Saturday, 05 December 2020

Arts & Life

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Local author George Dorner will be a guest of the Writers Studio on May 25. Courtesy photo.

 


LAKEPORT Back when he was a spy, he drank cocktails with a king. Now he will be the guest at Watershed Books' Writers Studio on Friday, May 25, beginning at 3:30 p.m.


George J. Dorner's book, "In the Black" is a novelization of his experiences in covert operations during the Vietnam War.


During his extended tenure in the clandestine war in Laos, he did a lot more than quaff cocktails. He was the U. S. Air Force's sole intelligence source for the northern third of Laos.


The Air Operations Center he belonged to ran the only effective military force opposing the North Vietnamese invasion of northern Laos. The pilots Dorner worked with performed heroic deeds as daily routine, and were the inspiration for his book.


He will read from "In the Black" upon request, and sign copies for purchasers. He also will preview his sequel, "In the Light," a tale of his characters' readjustment to civilian life.


For those interested, he will discuss the writing process. He was an adjunct instructor in writing at Mendocino College.


For further information, drop by Watershed Books at 305 N. Main St., Lakeport, just north of the Lake County Museum, or call Cheri Holden at Watershed Books, 263-5787.


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SPIDER-MAN 3 (Rated PG-13)


Three years is a long time to be left hanging on the adventures of Spider-Man. But the wait for “Spider-Man 3” was well worth it, considering that the filmmakers have spent what approximates the GNP of several Third World countries to deliver a crowd-pleasing bonanza of dazzling special effects.


State-of-the-art technology enhances the visual appeal of this blockbuster to the extent that the effects alone are worth the price of admission, even more so if you get the chance to see the film on an IMAX screen.


Most important of all, “Spider-Man 3,” at least to this untrained eye, adheres to the sensibilities of its comic book origins.


No matter how old he gets, Tobey Maguire still looks like a high school geek in his civilian role of newspaper photographer Peter Parker.


His goofy charm is rooted in his basic innocence, making him the almost perfect boyfriend for equally naïve Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), who is now becoming a little more unsettled about Spider-Man’s growing popularity with an adoring public.


Actually, she becomes more resentful of Peter Parker’s alter ego when her own bid for public acclaim falls flat in a failed attempt to star in a Broadway musical. It’s not all razzle-dazzle pyrotechnics and protracted battle scenes for “Spider-Man 3” as tension rises between Peter/Spider-Man and Mary Jane.


More tension develops as James Franco’s Harry Osborn grows increasingly bitter about how Spider-Man killed his father, the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe). This is a tough matter because Harry, Peter and Mary Jane are all childhood friends, and now they are being torn apart.


Peter’s greatest challenge, however, is the looming battle with himself. When the film opens, things are going so well for Peter that he’s on the verge of proposing to Mary Jane. As the lovebirds go for a ride, a black substance clings to Peter’s scooter, and later it attaches itself to his Spider-Man suit, turning it from the familiar red and blue to a menacing deep black.


The black suit transforms Peter so that he becomes stronger and quicker, but it also brings out the dark side of his personality.


Peter acquires the false confidence of a gigolo, and starts swaggering around town in a flashy new suit, adopting the persona of a hipster. He even becomes a bit enamored with pretty blonde classmate Gwen Stacey (Bryce Dallas Howard) that Spider-Man rescues from a freakish industrial accident, and moreover she’s the daughter of a police captain (James Cromwell) eager to bestow an award to the hero in a very public ceremony.


Peter’s prideful behavior makes him more vulnerable on the one hand, but also causes friction at work with rival photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace). At least, J.J. Jameson (J.K. Simmons) still delivers the comic goods as the gruff, acerbic boss at the Daily Bugle.


While there are numerous personal dramas being played out, “Spider-Man 3” is ever mindful of delivering incredible action sequences that seek to outdo each previous scene in ever increasing intensity and scale.


To that end, Spider-Man has to take on two classic villains.


First, there’s the doltish criminal Flint Marko (Thomas Hayden Church) who becomes Sandman when he stumbles into a radioactive test site where they’re performing a molecular fusion experiment and his DNA is accidentally fused with a large pit of sand. He becomes a menacing, malevolent force capable of changing shape and size with ease.


At first, Sandman continues his life of petty crimes until he realizes his full potential as a threat to Spider-Man’s existence.


Spider-Man’s true arch-nemesis is Venom (Topher Grace), a villain created from the same mysterious black substance that once attached itself to Spider-Man’s red and blue suit.


With a background similar to Peter’s, Eddie Brock’s transformation into Venom creates a bad guy with the same powers and abilities as the hero. Since Eddie was jealous of Peter, it’s rather fun to have this showdown between the alter egos of Venom and Spider-Man.


