Category Archives: Blog

Taylor Swift, The Grammys And The Big Game

I haven’t watched the Grammys in many years, possibly because I can no longer recognize most of the artists. I now know how my grandparents probably felt when the Beatles landed. However, knowing that Joni Mitchell, somebody I can recognize, is up for an award, I decided to peruse the nominees. In doing so, I was struck by the fact that there are 94 catagories, with a Grammy being awarded for each. Seriously? Sometimes, less is more.

Following my recent decision to become a supporter of Taylor Swift, who has more political courage in her pinkie toe than any dozen MAGA fanatics, I was somewhat concerned to hear the rumor that her NFL superhero boyfriend, may be popping the question during the Superbowl halftime show. How’s that gonna work, with Taylor continuing to outshine him for years to come? Will he be able to exist in her shadow once his football magic is gone?

By my count, Taylor Swift, is up for three Grammys. Hope she wins all three. I also hope that both she and Travis have a lifetime of happiness, whether together or apart, whatever happens at the Superbowl.

Reality – RIP

A friend posted a bit about contemporary music on his Facebook account today, prompting me to respond, “Crank up the Auto-Tune and plug in the synthesizer. Soon nothing will be what it really is, but nobody will care so long as it turns a profit.” Or words to that effect. It’s true, I think. We’re heading for an A-I future where nothing is what it appears to be. Including actor’s faces. Something the SAG/AFTRA negotiating team understands better than most, as they try and cut a deal for their member’s futures.

For me it started with Harrison Ford. I’m a huge fan of the actor and his Ark movies, but I wasn’t sure what to think when they let it out that they would be using A-I to give him a younger appearance in the “Dial Of Destiny” film. I thought it was a good movie, and Ford’s appearance didn’t bother me in the least, because it looked like Harrison Ford, only younger. So, no big whoop, right?

But then my wife turned on “The View” and my view of the whole thing changed. They had a movie director who also acts on the show promoting a new movie in which she is starring. I think that’s what they said? Thing is, the actress on the show looked nothing like the character in the movie. I mean nothing. Two different people. Isn’t that taking things a bit too far? I wasn’t sure. Could just be me, resisting the inevitable shift to the ultimate unreality of A-I. And then I had a thought. What if the woman on The View was only directing the picture and the woman starring in the movie was a different person altogether and I was just confused? Which is the way it turned out to be. I had to check out the film’s cast on IMDB to be sure. My thinking was all messed up, thinking the director was also the star. When she isn’t. But theoretically, she could be, because A-I would make that possible. Wouldn’t it?

I’ts easy to be confused when confronted by what seems to be the unlimited potential of A-I to alter our reality. Who needs actors when you’ve got computer generated images that look and sound like the real thing?

While I was pondering these hi-tech issues I received an audio track from a friend on my iphone. He had butt-dialed me from the bathroom. The audio was him clearing his throat and then flushing the toilet. After I stopped laughing I sent it back to him with a note that in the future he might want to stop taking his phone in the bathroom. So much safer. And yet, since nothing is what it seems to be anymore, I’m not sure any of it really matters. Soon, nothing will be as it seems, and we’ll all be clueless. Sucking up all the altered audio and video the professional influencers, propagandists and marketers send us and following wherever it leads, blindly comfortable in our arrogant self-assuredness that we’ve got it all figured out.

This brave new hi-tech world we’re entering into is clearly littered with pitfalls. But then, maybe not. It’s all so confusing. If only we had something less prone to organic failure to take the reigns and tell us what to do? How to live our lives? Wouldn’t that make more sense?

The World At War

The U.S. conducts air strikes on Iranian positions inside Syria after Iranian forces strike U.S. military installations inside Iraq. The BBC reports that according to the Pentagon, 16 attacks by the Iranians based in Syria, have injured at least 20 Americans. At the UN, Iran warns the U.S. will not be spared.

Israel, continues strikes on Gaza, apparently preparatory to a full ground offensive. Not that far away, an Egyptian resort town has reportedly been hit by a missile strike.

Pundits argue that it’s possible to support Israel’s right to self-defense, while, at the same time, supporting aid to Gaza. They also talk about the links between Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran and that Lebanon, is about to get dragged into the conflict.

