Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pseudo-Populism of the Elitists

A week or so before the November 2008 presidential elections, my support of VP-candidate Palin through one of my blog posts, caught the attention of Journolist founder Ezra Klein. He had then deigned to respond to it with a blog post entitled Populism of Mediocrity. In his short rebuttal, Mr. Klein submits that he may not fully understand why ordinary people like me could identify with Palin and could throw our unstinting support for her causes. But the title of his blog post tells us already what he thinks about the kind of people I presumably stand for and of course, about Sarah Palin herself. Our populism has been judged as that of mediocrity.

Sadly but admittedly, the ensuing election proved that more people found favor with the way Mr. Klein’s candidate was glowingly presented before the electorate and thus Obama was awarded the presidency. Though buyer’s remorse may now be a common wail of many who threw their support to him like many Independents, finding his governance miserably falling short of his high-minded campaign rhetoric. And if we are to assume good faith and goodwill on the part of his many supporters in media and elsewhere, many ought to be suffering from this malady, too. But I suppose not for the proud or the hard-core partisan ideologues in media who continue to find Obama’s governance as just fine.

But the many revelations exhumed by the leaked emails from the Journolist put in clearer perspective why certain media/political operatives think the way they do about ordinary Americans.

That first, they appear to consider themselves specially privileged and thus separate and distinct from the world inhabited by the many of us who toil each day trying to make a good living while diligently obeying the laws of the land and trying our damned best to be ethical, honorable, equitable and fair in our conduct with government and our fellow citizens.

And maybe insulated or isolated from such everyday realities, it is no small wonder many in their numbers are quite disconnected with regular folks, what the latter consider ethical or what they aspire for. In their echo chambers (as exemplified by the almost secretive membership in cabal-like Journolist), they can let their hair and their guards down and really be what they truly are – smug in the tacit acknowledgement of their avowed cognitive superiority and conversely quite condescending in their treatment of the rest of the country – the great unwashed that need to be babied and cared for and guided by the big hand of government and its many omniscient bureaucrats, bolstered and validated by the able assistance of their intellectual counterparts. And in their blinding zeal, they truly are convinced that they are doing God’s work, for after all they have the best of intentions. To protect and care for humanity.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

An Enduring Interest In Motorbikes

Over time I have had more than a passing interest in motorbikes. And to this day, I continue to look with interest and nostalgia every time I see a motorbike whiz by. For some inexplicable reasons my interest is always piqued whenever I see a bike. Reasons ranging from the machine itself to the joys and thrills of riding a motorbike can all be factored in to explain the durability of this interest.

I purchased my first motorbike right after I had had a year of gainful employment on my very first real job. Granted it was second-hand and bought from a classmate in high school, still it was a jewel of a purchase, the transaction completely financed by savings from that first job. It was a 1965 Honda 250cc SS, the only one of its kind in the entire city. And it gave such a sense of power driving it around town with the two diffusers from the two exhaust pipes removed. With engines revving up like the rat-tat-tat of machine guns, it gave new meaning to the saying that riding a bike makes one feel the power between one’s legs. This love affair lasted for almost two years.

In that same milieu I was fortunate to have had other bikes at my disposal, all the result of my father deciding I was the one who should have them. One was a Honda 90cc and the other was also a Honda 90cc but a Trail model. Both were eventually harnessed to pull what is locally called, the motorela, a means of public transport quite common in the Philippines. It is a unique invention consisting of a bike fitted with a cab where passengers can sit comfortably and be protected from the elements.

And additionally I also had use of a smallish Honda P50 50cc, a very fragile model configured in such a way where the entire engine was part of the rear-wheel assembly. It had pedals like those of a bicycle which required their use to start the engine. It was such an unsteady and slow vehicle, it almost seemed like riding a bicycle.

Then later on I had another Honda, a 125cc twin-cylinder road bike colored red. It was good enough for our little family to serve as substitute vehicle for short trips. Though by then four-wheeled vehicles had become the preferred mode of transport for our family.

This year with the influx of Made-in-China motorbikes into the local community, the bug bit again and I found myself acquiring one that most resembled the bike I had loved the best. This time it is a Dayun 125cc bike tagged as a cruiser. Since most bikes nowadays have only one cylinder, including ones as big as 250ccs, this one indeed has only one cylinder, but with one caveat, it has two exhaust pipes.

The images here are the exact models and colors of the ones I had owned secured from the Internet, except for the newest acquisition which is actually featured here.

