Category: Culture

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You’re a Mean One, Governor Grinch

One of my University Heights neighbors is ready for Christmas—and that with Thanksgiving still two weeks away. What immediately follows? Black Friday, which will be a bust for many, if not most, local retailers—and perhaps every other business—now that Governor Gavin “Grinch” Newsom has dumped San Diego County back into the most restrictive lockdown tier; aka Purple. The shutdown supposedly will curtail rising COVID-19 infections caused by SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2) and, thus, save lives. But at what cost to livelihoods?

Perhaps the holiday decor isn’t meant to be a commentary on the current state of affairs; either way, I make it one. I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image yesterday. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/800 sec, 28mm; 9:12 a.m. PST. The Grinch is appropriate metaphor for the Gov, while the ravens feed on the economic dead that another shutdown murders. Bones picked clean of flesh by the carrion flock hang nearby. How funny! That is the same skeleton seen sitting in a car—on March 29.

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An Unexpected Request

About a month ago, I observed something odd while waiting in line at the pharmacy. The gentlemen standing at the counter, who looked worse for wear, had come to pick up a prescription. But he met an obstacle. The druggist asked for identification, which the customer didn’t have and he was confused why any would be needed. “It’s a controlled substance”,  the pharmacist explained. But in a sad and naively poignant regard, the gent didn’t understand. The medicine had been prescribed for him, but he didn’t possess any kind of identity card. Please, could he have his medicine?

Unkempt, and likely a recovering addict who belonged to San Diego’s ever-growing homeless population, the guy was plaintive rather than abusive—as someone else might have been. “Come back when you have ID”, the druggist informed. The fellow stepped back from the window and approached me, waiting next in line: “Do you have ID I can borrow?”

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Should THIS Surprise Me?

Shirley Ann Place is a seemingly sleepy converted alley between Louisiana and Texas Streets lined with historic Spanish-style cottages. While walking along there a few weeks ago, I sensed tension in the air and saw its manifestation in competing Black Lives Matter signs and American flags—but not both on the same building. Citizens chose to voice whom or what they supported by the icon displayed; for some people, nothing whatsoever. The pattern was undeniable and it is consistently observed across the San Diego neighborhood of University Heights.

Except that the displays of support along Shirley Ann Place felt more combative—stakeholders, something like a Hatfields vs McCoys feud. Black Lives Matter isn’t just a slogan—it refers to an organization with political ambitions that would upend American society. Presumably, flag wavers express patriotism and their stand against radicalism. That said, nothing surprised me more than meandering by yesterday and seeing BLM spray-painted on the Stars and Stripes.

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San Diego Gives Kids Permission to Play

Finally. After SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—restrictions shut down playgrounds across San Diego County in mid-March 2020, they reopened on October 2. Strange juxtaposition? Same day, the President of the United States was admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, after testing positive for the disease. What’s that saying about coincidental timing? If there is one.

Along with the playgrounds, public libraries reopened—and the timing is quite deliberate. California has started sending out mail-in ballots for the November 3 election (we received ours yesterday). Drop boxes will be placed in libraries.

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Who Authorized This?

Occasionally, metaphors slap you aside the head—as is the case with the Featured Image and companion, captured with Leica Q2 and iPhone XS, respectively. Both images represent the incursion of territory, in most strange manner. Last week, a road crew etched “North Park” into the so-called traffic calming circle at Alabama and Meade. Workers returned for more letter-cutting today, two blocks farther at Louisiana. Problem: Both intersections are located in University Heights, which boundary extends another four cross-streets south to Lincoln. Uh-oh.

I witnessed an older gentleman mark the structure with chalk on Sept. 27, 2020. I returned the next day with camera in hand. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/8, ISO 100, 1/400 sec, 28mm; 9:16 a.m. PDT. I selectively saturated orange, using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic, to draw out “Mead and Alabama in University Heights”. The other photo shows some of the sandblasted lettering the day of completion, on the 25th. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 16, 1/1634 sec, 26mm (film equivalent); 4:38 p.m.

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Reopen the Playgrounds!

Nearly six months have passed since San Diego cordoned off Trolley Park and others like it around the city. As summer started, the public spaces reopened but the playgrounds remain closed—a restriction that defies common sense and current science regarding SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19.

“The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children”, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults…as of July 17, 2020, the United States reported that children and adolescents under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths”. Seasonally, the flu kills more kids—and, unlike that virus, children ages 0-9 are extremely unlikely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 or to transmit it to adults. In San Diego County from Feb. 14, 2020 to yesterday, among that age bracket, 1,514 tested positive—or 3.3 percent of the 45,425 confirmed cases.

