A new Huntington exhibition spotlights rare artworks depicting Latin American nature, from the time of Columbus to Darwin’s era.

In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed west in search of a new route to India and its spices. During his five-month exploration of the Americas, he paid close attention to to the flora and fauna. When he returned he wrote a long letter to his patrons, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, and word of his remarkable voyage quickly spread. That was aided by an invention launched just a few decades before his voyage the printing press with movable metal type developed in the mid-1450s by Johannes Gutenberg. Columbus wrote of “many sierras and very lofty mountains…All are most beautiful, of a thousand shapes,” and “trees of a thousand kinds and tall, so that they seem to touch the sky.” There were colorful birds, and plants that were a “wonder to behold.”

Many explorers and soldiers of fortune followed Columbus, and they brought along draftsmen and cartographers. In the new exhibition Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin (through Jan. 8, 2018) at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, co-curators Catherine Hess and Daniela Bleichmar outline the early European views of the New World, using a deft combination of maps and artifacts, art and illustrations, manuscripts and books, three-quarters borrowed from other institutions. Some of the period accounts were by actual visitors, but many were by fabulists who freely adapted known accounts and drew imagined scenarios, both plugging into and creating myths and stereotypes about indigenous culture.

Of course the arrival of the Europeans in the Americas is now a morally contentious subject. Europeans claimed the land and resources for their own, subjugated the local population and introduced devastating diseases. Visual Voyages, part of this year’s Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative focusing in Latin American and Latino art, deliberately offers some indigenous views. For example, in the late 1500s the Spanish Council of the Indies ordered administrators to draw maps of their townships and resources, and many were done by indigenous artists.

The two in the exhibition are delightful maps that present surrounding features such as mountains and rivers in multiple perspectives. “It is not the trained, vanishing-point perspective of European depiction,” says Hess, leading a preview tour of the exhibition. “It is a more creative way of depicting one’s surroundings.” A couple of centuries later, the Royal Botanical Expedition to the New Kingdom of Granada (in what is now Colombia and Venezuela) of 1783–1816 recruited some 60 local artists, many of whom must have been of mixed heritage. Hess has chosen 20 of these beautiful illustrations, borrowed from the Archivo del Real Jardin Botanico in Madrid, and they are gems of elegantly arranged leaves, tendrils and flowers on paper.

“PST: LA/LA gave us the opportunity to look at our three collecting areas  — research library, art and botanical  — and see what topic might be relevant to the initiative,” says Hess, the Huntington’s chief curator of European Art and interim director of the Art Collections. “Partnering with Daniela allowed us to celebrate, and put to use, the amazingly rare and rich Latin American material on nature and natural history that’s in the library’s collections and doesn’t often come to public light.” Bleichmar is an associate professor of Art History and History at USC, specializing in the history of science with a particular interest in how intercultural contacts have transformed what we know. Deeply familiar with the Huntington collections since she came to Los Angeles 13 years ago, she proposed the exhibition idea to the Huntington when the PST: LA/LA initiative was announced.

The lobby of the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery en route to the main exhibition displays several taxidermied animals from the new World, borrowed from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and other sources. They include a colorful macaw, a brown sloth hanging upside down and a beautiful black-and-white anteater with a long, elegant snout  — examples of wildlife European visitors would have found so astounding. So bizarre and astonishing as to inspire His Majesty’s Giant Anteater, a large painting from 1776 now hanging in the middle of the exhibition. The anteater had been shipped from Argentina to King Charles III of Spain, who was so proud of his unusual pet he had his court painter do her portrait. The perspective is at the animal’s eye level, and her long, skinny tongue protrudes. One can almost hear the oohs and aahs of visitors to the Spanish court as they admired this oddity of nature.

Perhaps the exhibition’s most striking object is on view in the center of the first gallery  — a long red cape composed of thousands of feathers, dating from the 17th century and displayed in its own showcase. The cape is not only gorgeous, it is rare  — only one of 12 existing feather capes made by the Tupinambá people of Brazil. “They are really important prestige objects,” Bleichmar says in a phone interview. “Very important men wore them in ceremony. It’s an object that helps us to begin to understand a different world view, one in which humans and the natural world are not separate, but completely fluid. The person who put this on was becoming a bird, transforming from human to animal-like.”

A nearby vitrine showcases two illustrations about the cultural contact Bleichmar studies. They are two versions of the same image, circa 1600,  one an original ink drawing borrowed from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the other an engraving in the Huntington’s own collection. The Discovery of America: Vespucci Landing in America depicts the imagined meeting between Amerigo Vespucci, the “discoverer” of America, and a female figure representing America. Standing on shore, Vespucci is fully clothed, wearing a suit of armor beneath his tunic and holding a staff topped with a cross in one hand and an astrolabe in the other — symbolizing Christianity and civilization, respectively. Meanwhile, “America” is nude, about to step down from a hammock where she has been resting. The nudity indicates her “savage” state. In the background, members of her tribe are roasting a human leg, since cannibalism was thought part of the uncivilized culture she represents. The image seems almost comical, except that this played into prejudices of the time and encouraged Europeans to look at indigenous peoples as less than human.

What a contrast this image is to the two large paintings at the end of the show, which exalt the grandeur of the Latin American landscape and suggest the civilization there. One is by the famous American Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church, who traveled to South America twice, in search of vistas. His 1864 painting, Chimborazo, shows a highly picturesque view of a jungle and mountains beyond.  In the foreground is a cute hut on a river with a couple on the dock and their child nearby. Through an opening in the trees, we see a town beyond. Mount Chimborazo, a volcano, hovers like a ghost even farther in the distance.

On the other hand, Jose Velasco’s Valle de Mexico (1877) has details only a native could offer. Standing on a hill, one looks down a valley with Lake Texcoco on the left and two landmark volcanoes beyond. A long aqueduct leads down the center of the painting to a small town at the base of a small mountain, and from there two roads lead to Mexico City. One can barely make out spires and rotundas of a burgeoning metropolis. In the foreground is a prickly pear and an eagle in flight: two symbols of Mexican nationalism, which was no accident.  The artist wrote after his signature on the painting, “mexicano.” 

Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin runs through Jan. 8, 2018 at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesday). Adult admission costs $25 on weekdays ($29 on weekends and holidays), $21 ($24) for students 12 to18 and seniors 65+ and $13 ($13) for kids 4 to 11; children under 4 and members are admitted free.

Spirited and tragic newspaper images of the Chicano rights movement in L.A. are on view in La Raza at the Autry Museum.

Every important political movement has its signature publication, and the Chicano rights movement had La Raza. The bilingual publication began as a newspaper in 1967 and morphed into a magazine by the time it folded in 1977. Started in the basement of an Episcopalian church in Lincoln Heights by labor activists Eliezer Risco and Ruth Robinson, La Raza would become an influential voice and advocate for the movement, or El Movimiento.

La Raza published satire, poetry, art and political commentary, but key to its impact were the photographs— shot by a team of volunteer photographers who dutifully went out to record what was happening in El Movimiento and the lives of Chicanos. In recent years, those photographs — some 25,000 of them in prints, negatives and contact sheets — were gifted to the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA. With the announcement of Pacific Standard Time LA/LA, the Getty-sponsored initiative exploring art and culture in and between Los Angeles and Latin America, the time was ripe to make them public. The Center decided to partner with the Autry Museum of the American West in Griffith Park to present the exhibition La Raza (through Feb. 10, 2019), a selection of some 200 of those photographs.

