Reading Log: January 2015

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Books acquired: “Black Moon,” Kenneth Calhoun; “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” Victor Maymudes with Jacob Maymudes.

Books read: “Black Moon,” Kenneth Calhoun; “Clans of the Alphane Moon,” Philip K. Dick; “The Moon is Down,” John Steinbeck; “The First Men in the Moon,” H.G. Wells.

Happy 2015! Hope your reading year got off to a good start and that whatever goals you set for yourself will be met. My primary goal this year is to read the last stubborn 31 books from my Illinois days, a number that includes a few rereads of Ray Bradbury classics but mostly are books I somehow never got around to reading despite owning them for three decades.

I set off with the idea that I would read these books exclusively either for a couple of months or until finished. To demonstrate my seriousness, I set aside two more recent books that I was midway through when 2014 turned into 2015 and picked up two Illinois books, one for daytime, the other for my nightstand. I followed along on this track until Kenneth Calhoun sent me a copy of “Black Moon” in advance of his Jan. 30 reading at Rancho Cucamonga’s Barnes and Noble.

This was on Jan. 9, and as I decided to write about him, I reluctantly put aside U.S. Grant’s “Personal Memoirs” on p. 80 to veer off on a new track. Couldn’t very well tell him: “I’m afraid I really can’t read your book until August because I promised myself I would read my childhood purchases first.”

“Black Moon” is a dystopian novel about an epidemic of insomnia that claims almost everyone in the populace; the few who aren’t affected fear for their lives, as the sleep-deprived turn violent at the sight of someone who can sleep. It’s a thriller of sorts, although it’s mostly an interior story rather than science fiction, with a lot of ambiguity.

Having read “Black Moon,” I decided to pursue a theme of books with “moon” in the title, as I had another four that I had always thought of clustering.

First I read Philip K. Dick’s “Clans of the Alphane Moon,” which is one of my Illinois books — talk about killing two birds — and is about a moon to which Earth’s crazies had been banished. And now Earth wants the moon back. Dick works through various personal issues about divorce, mental health and the meaning of success while also telling an interesting, and often hilarious, SF story. (After getting kicked out of the house by his wife, the lead character takes up residence in a crummy apartment complex where his neighbors are mostly aliens, including a yellow blob from Ganymede.)

From there I read John Steinbeck’s “The Moon is Down,” from a Steinbeck anthology of short novels. It’s from 1942 and concerns the invasion of an unnamed European village by an unnamed army, and how quiet resistance gums up the invader’s plans. I’d been wanting to read this since visiting the Steinbeck Museum a few years ago. Apparently it was somewhat controversial by making the invaders seem like human beings, and also inspirational to oppressed Europeans. One of my favorite Steinbeck books.

I started John Myers Myers’ “The Moon’s Fire-Eating Daughter,” billed as a sequel to “Silverlock,” although it’s really just in the same mold. It was too clever for its own good, in my view, and after a dozen puzzling pages I gave up and put it in the sell pile.

Lastly, I read H.G. Wells’ “The First Men in the Moon,” partly out of curiosity about the co-star Henry Cavor and his anti-gravity invention Cavorite, which figures into the comic book The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. That’s how Cavor and the narrator get to the moon, by blocking gravity and thus hurtling their capsule into space. Once there, they find a race of beings who live underground in an elaborate civilization. So, no one is going to laud Wells’ predictive powers, and this isn’t as good as “War of the Worlds” or “The Time Machine,” but it was enjoyable.

January, thus, had four moons, with a fifth in only a tiny crescent.¬†“The Moon is Down” would be my favorite, closely followed by “Alphane” and “Black.”

Now, I’m back reading U.S. Grant and wondering if I can read the remaining 500 pages in 28 days. A book on my nightstand will be finished in mid-February, meaning at least one book will appear in this space next month.

How about you folks? What have you been reading?

Next month: at least one book.

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Column: Flash! Ex-student wins lawsuit in flash-card case

Sunday’s column starts with the resolution to an incident in which a Pomona College student was detained at an airport for carrying flash cards to help him learn Arabic. I guess that’s a no-no. Also: four items from Chino, the movie schedule for February at Ontario’s library and a short tribute to Rancho Cucamonga’s Frank Annunziato.

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Restaurant of the Week: Noodle House

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Noodle House, 2935 Chino Ave. (at Peyton), Chino Hills

Chino Hills is home to numerous Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley style, and if perhaps not to that level, they’re often very good. I tried another one recently pretty much at random: Noodle House.

