Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Beheading Of John The Baptist

John de Baptist

One of, if not the most, menacing ugliness in these current but protracted conflicts between Christians and Muslims has been to me personally the gruesomeness and senselessness of the graphic beheadings we have witnessed in media and elsewhere. To date I still cannot fathom or make sense of the need to behead one’s “enemies”. Especially in the deliberately brutal manner they are carried out, quite a departure from those old antiseptically-done procedures that do not faze polite society as much, such as those done through the French guillotines or even those executed by the Japanese Kempetai with their lethal samurai swords which were used in the Philippines during the last world war. Sudden, Swift and Clean.

My short term memory comes replete with recent images of the beheadings that I have allowed myself to consume and store internally. From the most current, of the two US soldiers in Iraq, to the one done by the Abu Sayyaf rebels to an American named Sembrano. From the one of Nick Berg, to another American worker, and yes, even that of Daniel Pearl. Throw in the other stories I have read about of Moslem rebels in Mindanao who beheaded captured soldiers, and adding insult to injury, cut their genitals and stuff them in their mouths.

Enough memories for any sane man to try to escape from these gruesome images, to a place of serenity, of profound mystical truths, of a place to celebrate man’s more noble ordination. A place such as Holy Scripture.

But lo and behold, I open up the recommended daily reading for July 30th in Christ In The Gospel, published by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood ( April 1949 edition), and I am brought to the sixth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, where he narrates the beheading of John the Baptist by King Herod.

Quite dispassionately, and almost nonchalantly, Mark describes the beheading thus:

And grieved as he was, the king, because of his oath and his guests, was unwilling to displease her. But sending an executioner, he commanded that his head be brought on a dish. Then he beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head on a dish, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.

Mark does not say more about where the head went next, except to end that the disciples took John’s body and buried it in a tomb.

A little historical background may aid our understanding of this almost unnecessary beheading.

Though the Jews were under Roman rule during that time (Remember hand-washer Pontius Pilate? He represented Rome in that part of the empire.), King Herod ruled over the small Jewish state. He himself was not even considered a Jew, since his mother was of Arabian descent and his father was Idumean.

To his credit, Herod actually liked John the Baptist and found him interesting and intelligent. It was his current wife, Herodias, erstwhile wife of Herod’s brother, Philip, who disliked John because he had commented that their union was not lawful.

It was the dance of the virginal Salome, daughter of Herodias, that would seal the fate of John. History would label this, the dance of the seven veils. Seven? A reference to the 72 promised virgins in Allah’s heaven?

Impressed by her dancing, Herod promises Salome anything she wants. Salome asks mom. Mom asks for the head of John. And so be it!

John loses his head at the hands of a non-Jew king.

What can anybody make of this?

What Could Lead to A Blogger Burnout?

Blog Burnout
Graphics Credit

And incivility, maybe?

First observed how civility in public discourse in the blogosphere appears headed for the wayside, in Bloghopping: Uplifting or Unraveling?

And now, read who the first casualties may be:

James Joyner of OTB voices his concern and provides some details and recommendations:

Wizbang’s Paul has hung it up, I think for good this time, saying “It just ain’t fun anymore.” The last straw was a recent flamewar he got into with Ace but he’s been tired of the travails of blogging for quite some time. Coincidentally, his colleague, Jay Tea, is taking a hiatus having just helped a friend get through his father’s dying days.

My least favorite part of the “blog job,” though, is the incivility in comment threads and the occasional cross-blog flamewar. While OTB’s comment threads are quite civil compared to most blogs of comparable traffic, there are a handful of regulars who forget the number one rule of our site policies: “Remember that the people under discussion are human beings.” The follow-on — “Comments that contain personal attacks about the post author or other commenters will be deleted. Repeated violators will be banned. Challenge the ideas of those with whom you disagree, not their patriotism, decency, or integrity.” — is something that I’ve largely refrained from enforcing, since it’s a lot of work and I hate to alienate regular visitors. (Underescoring mine)

Professor Bainbridge agrees we should have civility:

James Joyner balances his desire to avoid offending regular readers of his blog against his desire to avoid having his "comments section be an unfriendly place." I've tried to let my comments section be a free speech zone and to date have banned only three posters whose nastiness proved intolerable. Long live civility!

