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Unions Lawsuits, Odd Tax Rebates, Marijuana Initiatives…& Chris Matthews

January 29th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Here’s Thursday night’s segment of The Filter—-Enjoy. (And, yes, I do continue to make weird faces. But I manage not to do the angry cat face this time.)

Posted in The Filter | 25 Comments »

Annenberg Students & the LA Times Homicide Report

January 29th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


It has been said more than a few times that one of the important new models
that will be a significant part of the evolving future of journalism will be partnerships between journalism schools and commercial and/or nonprofit media.

It appears that after a year or so of false starts, the LA Times has finally taken that idea to heart with the new partnership between the LAT’s much-lauded but extremely labor intensive Homicide Report and student reporters at Annenberg’s own online publication, Neon Tommy.

(This means that the Annenberg end of the partnership the faculty advisors will be—ta-da!—my pals Marc Cooper and Alan Mittelstaedt.)

Megan Garvey, the editor of the Homicide Report, evidently deserves much credit for realizing that having smart USC students reporting for her online section might make for an inspired partnership.

Here’s some of what she wrote about the LAT/Annenberg hook-up:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Future of Journalism, Los Angeles Times, media | 3 Comments »

Social Justice Shorts (Very Short)

January 29th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon



This excellent series from San Diego County’s KPBS explores the very high fiscal cost of California’s “tough on crime” legislation by giving a look inside three state prisons, including the California Medical Facility, the place that houses the oldest and sickest inmates in the state.


Homegirl Cafe, the restaurant and catering business operated by Homeboy Industries has partnered with pro airport concessionaire Areas USA, to put in a bid to open a Homegirl Cafe outlet at LAX. (How cool would that be?!)

By the way, if you’ve still never been to Homegirl Cafe at Alameda and Bruno Streets, near Union Station—well, you’re missing out, I’m telling you. T


This is one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t dilemmas in which we hope that the California Supreme Court can find a wise way to adequately served the needs of the equal protection clause—and public safety.


In Thursday’s Baltimore Sun, Wendy Young, who is the executive director of KIND (Kids in Need of Help), writes:

“….More than 8,000 children who come to the U.S. alone each year and end up in immigration proceedings. More than half do not have a lawyer. In immigration court, defendants are not appointed a public defender, even if they are children; they must find a lawyer themselves or face the judge and the government attorney alone. Children who come to the U.S. without a parent or guardian are often fleeing a desperate situation. Some are trying to escape severe abuse or persecution; others have been abandoned by their parents and are trying to find a way to survive….”

As a consequence, Baltimore has created a “children’s dockit” to try to treat the kids in who come through its immigration court—like kids.

When I contacted her, Young told me that LA has a similar children’s docket for kids who are already detained in immigration cases, but she says, “children who have been released from federal custody are mixed in with adults.”

Well, half is better than none at all.

Posted in Social Justice Shorts | 1 Comment »

On “The Filter” Tonight

January 28th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

I will be on The Filter tonight (Thursday) at 7:30 on digital channel 4.2, (or online here) with a replay Friday on KNBC Channel 4 at 11:30 a.m.

This time, my sparring partner (along with host Fred Roggin) will be Melissa Rivers. The topics we’ve been assigned should provide plenty of sparring fodder.

This is part of The Show’s four-week, midday try out on the main KNBC Channel 4 before The Filter takes a break in February while Fred covers the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Posted in The Filter | 5 Comments »

J. D. Salinger: January 1, 1919 – January 27, 2010

January 28th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


The work of J.D. Salinger has mattered enormously to a large number of people.
(If you are one of those people, I’d love to know how and why he has mattered to you.)

Last fall, when The Catcher in the Rye came up in the course of a discussion in my UC Irvine workshop, I was able to observe that newer generations were also not at all immune to Salinger’s magic.

Speaking personally, there aren’t a whole lot of books that have changed my life. Maybe one has to be at a certain, young-ish age for that alchemy to take place, I don’t know.

I am a maniacal reader of many kinds of texts and the list of books I love is long. However, the list of books that permanently shifted me on my emotional/spiritual/intellectual axis is very short, which is likely as it should be. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey is one of the volumes on my very short list.

