Opinion • Remembering Perez v. Sharp • New techno trends for summer • Griffith Park’s Festival of Lights
Making a Difference • Andrew McGregor’s Tiziano Project • Jorge Acevedo is coping just fine, thank you
Out and About • Beyond Belief at the Retro UFO convention • Hungarian Sausage in Littlerock • Motorcycle Racing
Glendale Community College
Glendale Community College Magazine Spring 2009
From the Editor
the Insider’s third issue Dear Readers: Welcome to the Insider’s third issue! The Spring 2009 issue of the Insider, Glendale Community College’s student magazine, is now online. This semester has been uniquely challenging and we have taken several unprecedented steps to weather the financial crisis. The two Language Arts Department classes that would normally provide the magazine staff: Journalism 107, magazine writing, and Journalism 210, advanced news writing, were cut. This might have been the end of the Insider, but it was not. Former staff members and new recruits rallied to provide content for the magazine, despite losing the incentive to earn class credit and a letter grade for their contributions. Along with the classes, we lost an operating budget, which left us no publishing funds. As with the Fall 2008 issue, we accepted that there would be no print edition and instead focused on producing a comprehensive online magazine. The results have been encouraging. The Insider has won several awards through the Journalism Association of Community Colleges [JACC] a prestigious organization that is composed of 111 member community colleges in California, Arizona and Nevada. These awards include general excellence and online general excellence in both state and regional competition, first place in opinion writing for Olga Ramaz’s “X: 31 Years of L.A. Punk Rock,” third and fourth place in the profile feature category for “Carina Crash...is simply ‘amazing,’” and an honorable mention in the profile non-feature category for Fabiola Prieto’s “Voces del Mañana Call for Reform.” In only three semesters, the Insider has become a formidable presence in JACC competition, underscoring the need to keep our fledgling magazine going despite the state budget crisis. This summer will bring a new budget and perhaps new opportunities for the journalism program and for the magazine. We at the Insider hope that the online stories at gccinsider.com present a pleasant diversion for your summer holidays. — Jane Pojawa, editor-in-chief
On Our Cover:
When they met at a pool party 12 years ago, Gary Freeman and Nick Macierz had no idea that their love would be at the center of a hotly contested political battle. They didn’t know that one day they would marry. But on Oct. 18, Nick Macierz, 53, and Gary Freeman, 62, did just that, with an intimate group of friends and family in attendance. Pages 1-5.
1 Same-Sex Marriage:
Proposition 8 recalls the Perez v. Sharp case of 1948, which struck down California’s anti-miscegenation laws. Sixty years later, discrimination against sexual orientation is the new racism.
Omegle and Twitter are the latest manifestations of social networking technology. What’s so special about instant messaging?
9 Water & Power:
The D.W.P.’s Festival of Lights is not as eco-friendly as they purport, and there is no easy solution to this public relations dilemma.
11 Jorge Acevedo:
On the evening of Christmas Day, nine years ago, Jorge Acevedo was shot three times and left to die. He didn’t. Here’s what he’s been doing since.
13 Andrew McGregor:
The president and founder of the Tiziano Project is using the tools of journalism to defeat genocide.
18 Out & About:
Author Tim Cridland uses sideshow tactics to demonstrate why some deeply cherished scientific principles are simply Beyond Belief. Got Sausage? Our photo essay on the Hungarian Meat and Sausage Co. on Pearblossom Highway. See what you’re missing! Glendale Harley Davidson/Buell is back on track and having a “Blast.” Join Ernie and Mario at Willow Springs and see what our local boys are doing.
Glendale Community College Magazine SPRING 2009
editor in chief
Jane Pojawa STAFF WRITERS
Jessica Bourse Min Kang Ani Khashadoorian Anita Marto Crystal Weaver
recalls landmark case
— by Jane Pojawa
Michael Moreau email@example.com (818) 551-5214 advertising
Jeff Smith firstname.lastname@example.org (818) 240-1000, ext. 1427
Print copies are available for sale at http://gccinsider.magcloud.com To submit an idea or an article: The insider accepts story ideas in news, features, profiles, sports and entertainment from the public. Send ideas or articles, to the editor at email@example.com or (818) 551-5349. Letters to the Editor: Letters may be reproduced in full or in part and represent only the point of view of the writer, not the opinion of The Insider or Glendale Community College and its district. Letters must be signed and typed and include the full name and address of the writer. The Insider is a First Amendment publication. Send letters to: 1500 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, CA 91208 (818) 240-1000 ext. 5349 Send E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Media Credit: Dara Orenstein and Morningside Elementary School Andrea Perez’s decision to marry her sweetheart, Sylvester Davis, ignited a fire storm of controversy in 1948. She was Latina, he was African-American. PerezDavis, shown above in a 1982 staff photo, was not an activist, but when the Los Angeles County Clerk, W.G. Sharp, denied the marriage license, she sued. As a result of the state Supreme Court Decision in Perez v. Sharp, California became the first state in the twentieth century to decide that laws forbidding interracial marriage violate the Federal Constitution.
Member of the Journalism Association of Community Colleges www.gccinsider.com
Spring 2009 | the insider
Perez v. Sharp
when may the majority deprive others of their civil rights? When they met at a pool party 12 years ago, Gary Freeman and Nick Macierz had no idea that their love would be at the center of a hotly contested political battle. They didn’t know that one day they would marry. But on Oct. 18, Nick Macierz, 53, and Gary Freeman, 62, did just that, with an intimate group of friends and family in attendance. Gary and Nick are well-known around the Glendale College campus. Art students will recognize Nick from life-drawing classes and Gary is a familiar face in the photography and computer art realm. The road to recognition of same-sex partnerships has been rocky. When Congress passed The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, they effectively denied 1,049 federal rights
and obligations related to marriage to samesex partners. Closer to home and 12 years later, a ruling of the state Supreme Court extended the right of marriage to domestic partners, and then a closely-fought vote over Proposition 8 took that right away. Between May 15 and Nov. 4, an estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages took place in California. The Williams Institute at UCLA estimates that same-sex marriage could boost our state’s revenues by more than $63.8 million. “An individual’s sexual orientation - like a person’s race or gender - does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights,” declared Ron George, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, in writing the majority opinion that opened the door to same-sex marriage.
Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. agrees. Just this month he said: “Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification,” adding “it deprives people of the right to marry-an aspect of liberty that the Supreme Court has concluded is guaranteed by the California Constitution.” In layman’s terms, this means that denying consenting adults the right to marry violates their constitutional rights. Nick and Gary’s romance bears no resemblance to another that blossomed about 60 years ago and yet in many ways they are fighting the same battle. Andrea Perez and Sylvester Davis met at work, a defense plant,
Photo by Jane Pojawa
the insider | Spring 2009
in World War II. Andrea’s parents weren’t sure at first about their daughter’s new boyfriend, but the young couple was resolute in their love and soon they decided to get married. They were both Catholic. When they filed for their marriage license, W.G. Sharp, the County Clerk of Los Angeles, denied it on the basis of California Civil Code Section 60, which provided that “All marriages of white persons with Negroes, Mongolians, members of the Malay race, or mulattoes are illegal and void,” and also on Section 69, which stated that “. . . no license may be issued authorizing the marriage of a white person with a Negro, mulatto, Mongolian or member of the Malay race.” Andrea Perez was Hispanic, which was considered white for legal purposes, and Sylvester Davis was black. Andrea Perez and Sylvester Davis wanted to get married. Their families were happy for them. Their priest agreed to perform the wedding ceremony; an important factor in the Perez case, as marriage is considered a sacrament of the Catholic Church. Denying Perez and Davis this sacrament interfered with their right to practice their religion. And yet the state deemed the marriage unlawful. Anti-miscegenation laws forbade interracial marriage and sometimes interracial sex between whites and members of other races. The colonies of Virginia and Maryland started the trend in North America with laws banning interracial marriages starting in the 1690s. South Africa, a country that now allows same-sex marriage, did not allow marriages between black and white citizens until 1985. Of course, the “new” South Africa has made huge strides in civil liberties since ending apartheid.
“Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification” — Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. As with the ban on same-sex marriages, the justifications for laws banning interracial marriages were based entirely on a narrow interpretation of the Bible. It took a decision of the state Supreme Court to overturn the anti-miscegenation statutes that had been in place since 1850. The majority opinion, written by Associate Justice Roger J. Traynor, held that: a) marriage is a fundamental right b) laws restricting that right must not be based on prejudice c) anti-miscegenation laws violated the constitutional requirements of due process and equal protection of the laws and that all of these components together meant that d) the California statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by impairing the right to marry on the basis of race alone. Perez and Davis started a chain of events that had far-reaching consequences for millions of other couples. California became the first state in the twentieth century to decide that laws forbidding interracial marriage violate the Federal Constitution. In
Loving v. Virginia, 19 years later, the Federal Supreme Court upheld the decision of Perez v. Sharp: the government does not have the right to keep people from getting married. The Davises went on to have a long and happy marriage. Andrea died in 2000, ending their 52 years together. Sylvester still lives in Sylmar. The Los Angeles of 2008 is very different than the Los Angeles of 1948. “Negroes” and “mulattoes” are more often referred to as “African-American,” “Mongolians,” are “Asians,” when their country of origin is unknown, and the vague “members of the Malay race,” are generally known as “Pacific Islanders.” All citizens, naturalized or nativeborn are considered Americans. Marriage and divorce are considered private matters. Any male/female couple over the age of 18 can get married in California regardless of age difference, income or educational level, sexual orientation, weight, race, intelligence, number of children, religion (or lack of it), primary language, criminal record, health or prior history of failed marriages. Literally
Gary Freeman and Nick Macierz, opposite, were married on Oct. 18, 2008, joining approximately 18,000 other same-sex couples that wed before the passage of Proposition 8. The culinary arts department was hired to cater and serve at the Freeman/Macierz wedding. Culinary arts majors Maria Falco, left, Wendy Dominguez and Maritsa Chow serve appetizers, right. Chow hopes to expand catering opportunities for Glendale students and may be reached at: email@example.com for any events requiring food service. Photo by Jeryd Pojawa
Spring 2009 | the insider
California is the
we led the country in striking down laws that allow for racial discrimination in marriage
Photo by Jane Pojawa
Perez v. Sharp state anybody can get married. Does it make sense to say that marriage may only be between a man and a woman in this context? No. The only justification is discrimination. When California allows same-sex marriage, we’ll be in good company. Even Spain, the country that brought the world the Inquisition, and South Africa, whose “cultural contribution” of the 20th Century was apartheid, allow same-sex marriage. California is the “Perez v. Sharp state;” we led the country by striking down laws that allow for racial discrimination in marriage and we’ll lead the country in removing obstacles to same-sex marriage. Some states on the east coast have already made the transition, but California has a much larger and more diverse population. Just see what the next 60 years will bring. Like Andrea and Sylvester, Gary and Nick believe that in the end only love matters, laws change. States that allow civil unions: Massachusetts Connecticut New Jersey Vermont New Hampshire Iowa
Update on Proposition 8: Proposition 8, which went into effect on Nov. 5, 2008 changed the California Constitution to add a new section (7.5) to Article I, which reads: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” This change restricts the definition of marriage to opposite-sex (straight) couples, and eliminated same-sex (gay) couples’ right to marry, thereby overriding portions of the ruling of In re Marriage Cases, which created the precedent that allowed Freeman and Macierz’s marriage. Proposition 8 does not effect affect the existing domestic partnerships registry. Strauss v. Horton was a consolidation of three lawsuits which hoped to Proposition 8. The ruling, rendered on May 26, established that Proposition 8 was legally binding as voted, but that marriages performed before it went into effect would remain valid. Perez v. Sharp set the precedent for Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court decision that ended anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. Strauss v. Horton failed to create a similar precedent for same-sex marriage. For the time being, Gary Freeman and Nick Macierz’s marriage is considered legally valid.
California and Hawaii give same-sex couples some spousal rights under their domesticpartner laws. Countries that allow domestic partnerships: Denmark Norway Sweden Iceland Australia Countries that allow same-sex marriage: The Netherlands Belgium Spain Canada South Africa Israel Uruguay Mexico City (regional)
Photo by Jane Pojawa
Jane Pojawa is the editor-in-chief of The Insider. She is the Archivist/ Historian for Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs and is writing a book about the strange and wonderful life of Cabot Yerxa.
Social Networking and the Single Girl —by Jessica Bourse and Ani Khashadoorian we are living in an era of unprecedented technological advancement: new modes of
communicating are being invented and discarded so quickly that it is often difficult to keep up with the latest fashion in social networking. Two members of the Insider staff are adamant about their “favorites” and here give advice to the novice about this summer’s top trends: Twitter and Omegle.
The Twitterverse: the
of social networking
“What’s Twitter?” If I had a dollar
for every time I’ve heard this question, I’d be rich. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. I’d probably have an iPod — a really, really nice iPod. It seems in the past five years, the world has gone a-twitter. The Internet, as well as the never-ending rise in technology, has made connecting with people easier than ever. Social networking services, such as Facebook and Twitter, have taken people from different parts of the world and bound them together with a common interest, creating global communities with the click of a mouse. Social networking is not a modern phenomenon; it is a major part of who we are as a social species. Ever since man first walked on the Earth, he has tried to communicate with his fellow human, creating languages, alphabets and art to convey his message. But how do you communicate with someone who lives far away? One of the first courier services was created by the Egyptians around 2,000 B.C.,
the insider | Spring 2009
where messengers would travel by horse or foot throughout the empire, spreading the pharaohs’ decrees — social networking was on the move. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks used an old-fashioned version of today’s Twitter: homing pigeons. These pigeons were the direct ancestors of the urban feral birds that poop on your windshield. The birds were domesticated and then trained to travel long distances, carrying small messages written on a thin strip of paper, which was rolled up and tied to the bird’s foot. Up until the 1950s, the U.S. Army used homing pigeons to carry messages from the trenches. “But, what is Twitter?” Twitter is a free social networking service that works like a micro-blog. A blog, or a Web log, is an online journal, where users (or bloggers) can create entries about their lives, thoughts or interests. It is up to the blogger’s discretion when to update their blog. Twitter
— by Jessica Bourse
is considered a micro-blog because each update, also known as a “tweet,” can only be up to 140-characters long. Twitter was designed to answer one question: What are you doing? Subscribers to your account, or followers, can receive tweets in real-time on their Twitter homepage, as a text message sent directly to their phone, or through various Twitter-friendly programs, called applications, for computers and “smart phones” such as a Blackberry or iPhone. Compared to other social networking services, such as Facebook and Myspace, Twitter keeps it simple. Tweets are short and to the point. There are no other complex functions, like uploading photos or videos. Twitter lets users update on their phones, the Web or through other applications, making Twitter one of the most accessible services of its time. In fact, because of its easy access and quick response time, broadcasters have been using Twitter to gather fast reactions from viewers, giving the reporters a better connection with
the public. CNN’s Rick Sanchez is an avid Twitter user, sometimes posting up to ten daily updates. Through Twitter, he chats with his followers directly, asks them questions about their thoughts on current events, and even gives the public a glimpse into his personal life. Sanchez has been known to tweet during commercial breaks and then share the viewers’ responses live on-air. It’s not just Sanchez — other journalists use it too. In fact, Twitter has become so wide-spread in journalism, young reporters are being taught how to use this social networking service as a tool. During the 2009 Journalism Association of Community Colleges State Convention, a special workshop was presented to teach students about Twitter. From there, students twittered the entire convention.
It is becoming a journalistic tool and an innovative way to report the news — CNN. com sends out real-time headlines and links to their site, giving followers instant news updates on their phones and Web browsers. Twitter also became an important political tool in 2008. During the presidential election, candidates such as Ron Paul, Hillary Clinton and current-president Barack Obama, utilized social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with the younger voters — and no one did this better than Obama. Utilizing social
networks may have helped Obama secure his candidacy, and ultimately, the presidency, because he connected directly with the public. We have seen the rise and falls of many community-based sites such as Friendster, which is no longer popular in the Western Hemisphere, and Yahoo! 360 (rest in peace), as well as the decline in popularity of Myspace. However, the Twitterverse is expanding and it looks like it’s here to stay, for now. That’s Twitter.
Jessica Bourse was the 2008-2009 editor-in-chief of El Vaquero, Glendale Community College’s student newspaper. She is transferring to UC Santa Barbara as a communications major.
