Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tracy Skyscape

The intense summer heat notwithstanding, Tracy can be a riveting visual delight. The chocolate-colored hills from the distance. . .
(Click images to enlarge)

. . .and the mute explosion of colors in its twilight sky.

When Is Many Too Many?

Unarguably The Bay Area anchored by the city of San Francisco in the US is home to many residents of Filipino descent, counting several cities with dominating percentages of such minorities, namely, Daly City, Union City, Hercules, Vallejo, Milpitas, etc.

There is little surprise then that this adequately-educated group has been targeted by certain local print media practitioners (of Filipino descent, of course) as their primary clients. Thus, many weekly newspapers blanket this large area with their colorful publications. Last I counted at least 6 or 7 of these publications are readily available within the greater San Francisco area.

It might be interesting to note here how these publications are circulated in their targeted markets. First, most important cities here in the US have what is popularly referred to as “one-newspaper town” situation, meaning essentially that each locale is serviced by only one major newspaper (applying to dailies) and economics has been attributed as mostly responsible for this. A known example is San Francisco which used to have two major dailies, the San Francisco Chronicle and The SF Examiner. While the latter still exists, it is now essentially a “free” newspaper on a reduced-size format. Now, the Filipino newspapers (typically published weekly) are of this second kind. Essentially given out free, though a couple still maintaining a semblance of being for sale by noting the price of each copy prominently on the front page. Nothing unusual since it is common practice here for free newspapers to still carry a price tag.

Guess where they are available? Typically in properly marked newsstands or shelves in certain ethnic grocery stores, or in well-patronized FilAm businesses such as bakeries or restaurants.

Not included in the picture are the Philippine News, Manila Bulletin USA, and Ang Panahon. The Philippine News is the grand-daddy of them all having been established way back in 1961. Mr. Alex Exclamado used to the publisher when we first got here in Northern California. Only the three newspapers in the picture where available during our last sortie to San Francisco, and aside from those mentioned above, there may be a couple more whose names escape my memory.

If we can accept the premise that economics dictated the rationale of a one-newspaper town, why do we have a sizeable number of newspapers serving an even smaller number of readers, even granting that the rule applied to dailies and we are querying weeklies here? And remember further that these are given out free, gratis, not even a thank you and you are welcome.

We have to assume that these are profitable ventures and that their revenue streams must not be in subscription or newspaper sales, or else why do they continue to be published. I am confident their publishers have either their altruistic streaks or for the common good idealism, but still they wouldn’t be able to sustain losses indefinitely.

Advertisements. That’s what these publications have plenty of, page after page of them ranging from coming live shows of Filipino artists to immigration services coming from the many immigration lawyers around. Most news items are anyway “canned” coming from the old homeland, and even the opinion columns, many are extracted from the national dailies in Metro Manila. One (or two) even carries the syndicated column of Ms. Michelle Malkin, the most visible and widely-read political editorialist/blogger of Filipino descent here in the US.

What else? I have noticed that these publications carry what used to be sectioned out in the old broadsheets as the society page, where social “happenings” within the local communities are either pictorially depicted or written about; but clearly in this instance a more extended and picture-dominated version . And mined from the sometimes loud verbal skirmishes within the group which somehow inadvertently wound their way to the public, I read sometime ago that this is possibly another revenue stream source. Subjects pay some “publication” fees to have their children’s graduation, marriage, trip to the old homeland, a well-attended sumptuous despedida or bienvenida, etc., featured or written about. Can its veracity be confirmed?

Anyway, what appears unchallenged is that these publications must of themselves be profitable because if not, the intractable laws of economics will invariably set in to write finis to them.

Thus, again the market holds sway, the number of newspapers being determined primarily by what the market can bear.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Different Strokes, Different Folks

In the wake of the brutal dogfighting scandal that has imperiled the career of Atlanta Falcons’ Michael Vick, the following story on illegal cockfighting somewhere in rural Polk County in Florida came out, this time highlighting the illegal and shady underground world of professional cockfighting here in the US. Aside from the brutality of the sport, this activity has been judged illegal in all states, except in Louisiana.

With this high-profile case about dogfighting, the good likelihood is that it will push legal initiatives addressing all forms of cruelty to animals in arranged encounters masquerading as sports. The concomitant monetary dimensions may also likely provide the needed inertia to slow the process down because these activities also partake of big-time gambling. So let’s wait and see, after all cruelty to humans as we see in many of those extreme fighting events is going the other way – on the rise and gaining more participants/viewership.

