Wednesday column preview

Rancho Cucamonga, Pomona and Claremont are all promoting the reading of a single novel this fall. Unfortunately, it’s a different novel in each city. My life would have been easier if they’d all chosen the same one.

Even if you don’t live in one of those three cities, be a citizen of the Inland Valley and read about the novels, and some of the neat programs to go along with each book, in Wednesday’s column. And return here Wednesday for links to various websites for the programs.

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The French part of Ontario?


No, Ontario doesn’t have a Moutain Street. This tile shop on Mountain Avenue is presumably better at fitting tile than in fitting all the letters in Mountain into a cramped space. The mistake is repeated on the other side of the building.

“Moutain” — which I would pronounce “moo-tahn” — doesn’t mean anything, to my knowledge, but the word reminds me of poutain, the Canadian version of French fries that comes with cheese curds and brown gravy. Wonder if the Chaffey brothers would have liked that?

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Those TV converter box blues

Have you non-cable-TV folks bought your converter box? And, more importantly, hooked it up instead of leaving it in the original packaging?

I’m among the 12 percent of U.S. households that rely on rabbit ears (in my case) or rooftop antennas for over-the-air programming. My analog TV requires a converter box to pick up the digital signals that will replace analog on Feb. 17, 2009.

Armed with my $40 government coupon, I bought my converter box on Labor Day for $20. However, I tried, but failed, to unravel the directions in a short, frustrating session that evening. I have one of those brains that seizes up when confronted with anything technical.

I think this qualifies:

“2. Connect the ‘To TV (RF)’ jack on this unit to the ‘Antenna In’ jack on your TV using a coaxial RF cable (R). Your TV must be tuned to the selected RF Output Channel (Refer to page 8) channel (3 or 4) to display the picture. (default: channel 3).


“Connect the VIDEO and AUDIO (L/R) jacks on this unit to the video and audio input jacks on the TV using the video (V) and audio (A) cable.”

Did the guy who wrote this manual test these instructions on his mother first? I suspect not.

My first attempt, using the second approach, meant unplugging my DVD player from my TV. Sorry, but no. (Unless I misunderstood how to do it, which is certainly possible. No other likely holes in my TV presented themselves.)

Some weeks later, I worked up my nerve and gave it another go. This time I tried the first way, despite all the bewildering parenthetical asides. Doing so meant unplugging my VCR from my TV so I could use that hole. Well, not such a terrible thing, at this point in history, but a little disappointing. At least the converter box works.

Have any of you made the switch, or had difficulty doing so? I’d hate to think Vivian C. Brown and I are the only ones.

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Restaurant of the Week: Flamingo Palms

Moved to 11400 4th St.

Flamingo Palms, 9223 Archibald Ave. (at 6th), Rancho Cucamonga

Located in a nondescript business park next to a nail salon and employment center, this is a high-turnover space most recently home to a Mexican restaurant, Mi Casita. Recently a new banner went up over the entrance: “Cuban Food.”

A welcome change, since there’s no real Cuban restaurant in the Inland Valley outside of Norco’s Little Bit of Cuba. (Coco Palm in Pomona, from what I can tell, is kind of a hybrid. Some of us remember the late Mama Inez in downtown Pomona.)

The interior is improved: pale yellow walls with ironwork sculpture and deep brown trim. It’s pleasant but spartan. The stackable chairs are strictly hotel ballroom. Partitions and plants would help.

I know almost nothing about Cuban food, to be honest. The menu has stews, salads, sandwiches and seafood. Lots of chicken and pork. Some of the dishes (in the $10-$12 range) indicate more ambition than might otherwise be surmised from the menu’s rather homely appearance.

I stuck with one of the basics: a Cubano sandwich ($6.75) of ham, pork, cheese (or, as the menu put it, “chesses”) and pickles on a long roll, pressed and then sliced diagonally. Fried plantains were on the side. The result was as good as my memory of the Cubano I had once in Miami.

Service was friendly; it looks to be a family operation.

I hope Flamingo Palms lasts longer than recent occupants because it bears further investigation.

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Comic Bookie to (choke!) close

Some of you will remember the days when comic books could be found at newsstands, supermarkets, convenience stores, candy stores and the like. In an earlier era, they were ubiquitous.

These days, other than a few in a spinner rack at the Montclair Borders, individual comics can be found only at comics specialty shops, of which there are very few. The entire Inland Valley has just four such stores, in Chino, Claremont, Pomona and Rancho Cucamonga.

Scratch Claremont. After 18 years, many spent in the Old Schoolhouse before a move to cheaper quarters in a business park, the Comic Bookie is closing up shop.

The last day is scheduled to be Oct. 31. Owner Chris Peterson sent out an e-mail to his regular customers this week announcing the end, saying sales aren’t even covering his expenses.

He’s in the midst of sales to clear out his stock — admittedly, the prospect of discount pricing cushions the blow to cost-conscious comics fans (i.e., all of them) — but it’ll be a sad day when the shop closes. Not least among the reasons is Peterson’s friendly manner, which endeared him to West End comics fans.

He liked us too, as his message makes clear:

“I cannot express how much I appreciate all of the great customers who have helped keep CB alive over the last 18 years! I will deeply miss doing business, and shooting the breeze, with you all. I feel very lucky to have spent the better part of the last 2 decades being your local ‘Comic Book Guy.’ But, things change, and it looks like it’s time to move on.”

His store is at 1420 N. Claremont Blvd., Suite 203B, Claremont; (909) 399-0228.

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Hail, Fallows, well met

James Fallows, a national correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, spoke Tuesday evening at Claremont McKenna College’s Athenaeum on foreign policy and America’s challenges.

For yours truly, one challenge was grasping the erudite Fallows’ arguments; for Fallows, the greatest challenge was getting to the point. (He spent a fair amount of time outlining how his talk would go instead of just, you know, talking.)

Here are his four ideas for the post-Bush era, as best I can summarize them:

* We have a window of opportunity to remake ourselves and put our house in order not seen since the post-World War II era. We should think big.

* We should reconsider what measures are worth taking to defend ourselves after 9/11 and what ones undermine our society.

* We should focus on how can America best remain attractive to the world through the power of our example through such traditional American strengths as opportunity, innovation, openness, equality and trust.

* We should take a world leadership role in slowing global warming and energy use.

“If it’s possible to scare up $700 billion over a weekend to avert a financial crisis, it would take a lot less to make a significant difference in climate change,” Fallows said.

The former Carter speechwriter has been living in China for two years and said that nation is very poor, its army focused on Tibet rather than us, and its citizens largely positive about America.

His only partisan comment was to repeat something a Chinese financial official told him in a recent interview. Noting that the U.S. criticizes China’s one-party system while extoling the virtues of our two-party system, the official said that after the American disasters under Bush, putting another Republican in the White House will make us look like hypocrites when we say our democratic system fosters accountability.

Fallows encouraged students, who made up much of the audience, to live abroad for a year before age 30 to gain a better understanding of the world. His final words were addressed to them: “Go forth and save us.”

OK, that part I understood perfectly.

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Those mockers at The Onion offer this report on two topics of local, but little crossover, interest:

“LOUDON, NH — Shock, grief, and the overwhelming sense of loss that has swept the stock car racing community following the death by apparent suicide of writer David Foster Wallace has moved NASCAR to cancel the remainder of its 2008 season in respect for the acclaimed but troubled author of Infinite Jest, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, and Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.”

Luxuriate in irony here.

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