60 sec, f/4.8, 11 mm

Off for the day; youngest daughter gets hitched

Here’s a couple of snaps from last night’s rehearsal dinner.

The bride-to-be, Samantha Marie Brenneman, hoists a glass:

29 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 800, 1/60 sec, f/3.3, 4.3 mm

29 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 800, 1/60 sec, f/3.3, 4.3 mm

And her elder sister’s prodigous progeny, Sadie Rose, won’t relinquish esnl‘s chapeau:

29 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 400, 1/60 sec, f/3.3, 4.3 mm

29 April 2016, Panasonic DMC-ZS19, ISO 400, 1/60 sec, f/3.3, 4.3 mm

SF Bay Area papers eliminating critical editors

Back when esnl got his start in the newspaper game, our stories were subjected to at least three levels of editing, sometimes more depending on the size of the newspaper.

The first level came from the supervising or assigning editor, usually a deputy city editor. The story then went to the city editor, then to the copy desk, where the story was checked for grammar, style, typos, and continuity problems by a copy editor. From there it went to the slot man, the final check in the editing process, who examined the story for content and placement.

If the story was sufficiently significant, the vetting might also include the managing editor and his boss [all the editors of that level were male at the papers where we worked], plus a lawyer if any legal issues were raised. Then, after the story was set in type, a proofreader gave it the final once-over for typos and dropped lines of type.

That’s why you rarely if ever saw misspelled words, misattributions, incorrect tiles, and so much more.

But with the waves of downsizings we’ve reported over the years, typos flourish, facts go astray, and stories have grown choppier — and so much more.

And now the Bay Area News Group [BANG], the company that owns almost all the newspapers in the San Francisco Bay area, is getting rid of the last vestiges of editorial review.

Here’s the memo staff members received today, via Romenesko:

From: James Robinson
Date: Apr 22, 2016 6:02 AM
Subject: Some changes to our editing and production processes
To: &BANG News All

We’re launching a series of changes to the assigning and copy editing process in an attempt to manage a planned loss of approximately 11 FTEs. We are choosing this course, as many papers have across the country, rather than cutting more deeply into the ranks of content producers or neglecting our digital needs.

The bottom line is that we will be eliminating a layer of valuable editing across most of the copy desk — what is known in desk parlance as the rim. The result:

  • Staff stories that go inside sections will not be copy-edited. The assigning editor will be the only read. (In sports, late stories that do not go through an assigning editor will continue to be read on the desk, once.) Stories for our East Bay weeklies will not be copy-edited.
  • Staff stories for section covers will receive one read on the desk rather than the current two.
  • Proofreading will be reduced. This is going to place a new level of responsibility on reporters and, especially, assigning editors. Many of the ways in which the desk bails us out — often without us noticing — will disappear. That will mean:
  • All assigning editors must run Tansa on stories before moving them to the desk, and all proper names will have to be cq’ed. Grammar mistakes that make it through an assigning editor are highly likely to appear in print.
  • Reporters and editors will need to be more familiar with AP and BANG style.
  • Budgetlines will need to include accurate deadlines and lengths. Desk folk who receive overly long stories will not have time to redo page designs; they will be instructed to cut from the end (on some occasions, early notice to the desk that a story is running long may avoid this fate). When deadlines are blown, the desk may need to grab a web version of the story and move on.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . .

Continue reading