Russia, an ally of Syria, is reportedly sacrificing soldiers as fighting continues in Ukraine. One report puts the number at 25-hundred in six days. The report claims the Russians are shooting their own soldiers, if they refuse to fight.

The AP reports that over the South China Sea, a Chinese fighter came within ten feet of a U.S. B-52 bomber.

When does it all tip over into qualifying as a world war?

Real News – It’s Still Out There

It bothers me that there is an assumption among some that the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times are no longer reliable sources for news and information. I think they are trying harder to stay in business, but that does not mean that they are no longer reliable.

Much or all of this presumption that the mainstream media is no longer reliable is coming from the MAGA side, which is the real source of “fake news.” Consequently, I am not inclined to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I recently subscribed to the Washington Post, and think they are doing a terrific job. Beyond our still great national papers, I rely upon the BBC, France24 and sometimes, Reuters streaming service, although they still need some help transitioning from print into broadcast. I also think NPR has one of the best websites out there. The Guardian, is also a great paper, due in no small part to the fact that it is owned by a foundation and is beyond the influence of advertisers. Also, many won’t want to hear it, but Al Jazeera does a great job covering conflicts in the Middle East, probably due to the fact that what they are reporting on is happening in their own back yard. Nevertheless, they continue to be vilified by some because they aren’t owned and controlled by traditional western media.

I also subscribe to my hometown newspaper, The Paynesville Press, in Paynesville, Minnesota. It has always been, and continues to be, a family owned and dependable source for news and information about the small town where I grew up.

My feeling is that there are still plenty of sources for legit news and information. The real problem is a public that has no idea who and where they are. As for Twitter, I canceled my account when Musk bought the company.

Social networking is a very real threat to Democracy, as is the absence of any ethical or principled behavior by some broadcasters, with a considerable amount of nonsense on streaming video. I don’t pretend to know how it can be adequately controlled without gutting the First Amendment. However, it should be obvious that the traditional filter provided by professional journalists is a necessary mechanism to protect an unsuspecting public, many of whom will believe almost anything, provided it supports their personal bias.

A Confluence Of Events

I experienced an interesting nexus of sorts today. That is to say a crossing of two paths. A connection. A confluence of events.

It was one of those moments when you let your mind go blank. The thoughts that happen to pop into your consciousness are strictly random, coming from God knows where.

That was the case, as I stood in our front doorway, gazing out upon the driveway. I was thinking, for reasons I cannot explain, about a practice in Tibetan Buddhism, whereby the bodies of dead monks are placed out on an open field where birds can freely feed upon their carcasses. It may seem barbaric to some, but the practice is done out of respect for the natural order of things. Why let the protein contained in the monk’s bodies rot away somewhere or be incinerated, when it can be recycled back into nature by giving it to the birds?

That’s what was in my mind, as I gazed upon a small bug crawling across the driveway. At that exact moment, at the precise nexus, a cardinal swooped in and without touching the ground, grabbed the bug in its beak and flew away.

And there it is, my nexus for the day. Probably means nothing at all.

Way To Go, Joe

Since I slammed Biden and the Dems for turning a blind eye to sky high grocery prices, I suppose I should also congratulate them for getting 5 Americans freed from Iranian prisons. Anybody who has a problem in giving Iran back its own money to cut the deal, should imagine what it’s like to have a loved one held captive overseas for years one end, with no end in sight.

Biden is also creating a new Office for Gun Violence Prevention. Good for him. Good for his administration. After decades of talk somebody is finally doing something. More than 25-thousand Americans have died from gun violence so far this year in a country that refuses to outlaw assault weapons. Weapons with no purpose other than ending human life.

While all that was going on one major poll shows Trump’s support growing among Black and Latino voters. Apparently they have no memory of what happened during the Trump Administration? There was an attempted coup, remember? Remember who it was encouraging the mob to march over to the Capitol to try and overthrow the Republic? This was the same Donald J. Trump, who said there were “very fine people on both sides,” following neo-Nazis and other white nationalists, marching through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Joe And The Dems Need A Reality Check

High grocery prices may be the Republican Party’s best friend right now. I have no idea how middle-income Americans are able to feed their families. A whole lot of Wonder Bread and spaghetti with watered-down ketchup for sauce, apparently. If they can afford to put gas in the car to drive to the market.

