Category: Free Speech

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Don’t Fall In

On June 29, 2006, a sinkhole mysteriously opened in our backyard. We lived nearly 5 kilometers—about 3 miles—outside the Washington Beltway. I wouldn’t want to be too close to the District of Columbia this weekend, in the wake of today’s momentous, or shocking (depending on your politics or values), Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v Wade. States will now individually dictate when, if at all, abortions may be performed.

I use the Featured Image as a metaphor, so to speak, for the sinkhole into which people praising or condemning the decision will fall into. Seems like there is no solid ground under this topic; anyone and everyone opposing your position, whatever that may be, will be pushed in and buried. To some, abortion is murder. To others, it’s a right taken away.

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The Shredded Republic

For this Memorial Day we present a solemn sentiment reflecting the tattered state of the Republic, which is shorn to pieces by cultural and political strife. At no time since my first eligible-to-vote Presidential election have I seen such fractious and contentious state of the electorate or the representatives in Washington, D.C.

Worst of all is my profession. The Fourth Estate has abandoned its duty to protect the public interest. Subjective reporting and editorialization define modern journalism. The Fifth Estate, which includes new media and online informational utilities (e.g., Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the like), is worse because of rampant censorship. Patronizing tactics choose for you, because presumably you’re not smart enough to sift fact from fiction. I would mind less if professional news gatherers reported responsibly more.

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For Free Speech and Democracy

Fifteen years ago—April 14, 2007—the Wilcox family rode the DC Metro into downtown for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. The Featured Image is one of many street shots from Canon 20D and EF 135mm f/2 USM lens. This one, composed as captured, is previously unpublished. Vitals: f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/500 sec, 135mm; 9:32 a.m. EDT.

I choose the photo for the strangest of reasons: The riders and their American flags as symbols of democracy and freedom. Why today? Elon Musk bought Twitter, which he plans to take private and supposedly will reestablish as a platform for free speech.

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Return to Nextdoor

I last quit Nextdoor on July 28, 2020, protesting the ridiculously ambiguous tenets of the so-called “Good Neighbor Pledge”. My account is now reactivated. Testing the limits of that pledge is one of my goals in what may be a temporary return. Why bother? You ask the right question.

Burgeoning crude oil per-barrel costs, surging inflation, rising prices on seemingly everything, the Russian-Ukraine war, and potentially devastating consequences (globally) from the West’s sanctions against Russia are precursors to economic crisis of frightening magnitude. S-o-o-o, my neighbors and I may have reason to buy and sell or barter items some time in the not-so-distant future.

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The Humiliation Games

On the same day the 2022 Olympics opened, February 4, I passed by something appropriate and timely: discarded pair of thirtytwo brand snowboarding boots. Their abandonment, along the North Avenue alley in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood, could be a metaphor for what’s being chucked away in Beijing right now: fair competitive spirit, human dignity, and truthfulness. It’s all humiliating.

Let me count the ways: Humiliating that, because of surveillance, athletes were instructed to bring burner phones to China—and, for their own safety, not to publicly criticize the host nation. Humiliating that China presented as propaganda a token Uyghur during the opening ceremony; what genocide? Humiliating that Russian President Vladimir Putin joined Chinese President Xi Jinping, while Western nations, including the United States, chose not to send diplomatic delegations. Humiliating that Chinese officials dragged away a Dutch reporter during a live broadcast. Humiliating that athletes quarantined for positive SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 are mentally and physically impaired by poor food quality and living conditions. Humiliating, and convenient, that some foreign gold medal contenders test Coronavirus positive and can’t compete. Humiliating that most NBC Sports commentators and hosts are broadcasting from the United States rather than China.

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Who Approved This?

Last week, while walking along Panorama Drive, I passed by what seemed like the strangest holiday decoration: An inflatable, rainbow-colored Christmas tree. The next day, there were three. The day after, my wife and I walked over so that she could see. We found four more—not every one erect but all unmistakably identifiable even when deflated. This will be our fifteenth Christmas in this San Diego neighborhood, and I have never seen such signs like these.