Bruce of Gay Patriot agrees, too, and does more: (Immediately deletes the first comment for his blog entry)

Commenting and Trackbacks: Commenting and trackback/pingback capability is provided to encourage thoughtful discussion of the ideas posted on this site. We welcome open debate and viewpoints that differ from those of the post authors. That said, we wish to keep the conversation civil and the following policies, subject to change without notice, apply:

Remember that the people under discussion are human beings. Comments that contain personal attacks about the post author or other commenters will be deleted. Repeated violators will be banned. Challenge the ideas of those with whom you disagree, not their patriotism, decency, or integrity.

The use of profanity stronger than that normally permitted on network television is prohibited. A substantial number of people read this site from an office or in a family environment.

The several comments on James Joyner's blog entry appear in agreement that ad hominem or personal attacks have no place, even in comments; on the other hand, being too stringent may inhibit open discussions.

But bloghosts have to make this delicate and at times difficult choice:

"....balances his desire to avoid offending regular readers of his blog against his desire to avoid having his "comments section be an unfriendly place."

"Just remember that by “making a few folks mad” you’re also making the majority of your readers and commenters much happier."

Monday, July 24, 2006

Hoping To Catch A Glimpse Of Mike Arroyo And Son Mikey

Approaching SF:(Click on pictures to enlarge)
July 21st, Friday, was a trying day for us, trying to survive the heat wave that was gripping the entire Continental USA, with temperatures soaring as high as 114F, even in the normally cool Bay Area where cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean normally provide the buffer for any heat onslaught from the summer sun. Fog sheets that stubbornly tarry till the late mornings and eagerly make early showings in the afternoons can always be counted to cool the area, bringing down temperatures by as much as 20 degrees compared to inland areas

So what better time to take that trip to the coast, to Baghdad by the Bay, San Francisco, and Fogtown, Daly City. Egged on further by the naughty possibility of catching a glimpse of First Gentleman, Mike Arroyo, and political son, Mikey, who were said to be billeted in a downtown hotel, reportedly brought to the Bay Area by the arrest of former Agriculture Undersecretary, J. Bolante, in southern California for “visa-related” problems.

With the wife and three grandkids in tow, we were on our way by 9 a.m. for the 70 mile trip hoping to take advantage of the HOV lanes for vehicles with three or more passengers. We got to the Bay Bridge toll gate just in time to also get a free pass for having more than 3 passengers.

Coming from our Tracy side, from the East Bay, getting to San Francisco is much like meeting the most beautiful girl for the first time, in grand and exciting fashion. As one climbs the upper deck of the elongated Bay Bridge, which stretches 4.5 miles from end to end, one begins the process of actually meeting face to face that most beautiful girl for the first time. As the veil of anticipation is lifted coming out from the dark Treasure Island/Yerba Buena tunnel, the searing spectacle of the San Francisco skyline opens up in Cinemascope grandeur as the upper deck slithers through at treetop level the downtown area. The resplendent and familiar skyline looms large and inviting at a comfortable distance, close enough for one to recognize the many familiarly notable building structures.

We had to hold on to our bursting impatience, however, since we had decided to park the truck in Daly City and ride on rapid transit, BART. Friday was also the annual Spare The Air Day, the annointed date when all public transportation, trains, buses and even the fabled cable cars, would be free to the riding public for the entire day.

After a little grocery shopping session, purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, Filipino bread, and the universally-liked dumplings, siopaos to those familiar with Chinese cuisine, we dug in for a little lunch. Ample preparation for our rigorous day of a walking tour of SF downtown. Dressed comfortably in t-shirts, jeans or shorts, and my handy Canon Powershot in ever-readiness, we were on our way by 1 p.m.

Bart Station:

A brisk walk to the Colma BART station served to raise our energies up and prepare us for the 20 minute sedentary ride that would take us downtown. About six station stops later, we were ready to disembark at the first downtown station, Powell Street.

