• Turner House Serves as the New Artist Incubator

    • 05/31/2017
    • Andrea Serna
    • Art
    • Comments are off

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    Marylyn Ginsburg and Chuck Klaus possess high profile reputations as arts patrons in the Harbor Area. You will find their names on art buildings at the Palos Verdes Art Center, the Marymount College Klaus Center for the Arts in downtown San Pedro and the Norris Theater for Performing Arts.

    But the program that is closest to their personal history is the Turner House in San Pedro. The house took on Ginsburg’s maiden name of Turner (Ginsberg is her last name from a prior marriage). The home was customized to house art students from Marilyn’s alma mater, Syracuse University. Each semester three students are chosen from the masters in fine arts program to live in San Pedro and undertake an intensive art study. The program includes internships, studio space at Angels Gate Cultural center and visits to Los Angeles’s most significant museums. The students are also provided with opportunities to tour galleries and contemporary artist’s studios, and to hear from prominent artists, curators and gallery owners, many of whom are accomplished Syracuse University alumni.

    Ginsburg was inspired by her own past as a young disadvantaged student who was fortunate enough to obtain a scholarship for her education.

    “I lost my father when I was seven years old and I had two younger siblings,” Ginsburg said. My mother worked very hard for many years for General Electric and found they had a scholarship program for children of the employees. Each year I applied and received a $500 scholarship, a substantial amount at that time.”

    The scholarship allowed Ginsberg to attend the arts education program at Syracuse. While in school, she supplemented her scholarship by cleaning houses for 50 cents an hour, sometimes 75 cents if she vacuumed. She graduated magna cum laude in art and education. After graduation, she went on to teach ceramics, drawing and painting at Palos Verdes High School.

    Many years late, Marylyn found success in real estate and took the inspiration she found in her youth to reach down and give a hand to other young art students. Eventually, the Turner House was established in San Pedro.

    “I remembered my days at Syracuse University and I wanted show Syracuse I appreciated what they did for me,” Ginsburg said.

    A Program is Born

    The inception of the program seven years ago was a one-week practicum for Syracuse art students. The spring break program, entitled Art in L.A., was modeled after a one-week immersion program created by screenwriter and Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin, another Syracuse alumnus. Sorkin Week brings Syracuse writing students to the heart of the entertainment industry.

    Art in L.A. eventually reached the point where it could bring students to California for an entire semester. This expansion required housing for the students, and the couple used their own resources to purchase a home in central San Pedro above Fort MacArthur. The mid-century home required considerable renovation. An entire wing was added to provide three bedrooms and two bathrooms downstairs as well as a loft on the second floor.

    The credentialed program is fully funded by Klaus and Ginsburg and supervised by Syracuse Professor of Painting Kevin Larmon, who serves as the faculty of record for the off-site program.

    “Each week the students have artists visit their studio at Angels Gate Cultural Center,” Larmon said. “They also go to visit artists in downtown Los Angeles.”

    Larmon, based in Syracuse, makes regular visits to San Pedro to oversee the program and coordinate the internships at Angels Gate Cultural Center, Palos Verdes Art Center and the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. Each student spends 10 hours per week on the internship. They are free to devote the rest of the week to their art.

    Larmon encourages each student to create a piece of art to leave behind in the Turner House, and the home is building a significant collection.The most recent residents of the Turner House are third-year graduate student Taro Takizawa, first-year graduate student Rene Gortat from Brooklyn and South Korean student Sun Young. The students will be displaying their work in a group show at Yoon Space Gallery in Los Angeles.

    When he is not in San Pedro, Larmon leans on Los Angeles curator Carole Ann Klonarides. As an independent curator and strategist for artists, she helps to guide the students. Her advice is invaluable in assisting with career objectives. She spends time learning about their experiences and backgrounds to shepherd them towards individuals and institutions that will help them reach their career goals.

    “As I got to know each student it became more than an advisory relationship; it became a mentoring relationship,” Klonarides said.

    Unsurprisingly, Klonarides recounts an experience that paralleled the experience of the young Marilyn Ginsburg’s scholarship at Syracuse.

    “I had this opportunity myself when I was their age,” she said. “I was invited to the Whitney Museum independent studies program, which enabled me to go to New York when it was the art center of the country.”

    “Now …  LA has become the art center,” she continued. “So, it’s basically allowing these students to take the shortcut, to come right in the midst of the professional art community. They meet first hand, by introduction, with art directors, critics and art dealers.”

    Known primarily for her pioneering artistic and curatorial work in video art, Klonarides has been an active participant in two historic art communities — New York and Los Angeles — as they evolved to world prominence.

    While giving back to the next generation of artists, Ginsberg and Klaus have helped them break into the art world — a daunting experience for any new artist.

    “Some of the students use the connections they make here to take on some important positions,” Klaus said. “We recently had a student who was able to secure a mid-career track position because of the connections he made.”

    Then there is the breathtaking location of their studio at Angels Gate. The students share a 1,000-square-feet working space on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

    Angels Gate Director Amy Eriksen said the students help out with exhibitions and assist the small staff that runs the art center.

    Marylyn Ginsburg and Chuck Klaus’ love story is rooted in culture. Their story began in Syracuse, New York and, to the benefit of many, crossed the country to bring them both to California. In 2009 they exchanged vows at Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, and in the past eight years, they have enriched the cultural community with their love for the arts.

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  • We Are Misty Copeland

    • 05/26/2017
    • Kym Cunningham
    • Culture
    • Comments are off

    San Pedro Ballet Students Receive Scholarships to Prestigious Dance Schools

    By Kym Cunningham, Contributing Writer

    San Pedro Ballet School has announced that three of its students will be following in Misty Copeland’s graceful footsteps by attending two esteemed performing arts schools in New York City.

    Misty Copeland was the San Pedro Ballet School’s first prodigy. Through the studio’s guidance, Copeland moved to New York, taking the ballet world by storm when she became the first black principal dancer of New York’s renowned American Ballet Theatre. Copeland has since become a household name synonymous with hard work.

    Lauren Renee Ortega, Enrique Anaya and Danielle Ciaramitaro are students at the San Pedro Ballet School on Pacific Avenue at 13th Street in San Pedro. Photo by Kym Cunningham

    Now, three more students from the same school have a chance to follow the star’s trajectory. Enrique Anaya and Lauren Renee Ortega will attend the Joffrey Ballet School this summer, while Danielle Ciaramitaro will begin classes at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in the fall. All have received scholarships. Each expressed excitement about the opportunity to pursue their art at such a high level.

    Ciaramitaro said going to New York to pursue her career in the performing arts had always been her dream.

    “It’s all I ever wanted growing up,” Ciaramitaro said. “I’m super grateful and thankful to everyone who has supported me along this journey. I’m excited to spread my wings and fly.”

     Different Paths

    Ciaramitaro and Ortega both began dancing at the San Pedro Ballet School when they were in preschool. Ortega said ballet was originally one of many activities her mother encouraged her to pursue, but once she took a class she fell immediately in love with the art. Ciaramitaro agreed.

    “I originally started at home watching DVDs,” Ciaramitaro said. “My grandma would play these ballerina DVDs for me. I loved it so much that I asked her if I could go take an actual ballet class.”

    Enrique Anaya is planning to attend the Joffrey Ballet School this summer. Photo by Gray Autry.

    In contrast, Anaya was a relative latecomer to the world of ballet; he was introduced to the San Pedro Ballet School in 2016 by one of his teachers at the Humanity and Arts Academy of Los Angeles.

    “I didn’t really know anything about it,” Anaya admitted. “I looked a mess.”

    Ortega remembered that Anaya wore socks and basketball shorts to his first class. Anaya, professionally clad in a black athletic tank and ballet leggings, smiled at the memory. Like Ciaramitaro and Ortega, once Anaya started dancing, he was hooked.

    “I took that one class and that’s really all it took,”  Anaya said. “I really like it because you get to be really graceful but at the same time, at least for men, you get to be super masculine. They go hand in hand.”

    A Second Home

    Another aspect of the San Pedro Ballet School that all three students appreciated was the supportive atmosphere, which extends into the surrounding neighborhoods.

    “This whole community, especially in Pedro, really supports the studio,” Anaya said. “There’s a sense of home here.”

    Ortega and Ciaramitaro both agreed.

    “All of us are like family,” Ortega said. “We spend four hours every day together.”

    Ortega admitted that often she spent more time with this second family than with her own family. She cited this as one of the sacrifices that she has had to make in order to pursue her art.

