Friday, 04 December 2020

Arts & Life


With feature-length film options rather limited at the moment, the Netflix original movie “Desperados,” desperately hoping to be a romantic comedy with women acting badly, was hopefully going to be worth a look.

If there’s a Stockholm syndrome for watching a movie where you feel like you have been taken hostage beholden to your captor, that might be the case if you keep vainly hoping the viewing experience of “Desperados” will somehow improve.

Well, it doesn’t, but why no improvement? A neurotic central character in Wesley (Nasim Padrad), an unemployed guidance counselor, has a knack for undermining herself at every turn, whether at a job interview that goes horribly wrong or a blind date.

Let’s move past the lewd humor during Wesley’s interview at a Catholic school with a benevolent nun solemnly listening to the applicant’s awkward blathering about sexual acts.

A blind date with Sean (Lamorne Morris) lasts only a matter of seconds as Wesley lacks any filter for her small talk. But this is not the last we’ll see of the charming Sean.

Upon leaving the restaurant, Wesley takes a sidewalk stumble, only to be assisted back on her feet by Jared (Robbie Arnell), a sports agent who becomes her next romantic interest.

Getting her act together this time, Wesley finds bliss in a relationship with Jared. All goes well until he takes off on a business trip to Mexico to help one of his clients.

When days pass without hearing from Jared, Wesley joins her best friends Brooke (Anna Camp) and Kaylie (Sarah Burns) to send an appalling email to the boyfriend, and discover moments later he’s been in a coma.

The three amigos head south of the border to a resort hotel with a misguided mission to erase the email before Jared gets out of the hospital.

Not surprisingly, pointless hijinks ensue, with few hitting their mark. As a comedy, “Desperados” desperately fails at the task. Best to skip this one.


Should new offerings on streaming services prove to be wanting, more satisfying options for viewing pleasure may be found in the abundance of classic television programs that are now available.

The private detective series “Peter Gunn,” starring suave and nattily-dressed Craig Stevens in the titular role, began its three-season run in 1958, and now it is available on Amazon Prime Video.

With a musical score by Henry Mancini, “Peter Gunn” established a film noir atmosphere where the gumshoe worked mostly at nights and was most often found at Mother’s nightclub enjoying jazz music and the songs of vocalist Edie Hart (Lola Albright).

The mood is appropriately set with all episodes in glorious black and white, underscoring a fitting environment in which someone like Humphrey Bogart’s private eye Sam Spade operated in “The Maltese Falcon.”

This is not to compare Peter Gunn to Sam Spade, as these characters are vastly different. While Spade proved to a fast-talking antihero with a penchant for fast women, Gunn is cut from a different cloth.

Stevens’ Peter Gunn is a polished person with sensible manners who usually speaks without bravado or impertinence. His smooth manner is reflected in the way he goes about the business of representing his client.

Every episode appears to start with someone getting killed or maimed in brutal acts of violence. The musical score sets a foreboding tone of whatever criminal acts set the program in motion.

Invariably, Gunn will be found at Mother’s Jazz Club, where he’s friends with the proprietor (Hope Emerson) and much friendlier still with the singer Edie, who just happens to be his girlfriend.

The first episode, “The Kill,” involves crime boss George Fallon (Gavin MacLeod “The Love Boat”) muscling out his competition and setting his sights on extorting Mother’s nightclub for protection money.

When Mother’s is bombed by Fallon’s goons, Gunn does not take it kindly since the club also serves as his office where he fields calls from a client or his pal at the police department, Lt. Jacoby (Herschel Bernardi).

One could say that “Peter Gunn” follows the private sleuth formula that has worked over the years for many series. Gunn works alone with frequent assists from one source at the police department.

James Garner’s Jim Rockford in “The Rockford Files,” Mike Conners’ Joe Mannix in “Mannix,” and Stacy Keach’s Mike Hammer in another eponymous series were also solo operators with their own go-to law enforcement contact.

In many episodes with Gunn spending so much time at Mother’s, a musical interlude leavens the rough-and-tumble criminal world with a pleasing jazz band set and Edie belting out a tune.

The cool factor was Peter Gunn’s ability to mingle with all sorts of people, from upper-crust clients to shady underworld types to the occasional beatnik uttering period dialogue.

“Peter Gunn” moves at a fast clip in its half-hour episodes. If only this stylish series had run more than three seasons, but at least there are 114 episodes to enjoy.

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

Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, Indiana, has been chosen as the winner of the 2020 California Duck Stamp Art Contest.

A painting by Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, Indiana, has been chosen as the winner of the 2020 California Duck Stamp Art Contest. The painting, which depicts a pair of canvasbacks, will be the official design for the 2020-2021 stamp.

Klinefelter previously won the California Duck Stamp Art Contest in 2009, as well as the California Upland Game Bird Stamp contests in 2019, 2018 and 2017.

The overall eye-appeal of Klinefelter’s painting immediately drew the judges’ attention. They noted the contrast between the background and the subjects, admiring the brightness of the birds that, when paired with the more muted colors of the scenery, created a composition that would “pop” on a stamp.