As I opined on July 4th, about seeing more Pride flags than the Stars and Stripes, University Heights has undergone dramatic, observable changes since start of the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns in mid-March 2020. New residents, many of them Northern California escapees, are everywhere. Their emigration contributes to soaring rents and skyrocketing home sale prices. The newcomers also bring different values that are commiserate with adjacent Hillcrest, which is known as a gay enclave. But Pride holiday trees, all on the same street?

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Fit to Survive

Hard to imagine that a year ago, Californians freaked about rising SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 infections, with Governor Gavin Newsom imposing additional lockdown restrictions that essentially cancelled Christmas. Thanksgiving already was collateral damage.

Some small businesses, like Boulevard Fitness, resisted closure and defied threats of fines—or worse. The city (or county) could pull permits, particularly related to public health. For eateries and pubs, liquor license could be yanked instead or as well.

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Never Rest, San Diego

About 10 minutes after photographing the “Roarin’ Riders and the First Responders” on Nov. 6, 2021, I came across building art that is the Featured Image. The pair of murals are on the alley side of Belching Beaver Brewery in North Park—between El Cajon Blvd and Howard Avenue. The irony about the “people come before profit” sentiment is its placement on a commercial building selling pricey gourmet booze—or am I missing something here?

While I carried Leica Q2, iPhone 13 Pro made the moment, by taking advantage of the ultra-wide lens. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 32, 1/405 sec, 13mm; 2:10 p.m. PDT. Because of obstructions, I couldn’t back up far enough with the camera to include both murals. Hence, the choice of the smartphone.

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Gosh, Is Jack-o’-lantern a Taboo Term?

Halloween is past, but remnants remain—and what’s better than pumpkins as Thanksgiving approaches. Already, my local Costco sells massive pumpkin pies. Why now, I cannot fathom. It’s not like they’ll keep.

Yesterday, I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image and companion. The first is nearly a 100-percent crop, shot wider-open than the other to make some bokeh. Vitals, aperture manually set for both: f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/2000 sec, 28mm; 11:49 a.m. PDT. The second: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/800 sec, 28mm; seven seconds earlier.

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Yeah, Let’s Lower Old Glory to Honor Them

Since the disastrous defeat in Afghanistanself-imposed, but denied, by the current Administration in Washington, D.C.—I have observed a number of American flags flying half-mast in my neighborhood of University Heights. The question: Why aren’t they all?

San Diego is still very much a military town, and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is located in the Northern section of the county. Nine Marines and a Sailor stationed there were killed in the Kabul Airport bombing about 10 days ago. The White House ordered half-staff flags for the fallen heroes—yeah, let’s lower Old Glory to honor them. So why are only a few of my neighbors doing so—again, remembering the area’s military heritage, the Navy, especially.

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Graffiti? Message? Warning?

What a surprise is this. While walking in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood today, I spotted the oddest thing: The pictured graphic and text on a utility pole at Monroe and Utah. Is that sign meant to alert Antifa members? During last year’s racial riots and protests, I frequently passed persons all-black-clad—the group’s de facto uniform—hanging about some University Heights streets, presumably waiting for rides.  Seeing such scribbling, self-labeled anti-fascists would know where to gather—or maybe the scrawling is nothing more than graffiti.

I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/640 sec, 28mm; 2:47 p.m. PDT. In post-production, I over-saturated purple and red; sunlight had faded both colors.

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The Question is Why?

If I rightly recall from past signage, the same neighbor also believes that the U.S. government was behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Looking at this simple statement, perhaps he is among conspiracy theorists convinced that SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 vaccines also inject nanites. If I could be so bold to suggest: Should Deep State operatives really want to track you, the 4G or 5G smartphone already carried would be more than sufficient. My question: What makes you (or me) so important that anyone would bother?

We already live in a surveillance society. If not cameras from any other house, it’s Facebook, Google, your Internet Service Provider, or a host of other online entities watching—and creating profiles about you. Because bungling bureaucracy is so certain, I would welcome government snooping over the efficiencies of high-tech money-grubbers committed to turning you (or me) into a profitable commodity. Suddenly, writing this paragraph, I am convincing myself that “No 4G/5G Here”—or any Internet access—has merit. Or maybe it’s time to install the VPN software that I licensed long ago but never activated. 🙂