As visitors enter the gallery, they will see a changing series of photographs projected onto the wall, giving a quick snapshot of exhibition. On the left will be a series of portraits — the two founders of La Raza on the upper left and then a dozen of the photographers with their cameras. One of them is Luis C. Garza, the show’s co-curator along with the Autry’s chief curator Amy Scott, and he recently previewed the exhibition during installation. Garza worked with La Raza from 1968 to 1972. “There were 48 or 49 issues over a 10-year period,” he says, pointing at the adjoining wall where actual issues of the publication would be displayed. “It was hard to find a complete set,” adds Scott, who has also joined us.

The term “la raza” literally means “race,” but is usually interpreted as “the people.” How did Garza come to join the publication? “It was karma, it was fate, it was God guiding my search for employment as a young man,” says Garza, a tall and courtly man who was a student at UCLA when he started working at La Raza. “I was introduced to Joe Razo and Raul Ruiz, who were becoming the co-editors of La Raza. I had a camera, a Pentax, with a 135mm lens and a 50mm lens. Because I was a cameraman, I became involved with La Raza, which forever changed the course of my life.”

They covered demonstrations, marches and speeches, they captured scenes of police surveillance and brutality, they portrayed communities and individuals. They were not only recording what was happening, they were part of the movement.

The photographs in the exhibition have been divided thematically into five sections and include a couple dozen by Garza. His 1972 photograph in the “Portraits of a Community” section, Homeboys, is a casual closeup of two pals hanging out at the local playground of a Boyle Heights housing project. One wears a tall and dapper fedora, while his buddy sports a flower-patterned shirt. Both look calmly into the camera, certainly at ease since they knew the man on the other end of the lens was one of their own. In a photo in “The Body” section, Garza has captured an actor in a calavera (or skull) costume, dancing with a tambourine during a performance by the Teatro Campesino on a college campus.

“This is one of my favorite sections,” says Scott, as we move to the “Portraits” section. “They’re beautiful portraits in and of themselves, but they also speak to the complex and nuanced nature of the Chicano community, one that defies stereotypes. It speaks to the way multiple generations, from elders all the way to the smallest, were really participants and had experiences of bias and discrimination firsthand.” There is an enlargement of a boy happily carrying a “Viva La Revolución” sign as he walks in a march, and another of a young girl in pigtails with a bundle of La Raza papers clutched in her arms — the headline, “La Raza Raided.”

The exhibition shows how El Movimiento was part of a larger national movement for civil rights, with images of Chicanos demonstrating for farmworkers’ rights and against the Vietnam War, and in solidarity with Native Americans and African Americans. Something earth-shattering occurred at one of those demonstrations in 1970, leading to the death of noted Chicano journalist Ruben Salazar of KMEX-TV and the LA Times. One corner is devoted to the tragedy:

It was the day of the National Chicano Moratorium March, a protest against the Vietnam War, which seemed to draft a disproportionate number of Chicano recruits. After the march La Raza photographer Raul Ruiz was resting on a curb on Whittier Boulevard, when he noticed L. A. County Sheriff’s deputies arriving. Something was up, so he raised his camera to take pictures, until the deputies asked him to leave. At one point the police fired a tear-gas canister into the crowded Silver Dollar Bar and Café where Salazar had been sitting, enjoying a beer. It killed him instantly. To this day many question whether his death was accidental or political, since he was known to be supportive of the Chicano movement. Ruiz’s photographs of the incident are included in the show.

Luis Garza went on to become a television writer, producer and director, making documentaries for several television stations, including KABC-TV Channel 7. Surveying the Autry exhibition this afternoon, he says wistfully, “This project here has brought me full circuit, I’ve returned back to my roots.”

La Raza runs through Feb. 10, 2019, at the Autry Museum of the American West, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Griffith Park. Museum and Autry store hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 7); closed Monday. Admission costs $14, $10 for students and seniors 60 and over and $6 for children 3 to 12; free for members and children under 3. Call (323) 667-2000 or visit theautry.org.

In a divisive part of the world, a shared culinary background is not enough.

For the past six months, you loyal readers (both of you) have indulged me in my quest for a better understanding of countries singled out in Trump’s travel ban through an investigation of their culinary traditions. My journey began at LAX, shouting and waving signs, and has ended with me being literally afraid to turn on the news. Every day is worse than the last. But in that time I have gained a vast appreciation for these countries. They are all suffering so much more than I can even imagine. Being on Trump’s stupid list is literally the least of their worries.

So far, I have covered the history and culinary traditions of Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Iran. I am finishing with Syria, for a few reasons. I’m guessing that, if you are not fully aware of the intricacies of the conflict, you at the very least are aware that the Syrian situation sucks. It has certainly gotten more media coverage than the other travel-ban countries, in no small part because of the staggering flood of nearly 5 million Syrian refugees. The death toll has surpassed 400,000; 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance; 6.3 million are displaced internally.    

But in reality, I saved Syria for last because I have a special connection to that country.  My brother-in-law is Syrian, which makes my sweet niece and nephew Syrian, and it means I have shared all of our family’s milestones with an extended Syrian family and have been a lucky guest at their tables. But to be honest, we have never really discussed the political situation in Syria. It is an understandably upsetting topic. Something I imagine akin to a bad break-up. 

Really? Do we need to talk about it? Can we just move on? 

Lucky for me, my brother-in-law has never shied away from sharing his cuisine with us. I have had my fill of (and learned the intricacies of) hummus, baba ghanouj, tabouleh. I have become a devotee of kanafeh, a superior variation of baklava made with shredded phyllo (kataifi), filled with cheese and soaked in a rosy sugar syrup. But my favorite, by far, is kibbeh. Oh, how I love the kibbeh. 

Imagine the best, most succulent meatball you’ve ever had. Now add bulgur, nuts and exotic spices. I like it best grilled, but you also find kibbeh baked, stuffed and even raw (a Lebanese specialty), like a heavenly exotic tartare, served with mint, onion, olive oil, peppers and flatbread. Kibbeh is found across the Middle East, with dozens of regional variations. The meat is typically lamb or beef, but poultry and fish kibbeh are not unheard of. The meat can be mixed with fruit (such as quince, lemon, pomegranate or cherry) and sometimes yogurt. They are served plain, or swimming in thick sauces or floating in soup like a dumpling. Kibbeh means “to form into a sphere,” but it can take a number of forms apart from the standard meatball — oblong, football-shaped, patted into small or large discs, molded into long sausage shapes and teardrops or packed into an outer shell of bulgur or rice. There are also unique variations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, where there are a substantial number of Middle Eastern immigrants.

When I asked my brother-in-law about Syrian foods, he sent me his favorite recipes from a Lebanese cookbook. Granted, much of the region’s cuisine is similar, because of the long shared history. “But why not a Syrian cookbook?” I asked. 

“Because Syria has been living under strong government control since 1963,” he replied. “No room for creativity.” I was aware of the repression, but I had no idea it extended to the kitchen. 

A quick Amazon search proved him wrong. There were several Syrian cookbooks — except, wait — they were all published in the West. Suddenly I am feeling lucky that I have someone who passed these traditions down.

After Ottoman rule, French control under a League of Nations mandate, attacks on Christian and Assyrian populations, occupation by Vichy France during World War II, Syria experienced a short, tumultuous independence, suffering through 20 different cabinets and four constitutions. A brief union with Egypt from 1958 to 1961 ended in a transition to secular presidential government, putting power in the hands of the Ba’ath Syrian Regional Branch (socialist in its initial creation, but fascist in its final practice), making Syria the second Ba’athist state after Iraq.

