• SP: The Pleasure Trip to Horton’s Hayride Festival

    By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    Rock, psychobilly and diversity were part of this year’s Horton’s Hayride festival in San Pedro. Perhaps, the festival, which used to take place in Long Beach, signals more upcoming activity to come to the other side of the twin harbors.

    If there was anything lacking from the festival, perhaps it was a lack of audience engagement and more entertainment. The vast space of the venue lended itself to more variety, which the power backing of The Knitting Factory and fan base would have helped support.

    Several attendees at the Sept. 17 fest said they came specifically to see singer, songwriter and guitarist Reverend Horton Heat, the stage name for musician Jim Heath. Reverend Horton Heat also is the name of his Texas-based psychobilly trio. This is the third year Heat, known as the king of modern rockabilly to his fans, brought his festival to the Harbor Area.

    Ten bands were on the lineup, with Reverend Horton Heat and Friends closing the show. Other performers included Junior Brown, who plays what he named the guit-steel double neck guitar. It’s a hybrid of electric guitar and lap steel guitar, which he actually invented in 1985 with some assistance. When he performs, Brown plays the guitar standing behind it, while it rests on a music stand. Concert goer’s quickly swarmed the stage.

    Jennifer Vargas, a second-time attendee, said the music line up drew her to the festival.

    “We love the music; we’re here to see Horton,” Vargas said. “But also the ska band, Los Kung Fu Monkeys, The Delta Bombers and Manic Hispanic

    The festival even had a burlesque show on the bill, The Lalas. This troop of professional dancers appear at Federal Bar in both Long Beach and North Hollywood. They also have film and television credits including Beyoncé’s Who Run The World? video and The Lala’s made the L.A. Weekly list of  Top 10 burlesque shows in the city.

    Horton’s Hayride included 10 food trucks, from lobster and Latin food to Flyin Hawaiian Sliders and a Fry Fry truck. Retail vendors supplied rockabilly wear and accessories and, of course, there was a Kustom Car Show. Cars entered had to be made prior to 1965 and winners received cash prizes for Best Hot Rod, Best Kustom, Best Low Rider and Best of Show.

    Many people were decked out in their best rockabilly outfits. Girls donned ruby red lips with flowers in their pin up girl styled hair and retro dresses. Others wore 1950s vintage skirts and carried parasols. Many boys sported pomade styled hairdos with rolled up jeans and buttoned down shirts.

    A couple who attended and go by the moniker, Los Pachuquitos, Clara Sandoval and Carlos Avila,  Ventura stood out. Sandoval wore a red bustier top with a hand painted vintage Mexican skirt, ballet flats and a parasol. She had the big under curl in her bangs and a prominent red and white flower in her hair.

    “We travel all around and check out these events,” said Avila, who was decked out in a suit and hat.

    Here’s hoping if they do it again next year, Horton Heat’s loyal fans will see an enriched event. The audience is there.

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  • Arthur Miller’s A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE @ Cal Rep

    Off the tops of their heads Gary Johnson and Jill Stein may not be able to name any world leaders they like, but I’ll be they can name one Arthur Miller play. So can you. And it’s not A View from the Bridge.

    Maybe it’s time to change that, because despite its merits, Death of a Salesman has not aged especially well, whereas A View from the Bridge, a Greek-style tragedy that feels right at home in postwar Brooklyn, maintains a timelessness with its tale of how great a toll unchecked jealousy take.

    Eddie (Josh Nathan), “as good a man as he ha[s] to be in a world that’s hard and evil,” has worked hard as a dockworker all of his adult life, and he’s eked out a living for his wife Beatrice (Katheen Wilhoite) and orphaned niece Catherine (Julia Beaty). Things are about get tougher in the meager home, as they will be taking in Beatrice’s cousins Marco (Anthony DeGregorio) and Rodolpho (Brandon Pascal), who are illegally emigrating from Italy.

    We know right off that a tragedy is about to unfold in front of us by way of Alfieri (Sky Paley), an Italian immigrant who has established an area law practice. He is our narrator, Greek chorus, and a participant in the events that he tells us happened years ago, events that he foresaw but was powerless to stop.

    The tragic events concern Eddie’s ambivalent relationship with Catherine. They adore each other, but on his end there is a tension between his consciously regarding the 17-year-old as if she were a preteen, while unconsciously desiring the woman she is becoming. So when she enters into a romance with Rodolpho, his increasingly desperate machinations to sabotage it lead all of their lives into darkness.

    The entire cast is excellent, but the domestic dynamic between Eddie, Beatrice, and Catherine is worthy of particular note. Nathan has the flashiest role, and he is stellar, but it’s when the trio are together that everyone shines most, interacting bodily and talking over each other the way you do when you build an everyday rapport.

    Paley, too, should be singled out. The role of Alfieri may be fittingly one-note—he’s both outside the storm when the events and removed from them by time when addressing the audience—but Paley imbues him with the subtle feeling of a man haunted by his having been an impotent witness to tragedy, as well as moving with perfect smoothness between character and narrator.

    Cal Rep’s take on A View from the Bridge is minimalist, with the composed almost entirely of Lindsay Maiorano’s split-level, stony edifice, which dominates the stage and actors like an implacable fate. It’s a powerful choice, rendered all the more effective by Kelsey McGill’s shadowy lighting design and Christopher Renfro’s ominous audio track, which rumbles in the background like a thunderstorm stalled miles away but guaranteed eventually to move in.

    With so many solid pieces in play, director Jeff Paul is set up for success, and he does not blow the opportunity, methodically marching them across the board toward checkmate. His blocking is consistently spot-on, and he perfectly regulates the onstage energy flow so that the big moments pay off spectacularly.

    A View from the Bridge will never replace Death of a Salesman in the pantheon of American drama, but such regard is often more about historical happenstance than merit. As Cal Rep’s current production demonstrates, Arthur Miller does not deserve to be regarded as a one-hit wonder.


    (Photo credit: Keith (Kip) Polakoff)

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  • Night at the Tropicana

    Oct. 1
    Channeling the best the Vegas years, you’ll hear the big hits with big arrangements, from California’s only 12-piece Elvis tribute band
    Time: 8 p.m. Oct. 1
    Cost: $20
    Details: www.grandvision.org
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    Caress of Steel
    What would you call a three-piece tribute band that performs an exact re-creation of a 1976-81 live era RUSH show, circa 1976-81? Alright, Caress of Steel it is!
    Time: 8 p.m, Oct. 1
    Cost: $20
    Details: (310) 519-1314; www.alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    The suddenly ubiquitous rap artist MURS is suddenly on the bill for Activate Uptown, a sort of pep rally for North Long Beach. MURS recently released his solo album Have a Nice Life.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 1
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/ActivateUptown
    Venue: Activate Uptown, 800 E. Artesia Blvd., Long Beach

    Night at The Tropicana  Cuban Dancers

    Palos Verdes Art Center transforms into a night at The Tropicana. The night includes live performances by salsa trio Changüí Majadero and Afro-Cuban ensemble BombaChante.
    Time: 6 to 11 p.m. Oct. 1
    Cost: $125 to $150
    Details: HavanaNoirTheParty.com
    Venue: Palos Verdes Art Center, 5504 West Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes

