Internationally acclaimed guitarist Scott Tennant will join three members of the original Angeles String Quartet, violinist Roger Wilkie, violist Brian Dembow and cellist Steven Erdody in concert on Tuesday, January 20 at 8 p.m. in the sanctuary at St. Matthew’s, 1031 Bienveneda. In addition the world premiere of a work by Los Angeles-based composer Jane Brockman commissioned by Chamber Music Palisades (CMP) will debut. The program includes the Concerto for Guitar and Strings by Vivaldi, the Sonatina op. 205 for Flute and Guitar by Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Dvorak’s Piano Quintet, op. 81 in addition to the new Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano by Brockman. Scott Tennant is one of the world’s most recognized American guitarists. His performances both as a soloist and with the L.A. Guitar Quartet, which he is a founding member, have taken him around the world. He is the author of the best-selling book and video “Pumping Nylon” on guitar technique and is in the process of recording the complete solo guitar works of Joaquin Rodrigo for the Belgian label GHA, including the concertos with Leo Brouwer conducting. Violinist Roger Wilkie’s playing has been described by the Los Angeles Times as having “surpassing virtuosity, a thrilling legato tone and a sense of full emotional engagement.” Concertmaster of the Long Beach Symphony, he has also served in that capacity with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Los Angeles Music Center Opera Orchestra and the Real Philharmonia de Galicia (Spain) under Helmuth Rilling. As a member of the first New York String Quartet, violist Brian Dembow then joined the Sequoia Quartet followed by 12 years with the Angeles String Quartet. At age 11 he was admitted to The Juilliard School and later won the Eduard Dethier Award and was twice awarded the Michael Rabin Award. Stephen Erdody has served as principal cellist for the Pacific Symphony, the Joffrey Ballet, the American Ballet Theater, Dance Theater of Harlem and Opera Pacific and he was cellist with the New York String Quartet. He has formed a new ensemble, Chamber Music Los Angeles, to perform benefit concerts supporting non-profits that enrich children’s lives through the performing arts, particularly disadvantaged children. Composer Jane Brockman has served on the boards of directors of New York’s Composers Concordance, Women in Film, the Society of Composers and Lyricists and also served three years on review panels for the NEA. She was the first woman to earn a doctorate in music composition at the University of Michigan. She studied with Max Deutsch in Paris and worked in Ireland and Vienna. She has won honors and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Fulbright-Hays/Alliance-Francaise, Rackham School, the State of Connecticut, Meet the Composer, The Composers Conference and the Sigvald Thompson Prize for orchestral composition. Completing the player roster for the evening will be violinist Sarah Thornblade and CMP co-artistic directors and co-founders flutist Susan Greenberg and pianist Delores Stevens. Now in its seventh consecutive season, Chamber Music Palisades includes local school concerts in each season’s programming and has commissioned five new works since the inception of the series in 1997. Tickets will be available at the door at 1031 Bienveneda Avenue in Pacific Palisades at $20 for single admission. Students with ID will be admitted free of charge.
Good Stock in “Other People’s Money”
A night at the theater does not always translate to an entertaining escape from present-day realities. Sometimes a play or production evokes, or brings to light, current controversies plaguing our society. This is okay, as long as satire is the main ingredient and the characters are finely portrayed. Thankfully, Theatre Palisades’ production of Jerry Sterner’s “Other People’s Money” covers the necessary bases to make this “black comedy” worth seeing. Directed by Michael Macready and produced by Nikita Bezrukiy and Cindy Dellinger, the show runs through February 8 at Pierson Playhouse. You don’t have to understand stock talk, or the corporate world for that matter, to recognize a bad egg when you see one. In “Other People’s Money,” he comes all suited up, in the arrogant, vulgar form of Lawrence Garfinkle (Steve Larkin), a Wall Street shark whose ego isn’t the only thing that’s bloated. Between donuts, Garfinkle settles on his prey-a Rhode Island company called New England Wire and Cable, run on the traditional values and pride of Andrew Jorgenson (Lance Johnson). Helping Jorgenson manage the company is William Coles (Liam Tuohy), who also acts as the play’s narrator, and Jorgenson’s secretary/companion, Bea Sullivan (Pamela Murphy). Garfinkle, aka “Larry the Liquidator,” intends to buy the company right out from under them, and starts by buying a few shares. When the shareholders become concerned, they bring in Kate Sullivan (Tina Arning)-the sleek and sexy New York attorney who also happens to be Bea’s daughter. Will she be the one who gets Garfinkle to drop his donut…and his interest in the company? “Lawyers are like taxicab drivers stuck in traffic-they don’t do anything and their meters are always ticking,” says Jorgenson, whose shaky relationship with Kate arouses pent-up family conflict. Some of the best scenes are played out between Kate and Garfinkle, who heat up Garfinkle’s swanky New York office with their sexual banter/power trip dynamic. Larkin portrays the ultimate womanizing swindler with unrestrained vulgarity, while Arning captures her character’s sassy, femme fatale attitude to a T-these two have serious chemistry in their roles. The smart, detailed set design-Jorgenson’s office and