Saturday, 13 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – A damp Easter Sunday pushed Clear Lake's level higher and led to forecasts of snow in higher elevations.

The National Weather Service issued an “urgent winter storm warning” for the county Sunday morning that predicted up to 10 inches of snow overnight in elevations about 2,000 feet.

That warning was pulled later in the day and replaced with a winter weather advisory predicting scattered rain and snow showers – with snow at 1,700 feet – throughout the night, with little or no snow accumulation expected.

On Monday, rain and snow showers are likely in the morning, with a 70 percent chance of rain throughout the day and wind gusts up to 21 miles per hour, the National Weather Service reported.

The forecast calls for the rain to return next weekend, after a week of days ranging from partly cloudy to mostly sunny.

Following a wet weekend, the news for the county's water supply is good.

Late Sunday, the US Geological Survey gauge for Clear Lake showed the lake's level at 7.20 feet Rumsey, the special measure used for Clear Lake.

A full lake is 7.56 feet Rumsey, according to Lake County's Water Resources Division.

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You’ve already thought about it and figured out the celebrity that I think best represents Chardonnay, haven’t you? Yes, you are right, Chardonnay is completely Kim Kardashian. It’s almost a no-brainer.

When I talked to winemakers about doing a celebrity comparison they tended to comment that Chardonnay would be hard to compare to just one celebrity since Chardonnays are so vastly different from winery to winery just one celebrity wouldn’t be able to represent them all.

To be completely accurate for this comparison I did my usual “cyber-stalking” of Kim Kardashian, looking for any and every fact that I could about her. I even watched several episodes of “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” to be thorough. Everything I learned just reinforced my belief that I made the right wine/celebrity comparison this week.

Kim Kardashian is an actress, consultant, businesswoman, model and spokesperson. She’s actually far more hard working, intelligent and talented than most people give her credit for. Chardonnay is the same way, in that people have become accustomed to a shallow, uninspired Chardonnay.

Chardonnay is classified as one of France’s “noble grapes,” and the term means a grape that produces a high quality wine. America doesn’t have a nobility class but our celebrities, like Kim Kardashian, are essentially our nobility.

Let’s face it: trend-wise, Chardonnay has had its moment in the limelight. These days if you admit that you like Chardonnay it’s like admitting that you watch “Keeping up with the Kardashians” – you expect people to look at you, make an odd face, and say “Really? Why?” One recent description about Chardonnay mentioned how people currently like to “diss on it” and that it’s getting “blinged out” (what can I say, Gary Vaynerchuk can be very entertaining).

But how can you not think the same thing about Kim Kardashian as being “Dissed on” and “Blinged out”? Like Chardonnay, we love to hate her. But I think it’s time to look at both with fresh eyes and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Looking at a glassful of Chardonnay or at Kim Kardashian is almost dreamlike. It’s like they both give off more light than they take in, and trying to describe them is like describing something made of light. In my opinion Kim Kardashian is one of the most beautiful women in the world, and I couldn’t imagine improving her in any way.

A talented winemaker can do the same thing with the Chardonnay grape, making the most perfect wine you can imagine with no ideas how to improve on it. The problem with Chardonnay’s reputation is that in the past winemakers followed the public’s taste for more oak in the wine but took it too far, to the point where it could attract termites.

Consumers have become so accustomed to heavy oak in Chardonnay that I once saw a person try to send a wine back claiming, “This isn’t a Chardonnay!” because it wasn’t oaky. Chardonnay grapes don’t taste like oak. People eventually grew tired of that quality and moved away from it, but still equate Chardonnays with an oaky flavor.

That’s the same problem with Kim Kardashian. People formed an opinion about her and have fused it in their minds. Both Chardonnay and Kim Kardashian have had awkward things happen to them, but they have both moved on. Unfortunately, the general public hasn’t changed it’s opinion on either of them.

I personally look at Chardonnay as a litmus test for a winemaker. I will taste a Chardonnay and, I admit it, I still look for “the oak monster” myself. If it’s not too heavily oak flavored I then examine the complexity of the wine, and how much of the chardonnay grape comes through as opposed to how much of the winemaking process comes through.

If I like the Chardonnay then I look forward to the rest of the wines at the winery. It’s as if my subconscious is soothed with “The winemaker did Chardonnay well, so they can probably do anything well.”

Still, both Chardonnay and Kim Kardashian get inaccurate and untruthful press now-a-days, even though most of the information is not true. Spousal abuse, bad relationships, they’re all inaccurate; poor Chardonnay. Then there are the rumors about Kim Kardashian ...

