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Stories by Matthew Lickona

Rancho Santa Fe Snakes relocated

Snakes are pretty rowdy right after you come in contact with them, but they’ll warm up to you

“Free snake removal,” read the ad on Craigslist. “I am a lover of snakes and hate seeing them killed. I relocate all the snakes I catch. I am an expert on the snakes here in ...

America’s Got Talent in San Diego

"It was easier than to move to L.A. by myself and die.”

On November 10, America’s Got Talent kicked off its latest multi-city audition tour at the San Diego Convention Center. Comedian Sam Brilhart brought the chicken costume he started wearing on the Santa Monica promenade “just ...

Globe for All's touring Winter's Tale

El Cajon gets a taste of Shakespeare

Artistic Director Barry Edelstein’s welcome letter for the Globe For All’s production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale explains that “The Old Globe’s goal is to make theater matter to more people. We want this play, ...

Members of P.O.D. and Santana give back with Ruben Torres’ Love Thy Neighbor nonprofit

“It’s like cognitive therapy, but it doesn’t feel like therapy.”

It’s November 1 as I write this, the Catholic Church’s Feast of All Saints. I’m sitting in Chula Vista’s Lauderbach Park, looking from the vacant community center to the homeless encampment on the hillock and ...

Jojo Rabbit: Hilarious Hitler?

Glimmers of light and love amid the darkness and hate

There’s a deep and sincere sweetness in the work of writer-director Taika Waititi. It’s a kind of relentless and innocent good cheer that persists in the face of horror — to the point where the ...

Cheers to Al Hirschfeld and other cartoonists at Café La Maze

“A few old haunts still remain”

The afternoon sun that tries to slant its way into Café La Maze’s open front door runs smack into a brick wall, but the accompanying breeze does a neat little dogleg and finds me at ...

Misadventure & Company: the positive side of a carbon-negative product

Making something interesting and doing something good

Liquid future Bartender Whit Rigali and agricultural economist Sam Chereskin didn’t set out to make vodka. They wanted to make bourbon. But what do you know: bourbon takes time to age into its glory, and ...

Matthew Lickona and the Reader

San Diego wine and Porsche fans, Janet Flanner, Antiochian Orthodox church, Charger fans

Lickona has been at the Reader since 1995. He is the author of a couple of books (Swimming with Scapulars, Surfing with Mel), and his essays have appeared in places like The Awl, FirstThings.com, and ...

Pop-Up Magazine’s touring show

“Nothing would be recorded. To see it, you had to be there.”

The California Sunday Magazine is included with “select Sunday copies” of the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. A one-year, six-issue subscription costs $39.95. The October 2019 issue featured a total of seven ...

The Geppetto of Taylor Guitars

You want romance? Buy three Taylors and play until one of them sings to you.

I once asked my wife if she thought I should attend art school. “How about business school?” she replied. A fellow I know, call him Tony, recently pared his collection of 40 guitars down to ...

Takashi Miike’s First Love: Why we fight

A bit less self-conscious, a bit more humane

My friend shook his head. “It’s been a bad year for movies,” he said. “A couple of blockbusters, and what else?” Well, a few things, at least. My favorite for the year so far is ...

The Russian Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake: something for everyone

A shot through the heart, and true love triumphs!

For the dark young man in flowing white drag: a heightened sense of reality, folk tales and folk dances transmogrified into sinuous spectacle by the touring company. Each movement considered and choreographed and beyond the ...

The Sound of Silence “muted” by Peter Sarsgaard’s strained expression

Maybe the quiet is surprising instead of fitting, since the movie is all about sound

Director and co-writer Michael Tyburski’s The Sound of Silence is, fittingly enough, a quiet film. In telling the story of a room tuner — a man who solves his clients’ problems by identifying dissonant sounds ...

El Norte: before and after

“Everything that happens in the film really happened to somebody.”

El Norte: Before Film director and self-identified Mexican-American Gregory Nava grew up in North Park during the ‘50s, but he had family in Mexico, and crossed the border “three to four times a week.” And ...

Los Reyes: Dog days and nights

That stuff is thoroughly human

There are two real dogs behind the canine stars of Los Reyes; their names are Football and Chola, and they really do spend their days (and nights) hanging around the titular skate park — the ...

One Child Nation: People v. Policy

How China went about preventing 338 million births between 1979 and 2015

There are a great many talking heads in Nanfu Wang and Lynn Zhang’s One Child Nation, a documentary devoted to exploring how exactly China went about preventing 338 million births between 1979 and 2015, when ...

Is San Diego like Chinatown?

“I think a writer can window-dress a novel with headlines”

Jonathan Lethem, whose Motherless Brooklyn has got to be one of the only detective novels to snag a National Book Critics Circle Award, liked Fallbrook author T. Jefferson Parker’s The Last Good Guy enough to ...

T. Jefferson Parker enshrines Fallbrook in The Last Good Guy novel

Fallbrook has its own schemers, scammers, and scoundrels

In 2018, Jason Berry published City of a Million Dreams: A History of New Orleans at Year 300. James Carville blurbed it thus: “We’ve been taught since we were children that New Orleans has the ...

