Vol. 1, Issue 2
On My Mind
Vaccine Diplomacy. The United States must start sharing vaccine doses with countries around the world. China and Russia will if we don’t, and indeed they already are. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the strategic thing to do because it garners goodwill. It’s called soft power. The United States used to be good at it, relatively speaking. Also, the pandemic isn’t over until it’s defeated globally. We’ve gotta Share the Shots, as the Pacific Council on International Policy puts it.
What those people who are not going to get the vaccine don’t realize, is that once a majority of the population is vaccinated and we open everything back up again, the virus is going to run rampant on those unvaccinated people. Unless they continue to essentially quarantine—which I doubt because the Venn diagram of those who flouted lockdown rules and those who dismiss the vaccine are like the same overlapping circle—they’ll be the only ones out there who are unprotected. Why do that to yourself?
A year into the pandemic, this seems as good a time as any to reflect on what we’ve done in that time. Did you make the most of it? Did you learn a new skill or language? Did you complete any long-lingering projects? Or did your screen time go up? Did you feel unmotivated and unproductive? It’s being referred to as “The Lost Year,” but it didn’t necessarily have to be. This next year doesn’t, either. What do you want to accomplish in the months to come? Make a plan. Then do it.
Mercedes Blackehart makes handmade, sustainable, all-natural toys. Check out her products here.
What’s Up With Me
Episode 2 of the second season of my TV show, “Well Read with Justin Chapman,” is out now. The new episode features an interview with Irish journalist Ed Moloney, author of A Secret History of the IRA. We talked Ireland, the Troubles, the IRA, Brexit, and more. Watch it here.
I’ve been asked by Pasadena Media, the local public access channel, to host a monthly local news show. It’s called “NewsRap Local with Justin Chapman” and the first episode will air at 5 p.m. PT on Friday, April 23. My first guest will be Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, head of the Pasadena Public Health Department. I’ll get her take on how Pasadena did during the pandemic, where we stand in terms of vaccinations, and where we go from here. Check for showtimes here.
Check out the TV producer certificate I earned by taking television studio courses at Pasadena Media:
Read my latest articles in Pasadena Now: my interview with Dr. Aaron Bruce, VP and Chief Diversity Officer at ArtCenter College of Design about global citizenship and making the most out of Pasadena’s Sister Cities relationship with Dakar-Plateau, Senegal; and my deep dive about Dr. Terrence Roberts and his experience as one of the Little Rock Nine. (Read my first article about Roberts ahead of his talk during the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee’s virtual speaker series here). Also read my article about Julia Louise “Wiseone” Bogany, a teacher, activist, and member of the local indigenous Tongva tribe who passed away on March 28 (more on this important story below in the “Local” section).
Mercedes and I submitted our photos and articles about Mad Mike Hughes, the flat earther daredevil rocketeer who died February 22, 2020, in a spectacular and surreal rocket launch crash which we covered, to the 2020 Los Angeles Press Club awards. Wish us luck!
Here are some recommendations for great books I’ve read recently:
Fidel and Che — by Simon Reid-Henry
A dual portrait of the complicated friendship between Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara and a chronicle of the revolution they launched in Cuba in the 1950s and 60s.
How to Change Your Mind — by Michael Pollan
Pollan examines the latest research about how LSD, mushrooms, and other psychedelics are being used to provide relief and treat people suffering from conditions such as depression, addiction, and anxiety. And keep an eye out for his new book, This Is Your Mind on Plants, an exploration into the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants, coming July 6.
Something Deeply Hidden — by Sean Carroll
Carroll is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist at Caltech who has written several books that take extremely complex topics such as the nature of time and spacetime and writes about them in an accessible and interesting way. This book is about quantum mechanics, specifically the Everettian Many Worlds Theory, which envisions our universe as just one of numerous parallel worlds that branch off from each other every nanosecond, without intersecting or communicating, which differs from the concept of the multiverse, which pictures many self-contained universes in different regions of space-time. Can’t say I comprehended everything, but it’s a fascinating read nonetheless.