    Oct. 2
    Awaken: The Definitive Yes Experience
    This is a tribute performance to the music of Yes, with focus on recreating the sound of Yes music as well as iconic live performances.
    Time: 3 p.m and 6 p.m. Oct. 2
    Cost: $30
    Details: (310) 519-1314; www.alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    Oct. 7
    El Twanguero
    Latin Grammy and Spanish Goya winning guitarist, Diego Garcia, is called a “fire-breathing guitar hero,” as he mixes Spanish and American roots music to deliver a driving Latin Twang.
    Time: 8 p.m. Oct. 7
    Cost: $20
    Details: www.grandvision.org
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    Oct. 7
    Trio Celeste
    Classical Crossroads presents Kevin Kwan Louks on piano, Iryna Krechkovsky on violin, and Ross Gasworth on cello.
    Time: 12:15 p.m. Oct. 7
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.palosverdes.com/classicalcrossroads
    Venue: First Lutheran Church & School, 2900 W. Carson St., Torrance

    Smithfield Bargain
    Speakeasy Folksters put a bluesy spin on traditional and original tunes, delivering them in lush harmonies, hepcat stylings and with a happy dose of vaudevillian charm.
    Time: 8 p.m. Oct. 8
    Cost: $20
    Details: www.grandvision.org
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    Oct. 8
    Robert Sarzo: Birthday Bash and Concert Show
    Robert Sarzo is veteran Cuban-American hard rock, glam and heavy-metal guitarist nicknamed The VuDu Man … and a Birthday Boy — 58 years old on Oct. 6 — which he’ll celebrate by making more loud music. Not that Sarzo career is best measured in decibels. During a 40-year career his versatila extends from work with Robert Stigwood on Saturday Night Fever to the late comedian Sam Kinison on Leader of the Banned.
    Time: 8 p.m. Oct. 8
    Cost: $40
    Details: (310) 519-1314; www.alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    Oct. 14
    Honey Whiskey Trio with Big Bad Rooster
    A night of heartfelt storytelling put to stunning harmonies through bluegrass and folk tunes by a musical outfit that has become a favorite at the Annex.
    Time: 8 p.m. Oct. 14
    Cost: $20
    Details: www.grandvision.org
    Venue: Grand Annex, 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    Oct. 1
    Oktober Fest at Alpine Village
    It’s never too early to start planning Oktoberfest. Be a part of the Southern California’s longest running Oktober festival with live band Happy Franconians. The event is for guests 21 years old and older only. Bring your own stein: (Glass or easily shattered material not permitted.). Parking is free.
    Time: 6 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. through Oct. 29
    Cost: $12 to $60
    Details: www.alpinevillagecenter.com
    Venue:  The Alpine Village, 833 W. Torrance Blvd., Torrance

    Oct. 1
    Creation Station
    Rancho Los Cerritos’ popular family drop-in craft program, will kick off its 2016-2017 season. The program allows elementary-aged kids to create unique crafts around a monthly theme.
    Time: 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 1
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.rancholoscerritos.org
    Venue: Rancho Los Cerritos, 4600 Virginia Road, Long Beach

    Oct. 1
    Harvest Celebration
    The Garden Church will host the first Harvest Celebration: A Benefit for the Garden Church. All are invited to come celebrate the vacant lot turned communal garden.
    Time: 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 1
    Cost: $25
    Details: http://harvestcelebration2016.eventbrite.com
    Venue: The Garden Church, 429 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    Oct. 2
    Sustainable Seafood ExpoSustainable Food Expo
    Learn how the fish on your dish can be sustainably caught or farmed and how you can you make savvy seafood choices.
    Time: 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 2
    Cost: $20 to $45
    Details: www.sustainableseafoodexpo.org
    Venue: Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles, 112 E. 22nd St., San Pedro

    Oct. 2
    Long Beach Oktoberfest 2016: The BierGames
    This year bring your friends and sign up for the Beer Olympics. You and friends can win a grand prize and bragging rights or just enjoy all the games: Beer Pong; Das Boot; Dunk Tank; Outdoor Bowling; FlipCup; Giant Jenga. There will be live music, both contemporary and traditional, beer gardens with local and German brews,  wonton nachos,  traditional costume contest with a grand prize, craft cocktails, full bar and outside bars.
    Time: 12. to 5 p.m. Oct. 2
    Cost: $5 to $25
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/Roxannes-Oktoberfest
    Venue: Roxanne’s Cocktail Lounge & Latin Grill; 1115 E. Wardlow Road, Long Beach

    Oct. 2
    Explore the Shore
    Spend part of your Sunday exploring the shore at Cabrillo Beach. Join the “Walk Cabrillo” guided tour of the Cabrillo Beach Coastal Park habitats.
    Time: 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 2
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 548-7562; www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro

    Oct. 7
    Hugs and Drugs from Sea Slugs
    Cabrillo Marine Aquarium invites you to meet Dr. Patrick J. Krug, a marine biologist and professor of California State University Los Angeles, at the Discovery Lecture Series. Sea Slugs are among the most spectacularly beautiful animals in the world, but what can explain how such stunning colors and patterns evolved among vulnerable, shell-less creatures in an ocean full of hungry predators? RSVP.
    Time: 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 7
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 548-7562; lecture@cmaqua.org
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro

    Oct. 8
    Red Bull Global Rally Cross 2016
    Red Bull Global Rally Cross is a revolutionary form of motorsport, a cross between rally and supercross. It features wheel to wheel racing with up to 10 cars competing at once in fast paced heat races.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 9
    Cost: $35 to $65
    Details: http://redbullglobalrallycross.com/event
    Venue: Outer Harbor Berth 46, San Pedro  

    Oct. 8
    Filipino-American History Month
    This is a free, family friendly event that features live entertainment from talented singers, dancers and magicians, vendor booths and raffle prizes. The Filipino American Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States during the month of October to commemorate the landing of the first Filipinos Central California’s Morro Bay, Oct. 18, 1587.
    Time: 12 to 4 p.m. Oct. 8
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/FilipinoAmericanMonth
    Venue: South Bay Pavilion, 20700 S. Avalon Blvd., Carson

    Oct. 8
    Aquarium of the Pacific 5K Run/Walk
    The Aquarium of the Pacific is partnering with the Long Beach Marathon events team again to host their 5K Run/Walk. The scenic course will loop through Rainbow Harbor, Queensway Bridge, Catalina Landing and the Aquarium itself! Participants will receive a race t-shirt, finisher’s medal and a discount on aquarium admission. Plaques will be given to the top three overall male and female finishers and winner medals will be given to the top three age division male and female finishers.
    Time:  7 to 9a.m. Oct. 8
    Cost: $45
    Details:(562) 590-3100; www.runlongbeach.com/long-beach-5k-run-walk
    Venue: Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach

    Oct. 22
    Wake at the Gate
    Angels Gate Cultural Center will host a wacky, tongue-in-cheek Victorian Wake themed fundraiser to support the arts. Join a cast of artists and arts advocates for a fun, gothic celebration of life and joie de vivre, unlike any other fundraiser you’ve seen.
    Time: 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 22
    Cost: $40 to $100
    Details: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2567916
    Venue: Angels Gate Cultural Center, 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro

