Monday, 20 May 2024

Arts & Life

NAPA VALLEY “I often hear people in the community clamoring for a good lecture series,” commented Anne Evans, managing director of the Napa Valley College Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.

“We have a great one, right here, this summer a series of eight stimulating lectures, from leading novelists and poets, speaking on a wide range of subjects,” Evans said. “They’re bound to appeal whether you’re a writer, a reader, or just passionate about art and ideas.”

The lectures will run Monday, July 28 through Thursday, July 31, at the Napa Valley College’s Upper Valley Campus in St. Helena. (For a full schedule, see

Tickets for the lectures are $25 when reserved in advance or $30 at the door. Advance reservations are recommended.

The prize-winning poets and novelists prepare a lecture about whatever is most compelling to them at the moment. “As a result, the lectures offer a kind of snapshot or Rorschach test of where our culture is at the moment, when it comes to arts and letters,” said Evans.

In the 1990s, Evans explained, the writers seemed to focus more on the craft of writing, whereas lately they have become more engaged in the larger world. Especially since Sept. 11, 2001, writers have become more concerned with their responsibility as chroniclers of social and political injustice and upheaval.

On Thursday, July 31, at 9 a.m., Brenda Hillman will speak on “Reportorial Poetry: Bringing Poetic, Spiritual, and Political Activism Together.” The war in Iraq, African genocide, and the oppression of women have all entered her poems recently.

“I’m going to talk some about the issue of writing ‘politically’ in the past,” Hillman said. “I’ll mention the work of Shelley, George Oppen, Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan, particularly the debate between Levertov and Duncan and how it inspired me. What does a reporter consider when looking at an ‘activity’ and how might the 'stuff' of an activity make it into poetry?”

Hillman is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently “Pieces of Air in the Epic.”

Novelist Lan Samantha Chang will lecture on the well-known short story “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, from the book of the same title about the author’s experience in Vietnam.

“This book is widely assigned in high school English classes and is a favorite of young people,” said Evans.

Chang is the author of the novel “Inheritance” and is the director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the premier graduate writing program in the nation. Her work has appeared in “Best American Short Stories.” Chang’s lecture is scheduled for Tuesday, July 29 at 1:30 p.m.

Film-lovers will want to attend Ehud Havazelet’s lecture on Thursday, July 31, 1:30 p.m, entitled “Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Point of View.”

“I want to show how masterfully Hitchcock uses point of view to force us into his movie, and then hope we can talk about how point of view works in fiction more generally,” said Havazelet, who will show scenes from the film.

Havazelet’s most recent novel, “Bearing the Body,” was a New York Times Notable Book of 2007.

Rounding out the lecture series are acclaimed poet Mark Doty, speaking on poet Jean Valentine; Ann Packer, author of the bestseller “The Dive From Clausen’s Pier,” on “Character and Consciousness”; Claudia Rankine on “The End of the Line”; Nick Flynn on “Bewilderment: Accessing the Unknown”; and Ron Carlson on “The Author’s Benevolent Ally: Doubt.”

“Ron Carlson is an unfailingly entertaining and inspiring lecturer,” said Dr. Chris McCarthy, president of Napa Valley College and a regular participant at the conference.

Barbara Insel, a marketing researcher in St. Helena, spoke highly of her experience attending lectures at the 2007 conference. “It was refreshing to get away from the every day and use the brain muscles in a slightly different way. Laura Kasishcke’s lecture was funny and insightful. It was about writing but also about everything.”

In addition to the lecture series, the public is welcome to the evening readings, Sunday, July 27, through Wednesday, July 30.

“We give these in wonderful venues, so that they’re meant to celebrate our joy in having so many wonderful literary artists in our midst,” said Evans.

The venues this year include the courtyard at the Upper Valley Campus, St. Supéry Winery, Robert Mondavi Winery and the Napa Valley Opera House.

Each reading is preceded by a wine reception. Tickets for the readings are $8 if reserved in advance and $10 at the door.

For reservations, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 707-967-2903.

For complete information, see or call 707-967-2903 to request a brochure.

Schedule of readings and lectures

Sunday, July 27

7:30 p.m.: Readings by Nick Flynn and Lan Samantha Chang. Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave, St. Helena.

Monday, July 28

9 a.m.: Mark Doty, “Jean Valentine’s Ghost Sonnets.” Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave, St. Helena.

1:30 p.m.: Ann Packer, “Character and Consciousness.” Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave., St. Helena.

