• The Shortest Distance from Missouri to Los Angeles

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Before Michael Brown was shot six times by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer about two weeks ago, no one ever thought much or even heard of this small community outside of St. Louis. Nor did anyone consider the mounting problems of many small Midwest towns in red states like this one, who have suffered through the great recession with job losses. The inequity between Main Street and Wall Street has hit record highs.

    Most of the people in my circle of friends condemn the militarization of the Ferguson police and for that matter, the use of military weaponry across this nation in large cities or small. And wonder out loud, “How can this kind of overreaction still happen in America?” Well… if you give the police the military weapons, they’ll find an excuse to use them.

    The question I have for Angelinos is this: “What’s the shortest route from Ferguson, Mo, to Los Angeles?”

    The answer: The next officer involved shooting in which the official explanation begins with a character assassination of the victim, rather than a plausible explanation of how the police killed an unarmed person.

    The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is at the top of the list, with the Long Beach Police not too far behind. Take a look at the statistics on officer involved shootings.

    However, as we have seen this week, the Los Angeles Police Department is also not immune with issues of its own like the shooting of Ezell Ford, a young unarmed black man with mental health problems, on the streets of South Central.   (more…)

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  • Oswald Delves Into Kennedy Assassination

    By John Farrell

    You would think every fact has come to light and been discussed, torn apart and reconstructed in the more than 50 years since President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

    You’d be wrong.

    In the newest and most informative production, Oswald, the Actual Interrogation has found some new evidence about Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination.

    Oswald, the Actual Interrogation, by Dennis Richard, provides another angle of perception to that still-controversial killing Nov. 22, 1963.

    Richard spent years reconstructing the interrogation of Oswald, from a few handwritten notes and the recollection of police officers who met Oswald. Surprisingly, as the playwright revealed at a post-opening night conversation, there were no recording of these sessions. The Dallas Police had ordered a tape recorder as an equipment upgrade but it hadn’t yet arrived. There was no stenographer present, either, no video recording (of course) and only seven pages of notes.

    The play doesn’t tell everything that Oswald said, but it does cover the important parts of his discussions with yet.

    Twelve hours of questioning took place with Captain Will Fritz (James Rice), head of the Dallas Police Department’s Murder Squad, keeping his cool despite the frenzy that the shooting caused: Two hundred reporters, television teams, CIA and FBI agents and all. Fritz is played with sang-froid and a Texas accent by the accomplished James Rice. He almost never gets excited, even when the mayor wants him on the line and he refuses. Fritz is head of the murder squad and an accomplished interrogator. (more…)

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  • All-American Soap Box Derby Comes to a Track Near You

    By Joseph Baroud, Contributing Writer

     

    The All-American Soap Box Derby is taking place Aug. 23 and 24 amidst the shadows of Queen Mary.

    The event is scheduled to stay open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be two official races where riders can accumulate points towards being invited to race in a championship in Akron, Ohio 2015.

    The Queen Mary, in an attempt to create some liveliness in their corners and better serve the community, approached Brian Graham, regional director at All-American Soap Box Derby and offered to fund a race which would be held adjacent to the Queen Mary. The ship continues looking for new ways to attract and connect the people of Long  Beach and abroad.

    Graham is excited that the sport’s popularity seems to be on the rise recently. He said that registration for this event has risen the last year and a half.

    Graham also said the race gives an opportunity to children and adults to come together and build these cars and race them. He says that it offers participants a chance to bond and build cohesiveness, not just between racers, but all who are present around them.

    “Having an event focused on children and their adult companions is a way of serving the community,” Graham said.

    The All-American Soap Box Derby  is a national sports organization that was founded in 1934. The The All-American Soap Box Derby is divided into 12 regions, with each region representing four to five states throughout the nation. The Long Beach race is part of Region 2, which represents Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah. (more…)

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  • Sticking to the Subject: Mayor Robert Garcia on Poverty

    If you heard 36-year-old Robert Garcia speak multiple times as he trod the Long Beach campaign trail on his way to become the youngest mayor in Long Beach history, you couldn’t help noticing that just about every speech he gave—no matter the topic, no matter the audience—closed on the same note. His inauguration speech last month was no different.

    “As we sit here tonight in this room on this great night […] I want us to remember, there is still almost 20% of our neighbors who are living in poverty,” he said. “One in five of every one of our neighbors is struggling between [finding] healthcare, childcare, food, or a roof over their head. And I believe no matter what you do, no matter where you live, we are all in the business of helping people. And so I challenge us. If we are ever going to become the true international, world-class city that I know and believe we will be, we have a responsibility to help these neighbors. […] If we’re ever going to grow as a city, we must address this issue.”