Emerging from the musty bowels of BART’s below street level station, we immediately basked in sunlight made hospitable by a steady cool breeze, very usual in SF downtown. Even in the thick of summer, including Indian summers grade, SF always enjoys steady cool breezes that meander through between tall skyscrapers, giving the impression of wind channels operating around the city. And as is usual with that kind of climate, sun-loving San Franciscans and the many tourists that crowd its hotels were all out in unabashed celebration, in their most undressed fashion. Swarms of tight tank tops, short shorts, and those now ubiquitous low-riding pants were in abundance. SF men’s fashions have not really veered much over these years, but the women’s have been taken to some highs and quite literally to record lows. Now so many things are taken for granted and accepted. Tank tops that cover only half of the upper torso and pants that have gone basically south, seemingly restricted downward only by nature’s unique placement of where the pubic hairline is. Pants of course do not go ankle-deep, mostly just knee-deep.

Nikko Hotel:

Anyway, with such pesky distraction resolved and set aside, we proceeded to climb a couple of blocks around the area of Union Square, anchoring a centerpiece which is a rather ancient monument memorializing Admiral Dewey’s naval exploits in the Philippines’ Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. A left turn and we were at the front entrance of Nikko Hotel, the purported place where Mike Arroyo was supposed to be billeted. Staked the place for several minutes, making mental notes of the passersby and clandestinely stealing some picture shots from three sides of the hotel building. Though compatriots darted in and out of the hotel and from business tenants around the hotel, no clear sign of any Arroyo presence. Shared some uncomfortable moments when I had to stare at a couple of compatriots hoping to waken in me any possible latent signs of familiarity, and they in turn stared back. But no such luck and the antsy disposition of my walking companions finally convinced me to move on.

Union Square:

Next we parked ourselves in Union Square, where an art exhibit was in progress. And where also a good many of regular lunchtime habitués were either finishing up their Styrofoam-encased lunches or sprawled on the lush green lawns that border the park square for a few minutes of sun-worshipping. Seen more compatriots, some transparently tourists but mostly employees of businesses around the area enjoying a piece of their lunch break. Still no determinable sign that Arroyo or his group was around. Sidled close to some passerby to catch snippets of their conversations and maybe connect some of the dots.

A few more minutes of leisurely sleuthing and finally, thirst and hunger dictated the next move. So we hied toward Chinatown, a few blocks away. A round of dimsum and soda gave us our fill. And we were ready again for some strenuous walking, up and down the undulating hills of San Francisco.

Yerba Buena Gardens:

We headed toward the general direction of Yerba Buena Gardens in South of Market (SoMa), the newly rennaisanced and recently heavily invested area of SF. And where a good number of FilAms also reside, mostly elderly FilAms ensconced in high-rise affordable housing units. New, bright, and spanking buildings now circle the entire area which used to be referred to as the seedy and decrepit South of Market area. After the initial auspicious upgrade of the Moscone Convention Center some years back, suddenly the entire area has been transformed to an enviable sight at par with the rest of the city, and in some respects even better. Now as if to not completely obliterate vestiges of the past, the old and solitary St. Patrick Church along Mission St., continues to stand as proud sentinel pointing to its gloried past, impressive in its deep dark golden hue emitted by its brick structure, quite anachronistic in a newly-invigorated neighborhood of tall buildings hued mostly in drab gray or brown.

Many FilAms point to this church as their parish and as far as I can remember there has always been a FilAm priest to minister to its ethnic parishioners. Yerba Buena Gardens, with its modern urban greenery hemmed in the middle of the imposing structures around, is also where many FilAm events are held.

Again a nice menagerie of interesting scenery and pictures, but no sign of our enticing targeted celebrities.

4 o’clock p.m. found us loitering inside one of the buildings called Metreon, which specializes in kids’ games and movies, and exhibits. Got awed by a miniaturized mock-up of the ship Titanic and gushed at one of its original gigantic bell whistles displayed in the lobby.

Tired and a bit personally disappointed, we trudged to the way out and proceeded toward one of the BART stations along Market Street, some three blocks away.

Ronald Reagan and St. Patrick Church:

And we paid our final lazy farewell to a life-size bronze statue positioned outside but still inside the garden area. He looked like the late Ronald Reagan, last famously known as two-term US president but also known to Californians as one of its colorful and engaging governors. Funny but the statue showed him with multiple arms and legs. Couldn’t find any plaque explaining the obvious freakness. But knowing San Franciscans, I did not bother to learn more. Anything resembling weird, bizarre, out of this world, unearthly, etc., one can find it in San Francisco.

