Friday, 30 September 2022

Arts & Life




LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — Local writer, poet and journalist Thurman Watts’ writing is featured in a new anthology of Black writers titled “Black Fire — This Time.”

Watts’ contribution is a short story entitled, “Mbombe’s Glass.”

The anthology focuses on the history and legacy of the Black Arts Movement and features the writings of several Bay Area poets, along with more than 80 other contributors from across the country.

The 500-page collection provides a new generation with the powerful voices of the Black Arts Movement and beyond.

The foreword by Ishmael Reed, a poet and MacArthur “Genius” fellow, describes the work as a 21st century “update” on the state of Black writing arts, building upon the traditions of Alain Locke’s The New Negro (1925) and Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal’s Black Fire: an anthology of Afro-American Writing (1968).

Edited by Dr. Kim McMillon of the University of California, Merced, and with an Introduction by Dr. Margo Natalie Crawford, the theme of this anthology is “Black is Beautiful, Black is Powerful, Black is Home.”

The collection bridges many of the founders of the Black Arts Movement, including Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, Sonia Sanchez, Haki Madhubuti, Amiri Baraka, Wanda Coleman, Dudley Randall, Eugene B. Redmond and Askia Touré. It also features contemporary established writers in the tradition such as Brian G. Gilmore, extending to Ishmael Reed’s “younger generation”— Karla Brundage, Allison E. Francis, Tongo Eisen-Martin and C. Liegh McInnis.

The book is also distinguished for its inclusion and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community to provide a more complete view of the myriad perspectives on Black Identity and writing.

On Saturday July 16, at 1 p.m., Watts will join a virtual online conversation and reading with other contributors to “Black Fire–This Time.” The event is presented by the San Francisco Public Library and can be live streamed at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjVWjsjgY54

“Black Fire —This Time” was published by Willow Press on March 15. The book in paperback retails for $34.99.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — The Middletown Area Merchants Association is once again presenting free movies in Middletown Square Park this summer.

The movie “Encanto” will be shown on Saturday, July 9, at dusk.

Come early to enjoy an evening in Middletown.

Bring chairs, blankets and a picnic to the park at the library and senior center at 21266 Calistoga Road.

All those attending must abide by California COVID-19 guidelines.

Upcoming movies are “Jungle Cruise” on July 23 and “Sing 2” on Aug. 13.



‘ELVIS’ RATED PG-13

Nothing expresses the cinematic style of writer, director and producer Baz Luhrmann more than his Academy Award-winning “Moulin Rouge!,” which brought back the movie musical and cemented his cultlike following.

It’s not far off the mark to note that Luhrmann’s signature blend of fantasy, romance and decadence fuses high and low culture, resulting in a trademark theatrical aesthetic that captivates audiences and ignites imaginations.

The visionary Luhrmann’s artistic touch has turned “Elvis” into an epic, big-screen spectacle with flashy visuals and bold colors that underscore Elvis Presley’s (Austin Butler) ascent to iconic status.

As much as Elvis establishes himself as the King of Rock ‘n Roll, this Luhrmann opus (the film runs 159 minutes) is equally, if not more so, the story of Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), the carnival barker who latched on to the musical sensation from Tupelo, Mississippi.

The rise of Elvis is seen through the machinations of Parker, who proved to be so focused on promotion and manipulation of his meal ticket that he quickly abandoned his touring shows with country and western singer Hank Snow (David Wenham).

The early Elvis was captivated by Black musicians on Memphis’ famous Beale Street juke joints as well as revival tent shows. The blues and gospel music proved to be heavy influences on Elvis’ musical style.

Enamored with Black artists like B.B. King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), Big Momma Thornton (Shonka Dukureh), and Little Richard (Alton Mason), Elvis took their music mainstream and used his hip-swiveling stage gyrations that made girls scream in ecstasy.

Thinking about how Elvis ended up overweight and dependent on drugs makes more fascinating his meteoric rise in the early days to sex symbol status, and credit goes to Austin Butler’s strong performance as the Elvis that should be remembered.

Though Elvis lived only to the age of 42, his life was stuffed with biographical excess that can’t be unpacked here, and Luhrmann glosses over vast swathes of his career, notably skimming over the decade of lackluster Hollywood musicals.

Since the world is populated with thousands of low-rent Elvis impersonators with minimal talent, judge for yourself how well Austin Butler revives the Elvis mystique. The young actor nails the portrayal of a legend with blazing energy in every musical number.

In the end, it’s sad to think how Col. Parker was a duplicitous, avaricious and contemptuous con artist whose scheming manipulations caused Elvis to be a virtual hostage unable to escape his greedy clutches.

The last chapter of “Elvis” are the Vegas years where Elvis took up residence at the International Hotel, mainly because Parker needed to pay off his considerable gambling debts, while Elvis was falling deeper into a life of despair.