It’s in a Mediterranean-looking shopping plaza maybe a half-mile west of the 71 Freeway and near the Harkins 18. At least one other Chinese eatery is in the center, Home Cooking. Haven’t tried that one. Noodle House is small and bustling. I was there for a late lunch and the place was almost full. Someone had just left, thankfully, and I was given their table once it was cleaned.

The menu had appetizers, soups, dry noodle dishes and specialties. I got a seaweed salad ($3) and shredded pork with dry noodles ($5).

The cold salad was light and lightly chewy; the bowl was hot. I really liked both dishes and took half of each home, where they were also delicious in the coming days.

The staff’s English was pretty good, and service was brisk but not unfriendly. People on Yelp talk about the fried fish filet with seaweed and the beef soup with handcut noodles, so I may not have ordered anything extraordinary. But I recommend the place.

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Column: 1950s Ontario strip mall shaken up for Walgreens

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Above is a view of the Post Office branch at Fourth and Mountain in Ontario after the adjoining buildings were demolished. Below is a photo from circa 1960 courtesy of the Ontario Planning Department with the Post Office partly visible at left. The Laundramatic and Bank of America buildings were what was demolished. Click on the pictures for a bigger view.

Wednesday’s column begins with an item on the changes. I mention a 2009 blog post of mine with a lot of comments on the old days and the old stores; you can find that by clicking here.

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Virginia Dare Winery, 1910

Virginia Dare Winery 1910

This photo looks north, with Foothill Boulevard (Route 66) running east and west in the foreground. That’s the Virginia Dare Winery in the foreground and nothin’ but agriculture and mountains in the background. Reader James Edwards emailed me the photo after seeing the 1934 and ’46 photos of Upland on this blog. Some of the above property is now the Virginia Dare Winery Center, an office park that fronts Haven Avenue.

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Goodbye, and good riddance, to the Mustang

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A former adult bookstore building was being torn down last Thursday on Central Avenue below Foothill Boulevard in Upland. It was once Mustang Books and Video, a thorn in the side of Upland City Hall and residents. The area was outside city limits for most of its existence. San Bernardino County negotiated the 2010 closure of the store, which had bedeviled them since at least the 1990s. And now, the vacant building is nearly gone. Its black-wrapped pole sign seems to be in mourning.

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Restaurant of the Week: Stein Haus

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Stein Haus Brau and Brats, 540 E. Foothill Blvd. (at Towne), Pomona; food service from 2 to 9 p.m. daily

One of the valley’s few examples of roadside architecture, this business built to resemble a castle lies on Route 66 just over the border from Claremont’s restaurant shaped like a tugboat, both of them ’60s holdovers. Pomona’s began life in 1968 as Magic Towers, a King Arthur-themed burger palace for the kiddies, and later became Friar Tuck’s, a dive bar that might appeal to the dissolute grownups those kiddies became.

I never ventured inside. But now it’s been repainted, remodeled and rebranded as Stein Haus, a German-themed bar and restaurant with the aid of the reality-TV show “Bar Rescue.” German? Hey, there’s only so many things you can do with a castle. So for the first time, I went inside one recent afternoon. The dark brown paint outside may be an improvement over the faded gray from the English days.

Inside there’s more brown and dim lighting, with a full bar, a counter and a few tables, plus a small stage, pool tables in the back and a smoker’s patio. The bartender told me the place had been cleaned up considerably, with new carpet replacing “three kinds of tile.”

The menu is small and focused. They still have burgers, jalapeno poppers and other bar food, but they now have a handful of German items: pork schnitzel and bratwurst sandwiches, crispy spaetzle and pretzel bites, as well as a few specialty cocktails. I sat at the bar, ordered a bratwurst ($10, pictured below) — after all, it’s in the restaurant’s sub-name — and hoped for the best.

It took a while, but my brat arrived on a chewy pretzel bun, with spicy mustard (brown, I think, to match the prevailing color scheme) and grilled onions. A side of slaw was vinegary, with cabbage, green pepper and carrots. The whole thing was a pleasant surprise.

Another day, I returned for dinner. It was early and the bar was quiet. I got the other sandwich, the pork schnitzel (also $10; pictured at bottom), which came with crispy spaetzle. I liked the sandwich, which came on rye bread; the spaetzle was like doughy fries, without much taste. That said, I found myself eating it anyway.

I wonder how long the reinvention will last or if the place will backslide, but the adventurous, and people who remember the old days, might get a kick out of stepping inside.

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