What, what, what were my favorite restaurants of the 47 I wrote about in 2016 on this blog? I make my choices in Sunday’s column, followed by cultural and other items from around the valley, one of which involves Knott’s Berry Farm and another of which involves “Star Wars.”
Following up on the exciting developments on the La Verne council chamber emblem front, I write about the new art piece in Friday’s column. It’s a cute story about the piece, which is an update of the confusing city seal, and about the publicity-shy artist behind it.
2016 was my slowest moviegoing year in forever: I saw 16 new releases in theaters, a number that includes three that were released in late 2015 (Anomalisa, Big Short, Son of Saul) and two re-releases of classic films (Chimes at Midnight, Howards End). Thus, my Top 10 would include all but one of the 2016 releases I saw.
This isn’t a reflection on the quality of films out there, I hasten to say, but rather on my priorities this past year. Many weekends I felt I couldn’t spare two or three hours for a movie because I needed time to work on my book, and then there was laundry to do, groceries to buy, papers to read. You know how it is.
Still, this annual post is a tradition, my choices might make you check out a movie and it’s always good to ask the movie lovers among you: What movies did you like, or dislike, this past year? While we await your comments, here’s my Top 11, i.e., everything I saw, ranked in descending order of interest. None were stinkers, although No. 11 wasn’t as interesting as a Justin Chang review led me to expect.
- Love and Friendship
- Manchester by the Sea
- City of Gold
- Hunt for the Wilderpeople
- Kubo and the Two Strings
- In Order of Disappearance
- La La Land
- Captain America: Civil War
- Dr. Strange
- The Shallows
I could add that Anomalisa was tonally monochromatic and disappointing, The Big Short and Son of Saul were excellent, Howards End held up and was great to see again, especially after having read the novel a few weeks earlier, and Chimes at Midnight was affecting and entertaining despite its low-budget, protracted genesis and oddly amateurish dialogue looping.
As is tradition around these parts, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite CDs of the year, as did my music-lovin’ colleague Wes Woods. He used to host our lists on his IE Music Now blog, but that’s defunct, so we’ll do it here. Wes’ list is much more au courant than mine, it must be said.
My Top 15 releases of 2016:
- Billy Bragg/Joe Henry: Shine a Light: Field Recordings From the Great American Railroad (Cooking Vinyl) (video can be seen here)
- Various artists: God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson (Alligator)
- Regina Spektor: Remember Us to Life (Sire)
- Parquet Courts: Human Performance (Rough Trade)
- Twin Peaks: Down in Heaven (Grand Jury)
- Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial (Matador)
- Drive-by Truckers: American Band (ATO)
- David Bowie: Blackstar (Columbia)
- Tacocat: Lost Time (Hardly Art)
- Blind Alfred Reed: Appalachian Visionary (Dust to Digital)
- Terrace Martin: Velvet Portraits (Ropeadope)
- Paul Simon: Stranger to Stranger (Concord)
- Angel Olsen: My Woman (Jagjaguwar)
- Wussy: Forever Sounds (Shake It)
- Leonard Cohen: You Want it Darker (Columbia)
Note on the above: Blind Alfred Reed recorded in the ’20s and ’30s, but this 2016 compilation was so impressive I included it anyway.
Wes Woods’ Top 13:
- Anderson .Paak: Malibu (Steel Wool Records)
- Kaytranada: 99.9% (XL Recordings)
- A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service (SME Epic)
- YG: Still Brazy (400, CTE World, Def Jam)
- Case/Lang/Veirs: Case/Lang/Veirs (ANTI-)
- Thao & the Get Down Stay Downs: A Man Alive (Ribbon Music)
- Schoolboy Q: Blank Face LP (Top Dawg, Interscope)
- Bon Iver: 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar)
- Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book (download only)
- Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3 (Mass Appeal, RED)
- Solange: A Seat at the Table (Saint, Columbia)
- Open Mike Eagle (with Paul White): Hella Personal Film Festival (Mellow Music Group)
- Beyonce: Lemonade (Parkwood, Columbia)
Did you buy any new releases in 2016? What did you like?
Pomona has had multiple movie theaters in its history, dating to the silent era. I round up some pertinent facts about each for Wednesday’s column. Above, a view of the State Theater in 1945.
By way of background, I researched and largely wrote this material last spring and summer, unsure if it should be a blog post or column; when the Sunkist Theater background turned up, I focused on that for my column (read it here) and decided to come back to the other theaters on another day, maybe during a vacation or for the holidays. Now, needing a column after a three-day weekend, its time has come.
In an annual ritual, I clean my desk and get a column out of it. Talk about multi-tasking!
In an annual tradition, I count down the 10 most unusual local news stories of the year. My roundup appears in Friday’s column. Hope nothing really strange happens Dec. 30 or 31…
In an annual ritual, but a delightful one I hope, I rounded up all the books I read this year (minus one that’s out on loan and one that’s a play in a giant Shakespeare omnibus), put them in the middle of my floor and took their photo.
My total of 40 for 2016 is precisely half of 2012, the year I read 80 books and my best year to date. But that year I had a lot of short books to read, and also unlike this year, I wasn’t spending an hour or two per week working on my own book. I realized, too, that I took far fewer Metrolink trips this year, an act that gave me enforced reading time.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with 40 books. Wednesday’s column tries to make sense of the year. Below is a list of every book in chronological order.