One can’t help but think that after Elvis lost his beloved mother Gladys (Helen Thomson) and his marriage to Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge) crashed and burned, life for the King of Rock 'n Roll was destined to spiral out of control.

The dysfunctional relationship between the King and his grasping promoter that is explored is sadly essential to “Elvis,” but what is most satisfying is the singer’s interaction with the talented Black artists and his rocking musical performances.

‘THE DOCTOR BLAKE MYSTERIES’ ON OVATION TV

Ovation TV bills itself as America’s premier arts network, and yet it also features foreign mystery series. The first season of “The Doctor Blake Mysteries” will begin airing on Thursday, July 7.

This is a period Australian murder mystery series starring Aussie versatile actor Craig McLachlan as the maverick town doctor Lucien Blake, an impulsive risk-taker who’s not afraid to upset the status quo.

The setting is 1959. Dr. Blake has returned to a place he once called home to take over his deceased father’s medical practice set in the gothic gold rush town of Ballart.

Everything seems peaceful on the surface, but seething underneath are the age-old passions of a regional town clashing head-on with the tension and fears of the decade to come.

Haunted by the horrors of war, his own personal loss and changed by his experiences as a POW, the wry, yet very human Dr. Blake undertakes his other role as Police Surgeon with precision and gusto while many find his unpredictable and unconventional manner unnerving.

Ahead of his time, the good doctor looks to the science of forensics and his own understanding of the human heart and mind to help solve the mysteries that inevitably come his way.

In the first episode, when a wayward girl from the local reform school is found dead in Lake Wendouree, Dr. Lucien Blake is immediately suspicious. He shocks the police with his unconventional investigative methods.

Working beside Dr. Blake, helping and at times hindering, are his housekeeper Jean (Nadine Garner); her nephew Danny (Rick Donald), a young Constable; District Nurse Mattie O’Brien (Cate Wolfe); and Chief Superintendent Matthew Lawson (Joel Tobeck).

The original, period murder mystery series “The Doctor Blake Mysteries” will air four episodes back-to-back every Thursday, with season two episodes beginning on Thursday, July 21.

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

Only a few weeks ago, CBS was claiming a ratings victory for the 2021-2022 television season, with a top network executive boasting that CBS was repeating its position as “America’s most-watched network.”

What does this have to do with the NBC network? Well, the Peacock network touts winning the September-to-May Season as the number one in the key 18 to 49-year-old demographic.

In the end, do the bragging rights have any real impact on the viewing audience’s consideration of where to tune in? It’s inside baseball that matters only to advertisers, so let’s chalk it up to pointless statistics.

Claiming to be the most-watched television show of the decade, “The Voice” returns this fall to anchor Monday nights for its 22nd cycle, welcoming multi-platinum global recording artist Camila Cabello.

Gwen Stefani, global superstar and music legend, returns to “The Voice,” alongside John Legend and Blake Shelton. The versatile Carson Daly, with a career as radio personality and talk show host, resumes his hosting duties.

Television producer Dick Wolf may be best known as the creator of the wildly popular “Law & Order” franchise, but success has also come to his Wednesday night lineup known as “One Chicago.”

The Windy City is at the center of a highly-rated night of drama series focusing on the professional and private lives of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel with “Chicago Med,” followed by “Chicago Fire” and concluding with “Chicago P.D.”

NBC could also be the Dick Wolf network, at least for two full nights. The producer’s iconic brand owns Thursday nights with the flagship “Law & Order” kicking off Season 22, followed by the 24th season of “Law & Order: SVU.” The night concludes with “Law & Order: Organized Crime.”

What’s old becomes new in network television. “Night Court,” which ran on NBC from 1984 to 1992, starred Harry Anderson as eccentric Judge Harry Stone, who presided over a courtroom that devolved into plenty of wackiness.

John Larroquette’s prosecutor Dan Fielding, a constant presence before the judge’s night court, was an amoral narcissist and a lecher constantly hitting on attractive women with his sexual banter.

The new “Night Court” in the fall lineup has Melissa Rauch joining the cast as Judge Abby Stone, the daughter of the late Harry Stone, who follows in her father’s footsteps as she presides over the night shift of a Manhattan arraignment court.

Judge Abby has the unenviable task of trying to bring order to the courtroom’s crew of oddballs and cynics, most notably former night court prosecutor Dan Fielding. Indeed, John Larroquette returns 30 years later to the role. Will he be an aging lothario?

A family affair arrives for comedian George Lopez and his daughter Mayan Lopez in the fall comedy “Lopez vs. Lopez,” which is described by the network as a working-class family comedy about dysfunction, reconnection and all the pain and joy in between.

Apparently, George Lopez will have to contend with his ex-wife Rosie (Selenis Leyva), Mayan’s mother, as well as with Mayan’s live-in boyfriend Quinten (Matt Shively), seemingly thought to be the bane of his existence.