    Considering Garcia’s consistency in hitting this closing note during his campaign, I proposed to him that our interview—his first one-on-one as mayor—be on one, and only one, subject: poverty. He was happy to oblige.

    Garcia knows whereof he speaks. A Peruvian immigrant who hit U.S. shores at the age of 5, Garica’s single mother busy working two or even three jobs to keep a roof over their heads. But it was not until middle school that Garcia became truly conscious of being poorer than most of his peers.

    “I started realizing, ‘You know, my mom isn’t really around much. Why isn’t my mom around during the week?'” he says. “You start realizing around middle school or high school that your aunt is cleaning homes for a living, and that’s not really as good of a job as [your friends’] parents have. […] Many times when I was younger I felt the stigma of being poor. Many times I wished we had money to buy this or that. Many times I’d want to go out and get the newest pair of sneakers that every other kid had, but we couldn’t have them.”

    That early experience of poverty has helped Garcia stay attuned to a problem that isn’t always readily apparent.

    “I think sometimes people view poverty as someone on the verge of homelessness,” he says. “But you could walk by an apartment building in Alamitos Beach and never know that inside a one-bedroom apartment there could be eight people living there who are experiencing poverty. […] Youngsters that could be going to school and then playing soccer after school could be coming home and having Top Ramen every night because there’s not enough food and not enough money to eat well. Poverty can look like anybody. It could be a student. I met students who were homeless all the time at Long Beach City College [where Garcia worked as communications director 2007–2012]. There’s a large population of students there who are homeless.”

    Garcia is quick to share his early experience with the underprivileged people he meets as a way to give them hope that poverty isn’t necessarily a permanent condition.

    “I always try to remind people that I meet, particularly youngsters, that I was in a similar situation when I was younger,” he says. “I was an immigrant. I lived in an apartment with a lot of people, you know? My mom worked two jobs. No-one in my family had an education.”

    While Garcia regards poverty as a broad-based problem, one of his foci is the way out that education can provide.

    “Every major scholar in education will tell you that the best place to invest in a young person’s life is getting them in preschool,” he says. “It starts people off in a much stronger position to learn for the rest of their lives. And when you get a youngster in preschool, especially in low-income families the parent then has the ability to go to work and not have to pay for childcare.”

    For older school-aged youth, Garcia intends to increase awareness of and strengthen the Long Beach College Promise, which provides all Long Beach Unified high-school graduates with a free first semester at Long Beach City College. He also wants to see more City resources invested in afterschool programs.

    One area where Garcia sees Long Beach coming up woefully short in the fight against poverty is the number of internships available to high-schoolers. According to Garcia, currently there are about 1,500 internships available to 80,000 high-school students in Long Beach. Compare with a city like Boston, he says, which has 50,000 students and yet provides 10,000 to 15,000 internships.

    “[I]n my first term we’re going to take that 1,500 and make it 3,000,” he says. “I’m going to work with businesses and the City to provide more opportunities for young people to work while they’re in school and gain those skills so they are confident and can figure out what they want to do. I think that kind of thing has a huge impact, particularly on those families that may not have a lot of resources.”

    Among other help Garcia expects the City to provide for Long Beach’s poor will come in the form of additional affordable housing. “For [Fiscal Year 2015], I am recommending that the City place the $24.7 million identified above into the existing Housing Trust Fund to continue the City’s great work in the affordable housing arena and support our certified Housing Element,” reads a section of his proposed budget. “I am also recommending our Development Services Department explore methods to reconstitute the Housing Trust Fund so that more of our housing resources can be incorporated into the fund. […] Additionally, we must seek additional grant resources, such as State dollars, and advocate at the State level for those dollars to be available to assist with our entire spectrum of housing needs, from workforce housing to the lowest of income levels. I am asking that the City also work with housing advocates to develop ways of strengthening the Housing Trust Fund.”

    Garcia also feels the City can do a better job connecting those in financial need with available resources, an end that can sometimes be furthered simply by promulgating information. As an example he tells of a part-time City employee whom he recently steered toward the benefits available to her via the Affordable Care Act.

    “Getting her on the healthcare exchange is going to be beneficial for the City, because she now has more money in her pocket to go spend in the local grocery store, shopping at the local retailer,” he says. “So we need to make sure we connect the dots better. If we’ve got the Affordable Care Act, no matter whether people like it or doing like it (I personally like it), if it’s out there, we should encourage people to enroll so we as a community can see the benefit.”

    But for all that government can do, Garcia feels that in some ways government not the most well equipped institution to combat poverty.

