A Holiday Observation

Just some thoughts … This year has been most eye-opening, and most challenging for every single person in some or many ways. It has tested humans to depths we couldn’t have expected at the beginning of the year or foreseen at any time.

Every day I consciously and intentionally choose joy, not because I don’t see or feel the devastation, but because I know it well in my core. I’m determined to thrive, even when witnessing businesses we know shutting down forever, listening to hearts breaking over every aspect of current events and our human frailty being overwhelmed by hopelessness.

2020 has shown one of the most convoluted examples of apathetic and perverse ambition in all areas, the opposite of what humans need and desire for soul and spirit satisfaction and motivation. This 2020 vision has made one thing quite clear: heightening and polarizing emotions and isolating people of all ages is unsustainable for the long term. In order to stem this tide, we will all need to take pro-active steps to redeem ourselves.

I know with this COVID mess all of our lives have been thrown sideways, but for me, it’s personal. Around the middle of November, I tested positive. Two days later, Laurie did, as well. We certainly didn’t see THAT coming since we’re both careful how we move around in public and always wear face coverings. This is a very sneaky bug, and you can take the best precautions possible and still get infected. So, for the last two weeks, we were sequestered in the home and under doctor’s care via telemedicine calls. I just completed a regimen of azithromycin and prednisone which have shown to be helpful, so we’re just laying low as we continue to get better. Laurie was able to return to work and I’m improving a bit each day. This was a VERY UNPLEASANT experience, but I was able to avoid going to the hospital; for that, I am VERY GRATEFUL!

Here’s an idea: Good can come from the depravity just like breakthrough from the breakdown, beauty from the ashes, a brighter light emerging from the darkest corners. Investing more intentionally into the relationships we treasure to become more life-giving, personal revival with stronger faith in a more significant and unique relationship with God (not religious or condemning), and leveling up to live above the fray … it’s a daily commitment to every possibility in encouragement and support to one another. Rather than continue to dive into our tribal caves and only interact with so-called “like minded” people, let’s try something different: Let’s try to hold conversations with those with whom we might not always agree, in favor of those things we just might share in common. Start with simple things and STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM THE TOXICITY OF POLITICS! Social media has become such a sewer that going forward, I won’t be posting much other than to stay in touch with family and friends.

When we were kids, my Dad expressed concern that this great nation could be taken down from within. He may have been on to something. The most effective way for that to happen is to break the collective spirit, just as in the process of breaking a horse that has been able to run free. I believe the human spirit is made in the image of our Creator. That makes us authors and creators in our own lives and if we don’t want that to happen, then we have to DO SOMETHING! This is our lifeline, the provision we already have within to be resilient and resourceful, to be strong and courageous.

No one ever knows what tomorrow will bring. A dear friend of mine said it best, “we all have an ‘expiration date.’” It’s just become a lot more evident, having been brought to light differently this year. However, we each have value to live and give through this spirit that can rise above time, space, and circumstances. Believing is seeing. Be a seeker of Truth.

Finally, I want to convey my most sincere gratitude and thanks to so many friends who looked in on us, brought us lots of great food and made sure we were doing OK. It means more than you could possibly know so again, thanks so very much!

Advent is a time to celebrate the arrival of new life. It’s not only a calendar or set of candles, but an epiphany of the heart, mind, and spirit.

Wishing you all the grace, joy, love, and compassion to overflowing in this Christmas season!


Post Script: I would be remiss not to acknowledge the inspiration for this blog: Gina Tirtilli is a friend and former tech colleague at Newport Mesa Church and Gina posted similar reflections from which my story emanates. Thank you, Gina, for the “a-ha” moment!

“The Social Dilemma”

Having been recommended by a few friends to watch this Netflix documentary, we did so a few nights ago. It was, arguably, the most unnerving movie I’ve seen in years. Having worked in digital marketing for a decade or so, I have a sense of how all of this online stuff works. But this film pulled away the “layers of the onion” so profoundly that I can’t stop thinking about how corrosive and destructive social media has become. We have devolved into a culture of “clicks, likes and shares” and most of us have little idea of how our seemingly benign online actions can have devasting effects to our very lives. If that sounds a bit melodramatic, it might be, but that doesn’t change what is true.

The movie is based around a mythical suburban family and shows them struggling with the addictive impact forged by online activity. Behind the scenes is a nefarious trio of “bots” (played by Vincent Kartheiser of “Mad Men” fame) literally pushing all of our emotional buttons to get what they want from us. The control these social portals have over us is real and the consequences don’t bode well for any of us if we don’t employ more discipline in our – and our family’s – online activities.

