Sacramento Bee’s love letter to Claremont

I’m late on this, but the Bee ran a lengthy paean of praise about Claremont back in November. The piece, detailed, fond and witty, ran in the Travel section. It’s nice to see an outsider so jazzed about the characteristics of a place we may take for granted.

That said, he goes a little overboard, and his superficial dig at Pomona after apparently seeing a few blocks of Indian Hill irks me. Hey, you can find Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican and soul food on Indian Hill in Pomona, arguably more diversity than what he’s marveling about in Claremont. Grr. (Characteristically, the only reason I know this article exists is because a Claremonter bragged to me about it — by bringing up the Pomona slam.)

Oh well. I do like this line: “…you’ll encounter all the markers of a college-town milieu, from the grossly disproportionate number of frozen yogurt establishments to the cadre of crunchy, burned-out locals who lounge outside coffee shops all day.”

Read the piece here, look at the photo gallery here and offer your reaction below.

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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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Reading Log: December 2014

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Books acquired: none.

Books read: “The Crack in Space,” Philip K. Dick; “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” and “Great Tales and Poems,” Edgar Allan Poe; “The Essential Ellison,” Harlan Ellison; “Dave Barry’s History of the Millennium (So Far),” Dave Barry; “The Martian Chronicles,” Ray Bradbury.

Ringing out the old year, December saw me reading, or finishing off, six books. The stack looks more impressive than it is, as I’ll explain.

To run through these in brief, the two best of the month were “The Crack in Space” and “The Martian Chronicles.” The former, from 1966, takes place in 2080 and involves an overpopulated Earth, an interdimensional rift that promises an off-world place to ship the overflow, and a man who may become the first black president. It’s not one of Dick’s best, but it’s still pretty great. The latter, from 1950, in my opinion is Bradbury’s greatest, a lyrical allegory about western expansion. This is at least my third time through it. Possibly my favorite book.

The Dave Barry book collects some of his hilarious year-in-review pieces. Of the two Poes, “Mystery and Imagination” has all his best stories but, alas, many of his curiosities that have little interest for modern readers. The other one, “Great Tales,” hits most of the highlights of both stories and poems. The Harlan Ellison anthology is for admirers only (I’m one), weighing in at 1,250 pages and more than 3 pounds (says Amazon). You might convert the unconverted with 250 pages of prime Ellison, but only a fan would pick up an overstuffed collection like this. Also, where is his “City on the Edge of Forever” teleplay? I know, in a separate book, but most would consider it essential Ellison.

I’d read a lot of Poe the past year, and a lot of Ellison in recent years, so there was a lot of overlap with books already read, and much of the remaining material had been read over the course of 2014. I made a push to finish them before 2015.

The Bradbury and Dick books date to my childhood, while the others were acquired relatively recently. “Mystery” was bought at North Hollywood’s Iliad Bookshop, “Great Tales” came from Rancho Cucamonga’s fall Big Read, Barry from Amazon and Ellison from Montclair’s Borders (sigh).

In 2014, I read 68 books, not a bad total. (And, crucially, I acquired less than a dozen.) This was the sixth year in a row in which I read 50 or more books, after years of sluggish reading. I expect to write a column soon on my year in reading and to post a list of all the titles and authors. Until then, leave a comment on your December, your experience with any of the above books and your whole year if you like.

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Column: 15 favorite restaurants of 2014, plus 25 standbys

Friday’s column begins with a summary of the best restaurants I tried in 2014, as well as listing my local favorites, from the new to the traditional. Clip and save! Or print out and save, or something. After that: items from Upland and Montclair, and a movie quote about Corona. You’re encouraged to list your own local restaurant favorites or discoveries in the comments section!

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Column: Completing a mission at Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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How I write my “items” columns generally is that I write items as I get information, then compile columns based on what’s pressing, what fits or what goes together well. This means that sometimes items get pushed off from one column to the next, or the next, or sometimes semi-permanently (or until they’re out of date, now and then). To end 2014, Wednesday’s column compiles three items written anywhere from last week to a couple of months ago. The first is the most recent, one last word about my Washington, D.C., trip. Above, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, with the Washington Monument in the background.

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Favorite music of 2014

Does anyone still buy CDs? Some of us do. You can find my Top 10 CDs of the year — my Top 15, actually, as I added five runnerups — at our IE Music Now blog, along with the picks of my newsroom colleagues Liset Marquez and Wes Woods, both of whom are hipper than me (even though they still buy CDs too).

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