Descriptors you will find for Chardonnay can be butter, cream, nuts and minerals. Those are all staple flavors you will find in most Chardonnays, but individual wines could have more specifically: almonds, apple, apricot, banana, burnt wood, buttered popcorn, candied ginger, canned corn, caramel, citrus, crème brule, crème frais, custard, flint, green leaves, golden pear, jasmine, “Jolly Rancher” candies, kaffir lime, kiwi, lemon, limestone, melon, nutmeg, ocean, oranges, passion fruit, peach, pear, pie crust, quince, smoke, pineapple, toasted marshmallow, tropical fruit, vanilla, walnuts and

of course, wood.

Chardonnay is a full-bodied wine that’s big both coming and going, in comparison to Kim Kardashian who … has nice eyes.

Keep your eye out for a less oaky Chardonnay. Instead of aging entirely in oak barrels and additional oak chips, look for a wine that’s aged partially in oak and partially in steel, or you can even find Chardonnay aged entirely in steel without a hint of oak.

Just like Kim Kardashian Chardonnay might not be what you are expecting, so give them another try.

Lake County Chardonnay

Ceago Vinegarden

Cleavage Creek Winery

Langtry Estate and Vineyards

Ployez Winery (Chardonnay Wine and Chardonnay Sparkling Brut)

Robledo Family Winery

Rosa D’Oro Vineyards

Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery

Steele Wines

Terrill Cellars

Tulip Hill Winery (Lake County Winery, not a Lake County wine)

Wildhurst Vineyards

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, .

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LAKEPORT – With his trial set to start later this month, the man accused of murdering a taxi driver almost three years ago reached a plea deal with the prosecution on Thursday.

Morgan Matthew Jack, 33, of Nice, was facing trial for first-degree murder for the death of 39-year-old Paul Womachka on June 27, 2007, as Lake County News has reported.

However, Jack and his attorney, Stephen Carter, reached a plea agreement with Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff in which Jack pleaded no contest to a charge of voluntary manslaughter and admitted a special allegation that he personally used a knife or other sharp instrument to commit the crime.

The plea was taken before Judge Arthur H. Mann on Thursday.

The District Attorney's Office said that, for sentencing purposes, Jack's no contest plea is the same as pleading guilty.

When Jack is sentenced May 24 in Mann's Department 3 courtroom, he'll face a maximum 12-year sentence, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Hinchcliff said discussions over the plea deal started March 29. The trial had been scheduled to begin April 27.

After discussing the case and the state of the evidence with four of the investigators involved, and holding discussions at length with Paul Womachka's family – who agreed to the plan – the offer was made, said Hinchcliff.

“This was not something that we wanted to do,” he said, but added that he believed it was the right thing to do.

Carter said voluntary manslaughter carries 3-, 6- or 11-year terms, with the special allegation adding another year.

Jack will receive credit toward whatever prison term he receives, including the more than two years he has spent in the Lake County Jail, Carter said. Jack will have to serve 85 percent of the sentence.

Carter said that, in addition to the murder charge, two prior prison terms Jack served were dismissed from consideration as part of the plea deal. He estimated that Jack's worst case scenario is that he'll have to serve up to eight years in prison.

“Given the fact that he was looking at life in prison, we're extremely excited for him in terms of the resolution,” Carter said.

Womachka was called to Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino to give a ride to Jack, who he picked up shortly after midnight on June 27, 2007. The District Attorney's Office said that, based on witnesses and surveillance tape obtained by investigators, Jack appeared extremely intoxicated when he was at Robinson Rancheria, where patrons and security staff assisted him in getting the taxi ride from Robinson to Big Valley Rancheria.

Later that same day, shortly after 11 a.m., Womachka's ex-wife and business partner, Ericka Womachka, would report him missing.

His body was found two days later, submerged in his Hey, Taxi! minivan, which was found in the marina at Big Valley Rancheria in Lakeport.

During testimony in Jack's April 2008 preliminary hearing, it was disclosed that Womachka was still wearing his seatbelt, his hands on or near the steering wheel, and his foot on the gas, with the minivan in drive gear, its doors locked and several of the windows open.

Womachka had received four “sharp force injuries” – including wounds in the left upper chest and left shoulder, and wounds on both sides of his neck, including a cut to his jugular vein.

An extensive sheriff's investigation led to Jack's arrest. The District Attorney's Office said the investigation continued for the next two and a half years, in which investigators spent a substantial amount of time following up on all leads.