The situation with the Republican Party is seriously comedic, or it should be. A handful of separatist lunatics are controlling the entire House of Representatives, as just one vote from a MAGA Republican, can boot Kevin McCarthy from the Speaker’s chair. So the Speaker, third in line to the Presidency, must bend to the will of a few MAGA nutjobs, as they continue to support a candidate facing not one, not two, not three, but four criminal indictments. Topping it off, Vladimir Putin, is now voicing his support for DJT, as he spews condemnation of our democratic system.

Imagine that, Vladimir Putin, international terrorist and pariah, thinks we have a bad system. A man who leads a country people are exiting in droves with almost nobody wanting to get back in. When was the last time Russia, had a border crossing problem, with somebody trying to get in as opposed to getting out?

Then there’s Tommy Tuberville, a former football coach who lives in Florida but represents Alabama in the U.S. Senate, where he and he alone, is stopping our military from appointing new leadership to make a statement about abortion. He needs to get out of politics and go back to football. If a team will have him. Football is checkers. American politics is three-dimensional chess. Tuberville, is in over his head and our military readiness is being damaged in the process.

The Republicans are weakening our military and crippling the House with a threatened government shutdown, while they support a man who lead an attempted coup against the United States while cozying up to Putin and the Russians, who want nothing short of our destruction. It would be a massive comedy of Republican errors, were it not for the fact that millions upon millions of average Americans can’t afford groceries and gas, while the Democratic Party, continues to act like everything is just fine. If you listen to the President we’re more than fine, we’re great. Well, not really. Not everybody. And Mr. Biden’s position is that we have the strongest economy in the world? Maybe he needs some new advisors? Maybe a trip to the market to do a little shopping on a fixed income budget?

It’s way too easy for gougers to hide behind claims of the war in Ukraine disrupting international supply chains while our elected leaders look the other way. World food prices hit record highs in 2022, but the price of almost everything at your local market shot up, not just food and products impacted by international markets.

It’s so easy for those reaping huge rewards to argue that those of us without degrees in economics can’t begin to understand the implications of international trade, how the price of grain in the Middle East, impacts the cost of a jar of pickles or a pound of sugar in Omaha. There are credible charges that the gouging goes beyond the supermarkets, which have already hit record high prices, and into the military.

As for the impact of Covid, surely its impact on supply chains has had more than enough time to level out? Should we really be expected to pay $10 for one Covid test kit that costs pennies to produce?

Dem leaders need to be wary of turning their backs on consumer prices that are crushing average Americans, while the UAW appears poised to join SAG/AFTRA, the Writer’s Guild and custodial workers on the picket line.

The Writer’s Guild and then SAG/AFTRA were among the first to recognize that working people have reached an economic tipping point. A realization that Russia, isn’t the only country with a giant gap between its oligarchs and average working people, a gap that will surely grow with advancing AI and the ever-increasing march of automation threatening to make us all obsolete.

As in 2016, this upcoming election is the Democrats to lose. Some, apparently, think that’s not even remotely possible. Could be the same bunch that thought it would be a slam-dunk for Hillary in 2016.

A View From The Pasture

I’m reading about the “Tik Toc Generation.” What’s that? Is that even a thing? Did I misspell it correctly?

Feeling very much left in the dust. I don’t even have a smartwatch, but feel as though I should get one to signify that I am not completely irrelevant. I can’t imagine what’s going through young people’s minds with regard to anything, much less whether they give a damn about anything other than climate change which they apparently worry about a great deal. As they should. I see a former colleague has written a book, or perhaps I should say another book, about the early days of tv news in Los Angeles. Does anybody care?

