Friday, September 29, 2006

Below the Radar

The current stats related to this blog are revealing: by far, the most popular Google search leading to this page over the last few weeks has been "Johnny Gosch" In fact, I've never had a more popular search related to this site....

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Missing Reports on the Missing Boy: Johnny Gosch, Continued

I continue to be fascinated with the media disinterest surrounding recent events in the Johnny Gosch case - from all possible perspectives, it seems to be a story worth telling. If the recently surfaced photographs prove to be authentic, the questions surrounding the how and why of the case are unending. If they aren't related the case, the story still begs to be told - who were these children - and who placed those pictures at Johnny Gosch's mother's door? For six days, now, there's been no news.

Granted, this is a 24 year old case. It occured to me, however, that this is only one of numerous examples of how the United States as a country is sorely lacking in the sense of moral outrage which has shaped our nation from the very beginning. Perhaps it's hard to be angered at injustice when engulfed in the ongoing state of fear we've lived under since September 11th, 2001.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Tasty Little Bit of Pitcairn Island

I've had an interest for a while in the story of Pitcairn Island, the small mid-Atlantic (between New Zealand and South America) island that served as home to the mutineers from the HMS Bounty. After sending Captain Bligh and his loyalists off on a small rowboat in the late 1700's (and into their own extraordinary journey to civilization), the mutineers returned to Tahiti, from which they had recently departed, picked up a number of women (and men as slaves) and headed back out to sea. They happened up on the tiny, inhospitable island that would serve as their home. Shortly thereafter, the bounty burned, and any idea of leaving was gone. Thus began a settlement which still exists to this day, consisting primarily of descendents of the mutineers and their Tahitian brides (it's important to note that within a few years, most of the original Bounty mutineers had been murdered by some of those they has forcibly taken from Tahiti. Thus ended slavery on Pitcairn Island...

Today's Pitcairn population is about 50, with many more scattered throughout the world.

After a scandal a couple of years ago which involved a brand of sexual abuse of minors that perhaps can be partically blamed on the island's isolation (visits each year are infrequent), the British government, which many years ago accepted Pitcairn under its jurisdiction, has begun to help the island achieve a more robust ability to develop a small economy and, perhaps, even a tiny tourism industry (by necessity - Pitcairn is just a few square miles).

Before I heard of the scandal, and the extended trial that resulted, I had tried to order one of Pitcairn's few exports - honey, bred by tropical bees (and thus particulary good). For obvious reasons (the entire workforce was on trial), it was never charged to my credit card, and it never arrived.

I tried again this August, and now, judging by a charge which just showed up on my credit card, I might soon be seeing my uniquely exotic souvenir.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

India Videos

I've now made available for download videos related to our recent India trip.
There are two files - one is the video the kids produced. The other combines that with a four and a half minute mini-documentary about the making of the video, and includes personal greetings to the kids they'll be working with here in America.

You can find the videos in a page off of my website. Just look for the "See India Video" link just under the group portrait of the kids and teachers at the center of the page.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Notes Left

When I went out to my car this morning, I found a printout left on my windshield (and i assume those of my neighbors) from the Superior Court of California, indicating that a particular individual was a convicted child molester - his apartment number was notated by hand on the page.

Important information - especially in an apartment complex with plenty of children. Obviously this isn't the kind of person anyone would want to live down the hall from.

My only concern would be that this doesn't degenerate into any sort of vigilante (i.e. violent) activity. We'd save the kids from one kind of horror, and inflict another.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Gosch Confusion

I continue to be fascinated with the Gosch case, and the low-profile drama surrounding the photos that surfaced a few weeks ago (see earlier posts). It seems now that the files that we purported to prove that the photographs were a hoax are missing - so verification of that claim can't be proved. Johnny Gosch's mother claims one particular photo is undeniably her son. She also claims on her website that she has also received death threats because she is close to the answer to the mystery of her son's fate.

It's becoming harder and harder to determine where wild speculation and true evidence begin and end. This story, a major headline story when Gosch disappeared in 1982, is virtually ignored today. There's been very little attention paid to this story by the media - it's old, it's disturbing, and, as I'm discovering, Americans are just too overwhlemed with fear to care about a 24 year-old crime- even if it involved horrendous crimes.

This is one story, however, where media attention could do some good, and force the truth, whatever it may be, out into the open.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

India Afterthoughts: The Streets

It's been almost a couple of weeks now since we returned from India. It's taken me this long to begin to absorb the experience.