They spoke to anyone who may have any information about the crime, pursued all information circulating in the community, and had forensic testing done on potential evidence items, officials reported. A district attorney investigator was assigned to assist in the investigation.

No witnesses to the killing were ever found, although video obtained from Konocti Vista Casino showed the taxi van passing by the casino about 15 minutes after leaving Robinson Rancheria and heading toward the residence where Jack was staying, near the marina where the submerged van later would be found.

A small amount of blood evidence was found on one of Jack's shoes, and DNA testing revealed that it was Womachka's. However, the sample was so small that it was consumed by the testing, said Carter. He said that would have been an issue at trial, as it would have put the defense at a disadvantage because they wouldn't be able to retest it.

“Our defense theory was largely based on whether or not they had the right guy,” said Carter.

Neither the prosecution nor the defense offered any new theories on what they believed ultimately happened early that morning.

Carter said that an autopsy showed that Womachka's blood alcohol content was “pretty significant.”

Hinchcliff was critical of Carter's statement about the blood alcohol level, saying there was “no evidence whatsoever” that Womachka had been drinking alcohol while on duty or prior to picking Jack up from Robinson Rancheria.

He explained that the pathologist who did the test couldn't be certain whether the test readings were the result of decomposition – which causes alcohol to form in the body – or actual alcohol, but he said it's well known that the decomposition process can cause organs to test positive for alcohol when none was consumed.

“The only evidence was a completely unreliable post- death and post-decomposition testing that the forensic toxicologist stated was unreliable, and which Mr. Carter had in his possession and was aware of,” said Hinchcliff.

Carter said he also wasn't sure that he agreed with law enforcement's view of how the van ended up in the lake or how many people were involved.

“But we're never going to do that trial,” he said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at

Sgt. 1st Class David Hartman was killed in Pakistan on February 3, 2010. He will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday, April 7, 2010.



KELSEYVILLE – In the coming week, the Hartman family of Kelseyville will make one of the hardest journeys any family could.

They will fly to Washington, DC, and from there trek to Arlington National Cemetery, where this Wednesday, April 7, Sgt. 1st Class David Hartman – their son, brother, grandson and nephew – will be buried will all of the military honors his country can bestow on him.

The 27-year-old Hartman, a young man who had served close to a decade in the military and planned to make it his career, was killed in Pakistan on Feb. 3, along with two military colleagues, as Lake County News has reported.

Hartman and his fellow soldiers were riding in a SUV, on the way to the opening of a girls school, which had been rebuilt with US government funds set aside for the purpose, when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb. His family said he had recently moved into civil affairs, a division of US Special Forces.

He was on a humanitarian mission in Pakistan, although his family said he couldn't – and didn't – say much about his activities and where they occurred.

Just what happened that day is supposed to be contained in a US Army report that Greg Hartman, David's father and a local minister and contractor, is supposed to receive at its completion.

The family said they've heard many different stories about that final day in David Hartman's life, which was shrouded in secrecy. Initially, Greg Hartman said his son was said to be a journalist, not a member of the US military.

David Hartman received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart posthumously, Greg Hartman said.

Since David Hartman's death, his family has experienced what they can only call an “overwhelming” outpouring of emotional, spiritual and financial support from the community.

“You don't know how many good people are out there until something like this happens,” said his sister, Ladona Hartman.

The Lake County community has stepped up to try to help alleviate the family's financial needs when it comes making the trip to the East Coast for the funeral.

The week after David Hartman's death, Operation Tango Mike – a local group that offers support to troops overseas and their families here at home – began a fundraising effort to assist the family with travel.

OTM's founder, Ginny Craven, said she set a goal of $5,000 which, considering the current economic times, she said she felt was lofty.

All told, Craven said the family has received just over $10,000. She said OTM helped raised around $9,000 through general fundraising and a a pancake breakfast late last month that, all by itself, raised about $2,400.

The family received about $1,000 more directly. Umpqua Bank set up an account to take funds directly from community members who wanted to walk in with donations, Craven said.

Craven said it's the first time OTM has raised so much money for one fundraising effort. “It's the first time we've had this kind of need,” she said, noting the need was immediate.

She added that the community's generosity “was just amazing to me.”

That generosity will allow seven extended family members to make the trip along with the immediate family, said the Hartmans, who all agreed in calling Craven “amazing” for her help.

Lake County embraces family

The Hartmans are a family of music – most play and sing some kind of instrument – as well as ministry, which is what brought them to Lake County beginning about 15 years ago.

