Column: Psst! Here’s the lowdown on PST: LA/LA shows in the IE

You may be at least marginally aware of the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA art exhibits scattered around Southern California. I visited the eight shows in our area, in Pomona, Claremont and Riverside, and wrote capsule summaries for Wednesday’s column. This weekend brings free admission (although many venues are free anyway) and special events to the IE-area spots, so it’s timely.

(To be candid, I’m guessing this column will get fewer clicks than normal while requiring more time and mileage out of me than normal. But it seemed worth doing, so I did it anyway.)

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Column: Dining hall masterpiece provides food for thought

In writing last month about the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA show at Pomona College, I said I’d come back to the topic of the college’s celebrated “Prometheus” mural. At last, I do so in Sunday’s column, where you’ll learn how the first Mexican mural in the United States came to be painted in Claremont, what it’s about and what (tee-hee!) seems to be missing.

It’s a relief to have written this, by the way: My research started in March 2016 when I attended a talk on the mural and continued through the reading of two college-published art books, attendance at two events this fall around the PST show and interviews with several of those involved, all culminating in lunch in the dining hall earlier this month where I could see the mural. Whew!

Now I can finally get these books and notes off my desk. My only regret is that I forgot to make the dining hall my Restaurant of the Week — but maybe I’ll do that this week.

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Column: Rock of ages: Photog shot music billboards

I attended Sunday’s talk and slide show in Claremont by Robert Landau, who compiled “Rock ‘n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip” from photos he shot as a youngster, and since he’s going to give the same presentation in Rancho Cucamonga tonight, I figured I might as well write something about it. That’s in Friday’s column, followed by a few more items.

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Frank Fairfield’s folk (and Margaret Axelrod’s too)

I dropped into Claremont’s Folk Music Center Saturday evening to let them know my Joan Baez column would be in the next day’s newspaper, and they said, “Are you here for the concert?” Er, concert? Frank Fairfield and Meredith Axelrod would be performing in a few minutes.

I had seen Fairfield once before, an instore at Rhino Records in the same block maybe five years ago, and in fact had just seen his name about an hour before as I read about the “American Epic” PBS show and recordings, to which he contributed. And here he was.

So I stayed for the first half, as the duo performed folk and pop tunes from the early 20th century, “Down on the Brandywine” and “Frankie and Johnny” among them. I liked it. Fairfield seems more natural and relaxed than the Dock Boggs enthusiast he was that other time I saw him; maybe he’s internalized the music in the interim. Axelrod was winning too.

I counted 28 in the audience, all of us on folding chairs, and it’s a treat to hear live music in such cozy quarters. The duo joked around and took their time, and audience members interacted with them a bit too. (I’d have stayed for the whole show, but given that I hadn’t intended on seeing a concert, I was desperate for food.)

Fairfield will be in Tuesday’s “American Epic” episode.

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Favorite films of 2016

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.

  1. Love and Friendship
  2. Manchester by the Sea
  3. City of Gold
  4. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  5. Kubo and the Two Strings
  6. Weiner
  7. In Order of Disappearance
  8. La La Land
  9. Captain America: Civil War
  10. Dr. Strange
  11. 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.

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Favorite music of 2016

cdsof2016

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:

  1. Billy Bragg/Joe Henry: Shine a Light: Field Recordings From the Great American Railroad (Cooking Vinyl) (video can be seen here)
  2. Various artists: God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson (Alligator)
  3. Regina Spektor: Remember Us to Life (Sire)
  4. Parquet Courts: Human Performance (Rough Trade)
  5. Twin Peaks: Down in Heaven (Grand Jury)
  6. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial (Matador)
  7. Drive-by Truckers: American Band (ATO)
  8. David Bowie: Blackstar (Columbia)
  9. Tacocat: Lost Time (Hardly Art)
  10. Blind Alfred Reed: Appalachian Visionary (Dust to Digital)
  11. Terrace Martin: Velvet Portraits (Ropeadope)
  12. Paul Simon: Stranger to Stranger (Concord)
  13. Angel Olsen: My Woman (Jagjaguwar)
  14. Wussy: Forever Sounds (Shake It)
  15. 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:

  1. Anderson .Paak: Malibu (Steel Wool Records)
  2. Kaytranada: 99.9% (XL Recordings)
  3. A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service (SME Epic)
  4. YG: Still Brazy (400, CTE World, Def Jam)
  5. Case/Lang/Veirs: Case/Lang/Veirs (ANTI-)
  6. Thao & the Get Down Stay Downs: A Man Alive (Ribbon Music)
  7. Schoolboy Q: Blank Face LP (Top Dawg, Interscope)
  8. Bon Iver: 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar)
  9. Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book (download only)
  10. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3 (Mass Appeal, RED)
  11. Solange: A Seat at the Table (Saint, Columbia)
  12. Open Mike Eagle (with Paul White): Hella Personal Film Festival (Mellow Music Group)
  13. Beyonce: Lemonade (Parkwood, Columbia)

Did you buy any new releases in 2016? What did you like?

We, and others, did lists for 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2009. [I don’t recall if we didn’t do lists in 2010 and ’11 or I just can’t find them.]

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Column: Profs: Don’t think twice about Dylan’s Nobel, it’s alright

dylan

As a Dylan fan, I’m excited for his Nobel Prize for Literature, not offended. So are two English professors at Pomona College who are very knowledgeable about his work. In advance of Saturday’s ceremony, we sat for a discussion for Friday’s column. Above, Jonathan Lethem, left, and Kevin Dettmar.

See how many Dylan references you can spot in the column. I doubt too many will find all 24, but even if you don’t recognize the sources, most of them stand out — but hopefully don’t overwhelm the column.

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