    Oct. 1
    The Importance of Being Earnestearnest-gs
    Oscar Wilde’s play takes aim at Victorian manners and values. The plot revolves around two men, non-existent characters of their invention, mistaken identities and an apparent weakness of the part of Victorian women for men named Ernest.
    Time: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 1
    Cost: $14 to $24
    Details: (562) 494-1014; www.lbplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    Oct. 6
    SPIFFest 5th Anniversary
    The San Pedro International Film Festival celebrates its 5th anniversary presenting one of the South Bay’s largest film festivals from October 6-16, 2016 in San Pedro’s Historic Waterfront District. SPIFFest marks this 5-year milestone with expanded multimedia programming for 10 days within two weekends.
    Among this year’s films is the documentary Dark Progressivism, directed by Rodrigo Ribera d’Ebre. Dark Progressivism, which focuses on LA’s history of murals, tagging and street art, screens Oct. 15. The festival schedule roams among topics that range from Cuba to the SSS Indianapolis, the innovative world of Virtual Reality to the magic of Willy Wonka, punk rock-guitar legend Wayne Kramer kicking out the jams, the history of art from the streets of Los Angeles, conscious raising of the homeless and mental health and women’s issues.
    Time: Oct. 6 through 16
    Cost: $10 to $150
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro
    Oct. 14
    The amazing adventures of Louis De Rougemont (as told by himself) by Donald Margulies. This is an adventure tale of the high seas from a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.
    Time: Oct. 12 through Nov. 6
    Cost: $30 to $35
    Details: http://tinyurl.com/Shipwreck-ICT
    Venue: International City Theatre, 300 E Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

    Oct. 22
    The Hound of the Baskervilles
    Opening its 88th Mainstage Season, the Long Beach Playhouse will present The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted by F. Andrew Leslie. The production is directed by Mitchell Nunn.
    Time: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 22
    Cost: $14 to $24
    Details: www.lbplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    Oct. 23
    Flight, is a sequel to The Little Prince, a story about learning to see with the heart and finding the courage to fly. In Flight, three acrobats morph into cactuses, waves, and far-off islands allowing the audience to discover a classic tale like they’ve never imagined.
    Time: 7 p.m. through Oct. 23
    Cost: $16 to $20
    Details: www.GoCurbside.com/Press
    Venue: Flight Theatre, 1439 Roycroft, Long Beach

    Oct. 8
    On Being Blue
    TransVagrant and Gallery 478 are pleased to present On Being Blue: Recent Works by Jay McCafferty. McCafferty has been creating artworks by focusing rays of sunlight on its points of intersection for more than three decades. Working intuitively over various grounds – all shades, all hues, all blues – the artist is engaged in a complex mapping of imagination.
    The exhibition will open with an artist’s reception, from 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 8.
    Dates: Through Dec. 10
    Details: (310) 600-4873, (310) 732-2150.
    Venue: TransVagrant and Gallery 478, 478 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    Landslide: Slips in Time, Place and Identity is grouping of solo and two-person exhibitions exploring the mysterious ways in which place can function as a porthole to other moments both real and imagined. The artists interweave fantasy and historical narrative to disrupt habitual patterns of moving through landscapes. The title references actual landslides and their impact on Coastal San Pedro, notably the 2011 landslide near White Point Nature preserve, where site-specific works will be installed the day of the exhibition’s opening.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 12 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Oct. 23.
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 519-0936; www.angelsgateart.org
    Venue: Angels Gate Cultural Center, 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro

    Mark V. Lord: L.A. Noir
    Since 1999, Mark V. Lord has plied his trade as a professional screenwriter in New York and Los Angeles, while maintaining a mostly private practice as a photographer.  L.A. Noir is Lord’s first solo exhibition. Lord’s evocative images function as imaginary movie stills documenting an Los Angeles noir film that never was.
    Time: Through Dec. 31
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://pvartcenter.org
    Venue: Palos Verdes Art Center, 5504 West Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes

    Michael Flechtner: This Is Not A Sign
    This Is Not a Sign is a major West Coast exhibition of works in neon by Los Angeles-based artist Michael Flechtner. His work reflects a fascination with the symbols of language, technology and how they influence popular culture.
    Time: Sept. 10 to Dec. 31
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://pvartcenter.org
    Venue: Palos Verdes Art Center, 5504 W. Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes

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  • Carson to Elect Mayor, Two City Council Members

    Both Familiar Faces, New Ones on the Ballot this November

    By Christian Guzman, Contributing Reporter

     In the general election on Nov. 8, citizens of Carson who have registered to vote will cast ballots to select the city’s mayor and two city council members. Both offices are four-year terms.

    The Office of Mayor

    The candidates for mayor are Jim Dear and Albert Robles.

    Jim Dear

    Mayor of Carson from 2004 to 2015, Jim Dear told Random Lengths News that some of his top priorities are public safety, economic development and affordable housing. He believes his experiences as mayor will help dvance those goals.

    Dear coordinated with the Los Angeles County Sheriffs in Carson to create a Park Enforcement Team and Volunteers on Patrol program.

    He encouraged the development of restaurants in Carson, along Avalon Boulevard and Carson Street such as Carson Buffet, Chili’s and Starbucks. Between 2009 and 2014 he discussed converting a 157-acre lot, next to the 405 freeway, into an outlet mall. During that period the land was owned by the Hopkins Group and LNR Property. After the Carson Football Stadium Proposal failed earlier this year, plans to develop an outlet mall have resumed.

    Dear said he wants affordable housing developments to be for families and seniors with stable incomes. He doesn’t believe that Section 8 housing should be given emphasis. He considers the new housing development on the corner of Marbella Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard to be a good fit for the city and he wants to see more projects like that.

    Dear created commissions for civic engagement and women’s issues. He separated the Environmental and Beautification commission into two.

    In 2015, Jim Dear was elected to serve as Carson City Clerk. Soon after he took office, Carson employees accused him of misconduct. Those employees alleged that he made racist comments, planted a spy in the clerk’s office and verbally abused employees.

    Dear was aggressive during a recorded Carson City Council meeting. He interrupted the appointed mayor, Albert Robles, and accused him and Councilwoman Lula Davis-Holmes of illegal council actions. Dear also threatened to sue them.

    A campaign to recall Dear from his position was funded in part by Dear’s political rivals, Vera DeWitt and Mayor Albert Robles.

    Dear was recalled from the office of city clerk in a special election earlier this year.

    Albert Robles

    Albert Robles was elected to the Carson City Council in 2013 and appointed mayor in 2015.

    During his mayorship, Robles helped implement the Carson Street Master Plan, a major improvement project of Carson Street, which is still ongoing to this day.

    He also negotiated with the Macerich development company to construct an outlet mall on the failed NFL stadium site. The mall is expected to generate $4 million in tax revenue per year and almost 2,000 permanent jobs.

    This past June, Robles successfully worked with council members to pass a budget on time, which has not happened in almost a decade.