    “If we had more resources, we could do more,” he says. “But I also don’t think government always does everything the best. Oftentimes things can be run much more successfully when it’s done by others. Look at Building Healthy Communities, for example. They do great work. They’re a nonprofit; they’re grant-funded. We couldn’t do half of the things they do as well [as they do], because they have a different mission. That’s their focus. We’re focused on [issues like] when someone calls 911, there’s going to be a cop there.”

    Garcia rejects the premise that political conservatives are less committed to helping the poor than are liberals. Rather, he believes the difference is philosophical.

    “Most people are pretty good people regardless of their political affiliation; they just have a different believing you can help people,” he says. “[… Political conservatives] may be more active in their church groups. They may give a lot to nonprofits that support the poor in other areas. I think there are a lot of people out there who are conservative who still believe in helping people; I just think they think about it in a different way.”

    He does, however, see a lack of empathy at the conservative fringe of those in power.

    “[Y]ou have some extreme individuals in Congress and in other places who I believe put in place policies that end up hurting middle-income Americans and especially the poor,” he says. “[…] Whether we’re businesspeople or churchgoers or nonprofits or government, we all have a responsibility to reach out and help our neighbors. […] Talking about it’s really important. But beyond that we need to ensure that we’re adopting policies that are not just about building the city, but about how we can better serve this population.”

    One way that population can be better served is by shifting attitudes away from bogus stereotypes, such as that most poor people are simply unwilling to work hard enough to remedy their condition.

    “The stereotypes we often hear about poverty are not just wrong, they are damaging to any informed discussion of policies to help working people,” he says. “Most Americans who are poor work extremely hard, often at two or more jobs. Any serious public policy discussion needs to focus on good jobs, educational opportunities, and the cost of living, not myths about poor people.”

    *****

    Before Garcia was introduced on inauguration night, Davis Gaines took to the stage to sing one of Garcia’s favorite songs: Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue….

    It’s a song that might very well have special meaning to every impoverished person. If Garcia gets his way, that 20% figure he kept mentioning during his campaign—and has kept mentioning ever since—will get progressively smaller in Long Beach.

    But as we sit alone in the Mayor’s Conference Room on the 14th floor of city hall, his mayorship just one week old, Garcia recognizes the difficulty of the challenge, despite his unwavering optimism.

    “Poverty is systemic,” he says. “It’s about education. It’s about healthcare. It’s about jobs. If we had figured out how to solve poverty, there wouldn’t be any. But it’s everywhere.”

    He pauses, his face betraying discontent with that reality. “It’s a very frustrating issue,” he says finally. “I don’t think anybody’s ever doing well. But we’re working on it.”

    (Image: Mayor Robert Garcia on inauguration night. Credit: Justin Rudd, JustinRudd.com.)

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  • RLn ARTS Calendar: Aug. 15, 2014

    Aug. 21
    Tall Ships Discovery Art Exhibit
    Los Angeles Maritime Institute, home to LA’s Official Tall Ships, the Exy Johnson and Irving Johnson, is curating an educational art exhibit in celebration of Tall Ships Festival LA 2014, from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 21 and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 23, at fINdings Art Center in San Pedro.
    Featuring “art inspired by Sailors, Shipwrights and Riggers,” the exhibit will tell the story of the building of the Twin Brigantines as witnessed by Scott Kennedy during the 3-year process. The exhibit will also include photography, knotwork, rigging tools and woodturnings created from the wood cut offs of the brigantines.
    Construction of the Twin Brigantines began in December 2000 at the Brigantine Boatworks, a temporary boat yard set up adjacent to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum. They were built by hand using a combination of traditional and modern wooden ship building methods. Master Ship Builder Alan Rawl was in charge of construction, directing the efforts of hundreds of people, many of them volunteers, during the three year long project. Kennedy’s drawings were completed between the years 2000 and 2002.
    Kennedy has built up his reputation as a maritime artist for the past 50 years. His love of ships and the sea, his attention to detail, makes him one of the most accomplished artists known today. A portion of proceeds from artwork sales will benefit the TopSail Youth Program, a hands-on learning program at sea offered free of charge to Title I middle schools and high schools, and youth groups located in low-income communities throughout the Greater Los Angeles Area.
    Details: (310) 422-4146; www.lamitopsail.org
    Venue: fINdings Art Center
    Location: 470 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    Aug. 23
    Habit Forming: Makers of Matter
    Check out the opening reception for Habit Forming: Makers of Matter, from 7 to 10 p.m. Aug. 23, at Cornelius Project.
    The exhibit, which runs through Oct. 4, will feature all women artists: Phoebe Barnum, Ann Cleaves, Jen Foti, Cheryl Groff, Eileen Lopez, Freda Rente’ and Laurie Steelink. Gallery hours are on Saturdays from 1 to 6 PM or by appointment following the reception.
    A cashier at a local market starts taking pictures of her clients as they are standing at the counter making their purchases. She posts the photos on social media. This activity becomes habit forming and blossoms into a body of work that documents the community surrounding the market. There’s more to just handing over your money and getting what you paid for. A conversation begins and continues and a friendship and a community develops. This is just one example of how one of the participants in this exhibition formed a habit. All the people in this exhibition are working out of habit with a spirited persistence. For some, it’s a daily activity, and for others it’s periodic. The results of their habits are offerings that educate, entertain and even envelope their recipients and community. Not everyone in this exhibition considers herself an artist, but their habitual practice has become a creative outlet. They are makers of matter that matters.
    Details: (310) 266-9216; corneliusprojects.com
    Venue: Cornelius Projects
    Location: 1714 S. Pacific Ave., San Pedro

