Posts Tagged ‘news’

Thank Yous

11 June 2012

Dear J-

Over the weekend, I retreat into kind of a shell, news-wise; whether it’s good or bad without the newspaper the external world doesn’t really exist much. I suppose that I don’t exactly follow the news as it is so this can’t really be cited as anything shocking or new, but after having read the newspaper daily for years, now, a year after giving up our subscription, I can hardly be bothered to check the headlines. This is a huge change from even elementary school when as part of our classroom curriculum, we were expected to keep up with current events and civics (ocome to think of it I’m pretty sure that Bilbray is our congressman, but I’d have to double-check to be sure.

In short I’ve become too involved with pursuing my leisure and finding ways to spend money that I’ve sufficiently made myself willfully ignorant of the world outside. Our current events are limited to Hollywood gossip, our fascination with the world becomes the cult of fame and its trappings: who wore what, what do you drive, life a rubbernecking miasma of spectacle and grime. They said before World War I America was focused on isolationism; likewise we refused to (actively participate in the second until attacked; I wonder if there’s some point in my future that will make me pick up the thread of the external world again.

There’s a million ways to reconnect and give back some of the bounty we have in life and the frivolous pursuit of material things brings only a fleeting joy (believe me, I’ve tried). The tools we have are time, not money; patience, not demands; kindness, not cynicism. The world outside gives us back what we give, and no foolin’, it’s an amazing place to be.I’ve been so focused lately on getting my own things in order that I’ve neglected everything else, which is (was, will be) ridiciulous. Thank you for everything I have; I hope to measure my gratitude in deeds not words, though.



Skyline State

26 May 2011

Dear J-

The news is immediately shocking: family of four found dead in the house they were renting. Later yesterday details leak out as we wait for an explanation. It was a murder-suicide they say, worries about the their finances that drove them to it despite not showing any outward signs. What desperate straits abandoned them on that shore? There are so many concepts both immediately familiar and strange that I can’t help but try to crawl into their heads to unravel their reasons. I draw parallels in our lives with the important distinction that we’re doing all right — we’ve definitely got enough to live on and a house to live in, the cars are paid off and having that removed from over our heads gives us tremendous luxury and freedom — and that in itself removes me from being able to judge their actions.

If you go by calendar dates alone theVet and I could have potentially been the parents of a fifteen year-old by now and I can’t even begin to imagine the pressure that would have put on us — would we have even been able to graduate from college? Graduate & professional school? I suspect that our parents would have pitched in to help us, but would I have been a capable parent at 21? I distinctly remember that when the Wings were swept in four by the Devils I went out and busted up abandoned furniture on the street with a sledgehammer at that age; what would I have done faced with providing for a family with half an education and rage issues I’m still working on?

They say the eldest daughter was slated to graduate from High Tech High (which had been a finalist to get a graduation speech from President Obama) and head off to a four-year school in the fall, Sonoma State. What kind of world is it to have pressured them into extinguishing that normally wonderful news? “Hey dad, I got in!” “How will we pay for it?” Without knowing their reasons we can only speculate and that’s as useless as shutting the barn door after the horse got out. What can we do to help those in need? Have we already done enough? And will we learn fast enough from this object lesson? Do you change the way you do things as a result?


PS I’m starting to idrntify as a San Diegan — this is the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I graduated from high school after all — so when I say we please forgive the assumption that I speak for the city.

Think Wide

14 January 2011

Dear J-

I try to pick my news feeds from the robotic (Google) and the presumably human (Yahoo) so that my results are neither swayed by search engine optimization noor human tendencies, but I have noticed that they tend to return all kinds of stories about sex and violence. Snce they provide a pretty good echo of each other, perhaps they are both web-crawling spiders pulling the most popular results from various trusted sites. Lots of stuff about Tucson as well — no surprise, given the geographical proximity, but little about the mudslides in Brazil or flooding in Queensland which have claimed more lives with horrific force. The other story that’s starting to pick up some steam is Silvio Berlusconi, a politician who can’t keep it in his pants but isn’t crucified for it (compare the treatment to Cicciolina, who served a couple of terms in the Italian Parliament on the basis of her contributions to pornography, and you get the idea that Italy has a much less Puritanical view of virtue than us Americans).