7:30 p.m.: Readings by Claudia Rankine and Ron Carlson. St. Supéry Winery, Rutherford.

Tuesday, July 29

9 a.m.: Nick Flynn, “Bewilderment: Accessing the Unknown.” Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave, St. Helena.

1:30 p.m.: Lan Samantha Chang, “What is a Short Story? Structure and ‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’Brien.” Upper Valley Campus.

7:30 p.m.: Readings by Brenda Hillman and Ehud Havazelet. Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville.

Wednesday, July 30

9 a.m.: Claudia Rankine, “The End of the Line.” Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave., St. Helena.

1:30 p.m.: Ron Carlson: “The Writer’s Benevolent Ally: Doubt.” Upper Valley Campus.

7 p.m.: Readings by Mark Doty and Ann Packer, Napa Valley Opera House, 1021 Main St., Napa. Wine reception hosted by Saintsbury Winery.

Thursday, July 31

9 a.m.: Brenda Hillman, “Reportorial Poetry: Bringing Poetic, Spiritual and Political Activism Together.” Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave, St. Helena.

1:30 p.m.: Ehud Havazelet, “Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Point of View.” Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave., St. Helena.




This summer is shaping up as the season for realizing many comic books into silver screen action, and the highly anticipated return of Batman is still around the corner.

But, first, Hellboy, born in the flames of hell and brought to Earth as an infant to perpetrate evil, is back once again, brilliantly conceived by director Guillermo del Toro as a superhero unlike the others, especially with his wisecracking personality.

Affectionately known as Big Red, Hellboy was rescued by American soldiers from occult Nazi forces during World War II. Raised by the benevolent Dr. Trevor Broom (John Hurt) to be the most improbable of heroes, Big Red is extraordinarily tough but has a soft spot for kittens.

“Hellboy II: The Golden Army” requires little knowledge of the prior film. All you need to know about the big red fellow with horns and a sledgehammer for a right hand is explained in the film’s opening scenes during his youth at an Army camp.

As an adult in contemporary times, Hellboy (Ron Perlman), a complicated figure, is a reluctant hero only because the public fails to appreciate his good deeds and often questions his motives.

Being the misunderstood figure may arise from Hellboy’s hot-tempered attitude and reckless behavior in carrying out missions to destroy the paranormal creatures that frequently surface in Manhattan, bent on destruction of mankind. At least Hellboy always has good intentions.

Hellboy fights the good fight when called to duty by his government handlers at the top-secret Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, based at a decaying urban site in New Jersey.

Under the command of the officious agent Manning (Jeffrey Tambor), the bureau uses secret technology, mysterious powers and a network of operatives with otherworldly powers to defend the universe against the more violent supernatural forces.

For his part, Hellboy would rather kick back with cigars and a case of Tecate beer, enjoying time with his fickle girlfriend Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) and their clutter of cats.

Meanwhile, an ancient truce is about to be broken in an underworld long ruled by peaceful King Balor (Roy Dotrice), who had created an indestructible mechanical army of golden warriors but locked them up to keep the world safe from annihilation.

The king’s evil son, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), grows impatient in the shadow of his father and becomes increasingly anxious to unleash the dormant army of killing machines that will supposedly return what belongs to his people.

Returning from exile, Prince Nuada shows up at an auction house and destroys the place while retrieving some ancient artifacts. After that, he confronts his father and his twin sister, Princess Nuala (Anna Walton), setting in motion his dastardly plan to conquer the planet.

Assisting Hellboy to save the planet is the volatile Liz, possessing a combustible superpower that allows her to use pyrotechnical skills when things get heated. Of course, Hellboy and Liz generate enough friction as an often bickering couple, where everyday irritations get blown out of proportion.

The intellectual in the good guy paranormal world is the half fish, half mammal Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), who has the power to read objects and know their past or the future. Often more a nuisance than helpful is the new member of the team, Johann (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), a gaseous ectoplasm who is usually annoying.

The plot of “Hellboy II” is not a big deal, nor does it give much thought in search of a coherent story. This is an all-out action picture, with the juicy scenes bracketed by the paranormal crew involved in romantic or emotional ordeals.

Director del Toro is keen on staging brilliant battles and fight scenes. Moreover, he’s brilliantly inspired to roll out some really interesting creatures. The hordes of spider-like tooth fairies that feed voraciously on human flesh and calcium are truly amazing. The secret Troll Market under the Brooklyn Bridge is populated by the craziest assortment of strange beings since the cantina scene in “Star Wars.”