I’m a guy who has multiple Emmys, a wall covered with various other awards from multiple organizations, including a Peabody, as I happened to have been with KTLA when George Holliday called CNN – only to be put on hold – so he called us and asked if we wanted his video of the cops beating the hell of some guy in Lake View Terrace. Just days later, a 15 year-old black girl, Latahsa Harlens, was shot and killed by a convenience store owner in South Central in a dispute over a $2 bottle of OJ. Not that any of this matters, but these and other factors did eventually contribute to causing the Los Angeles riots. I covered all of it.

At varying times, I also chased OJ up the 405 freeway in a news van and flew around South Dakota in a converted DC-3 with George McGovern, as he campaigned to get his senate seat back. I also got the very first and exclusive interview with John Z. DeLorean, following his acquittal on a charge of cocaine trafficking. Don’t remember John Z? Think “Back to the Future,” with Michael Fox.

I’m the guy who broke the story about the mammoth Casmalia toxic waste dump. A 252-acre superfund site that made the 17-acre Stringfellow site look like a kiddie pool. I was also one of the first journalists to arrive at the Bundy murder scene in Brentwood, I may have been the first reporter, in fact, when the bodies had yet to be covered and a river of blood flowed down the walkway. Carl Stein, a photog for CBS, was there before us.

There’s much more, like the invention of ENG and live news coverage in the mid-70’s, when we switched from film to tape, as well as the very first wall-to-wall live trial coverage featuring legal experts. You can blame us, broadcasters of my place in time, for what’s currently being done on MSNBC and CNN. We invented all that stuff for the Simpson trials. I was being called a “legal analyst” at the time, even though I never spent a day in law school.

There was also the “synergy” thing, when my boss, the Tribune Company, bought the Los Angeles Times, or specifically, the Times Mirror Company, which owned the newspaper. The price, as I recall, was something north of $6 billion. They came to me and wanted to know if I would be the go-between for KTLA-TV and the newspaper in an attempt to get those of us on the tv side working in some kind of partnership with the print journalists at the paper – most of whom hated those of us on the broadcast side. And so, I took a desk at the Los Angeles Times, and became one of the very first of only a handful of journalists to try and make cross-platform journalism or so-called “synergy,” work. I eventually got it done, although the effort put me in Cedars-Sinai, with a heart attack.

I have more than 40 years in the news biz and have offered my services as a speaker to two institutions of higher learning here in Maryland. Neither, favored me with a response. They used to at least send out a form letter. Now, you get nothing. This is all very interesting to me, in that UCLA asked me twice to teach an extension course back in the days when I was covering Simpson, and had no time to do anything else. Just goes to show, I guess, that when you’re hot you’re hot, and when you’re not, you’re out in the pasture flinging cow pies baked hard by the sun.

Thank you for listening, or reading, actually, not that specificity matters much any more. Not in this era of click-bait creativity and doing whatever gets you by with the least effort and highest degree of cost-effectiveness. Not that long ago, I actually thought the emphasis on hair and makeup was a problem.

(Originally published in the “Back Focus” group on Facebook)

Making America A Happier Place

Between the enigma that is current-day Russia, with its assortment of mob bosses and former KGB officers vying for power, and all the angry white men driving around around the U.S. in big black pickup trucks with guns under the driver’s seat, there are, it seems, one hell of a lot of angry people in the world, making it a more dangerous place than it probably has to be. I may have a solution, courtesy of Ian Flemming, the guy who wrote all those James Bond books.

Remember in “Goldfinger,” when Pussy Galore and her girls loaded up their planes with knockout gas and flew over Fort Knox, knocking out all the people on the ground so that Goldfinger’s crew could march in and steal all the gold? Well, let’s do the same thing, but with even more planes flying over our red states, which is where so many of these uber-angry people appear to be located. Let’s just blanket the deep South with laughing gas. The biggest chill pill in history. It Might not last forever, but it’ll keep all the rednecks laughing, at least for a while. And maybe it’ll have a prolonged impact, with at least some of the gassed goobers realizing that it’s okay to feel good. It’s okay to actually relax, that they don’t have to be constantly pissed off about how others want to live their lives. That maybe it’s okay for them to be periodically happy. That’s where part two of my plan would kick in. Free weed for everybody.

