Vol. 2, Issue 1
Happy New Year! Let’s have fun this year and stop sweating the small stuff.
What’s Up With Me?
Watch the latest episode of “Well Read with Justin Chapman,” featuring an interview with Andrew Lycett, author, journalist, and biographer of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. We talked about Fleming’s interesting life and times and the cultural legacy of the original James Bond novels. Watch the episode here.
Watch the latest episode of my show, “NewsRap Local with Justin Chapman,” featuring an interview with Martin Gordon, chair of the Pasadena Community Coalition. We talked about the new rotating interim police chiefs, the decades-long push for diversity at the Tournament of Roses, the need for social equity in legal cannabis policy, and more. Read some coverage of the show on Pasadena Now. And watch the new episode here.
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.
Here are some recommendations for great books I’ve read recently:
The Authorized Biography of 007—John Pearson
This strange but fascinating book was written under the premise that James Bond was a real person who knew the author of the Bond novels, Ian Fleming, and that the novels were written as part of a campaign to convince the Soviets that Bond was not a real agent. It serves as a fictional biography of James Bond by expanding on the few morsels that Fleming wrote about Bond’s past in the books, and presents a wide range of new adventures. There are things that work and don’t work about this approach, but overall it is a lot of fun. If you enjoyed the Bond novels, then this is a must.
Freak Power: Hunter S. Thompson’s Campaign for Sheriff—Daniel Joseph Watkins
This excellent coffee-table-style book does a deep dive on Hunter Thompson’s campaign for sheriff of Aspen in 1970, in which the Gonzo journalist shaved his head so he could call his opponent, the incumbent sheriff, “my long-haired opponent.” He ran on the Freak Power ticket, and his campaign was a call for everyone who felt like they were on the fringes of society—mainly young people—to combine their voting power and engage in politics, which Thompson called “the art of controlling your environment.” He released a platform that called for things like renaming Aspen “Fat City” to discourage developers, ripping up all city streets with jackhammers, decriminalizing drugs and punishing dishonest drug dealers, and disarming the sheriff and his deputies. While Thompson lost the election, mainly because the establishment ran a third candidate that split the vote, he came damn close. In fact, he inspired me to (successfully) run for Altadena Town Council in 2005. This book also accompanies an excellent documentary about the same subject.
Stories to Keep an Eye On
International: Is Russia going to invade Ukraine? It’s looking more and more likely. Either that or Putin is trying to extract major concessions from the West. The British government said Putin’s goal is to install a Kremlin-friendly leader in Kyiv. Hundreds of thousands of Russian forces are now surrounding Ukraine on three sides. If he moves, what will Biden do in response? What should he do? It’s a tough spot, and Putin knows it. He’s playing hardball.
National: The Omicron surge seems to be cresting in some parts of the country. But hospitalizations and deaths tend to come in waves after cases spike, so the next few weeks could still be rough. People should still take sensible precautions, and, of course, get vaccinated and boosted. The U.S. Post Office will mail each household four COVID tests for free. Sign up for them here.
California: There’s a battle raging over state housing bills like SB 9, which allows property owners to build additional units—known as accessory dwelling units (ADUs) or granny flats—on their parcels. The idea is to build more housing to help alleviate the affordable housing crisis, but critics say it will do no such thing. Cities like Pasadena are especially opposed to SB 9 because they say they do more for affordable housing than other cities, that legislation like this shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. They also think ADUs will destroy single-family zoned neighborhoods. Unfortunately, there are just too many damn people who want to live here and housing is too damn expensive. Options to resolve the situation are dwindling, and the status quo is unacceptable.
Local: Just two months after Pasadena’s Citizen Police Oversight Commission formally convened, the city announced that its new independent police auditor Brian Maxey, who was supposed to work with the commission, has resigned and is going back to the Seattle Police Department. Members of the commission called the news “very disappointing” and “very disruptive.”
Spotlight on My Past Stories
The Pasadena Weekly has finally restored my byline on (most of) my stories! When a new company from Arizona purchased the paper in summer 2019, they subsequently changed all bylines of people who were not on staff to “By Pasadena Weekly staff” on the paper’s website. This was unheard of and made it difficult to showcase our work. Some of us had spent years and decades building up that work. Now, you can find my PW stories here. And read all of my journalism here.
Mercedes Blackehart makes handmade, sustainable, all-natural toys. Check out her products here for the little ones in your life.