    Earlier this year he was accused of sexual harassment by former Carson employee Monette Gavino. But Gavino dropped her suit against him before she was subject to questioning under penalty of perjury.

    Robles has faced additional legal challenges.

    This issue’s Water Replenishment District article. (See p. 2.) details that Robles is being sued by the Los Angeles County District Attorney for holding two potentially conflicting elected offices.

    Robles stresses that he is an educated man. He earned a bachelor’s, master’s, and juris doctorate degree. He was also awarded with a merit scholarship at USC.

    He has worked as a staff assistant to a U.S. representative, a lawyer, a college instructor of business law and a manager for a business.

    The City Council

    Ten Candidates are vying for two city council seats, including two sitting councilmen.

    Cedrick Hickscedrick-hicks

    Cedric Hicks was appointed to the city council in April 2016 after Donesia Gause abdicated her council seat to retake her seat as the city clerk after Dear was recalled. Before that, he was the director of Community Services for Carson.

    Hicks also worked for Compton in various capacities, including police officer and assistant city manager. He has been a public employee for a total of 30 years, but his position on the city council is the first time he has had legislative authority.

    Hicks focus is on youth.

    In Compton, he worked in programs meant to keep children away from drugs, in school and out of gangs. While a staff member in Carson, he successfully lobbied the city council to remove drinks with high amounts of sugar from vending machines at parks and other city facilities. Water and drinks with less sugar are available now.

    As a councilman, Hicks helped secure a $400,000 grant to install outdoor fitness equipment at several parks.

    In 2015, Hicks was a part of a team that represented Carson at a conference which gave out the All-America City award. The award recognizes innovative ways communities solve their problems. Carson became one of the winners because of the city’s Gang Diversion Team and related programs that support vulnerable young men.

    Hicks is a member of the alumni board at California State University Dominguez Hills. He believes the education system is not adequately preparing young people for jobs in the trades. He is lobbying the university to provide more trade programs.

    The economic development of Carson is also important to Hicks. He said the 157-acre site of the proposed outlet mall is a major resource. He said the mall has the potential to be akin to L.A. Live.

    Charlotte Brimmerbrimmer

    Charlotte Brimmer is the business commissioner for Assemblyman Mike A. Gibson and the veterans delegate for State Sen. Isadore Hall. She was on Carson’s planning commission for eight years. And she was the project manager for the Watts and West Valley branches of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency.

    Brimmer said that her work has given her extensive policy and procedural knowledge, which she will apply to economic development and urban planning in Carson, if she is elected.

    Brimmer ran for the Carson City Council in 2013. When she got to know the people of Carson on an individual level, Brimmer said she realized that making their voices heard is as important as knowing how to implement policies and manage programs. Despite not being elected in 2013, she continued to engage the community.

    Brimmer said the concerns of veterans are particularly important. For the past few years, she helped put on a job fair for veterans at the StubHub Center. During the 2015 and 2016 fairs, 150 veterans were hired.

    Brimmer said that while campaigning, she observed that there is division in Carson along cultural and ethnic lines.

    “Some people think African Americans should only help African Americans, and that Latinos should only help Latinos,” said Brimmer. “We need to work as a team and help everyone.”

    Many Carson residents have expressed disdain for fracking to Brimmer, and she understands that.  But she also wants citizens to have perspective. She characterized Carson as an oil town, and said that the oil industry needs to be involved with updates to oil policy in the city.

    Tavonia Ekweghtavonia-ekwegh

    Tavonia Ekwegh is a nurse whose duties include policy advocacy and developing quality assurance processes.

    If she is elected to the council, Ekwegh will focus on making government more transparent and improving public health, social justice and education in Carson.

    She believes that a higher health literacy will allow residents to combat premature mortality and complex morbid conditions.

    “It’s no secret that a number of Carson residents have been afflicted with various forms of cancer due to asbestos exposure and toxic oil found underground,” Ekwegh said.

    Ekwegh wants to ensure that Carson residents are accurately and concisely informed about environmental and health issues. She also wants the council to build partnerships with local health care organizations.

    Jawane Hiltonjuwane-hilton

    Jawane Hilton was elected to the Carson City Council in 2015. Prior to that, he was a member of Carson’s commissions for human relations and public safety.

    Hilton founded the Challenging Minds Academy for Media and Technology and the City on the Hill Church. Challenging Minds is a school that focuses on at-risk youth. Hilton was also the former director of the Center for Community and Family, a nonprofit organization.

    Hilton said his work on the City Council this past year promoted future developments in Carson with regards to parks, restaurants and retail space. He worked other council members to manage tax dollars in a way to sustain a $22 million reserve fund.

    Kenneth JonesKenneth Jones

    Jones is the vice president and co-owner of E-Nor Innovators, Inc, which provides services for construction projects.

    Jones takes pride in operating a small business in Carson. He grew his business from two to 50 employees in seven years, and considers that a demonstration of effective leadership.

    Environmentally, Jones wants Carson to do a better job of protecting ground water by banning fracking and monitoring the air.

    To make the city safer, Jones plans on encouraging Sheriff’s deputies to form better relationships with residents. He would also like to expand services for seniors, special needs families and veterans.

    Brandi Murdockbrandi-murdock

    Brandi Murdock is the vice president of the Del Amo Park Parent Volunteer Association.

    Murdock plans to ensure Carson residents actually see city services in action. As a councilwoman, she plans to put pressure on the city to fix potholes, maintain parks and expand public safety. At the same time, Murdock wants to be fiscally responsible. She would do so by strategically using the Utility Users’ Tax fund.

    Murdock wants to ban fracking in Carson.

    Raul MurgaRaul Murga

    Raul Murga supports the rights of mobile home owners and renters. He is the president of Homeowners Against Rent Decontrol. He was also the President of the Homeowner’s Association for Imperial Carson Mobile Estates and a commissioner for mobile home affairs.

    Murga said he is committed to mobile home residents because they make up the bulk of affordable housing in the city.

    In 2016, Murga worked with the Homeowner’s Against Rent Control to demand the Carson City Council to adopt new mobile home zoning laws. The council has not done so.

    He observed two violations of California’s Brown Act by the council. (The act is supposed to ensure that the public can participate in the city government’s legislative process.) In both occurrences, topics were discussed without public notice.

    Murga sent formal complaints to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. The office acknowledged that the council was in violation of the Brown Act.

    “But because the ‘Brown Act has no teeth,’ the council was given a slap on the wrist,” Murga said.

    Murga discovered evidence that Albert Robles testified before the Carson City Council as a representative of the Water Replenishment District. He provided the evidence to the Los Angeles County District Attorney.

    Murga said that the construction and redevelopment of Carson Street has been poorly planned, especially with regard to disabled citizens and seniors. He thinks they will be disadvantaged by improper sign placement.

    Ramona Pimentelramona-pimentel

    Ramona Pimentel is a Carson planning commissioner. Prior to that, she was on the environmental commission. She wants to use her experience to advance economic development and safety, with emphasis on the south side of Carson.

    “When it was first built, Scottsdale was the place to be,” Pimentel said. “Now it’s rundown. That [part] of town has no representation.”