We appear to have plenty of people growing marijuana in the country, both legally and illegally. Why not have the government buy it, certify it, and hand it out. Edibles and joints for everybody over the age of 18. It would give millions just the change in attitude they need. And it’s not addicting. The government might charge a nominal fee to cover shipping and handling and maybe use it to start a college fund for unwanted children.

If the weed doesn’t have the desired affect, we can follow up with an aerial bombardment of Texas and the deep South with laughing gas on a regular basis. At the very least it’ll get the goobers to forget about their hatred of anyone who might not share their religious and political beliefs or those who might look like they emanated from a different tribe ten to twenty thousand years ago. Maybe we could get them to turn in their guns for grass?

If all of this seems a bit on the radical side, please consider: There are now 393 million privately owned firearms in the United States. That’s 120 guns for every 100 Americans. Something needs to be done. Why not free pot and laughing gas? It’s at least as sane as our gun ownership numbers.

A-I Is Coming For You On An Electric Bike – As Donald Runs Out Of Gas And the World’s Oldest Daily Goes Under

Can’t help but wonder about the seeming coincidence of news about A-I being used to resurrect one last tune by the Beatles coming out at about the same time the country was embroiled in a a conversation about the hazards it might pose to the human race? With visions of A-I turning into a Terminator-like monster appearing to stomp us all into oblivion on one side and a new White Album on the other, what were we to do? Who doesn’t love the Beatles?

Coincidence or not, it did seem to kill the discussion about all the bad things A-I might do to us in the future. Probably just coincidental. I’m probably just paranoid. Read too many books by Huxley and Orwell and others I can no longer even recall. Hesse, wrote some really good stuff. Anyway, I wouldn’t wanna do anything to screw up a new tune from John, Paul, George, Ringo and Arnold.

Since we’re resurrecting the Beatles, I have to wonder if it’s occurred to anyone other than me – yes, this is the kind of stuff I think about – that these “new” electric bikes are just the latest iteration of mopeds? Mopeds, with tiny gas engines were all over the place in the 50’s and 60’s. And now comes the electric bike, a moped with an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine and no exhaust, which is a good thing. Still, they’re really nothing but mopeds. Again.

There was little electricity in Miami, as thousands of wild-eyed red cap wearing supporters failed to show up at the courthouse, a big no-show that could signal the beginning of the end for the Donald and what has been described as his psychological “co-morbidity” by his niece, Dr. Mary Trump, who holds a PhD in clinical psychology. The lousy turnout may be a sign that his base is either in jail, doesn’t want to go to jail, or has finally figured out that it was all a big con. Or maybe they couldn’t get there because of the limited range of their electric vehicles?

That said, the biggest threat to our species could be the explosion of social media as legit journalism takes a dive. Yahoo News! is reporting out a study by The Reuters Institute, reading in part that “…55 percent of TikTok and Snapchat users and 52 percent of Instagram users get their news from “personalities” — compared to 33-42 percent who get it from mainstream media and journalists on those platforms, which are most popular among the young.”

Not to worry, but at the same time, it’s also being reported that the world’s oldest surviving daily newspaper, Wiener Zeitung, in Vienna, is mostly going out of business. The Austrian government has decided to cut its funding by pulling their ads from the paper, which has been published since 1703 and reported out stories about a young Wolfgang Motzart and the fall of the Hapsburgh Empire.

The Weiner Zeitung, will still publish a printed copy once a month and will do what so many other papers have done by going with a stripped down digital edition on the Internet. So there will still be that. And we’ll still be able to get all we need to know from our favorite influencers on TikTok and Snapchat and whatever.

It’ll all work out, or not, as our elected leaders continue to follow their chosen path of negligence, ignoring the crying need to support legitimate journalism and doing something to regulate all the digital social media crap that’s passing for news with increasing numbers of young people who will decide our future – while wearing red caps, which they will insist upon calling “hats” and riding mopeds which they call “electric bikes” – because words will no longer matter and we won’t be able to talk to one another truthfully anyway.

The truth will have died a slow death with the death of journalism and the rise of the machines. But I’m probably just paranoid, thinking a professional journalism filter is necessary for the Republic’s survival, and that government support may be necessary to keep it going.