Illustration by Jessica Bourse
Spring 2009 | the insider
Talking to Strangers
Omegle takes anonymous chats to the next level Hi, my name is Ani and I enjoy long
walks on the beach... Unless I’m prowling late at night on Omegle; then I enjoy introduce myself by slamming a caps lock message consisting of three words - “DON’T A/S/L ME.” For those readers who were born before 1970, A/S/L stands for “Age/Sex/Location.” A popular term coined in the mid-’90s when Internet chat rooms starting becoming prevalent, A/S/L and its implications stand clear and are used more often than they should be. That said, not every Omegler is trying to “hook up,” and it is in those conversations that the fun starts. Internet chat rooms have a sense of anonymity that cannot be matched. Omegle is the latest internet craze, a virtual reality where two strangers can engage in an anonymous chat. Unlike the AOL chatrooms of a decade ago, Omegle randomly connects two people upon on a white screen with black text. In this latest incarnation of the almighty chat room, the Omegle chats instantly label the two people - yourself , known as “You,” and the person at the other end, named “Stranger,” an apt designation, for that is who they are. At any point in time, you may disconnect or even have a ‘Connection Imploded’ message come up on the screen. The former is an action of your choosing; the later, a technical error. Is Omegle the degeneration of interpersonal communication, or the perfect way to align connected people who would otherwise never meet? It is my belief that Omegle is the next logical step forward in digital communication, and it is ultimately for the greater good. After throwing out my demand of no questions pertaining to my age, sex, or location, I often find myself either immediately disconnected or engaged in an actual conversation with a Stranger. In the past few days, for I am new to Omegle-ing, I’ve spoken with a teen from Israel, an elderly music professor from the UK, a college student from Chile, and a video game programmer from Japan. Right now, I’m speaking with a University of Pennsylvania student who is, quite frankly, boring the living beejezus out of me, as he is asking me for advice about women. When I try to reply, he becomes
the insider | Spring 2009
defensive and spouts off. I suppose that not every chat is going to be entertaining and informative, but that’s the beauty of Omegle - it is so incredibly random. You never really know what you’re getting. The teen from Israel spoke to me about the required military service; to hear someone talk about how they are forced into something they don’t believe in - it breaks your heart. There is virtually nothing they can do, due to their age and the negative social ramifications of refusal. The professor from the UK told me about living in the countryside; did you know cows get right of way on some roads? The college student from Chile and I discussed the intricacies of thrash metal and Dave Mustaine’s role in pioneering the genre. I was also told about the beautiful port city of Valparaiso, a city I likely wouldn’t have heard about if not for this chat. The video game programmer and I spoke about love and the intricacies of it, of how effortless and simple true love should and will be. Also, I may have asked a question or two about rolling my own sushi; I don’t quite remember.
Omegle has definitely allowed me to speak with people who I would otherwise never have the chance to meet; all of the aforementioned people I now keep on my email contacts list as we exchanged information. Though it is irritating to get the occasional A/S/L, the majority of Omegle users seem to be sane enough. My kind of people. And as for walks on the beaches? I must confess, I lied. Beach walks are kind of irritating after a bit, since navigating the sandy turf requires a lot of physical effort and the gritty sand often ends up invading my shoes for far longer than my comfort level allows (much like the cousin from Berkeley who happens to be couch crashing ‘just for the weekend’). Still, there’s a kind of truth in the cliche. Like Omegle itself, it isn’t about the sand so much as it is about looking towards the ocean’s horizon, beyond the defined world of personal experience and onto people and places unseen and unknown. Omegle is the technology that proves that a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet.
Ani Khashadoorian is a communications major and aspiring film producer. When she isn’t talking to strangers, also known as “doing research,” she’s writing. She recently completed her first featurelength script. www.gccinsider.com
DWP’s Light Festival how can an ‘eco-friendly’ event exclude bicycles?
The festivities have begun and
it is time again to visit the bright child of Los Angeles, officially known as the Annual Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Griffith Park Light Festival. Beckoning with its twinkling lights, the festival attracts Angelenos searching for a unique winter holiday experience with a traditional twist. The festival, sponsored by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), draws traffic-jamming crowds. There were an estimated 650,000 visitors last year. A bold mission to “go green” attached to its glittering surface, the festival could be the poster child for the city’s eco-friendly lifestyle. At least that is the objective. The problem is that not everyone can agree that earth-consciousness is what the festival represents. The Department of Water and Power (DWP) gushes about how the festival has “gone green.” To them, this means converting festival lights to light emitting diode lights or LEDs, using a clean fuel cell for power and expanding the “vehicle-free” nights to two weeks of pedestrians walking through the 1-mile route. During the walking-only nights, it can be a pleasant trip. Fortified against the cold with a delicious warm churro to munch on you join other pedestrians out for a leisurely stroll. There is a predominant theme of mischievous elves. Kids gaze intently and point to the lit brontosaurus, while others stand awkwardly in the cold against a dazzling tunnel of light as cameras flash. Music blasting from hidden speakers hit all notes of holiday emotions - from nostalgic carols to sexy saxophones evoking a night of revelry. One grandmother dressed as Mrs. Santa hustles the two-step with her grandson as they dance along to the tunes. Couples cuddle in crooked arms and kiss. A troupe of dog owners and a variety of pedigreed dogs reminiscent of “Best in Show” walk briskly past. Linda Bennett with her red-nosed husband (illuminated Rudolph bulb attached to his nose), a newcomer to the festival, already has made memories. “It is a great
family meeting place. My whole family is here, my grandsons. It was my daughter’s idea to bring us all together here.” Kim Hughes of the water company’s Public Affairs office, says that this is “a gift from the city to the city (residents).” Certainly the DWP is proud of its baby. It is the most visible public relations outlet they have. But this is the artifice of holiday cheer is created by LED lights. And like Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage, the magic is only temporary. After Dec. 7, the festival returns to its car-dominated tradition of gridlock and its generous contribution to global warming. “Never let the cars in, says Richard, a light festival visitor and new father. The fact that we could walk through is great, rather than smelling the exhaust (from cars).” In previous years, pedestrians have had to walk along the path with motor vehicles. When Hughes claims that DWP has enjoyed a longestablished, strong environmentallyconscious reputation, it reflects the staunch efforts of the department to maintain the image - that the festival represents the same altruism to the environment as in their projects. “The LADWP has always been a leader in environmental stewardship, as it was one of the first utilities in the country to develop a green power program, a solar program, etc.” In reality, the DWP has reservations about letting the festival be completely car-free. Many of the concerns involve unsupervised children. In a recent Los Angeles Times article “City-Sanctioned Traffic Jam Adding to Global Warming,” Steve Hyman suggests that Joe Ramallo of the DWP fears that a pedestrian-friendly festival would encourage solicitors of “unsupervised kids who linger and hang out.” Some other concerns veer to
— by Min Kang
the ludicrous, like how pedestrians “could trip over things” or “children may stray too close to the lights.” A serious obstacle to creating a pedestrian-only festival is, ironically, the lack of parking spaces. Pedestrians drive to the festival and need a place to park their cars. “We try to monitor parking because there’s only a certain amount of space,” says Hughes. To be precise, there are only 2,200 spaces in the zoo parking lot, by the Merry-Go-Round and its adjacent lots. The festival has to accommodate 2,000 to5,000 cars a night. “We’re trying to bring in the Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA] public transportation, says Hughes, “but right now there’s only one bus (during vehicle-free nights) that takes visitors up here until 6:30 p.m.” She admits, “The budget is tight,” but returns to reassuring plans as she ends her sentence, “and next year we hope to lobby for longer times and more shuttles.” Unfortunately, the commitment of accessibility for the masses excludes bicyclists from the 3.8 million Angelenos served. Other than one preview night for bikes, Nov. 28, bicyclists are banned from the light festival. Access has been granted to motorcyclists who speedily wind through spaces between cars. Recently, equestrians and canines have been welcomed, yet bicyclists are excluded. One discontented group of avid bicyclists wants in. This group, known as the Bike Writers Collective, views the water company’s ban on cyclists as poorly justified. Founder and spokesperson Stephen Box, of steely eyes and a quick tongue, lashes against the DWP’s ineptness to reduce congestion. He says, “The light festival is accommodating so many more vehicles that the Interstate 5 shuts down all the way to the 134 Freeway, as a result of the significant traffic congestion.
Spring 2009 | the insider
Stephen Box, previous page, of the Bike Writer’s Collective, is an advocate for bicycle access. The holiday light festival attracts an estimated 650 thousand visitors annually — mostly drivers and some pedestrians.