But now across this big pond we call the Pacific lies the archipelago nation of the Philippines that has very deep cultural ties (and monetary, too) with precisely this “sport” of cockfighting, so deeply ingrained that all strata of society willingly and with no qualms, participate in this legal activity. Even before Magellan in the 1500s discovered the islands, its indigenous peoples were already steeply engaged in it, placing it as a central part of their social recreation. In the big cities down to the lowliest towns, the presence of the unmistakable cockpit is ubiquitous and during Sundays, pious attendance to religious ceremonies in the largely Catholic country competes with the boisterous sessions at the cockpit.

And its popularity appears to be at inverse proportion to the country’s economic conditions. The poorer it gets, the more cockfighting is being done. As I recall growing up in that milieu, cockfighting was legal only during Sundays, or on rare occasions sanctioned by the local authorities, either as a celebratory dispensation like during fiestas, or to commemorate special occasions that bring more people (and money) to the locality. And these were held exclusively in a sanctioned cockpit under “regulatory supervision”. But even then, there were illegal and clandestine cockfighting sessions called tupadas, sprouting in remote and inaccessible areas.

But now as I understand it, the market holds sway, meaning it is held as often as the market can bear. Which could be daily. And as an undeniable measure of its popularity and acceptance, the same coliseum where the Ali-Frazier fight was seen by the entire world, the same place where the last pope said the Mass that echoed across the globe, is the same place where cockfighting “derbies” are regularly held and where the richest aficionados match the skills of their cocks with their bloated pocketbooks, and as reported with wagers as high as $400,000 per day.

As reported by LA Times, this “sport”, or call it game or industry, economically benefits the entire country annually to the tune of US$1 billion. As many as 5 million gladiator cocks are used each year for this.

One wrinkle that may separate the Philippines from the rest as reported is the manner of disposition of the “loser” cocks, or locally called bihag, which in most instances are not either thrown away or buried, but brought home and eaten. I recall as a kid that one could go to the cockpit and savor menu derived from their carcasses, rich and nutritious soup or stew dishes since cocks are not only fed and treated well but they regularly ingest vitamin pills to prepare them for battle. Or one could buy them dressed and brought home to be cooked as desired.

It is interesting to note also that during that time the much preferred breed was called Texas, primarily because they were imported from the US. And local breeders since then have been exerting their best to produce the best fighting cocks from that mix. I was told of late that in Stockton one could purchase breeders for export to other countries. However it has also been reported by the LA Times, that the president has signed a law making it a felony to transport across state lines, or export, chickens used in fights.

Like the sport itself, cockfighting lingo is also rich and colorful – inilog and biya, masyador or kristo, quatro diez, siete ocho, llamado and dejado, sunoy and sabungero, tari for razors or knives, etc.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Antiques, Anyone and At Home?

The wife is normally the one who occasionally surfs through cable channels showing antique shows dramatizing the valuation processes of items presented during the show. And it is typically during the segment when the valuation amount ranges are explicated titillatingly by the experts that the suspended curiosity index of the onlookers heats up and jumps off the scales.

The usual revelation that certain things looking so inconsequential, or old looking, or maybe even showing extensive wear and tear, are valued so much as to be out of the realm of normative reality. And getting the gaping audiences frenetically thinking down the road whether there might be somewhere in their own possessions similar items that would approximate such values. Things maybe grandma or some distant eccentric uncle did not want thrown away while they were living and then stowed away and forgotten after they had gone.

Click to read more.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Roger Strunk Found Dead In Apparent Suicide

Latest Update from Tracy Press:

Strunk did not leave a note, but investigators said they found a chair against the wall along the exterior edge of the balcony. Hicks said shoe prints on the chair indicate that Strunk was standing on the chair right before he went over the wall.
Still, his sister doubts the suicide angle, given that the fall was only 20 feet.

The Tracy Press in Northern California reported in its headline today the death of Roger Strunk, aka Rod Lauren, from an apparent suicide.

The late Mr. Strunk had of late been known more as a suspect in the death of Filipino actress, Nida Blanca, in the Philippines. He had been the subject of a failed extradition effort to bring him to the Philippines to face trial.

I was honestly jolted in surprise when I read the Tracy Press headline this morning since I did not realize that Mr. Strunk had resided in our comparatively quiet city of Tracy after he left the old homeland.