Garfinkle’s pad each allotted one half of the stage-allows the audience to view the dichotomy between the big shot and the small-town businessman with perception and ease. Garfinkle’s black-and-white-tiled, retro-style office looks out on the city, in perfect opposition to Jorgenson’s wood-paneled, park-ranger-style headquarters, which Garfinkle compares to the Bronx. From the shiny trophies on the file cabinet to the glass jar of gumballs and the painted black and silver walls, the set (by Sherman Wayne) is really a piece of work. More impressive is the interplay between the two offices during scene transitions. For example, after Coles visits Garfinkle regarding the inheritance of New England Wire and Cable, Garfinkle pushes him across the stage and he stumbles into Jorgenson’s office-and literally into the next scene. At another point, Kate tells Jorgy not to go away, and she marches across the stage into Garfinkle’s office. This creative direction-the dismissal of using the door as the only way in and out-enhances the dramatic experience for the audience. Furthermore, the way the characters-particularly Garfinkle-offer commentary during scenes in which they are absent is humorous and engaging. They also speak directly to the audience on several occassions. “All of you, you’re destroying the capitalist system,” Garfinkle tells the audience, after being grilled by Kate. “The first thing the Commies will do is kill all the lawyers.” Matching the sharp delivery of lines is the costume design (by Sherry Coon), especially the way certain colors appear-and stand out-simultaneously in several characters’ outfits. For instance, Garfinkle wears a shiny magenta-colored tie with his black-striped suit while Kate sports a light, lime-green skirt suit with a light pink scarf. Simultaneously, Bea appears in a dull pink sweater. The coordinated costumes thus present an aesthetically pleasing dimension to the interaction between characters and their movement across the stage. With the production staff’s exemplary work, the five actors pull off an entertaining and thought-provoking drama. The show opens with Cabaret’s “Money, Money, Money!” which speaks volumes about the values that too often win out when the lights go down. “Other People’s Money” runs Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays 2 p.m. Tickets are $13 for general admission and $15 on Saturdays; discounts for seniors and students. For reservations, call 454-1970.
Ron Mann’s Book “The Yoga of Golf” Lowers Scores and Blood Pressure
Perhaps Tiger Woods should consider hiring Ph.D. Ron Mann to coach him at next month’s Nissan Open. The world’s No. 1 golfer has conquered just about every course he’s ever played–except Riviera Country Club, where he has yet to win in six tries. At the very least, Tiger should read Mann’s recently-published book, “The Yoga of Golf” for the mental edge he has so far lacked at Riviera’s hallowed greens. Mann offers a powerful and profound approach to peak performance both on and off the course in an easy-to-read guide that will not only change one’s approach to golf, but life as well. “I hope Tiger reads this and gives me a call,” Mann joked. “The techniques I teach are valuable to players on any level, pros included, because so much of the game is mental.” Though he has yet to land a player as high-profile as Tiger on his resume, Mann’s clientele include the UCLA women’s golf team and Woman’s World Long Drive champion Lee Brandon. “I’ve been working with Lee for about a year and she drove the ball 332 yards,” said Mann, who aspires to work with PGA Tour players. “I happened to know the head coach at UCLA [Carrie Leary] and she had me come out and teach my focusing and breathing techniques to the team. They went to nationals for the first time since 1977 and finished fifth.” Mann grew up in Santa Monica, but has lived in the Muskingum neighborhood of the Palisades for eight years, mostly to be close to the Self-Realization Fellowship temple, where he is an active member. It took him only two months to write the book because it combines his two passions: golf and yoga. He started playing golf 40 years ago at the age of 16 and played on the Santa Monica High team. A disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, Mann is a certified hatha yoga instructor and has practiced Kriya Yoga since 1979. His first book, “Sacred Healing: Integrating Spirituality with Psychotherapy,” reached the Los Angeles Times’ Healthy Bestseller list in 1998. “My first job was as a caddie at Brentwood Country Club, so I got to play for free,” Mann remembers. “It started off as a secondary sport to baseball, but I always loved the pretty environment and as I got older, it became a great tool for establishing business connections.” Off the course, 2003 was trying for Mann because both of his parents died. On the links, however, he hit the only two holes in one he’s ever hit–both on par 3s at MountainGate Country Club, where he is a longtime member. His lowest round ever is a 74, also at MountainGate. In addition to the book, Mann has released an audio CD, “Find the Zone: Master the Mental Game of Golf,” which has garnered positive reviews in Golf Magazine and is being sold worldwide. “It just made sense to put the two disciplines together,” Mann says. “I recently did a presentation for the teaching staff at Riviera and I’ll be a keynote speaker at the Southern California Golf Show [February 27-29] in Long Beach. All of the feedback I’ve gotten so far has been positive.” A licensed clinical psychologist, Mann worked in private practice from 1976 until 2002 before shifting his focus to writing. His devotion to Self Realization has given him an inner peace he had always longed