“One would think then, that in an effort to reduce the congestion, (the DWP) would encourage other modes of transportation like (he makes an emphatic pause) - what do you call this? - a bicycle.” Box has no mercy when revealing the fallacy of the water company’s reasoning. “But instead what (the DWP does is) take the lane that typically cyclists would use on Crystal Springs Drive and dedicate it to another lane of motor vehicle transportation.” When asked why bicyclists are banned, Hughes unknowingly reveals how water and power encourages congestion without placating bicyclists. “We are concerned with safety, as a two-lane road is converted to three with an emergency lane and two vehicle lanes converted into a one-way route. Vehicles go through the festival without their headlights on and since we also have barricades, there is a very little safe area for bicycles and we would not want anyone to be injured.” The Bike Writers Collective is skeptical. “This is the same battle cyclists fought when the Griffith Observatory reopened,” said Box in a LAist article, “and Recreation and Parks intended to exclude bicycle access.” The Bike Writers see the ban as a violation of California state law which the DWP has no authority to enforce. Box recites the state laws: “California Vehicle Code (CVC) 21 is the uniformity code which restricts the municipality’s authority to regulate the movement of cyclists with three exceptions: freeways, sidewalks and bike licenses. CVC 21200 says where motorists go, we go.” Three years since its formation, this legislationsavvy group has rallied and petitioned the city council to allow them to exercise rights supported by state law. Some have taken their passion for bicycles and cyclists’ rights to articles and blogs to vent the frustrations of
the insider | Spring 2009
their campaign or relate the latest progress made on behalf of bicyclists. The bicycle activist’s most demonstrative act is the annual protest ride through Crystal Springs Drive, which they did on Dec. 8, which, ironically, was the opening night for cars to enter the festival. They met at the Mulholland Fountain, dedicated to the legacy of William Mulholland, a paradoxical figure who brought water and expansion to the city while ravaging the Owens Valley and provoking outrage from environmentalists. It is clear that they are no pushovers. This community of bicyclists exudes youthful energy. Some of the cycling comrades are wrapped in stringed LED lights, another plays irreverent holiday tunes that include a parody from South Park, and one is a stern Santa wearing glasses. It is a sight to see. Though excluding bicyclists may not be the most prominent issue, Box sees that the ban is a consequence of the DWP’s refusal to recognize the core problem - severe traffic congestion around Griffith Park. Surveying the intersection between the southwest corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Crystal Springs/Riverside Drive, Box notes, “This is one of the most congested intersections in our city; this is a treacherous intersection in general. A police officer was killed right over there. As he pulled someone over, he was hit.” In a 2005 study of fatalities and injuries from motor vehicle accidents in Los Angeles County cities, Los Angeles had the most fatalities; 277, and injuries; 42,832, of all other cities in the county. Box asserts, “For
us to encourage motor vehicle transportation as a form of recreation and entertainment is absolutely antiquated. It is the complete antithesis of all that (the city) should be doing as a committee, to improve the quality of life in this community.” Despite complaints from residents and bicyclists alike, the light festival pushes safety and environmental concerns aside. It continues to support motor vehicle transportation because it brings in the most visitors. In the LA Times article by Hymon, Councilman Tom LaBonge said “thinks cars are part of the deal to allow as many people as possible - including those who cannot walk the route - to see the lights.” After all, isn’t popularity what maintains legitimacy in the DWP’s claim to “dedicated” service? This is the car-centric city. The 2000 census on the means of transportation utilized by Angelinos reveals that nearly 1.2 million people travel by car, truck, or van in Los Angeles. Box makes a poignant statement of the water company’s and the city’s attitude: “There’s a saying that success has many parents, but failure’s an orphan.” Water and Power and the city are proud to brag about their light festival that dazzles. As for the other offspring - the traffic jams, heavy smog and ban on bicyclists, both parents refuse to claim responsibility. For now, the Light Festival carries a heavy burden to uphold the family name - the same “quality” service to the Los Angeles community.
Min Kang is an English major with an avid interest in media. She enjoys music, films, fashion, and literature and her journalism work includes both environmental issues and bunny collections. www.gccinsider.com
Giving up Nothing
Jorge Acevedo did not die.
His tragic story has become well-known to Glendale residents. Nine years ago, on the evening of Christmas Day, 1999 unknown gunmen attempted to carjack Acevedo’s new Lincoln Town Car as he drove to his home in the Mt. Washington area of Los Angeles. He was shot three times: twice in his left leg and, critically, in the head at the base of his spine. He drove a few blocks more, lost consciousness and crashed into a parked car. He was in a coma for more than a month, but Jorge Acevedo did not die. For him, giving up was not an option. The crime remains unsolved. Acevedo spent two years working his way back through intense physical therapy and
is not an option —
Jorge Acevedo down
cognitive rehabilitation and he can now stand, walk with a walker and speak with some impairment. Even in his darkest hours he didn’t anticipate such outcomes. But he looks at it stoically “I believe we are put here for a reason,” says Acevedo. “I’m still the same person that I was before I was shot, just much stronger.” Acevedo, now 43, is just getting started. He uses a wheelchair to get around faster; he’s a busy man and he doesn’t let anything slow him down – not disabilities and certainly not self-pity. “Why complain?” he asks rhetorically. “There are others who have it worse. You still have to go on regardless of the situation.” Acevedo’s talent is to recognize a lack or a need and come up with a solution. He is a
— by Jane Pojawa
Jorge Acevedo was shot three times and left to die after a Christmas carjacking. A strong work ethic and a sense of purpose have taken him from strength to strength.
Photo by Jessica Bourse
Spring 2009 | the insider
founding member of the GCC chapter of Delta Sigma Omicron [DSO], an organization to help disabled students achieve academically and graduate from college. Non-Disabled students are also welcome and some members are training for careers in assisting the disabled —American Sign Language Interpreters and physical therapists among them. Asked about the changes he has seen since 2001, Acevedo says that the main difference is that differentlyabled students have become much more visible to the campus community. Even small gestures mean a lot. “Every time I would go to the lower level cafeteria to buy a sandwich,” said Acevedo remembering how difficult it was to return to school after the shooting, “and without me even saying a word [this girl] would appear just like an angel being sent to me. She would open the door, which drew attention to me. It seemed like everywhere I went she would be there to open the door.” The campus has come a long way in terms of being wheelchair accessible, but most doors do not have automatic openers. “One day I told her, you’re like a guardian angel! She just smiled at me, but I haven’t forgotten her kindness. Thanks, guardian angel.” More than anything, Acevedo wants people to “see the person, not the disability.” Assumptions are common; an individual may speak slowly, but that does not mean he is thinking slowly. Acevedo may not look like a jock, but he is a complete sports fanatic. A former football player at Belmont High School, Acevedo also played Little League baseball as a kid. “I played baseball at Shatto Park,” he says “and soccer every weekend at Lafayette Park, back in the day.” Being partially paralyzed has not diminished Acevedo’s competitive spirit and he is the team manager for the Lady Vaqueros soccer team on campus. He credits men’s soccer coach Joe Agoston for giving him the inspiration to start a wheelchair basketball team, the Rough Riders. “If it wasn’t for Joe we wouldn’t have a team,” Acevedo says. “Joe [asked] if I was interested in playing wheelchair [soccer]. I said ‘yes’ and he gave me the info. Then it blew up. The competition is as described ‘murder ball.’ Power soccer has many rules, weird rules, but I will get used to them.” The Rough Riders is considered a Glendale team, but Acevedo drafted heavily from his club. They played their first and second games last month against a more established SoCal team, the Rolling Gauchos of Santa Barbara. They lost both games by a narrow margin. “We’re playing better,” Acevedo says, “they’ve [had the advantage] of playing together for five years.” He looks forward to playing against them again in January with better equipment. “Without guards, we lack in the soccer court. If we are able to buy those guards we’ll be ready to demonstrate our ability next year. People can contact my team, the Roughriders, and
the insider | Spring 2009
make any type of donations to our organization through the GCC business office.” In the meantime, Acevedo will be hitting the gym. “I’m working on my leg strength and my upper body, he says. “I’m training for a police department competition, the Baker to Vegas Challenge Race. Last year we were in second place, and this year we plan on winning!” Acevedo might not look like a cop to the casual observer, but police work is at the core of his being. “I always wanted to be police
Photo by Scott Lowe
officer,” he says. “My father was a police officer in Medellin, Colombia, our native country for 15 year.” It was, and is, a family business. “My uncle, my father’s brother, worked as an undercover detective undercover for many years, then moved on to the USA. After I was born, we moved to America too.” Acevedo obtained his associates’ degree in Criminal Justice from Glendale in 2004, continues to take classes, and has become a super-volunteer for the Glendale police department. The Glendale Police Department honored Acevedo as its Volunteer of the Year in 2003 and in April 2008, he was recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice for his dedication on behalf of America’s victims of crime. “My unit handles financial crimes and burglary. [Sometimes] these crimes lead to bigger investigations. We [work] at the main station, but on weekends I am scheduled at the sub station at the Glendale Galleria and The America, handling calls and dispatching them from the front desk.” He also assists in the translation of Spanish to English. In 2006, the Glendale Police department raised $3,875.00 to buy Acevedo a new wheelchair. “We paid the deductible to the insurance company ($1,438.60) and the remaining balance ($2,436.40) was given to the Acevedo family,” said Sergeant Tim Feeley, who planned the entire event as a surprise for the Acevedo family. All the money was raised in one month through anonymous, individual donations. “Glendale [police department] has been like a family to me,” says Acevedo.