Hi-Tech Autos: When Less Is More

Just saw an ad for a car with 360-degee cameras. Isn’t this a bit too much? What are we supposed to watch? What’s happening out the windows or the tv screen in the middle of the dash? Or maybe we should start switching between the two in a state of panic? You can be sure some people already are.

I have a friend who turned off his car’s warning system designed to keep drivers between the lines. The thing was going off every time he crossed a white line. Turns out there are lots of white lines out there besides those on the highway and it was driving him crazy. Sometimes, less is more?

I think these computer/tv screens in the middle of a car’s dash are a bad idea. Stupid, even. Basically, idiotic. If the accident rate shoots up, automakers will change, but not until then. It’ll have to either hit them in the pocket book or they’ll have to feel push-back from the insurance industry. Hope it happens soon and they go back to cars that are driver friendly. Until then, they will undoubtedly keep adding more and more of the highest tech they can find because they think more buzzers and bells will move more product.

The truth, is that we need to keep our eyes on the road and not on an icon-filled screen in the middle of the dashboard. We need to look behind our vehicles, before backing up.

They should keep the backup cameras though, as they can potentially save children playing in the street or in the driveway. They should also keep the feature that hits the brakes before the car hits someone in a crosswalk. That’s worth keeping. The rest of it though, well, somebody’s gotta draw a line, cause these car geeks are outta control. They’re adding features not because they should, but because they can. And in the process, all the basics, the stuff that matters most, is apparently being forgotten.

People, need to get off their cell phones, stop looking at the damn screen, and keep their eyes on the road. Just like they taught us in driver’s ed in high school. Something that should be mandatory for every person in every state before they are allowed to get behind the wheel. Maybe it already is. I don’t know. I do know there are a whole lot of distracted drivers out there and more screens and cameras and hi-tech gizmos probably won’t make us any safer. When in doubt, shut up, slow down, and keep your eyes on the road. Focus on your driving. It should be just that simple, shouldn’t it?

When you think about it, why would any sane person do anything to distract the attention of the operator of a 3-thousand pound glass and steel vehicle full of people hurtling down the highway at 70mph? That would be…you know…crazy, right?

The French Might Be Getting It Right

The pot’s boiling over in France, where people are in the streets protesting the move by their president to raise the nation’s minimum retirement age from 62 to 64. Doesn’t seem like such an unreasonable demand when compared to some other nations, like the United States, where the current full retirement age sits at 70. Unless, of course, you opt to take early retirement, which lowers the benefit amounts. In other words, you’ll receive lower payments in your “golden years.” But to the French, money, apparently, isn’t the only issue at issue. Apparently, the French see this as being a much larger lifestyle issue.

You might say the French, work to live, while those of us in the United States, the U.K., and elsewhere, live to work? And that, brings us to the so-called “French Paradox,” and what may be a central question in the current dispute that has all those people out in the streets of France.

Heart disease, continues to be the biggest killer of both women and men in the U.S. where we largely, “live to work.” However, in France, where I’m led to believe there is more of an attitude that one should “work to live,” that’s not the case. Consider the following regarding the so-called “French Paradox.”

“The French paradox is an apparently paradoxical epidemiological observation that French people have a relatively low incidence of coronary heartdisease (CHD), while having a diet relatively rich in saturated fats, [1] in apparent contradiction to the widely held belief that the high consumption of such fats is a risk factor for CHD” – Wikipedia

Yes, the French drink more red wine and walk more than we do. Nevertheless, the question must be asked: Are the French healthier because of their general attitude about work? Might we be better off if we followed their example with less as opposed to more work in our lives?

Taken logically, based upon the evidence, especially as regards the issue of stress, the answer would appear to be “yes.” That said, whatever your belief about the matter might be, it is a question we will all be forced to deal in the very near future as artificial intelligence gobbles up more and more of the work that used to require human hands and minds and corporations continue to barrel headlong into ever more cost-cutting layoffs, freeing us up to do and be what? Potentially healthier people who can’t afford adequate healthcare due to the absence of good paying jobs?