for. “Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings are crystal clear, profound and life-changing,” Mann says. “I just know this is right for me. There’s a real spiritual presence that is available to all of us and I’m wiser because of it.” Asked what golfers he admires most, Mann cited several: “I like Ernie Els’ rhythm and style. He really takes his time. Tiger, of course, because of his strong competitive spirit. I also enjoy watching Jesper Parnevik and Fred Couples. I generally try to emulate guys who have good timing and a good rhythm to their swing.” “The Yoga of Golf” provides a means to move past the limitations of the mind and open the doorway to what athletes frequently refer to as “the zone.” In 10 short chapters, the book provides practical techniques to quiet the mind through meditation, yoga postures for greater strength and flexibility and ancient wisdom for a more enlightened perspective on golf. “It’s unlikely that one’s body will do more than one’s mind believes is possible,” Mann says. “When one’s belief system opens, then greater achievements are possible. Here in America, when we think of yoga, we think of just the physical stretching. The fact is, though, yoga involves mental techniques that will change lives well beyond your golf game.” Whether you’re a PGA Tour pro sizing up a 10-foot putt that could be worth millions or a weekend duffer who simply wants to lower his score and enjoy the game more, Mann’s book is a drive straight down the fairway. The book was self-published and copies are available at www.ronmann.com.
“Why can’t this town, with a population of 25,000, have at least one dedicated police car?” That question, posed by one frustrated resident, was asked over and over again at last Thursday night’s Community Council meeting, which drew nearly 100 concerned citizens. “Where are the police when we need them?” asked another resident. “The LAPD is supposed to be there to serve and protect. But they aren’t doing that here in the Palisades.” The comment drew applause. After a heated two-hour exchange, which included testimonials from several victims of local crime, the council passed a motion to do whatever it takes to provide a police presence “24/7” in the Palisades, from pressuring the L.A. City Council to hire more police officers to paying for a private patrol car. The motion was put forward by Norm Kulla, the council’s Highlands representative, after Captain Mike Chambers of the LAPD’s West L.A. Division told the crowd that the best he could do was to insure a “dedicated” patrol car for Pacific Palisades, but only up to “four days a week” to start. While Chambers’ offer is an improvement over the amount of police protection Palisadians have now (one patrol car, on a daily basis, which is regularly called out of the area, often leaving the Palisades with no police presence at all) it did not satisfy resident Kevin Bird, a recent victim of an attempted robbery. “I was walking with my son on my shoulders near where I live [in the El Medio bluffs area] when I was held up by these two guys, one of whom held a semi-automatic gun at my stomach,” Bird said. “Why did it take the police 45 minutes to respond? That is just not good enough. In fact, it’s ridiculous for a town of this size.” Bird’s remarks were met with applause, as were Peter Carr’s. “We’re just kind of naked here,” said Carr, a recent burglary victim. “We’re sitting ducks is what it comes to. The fact is, I was burglarized in mid-November and I’m still waiting for a call from the LAPD to find out what’s happening to my case. ” Carr recounted how he came home one evening to discover his house in the Alphabet streets was being burglarized. “I saw my son’s piggy bank on the front porch and the burglar, who had broken into the side door, was busy stealing my wife’s bike while I waited outside for the police to come. About 25 minutes later a patrol car arrived, and somehow the burglar got away. I don’t blame the LAPD, which is so understaffed, but something has got to be done. We don’t feel safe here anymore.” Chambers assured Carr he would personally look into his case and explained the LAPD’s dilemma to the crowd. “The issue is deployment. There are currently only 9,300 police officers in the whole force. Do we need more cops? Absolutely. The West L.A. area is 64 square miles, the largest jurisdiction in Los Angeles County. And we only have seven cars, which can be called out at any time to deal with crime in other areas. Is that fair? No. But I do believe that West L.A. is getting its fair share, compared to other areas. The good news is that the Palisades is the safest place in the whole West L.A. division. In December there were a total of 37 crimes committed here. Compare that to areas where there are that many committed in a day.” Chambers said while statistically the Palisades does not warrant a full-time dedicated patrol, he would do what he could to improve the situation, given the “isolated nature” of the Palisades, and the perceived notion that crime here is on the rise. “This is a terrible frustration,” said the council’s Area 4 representative Larry Jacobs just before Kulla’s motion was passed. “The police just can’t do what we are asking them to do. The fact is, we have a homeland security problem right here in the Palisades and there’s no way for the police to solve it.” Talk then shifted to the possibility of hiring private patrols, which council advisor Paul Glasgall pointed out has been done very successfully in the Highlands (as well as in the Huntington Palisades). Another proposed solution was for Palisades residents to pay the city to hire off-duty and retired policemen to provide additional protection, as is done by Hollywood studios for