    Aug. 25
    Myth and Image
    Experience Myth and Image, a multicultural look at myths paired with contemporary images, Aug. 25 through Sept. 18, at the El Camino College Art Gallery in Torrance.
    An opening reception is scheduled, from 4 to 7 p.m., Sept. 4.
    Details: (310) 660-3010
    Venue: El Camino College Art Gallery
    Location: 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance

    Aug. 29
    Art Deco Festival Turns 10
    The Queen Mary, in association with the Art Deco Society of Los celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Art Deco Festival with a robust program of activities extended to five days, Aug. 29 through Sept. 1, at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.
    Largely influenced by the architecture and design of its time, the Queen Mary is the world’s largest floating collection of Art Deco. The illustrious salons are replete with elegant woodcarvings, elaborate murals, priceless sculptures and lavish interiors, offering a matchless backdrop for a festival like no other.
    The festivities begin with the Captain’s Strolling Art Deco Walk and continue through the weekend with an expertly curated program of lectures, parties, tours and tastings. Festivalgoers can don their best period loungewear at the Deco Derby and Pajama Jam, or sport their black-tie finest for the Grand Deco Ball.
    An eclectic bazaar showcases vintage fashion, jewelry, collectibles and art as well as a vintage pop-up hair salon. A Gatsby Soiree will offer classic libations, entertainment and lawn games. New events include a tasting of prohibition era cocktails and the Bootlegger’s Bash featuring big band music, dancing girls and the best moonshine in the city.
    The 10th celebration also honors the yearly tradition of the Queen Mary’s prestigious Starlight Club, a one-night revival of the notorious club dubbed “the most sought after reservation from South Hampton to New York.”
    The Daily Lecture Series will cover topics spanning fashion, music, dancing, cultural practices and more. Prohibition’s impact on the soda fountain is explored in Farnsworth’s Art Deco & The Soda Fountain talk while Art Deco Shoes Lecture & Display delves into the birth of shoe design in the 20s and 30s. Society’s fascination and commitment to dance is presented in Dancing In The Jazz Age and two rival world fairs are studied in the lecture Last Art Deco World’s Fair.
    Day Passes start at just $25 and an all-inclusive weekend Grand Passport is $399. Art Deco aficionados can stay onboard for the weekend’s duration with a variety of spectacular packages.
    Details: (877) 342-0738; www.queenmary.com/events/art-deco-festival
    Venue: Queen Mary
    Location: 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach

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  • RLn THEATER Calendar: Aug. 15, 2014

    Aug. 17
    Busker Alley
    Musical Theatre West’s Reiner Staged Reading Series presents Busker Alley, starting at 7 p.m. Aug. 17, at Cal State Long Beach’s University Theatre.
    The one-night-only show marks the first time in 18 years the show will be presented in Southern California. Directed by the show’s original star Darcie Roberts, the show also stars Christopher Carothers, son of the late A.J. Carothers who wrote the musical with the famed sibling duo, The Sherman Brothers. Advance general admission tickets are $27 or $32 on the day of the performance.
    Based on the 1938 British film, St. Martin’s Lane (American title: The Sidewalks of London, Busker Alley shares the tale of Charlie Baxter, a street performer (busker), and Libby St. Alban whose star is about to be on the rise. In the 1995 touring production, Tommy Tune and Darcie Roberts starred, (titled Stage Door Charley when seen at the Orange County Performing Arts Center earlier that year), however an injury forced Tune to withdraw from the show, scuttling the planned Broadway production. In 2006, Tony Walton, set designer of the original production, persuaded New York City’s York Theatre to put it in front of an audience for a one-night-only semi-staged concert performance as a benefit. This time, the cast featured Jim Dale, the Tony-winning veteran of 1980s Barnum, and Jessica Grové, with a “special guest star” appearance by Glenn Close. The next day, the cast trooped into a recording studio and made the show’s first-ever cast album. (more…)