    Pimentel is the co-owner of the new Carson Bail Bonds with former Mayor of Carson, Vera Robles DeWitt. The old Carson Bail Bonds was owned by Dewitt and went bankrupt earlier this year. Pimentel was a bail agent there.

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  • RIP, Josh Fischel; or A Big Man Leaves a Big Hole Behind

    I met Josh Fischel in early 2013. He died yesterday, September 29, 2016. No, that can’t be right. That would mean everything I experienced of and with this man took place in less than four years. That can’t be right.

    The first three things I learned about Josh were probably the first three things most people learned about Josh when they met him: he was a big bearded man with a big voice and big plans. Josh was always looking toward the next bigger and better thing he could put together. In 2013, that was RIOTstage. The idea was to create a new niche in the Long Beach theatre scene by staging edgy, raucous musicals. The first two were to be Tommy and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

    He never got there it turned out he was a little too good at putting together big ensemble musical performances of a more eclectic nature. Like the time he brought together two-dozen musicians to perform Abbey Road—which was only the second half of the show. Or the time he and a string quartet did Elvis Costello’s The Juliet Letters, then after intermission had a 13-piece band he put together do Pet Sounds in its detailed entirety (strings, horns, tympani, sleigh bells, glockenspiel, guïro, the whole shebang). Or hey, remember those times he transformed huge city spaces to do Let It Be, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and The Wall?

    That’s just a few shows. During the same time period he also played his own music throughout the country and abroad. He co-created and curated the Live After 5 series. And of course you know about last weekend’s Music Tastes Good festival. He did all that.

    He didn’t do it alone, of course. One of his great talents was bringing together the necessary talent—musical, administrative, logistical, technical—to hit whatever target was in his sights. For every one of his projects during these last four years, invariably the individuals he handpicked for a given project were mightily impressed with the new people they got to work with.

    I think the reason so many different people got to work on Josh’s big ideas was his ability to see people as specific, idiosyncratic individuals and to treat and employ them as such, very consciously (as he once told me) putting them in positions to contribute uniquely and successfully. On several occasions I was lucky enough to be one of those individuals, and more than once Josh asked me to venture outside of my comfort zone. I was always willing to go there when he asked, because when Josh put his faith in you, you began to believe.

    His communication style is something I will miss greatly. To be sure, Josh could do the charismatic diplomacy thing that is probably requisite for any impresario, but on a more personal level Josh would not hesitate to let you know when he was annoyed or pissed off. He would listen to your idea and accept it if he agreed, but he had no problem unceremoniously shooting it down if he didn’t. He did not pretend to like everyone equally—or at all—just as he did not hide his affection.

    One of the best bonding experiences Josh and I had came out of a misunderstanding that got me partly thrown off RIOTstage’s Americana. During the initial stages of production I was a consultant and contributed some content. I was also slated to perform, but a few poorly-phrased e-mails on my part to an assistant who didn’t know me well enough to get where I was coming from led to his feeling it would be best if I were replaced in that capacity. We talked it out, patiently and earnestly, and came away from the conflict with no hard feelings and a better sense of each other’s character. He asked me to be a part of several projects afterwards. That’s the kind of guy he was: when you resolved an issue with him, it really was resolved.

    I was honored to be in his confidence, a role I enjoyed because—as he told me on numerous occasions—he valued my reactions and that I knew how to keep my mouth shut when he wanted to talk about something that wasn’t for public disclosure. That’s not a story about what a fab friend I was, but an example of how Josh saw people for the individuals they are, and how good he was at letting his friends know how he felt about us.

    No reminiscence about Josh can rightly exist without thinking about Abbie, his wife and partner. I add the latter title because “wife” doesn’t really get to the heart of it. It was clear even to those of us who aren’t new-agers that they were spiritual partners. Her warmth and support—which extended not just to him but outward to everyone they knew—sustained him in whatever he did.

    I imagine it must have sustained him in what turned out to be his last days, as he plowed through the finish line of Music Tastes Good with little sleep (I asked him over coffee a couple of weeks ago if he was getting enough sleep: he just rolled his eyes). I imagine it’s part of what made it possible for people like me—people who knew about his health struggles of the past year or so, people who couldn’t help noticing how much worse his hearing had gotten, people who were startled when they hugged him at how emaciated his frame had become—to be caught completely off-guard by his passing yesterday.

    But what also made it such a shock was that he was just Josh fucking Fischel, a boss, a force of nature, too big to fail. When he gave me that big Josh grin Sunday as I congratulated him for launching Long Beach into a better future, the kind of future he always dreamed of for this city he loved heart and soul, I could never have conceived that he’d be gone in just four days. I only imagined that his future would be what he said it would be: a couple of weeks wrapping up Music Tastes Good details, a three-week European sojourn with Abbie, then on to his next big thing. After all, isn’t that the way these last four years have been: Josh says, Josh does?

    Just four years? That can’t be right. It’s not right. It’s true, but it’s not right. There is nothing right about Josh being gone so soon.

    The loss of Josh leaves a big hole in the Long Beach community (and beyond), a hole that will never be filled. But the fruits of his too-brief presence can never be rotted by something as mingy and base as death. “There’s a lot of untapped talent in Long Beach, a lot of people who just aren’t getting seen or heard,” he told me two-and-a-half years ago, when much of Long Beach was still getting to know him. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to create RIOTstage. […] There is so much talent around here—it just needs to be harnessed. I’m not saying I’m necessarily the guy to do that, but I’m definitely going to be one of the guys.”

    You definitely were.
    *Photo credit: Matt Maguire
    *Yes, the crude double-entendre of the title is intentional. Josh loved that sort of thing.

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  • SPIFF Widens its Lens

    Photos by Jerome Brunet

    Article by Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the San Pedro International Film Festival is reaching out to a broader audience with a diverse multimedia slate of film, art, music and technology.

    The festival has also expanded to an ambitious schedule of 10 days. The calendar includes five feature films, five full-length documentary films, and a program of shorts and student films. Panel discussions cover technology and innovation, as well as a youth film intensive workshop.   Live concert performances at various locations around San Pedro add to the bustling schedule.

    SPIFFest kicks off on First Thursday Artwalk at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 6, featuring two art exhibitions. Both will be shown at the old Threads of Time location, 446 W. 6th St., in San Pedro. One is in conjunction with the documentary Dark Progressivism, directed by historian Rodrigo Ribera d’Ebre and the book, The Federal Informant, written by d’Ebre. The exhibition features the noir series, with works by fine artists Jim McHugh, Roberto Gutierrez and Jose “Prime” Reza.  For racing enthusiasts, Cornelius Projects of San Pedro and The Eddie Meeks Archive will present a collection of photographic images of The Brotherhood Raceway Park on Terminal Island.

    Among some of the more eclectic offerings during the festival is a webisode series, Breaking Bread, featuring Random Lengths News cuisine writer, Gina Rucccione and Dustin Trani of J. Trani’s Ristorante. Rucccione has created an underground reputation for hosting pop-up dinners in imaginative locations around town. Private homes and art studios have hosted her dinners in the past.

    “I guess I realized that in order for us to grow and be different, that we need to differentiate ourselves from what else is out there,” film festival organizer Ziggy Mrkich said. “We had to evolve and look at broadening our audience. It’s not just a film festival this year. I don’t think you can ignore what is going on within the community.”