The cumulative effect of the book is what made the difference,
but there is one passage that particularly did the trick:

“I remember about the fifth time I ever went on ‘Wise Child.’ I subbed for Walt a few times when he was in a cast–remember when he was in that cast? Anyway, I started bitching one night before the broadcast. Seymour’d told me to shine my shoes just as I was going out the door with Waker. I was furious. The studio audience were all morons, the announcer was a moron, the sponsors were morons, and I just damn well wasn’t going to shine my shoes for them, I told Seymour. I said they couldn’t see them anyway, where we sat. He said to shine them anyway. He said to shine them for the Fat Lady. I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, but he had a very Seymour look on his face, and so I did it. He never did tell me who the Fat Lady was, but I shined my shoes for the Fat Lady every time I ever went on the air again–all the years you and I were on the program together, if you remember. I don’t think I missed more than just a couple of times. This terribly clear, clear picture of the Fat Lady formed in my mind. I had her sitting on this porch all day, swatting flies, with her radio going full-blast from morning till night. I figured the heat was terrible, and she probably had cancer, and–I don’t know. Anyway, it seemed goddam clear why Seymour wanted me to shine my shoes when I went on the air. It made sense”

Franny was standing. She had taken her hand away from her face to hold the phone with two hands. “He told me, too,” she said into the phone. “He told me to be funny for the Fat Lady, once.” She released one hand from the phone and placed it, very briefly, on the crown of her head, then went back to holding the phone with both hands. “I didn’t ever picture her on a porch, but with very–you know–very thick legs, very veiny. I had her in an awful wicker chair. She had cancer, too, though, and she had the radio going full-blast all day! Mine did, too!”

“Yes. Yes. Yes. All right. Let me tell you something now, buddy. . . . Are you listening?”

Franny, looking extremely tense, nodded.

“I don’t care where an actor acts. It can be in summer stock, it can be over a radio, it can be over television, it can be in a goddam Broadway theatre, complete with the most fashionable, most well-fed, most sunburned-looking audience you can imagine. But I’ll tell you a terrible secret–Are you listening to me? There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy. And all his goddam cousins by the dozens. There isn’t anyone anywhere that isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that goddam secret yet? And don’t you know–listen to me, now–don’t you know who that Fat Lady really is? . . . Ah, buddy. Ah, buddy. It’s Christ Himself. Christ Himself, buddy.”

For joy, apparently, it was all Franny could do to hold the phone, even with both hands.

Apart from Franny & Zooey, there are many passages from Salinger’s work that, for one reason or another, are engraved permanently on my soul and psyche. Among them are the following:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in American artists, Obits, writers and writing | 15 Comments »

Late in Posting

January 28th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


Crazy busy this morning. Back soon.

Posted in Life in general | 11 Comments »


January 27th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

It ain’t going to save the newspaper biz,
but it is going to change book publishing—in a good way, in my personal opinion. (Operative word “change” not “save.”) Who cares about paper. Bring on the literary downloads.

Okay, now onward to USC to teach. (Must stop obsessing.)

See you after that other, you know, presentation: the SOU.

PS: The iTampon jokes are really, really dumb. It’s like hearing people endlessly talk about shopping at Tar-jey.

PPS: Here what David Pogue says.

PPPS: Who cares that it doesn’t have Flash. It will, however, eventually need a camera and video—if only for Skype.

Posted in Books, literature, media | 24 Comments »

“While we were being driven away, I was trying to recognize something…”

January 27th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


Nina Montoya is a student in writer/teacher Dennis Danziger’s English class at Venice High School.

She is also part of PEN in the Classroom, a program that sends professional writers into their classrooms for creative writing residencies. In Danziger’s class the kids worked on personal essays, and the professional writer also happened to be Danzinger’s wife, Amy Friedman.

Ten of those students will be performing the essays that resulted in a spoken word setting on Monday, March 8, at the Powerhouse Theater in Santa Monica. (I’ll remind you again when the date is closer.)

But in meantime, I thought you would enjoy reading the biographical essay that the talented Nina has written.

It is a called: Never to be Seen Again.

Keep in mind as you read it that Nina, a senior, is an honor student, a cheerleader, on staff of the yearbook and has been accepted by Cal State, Northridge for Fall 2010.

Ten years ago I was sitting in my third grade classroom at Noise Elementary School picking up my school things, shoveling them into my Lion King backpack. Before I whisked out the classroom door my teacher caught my eye. I can hardly remember what she looked like, all I can remember was thinking she looked pretty and her hair was a dark brunette. She had just received a phone call and ordered me to accompany her to the office.

I cannot recall when I first remember seeing my older sister Kirin. Kirin, age nine, was either already in the police car or we stepped into the cruiser together. We were not allowed to go home and pack our things; it was straight off to foster care again, except this time I was seven, old enough to remember. I had been there once before, but did not remember anything about that place. My only knowledge of having been there before was from what my sister had told me.

