Tuesday, 03 October 2023

Arts & Life

Andre Williams. Courtesy photo.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — Middletown Art Center presents the fourth and final “Sounds of Liberation” conversation, this time with singer, songwriter Andre Williams on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 5:30 p.m. at Andre’s Lounge in Lakeport and on Zoom.

Williams, R&B vocalist, songwriter, producer and local entrepreneur, will be hosted by Clovice Lewis, composer, musician, educator and social justice advocate from Upper Lake in a conversation about race and music.

The evening includes an intimate performance by Williams and Lewis and an opportunity for audience questions.

Doors open at 5:15 p.m.

“This will be a ‘no-holds-barred’ conversation about how Andre's art has been molded by race, systemic racism, and social justice, and these forces in American culture. Please attend. It is important,” said Lewis.

A pure vocalist, Williams’ smooth, warm tenor sounds blend R&B and Jazz. In 1991 he joined MC Hammer’s World Tour, “Too Legit to Quit” as lead vocalist and continues to perform with Hammer to this day. Their performance credits together include The Arsenio Hall Show, the American Music Awards, Soul Train Music Awards and the video, “Bring Our Brother’s Home”. Williams has written or produced songs for musical artists including Dorothy Moore, The Pointer Sisters and The Whispers. “They Don’t Know” is his latest solo album.

A music and food entrepreneur, Williams has been in business and radio in Lake County since 1995 starting in the Clearlake area. He established Drinx Bar & Grill in Lakeport in 2015 to provide a performance venue for local or guest musicians and opened Andre’s Lounge, a jazz and piano bar, this past summer.

Sounds of Liberation is a collaboration between Clovice Lewis and the MAC that honors the Black experience as told through musical genres that have contributed to and influenced contemporary North American music and culture and the personal experiences of Black musicians living in Lake County.

The project launched on June 19, 2021, with a conversation between Lewis and arts and social justice advocate Sabrina Klein. Their conversation was followed by the inauguration of MAC’s annual Juneteenth Celebration.

The partnership between Lewis and the MAC was forged during A Community Call to Action: A Loving Response to Systemic Racism in America meeting.

The local action group, also known as CCA, was formed in response to the widely publicized and horrific deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“This series of interviews and performances are based on my research on the role of African music as the music of liberation,” explained Lewis. “My central thesis is that most African American music is, in some manner, a reflection of the harm of systemic racism and oppression.”

The primary goal of the Sounds of Liberation project is to create environments that support public exploration of challenging questions about systemic racism in America through music. Linkages between Big Band, R & B and rap will be explored during this Sounds of Liberation event.

Join Clovice Lewis and Andre Williams in-person at Andre’s Lounge in Lakeport, or on Zoom. Seating at Andre’s Lounge is limited and Zoom pre-registration is required.

Tickets are available by donation, no one turned away for lack of funds at www.middletownartcenter.org/sounds-of-liberation.

Community members of all ages are welcome and invited to join. Andre’s Lounge is located at 150 N. Main St. in Lakeport.

Sounds of Liberation is made possible with community support and with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Learn more at www.calhum.org.

The MAC Gallery is open Thursday to Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by appointment by phoning 707-809-8118.

The current show on view is “Belonging.”

Learn more about the MAC and ways that you can support their work weaving the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County at www.middletownartcenter.org.


How does a soccer team in a remote area of northeast Wales garner any interest from American sports fans?

“Welcome to Wrexham” on the FX cable channel provides the answer in a documentary series about two actors initiating a takeover of a team mired in low standing.

The Hollywood glamour, so to speak, comes from American and Canadian actors, respectively Rob McElhenny (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” fame) and Ryan Reynolds (“Deadpool”) who couldn’t even visit the Welsh town for a long time due to the pandemic.

This might be the perfect time to take a look at “Welcome to Wrexham” because over here across the pond from the United Kingdom we are in full swing in our own frenzied sports season.

Major League Baseball is in the throes of the playoffs where a thrilling series had the San Diego Padres slaying the dragon to the north, the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers who had the most wins during the season and finished twenty-two games ahead of their southern rival.

National League Football is in full swing and the Philadelphia Eagles are crushing opponents. The Eagles success is probably not lost on Rob McElhenney, a product of the City of Brotherly Love, who displays in the first episode his fervent support for his beloved NFL team.

This time of year also brings the start of the season for the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association. What major sports are we missing? Horse racing at Santa Anita Park? Well, the ponies are running, and so all the bases are covered.

Reynolds and McElhenney have very little knowledge of the sport known as football practically everywhere else in the world except in the United States. Their enthusiasm for “the beautiful game” is either genuine or a Hollywood construct for a television series.

In the early going in this documentary series, the actors’ interaction with the Wrexham team is limited to Zoom meetings and phone calls, while British comedian and screenwriter Humphrey Ker takes on the role of “Rob and Ryan’s guy” at the football club.