Exhausted but cradled comfortably by our BART seats, the trip back to Daly City was quite uneventful. The free fare day sure brought out a lot of residents, out of pallid existence indoors into a hot date with sunlight tanning.

Thus ended my little sleuthing trip disguised as a walking tour of downtown San Francisco.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Filipino Mestizo

Found a one-sentence item on this blog entry of MLQIII, about an essay on the status quo of the Filipino mestizo, by Mr. Carlos Celdran, himself a mestizo.

Though not quite complimentary to this once undisputed privileged class in Philippine society, the dirge-like essay was not only interestingly woven, but quite expository about certain thorny issues unique to this group. And more significantly, I believe though embellished somewhat for creative effect it was an earnest attempt at honest depiction of a sensitive topic usually skirted in public discourses. And an unintended consequence may have been the public unraveling of what could be a rather provincial or misconstrued perception not of the class itself, but of how membership is typically categorized or defined for that class. Rather than the more inclusive and generic perception that a mestizo is one with a mixed racial origin, and not necessarily just Spanish mixed with another ethnic group.

Interesting enough that I copy-pasted the entire entry, including all the comments. And many of the comments were particularly attention-riveting; though some were unkind, maybe even gratuitously unkind, such as the negative references to the current spoken American English. It ought to be evident that in any culture, there is bound to develop local or regional colloquialism that may appear undesirable and very pedestrian, but that does not normally typify the speech of an entire country. If one digs or studies deep enough, American English and its speakers are just as good as the other speakers of English, whether native or not.

Costume: Spanish mestizo and Chinese Mestizo

Even our supposedly common perception of who a mestizo is may not apply to all parts of the country. In the above-noted blog entry the implied definition appears to be essentially limited to the Spanish mestizo, yet in Cebu one commonly hears about the mestizo-sangley, meaning being part-Chinese. And this ought to hold true to the admixture with other foreign ethnic groups; though unwittingly we Filipinos tend to exclude groups that may have darker skin, among other things, than the average Filipino in our common perception of a mestizo.

One revealing comment was about what being a Filipino was - that being part-Chinese is what being Filipino is. Thus by extension, so would being part-Spanish, or part anything. After a colonization of 400 years by the Spaniards, there is no doubt many present Filipinos carry strains of Spanish blood in them, sufficient enough for many to be called mestizos. 400 years translate to a lot of generations for the opportunity to dilute the gene pool with Spanish blood.

And IMHO aquiline nose could not be a determining trait of a mestizo, since by definition it means a nose that’s curved down like an eagle, or also called a Roman nose. Though a hooknose, yet another name for it, does appear in all ethnicities, the typical Filipino mestizo, as popularly perceived, would have the straight narrow nose with a rather prominent bridge. And neither should a lighter or fairer skin be another determining trait. One can see local mestizos who have darker hues in their skin.

But if we search and look for the local mestizos who would satisfy our popular concept of who a mestizo is, as one heir to a Spanish or Spanish-sounding name, fair-skinned, hirsute, a family member of some old Philippine business or landed gentry, etc., then it would be easy to surmise that their number and influence is dwindling. It is quite easy to deduce this conclusion from this undeniable fact: the “native” Filipinos are expanding population-wise exponentially, while the mestizo group may not only have remained static (no considerable in-migration from anywhere), but as mentioned many have even left for other shores. Thus, simply through simple deduction or maybe anecdotal evidence, the effects of attrition may have caused their presence, influence, wealth, etc. to be greatly diminished, coupled with the fact that the overall population pie has grown a lot bigger and in favor of the other group(s).

And some names were mentioned in context: The Ayalas, Soriano, even Alma Moreno and Piolo Pascual. I do not know if the current Ayala/Zobel adults are anything but pure Spanish, and are thus to be called insulares, rather than mestizos.

Don Andres Soriano had a quite ironic citizenship history. Because of ethnicity he started as a Spanish national, then elected Filipino citizenship during the war to be able to serve in government, and in 1945 became an American citizen to his death. And I do not doubt that his children/descendants, Andres III for sure, are/were American citizens.