The so-called Chinese stealth fighter took some test flights, not (I think, despite protestations to the contrary) coincidentally with US Defense Secretary Gates’s visit. There’s an impractical practical joke I used to read about and itched to implement: you and a buddy roll up on either side of a car stopped at a red light, then slowly start creeping forward, making the driver/victim think their car is rolling backwards. The panic as the brakes have seemed to fail is supposedly the payoff but I wonder about it as a metaphor for life here in the US. Sure, life is good: TVs and computers are cheap, broadband is getting good deployment, and opportunities for college are everywhere (even if they are for-profit institutions). I wonder if it’s not a bit of a soporific keeping us from realizing that the rest of the world keeps moving forward, or even that there’s something else out there in the rest of the world or heck, even the rest of the country.

When I interviewed for my current job I asked about travel, knowing that we’d soon have our hands full with figgy and thinking that I might not want to. My old boss replied that there was as much — or as little — travel as you wanted; one of the perks or disadvantages of this job is being able to go on audit trips if you want. I’ve been able to go on a couple — first up to Sacramento, which was nice to see the old places, then out to Alabama, where I’d never been before. I tend not to think about life outside the ZIP Code unless I’m forced to so I’m trying to reoirient myself into a more external focus. Travel via news is one way, and the more you think about what life is like elsewhere the more you understand how things work locally.


Light House

4 June 2010

Dear J-

One of my cousins dropped by for dinner — it’s easy to forget that there are four of us now down here in Southern California, but when there’s a mob, one of us isn’t too far away. Of my cousins, this one — Amy — is the oldest and most outspoken; in fact, she actually went along (together with a couple of my mom’s sisters) on my parents’ honeymoon to Niagara Falls. I’ve said it before, but it’s funny how we all fall in together, chatting as though it was just yesterday we last saw each other; we gossip like fishmongers and catch each other up on family news.

theVet accuses me, not without reason, that I tend to say the same stories over and over again, so I’ll limit it to this bit: I remember going to St. Louis and she already had her driver’s license; she’s always seemed so impossibly, unapproachably mature compared to me that I can’t believe that we’re able to talk like real adults (there are multiple moments when I realize that I’m supposed to be a mature adult now; they are quite disturbing).

At times it seems like we’ve got a weddings-and-funerals relationship; we get together for big family events, and it’s nice to be able to see one another outside of those. You (I) tend to forget that we’re humans rather than bodies to drape fancy clothes off when occasion demands. Life is full of touch-and-goes; we spin apart and come back together at random moments, right? We can’t predict — we can’t know — the next chance and so these days stand out like beacons in my memory.


Soul Sister

3 March 2010

Dear J-

There are some days that I wake up full of ideas and suggestions, and unfortunately, more days that I get up with some song in my brain on endless repeat (Train’s Soul Sister has me missing Mister Mister, Broken Wings and Tina Matthews) driving all rational thought from my head. We have two particular bits of infamy in the local scene; again the UCSD situation rears its head (one symbol of intimdation — a noose — might be construed as a mistake, despite the mealy-mouthed convenient apology issued, but two means a trend, and not a joking one) and Chelsea King, whose disappearance appears to have come to a tragic conclusion.

I’m not particularly impressed by the apology issued by the student in question, which basically claims ignorance of the symbolism of a noose — quit acting uppity or it’s you next — and that it was made as a joke. You don’t put a joke on public display, and you generally don’t forget about it, either. I do appreciate that the student would take responsibility for their action, and I’m not sure what else can be done at this point. That said, the introduction and escalation — seriously, putting a Klan hood on Dr. Seuss? — speaks volumes about what those kids on kampus campus are learning, or not learning. It’s bad judgment followed by terrible decisions; there’s really not much more the administration can do short of closing the campus. Everyone must forgive; no one can forget.

I look at the massive search conducted for Chelsea King and wonder if there might have been a connection to the disappearance of another young girl last year, Amber Dubois; had the same effort be conducted on her part, would the suspect have been in custody earlier? Would we have had to talk about remote jogging trails and the promise of young people? It’s all hindsight, and it doesn’t change anything today; the would-haves of the world would fill the universe. The world I remember had me and my brother running around outdoors for hours and days without supervision and without consequence, but those days are as irrelevant as Mister Mister lately.


Current State

27 October 2009

Dear J-

I haven’t been keeping up with the news and current events lately.  If you remember, J-, our CIP teacher, Mr. Larson used to give a current events quiz which no one took seriously because there were no consequences — we got yanked out of class one day a week and dropped into a strange classroom where grades didn’t matter and stories were a little more interesting.  Sometimes he’d give what he thought were gimme questions (who represents the district in the House of Representatives?) and I’m sure he used to wince at the answers he’d get back.

