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MH: If you found yourself teaching a journalism course – Dr. Thompson’s Journalism 101 – what would you tell students who were looking to go about covering stories?
HST: You offering me a job? Shit. Well, I wouldn’t do it, I guess. It’s not important to me that I teach journalism classes.
MH: But if you did, what would your reading list be?
HST: Oh, I’d start off with Henry Fielding. I would read writers. You know, I would read Conrad, Hemingway, people who use words. That’s really what it’s about. It’s about using words to achieve an end. And the Book of Revelation. I still read the Book of Revelation when I need to get cranked up about language. I would teach Harrison Salisbury of The New York Times. All the journalists who are known, really, have been that way because they were subjective.
I think the trick is that you have to use words well enough so that these nickle-and-dimers who come around bitching about being objective or the advertisers don’t like it are rendered helpless by the fact that it’s good. That’s the way people have triumphed over conventional wisdom in journalism.
MH: Who’s writing that way today?
HST: Oh, boy. Let’s just say, who’s been arrested recently? That’s usually the way. Like in the sixties you look for Paul Krassner, I. F. Stone. I don’t think that my kind of journalism has ever been universally popular. It’s lonely out here.
A lot of times I recognize quality in the enemy. I have, from the very beginning, admired Pat Buchanan, who’s not even a writer. He knows how to use words. I read something the other day, and I totally disagreed with him. But you know, I was about to send him a note saying, “Good!”
MH: If you were going to start a paper, and you were editor, who would you hire on? Who’d be on your writing staff? Living or dead.
HST: Whew! That would be fun. We’re thinking of starting a paper here. These are not abstract questions.
If I were to surround myself with experts, I’d hire P. J. [O'Rourke], Tom Wolfe, Tim Ferris. I’d hire Jann Wenner, put him to work.
MH: For this publication you’re thinking about putting together now, what would be your mission?
HST: I can’t think in terms of journalism without thinking in terms of political ends. Unless there’s been a reaction, there’s been no journalism. It’s cause and effect.
From Matthew Hahn’s 1997 interview with Hunter S. Thompson, published in The Atlantic, pilfered here.
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Maven ready for launch. Photo The Register.
Cape Canaveral, FL–How did a once watery planet become a desert?
That’s the question NASA hopes to answer with its Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN satellite, or MAVEN.
The scientists involved hope the satellite will help them understand how and at what rate the atmosphere of Mars leaked into space, leading the planet to become the wasteland it is today. The atmosphere of Mars is 200 times less dense than the Earth’s and made of 95 percent carbon dioxide.
“You can’t hope, with a single spacecraft, to study all aspects and to learn everything there is to know about it,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN’s principal scientist. “With MAVEN, we’re exploring the single biggest unexplored piece of Mars so far.”
The Lockheed Martin satellite is sitting this morning atop an unmanned Atlas V rocket, waiting for its scheduled 1:28 p.m. launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
But with a only a 60 percent chance of good weather and a two hour window, Paul Withers, a professor of astronomy at Boston University and one of three scientists working on the project, says he will be at the launch with “fingers crossed that all goes well.”
NASA has 19 days to launch, or have its $671 million project grounded until 2016, when the Earth and Mars will line up again to make the launch possible.
If Paul Withers’s fingers do the trick, the satellite will reach Mars on September 22 next year.
There MAVEN will orbit 93 miles to 3,728 miles above the Red Planet in order to explore the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind, according to NASA’s MAVEN website. It will also make five dives, dipping as low as 77 miles.
I remember you.
Sitting on the corner off Dodge Street, you had lots of tape.
Shelf after shelf.
Friday night bliss, fun on the big box.
The quiet whirring of two wheels turning the VHS.
Be kind. Rewind.
Ah, memories, memories, Blockbuster.
But you’ve been digitally dominated.
Guess all my late fees are waived.
A silent crowd of fifty looks back.
Photovoice, she says, is an opportunity for migrants to take cameras and document their lives in the city for one month. Each participant selected one of their photos for the Photovoice exhibit, and each picture stands on an easel in the room.
The goal, Julian says, was to create a new collection of migrant stories. Lacking are stories of people who have come to Chicago more recently, such as the Iraqis and Burmese, to name a couple.
She hopes that we will gain a greater awareness of those who have emigrated to America.
“Mario,” the slide reads as he walks to the podium. He is a torture survivor from Santiago, Chile. His picture is cut from downtown Chicago. Boats are parked in stalls under a bridge, people are walking by. It’s night, but lights shine from the buildings, the waterway, everywhere. The lights, he says, show life at night. The colors give him hope of a better life.
Here I sense that I’m seeing the city in a new way, and a feeling of ignorance reaches into my mind.
Maryan’s picture shows her at a distance walking on the sidewalk away from the camera and wearing an ornate head scarf. All things are different here, she says. Clothes, food, signs, people. And here, people do not go outside like in Somalia.
