Friday, 04 December 2020

Arts & Life


An action caper with heart, “The Sleepover” is a family adventure-comedy that takes an interesting turn when teenager Clancy (Sadie Stanley) and her younger middle-school brother Kevin (Maxwell Simkins) discover the secret life of their stay-at-home mom.

The parents seem like normal suburban folks. The father, Ron (Ken Marino), is a pastry shop owner always willing to test his latest concoctions with the family. The mother, Margot (Malin Ackerman), volunteers as a lunch monitor at the local school.

Kevin’s goofball antics get him into trouble at school. A class presentation of his father’s biography is such farfetched fiction that his teacher requires a do-over. His outlandish dance moves in the school bathroom get caught on camera and go viral.

Clancy, a talented cellist with daunting stage fright, is more subdued, and yet highly irritated that she’s the only one in her grade without a cellphone that her overprotective mother won’t let her have.

Kevin has a sleepover with his nerdy friend Lewis (Lucas Jaye), a bedwetter who happens to be uptight about anything outside of his dull routine. Meanwhile, Clancy wants to sneak out to a party with her friend Mim (Cree Cicchino), a social media maven.

The kids’ plans for the night are upended when Margot and Ron get kidnapped at gunpoint. It turns out that Margot has a secret past unknown to the rest of the family. She’s been in witness protection for years after turning state’s evidence against her old crew.

Unlikely as it seems, Margot was a master jewel thief in league with a bunch of fellow crooks, including her ex-flame Leo (Joe Manganiello), a hunky stud who’s bound to elicit pangs of jealousy from Margot’s somewhat awkward husband.

Following a trail of clues left behind by Margot, the kids locate a storage locker filled with gadgets that would be the envy of James Bond and other action heroes. Now it’s up to the spunky quartet to get from Cape Cod to Boston where a major heist is to occur at a gala affair.

Put to the test of one last job, Margot is tasked with stealing a jeweled crown from a royal couple, and Ron is forced to tag along disguised as an assistant with an amusing lack of control over various bodily functions and inability to maintain a French accent.

When the time is right, Margot reveals that she’s got the chops of a skilled fighter that match those of someone like Charlize Theron in “Atomic Blonde” and the recent Netflix film, “The Old Guard.”

Nothing about “The Sleepover” suggests that a groundbreaking twist on the family-centered adventure genre is at hand. That hardly matters when the hyperactive rescue mission results in a pleasant and enjoyable caper that is watchable fun for the family.

Netflix is certainly the right platform for “The Sleepover,” a perfectly serviceable made-for-TV movie that is more appropriate for home entertainment than viewing at the multiplex that might not be open for business anyway.


An asterisk continues to haunt the legend of Roger Maris breaking the home run record of Babe Ruth that occurred when regular season games had expanded from 154 to 162. Something similar hangs over sports this year, but also on programming for the fall television season.

The CW network is not alone for what has been described as a heavily asterisked schedule looming for the upcoming 2020-21 TV season. The pandemic has scrambled not only production of shows but the timetable for new programs to be premiered.

Nevertheless, CW has one new series coming this fall in “Devils,” an international thriller that follows Massimo Ruggero (Alessandro Borghi), the head of trading at an investment bank, and his mentor, Dominic Morgan (Patrick Dempsey), the CEO of the bank.

After Dominic appoints another colleague above Massimo following a nasty promotion battle, Massino ends up the prime suspect in a murder investigation. To clear his name, Massimo becomes involved in a financial war and is forced choose whether to support or oppose Dominic.

The greatly anticipated “Superman & Lois” is now set to debut in January 2021. The Man of Steel aka Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin) and journalist Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) are now dealing with the stress and pressures of being working parents in today’s society.

Complicating the daunting job of raising two boys, Clark and Lois must concern themselves with whether or not their sons Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin) could inherit their superhero father’s Kryptonian superpowers as they grow older.

Returning to Smallville, Clark and Lois are reacquainted with Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui), a local loan officer and Clark’s first love, and her Fire Chief husband Kyle Cushing (Erik Valdez).

Dull moments are not found in the life of a superhero, as Lois’ father (Dylan Walsh) expects Superman to vanquish a villain at a moment’s notice. Idyllic life in Smallville for Clark and Lois is also upended when a mysterious stranger (Wole Parks) enters their lives.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Lovers of poetry will be pleased to learn that Louisiana State University Press has just published Pulitzer Prize winner Henry Taylor’s new and selected poems, “This Tilted World is Where I Live.”

Some of his finest poems are longer than the space this column permits, but here’s a shorter one that will give you a taste. Taylor lives in New Mexico.