In 1970, Hafez al-Assad declared himself president and created a government based on loyalty to the leader, whose wisdom was portrayed as “beyond the comprehension of the average citizen.” Government, military and intelligence organizations were soon dominated by Alawites (a minority branch of Shia Islam), and nepotism was rampant. His leadership dominated Syrian politics, and a new constitution in 1973 removed the mandate that the president be Muslim, which led to armed revolts by the Muslim Brotherhood. Regardless of opposition, Assad’s rule of this one-party state survived until his death in 2000. The nation’s first multiparty elections in 2001 placed his oldest surviving son, Bashar al-Assad, in power, and there was, for a brief moment, hope for democratic reform. 

But in 2011, the Arab Spring emboldened the opposition, and those who called for reform and Assad’s removal were violently suppressed. The protests quickly devolved into an armed conflict, with the Assad government and its allies fighting against a loose alliance of Sunni Arab rebels (the Free Syrian Army) and ultra-conservative Sunni fundamentalist Salafi jihadist groups, including the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). 

Over time, moderate forces split off from their original groups and joined Islamist militant forces. In 2015 the mostly Kurdish militia called People’s Protection Units (YPG) led a multiethnic Syrian Democratic Force, hoping to create a democratic, secular Syria. But outside forces continue to support the war, directly and indirectly, with Russia and Hezbollah supporting Assad and NATO forces fighting ISIL. Also on Assad’s side are Iran, which provides financial, technological and training support, and Shia militias from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also in the mix are the pro-Assad Syrian Armed Forces, National Defense Force, Shabiha (an Alawite and Shi’ite militia created in the 1980s as the regime’s enforcers — considered semi-criminal gangs by critics) and anti-ISIL Christian militia. There is even a Female Protection Force, all-female Christian soldiers fighting ISIL. 

Really, the conflict is so convoluted, so deeply ingrained, that there is no way I can shed much light on it here in my little food column. I haven’t even touched on the Damascus Spring, the intellectual salons, the socialists, communists, fascists, anti-Semites or anti-Persian factions. Nor have I discussed the mindboggling list of massacres, imprisonments, torture and rampant human rights violations. To summarize, this region — in the heart of the Fertile Crescent, inhabited since the Paleolithic era, ruled by ancient Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, Persians, Macedonians and Romans, and home to the great ancient cities of Palmyra and Dura Europos — is a goddamn catastrophe. 

I urge you to familiarize yourself with Syrian history and to support the population in any way that you can. There are local resettlement agencies that could use your help, including the Episcopal Diocese of L.A.’s Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service (IRIS), Catholic Charities of L.A. in Glendale, the International Institute of L.A. and the International Rescue Committee, also in Glendale.

In addition, find a Syrian family and make friends. I will always be thankful for my husband’s sister’s exotic taste in men, which brought these people into my life. And I am thankful that my brother-in-law and his extended family and friends are here rather than there. I am grateful to have been given the chance to be a part of their family, and I am supergrateful for kibbeh. 


There are at least 50 variations of kibbeh. This is the one I like best so far, but that’s only because it’s the one I have the most. I’m totally open to more kibbeh suggestions.


1 pound bulgur

1 pound ground lamb or beef

½ onion, minced

½ cup pine nuts

½ cup fresh mint, chopped

1 teaspoon bharat (see below)

½ teaspoon sea salt


1. Wash and drain bulgur, cover with an inch of cold water and let stand for 10 minutes. Rinse and drain again, pressing out excess liquid. It should be soft but not mushy.

2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bulgur and mix well. At this point, some cooks run the mixture though a meat grinder or food processor to create a finer meat paste. I do not, because I like a thicker texture. Also, I am lazy. Form the mixture into balls and skewer for the grill (cook at medium heat until marked and firm), or place in a baking dish (350° for about 30 minutes, or until firm to the touch). You can also press it into a baking dish and score it into 2-to-3-inch square or triangular portions before baking at 350° for about 40 minutes, until firm. Serve it with a minty yogurt sauce, a spicy tomato sauce, a heaping helping of hummus and baba ghanouj and flatbread, or just eat it, reheated in the microwave at 2 in the morning in your PJs, standing over the sink, which I have been known to do.


Combine ingredients below

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon crushed black pepper

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

Leslie Bilderback is a certified master baker, chef and cookbook author. She lives in South Pasadena and teaches her techniques online at culinarymasterclass.com.

An Autry exhibition highlights the cultural and historical connections of that essential (and fun) building block of childhood development.

•A toddler uses a toy vacuum in a pint-size midcentury modern playhouse, complete with a Kit-Kat Clock, starburst mirror and an old-fashioned rotary phone. Not far away, older kids explore a cave as they heap squishy rocks and faux logs on top of each other; one child attempts to hug a ginormous teddy bear. “This is awesome!” shouts another kid as he dives into the pile.
• In a nearby darkened room, a summer-camp chaperone takes on opponents for a vigorous game of Pong; she’s unstoppable and a crowd forms. “I have a little more experience than these young kids,” she says with a laugh.
• On a wall display of favorite games from different eras and regions, two adults discuss the merits of Drop the Handkerchief and other games, comparing the activities as if they were cultural anthropologists. “See how the games change compared to the regional climate?” one suggests. “Look at how the girls’ play is different from the boys.” “Aha! Here is when basketball was invented!”
• Around a corner, a mom shows her young daughter a View-Master from the 1970s. “When I was a kid I had one just like this!” she explains to a wide-eyed girl who studies the toy as if it were an ancient artifact.
These interactions were spotted amid the many artifacts, discussions and discoveries at the Play! exhibition at the Autry Museum of the American West in Griffith Park, which runs through Jan. 7, 2018. The family-focused show is more than just a clever display of 200-plus toys and games throughout the centuries. Beyond the fun and nostalgia in each exhibit case and interactive display, Play! offers adult visitors a chance to deeply examine the role of toys and games across culture and time — and the human connections play can inspire.
“Play is a universal language,” says Yolanda Carlos, core faculty at Pacific Oaks College’s School of Education in Pasadena. “It’s innate in us.” Carlos explains that for all its fun, goofiness, physical challenges and mimicry, play is serious stuff. “It’s the way children learn about the environment, the world, social interactions and a way to build social communication skills. No matter the era, human development follows predictable patterns, and play is instrumental.”
Carlos shares a story from her time as executive director of a school for military families: Since many students came from different countries, they didn’t have a shared language. “Even though they couldn’t speak to each other at first, play united them,” she explains. “Before you knew it, they were connecting through play and, after a while, they began to understand each other.”
Play has evolved, Carlos says, and now too much emphasis is placed on structured play, especially activities like sports, with rules created by adults. “What you really want are toys and games that inspire a child’s imagination and allow them that open-ended play,” she says, adding that toys don’t need to be complex. Things as simple as a rock, a sibling, a pet or an invisible friend will do.
Besides its developmental importance, play also reflects cultural values and historical significance, says Autry Curator Carolyn Brucken. “This exhibition is not just a history of toy innovation in the West — although we have… the skateboard, Mattel’s Barbie and others — but rather how play has connected humans to each other and continues to do so.”
The whimsical exhibit for all ages is a welcome addition to the Autry’s schedule of exhibitions, which often examine heavier topics like the Standing Rock protests, the focus of a concurrent show of art and objects through Feb. 18, 2018. Play! sprang from the 2015 closing of the Autry’s Family Discovery Center, which necessitated a new strategy to facilitate families’ interactions with the museum’s diverse collections, says Brucken.
Visitors entering the exhibition step into a darkened room where a passage from Shel Silverstein’s poem “Invitation” sets the tone:
If you are a dreamer, come in
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!
The exhibition is thematically divided into four sections, and the charming cacophony of item mash-ups, interactive displays and play areas can be overwhelming. Adult visitors may miss some of the details, especially if they are chasing after youngsters eager to explore. Carlos suggests both young and old try to step inside the shoes of the child who interacted with whatever toy they’re observing. “Engage in a little pretend play,” she says. “Think about and ask, what do you suppose they were doing with this toy? How do you think they played with it? How did they talk about this toy? How would you play with it?”
When parents discover a favorite toy from their past, their delight can spill over onto their incredulous children (“Mom was once a kid?!” “Dad played with toys?”) and also connect them to contemporaries who shared the same toy joy. Forget bonding over sports teams — sharing Hot Wheels glory stories or what you baked in your Suzy Homemaker oven are the ultimate ice-breakers.
Of course, not all toys from the recent past are in the exhibition. “A lot of things simply didn’t make it,” Brucken says, noting that some adults were distraught that their favorite toys were not represented. “There was so much to consider and there were hard decisions to make.”
Before they exit, guests are encouraged to write down their thoughts on how play will evolve 10 and 100 years from now. Collecting these written ideas has been enlightening, says Brucken, rattling off a few typical entries: “We’ll be playing with aliens,” “There will be real-live super heroes” and “Everything will be electronic.” “I think my favorite one has been ‘There will still be balls and sticks,’” she says. “You can’t get any more universal than playing with a ball and stick.”
Play! runs through until Jan. 7, 2018, at the Autry Museum of the American West, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Griffith Park. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission costs $14, $10 for seniors (60+) and students and $6 for children 3 to 12; members and children under 3 are admitted free. Call (323) 667-2000 or visit theautry.org.

