Column: Sammy Hagar club is making (construction) noise

The rebranded Center Stage Theater was originally announced to open for Memorial Day weekend. I’d forgotten that until a reader reminded me that — oops — it wasn’t even under renovation yet. Work is underway at last, though, with a new opening date of March 9, 2024. I write about that in my Wednesday column, along with an arts item from Chino Hills and the announcement that I’m on vacation, returning July 26. Yay!

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Column: Harvey Milk revered by world, scorned in Temecula

You may recall that the Temecula Valley Unified school board majority in May refused to adopt a social studies textbook because Harvey Milk is cited in backup materials and that two members called him “a pedophile.” The slur against Milk was set in sharper relief after I visited San Francisco, where the assassinated politician’s name is attached to several public places and institutions, and even to desserts. I belatedly weigh in and talk to a friend of Milk’s, who decries the Temecula action as “dishonest and hateful.” That’s my extra-spicy Sunday column.

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Column: ‘Buy a Newspaper’ shirt motto gets range of reaction

In Friday’s column, my T-shirt draws a question, a gripe and a compliment while its wearer is out to dinner. Also: some reflections on my IE coverage, a hot moment on July 4th in Claremont and a coffeehouse in Redlands with a funny wifi password. And a spicy column is promised for Sunday. Let’s just say it will appear in the blog category “Around Temecula.”

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Reading Log: June 2023

Books acquired: “On Juneteenth,” Annette Gordon-Reed

Books read: “Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World,” Mark Twain; “A Kiss Across the Ocean: Transatlantic Intimacies of British Post-Punk and U.S. Latinidad,” Richard T. Rodriguez; “The Empty Copper Sea,” John D. MacDonald; “Waste Tide,” Chen Qiufan

Is anyone traveling by sea this month? Me neither. But my reading in June was of unread books on my shelves whose titles seemed to relate to water. Two were fiction (mystery, science fiction), two nonfiction (travel, music and culture). Let’s dive in, shall we?

“Equator” (1897): If only Twain had cut, say, 300 of the 700 pages, “Equator” would be better regarded. It’s hard to recommend. Yet this travelogue has its moments. Twain (in 1897) has welcome opinions on women’s suffrage, colonialism, aborigines and acceptance of others’ religious beliefs, praises India as perhaps the most fascinating land he’s ever visited and mocks how bad most white skin looks compared to black skin. He also offers lively descriptive passages and seemingly effortless humor as he writes about his 13-month trip around the world. Unfortunately, he also offers innumerable quotes from other works, probably to pad things out, making some of this very dull. Bought in 2010 from Glendale’s Bookfellows, RIP.

“Ocean” (2022): Rodriguez digs below the glossy nostalgia of Totally ’80s weekends to understand and explain the cross-cultural currents between a few British post-punk bands and Latino fans (and gay fans) like himself in the U.S. It wasn’t a one-way exchange either. While somewhat academic and scholarly (the author is, after all, an academic and scholar at UC Riverside) for casual reading, he does offer a very personal perspective in each chapter. His meeting with Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood is a high point. Rodriguez gave me an insight into a music and culture that I knew little about. My copy was a gift of the author in 2022 when I interviewed him.

“Copper Sea” (1978): Travis McGee on aging: “Those birthday years that end in a zero are loaded. A time of re-evaluation. Where the hell have I been and what have I been doing and how much is left for me, and what will I do with the rest of my short turn around the track? I had one of those zero years coning up, not too many birthdays from now.” That’s properly ambiguous. Late 40s? And this McGee mystery, No. 17 out of 21, is a solid outing, proving there’s life in the old boy yet, as he takes on a missing person case. It kept me guessing until the end. Bought at North Hollywood’s Iliad Books in 2012.

“Waste Tide” (2013; translation 2019): I thought I’d like a novel about pollution, e-waste, recycling and an underclass forced to clean up after our mess, set in China and taking place in a near-future SF environment, but I was wrong. This was only fitfully involving. In fact, it was kind of boring from the start and never got better. I only bothered finishing it to have a fourth water book. Better title: “Waste Time.” Bought at San Francisco’s Borderlands in 2022.

“Empty Copper Sea” was my favorite this month, and it was great to knock off another McGee, with only four to go. Finishing all four is possible, but it’s more likely that I’ll get to two more this year and wrap up the series in 2024. Also, note that these books above were acquired in 2022 (two), 2012 and 2010. My backlog of pre-pandemic books continues to diminish.

We’re now halfway through 2023. How is your reading going? I’ve hit 31 books, a faster pace than expected. Maybe I’ll end the year at 60. I thought I’d be reading less and spending more time doing other things, but not so far. And as usual, my loose reading plan for the year hasn’t been followed slavishly. But I’ve read some good books.

Let us know what you read last month and if you have any thoughts on your year to date, please. And have a bitchin’ summer.

Next month: All about alliteration!

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Column: Even IE readers love SF (mostly)

I was braced for negativity after writing on Wednesday in praise of San Francisco, from which I’d just returned from vacation. And negativity would have been fine. But the response was almost entirely enthusiastic, and there was more of it than usual. So I devote Sunday’s column to your comments, good, bad and neutral, followed by short items from Pomona and Chino Hills.

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