• Midsummer Night’s Scream

    By John Farrell

    The view from the Reef Restaurant across Queensway Bay to downtown Long Beach is fantastic.

    The dinner served is elegant and delicious.

    But when the curtain is pulled across the view and one of the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Scream is poisoned before your eyes (and carried out quickly: no CSI action here) you realize, if you didn’t know it when you were buying your ticket, that the evening is centered on murder.

    Unless you have already absorbed six or seven glasses of wine, of course you know where you are and you know that A Midsummer Night’s Scream is the latest in comic dinner theater presented by Act Out Mystery Theatre. They’re back for their 20th production, leaving audiences with a good dinner and dying, as they say, of laughter. Performances are scheduled for May 31.

    A Midsummer’s Night Scream is written and directed by Paul Vander Roest and is much, much more about jokes and satire than it is murder.

    Holly Baker-Kreiswirth, familiar from San Pedro’s Little Fish Theatre, is Mona Desmond (yes, that name is familiar) and when she dies in the first act and then reappears as Lady MacDeath, the detective, you know what’s in store. It’s delightful fun and it doesn’t require much deduction in the process. Bill Wolski, also a Little Fish alumnus, is dead serious as Peter Squints the Butler and, when he comes on again as the very bearded Snitch, the Witch, his transformation from icy stare to melting comedy is complete. (more…)

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  • Baseline for the Department of Cultural Affairs

    By Adolfo Nodal

    I am aware that Mayor Eric Garcetti is currently grappling with the Cultural Affairs Department and what kind of leader he should tap to bring energy and dynamism to the City’s cultural programs. As a seventeen year veteran of the City’s cultural programs including service as a former general manager of Department of Cultural Affairs, past President of the Cultural Affairs Commission, recent president of the L.A. Sister City Association and current festival producer in the City I have an insight from what I have learned from those jobs.

    Obviously the city needs an Arts Pied Piper of category 5 proportions. But that leader has to be the mayor. In Garcetti, we have a leader that cares deeply about the health of the creative community and, by extension, the economic health of the city. As a council member and as council president he did a lot to support the arts and the film community in Hollywood. The Arts Community will not forget his leadership in unison with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to save minimal funding and maintaining that department when several bureaus and departments were merged in 2008 and 2009 and 2010 when the great recession forced severe budget cuts. Today, by definition, he is the mayor for the Arts. His leadership is primary and can’t be delegated but the Mayor and the city council both need high quality help in this area of City Government. (more…)

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  • Night Train To Shanghai

    By Lionel Rolfe

    Night Train to Shanghai And Other Memories Of China 

    Gerald Nicosia

    Grizzly Peak Press

    Gerald Nicosia is probably better known for his non-fiction — Memory Babe is still the major work on Jack Kerouac and his Home To War is a major opus on the Vietnam War — but he also is a real poet.

    Nicosia is very much in the San Francisco tradition of Ferlinghetti, Patchen, Rexroth and Ginsberg — except those guys are now mostly gone.

    I was amazed at how viscerally I reacted to the cover of Night Train to Shanghai and Other Memories of China. He showed a train track running within inches of worker’s hovels, in a place that looked like all the other dreary places on Earth from Camden, New Jersey to Downey, Calif.

    Of course, looking to the East was the hallmark of the Beats in the 50s. They thought the wisdom from the other side of the globe much surpassed our own. For many of us children from that era, China was the land at the other end of the hole we sometimes tried to dig in our suburban front yards. Nicosia looks at China through those eyes he might have had climbing out the other end of the tunnel for the first time. This slim book of poems is better than a thousand long-winded pieces of journalism — he makes the East scrutable and real, with all its anomalies. (more…)

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  • Creating Long Beach Organic’s Latest Community Garden

    Photo by Nate Lubben

    By Mick Haven, Contributing Writer

    Joe Corso looks around, then stoops down and grabs a dirt clod. Standing, he says, “This soil’s hardpan.”

    The pale dirt crumbles and slips through Corso’s fingers. “But we start adding compost, lots of it,” he points at a sloping mound in the corner of the garden. A cantaloupe rind smiles a pale grin on the side of the dark heap, until it gets dark, almost black. “One of many benefits of organic gardening [is that] we enrich the soil,” he laughs.