Experts’ strategies for picking the right Arroyoland school for your child

After half a dozen years of floating in calm parental waters, I’m once again paddling into the whitewater. My kid and his friends will soon emerge from the cozy chrysalis that is their elementary school and wing it at new schools — middle schools. Their families face a Pasadena Problem — actually, a souped-up First World Problem: Which of the area’s decent-to-excellent public (local, charter, magnet) or private (including independent, with no outside overseers) schools will be best for their child?
I concede that worrying over this decision is making mountains out of mud pies. At least that’s what Morgan Polikoff, associate professor of education policy at the USC Rossier School of Education, believes. “For the vast majority of upper-middle-/upper-income individuals, I honestly don’t know that it matters too much at the margin which school you chose, especially in an elementary school,” he says. He notes that affluent kids have advantages — educated parents, enrichment opportunities, tutors — that mean they’re likely to fare well in all but the worst schools.
Point taken. But parents still have decisions to make. And while no school could transform a young Billy Bush into an Elon Musk, Arroyoland schools do vary in their values, approaches and offerings. So here’s some of the expert advice I’ve gleaned:
Children spend so much time at school that finding a place they’ll enjoy is paramount, according to Terra Toscano, Head of Walden School in Pasadena. “You want them to love learning,” she says. She recommends observing the students at a prospective campus. “Are they happy? You can tell.” (Disclosure: My child attends this independent school.)
“When you walk onto a campus, make sure you feel comfortable and take the name [prestige/reputation] out of the equation,” says Elizabeth Jones, president of the Institute for Educational Advancement, a Pasadena-based support group for gifted children. “It’s about fit,” finding what’s right for your child, she says.
Hold on, I’ve got you touring schools already. Let’s back up a bit. First you need to figure out which schools to visit.
GreatSchools.org allows you to map schools in your area. It also offers data on public schools. But you’ll need context, so be sure to read the “parent tips” on each school’s webpage. (Don’t make too much of the star ratings and reviews; like many online reviews, they’re probably not a representative sampling, but rather the thoughts of people who are excited or irritated enough to log in and comment.)
You can also find public school achievement scores on the California Department of Education’s School Dashboard (CASchoolDashboard.org). The numbers can be misleading, however. “If you’re looking at the percentage of kids who are reading at grade level, that is really not a measure of how good the school is,” says Polikoff. “Those are really measures of who is enrolled in the school and how affluent the school is.” He says more important are growth numbers — the improvement in student achievement from year to year. “That’s a measure of how schools are actually contributing to your kid’s knowledge,” he says. California’s data on that isn’t robust, but it’s available under the “status and change report” tab.
The Great Schools website also maps private schools, but the information provided isn’t as useful as the schools’ own websites, which you can find through the
California Association of Independent Schools. It lists and maps member schools on its website, including many of the area’s private schools.
Of course, the prestigious ones are expensive — around $20,000 a year for elementary school — but paying less might not buy you an advantage. “I don’t think there’s a huge difference between a good comprehensive public school and a second- or third-tier private school,” says Polikoff.
It’s hard to compare public and independent schools because the privates are so good at marketing. “It’s worth going that extra step to find out about your public schools,” says Tracy Hoffman, lower-school science teacher at Westridge School for Girls, a Pasadena independent school. Hoffman sent all three of her sons to San Gabriel city public schools. “With my own children it worked out to where the private schools didn’t offer enough return on investment,” she says. While her kids thrived in public school, some of their friends didn’t. “They needed a different sort of environment [and] a smaller environment.”
Many public schools don’t offer tours, so Hoffman recommends turning up on campus at the end of the school day. Or see if you can attend an open house. “Do talk to the kids,” she advises. “Ask them really open-ended questions and see what they have to say — see if it’s something you would like to hear your child say.”
Once you are ready to tour schools, here are some more pointers. Toscano says all private schools will tell you about their mission. “But what you should be looking for when you walk around is evidence — evidence that it’s not just being sold to you.” If the administration says it values diversity, do you see it? If the school touts its arts programs, do the projects look creative or are they all the same? Pay attention to interactions that aren’t scripted.
Jones advises drilling down on how flexible the school is. Ask if a child is able to move on to new concepts when he/she has demonstrated mastery, and how they would facilitate that. “It’s really asking about the pace of learning, the depth of learning,” she says. And don’t be afraid to ask how they accommodate children who are struggling with a subject.
Also, says Jones, notice how the children relate to each other and the teachers: “Is there respect there — not fear but real respect?”
Progressive schools give children more say in their education and orient them toward making a difference in the world. If that appeals to you, consider Walden (pre-kindergarten through grade six), Sequoyah (K through eight) and Waverly (K through 12). All three are in Pasadena.
When my compadre Colleen Scott Pomerantz was evaluating elementary schools, her primary criteria were a “very nurturing, caring, safe environment.” Now that she’s touring middle schools, she’s paying more attention to the academics. “I want to make sure it’s the right fit for who he currently is,” she says, “but [also] who he’s going to be when he’s a teenager.”
Evaluating curricula is tricky if you’re not an educator. (If you’re gung-ho anyway, look at EdReports.org.) More important than which curriculum is used, says Polikoff, is how well it’s implemented. “Does the district support the teachers with professional development?” he asks. “Is there a coach in the subject to help teachers?”
Pomerantz’s son has requested a school where he won’t be among the youngest. Apparently, his ideas about middle school come from middle-grade books. “He’s convinced it’s going to be bullies and lockers and all this unfamiliar territory,” she says. The kid is onto something: Research suggests middle-graders fare better when there are younger kids around. Otherwise, says Polikoff, “in that transition year, the sixth graders now become the weakest link.”
By high school, you’ve probably got a better handle on the kind of student you’re raising. Private schools put more resources into college counseling, but the elite ones can be pressure cookers. And, as Hoffman points out, there are many excellent colleges that admit students from a range of schools.
She advises parents to ease up. “Let your child choose their path a little bit with what their passions are,” she says. “They don’t have to do everything. If they do a few things that they truly enjoy, their education will be phenomenal.”
Alexa, do any schools offer AP Pokémon?