movie and television production sites. “You can’t pay for your own cop,” noted one resident. “That would be considered unfair to all the other communities that can’t afford one.” Another option discussed briefly at the meeting was the proposed-and controversial- Asilomar gate. The electronically controlled gate, which would be installed across Asilomar at El Medio, would block vehicle access to the cul-de-sac on the bluffs. Discussion on the proposal, spearheaded by Asilomar resident Dr. Mark Kelly, resulted in a heated exchange between Kelly and El Medio resident Diana Mack, who is among those opposed to the gate. “I don’t think its right for anyone to try and privatize a public space,” said Mack, whose sentiment was shared by others in the crowd, including one man who yelled out “Go home” to Kelly, which prompted council chairman George Wolfberg to call the room to order. This also brought an end to the discussion. Later asked his reaction to Capt. Chambers’ commitment to increase patrols in the Palisades, Wolfberg called it “a stunning development. It’s better than what we have now.” On Monday night, Chambers returned to speak at an El Medio neighborhood meeting at Palisades High, organized by crime victim Kevin Bird. Chambers reiterated his commitment to increase patrol-car presence in the community. “Even though the Palisades is the safest place to live in West L.A., one crime is one crime too many, as far as I am concerned,” said Chambers, who expects a dedicated car to be in service by early February.
Karate Kids Shigematsu and Rogers Earn Blackbelts Together
Even the best of childhood friends are bound to have fights every now and then. Palisadians Stephen Shigematsu and Nick Rogers certainly have their share. But for them, each and every confrontation is born of discipline and ends with a respectful bow. Their art is Yoshukai Karate and each of them earned his blackbelt in August after more than four years of dedicated training at Gerry Blanck’s Martial Arts Center. Perhaps just as important as receiving their certificates, which finally arrived from Japan three weeks ago, the two have become even stronger friends as they have trained side by side. “Nick started doing it first and he told me how much he liked it, so I started a few weeks later and we’ve done it together ever since,” said Shigematsu, who turned 12 in November. “I’m glad I’ve learned karate in case I ever need to it. But they really stress using it as self-defense only.” Rogers was still 10 when he passed his test in August but has since turned 11: “I started in first grade when I was six. My mom thought it was a good idea and I was into Ninja Turtles then so I liked it. The best thing it has taught us is discipline. You shouldn’t do your moves to show off or bully people if you’re in a fight.” Testing for their blackbelts consisted of a written test (in which they had to memorize and recite words in Japanese), sparring, breaking boards (both admitted they were scared to try at first), weapons proficiency and performing as many as 20 different “katas”–routines used to demonstrate various moves and stances. Gerry Blanck, who has been teaching Yoshukai Karate in the Palisades for 20 years and served as the pair’s sensei for their blackbelt training, is not surprised his two prized pupils passed with flying colors. “Stephen and Nick are both great kids and very fast learners,” Blanck said. “They are two of the most dedicated students we have at the studio. I think they’ve tested for every belt together. I try to discourage people from testing before they are ready but there was never any doubt with those two. I knew they would pass no problem. What makes it even more cool is that they are best friends.” Not surprisingly, both boys enjoy weapons training most, though each has his preferred choice. “I like the sai swords,” said Shigematsu, who lives on Sunset. “They are pretty sharp so you have to be careful.” Rogers, on the other hand, favors nunchuks: “They are fun to look at. It was hard to use them at at first, but you get the hang of it.” In between sleepovers at each other’s houses, playing ball, doing homework and studying for tests (the two share all but an elective class together at Calvary Christian School), Shigematsu and Rogers spar with each other at least once a week. “We’re pretty equal,” Shigematsu says. “We know each other’s moves pretty well, but we’ll pull some tricky stuff on each other.” A tornado kick is each boy’s favorite move. Shigematsu described the maneuver as a “round kick with a spin” and Rogers admitted his friend “can do higher kicks because he’s more flexible than me.” Rogers, who lives in the Highlands, is currently taking a break from karate to concentrate on basketball and soccer. His AYSO U-12 team, the Red Devils, won the Region 69 championship and Rogers will now play center midfield on the regional All-Star team. When not at the dojo, Shigematsu plays pitcher, shortstop and first base in the Palisades Pony Baseball Association (his Bronco Phillies team reached the second round of the playoffs last season). He also golfs every weekend with his dad (his low score is 46 for nine holes), and snowboards in Mammoth. Training at the Martial Arts Center two days a week requires a level of commitment and dedication unique among boys their age. “It’s mostly fun, but there have been times when one of us has wanted to quit and the other one kept us going,” Rogers said. “It’s been fun training with Stephen.” Shigematsu’s goal is to achieve his second degree, called nidan, by the time he gets to high school. Rogers, too, wants to achieve nidan and also wants to teach other kids. He said, “It’s always more fun when you have someone there to do things with.”