How Mike Wallace helped turn TV news into show business

The guy who goes there, who asks the difficult, or embarrassing, or even just personal question

Remember 60 Minutes, America’s first TV news magazine? Remember its tenacious terrier of a host, Mike Wallace, he of the insistent, accusatory question? Yes? No? C’mon, the guy interviewed Putin just a few years ago. ...

Mark Miner's classical take on gender fluidity

Making the audience feel for Mars and Venus

When classicist Mark Miner read that Mission Hills Town Council President Leah Shuchter was interested in hosting a Drag Queen Story Hour in the Mission Hills Library on Washington Street, he wrote her a letter ...

Storytime with Miss Oona Upland

Drag Queen Story Hour comes to San Diego

There was no discussion of drag at the Drag Queen Story Hour held in the clean, well-lighted You Belong Here community space last Sunday morning. Charles McGrath, performing as Ms. Oona Upland, noted that he ...

The Lion King: Unlively action

Why on earth are a bunch of real animals celebrating the birth of a new apex predator?

Remember when you were a kid and your parents told you they were going to take you to a movie and you responded by asking, your voice leaping with a combination of hope and trepidation, ...

Superhero psychology: fans of Harry Potter and Batman cope

Dr. Janina Scarlet heals with Superhero Therapy book

“Janina Scarlet is a real-life superhero with an origin story to rival any Marvel character. After surviving a childhood radiation spill [at Chernobyl], she moved halfway around the earth [to San Diego], overcame PTSD and ...

Comic-Con – 50 years in San Diego

The cosplayers, homeless at the Con, Balboa Park's shrine to Comic-Con

The real stars of Comic-Con By Jay Allen Sanford Not long ago, few had ever heard the word “cosplay.” Nowadays, pretty much any pop culture convention will be overflowing with costumed role-players posing for snapshots ...

Christo goes Walking on Water

His passion exhibited: unfeigned, childlike excitement for the work at hand

Say this for Walking on Water, Andrey Paounov’s documentary on the installation artist Christo’s 2016 effort to mount an enormous orange floating pier on the surface of northern Italy’s Lake Iseo: there are no talking ...

The “stethoscope of the spirit” from Walker Percy’s novel Love in the Ruins

From brain oscillations to targeted electric brain massage

Whatever the wonders of data, Voytek remains a neuroscientist at heart. His eponymous lab studies neural oscillations and they role they play in cognition, aging, and disease. “For whatever reason,” he says, “there are certain ...

Bradley Voytek’s voyage: from Deep Space Nine to deep data mine

Bill Gates: “I’m always amazed by the disconnect between what we see in the news and the reality of the world around us.”

In 2010, Bradley Voytek was a frustrated grad student working toward a Ph.D. in neuroscience at UC Berkeley. He was frustrated because there was too much data. “I had to learn the basics of the ...

Reader writer concludes he is his father's son

A man he calls Pop

All my friends have settled down/ Become their mothers and their fathers without a sound… — Cowboy Junkies, “A Horse in the Country” I saved the audiobook of Michael Brendan Daugherty’s memoir My Father Left ...

Simon Kinberg’s Dark Phoenix: Fiery redhead

Plays like a small-scale, humanly significant trauma drama

It didn’t have to end this way — in such thoroughly standard smash ‘em up fashion, with minor heroes dutifully duking it out with faceless hordes for punchy-power bolt minute after punchy-power-bolt minute until the ...

Signs in mind of Harry Crane, Orson Welles, and a rock-pile installation in Golden Hill Park

The collection is accompanied by something human: a face

A low-grade tag war broke out a couple of months ago on the retaining wall in front of a burnt-out motel near my home. Three letters — initials, surely — spraypainted by some poor soul ...

A hundred miles from Lake Cuyamaca to Cibbets Flat... in a day

You have to be disciplined about your time: know what you’re going to do, get in and get out as fast as possible

This Friday, Joe Seeley will embark on his fourth San Diego 100: a 100-mile exercise in physical and mental endurance that winds from Lake Cuyamaca to Cibbets Flat east of Pine Valley and back, to ...

Camille Vidal-Naquet’s Sauvage: Not just a gigolo?

Sometimes, the only way to overcome the boredom of decadence is with a little old-fashioned brutality

What’s the old saw about war? That it’s long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror? Tweaked a little, the line serves pretty well as a description of writer-director Camille Vidal-Naquet’s Sauvage, the ...

Signs: at the Encinitas Pannikin; the 1889 National Hobo Convention in Saint Louis; the corner of 26th and Pershing; and the 125/94 interchange

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

1. The croissants at the Encinitas Pannikin are as big as my head, and they aren’t even close to the most gorgeously decad ent baked goodies on display in the glass cases that greet visitors ...

