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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.

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CLAWS Dig In

We follow up my neighborhood’s lone Trump-Pence 2020 sign with something even more surprising: Black flag that is the Featured Image, which I captured using iPhone XS on August 16. Vitals: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/1229 sec, 52mm (film equivalent); 11:51 a.m. PDT. The tabby nicknamed Ranger from my “Cats of University Heights” series lives in the same residence.

Have feline families formed a coalition against racism? Nope. It’s the meeting of art, entrepreneurism, and opportunity. “CLAWS is not a group or organization, it’s my idea/message/statement/artwork/design”, creator Ryan Patterson explains on his Cat Magic Punks page. “If you love cats and are against white supremacy, you’re part of it!”

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Flickr a Week 34: ‘Mel’s Drive-In’

For the previous 33 weeks, I wondered what photo from Thomas Hawk would make the series—something that was inevitable; more when than if. I figured that the time would come when I’d know the one, and self-titled “Mel’s Drive-In” is it. What a splendid shot by every meaningful measure, but same could be said of anything in his Photostream. Funny, though, the eatery is in Florida and not California, where Thomas lives, and was location for film “American Graffiti” that so prominently made Mel’s an essential element of the story.

He captured the moment on July 14, 2019, using Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens. Vitals: f/2.8, ISO 2500, 1/400 sec, 24mm.

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Party-Pooping Politics

The first of two presidential conventions convening this month is underway. The Democrats are meeting, if you rightly can call it that, in Milwaukee, Wisc. Most of the speeches are being given individually, rather than before crowds, from remote locations, because everyone is scared into a tizzy about spreading—or worse—catching SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2); better known as COVID-19. I suppose that it would be bad form for 77-year-old Joe Biden, running mate Kamala Harris, or anyone among the party’s esteemed elite to catch Coronavirus and die. Surely members of the opposing party can hope.

Speaking of the Republicans, their greet-and-not-meet event starts on Aug. 24, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C.. Flag-waving, MAGA-hat-wearing supporters can likewise stump for their candidates, Donald Trump and Mike Pence, before televised, remotely-given speeches. Every vote counts, unless your constituents catch COVID-19 and die before Election Day; so it’s better they don’t gather together. Eh?

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Newsom’s Gruesome California

Today, while walking along the Campus-Cleveland alley, between Tyler and Van Buren, in the University Heights neighborhood, I saw something stranger than the rubber duck that appeared in mid-July—and on the same rooftop. Were these clothes laid out to dry during another day of scorching heat? (San Diego County is sweltering hot this weekend, and there is a weather advisory.) Maybe someone left them for homeless folks or anyone else wanting, or needing, the garms?

Spring and Summer 2020 are nothing less than alien, societal landscapes—an apocalyptic drama that commenced with Governor Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom’s mid-March order that effectively shut down California to (supposedly) slow spread of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—better known as COVID-19. The sterilization of normal behavior meant few (I saw two) garage/yard sales and little to no opportunity to donate items to thrift stores—or shop in them. Residents’ response: More giveaways placed in alleys for whomever might what them; quality of the stuff is significantly better than typical, too.

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Flickr a Week 33: ‘A Life Worth Living’

Some people are genuinely too modest. Peter Kurdulija describes himself as an “amateur photographer”. I could say the same about myself, but the measure of my talents are minuscule compared to his. The man is an artisan, with an astute eye for composition. Any selection from his Photostream would be more than worthy of this humble series.

I chose self-titled “A Life Worth Living” for composition, serenity, and storytelling. “A picnic at the end of the jetty by Lake Mahinapua, just south of Hokitika, epitomises New Zealand way of life—slower pace of the West Coast, a connection to nature and to each other”, he explains of the landscape portrait captured on March 31, 2019, using Nikon D7100 and 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Vitals: f/9, ISO 125, 1/320 sec, 44mm.

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The Strong Arms of Defiance

Around the corner from where was the Urban Pumpkin is the local gym, which closed during California Governor Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom’s first state-shuttering order in mid-March 2020 but has since defied the second shutdown, started July 13, that restricts indoor activities at many commercial businesses and institutions (like churches). Four days ago, San Diego County issued an order for the “immediate closure of Boulevard Fitness”; compliance “may be enforced by the San Diego Police Department”.

In meaningless sense of solidarity—the way flabby, beer-gut spectators feel good when watching their favorite sports team compete and win—I have checked daily for more than a month to see if the gym is open, silently cheering that it was. But on a Monday morning, following the “cease and desist” order, would Boulevard Fitness welcome patrons of exercise and good health?

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Flickr a Week 32a: ‘I Couldn’t Resist’

Self-titled “I Couldn’t Resist” certainly could be me—or perhaps you—walking by, seeing the sign, and taking the shot. But the moment belongs to Tom Driggers, who explains: “How very appropriate! This humorous sign was standing near the register at a well-known sandwich shop in Atlanta, GA”. The composed juxtaposition—big, sharp sign to the right and blurred cook to the left—just works.

Tom used Fujifilm X100F on Jan. 25, 2019 to capture our Weekend Winner. Vitals: f/2, ISO 640, 1/125 sec, 23mm.

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The Cats of University Heights: Snowy

We celebrate International Cat Day with an odd find from Aug. 1, 2020: Snowy, who lives within a block of Benny and John Adams and like them wears a GPS collar. Nowhere else have I seen furballs so outfitted and must wonder: Why these three neighbors?

Snowy (yep, real name) bears some resemblance to poor Maeven, who was killed by a coyote last month. 🙁 I offered condolences to his owner on Nextdoor not long before I quit again; so I am no longer cat connected there.