    An exciting new component to the festival is a symposium including a demonstration and panel discussion of virtual reality, or VR. VR has been long discussed as a dream of the future, and the future has arrived, compliments of Hollywood filmmakers. The symposium is slated for Oct. 16 at 1 p.m. at the new theater dubbed The Space. A ‘virtual’ lineup of effects designers and Oscar winners will lead attendees on this journey to the next dimension of entertainment and technology.

    “VR is going to have implications in a lot of industries, not only entertainment but health and travel and business,”  Mrkich said.

    Mrkich came to San Pedro five years ago, after living and working for 20 years in Hollywood. She worked as a development executive in Hollywood for several production companies and also worked for Touchstone Pictures at Walt Disney Studios. After a friend introduced her to San Pedro, she recognized its potential to develop her pet projects.

    In 2011, she partnered up with actress and film festival coordinator Renee O’Connor, to launch the nascent film festival. O’Connor has organized the youth film intensive portion of the festival. The youth film intensive is in its fifth year of working with high school students.

    The workshop is led by writer and filmmaker Rich Samuels, with producer, writers and directors Todd Felderstein and Dawn Higginbotham. The program leads students through screenwriting fundamentals all the way to producing a film. The teams from this past year’s workshop have five films to screen. Four of the films profile San Pedro artists, including Ben and Peggy Zask, directors of South Bay Contemporary Gallery. Also featured are public artists Adrienne Wade, Ricky Hernandez and Ben Avila.

    O’Connor is especially proud of the student film reflecting the life and work of Harold Hall. Hall is a San Pedro violinist turning 102 years old this year.

    “We wanted to take this opportunity for the students to create a fifth film for him,” O’Connor said.

    And then, there are the feature films. Among the five full-length feature films is Sidemen, Long Road to Glory, a gorgeous retelling of the history of the blues and the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. The partners who sat in the studio alongside the famed musicians and traveled for decades introducing the world to the Chicago style of hard hitting blues was given a chance to tell their own stories to director Scott Rosenbaum. Every legendary musician has a group of sidemen who collaborate with the artist to create the signature sound that creates the legend. The great Howlin’ Wolf and the mythological bluesman Muddy Waters had their favorite sidemen who served as family as well as collaborators. Three of the last surviving sidemen from that period were Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.

    The original concept of the film was to create a concert film in the tradition of The Last Waltz, the iconic Martin Scorsese documentation of The Band. Rosenbaum spent nearly three years touring with the musicians and recording concerts with a Hall of Fame list of musicians that appear throughout the movie.

    But time caught up with the filmmaker before he could finish his project. At the age of 97, pianist Pinetop Perkins won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for Joined at the Hip, which he recorded with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Perkins thus became the oldest winner of a Grammy Award. A month after winning his third Grammy, Pinetop Perkins died. Five months later Willie “Big Eyes” Smith was gone. Within a few months, the great guitar sideman, Hubert Sumlin, creator of some of the most recognizable blues riffs ever recorded, and anointed son of Howlin’ Wolf, joined his partners. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards paid Sumlin’s funeral expenses.

    Rosenbaum had captured time in a bottle, but he had a half finished film. He spent several years sorting out the direction he would take to come up with a loving tribute to the sidemen whose music is ingrained in our memories.

    The film was named one of the Top 5 films from the 2016 SXSW Film Festival, and it is a treat to have it here in San Pedro, a town that knows its music. Sidemen, Long Road to Glory, screens at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8, at The Space, 624 S. Pacific Ave., San Pedro.

    There is much more to see and do at SPIFF 2016, including a town hall discussion cultivating a creative corridor in San Pedro, a Bukowski tribute and Lunafest, short films by, for and about women.

    For the complete schedule and to purchase tickets go to spiffest.org.


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  • Buscaino’s Mess Hits the Fan

    Rally Exposes Flawed Decision-Making Process on Proposed Homeless Storage Facility

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    If the Sept. 25 rally on the steps of Barton Hill Elementary school was any indication, District 15 Councilman Joe Buscaino has some explaining to do at his Oct. 4 town hall meeting on the homeless storage facility in San Pedro.

    About 60 residents showed up for the Sept. 25 rally opposing the proposed storage facility for the homeless on North Pacific Avenue in San Pedro. Flyers distributed more than a week prior alleged that the council office and the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce were seeking permits to use a former Smart & Final store on 227 N. Pacific to open a homeless storage facility. According to the flyer, the facility would be able to hold 450 storage units.

    The flyer stated that the facility would draw homeless people, including “the mentally unstable, violent and as seen on various San Pedro social media pages, sexual deviants and drug users.”

    Up until Central San Pedro Neighborhood council member Danielle Sandoval took responsibility for printing and distributing the flyer at the rally, the author of the flyer was unknown.

    But Sandoval wasn’t alone. Other organizers included Central Neighborhood Council members Donald Galaz and a Barton Hill Elementary booster organization.

    Jose Guerrero, 42, one of the speakers at the rally identified himself as a member of the recently formed Barton Hill Platinum Association.

    “This is my school,” Guerrero said. “This is my community. [I was] born and raised in this part of San Pedro, the central part of San Pedro.

    “How is it OK to put something in the pathway of where kids walk? When they take field trips to the Farmers Market, they take Pacific … and that’s OK? I don’t understand that.”

    Guerrero noted that he, his sister, all four of his children and all of his nieces and nephews graduated from the historic elementary school.

    The consensus amongst the residents was the first time they learned that the former Smart & Final could be the site for the new homeless storage facility was from the flyer.

    Maria Couch, an active member of Holy Trinity Church, lives across the street from the school.

    “They don’t have anywhere else to go,” Couch said. “So they will stay around the area.”

    To underscore the potential danger involved in locating the storage facility so close to an elementary school, Couch recounted the police response following altercation between a couple of vagrants in an alley behind her home, which resulted in a stabbing.

    “I understand there are issues everywhere about everything, but our concern here are the kids,” Couch said. “If we don’t speak up for them, no one will.”

    At the center of community outrage, however, was the general belief that the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce and Councilman Buscaino were willing to sacrifice their quality of life by drawing the homeless away from the waterfront to the working class neighborhood around Barton Hill Elementary School.

    “I don’t have a problem with shopping carts,” Ruben Sampirio said, another Barton Hill Platinum Association  member. “There could be a hundred shopping carts from here to all the way to 5th Street. That wouldn’t bug me. What does concern me is the exposure of our children to all the homeless as they enter and leave school while their crap is in that storage facility … we have liquor stores around here and we have weed places—[medical marijuana] dispensaries.

    “We don’t want to expose our children to more homeless actions: sleeping, drinking, smoking weed, doing drugs, fighting, having sex in the open, peeing and crapping all over the place. Do you want your kids exposed to that? ”

    While the community is united in its desire to not have the facility in their neighborhood, divisions remain on how to deal with the homeless crisis. Couch repeatedly reiterated that the rally was not an attack on homeless people but on placement of the storage facility.