And yes, Alma Moreno, whose real last name is Laxamana, was originally from Cebu. My hunch is that though physical looks especially today may not make it very obvious, she is a real mestiza. Here’s what was said about her mother here:
The other night, we condoled with Alma at the Trinity Memorial Chapels (in Parañaque City) where Mama Jean’s wake is being held. While viewing Mama Jean inside her silver-colored coffin, looking very beautiful (mestiza features and all) as though she were only sleeping, we asked Alma if a reconciliation with Joey is still possible.

And even Piolo Pascual, here’s what is said about him on this site:
“But sadly, the German-Pilipino mestizo is discovering that the road to superstardom is paved with bad intentions.”

Thus, I suspect many of the current crop of movie stars and celebrities still can show that mixed strain, though the transfer from one generation to another may have somewhat diluted the strain and has made less physically obvious their mestizo heritage.

And another side issue brought up in the comments section was the use of coño, with its distinctly Filipino slant to the meaning of the word. However, a little visit to the site of Urban Dictionary will reward one with quite a plethora of the current usage of the word from across the Spanish-speaking world, some even without the use of the Spanish n.

Here’s the entry under the Philippine context:
.Coño - Originally means Vagina, Often heard spoken in the Philippines as a (1)curse or expression by Mestizos or by the rich people. Although this word has evolved with a different meaning, since it's usually heard from rich people in the society, the word "coño" now commonly refers to (2) someone who's rich, wealthy, classy or brat or a manner of speaking, it could be in a negative or (3) positive tone depends on how the word is used.

#1. coño tu madre!
#2. Omy gawd! i dont like talking to her, coz she's so conyo! (coño)
#3. wow you're so coño with your havaianas flipflops!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Comic Books Collecting

What better time to delve on this long-forgotten activity than these days, when our typical movie fare now comes replete with comic book super heroes portrayed on the big wide screen, on multi-million dollar budgets and stultifying special effects. Quite a far and distant cry from the 50-75 cents that we used to shell out for our favorite comic books, those gritty artwork and catchy dialogues incased in balloons were more than sufficient to transport us to the fabled land of fantasy and youthful escapism.

Of course, that was then to be expected and tolerated because after all we were kids and did not know any better.

Click to read more.

Crab Mentality: Another Look

Marilyn Monroe and Ayn Rand

Wrote about a rather crabby "affliction" that I had noticed here in the Bay Area, usually involving FilAms. Some instances have escalated into lengthy and embarrassing legal wrangling which can't be helped but to expose a somewhat uncomfortable trait in the underbelly of this very visible immigrant community

It deserves a second look, given that it is still very much in use and in vogue, as epitomized by this column of Atty. Rodel Rodis, involving two important cases:
IN A PAST column about the Northside Community Center in San Jose, I lamented the "crab mentality" of a group (led by the Center's former Assistant Executive Director) crusading to remove Ben Menor, the Center's executive director, by getting the San Jose City Council to withhold city funding for the Center.

The group, which perversely calls itself CRABS (Citizens Rebelling Against Bogus Spending), succeeded in getting the San Jose City Auditor to issue a report sharply critical of the Center's "misuse" of city funds for programs not properly authorized.

The Making Government Work Better Committee (MGWBC) of the San Jose City Council directed the City Auditor to monitor the activities of the Center and to "provide an updated cash flow and financial analysis to help assess the financial health" of the Center and its fiscal agency, the Filipino American Senior Opportunities Development Council (Fil-AM SODC).

In its October 17, 2005 update, the City Auditor reported that the Center's figures "will show a deficit of over $49,000" for the first quarter of 2005-06. The deficit may result in the group losing its city funding and the City Council transferring control of the Center to another group.

While Ben was attending to the "needs" of the auditors, I received a call on my cell phone from San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly.

Supervisor Chris Daly, whom I had supported in previous election campaigns because of his past support for the Filipino community, called to explain why he moved to freeze $351,000 of city funds previously earmarked for the West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center. West Bay, which has been around since 1977, uses these funds for community after-school programs and for a lunch program for senior citizens to serve the Filipino community.

Concern about the Medicare scam involving Filipino seniors resulted in the formation of a Community Accountability Committee (CAC), led by Roy Recio, Joe Julian and Bill Sorro, which sought the removal of West Bay Executive Director Ed Jocson, as well as staffer Daisy Cruz. The group had gotten the San Francisco City Auditor to investigate West Bay's involvement in the Medicare scam and the City Auditor concluded that West Bay "failed to exercise due care" in subleasing their office space to the medical clinic.