The principals in The Social Dilemma are former high-level execs from all the well-known platforms: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and so many others. What’s interesting is that these folks left their companies “for ethical reasons.” Hmmmmmm! To a person, they all waxed poetic about “the early days” when they were engaged in creating something clever and revolutionary, that could connect millions, if not billions of “users.” Unfortunately, once monetized, these social outlets quickly become monsters that demanded to be fed, in order to return profits, growth and shareholder value to their respective stakeholders. The noteworthy cast of The Social Dilemma includes Tim Kendall (former president of Pinterest and ex-Director of Monetisation at Facebook), Jaron Lanier (author of Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now), Chamath Palihapitiya (Facebook former VP of growth and CEO of Social Capital), and Tristan Harris (co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology who used to work at Google and is the driving force of the documentary).

Not lost on me as I write this blog are the many quotes from the movie that were attention getters for me, and should be for you, too. Here are just a few:

  • “There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.”
  • “Social media is a marketplace that trades exclusively in human futures.”
  • “The very meaning of culture is manipulation.”
  • “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
  • “If you’re not paying for the product, then you’re the product.”
  • “It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in our own behavior and perception that is the product.”
  • “We want to psychologically figure out how to manipulate you as fast as possible.”
  • “If you want to control the population of the country, there is no better tool as effective as Facebook.”

When I read these quotes, I arrive at the unnerving conclusion that we are being played on a massive scale and we’re the ones buying into the con! We have made billionaires out of the people we thought were creating something for our “enjoyment.” One of Google’s early mantras was to “…do no harm.” Well, how’s that working out?

One of the more striking moments in the film comes when director Jeff Orlowski (acting as interviewer) tries to get to the root of the matter, in addressing the negative impact social media has had on society. Orlowski asks several of the execs a simple question, “…so what’s the problem?” Almost to a person, the exec on the other end of the question squirmed in his/her chair and looked around, struggling to find an answer. Talk about a telling moment!! More than once, an interviewee pointed out that a high-tech innovation like social media, and the power and profit they generate, may need an old school solution: regulation. Sadly though, the tech giants have figured out how to pre-empt any such thing from happening, by sprinkling vast sums of money throughout all of congress…both sides of the aisle!

With these revelations, it should be no surprise how these execs feel about their own families and their use of social media. Aside from confessing their own addictions to email, text messages and push notifications, they were more direct when it got closer to home. One exec said, “I’ve uninstalled a ton of apps from my phone that I felt were just wasting my time, and I’ve turned off notifications.” Another said, “Never accept a video recommended to you on YouTube. Always choose on your own. That’s another way to fight.” And, most profoundly, “Before you share, fact check. If it seems like something is designed to push your emotional buttons, it probably is.” For the record, all of these execs have rules (boundaries) in their own households regarding how, when and where the use of social media is permitted – especially among their children! Maybe we should consider doing the same in our households?

At the end of the film, I sat in stunned silence as I watched the credits roll in front of my eyes. It made me sad, mad, and reflective, and I have some things to think about with my social media usage from now on. That being said, are we going to throw our gadgets and devices away? Nope, it ain’t gonna happen. But what we should and better do is become much more aware of how these portals are impacting our behavior. Everything you post, every meme you share, every game or quiz you play and every photo or video you watch…all of it is being monitored, recorded and dissected, and every bit and byte of the data generated by this activity is being skillfully mined to maximize the aforementioned profits of the social media giants. Remember, you are the product.

If you have Netflix, watch the movie.

Be guided accordingly.

That is all.


Graphics source: Netflix

Can We EVER Get Beyond This?

For the last few days, I’ve been desperately grappling with recent events where men of color lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement officers sworn to “protect and serve.” I struggle because as long as I can remember, we were taught to respect the police, and that lesson has served me well–especially being African-American. I have had friends in law enforcement and have the privilege of knowing several here where I live, including a chief or two.

So, these events pain me a great deal. Disturbing me most of all are the anarchists and thugs who would dare take George Floyd’s death as an excuse to burn and loot, figuring that this would be an ideal time to commit such acts because law enforcement is in a defensive position and don’t want to provoke even louder cries of racism. And so, cities burn…….

I’ll be 72 years old in a couple of weeks. By that reckoning, I have outlived both of my parents by four decades since their passing and nearly as long, chronologically. I miss them terribly but am glad they don’t have to witness this kind of mayhem. Hell, we’re in the twenty-first century!!! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH US?? And the better question is, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?!?!

Over the last few days, we’ve heard from two city officials and one former NFL player, all of whom have something timely and relevant to say, in a manner far better than I, so I’ll let them do the talking. All of them speak to the abhorrent deaths that we have seen recently, but they are just as quick to condemn the rioting and looting. I should also point out that these interviews come from CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Please watch them all and suspend any judgment over which news outlet they came from.