I was an indifferent student of capitals (world, province, or state, I probably still can’t name most) and Russian (though I always liked his stories, I couldn’t see myself ever putting that knowledge to use), but I was a current events champ, keeping up on obscure treaties and science breakthroughs as though my life depended on it.  I’m not sure if it’s a function of getting older, or if the old adage has always held (if it bleeds, it leads!) but it seems like the cult of celebrity has been all-pervasive lately; either folks who want to be famous, or famous folks we can’t seem to find enough minute embarrassing details about.

How do you separate real achievement from deserved notoriety?  In an era filled with cameras and constant scrutiny, people become famous not only for going to the right parties, but also for writing about people at parties.  Reporters become as famous as the people they cover when we confuse meeting someone on the television with knowing them; we encourage their efforts by lowering the bar for news until the next idiot in a balloon pops up for consumption.


Local News

8 December 2008

Dear J-

Our big news of the day is that a military jet on a training flight — to be exact, an F/A-18 off the Lincoln — struck houses in the University City neighborhood of San Diego today around noon.  The jet reported experienced engine trouble shortly after takeoff, and was instructed to divert to Miramar; en route, the second engine cut out and the pilot, unable to get back to the ocean, aimed at a deserted canyon.  If you’ll recall, Miramar is the former home of the TOPGUN school

The local news has a small squadron of reporters deployed on the ground, one anchor in front of the main crash site and others, in descending order of importance, in front of other random sites:  one where the canopy landed, draped over someone’s side fence; one in front of the Naval Hospital, where the pilot was taken after ejecting (photos show he’s physically okay — he walked away from it).  The houses struck were gutted and the residents were killed.

I ride my bike near the crash site every day to and from the vanpool; I mumble under my breath at the thoughtlessness of city planning (there’s a bike lane that keeps disappearing and reappearing along Governor Drive) that’s warned me into religiously charging my lights and making sure I’m as visible as possible to traffic; I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to thread the needle with a fighter without power.  I’ve hiked in that canyon which is, aside from the railroad tracks, as deserted as can be.  I pray for the pilot’s continued sanity tonight.


Fourth Estate

9 September 2008

Dear J-

Is it American to assign blame?  Let’s look at this whole “Bridge to Nowhere” scheme; after the press got wind of it, the plan became the poster child of pork.  On the surface, it makes sense:  you’ve got a multi-million dollar bridge that connects an island to the main body of Alaska.  Problem is, that island has, at best, a few hundred residents in it, and the tab would come out to nearly a million dollars per resident.  Thus the ridicule and another example of how America legislates through popular perception.  Its champion, Senator “Intertubes!” Ted Stevens, soon found himself scrambling to defend the bridge with essentially indefensible numbers.

Look at it a different way, though:  the bridge connects Ketchikan with its island airport.  Ketchikan is a fairly popular tourist destination, and allowing vehicle traffic to the airport would provide a significant boost to encourage airport growth and could thus potentially stimulate tourist visits.  Suddenly the bridge is to somewhere, but it doesn’t play well in the press, so they’ve managed to bury that nugget; I keep harping on the issue, but a press that attempts to protect the interests of the public by forcing legislative action is governance via un-elected officials.  Unfortunately, I can’t think of a way to stop it — make sure that the newspapers listen to people?  Hold elections for government-run (shudder) news agencies?

All I’m saying is that it doesn’t take much repetition for snappy phrases to enter everyone’s subconscious.  War on Terror (oh, really?).  Bridge to Nowhere.  Fill-in-the-Blank-Gate Scandal.  Liberal Media (that’s right, FOX News, Wall Street Journal — yer all liberals!).  Yet rather than take caution and knowing that these things take on a life of their own, the press keeps questing for the latest sound bite, the newest pat phrase to discuss.

By the way, our local Union-Tribune reserves space in the Monday Op-Ed pages for the reader’s ombudsman to take note of what folks are up in arms about (lately it’s been the removal of the separate weekly TV listings in the Sunday paper — when people are more concerned about the paper providing TV listings, clearly something’s amiss at the paper — you might want to consider adding, I dunno, content or something).  Yesterday’s paper brought something I’d never thought I’d see:  the newspaper, calling its readers idiots and rubbing their noses in it.