Speaking of reading…

Two books items that caught my eye:

1) They’re more ambitious than me over at The New Yorker, where the magazine’s books staff is devoting January to reading Roberto Bolano’s 900-page novel “2666” and declaring January to be National Reading “2666” Month.

2) An L.A. Times books blogger, Sarah Weinman, says she read (gulp) 462 novels in 2008. Whew. Me, I read 24 books last year, some of them art books, and was hoping to quicken the pace to 30, 40, even 50 this year, if they’re short enough. How does Weinman read so quickly? Read the Q&A with her and be sure to read the comments afterward. Some fellow speedfreaks share their stories, such as the person who, at 11, read the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in one day. Then there are those more like me, who admit to being easily distracted. I also like the occasional smart-aleck commenter, like the one who says she can’t write more because she has to read all of Proust in the next half-hour.

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‘Billy Budd’

Well, that was fast (-ish). On Saturday, 10 days into the new year, I finished Melville’s “Billy Budd and Other Stories” — having already read everything but “Billy Budd” at the tail end of 2008.

That meant I read “Billy Budd’s” 100 pages in 10 days. That’s far from an amazing feat, although it was slightly faster than expected. (Melville’s archaic stylings and long, winding sentences require concentration.)

I liked “Billy Budd,” which probably goes without saying: It’s a straightforward story of law and justice, with allegorical overtones that include a hanging that seems an awful lot like the Crucifixion. Wikipedia has a good entry on the story.

As for the other six stories in this Penguin edition, they range from amazing (“Bartleby”) to tedious (“The Encantadas”). The second sketch in “Encantadas,” however, reminded me of “Moby-Dick”‘s lyricism, as Melville describes the aged Galapagos tortoises:

“These mystic creatures, suddenly translated by night from unutterable solitudes to our peopled deck, affected me in a manner not easy to unfold. They seemed newly crawled forth from beneath the foundations of the world…

“As, lantern in hand, I scraped among the moss and beheld the ancient scars of bruises received in many a sullen fall among the marly mountains of the isle — scars strangely widened, swollen, half obliterate, and yet distorted like those sometimes found in the bark of very hoary trees, I seemed an antiquary of a geologist, studying the bird-tracks and ciphers upon the exhumed slates trod by incredible creatures whose very ghosts are now defunct.”


This sketch may be my favorite part of the book. As exasperated as some portions of this book made me, I’m glad I read the whole thing.

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Wednesday column preview

Doesn’t it seem like our founding fathers are more popular than ever? Not in Pomona, where one man, fresh from having wiped James Madison’s name off a local park, is now hoping to do the same with Alexander Hamilton on another park. Talk about your foundering fathers.

In other news, Tim Saunders had his first full meeting as a Pomona councilman on Monday, the Ontario City Council is taking its internal fight to the Bulletin’s Opinion page and, a bit belatedly, I share a story from Thursday’s earthquake.

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R.I.P.: Sansai Grill, Upland

Tried to have lunch Monday at Sansai Grill, a fast-casual Japanese place in the Mountain Green Center in Upland, but found the door locked and the interior cleaned out.

Too bad. I wouldn’t have had sushi there, but they had a nice seared ahi tuna sashimi salad, and the salmon bowl, which was actually a plate, was good too.

Oh well. The La Verne location is still in business at 1263 Foothill Blvd.

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Favorite flicks of ’08

A friend was asking me my top movies of the year — I think his favorite was “Batman: The Dark Knight” — and that prompted me to go back to my records to remember what all I’d seen and liked. Then I remembered I presented a similar list here a year ago.

So, I’ll share this year’s list with you.

These are movies I saw in a theater in 2008. A couple were released at the very end of 2007, but I’m just going with what I saw in the calendar year. I watched 26 movies, way down from 41 in ’07, and certainly missed some good ones.

In roughly descending order, here’s my Top 10:

Wall-E, Frost/Nixon, The Visitor, Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer, Trouble the Water, Persepolis, The Band’s Visit, Slumdog Millionaire, Batman: The Dark Knight, The Counterfeiters.

The next 10:

Taxi to the Dark Side, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, Iron Man, There Will Be Blood, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Smart People, 4 Years 3 Months and 2 Days, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Changeling, A Girl Cut in Two.

So far in 2009, I’ve seen and really liked “Milk” and “Gran Torino,” both of which are likely to make my Top 10 list.

Have opinions on any of these, or want to come up with your own Top 10 list for 2008?

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Sunday column preview

A few weeks back, when I announced the closeout sale at Virgin Megastore at Ontario Mills, reader A.S. Ashley told me he went there, found nothin’ and returned home.

Yours truly, by contrast, was still finding stuff worth buying as late as this week. I must have lower standards. (Although until a few days ago, there were still copies of “Exile on Main Street” by the Rolling Stones, my choice of the best album of the rock era.)

Sunday’s column is about the closeout sales at Virgin (which is set to close Sunday) and Circuit City in Pomona, which closed a while back. And that prompts a meditation on both bargain-hunting and the demise of record stores.

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Restaurant of the Week: Johnny Carino’s


Johnny Carino’s, 12240 Foothill Blvd. (at Day Creek), Rancho Cucamonga

Carino’s is an Italian chain with a location near Victoria Gardens. I stopped in for lunch last week while I was in the ‘hood.

It wasn’t packed — is any place packed for lunch these days? — but there were several full tables. The greeter, who turned out to be the manager, sat me in the bar area. There’s a lot of wood and a moderately classy feel to the decor.

A basket of doughy hot rolls was brought out, as was a plate of roasted garlic and olive oil for dipping. I ordered the salad/sandwich combo, getting a Caesar salad and half an Italian meatball panini ($8.99).

The salad was blah, but the sandwich, loaded with split meatballs, provolone and marinara, was inhaled. Housemade potato chips, not bad, accompanied the sandwich.

Johnny Carino’s is perhaps slightly better than Olive Garden, although your mileage may vary. Find the lunch and dinner menus here.

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Friday column preview

You know that story about how, at his first recording session with the Beatles, producer George Martin famously asked the boys to tell him if there was anything they didn’t like? And George Harrison broke the ice by deadpanning, “Well, for starters, I don’t like your tie”?

That exchange came to mind when reading transcripts of some recent depositions of Ontario council members in a Wal-Mart-related lawsuit. As the plaintiffs’ attorney quizzed him, Mayor Paul Leon offered a surprising remark. Read about that and more in Friday’s column.

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Employment? Arrrrrr


So much for shanghaiing unwary sailors. This employment agency on Holt Boulevard just west of Euclid Avenue in Ontario appears to take a more professional approach to filling vacancies. There is, seriously, a skull and crossbones on a wall inside, but the sign was harder to read from that angle.

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Your Rancho Cucamonga business report

While I was in the Victoria Gardens area Monday, I noticed that the Drexel Heritage furnishings store at Foothill and Day Creek is closed.

But in better news, construction is going on inside the empty Drexel store to turn the space into a Fresh & Easy market, the first in the city. Two other Fresh & Easy stores have been announced for Rancho, but in brand-new buildings, which means we probably won’t see them for a while.

In related news from the neighborhood, the Starbucks on Foothill immediately east of the 15 Freeway, the one by the Catholic church, has closed.

This has been your Rancho Cucamonga business report.

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