Freshman forward Sara Newman scored her first high school goal on her birthday Monday as the Palisades High women’s soccer team showed little rust in beating Westchester 6-0. Newman one-timed an accurate cross from winger Nicole Angrisani into the lower left corner of the net to highlight a dominating second half by the Dolphins, who improved to 5-1-1 overall and 2-0 in Western League play. The host Comets crossed midfield only five times in the final 40 minutes and were outshot 14-3 in the game. “I was really hoping to score today,” said Newman, who celebrated her 15th birthday in style. “Nicole [Angrisani] really set me up well. We’ve played better but overall this was a good game for us.” Newman, who lives in the Highlands, joined the Palisades team after a successful season on her 16-and-under Santa Monica United club team. “Club soccer is a lot different because the teams are more equally balanced. Here the players are all different levels. But I like high school, it’s fun.” Palisades led 2-0 at halftime but scored two quick goals at the start of the second half to end any hope of a Westchester comeback. Alex Michael manuevered through a crowded penalty area to scored on an outside-of-the-foot shot midway through the half. Sophomore forward Lucy Miller, the Dolphins’ leading scorer last season, provided the exclamation point on Pali’s victory with a well-placed turnaround shot from 20 yards away just before the final whistle. Pali moved into first-place in league with its victory and Fairfax’s 3-2 win over Hamilton
The preferred site for the first dedicated off-leash dog park in Pacific Palisades is noisy and filled with debris, but that didn’t deter the nine PaliDog members who toured the area for the second time on Tuesday afternoon with their pets in tow. Never mind that the group could not find the exact location of the proposed site or that they could barely hear each other over the roar of traffic along Pacific Coast Highway. Neither could curb their enthusiasm. “I think it’s perfect,” said Palisadian Linda Rosetti, who walked the site (located on the north side of PCH between Potrero Canyon and Temescal Canyon Road) with her Labrador retriever, Pearl. So does Judith Collas, the proud owner of two rescues from the pound, Penny and Tess. “But I recognize it’s going to be a long haul,” she said. The two-acre site, where proposed drilling by Occidental Petroleum was defeated by a No Oil coalition in the late 1980s, is owned by L.A.’s Department of Recreation and Parks which already supports seven off-leash dog parks elsewhere in the city. However, it is landlocked on three sides by property under state jurisdiction, including Caltrans which apparently controls access to the site. Joining PaliDog members on the tour was Laurie Newman, senior deputy to state Senator Sheila Kuehl, who has dealt with Caltrans in the past. The group has enlisted Newman’s help to negotiate the use of what has come to be known as “the former Oxy site.” Palisades Community Council representative Norm Kulla, a Highlands resident who led the tour, told Newman that his group is seeking the use of less than four acres from Caltrans, which currently uses the site for storage (including industrial sewer pipes, concrete road barriers, and cement sand). “We are not asking Caltrans to vacate the site,” Kulla told the Palisadian-Post. “We are merely asking them to share it. What we need, actually, is three acres for large dogs and three-quarters of an acre for smaller dogs. Ideally, people would be able to access the site on foot from Temescal Canyon, the top of Potrero Canyon and the bluffs at Via de las Olas. There would also be car access from PCH. Right now, this area is an eyesore.” Collas, who has done research on the site for PaliDog, agreed. “In 1991, when Occidental offered the land to the City of L.A., it was to be put to the best possible use for the enjoyment of the citizens,” Collas said. “But since then nothing has been done and it’s been used as a dump.” While there was apparently a request in 1993 by Rec and Parks to Caltrans to provide access to the property, Collas said she found no further documents related to the issue when she researched city records. However, Monique Ford, a deputy in Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski’s office who was on the field trip, informed the group that there is indeed a land swap in the works between Caltrans and Rec and Parks, although she could not provide any details. Ford’s news stopped the group in its tracks. “It gets complicated when you’re talking about land swaps and easements,” Newman said. “Caltrans is not going to give up land adjacent to PCH very easily, but that doesn’t mean they won’t agree to some kind of long-term lease or something.” The group agreed that the next step is to have a land survey done to pinpoint the proposed site. “I think it’s a great use of the