Encanto – snubbed but proud

MLK Park, trolley in-filling, Salaam Fish House, North Encanto lunch group, Pepperview Canyon, Apostolic Prayer Temple

On top of this little corner of the world Here on Skyline Drive, great swaths of sward stretch out below, springy and green. Here, there are vacant lots littered with possibility, within sight of a ...

Tolkien’s three intertwining tales and an interview with director Dome Karukoski

The trees had to be in the texture of the film.

Director Dome Karukoski’s portrait of the man who wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings tells three intertwining tales. The first and most artful of these gives us the making of a writer: ...

Mr. Jeff Holland’s coping opus

Coping Cards: a physical set of affirmations,

When Jeff Holland’s aunt committed suicide around a year ago, it came as a shock. “She lived in Kansas City,” he recalls over coffee at the Leucadia Pannikin, “and she had been the primary caretaker ...

Dr. Janina Scarlet’s X-Men Storm emulation

Choose Your Own Adventure with her new book Therapy Quest

As I write this, Avengers: Endgame has passed $2 billion at the global box office. People do like superheroes. San Diego-based clinical psychologist Janina Scarlet is no exception. Radiation exposure at the Chernobyl disaster left ...

The White Crow: Art is a wart

A strange affliction that besets certain people even as it fascinates others

For his third outing as a director, Ralph Fiennes gives the title, star billing, and great majority of screen time to Oleg Ivenko in his turn as famed Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who also ...

Car talk at the Concours D’Elegance in La Jolla

“I have 17 cars,” he says, “doesn’t everybody?”

She: “This is you in your element. I love it.” He: “I’ll show you another car I could have bought for $500,000...” The owner of a local Mercedes garage is showing a 1965 Pontiac GTO. ...

Restoring a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 500K Special Roadster with Craig Hopkins

Judged at La Jolla Concours D’Elegance after seven years of reconstruction

Craig Hopkins of Dallas, Texas has a collection of model cars in a cabinet, organized “by how much I like them. This car is on the top row.” “This car” is his restored and very ...

Holy Week in San Diego: our mish-mash of Christianity

Medical look at Christ's crucifixion, City Rescue Mission, Carmelite nuns, Dorman Owens, Mother Teresa, Antiochian Orthodox

Medical explanation of Christ's crucifixion and other Easter stories The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a preshock state. Moreover, hematidrosis had rendered his skin particularly ...

Spend the day with Orson Welles, or with Satan, on YouTube

Satan got an awful lot of cinematic attention in the ’60s and ’70s

One of the real pleasures of feeling lousy enough to stay home in bed is the YouTube deep dive. Flu’d up a couple years ago, I watched maybe 15 straight hours’ worth of stuff about ...

The Wife’s iPhone Pizookie Incident

Conversation with a lamppost

Hello, lamppost, whatcha knowin’? You remember the line, right? Simon & Garfunkel, “59th Street Bridge Song,” feelin’ groovy? They were big with the anti-war set a couple of generations ago. But it’s only today that ...

Capitalism vs. Socialism: a civil debate between Duke’s Michael Munger and NYU’s Vivek Chibber at USD

“Every problem in consumers is worse in voters”

“I worked as a consultant for the 1989 presidential election in Chile, the first since the CIA-assisted coup in 1973,” recalled Michael Munger. “I remember thinking, ‘I hope I never live in a country where ...

Balboa Park’s Comic-Con Museum features work by Jim Lee, Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Miller, and others

New exhibit serves as both tribute and lead-up to the Con’s 50th anniversary this summer

Comic-Con International’s WonderCon will be throwing open its doors on March 29 up in Anaheim, but the pop-culture juggernaut has something else in the offing — much smaller, but also much closer to home. This ...

Captain Marvel: I am woman

Feels like object lessons in empowerment through self-affirmation

I was bored watching Captain Marvel. For a while, I thought it was because this particular Marvel movie wasn’t meant for me. The spiritually inclined had already had their outing with Dr. Strange, the same ...

Notes from four hours in the hospital with a 10-year-old girl who might have appendicitis

A reminder of how suffering twists expressions and robs faces of their beauty

The emergency room teaches you some things and reminds you of others. It teaches you that what looks like an emergency to you — my daughter is weeping from the pain and it’s not letting ...

Abe DeLeon’s 33 years distributing the San Diego Reader

“Having the freedom to drive around the city and hand out the most popular paper in town was a dream job.”

Abe DeLeon delivered the San Diego Reader from 1986 until January of this year. At one point or another, he handled almost every route the paper offered: from Oceanside to Imperial Beach, and as far ...

Never Look Away: Why not?

Why would anyone paint a yellow sky when the sky is clearly blue?

Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s ambitious three-hour pre- and post-WWII epic has the rare and curious distinction of opening with a villain-speech that’s actually supposed to inform your experience of the film: a Nazi docent’s ...

Time to let go of LEGO?

Is The Second Part bound to disappear into the Bin of Storage?

Maybe it’s unfair to open my review of The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part by noting that midway through, my 10-year-old daughter felt compelled to lean over and whisper in my ear, “I don’t ...

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