Somebody’s phone rings, careless under all this weight…
People here, she says, are more worried about the safety of their children. And here, she sounds satisfied, there are sidewalks. The sidewalk picture shines anew, begging me to see again. The sidewalk matters to her because in Somalia there are no sidewalks. In Chicago she walks regularly with her sister. And the trees, she says, are like a beautiful forest.
Chantal isn’t here; a proxy reads her words. They shine bright lights on the soul of the migrant. “Like mint, clover, dandelions, and milkweed, these adapt to their environments. They learn to appreciate. It is all about adaptation. Let it be our journey. When you don’t have what you like, like what you have.”
Nine months ago, Emmanuel moved to Chicago and was surprised by something new: snow. The first picture he wanted to take was at the beach. Here they are different: Congo beaches have no sun. He got the chance over the summer at Montrose Beach. “I was very exciting,” he says in budding English, “to see a father with his children.” (Afterward, I talk to him. “It’s a long story,” he says, summarizing his life, “in the wars, my parents were killed and also my sister….” Suddenly his picture comes to life.)
I think her name is Jean, but I know she’s from Myanmar. Her picture is of flowers she’d never seen in her country. They make her happy. I can’t peel back her heavy accent to understand everything she says, but it sounds like she’s saying that the flowers help her through the hard times. Did she say death?
Davin’s picture from the driver’s seat shows rough leather boots working the clutch and brake on the floorboard of a dirty truck. He likes the picture, he says, because it makes him see that “a whole lot can change from one moment to the next. When I was in my country, I wanted to be a lawyer. Being a truck driver isn’t the job I thought it would be, but I enjoy it. It also makes me think that everyone has the power to make the necessary changes for a better life”—better than he would have had in Guatemala.
Duwana has been in America long enough to hone his English. He’s a polyglot and seems proud to tell us how many languages he speaks. His picture is a reflection of himself in the Bean—a chrome, bean-shaped behemoth downtown that looks like a parked alien spaceship. His back is toward it. The Bean, he says, is a symbol of Chicago, “my new home.” The picture is a reflection of a reflection, he says. “It looks like I am looking up to a beautiful sky, and I am happy.” A free man’s look enwraps the Iraqi.
Myrla tells a heroic tale of participating in a revolution in the Philippines to take down the dictatorship, and the hideous aftermath of being abducted, waterboarded, surviving torture, and spending two years in prison as a candidate for execution. The beating oppression of poverty eventually forced her to migrate. As a revolutionary in the Philippines, she feared having her picture taken and was afraid of being seen. In Chicago, she was excited to take pictures. For her, it defined integration into American society. The hard struggle, she says, leads to the beauty of life. Her picture? A skyscraper, taken from a downtown office building. Her reflection in the office window makes her look at least half as tall as the skyscraper she’s photographing. The fear is gone; she will stand to be seen by everyone.
Senait finishes: In America, no one bothers you. You don’t have to be scared. You have rights and freedom. The past is the past, he says. “I am happy now.”
Applause of appreciation swell.
The floor is opened for comments, and a woman unintentionally reflects what I feel by saying she’s glad they have come to America. A man from the Congo, who isn’t a participant, probably best sums up the whole evening when he stands and says how glad he is to be in America, and “God bless America.” More applause.
Every day, these sojourners live among us, each with hidden fears and hurts. But in America, things can be different for them. Senait was right. The past is the past.
In the land of the free, they may be defined by something other than the pain they knew too long, the caprice of a regime, the whim of the powerful, the poverty that clings like a too-thin, dirty blanket on a cold night. Here, they may rise and love a land they govern, a land carved by migrants, hopeful souls just like them.
Standing on the sidewalk in the thin cold of the night, I lean over and put my hands on my knees to brace myself. Tears almost come. I can’t go home. I have to walk, think, be alone. I head down the street and turn a corner and walk down the sidewalk next to the park, chattering about the experience into my iPhone recorder app, capturing the feelings just as they are. I can’t shake what I’ve heard, nor do I want to.
Then a deep chorus of patriotism rings within me. I love America, and am proud of her.
I have to think that our American greatness should be measured by the fact that beleaguered men and women, in hellish places around the world, make America their goal, and speak of it in glowing terms before and after they arrive. And millions more still long for the day when the sun will shine on them in this distant land.
They know there’s no taste like freedom. For them, Chicago, and America, is second to none.
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Holding itself aloof from the powerful, establishing no ties with anyone, stubbornly going about its work, but doing no more than that, are all to the benefit of the press. Its role is to go and see; to search, to confront, to question; to “thrust the pen into the wound,” as Albert Londres recommended; to doubt, to verify, to understand. And to recount what has been seen and understood; to find the words that will make the reader feel, see, and hear.
Well said, Laurent Beccaria and Patrick de Saint-Exupéry. From an article in Winter 2013 issue of XXI, reprinted in October 2013 Harper’s Magazine