Vol. 1, Issue 10
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! Stay safe out there.
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On My Mind: My Year in Review
It was a bit of a professional roller coaster for me this year. I got laid off from my job at the Pacific Council, almost got hired at a city of Pasadena job before the library was shut down due to a structural assessment that found the nearly 100-year-old building would be unsafe in an earthquake, and then got a new job at Michelson Philanthropies as a Digital Content Writer & Editor, where I continue to be happily employed.
I continued to produce my TV show, “Well Read with Justin Chapman,” in which I interviewed Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo, Irish journalist Ed Moloney, Rare Bird Books publisher Tyson Cornell, punk rock legend Brad Logan, and several authors of excellent new books such as Giles Milton, Maria Armoudian, and Anne Sebba.
I launched a second TV show, “NewsRap Local with Justin Chapman,” in which I interviewed Congressman Adam Schiff, Congresswoman Judy Chu, former Pasadena Mayor Rick Cole, Pasadena interim city manager Cynthia Kurtz, and many others. “NewsRap Local” has become one of Pasadena Media’s flagship shows.
I delivered a talk at the Adventurers Club of Los Angeles about Mad Mike Hughes, which inspired me to write a book about my experience covering the flat earther daredevil rocketeer. I’m almost done with that, so keep an eye out.
I came in 2nd place in the Hard News category and 3rd place in the Obituary/In Appreciation category at LA Press Club’s 63rd annual Southern California Journalism Awards.
I wrote 20 articles in KPCC/LAist, Culture Honey, Pasadena Now, and other outlets. Some notable stories include: Paradise Springs, the hedonistic mountain retreat for A-list Hollywood celebrities in the 1920s and 30s; Sirhan Sirhan’s attorney telling me that the assassin of Bobby Kennedy wants to live in Pasadena if he makes parole; and two travel pieces, about Slab City and Iceland. Read all my journalism here.
Did I mention I also have a 3-year-old? Yeah.
What’s Up With Me?
Watch the latest episode of my show, “NewsRap Local with Justin Chapman,” featuring an interview with interim Pasadena city manager Cynthia Kurtz. We talked about the city’s priorities during this transitional and tumultuous period. Read some coverage of the show on Pasadena Now. And watch the new episode here.
Check out my work at Michelson Philanthropies, which is a parent/umbrella organization overseeing numerous foundations focused on “making life a little less unfair” in the fields of animal welfare, medical research, education and equity, intellectual property, immigration, and more.
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, and check out this project about the foundation by a student at Cal State Long Beach.
Here are some recommendations for great books I’ve read recently:
The Diamond Smugglers—Ian Fleming
The author/creator of James Bond wrote this exploration of diamond smugglers in Africa and Europe in 1957. There’s an interesting back story in which De Beers forced the publisher to take some salacious details about the diamond company out of the book, but it’s still fascinating to read about the ruthless black market trade in the 1950s.
The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman 1955-1967 (The Fear and Loathing Letters, Vol. One)—Hunter S. Thompson
This collection of letters by the Good Doctor provides an in-depth look at the writer’s young life when he was broke, traveling around the United States and South America, and trying to subsist on his writing alone. He seemed to always know that he would be a famous writer, but before that happened he suffered and struggled for many years. Here we begin to see him develop his trademark style and love for adventure.
Stories to Keep an Eye On
International: Russia has amassed hundreds of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine, and many Western countries anticipate that Putin will invade Ukraine in early 2022. I certainly wouldn’t put it past him, because he has learned that he can get away with just about anything without consequences. On the other hand, if he truly wanted to invade, wouldn’t he move those troops in secret? This may just be his way of negotiating, of making the United States and its allies nervous so that they’ll come to the table and he’ll get something out of it. It’s a classic authoritarian move: create a crisis and then extract concessions in order to solve said crisis.
National: As I always suspected may be the case, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has pulled his support for the Build Back Better infrastructure bill, the one that was supposed to be $3.5 trillion but then got reduced to $1.7 trillion (per Manchin’s insistence). His plan was always to drag this out until 2022 when it would be an election year and the probability of the bill passing would be significantly reduced. It’s a shame because there are so many people who really could have used the assistance that the bill would have provided: climate investments, child care and preschool funds, paid family and sick leave, child income tax credit, Medicare/Medicaid expansions, affordable housing subsidies, and more. In other words, things that are overwhelmingly popular with the American people. Oh well.
California: San Francisco Mayor London Breed has launched a law enforcement crackdown campaign in the Tenderloin district, reversing course from her 2020 pledge to redirect $120 million from the SFPD’s budget to the Black community. Now she wants to flood the Tenderloin with cops to combat a rising trend of crime and drugs. If we haven’t learned by now that this won’t solve the underlying root of the problem, I’m not sure we ever will.
Local: The Pasadena Human Relations Commission delayed approval of proposed commemorative plaques to be installed in Old Pasadena’s Mills Place alleyway that describes an incident at that spot in 1885 in which a white mob set fire to a Chinese laundry and threatened Pasadena’s Chinese residents in a fit of racist rage. Commissioners will take more time to review the plaque’s location and edit the language and return to the matter at their next meeting in January.
Spotlight on One of My Past Stories
Back in 2013, I interviewed Dr. Elizabeth Pomeroy for Pasadena Weekly about the many hats she wears: indie publisher, college professor, city historian, and long-time member of the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education. In that interview, she recognized that school boards are especially prone to political hostility and rancor, which is even more the case nowadays, and she said her philosophy has always been to “stay out of the fray.” Now that will be put to the test, as she has been elected as the president of the PUSD board.
Read all of my journalism here.
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