“Hellboy II” is at its creative best when realizing strange worlds from another dimension. Visually stunning for all of its special effects, this film is much more than an artistic endeavor. First and foremost, it’s heavy enough on action and battles to be exciting to anyone unfamiliar with the Dark Horse comic book heritage of “Hellboy,” created by Mike Mignola, who happens to also serve as a co-executive producer for the movie.


The spoof genre is often good for a lot of laughs, at the cinema or on DVD release. Take, for example, “The Naked Gun” or “Scary Movie 4.”

From the comedic minds behind these films came “Superhero Movie,” which follows the misadventures of a high school student after he’s been bitten by a mutated dragonfly.

The movie intends to spoof, satirize and skewer the conventions of superhero cinema, poking fun at everything from the “X-Men” to the “Fantastic Four.” Sadly, even the presence of Leslie Nielsen and Pamela Anderson can’t rescue this weak entry in the spoof genre.

Not intended as a spoof is “Toxic,” but when it stars legendary porn star Ron Jeremy, rapper Master P and sexy women like Bai Ling and Dominique Swain, you have to wonder if this action thriller about an escaped mental patient is something other than a joke.

Even though this is a direct to DVD release, “Toxic” is an offbeat thriller that surpasses expectations and ends up being entertaining.

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


LAKEPORT – Don't forget to stop by Cafe Victoria on Saturday, July 5 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. for their First Saturday Open Mic event.

Last month Dante and Lorna Sue put on their comedy skit with a political slat. The costumes and makeup were great as well as the original comedy. This month we will have our resident magician Philip Martin up to his usual tricks.

Host Phil Mathewson never knows who will stop by since we have some much talent in Lake County and we are even getting out of town performers now.

Join in as a performer or a member of the audience.

The cafe is located at 301 Main St., Lakeport and has a house piano and guitar available in case you forget yours. Enjoy the Fourth of July weekend.

Call Vicky for further details at 263-1210.


LOWER LAKE – William Schlick, the founder of Inner Skies, is on Sabbatical to further his explorations of his craft and pursue new opportunities that have arisen for him.

As a result, the spot he previously occupied is now known as AnnDrewArt, a gallery of the art and crafts of local artists, art supplies, and other items best classified as eclectia.

The gallery is undergoing a renaissance of sorts with a new look, new hours, new artists and expanding product line, with a focus on expanding art and craft supplies. Currently, they carry Staedler fine art supplies, complete lines of Fimo and Wirelace and a few craft books. They also are in the process of opening a Framing/Fine Art Reproduction shop by the end of July.

There is a focus on the art supplies, with a 10-percent discount to art teachers and students and a huge 45-percent discount to all Lake County schools, public or private.

Big plans are under way for Summer Arts Camp at the Tuscan Village. Anyone interested in teaching one- to three-day workshops for interested young or adults artists are encouraged to contact the gallery. Teachers will receive a stipend, depending on enrollment.

The studio is open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. and is located at 16175-B Main St., Lower Lake.

For more information contact AnnDrewArt, telephone 995-5079 or 278-0312, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



HANCOCK (Rated PG-13)

You can’t go wrong with Will Smith, no matter what role he is playing. To say the least, “Hancock” takes one of our favorite actors in a totally new and unpredictable direction.

Believe it or not, in the film’s titular role, Will Smith’s John Hancock is a very different type of superhero. Disgruntled, sarcastic and misunderstood, Hancock is a homeless alcoholic who just happens to possess superhuman powers, much like Superman or Batman but without the nifty costume. Unlike other superheroes, he doesn’t live in a mansion with an underground lair. Normally passed-out drunk, Hancock resides on the most readily available bus bench.

Well-intentioned but careless, Hancock has a nasty habit of wreaking extensive damage while performing a daring rescue. Though his heroics can be appreciated, his antics and mishaps are starting to grate on the citizens of Los Angeles. It doesn’t help much that he looks as disheveled and unkempt as any hobo shuffling along Skid Row.

When people think of superheroes, they want someone in a crisp, appealing uniform, something polished like the Batsuit or Superman’s tights. In a city full of publicists, Hancock is desperately in need of an image makeover. Then he rescues hapless Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a public relations executive struggling to make a successful firm.

Stuck in his car on railroad tracks while a train quickly approaches, Ray is saved at the last minute by the heroic Hancock. Again, Hancock causes considerable damage by derailing the train, among other things. Of course, Ray appreciates his savior and seizes upon the opportunity to offer Hancock a way to burnish his image. To show his gratitude, Ray invites Hancock to dinner at his house with his wife Mary (Charlize Theron) and their young son Aaron (Jae Head).

