• 39 Steps Pokes Away from Hitchcock

    By John Farrell, Theater Columnist

    The 39 Steps is a novel, a thriller, by John Buchan, a film, also a thriller, by Alfred Hitchcock, and, finally, a play, a comic romp through the same story, by Patrick Barlow.

    The Hitchcock film, rated one of the top 20 or so films of all time, requires everything the Forth Bridge in Scotland to an airplane to tell its story.

    In Barlow’s version, which won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy in 2007, everything in the movie is still there, but with just four characters playing 23 roles, more than a few rocks and bridge abutments, and making sly references to other Hitchcock films in the process. (more…)

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  • Harbor Currents: ANNOUNCEMENTS Jan. 25, 2013

    Jan. 26
    Second District E-waste, Recycling Drive
    Get rid of all sorts of items in your home following the holidays in a fast and convenient way, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 26, on the Broadway Parking Lot, near Broadway and Long Beach Boulevard in Long Beach.
    In addition to electronic waste, large appliances such as refrigerators, washers and stoves, referred to as “white waste,” will be accepted.
    “Bulk item” drop-offs such as sofas, mattresses, chairs and other big items taking up space in your garage will also be accepted.
    E-waste includes computers, monitors, keyboards, TVS, DVD players, fax machines, printers, digital clocks, cell phones and digital cameras. (more…)

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  • Harbor Currents: NEWS Jan. 23, 2013

    LBPD Crime Stats
    LONG BEACH — Long Beach achieved a 40-year low for violent crime, according to the final 2012 crime statistics that the Long Beach Police Department released Jan. 25.
    The overall total of citywide violent crimes decreased by 5.3 percent this past year. The violent crime rate in Long Beach is the lowest it has been since 1972.
    Murders in 2012 was the only violent crime category to increase, but was 14.3 percent below the 5-year average.  In 2011 the city saw the lowest number of murders in recorded history at 26*.  Of the 30 murders in 2012, 14 were investigated as gang related.
    In the property crime category, Long Beach experienced an increase of 10 percent, most notably due to residential and garage burglaries, and vehicle thefts. Residential burglaries were up 19 percent, while garage burglaries increased by 46.2 percent. Auto theft incidents increased by 19.1 percent, with 421 more incidents being reported in 2012 than in 2011. (more…)

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  • Carson’s Political Newcomer Tries to Beat the Learning Curve

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    The large screen TV in Charlotte Brimmer’s office was tuned to a documentary about the 20th anniversary of Los Angeles Riots when I walked in.

    After 20-plus years with the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, she was still upset that Gov. Jerry Brown dismantled the primary tools of community development.

    “It was very, very interesting,” she said, almost sardonically.

    The political upstart spent the day walking neighborhoods and was in a comfortable black jumpsuit and slippers. She was working at her desk before I arrived.

    She was working out of the Redevelopment office in Watts before the CRA was shut down.

    “I was assigned there when I was 51,” she said thinking back. “That’s where I grew upmentally. That’s where I saw the real thing,” she said, referring to the moment where she shed her naivete.

    Growing up in West Los Angeles during the 1960s, she noted that she was never exposed to the reality that other African Americans were facing in Watts during that time and after.

    [*A correction was made indicating Charlotte Brimmer was born and partly reared in Los Angeles before moving to Carson.]

    “It’s like, you know, but you don’t know, at least not to the level that I found out,” Brimmer explained, describing her own personal culture-shock after seeing high rates of poverty and ingrained patterns of community and familial
    dysfunction ranging from drug abuse, teenage pregnancies and joblessness rooted in the lack of economic development.

    “At the peak of it, when we really could have made a difference where people were finally believing in the system and there were a lot of things in the pipeline, Gov. Brown comes and says we don’t need redevelopment anymore,”
    she said.

