When you write a column, even for a newspaper in a small city, everybody knows what you should be writing about next, and many will gladly tell you.

Of course, unless they are newspaper columnists themselves (and we’re an endangered species), they don’t know what’s involved in qualifying, researching and then writing that column. That there are a million or at least a couple dozen ways to approach any subject, but never mind, that’s your job. Oh, and make it entertaining, tight writing, that flows nicely, preferably even funny. Snarky is good, snappish, sarcastic, snide. And/or wise. And crystal clear. Offer solutions to insoluble problems. Don’t get any facts wrong. But obviously, coming up with the ideas is the hardest and most important part, right?

I do get good ideas from others, and occasionally I have used them. I think. Let me see… hmmm.

I’ll tell you who has really good ideas, though, that I hear about pretty frequently: my family. Why, sometimes I think I should just write under the name “Andrews,” and leave my first name off the column byline.

Truth be told, it’s not a problem to come up with an idea. Santa Monica has so much

going on, good and bad, not to mention national and local villains like Donald Trump, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, and almost every City Council member since Measure T, that the problem is deciding on one or two topics, and keeping it timely and lively.


OK, enough entertaining and name dropping, the real truly true truth is I appreciate the tips I get from my readers, and yes, I might use them. But the topic has to ring my chimes, and it’s hard to explain to someone that their very good idea just doesn’t register much on my Richter.

Especially if that someone is a blood relative. Pretty close blood relative. Like my daughter Nicole. A couple weeks ago she began suggesting that I write about the shamefully underreported Native American pipeline protest at Standing Rock, North Dakota, which has now spread to Iowa. She had a friend from school who went up there, who could provide an eyewitness account. Yes, that’s a worthy topic, I agreed. But… Trump! LV! the Debate! Forward! Vin Scully!

Since she’s had me wrapped around her finger since her birth, it wasn’t hard for her to figure out how to spur me to action: she declared that she was giving up. OK, I’m not going to say another word, you write about density and traffic in Santa Monica while the indigenous peoples of this country stand up for all of us, for Mother Earth, the environment, our lifeblood water, against all odds, attacked by dogs, arrested while praying and intimidated by armed drones, while the media pretends they’re invisible. Fine.

So of course I did the right thing, I called Joe, her friend from UCLA radio days, and got his first-hand account, and will present it, in context, in the next week or two. Sad to say there’s not a rush, because this is not going to be resolved soon, and our native warriors are not giving up, even while facing the approaching fierce North Dakota winter.

More credit where due: my wife Dian does a great job of proofreading my column every week and does catch things. Oh, I’m sorry — you thought I was perfect, all on my own, didn’t you? She also has to get credit for naming the column. But don’t let that get around, OK?


So many lately I can’t keep up. I try my best to alert readers to upcoming events so they don’t miss out, but critiquing after the fact sometimes falls, to more current topics.

I wrote three weeks ago of the season opening concert of our Dream Orchestra. I know, odd name, not necessarily inspiring gravitas, yet, but starting a full symphony orchestra from scratch, especially in a small city that already has two, might seem beyond daunting. A dream. Artistic director and conductor Daniel Suk seems determined, and while this is a young ensemble, only five years in, they’re already pretty good.

Their program at the Broad Stage was a dream for me: Sibelius Symphony No. 2 and Grieg Piano Concerto in A minor. An interesting thing happened during the Sibelius, which I’ve heard performed a few times. Perhaps because this orchestra is still finding its way, I found myself paying more attention to the composition, rather than primarily the performance. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t distractingly ragged. Au contraire. But I’ve never before been so aware of the parts and the progression of a composition as I was that night. Sibelius is m’man, and his Second is

considered landmark, sometimes compared to Beethoven’s Fifth. I’ve always said

about rock and roll, a great finish makes a good song great, and both those pieces take you there.

No such case with the Grieg. You could hardly notice anything except the soloist, pint-sized prodigy Ray Ushikubo, at 15 a Carnegie Hall vet. Quite the showman. But with the chops to back it up. Slam dunk, standing O.

Their next concert is Nov. 5, again at Broad — oh goodness, mercy me, Beethoven’s Fifth! And his Seventh thrown in. I’d go if I were you. Dec. 2 they’ll perform their Christmas concert at St. Monica’s.


Our Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra opens their 72nd (!) season this Sunday evening at their home in Barnum Hall, led by Guido Lamell. I’m not familiar with Boone’s Waterless – A Drought Symphony, but it sure sounds interesting, and it’s sandwiched between warhorses Smetana’s Moldau and Debussy’s La Mer. Highly recommended. Free.

Also opening their season this Sunday (afternoon) is our Orchestra Santa Monica, under the baton and direction of Allen Robert Gross, at the acoustically wonderful Ann and Jerry Moss Theater at New Roads School. Beethoven! The Eighth, preceded by Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17, soloist Mark Robson, opening with the SoCal premier of Chen Yi’s Caramoor’s Summer.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Our SMMUSD superintendent and principals of both our high schools all resigned within 30 days of each other, last July. An amazing coincidence, or is there something to it?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “All the good music has already been written by people with wigs and stuff.” — Frank Zappa


Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com