The second episode finds Ker, now the team’s executive director, introducing himself to the players as a writer on TV shows who won’t have anything to do with what happens on the field. The look on the faces of the footballers is priceless.

Officially known as Wrexham Association Football Club, which turns out to be the third oldest professional team in existence with the home base of the oldest international football stadium in the world, is also referred to as “a diamond in the heart of Wales” in a song.

One can be forgiven for thinking that two actors buying a football club in a foreign country is a publicity stunt. That’s certainly on the minds of denizens of Wrexham, one of them asking the duo “Why Wrexham?”

The answer, as if coming from a politician, is not readily forthcoming, though McElhenney admits to being a sports fanatic from Philadelphia with a deep love for the Eagles. He musters up the opinion that Wrexham reminds him of Philadelphia.

The actor, who had yet to visit this Welsh town when making the comparison, offers the view that Wrexham is a working-class and blue-collar town. Indeed, the scenery of Wrexham lacks the beautiful mansions found in the elite neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

The documentary also explains the English Football League as a pyramid where the Premier League is at the pinnacle, followed by the Championship and then League One and League. Below these four tiers is the National League and that’s where we find the Wrexham AFC.

While the top players in the Premier League could pocket 3.5 million British pounds, the lowly National League players take in the minimum wage level pay of 39,000 pounds, which might be decent pay in the decaying industrial Wrexham.

Back to the question of “Why Wrexham?” Both Reynolds and McElhenney take pains, even as they can’t resist being jokers at times, to assure the doubters that they don’t undertake lightly the desire to build something.

When Reynolds and McElhenney participate in a news conference, a Welsh interpreter playfully notes that the actors “have never pleased their wives” and that they are doomed “to die alone in their mansions.”

A truer statement comes from team manager Dean Keates who notes that there are three guarantees for a football manager, namely “you’re born, you pay taxes and you get sacked.” One of these three do come to pass, and you get only one guess.

During the recent television press tour, John Landgraf, chairman of FX, acknowledged that the series follows not just the fate of the team but also the “fandom in general” and the history of the town.

“Welcome to Wrexham” tells the tale of a town of 65,000 residents, and from the patrons at a local pub to the home of a single father raising two sons in joint custody, it’s obvious that fans really do matter for any team.

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


A date night movie sounds like a great idea for a couple to enjoy an evening’s entertainment, and the romantic comedy of “Ticket to Paradise” starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts as exes on a mission to thwart their daughter’s matrimony is an interesting premise.

In recent years, romantic comedies from a major studio have become increasingly scarce. Dating as far back as the 1930s with the then-called “screwball comedy,” the genre continued to evolve and flourish through the start of the century.

It’s not like romantic comedies have disappeared altogether, considering how Netflix showcases more films than one can humanly consume or that the genre has veered away from the conventional approach.

Film director Ol Parker had a feeling that our global collective experience over the last couple of years during the pandemic had left audiences yearning for the rebirth of romantic comedy.

In the press notes for “Ticket to Paradise,” Parker realized that “romantic comedies bring a large audience together to collectively laugh with each other, and after a few tough years, that seemed like a beautiful thing to bring to the big screen.”

Clooney and Roberts have been a screen couple before as Danny and Tess Ocean in “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Ocean’s Twelve,” and though those films are not romantic, the stars did trade barbs and insults which look like practice for their reunion here.

With their cinematic history, Clooney and Roberts were obvious choices as the long-divorced couple of David and Georgia who despise each other because this premise is only going to work when the actors have the chemistry required to eventually break down the barrier of bitterness.

David and Georgia were married for only five years, but he says it felt more like nineteen, and the split was hardly amicable. They only come together in a most uncomfortable way to attend their daughter Lily’s graduation.

Fresh out of law school with a job waiting for her at a prestigious law firm, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) takes off on a vacation to scenic Bali with her friend and college roommate Wren (Billie Lourd) as a last thrill before the daily grind of work.

Lily’s professional plans get derailed when she falls for handsome seaweed farmer Gede (Maxime Bouttier), and after a rather brief courtship becomes engaged with apparent little thought to her future.

News of the impending nuptials doesn’t sit well with David and Georgia, who then embark on a shared clandestine mission to show up as supportive parents with a hidden agenda of undermining the wedding while struggling to conceal their mutual distaste.

A romantic comedy always has plot contrivances that are usually easy to spot. What’s not so readily discerned is figuring out the history of a couple that would rather endure root canal or some other unpleasantry than be in the same room together.

We have to accept it on faith that Georgia, an art gallery owner, and David, an architect, are so filled with acrimony and blame that they will bicker like school kids during the graduation ceremony.

The backbiting continues for Georgia and David when they inadvertently become seatmates on the long flight and end up trading barbs that provide some of the humor one was hoping for from two charismatic characters.

