Justin’s Newsletter: December 2023
Vol. 3, Issue 12
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MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
From me and mine to you and yours, I hope you’re having a lovely, relaxing holiday season. A chance to recharge the batteries as we enter into what will surely be another crazy year. Sláinte!
My Year in Review
I swear time is speeding up. What even is time? It’s been another eventful year for me. Here are some highlights:
I won two 1st place journalism awards at the Los Angeles Press Club’s 65th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards in June, in the Music/Arts Feature and Culture News categories for my stories about Slowjamastan and micronations in Alta Journal and Paradise Springs in Pasadena Now. Read more here and here.
I also took home a 3rd place award in the Entertainment News/Feature category for my Pasadena Star-News story about Jerry Stahl’s latest book, Nein, Nein, Nein!: One Man's Tale of Depression, Psychic Torment, and a Bus Tour of the Holocaust. And I was a finalist in the TV Talk/Public Affairs category for hosting my Pasadena Media TV show "NewsRap Local with Justin Chapman."
I got a 3rd place journalism award at the LA Press Club’s 16th Annual National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards this month, in the Book Critic category for my Pasadena Star-News story about Jerry Stahl's book. This was my 10th journalism award from the LA Press Club (including three 1st place awards).
The 12-part LAist podcast I was interviewed extensively for last year, "LA Made: Blood, Sweat, and Rockets," about early JPL history, won a 1st place journalism award at the LA Press Club's 16th Annual National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards in the Best Arts or Entertainment Limited Series Podcast category. So well deserved! Excellent podcast, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.
My TV show, in its third year and its first with a new name, “Pasadena Monthly with Justin Chapman,” continued to grow. Pasadena Media’s flagship show featured special guests such as JPL Director Dr. Laurie Leshin, Octavia’s Bookshelf owner Nikki High, Pasadena Playhouse Artistic Director Danny Feldman, and many more.
My friend Brad Steele and I continued our podcast about fatherhood called “Dadding.” Check out the latest episode below.
My old friend from high school, Zakk Eginton, and I got our 2000-2003 era punk band Whatnot back together. Stay tuned in 2024 for new music that I’m really excited about.
I traveled to Oroville Dam/Feather River Fish Hatchery, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the future Sites Reservoir location, San Luis Reservoir, and Del Bosque Farms in the Central Valley to learn about California’s fragile water supply and delivery systems. Read a write-up about what we learned on the trip. I stood in the valley where the Sites Reservoir will be in several years.
Part 2 of my series on Frank Malina was published in Pasadena Now. Malina was a co-founder and the second director of JPL. He and his controversial partner Jack Parsons played key roles in the development of the U.S. rocketry program.
My article on intellectual property education in community colleges was published in Inventors Digest Magazine.
I completed one year in my new job with the City of Pasadena, as the field representative for District 6 City Councilmember—and as of this month, Vice Mayor—Steve Madison. It’s been the perfect fit for me, the perfect marriage of both my skills and interests. It may sound cliché, but the best part is that I get to figure out how to utilize city government to help solve people’s problems. Pasadena Now and my old paper, Pasadena Weekly, did a few nice stories on me being appointed to the position back in January. It had been a minute since my name was on the cover of the Weekly. I miss it. Read the stories here, here, and here.
I wrote, filmed, and edited a 20th (and likely final) episode of my other TV show, “Well Read with Justin Chapman,” featuring an interview with Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole, author of We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland. Then I wrote an article for the Irish Post about the interview. We had a wide-ranging conversation about Ireland, from the Troubles to Brexit. Read a longer version here.
I wrote a story in Culture Honey Magazine about the Bombay Beach Biennale, a Burning Man-esque art festival by the Salton Sea that’s revitalizing the apocalyptic area. I also got to do a reading of my articles about Mad Mike Hughes and Slowjamastan at the Biennale and accompanying Bombay Beach Literary Festival.
I wrote a story about the Wrexham football club (owned by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney) and TV show for Pasadena Now—which, if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and go watch both seasons on Hulu right now.
I was interviewed back in January 2022 on a podcast, “BTM Legends Corner,” about my experience starring in the movie “Problem Child 3: Junior in Love.” But I didn’t find the link to the episode until just recently. Enjoy it here. Also, I found this video of the “injury count” in “Problem Child 3,” lol.