It is ironic to recall that my early memory of Mr. Strunk was as Rod Lauren, the singer, who in 1960 had a great hit entitled, If I Had A Girl. Many of my peers found that song as responsive to our then juvenile longings and liked it even more when Lauren got featured in the Perry Como Show singing that same exact song.

Unfortunately, nothing else was heard from him in our faraway island nation and in due time, he joined the ranks of the one-hit wonders.

But to this day, I would occasionally turn on the MP3 player and listen to that liltingly poignant song, plaintively longing for a girl to love.

In memoriam.


In the same headline news, Tracy police disclosed that they found evidence in his room indicating a suicide. Thus, if it were a suicide note, it would be revelatory, especially if anything was written about the murder of his Filipino wife.

And traveling back to time, specifically February 8, 1960, here’s what Time magazine wrote about the up and rising singing star:

Not long ago, the thinkers on the RCA Victor staff were invited to invent a name for a new teen-age pop singer. Among the suggestions were "Erpsil Clevinger," "Ellie Oopman," "Cahn Edison" and "Rod Reel." None of these quite filled the bill, but the company soon hit on one that did —"Rod Lauren." Last week, big as life, Rod was climbing the charts with a pop hit called If I Had a Girl, having almost forgotten the fact that his real name is Roger Strunk.

With another record on the way and his first movie contract already signed, 19-year-old Singer Strunk-Lauren is the solidest new prospect in the teen-age market since Fabian uttered his first gosling cries. He is also an example of how a record company can create a singer out of next to nothing. Roger was a small club performer with an instrumental group called The Buddies when RCA spotted him on the West Coast last summer and signed him. The company budgeted $50,000 to launch Rod's first disk, bombarded dealers with promotional material, emphasizing the sullen good looks the kids are supposed to go for.

For six weeks Rod toured the country wooing the jocks, bouncing from teen-age dance to teen-age dance, and occasionally refreshing himself from one of the inspirational books he always carries with him, e.g., The Greatest Thing in the World (love, naturally).

No rock 'n' roller, Lauren delivers his ballads in a nappy, relaxed voice with the meticulous articulation and slightly teary quaver that Johnny Mathis made popular. Not the greatest thing in the world, but not too bad for a 19-year-old who was almost called Ellie Oopman.


The Police reported that Mr. Strunk stayed in Tracy Inn along W. 11th Street in downtown Tracy. As fate would have it, we are quite familiar with the place since we visit the area quite regularly and use its parking lot at the back of the old-world Spanish-type building. No, we have not stayed in the Inn, which arguably offers the best in hostel services around Tracy, and boasts of a good downtown location ideal for those transacting business in the city. Except that the front part of the building along 11th has several commercial tenants. One tenant is for pet grooming and our visits have been limited to that location.

But anyway, tonight prior to heading home from another location, we took a little detour turn to visit the fateful place and record the quick visit with some photos.

These pictures show the outside street level parking lot at the back with the back side of the building in the background.Click pics for clearer views.

This portion is the parking lot entry along 11th Street.

This shows the main façade of the building.

This shows 11th Street traffic at past 8 p.m.

One commenter in the Tracy Press website found it appropriate to mention that both Mr. Strunk and the late wife, Nida Blanca, died in parking lots. Except that as I remember Nida died in the parking lot of a high-rise apartment complex which most probably was not at ground level.


A clearer picture of Tracy Inn parking lot.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Profiling The Blogger's Workplace

Maybe we now have close to 40 million blogs around the globe, and still counting. We have been served up a plethora of insights about who these bloggers are and what they blog about. We invariably catch passing glimpses of them around town, in WiFi hotspots lugging their laptops. We see them in airports parlaying waiting time to rapt sessions on the web reading or writing blogs. We know friends who are bloggers and in personal conversations, they tell us about themselves and their blogs. Many of the more successful bloggers came from mainstream media and so we have known of them previously as journalists. In fine, we do pretty much have a good profile of who the more visible bloggers in our virtual world are.

But they do not account by any estimation for the bulk of bloggers. And precisely because these are members of the “citizen journalism” caste or more popularly, members of the Pajamas Media, they stay and lurk in anonymity, creating their blogs and reading other blogs in the privacy and secrecy of their little worlds at home. And indeed, mostly attired in their creased pajamas, lingerie, shorts, and I’m quite sure, a number bare naked at their computer table their fingers humping at the keyboard as they create their blog entries.