Art and Life

In the Portland Museum of Art’s snack bar
one July morning, a young woman worked
at the board that lists the specials of the day.
From her little stepladder she leaned in

with various colored chalks, using both point
and edge, adjusting with her fingertips,
experimenting with size and color, print
and script, once or twice stepping down and back,

then homing in on what was to be solved.
The whole thing might have taken her ten minutes.
At last she moved a little farther back
to see how what she’d done had changed the room,

while we, who had the good luck to be there
at the beginning of her day, beheld
the change she couldn’t know that she had wrought
merely by how her red hair caught the light.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Henry Taylor, “Art and Life," from This Tilted World is Where I Live, (Louisiana State University Press, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Henry Taylor and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

The Neurographica process drawing. Courtesy photo.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – The Middletown Art Center invites community members to participate in “Reframing Trauma: A Therapeutic Drawing and Writing Workshop,” this Saturday, Sept. 5, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Zoom.

Artist Antje Howard and Lake County Poet Laureate Georgina Marie will guide participants in a drawing and writing workshop to process and reframe trauma into creative expression. This class is the first of MAC’s current Second Responder series.

The workshop will include a drawing process, a writing process and time to share.

“Drawing will help us to ground and explore the breadth of the emotions we are feeling at this current time,” explained Antje Howard. “We will use the Neurographica technique, a simple intuitive drawing process that can help us to see things from a new perspective. No prior art experience is required, and all you need is a piece of paper, thin and thick black markers or pens and colored pencils, markers, or crayons."

A certified Neurographica specialist, artist, creative coach and mentor, Howard uses Neurographica and mindfulness to catalyze personal and practical change. Her guidance is solution-oriented, with focus on concrete steps to support holistic well-being and growth. Learn more about Howard’s work at

Georgina Marie will facilitate the writing portion which will build upon the drawing process. “The trauma we are experiencing may be a result of recent wildfires and evacuations, the Covid-19 crisis, current events, or personal experience. Our work together will help us cleanse, reframe and create new meaning through creative expression in a supportive, and welcoming environment.”

Georgina Marie is the 2020-2022 Lake County Poet Laureate, the first Mexican-American and youngest local poet to serve in this role. She facilitated writing workshops for MAC’s “Resilience” and “Restore” projects and served as co-editor for both projects’ chapbook of writings and art. She has facilitated and participated in poetry readings and workshops in Northern California and online. Visit her website at to learn more about her work.

Upon the community’s return from Valley fire evacuation, the MAC began offering free and low-cost healing art classes. Subsequent fires in Lake County and regionally combined with Covid-19 have triggered flight or fight mechanisms and trauma upon trauma.

“The recent LNU Complex Fire and evacuations further impacted our already vulnerable nervous systems,” said MAC Programs Director Lisa Kaplan “The arts and creative expression can help us integrate experiences and emotions, reconnect us with ourselves, and support a sense of balance, and purpose.”

Participation is by donation $5-25. Pre-registration is required at A Zoom link will be provided upon registration. No one turned away for lack of funds. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information.

Find out more about MAC and ways to support their efforts to weave the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County at

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is conducting its annual art contest to select the design for the state’s 2020-2021 upland game bird stamp.

The California Upland Game Bird Stamp Art Contest is open to all U.S. residents ages 18 and older.

Entries will be accepted from Nov. 9 through Dec. 4.

This year’s stamp will feature the mourning dove (Zenaida macroura).

These popular migratory upland game birds are found throughout California in a variety of habitats.

Common in grassland, cropland and open woodland environments, they are often seen foraging on the ground for a wide variety of seeds.

The characteristic sound of a mourning dove taking flight is generated by special flight feathers which vibrate rapidly to create a whistling sound, which increases in pitch when a dove is startled by a predator, communicating danger to other birds nearby.

Entries must include at least one mourning dove, preferably in a habitat or setting representative of California.

Entries will be judged on originality, artistic composition, anatomical accuracy and suitability for reproduction as a stamp and print.

The contest will be judged by a panel of experts in the fields of ornithology, conservation, art and printing. The winning artist will be selected during a judging event in December.

An upland game bird validation is required for hunting migratory and resident upland game birds in California.

The money generated from stamp sales is dedicated to upland game bird-related conservation projects, education, hunting opportunities and outreach. CDFW sells over 150,000 upland game bird validations annually.

Any individual who purchases an upland game bird validation may request their free collectible stamp by visiting For collectors who do not purchase a hunting license or upland game bird validation, or for hunters who wish to purchase additional collectible stamps, an order form is also available on the website.

For contest information and entry forms, please visit


“Every government has its secret service branch. America, the CIA; France, Deuxieme Bureau; England, MI5. A messy job? Well, that’s when they usually call on me or someone like me. Oh yes, my name is Drake, John Drake.”

That’s the introduction, voiced by Patrick McGoohan, to each episode of the early Sixties spy thriller series “Danger Man,” also known as “Secret Agent,” now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

It’s interesting how McGoohan introduces himself as Drake, John Drake, in the style of James Bond before Agent 007 introduced himself in 1962’s “Dr. No” at a gambling table to the fetching Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson).

Before achieving cult status as Number Six in the series “The Prisoner,” Patrick McGoohan carried out espionage exploits in exotic locales around the globe in “Danger Man.”

A charismatic agent much like Roger Moore’s Simon Templar in “The Saint” series, McGoohan’s John Drake relied even more on his ability to be quick with his sharp wit and innate intelligence to deal with a variety of intense conflicts on the international scene.