    The garden director for Long Beach Organic Inc. stands in the middle of their latest addition unofficially dubbed, “Garden Number Nine,” at its inception two years ago. The addition is the nonprofit’s ninth garden. It’s now officially christened the 7th and Chestnut Garden. Around him are neatly arranged planter boxes divided in two: one plot for each gardener and a new water spigot sprout from the ground. Redolent with the piney smell of fresh-cut lumber from the planters, the air also has a cool morning dampness, but the golden rays of the winter, Southern California sun already promise another day in the 80s. It’s the first Saturday of the month, a work day.

    “A city and port gives Long Beach two strikes,” Corso says. “The port deserves lots of credit. It’s one of the greenest in the world, but all that means is the trucking and shipping they do releases the least amount of air pollution compared to other ports. So it’s less negative.”

    Corso’s already organized a few gardeners, a couple of women and a man. They work in the background, wheel-barrowing loads of wood chips from a pickup parked on the street. Using pitchforks, they spread the chips over the walkways between the planter boxes.

    “Living next to a port city increases all kinds of health risks — cancers, like lung, and respiratory illnesses, like asthma,” he said. “Plants take CO2 out of the air and put O2 back — pure positive. All this talk about carbon cap and trade, plant a tree for every plane ride you take, or probably a small forest, it’s hard to measure.”

    He smiles. Another pickup — so full of wood chips it’s sagging on its springs — arrives and Corso helps them find a parking spot. That is tricky in this Willmore City Historic District neighborhood of mostly apartment buildings and a smattering of houses. Now there’s a crew of eight or 10 workers, consisting of gardeners with a plot here, as well as a gardener from another Long Beach Organic garden, and several interns from Cal State Long Beach getting college credit for majors ranging from Human Geography to Environmental Science and Policy.

    “What’s not hard to measure are the direct benefits to the city, community and neighborhood when LBO comes in,” Corso said. They take an abandoned lot and transform it. “There was an overgrown bougainvillea here,” he points at the middle of a six foot wooden fence on the side of the property abutting an apartment building.

    “That we ripped out, — and weeds and garbage. “Homeless people used the bougainvillea to stash their bedrolls, clothes, belongings. The lot was getting used as a bathroom, too. You know, human feces. We came in, cleaned it all up. “When the owner sells the lot, whatever’s built and whoever lives there will have great soil for their yard. “And we do our best to give plots to people [who] can walk or bike to them, so it really is a neighborhood garden, and gardeners are growing their own vegetables and sharing produce with others, saving on transport from far away farms nationally or internationally.”

    He tells one man forking bark onto a path, “Go all the way to the top of the planters because it compresses a lot as we walk on it.” Nodding, the gardener says OK and redoubles his effort. He dips his chin at the man. “Tied up with that — and it’s beyond measure, but it’s there, and I’ve seen it — people are digging in the dirt, growing their own food, sometimes for the first time, and it can be transformative,” he said. “What I always hear from a gardener harvesting their plot the first time is, ‘Wow, tomatoes from the store don’t taste like this!’ Or fill in peas, carrots, squash … nothing from the store tastes as good, — not even organics from Whole Foods because it’s business to those organic farmers. They’re making a living. And this (he holds up his arms and looks around the garden), this isn’t about business.

    “LBO’s community gardens are micro. A labor of love not profit. We can’t sell any of what’s produced from our gardens. You can give it away; you can donate it; but nothing can be sold. It’s illegal. LBO’s not licensed for it. We’re not farmers. We’re gardeners. “And community garden, that’s the best of my job, as far as I’m concerned. Seeing people meet their neighbors. Folks from different generations and ethnicities get to know each other because they’ve joined a garden. It’s about enjoying their neighborhood, which contributes so much to quality of life.”

    Corso turns his talk to 7th and Chestnut’s genesis.

    “The Pacific and 6th plot had a really long waiting list, a backlog from Pacific Towers Retirement Center and MHA [Mental Health America] Village. LBO’s been partners with both for a long time and loves the relationship, so the only option was to find another lot for a new garden, which was what I decided to do three years ago, and I started to look around.

    “I talked to Lena Gonzalez, field deputy for Vice Mayor Robert Garcia, first district’s representative. I’d scouted a couple lots. She suggested another, 7th and Chestnut, and gave me the info for all the owners.

    “After I mailed the three letters, about two years ago, the only owner that responded was Eric Bueno from 7th and Chestnut. “I met with Eric, showed him around some of LBO’s gardens, and he got interested. When we met, I explained what LBO offers property owners: we cover the insurance for the lot and maintain the property, and when the lease is up, we move on, no questions asked if the owner doesn’t want to renew it.

