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Stories by Matthew Lickona

Matthew Lickona and the Reader

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 ...

October 20, 2019
Pop-Up Magazine’s touring show

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 ...

October 9, 2019
The Geppetto of Taylor Guitars

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 ...

October 9, 2019
Takashi Miike’s First Love: Why we fight

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 ...

October 3, 2019
The Russian Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake: something for everyone

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 ...

September 25, 2019
The Sound of Silence “muted” by Peter Sarsgaard’s strained expression

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 ...

September 19, 2019
El Norte: before and after

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 ...

September 11, 2019
Los Reyes: Dog days and nights

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 ...

September 5, 2019
One Child Nation: People v. Policy

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 ...

August 15, 2019
Is San Diego like Chinatown?

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

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 ...

August 14, 2019
How Mike Wallace helped turn TV news into show business

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. ...

August 1, 2019
Mark Miner's classical take on gender fluidity

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 ...

July 31, 2019
Storytime with Miss Oona Upland

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 ...

July 31, 2019
The Lion King: Unlively action

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, ...

July 18, 2019
Superhero psychology: fans of Harry Potter and Batman cope

“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 ...

July 17, 2019
Comic-Con – 50 years in San Diego

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

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 ...

July 11, 2019
The “stethoscope of the spirit” from Walker Percy’s novel Love in the Ruins

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 ...

June 19, 2019
Bradley Voytek’s voyage: from Deep Space Nine to deep data mine

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 ...

June 19, 2019
Reader writer concludes he is his father's son

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 ...

June 12, 2019
Simon Kinberg’s Dark Phoenix: Fiery redhead

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 ...

June 6, 2019
Signs in mind of Harry Crane, Orson Welles, and a rock-pile installation in Golden Hill Park

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 ...

June 5, 2019
A hundred miles from Lake Cuyamaca to Cibbets Flat... in a day

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 ...

June 5, 2019
Camille Vidal-Naquet’s Sauvage: Not just a gigolo?

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 ...

May 30, 2019
Signs: at the Encinitas Pannikin; the 1889 National Hobo Convention in Saint Louis; the corner of 26th and Pershing; and the 125/94 interchange

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 ...

May 22, 2019
Encanto – snubbed but proud

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

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: ...

May 9, 2019
Mr. Jeff Holland’s coping opus

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 ...

May 8, 2019
Dr. Janina Scarlet’s X-Men Storm emulation

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 ...

May 8, 2019
The White Crow: Art is a wart

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 ...

May 2, 2019
Car talk at the Concours D’Elegance in La Jolla

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. ...

April 24, 2019
Restoring a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 500K Special Roadster with Craig Hopkins

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 ...

April 24, 2019
Holy Week in San Diego: our mish-mash of Christianity

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 ...

April 15, 2019
Spend the day with Orson Welles, or with Satan, on YouTube

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 ...

April 10, 2019
The Wife’s iPhone Pizookie Incident

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 ...

April 10, 2019
Capitalism vs. Socialism: a civil debate between Duke’s Michael Munger and NYU’s Vivek Chibber at USD

“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 ...

March 27, 2019
Balboa Park’s Comic-Con Museum features work by Jim Lee, Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Miller, and others

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 ...

March 13, 2019
Captain Marvel: I am woman

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 ...

March 7, 2019
Notes from four hours in the hospital with a 10-year-old girl who might have appendicitis

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 ...

February 27, 2019
Abe DeLeon’s 33 years distributing the San Diego Reader

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 ...

February 27, 2019
Never Look Away: Why not?

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 ...

February 14, 2019
Time to let go of LEGO?

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 ...

February 7, 2019
The gosh-darned Götterdämmerung

Like more than a few members of my generation, I had Orson Welles’ cinematic masterpiece Citizen Kane “spoiled” for me by Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip. (A sign that I’m getting old: I feel the ...

January 16, 2019
Young chessmen

It’s a little after 7 pm on January 2nd, and the San Diego Chess Club is holding the club champtionship qualifying round in its mid-century Balboa Park digs along Sixth Avenue just north of Ivy. ...

January 16, 2019
Christmas with intoxicated Bob

I missed the first half of Mass on Christmas Eve because I’m an usher down at Our Lady of the Rosary. That means I wind up dealing with the busyness at the back of the ...

January 2, 2019
Bridge booms in Balboa Park

“I didn’t know people still played bridge.” “I guess you could say it’s extremely vulgar. I like it a lot.” — Exchange from Whit Stillman’s excellent movie Metropolitan, which came out in 1990, 17 years ...

January 2, 2019
2018: Apparition to Zama

A strange year at the movies for your exceedingly humble correspondent. Only about 100 reviews this time ‘round, and three of my notable ten didn’t even make it into the paper. The first of those ...

December 27, 2018
The Favourite: Pretty ugly people

At the outset of The Favourite, director Yorgos Lanthimos’ scabrous and nihilistic romp amid the English royals, Emma Stone — playing Abigail, a clever girl from a fallen family — faces an unpleasant choice: either ...

December 6, 2018
Baja’s Hearst Castle

Back in 2011, a real-estate man named Tony Wells caught the attention of the LA Weekly with El Bordello Alexandra, a Venice Beach apartment complex that he’d spent ten years transforming, along with his partner ...

December 5, 2018

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