India is a society that's both heading headlong into the 21st century, and retains a feel for its long and complicated past. I felt at times that the streets of Delhi, at least from my western point of view, seemed to be a chaotic mixture of several centuries of tradition and technology. Masses of people along with animals, bicycle pedicabs, motorized pedicabs, and modern vehicles (not to mention wild animals in the form of cows, yaks and assorted smaller creatures) form a constantly moving tapestry regardless of painted traffic lanes or any attempt at organizaiton. The roads are chaotic, but new flyover roads are being built to rise above the chaos. The wildly divergent architecture also ranged from the ancient to slick, futuristic office buildings. Malls are rising to serve the rapidly expanding middle class. I suspect that by mid-century the streets of Delhi could be largely unrecognizeable.

I think of the kids we worked with - next to indendence, this has to be the most exciting, promising time in their country's history - what a great time in which to grow up!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Who We Are

In yesterday's New York Times, Bob Herbert wrote an editorial entitled, "The Stranger in the Mirror," in which he suggests that "the very character of the United States is changing, and not for the better." Our collective reaction to 9-11, beginning with the invasion of Iraq, has changed the nature of who we are as a people:

There was a time, I thought, when there was general agreement among Americans that torture was beyond the pale. But when people are frightened enough, nothing is beyond the pale. And we're in an ara in which the highest leaders in the land stoke - rather than attempt to allay - the fears of ordinary citizens. Islamic terrorists are quated with Nazi Germany. We're told that we're in a clash of civilizations.
If, as President Bush says, we're engaged in 'the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century,' why isn't the entire nation moblizing to meet that dire threat?"

Herbert goes on to conclude:

The character of the U.S. has changed. We're in danger of being completely ruled by fear. Most Americans have not shared the burden of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Very few Americans
are aware, as the Center for Constitutional Rights tells us, that of the hundreds of men held by the U.S. in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, many "have never been charged and will never be charged because there is no evidence justifying their detention."
Even fewer care.
We could benefit from looking in a mirror, and absorbing the shock of not recognizing what we're become.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Gosch Again

The Gosch claims seem to be unraveling. Though the news media has yet to report this, a simple Google search brought me to a public message board discussing the case on the CourtTV (cable network) site. It links to the very photographs in question on a photo site where they were posted quite some time ago (check messages from September 14th).

The primary photograph in question, a black and white image which supposedly shows Johnny Gosch tied and gagged with some kind of a brand on his arm, appears on the linked site in color, and there is no such brand. It also seems to have been posted in April, a full four months before it was delivered to his mother's house. This was the photo that his mother swore was her son.

I have to wonder why law enforcement, particularly those involved in cases like this, didn't discover this link earlier. And, once again, where is the media on this?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Johnny Gosch - Update

The latest news relating to the recent photos the surfaced in regards to the 1982 disappearance of 12 year-old newsboy Johnny Gosch suggest that at least one of the photos may relate to a Florida case in the late 1970's - several years before Gosch's disappearance. A former investigator believes that he recalls the photo, and authorities are searching through old microfilm to make certain that's the case. On her website, Johnny Gosch's mother insists in response that at least one of the photos is certainly her son.

If these photos are proven to be unconnected to the Gosch case, this would only be the latest turn in a case that has been surrounded by false rumors, wild accusations, unsubstantiated stories and little or no solid evidence of Johnny Gosch's fate. As with the other kids of his time that also remain missing, justice remains elusive.

New Pix

I've begun to post photos from our trip to India. They were taken by David Guerrero and Nancy Troxell, two of my fellow travelers.

You can find the photos at:

More to come shortly!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Simple Things: Letters From Juvenile Hall

Here's a scene from my 1990's documentary, "Simple Things: Letters From Juvenile Hall," featuring a glimpse at the story (but by no means the whole story) of "Small Fry," whose story I'll be updating in an upcoming documentary.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


With tomorrow's 5th anniversary of 9/11, there's a great deal of political posturing on both side of the (political) aisle. Democrats and Republicans are using the anniversary for political gain. That's to be expected, given the impact of the event on our national psyche and very character as Americans.

The single greatest lesson of 9/11 is reinforcing the adege that "the price of liberty is eternal vigilence." The single most damaging impact is the varied ways in which that same adege has been interpreted and used for personal and political gain. True visionary leadership on the federal level is lacking everywhere in our polical system. The terrorist threats we now face will not be solved either by retreat or by arms alone. The United States, for all its power, doesn't seem to know what kind of world it wants, or what kind of standard it wants to set. We live, then, in overwhlelming fear and uncertainty about the future.