    But in the midst of this sacrifice, these young adults seem to have found the uplifting communal energy from which so many of their peers are isolated. Unlike the aggressive competition that is usually featured in media representations of the ballet world, these three students seem to view each other as competitive safety nets, each with impressive capabilities that push the others to test their physical boundaries.

    “You feed off each other: the energy that people give is what you receive,”  Anaya said. “You see in a room, “Oh, this girl or guy can kick their head. Let me try or let me work as hard as them. That’s what gets you going.”

    The House that Misty Built

    Perhaps this new emergence of community within the ballet world is due in part to the increasing availability of youth exposure to professional dancers via the internet. Similarly, Misty Copeland has opened doors within the ballet industry, demonstrating to aspiring young dancers what is possible.

    “Misty was a big influence,” Ortega said. “She shows a new path for a … huge group of ballerinas.”

    Danielle Ciaramitaro will begin classes at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in the fall. Photo by Gray Autry.

    Ciaramitaro agreed that Misty was one of her biggest dancing influences. She also said that when she is not in the studio, she spends a lot of her time watching professional dancing videos; instead of her grandmother’s DVDs, she now finds inspiration for her dancing on YouTube.

    The Dream

    Of course, the true love of these three students lies within the onstage performance — an event that would terrify the vast majority of people. But when these students described the ethereal quality of performing onstage, it was impossible not to become enamored with the feelings that they evoked.

    “What you feel when you’re onstage — that adrenaline — it’s almost like a dream,” said Anaya. “When it’s over, it’s so bittersweet… It leaves me speechless. You stand frozen and you think about nothing.”

    “[At the end of a performance,] sometimes you cry because it’s really emotional,” Ortega said. “You’re in paradise.”

    Even talking about performing was enough to bring to bring up these tumultuous and cathartic emotions. In the studio’s last production of The Nutcracker, Anaya played the part of the prince, while Ciaramitaro played the lead female role of Clara.

    “I started as a little mouse in The Nutcracker, an to get up to the part of Clara was like a dream for me,” Ciaramitaro said amidst tears of happiness.

    Not a Second to Lose

    Despite the happiness dancing brings these students, training for it necessitates sacrifice. From getting up for school at 6 a.m. to ending ballet class at 8 p.m., these students rarely have a moment of time to themselves.

    “I don’t have a social life,” Ortega admitted. “It’s pretty much here and school.”

    In order to cope with the demands of devoting her life to the performing arts, Ciaramitaro began homeschooling during her last year of high school.

    “Public schooling was really stressful for me and everything that I did — I also sing and act — I do a lot, not just dance,” said Ciaramitaro. “Being homeschooled really helped me with balancing everything.”

    As a latecomer to the rigors of training for ballet, Anaya said it was a sucker punch coming to the San Pedro Ballet School, where students train four hours, five days a week, leaving no time unused.

    “You’re always doing something: if you’re not doing schoolwork, then you’re at the studio dancing,” Anaya said. “You plan out your whole entire day.”

    Ciaramitaro agreed.

    “Not a minute to waste,” she said.

    “You need a lot of commitment,” Ortega admitted. “Every second counts in a day, every little second. If you’re not doing anything, you’re wasting time.”

    But these students agreed that this rigorous scheduling was just a part of their training.

    “You have to spend a lot of time investing in your training,” Anaya said. “It’s a huge sacrifice but it’s well worth it…. It’s a dream of mine to be able to do what I love: dance and performing.”

    A self-professed theater girl with a broad range of performing arts skills, Ciaramitaro would love to perform on Broadway, whereas Anaya and Ortega dream of becoming members in professional dance companies.

    It is important to note that despite their youth, these are not children with their heads in the clouds. These are emerging professionals, who understand things like time management and sacrifice; these are young dancers who know that their art is only as good as the time and sweat they put into it, who spend chunks of their day studying and practicing and perfecting what they love to do. They accept limitations — physical, mental and temporal — they believe in commitment, which is more than can be said for many full-fledged adults. Most of all, they recognize that good work is never finished.

    More Hard Work Ahead

    For these students, more hard work lies ahead. At the Joffrey Ballet School, Anaya and Ortega will practice nine hours a day, five days a week, more than they have ever practiced before.

    “It’s going to be a lot of hard work,” Anaya said. “You can have fun but work your butt off. That’s why I’m here.”

    For Ciaramitaro, she will spend the next several years of her life breathing and living the performing arts in pursuit of her aspirations to become a Broadway actress. But despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, these students believe that the life skills and training they have received from the San Pedro Ballet School has prepared them for whatever may lie ahead.

    “Our drive is greater than the challenges that we’re going to face,” Ortega said.

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  • The Box DONE Come

    • 05/26/2017
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length
    • Comments are off

    DONE’s Man at Empower LA Disempowers Central Council

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Less than 24 hours before the most recent special meeting of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council on May 16, the Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment disempowered this council by issuing a letter announcing “exhaustive efforts” and taking control over the published agenda.

    At issue were three items to which DONE took exception. All were related to the removal and replacement of council president, Mona Sutton, for cause. The cause alluded to comes from a previous meeting in which Sutton took her entire time as president to emotionally vent about allegations made about her on social media and then erroneously called for vice-president Donald Galaz’s resignation. This threw the entire meeting into pandemonium and immediately galvanized the council into factions that lost Sutton both the support of the majority of the board and respect her constituents.

    Subsequently, the fervor of the opposition over her leadership has only swelled as her former supporters abandoned ship, resigned from the council or spoke out against her during the public comment period. The new majority on the neighborhood council, led by Galaz and others , set a course to replace its president and did so by legally placing items on the May 16 agenda to basically push the reset button on leadership.

    Sutton and her remaining minority faction boycotted the meeting and DONE sent its “fix-it-man of action” Stephen Box to quell the situation. This not only stunned the board but enraged the constituents who attended the meeting as it appeared that DONE was protecting Sutton, who also was appointed zoning commissioner by Mayor Eric Garcetti this past year and has  the sweetheart support of Councilman Joe Buscaino.

    Even though DONE’s letter claims that the bylaws give no power to remove a sitting officers, they demure to Robert’s Rules of Order, which do have specific guidelines for removal and for censuring a member of a board.

    Frequent readers of this column and those following local Pedro politics will remember that Sutton rose to this leadership position with the anti-homeless uprising led by the Facebook group Saving San Pedro. The group has now lost control of Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council and is declining rapidly in Central even while its significance was recently touted in San Pedro Today as the face of new civic engagement.

    If this is what “new civic engagement” looks like then let chaos reign. As for Mr. Box from DONE, who is reported to have taken a four-week leave, has left this smoldering pile of civic dysfunction to stew with no clear path forward.

    DONE has over stepped its role in this situation claiming that Article VI, Sec. 4 of the Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils gives them the authority to place this and 22 other neighborhood councils into “exhaustive efforts” and thusly eliminating the autonomy to act independently of DONE’s rather inept legal counsel. This is not what the framers of Los Angeles charter amendment Section 900 had in mind when neighborhood councils were created under Mayor James Hahn, which reads:

    Purpose: To promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs, a citywide system of neighborhood councils, and a Department of Neighborhood Empowerment is created. Neighborhood councils shall include representatives of the many diverse interests in communities and shall have an advisory role on issues of concern to the neighborhood.

    Neighborhood councils were neither conceived nor expected to be mere door mats for the city council, the mayor or any other department of the city.  They were created, as the name suggests, for “empowering” the neighborhood. They were not formed to castrate or disembowel constituents, particularly those critical of city hall!

    This “exhaustive efforts” is nothing short of a political coup d’état by one city department to protect Sutton — Buscaino’s favored ally. Sutton created the animosity arrayed against her by being incapable of running a council.

    All of this is good cover for Council District 15 for its failure to competently address the singular core issue of our time — homelessness and the underlying causes and cures. This is an issue for which there are solutions, but Buscaino is deaf to anyone who isn’t on board with his PR-infused visions of saving San Pedro if not himself.

    You will remember Buscaino announcing his Taskforce on Homelessness just as the Central Council made an issue out of it with the “tiny homes” motion.  This was before the Los Angeles City Council even had a Homeless Committee and before Measure H or HHH were on a ballot.  And yet, after all these months, no one can tell you exactly what Buscaino’s Task Force came up with nor can anyone tell you what solutions the councilman has proposed to address the homeless crisis here in Council District 15 except for his failed attempt to place a homeless navigation center near Barton Hill Elementary School.