Click to read more.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Differentiating Between Walking And Jogging

Anaerobic thanks to French left-wing media and intellectuals for now providing us with a more esoteric comparison between walking and jogging.

The Belmont Club links to a news item which essentially criticizes newly-elected French President Sarkozy for electing to publicly take up jogging, rather than the more stately and revered art of walking. And the left-wing critics are irked even more because Sarkozy on several occasions opted to wear his favorite NYPD T-shirt during his public jogs.

Anyway, according to these same intellectuals, “Western civilisation, in its best sense, was born with the promenade. Walking is a sensitive, spiritual act. Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation."

Now I may not be an impartial observer since I jog regularly, but I also participate in long walks on occasion when I get more time to burn with my extra calories. I find both practices exhilarating and invigorating. And thus, many of us similarly inclined may find the entire issue at the very least, quite silly.

But walking is meditation, and jogging is not? Now, that is quite a wimpy stretch. Any uncorrupted mind can meditate in most any situation or form of activity the person may be engaged in.

For this I am reminded of a sermon from long ago given by an old grizzled Jesuit father to a group of antsy teens forced to hear Mass in the middle of a torrid summer noon. He intoned, a pastor was giving a sermon on prayer and praying to his diverse parishioners in some rural town of the south. He proceeded to ask his parishioners in attendance what would be the proper way or position to pray. Each parishioner gave his or her own version on how to pray - kneeling down with hands clasped close to the chest, sitting down with eyes closed and lifted up, etc. In short, all pious motions in obvious respect for the Almighty.

Until, one timid black man in the back started his turn and said he was confused why they should have special set positions in order to pray properly. And he proceeded to unravel his case. One day, he said, while fetching water from narrow and dark well, he fell and landed head first at the shallow bottom of the well. He thanked God that the water was shallow and did not drown him. But for God's sake who was going to save him from his predicament, since he could not move an inch, or lift himself out of that well, and worse, pretty soon the water level will rise and drown him? So in that most unusual position, he prayed to God like he had never done before.

And later on, some kindly soul got him out of the well, feet first. Now that was one effective prayer!

One commenter (RWE) at the Belmont Club had a thoughtful comment:

To the contrary, I have enjoyed many reflective moments during my runs, and once I even wrote a whole paper in my head during a run; the topic was options for launching the X-33 from Cape Canaveral. I probably have gotten even more useful thought out of my runs than my daily walks with my dog.

But I have found that I can run quite a bit faster if I don’t think about anything but running. Concentrating on speed really helps - but it is not nearly as much fun, and the effort required has nothing to do with physical exertion.

I agree that one could productively do a lot of mental gymnastics during runs or jogs, and personally, many knotty problems have been resolved during regular jogs.

But unfortunately and I surmise I speak for many of us, we do a lot of thinking, daydreaming, and more typically listening through the ear buds of our MP3s, because we do not want to be reminded that we are indeed jogging and not sitting down and enjoying a thirst-quenching Gatorade. Jogging is still a very irksome and wearisome rote and the less we are reminded that we are actually doing it the better. And thus for us, singularly focusing on the run, may not make us run further. We are just glad to be done with it without really being ever-alert that we are actually doing it.

And RWE ends with this tail-end snipe at the French. I suppose that he just couldn’t end without the obligatory sharp retort.

Maybe the president of France could take up bicycling – but, come to think of it, since Lance Armstrong came along perhaps that is not very French any more, either

And if I may add, isn’t American Tour de France winner, Floyd Landis, about to be exonerated of charges against his most recent tour win?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Religiosity From The Past

(Click images to enlarge)My late maternal grandmother was of great religious faith, having been born and raised in the City of Cebu, Cebu, one of the islands in the Visayas Region of the Philippines. On this city was planted the cross that circumnavigator Ferdinand Magellan used to symbolize the archipelago’s being deeded and dedicated to Mother Spain as her own; and which to this day, that religious symbol still stands on the very same site and securely protected inside a kiosk

My grandmother was quite steeped in the diligent practice of the many enduring rituals of the Catholic Faith. Said her rosary regularly, read from her many missals and devotional prayer books, went to Mass during Sundays and holydays and other days when able. Everything done in Spanish, the language she was taught by her elders.

Click to read more.