The great tragedy is the lack of outrage for social injustices within our own country. We're no longer trying to improve our country and move it forward - we're trying desperately to hold on to what we have.

For me, an accident of timing has aligned the Gosch story (see previous post) with the 9/11 anniversary. I don't doubt for a moment that while we struggle to understand the external threats we face, a collective exhaustion dooms the inheritors of Johnny Gosch's fate.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Johnny Gosch

Upon my return from India, I learned that a recently breaking story invovled new evidence in the story of Johnny Gosch, a 12 year-old boy who disappeared in 1982, never to be seen again. His case was the first to draw attention to the phenomena of child disappearances - in fact, his was the first face to appear on milk cartons (for a time the most common method to publicize missing children. He story was spread throughout the media - to no avail.

Ten years ago, his mother claimed that her son came to visit her briefly, claiming that he had been kidnapped and brought into a huge pedophile network, and was now afraid for his life. He left after a couple of hours, and she never heard from him again. Her story was doubted by some, and no evidence existed to prove it had happened.

In late August a couple of weeks ago, Johnny Gosch's mother found a package at her front door. Inside, she found two old photographs showing her son bound and gagged, one by himself, and one with two other still-unidentified boys, also bound and gagged. Where these pictures came from, why they're being revealed now, and who they actually mean is still unknown.

It's curious to me that such a horrific story, in today's post-9/11 climate of constant crisis, is just another news story...immediately disappearing from the front page - if it was ever there at all. I hope that the relevant authorities can find the time in their domestic spying programs to find justice for Johnny Gosch and the boys who suffered with him.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

India Conclusion

Our finally day in India was fairly quiet, as we packed and prepared for the grueling journey home. Our host Reyka Mody, met us for dinner at the hotel. We were also treated to a visit from two of the boys in our workshop, one with his entire family, to thank us and wish us well on our trip home. It was a very special ending to a very special trip.

It looks like we'll be heading back to India well within the year. India, it seems, is one of those places that takes a lot out of you, but gives you so much more. I'll be looking forward to returning.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

India Day Six and Seven

Our stay in India is winding down - we've said a lot of goodbyes in the last couple of days - some of them to the same people several times.

Day Six began early , as we headed to the kids' school so that we could work with them to finish their film - we were scheduled to present the film at a special lunch mid-day, so the project had to get done. Final touches including naming the film ("Back to the Roots") and re-recording some audio that wasn't clear on the original video. We also had to create a DVD for presentation after the luncheon. Working together, the kids made the deadline, and we all headed across the street to celebrate with officials from the school and the Trust that has been hosting us here in India. Both kids and adults were treated to a first-class lunch (we've been having many, many traditional Indian foods). They've been aware of our every comment, so when one of our party commented a couple of days ago that she was taking a little break from Indian food, they were extra careful to ask us repeatedly if the food was okay - was it too spicy, do we want a sandwhich, etc.

After the lunch, we went to the principal's office to present to the same crowd the story of our program, and present the finished video. We then asked the kids to come in, so that we could present them with certificates celebrating the success of the workshop. By now, we've gotten to know most of the kids, so we were each able to add a bit of a personal comment about each kid. The audience there responded very well to the video, and to the concept of bringing young filmmaking to the poor of India. These kids, who are more priveliged, will now be teaching what they have learned with us to poor children.

Finally, it was time to leave the school, and our young friends. They shook our hands, took pictures and finally hugged us goodbye. It's quite possible that we might return in a few months, so the sadness in parting was tempered in part by the promise of the future.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped off at a little cyber cafe in the Indian version of a strip mall, where we need to prepare for a press conference the next day. This is, unfortunately, also where I lost a cap I bought at the Twin Towers in Kuala Lubpur. Easy come, easy go....

Day Seven featured the press conference, where we explained what we had been doing with the kids, the concept of the program, and presented the video. A few of the kids were also there to demonstrate for the press how the camera and software worked and tell them of their experience with our workshop - and also, yet again, shake our hands and hug us goodbye.

We've been fortunate to be working with such a great group of kids, and to have hosts that have made our stay an exciting experience in every way. I told the kids as we presented them certificates that I will always see their faces whenever I think of India.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is our final day in India - late that night we take off for the long journey home....