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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Visit to LACMA was no burden, but all Burden


Saturday yours truly headed west to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see the debut of Chris Burden’s final (?) work, “Ode to Santos Dumont.” Named for the inventor of the dirigible, Burden’s piece sends a vinyl zeppelin in a 60-foot circle, powered by a tiny gasoline motor and propeller attached to an Erector-set undercarriage.

I was among the 200 or so folks in the first group at noon. Watch a 60-second video of the dirigible’s first loop.

It was charming, each pass offering a fresh look. But I have to say, 15 minutes is a long time to watch something this repetitive, and many drifted away after 8 or 10 minutes. Some of us stuck it out purely to see the end, when the engine stopped, the balloon made one final loop under its own momentum, and the two minders came out to gently lower the undercarriage into its movable cradle. They got a round of applause.

“Ode” is at LACMA through June 21 and is included in the admission price.

While at LACMA, I made sure to see Burden’s two permanent installations: “Urban Light,” below, and “Metropolis II,” at bottom. I also shot a video of the latter.



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Column: ‘Urban Light’ artist’s sculpture brightens Claremont


Artist Chris Burden, who died Sunday at age 69, is a Pomona College alumnus, class of ’69, whose early sculpture “Untitled Sculpture” is on permanent display at the college. Above and below are views of the piece, with a plaque in the lawn giving Burden the credit.

My Wednesday column is about Burden, and there’s an accompanying video that I shot Tuesday morning at the sculpture. The college’s statement about Burden is here. Two more links, both to the LA Times: his obituary┬áby art critic Christopher Knight and an appreciation of “Urban Light” and Burden by architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne.



Below are his two best-known works, “Urban Light” and, at bottom, “Metropolis II.” A video of the latter can be seen here.



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Column: Claudia Rankine’s poetry a window into race

Sunday’s column is a profile of Claudia Rankine, a Claremont poet whose book “Citizen” is receiving national attention and acclaim. She’ll be reading from her work at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Little Bridges (Bridges Hall of Music) in Claremont.

Let me say, there are few subjects more nerve-wracking for me to write about than a writer, especially knowing they’ve been written about by national publications. She may not care one way or the other, or even read what I wrote, but I always put extra pressure on myself to do a good job (or at least not embarrass myself)!

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Column: Penny Lane Records now giving Upland a spin


Remember Penny Lane Records? I do: I used to visit its Colorado Boulevard store back when Old Town Pasadena was interesting, and it had a bunch of other stores around L.A. I thought it was out of business until a couple of years ago, when a reader alerted me Penny Lane had a small store and Internet business in, of all places, an Upland industrial park. It took me until now to visit, but that’s okay, as Saturday, Penny Lane is participating in its first Record Store Day.

Steve Bicksler, pictured above and below, founded the store in 1985 and, three decades later, is still hanging in there, now as the sole employee. The tenacious store’s new and old lives are explored in Friday’s column.




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Favorite films of 2014

I saw 32 new or new-ish movies last year, which puts me somewhere in between diehard moviegoers and dabblers. I have movie-loving friends who see nearly everything that comes out and others who are Netflix-only.

So, take my list with a grain of salt as always. I produce them anyway, since 2010 (here’s last year’s), because they’re fun to do, they might turn you on to a movie you hadn’t known of or seen, and you can chime in with your own likes and dislikes.

I’ve listed every movie I saw, so if you don’t see a title listed below, I didn’t see it. So much for the December releases Selma, American Sniper, A Most Violent Year (which came out Dec. 31), Inherent Vice or Imitation Game, or for that matter Chef and Get on Up from earlier in the year. A couple of the titles (Her, 20 Feet From Stardom) officially came out in 2013, but almost nobody saw them until 2014.

Lastly, I rank them based on how much pleasure they gave me at the time, and how much of them I can remember as I think back on them. A couple of rankings from 11 to 20 may surprise you, but all I can say is, I enjoyed the heck out of them.

In roughly descending order, here’s my Top 10: Calvary, Boyhood, The Trip to Italy, Edge of Tomorrow, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Lunchbox, Nightcrawler, A Summer’s Tale, Fading Gigolo and Whiplash.

The next 10 would run as follows: Top Five, Wild, Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, Interstellar, Gloria, St. Vincent, Grand Budapest Hotel, Hercules, The Equalizer, Foxcatcher.

Here are the bottom 12. The first two are worth your time, and starting with Birdman they get increasingly iffy: Force Majeure, Guardians of the Galaxy, Birdman, 20 Feet From Stardom, Gone Girl, A Most Wanted Man, Under the Skin, Her, Love is Strange, Dancing in Jaffa, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Tim’s Vermeer.

What did you see and like, or hate?

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