Column: Desk-clearing items on transit, history, Beach Boys

For my last column of 2023, I present some items that hadn’t made previous columns this year: reader emails, observations and loose-end tying. (None of this was pre-written, alas, just notes or emails.) My theory was that a slow news week, and light readership week, was a good time to slip them into print before moving on. That’s my Sunday column. There will be more on Wednesday. Before then, though: Happy New Year!

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Reading Log: December 2023

Books acquired: “Letters to My City,” Mike Sonksen; “San Bernardino (Images of America),” “Creating the Gate City: San Bernardino, California,” “The Earp Clan: The Southern California Years,” Nick Cataldo

Book read: “The Iliad,” Homer

Note: It’s singular “Book read,” not “Books read,” possibly for the first time since starting the Reading Log. Which I did in January 2009, saying, “If I remember, I’ll write one of these posts each month.” I have remembered.

In fact, 2023 ends 15 years of Reading Log posts. This was news to me; I only learned about it a few minutes ago when trying to determine when these posts started, then counting on my fingers. Happy anniversary to me!

I ended up with four books acquired, all of them gifts from the two authors represented. At this rate I’ll never catch up. But then again, “The Iliad” is no pamphlet.

“The Iliad” (possibly 8th century B.C.): This 15,000-line poem remains remarkable 2,700 years or so after its composition: vivid, lyrical, gory, affecting. On one level it’s not really my thing: It’s nothing but fighting, it’s often redundant and keeping track of who’s fighting on which side was too much for me. But I liked it anyway. (Bought at San Luis Obispo’s Phoenix Books in 2009.)

I bought the matching edition of “The Odyssey” at the same time and same place, both copies only lightly used, under the theory that $8 each was a good deal. Well, it was, but less so after letting them collect dust for almost 15 years. If I were buying these books now, probably I would opt for the new Emily Wilson translations, “Odyssey” in 2017 and “Iliad” just weeks ago. But swapping out these Robert Fagles translations unread would be even less cost-effective.

My hope is to get to “Odyssey” early in 2024, maybe in February; that and a Sax Rohmer potboiler, also bought in 2009, are my two oldest unread books at this point. I’ve begun reading the Rohmer novel already.

I finished “Iliad” on Christmas Eve (it did not get me in the Christmas spirit) and decided to end the reading month early. So, one book. Rather than try to squeeze in a second book the last week of the year, and being only in the early stages of both a nightstand book and an audiobook, I opted to wrap up early, get this post published and move on to my annual list of “books read” for the year. This way, I’m already in progress on my January books — plural.

(Although who’s to say? Maybe December is a new start for me and I will read only one book each month in 2024, for a grand total of one dozen. If so, they’d better be darn good books.)

Comment on your December reading now or wait until after Dec. 31, depending on your own reading schedule. You can reflect on your year here or in my upcoming Books Read, 2023 post. In the meantime, thanks as always for checking in.

Next month: Up and at ’em! Six (?) books with titles that seem to involve morning.

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Column: More joy in the IE, as you share 2023 highlights

I asked for the best thing that happened to you in 2023 and got nearly 40 responses. A bunch of them were in my Sunday column. Wednesday’s column has most of the rest. (A few remain on the proverbial cutting-room floor, but only a few. It surprised me how many could be squeezed in.)

As a side note, due to Christmas falling on a Monday I had two columns, not one, due last Friday. Whew! I’m glad I had asked readers to help me out. Both columns were written more or less simultaneously, with a few of the items shifted between the two columns to balance them out.

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Column: What’s the best thing that happened to you in 2023?

I pose a question: What’s the best thing to happen to you this year? I’ll excerpt the best answers in an upcoming column. Also, a few items: I make a fellow journalist’s newsletter, a reader prefers us to the LA Times, I am recognized in an out-of-the-way place and a freeway sign makes me ponder.  My Sunday column is also my most casual column in some time, in part because almost the entirety of it was written Friday afternoon on deadline — yikes!

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Column: Protest limit OK’d at 2 pm council meeting

The Fontana City Council has moved its meetings from 7 p.m. to 2 p.m., a highly unusual step, after recent meetings have become unruly with protests. On Tuesday, the first such meeting, the council banned protests in front of individual homes, a response to protests in front of the mayor’s house. I attend the meeting, which let out while the sun was still shining, and write about that for my Friday column.

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Column: Her anti-warehouse art kindles reaction from Amazon

In an internal memo that leaked last week, Amazon said it would no longer donate to The Cheech in Riverside. That was due to a piece of anti-Amazon art displayed in the museum’s community gallery last spring and to the artist’s sentiments in an interview — with me. For my Wednesday column, I talk to Toni Sanchez about her art and her reaction to having drawn Amazon’s attention.

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