The ultimate paradox might deal less with heart disease and more with why, after so many years and so many lessons, our species, in so many ways, continues to be its own worst enemy, as marchers fill the streets of Paris, while in New York and in Los Angeles, thousands of writers, who have lost much of their income to streaming video, prepare to go out on strike. The cost-cutting thing works real well for a tiny percentage of shareholders at the top of the economic ladder, and not so well for millions of others who continue to be told, “If you rest, you rust!”

Think maybe the French know something we don’t?

They Don’t Make Republicans Like This Anymore

“You know, for a couple of old guys, we don’t look too bad.” -Richard Riordan

Dick Riordan, was more like a friend than a politician. Somebody you could call if you had a problem. It was a call, in fact, that started our association, me as a reporter and Riordan, as the Mayor of Los Angeles.

“Ron Olsen calling” I said, “I’d like to speak with somebody in the office about the Mayor’s….” I was suddenly cut off. “One minute, Mr. Olsen, I’ll put you through” the voice at the other end of the line said. Then, following a beep and a click, the Mayor picked up the line. “Ron! How ya doin?” It was Mayor Riordan, who thought I was his close friend, Los Angeles attorney Ron Olson, and not yours truly, a reporter from KTLA, looking for a story.

I let the Mayor go on for fifteen or twenty seconds before cutting him off and informing him that I was a reporter and not the attorney. I could feel his shock traveling down the line as he handed me off to one of his press people.

Later, a deputy mayor who was also a friend, told me in no uncertain terms that Riordan was impressed that I had cut off the conversation before he spilled the beans about something. About what, I never learned, but apparently he was about to say something that was in no way for public consumption. All I had to do was to keep listening. The feeling in the Mayor’s Office, apparently, was shock that there was at least one ethical reporter left in Los Angeles. You have to remember that in most circles, politicians see journalists as being the enemy, and generally speaking, we are. It’s our job to try and keep them honest, but I wasn’t going to corrupt my ethics to do it. At least not that one time and not under those circumstances.

And so it was that the Mayor and I became buddies of a sort. I’d be out at an event and the Mayor would walk up, several of his aides in tow, wanting to talk. And talk he would, as his aides virtually melted down, as the Mayor told me things they felt I shouldn’t be hearing. God, it was fun. He never told me anything I felt obligated to put on the air, something our viewers were entitled to know even though it wasn’t public knowledge. But his aides still went nuts when we talked, and I loved it. He might have too. That could have been why he did it. Just for kicks. I’m really not sure.

And if he ever did feed me a story because he liked me and I ran with it…well, you’ll never learn about it from me.

Then there was the gorilla in his backyard. You might expect an elephant maybe as he was a Republican, but why a gorilla?

I was at his house doing an interview about the ongoing move to renew downtown Los Angles, when he got a sort of twinkle in his eye and asked me to accompany him out into the backyard. Once there he guided me over to a very high circular hedge. “Check it out” he said. Take a look at what’s in there.” With no idea what to expect, I peered around the shrubbery to see a life-sized replica of a very large gorilla looking back at me. I’m not sure how I reacted, but Riordan thought it was all too funny as he nearly doubled over laughing. Not bad, Mr. Mayor, not bad…

It was on that same visit to his house when, since the tape was rolling, I decided to ask him how he wanted to be remembered. Sadly, the video is apparently lost and I have no memory of what he said. Probably that he did the best he could in bringing back the City from the Rodney King beating and the terrible destruction of the riots, followed by the Northridge Earthquake and then the O.J. Simpson trials. I can attest to his leadership in overcoming the earthquake damage, getting contractors to finish their work not just on schedule but ahead of time. I can also attest to the way banks and other businesses began returning to South Los Angeles, under the stewardship of Riordan and his business buddies, who had more than a little pull in the community.

There was more, like the need for computers at the Los Angeles Unified School District. So Riordan ponied up with the cash via his foundation. Another project he wanted was a giant pillar in the downtown area, somewhere around Bunker Hill, with an angel at the very top overlooking the City of Angels. It might have been similar to Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square, with the Admiral looking out over the City of London. But he never got that one. He was too religious in an increasingly secular world apparently. Perhaps we sometimes take ourselves too seriously? I haven’t seen the inside of a church in years, and yet I think it was an interesting idea. Considering its size, L.A., could use another landmark. But it never happened. The City of Angels, still doesn’t have its angel. But Dick Riordan, tried.