An audit by the San Francisco Controller's office, however, found no evidence connecting West Bay to the Medicare fraud. The FBI also clarified that West Bay was not a focus of its investigation.

At a July 5 meeting with the West Bay Board of Directors led by Anita Sanchez and Sorhna Jordan, the CAC presented the West Board with a list of "non-negotiable demands" including the termination of Jocson and Cruz, the appointment of certain members of the CAC to the West Bay Board and a community needs assessment study.

Anita Sanchez explained that the Board could not just terminate Jocson and Cruz without due process otherwise the Board would be liable for a wrongful termination lawsuit. Supervisor Daly had assured Anita that "they won't sue" but Anita wanted to know from Daly if the City Attorney's Office would represent West Bay if sued and Daly could not make this commitment.

After September 30, the 12 employees of West Bay who were laid off by the freezing of the funds, applied for State Unemployment benefits. Dozens of Filipino parents, youth and senior citizens affected by the Daly-Ammianno freeze have expressed outrage at the power play that froze the funding of their programs.

University of San Francisco Professors Dr. Jay Gonzalez and Marie-Lorraine Mallare prepared a resolution to the San Francisco Youth Commission and the Immigrants Rights Commission supporting West Bay and demanding that the frozen city funds be released immediately.

When Daly heard of the proposed resolution, he called Mallare. "He wanted me to withdraw the resolution," Mallare said. Daly told her that he was only expressing concerns about how the "Committee" felt about West Bay. Mallare refused and steadfastly presented her resolution to the city commissions.

In any noticeable controversy involving Filams/Filipinos, the use of the term, crab mentality, is typically the default rationalization to explain away why the protagonists are all Filipinos, giving rise to the uneasy notion that FilAms/Filipinos must consider this social phenomenon uniquely Filipino. Thus, when FilAm A publicly criticizes FilAm B, it must be because of crab mentality. It has to be, there can't be any other reason why one ethnic Filipino would go after another Filipino.

However, upon closer scrutiny, aside from findings already aired in the initial blog entry, one continues to discover more elucidating information about this social behavior which clearly afflicts all societies on this earth.

Googling Ayn Rand and Crab Mentality reaps the following results.

Thus what is evident is that first of all, many would rather use the term, crab bucket mentality, rather than the shorter, crab mentality.

Also, many would tend to attribute popular usage of this term to the late Ayn Rand, Russian-American novelist, famous for the following works, Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead. Read her very soulful and moving tribute article to Ms. Marilyn Monroe who died in 1962, which stands out more as a defining and apt portrayal of this rather ungodly and despised human trait.

A revealing characterization of our human nature, though deigned to be noble, but capable of sinking to lower depths.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Got Your Fortress Of Solitude?

As is most famously known, the man of steel, Superman, has his fortress of solitude way up in the icy North Pole, where he could literally fly off to get away from it all and get re-acquainted with solitude. Do you remember that huge key housed on top of a mountain that he uses to open his fortress? fortress-solitude
And other comic heroes are also gifted with one, or two. Wealthy Bruce Wayne aka Batman has his dark and eerie bat cave. Even the very visible and hard to hide The BlackHawks have their island getaway where they can scamper to and lose themselves, and those huge airplanes they fly, when they are not battling those nefarious Nazis. And others have less, like only their alter egos to shield themselves from the prying eyes of the world. Thus, we have Spiderman aka Peter Parker, Cap’n America, the Green Lantern, etc. And oh, those underwater heroes, like Aquaman and Submariner, Prince Namor, they have their watery getaways, too.

Now, in the real world of the rich and famous, we admiringly hear about their island paradise, getaways and hideaways, isolated coves, summer and winter homes, etc. No scarcity of choices there. Think your own and make it happen.

But in the everyday world of the average Tom, Dick, and Harry, where many of us proudly belong, we do make do with what we can find and call our own little fortresses of solitude – our little oasis, cozy nook, or secluded cell, where we can shut out the world and get away from it all.

Just finished building mine, just the other day. And I have a stubbed thumb, aching muscles, and burnt skin from the hot summer sun of Tracy, and some uninspiring pictures, to offer as evidence.
But it is all mine and built entirely with my own puny hands, from cast-off, left-over, and remnant lumber some dating back 15 years ago or as recent as the other day from a Home Depot purchase.