First, is Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. https://cnn.it/2ApBhRs
Next, is former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson: https://bit.ly/2XDTIKj
Last, is Detroit Chief of Police James Craig: https://on.msnbc.com/3dhrjAt

It is important to understand that there are countries and other entities out there that wish us harm and we need to refrain from actions that make the US look like a third world country. That plays right into the hands of our adversaries and we are NOT served well…any of us…by this conduct. Saddest of all, the most vulnerable of our citizens suffer the most. Even George Floyd’s family has implored citizens to knock off the rioting and looting.

So back to my question: What are we going to do? Something Ben Watson said resonated with me, that in order to make any meaningful change, “…we have to be willing to be uncomfortable, willing to be honest, a willingness to not be offended and not to offer ‘what-about-isms’ when people talk about the way they feel.” If we’re not willing to move into this kind of dialogue – family, friends and loved ones, nothing will change and the adversaries I alluded to earlier will just smile.

Think about that.

An Open Letter To Costa Mesa City Government

This was sent as an email Yesterday to Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley, Mayor pro tem John Stevens and City Council members Allan Mansoor, Sandy Genis, Manuel Sanchez, Andrea Marr and Arlis Reynolds. Because this is too important a matter to just leave it at that, I wanted to also post it as a blog entry, with the hope that more will see it. 

Good morning, everyone…hope you’re well. I am writing today not as the president of MVCI, but as a private citizen in the Mesa Verde area of our city. I continue to be deeply troubled by the One Metro West project and further distressed at the notion that steps are being taken to circumvent Measure Y, under the guise of this development providing units of “affordable housing” to help the city meet its numbers as prescribed by Sacramento. I don’t believe that any such measure should take the voters out of the equation, but that seems to be the tack Rose Equities will take to duck around “we the people.”

As I have said before, I am not anti-development, but this project from the onset has been fraught with controversy. Unfortunately, there seems to be no appetite at City Hall for any further negotiations with Rose and their attitude seems to be, “damn the torpedoes…full speed ahead.” If the voters decide this to be an acceptable project, so be it, and I will live with it. But let me say again, I am NOT in favor of ANY plan to take the voters out of such an important decision that will — in my opinion — have an extremely deleterious effect on Costa Mesa!

Please let the voters decide.

Thanks for listening.
Terry Wall

Connecting food with people who don’t have enough

I am so upset seeing TV images of farmers and food producers seemingly having no choice but to be destroying food here in the US when on the same news broadcasts we hear people don’t have enough food and are in charity food lines right in our own country. What I find so disconcerting is that we, as the self-professed “greatest economy in the history of the world” can’t find a way to connect food we can’t sell commercially — for whatever reason — with people who need food to survive. If I see ONE. MORE. STORY. about thousands of gallons of milk being disposed of, or thousands of animals being unnecessarily euthanized because the processing plants are closed or operating under diminished capacity, or truckloads of potatoes being dumped into landfills or buried, my head’s gonna explode! Un-freaking-believable!

Sadly, I have very little confidence left that elected officials will act in the best interest of ‘we the people.’ What’s worse, those in power aren’t feeling the pain of this madness… NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST. Did you notice that I didn’t call out any political party? That’s because they’re ALL culpable…culpable for not being willing to compromise on ANYTHING in earnest! WTH is wrong with our country that we can’t do better than that?!? Angry? You BET I’m angry!

Disclosure: Thanks to a dear cruise industry friend, Bruce Nierenberg, who wrote something similar to this on LinkedIn.

Terry’s Lament

I am a 71-year-old African American. I am a conservative-leaning Independent, mostly because I’ve always been leery of our government’s ability to effectively manage the dollars entrusted to their care. In my lifetime, I’ve voted for candidates from both major political parties because I’ve always believed in voting for the person, not the party. I am pro-life but accept Roe vs Wade as settled law.

I offer that preamble because of what I’m about to say. We are at a precarious point in our society and our very lives, and the haggling that I witness in the US Congress is disgusting and an absolute disgrace. All the rambling and scrambling in both houses is costing valuable time and lives and perhaps we should put THEIR paychecks on hold until they come up with a workable solution…FAST!

If Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, says “we’re close to an agreement,” that’s good. I have no problem with there being “oversight” to any money provided to large corporations. These organizations employ hundreds of thousands of employees and to say they don’t deserve help is preposterous. The money is crafted as loans that have to be repaid. I also have no issues with the extension of federal unemployment benefits for four months, because the “rubber meets the road” with the employees themselves, and these folks need valuable funds to cover losses that could span across months. This is far more meaningful than a one or two-time check. Schumer calls it “unemployment insurance on steroids.” I agree, and people deserve this consideration. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has offered no objection to this approach, and it would seem that at least the Senate is headed in the right direction.