    “It’s a Band-Aid,” Couch said. “It doesn’t give them services; it doesn’t provide housing for them.”

    She recalled the words of a homeless woman who spoke during the public comment period during the most recent Central Neighborhood Council meeting as saying: “We don’t need storage for our stuff.  We need a place for us.”

    Guerrero expressed similar sentiments.

    “They are putting a Band-Aid on a wound that needs stitches,” Guerrero said. “You’re going to put all that money into storage, why couldn’t they find a location that was abandoned and open up a shelter there and put in the same programs they want to put here?”

    Guerrero suggested that the money could have been used to rehab single room occupancy hotels to help get the homeless off the street and supplied with services.

    “You can hold two people per room or three depending on the size of the room,” he said. “So you start there. It’s not easy and it’s not simple.”

    This past April, the city council revised the ordinance that allows the police to sweep homeless encampments left on city streets overnight. The change allows people to keep personal possessions that fit into a 60-gallon container if the city can’t provide nearby storage space or offer transportation to a storage area.

    Essentially, the change would allow for the regular council-office-initiated sweeps around the San Pedro post office and other locations to be more effective without risking further lawsuits for disregarding the constitutional rights of the homeless.

    But the issue of transparency is what stuck most in the Barton Hill community’s craw.

    “If you ask any of the people here how they found out they will tell you they found out through that flyer that was passed out,” Guerrero said. “Before that, a lot of people didn’t know about it. And I’m talking about the people [who] live across the street from it and people who own businesses across from there. If you ask them, they will tell you.”

    Sandoval revealed she was the one who circulated the flyer that gathered residents at Barton Hill.

    “I’m the one that was at the meeting and found out about it,” Sandoval said. “I’m the reason why you are all here today. I don’t care who knows. It’s about transparency. I have been receiving threatening phone calls from them because I told the community.”

    She directed her comments to Buscaino’s communications director and senior advisor, Branimir Kvartuc, who was in attendance at the rally.

    “Branimir, I have a recording of you saying that you informed the community at that meeting; shall I release the audio?” Sandoval challenged. “They said they told the surrounding the community and businesses and they are all in for this location.”

    Sandoval pointed to Venice Beach as a willing and ready ally in the fight against the storage facility, noting that they so far successfully prevented a second storage facility from being established at the Westminster Senior Center, a site located in a residential area.

    Sandoval suggested taking a cue from Venice Beach residents’ playbook and hire their own lawyers to sue if the city pushes to locate a storage facility in the Barton Hill neighborhood.

    The former restaurateur turned community activist attempted to deflect blame over the storage facility from the taskforce and place it entirely on the city.

    Except, Saving San Pedro founder and San Pedro  Homeless Taskforce member, George Palaziol, suggested the answer was a little more complicated than what Sandoval suggested.

    In a Facebook posting regarding the circulating flyers on the storage facility, Palaziol, attempted to mollify outraged community members by saying “nothing is set in stone.”

    Before Buscaino established the San Pedro Homeless Taskforce, an issue like the siting of a storage facility in a neighborhood would have been taken up and vetted by the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council through an open and deliberative process. Buscaino’s task force worked behind closed doors and will only be officially presenting the proposal to the community on Oct. 4  at the Port of Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club.

    Palaziol said he was initially opposed to locating the storage facility on Pacific, but has since had a change of heart.

    “Knowing who I am and what I stand for, I will admit that at first I did not feel this was an appropriate location,” Palaziol wrote on Facebook. “But after hearing out all the facts from the entire panel of all involved in this process so far I honestly have to say that most of my concerns have been put to rest.”

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  • Postmortem on Delusional Politics

    Clinton Crushes Trump; Buscaino Stumbles

    James Preston Allen, Publisher

    You’d expect the postmortems on the Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump debate to be decidedly partisan dissections. I don’t think anyone would have thought so many Republicans would join the stomp parade on Trump’s debate performance.

    “Trump was somewhere between incoherence and babble. Never [before] has there been a candidate in a presidential debate as fundamentally unprepared and incoherent as what you saw tonight,”  Republican political strategist Steve Schmidt said.

    The Arizona Republic, which has never endorsed a Democrat for president in all its years of publishing (since 1890) wrote:

    “The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified…for the first time in our history, The Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president.”

    The editorial staff of the Arizona Republic went on to explain:

    “The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting. Hillary Clinton understands this. Donald Trump does not. Clinton has the temperament and experience to be president. Donald Trump does not.”

    It will come as no surprise to conservative readers and even some liberal or progressives of this newspaper that as a staunch Bernie Sanders supporter we are now endorsing Hillary Clinton for all of those reasons announced by one of the most conservative Republican newspapers in America.

    I find it extraordinarily strange that this paper finds itself in agreement with such ardent conservatives, but the Republican Party has not had such an unqualified presidential candidate since its founding. Trump’s delusional rhetoric has divided this country from every corner and state down to our own main streets.

    Trump’s politics of fear insinuated itself far and wide in the national psyche through his calls to profile and restrict the movements of Muslims and Mexican—the echoes of which can be heard in the voices of those who fear our growing homeless population at home.

    Those fears are rooted in the anxiety many working class Americans feel–an anxiety that often result in the scapegoating of marginalized communities. When Trump says he wants to “Make America Great Again” he does it by hammering on our fear of the other, a division as deep as the Grand Canyon.

    One can only ask, “How can Trump possibly unify this nation after creating such divisions?”

    The same might be said about Hillary Clinton except that she has not been the one castigating minorities or promising to build a Great Wall of China along our southern border to keep out the heathens. In the San Pedro Harbor area, our very own smiling Joe Buscaino has inspired much of the same fear and loathing as The Donald, though perhaps unintentionally.

    Still, the empowering of the Saving San Pedro folks with appointments and neighborhood council status has only emboldened the anti-homeless contingent of Pedrans and fueled sustained vitriol on social media.  The main culprit behind Buscaino’s political rise and continued social media stardom is his chief propagandist, communications director Branimir Kvartuc, who recently told me point blank that, “I’m not going to answer any of your questions.” This while he was talking to the press at the Barton Hill demonstration we reported on in this issue on the lack of transparency in deciding the location of the homeless storage facilities near the elementary school.

    What we have found here is that Kvartuc’s facile use of seductive digital media imagery has built a bubble around Buscaino, shielding him from voices of dissatisfaction with his reign in office, as the number of those grumbling grows.

    There are very few who will go on record  about their lack of confidence in Buscaino’s leadership, but privately there is a growing chorus asking, “Exactly what has Joe done in the last five years, aside from taking selfies of himself and blasting them over social media?”

    Media should be the bridge not the wall between the governed and those who govern—and when the government assumes the role of being the media, like Kvartuc and others have done, they eliminate dissenting voices.  Hence, like Trump, Buscaino is living in his own self-generated delusion.

    Don’t get me wrong, Trump is a xenophobic self-centered egotist who can only bully his way into public office. Buscaino, on the other hand, is a really nice guy, a former Los Angeles Police Department senior lead officer whom everybody once liked.  I’m sure that, unlike Trump, Buscaino’s intentions are decent, if unavoidably naive and narrow-minded. After all, he views governance through the lens of law enforcement. Some have even gone so far as to call him arrogantly ignorant of the realities of big city politics and development.