An interesting twist to the international flight is the coincidence of Georgia’s younger boyfriend Paul (Lucas Bravo), a commercial airline pilot, just happening to be on duty. You can expect he will show up again at an unexpected moment.

An alcohol-fueled evening of overly exuberant dancing and beer pong competition by the parents leads to the inevitable waking up the next day to a situation that should surprise no one.

Filming the beautiful tropical lifestyle of Bali also captures and respects the Balinese people and culture, with Gede’s father (Agung Pindha) displaying a sense of humor that rivals that of the most practiced professional actor.

The script for “Ticket to Paradise” may be wafer-thin only because so much is predictable, and despite any drawbacks of serviceable tropes, the film benefits from the sunny, vibrant Indonesian location filled with glistening beaches and gorgeous sunsets.

More than the exquisite scenery of Bali is desired to turn this romantic vehicle into a winning film, unless you think Clooney and Roberts are all the backdrop necessary.

Punching a “Ticket to Paradise” is an overall enjoyable experience, if not completely memorable. This is a one-off romantic comedy that’s good enough in the moment but not likely worthy of a return engagement.

For now, “Ticket to Paradise” is a theatrical release but since this film is a Universal picture it’s set for release on Peacock in early December.

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

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Perhaps we are too close to the monumental moment in history to fully appreciate just how to approach it in poetry, but the poets are writing about this pandemic in the way that poets must — to find language to chart the sentiment of the time.

“April Moon,” by Cathy Song, fixates on the need for genuine tenderness between those who are surviving — an act of choice and control, in the midst of the uncontrollable swirl of loss orbiting about us.

“Grace willing,” she writes, “we will remember.”

This seems like a fitting epitaph for a poet in these times.

April Moon
By Cathy Song

The moon tonight is closer to us
than it will be
for the rest of the year,
grace willing, the year
we will remember as the Great Pandemic.
Pulling us closer into its orbit,
shining the light of its fullness into the room,
we turn to hold in our hands
each other’s face as if
for the first time,
and the last—
Pink Moon, Egg Moon, Moon of New Grass.

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 ©2022 by Cathy Song, “April Moon” from The Academy of American Poets, Poem-A-Day, January 3, 2022. 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.

This an elegant elegy to a father who has passed, captured in the rituals that families create as a way to remember, to honor and to even celebrate.

The extra place set at table before a feast of great sensual and emotional power reflects how mourning touches the deepest parts of our self.

NaBeela Washington’s poem asks the question: “Why Do We Set the Table?”

The poem is the answer.

Why Do We Set the Table?
By NaBeela Washington

At what temperature does blood
begin to boil? Thicken into a
roux, slip between bits of
basil, minced garlic,

Permeate chunks of spicy kielbasa,
bind a dash of salt, pepper, bubbles
roiling forth, then dissipating,
heat lowered to a hush;

Congeal from the shock of cool
clay dishes as a small mound
is delicately plated with a
large plastic spoon;

Spurt steam, burning both
nostrils, as we lean in to say
grace, my father’s seat empty,
placemat bare.

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 ©2022 by NaBeela Washington, “Why Do We Set the Table?” from crazyhorse, Number 101, Spring 2022. 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 mermaid, curiously, is one of those mythological figures that remind us of the occasional moments of genuine “universality” in human experience.

All around the world, she recurs in myths, folktales, poems, and legends, fully formed, always complex, and profoundly assertive of the feminine force in the world.

Jessica Lee Alton, in her poem, “Tipping the Scales,” gently guides us towards the unveiling of her version of the mermaid — petulant, dangerous, powerful, seductive, and defiantly mysterious.

Tipping the Scales
By Jessica Lee Alton

She smokes in your face just to be like that
Never wants to give you free advice
Asks for a dollar, a drink, a ride home
Twirls a wet lock around her thumb
Pulls out her fin just so she can trip you
Can’t hide that smell, razor blades, salt shakers
She wants your love, grants nothing in return
Can’t control her voracious appetite
ingesting friends like trinkets-baubles-spoons
Tries to pull you in with her siren song
Lips move-no sound-broken karaoke
You strain to listen, end up in her mouth
She swims you with the salmon south then north
Drops you at a gas station dumbfounded
Steals your car drunk splashes water at the moon
As you walk, you wonder how she drives
with that scaly turquoise mercurial tail

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 Jessica Lee Alton, “Tipping the Scales” from Ripe Literary Journal, Issue 01, October 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.

Upcoming Calendar

10.03.2023 9:00 am - 2:00 pm
Board of Supervisors
10.03.2023 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm
National Night Out
10.05.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
10.06.2023 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
David Arkenstone & Friends in concert
10.07.2023 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Sponsoring Survivorship Breast Cancer Run & Walk
10.07.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
Columbus Day
10.12.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
10.14.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Soap Box Derby

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.