    The real cause of the sudden explosion of homeless people onto our streets can be seen in the beautifully renovated Ken Malloy Park in Harbor City that cost a mere $111 million. Nothing was done there to address this ongoing problem nor are there any other solutions forthcoming. And, Central San Pedro neighborhood council has been effectively neutered and silenced on the subject by the city department meant to “empower” it.

    As for Box’s total ineptitude at taking control of the meeting he was sent to control, all I can say is that he didn’t follow the decorum of officially convening the meeting, which led to 45 minutes of acrimony that he had no power to control and then, without consent of the council, closed the meeting and stormed out to the sidewalk.

    Only after cooler heads from those on the council intervened did he consent to reconvene the meeting at which time without him actually chairing the meeting Central San Pedro’s Neighborhood Council actually accomplished the work they were elected to perform.

    However, because of the curious non-resignation of board member Joanne Rallo, the plus-size beauty queen of Saving San Pedro, the actions of the council on May 16 may all be for not. It is rumored that the invisible hand of the DONE city attorney may opine that Rallo indeed resigned at the previous meeting and the actions of the sanctioned meeting controlled by Box will be deemed null and void.

    This once again reaffirms my contention that when the City of Los Angeles gives neighborhoods all of the attention that they demand of the city people will regret it!

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  • Exhausting Run Around of Exhaustive Efforts

    • 05/26/2017
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • News
    • Comments are off

    EmpowerLA Prevents San Pedro Central Neighborhood Council from Booting Its President

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    DONE’s Director of Outreach and Communications, Stephen Box, was begrudgingly given a compliment at a May 16 Central stakeholder meeting. “Regardless of how you’re treated, you just keep coming back for more,” one constituent said.

    But his ability to take a licking from constituents was not what “endeared” Box to this hostile Central San Pedro crowd. It was the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment’s extreme step of taking over the council’s functions by way of “exhaustive efforts,” which was initiated on May 15,  just a day before the stakeholder meeting.

    After 45 minutes of heckling and constituents challenging his authority to take over the council’s proceedings, he nearly brought the meeting to a close noting that the body didn’t have a quorum.

    As previously reported in Random Lengths, the board has seen three resignations in the past couple of months, including Joanne Rallo’s resignation in dramatic fashion at the April 18 stakeholder meeting.

    With board president Mona Sutton and her allies on the board boycotting the stakeholder meeting, the board should not have had a quorum.

    But on May 16, Rallo was back at her regular post almost as if nothing happened.

    The one-time member of the Saving San Pedro uprising explained that several days after the April stakeholder meeting, Sutton sent her an email saying that her resignation wouldn’t be accepted unless it was submitted in writing and that if she didn’t reply by to that email by midnight, her non-response would be regarded as that written resignation letter.

    With Board President Mona Sutton and her allies on the board boycotting the stakeholder meeting, the board should not have had a quorum. But on this night, the board achieved quorum anyhow, as Sutton’s boycott was thwarted by the surprising reappearance of Rallo at her regular post, almost as if nothing happened.

    The one-time member of the Saving San Pedro uprising explained that several days after the April stakeholder meeting, Sutton sent her an email saying that per the council’s bylaws, her resignation wouldn’t be accepted, unless it was submitted in writing. If she didn’t reply to that email by midnight, her non-response would be regarded as that written resignation letter.

    Rallo said she had a change of heart, and replied before the deadline that she would remain on the council.

    Box told the board that the City Attorney is deciding whether Joanne’s verbal resignation is binding. If it was, all actions that were voted on at the meeting will be nullified. They will have to be re-voted on in another meeting.

    The Path to Exhaustive Efforts

    DONE’s actions were precipitated by the council’s leadership repeated requests for assistance with board dynamics, processes and governance.

    The neighborhood oversight department cited the council’s placing of Sutton’s removal from the council’s presidency (though maintaining her membership on the board) on the agenda as the final straw. DONE noted that the council’s action was agendized despite a city attorney’s opinion that further review was needed.

    Among the issues DONE is looking to address:

    • Clarifying the process of creating board meeting agendas and calling board meetings
    • Clarifying the process for reviewing and agendizing Neighborhood Purpose Grants and Community Impact Projects
    • Establishing a holiday/Sabbath schedule for meetings
    • Selecting legal liaison (in addition to the president)
    • Clarifying the roles of the executive officers and their responsibilities
    • Clarifying appropriate behavior on the board and with the public
    • Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the committees
    • Holding dispute resolutions mediation for Central SPNC board members
    • Requiring leadership workshop for all board members of the Central SPNC
    • Maintaining Exhaustive Efforts for at least three months

    The Recap

    The council’s troubles are multifaceted and arguably began as soon as the new board took their seats in June 2016. Some of the struggles stemmed from lack of experience on a governing body using Robert’s Rules of Order. Other struggles stem from community advocates unaccustomed to having their every decision being checked by an overseeing authority like DONE.

    Then, there is the emergence of the primarily working-class Latino residents of Barton Hill, who successfully organized and rallied against the attempted placement of a Navigation Center designed to store the belongings of homeless people while providing various case management services.

    Allegations that Sutton sought to check Barton Hill’s influence and the suggestion that the move was rooted in racial animus has sharply divided the council in recent months. This, along with the emergence of a LGBT voting bloc comprised of Mona Sutton, Leslie Jones, Aidan Garcia-Sheffield and Allyson Vought has inserted a level of identity politics not seen in recent memory at the neighborhood council level.

    Barton Hill resident Maria Couch for the past few meetings has kept this issue at the forefront of the council’s attention.

    “I’ve been attending these meetings for a while,”  Couch said. “The only thing I have seen is the fact that there are personal agendas between Mona Sutton, Aiden, and Alyson and a lot of efforts to push what they want and some things they don’t want. Now there was something very serious that happened during the last meeting… where it came that Mona Sutton referred to the people at the Rancho projects as ‘those people.’ And to me, that has not been addressed — not even in that letter. To me as a stakeholder and as someone who’s trying to do their part in helping this community — that’s a big issue. I want to know: when is it going to be addressed? Is there going to be some kind of training or can we remove her and that type of mentality from the board?”

    Work Accomplished May 16

    The council heard request for support for Godmothers Saloon’s conditional use permit that was under review. The proprietors of the longtime San Pedro watering hole and entertainment venue noted that have worked to become better neighbors by installing a secondary door at their eastern entrance facing the Centre Street Lofts to mitigate excess noise.

    The council was also able to hear presentations from legal marijuana advocate Matt Garland on the work being done on marijuana industry regulations and sound the warning of the city’s attempt to to zoning rules limit the number of dispensaries other industry related businesses further than what currently exists.

    Another group, Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling, or STAND, requested support on legislation that would end oil drilling within the city of Los Angeles.

    After the fight over the legality of DONE’s action was put aside for the time being, the council looked and sounded like a functional body. But it remains to be seen what future council meetings will bring. Read RLn publisher James Preston Allen’s take on DONE’s takeover of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council on page 8.

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  • Impeachment May Not Be Enough

    • 05/25/2017
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • News
    • Comments are off

    Trump Is Far More Dangerous Than Nixon

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    On May 8, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified to Congress that she had warned the Donald Trump administration on Jan. 26 and 27 that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had had compromising relations with Russian agents. Flynn had lied about, and was — at the very least — subject to blackmail, making him a security risk.

    “To state the obvious, you don’t want your national security advisor compromised with the Russians,” Yates testified.

    Within three days, there was a prima facie case for impeaching Trump for obstruction of justice.

    • On May 9, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating Russia’s election meddling and possible Trump connections.
    • On May 10, Trump hosted an extremely damaging meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergy Kislyak. It was later revealed that Trump shared classified information of the highest.
    • And on May 11, he openly admitted to firing Comey because of the Trump/Russia investigation, which, on its face, is an intentional obstruction of justice, the first impeachment charge against Richard Nixon in Watergate.

    We are now clearly in the realm where impeachment is warranted — and politicians have begun openly discussing it. But our political system is so deeply dysfunctional and so many other problems beset us, that it is profoundly uncertain what will — or even should — happen next.

    The preconditions for a functioning democracy require that we understand the challenges facing us — including those that would destroy our democracy. Thus, it’s necessary to understand both how Trump has implicated himself in obstruction of justice and the full menu of other related threats, which his obstruction entangles.