Monday, July 05, 2010

A Measured Issue Of Height

Growing up in a country where the average height of the male population was 5'3" my being 5'8", or a good 5 inches taller than the average, opened up to certain privileges or treatment not otherwise proffered to the rest. For example, during pick-up basketball, where hoops was the only game in town (with us, anyway) almost always I got to be offered without much competition the role of center; though in most cases I would decline preferring instead to play guard which I thought was the easier position to play given my personal circumstances. I abhorred close guarding leading to contact which was required as a skill for the other positions. But being the recipient of a first offer made me feel good.

And personally I confess it felt good not having to look up to people when talking to them. Looking down at them was a better personal preference; if not, then at least looking straight where the other person would be as tall. And with the ladies, who during that time had even a shorter average, it also felt good giving one the devilish satisfaction of being physically superior (whether justified or not, regardless). Their being shorter resulted in a chauvinistic feeling that during times of distress or when one is called upon to rescue a damsel in a bind it definitely would be a lot easier to carry a shorter and thus lighter lady than one of the same height and weight. Imagine being unable to lift off the ground a lady one is trying to rescue. How unimpressive, and shameful!

So I enjoyed this privileged status while I continued to live and work in the old homeland. But the time came to migrate. And off to the US of A with the entire family to live and work for a living.

And how ego-deflating then to find in the adopted country many women taller than my suddenly puny 5'8". Granted most of them were either white or African-American. Still it was such a jarring revelation, bringing me to uneasy situations where I had to stealthily avoid having to stand side by side with women taller than me. And the men of course were much taller. I bet you the Lilliputians were burdened with similar discomfiture meeting up with Gulliver in one of his travels. Factor in the larger than life mental images we had erected for our heroes in the sports and entertainment world and it could only lead to trouble. Thus, it continues to be difficult to describe the panoply of feelings I had meeting up with Irish boxer George Cooney in the lobby of the hotel I worked for. He truly was a gigantic presence, albeit a gentler one since he had a very unaffected smile and an air of grace in his friendly hand gestures to fans. And meeting face to face with NBA players was even more disconcerting. Of course, there were occasional instances where the accidental meeting experiences elicited strains of self-approbation, like with the famous Jane Fonda. Got caught by total surprise looking up from my front desk counter to see a very petite woman approached almost timidly. It was only past the last instant when her husband then, Tom Hayden, had asked for hotel keys that I realized in whose presence I was in. But well, it definitely did not register as larger than life.

Anyway, I am now accustomed to my new role in that society as the odd man out, the short guy. But my return trips to the old homeland have again turned things out of focus. Initially, the old feelings started to lurk out of their unhappy slumber when I got back and started experiencing old feelings of vainglory, feelings of height superiority that is. Until much recently when to my chagrin, I had suddenly realized that the local population had changed greatly, in a short span of 3 decades. Maybe as a result of its exponentially expanding numbers?

It is now not unusual for me to meet up on any street corner with young men and women who are not only as tall but a lot taller than me. Sometimes there would saunter by a rowdy parade of giggling young kids in their sneakers and with jerseys slung in shoulders telling me that they were a line-up of a basketball team. And most of them would be 6 feet and more, at the very least. In some unjustified disgust, I had asked: what gives?

What happened in that short absence? Has evolution now turned at an accelerated pace?

Another stray observation contributes even more confusion to an already clouded mind. I noticed looking at people older than me and those who figured quite prominently in my youthful adulatory stages that for some inexplicable reasons, they now look shorter and less imposing. Since I definitely have not grown in size except in age, what happened to them? Were the rusty mental images of them just plain wrong? Does considerable absence simply throw things helter-skelter? Go figure.

Do you?

Let me end with light banter.

I am wont to regularly encumbering precious space of the sidewalk, whatever is left of it anyway, in our downtown building to mindlessly observe both vehicular and human traffic in the busy intersection. Much like a fly on the wall with camera cocked and ready at times, I would while away a small part of the afternoon to idle leisure in quiet and unnoticed observation.

One late afternoon found me in my usual allotted spot and noticed 3 young people walking toward our slice of the sidewalk. The three were approaching fast in single file, 2 guys at both ends and a towering reed-thin lady in the middle atop an inch or 2 of heels. So towering was she that I could not help myself remarking as they started to pass us: You must be at least 6 feet!, to which she nonchalantly replied, yes, I am.

Then just as suddenly I was brusquely reminded by one of my companions: Remember that "she" is a "he"!

But I muttered mentally: but does it matter?

Tall is still tall especially in the land of shorter people.