    The Brimmer family could be in the midst of emerging as a political dynasty. Her third child, out of four, Justin Brimmer and former aid to Councilwoman Janice Hahn, ran for the Los Angeles 15th District City Council seat. He came in a distant fourth, but there are expectations of a bright future for him in local politics.

    It is no secret that Brimmer is Mayor Jim Dear’s preferred candidate to replace either Councilwoman Julie Ruiz-Raber or Councilman Mike Gipson, two incumbents that have been a thorn in the mayor’s side this past year. Dear has been actively campaigning on Brimmer’s behalf even as he campaigns for reelection in the March 5 Carson City elections. He was the keynote speaker when she officially announced from her home this past December, and even appeared prominently in her campaign video on YouTube.

    Aside from Gipson and Ruiz-Raber, Brimmer is running against several other candidates that include an attorney, Albert Robles, community activist Rita Boggs, and fellow planning commissioner Joseph Gordon.

    Brimmer is generally described as very bright, assertive and an independent thinker by her colleagues on the Planning Commission and others who have worked with her in the past.

    When Brimmer announced her candidacy and said she was running under the banner of change. Dear agreed, saying that change indeed is needed on the council and that Brimmer would be welcomed new blood.

    For a political newcomer like Brimmer, the mayor’s endorsement is fraught with advantages and risks. The biggest risk is that she’ll be labeled simply as a reliable Dear vote rather than an independent council member.

    “It’s time to restore respect in our city government,” said Brimmer responding to why Carsonites should vote for her.

    “We’ve been lacking in terms of our image, with the unpleasantness, [lack] of respect, teamwork and leadership. And that’s been missing for a number of years… I believe citizens have been crying out for change. That’s one reason.

    “A second reason is to strengthen our public safety. And, that was before Connecticut [Sandy Hook School shootings] for me. But that’s probably more because of Watts…because they have [a] Watts gang task force. So I would like to bring a taskforce here. Where you can bring community people, bring city government all to the table on a regular basis.”

    She said she was unaware of the Gang Alternatives Program in Carson, as well as others with similar policy aims that are annually the beneficiaries of $100,000 from a Housing and Urban Development block grant.

    In 2012, the Gang Alternatives Program received $12,000 and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Carson Gang Diversion Team received $15,500. Both received almost double what they were given in 2011, despite the city council’s cutting off a number of other community organizations.

    Brimmer is supportive of veterans, wishing to provide more support for those returning from the war in Afghanistan. She’s also supportive of seniors and wants to encourage volunteerism amongst the youth. But there’s no particular
    policy agenda on her platform. Choosing instead to wait until she’s elected and gain more information.

    Helen Kawagoe Honor Controversy
    A procedure code like Carson’s Standard Management Procedures manual should theoretically keep issues like the naming of buildings from being politicized. Carson operated under such a code until 2011 when it was deemed obsolete and was suspended.

    In January 2012, after long-time City Clerk Helen Kawagoe suffered a health setback that forced her to resign for good, a motion to rename the council chamber after her came up for a vote.

    The item failed 2-3, with Dear and Councilman Elito Santarina as the “yes” votes.

    The mayor was taken aback, as were a number of Kawagoe admirers in attendance at the meeting.Eventually, the council passed a substitute motion, that same night after three hours, whereby the council chambers would be renamed after
    Kawagoe immediately upon her death, eliminating the required 60-day delay that usually accompanies such a naming process.

    “I know about the issue,” said Brimmer about the vote.
    “I don’t know what the policy is. I’d go back to that…[the] procedures and what their administrative code calls for…Regardless, if it’s been
    revised or not, or reviewed and approved, whatever is existing is what will hold.”

    She said this is a matter on which she would ultimately defer to the city
    attorney.

    Nevertheless, Brimmer joined the Helen’s Dream Coalition to understand the passion that was driving Kawagoe’s supporters to push so hard for her to be immediately honored with a namesake.