    In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump contradicted the previous, implausible (if not ridiculous) White House cover story that Comey was fired because he treated Hillary Clinton unfairly regarding the email investigation, accusing her of carelessness, even as he announced that no criminal charges would be brought. That cover story had been supported by a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — a memo widely criticized for its own careless manner, citing op-eds rather than legal arguments.

    But Trump told Holt that he’d already made up his mind to fire Comey, who he called a “showboat,” before getting Rosenstein’s memo.

    “I was going to fire Comey — my decision,” Trump said. “I was gonna fire him regardless of recommendation…. In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

    On May 19, it leaked out, through the New York Times, that Trump had told the Russians a similar story.

    “I just fired the head of the FBI,” Mr. Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting, which was read to Times. “He was crazy, a real nut job…. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

    “I’m not under investigation.”

    He could not have been more mistaken. One week later, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to oversee the investigation Trump foolishly thought he had ended. He was appointed by Rosenstein, who may well have wanted to shore up his own reputation, after Trump had dragged it into the gutter.

    But that doesn’t necessarily mean Trump will be impeached or charged with a crime. Presidents are immune to criminal prosecution and can be pardoned by their successors if they’re impeached or resigned, which is what happened with Nixon in 1975. Congressional Republicans are also unlikely to stop running interference for him. He’s very unpopular for a newly-elected president, but his support is heavily concentrated in their electoral base. If push comes to shove, he’s likely to focus intensely on bullying them into falling in line.

    In short, the situation is far more complicated than the Watergate scandal, the media’s go-to point of comparison. It’s more similar to Iran-Contra, in which the cover up largely succeeded, as described by the special counsel Lawrence Walsh in his book Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-up.

    Reagan was never even seriously questioned, while Vice President George Bush almost certainly perjured himself while he falsely claimed he was “out of the loop.” Given how much power Republicans have today, this record of justice subverted is far more likely to be repeated than anything remotely like Watergate.

    There are six main branches of concern about threats to America tied up in the current crisis. Each needs to be understood on its own terms.

    First, obstruction of justice.

    During the Watergate investigation, Richard Nixon tried unsuccessfully to get the CIA to derail the FBI’s investigation, and obstruction of justice — covering a whole “course of conduct or plan” — was the first impeachment charge brought against him before he resigned.

    Trump’s firing of Comey is just the most prominent example of a similar pattern of conduct seen so far. In addition to Comey, we already have circumstantial indications regarding two other prominent firings and a broad pattern of actions by the Trump administration since taking office.

    Yates was fired on Jan. 30, just days after raising red flags about Flynn. At the time, her firing was attributed to her refusal to defend the Muslim ban. But now that we know much more about the Flynn story, it’s at least worth investigating to discover if she was actually fired to protect him. Flynn did not resign until February 13, after word of conversations with Kislyak leaked through the Washington Post.  Even today, Trump expresses regret that he got rid of Flynn. After firing Yates, Trump and his henchmen went to great lengths to try to silence her, preventing her from testifying for months, which might also be construed as part of a campaign to obstruct justice.

    Another suspicious firing was that of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York, who had jurisdiction to investigate financial crimes in Trump’s base of operations. During the transition, Trump went out of his way to call Bharara to Trump Towers and tell him that he would be kept on. Then, on March 11, Bharara was asked to resign without warning along with 45 other U.S. attorneys, a course of action that the Trump transition team had previously considered and rejected. When he refused, he was fired the next day. There is no public proof of obstruction of justice here, but the possibility is real and worthy of investigation.

    Beyond that, Trump pressured a wide range of officials to prematurely deny there was any evidence of collusion with the Russians during the 2016 election. Comey publicly announced an FBI investigation into Russian interference on March 20. After that, according to a May 22 Washington Post story, Trump pressed Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and Admiral Michael Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Both reportedly regarded the request as inappropriate and rejected it. This followed earlier revelations that Trump had pressured the heads of the House and Senate intelligence committees to make similar statements — in short, it was a systematic effort to derail the investigation and publicly discredit it.

    Second, Russian election interference.

    There is overwhelming evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as in other elections across the West and elsewhere, regardless of any questions about collusion from the Trump campaign. This should be the primary focus of a congressional investigation or independent commission, but so far the Republican Party has been far too political compromised to let this happen. The situation is historically unique. The threat of Russian hybrid warfare — “a melange of hostile cyber, political and psychological operations in support of their national objectives” as laid out explicitly by intelligence analyst Malcolm Nance in The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election — represents a break with past security threats similar to the break represented by 9/11.

    “Putin, the former director of Russia’s intelligence agency, sees the election of Donald Trump as the fastest way to destabilize the United States and damage its economy, as well as fracture both the European Union and NATO,” Nance wrote. “These events, which start with the election of Trump, would allow Russia to become the strongest of the world’s three superpowers and reorder the globe with a dominant Russia at the helm.”

    Such an outcome could never be achieved by Russia alone, without American collaborators, given the fact that Russia’s economy is about the size of Italy’s.

    Third, Trump’s authoritarianism.

    The threat of Trump’s own authoritarian tendencies echoes and reinforces an international rise in authoritarian, ethnocentric governments and political movements even apart from Russian influence. Trump’s actions can best be understood by including regular comparison to how fledgling authoritarians have established themselves in other formally democratic systems, such as Turkey.

    “Trump is an authoritarian, as I’ve been arguing for some time,” historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert in modern authoritarianism told Democracy Now! on May 11. “When he says that Comey wasn’t doing his job, he means Comey was obstructing him from using the office of the presidency to further his personal goals, because authoritarians believe that the institutions should serve them and not the other way around. So, I see this as completely consistent with his temperament and his agenda of colonizing the country to make it serve his personal interest.”

    Fourth, Trump’s collusion with Russia.

    The question of Trump campaign collusion with Russia is an incredibly messy one, not simply limited to actions taken during the campaign itself. Trump not only gave overt signals to Russia, he also has a long history of shady business deals with secretive sources of financing, some of which are clearly known to be tied to Russia.

    “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’ll be able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said openly last July.

    He’s had real estate dealings with Russian émigrés for decades and is suspected of having received massive financing from Russian sources after declaring bankruptcy in the 1990s, when American banks were not willing to lend to him. His refusal to release his taxes may be motivated in part by his desire to keep these dealings hidden.

    Of course, this cannot be separated from Trump’s authoritarianism, as Ben-Ghiat pointed out.

    “The comparison with Watergate leaves out the very, very important foreign dimension,” she said. “This is a Russia — Trump-Russia probe…. Firing Comey in the way he did was a very important message that Trump sent to the world, number one, to all of his fellow authoritarians. And we’ve seen how he calls the president of Turkey. He invites Duterte of the Philippines to the White House. And he has gone out of his way to forge ties and show allegiance to this kind of leadership and, above all, to his Russian client. And, I felt it was such a tragedy for our democracy to see Trump in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister the day after this happened. This is a very strong signal to his Russian client and to authoritarians all over the world that he means business and the business is their business.”

    Fifth, GOP partisan dysfunction.

    The GOP today is far less willing to put country ahead of party than it was during Watergate, when Republicans, in the minority, were ultimately powerless to obstruct. This is not just a matter of whether individual politicians lack civic virtue or patriotism. It’s a question of systemic dysfunction in our political system, which is arguably at least partially responsible both for Donald Trump’s emergence as the GOP candidate and for Russia’s ability to hack our election.

    While it’s an act of faith in American journalism to treat both parties as mirror images, the historical record tells a very different story, based on the measurement of roll call voting, known as DW-Nominate.

    In 1980, the number of non-centrists in House of Representatives was about 10 percent in both parties, the highest level seen since before the Great Depression, but since then the percentage of non-moderate Democrats has declined slightly, while the percentage of non-moderate Republicans has climbed astronomically to more than 80 percent. The divergence began even earlier in the Senate, in the early 1970s, but is less extreme: there are roughly three times as many GOP non-centrists as Democrats, 45 percent to 15 percent.

    The result can be seen in Republican politicians’ willingness to look the other way and ignore Trump’s violations of the Emoluments Clause, for example, which in turn has opened the door for Trump to openly engage in corrupt influence peddling previously associated with third world dictators.

    Sixth, Trump’s abnormal psychology.

    Trump exhibits clear symptoms of abnormal psychology, particularly malignant narcissism. Such pathologies frequently occur with authoritarian leaders but need to be understood independently as well. The point is not to attack Trump personally but to properly understand him, as New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen explained to this author in a recent Salon interview.