A fascinating aspect to this spy series that predates James Bond and the plethora of films and TV series that followed in the same genre is that John Drake would routinely resolve any problems without the use of a gun.

The absence of personal firepower in no way turned Drake’s exploits to be devoid of action. On the contrary, Drake is very adept with his fists when necessary, while others may resort to shooting one another.

Another consideration is that the John Drake adventures are straight secret agent stories that forego the tongue-in-cheek facets that creeped into the Bond films and defined TV shows like “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

An appealing aspect of each standalone half-hour episode is that Drake is assigned a mission that gets settled with tidy resolution involving a compelling cast of international characters.

The fast pace of each episode, imaginative plots, snappy dialogue and credible characters for the most part makes “Danger Man” must-see television for anyone that would enjoy serious spy escapades.

Besides, Patrick McGoohan is so perfect for the role that binge-watching “Danger Man” is not an unreasonable proposition.


The annual US Open grand slam tennis tournament that takes place in New York’s Flushing Meadows is underway this year, albeit without some major players like Rafael Nadal, the 2019 US Open men’s champion, and Ashleigh Barty, last year’s French Open women’s champion.

Due to pandemic concerns, Nadal and Barty opted out of traveling to the United States, and so did other lesser known players. A major star and winner of five US Open titles, Roger Federer is not playing because he’s rehabbing a knee injury.

For the past 15 years, we have covered the US Open in person, but that was not to be this year. The only media personnel in attendance are apparently the few working for broadcast entities that televise the matches, including ESPN here at home.

In the past we have focused in large measure on the wonderful fan experience of the US Open, noting the excitement of tennis activity on various courts and the culinary delights not found in other sports.

The experience is just not the same watching matches on television. Being there in person has so much energy that even the players are certain to get a vigorous boost from spectators.

We can be grateful that the US Open has not resorted to having idiotic cardboard cutouts of fans. Yet, there are a few lucky spectators, namely family members and tournament workers who might otherwise have been pressed into service for the fans.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic not only deterred a number of players from entering the tournament, but contact tracing created a bit of a stir for French player Adrian Mannarino who had been in contact with fellow countryman Benoit Paire, who tested positive for COVID-19.

Mannarino, ranked 35th for the Open, was scheduled to play German Alexander Zverez, ranked 5th, for an afternoon match, until apparently New York State health officials said the Frenchman shouldn’t play.

Meanwhile, the USTA public relations department issued an email statement on the situation that was rather cryptic, “The Zverez-Mannarino match was delayed while a collaborative dialogue with health officials was conducted today.”

The enigmatic part of the message was stated in these terms: “Given the sensitivity of medical issues involved, the USTA is not able to provide further details.” It was left to the players themselves to fill in the blanks, as if anyone couldn’t guess it was virus-related.

The American men are not off to a good start. John Isner, ranked 16th, did not survive the first round. Taylor Fritz, was bounced in the third round.

As for the American women, last year’s teen sensation Coco Gauff, who amazed with a third-round victory, faltered right out of the gate. At this writing, Serena Williams, win or lose, is the one to watch.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

We’ve published more than 800 weekly columns to date, and soon I’m retiring as editor and part-time professor.

This column will continue under my name until the end of the year, when my colleague Kwame Dawes will take over.

I’m immensely grateful to my talented and efficient longtime assistant editor, Pat Emile, to the Library of Congress and The Poetry Foundation, and to the English Department at the University of Nebraska.

And, of course, for the wonderful support we’ve had from all of you readers since the day Pat and I started out, uncertain, 15 years ago.

Rather than riding a horse into the sunset, let me clop away down the block on handmade stilts with this title poem from my new book, to be published Sept. 8 by Copper Canyon Press.

Here’s how life looks to me, at eighty-one:

Red Stilts

Seventy years ago I made a pair of stilts
from six-foot two-by-twos, with blocks
to stand on nailed a foot from the bottom.

If I was to learn to walk on stilts I wanted
them red and I had to wait almost forever
for the paint to dry, laid over the arms

of a saggy, ancient Adirondack chair
no longer good for much but holding hoes
and rakes and stakes rolled up in twine,

and at last I couldn’t wait a minute longer
and took the stilts into my hands and stepped
between them, stepped up and stepped out,

tilted far forward, clopping fast and away
down the walk, a foot above my neighborhood,
the summer in my hair, my new red stilts

stuck to my fingers, not knowing how far
I’d be able to get, and now, in what seems
just a few yards down the block, I’m there.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Ted Kooser, "Red Stilts," from Red Stilts, (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Ted Kooser and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Upcoming Calendar

12.05.2020 5:30 pm - 5:45 pm
Virtual Christmas tree lighting
12.05.2020 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Gallery Open Reception: Home
Middletown Art Center
12.05.2020 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Clearlake Christmas Parade
12.12.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
12.13.2020 8:30 am - 11:00 am
American Legion Post breakfast
12.19.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
Christmas Eve
Christmas Day

Mini Calendar



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