The rehabilitation of Hancock into a more acceptable and decent superhero requires the development of an interesting PR plan. The first thing is a rather basic effort at sobriety and handling anger management. Ray also convinces Hancock that he should serve a brief prison stint to pay back society for some misdeeds.

Of course, there are some troubling developments behind the prison walls when other inmates seek retribution. The other side of the coin is that Hancock’s incarceration keeps him unavailable for his heroics, and soon his services are in demand once again as the city explodes in crime waves, though now his desire to be more courteous and understanding also results in some unintended problems.

The story of “Hancock” cruises along with much fun generated by the superhero’s sarcastic quips, as well as by his maladroit attempts to do good. There’s plenty of action, violence and destruction of property, mostly courtesy of Hancock’s exceedingly erratic and reckless behavior.

But the genial goofiness of “Hancock” soon gives way to a more abrupt shift in direction and tone. This is the result of a major revelation that is less surprising upon reflection of some of the attitudes on display earlier in the story. Nevertheless, the surprise should not be revealed because it sets up the climactic confrontation.

“Hancock” is the kind of film likely to generate divided opinions. Again, Will Smith can hardly do any wrong, and here his anti-hero is an engaging character well worth rooting for, even in a subdued fashion. And yet, paradoxically, Hancock is not a lovable figure. Still, he entertains because his attitude is devil-may-care.

As a film, “Hancock” suffers from its disjointed construction, but this is not a critical failure. As I see it, “Hancock” is far more interesting than the cartoon-like qualities often found in this type of film.

If you like Will Smith and trust his instincts, then “Hancock” is definitely worth a look. Moreover, he’s supported very ably by Jason Bateman’s enthusiasm and Charlize Theron’s understated mystery.


You can get a double dose of William Conrad in his successful TV career as a plump district attorney or an overweight private investigator. Conrad cast a large shadow in “Cannon” and “Jake and the Fatman.” Both series are being released on DVD.

As the private eye Frank Cannon, Conrad employed his physical attributes to larger-than-life effect while enjoying five-star meals and fighting for justice. “Cannon: Season One, Volume One” found that Cannon’s girth didn’t allow for many intense fist fights, but the series substituted high-speed car chases in their place.

In a smart crime drama from the late 1980s, Conrad starred as the tough district attorney Jason “Fatman” McCabe, working alongside his happy-go-lucky younger partner Jake Styles (Joe Penny).

“Jake and the Fatman: Season One, Volume One” follows the DA and his slick investigator sidekick as the unlikely duo set out to solve the toughest cases.

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


CLEARLAKE – Are you intrigued by crop dusters?

Wild About Books will host a book signing event at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 12, featuring Bert Atwood, author of “My Father Was A Crop Duster.”

Have you wondered what kind of person becomes a crop duster? How did the biplane dusters of the 20th century evolve? What did it take to build and maintain California’s largest fleet of duster?

In “My Father Was A Crop Duster” discover how pilots learn to crop dust. How biplanes were transformed into crop dusting work horses. Humorous incidents, dangerous incidents and near misses. Fatalities. Pilots who won big at the Reno Air Races. Pilots who pioneered crop dusting at night. How Bud and Leila Atwood built a crop dusting empire.

The book is a rare glimpse into the founding and success of California’s premiere 20th century crop dusting company. The writer’s personal touch and the private stories that only insiders knew is just great.

Bert Atwood is the sole surviving child of Bud and Leila Atwood. He was privy to more of the inner workings and incidents regarding their lives and the story of Atwood Crop Dusters than any other person now living.

Bert’s interviews of many former company associates yielded a vastly more detailed history of the company then he possessed on his own. This book includes 76 cameos of these associates providing great insight into their contributions to the company.

Printed in full color with over 100 color pictures and 100 black and white photos/images, “My Father Was A Crop Duster” is a beautiful “coffee table” book as well as a well detailed history.

Wild About Books is located at 14290 Olympic Drive in Clearlake, next door to Lisa's clothing store.

For an updated list of times and dates for upcoming events, stop by and see them or call 994-WILD (9453).


Upcoming Calendar

05.21.2024 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Board of Supervisors
05.21.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
05.21.2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Lakeport City Council
05.22.2024 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Lake Leadership Forum
05.25.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
Memorial Day
05.28.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
06.01.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile

Mini Calendar



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