Soup and Tea and Revolution

As predicted, President Donald Trump’s travel ban is back on thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, albeit this time in a modified version. So now the White House is hating on only some Muslims. Those with a bona fide” tie to the United States are cool — translation: we like you if you can help us or pay us.
So it’s time once again to explore the culinary wonders of these countries. This time, we travel to Libya, which was once the wealthiest, most stable country in Africa. Its Mediterranean coastline and strategic location next to Egypt have made Libya irresistible to outsiders, who controlled it from the Bronze Age to independence in 1951. In between, it was ruled by the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Spanish, Ottoman Turks and, in the early 20th century, Italy.
As is the case with many African nations, Libyan cuisine is influenced by all of these occupying cultures. There is an especially strong Italian influence, including the use of pasta, because at one point nearly 20 percent of the population was Italian settlers.
There are several distinct regional cuisines — Shargawi (eastern Libyan), Gharbawi (western Libyan), Amazigi (food of Berber mountain tribes), southern Libyan cuisine and cuisine imported from the Arab world. Couscous, which is popular throughout North Africa, is the national dish here, and tagines (stews, slowly cooked in a cone-shaped earthenware pot) are popular too. And although the long coastline provides an abundance of fish, lamb and chicken remain the most popular proteins.
Ancient foods are still enjoyed, with olive oil, dates, grains and milk — all ancient foods that have sustained Berber tribes since prehistory — still the most important ingredients. Bazin (or bazeen) is an ancient bread similar to Sudanese jelly bread. Water, barley flour and salt are boiled, then beaten with a special stick (magraf) to activate the gluten. The dough is set aside to harden, then steamed or baked into a hard paste and served like an island in the middle of a tomatoey stew.
Asida is a similar dumpling, served with ghee, honey and a thick date syrup called rub. Another Berber dish, bsisa, is made from a mixture of toasted grains ground with fenugreek, anise, cumin and sugar, which is then reconstituted with milk or water, then eaten with dates and figs. All of these easily transportable foods make perfect sense in a nomadic, pastoral culture. The Tuareg, a Saharan Berber tribe known as “the blue people” because of the indigo-dyed clothing that stains their skin, use the hot sand to cook their foods. Simple breads, whole eggs and potatoes are buried after first heating the sand with fire.
Since Libya is a Muslim nation, Ramadan is the season for many of the country’s favorite dishes. Soup is the preferred dish throughout the monthlong holiday, with each region having special variations made with lamb, chicken or fish. Harissa — which simply means paste — is different throughout North Africa, but in Libya it is a spicy red chile condiment served with everything from tagines to tuna sandwiches. Herby salads with grilled or pickled vegetables and fruits are common accompaniments, and you find myriad variations made with cucumber, tomato, yogurt, carrots and local sour apples.
Teatime is an important daily ritual throughout Libya. Family and friends gather to eat small pastries and sip unusually thick black tea served in three specific courses. The tea is boiled for 10 to 15 minutes, then sweetened and boiled again before being poured back and forth between two mugs at a great height to create a foaming head, and then served in tiny glasses. A second round is served, sometimes with added mint, and in the third round, glasses are filled with peanuts or almonds before being topped with tea.
There are restaurants throughout Libya, but they are frequented mainly by tourists. In general, most Libyans eat at home, seated on cushions at low tables. Much of the cuisine is eaten by hand or with bread. Spoons and forks are relatively recent additions to the table, the former having been introduced by the Ottomans, the latter by Italians.
Though foreign influence is strong in Libya’s cuisine, there has always been an indigenous resistance movement against occupiers. The Libyans remained colonized until after Italy dragged the region into World War II in support of its German allies. Their defeat left the region in Allied control, and in 1947 Italy gave up all claims.
The United Kingdom of Libya declared independence in 1951, ruled by the country’s only monarch, King Idris I. (Gotta like the optimism of naming yourself “the First.”) In 1959 substantial oil reserves were discovered, and one of the poorest countries in the world suddenly became incredibly wealthy. But instead of using the money to build Libya’s economy, King Idris’ government was riddled with corruption scandals, and that led to the 1969 coup staged by the Libyan Revolutionary Command Council under the leadership of — ta-da! — Muammar Gaddafi.
Gaddafi established the Libyan Arab Republic, directing government funds to public programs like free education and free health care. The country’s per capita income rose to one of the highest in Africa, which sounds pretty good — except the wealth was again concentrated among the ruling elite. Gaddafi’s support of rebel movements and terrorist groups, invasions of neighboring countries and strained relations with Western nations (including the furor over the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland) fueled opposition, leading to United Nations sanctions, which were eventually lifted. Meanwhile, the regime imposed medieval Islamic purification laws and campaigns of violence against dissidents, dubbed “the Green Terror,” resulting in mass incarcerations, assassinations (even overseas) and the world’s most censored press. These erratic policies and the neighboring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt (part of the Arab Spring) fueled a civil war, and in 2011 the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council — backed by NATO forces — overthrew Gaddafi’s government and liberated Libya.
Unfortunately, four decades of autocratic rule had left no governmental infrastructure, providing a perfect nest for Islamic extremism. Now, multiple factions are fighting for control. Making matters worse, Libya is on the central migration route for African refugees heading to Europe, and therefore a prime target for human trafficking. In all respects, Libya is now a completely failed state.
But Libyans in the diaspora continue to celebrate their heritage and hold out hope of returning to what was once a beautiful nation. There are relatively few Libyan communities in the U.S., but a substantial community exists in the U.K. Unfortunately, its largest community, in Manchester, has long been a worrisome hotbed of extremist recruitment specifically targeting those of Libyan descent. Those fears were realized at the recent Ariana Grande concert. It’s a tragic culmination of centuries of tragic events. And it leaves me, as do most of the tales of these travel ban countries, feeling hopeless and helpless. My best defense is to learn as much as I can about these cultures and celebrate them in my kitchen. It does the victims of these atrocities little good, I know. But recognizing the humanity in these regions is all I’ve got. Follow me, won’t you, into the kitchen, and cook up some compassion.

Lamb Stew with Pumpkin and Chickpeas

Soups and stews are beloved elements of Libyan cuisine, and this one is particularly mouthwatering. It calls for shaiba, which is a dried lichen, also known as dagad phool in Indian cuisine. You can leave it out, but it’s readily available on the Internet, and if you’re up for a field trip, you can find it in Indian markets.


¼ cup olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

10 whole cloves

5 bay leaves

3 cinnamon sticks

1-inch ginger root, grated

3 to 4 shaiba leaves

1 pound cubed lamb meat

28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 pound fresh pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cubed to 2 inches

15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1 cup golden raisins

Sea salt to taste


1. In a large Dutch oven or stewpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, spices and lamb, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft. Add tomato and water as needed to cover, and bring to a boil. At the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook on low heat for 1 hour.

2. Remove lid, add pumpkin, chickpeas and raisins, and simmer another 30 minutes, until pumpkin is tender. Season with salt to taste, and serve. (You may prefer to fish out the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and shaiba — I prefer to eat around them.)

Magroodh (Date-Filled Semolina Cookie)

Libyans love their sweets, and this cookie is a particular favorite.  Serve it at teatime to good, thoughtful, compassionate friends.

Ingredients  (For the dough)

3 cups semolina

1 cup all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon orange-flower or rose water

1 to 2 cups warm water

Ingredients  (For the filling)

1½ pounds date paste (store-bought or homemade by pulverizing pitted dates in a food processor)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons nutmeg

½ cup sesame seeds, toasted

Olive oil as needed

Ingredients  (For the syrup)

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

3 tablespoons orange-flower or rose water

2 tablespoons honey


1. Mix together semolina, flour, baking powder and oil, then cover and set aside for 1 hour. 

2. Meanwhile, make the filling. Mix together date paste, spices and sesame seeds, adding oil a little at a time as needed to create a smooth mixture that holds its shape. Divide the paste into four equal portions and roll each into a log about 1-inch in diameter.