    “It’s mistaken speak of Trump’s one-page set of bullet points as a ‘tax plan,’” Rosen argued. “A plan requires planning, deliberation, thought, a certain amount of commitment. There’s nothing in Trump’s behavior in office so far, or in any of the reporting around how that document was produced, that supports that term.”

    Likewise, it was giving Trump too much credit to accuse him of flip-flopping, because flip-flopping is actually crediting Trump with having positions in the first place.

    Only abnormal terms can accurately describe an abnormal president.

    To clarify, Rosen referenced a story “about the supposed shocking irony” that Trump, who attacks the media so relentless, also craves their approval. “It’s not really surprising if you understand narcissistic personality disorder,” Rosen said. “If you crave the approval of journalists — which Trump clearly does — it’s not such a great idea to call them disgusting people, dishonest people, the enemy of the American people. But if you understand narcissistic personality disorder, it makes perfect sense. A person that the medical health profession also calls a malignant narcissist — probably a better term — believes they are worthy of adulation by everyone, and when they don’t get it, their reaction is rage.”

    This also helps explain Trump’s bizarre behavior toward Comey, whom he first tried to flatter and seduce and then sought to humiliate, firing him in a way that some compared to the Godfather. When Trump accused Comey of being “a showboat” to Lester Holt or told the Russians he was “a nut-job,” anyone familiar with Comey’s actual record would have laughed. Whatever his faults, these are not among them. But they do describe Trump to a T. Such projection of his own faults onto others is a typical symptom of Trump’s malignant narcissism.

    “Otto Kernberg, a psychoanalyst specializing in borderline personalities, defined malignant narcissism as having four components: narcissism, paranoia, antisocial personality and sadism. Trump exhibits all four,” psychologist John Gartner wrote in USA Today in early May. “Under a malignantly narcissistic leader, alternate facts, conspiracy theories, racism, science denial and delegitimization of the press become not only acceptable but also the new normal. If we do not confront this evil, it will consume us.”

    How America can survive this toxic mixture of diverse but inter-related threats is anyone’s guess at this point. The one thing we do know for sure is that fearless, free and open public discourse is absolutely necessary for a shared defense of freedom and democracy against all enemies, foreign and domestic. There is no one magic way to understand all the threats we face embodied in Trump. It is by sharing a multitude of insights from a wide range of perspectives that we will find our way. E pluribus Unum.

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  • Discovering Service Connected Benefits

    • 05/25/2017
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • News
    • Comments are off

    Barton Hill Alum Look to Help Returning Vets and Old Ones Too

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Longtime San Pedro resident and Vietnam veteran Merwin “Skeeter” Jones and Rev. Anthony Quezada have been hosting First Saturday breakfast meetings at the Grinder for the past few months. The most recent meeting, just three weeks before Memorial Day, was the best-attended yet. All but one of the 15 attendees were veterans.

    Jones and Quezada, who have been working to establish a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in San Pedro, invited Veterans Service officer George Dixon, who works for the county out of the North Hills office in the San Fernando Valley.

    Dixon travels far and wide to educate veterans about benefits for which they didn’t know they were eligible, let alone knew that they had.

    Almost everyone at the breakfast was an alumnus of Barton Hill Elementary, Rudecinda, Sepulveda, Dodson or Richard Henry Dana Middle schools and San Pedro High. In some ways, it seemed more like a school reunion, except everyone had served in the military.

    Dixon spent 12 years in the Army and much of his post-military career was spent assisting veterans.

    At 55 years of age, the 6-foot 2-inch veteran service worker has a voice that rises above the boisterous chatter of veterans a couple of decades his senior.

    “How many here are Vietnam veterans?” Dixon asked. “Raise your hand.”

    Almost all raised their hands.

    “How many of you have not filed for anything with [Veterans Affairs], like medical care?”

    Almost half of the room raised their hands.

    Dixon used these questions to form rhetorical bullet points in his presentation, serving as kind of call and response performance, except the number of responses really brought home how little many veterans understood about benefit eligibility.

    “Why not?” Dixon asked.

    Many in the room replied that they didn’t know that they could be covered by their jobs and still access veterans’ benefits.

    “I am a service-connected veteran and I am 90 percent service-connected.” Dixon said. “Do I look disabled to you?”

    These local veterans, some of whom came from their respective Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Lomita and Wilmington to support San Pedro veterans’ efforts, said, “no.”

    Dixon was hitting at the common excuse veterans give about why they have not collected benefits owed to them, i.e. “I thought I had to be physically disabled to get benefits.”

    Dixon proceeded to discuss service-connected health benefits available to veterans, which is only a portion of the benefits available to them. Other benefits with which the county’s military Veterans Affairs Office can help include housing, education and employment.

    “You guys train me,” he said. “You’re my squad leader, my platoon sergeants and my section sergeants.”

    Then he changed tone.

    “You were probably a member of my squad when I became squad leader because you got busted four or five times and you decided to stay in the Army,” Dixon joked. “Don’t worry sergeant, I’m going to get my rank back. This is the fifth time I’ve been busted.

    “That’s the way it was back in the late 70s and early 80s.”

    Dixon said he entered active duty in 1979; he stayed in the Army for 12 years.

    “I got out in 1992 and arrived in LA, just like some of you in the 60s and 70s, to unemployment,” he said. “The first thing they told me was, ‘Hey staff sergeant, no job.’ So how do you think that made me feel when I got out?”

    “I was E6 [non-commissioned officer rank], all the places the Army sent me to. I was a drill sergeant and I was in the top 10 percent of my class and I go to the unemployment office.

    “I felt about this big,” Dixon said as he held up his thumb and index finger with an inch of a space between them. “A lot of you guys who went to look for work kind of blended [together] because the nation back then did not respect Vietnam veterans.”

    Dixon recalled listening to stories from many veterans who went to look for work and were asked “if you’ve killed anybody over there or were told you’re a baby killer. [And then were told] … We’re not going to hire you.”

    Dixon noted that Vietnam veterans did not want to go to the Veterans Affairs.

    “Nine times out of 10, they went to school, got their jobs and functioned,” Dixon said. “They were like, ‘you know what, I got my job and I got my health insurance. I’m not going to the VA.’

    “Does anyone here have a Purple Heart here? Bronze star? Gold medal. If you have a veteran in your VFW post who has a Purple Heart, when the veteran got out of there did he have that gunshot wound to the stomach before he entered the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps? That’s direct service-connected. And not only that, he probably has post traumatic stress disorder; 98.1 percent probably have but don’t even realize it.

    “You talk loud right? That’s the result from hearing loss.

    “How many of you are married?

    “Been divorced?

    “Married again?

    “Divorced again?

    “Married again?

    “Divorced again?”

    The number of attendees who raised their hands went from nearly all to one or two by the end of this particular series of questions.

    “You probably have high frequency hearing loss and ringing in the head.

    “How many of you were M-60 machine gunners in Vietnam? Or fired a 200 flash gun or worked on the aircraft under the crack of a machine gun when they fired it? Or on the ship and they’re popping stuff off.

    “The majority of us have high frequency hearing loss. Or you were too afraid of our drill sergeant to tell him that you dropped your hearing protection in the hole so you got some cigarette butts and crammed them into your ears just to make it look you had your protection because that’s how drill sergeants work.”

    Dixon recounted an incident in which he disrespected his drill sergeant. The drill sergeant kicked him in the ribcage.

    “Back in the day, drill sergeants could physically manhandle you,” Dixon half-joked. “They did ‘off the wall counseling.’”

    Dixon explained that if you went into the military and you didn’t have a particular ailment before you went in, but then you got out with hearing loss, PTSD, gunshots wounds, broken bones from basic training, or sprained ankles from climbing up through the jungles of Vietnam, these were direct service connections.

    Dixon noted how in the previous era, enlistees didn’t go to sick hall [military equivalent of a clinic] too often.

    “I remember in Fort Horn, Calif., you’re sitting there waiting to go on sick hall and the first sergeant comes and gets a check sheet on you and says, ‘Oh, Frapper Jones, you’re in the sick hall again. You better come back with a profile or we’re going to kick you out.’ That’s how it was,” Dixon said.

    “How many of you volunteered for the draft or were drafted?” Dixon asked.

    About half the attendees raised their hands.

    “Remember, when you were in the military, the draft man said, ‘OK sir’ … they would go ‘Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine … Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine’ and you might get one Coast Guard out of it. Then they would tell everyone to stand up…. If you sat there you might go to Marine Corp.

    “How many of you have undergone the Agent Orange Protocol Exam?

    Two raised their hands.