    “Believe it or not, I was curious,” Brimmer said. “Why were we arguing?…I didn’t want to take anybody’s word for it and I didn’t want to pull anyone over to the side and say, ‘Tell me what’s going on.’ I thought, ‘Why don’t you
    [meaning herself] go to one of their meetings, and maybe you can get a better understanding yourself?’ So I’ve attended quite a few meetings.

    I learned that they were very passionate about this and its probably one of the top issues we will have to deal with once we’re sworn in.”

    When asked if she has learned where their passion come from, she said, she hoped she was right that it was because she gave so many years of her life as a civil servant.

    “If procedures and policies allow it, then I don’t see what the problem would be in recognizing her,” Brimmer said.

    Brimmer noted that Del Amo overpass was named after Councilwoman Kay Calas while she was still alive, but reiterated that she would abide by what the administrative code and city attorney say, alongside her colleagues on the council, if she is elected.

    Regarding cities using redevelopment monies to rehab public buildings
    In 2009, the City of Carson launched a $4 million rehabilitation effort of the Cong. Juanita Millender-McDonald Community Center using redevelopment money and a grant from the federal government. When given the hypothetical, “if you
    were on the council, would you have voted for that item?” Her answer was an emphatic, “No.”

    “Wow!” she exclaimed. “So they entered into an agreement with themselves? They just decided to allocate redevelopment funds to cover those expenses?”

    Brimmer said that during her employment with the Community Redevelopment Agency she has seen cities use redevelopment funds for public buildings and said that that is something that is not generally accepted.

    “I don’t know the code,” she said. “I would refer you to the city attorney to provide the specific code for it. But over at Los Angeles, it has occurred. And it’s something that’s frowned upon.

    Carson, like a number of small cities in Los Angeles County is a general charter city. The city council also doubles as other entities such as the Redevelopment Agency and the Housing Authority.

    “Somebody’s head should have rolled there,” Brimmer said.

    Then she noted that City Manager Jerry Groomes was in charge at the time as a possible explanation for the council’s move. Brimmer was informed the item was approved by a majority vote.

    “That’s why it’s time for a change because a lot of the current council people do not have the technical experience to understand what the difference between development and redevelopment, and between planning and urban planning,” she said.

    Brimmer said that if she were on the council, she would be able to red flag potential issues with the city attorney and open a frank discussion with
    council colleagues to move forward.

    She was asked if she would have voted with the majority, if she were on the council, in issuing a bond to pay for the cleanup efforts at Boulevards at South Bay—a bond that required the community center to be put up as collateral.

    She said, “Absolutely not!”

    But she dialed back her critique of the council noting that they rely on the information given to them by staff and may not be sophisticated in such matters on their own. She said that’s why she should be elected.

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  • Sonji Kimmons: A Great & Special Concert

    Text By LIONEL ROLFE

    & PHOTOS BY SUSAN MCRAE

    Sonji Kimmons came–one of the greatest of the unheralded blues pianists and singers around town–looked out over her audience at MJs, the bar in Silver Lake next door to the Trader Joe’s last Saturday, and played her heart out.

    (more…)

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  • Children’s Production Fills Warner Grand Theatre

    [portfolio_slideshow]

    By John Farrell, Theater Columnist

    Encore Entertainers most recently embraced Warner Grand Theatre with open arms Jan. 18 through 20, with the production of Seussical the Musical.

    The production filled the downtown San Pedro streets with hundreds of families who came to see their children perform a full-scale production in a great theater. You’ve got to wish there were more companies like this one to fill the Warner.

    This time around there was a secret in the production directed by Summer Dey Cacciagioni. The prior time Encore Entertainers produced a musical at the Warner Theatre Cacciagioni was in the last stages of pregnancy. This time around her new baby daughter, Lucy Rose, was one of the cast, the baby Horton the Elephant (David Mitrano) hatches after sitting on an egg for most of the production’s second act. (more…)

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  • Phyl Van Ammers on the The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn

    Phyl Van Ammers recently talked to Lionel Rolfe, the author whose most recent book is, “The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn: A Mostly True Memoir of California Journalism.” It is available on Amazon, both in paper and on Kindle. He will be doing a signing at Skylight Bookstore at 1818 N. Vermont Ave. in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles March 30 at 5 p.m.