My memory is foggy as to what exactly happened. I do not remember my sister’s reaction to any of this. We knew we would not go home anytime soon and that upset us. Home was in Pasadena, California and to me always seemed prefect. With warm weekends and seemingly endless sunny days. Most of those sunny days we spent on the perfectly manicured, bright green lawn, running crazy and wild through the sprinklers in the front yard.

While we were being driven away, I was trying to recognize something, anything, grasping for some kind of hint, but I never did figure out where we were headed. The vehicle slowly pulled up in front of a small one-story house with an attached garage on the left side of our unwanted new home.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in American voices, Education, Nina's World, writers and writing | 11 Comments »

Dear James O’Keefe, About Your J-School Application….

January 26th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


My dear Mr. O’Keefe,

Your message explaining why you will miss your scheduled interview with us has, I believe, demonstrated yet another reason why we feel you cannot help but benefit from obtaining our Master’s Degree in Journalism. While we admire your go-getter spirit (love the pimp outfit you used for the ACORN sting), we feel sure your native talents would shine brighter if burnished by the rigorous kind of critical thinking we encourage.

For instance, regarding this most recent unpleasantness, had you been matriculating through our program, our professors would have uniformly advised you against (allegedly) committing a felony that carries with it a 10-year prison jolt. We understand that you were after what certainly sounded like an intriguing story. But our profs would have brainstormed with you to find another route to getting the information you sought. (See, for example, our 2-credit FOIA Lab.)

Speaking personally, I always firmly advise my students not to do anything that will get them either arrested or shot at. And, if unsure about the aforementioned, I tell them to simply avoid acts that will stand in the way of their future Supreme Court confirmations. And really, as I’m sure you now agree, those are handy little, easy-to-remember rules to fall back on in a pinch….

From CBS:

O’Keefe and three others — including the son of an acting U.S. Attorney,
are accused of trying to manipulate the phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in New Orleans. According to an release from the United States Attorney’s Office, witnesses say O’Keefe was in Landrieu’s office when two co-conspirators came in “dressed in blue denim pants, a blue work shirt, a light green fluorescent vest, a tool belt and a construction-style hard hat” and pretended to be there to repair the phones. (Here’s the affidavit.)

O’Keefe allegedly filmed the men handling the main reception-area phone in the senator’s office with a cell-phone camera. The faux-repairmen, who are believed to have been attempting to tap the phones, then asked for access to the telephone closet to work on the main telephone system; asked for identification after being directed there, they said they had left their credentials in their vehicle.

The four men — O’Keefe, the two fake telephone repairman, and another alleged co-conspirator — are now “charged in a criminal complaint with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony, announced the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.” They could face up to ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Posted in crime and punishment, jail, journalism, media | 44 Comments »

Early Release: And Now a Word From the Fact-Based Universe….

January 26th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Here’s a video of CDCR’s Secretary Matthew Cates’ Monday press conference in which he briefly explained the new programs that began this week, and answered questions about same. (You’ll hear my questions asked via the phone near the end.)

Those criticizing the program would do well to listen just so you’re operating from a fact-based position rather than responding to the rumor mongering and unfounded hysteria that seems to be running rife through the countryside at the moment.

UPDATE: A case in point: Tuesday afternoon I received a copy of the letter that Paul Weber, the president of the LAPPL sent to LA residents in which he wrote: ” …yesterday was also the same day that the state began its program to release over 6,500 prisoners from state prisons…”

NO, PAUL, IT WASN’T. Nothing of the kind happened. And, with all respect, if you don’t know that, you aren’t bothering to check the facts that are available for checking.

AND IF YOU DO KNOW IT, that statement of yours is deliberate and mendacious. Which is not okay. We expect better.

I just got off the phone 2 minutes ago with the CDCR’s Gordon Hinkle to find out if there was any crazed or pretzeled way that Weber’s statement could have any shred of truth behind it. There wasn’t.

So, what’s the deal? Facts no longer matter? If the falsehood gets you what you want, then what the heck, go for it?

Paul Weber’s letter is intended to get residents to pressure their city council members
to vote for money to hire more police officers. Hell, I’m for hiring more police officers. But, here’s the thing: I don’t need to be told an hysteria-promoting lie to in order to get me there. (When someone resorts to such tactics, one tends to distrust everything they say.)

A CHALLENGE TO PAUL WEBER: Either stop trotting out that 6500 early release figure—or prove it.

Posted in CDCR, crime and punishment, criminal justice, prison policy | 29 Comments »

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