I was invited by the Notts Bad Movie Club in the UK to film an intro video for their screening of the movie “Jingle All the Way,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, Sinbad, Jake Lloyd, and yours truly.
I found this old UPI story from 1995 that lists my nomination for Best Young Actor in a TV Movie/Miniseries in the Hollywood Reporter’s inaugural Young Star Awards that year. I was nominated for my leading role in “Problem Child 3.” Other notable nominees at the same ceremony: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kirsten Dunst, Brad Renfro, Jonathan Taylor-Thomas, Joseph Mazzello (the kid from Jurassic Park, who won my category), Elijah Wood, Claire Danes, Natalie Portman, Kate Winslet, Christina Ricci, Haley Joel Osment, and Sarah Michelle Gellar. 👀
I went into a burning building as part of a live fire training with the Pasadena Fire Department. Check out the photos below.
Thank you as always to the Pasadena Media Foundation—support them here.
A new episode of the "Dadding" podcast is out now! With Halloween and Thanksgiving behind us and the holidays coming up, we thought it was time for a deep, existential discussion about our inevitable demise, and that of our beloved children. Like the ambulances sing in the Blood Brothers song “Ambulance vs Ambulance”: “Before you roll over, oh yeah before you give in, just remember we’re coming back for your children.” After all, we’re just tiny specks of stardust on a wet rock floating through space in a universe we know shockingly little about—and we’re supposed to raise kids at the same time? In the latest episode of “Dadding,” Bradford Steele and I talk about all things death—how to talk to your kids about it, how to deal with your own parents passing, how to overcome death anxiety, and much more. As Jerry Stahl would say, it’s a lighthearted romp! Listen here.
This month’s episode of “Pasadena Monthly with Justin Chapman” will air on December 29 (the fifth Friday instead of the usual fourth Friday) and will feature an interview with this year’s Tournament of Roses President Alex Aghajanian. Stay tuned!
Stories to Keep an Eye On
International: According to the NY Times, Putin is privately ready for a cease-fire in Ukraine. The only way that’ll happen is if he can somehow spin it and claim victory afterward. And it likely won’t happen if the U.S. Congress doesn’t pass more military aid for Ukraine. As it stands, that doesn’t look very likely, since Republicans are holding it hostage (along with Israel aid) until Democrats agree to Republicans’ draconian immigration demands. That could give Putin the edge he needs to slowly whittle Ukraine down, meaning his bet that he would win if Russia just held out long enough and international support for Ukraine withered, would turn out to be a winning one. And what lesson will he draw from that?
National: We are about to enter an election year for the ages. We are going to be tested like never before. What we choose will result in consequences that reverberate through our society for years and decades to come. If we as a country elect Donald Trump, after everything he’s said and done and everything that he tells us he will do in the future, we will, as a people, deserve what we get. At this point, I highly doubt he will be convicted and sentenced for the many crimes he has clearly committed, and he won’t be banned from state ballots because he’s an insurrectionist, even though that’s what the Constitution calls for. It will be up to us—a razor-thin majority of us in a handful of swing states. The world is holding its breath until we find out how this will all shake out. Good luck to us all in 2024. Tighten up your belt.
California: A federal judge blocked a California law that would have banned carrying guns in most public places. Because who doesn’t want to see some dude walking around a playground with an automatic rifle?
Local: My boss will run unopposed for re-election to his seventh 4-year term on the Pasadena City Council in March, and will serve as vice mayor for this last remaining year in his current term. We plan to get a lot of work done in those five years. Stay tuned.
Here are some recommendations for interesting books I’ve read recently:
The Soviet Century: Archeology of a Lost World—Karl Schlögel
This huge book—822 pages but feels like twice that—is a treasure trove of insights into what life was like in the Soviet Union in the 20th century, down to every little facet. It also explores how the constantly changing political landscape made it a society of contradictions. Recommended for anyone who wants a really deep dive into the USSR.
How to Raise a Reader—Pamela Paul and Maria Russo
As a parent who constantly frets about whether his child will grow up with a love of reading—especially with some certain folks in my life who don’t value reading the way I do—I really appreciate this book that gives practical guidance on how to encourage that trajectory. First and foremost, of course, we have to model pro-reading behavior ourselves. Check!