Acevedo plans to transfer to Cal State Los Angeles earn a degree in Criminology. He wants to use his ability to investigate and solve crimes to help the differently-abled. “Jorge was a member of the Glendale Police Department Citizen’s Academy class I recently participated in,” says Scott J. Lowe, a new friend. “He was buddies with everyone in the class by the end of the second night. He could probably charm Al Qaeda if given the opportunity.” Acevedo had a lot more experience than the rest of the class, but enjoyed the program which included everything “from being a hostage to shooting a assault weapon.” His adamant refusal to let disabilities or public perceptions about the disabled has led to his newest role. In Sept. 2008, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed Acevedo to be a commissioner for the Disabled Access Process Appeals Commission, a term that will last until June 2013. He found out about the commission from his brother Frank Acevedo, former student body vice president at GCC and business graduate from USC. “He encouraged me to put my talents into making a more friendly Los Angeles,” says Acevedo. Acevedo knows all about housing that is not conducive to disabled access – his own house is a prime example. “I know the real challenges that one must go through,” he says. “I am hoping that one day I will receive a surprise home accessibility remodel in and around the house by Extreme Home Make Over.” In the meantime, the commission tries to make things better for the disabled in Los Angeles’ public buildings. “What I do is authorize further construction along with improvements [to existing buildings] to make them more friendly and accessible to the differently-abled community in Los Angeles,” he explains. “I also handle any task that deals with disabilities such as housing, all Americans with Disabilities Act violations and transportation [issues].” Jorge Acevedo does not give up his dreams; and all along he’s raising the profile of the differently-abled members in our community. He wanted to become a policeman, and he became one of the best volunteers the Glendale Police Department ever had. He wanted to play soccer, and he started his own team. Now he’s going taking on the right to access public buildings. “I want to show everyone that we are full members of society – we vote, and we have a voice in [local government]. As long as I have a voice, I will speak for this community.”
Jorge Acevedo practises with an assault weapon during the Glendale Police Department Citizen’s Academy class.
has a plan’ — By Jane Pojawa
“It felt immoral to have YouTube and undocumented mass-murder at the same time.”
— Andrew McGregor
It would be a mistake to
underestimate Andrew McGregor. He doesn’t look like an activist, or a journalist. Not really. The first impression is the surprise of meeting someone who, at 6 feet 9 inches, is just impossibly tall. McGregor is full of surprises. His sea-green gaze is calculated to stop evil in its tracks. It is the kind of look that might engender the response of breaking eye contact, mumbling an apology and walking away quickly from a susceptible person. His disarming laugh starts as a heh-heh-heh homage to Beevis and Butthead. The sort of
laugh that precedes a statement like “fire is cool.” But he doesn’t say that. “Our society cannot be allowed to ignore genocide,” he says, dispelling the assumption that he’s just a goofy nerd with a vast arsenal of obscure pop culture references — ‘80s songs, Haile Selassie and the emerging science of synchrony might come up in conversation — to unleash on the unwary. And Andrew McGregor has a plan. He is using the tools of journalism to end war. McGregor, 29, is the founder and president of the Tiziano Project, a nonprofit with the stated goal of “creating
self-sustaining, multimedia, online citizen journalism in areas of the world neglected by the established press.” To do this, he is building teams of media mentors to train citizen journalists on the ground in Rwanda, Congo and Iraq. It is a plan that is at once simple and complex, and the surprising aspect is that he approaches the issues confronting refugees more like a coach than an academician or an aid agency. “I played football in high school… I quit football because what we did on the field was pretty messed up [in terms of unwarranted
Andrew McGregor is the president and founder of The Tiziano Project, an organization that provides training, equipment and media affiliations to citizen journalists in conflict, post-conflict, and underreported regions of the world.
Photo courtesy of Andrew McGregor
the insider | Spring 2009
violence]… I quit basketball because the coaching is exploitive and controlling.” To elucidate, McGregor had what would be considered an ideal NFL lineman frame. As a senior, we weighed a solid 295, attended the biggest football school in Colorado (Cherry Creek High School) and was dealing with the expectations of coaches, teachers, classmate and team that he was going to “do something” with his football career. What he did was quit over what he describes as “soul-annihilating violence.” “In this case [high school football] I was really, really good at something and projected to go very far with it and stopped doing it on principle,” he says. “I suffered a kind of adolescent [repercussion] for quitting.” Basketball took the place of football in college. “I think that basketball coaches are largely deranged,” he says “but I was also injured in college when I was 20 and had a choice of rehabilitating my knee for something that didn’t really matter anymore or leading a more interesting life.” So much for sports, but in terms of building teams and motivating players, McGregor has lost none of the competitive edge. He is going to win. “I met Andrew in an early-morning, coffee-injected photo editing class taught by Rick Meyer, former photo editor at the L.A. Times,” says Thomas Rippe, Tiziano Project Director of Operations for East Africa. “It was my last semester  and I was looking at a couple of years at a job at small-market media house somewhere after graduation when Andrew waved a ticket to Rwanda in my face. I took the ticket.” And with that, The Tiziano Project recruited the equivalent of what in basketball would be a star forward. “There is an enormous discrepancy between what life is like in these places and what you see in the mainstream media,” says McGregor. He proposes to bridge the divide by preparing talented locals to contribute to mainstream media outlets and to keep the cycle going by mentoring new students. The inspiration for The Tiziano Project came from a series of experiences McGregor had in his extensive travels, notably inciting incidents in Auschwitz and Belgrade. At the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Poland, Nazi Germany’s largest concentration and extermination camp facility, McGregor observed that only two photographs that now exist were taken by the prisoners themselves, and realized how the most damning evidence of the Holocaust – photographs taken by the liberating armies – might not have survived to bear witness to the events that occurred there. “It felt immoral to have YouTube and undocumented mass-murder at the same time,” he says, observing that many places where “ethnic cleansing” and other atrocities occur paradoxically have Internet
Two Photos by Nick Ut: “After Paris Hilton got thrown in jail a couple years ago,”
McGregor begins, “her publicists thought it would be good press to show her caring side… send her to Rwanda to tour a refugee camp or hold a baby.” The green gaze intensifies. “A lot of journalists were leaving the country so that they wouldn’t have to deal with their agency calling them up to hold a photo op for Paris. Then I got called. I told this photo editor for the wire services ‘If I see that bourgeois junky here I’m going to break her arm.’ Without missing a beat, the guy said ‘ok, do you know anyone else who might be interested?” McGregor’s anecdote is reminiscent of another journalist caught up in the same fiasco. Nick Ut is an Associated Press photographer. As a young man working as an AP stringer in Vietnam, he snapped a photo, perhaps the defining photo of the war, and one that went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. It was of Phan Thị Kim Phuc, a naked 9year-old girl running toward the camera to flee a South Vietnamese napalm attack on Trang Bang village. Her skin was burning off. As she ran towards him, Ut abandoned his camera work to get her medical treatment. She lived. Flash forward exactly 35 years. Ut snapped another notable photo, one that also captured a defining moment. It was of Paris Hilton weeping in the back of a police car. The incident that sparked the need for a public relations blitz. Ut took a certain amount of flack for “selling out” or becoming a “paparazzo.” He was, in fact, on assignment for AP, following orders. Hilton never did go to Rwanda. She was quoted by the Daily Mail, a report that she later denied, that she wanted to help raise awareness of and implement social controls on the alcohol-related problems of Indian elephants. The irony of bringing celebrity chic to a war zone or refashioning a tragedy as a public relations vehicle is not lost on McGregor. He describes the “professional bankruptcy of news agencies enthusiastically combining their celebrity reporting with foreign coverage,” and states that “the media elite behind this trend ought to feel a sense of shame and realize that misinforming the public is not superior to telling them nothing at all.”
