Tuesday, 06 June 2023

Arts & Life

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

This poem captures one of the peculiar, private deals that we sometimes make in a world that seems to be marching on, completely out of our control.

Some might call it a prayer, or a spell, or a strange vow, characterized by a certain magical hope against reality.

Huey labels it a “fairy tale”, a deeply haunting expression of the familiar fear we have of “the bill” coming due.

Fairy Tale
By Huey

My father cuts off his thumb with a circular saw.
A tiny magical man makes me an offer.

I cannot refuse. My father’s thumb grows back.
The price I have agreed to pay is too great;

I cannot bear to say its name aloud. In the corner
of every room I enter, the tiny magical man

crouches, nameless and cruel. Not today, he says.
Not today. One day, I will enter a room and he will

not be there, and I will know the bill has come due.
A phone will ring. I will answer. A stranger’s voice

will mispronounce my name, apologize,
hesitate. In this brief silence, foolish hope will bloom.

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 ©2021 by Amorak Huey, “Fairy Tale” from The Southern Review, Vol. 37:3, Summer 2021. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

The humble meal of bread, sugar and milk is an iconic expression of the seemingly “unpoetic” quotidian rituals of life — paying bills, worrying about the bills, surviving the bills.

In the poem, “Doing the Bills”, Lee Upton is reminded of her father, even as she, with a partner, does the bills.

She captures such deep sentiment in the image of the head being held in the hands. The moment of beauty arrives in the meal that she describes. It is a spot of sweetness in a world of everyday hardship.

Doing the Bills
By Lee Upton

My father impaling bills
on a nail on a block of wood
then putting his head in his hands
and you with your head in your hands
and my head in my hands
hands over my eyes
and I see again what I forgot for decades
my father
after doing the bills
crumbling bread in a bowl
and pouring milk over the bread
and spooning in sugar.

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 ©2021 by Lee Upton, “Doing the Bills” from The Southern Review, Vol. 37:3, Summer 2021. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Juneteenth at MAC 2021, photo by MAC staff.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — Join the Middletown Art Center for its second annual Juneteenth celebration featuring live music, local artists, delicious food and beverages on Sunday, June 19, from 7 to 10 p.m.

Celebrate emancipation, freedom, and triumph, through the power of the arts with yet another amazing night of live music and dance, outdoors at the MAC.

It’s a great way to celebrate with your favorite dad too, as Father’s Day and Juneteenth fall on the same day this year.

The evening’s lineup features acclaimed musicians, most of whom live currently in Lake County.

Singer-songwriter Gloria Scott, who reached the Top 20 on numerous charts, will lead vocals. She’ll introduce a song from her new album as well as songs from her past work, and R&B classics.

Scott will be backed by a group of stellar musicians including bassist/guitarist Robert Watson who played guitar for James Brown in 2006 and in the James Brown Band later, as well as for Joss Stone and Tupac Shakur; drummer Billy Johnson played with Santana and Spice Girls among others; multi-talented musician and one-man-band Howard Dockens will play guitar; and funk, R&B and eclectic jazz musician Lynn Bryant will be on keyboards.

Tickets are available at the door and online for $15. Kids under 14 are free. High school age youth $5. Fathers get their first beverage free with children in attendance or a photo with kids that can be pinned to the wall at MAC or digitally shared with a “check-in” to MAC on Facebook.

Dinner from Goddess of the Mountain will be available for purchase and include organic chicken or veggie kabobs with sides of red beans and rice, cornbread, collard greens, red cabbage slaw and Southern style watermelon/tomato salad ($25), or a rice and protein bowl with red cabbage slaw or tomato and watermelon salad ($15). Dessert and beverages will be available for purchase separately.

Learn more and preorder your dinner and/or tickets and skip a line at www.middletownartcenter.org/events.

Juneteenth — also called “Freedom Day” — commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans. It has been celebrated by communities across the US since the late 1800s. June 19 — “Juneteenth,” was declared a federal holiday in 2021 by President Joe Biden, and is rightfully celebrated as our country’s second independence day.

Though the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincon in 1862, enforcement relied on traveling Union soldiers visiting plantations and heralding the news of freedom which was a slow process.

The westernmost confederate territory of Galveston Texas, which included 250,000 still enslaved people, was the last to receive the news. Freedom — and enforcement — finally reached the people of the last town in the region, and in the United States, on June 19, 1865.

This Juneteenth, come to MAC for an energized and engaging soulful evening of rhythm and blues, funk and community celebration.

Doors open at 7 p.m. with a dance playlist. Gloria Scott will sing inspirational gospel in an intimate performance at about 7:30 p.m. The band joins her around 8 p.m.

The MAC is located at 21456 State Highway 175 at the corner of Highway 29 in Middletown.

Learn more about MAC, and join them in weaving the arts into the fabric of life in Lake County at www.middletownartcenter.org or call 707-809-8118.