The judges’ highest praise, however, was for the anatomical accuracy of the canvasbacks, something Klinefelter found challenging to achieve.

“Personally, I find canvasbacks one of the harder species to paint due to the difference in their bill and head structure,” Klinefelter said.

He went on to say that while he has taken many photographs and painted multiple depictions of the species, he wanted to create a completely different scene for this painting.

Klinefelter imagined the birds being hit by the first light of the morning sun, illuminating their plumage and casting a vibrant reflection on the water.

Artists from around the country submitted entries for the contest, sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Allen Copeland of Leesburg, Georgia, placed second, Rebekah Knight of Deepwater, Missouri, placed third and Dennis Arp of Culbertson, Nebraska, received honorable mention.

Traditionally, the top four paintings are displayed at the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association’s Annual Classic Wildlife Art Festival in Sacramento, but the festival was canceled this year due to COVID-19.

Since 1971, the California Duck Stamp Program’s annual contest has attracted top wildlife artists from around the country. The contest is traditionally open to artists from all 50 states in order to ensure a wide pool of submissions. All proceeds generated from stamp sales go directly to waterfowl conservation projects throughout California.

In the past, hunters were required to purchase and affix the stamp to their hunting licenses. Today, hunters are no longer required to carry the stamps because California’s modern licensing system prints proof of additional fees paid directly onto the license.

However, CDFW still produces the stamps, which can be requested on CDFW’s website at .


True for all major networks this fall season, the NBC network faces challenges for a schedule that could be affected by the pandemic. Especially worrisome just might be the Sunday night lineup.

Programming for primetime Sunday relies on the NFL adhering to its announced program of pro football matchups for the network’s Sunday Night Football, which is preceded by Football Night in America’s highlights of the daytime games.

With the Raiders in the new Las Vegas Allegiant Stadium and the Rams and Chargers at the new Los Angeles SoFi Stadium, the team owners and the league are banking on a season to showcase the state-of-the-art facilities.

Dick Wolf’s franchise “Chicago” series takes up all of Wednesday night, and new for this fall is a spinoff from his “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” That would be “Law & Order: Organized Crime,” starring Christopher Meloni reprising his “SVU” detective Elliot Stabler.

Nearly a decade ago, Detective Stabler was written out of “SVU,” but now he’s back in a special unit of the NYPD leading a battle against organized crime after a devastating personal loss. What tragedy may have befallen Stabler is apparently not known at this time.

The network is touting the fact that Stabler must not only adapt to changes in the criminal justice system, but leading a task force to take down powerful criminal syndicates is a path to absolution and rebuilding his life.

On “Special Victims Unit,” Meloni’s Stabler was partnered with Mariska Hargitay’s detective Olivia Benson, where they had great chemistry as a team. Chances are good for potential crossovers of the two “Law & Order” shows to reunite them.

Ted Danson’s run on “The Good Place” has come to an end, freeing him up to take the lead in “Mr. Mayor,” which looks to be a midseason comedy series. His role is described as a wealthy businessman who runs for mayor of Los Angeles for all the wrong reasons.

After winning the election, the mayor has to figure out what he stands for, gain the respect of his staff, and connect with his teenage daughter. The last wealthy guy elected mayor of Los Angeles was Richard Riordan, but this is not his story.


An early casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic, “My Spy” had the misfortune of a planned theatrical release in mid-March just when movie theaters had to shut down. It’s now available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Nothing is terribly spectacular about the premise of a hulking former wrestler paired up with a precocious child, as this has been done before with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, John Cena and other beefy characters.

Now it’s the turn of the heavily tattooed Dave Bautista (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), a retired WWE wrestler, former mixed martial artist and bodybuilder. His brawn serves him well as hardened CIA agent JJ.

The film is front-loaded with a heavy action scene in an abandoned Chernobyl site where JJ poses as an arms dealer negotiating with a renegade Russian general and a bunch of terrorists seeking a nuclear device.

All hell breaks loose as JJ goes full cowboy to wipe out all the bad guys and escape with the plutonium. The only problem is that he fails at his primary mission of finding out the plans of the terrorists.

Back at the CIA headquarters in Langley, JJ gets dressed down by his boss David Kim (Ken Jeong) for botching the mission and for lacking covert spy skills which require subtlety, finesse and emotional intelligence.

His last chance at being an agent is a seemingly lightweight surveillance assignment in Chicago to monitor a widowed single mom Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), an ER nurse who lives with her 9-year-old daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman).

An even worse part of the task is being teamed up with goofy CIA tech analyst Bobbi (Kristen Schaal), who desperately wants JJ to teach her the finer points of being a field agent.

The mission’s purpose is to catch Kate’s nefarious brother-in-law (Greg Bryk), an international terrorist who may come looking for something left behind by Kate’s deceased husband.

After planting high-tech cameras in the apartment of their targets, JJ and Bobbi are rudely surprised to be discovered by Sophie, who proceeds to blackmail JJ to being her new best friend and to teach her about spycraft.