3. Add to the semolina dough the flower water and enough water to create a firm dough that holds its shape. Divide this dough into four equal portions and roll each into a log the same length as the date logs. 

4. Preheat oven to 400°. Press in a lengthwise trench down the center of each dough log, and nestle a date log into it. Press and mold the dough around the date log until it is completely concealed. Slice inch-thick cookies off the logs at an angle, and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. 

5. Meanwhile, make the syrup. Combine all syrup ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and cool.

6. Drizzle syrup over the baked cookies, a little at a time, letting it soak in slowly. Sprinkle with more toasted sesame seeds before serving with foaming tea or Arabic coffee.

Leslie Bilderback is a certified master baker, chef and cookbook author. She lives in South Pasadena and teaches her techniques online at culinarymasterclass.com.

Kids’ yoga is fast gaining favor with parents and teachers as a tool to build inner strength and peace.

Is yoga right for your child? Or would it just be another item in an already overbooked schedule?
If you’re like many Arroyoland parents, you’re already giving your children the best of everything. Whether toddlers or teens, they enjoy every tech tool and toy that might be beneficial or fun. Their schedules are crammed with sports, art, music, dance and any activity they show interest in. Their caring parents take time to impart seeds of wisdom to help them conquer life’s inevitable stresses.
And yet, there are areas of a child’s perception that no parent, coach, tutor or teacher can penetrate. That’s because all the above-mentioned advantages occur outside the child, and many experts in education and mental health say that in this age of boundless stimulation and overbooked activity, kids need to cultivate their inner selves.
That’s where yoga comes in.
Advocates say yoga teaches children the connection between body and mind, so they can learn techniques to quiet their minds, make their bodies more flexible and alleviate stress from social or school pressures. Yoga teaches them to focus, be mindful and present in the moment, so they can stop worrying, relax, use better judgement, get along better with others and get better grades.
“Just because children have access to many special activities, and to constant digital and intellectual stimulation, does not mean they know how to pause, how to make better choices in the moment, how to connect with others in positive ways,” says Kelly Wood, a Pasadena-based children’s yoga expert. “They can say the right thing, but can they do the right thing? Not when they’re speeding ahead, always thinking what’s next, what’s next?” adds Wood, who is certified to teach in both the Pasadena and L.A. school districts and has taught more than 200,000 children over the past 20 years. Not long ago, she was teaching 1,000 students per week, she says. She’s had to cut back to about 700 students because she’s so busy teaching public school teachers to lead yoga sessions in their own classrooms.
Using a secular and science-based approach, Wood says her method instills “constructive self-reliance, and that’s one of the most important skills we can give a child. Yoga helps them to pay attention, self-regulate their emotions, build confidence in body and mind and to help others,” she says. It’s all about having a calm brain, calm body and calm heart, she explains. “You can tell a child about the benefits of those things, and he or she may pick it up intellectually. But the practice of yoga actually gives them the tools to achieve those goals.”
Yoga for children is different from yoga for adults. Although the core basics of breathing, movement and meditation are the same, children’s classes are specifically geared to young minds and bodies. Break times are more frequent and they’re child-centric, often enhanced with art, music or storytelling activities. Of course, kids have much shorter attention spans and freer imaginations than adults, so children’s yoga teachers may change the original names of postures to animal and nature names students are familiar with. They can easily imagine themselves as roaring lions, slithering snakes, fluttering butterflies or strong tree trunks rooted deep in earth. They can surf their mats in the dolphin pose, be flowers, puppies or kittens. Doing this together in groups is fun and builds an awareness that all bodies and abilities are different, and all are okay.
“Yoga for children inspires their imaginations to learn about nature and their environment,” Sherry LeBlanc, director of Yoga 4 Kids in Ontario, Canada, writes in Toronto-based Vitality magazine. “Balloon breaths, buzzing bees, panting dogs and hooting owls all prepare a child for breathing techniques used in yoga. [They] help children develop concentration, memory and the ability to integrate abstract ideas.” Experts say yoga classes designed and taught for children only are more effective than adult classes. In mixed classes, children do get special attention, but regular instruction isn’t tailored to young bodies and minds.
Local expert Wood runs a nonprofit called SCHOOL (Smiling Calm Hearts Open Our Learning). Her special area of interest is children in grades K to 6, she says, adding that achieving a calm heart will carry them through to a more fulfilled life. “In yoga practice, there is a strong connection between breathing and heart rate,” Wood says. “Learning how to breathe in a steady way impacts the heart rate so it’s more steady, and the heart influences the brain and all internal organs,” she says. “So when we talk about heart, they are learning the importance of having a calm heart, which opens up better perceptions so they can listen better, focus better, relate better to others and themselves in a more gentle way.” (Wood produced a Hi Yoga! DVD for children and parents that’s available for $9.99 at kellywoodyoga.com.)
Many experts around the country agree. Secular yoga is now integrated into thousands of private and public school curricula around the U.S. Numerous studies have found that children’s yoga promotes improved confidence, mindfulness, concentration, academic achievement and the ability to control emotions and impulses. The practice reduces children’s stress and improves classroom behavior. And yoga postures for children connect them with their physical selves and lend a kind of flexibility that fielding a soccer ball or wielding a baseball bat cannot achieve. (That’s why many of today’s top sports teams employ yoga experts to help players perform better.)
A 2016 survey by the National Institutes of Health on school-based yoga programs taught by 5,400 instructors in 940 schools nationwide found that the mind-body elements of yoga — physical postures, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and mindfulness and meditation exercises — “promote students’ mental and physical health and performance” and that some recent research shows “these practices induce changes in brain structure and function which can enhance skills, such as self-regulation and prosocial behavior.”
Sela Sevada, a certified yoga teacher at Yoga on Brand (yogaonbrand.com) in Glendale, says her school attracts “kids 4 to 14, teaching flexibility and techniques to calm the mind and body through breathing control. Kids aren’t aware that they can’t focus and live in a world of distractions. They never have time to stop — but yoga teaches them how. It’s noncompetitive. It’s not about being perfect or doing anything perfectly. It’s just about learning what our bodies can do for us in so many ways.”
Santa Anita Hot Yoga teacher Nicole Schulman says her own 2½-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son are budding yogis. “They both come to class, because the owner, Kayla Stra, asked me to bring them. What’s surprising is that my 2½-year-old enjoys doing some of the poses. Kayla tells the class to do the mountain pose — stand as tall as you can, bend one leg and put the foot of that bent leg on the thigh of your straight leg. My little daughter does that.”
Curative Yoga (yogakingdom.com) in Pasadena has an instructor specifically certified in children’s yoga. “Children have great imaginations, and we can tell them to do a mouse pose or a tree pose [standing on one leg] and they can do that,” says Alicia Webb, who teaches a class for kids 4 to 10 at 10 a.m. Sundays. “We can provide them with a sense of control over their bodies and minds that they might never experience otherwise. They might decide to sit down, take a deep breath, visualize themselves inside of a little bubble, and let go of any emotions they have that they don’t like, such as anger, sadness or feeling overwhelmed.”
Yoga can also be helpful to children with physical and developmental disabilities, says Kimi Cantrell, cofounder of Rose City Yoga (rosecityyogapasadena.com). She and her business partner, Melanie Colbrunn, volunteer once a month at Pasadena’s Club 21 Learning and Resource Center, teaching yoga to children with Down syndrome.
“Teaching kids is so different than teaching grown-ups,” says Cantrell. “They aren’t judgmental, don’t have unreal expectations. They’re just present in the moment, they give it a shot, have fun and pretty soon they’re very focused. As kids we’re never taught how to breathe. We do it naturally, take it for granted, but there are so many breathing techniques that can help us deal with anxiety, stress or emotions like sadness. If we could reach all kids earlier, they’d have so much more ability to cope with the world as they grow up.”

