La Verne Public Library doors

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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.

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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.

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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

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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: Glory days of Pomona moviegoing recalled

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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.

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Books read, 2016

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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.

  1. “Slogging Toward the Millennium,” Bill McClellan
  2. “The Hour After Westerly,” Robert M. Coates
  3. “Long After Midnight,” Ray Bradbury
  4. “The Day After Tomorrow,” Robert A. Heinlein
  5. “Twelfth Night,” William Shakespeare
  6. “Now Wait for Last Year,” Philip K. Dick
  7. “Early Bird,” Rodney Rothman
  8. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 30th Anniversary Issue
  9. “Frankenstein,” Mary Shelley
  10. “The Last Man,” Mary Shelley
  11. “The Last of the Best,” Jim Murray
  12. “The Last Laugh,” S.J. Perelman
  13. “The Penultimate Truth,” Philip K. Dick
  14. “Heart Like a Starfish,” Allen Callaci
  15. “Empire,” Lewis DeSoto
  16. “The Autobiography of Mark Twain,” Charles Neider, ed.
  17. “Stalking the Feature Story,” William Ruehlmann
  18. “Forgotten Bookmarks,” Michael Popek
  19. “The Complete Stories,” Flannery O’Connor
  20. “Howards End,” E.M. Forster
  21. “Then We Came to the End,” Joshua Ferris
  22. “Howards End is on the Landing,” Susan Hill
  23. “Sixpence House,” Paul Collins
  24. “Mary Shelley: A Biography,” Muriel Spark
  25. “John Carter of Mars” (No. 11), Edgar Rice Burroughs
  26. “The Divine Invasion,” Philip K. Dick
  27. “Tortilla Flat,” John Steinbeck
  28. “Ask a Mexican!” Gustavo Arellano
  29. “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America,” Gustavo Arellano
  30. “Eat Mexico,” Lesley Tellez
  31. “Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, Vol. 2,” H.P. Lovecraft, et al
  32. “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” Victor and Jacob Maymudes
  33. “Spend All Your Kisses, Mr. Smith,” Jack Smith
  34. “Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan,” Howard Sounes
  35. “Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina,” David Hajdu
  36. “Positively Main Street: An Unorthodox View of Bob Dylan,” Toby Thompson
  37. “Gentlemen of the Road,” Michael Chabon
  38. “The Wishbones,” Tom Perrotta
  39. “The Puppies of Terra,” Thomas M. Disch
  40. “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?

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