Tag: society

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What Have We Become?

During my thirteen-and-a-half years living in San Diego, I have resisted taking any photos of the city’s thousands of homeless—whose presence is more pronounced by the day. They deserve dignity, rather than exploitation by street shooters. But, today, the sorry state of a gentlemen sprawled out nearby the entrance to a pharmacy in Hillcrest demanded attention, and mention, so here we are with a Featured Image and companion captured using Leica Q2. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/1000 sec, 28mm; 11:02 a.m. PDT. The other is same but 1/1250 sec.

I was aghast at how casually people walked by the man, who was stretched out in death-like position facing the building. He was an obstacle that passersby moved around. No one bothered to see if he was alive (after some long observation, I detected breathing). I was immediately reminded about history lessons and news stories read during my grade school years about the USSR—people lying dead in the streets and Soviet citizens walking around them; commonplace sightings, presumably, become part of the background of life. Is that really what we have come to be in the United States of America—or in what I unaffectionately call Communist California?

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A Plea for Continued Relevance

On March 1, 2021, as I walked along University Ave. in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, a huge banner beckoned my attention. I frequently see signs like this in apartment and house windows but nothing this large nor with Still added. I used iPhone XS to snap the companion to the Featured Image, which I captured the next day with Leica Q2 Monochrom. Vitals for the smartphone shot, which is composed as taken: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/761 sec, 52mm (film equivalent); 9:05 a.m. PST. For the camera, aperture manually set: f/8, ISO 200, 1/400 sec, 28mm; 10:27 a.m.

Why is such a banner, with Still added, seen as necessary? The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin is underway in Minneapolis. He is implicated in the death of George Floyd, whose alleged homicide sparked racial riots and protests in the city and across the country—with loud voices crying “defund the police” and “no justice, no peace”. Nearly ten months later, Americans have largely stopped rallying for racial reckoning—and the organization that gathered them before isn’t yet, if it ever will, marshaling masses together. Black lives still matter, but the movement apparently does not.

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Why is Hollywood Obsessed with Viral Armageddon?

I really want to know. That sentence, the title, and a short list of TV Shows about viral epidemics is as far as this post proceeded when I started it on April 26, 2016. I meant to come back many times over the nearly five years since and really regret the failure following the World Health Organization’s declaration of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Still contemplating writing this essay, but not getting to it, I shot and edited the Featured Image on June 11, 2017. San Diego’s Museum of Man (since then renamed to “Us”) featured exhibit “Cannibals: Myth & Reality”. With so many of the virus movies or TV series focused on Zombie apocalypses, the exhibit artwork seemed so perfect illustration. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/1000 sec, 28mm; 2:07 p.m. PDT, Leica Q.

Half a decade later, I wonder: How much did pandemic feature films and TV shows create soil for COVID-19 to grow into a state of global fear—and, as I will opine in six days, far exceeds the real risk posed to the majority of people; whether or not they are infected? Surely, you can guess my answer.

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The Hummer Metaphor

San Diego changes around me, particularly from the cost-of-living increases brought by the ever-growing emigration of high-tech workers escaping Northern California; they’re well-paid and find here comparatively affordable rents and home prices—all of which rise as more Googler-types relocate. SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns set them free to work from anywhere there is reliable Internet.

So I was only modestly surprised to see a Hummer parked off of Lincoln in the University Heights neighborhood on Feb. 21, 2021. What amazed me more, when arriving here in October 2007, was the number of Hummers seen seemingly everywhere. You could have played an adapted Punch Buggy—and lost—for the few non-military Hummers traveling about the Washington, D.C. metro area that we left nearly 14 years ago. In San Diego, the contrast was stark, and I wondered why all the gas guzzlers given stereotypes about carbon-aware, environmentally-focused California culture. Should I answer status symbol? The late-2008 economic collapse purged the oversize vehicles from local roadways. Who could afford higher monthly payments or gasoline for a roadster rated city driving of 13 miles to-the-gallon?  By mid-2009, their numbers had diminished to near nothing; that I observed. Eventually, as the economy recovered, based on increasing sightings, various Jeep models replaced the Hummers as all-around utility vehicles.

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Surely There is a Better Way to Help the Homeless

I specifically shot the Featured Image, yesterday using Leica Q2, to illustrate this essay. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/400 sec, 28mm; 11:22 a.m. PST. The carts belonged to one of three homeless men gathered together a few meters away on the Hillcrest side of Washington Street Bridge (University Heights is on the other). For sure, San Diego has a significant indigent population. But I write about San Francisco and something that surprises me—and perhaps will you, too.

According to the SF Chronicle (sorry, subscription required), the city is “currently sheltering more than 2,200 homeless people in about 25 hotels” and the “monthly program costs range from $15 million to $18 million”. By my math, that works out to between $6,818.18 to $8,8181.82 per person each month. If these people were paid, the equivalent annual salary would be between $82,000 and $98,000. Oh, and looks like the United States government will cover costs through the end of September 2021.

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Divided We Stand

At Noon EST today, Joseph R. Biden Jr. ascended to the Presidency of the United States, having taken the oath of office about 12 minutes earlier. He later issued 15 executive orders, which is an unprecedented number compared to his predecessors. None to one is typical on the first day. Democrats are unified controlling the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

Biden’s first-day actions and posturing by the House and Senate are indicative of a party with a mandate. But there is none. The 46th President won the 2020 Election by slimmer-than-appears electoral margin and Democrats command a narrow number of seats in Congress. The data, along with recent protesting and rioting by conservative and liberal constituents, reflect a nation deeply divided, rather than united behind the new Commander-in-Chief. The situation portends that his calls for unity will fail, although I hope otherwise.

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The N-Word for White Women

Six months have passed since I walked by the painted window, somewhere in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, that is this post’s Featured Image. My thoughts needed some percolation before I was ready to express them. Here we go. Women of a certain age (often middle age, or older), economic status (Middle Class or wealthier, which means entitled), and race (white) are all over the InterWebs for behaving badly. Somebody smartphone-videos their tirades, which may or may not include racial slurs but more often is angry or exasperated. The typical stereotype is the woman who calls cops or store manager to settle a perceived grievance.

Call it the new KKK—Karen-Ken Klan, which lynches people in the social media public square, where they don’t lose their lives but absolutely lose their livelihoods: Jobs and reputations, for starters. Death would almost be merciful compared the merciless torture for which they endure.

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The Tree Tragedy

I can’t speak for my wife, but to me a pair of benefits marshaled my interest in choosing our current apartment: The front windows and what I call the “squirrel tree” majestically before them—as expected, providing plentiful wildlife entertainment for our cats Cali and Neko to watch; for the humans, too. Yesterday, the management company overseeing the property snuffed out magic, and life.

Time is immeasurable this year, thanks to triple-P: pandemic, politics, and protests (e.g., SARS-CoV-2, severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2, also known as COVID-19; Election 2020; and racial riots). As such, I don’t recall how long ago the building manager spoke to me about the tree—two or more months, seems like). He said that the perennial would likely be dramatically trimmed back; being top heavy, the branches pulled the trunk into brickwork before it (see first photo). Some discussion drifted to removal, which I opposed, promising in threatening tone: “The day they cut down that tree is the day I give notice”.

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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.