Aside from the villains being interesting, what makes “Spider-Man 3” work best is the solid spectacle of great actions scenes that crackle with eye-popping zeal. The terrific effects help to gloss over some of the film’s clunky parts.


While “Spider-Man 3” is burdened with a few too many sub-plots, this fun film still weaves a magical web of spectacular action.


Tim Riley writes film reviews for Lake County News.


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NEXT (Rated PG-13)


In his abbreviated life, science fiction author Philip K. Dick was all too prolific in cranking out a plethora of novels and short stories that could fill several library shelves. A writer with this amount of talent is inevitably tapped as a source for feature films. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” was the basis for the hugely successful “Blade Runner,” starring Harrison Ford, which was released in 1982.


Sorry to say, but it has been essentially downhill since then for other film adaptations of the Philip K. Dick catalog. The execrable “Paycheck,” starring the ever-annoying and untalented Ben Affleck, was a debacle.


Now, unfortunately, the capable Nicolas Cage turns in a listless performance of a sad-eyed magician with an extrasensory talent in “Next,” based on Dick’s short story “The Golden Man.”


What’s supposed to be an exciting science fiction thriller in “Next,” a race against the ticking clock on a nuclear bomb set to level Los Angeles into one giant parking lot, is a laughable exercise in sleight of hand one finds in dime store magic tricks.


As a matter of fact, Nicolas Cage’s Cris Johnson is a laconic magician working a seedy Las Vegas nightclub act in front of bored drunks and lost souls. To spice up his languid character, he goes by the stage name of Frank Cadillac. His hidden talent is an ability to see two minutes into the future, something that comes in handy on the job and also picking up extra cash at the blackjack tables.


“Next” gets off to a decent start when Cris is hounded by casino security for working a perceived illegal system, and while discreetly trying to leave the gaming tables the action really kicks into high gear when Cris foils an armed robbery only to become the suspect himself.


Using his visionary powers, Cris executes evasive action from the casino goons, and then steals a car and ends up in a thrilling chase from every squad car within a five mile radius of the Golden Nugget. After a dazzling elusive maneuver involving a speeding train, Cris winds up in a chop-shop run by his buddy Irv (Peter Falk channeling the dark side of Columbo).


Convenient to a plot that starts leaking worse than an old roof in a Midwest thunderstorm, everyone starts noticing that Cris isn’t just performing low-rent parlor tricks. Tough, hard-nosed FBI agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore), who could probably put Bruce Willis in a headlock, is eager to tap into Cris’ brain in an effort to thwart a terrorist group’s planned attack on Los Angeles with a suitcase nuke.


Not accustomed to pleasantries, Callie puts a full-court press on the reluctant Cris to join forces with the Feds to back-channel through the right portals to change the present and avert nuclear holocaust. For his part, Cris is not the sort who earned any merit badges with the Boy Scouts, and he would sooner decline an invitation to help his fellow countrymen.


What Cris has on his mind is the constant vision of a beauty that will show up at a magical hour at a rundown Vegas coffee shop. As a result, Cris prefers to hang out at the counter nursing a martini, waiting for the propitious moment.


Fortunately, the vision of loveliness soon appears in Liz (Jessica Biel), a part-time teacher, and Cris uses his powers in the movie’s funniest scene to test out several scenarios for the perfect “meet-cute” scenario. This particular situation may recall Bill Murray’s endless attempts to get it right in “Groundhog Day.”


Acting more like a stalker than a love interest, Cris hooks up with Liz for a drive from Vegas to Flagstaff, Arizona, where they hole up in the Cliffhanger Motel. Room service arrives in the form of the Callie’s squad of feds, and also the terrorists inexplicably show for a preemptive strike.


Now it gets difficult to make logical sense of what is going on. Even more baffling is that the terrorists, in what is apparently misguided political correctness, are mostly speaking French, but they are not Algerian nationals.


More mysterious is the undeveloped motive for the villains. We don’t know if they are holdovers from a French equivalent of the Red Brigades or Eurotrash recruits into the ranks of al Qaeda.


Honestly, my interest in the whole convoluted business waned early on. To be sure, there are some great car chases and collisions. The assault on the hideaway at the Port of Los Angeles is good for some climactic shootouts.


But then more than a few preposterous things occur that serve to undermine whatever remaining shred of credibility might have remotely saved “Next” from sinking into a swamp of absurdity. In the end, the best thing you can say is that Ben Affleck didn’t have the starring role.


Tim Riley writes movie reviews for Lake County News.


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LAKEPORT – On Friday, May 11, Watershed Books will present the second Writer's Studio of the season, hosting local author, Sue Lehman.