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  • RLn COMMUNITY calendar: Aug. 14, 2014

    Aug. 15
    Peck Skate Park Opens
    Community members are invited to attend the grand opening of the long-awaited Peck Park Skate Park in San Pedro, at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 15.
    Details: (310) 548-7580
    Venue: PeckPark
    Location: 560 N. Western Ave., San Pedro
     
    Aug. 23
    Come Aboard the Floating Lab
    Join Cabrillo Marine Aquarium staff on a floating marine biology and oceanography lab from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Aug. 23. Aquarium staff will help passengers learn about and study the near shore sea life. Pre-registration is required. Registration fee is $28.
    Details: (310) 548-7562
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
    Location: 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro
    (more…)

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  • Time Stands Still is Current, Timeless

    By John Farrell

    Time Stands Still is a fable of our times, a fable of our times set in New York.

    The play gives a knowing view of how war affects lives, even if that war is at a distance and even if the people involved are reporters and not soldiers.

    Written by Donald Margulies, Time Stands Still looks at the lives of four people, two couples, whose lives are torn by the Iraq war played out in a single apartment in Manhattan. The experience, in a different light, could happen in Los Angeles under different circumstances.

    James Dodd (Richard Perloff) is bringing his partner Sarah Goodwin (Karen Harrison) home from the hospital. Sarah has been injured in a bomb attack and needs help getting around. She also is recovering from the post-traumatic stress. Her agent Richard Ehrlich (Tony Cicchetti) wants to help, but bringing along his new girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Dana Pollack,) half his age, doesn’t help. James and Karen aren’t married, but they decide they should make up for lost time, especially as Mandy has a baby and she and Richard are very happy. (more…)

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  • Man of La Mancha is Less Than a Delight

    By John Farrell

    Man of La Mancha is the second offering of the new San Pedro Theatre Club. Its first, Cabaret, was extended three weeks after critical acclaim.

    Man of La Mancha is an interesting, sometimes even compelling, production, but it also has more than a few weaknesses, perhaps the biggest of which is Don Quixote. Rocky Miller is not the gaunt knight that Quixote usually is. He simply doesn’t have the voice to carry the several songs with the brilliance they require.

    The eight-piece orchestra doesn’t manage the music with the kind of aplomb they offered in Cabaret. But then again, the orchestra may not have had the rehearsal time, since that musical probably cut into their rehearsal time.

    Director Drew Fitzsimmons does a great job of marshaling his forces and, if he can’t improve everyone’s singing, at least he gets some great performances from the secondary cast.

    Michelle Zelina was exciting in Cabaret and she return here as Aldonza. She sings with a delicious and powerful voice.

    Michael-Anthony Nozzi is perfect as Sancho Panza. Don Quixote’s squire, both in his singing and in his portrayal of the one person who understands Quixote.

    Man of La Mancha, the big Broadway musical that was a huge hit when it opened more than 40 years ago, doesn’t have the best book in the world, but the music, when done properly, is more than enough to carry the show. (more…)

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  • Gaza from the Perspective of a Proud Diaspora Jew

    Photo courtesy of Mohammad S Arafat, who lives in Gaza

    By Lionel Rolfe

    I have been doing my best not to think too much about Gaza, not only publicly but for myself.

    I can no longer avoid pondering all the uncomfortable thoughts Israel’s bombing of Gaza is bringing home to me. Of one thing I’m sure of is that I want to tell Netanyahu, “I told you so.”

    Netanyahu’s purpose was always designed to prevent any chance of rapprochement. What’s unfolding was foretold by him.

    Netanyahu has forced me to question my relationship to Israel in a fundamental way. I have some strong credentials as a Jew. I come from the centuries-old Schneersohn dynasty of the Chabad movement of Hasidic Judaism. When the last rebbe — who was the closest thing to a pope Judaism ever had — died, his followers expected he would be the messiah. It turned out he just died and was not the messiah. During that period, when they were looking for his replacement, some powerful Lubavitchers approached me. I was more of the bloodline than the last rebbe, so my bloodline made me attractive to them. Even when I pointed out I was not a good candidate — that I was an atheist and a socialist — they wanted to keep talking. (more…)

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