A summer Art Center College of Design show celebrates this month’s Great American Eclipse.

On Aug. 21, millions will trek from near and far to view the awe-inspiring phenomenon in which the daytime sky darkens, the temperature drops, birds and animals go silent and the sun disappears. Then, for mere moments, the sun’s corona becomes viewable, spewing magnificently brilliant plumes, loops and streamers into the surrounding darkness.
During the so-called Great American Eclipse, the path of totality — where the moon blocks the entire sun from earth’s view — will sweep across America in a 70-mile-wide stretch from South Carolina to Oregon, the first coast-to-coast total eclipse in 99 years. It’s the inspiration for Eclipse, a summer Art Center College of Design exhibition of artworks inspired by what many have called the most dramatic event visible on earth — the total solar eclipse.
While California families won’t be able to see the total eclipse from home — on the West Coast, it won’t be visible south or north of Oregon — the partial eclipse visible here still qualifies as one of the top family draws of summer. (Hardcore total eclipse lovers can watch it live at nasa.gov/eclipselive.) Families can enhance the experience by pairing it with a visit to Eclipse, which runs through Sept. 10 at the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery. The show, two years in the making, places eclipses in historical and cultural contexts and demonstrates their kaleidoscope of connections with the human mind.
Eclipse was co-curated by renowned astronomer Jay M. Pasachoff and Stephen Nowlin, Art Center vice president and founding director of the Williamson Gallery, who has focused his career on the intersection of art and science. Nowlin says the show spotlights ways eclipses have inspired great creative forces that spur both artists and scientists to investigate the mysteries of the universe in their work. “It’s nothing technical, like people would see if they were going to a science museum exhibit with a solar eclipse theme,” says Nowlin.
Indeed, Pasachoff has found the study of solar eclipses so essential he has traversed the globe to view 65 events, 33 of them total. That may sound like a lot, and it is, but eclipses are more common than you might think: A total eclipse is visible somewhere on earth about every 18 months, and totality generally lasts only two to five minutes. (This month, it will last two minutes and 40 seconds.)
The time is precious to scientists, because it affords them only moments to study and collect data on the sun’s atmosphere (a.k.a. corona). Such studies are crucial “because they help us to understand the universe, the laws of motion, the laws of how gases work” and the very nature of space and time. That hunger for knowledge stretches back to the beginning of human history, when earth’s inhabitants thought an eclipse signaled doom, with evil spirits trying to “eat” the sun and leave them in darkness. In later times, preachers assigned religious significance to the event. As science evolved, eclipses became tools to help understand the cosmos and earth’s place in it.
Pasachoff, a visitor in Planetary Science at Caltech and chair of the Williams College Astronomy Department, is a top science educator. He has written many books on astronomy and physics, including student textbooks and teacher guides, and has received the Education Prize of the American Astronomical Society, among many other honors. But Eclipse isn’t designed as science education, per se, Pasachoff says. “It’s art, and it’s for people to enjoy.”
He conceived the idea for the show “because I knew of three oil paintings that were made starting 99 years ago, the last time a solar eclipse path came across the whole United States from coast to coast.” He recruited co-curator Nowlin, who “had the brilliant idea of inviting Tony Misch of the Lick Observatory [Historical Collections] in Northern California to provide artifacts from their eclipse expeditions of over 100 years ago,” as well as other “very bright ideas about installations for the show. The whole thing has come together as a very beautiful and interesting exhibition.”
The exhibition includes an eclectic mix of vintage and contemporary paintings, sculpture, immersive installations, videos loaned by NASA, historic artifacts and documents, all created or inspired by eclipses, says Nowlin. He says one darkened space has projected images of “the three great actors — sun, earth and moon, each on its own separate wall, each moving slowly. It’s a video captured by spacecraft and provided to me by NASA sources. It gives a sense of the scale of forces that work together to create an eclipse, and it’s pretty spectacular.”
Another room offers a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall artwork, titled Eclipse, by Art Center core faculty member Lita Albuquerque, whose work deals with the realities of time and space. The installation is an 11-minute video with narration, Nowlin says, and it “approaches the solar eclipse symbolically through some of her experiences as a child and as an adult who observes natural phenomena.”
A different area is devoted to pages from rare 17th-century books and other documents Nowlin discovered in the Huntington Library. “I had them scanned and and blew them up large and put them on display. They all relate to a solar eclipse that crossed London in 1652 and caused a sensation and debate about whether the eclipse was a predictor of horrible plagues and other dire events or whether it symbolized religious significance.”
The three historic oil paintings that gave Pasachoff the idea for the show are also on view. They’re all by Howard Russell Butler, a Princeton graduate, lawyer and artist who was asked by the U.S. Naval Observatory to join its 1918 total solar eclipse expedition. “Cameras at that time couldn’t capture the extraordinary brightness and colors of an eclipse, and Butler was known as someone who could briefly sketch what he was seeing in those very few moments of totality and then transfer it onto an oil painting at his leisure,” Pasachoff says. Butler went on to view two more eclipses, and his accuracy depicting the events has been praised by astronomers.
Pasachoff will view this month’s eclipse from Oregon, along with his sophisticated equipment, his colleagues and eight students he’s selected to join him. He has support for the junket from NASA, the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation. His last eclipse trip was to Indonesia in March, and previous journeys took him to India, South Africa, Australia, New Guinea, Hawaii, Finland and dozens of other far-flung and often isolated destinations. Asked about the burden of traveling so far and so often to conduct scientific studies of an event so brief, he says, “It’s the only chance we ever have to see a whole major region of the sun in high detail. But you only get a minute or two minutes or five minutes every year and a half. So it’s like telling a heart surgeon that if you want to study the human heart you have to go halfway around the world for about two minutes, and you can’t do it again for another year and a half. Would that person do it? Of course he or she would. And they’d take as many instruments and as many colleagues as possible with them.”

Eclipse runs through Sept. 10 at the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery at Art Center College of Design, 1700 Lida St., Pasadena. Hours are noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday, and noon to 9 p.m. Friday. Admission is free.

Arroyo Cocktail of the Month – The Orange Grove

The Raymond 1886 has long been one of Pasadena’s most beloved restaurants (but not for 130 years — 1886 actually marked the opening of the former Raymond Hotel). The restaurant’s Bar 1886 is dark and moody, illuminated mainly by the bar’s soft amber backlight. Inside, there are two small communal tables, four two-tops, original hardwood floors and brown pressed-tin ceilings, and there’s also outdoor seating: two outdoor patios with fireplaces and Edison lights twinkling against the night sky. Bar 1886 was established only in 2010 — 38 years after the restaurant — to focus on high-end spirits and craft cocktails. It offers monthly spirits-paired dinners as well. New cocktails appear twice annually: for spring-summer and fall-winter. Not listed on the menu but a longtime staple is The Orange Grove — a simple but effective drink with a nod to Arroyoland’s agricultural heritage. “This is a sit-out-on-the-patio-and-eat-brunch kind of cocktail,” says bartender Casey Levantal. It’s cool and clean, with the acidity of the citrus mitigated by the gin. The addition of tonic water provides a subtle effervescence. Indeed, this drinks so easily you might forget it’s a cocktail. Levantal suggests pairing it with something hearty like The Raymond’s Veracruz steak salad or pork belly tacos.

