Vol. 1, Issue 6
On My Mind
Kind of hard to look back now and justify why we spent 20 years, north of a trillion dollars, and tens of thousands of lives to invade Afghanistan. I was against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars from the very beginning. I was 16 and 17 when those wars began. How come I knew they were a mistake but our political leaders didn’t? And that includes both Republicans and Democrats (though Biden is getting more slack right now than he deserves; there’s plenty of blame to go around, not least of which for George W. Bush). Here’s hoping the Millennial and younger generations learn the lesson from these foreign policy mistakes: war is not the answer.
Mercedes Blackehart makes handmade, sustainable, all-natural toys. Check out her products here for the little ones in your life. The Christmas season is going to be cray cray this year. Supply chains are crippled and delayed due to the pandemic, and inflation in some sectors will likely mean higher prices. So order some gifts such as Mercedes’ toys now and save yourself the hassle and a few shillings.
What’s Up With Me?
I got nominated for two Los Angeles Press Club awards! Both are for my Alta Journal story about Mad Mike Hughes, the flat earther daredevil rocketeer.
Speaking of Mad Mike, I’ll be the featured speaker at the Adventurers Club of Los Angeles this Thursday, August 26, at 8 p.m. I’ll discuss Mike’s early life, motorcycle racing, NASCAR days, limo jumping, his Guinness World Record, his run for California governor, his flat earth and other conspiracy beliefs, his lawsuits against dozens of famous people, his plan to launch himself in a rockoon (part rocket, part balloon) to the edge of space, and of course, his rocket launches and why his third and final launch failed, as well as the aftermath of the crash. Join me there or tune in on YouTube!
A story I’ve been working on for more than three years was just published by KPCC/LAist, under the headline “The Hedonistic History of Paradise Springs, Where Early Hollywood Went Wild.” Paradise Springs was once a debaucherous mountain retreat (near Wrightwood) for early Hollywood stars in the 1920s and 30s, run by silent film villain Noah Beery (father of Noah Beery Jr. of "The Rockford Files" fame) and his brother Wallace Beery. It was frequented by Charlie Chaplin (who built a staircase in a cabin there, both of which are still standing today), Joseph Kennedy, Gloria Swanson, Douglas Fairbanks, Marion Davies, Cecil B. DeMille, and many others, including William Randolph Hearst, who allegedly hired goons to let a buffalo loose in the grand ballroom while A-list stars were partying, and also burned that ballroom down later. The Beerys threw wild parties, operated a cathouse, gambled, brewed illegal homemade hooch during Prohibition, and raised millions of trout. When Beery went bankrupt, he lost the property and it became a Christian camp for decades. Then it was sold in 2017 to Huttopia, a French glamping company (glamorous camping), which revamped the property and just reopened a week ago on August 13. Check out the story here, featuring photos by Mercedes Blackehart and historical photos.
Watch the latest episode of “Well Read with Justin Chapman,” featuring an interview with HawaH Kasat, an author, artist, yoga instructor, community organizer, and founder and executive director of One Common Unity. You can watch "Well Read" on YouTube or on PasadenaMedia.org's TV channels (32 on Charter Spectrum and 99 on AT&T U-verse in LA County) or streaming apps (FireStick, Apple TV, Roku, etc.). Here’s the episode.
Watch the latest episode of my other show, “NewsRap Local with Justin Chapman,” featuring an interview with Rick Cole, former mayor of Pasadena and current executive director of the Congress for the New Urbanism, a nonprofit that focuses on making walkable and environmentally-friendly cities. He was also recently tapped as a housing advisor to current Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo. Read some coverage of the show on Pasadena Now here. And watch the new episode here.
Read my latest article in Pasadena Now, about author Michael Pollan’s virtual Vroman’s Bookstore talk. The bestselling author spoke about his new book This is Your Mind on Plants and talked about the looming end of the War on Drugs and what the subsequent drug peace should look like. In the book, he takes a fascinating look at three plant drugs: opium, caffeine, and mescaline.
I’d like to give a shout out and a huge thank you to Sheryl Turner and the Pasadena Media Foundation, which has provided some critical support of my journalism, as well as a number of other local reporters and media outlets. We need people and organizations like them who care about local news. Visit savelocalnews.us to learn more.
We recently took Sienna to the Sensorio light show in Paso Robles. It’s very beautiful, and you should go if you haven’t already. It’s been extended through January. Lots of great wine tasting in that area as well.
Here are some recommendations for great books I’ve read recently:
Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutor’s Code and Corrupted the Justice Department—Elie Honig
Honig, a former federal prosecutor, lays out Bill Barr’s utter corruption as Trump’s attorney general, from his first acts in undermining the Mueller Report to quashing the Ukraine whistleblower’s complaint which led to Trump’s (first) impeachment to interfering in the Justice Department’s cases against Trump friends Roger Stone and Michael Flynn to amplifying baseless accusations of mail-in ballot fraud ahead of the 2020 election, and much more. This is a must-read for all Americans so this kind of naked political opportunism doesn’t happen again.
Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy—Anne Sebba
This excellent new book revisits the old story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were put to death by the electric chair in 1953 for allegedly passing secrets in the mid 40s about the development of the atomic bomb from the U.S. to the Soviet Union, which was ostensibly, at the time of their alleged actions, an ally in World War II. The book takes a closer look at Ethel, who really had no evidence against her that she participated in her husband Julius’ espionage. The prosecution, the U.S. government, led in part by Roy Cohn of McCarthyism fame who later counseled a young Donald Trump, tried to use charges against Ethel as leverage against Julius, but neither of them broke. They called the government’s bluff. Instead, Ethel’s own brother David Greenglass and his wife Ruth, the ones who actually stole the secrets, concocted false stories about Ethel’s involvement as a way to avoid responsibility for themselves. Ethel, who was a mother to two young boys, remains the only woman put to death in this country for a crime other than murder. Her crime, for which she lost her life at the age of 37, was being married to someone who believed that if the United States should have the power of the atomic bomb, it shouldn’t be the only one—at a time when Communist hysteria reached a fever pitch in this country.
Stories to Keep an Eye On
International: Everyone’s eyes are on Afghanistan, but frankly, the pandemic is still the most important international story. Booster shots are coming for most Americans in the next couple months, meanwhile many people in the Global South haven’t even received their first shot. If nothing else, this pandemic has truly laid bare the glaring inequity of this world.
National: It’s almost September and Trump hasn’t been reinstated as president yet. Weird.
California: The recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom is underway, with mail-in ballots already sent out. The final day of voting is September 14. Vote no! Newsom is far from perfect, but this election has been orchestrated by Republicans under false pretenses. Recall him because of the pandemic lockdowns? You mean what every sensible governor did across this country to keep everyone safe? The two Republicans who would likely replace him are total Trumpies. They would be a nightmare for California and a bad sign of the political headwinds. Some of the dozens of other candidates are total jokes, just like this recall election. There is some question as to whether people who vote no should also pick a replacement in question two just in case. Vote your conscience. Or say fuck it and vote for Angelyne.
Local: More than 83.4% of Pasadenans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Keep up the good work!
Spotlight on One of My Past Stories
I covered Pasadena’s first Sister City relationship with a city on the African continent, Dakar-Plateau, Senegal, over many years. The Pasadena mayor at the time read my initial story in the week leading up to the City Council voting on whether to establish the relationship, which was successful. Then I interviewed the mayor of Dakar-Plateau at the Rose Bowl during a delegation he was leading to Pasadena. Since then, I’ve covered numerous events in the Pasadena Sister Cities’ Senegal Subcommittee’s speaker series, which are always interesting.
Read all of my journalism here.