    Q:      The Misadventures of Ari —  does the title suggest a relationship to Saul Bellow’s Adventures of Augie March?
    A:       Oh God no. I never could read Saul Bellow. He was everything I don’t like. Academic, heavy handed, establishment in the worst kind of way. He might have even been a good writer, but I just couldn’t read him. What I could read just got on my nerves–badly. Also, I take my California identity seriously. I’ve made a career out pointing out that most of this country’s best writing came from California, from Mark Twain to Jack London to Steinbeck. Not from the James brothers from Boston, or wherever.  That’s what my book “Literary L.A.” was all about. The real soul of California’s contribution to world literature was born in its Bohemian roots, and then it metamorphosed into something more apocalyptical after World War II. I don’t see Bellow as summing up anything big and stirring–just pompous and stale academia and equally pompous and stale New York publishing. Bellow is in the tradition of James’ parlor room writing.  I’d point out that the best American writer in recent years certainly wasn’t Bellow, it was Bukowski. And no New York publisher ever touched him. I got to admit I do like Philip Roth on occasions. He had a certain bawdy appeal. Bellow sucks. If my book draws from anything–the picaresque novel sort of thing–think Henry Fielding and Mark Twain. I loved Henry Fielding.
    Q:  If so, what are they?  Both picaresque novels, both mostly true, both you and Bellow Jewish?
    A:    Well, as I said, no, Bellow was never an influence on me. But yeah, I suffer from a Jewish thing. It’s been a big thing in my life. It began in junior high school when the son of a local Baptist minister used to chase me through the back alleys to my home in Long Beach and punch me and call me a “Christ Killer.” I had lots of reason to ponder this thing, Jewishness. At first I equated Jewishness to love of knowledge, a commitment to justice, to ethics, to science, to music–and a lot to what is dismissed as radical politics. Hell, Jesus was just yet another Jewish rabbi in the area urging his people to drive the Romans out of Palestine. I learned about the Holocaust in various ways I’ve written about. Then for a decade I edited the old “B’nai Brith Messenger,” the original Jewish paper founded in Los Angeles in 1892. I think I was basically the paper’s last editor. But I’ve also not come to terms with my Jewishness. I think it was important that Jews had a place they could call their own, just like any other people, but I’m torn, because that country has become a monstrosity led by fascists like Netanyahu, who’ve dealt with Nazism by becoming one. Jews of all people shouldn’t be oppressing other people, of that I’m sure. I’m sure my Jewishness is quite different from Bellow.
    Q:       Were you blacklisted?  How did that happen?
    A:         I was drawn to the logic of the left and repelled by the nonsense from the political right. Almost all the great artists, writers, musicians, were of the left. It’s best summed up by that wonderful story of Picasso showing Nazis around his studio in Paris, per their request, and the commodant stopped in front of “Guernica” and said “You did this,” Picasso responded, “No, you did that.” I joined the party for six months and left on not great terms. I never was attracted by the notion of “dictatorship of the Proletariat,” just like I don’t like the dictatorship of the ruling class we have in this country now.
    Q.    Do you still consider yourself a Marxist?
    A:     Well, I don’t think anyone has come up with a better description of how class struggle forms a society. But no, I think the answer is a system that has both capitalist and socialist impulses. If I put a label on it, I’d say I’m a social democratic. I like the idea of economic democracy. We have political democracy but no democracy in the work place, except that which trade unionism can provide.  An entrepreneurial approach is good for some things, things where an individual’s vision is the focus, be it in writing, in cooking, in making clothes. But I think capitalism is lousy for the big things a modern society needs–housing, transportation, finance, medicine. Capitalism is a stupid way to deal with those kinds of things.
    Q:     How have your political beliefs affected how you have lived your life?
    A:     It’s made it harder. I was actually blacklisted by the California Newspaper Publishers Association and fired from the Inglewood Daily News (no longer in existence) until I was hired by Scott Newhall of the Newhall Signal because of my politics. I know I’ve suffered because of my politics. But I can’t imagine mouthing beliefs in things I do not believe in just to make my life easier.
    Q:     Do you think Ari has any regrets about how he lived his life?
    A:     Sometimes, sure he does. But the way I described Ari’s life was the only way it could really be.
    Q:     Do you think Ari will find real and sustaining love by the end of his life?
    A:     I hope so.
    Q:     How did you come to meet Studs Terkel?  What was he like as a friend?
    A:     Well, it was brief. I interviewed him in the Polo Lounge for some magazine, and we seemed to click. Then he said he had to get to the airport. He could either go by taxi or I could drive him. I was happy to drive him. He said, “You need an agent. Talk to my agent Don Gold, head of the literary department at the William Morris Agency in New York, and use my name,” Terkel said. I did, and Gold, who had sold two books that did incredibly well when published but about 100 publishers turned them down first–Love Story and Jonathan Seagull–took me on. He wasn’t proud of either book, they made him a legendary agent. He put a lot of work editing my manuscript because he thought I made up for his sins of cheap commercialism, which those two books represented in his mind.  I was a writer in residence at Villa Montalvo near San Jose when I first began writing what became “The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn.” Gold was my first editor–a second agent, Mike Dorr was the second. Like Gold, Dorr was an editor before he became an agent. Gold had told me he wouldn’t keep being an agent “so use me while you can.”  He got me a good advance to do my first book about my family, “The Menuhins: A Family Odyssey.” I think if he had stayed being an agent, my life, and Ari’s life, would have been certainly easier.