    “Why haven’t you guys been down to the Long Beach VA and gotten that Agent Orange Protocol Exam?”

    After Agent Orange exposure, there are 35 different service connections exposed veterans become eligible for,  and the biggest one is Type 2 diabetes.

    Dixon then asked, “How many in this room, besides those who are already service-connected, of you have diabetes?”

    Several raised their hands.

    Similarly, few of the attendees were aware that they were still eligible for new and ongoing benefits, whether these benefits may entail college tuition fee waivers for themselves or their dependents and/or placements in trade apprenticeships and government jobs.

    Despite their ignorance concerning benefit eligibility, all of the veterans at the meeting had homes to which they would return. A number of them, upon completion of their military service, even had health benefits, pensions and stability. In this way, these veterans are more fortunate than the thousands of their now-homeless former compatriots. If veterans with means know so little available benefits, it’s no wonder that so many homeless vets are disconnected from these resources.

    Jones and Quezada seek to attract more veterans ready to help establish a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in San Pedro.

    The next meeting VFW meeting is June 3 at 3 p.m. at the Grinder, 511 S Harbor Blvd, San Pedro.

    Details: www.mva.lacounty.gov


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    Viva La Long Beach Pride

    Thousands of people have gathered in Long Beach for a weekend-long LGBT celebration and rally, which included the Long Beach Dyke March and the 2017 Long Beach Viva La Vida ♥ Here’s to Life Pride Parade and Festival. Photos by Raphael Richardson.

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  • Big Daddy, The Band of ‘59

    • 05/24/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • Calendar
    • Comments are off


    May 26
    Sea Shanties
    Sing sea shanties at San Pedro’s English pub, The Whale & Ale. Join the talented Sea Shanty group on the last Friday of each month for some rollicking songs of days gone by.
    Time: 7 p.m. May 26
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.thewhaleandale.com
    Venue: The Whale & Ale, 327 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    May 26
    Tony Ferrell Band
    The Tony Ferrell Band rocks another concert featuring 10 of the best soul, rock and pop musicians in the world.
    Time: 8 p.m. May 26
    Cost: $15
    Details: (310) 782-1440, (310) 944-2393
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    May 27
    Big Daddy, The Band of ‘59
    One of the great left-field surprises of the 1980s pop music scene came with the arrival of Big Daddy, a band that reimagined hits of the day as they might have sounded had they been recorded in the 1950s.
    Time: 8 p.m. May 27
    Cost: $20
    Details: www.alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    May 27
    Memorial Day Music Festival
    The Battleship IOWA presents a Memorial Day music festival featuring live bands: Purple Sugar, Special Blend, Murder City Roadshow and DJ Pie. The festival will include food trucks, vintage vehicles, reenactors and a sailor’s bar.
    Time: 10:30 a.m. May 27
    Cost: Free
    Details: (877) 446-9261
    Venue: Battleship Iowa, Pacific Battleship Center, 250 S. Harbor Blvd., San Pedro

    May 27
    Summer Concert Series
    KG Veterans will be performing all of your favorite rhythm and blues, old school hits featuring our guest vocalist Donald Bell, aka Donnie B!, Live on the back patio at Ports O’ Call Restaurant every fourth Saturday of each month through September.
    Time: 7 to 11 p.m. May 27
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.portsocalldining.com
    Venue: Ports O’ Call Waterfront Dining Restaurant, 1200 Nagoya Way, San Pedro
    May 28
    Sam Ross Sextet Birthday Show
    Sam Ross is a 19-year-old composer who hails from Long Beach. He attends the University of Michigan and studies jazz with the great Benny Green. He thoroughly enjoys playing straight-ahead jazz and recognizes that this is where his roots are.
    Time: 4 p.m. May 28
    Cost: $15
    Details: www.alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    May 31
    Larson Ghormley Jazz Ensemble
    A dinner and jazz night will support Port of Los Angeles High School alumnus, Larson Ghormley’s college tuition and the Honorary Mayor campaign.
    Time: 6 p.m. May 31
    Cost: $20 to $150
    Details: (310) 832-9201
    Venue: POLAHS, 250 W. 5th St., San Pedro

    June 3
    More with Along For The Ride
    Along for the Ride is a band of musicians from Latin America and the United States. Although the band concentrates in jazz and bossa nova (aka Brazilian Jazz), it also ventures into other Latin and non-Latin styles, such as blues, bolero and flamenco.
    Time: 8 p.m. June 3
    Cost: $20
    Details: www.alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    June 3
    Rock the Queen
    Queen Mary’s Rock the Queen returns and this time we’re teaming up with the No. 1 morning radio show in Los Angeles, The Woody Show, to present The Woody Show Fiesta at
    Royal Machines featuring Dave Navarro, Mark McGrath, Billy Morrison, Donovan Leitch, Chris Chaney and Josh Freese, Sugar Ray, SmashMouth, Spin Doctors, and EVE 6.
    Enjoy a day of incredible alternative rock while seeing the entire gang of The Woody Show as they host this unforgettable day of music, food and drinks in one big fiesta party.
    Time: 3 p.m. June 3
    Cost: $39 to $99
    Details: http://bit.ly/QMRockTheQueenTix
    Venue: Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach  

    June 3
    Dave Widow
    With his unique style of finger-picking and bluesy vocals, Dave Widow combines elements of rhythm and blues, funk, soul and rock.
    Time: 8 p.m. June 3
    Cost: $20 to $120
    Details: www.grandvision.org/shop/tickets.asp?id=979
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro


    May 27
    Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a story that starts with sibling rivalry and ends with reconciliation and redemption. In between, the story flirts with voodoo, Disney and Chekhov.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sunday, through May 27
    Cost: $20 to $24
    Details: www.lbplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St, Long Beach

    May 27
    In Kings & Fools
    In Kings & Fools takes place in the Allman’s backyard over Labor Day weekend. Sam, a hard-nosed New Englander and his wife, Mary Ellen, are struggling to make sense of one son who has all but cut ties with them and another son who is quickly becoming the neighborhood outcast.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through May 27
    Cost: $25
    Details: www.panndoraproductions.com
    Venue: Garage Theatre, 251 E. 7th St., Long Beach

    May 28
    The Lion King Jr.
    The play is based off the Broadway production of Julie Taymor and directed by Dodson theater teacher Lindsey Hamby-Real, with choreography by Dodson science teacher Cindy Magyar and music direction by Mike Walker.
    Time: 7 p.m. May 26, 2 and 7:30 p.m. May 27, and 2 p.m. May 28
    Cost: $15
    Details: www.dodsondrama.org
    Venue: Dodson Middle School, 28014 S. Montereina Drive, Rancho Palos Verde

    June 17
    The Long Beach Playhouse presents August Wilson’s Fences, which observes the African American experience across several decades.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sunday, through June 17
    Cost: $20 to $24
    Details: www.lbplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St, Long Beach

    June 18
    The Last Five Years
    An emotionally powerful and intimate musical about two New Yorkers in their 20s who fall in and out of love over the course of five years.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through June 18
    Cost: $30
    Details: http://boxoffice.printtixusa.com/friendsoftorrance/eventcalendar
    Venue: Torrance Theatre, 1316 Cabrillo Ave., Torrance


    May 27
    A New View
    A New View features new member artist Susan Soffer Cohn,  jewelry artist Nancy Comaford and painter Parrish Nelson Hirasaki.
    Time: 4 to 7 p.m. May 27, through June 25
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 265-2592; artists-studio-pvac.com
    Venue: Artists’ Studio Gallery at the Promenade on the Peninsula, 550 Deep Valley Drive, #159, Rolling Hills Estates

    June 1
    Student Show 2017
    Enjoy works by the students from the Art and Photo departments in all media including painting, drawing, digital media, sculpture, ceramics, design, photography, jewelry and printmaking.
    Time: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, and 1 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, through June 1
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 660-3010; www.elcamino.edu
    Venue:  El Camino College Art Gallery, 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance

    June 1
    Ray Carofano’s Riverrun is a suite of photographs capturing seldom seen images of the 51-mile storm drain still flatteringly called the Los Angeles River. Carofano turns his subject into the narrator. The river narrates itself as it makes you want to look and, more importantly, look again.
    The exhibition runs through July 8.
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 315-3551 or office@dnjgallery.net
    Venue: DNJ Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave. Suite J1, Santa Monica