Where I get serious heartburn is when the discussion shifts over to the House of Representatives. Suddenly, the bills under consideration are getting loaded with all kinds of caveats, demands and pet projects that have nothing, repeat, NOTHING to do with the intent of this legislation. To look up and find 1400 pages, in which are buried things like:

  • Aid to the Election Assistance Commission
  • Student Loan Forgiveness
  • Overreaching “Green New Deal” provisions
  • Ambiguous Diversity pressures imposed on corporations

…and others that even NPR referred to as “…their own wish list of items they couldn’t pass through the normal process,” is infuriating! THIS IS NOT NORMAL and the House (specifically House Leader Nancy Pelosi) needs to get these pork provisions OUT of the House bill and deal with them as the separate issues they are – especially at a time like this!

It is time for all of Congress to start behaving as if they really understand the gravity of our situation. The health of our nation – both physically and economically – depends on it. Listen to what I said, BOTH houses of congress from BOTH parties need to step up and DO THE RIGHT THING!

Here endeth the lesson!

What the hell is wrong with today’s chicken?!?

I love to cook! Everyone who knows me knows that. One of my favorite phrases is, “I love to cook for people who love to eat!” Which is just about everyone that comes by for a meal. Over the last couple of years, though, I’ve noticed that chicken has gotten progressively tougher, and whether grilled, pan-fried, baked or broiled, it turns out the same: often tough, rubbery and sometimes, barely edible. And although dinner guests never complain, this has bugged me for quite some time. Now as a sidebar, I only use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, because Laurie doesn’t like to eat “meat-on-the-bone.” But I’ve started to notice that it’s these cuts of chicken that are the culprits.

Out of frustration, I Googled “why is chicken so tough,” and got a public library in responses! One of the better explanations came from “The Reluctant Gourmet.” I am sharing his article with you here in the hope that if you also like chicken as much as we do, you will help bring pressure on chicken producers to take the necessary steps to rid the poultry market of this condition. If they don’t, it may just cost them, in the long run.

Have a great week!

Just checking in…….

I haven’t written here in quite some time…sorry I’ve been away. I’ve been quite busy with the video business (firstimpressionsvideo.com), and the duties of running a household. Since my last post here, we lost Laurie’s mom, who lived a long life, at age 96. I should be so lucky to live that long–so long as the quality of life is good. More recently, we said goodbye to our dear feline buddy, Dexter. Laurie and I were devastated by this loss as it was NOT expected. Choking back tears, we both wrote stories about our all too brief time with an amazing cat, from our perspectives.

Laurie’s story: https://theferalcatblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/dexter-buddy/
Terry’s story: https://firstimpressionsvideo.com/2018/03/14/my-associate-editor-passed-away/

Here’s a bit of Dexter advice, as he left us to hang out with “Grandma Marge,” Always be kind to your pets, because we love you unconditionally. Even us cats. Well, most of us. Love, Dexter. And that’s just about as well as I could ever say it!

Be well.

An Anniversary Tribute to Someone Very Special

The year was 1993…I made this crazy decision to relocate back to California…this would be the fourth time coming back to a state I said I would NEVER return to! The purpose—aside from accepting a really cool job with Travel Weekly—was to see if there was anything to this “crush” I had on a good lookin’ girl. Some of my friends (Judy Chipman, now Keller, being one) already knew it. Not wasting any time, I proposed to this girl on Halloween (of all days!) and a few months later, on February 19, 1994, not even the Northridge Earthquake could stand in our way!

23 years later, we’re still cranking along life’s highway, and like many others, we’ve seen good and bad times. But they never got in the way of how much we cared for each other, trusted each other, valued each other, and—most importantly—loved each other. And as we celebrate our 23rd year together, the only thing left to say is…

Happy Anniversary, Laurie!



Let’s close this sucker out and move on to 2017!

Sorry I haven’t posted here much this year. Certainly not for lack of desire, but my business (firstimpressionsvideo.com) was VERY busy and between shooting, editing and freelancing, the year moved right on by! So since I don’t have my own year-end comments, I will share those of one of the greatest satirists of our time: Dave Barry. Dave has contributed his writing to The Miami Herald for many years, in addition to his many books, and I had the pleasure of meeting Dave when I lived in Miami. He’s rip-roarin’ funny, but usually dead on point at the same time, and here are Dave’s thoughts, in his “2016 Year In Review.” Take note that no one is spared…everyone is fair game for Dave’s pen!

Enjoy, and have a happy and prosperous–and healthy–2017!