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  • Pick of the Vine

    By John Farrell, Theater Columnist
    Little Fish Theatre has opened the New Year with their own special brand of theatrical creativity, the 11th annual edition of Pick of the Vine.

    The selection of short plays are picked from hundreds submitted through the year, chosen by the players themselves and presented in an evening of excitement, romance and hilarity.

    There is one play of the eight chosen, Disconnections by Peter Kennedy, which takes a look at the last phone conversations of three people on the doomed airplane that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania Sept. 11. The others are light-hearted, romantic, even raucously, comic. All together they are a demonstration that playwriting is still a living, breathing art-form. (more…)

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  • Phillip Glass’ Opera of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher

    [portfolio_slideshow] By B. Noel Barr, Music Columnist and John Farrell, Theater Columnist

    On Jan. 19, we traveled to the beautiful Art Theatre on 4th near Cherry Avenue in Long Beach. In a program that was a bit of a tease for the Fall Of the House of Usher, Jan. 27 and Feb. 3, at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, we were treated an old silent movie about Edgar Allen Poe and his poem, The Raven. Behind the film was the magnificent piano virtuosity of Ms. Michelle Schuman. Here she played other works of Glass to this sad life of Edgar Allen Poe and The Raven. The music by Glass that accompanied the film, were Metamorphosis and Orph’ee Suite.   (more…)

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  • Changing the Patriotic Spin

    Taking back the Declaration of Independence from the Tea Party
    James Preston Allen, Publisher

    All presidential inaugurations are plush with patriotic symbolism.

    The second one for Barack Obama, the 57th for our republic, was no less. The pomp and ceremony of this transfer or continuation of power changes tenor with the party or candidate. President James Madison was the first to host an inaugural ball charging attendees $4 each to attend. In 1841, President William Henry Harrison gave his speech of some 8,445 words that lasted two hours in the wet winter of Washington D.C. that year. Thirty days later, he died of pneumonia. So much for being long winded.

    (more…)

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