    “About 18 months ago, Eric agreed. LBO took a big leap of faith because we accepted a three-year lease. I wanted five. In the beginning we had a couple of rough learning experiences. “For instance, in the ‘90s, before I was involved [with] LBO, [I] found a plot on Anaheim, east of Cherry, and got it all ready: fence, water, planters. Just before it was about to open, the owner got an offer he couldn’t refuse and sold the property. Now we lock in a lease — minimum three years.

    “With Eric on board, we raised funds and signed the lease October 2013.”

    Corso looks at the fence: a cool sea-foam green and graceful Victorian-inspired steel affair topped in ornate spear heads. “Our biggest delay was the fence — totally unanticipated. LBO’s never gone for a lot in a historic district before — had to get a Certificate of Appropriateness. When I picked up the forms, I was told three feet was maximum height, so I thought that was the end. We’ve got to have security. I know it sounds like a contradiction, community garden and security, but people will come and take the food grown or vandalize the plots, grounds or structures. And our gardening equipment is locked in a shed, but the extra security of a fence provides another safeguard.

    “Luckily, I was told we could get an exception. More forms we had to send through zoning for a zoning modification. We got two more feet, although I’d asked for three. After considering it, I decided five was enough.

    “The process took nine months. Like giving birth (he smiles), which explains why we’re opening about a year behind. “After the fence, we took the funds we’d raised and put them to work. I’d gone for a Grant thinking I’d never get it. It was an online form. I filled it out and got it, $16,000. That’s huge to us.

    “The city had already given us a Neighborhood Improvement Grant through the Neighborhood Partners Program. That’s where Long Beach matches labor and money up to $5,000. We managed to nearly max that one. Timothy Collier, The Green Plumber, donated the labor; the city picked up the tab for materials. We needed a water source and meter.”

    Corso holds up his arms.

    “It’s a lot of work,” he smiles. “The board is all volunteers except for the garden director; the only paid position. So, we’re going to take a break and enjoy the fruits of our labor. No more new gardens for a while. Not until we get another paid position.”

    Long Beach Organic Inc.: www.longbeachorganic.org The Green Plumber: www.callthegreenplumber.com

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  • Hamilton Street Widening

    Divisions over the Hamilton Avenue street widening project immediately bubbled to the surface at the May 19, Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council meeting.

    Former board member Doug Epperhart preemptively called communities proposals to make the thoroughfare a one way street a “stupid idea.”

    The city is moving to widen and install a sidewalk on this partly undeveloped thoroughfare to mitigate the air quality impacts caused by vehicles kicking up dust on the northerly unpaved side of the street. Another reason the city is moving to fix Hamilton Avenue is to address erosion and mudflow issues during rainstorms, which impacts water quality of storm water runoff and catch basins downstream.

    Epperhart told Random Lengths after the meeting that residents should take advantage of whatever monies the city does give to mitigate traffic issues, especially since the broken Paseo del Mar thoroughfare isn’t going to be fixed until the city finds $50 million.

    Coastal resident Christopher Cole was one of those who opposes the project argues that the project places an unfair burden on adjacent homeowners in terms of access to their homes on Hamilton Street (The project is slated to take six months to complete) and homeowners situated downhill on Hamilton will likely have to deal with excess runoff that could cause water related damage on their properties.

    Cole also noted with the widening of the street, there will be increased traffic, thereby making the neighborhood a less quiet place, robbing residents one of the reasons residents moved there.

    Public hearings on the project are going to take place at 12:30 p.m. at the San Pedro Public Library.



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  • District 44 Student Artists Honored

    On May 17, winners of the 44th Congressional District Art Competition were honored at Crafted at Port of Los Angeles. This year, Rep. Janice Hahn’s office received submissions from more than 100 high school students from across the district.

    The winners included Angelica Macias, a Compton High School senior who won the competition with her silk portrait titled “My Friend Mirna.” Her work will be displayed in the United States Capitol for the next year beside the winning works from every district in the nation. Angelica also won a trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the installation ceremony for her work.

    Lynwood High School student Gabriela Gonzalez placed second and Compton High School student Geovanny Juarez from Compton High School placed third in the competition.

    The winners were selected by a panel of judges made up of various renowned artists from across Los Angeles and Long Beach. The student art work will remain up at Crafted until June 8.

    Details: http://hahn.house.gov/press-release/congresswoman-hahn-announces-congressional-art-competition-winners-0

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  • San Pedro Urban Greening Project

    The San Pedro Urban Greening project made it rounds presenting the city’s effort to create green pathways at the May 19 Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council meeting.