A feel-good sports movie can be a heartwarming pleasure even if the game is not one that you may follow with the dedication of a true fan. That’s the case here for this reviewer in Adam Sandler’s basketball-oriented “Hustle” on Netflix.

I have to admit partiality to major league baseball, football, hockey and occasional trips to the racetrack to place a few bets on the ponies. As for basketball, the names of today’s players are mostly not on my radar.

Most of us recognize former NBA stars like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlain, and in many cases even former players like Doc Rivers and Julius Erving, better known as Dr. J of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Interestingly, Rivers and Dr. J figure into Adam Sandler’s nifty film, considering his character is Stanley Sugerman, a talent scout for the Philadelphia basketball team and a former college hoops player at Temple University.

It may stretch the imagination a bit too far to envision Sandler as an erstwhile player, but his character’s love for the game is so impressive that such thoughts are quickly dispelled.

Having grown weary of being on the road all the time and missing his daughter’s birthdays, Stanley is relieved when 76ers team owner Rex Merrick (Robert Duvall) promotes him to the long-coveted position of assistant coach.

Lugging baggage through airports and lonely nights in hotel rooms are not fun for a middle-aged man, and spending more at home with wife Teresa (Queen Latifah) and teen daughter Alex (Jordan Hull) will be joyful.

With the sudden death of the team owner, Merrick’s arrogant son Vince (Ben Foster) takes over and decides to send Stanley on a European tour to find what he calls the team’s “missing piece” for an NBA finals win.

Vince is such an odious punk that he doesn’t mind telling Stanley that he won’t be home for his daughter’s next birthday. One firmly hopes that the new boss will get his comeuppance.

Ending up in Mallorca, Spain, Stanley encounters Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez, an actual NBA player), a streetball hustler with a troubled past who proves to be unbeatable in one-on-one basketball games.

Taking care of his mother and young daughter, Bo fears losing his construction job when Stanley promises to be his mentor with an opportunity to play professional ball in America.

Back in the States, Bo’s passion and skill for the game does not immediately impress Vince and other executives, but Stanley has faith and empathy for his prospect and decides to invest his own time and money to train him properly.

The road to an NBA career is bumpy as Bo must prove himself against other prospects in the Combine, especially his nemesis Kermit Wilts (NBA player Anthony Edwards), a menacing presence who taunts the Spaniard with trash-talk about his family.

It doesn’t take a sports fan to figure out the eventual ending to a fairytale story of redemption and achievement, but watching the chemistry between Adam Sandler and Juancho Hernangomez makes “Hustle” an enjoyable and cheerful pleasure.

Bottom line for “Hustle” is that you don’t have to be a basketball fan to appreciate the passion and heart of the player and mentor leading to triumph over adversity.


For the last several decades, “Shark Week” has been a successful programming block on the Discovery Channel, and as summer draws people to the beach the return of this popular program gets underway on Sunday, July 24.

The 34th installment of “Shark Week” promises new locations across the globe and cutting-edge technology that offers revelations about the mating and migration patterns of sharks.

A celebrity twist to this year’s program will be the Impractical Jokers, whose act involves out-daring and humiliating each other, using their antics for a hysterical adventure of shark education.

National Geographic Channel celebrates its ten years of “Sharkfest” with more action-packed programming across more platforms than ever before that include Disney+, ESPN, ABC, Hulu and Nat Geo WILD.

Starting on July 10, “Sharkfest” allows viewers to sink their teeth into almost 30 hours of original programming and over 60 hours of enhanced content featuring captivating science and stunning visuals of the iconic apex predator.

“Sharkfest” aims to not only shine a light on the science of sharks, giving audiences a better understanding of the ocean’s most misunderstood predator, but also features their true beauty, power and mystery.

The six-episode series “When Sharks Attack” explores the rise of shark attacks in North America and beyond. What causes the alarming uptick in human and shark encounters?

Scientists investigate first-hand accounts, uncovering clues and details that will unravel the mystery behind the terrifying shark attack spike. Reminiscent of fear generated by “Jaws,” the answers will impact beachgoers around the globe.

“Shark Beach with Chris Hemsworth” features the Australian actor, known to many as “Thor,” on a mission to uncover the science of shark behavior and discover how humans and sharks can safely coexist.

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


A light-hearted romantic comedy on Hulu focuses on class and cultural differences in the charmingly amusing “The Valet,” a remake of sorts of a little-seen French film on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Eugenio Derbez’s Antonio, a socially awkward Mexican-American sporting a bad haircut, parks cars at an upscale Beverly Hills restaurant catering to people driving expensive foreign cars.

Living in a small apartment shared with his spirited mother (Carmen Salinas) and teenage son Marco (Joshua Vasquez), Antonio would like to reunite with his ex-wife (Marisol Nichols) but she’s moved on with a high-flying realtor who advertises on billboards.

Riding his bike leads Antonio to inadvertently end up in the middle of a paparazzi photo of actress Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving) and her married lover Vincent Royce (Max Greenfield), a developer whose vast wealth is tied to the family fortune of wife Kathryn (Betsy Brandt).