Bufo Alvarius: The Psychedelic Toad of the Sonoran Desert — by Albert Most (AKA Ken Nelson) and Hamilton Morris
Morris reissued a pamphlet from the 1980s about psychedelic toads. Popular imagination has it that licking a certain toad will make you hallucinate, but that’s based on incorrect media reports from the 80s and 90s. What really happened was, an environmentalist, anti-nuclear activist, artist, and independent researcher from Denton, Texas, named Ken Nelson, writing under the pseudonym Albert Most, wrote and self-published a pamphlet about his experience as the first known person to have gathered that specific toad, squeezed its venom out of its parotoid glands, then dried and smoked the venom containing the chemical 5-MeO-DMT that caused him to hallucinate. Morris, a documentarian and scientific researcher who investigates the chemistry, history, and cultural impact of various psychoactive drugs, interviewed Ken Nelson/Albert Most for his show “Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia” on Vice TV, and subsequently spearheaded a reprinting of Ken’s long-lost pamphlet as a way to honor Ken’s contributions to science and his concern for the continued survival of the Sonoran Desert Toad. Learn more at psychedelictoadofthesonorandesert.com (lol).
Stories to Keep an Eye On
International: The U.S. National Intelligence Council released its quadrennial Global Trends report with analysis about our post-pandemic world. Their takeaway: it looks bleak AF. Facing economic, climate, public health, political, migratory, and other cascading crises, what can we do as individuals and as a society to make sure that prediction doesn’t come true? It starts with supporting each other, killing with kindness, and making sure our own mental health house is in order. Productivity and self-care are the keys to happiness, I’ve found. Sometimes easier said than done, but.
National: The U.S. men’s national soccer team failed to qualify for the Olympics—again. Honduras beat them 2-1 in a regional qualifying tournament in Mexico last month. That’ll make this the third straight Summer Games they’ve missed, their last go being 2008. Luckily, however, the U.S. women’s national soccer team are talented winners—they’ve already qualified for the Tokyo Games and are the favorites to win their fifth gold medal. Read my 2019 story about the women’s team here.
California: The California Sun, an excellent morning email newsletter featuring a must-read rundown of important stories about California, released an outdoor bucket list of 45 not-to-be-missed natural wonders across the Golden State. You could explore California your entire life and not experience everything this place has to offer. Get adventurin’.
Local: Julia Louise “Wiseone” Bogany, a teacher, activist, and member of the local indigenous Tongva tribe, passed away on March 28 due to complications associated with a stroke that she suffered on March 7. She was dedicated to the teaching, revitalization, and visibility of Tongva language and culture throughout the San Gabriel Valley and surrounding communities, which she did for more than 30 years.
“I always say Tongva women never left their ancestral homeland, they just became invisible,” Bogany was quoted as saying on her website ToBeVisible.org. “‘How do we make ourselves not invisible?’ is the question I ask every day.”
Read my full story about Bogany’s storied career. Also check out her website, her GoFundMe page which will help cover medical and funeral costs, and this timeline about Tongva history. Her memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 17, at Mt. View Mortuary & Cemetery, 570 E. Highland Ave., San Bernardino, and will also be livestreamed here.
Something You May Not Know About Me
I was the youngest elected official in LA County when, at age 19, I won a seat on the Altadena Town Council. I beat the 57-year-old, 10-year incumbent and vice-chair of the Council, Mike Manning, known as “Mr. Altadena.” Fun fact: my parents bought a house from him in the 1980s when I was about two years old.
Life imitates art (or vice versa). Thank you, “King of the Hill” (best show ever):
Spotlight on One of My Past Stories
My very first published story, in the Pasadena Weekly on March 10, 2005, was a doozy. It was about a couple named St. James and LaDonna Davis who were attacked by two chimpanzees, Buddy and Ollie, as they prepared to celebrate the birthday of their adopted chimp, Moe, at an animal sanctuary in Kern County. The two chimps mauled and mutilated the 62-year-old St. James Davis, who lost an eye and part of his nose and suffered severe damage to his cheek and lips in the attack. The chimps also bit off all of St. James Davis’ fingers, his left foot, and his testicles and damaged his buttocks. A few years later, Esquire followed up on the story, which is absolutely mindblowing.