land,” Newman said. “It’s just a question of access and available resources.” She promised to make some phone calls and get back to the group. Wil Sharpe, who went on the field trip with Itza, his 4-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever, felt encouraged by Newman’s involvement. “Anytime we can get a government representative to support our cause, I think it brings us a step closer to actually making it happen,” he said. Sharpe’s sentiment was shared by Joseph Beauchamp, who went on the outing with his four standard poodles. Having lived in the Palisades for 11 years, he wants a local dog park because he now has to travel several times a day from his home in Castellammare to Sullivan Canyon to walk his dogs. Bill Kravitz, who lives on Lachman Lane, walks his dog Greasy on the Asilomar bluffs and in Rustic Canyon. Rosetti admits to currently walking her dog, off-leash, in Potrero Canyon. As she watched her dog frolic in a pond on the Oxy site, she said: “I don’t see why we can’t start using it now. All we need is to install a chain-link fence to protect the dogs. The noise [from PCH] doesn’t seem to bother them.” Following the field trip, the Post contacted local historian Randy Young about the prospects of the former Oxy site and negotiating access from Caltrans. He did not see this as a problem. “That’s their job, to provide public access,” he said, “and through their mitigation fund to make it possible for just this kind of project. Caltrans provided almost 90 percent of the funds to build Los Liones Gateway park so I don’t see why they wouldn’t support this project.” Young sees any development on the site as a “wonderful opportunity for both the state and the city to work together to come up with a larger plan for the whole area instead of leaving it as a dump site, which it is now.”
In the last three weeks, 15 cars have been reported burglarized in Pacific Palisades, the most recent incidents occurring sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning on Asilomar, El Medio and Seabec Circle. “The most shocking thing is that none of these cars showed any sign of forced entry, ” said LAPD Detective Jeff Brumagin, auto theft supervisor of the West L.A. Division. “This would indicate that all of the cars were unlocked. They were either parked on the street or in people’s driveways.” Brumagin said the modis operandi in all the recent car thefts was the same. “We don’t know if it is locals or transients doing this, but it would appear they pick an area and then just go from car to car and steal whatever they can find, from loose change and a $5 pair of sunglasses to a $3,000 laptop. They usually strike overnight. The only evidence we have is some empty beer bottles, which they have either left on car seats or on people’s lawns.” Sometime between December 11 and 12, thieves hit Chapala and Almar, and then between Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas they burglarized several cars in Rustic Canyon. Just before New Year’s, cars were hit on Bienveneda and Hartzell. “Lock your cars!” is Brumagin’s advice.
A hot new product has hit the frozen section at Gelson’s. Shoppers steering their carts down the chilly aisle may want to stop and check out Rice Expressions, a microwaveable organic rice line created by Palisades resident Pete Vegas. “For the first time, people can really relate to what I do,” says Vegas, founder and president of Sage V Foods (pronounced Sage Five), a company that specializes in producing rice-based ingredients for use in processed foods. “The fact that we’re at Gelson’s is a big deal for me.” Rice Expressions is frozen, pre-cooked rice that microwaves in three minutes with no bowl or water involved. There are four varieties: organic brown, organic long-grain, organic Tex Mex and Indian basmati. Each box contains three 10-oz. packages and sells for $4.69. While Rice Expressions represents a small part of what Sage V Foods actually produces, “It’s the most interesting part,” Vegas says, “and it’s what I’d like to see become the biggest part.” A rice expert, Vegas first began developing the concept for Rice Expressions about five years ago. “We had the technology, the equipment and the know-how to [freeze the rice],” he says. “And rice microwaves and heats well, unlike frozen vegetables.” Since Sage V Foods was making enough money selling rice flour and other rice ingredients to big companies, Vegas was able to focus on developing his new product-the only frozen rice sold as simply a packet of rice without any extras. “Rice Expressions was the best little idea I had and I wanted us to do it on our own,” says Vegas, who began experimenting in his Marquez-neighborhood home. “It’s still me usually playing around with something on the weekends in my kitchen or at our lab in Texas.” Vegas has been working with rice for most of his adult life. Before rice, it was soybeans, which he