The Orange Grove


2 ounces London dry gin

½ ounce lime juice

½ ounce simple syrup

2 to 4 orange wedges

Splash of tonic water


Using a muddler, smash orange slices with lime juice and simple syrup. Shake and pour mixture into glass with crushed ice. Add gin, top with tonic floater (without mixing) and serve.

Here are five of Arroyoland’s best and oldest restaurants, which you may have overlooked — but shouldn’t.

For as long as humans have roamed the earth, they have experienced hunger. So where in Arroyoland have humans been dining the longest? We canvased the region to find some of the best of the oldest.

We all love to eat, especially at familiar places. But a restaurant with deep roots here may still not be familiar to you. So take another look at these five stalwarts, which have withstood the test of time with favorite familiar foods in a high-turnover business. After all, it’s no accident they’re still standing strong despite many passing seasons.

D.O.B. 1920

In 1920, Pasadena’s population was just over 45,000 people, and there were few places to eat. That year, a small tortilla shop with Mexican food — including handmade tortillas — opened its doors. Mijares was born across from present-day Huntington Hospital at Pico Street and Fair Oaks Boulevard, operated from the home of Jesucita Mijares. It was so popular by 1940 that she was able to borrow $8,000 from a local doctor and a car dealer to purchase a one-acre parcel on Palmetto Drive, its present location. And now, 97 years after it opened, Mijares is a sprawling complex with multiple outdoor patios and interior dining rooms as well as a second location on Washington Boulevard. Reminiscent of a hacienda with tiled floors, thatched overhangs and adobe-looking walls, the Pasadena locale could well be mistaken for a pueblo. Historic photos and images dot the interior walls inside, and you can’t miss the images of Jesucita, who passed in 1988.

R-Lene Mijares De Lang is the third-generation proprietor of this family-owned eatery started by Jesucita, whom she calls the “tortilla matriarch.” “We still cook the way my grandmother loved to cook,” she says. Mijares draws crowds for the family’s famous margaritas and light tamales (no lard), fajitas, ceviche and volcanic-stoneground red sauce using chiles from New Mexico. Families keep coming back for seconds, generation after generation, especially for Mijares’ wildly popular Champagne Sunday brunch.

145 Palmetto Dr., Pasadena

(626) 792-2763 / mijaresrestaurant.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) Sunday

1806 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 794-6674

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 9:45 p.m., Friday and Saturday

Russell’s Café
D.O.B. 1930

Los Angeles Airport (LAX’s precursor, known as Mines Field) began operating in 1930, the same year Russell’s opened in Old Pasadena. Russell’s turned into a chain with eight locations in the Southland, but ultimately almost all failed, with the notable exception of the original Pasadena venue — currently ranked Pasadena’s third-best restaurant on tripadvisor.com. While it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, owner Frank Gale says Russell’s is renowned for its breakfasts, which are served until 4 p.m. Gale, who started at Russell’s in 1992 as a server and ended up buying it in 2014, is proud of the diner’s upscale ambience. “There are a lot of little touches and attention to detail,” he says. Chandeliers hang above each table and reproductions of famous works of art adorn the walls. The black-clad waitstaff — some there for 20 years — scurries about efficiently, yet almost unnoticed. Gale notes that a lot of his current regulars “weren’t even born yet” when their parents started the tradition of coming here. Grab a seat at the sparkly red fabric barstools facing the open kitchen or sequester yourself in a wood-toned booth. “We serve basic comfort food,” Gale says, “and it’s all about quality.” Russell’s Belgian waffles, American omelets, croque-monsieurs and croque-mesdames and blood-orange mimosas are the standouts that keep the crowds coming back for more.

One Colorado, 30 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 578-1404

Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Saturday

Damon’s Glendale Steakhouse
D.O.B. 1937

The Great Ziegfield, a biopic about the theater producer renowned for his lavish theatrical revues, won the Best Picture Oscar in 1937 (the Academy Awards were just nine years old at the time). That year Damon’s opened as a straight-and-narrow steakhouse, but at the end of World War II, it morphed into its own kind of lavish production — a Tiki-themed restaurant catering to GIs returning home from the Pacific. These days the under-the-radar steakhouse is best known for filet mignon, tenderloin and Mai Tai Mondays. No need to get dressed up; just show up and get lost in the tropical vibe. There’s a mix of booths, some beneath makeshift lean-tos, and freestanding tables with plenty of rattan chairs, a canoe hanging from the ceiling, plastic palm fronds dangling off support pillars and wall murals depicting ocean scenes and long-forgotten island people. Yes, you do feel like you’re in some jungle paradise (the fish tank helps).

How have they survived so long? “It’s a three-legged stool,” says current owner Kevin Berresford. “Value, quality and consistency, that’s how we’ve maintained our appeal.” Of course, the Tiki décor is also part of that appeal, but beyond that, “our servers are old school,” with decades at Damon’s under their belts. That’s reassuring to regulars, as is Damon’s continuing reputation as a top-notch steakhouse.

317 N. Brand Ave., Glendale

(818) 507-1510 / damonsglendale.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 a.m., Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday

Twohey’s Restaurant
D.O.B. 1943

In March, 1943, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma opened in New York to great fanfare and went on to run for 14 months. On the other side of the country, Twohey’s Restaurant opened its doors in Alhambra the same month. Naturally it debuted to less fanfare, but the place is still running strong.

How did Twohey’s stand out, surfing a sea of changes, for three quarters of a century? “You’ve got to be a great operator,” says co-owner Jim Christos. “That means great service, great food.” Tweaking menus to keep up with evolving tastes helps too, leading Twohey’s to expand into seafood dishes like sand dabs and lobster rolls, since it’s “near and dear” to Christos’ New England heritage. “The neighborhood has changed, Alhambra has changed, but a great institution like us, well, we change too.” But some things never change — Twohey’s menu still touts its Original Stinko Burger, so named because the eatery pioneered topping it with aromatic raw onions and pickles, something commonplace today.

With its iconic ridged roof, the place looks more like a bowling alley than a restaurant. But the interior is all retro diner with simple clean lines. “Our cornerstones are the curry clam chowder, onion rings, burgers and hot fudge sundaes,” says Christos. Twohey’s also keeps it interesting with seasonal items. But regulars typically return for the familiar faces of the loyal waitstaff, some still there after 30 years. With no major advertising, the business is driven by word of mouth — that and its strategy of keeping tempo with the times.

1224 N. Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra

(626) 284-7387 / twoheys.com

Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday

D.O.B. 1948

The 1948 Rose Bowl saw a humiliating loss by USC to Michigan, 0-49. Loss could also have undone Cindy’s diner had it not been for chef-owners Paul Rosenbluh and wife Monique King, who raised money to preserve Cindy’s cool Googie sign in 2014. “Cindy’s heyday was long past and it needed a lot of love,” Rosenbluh says. In 2015, shortly after the couple took over, a car crashed into the restaurant at 1:30 a.m., when no one was there. Rebuilding offered the opportunity to redefine the eatery, but the chefs had no desire to rebrand Cindy’s as something hip and trendy; they wanted to upgrade the food while honoring the spirit of the place.

Still a diner in the best sense of the word, the new iteration is a scratch kitchen with everything made inhouse. Rosenbluh and King come with loads of restaurant experience, having run the kitchen of Firefly Bistro in South Pasadena. A completely new interior with a definite retro look and feel, not to mention a music video shot here by Justin Timberlake, helped relaunch Cindy’s. Bright orange booths and counter stools pop against the green wall facing the kitchen. The best eats? Shrimp and grits, brisket hash with black-eye peas from the smoker out back and housemade veggie burgers. The place is comfortable and casual, not pretending to be anything other than it is. “You won’t find another one,” Rosenbluh says.

1500 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock

(323) 257-7375 / cindyseaglerock.com

Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday;

7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday.