Zantovsky on History

13 01 2010

“Based on the known record, history is more likely a complex process in which each event is to a larger, smaller, or infinitesimal extent the result of everything that has happened before combined with a healthy dose of randomness. As such, it carries forward and perpetuates, at least for a time, not only human growth and human achievements but also our weaknesses, fallacies, inconsistencies, and failures. That is why it comes back to haunt us so often. One can only ask whether the post-Cold War world would be any different if Communism was smashed to dust and eradicated the way Nazism was. In the event, to the vast relief of people in the West and East alike, it imploded peacefully. But perhaps in doing so, it was also allowed to scatter tiny bits of its tyrannical self, its messianic arrogance, its ignorance of human nature, and its fundamental immorality to the ends of the earth. It is gone but not dead. In any case, democracies seem to have been much more aware of their fundamental values and the price of liberty when the totalitarian threat was still around.”

Michael Zantovsky, Resumption: The Gears of 1989, World Affairs Journal



California Wildfire Photos

30 08 2009

I spent much of the afternoon and evening yesterday up in Angeles National Forest photographing the fires and general devastation up there.  You can see some of the photos in my Station Fire photo album.  The Associated Press has licensed a couple of them – and I’m pretty psyched about that.  Let me know if you see them anywhere.  (And, in the “dubious honor” department, my smoky Hollywood Sign image is on the front page of the Drudge Report as I write.)

Once past the police checkpoints, it got very eerie.  The roads were debris-strewn and entire neighborhoods abandoned.  I explored the neighborhoods briefly but decided to save that for evening.

Once up into the forest, I was prepared for the flames and the smoke – but not the sound.  It was perhaps the oddest sound I’d ever heard.  Not just the roaring-freight-train sound you’d expect a mountainside of fire to sound like – but a strange, squealy-popping sound – almost like a cackling scream.  There were lines of fire everywhere.  It was really touch-and-go and “intense” is understating it.

It was a humbling experience; I hope to write more later – but for now, check the images.



Task Force Raids LA Marijuana Dispensaries, Shoots Dog

18 08 2009

“As perplexing as the current legal environment is for medical marijuana patients, one thing is quite clear: despite administration statements, little has changed with regard to federal enforcement of marijuana laws, even in states where it has been decriminalized.”

[From my latest Huffington Post piece: Task Force Raids LA Marijuana Dispensaries, Shoots Dog.]



Universal Medical Marijuana Recommendation

3 06 2009

I am going to a fundraiser for the Marijuana Policy Project tomorrow night at the Playboy Mansion.  It should be interesting.  In thinking tonight about the more serious issues surrounding marijuana prohibition, it occurred to me that there’s one rather proactive medical recommendation that (I assume) anyone ought to qualify for.  Here’s my attempt at a first draft:

“I, Doctor Whomever X. Wherever, have thoroughly evaluated and assessed Patient Doe.  In light of this assessment, and my solemn duty to protect the privacy, dignity, and best interests of my patients, I hereby affirm that, in my best professional judgment, my patient’s physical and psychological health are best served by her never spending a single day in prison.”

Who wants to try first?



Greenwald Calls Out Some Hypocrisy

26 04 2009

David Broder and the media’s culpability.



The Blackberry Killer?

18 04 2009

Most of you have already heard about this so-called “Craigslist Killer.”  This labeling is the worst type of media laziness and it perpetuates the fear of information technology that our society still can’t seem to shake.  Fear of new things is, itself, nothing new.  But our ability to rapidly disseminate and amplify that fear certainly is.  A couple of years ago – when this same kind of panic had reached new heights with Chris Hansen’s MySpace hysteria – I told Tom Zeller at the New York Times basically the same thing I’m going to say now.  At around the same time, Andrew Kantor at USA Today smartly called out our fear of everything tech – cameras, Lite-Brites, and things with “batteries and wires.”

So, I find myself (not) wondering:

If he drove a Toyota, would we be calling him “The Toyota Killer”?
If he wore Nike sneakers, would we be calling him “The Nike Killer?”

The shooting incident happened at the Marriott – why isn’t he “The Marriott Killer?”

And I’m sorry to belabor this, but I noticed the suspect appears to use a Blackberry cell phone – so why aren’t we calling him “The Blackberry Killer?”

Because we’re much more comfortable with cars, sneakers, hotels, and even cell phones (however fancy they may be.)

But online communities still scare us; we don’t get them.  They’re still weird, new, foreign, or somehow sinister to most people.  So we draw an association that does not exist.  And in doing so, we irresponsibly do damage to a brand.



Who Didn’t Know?

11 03 2009

parker-palmer“I don’t think we should ever doubt our capacity to deny reality. Until you get to be my age, you really believe you’re not gonna die – that fundamental fact of human life. That’s part of our problem. I could make the same argument about the current economic collapse. Who didn’t know this was coming? Who didn’t know that a system that encouraged us to live beyond our means – and provided all kinds of devious and ethically doubtful ways for us to do so – was going to fall apart someday? Who didn’t know that housing was overvalued and stocks were overpriced? Who didn’t know a system that makes the rich richer while the poor get poorer would someday face a curtain call? We all knew it at some level, just like we all know we’re going to die. And yet our capacity to deny reality is huge and I think that we don’t want to know what we really know because if we did then we’d have to change our lives.” – Parker Palmer [on Bill Moyers' Journal]



My HuffPo Drug Policy Piece

16 02 2009

Please check out the drug policy article I did for The Huffington Post.  And if you like it: by all means, pass it on!



Love Versus Lust on Valentine’s Day

14 02 2009

Cupcake Love, by me

(Cupcake Love, by me)

“Love makes the world go ’round, it’s true, but lust stops the world in its tracks; love renders bearable the passage of time, lust causes time to stand still; lust kills time, which is not to say that it wastes it or whiles it aimlessly away but rather it annihilates it, cancels it, extirpates it from the continuum; preventing, while it lasts, any lapse into the tense and shabby woes of temporal society; lust is the thousand-pound odometer needle on the dashboard of the absolute.”

- Tom Robbins



Pacific Park Must Clarify Their Photography Policy

18 01 2009

Before I get into this story I want to set the psychographic stage, because I’ve been through this enough now to know what kind of conversations these controversies stir up.

My 2007 incident in San Antonio [see An Accidental Interview With Lieutenant Phil Dreyer] – which was much scarier and more flagrant than the one I’m writing about today – made me realize how out-of-fashion standing up for your rights has become, and also how much it opens you up to criticism for being a troublemaker (and more).

People like Thomas Hawk and Carlos Miller have famously faced this as well. The assumption (often verbalized) is that we’re belligerent, in-your-face assholes who go to places sticking our cameras (and our laminated, marked-up copies of the First Amendment) in people’s faces, looking and hoping for a fight. Sorry, but that’s just not true.  I absolutely hate these confrontations and just want to make my  pictures and be left alone.  For instance, I had a terribly embarrassing and awkward police / photography incident at LAX a few months back and decided not to write about it because of the rather sensational issues it would raise.   So trust me, I am not in this for the fight.

Read the rest of this entry »