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Need a Lyft?

Ahead of the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19pandemic leading to California’s statewide shutdown, electric scooters suddenly vanished from many San Diego County communities. Local governments didn’t want the things cluttering the streets. But, as life returns to some semblance of normalcy, scooters creep back onto the streets, something like cockroaches emerging from Nuclear Winter.

Still, sightings are rare enough in my neighborhood that today I was surprised to see this lone Lyft parked at Alabama and El Cajon, where sits BLVD North Park, which is located in University Heights. If you can’t build real estate in the location you want, pretense naming is your solution.

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Give Peace a Chance to Bring Justice

This morning, while walking from the Point in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood, I passed by a dove placidly perched on a wooden fence. The bird looked somewhat scrawny, and I wondered if even weakened—for it made no attempt to flee when I turned back with Leica Q2, stopped, manually focused, and captured the Featured Image. Surely there is a metaphor here somewhere.

Racial riots rage across swathes of the country, months after the first ones in late May 2020: Chicago, Ill., Kenosha, Wisc., Minneapolis, Minn., Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash. are among the cities stricken by arson and looting. Today, in D.C., on the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s “I Have a Dream” speech, thousands of protesters rallied for racial equality and against violence during The Commitment March. Afternoon stormy weather and heavy rains dampened activities, which, more or less, came to a soggy end by early evening. Mmmm, is there another metaphor there?

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Going Postal

Among Americans, few institutions, and the services provided, are as meaningful as the United States Post Office. The Second Continental Congress created the U.S. postal system on July 26, 1775—nearly a year before the Colonies formally declared national independence from Britain—and chose Benjamin Franklin as the first postmaster general. Living generations, even the youngest among them, share some emotional experience from receiving, or sending, mail. The card from grandma is a tangible expression of her love for you. Delivery of an online-ordered package—and every other one before it—is a moment of anticipation and joy. Feelings about the mail are entrenched, and within our society they are universally shared.

We put faith in the Post Office and its capacity to deliver our mail. But now, Democrat politicians and their supporters assert that our faith is misplaced—that we cannot trust the USPS, because the Trump Administration conspired to  disrupt postal operations to tamper with this year’s Presidential election. The allegations exploded like a supernova—seemingly from invisibility—not long after the President raised concerns that universal mail-in ballot initiatives, like the one here in California, would lead to voter fraud. Trump’s Democrat rivals assert that cost-cutting streamlining of postal operations and recent slowdown of mail processing are evidence of his interference to steal your vote.

It’s non sequitur. One thing has little to do with the other. Donald Trump is a longstanding critic of the USPS as it exists today—way before the brouhaha about mail-in ballots—and there are legitimate concerns that existing postal logistical capabilities and various states’ voting rules will lead to electoral chaos. But as a political maneuver, Democrats have whacked a hornet’s nest of emotional attachment to mail that already stings the President.

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Who is Watching You?

Be not fooled. We live in a surveillance society. I am not paranoid, nor even freaked by this startling situation. I merely take for granted that someone, somewhere, is watching—perhaps from a business’ security camera, household door webcam, or citizen’s smartphone.

Occasionally, though, surveillance severity surprises me. And I wonder: From what is the watcher afraid—or, worse, what is he or she hiding? The Featured Image is one example. I frequently walk by this house and marvel because the windows are so appealing but typically blocked by blinds or curtains. Who lives in such darkness? Vampires? On Aug. 18, 2020 something else rapped my attention—and I can’t say whether or not newly added. Look at those industrial-size security cameras. Yikes!

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What Does Popular Music Tell Us About Race in America?

Someone please explain this to me—seeing as I am an older white guy who is supposedly clueless about social justice matters. Today, I moseyed over to the Billboard Hot 100 to see where ranked controversial Cardi B song “WAP”, which is shorthand for “Wet-Ass Pussy”. The tune is Number One its only week on the chart. That’s an impressive debut.

Unexpectedly, I am perplexed by the other nine, in context of racial riots raging across the country; protesters demanding “no justice, no peace“; and U.S. representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) calling for “unrest in the streets“. Among the Top 10 songs, seven are from artists of color (the majority men); one is from a mixed-race troupe;  and two are from white male solo singers. If anyone is looking for someplace where there is black representation, look no further.