There was also the arrival of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in 2000, even though the City had a Republican mayor. A moderate Republican, maybe one of the last, who believed in doing what was best for everybody, and not for just a few. Or for the party.

Hollywood, was also revitalized while Riordan, was mayor. I have no way of knowing how much or how little he had to do with it, but the fact is, it happened while he was mayor. Hollywood, came back from the brink of being a wasteland with the sign falling down and hookers on nearly every corner of Hollywood Boulevard. I was there. It’s not an exaggeration.

Dick Riordan, wasn’t perfect, but as has been noted elsewhere, he left the City better than he found it. And that, probably, is how he would want to be remembered. A moderate Republican who believed in the common good. A man with a smile on his face and a gorilla in the back yard. You’ve gotta go some to beat that.

One By One, Our Icons Fall Into Shadow

In a rare and possibly uncalled for departure, I will now post a second piece in the same day.

An old friend and former colleague from Los Angeles, Steve Weakley, just posted a story from the New York Times in Facebook. It’s an obit for Mary Quant, the “Mother of the Miniskirt,” who has died at the age of 93. Mary was British, and her invention of the Miniskirt was a pillar of the “British Invasion” with Twiggy, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones dropping a cultural neutron bomb on the United States. She was that big, may she rest in peace. Whatever you might think of her taste in fashion you must admit that she really started something. If you weren’t there, you might not understand so you’ll just have to trust me. The miniskirt caused a revolution in women’s wear.

Her passing might not mean much, except that I just heard yesterday that Tupperware might be going out of business. So those of us who made it through the 60’s are loosing at least two icons within the space of a couple of days. Which is kinda sad, don’t you think?

I’ll be off to our local bowling alley now, trying to reinforce or maybe recapture a tiny piece of what I used to be. For me, bowling is something from days gone by. Something I didn’t have time for while in the heat of battle for so many years. It’s like an old friend who was still there. Could be a need for tradition. We all need something to fall back on, I suppose.

Giant Therapy Dogs Attack Alarmist Headlines

We’re told we should expect a high of 84, here in Maryland today. Feels like an average day back in Los Angeles. I love these “what to expect” articles. It’s gonna be warm, that’s what to expect. Guess I’ve only noticed since retirement how fear based so much of the news is. Or maybe it’s become more fear based with the passage of time? I’m not sure. I know I don’t appreciate what appears to be a trend.

It’s nice seeing Joe Biden going to Ireland, simply because he wanted to. I mean, there doesn’t appear to be any crying need for him to be there, other than he’s Irish, and he wanted to visit the old sod. So he went, and everything is quiet, and that’s kinda nice for a change, a U.S. President going somewhere without an immediate crisis as motivation. At least it’s something that can’t be passed along as fear based news.

There’s a wonderful photo in my hometown paper, The Paynesville Press, accompanying an article about local folk volunteering their dogs to be used as therapy dogs for those in need. The photo shows one of the locals proudly posing with his three Great Danes. I had to imagine those three giants bounding into a room where someone was trying to recover from surgery. I guess it might scare the patient back up on his feet and out the door. The exercise might be good for him.

The Great Dane’s owner, Michael Chmelik, is quoted as saying, “One day I was going into a room, and there was a curtain drawn across the front of the door. I knocked, and the nurse jumped about two inches off the ground because she didn’t expect to see a huge Great Dane standing in the doorway, chuckled Wayne.”

All of it strikes me as being very funny. Therapy dogs, Minnesota style. Stop complaining, get your ass outta bed and get moving.

It’s like something Garrison Keillor would have dreamed up for one of his Wobegon books, except this is for real. Not that at least some of his writing isn’t based upon Minnesota reality. Made me smile, anyway. Not a bad way to start the day. Nice to know there’s a place where people care enough about others to offer up their pets as therapy animals. I’m sure it’s done elsewhere as well, but good for them. That’s all I’m saying. Good for them.