farmed during his college years at Louisiana State University. “My father was a farm equipment dealer so I got the equipment from him.” After graduating with a degree in agribusiness in 1978, Vegas traveled to Panama for a year to work as a management trainee on a Chiquita Banana farm. He then returned to earn his MBA at Harvard Business School in 1982. At the time, a large rice milling company called Comet Rice was launching a joint venture in Puerto Rico, and hired Vegas to manage the operation. “I got to do everything,” he says. He supervised the construction of the Comet milling facility, trained a 200-man work force, and was involved with farming, drying, storing, milling and marketing the rice. When the company began importing instead of farming rice, Vegas learned about shipping, stevedoring and handling bulk rice. “There are few people who know more about rice than I do,” says Vegas, who returned to the U.S. in 1986 to become VP of marketing for Comet Rice. He has become particularly well-versed in the technical issues of rice, such as how you get rice to expand, and about the functionality of rice-how other countries use rice in applications other than table rice. “I’ve been almost everywhere in the world where they deal with rice,” Vegas says. Between 1986 and 1992, Comet sent him to Thailand, India and Japan, as well as Iraq, whose government was the largest customer for U.S. rice at the time. Vegas designed and supervised the construction of a bulk handling facility in Aqaba, Jordan, which incorporated a new technology to allow large volumes of high-quality white rice to be shipped in bulk and bagged at destination. As a result, Comet’s sales to Iraq ultimately exceeded 300,000 metric tons a year. In 1992, Vegas started Comet Rice Ingredients, a subsidiary of Comet Rice, and began focusing on “how to develop new applications for rice.” His experience abroad had made him realize that “the United States doesn’t utilize rice. Rice has the potential of corn [in terms of widespread use] but no one knows that.” He bought out the company in 1998 and renamed it Sage V Foods (Sage V is Vegas spelled backwards). Though his company has grown slowly, reaching $25 million in sales, Vegas predicts that in 18 months sales will reach $40 million. “In the last two years, business has finally started coming to us,” he says. “We’re known in the industry as ‘the Rice Guys.'” Based in Westwood, Sage V’s biggest business is selling rice flour to large companies and showing them how to use the flour to make other products-for example, the coating on french fries and the crisp rice in granola bars. They sell rice ingredients and products to companies like Healthy Choice, Weight Watchers, Frito-Lay and Quaker Oats. “All the products we sell, we’ve developed,” says Vegas, who purposely made the Rice Expressions product organic so that it could be sold in health food stores, which don’t charge slotting (shelving) allowances like the larger companies. The rice is grown north of Sacramento and is cooked in Texas, where Sage V Foods has a cooking plant and a rice flour mill; the company is currently building two more facilities in Arkansas. While developing Rice Expresssions, Sage V tried three different freezing processes, from nitrogen to mechanical freezing. “We literally ripped the [cooking] plant to the ground three times,” Vegas says. “It’s not easy to freeze each grain separately.” However, Vegas believes that his frozen rice product, which has been on the market for a year now, is superior to the taste of dry instant rice. “If we get people to try it, we do well,” he says, admitting that he spent a lot of money on packaging but little on advertising. His initial target market was vegetarians and people who need gluton-free products. Now he’s focusing on food service and retail, including sales to Red Robin, Friendly’s and Ruby Tuesday’s restaurants, plus private labels for stores such as Safeway and Vons. “The Atkins diet has hit everyone who sells starch protects,” Vegas says. While the organic brown and Tex-Mex rices are selling well, he may replace the white long-grain and basmati with a flavored pilaf and organic Thai jasmine rice. Though Vegas says he knows of an even better way to develop Rice Expressions, he does not have the means to pursue it at this point. “I’m three years behind where I want to be, but I have that kind of patience,” he says. “You have to know what’s going to be successful and you’ve got to be trying a lot of things at once.” Vegas and his wife, Jean, moved to the Palisades in 1986. Jean, an Iowa native, earned her bachelor’s degree in microbiology from LSU, and later went back to school to get her teaching certification. She now teaches second grade at Marquez Charter Elementary. They have three kids: Matt, a junior at UC Santa Cruz; Brett, a Palisades High senior, and Scott, an 8th grader at Paul Revere.