    June 2
    SoundPedro will be the first of recurring events highlighting sound art in which single and multimedia artworks investigate the way we use our senses to perceive and experience.
    Time: 5 to 11 p.m. June 2
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://angelsgateart.org/soundpedro-june-3-2017
    Venue: Angels Gate Cultural Center, 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro

    June 3
    A Brief History of Long Beach Pride
    The Historical Society has led the way to collecting the history of the LGBT community in Long Beach and ARTX is proud to host this exhibition coinciding with Pride Month.
    Time: 6 to 9 p.m. June 3
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 999-2267
    Venue: ArtExchange Long Beach, 356 E. 3rd St., Long Beach

    Sept. 3
    Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray
    In May 1931, photographer Nickolas Muray (1892965) traveled to Mexico on vacation where he met Frida Kahlo (19071954), a woman he would never forget. The two started a 10-year, on-and-off romance as well as a friendship that lasted until the end of their lives.
    Time: 11 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, through Sept. 3
    Cost: $7 to $10
    Details: molaa.org
    Venue: Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach


    May 26
    Memorial Day Weekend Bluff Series
    Enjoy live music, fantastic food offerings and a full bar at Nelson’s.
    Time: 6 to 10 p.m. May 26 and 27, and 1 to 5 p.m. May 28
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 265-2836
    Venue:Terranea Resort, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes

    May 27
    The Turning Point in the Pacific
    Historian Timothy Friden will be giving a lecture and slideshow entitled 1942: The Turning Point in the Pacific. This presentation will recount the critical early months of the Pacific War with Japan and the key decisions and momentous battles that drastically altered the trajectory of the war and ultimately decided its outcome. RSVP is requested.
    Time: 1 to 3 p.m. May 27
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 424-2220
    Venue: Historical Society of Long Beach, 4260 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach

    May 27
    Wekfest Los Angeles
    Wekfest focuses on working with the leading brands and individuals both within the car community and various sub-cultures to bring an event to Southern California that is one to remember.
    This year’s event will feature: 400-plus pre-screened European, Japanese and domestic aftermarket builds as well as a vendor’s row consisting of automotive and lifestyle brands.
    Time: 1 to 6 p.m. May 27
    Cost: $30
    Details: https://checkout.eventcreate.com/wekfest-la-2017/select-buy
    Venue: The Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach

    June 2
    Stephen Weisberg
    Stephen Weisberg of the Southern California Coastal Research Project will discuss the remarkable improvement in beach water quality in Southern California within the past two decades.
    Time: 7 p.m. June 2
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 548-7593
    Venue: John M. Olguin Auditorium, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro

    June 3
    Wrigley River Run & Tadpole Trot
    Enjoy tree-lined streets in a historical district, admire palm trees over 1920s homes as you pass the horse stables, watch birds along the Los Angeles River and run underneath the Pacific Coast Highway all in one day.
    Time: 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. June 3
    Cost: $10 to $55
    Details: www.wrigleyriverrun.com/register.htm
    Venue: Willow Boulevard at Pacific Avenue, 2598 Pacific Ave, Long Beach

    June 3
    Viva Las Vegas
    San Pedro Ballet School presents its annual spring recital by students in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip-hop and contemporary dance.
    Time: 2 p.m. June 3
    Cost: $24
    Details: www.sanpedroballetschool.com
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    June 4
    Shared Science Summer 2017 Workshop
    Interested in exploring the science behind Battleships? LEGO engineering activities explore simple robots and geared motors. The afternoon includes investigating how robotics are used on the ship.
    Time: 12 to 3 p.m. June 4
    Cost: $7 to $30
    Details: http://sharedsciencefun.org/
    Venue: Battleship USS Iowa, 250 S. Harbor Blvd., Berth 87, San Pedro

    June 5
    National Donut Day
    The Salvation Army of Southern California will be celebrating National Donut Day. Those in attendance will get to relive history with Salvation Army “Donut Lassies” in historical costume. The public is welcome to join us for a special donut festival, including a ceremony to honor veterans, live music and an appearance from Shotgun Tom Kelly of K-Earth101.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 5
    Cost: Free
    Details: (877) 446-9261
    Venue: Pacific Battleship Center, 250 S. Harbor Blvd., San Pedro

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  • August Wilson’s FENCES @ Long Beach Playhouse

    Fences is a puzzler. It’s easy to understand the play itself, a relatively straightforward domestic drama set within the context of huddled masses of Black people still struggling to be free a century after the eradication of slavery. What I don’t get is the hoopla, the accolades, the Pulitzer and Tony and Oscar, the renown this sixth installment of August Wilson’s 10-play “Pittsburgh Cycle” would forever (so far) bring the playwright.

    But let’s start with the facts. Fences opens in 1957 Pittsburgh, where Troy Maxson (Damon Rutledge) lives with wife Rose (Teri Gamble) and son Cory (Brandon Rachal). A former Negro leagues star who did 15 years in prison for murder, Troy’s hard childhood has made him a hard man—hard-working, hard-drinking, hard on his boy. And although he’s done his patriarchal duty, his modest life has proven ossifying, as he finally admits to Rose:

    When I found you and Cory and a halfway decent job…I was safe. Couldn’t nothing touch me. I wasn’t gonna strike out no more. I wasn’t going back to the penitentiary. I wasn’t gonna lay in the street with a bottle of wine. I was safe. I had me a family. A job. I wasn’t gonna get that last strike. I was on first looking for one of them boys to knock me in. To get me home. […] It’s not easy for me to admit that I been standing in the same place for eighteen years.

    While baseball is Troy’s go-to metaphor, Wilson’s is that eponymous fence. “Some people build fences to keep people out,” Troy’s BFF Bono (Rayshawn Chism) says as they stand in Troy’s yard looking at the fence-in-progress around it, “and other people build fences to keep people in.” Bono’s talking about Rose, but later Troy appropriates the symbol:

    All right…Mr. Death. See now…I’m gonna tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna take and build me a fence around this yard. See? I’m gonna build me a fence around what belongs to me. And then I want you to stay on the other side. […] You stay on the other side of that fence until you ready for me.

    The fences of Fences are figurative and literal, explicit and implicit; and although their metaphorical connotations may not be consistent, who says they have to be? A fence is a flexible symbol, and so Wilson can be forgiven for bending it to serve his need of the moment. What may be less forgivable are the passages—particularly a few tedious monologs—that contain the explicit use of metaphor. Wilson is strongest when writing naturalistic dialog, such as the Scene 1 chatter between Troy and Bono, which not only effectively establishes characters grounded in the real world but is entertaining in its own right. However, too often when Wilson is going for theme, he sacrifices his characters’ verisimilitude.

    Writing aside, Fences success largely hinges on the casting of Troy. This is a big man who casts a huge shadow, and any actor taking on the role should project sufficient strength to dominate the action even when he is offstage. Rutledge probably half succeeds on this score. His energy is always projected at the right angles; I’m just not sure he’s able to generate quite enough force, particularly during Troy’s quieter moments.

    The cast around Rutledge is similarly half-successful. Rachal does a nice job evincing instincts toward teenage rebellion that are largely stifled by his father’s mere will. But Gamble doesn’t muster enough modulation to make Rose believable. Her opening scenes are fine, but as the plot progresses, she never manages get into a different gear, and so her moment of crisis feels flat, with no time spent processing the Earth-shattering news she receives from Troy and little change in her delivery.

    This should have been an easy adjustment for director Carl daSilva to make during rehearsals. What would have been a tougher fix is figuring out a way to make Wilson’s extremely uncreative character comings and goings feel less false. It’s all well and good now and then for pure coincidence to dictate one character’s exiting just seconds before another arrives, but when the coincidence is the main device for keeping certain characters apart as the plot demands it, it feels like the playwright just isn’t trying very hard. DaSilva did nothing to redress this textual shortcoming.

    Other textual details reinforce that sense of a writer simply not putting in all the work he might have. An example that particularly irks me is an Act 1 discussion about baseball, where Cory launches into a digression about how Hank Aaron, who (Cory has just told us) hit his 42nd and 43rd home runs today, ain’t all that. “Hell, I can hit forty-three home runs right now!” he says.

    CORY: Not off no major-league pitching, you couldn’t.
    TROY: We had better pitching in the Negro leagues. I hit seven home runs off of Satchel Paige. You can’t get no better than that!
    CORY: Sandy Koufax. He’s leading the league in strikeouts.

    While a comparison between Paige, the Negro leagues’ all-time best, and Koufax was historically apt in 1985 (the year Fences debuted), in 1957 literally no-one on Earth—not even Koufax’s own mother—held Koufax in particularly high esteem. During that season (Cory’s reference to Aaron’s HR total makes clear that this scene takes place in September 1957), Koufax was a mediocre middle-reliever who wouldn’t crack the Dodgers’ starting rotation until the following season and was still four years away from being good enough for people to rank him among the best current pitchers, let alone among the best of all time. Plus, in 1957 he was never anywhere close to league the National League in strikeouts. (He finished ninth—a distant second on his own team to Don Drysdale!)

    That overall lack of assiduousness leaves Fences pale in comparison—as a work of art, as a domestic drama, and as an evocation of the Black experience halfway through the 20th century—to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (which Long Beach Playhouse staged beautifully last year), to which Fences seems to owe a great debt. But perhaps because the literary establishment was more ready to reward a Black man in the mid 1980s than a Black woman in the late 1950s, Fences came out of the box with more momentum. And you know what they say about a body in motion.

    Thus, Fences may be a better social barometer than a paragon of high art. That a lot of people think I’m wrong about the latter at least proves the former. Therefore, one way or the other, Fences does tell us something about the society we share.


    (Photo credit: Michael Hardy Photography)


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  • Trio Eclectic

    • 05/18/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • Calendar
    • Comments are off

    May 20
    Trio Eclectic
    Trio Eclectic takes listeners on a sonic journey that fuses many different genres of music, which are augmented by loops and effects.
    Time: 8 p.m. May 20
    Cost: $20
    Details: alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St, San Pedro

    Flame Monroe

    May 20
    Flame Monroe
    Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride announced that Flame Monroe will be one of the featured artists on the Main Stage. The Long Beach resident is a loving and caring father by day and one of the fiercest drag queens by night.
    Time: 7 p.m. May 20
    Cost: $20
    Details: www.longbeachpride.com
    Venue: Rainbow Lagoon Park, 400 Shoreline Drive, Long Beach

    May 21
    Masters of the Vibes L.A. Book Release Concert
    A celebration of the Vibraphone and Anthony’s new book Masters of the Vibes, featuring Nick Mancini and Lolly Allen.
    Time: 4 p.m. May 21
    Cost: $20
    Details: alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St, San Pedro


    As One. Courtesy photo

    May 20
    As One
    As One is a story about identity, authenticity and compassion. Two voices — Hannah before and Hannah after — share the part of a sole transgender protagonist. The opera is based and inspired in part by the life experiences of acclaimed filmmaker Kimberly Reed.
    Time: 2:30 p.m. May 20 and 21
    Cost: $49 to $150
    Details: www.longbeachopera.org
    Venue: The Beverly O’Neill Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

    May 20
    The Long Beach Playhouse presents August Wilson’s Fences, which observes the African American experience across several decades.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 20 through June 17
    Cost: $20 to $24
    Details: www.lbplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St, Long Beach

    May 20
    Laughter on the 23rd Floor
    Neil Simon takes us back to the golden age of television and behind the scenes of the hottest program on the air, The Max Prince Show. Simon’s side-splitting comedy follows the antics of the show’s star Max Prince, his ongoing battles with the Network executives, and the writing, fighting, and wacky antics that take place in the writers’ room of his weekly variety show.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through May 20
    Cost: $25 to $45
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/Laughter-on-the-23rd-Floor
    Venue: Little Fish Theater, 777 Centre St., San Pedro

    May 21
    In King & Fools
    Sam and Mary Ellen are struggling to make sense of a son who has all but cut ties with them and another son who is quickly becoming the neighborhood outcast. They’ve invited them both to their annual Labor Day weekend barbecue.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. May 25, and 2 p.m. May 21 and 28
    Cost: $15 and $20
    Details: www.panndoraproductions.com
    Venue: The Garage Theatre, 251 E. 7th St., Long Beach

    May 27
    Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a story that starts with sibling rivalry and ends with reconciliation and redemption. In between the story flirts with voodoo, Disney and Chekhov.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sunday, through May 27
    Cost: $20 to $24
    Details: www.lbplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St, Long Beach

    June 18
    The Last Five Years
    An emotionally powerful and intimate musical about two New Yorkers in their 20s who fall in and out of love over the course of five years.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through June 18
    Cost: $30
    Details: http://boxoffice.printtixusa.com/friendsoftorrance/eventcalendar
    Venue: Torrance Theatre, 1316 Cabrillo Ave., Torrance


    May 20
    Artist/Mother is a multi-media exhibition that presents the works of Calida Rawles, Mother Naturalist, Julia Barbee, Camilla Løhren Chmiel and Megan Schvaneveldt. These artists are confronted with the challenge: “What do my identities of both artist and mother mean for my practice?”
    Time: 6 to 9 p.m. through May 20
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 429-0973; www.southbaycontemporary.org
    Venue: South Bay Contemporary at the Loft, 401 S. Mesa St., 3rd Floor, San Pedro

    May 20
    Painting with the Masters: Emerging Artists
    Parkhurst Galleries invites you to its Painting with the Masters art exhibit, featuring emerging artists.
    Time: 5 p.m. May 20
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.parkhurstgalleries.com
    Venue: Parkhurst Galleries, Inc, 439 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    May 20
    Ray Carofano’s Riverrun is a suite of photographs capturing seldom seen images of the 51-mile storm drain that is still flatteringly called the Los Angeles River. Carofano turns his subject into narrator. The river narrates itself. It makes you want to look and, more importantly, look again.
    Time: 6 p.m. Saturday May 20, through July 8
    Cost: Free
    Details: artists-studio-pvac.com
    Venue: Promenade on the Peninsula, 550 Deep Valley Drive, #159, Rolling Hills Estates

    May 21

    The Museum of Latin American Art presents a retrospective of the work of one of the original Los Four founders, Frank Romero, in the exhibition titled Dreamland. Romero’s most iconic works — including his mural work, such as Driving to the Olympics on the Hollywood Freeway — address life in the barrios of Los Angeles.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, through May 21
    Cost: $7 to $10
    Details: (562) 437-1689; molaa.org
    Venue: Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach

    May 22
    Knockdown Dash
    Two new exhibitions address distinct issues concerning housing and development in Southern California through a variety of mediums and visual strategies. In Knockdown Dash by Nicole Capps and James McCarthy as well as Broken Ground by John Hulsey and other collaborators, the artists draw on their personal experiences to explore structural concerns.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 12 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://angelsgateart.org
    Venue: Angels Gate Cultural Center, 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro

    May 28
    2017 PVAC Annual Student Art Exhibition
    This exhibition will highlight this year’s artistic creations from Palos Verdes Art Center school-based outreach program Art At Your Fingertips.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays, through May 28
    Cost: Free
    Details: pvartcenter.org
    Venue: 5504 West Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes

    Sept. 3
    Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray
    In May 1931, photographer Nickolas Muray (1892965) traveled to Mexico on vacation where he met Frida Kahlo (19071954), a woman he would never forget. The photographs, dating from 1937 to 1946, explore Muray’s unique perspective; in the 1930s and 1940s he was Frida Kahlo’s friend, lover and confidant. Muray’s photographs bring to light Kahlo’s deep interest in her Mexican heritage, her life and the people significant to her with whom she shared a close friendship.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays, through Sept. 3
    Cost: $10
    Details: www.molaa.org
    Venue: Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach


    Wilmington Rock the Vote Concert & Community Resource Fair

    All are welcomed to the 4th Annual Wilmington Rock the Vote Concert & Community Resource Fair  2017.
    Time: 2 to 6 p.m. May 19
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/Wilmington-Rock-the-Vote
    Venue: Phineas Banning Senior High, 1527 Lakme Ave, Wilmington

    May 20
    Endangered Species Act Turns 44
    Cabrillo Marine Aquarium celebrates the anniversary of the establishment of the Endangered Species Act in 1973.  Discover which ocean animals have been impacted by this act.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. May 20
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 548-7562; www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org.
    Venue: CMA, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro

    May 20
    5th Annual Anaheim, Orange, Cherry and 7th Book Drive and Literacy Fair
    Come through to MacArthur Park for all the fun and festivities.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 20
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.facebook.com/AOC7LBC
    Venue: MacArthur Park, 1321 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    May 21
    Tidepool Wonders
    Explore an excellent low tide on the rocky shore. Bring family and friends to the aquarium’s John M. Olguin Auditorium for an informative slide show, followed by a walk led to the nearby Point Fermin tidepools.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May 21
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 548-7562; www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org.
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro

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