- “Slogging Toward the Millennium,” Bill McClellan
- “The Hour After Westerly,” Robert M. Coates
- “Long After Midnight,” Ray Bradbury
- “The Day After Tomorrow,” Robert A. Heinlein
- “Twelfth Night,” William Shakespeare
- “Now Wait for Last Year,” Philip K. Dick
- “Early Bird,” Rodney Rothman
- The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 30th Anniversary Issue
- “Frankenstein,” Mary Shelley
- “The Last Man,” Mary Shelley
- “The Last of the Best,” Jim Murray
- “The Last Laugh,” S.J. Perelman
- “The Penultimate Truth,” Philip K. Dick
- “Heart Like a Starfish,” Allen Callaci
- “Empire,” Lewis DeSoto
- “The Autobiography of Mark Twain,” Charles Neider, ed.
- “Stalking the Feature Story,” William Ruehlmann
- “Forgotten Bookmarks,” Michael Popek
- “The Complete Stories,” Flannery O’Connor
- “Howards End,” E.M. Forster
- “Then We Came to the End,” Joshua Ferris
- “Howards End is on the Landing,” Susan Hill
- “Sixpence House,” Paul Collins
- “Mary Shelley: A Biography,” Muriel Spark
- “John Carter of Mars” (No. 11), Edgar Rice Burroughs
- “The Divine Invasion,” Philip K. Dick
- “Tortilla Flat,” John Steinbeck
- “Ask a Mexican!” Gustavo Arellano
- “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America,” Gustavo Arellano
- “Eat Mexico,” Lesley Tellez
- “Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, Vol. 2,” H.P. Lovecraft, et al
- “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” Victor and Jacob Maymudes
- “Spend All Your Kisses, Mr. Smith,” Jack Smith
- “Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan,” Howard Sounes
- “Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina,” David Hajdu
- “Positively Main Street: An Unorthodox View of Bob Dylan,” Toby Thompson
- “Gentlemen of the Road,” Michael Chabon
- “The Wishbones,” Tom Perrotta
- “The Puppies of Terra,” Thomas M. Disch
- “Of All Things!” Robert Benchley
Of course I didn’t get to everything I’d have liked, not by a long shot, but many of these I’d been wanting to read for a long time. How was your year in reading?
Books acquired: “How to Find Old Los Angeles,” Kim Cooper with Dick Blackburn
Books read: “The Wishbones,” Tom Perrotta, “The Puppies of Terra,” Thomas M. Disch, “Of All Things!” Robert Benchley
Happy holidays! I read three books in December, enough to get me to 40 for the year, a modest goal that had seemed out of reach for most of the year. Then I stopped. (But I did other bookish things, which I’ll explain.)
December’s reading consisted of a 1997 mainstream novel, a 1966 science fiction novella and a 1921 collection of comic essays.
Fans of “High Fidelity” will especially love “The Wishbones,” another look at a rock fan, in this case an early-30s guitarist in a wedding band who’s having trouble accepting adult responsibilities. Does he really want to marry his high school sweetheart, whom he’s been dating for 15 years off and on, and live in the suburbs? I liked it, and it’s funny, but it lacked some of Nick Hornby’s verve and depth and I suspect will prove easier to forget.
“Mankind Under the Leash” was the original, and better, title of Disch’s “The Puppies of Terra,” in which benevolent invaders have domesticated humans as pets, except for the dingoes who remain wild. Told in the first person by a human pet named White Fang with a mock-David Copperfield tone, this is cute at times, but exceedingly slight. In short, kind of a dog.
“Of All Things!,” Benchley’s first collection, has its moments, starting with the dedication to the inventor of the Bessemer steel converter and continuing through the preface, which merely reproduces the Declaration of Independence, but most of what follows is lesser Benchley, light but rarely outright funny. He hadn’t hit his stride and there’s no use pretending. He did, however, make a crack about the world being divided into two types of people, and I had to wonder if that was already a thing or if he might have invented a line still used today.
I had these books largely wrapped up by mid-month and could have squeezed in another one or two, but instead tackled an overdue project, which was to take a close look at a few books that didn’t seem worth reading cover to cover.
Each got an hour or two of my time. Among them were Pete Townsend’s memoir, “Who I Am”; a fannish Beach Boys essay collection, “Back to the Beach”; and a biography of the band The Replacements, “Trouble Boys.” I like all three acts, but not enough to read 300 to 400 pages about them. One book, “American Silent Film,” looked like it might be of enough interest to read in full, so I put it back. In all, I disposed of 10 books in 11 days.
From there, I started a book that I had wanted to read this fall and now hope to finish in January.
As for where these books came from, “Wishbones” was gifted from a friend who was moving away around 1999, “Puppies” was bought at Patten’s Books in St. Louis in June and “Things!” must have been bought in the ’00s, but I don’t remember the circumstances.
How was your December, readers? If you’re still reading, feel free to come back Jan. 1. I thought I’d get this post out of the way so I can move on to my annual column and blog post on what I read for the year.
Next month: a book I had wanted to read this fall and, I hope, one I’ve meant to read for seven years.
Upland’s Second Avenue becomes Candy Cane Lane at Christmastime, and more candy canes are out than in many years thanks to an effort by two families new to the neighborhood who wanted to revive the tradition. Sunday’s column tells the story. Merry Christmas!