Another reboot to hit the fall schedule is “Quantum Leap,” which ran from 1989 to 1993 and starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, a scientist who experimented in time travel and found himself trapped in the past.

Dr. Beckett’s journeys would have him “leap” into the bodies of different people on a regular basis to sort out their problems while trying like E.T. to get back home. On one occasion, he leaped into himself as a teenager to help his high school basketball team win a championship.

With Raymond Lee in the lead, a fresh team has been assembled in the new “Quantum Leap” to restart the time travel project in the hopes of understanding the mysteries behind the machine and the man who created it.

“Million Dollar Island,” a new unscripted series, is a high-stakes social experiment in which 100 contestants must forge friendships and build alliances as they plot to stay on a remote desert island for up to 50 days and compete to win their share of the ultimate $1 million prize.

Upon arrival each contestant is given a bracelet worth $10,000. During their time on the island, contestants gain and lose bracelets through various challenges, but when a player leaves the island, they must choose who will receive their portion of the money.

In this intense competition, the strength of personal bonds is just as important as being the ultimate player. “Survivor” won’t be the only game in town for an adventure reality show.

For the holiday season, “Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas” is a movie musical about the frenetic backstage story of Dolly’s desire to uplift an exhausted world’s spirits by sharing the unique “mountain magic” found in and around Dollywood at Christmas.

Dolly shows the world that the real magic lies in the realization that Christmas is about the people we share it with, and how her faith remains the common thread between Christmases past, present and future.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.


Alice Friman, in her emotionally complex poem, “The Peach,” describes what appears to be the end of a relationship.

The nature of the relationship is not clear, though Friman’s images of stickiness and running juices suggests a tactile sensuality, that stands in contrast to the final image of snowdrifts and numbness.

It is a short, compact, narrative, that ends with a delicately captured disquiet, captured in the question that ends the poem.

The Peach
By Alice Friman

I stood on a corner eating a peach,
the juice running down my arm.
A corner in Pergos where he left me,
Pergos where I could catch a bus.
What was I supposed to do now
alone, my hands sticky with it
standing on the corner where he
left me a Greek peach, big as a softball,
big as an orange from Spain, but it
wasn’t from Spain, but from Pergos,
where I could see his red truck
disappear around a corner, not
my corner but further up the street,
and only later, months later, back
home when the trees were slick
with ice, their topmost branches
shiny as swords stabbing the heart
out of the sky, the earth chilled under
snowdrifts or as we tend to say, sleeping.
But I don’t know, frozen maybe, numb?


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 Alice Friman, “The Peach” from The Georgia Review Vol LXXV No. 3. 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.

Lake County Poet Laureate Georgina Marie Guardado. Courtesy photo.


UPPER LAKE, Calif. — The Lake County Land Trust is hosting Georgina Marie Guardado, Lake County’s Poet Laureate for 2020-2024, at a nature Journaling event at the Land Trust’s Rodman Preserve, 63350 Westlake Road in Upper Lake, on Saturday, July 2, starting at 9 a.m.

Dubbed “Nature Journaling Under the Oaks,” the event is a casual, unstructured workshop that features interaction with Georgina Marie and other writers, enjoying the beauty of the ancient Oaks and other features at the preserve.

Bring a chair, writing supplies and a water bottle.

Georgina Marie is the first Mexican-American and youngest to serve in this role for the county.

In June 2021, she was selected as a Poets Laureate Fellow with the Academy of American Poets.

She is the literary coordinator and Poetry Out Loud Coordinator for the Lake County Arts Council, where she also serves as a board member, and poet in residence for The Bloom in Middletown.

She has served as co-editor for the Middletown Art Center’s Resilience and Restore collections of written word, funded by the California Arts Council.

As part of the Broken Nose Collective, an annual chapbook exchange, she created her first poetry chapbook Finding the Roots of Water in 2018 and her second chapbook Tree Speak in 2019.

In 2020, she was an Anne G. Locasio scholar for the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference and is now a member of their board of directors.

For information contact the Lake County Land Trust at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. RSVPs are appreciated, but not required.

The Rodman Preserve. Courtesy photo.

Upcoming Calendar

1Oct
10.01.2022 7:00 am - 11:00 am
Sponsoring Survivorship annual walk and run
1Oct
10.01.2022 8:00 am - 2:00 pm
Konocti Challenge
1Oct
1Oct
10.01.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
1Oct
10.01.2022 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
20th annual Falling Leaves Quilt Show
1Oct
10.01.2022 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Weekly writing workshop
1Oct
10.01.2022 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Lakeport Harvest Festival
1Oct
10.01.2022 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Harvest Dinner and Silent Auction
Peace and Plenty Farm
1Oct
10.01.2022 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Luau on the Creek

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