    Whatever the case may be, it has come to my attention that he is terribly thin-skinned and resistant to even light-handed criticisms. I’ve offered them privately before I voiced them publicly. His leadership, much like his police training, is a top down kind of approach that distrusts collaboration, public discussion (unless heavily controlled or edited) and critique.

    He avoids neighborhood councils, except when he wants his decisions to be rubber stamped. He sets up task forces to deal with dicey issues so as to avoid Brown Acted meetings and transparency and use them for cover if things go bad.  And, when you come to think of it, this is the same kind of problem the rest of the City of Los Angeles has with its citizens, or vice versa. So Buscaino fits right in with the top down power structure.

    An example of this is the councilman’s bungling of the homeless storage proposal, which excluded Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council advice, and avoided getting community consent and consideration of the neighborhood that would be most impacted. Obviously, his chief propagandist didn’t get ahead of the issue before it exploded. Good job, Branimir!

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  • The Denial of Racism in America

    By John Gray, San Pedro resident and retired probation officer

    Black Africans were first brought to North America in 1619 as indentured servants who were able to eventually purchase their freedom. Circa 1690, they were asking where their freedom went. Somehow, someway, they were conscripted to work in the cotton fields of Americans southern colonies.

    Black people were now in bonded slavery which continued for the next 176 years. Slavery became the peculiar institution, and yes it was peculiar. No way out, might have become right. After all, black people were subhuman anyway. Justification and dogma of the time became what we now know as racist and racism.

    Slavery was simply dismissed as status quo. No one was responsible for the indignity, no blame, just the way it was. It is just routine colony business. At slavery’s end, people free people would now be subject to congressionally passed laws designed to effectively deny African Americans (now citizens) all means to compete in society to better themselves. With no recrimination, no responsibility, expected to just stay in their place and not to be seen or heard. Racism was delivered in its finest. No thought of the Christian Bible which stated to, “Love thy neighbor.”

    The 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts were passed which ostensibly seemed to recognize that racism did exist in the United States. But now what does the power structure do? More schools were integrated (reluctantly, more housing areas became available and more jobs were accessible to African Americans) But institutionalized racism never went away. Yet, still no one is responsible. Can it be that African Americans and other racial minorities dumped racism on themselves? From city and townships one hears, It wasn’t me.” The old, and of course the young whites say, “I wasn’t part of that.” Meaning, I have no responsibility for perpetuation of racism in America. If no one is responsible, why do we blot out, “all men are created equal?” Those who say, “I am not responsible for racism, leave me alone.” Well you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.

    We are now electing a new American president. The Republican Party has selected Donald J. Trump as its nominee. Mr. Trump makes it a point of emphasis to denigrate all minorities with racial hate speech. But he says he is not a racist. Well, Mr. Trump its 2016, why is there debate? Denial , denial, denial. Questions must be answered , “Does America want to solve its racism problem? Can American solve it racism problem? “Surely something went wrong. Someone or something is responsible and as the good doctor said, “Denial won’t help to solve the problem.”

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  • EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL @ the Garage Theatre

    A few years ago, the Garage Theatre put on Cannibal!: The Musical, a work loosely based on a disastrous 1874 prospecting expedition that resulted in Alferd Packer killing and eating the flesh of his fellow trekkers to survive. There may not be an unlikelier subject for a full-blown comedy, but this was one of the most enjoyable theatrical experiences I’ve ever had, partly because it was a product of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s special genius—which includes a true gift for song—and partly because the Garage simply knocked it out of the park.

    A musical based on the first two Evil Dead films is not quite so unlikely—Evil Dead II, for example, is as much comedy as horror and has a sort of musical number: a headless corpse doing a bit of soft-shore—and it’s also less surprising than Cannibal!, in that it’s exactly what you expect from the title: it’s goofy, it’s cheesy, and the music doesn’t have a life of its own.

    College-aged Ash (Steven G. Frankenfield) and his four pals drive out to an abandoned cabin in the woods for a romantic weekend getaway. Too bad for them it just happens to be Prof. Knowby’s (Robert Edward) cabin, who perished after unwittingly opening a rift between hell and here by phonetically reciting passages from the Necronomicon (very loosely translated: Book of the Dead). Too bad for them they find Prof. Knowby’s tape recorder and play the tape he made when he recited said passages, because…you get the idea.

    Don’t even hope for a coherent plot. The Evil Dead films are full of holes, but the musical makes the films seem like Paddy Chayefsky. But you don’t come to this because you crave a good story. Evil Dead: The Musical sinks or swims based on three criteria: 1) whether you already know and like the films, 2) whether the cast has sufficient energy and comedic chops, and 3) whether you like cheese (as in cheesy) enough to enjoy a meal that is nothing but.

    Only #2 isn’t wholly dependent on you, and fortunately the verdict here is favorable. Frankenfield is the center of the action, and he’s a solid anchor. (Plus, for fans of the film it won’t hurt that he bears a resemblance to what Bruce Campbell may have looked like before he was old enough to drink.) But if there’s a standout, it’s probably Jazzy Jones, who plays Ash’s sister. At first you think she might actually be the weak point, but once she gets possessed and locked in the basement, she delivers several moments of comedy gold. The kid’s got timing.

    A strength of this show is the set. I cannot count how many different ways the Garage has adapted their black box to the production of the moment, and what Rob Young has done for this one is totally new and totally works. There’s also the added bonus that you’re unlikely ever to see a full-blown musical in such a tiny space. Cannibal!: The Musical seemed cavernous compared to this.

    Okay, so this is clearly a low-budget production, but there’s a certain charm in that. And for a show as silly as this, it’s fitting. But beyond that there are some production problems. At times we have soloists performing with nothing but faint ambient light on them, and there is no consistent balance between the volumes of the band, the singers, and the piped-in sound. To be sure, you won’t catch all the lyrics.

    That isn’t make-or-break, though, partly because one thing Evil Dead: The Musical isn’t is clever. Not only is lyricist George Reinblatt no Parker/Stone, I’m not sure he’s heard of them. “Evil’s funnier than it seems / You’ll even join our softball team / If you join us.” Oof! The script is filled with a lot of random humor à la a bad episode of Family Guy on a bad day. (To me almost all of them are bad, but never mind.)

    Musically, too, there’s not much here. The five-piece band (ably directed by Alanah Ntzouras) does a fine job, but there isn’t a song in the bunch you’re going to remember when you leave the theater. Because of that, I enjoyed the musical atmospherics more than the actual songs.

    Evil Dead: The Musical aspires to be something like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (it even name-checks “Time Warp”) plus gore (and the Garage brings the gore. You best bring a rain slicker or buy a cheapie from them, especially if you sit in the front row), but it lacks the killer numbers (no pun intended), and it relies too heavily on the audience coming into the theater already so in love with the Evil Dead films that they’ll forgive almost anything.

    Then again, that’s the target demographic. Evil Dead: The Musical may not exceed your expectations, but if you’re willing to buy a ticket in the first place, it will most likely meet them.


    (Photo credit:  SpaceBarbarianProductions.com)

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