connections. “The reason Belgrade was significant in informing Tiziano,” he says, “is that the locals took me around on a ‘look what your country did to ours’ tour.” It was a vastly different rendition of the Bosnian War than the one he had seen portrayed by the media. “I witnessed the results of US precision
bombing; remarkable, really. Milosevic’s police headquarters is in the middle of a row of buildings and it was imploded whereas the other structures around it weren’t touched. You can see lots of things like this. Then I was shown the old Chinese Embassy, which as you may recall, America hit and then cited ‘old maps [by way of an excuse] in the face of
Spring 2009 | the insider
a diplomatic furor… It’s 300 yards away from other buildings. It’s in the middle of a field. So the ‘old maps’ thing...Complete bullshit.” The two epiphanies merged in what could better be described as “The Tiziano Experiment.” The experiment worked, is now several projects and can be mobilized for short and long-term training programs anywhere in the world. “We scrounged together a couple of small digital cameras and a couple of digital recorders before I left,” continues Rippe. “I arrived in Rwanda with a couple of contacts but with no projects established. Through friends I met here I found a place called Maison des Jeunes (French for House of the Youth), Rwanda’s largest youth center. They have lots of programs for kids including soccer, basketball, soccer, martial arts, acrobatics groups, quiz games, a film club, computer classes, all kinds of stuff. The programs are vitally important here because there are so many kids.” “Birth rates are high and life expectancy is low, Rippe continues, “About 60 percent of the population is under age 24. I started teaching photography to a group of eight 18- to 25-year-old students who were all volunteers at the center. They got some great shots of life in their neighborhoods, but their main interest was in documenting and promoting their work at the center.” Rippe also helped start a youth radio program at Maison des Juenes and began mentoring professional journalists in radio production. “My role was to show Andrew the power of photographs,” says Rick Meyer, McGregor and Rippe’s instructor for “Photo Editing for the News Media,” offered by the Annenberg School for Communications at USC. “In my class, Andrew discovered that images can
change world opinions. By giving cameras and sound recording equipment to people without a voice, Andrew empowered them to tell their own stories. The Internet levels the playing field between the traditional media and outfits like The Tiziano Project. What the Tiziano does is visual journalism. It’s kind of a hybrid process of citizen journalism with still/video images and sound. The local benefit is that the locals learn real world skills and the possibility of a career and income. Andrew is an unsung hero to me. His determination and organizational skills are the reason The Tiziano Project is a success. Andrew always knew where he wanted to go; I just provided the driving map.” McGregor, didn’t start out his academic life as a journalist, or even a writer or photographer; at Connecticut College he majored in philosophy and had a minor in Italian. He started traveling. “I went to Italy and that changed things because my friends were Croatian and Serbian and Libyan and Italian and it was a wonderful, transformative time,” he says. In a roundabout way, this led to the impossible name “Tiziano Project,” which sounds more like a progressive jazz ensemble than anything else. “Andrew’s pretty difficult to miss,” observes Michael Parks, a journalist and educator whose resumé includes “interim director of the Annenberg School of Journalism at U.S.C.” and “editor of the Los Angeles Times.” “What he proposed is basically a straightforward photographic project — there are lots of them happening worldwide — but the critical difference that [The Tiziano Project] is happening in war zones. Andrew is not involved in journalism, so much as civic engagement. It reminded me of an old friend, Tiziano Terzani, who I knew
in Hong Kong and China, and I suggested the name. “Have you read Tiziano Terzani?” asks McGregor with characteristic enthusiasm. “A Fortune Teller Told Me” is in English now. Add it to your Amazon list.” Tiziano Terzani was an Italian who became enamored of Asian culture in the mid-1960s. He learned Chinese and became a correspondent for a number of European news agencies. Remarkably, he entered Vietnam as Saigon fell and remained there for several months documenting the war and its aftermath. Terzani’s legacy is honest and courageous reporting in the face of mortal danger. His respect for the cultural values of indigenous people in the face of economic encroachment would be considered, in today’s parlance, “sustainability.” Terzani died from cancer in 2004. McGregor sought, and gained, Angela Terzani’s blessing in naming his citizen journalism mission after her late husband. Somehow, the first-name-basis of “Tiziano,” makes the whole endeavor seem fun and casual. It isn’t. In an area that has been in near-constant turmoil since colonization, the death toll in central Africa is staggering by any standards. The Second Congo War (1998-2004), which followed directly on the heels of the First Congo War (1996-1998), killed more than 5.4 million people. It was the deadliest conflict since World War II, and yet it drew little attention from the Western world. Eight African nations, as well as about 25 armed groups, were directly involved in the struggle to dominate the region and its vast mineral wealth. An estimated 250,000 women have been viciously raped, and Reuters claims that 45,000 people die every month as a result of the ongoing human rights crisis.
McGregor with UN peacekeeping forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Photo courtesy of Andrew McGregor
the insider | Spring 2009
“empowering individuals may also put them at risk. It is a heavy responsibility.” — Michael Parks
That is another surprising thing about Andrew McGregor: he’s not morbid. Although surrounded by death and destruction, he sees hope and potential. He believes that the project’s stellar students, women like Solange Nyamulisa and Sandra Ingabire, are giving a voice to their experience, and that the Western world will not be able to dismiss them. “Here’s why Congo is f*cked up: the war is constant and if one correlates a map of where the battle lines are, they correspond precisely to where the mines are,” McGregor wrote in one of his frequent posts. “Because the conflict is based around a series of mines, Congo is essentially a mafia state and the war has no possible political conclusion.” He adds that because UN Security Council members such as Russia, China, France and America have the greatest interest in the mines, there is no incentive to establish political stability to the region, and that is the real story, one with no celebrities in UN blue hard hats or cute mountain gorillas. In addition to the The Tiziano Project, McGregor has recently received his master’s degree from USC’s school of professional writing. Except that there really is no “in addition to.” Finding ways to fund, promoting and recruiting for The Tiziano Project is what he does 24-7. His writing does not follow an impartial journalistic style. It is a deeply personal rant, a travelogue and a plea for understanding. It is the literary equivalent of “the green gaze” a thinly veiled threat; “your evil ways will be exposed and I will name you, I will shame you publicly, if you do not redress this issue at once,” is the implication. And so he holds ex-boxer, grille master and general celebrity huckster George Foreman personally responsible for capitulating to a cartel of the morbidly obese, when he writes about his own adventures as a man of substantial stature; 6 feet 9 inches tall and 280-pounds, who is too thin to buy underwear at the Big and Tall Store. It’s genuinely funny anecdote, but also carries a deeper social message. He has the same wrath for politicians, the mainstream media, and perpetrators of economic injustice; the other villains who populate his stories.
Last July, The Tiziano Project conducted a two-week-long pilot workshop in the Iraqi Kurdistan city of Sulaimaniyah. Two of the project members traveled overland from Turkey, and so were in the region for about six weeks. The fundraiser didn’t go as well as he hoped. McGregor sold his car to contribute more funds. He is now at the mercy of friends and public transportation. “I’m not from L.A., so I’ve bought cars and sold cars; it really isn’t a big deal, the project needed money,” he laughs. “But the guys on the team acted like I cut off my arm.” Hearts and minds? “Not really what I intended, although it had that effect. It was worth it.” It was worth it. Jon Vidar, Tiziano’s Interim Executive Director, is now back in Iraq documenting refugee camps in the Kurdistan Region. Becky Holladay, a teacher/ mentor with the Tiziano Project spent last summer teaching photojournalism and multimedia to teenagers in Mathare, a slum area outside Nairobi, Kenya. This summer Holladay is investigating a Superfund site in Columbia, Miss. that was remediated by the EPA 10 years ago but is still so polluted that nearly all of the impoverished residents suffer from environmentally caused illnesses. Other projects in the planning phase include a visit to New Orleans and media training for landmine survivors in Angola. Funding is scarce, private donations and micro-grants fill some of the gaps and regular fund-raisers are held for specific projects. The bulk of Tiziano’s work is conducted on a volunteer basis. But McGregor sees opportunity, and his methodology is utterly unexpected. He doesn’t have delusions about being able to feed vast numbers of refugees or provide medical treatment for entire camps. He just needs to get some cameras and computer equipment to some bright, motivated individuals, give them some basic technical training and then mentor them until they are contributing to Western news agencies. “We do this with almost nothing,” he says. “If
we could even pay our field agents as much as an elementary school teacher, that would be great. The thing is, these programs don’t really cost a lot of money and they do a lot of good. People in these African nations are smart, they’re resourceful and they are capable of documenting their realities.” Reuter’s reported that from 1997 to 2007, over 1,100 journalists worldwide were killed in the line of duty, most in war zones. The Committee to Protect Journalists puts the 2008 total at 41, with 11 more for 2009. Many more have been injured or jailed. Although Tiziano Project journalists have not been specifically targeted, there are inherent dangers in working under war-zone conditions. Jon Vidar has had to travel as an embedded journalist with the U.S. Army in Northern Iraq. McGregor got a concussion while suffering from dehydration in Congo. Gunfire is commonplace, as are disease and deprivation. Michael Parks is concerned. “Andrew has to live with the possibility of danger. ‘Acceptable risk’ is a personal determination, and we have talked about the consequences of these actions. Empowering individuals may also put them in danger. It is a heavy responsibility.” Although this work is incredibly dangerous, McGregor insists that he does not have a death wish. “Philosophically, death should not be feared by someone who has had an honest and meaningful life. A life not lived to the fullest is not fully lived.” Continuing this line of thought through his Tiziano Project mission statement, he writes “as I have discussed the program with other journalists, I have also discovered an encouraging truth: there are many young, courageous journalists and people out there enthusiastically willing to put their lives at risk to expose to light the darkest corners of the human condition. All that is needed is support to bring about expansive and enduring change.”