Reluctantly, JJ takes Sophie ice skating, buys her ice cream, shows up at her school’s Special Friends Day and manages to teach a few bullies some important lessons.

The best part of the tutelage is when Sophie becomes adept at beating a polygraph test, outsmarting her tutor in a training move, and spouting off pithy statements with the panache of James Bond.

“My Spy” is so predictable that only a person who has not watched a movie in the past two or three decades might be surprised by the outcome. But what the heck, it’s a slight comedic diversion that is still watchable.

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

Children collaborate on artwork while distancing during the Middletown Art Center’s June 2020 summer camp. Courtesy photo.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – The Middletown Art Center invites children ages 5 to 15 to engage in Art for Art’s Sake summer camp.

This enriching and fun creative adventure begins July 13 and runs through July 24, Monday through Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The Instructors for this second session of camp at MAC are Jessie Beck, a first-grade teacher at Cobb Mountain Elementary, and dance teacher and artist Lauren Schneider, who has taught grades kindergarten through eighth in multiple subjects, art at Lower Lake High School and homeschool art classes at MAC.

Art for Art's Sake provides children with a foundation of familiarity and understanding of renowned artists and artworks.

“We're excited to explore a range of artists and artistic movements from Van Gogh, Seurat, Matisse and Picasso, to O’Keeffe, Ringgold and others. We’ll be making art with a variety of media and materials,” said Schneider. “I always look forward to seeing children’s creative expressions and interpretations of artistic approaches in their own unique and individual voices, as well as in their shared collaborative projects.”

Beck and Schneider will be team-teaching MAC’s summer camp for the third time this year.

“Their collaboration and the excellent quality of the projects and activities they offer keeps getting better,” said MAC Programs Director Lisa Kaplan. “I love to drop in and see children and teachers so engaged in the artistic process!”

MAC will uphold all health and safety requirements including distancing and masks or bandanas. Campers are required to bring their own face covering, a water bottle and daily snack. Children will be provided a personal art supplies kit for use at camp.

Activities will take place in smaller groupings by age, in the studio and gallery, and each group will have at least one full-time assistant teacher.

“The shutdown has been rough on us all, and I miss interacting with children in person,” said Beck. "I am thrilled to be teaching at MAC and look forward to getting creative with new and returning campers!"

Learn more and sign your child up at . Space is limited and pre-registration is required. Some partial work-trade options are available.

In addition to summer camp, there is a lot happening at the Middletown Art Center.

The gallery is now open Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also call 707-809-8118 in advance to schedule a weekday visit.

To support art lovers, local artists and the MAC, artwork from the current exhibit “Dreams” is available for purchase at 20 percent off until the show closes at the end of July. The exhibit can also be viewed in 3D online at thanks to Third Eye Visuals.

The Middletown Community Farmers Market and Makers Faire is happening on Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m., with social distancing and masking observed.

Find out more about programs, opportunities and ways to support the MAC’s efforts to weave the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County at .

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

I was once on Deer Isle, Maine, on the Fourth of July, and attended their own town parade.

Deer Isle isn’t big enough to mount a very long parade, so they ran it past us twice, first down to the water, and then back up. And we applauded as much with our second viewing as we did with the first.

July 4th parades are a wonderful institution. And here’s a parade for you, by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, who lives in southwest Colorado.

Her newest book, “Hush,” has just been published by Middle Creek Press.

In the Fourth of July Parade

Right down the middle of main street
the woman with the long red braids
and fairy wings strapped to her back
rode a unicycle more than two times
taller than she was—rode it with balance
and grace, her arms stretched out,
as if swimming through gravity,
as if embracing space—her smile an invitation
to join in her bliss. How simple it is, really,
to make of ourselves a gate that swings open
to the joy that is. How simple, like tossing
candy in a parade, to share the key to the gate.

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 ©2019 by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, “In the Fourth of July Parade,” (2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. 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.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Now and then, I get a complaint from one of our readers saying that what we publish isn’t poetry because it doesn’t rhyme.

Actually, we’ve published quite a lot of poetry with rhymes—end-rhymes, half-rhymes, internal rhymes, and now and then a sonnet, if that sonnet is a fine poem, too.

And here’s one of those by Rhina P. Espaillat, a New Englander, from her book “And After All,” published by Able Muse Press.


My mother’s mother, toughened by the farm,
hardened by infants’ burials, used a knife
and swung an axe as if her woman’s arm
wielded a man’s hard will. Inured to life
and death alike, “What ails you now?” she’d say
ungently to the sick. She fed them, too,
roughly but well, and took the blood away—
and washed the dead, if there was that to do.
She told us children how the cows could sense
when their own calves were marked for butchering,
and how they lowed, their wordless eloquence
impossible to still with anything—
sweet clover, or her unremitting care.
She told it simply, but she faltered 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 ©2019 by Rhina P. Espaillat, "Butchering," from And After All, (Able Muse Press, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Rhina P. Espaillat 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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