To avoid a scandal that could derail Olivia’s career (her big picture is set for a debut) and cause the odious Vincent to lose it all in a divorce, a scheme is concocted whereby Antonio is recruited to pose as Olivia’s new beau for enough money to pay off his ex-wife’s college loan.

That Antonio attends red-carpet celebrity events with Olivia is enough to puzzle his family and cause his co-workers to marvel at a working-class valet dating a pretty blonde half his age.

Scenes where the mismatched couple pretend to have a relationship are not as relevant as the situation in which the lonely Olivia hangs out and finds acceptance with Antonio’s circle of extended family and friends.

A lot of the film’s humor comes from Antonio’s mother having an affair with her Korean landlord Mr. Kim (Ji Yong Lee) who doesn’t speak a word of English and neither does she. They both rely on offspring for translation.

“The Valet” suffers a bit from too many plot threads that seem extraneous. Overall, the fish-out-of-water story allows the film’s eponymous character to be endearing, and the culture clash exposes the absurdity of a shallow celebrity lifestyle.


The CW Network, typically geared to the younger demographic, plans to launch the usual mix of programs, with an added initiative of joining forces with the Surgeon General to tackle the number issue of mental health facing America’s youth.

“As The CW looks towards the future, we are evolving and adapting to become more than just a network. We are a brand that drives our passionate and dedicated audiences to engage directly with our programming across all platforms, both linear and digital,” said Mark Pedowitz.

These words sound nicely scripted by a publicity agent for Mr. Pedowitz, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The CW Network, but I am not really sure what they mean as far as how the network operates.

Nevertheless, new drama series this fall include a prequel to “Supernatural” with “The Winchesters,” the epic, untold love story of how John Winchester (Drake Rodger) met Mary Campbell (Meg Donnelly) and put it all on the line to not only save their love, but the entire world.

When John returns home from fighting in Vietnam, a mysterious encounter sparks a new mission to trace his father’s past. In his journey, he crosses paths with demon hunter Mary, who is also searching for answers after the disappearance of her own father.

The two join forces with young hunter-in-training Latika (Nida Khurshid) and easygoing hunter Carlos (Jonathan Fleites) to uncover the hidden truths about both their families.

The “Professionals” follows Vincent Corbo (Tom Welling), a top-tier security operative who is paid to protect the interests of rich and powerful clients by any means necessary, legal or not.

After a medical-data satellite explodes on launch, Corbo is hired by the rocket’s designer, billionaire futurist Peter Swann (Brendan Fraser), who suspects sabotage.

As Corbo and his team of security pros investigate the rocket disaster, they expose a lethal conspiracy of Swann’s corporate rivals, corrupt government officials, and a shadowy crime syndicate, all working to destroy Swann and take control of his tech empire.

Set in the late 1800s, “Walker Independence,” an origin story for hit series “Walker,” follows Abby Walker (Katherine McNamara), an affluent and tough-minded Bostonian whose husband is murdered before her eyes while on their journey out West.

Arriving in the town of Independence, Texas, Abby encounters diverse and eclectic residents running from their pasts, chasing their dreams, and keeping their own secrets.

“Family Law” centers around Abigail Bianchi (Jewel Staite), a high-paid personal injury lawyer who’s good at blaming others. After being kicked out of her family home because of her drinking, Abby goes on a bender, shows up drunk in court and vomits on a client.

She’s suspended and can only practice law again if she finds a senior lawyer willing to take her on and mentor her for a one-year probationary period. The only one agreeable to take the risk is her estranged father Harry Svensson (Victor Garber), who runs the top family law practice.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Of course, the “elderly couple” in Adrienne Christian’s witty and tenderly observed poem “Portrait of Pink, or Blush,” likely, if they are like me, do not imagine themselves to be “elderly,” but what they will appreciate is the sensuality of Christian’s observation.

The delicate sentiment in the poem lies in the suggestion that it is Christian who may be the blushing voyeur at the end of the day, and that, of course, is lovely and generous.

Portrait of Pink, or Blush
By Adrienne Christian

when today at a bistro
an elderly couple in jeans, leather
bomber jackets, and heeled boots
stepped down from their stools
to stand and go home—

him behind her,
his bomber jacket zipper
a spine at her back,
him wrapping on her scarf

the heart-shaped cookie she nibbled
the shape of her mouth,
that cookie, puffy,
with still-soft icing white and rose—

I learned
the anthropology of blush

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 Adrienne Christian, “Portrait of Pink, or Blush” from All the Songs We Sing, Edited by Lenard D. Moore (Blair/Carolina Wren Press, 2020.) Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Upcoming Calendar

06.07.2023 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Clearlake City Council special meeting
06.07.2023 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
East Region Town Hall
06.08.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
06.09.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Crafters group
06.10.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Crafters group
06.10.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild
06.10.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
06.12.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild
Lakeport Senior Center
Flag Day

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