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Time Out

One person was killed and five were wounded — including a 7-year old girl — in four shootings over the past two weeks.

“It’s too early to determine if the shootings are related,” said Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez. “Our investigation is ongoing.”

Local police are gearing up for the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl College Football Game, both of which are high-profile events that could leave the department stretched thin over the weekend. 

So far, no arrests have been made in the shootings, including the latest, which left a 53-year, old man wounded last Sunday night on Washington Boulevard, near El Sereno Avenue in Northwest Pasadena. The man was shot after exchanging words with an unknown man. 

One bullet struck the unnamed victim in the shoulder and another grazed his head. He was treated at Huntington Hospital and released several hours later.

On Dec.22, two juveniles were wounded in a brazen daytime drive-by shooting in an alley off Orange Grove Boulevard, near Los Robles Avenue, behind Milt’s Liquor Store. A 7-year-old girl sitting in a nearby car was wounded by flying debris. The victims were walking through the alley when the car, allegedly driven by two Hispanic men, approached and opened fire. Witnesses later claimed they heard nine shots. Their wounds were not considered life threatening. So far, no arrests have been made. 

On Dec. 18, Robert Calderon, 27, of Altadena was shot and killed in the 600 block of North Mentor Avenue. Calderon was found near the sidewalk after police received several calls of shots fired. 

According to notes left near candles at a memorial near the shooting, Calderon was affiliated with a local gang. Authorities were unsure if he was an active gang member at the time of the shooting.

But whatever led to that shooting didn’t seem to end with Calderon’s death. The next day, shots rang out on Claremont Street, sending people running for cover and leaving one woman wounded.

“We have added extra patrols to the impacted area and detectives are investigating the shootings,” Sanchez said. “Any act of violence or loss of life is tragic.”

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Time out
The Pasadena City Council may have broken the law when it met Monday morning to discuss eliminating jobs to help reconcile an $8.2-million budget shortfall, according to one free speech and open government advocate.
Notice of Monday’s 8:30 a.m. meeting at the Pasadena Convention Center, said City Clerk Mark Jomsky, was posted online at 9 p.m. Nov. 23 — the night before a four-day City Hall shutdown in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. 
“I don’t think that is adequate, unless the place where it was posted was accessible 24 hours prior to the meeting,” said Terry Francke of Californians Aware, a nonprofit group that advocates for transparency in government. “I don’t think that is in compliance with the Brown Act at all,” Francke said, referring to the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law.
During the council meeting, members approved some reorganization measures and struck down proposals that would have led to layoffs. In the end, the council decided to reorganize some programs, eliminate paper payroll checks, which will require all employees to enroll in direct deposit, and defund vacant positions, including five in the Police Department. 
The council also approved a 2-percent increase — from 8 percent to 10 percent, a total of $3,172,103 — in the yearly transfer from the Light and Power Fund to the city’s General Fund. In addition, the city will study soliciting advertising on city ARTS buses and contracting programs with the Pasadena Unified School District, a move that could save both agencies money. 
“Our challenge is in both expenses and revenue,” said City Manager Michael Beck. “For example, sales tax is doing great, but it is being driven by auto sales and big-box retail stores. In the past 10 years, 11 auto dealers have left Pasadena, and we will be lucky in 10 years to have the ones we have now.”
“Obviously,” said Councilman Chris Holden, “it is difficult when you have to look at cutting jobs. It is magnified when you have to do that during the holiday season.” 

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Time out

For every good motion picture remake out there, there are 10 bad ones; for every justifiable remake, a hundred that are ill-conceived. “The Women” does nothing to improve the ratio.

“The Women” is, of course, based on the famous 1936 play by the very clever Clare Boothe Luce and the beloved 1939 MGM screen adaptation (co-written, in a weird homophonic coincidence, by the even cleverer Anita Loos). The original starred Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine and Marjorie Main, a pretty intimidating gang; but the new version has Meg Ryan, Eva Mendes, Annette Bening and Bette Midler in place of the first four of these — which is not so shabby either. (I haven’t seen the 1956 version, in which June Allyson, Joan Collins, Delores Gray and Agnes Moorhead stepped into these roles; but the very fact that it introduced male performers — most prominently Leslie Nielsen! — into the previously all-female cast sounds like a deal-breaker.)

Luce’s play was particularly tied to its times, filled with what the author may well have considered eternal verities about romance, sex, marriage, and women’s roles in society. It’s impossible to deny that vast — if yet incomplete — advancements have been made in the last seven decades.

Thanks to these wholesale changes in the culture, “The Women” is either ripe for remaking … or utterly impossible to reconcile with contemporary life; the idea is either inspired or doomed.

Writer/director Diane English — best known for creating “Murphy Brown” — has made sweeping changes to the characters, while preserving the major basic plot elements.

As in the original, naive, upper-class Mary Haines (Ryan) thinks her marriage to businessman Stephen is as perfect as the rest of her life … until she discovers that hubby has been stepping out with trashy golddigger Crystal Allen (Mendes). She’s shattered, but her mother (Bergen) counsels patience, much to the shock of Mary’s friends — Edie (Debra Messing), Alex (Jada Pinkett Smith), and magazine editor Sylvie (Bening). (Just for trivia’s sake, let’s note that Ryan has played Bergen’s daughter before, in her screen debut, the 1981 “Rich and Famous” — the last film made by George Cukor, who also directed … the original version of “The Women”!)

Luce’s plot was basically a serviceable edifice on which to hang a series of witticisms, and English hasn’t added much in the way of rigorous structure. Aside from the updating, her main change has been to shift focus toward Mary’s friendship with Sylvie, who betrays her. It’s pretty clear by the end that English considers sisterhood to be a more important theme than marriage.

If this had been released two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have been as distracted trying to force it into a political allegory. The moment I saw Mendes, I thought, “Sarah Palin!”… influencing Stephen (the electorate?) against his best interests (Mary, the Democratic Party), who must reconcile with Sylvie (Hillary Clinton) after a betrayal. Or something.

There’s probably nowhere to go with that.

English’s attempts to fit “The Women” into a modern setting are intelligent, but that, unfortunately, does not suffice, because the film is so limp in so many other ways. It fails, not so much in concept as in execution. While roughly 20 minutes shorter than Cukor’s take, it suffers from poky pacing, both in the overall forward movement and in the timing within scenes. English’s dialogue simply isn’t as clever; the first of my handful of chortles wasn’t provoked until nearly a half-hour in. Some lines are arch — “What do you think this is,” Ryan asks Bergen, “some kind of ’30s movie?” Others simply don’t sound like human speech — Bening is forced to mouth the awkward “You’ve not been there?” where an actual person would have said “You haven’t been there?”

Bits from the earlier versions occasionally pop up, but none too effectively. Viewers with an attachment to Cukor’s film will be disappointed by the disappearance of the long sequence at the Reno divorce ranch. Here it’s shortened to a five-minute segment at some sort of New Age retreat, with Mary Boland’s Countess (“Oh, l’amour, l’amour!”) well reincarnated in Bette Midler as a Sue Mengers-esque Hollywood agent. Midler is perfect, but blink and you might miss her.

Technically … well, the whole thing looks flat (at best) and sometimes downright ugly. And the usually reliable Mark Isham provides a bland score that would be right at home in a James L. Brooks film, and, boy, do I not mean that in a good way.  

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