Reading Log: November 2015


Books acquired: “M Train,” Patti Smith; “Old Cucamonga,” Paula Emick; “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls,” David Sedaris.

Books read: “Tangled Vines,” Frances Dinkelspiel; “Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, Vol. 1,” H.P. Lovecraft and others; “I Sing the Body Electric!” Ray Bradbury.

It was a three-book month no matter how you look at it: I bought three and read three. Unfortunately, the ones I read weren’t the ones I bought, but their time will come. The three I bought were all signed by the authors, which is cool, either in advance (Smith) or in front of me (Emick, Sedaris).

“Tangled Vines,” which was sent to me by the publisher a few weeks ago, has already been the subject of a column. I focused only on the Cucamonga bits, but there’s a lot more to the book, half of which, in alternating sections, deals with a notorious winery arson of 2005. The rest delves into wine’s history in California. It’s very readable and stays away from the wine-snob attitude that can make this sort of thing an eye-roller for us plebes. It’s really just a slice of California history. Oh, and the author signed it in front of me.

The other two books I read this month are totally different. Also, their writers are dead, so these books must go unsigned. I reread a Bradbury from childhood and read the first of a two-volume horror anthology.

The latter has a story by Lovecraft and further stories by his friends and acolytes, among them August Derleth, Henry Kuttner, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, all involving in some fashion HPL’s squid-like Elder Gods. It was fun, but hit or miss. I’ll get to the second volume next year.

The Bradbury, from 1969, is from his most ecstatic period, opening with a Whitman quote and progressing through stories that often avoid fantasy entirely to qualify as mainstream fiction. To my mind it’s among his weakest books, with thin plots and overly poetic monologues by everyone involved, and by my subjective count only five of the 18 stories were up to snuff.

(My copy, from childhood, fell to pieces. But like a good Bradbury fan, I have a spare.)

In short, “Tangled Vines” was the month’s winner.

How was your November, readers? And how are you hoping to finish off your reading year? What with holiday activities, and a few friends with birthdays, even an introvert like myself may find reading time scarce. I’m hoping to finish up a couple of things and start some books for January.

Next month: I finish up a couple of things, etc.


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Claremont music school’s recital brings cheer, cash


The Claremont Community School of Music hosted its sixth annual Mayor’s Recital and dinner Nov. 21 at Padua Hills Theatre, an event to which yours truly was invited.

Some 200 people were there and more than $13,000 was raised for scholarships to defray tuition for lower-income students, who range from preschool age to senior citizens. The school also wants to expand that opportunity to chamber music, which gives students the chance to perform in small groups, something usually not available to them until college courses, executive director Matt Keating says.

We saw instrumental performances (and a couple of vocal turns) by students, usually children, and while I thought it might be a long night, the students were quite good and the pace brisk.

Oh, yes: Mayor’s Recital? Claremont Mayor Corey Calaycay was there — he’s pictured in the center, holding a proclamation, with the bushy-haired Keating — but he didn’t perform. He could have, though: He said he studied piano at the school as a boy.

The venue, Padua Hills Theatre, was of course lovely. I’ve been there a handful of times over the years — for a luncheon and for a memorial service — but hadn’t seen a performance in the main room before, just like when the Mexican Players strutted the stage in the old days. I’m glad I attended.

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Column: Cosby role at Cal Poly had a degree of tedium

Friday’s column begins with a tidbit about the Cos, a week after the CSU system rescinded his Cal Poly Pomona honorary doctorate: He also filmed parts of an “I Spy” reunion movie on the campus. After that, six items round out the column.

By the way, the Cosby factoid is one I’d come across maybe a year ago while doing some research on Cal Poly’s 75th anniversary. The hyperlink in the column will take you to the website I got the trivia from. I hadn’t figured out what to do with it in all this time, the fact being rather random. Suddenly, the perfect excuse arose to use it.

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Column: ‘Tangled Vines’ explores wine, the pride of Cucamonga

Wednesday’s column tells some of the history of Rancho Cucamonga as I interview the author of a new book on California wine history.

“It’s amazing to think there were 34,000 acres of grapes here after World War II,” Dinkelspiel said. “This was the largest grape-growing region in the United States. Now there are just a few hundred acres, if that.”

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Column: David Sedaris can be offensive, but gleefully so


Sunday’s column reports on humorist David Sedaris’ Thursday night reading in Claremont, which I attended. I had expected only to write an item on it, but he ended up being the whole column. He’s pretty funny, so that’s right in my wheelhouse. Above, a photo of the video feed in the overflow room, where some 60 of us watched. It didn’t feel like a situation where one needed to applaud, since Sedaris wasn’t there to hear it, but people clapped at times anyway in appreciation.

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Column: Patti Smith talks books in LA with Claremont writer

I attended a cultural event in LA on Monday, a public talk by Patti Smith, the rocker, interviewed onstage by Jonathan Lethem. I don’t know if he and I were the only two people from Claremont there, but we may have been. That leads off my Friday column. After that: three Valley Vignette items and two Culture Corner items — one of them about Shakespeare, two of whose plays are being performed locally this weekend.

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Restaurant of the Week: Java Bistro


Java Bistro, 9090 Milliken Ave. (at 7th), Rancho Cucamonga; closed Mondays.

Did you know there’s an Indonesian restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga? It might be the only one in the Inland Valley. Java Bistro opened in February in a small complex that also has Gandolfo’s Deli. Reader Andy Sze drew my attention to Java Bistro’s existence.

It’s a small operation with only a few tables, plus a wall of grocery items on shelves, such as rice, dried shrimp and spices. The other wall has a photo mural of Indonesian scenes, very professionally done. (It was hard to get a photo of the dining room unobtrusively because it’s so small.)


The staff will show you to a table and hand you a glossy menu, which has photos of many of the dishes.

On my first visit, I tried the anchovy fried rice ($9), because I like anchovies. The dish had the saltiness you expect from anchovies, as well as having sator, an edamame-like bean. I took about one-third home for a second meal. I wish I had ordered a second dish for contrast because this one by itself kind of wore out its welcome.


On my second visit, I got mie ayam jamur, or chicken mushroom noodle ($7.50). This was a bowl of noodles with the aforementioned chicken and mushrooms, plus vegetables, and was delicious. A cup of soup — meatballs in broth — came as a side.


Java Bistro is a good spot for the slightly adventurous. I like it and hope they succeed.


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DB on Vacation


Two views of San Antonio, blocked by your blogger and a Daily Bulletin. It’s hard to take a selfie that gets a newspaper into the frame, but I did my best! Above, I’m at the Alamo; below, along the River Walk. I wore my Franklin BBQ T-shirt from my Austin vacation for some Texas flavor.


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