Jane Pojawa is the editor-in-chief of the Insider. She is the Archivist/ Historian for Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs and is writing a book about the strange and wonderful life of Cabot Yerxa. Spring 2009 | the insider
Beyond Belief author Tim Cridland challenges what we
— by Jane Pojawa
the insider | Spring 2009
The cabbage is stuck. The pretty
blonde girl who dropped it is pulling her hardest, but it won’t budge from the spikes. Zamora, the Torture King, lends her a hand and with a certain amount of lugging and wiggling the human head-sized vegetable comes free. The girl looks apprehensive. She had been plucked from the audience to help with the act, but who or what is going to follow that cabbage on the bed of nails? Quickly, others are pulled from the audience. These three are journalists and they are accustomed to observing the act, not being a part of it. Two of them; Adam Gorightly and Greg Bishop are ordered to stand on a board which is placed on the torso of the Torture King who is lying on the bed of nails; a sandwich arrangement that is not likely to have a happy outcome, given the fate of the cabbage. The third, Nick Redfern, is to act as a spotter should the other two slip. Reluctantly they stand on the board, but Zamora is not perforated into a bloody mass or punctured like an inflatable pool toy - a conclusion that could easily be deduced by observing the cabbage drop. After several long minutes, the Torture King tells them to step off the board and when they do and find that he is unhurt, the relief is palpable. It is beyond belief. “Zamora the Torture King” is the alter ego of Tim Cridland, a sometimes author, recorder of anomalies and researcher. He appears somewhat shy and bookish, his
silver hair is pulled into a long ponytail and his dark eyes are quick and alert. He gives the impression of being very observant and intense. He has deep dimples, but one would have to know his night job to guess that they were caused by wearing a spear through his cheeks. Cridland has had a lifelong fascination with circus sideshows, the “freaks” who were capable of extreme physical acts that would seem impossible, or at least excruciatingly painful to the average person. As a researcher, and then as a performer, Cridland learned that the trick to many of these wild talents is that there is no trick. These sideshow performers, Indian fakirs, sword swallowers, blockheads and fire eaters are doing exactly what they appear to be doing. He also found that expectation or belief plays a major part in how these feats are accomplished. These acts may be tricks, but they are not faked. He does chew on a broken lightbulb, walk on burning iron, lie on the bed of nails and poke skewers through his own arms. He swallows sharp steel swords. He exhales oxygen and carbon dioxide like the rest of humanity, but performs the standard suite of “fire breather” tricks - extinguishing a lit torch in his mouth, spitting flames etc, at a virtuoso level. Through it all he keeps up a witty, circus barker-style banter that is charming and also imparts a certain logical element to his act. He explains that these “impossible” feats are a matter of physical
conditioning and not so much savant ability. “Anyone can learn to do it,” he says “but they have to want to. The average person just won’t try and if they do then they give up too easily.” In other words, they have to believe that they can, and then it’s practice, practice, practice. Cridland has been studying these tricks since he was a teenager. He was a founding member of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, which formed the basis of his first book, “Circus of the Scars.”Now 44, Cridland uses his skills in his stage act “Zamora the Torture King,” billed as “often imitated, never duplicated,” and as a tour guide to haunted Las Vegas, pointing out weird phenomenon and little-known aspects of a town wellknown for its eccentricities. His most recent book, “Weird Nevada” expands the anomalies of Las Vegas to the entire state. Eccentricities of geology, anthropology, architecture and culture are given brief treatments and color photographs document the reality of these unlikely occurrences. Which brings us back to the bed of nails. Cridland is performing the Torture King act at the RetroUFO convention in Landers, Calif. Some audience members are disgusted, others are riveted. Those who are familiar with Tim Cridland, the author, might not know Zamora the Torture King, his “after dark” persona. Cridland is also giving a lecture about “Lemurians in Mount Shasta,” a possibility that dazzled the public’s imagination in the 1930s and has since
“Fire breathing” and “fire eating” seem beyond the ability of the average person - but are they? Fire will not burn in the absence of oxygen, but would you put a lit cotton ball in your mouth? With two sturdy men, Adam Gorightly and Greg Bishop, standing on his chest, Zamora, aka the Torture King, should be embedded on hundreds of nails like the cabbage that Sigrid Bishop (left) dropped. At right , Nick Redfern.
Spring 2009 | the insider
“The main I’ve come to is that it’s probably best not to too much in anything. That way you don’t need to your beliefs, or be when — Timothy Cridland things don’t work out.”
believe change disappointed
resurfaced periodically in various New Age venues. In the early part of the 20th century, the belief that an ancient race of highly cultured Europeans from the supposedly sunken continent of Lemuria made their homes in secret caves in Mount Shasta had enough validity for a series of articles to be published in the Los Angeles Times. Cridland thoroughly researched the genesis and demise of this belief, which has parallels with the rise in popularity of the UFO-contactee movement of the 1950s, in which men from outer space, since nicknamed “Nordics” for their European appearance, arrived in flying saucers to tell a chosen few that earthlings must learn to live together in harmony. Needless to say, there is not a shred of physical evidence that there ever was a lost continent of Lemuria, that the Lemurians found their way to Mount Shasta or that they continue to live there now. This did not prevent people from believing in their existence or from believing in a whole range of other “unprovables” - ghosts, faries, angels and aliens. The parallels to religious belief are obvious, but what is not so apparent are the aspects of life that people consider to be not a matter of faith, but of fact. Much of that belief is fueled by scientific theory. Cridland produced a Scientific American article that posited the possibility of sunken continents and pointed out that plate tectonic theory was dismissed as a crackpot idea when first posited. Numerous other theories- phrenology, eugenics, mesmerism, electroconvulsive shock therapy, and so on, have been embraced and then discarded by mainstream science. Perhaps other scientific beliefs that we now hold as truth; evolution, the big bang theory, quantum physics and black holes will be discarded as well. Rather than treated as a matter of fact, these might be considered a matter of belief.
the insider | Spring 2009
“You can’t change the world but you can change your mind,” says Cridland, pointing out that the principle of mind over matter is not constrained merely to learning to walk on broken glass or having a cinder block broken on your chest. It also impacts the body’s reaction to pain and to healing time. That’s news anyone can use, not just a wanna-be sword swallower. “The main conclusion I’ve come to [in researching weird beliefs] is that it’s probably
best not to believe too much in anything,” says Cridland. “That way you don’t need to change your beliefs, or be disappointed when things don’t work out.” Zamora the Torture King incorporated some of his “Weird Las Vegas” research into a new act, “Vegas After Midnight,” which features beautiful tattooed showgirls with “biological anomalies.” Seeing is believing - or is it?
Zamora, a founding member of the Jim Rose Circus, is one of the foremost “Human Pincushions” in the US.
Jane Pojawa is the editor-in-chief of the Insider. She is an enthusiastic Fortean and collector of anomalous facts. Her research has led to a book project, “Flying Saucers and Cities of Gold.” www.gccinsider.com
A Sausage for all Seasonings
The Hungarian Meat and Sausage Co. in Little Rock has it all — by Anita K. Marto
Maria Watson and her mother, Julia Varga, know about sausage. The fruits of their labor may be sampled at The Valley Hungarian Sausage and Meat Co. in Littlerock. The address is 8809 Pearblossom Highway, but there is no missing the sign, top left. To read “A Sausage for all Seasonings” in it’s entirety and to view the online slide show, visit: http://tiny.cc/sausage243
Spring 2009 | the insider
Employee Debra Olmstead, left, shows off some of the sausage varieties which include game meats, “Boy Scout” (which does not require refrigeration), and blood.
