Wednesday’s all-Claremont column leads off with news that the “Seinfeld” actor is coming to Bridges Auditorium Feb. 18 for a public talk about his career, then continues with 10 (!) more items from around town.
The La Verne Public Library doors were mentioned in Friday’s column about the new council chamber emblem. They were both done by woodworker Ruben Guajardo. I was told about the library work last November while doing interviews at City Hall and took the opportunity to walk across the parking lot to take a look.
Check out those doors! They were made, I’m told, out of a beloved oak tree that stood in front of La Verne Heights Elementary School and that had died. Even the door handles are unique.
The library was dedicated in 1985, according to a plaque. It’s a county library branch, but thanks to the doors, it’s got some personality. The rest of the interior is very 1980s. But the lobby offers a striking silhouette of the doors.
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?