Yes, my own little cozy nook in the coolest spot of the entire house and yards, very much noticed and appreciated during these hot summer days and nights. Tucked in a smallish, odd-shaped left-over but secluded part of the front yard. But allows for visual contact of the front street beyond which is the nicely-maintained park where I jog regularly. But I grant taller hedges could correct any problem of ample secrecy.ParkView
Thus, a few steps away from the front door and one, or at least I, is transported within the walls of silence and solitude. Or maybe just a bit of solitude and not enough silence.

But I love it.

Bloghopping: Uplifting or Unraveling?

While my own personal blog suffers from insufficient diligence, care, and effort, I consider myself quite exemplary in another realm. I spend a good part of my time in the Internet reading other people’s blogs, opinion pieces and news writing, at times squinting down to the last ounce of comment allowed from readers.

Thus, when on-line, I click-click away giving rein to my harried mouse to bring me to places, as fast as a thought, at the very least. I diligently ready, set, start from my comparatively shallow blogroll and from there, it’s anybody’s guess where I will end up – until the IE browser or Windows behind it cries ouch or foul and freezes up on me. Then a quick reboot pit stop and back to the race.

And much like the speedway oval, one goes round and round, registering miles and miles of track, one tedious hour after another, but really going nowhere. And then stopping in the same old place where one started. None the worse for wear, but gratefully loaded each time with a busload of information, opinion, news, and other nuts and bolts that could be sorted and arranged into some kind of practical wisdom applicable in the real world where we all have to live in.

So far so good, and things appear to look good on paper.

But is it really so?

Is the now unquantifiable Internet, the exponentially expanding blogosphere in particular, the place where one goes for such a commendable and crucial task? To try to expand one’s horizons by reading and listening to all possible ideas fleetingly wafting out there in the ethereal firmament?

To seek knowledge and wisdom away or aside from the traditional deference to solitude, or the other more mystical and contemplative modes such as the deep altered states of meditation?

I have no ready answer.

But based on personal experiences derived from my regular sorties, I find troubling developments to say the least.

First to drop by the wayside is civil and polite public discourses. Most everywhere one visits, especially the partisan political blogs and their cadres of regular commentators, vile, incendiary, or hateful rhetoric is quite typical and generally accepted or implied as acceptable through silence or inaction. Even when the host blogger shows good circumspection and respectful rhetoric, comments are allowed to run haywire and thus when at times called to task, instead of the blog entry itself the comments are highlighted as objectionable or worthy of reproach. I suppose behind this seeming nonchalance by the host is maybe the self-serving goal of keeping and attracting more readers. Or a vicarious way of saying things one cannot personally articulate?

Then we have those maybe because of the anonymity and yawning distance accorded by the medium, yet who should know better because of their education and background, who somehow have lost the ability to apply logic and ethics in their blazing statements. Like making blatant and uncorroborated generalizations with obvious willful design to deface another person’s (or even a country’s) humanity, his/her intelligence, even his/her physical looks. All with the easy flourish of a keyboard stroke. And yet nary an analytical word about the issues espoused or debated. And the bigger the political figures, the nastier the rhetoric.

And what about those who are somehow intellectually dishonest for gratuitously throwing in trite or proved-false talking points, simply to depict another who espouses a different ideology in a bad light? The comment sections seemed to have been designed by default as repositories (trash bins may be more appropriate) for those so inclined.

And if I may add, I am venturing that ego may be playing a stellar role in this process. A person’s hard-wired urge to ventilate and to show to the world one’s superior intelligence and analytical capabilities? Conventional wisdom teaches us that there may be sufficient personal gratification derived from such an exercise in the case of a good number of people.

Of course, all is not gloom and doom in the blogophere. There are many commendable sites that continue to answer to the higher call of civil public discourse, fair play, and guarded circumspection especially for statements that may permanently injure a person’s reputation and good name. I could name a few, but restraint dictates. . .

And to reiterate from a previous post, as a species who do have both the responsibility and control to decide where we want to go with this newest medium/tool.

To mediocrity or crassness as exemplified by the older much-criticized media/tools we have been using for communicating with one another?

Or aim for one that celebrates the nobler parts of our nature.

Our call.