Lehman's current mystery novel, Blind Sided, is intriguing for its appeal to both mystery buffs and dog lovers. It's a light-hearted tale set in Clearlake and Lower Lake, and Calistoga.


Her second mystery, The Rat, is due for release in the fall.


The gathering will begin at 3:30 p.m. Friday.


Lehman will be reading from Blind Sided and other works, talking about aspects of her writing process, and signing copies of Blind Sided.


Lehman grew up in Albion, Mich. After high school, she moved to Naperville, Ill., where she received degrees in music and theater.


During the late 1970s, she learned piano tuning and rebuilding and moved to California.


In the early 1980s, she followed her future husband to Montana, and began writing for children. Her work has appeared in Clubhouse, Highlights and Good Ole Days magazines.


Lehman lives in Lower Lake with her husband and two sons, and is the owner of Allegro Piano Service. In her spare time, she enjoys tennis, judo, baseball and sailing.


Watershed Books is located at 305 N. Main St., Lakeport. For more information, call 263-5787.


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UKIAH A variety of writers’ workshops are being offered as part of Mendocino LitFest on Saturday, June 2 at Mendocino College.


Lake County’s Hal Zina Bennett, author of more than 30 books, presents “The Four Portals of Creativity: Unleashing the Power of Your Own Voice.” Bennett shares ideas about accessing the hidden powers of life experiences to create more powerful characters, themes and story lines.


Mendocino College professor and novelist Jody Gehrman teams up with Morgan Hill freelancer Jordan Rosenfeld to walk participants through the process of writing rich, evocative scenes guaranteed to pull readers into a fictional world. Their workshop, “Make a Scene,” will run one and a half hours.


Nonfiction author Rebecca Lawton, whose credits include “On Foot in Sonoma” and “Reading Water: Lessons from the River,” presents “Writing Nature,” for those who see the natural world as more than scenery and want to explore the use of the wild as metaphor, character, and setting.


Ukiah authors Natasha Yim and Gretchen Maurer offer an introduction to the world of writing for children in their session, “Discovering the Children’s Writer in You From Idea to Submission.”


Besides workshops, Mendocino LitFest offers participants an evening and a day of authors reading, discussing and signing their books. Among the authors are mystery writers, memoirists, poets, and writers of literary fiction.


On Saturday, independent bookstores, regional publishers, self-published authors and small presses will be on campus selling their literature.


Pre-registration for the day’s four workshops is open through May 20. The fee for each hour-long session is $15.


The workshop schedule gives participants the option of signing up for any or all sessions. For detailed workshop information and a registration form, see www.mendolitfest.org.


Mendocino LitFest is made possible by an Arts for our Future grant from the Community Foundation of Mendocino County to Mendocino College. Major support has been provided by Friends of the Mendocino College Library, Visual Identity, J Design and Nine Trees Design.


For more information about LitFest, see www.mendolitfest.org or call 468-3051.


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LAKEPORT – Watershed Books' Writers Studio will premier this week featuring local author, poet and musician James BlueWolf.


The event will begin at 5 p.m. Friday, April 27, at Watershed Books, 305 N. Main St., Lakeport.


BlueWolf has been a songwriter, recording artist, performer, lecturer, poet, author and storyteller since the early 1970s. He has recorded one record album, "Strike The Drum," five CDs of original music and one CD of traditional native drum and rattle songs.


He is the author of seven books and is an internationally published poet. He was Poet Laureate of Lake County from 2000 through 2003, and his stories and radio productions have been featured on radio stations across the US and Canada.


BlueWolf wrote, narrated and produced a number of video documentaries and has been qualified as a rnedia producer for the Smithsonian, National Museum of the American Indian. He was a nationally elected caucus member for the Wordcraft Circle Of Native Writers and Storytellers and was included in the 2006 edition of "Who's Who Of American Teachers."


His other activities have included 18 years of coaching local sports, working with more than 500 athletes. BlueWolf received three proclamations from the Lake County Board of Supervisors, commending him for his work with local youth.


He is a regular contributor to newspapers and journals and has lectured in colleges nationally on literary development, native history, and social, cultural and political issues. A father of five with 11 grandchildren, he lives in Nice with his wife of 32 years, Bernie.


For more information on the Writers Studio, contact Watershed Books, 263-5787.


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Upcoming Calendar

5Dec
12.05.2020 5:30 pm - 5:45 pm
Virtual Christmas tree lighting
5Dec
12.05.2020 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Gallery Open Reception: Home
Middletown Art Center
5Dec
6Dec
12Dec
12.12.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
13Dec
12.13.2020 8:30 am - 11:00 am
American Legion Post breakfast
19Dec
12.19.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
24Dec
12.24.2020
Christmas Eve
25Dec
12.25.2020
Christmas Day
26Dec
12.26.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market

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