Imagine a large, carpeted room with black drapes against one wall and a life-size rubberized spider-web net in front of another-an indoor jungle of sorts. Twenty-eight arms and legs move slowly along the floor, bones pressing and pulling against the ground in graceful, fluid motion. Only the lights in the studio reveal the truth: these animal-like creatures are humans. Yet the stimulating movements remind them of their animal aliveness, that feeling of inner strength and vitality. “We’re here to not get stuck in our ways,” says Palisadian Sharon Weil Aaron, who teaches the Saturday morning Continuum Movement class, called The Ageless Body, in Santa Monica. “When you relieve yourself of upright human identity, all these other energies come in, because they’re already there.” Based on Continuum, a system of fluid movement, The Ageless Body focuses on issues that arise during aging, including bone and skeletal health, joints, vitality, recovery and resiliency, and waning sensuality. Aaron helped develop the program a year ago with Continuum founder Emilie Conrad and instructor Barbara Mindell. “We felt there was a need [for the class] for baby boomers plus, and people who are starting to feel less active,” says Aaron, 48. “The Ageless Body is about creating possibilities in a process where people feel their possibilities are diminishing.” She begins the class on bone health by talking about the spiral structure of bones in order to give her students context for the movement, breath and sound exercises they will be doing. “When you age, you lose fluids,” Aaron says. “By keeping fluids active, we can increase concentration, radiance and flexibility.” Other benefits of Continuum can include restored strength, mobility, responsiveness, sensuality, sexuality and a feeling of youthfulness. Aaron, a former dancer, turned to Continuum 16 years ago, when she was in her early 30s, as a method of healing injured ligaments around her tailbone. While most of her current students are in their 40s and 50s, the program attracts a range of ages. “As people age, some take themselves out of the whole exercise/active picture because of limitations they think they have,” says Aaron, who has also practiced yoga, Pilates and swimming. “Others hurl themselves into linear activity.” Linear exercise includes working out on mechanical equipment at the gym. The nonlinear movement of Continuum offers a more feasible option for people of all ages and body types who want to improve and maintain their health by keeping their bodies active. Aaron’s oldest student, Ginny Mac, 76, admits to feeling stronger and more alive after one month of The Ageless Body. “I could hardly walk up the stairs [before I started Continuum],” Mac says. “Now, I am bending my arms and legs. I get on the floor and move.” She also uses the movements she learns to exercise in her bed at home. In class, students at all different levels can work on the floor, in a chair, or on equipment such as an “explore board” or the “web.” These latter two options offer more freedom to move in a variety of positions with greater ease. My own experience off of the ground, on the explore board, gave me the sensation that I was moving in an entirely different atmosphere, like the weightless feeling I imagine astronauts have in space. Aaron says that Continuum is different from other mind and body movement classes because it “questions what your body is and what we hold as true [about our bodies].” For example, while yoga “reinforces structure,” Continuum encourages us to understand our bodies in flux. Aaron’s two-hour classes are based around a sequence of different movement, sound and breath exercises that work together in a progression, and that relate to each class’s theme. While she designs the sequence and leads her students through it, there is a lot of room for individual exploration and adjustment depending on each student’s needs. In the bone health class, we strapped weights on our wrists and ankles to add more muscular resistance and to create traction. Most of us sat upright, cross-legged on the floor and began stimulating our bones internally by making resonant sounds (“zzz” and “jsh”), which created a vibrating feeling within the body. Slowly, we transitioned into the second part, which involved moving our hands, palms down, in a spiral motion, while making the theta (“th”) sound; this part helped to open up our joints. We then moved onto all fours and continued activating and strengthening our bones by pressing and pulling them against the floor, leaning back and forth in wavelike motion. By the end of the sequence, my whole body was involved as I pressed my left cheekbone and then my forehead against the floor, following the relaxing, fluid motion of my body. “Continuum breaks down barriers that words create and creates its own language,” says Jeanne James, 57, who has a thyroid disease called Hashimoto’s. She started taking Continuum 12 years ago because she felt pain in several parts of her body, and was one of the first to join The Ageless Body. “It’s been wonderful to open up those places that were injured and to feel more fluid,” James says. “I’m not dependent on anyone to do it for me.” She comes to Aaron’s Saturday morning class all the way from Pasadena because there is nothing like it offered closer to home and she finds it more “sustaining” than her experiences with yoga and rolfing. At the end of Aaron’s class, students shared their reactions to and feelings about the experience, while Aaron listened and offered suggestions to some. In addition to The Ageless Body, she also teaches a strengthening and toning class called Jungle Gym, which attracts many students, including her husband, John Aaron. She has been teaching Jungle Gym for nine years, and was able to teach up until one month before having her daughter, Sophie Aaron, now age 5. Sophie attends preschool at Little Dolphins by the Sea in Temescal Canyon. John is a professional photographer and practices martial arts. Aaron will be offering a free introductory Ageless Body class this Saturday, January 10, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. The ongoing program will be taught in five-and-six-week series throughout the year, starting January 24. The cost is $75 for the five class series and $20 for a single class. The Continuum Studio is located at 1629 18th Street, Studio 7, in Santa Monica. Contact Aaron at firstname.lastname@example.org or 459-3326.