    The pathways link  the community’s  public assets such as the waterfront promenade, historic monuments downtown shopping and entertainment, and San Pedro’s parks such as Point Fermin and Leland parks.

    According to the project website, www.witzelsucht.org, the greening of San Pedro’s connections could take the form of landscaped sidewalks , preferred bicycle routes, walking and running trails, highly functional public transit, sustainable  storm water paths or passive  natural greenways.

    The purpose of these types of connections is to encourage people to walk or bike to their destinations, expand the urban forest and its associated benefits, heighten nature consciousness, and boost community health.

    The group plans to host an open house during the First Thursday Art Walk June 5, at People’s Place, 365 W. 6th St., in San Pedro, to begin the process of collecting community input.

    Details: www.witzelsucht.org/connections.html

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  • Apartment Burned in Pedro: Cause Unknown

    A small fire burned through an apartment of two-floor complex at about shortly after 4 p.m. May 19, on the 700 block of 16th Street in San Pedro.

    “I was watching TV and I smelled something burning,” said María Guadalupe Alvarez, the tenant in the lower level apartment. “I turned around and saw the fire.”

    Alvarez said that though she does not know what the cause of the fire was, she believes it started outside.

    Her neighbor Rebecca Jones, who was sitting on her porch smoking a cigarette, rushed to her aid. They tried to fight the fire with a garden hose but that did not work.

    “I was surprised at how fast I moved,” Jones said. “I didn’t think I could move that fast anymore.”

    The windows exploded. Jones yelled for her not to get closed and screamed for the upstairs apartment occupants to come out. The woman who lived upstairs was bathing her child and rushed out.

    The women called 911. The living room and kitchen were destroyed. Alvarez still did not know if any of the other rooms were damaged.

    “It felt like it took 10 or 15 minutes,” said Alvarez, who rushed out of her apartment without shoes. “My purse was inside with money, my personal papers, computer, certificates.”

    Alvarez did not know where she and her family were going to spend the night but officials told the residents of the upstairs unit that the damage on their apartment was minimal, but due to the smoke they may not be able to stay in the unit, at least for the night.

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  • Susie Glaze, the Hilonesome Band Bringing Hot acoustic strings to Alvas

    By Larry Wines, RLn Contributor

    Susie Glaze puts “international award-winning Folk-Americana music” and “Broadway star” in the same sentence.

    Her band’s latest album, White Swan, was No. 1 for three months on Roots Music Report and is still charting in the Folk Category’s Top 50, more than a year later.

    The Hilonesome Band has enjoyed steady bookings since its debut CD, Blue Eyed Darlin’, won the Just Plain Folks award, with 40,000-plus people voting, worldwide for Best Roots Album in 2006.

    Early on, Entertainment Weekly declared, “She can blow the roof off any joint lucky enough to book her.” And yes, her music career began on Broadway, in Big River.

    Susie Glaze and The Hilonesome Band arrive May 25, for their first time at Alvas Showroom, having played the Grand Annex three times to enthusiastic San Pedro audiences. (more…)

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  • Documentary Finds Sugar Man

    Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    Singer and songwriter rock musician Sixto Rodriguez  released his two albums and disappeared from the music scene back in the 1970s, few took notice in the states. Wild stories of his death circulated, like the artist setting himself on fire while performing or pulling a gun to his head and shooting himself at the end of a song. He was even rumored to be dead. But no one knew for sure.

    Though his music was relatively unknown in North America, his two albums became major hits in South Africa and Australia attracting diehard fans in both countries.

    A couple of those fans were Stephen Segerman and music journalist, Craig Bartholomew Strydom. They set out on a journey to find the truth behind Sixto’s “death,” how it happened and why. Their investigation turned into an Academy Award winning documentary entitled, Searching for Sugar Man. The Grand Vision foundation as part of its Reel Rockumentuary film series featured the Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary at the Warner Grand May 4.

    Cold Hard Fact was Sixto’s biggest album Segerman said. The second one, Coming from Reality, is believed to have sold half a million copies in South Africa, where Rodriguez became a cult figure.

    According to the film, Segerman’s epiphany came while he was speaking to a girl who immigrated to the United States but returned to South Africa. She asked where in South Africa she could buy Rodriguez’s albums. She searched all over the States but could not find them. A man who was bigger in South Africa than Elvis was in the states and she couldn’t get his albums? This set Segerman to thinking, “How this could be?” (more…)

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