Customers come from all over Southern California, to buy their unique Hungarian meats and condiments. Some customers can’t wait to get home, so dining in is an option, right. The sandwiches are good and so are the pirogies.
Anita K. Marto is a native Los Angelena. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Cal State Northridge and worked as a freelance designer and photographer for the music industry. 22
the insider | Spring 2009
Inside the Glendale Harley-Davidson/Buell race team â€” by Crystal Weaver
Spring 2009 | the insider
It’s 100 degrees and the Mojave Desert is breathing fire. The hot wind is
blowing sand across the valley and into every sweaty face. That doesn’t matter though. The only thing that matters at this moment is the dozen motorcycles roaring down the front straight, mere meters away, at over 100 miles per hour. As several bikes simultaneously dive into turn one, the battle begins. Dragging knees are answered by the cheering crowd and at the exit of that first left-hander, a leader is established. Eight heart-pounding laps, and several lead changes later, it is the final fight for victory as a couple bikes, practically on top of one another, exit the famous last turn at Willow Springs International Raceway and fly toward the finish line. This is motorcycle road racing at its most intimate and passionate. Back at the pit, the racers are welcomed home from the battle by a group of family, friends and fans. The cheering crowd makes way for No. 221 and No. 870 to proudly take their positions in the shade under the tent. Ernie Snair and Mario Vindeni are in their own personal heaven, one they get to visit on the third Sunday of every month. The local men proudly ride for the race team of Glendale Harley-Davidson/Buell. Their playground is Willow Springs International Raceway, “The Fastest Road in the West” in Rosamond, California. The racing tradition at the local Glendale Harley shop began in 1986 with a small fleet of 883 Sportsters. With some extra support from Bartel’s Harley-Davidson in Marina Del Rey, the team enjoyed four years of racing. In 2004, after a 14-year hiatus, the Glendale team returned on a new fleet of bikes. Harley-Davidson had recently acquired
Buell, a small American sport bike company, and with the new agile machines, built for racing, the local team never looked back.
Ernie and Mario The Glendale Harley-Davidson/Buell race team has seem several changes over the years with racers coming and going but Ernie Snair was there at the beginning, as a passionate racer and is now also the consummate leader and team manager. There are three bikes displaying Ernie’s No.221. He pilots a Buell XB9R in the Middle-Weight Twins class and a Buell Blast in the 500 Singles Race at Willow Springs. He also races a 1965 Aermacchi Harley. During the years of the team hiatus, Ernie still raced occasionally on his 1965 Aermacchi Harley at vintage races sponsored by AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association). When the Buell team developed, Snair became the team manager. After a few years of leading the team, he decided it was time to start racing again on a more regular basis. “There were a bunch of us standing around watching the races,” said Snair, “and we decided we could get together and race the Blasts”. The Blast is the smallest of the Buell bikes, a single cylinder 500 (half a Sportster motor). It is an inexpensive bike to own and race and many of the Buell fans already owned one, so the men began entering the 500 singles’ class. This desire to race with friends grew into much more. Not only did the “fun” races reignite Snair’s passion as a racer, they opened up the possibility of racing to many who hadn’t considered it before. The “Blast class” now has many regulars, all friends (and
past members) of the Glendale race team. Once Snair was back on the track on the Blast, he expanded #221 to include the Buell XB9R and is now the mainstay of the team, regularly competing in two race classes. “I just enjoy it. I love it. Believe me, it’s a lot of work to get out there and do eight laps. It’s living, it really is. All you’re thinking about when your racing is what you’re doing. You’re not worrying about the mortgage, the wife, the job. You’re in the present.” One of the friends of the Glendale race team that entered the new Blast class is Mario Vindeni on No. 870. He was a member of the new Buell team in the beginning, “I was doing track days with Ernie and some of the guys went on to the next level and started racing and we morphed it into the race team.” He raced pretty consistently for two years before having to take some time off. “When the Blast class started blossoming, I came back to support Ernie and the dealership.” Now, in addition to the Blast, Vindeni also races the new Buell 1125R (his daily rider) in the Heavyweight Twins and Formula Twins classes. “I used to like the Blast class because it felt safer because you can only go so fast on the thing,” says Vindeni, “but now the class has become competitive enough I really have to ride my butt off to try to be competitive. The big bike [1125R], is finally set up well to the point where it just feels right that I’m enjoying that 100 percent more and it feels safer and easier.” When asked what makes him get out there and race every month, Vindeni echoed what Snair had said. “It’s just a phenomenal experience. I can’t think of anything else I do in my life where I’m so focused on the moment. All you can think about is that
Ernie Snair, No. 221, and Mario Vindeni, No. 870, compete at the Willow Springs International Raceway in Roseamond.
Photos courtesy of Crystal and Eric Weaver
the insider | Spring 2009
“what the local series offers is the
opportunity to feel the excitement and a way to We are fulfilling make dreams dreams in that come true
Mario Vindeni, No. 870, leaving the pit. immediate second, without of any of the worries about rent, or work or stress or whatever human drama people are going through. Its just complete focus and I find it refreshing.” Even though Snair and Vindeni are the heart of the Glendale team this season, the newly established Blast class sees many men putting on the orange and black leathers of Glendale Harley-Davidson/Buell for one race every weekend. The new class has made it possible for fans to become racers and has brought past Glendale team members out for some friendly competition with their former teammates. Some of these returning racers include Jim Chaconas, Patrick McGinley and Dave Ortiz.
Race weekend is so much more that a few men getting out on the track and having fun. It is serious business that requires many long hours and helping hands. Other than the racers, the Glendale Harley-Davidson/Buell team is composed of a handful of volunteer mechanics and pit workers. This behind the scenes team includes Danny Hildago, Steve Alvera, Eric and Crystal Weaver and hospitality provided by Alex Alvera. The weekend starts with Saturday practice where the teams get the bikes set up. Then Sunday is a long exhausting day for everyone involved. The team arrives at the track by 8:00 a.m. to set up the pit and get the bikes ready. After having the bikes checked out by tech, racing begins at 10:00 a.m. Even though the Glendale men only compete in a few races, the day is filled with 17 races and doesn’t end until 5:00 p.m. At the end of the day, everything has to be torn down and packed up. With regard to the long day, Ernie says, “We have fun out there. We wake up early, we work late and it’s exhausting but I wouldn’t change any of it!” Are you ready to experience the excitement of local motorcycle racing? Snair says, “The excitement is contagious! And the way Willow [Springs] is set up, you can get into the pits, meet the racers and feel like part of the family.” “If you have any appreciation
– Mario Vindeni
for motorcycling, adds Vindeni, “you can’t help but be awestruck by what you see out there. These guys are masters of these bikes, it gives you goose bumps and you can feel it in your stomach. For that type of experience and the $10 price of admission, I can’t think of a better way of celebrating the sport.” And for those riders out there who are ready to take on a new challenge, the Blast class is a perfect opportunity to get involved in racing. According to Vindeni, “When you watch these guys on TV in Moto GP or World Super Bike or AMA (American Motorcycle Association), most of us can’t aspire to race at that level but what the team and the [local] series offers is the opportunity to feel the excitement and in a way make dreams come true. We are all fulfilling dreams out there in that regard.” Ernie Snair and Mario Vindeni , when they are not on the track, can be found at the Glendale Harley-Davidson/Buell dealership located at 3717 San Fernando Rd, Glendale, CA 91204. Ernie is a Buell specialist and salesman and Mario is the operations manager of the shop and a Riders Edge instructor. The team races on the third Sunday of every month (except December) at Willow Springs International Raceway, 3500 75th Street West, Rosamond, CA 93560. A $10 admission fee gets you full access to the entire spectator experience. In addition to Glendale Harley-Dividson/ Buell, our local team is also sponsored by: Milwaukee Tools, Pride Printing, Sanitec Engineering, Lyndall Brake Pads, Bell Helmets, Catalyst, All Industries Performance, Tomahawk Tire Warmers and STD Headwork.
Crystal Weaver is a former GCC student and Rotaract President. She is transferring UCLA in the fall as an anthropology major. She is a motorcycle enthusiast and race fanatic. Spring 2009 | the insider
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Published on Jun 15, 2009
Vol. 2, No 1: The 2nd issue of the Insider (Fall 2008) was online-only. This is the 3rd issue of GCC’s magazine as the program fought budget...