Alvin and Ladona Hartman, David Hartman's grandparents, were the first members of the family to arrive in Lake County. They pastored a church in Finley for 14 years before retiring last June.

Greg Hartman and his wife, Kate, arrived about 12 years ago to work with a ministry, Freedom Worship and Education Center in the Clear Lake Riviera, .

David's sister Ladona later came to visit, liked it and stayed. She works as a phlebotomist at Sutter Lakeside Hospital, and noted that her employer and co-workers have been incredibly generous – in donating vacation time and money – to help her out following her brother's death.

David and Ladona Hartman lived with their mother and stepfather, who was in the military, on Okinawa, where the two young Hartmans went to high school. His future wife, Cherise, also went to school there. That school is naming its new ROTC building after David Hartman, Ladona Hartman said.

Immediately after graduating from high school, David Hartman – influenced by his stepfather – joined the military, entering on June 22, 2000, his sister explained.

He would serve tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and last year he changed tested to move into civil affairs, where he would make a better living for his wife and children and be able to help people more, he told his family.

Despite the dangerous places where he served, “He always told us he was safe,” said father, Greg Hartman. At one point David Hartman told his family that no US soldiers had been killed in Pakistan, so they shouldn't worry.

David Hartman visited Lake County and enjoyed fishing and playing golf. He was in Lake County last summer, one of his last visits home, his family said.

“I knew when I hugged him I wasn't going to see him again,” said grandfather, Alvin Hartman, who shed tears at the memory.

When he left for duty this past fall, David Hartman had grown a beard to blend in more with the citizenry, was speaking the language and acted as a liaison between the people and the military.




Four Hartman family generations: From left, Alvin Hartman, David Hartman's grandfather; David Hartman, Pastor Greg Hartman and Mikey Hartman, David's son. Taken in the summer of 2009 at the home of grandparents Alvin and Ladona Hartman in Kelseyville. Photo courtesy of Ladona Hartman, David Hartman's sister.



Earlier this year, his mother, Mikail Bacon, who now lives in Wisconsin, had traveled to Los Banos, where David Hartman spent part of his childhood, to visit with her elderly parents. The day David Hartman died they were able to talk to him via Skype, as he was getting ready to leave.

Greg Hartman was at work when the military showed up to his door to give him the news. His younger daughter, Bethany, called him on his cell phone, and as he was heading home, daughter Ladona called after getting the news from her mother.

Greg Hartman went to Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, in the days after his son's death for the dignified transfer of his body to the United States. In April 2009, President Barack Obama had ordered the military to take any families who wanted to be present for the dignified transfer of their loved ones' bodies to Dover, Hartman explained.

“That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do,” he said.

When David Hartman's body was transferred south to Los Banos for his Feb. 17 funeral, his family said the Army and Patriot Guard Riders worked with the California Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies for an unforgettable procession. Riding along to honor the young soldier were CHP and San Jose Police officers on motorcycles and in cars.

As they passed through San Francisco, the on ramps to the freeway were blocked to let the hearse pass, Hartman's family said.

Since David Hartman's death occurred, the family has been receiving condolence cards from all over the world, including notes of condolence from the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Obama.

Assemblyman Wes Chesbro sent the family a copy of a resolution that names Highway 53 a Veterans Memorial Highway, and which mentions David Hartman.

Then the military offered to have David Hartman buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Cherise Hartman accepted, wanting him to have all the honors afforded him.

The cemetery, overlooking the Potomac River, is one of the most sacred military burial sites in the United States.

The land once belonged to the descendants of Martha Custis Washington, wife of George Washington. Eventually, the land came to belong to Mary Anna Custis Lee, wife of Gen. Robert E. Lee, the leading general of the Confederacy, according to a cemetery history.

The land was confiscated by the federal government for unpaid taxes, sold at auction in 1864 and purchased for government use, with the cemetery established later that year.

Greg Hartman said he's received a lot of praise for his son from officers of higher rank in the military. David Hartman was a sergeant first class about 10 years ahead of most. “My son was doing really well in the military,” he said. “He was making a good impression on his superiors.”

David Hartman and his wife were married May 17, 2007. Together they have a young son together, Mikey – who turned 1 year old three days after his father's death. A baby daughter, Catherine Isis, is due this July 1.

The couple had built a home together in Rayford, North Carolina, where Cherise Hartman plans to stay for awhile so that her children can grow up in the home their father built for them.

“She's having a real hard time,” said Greg Hartman.



Portrait of a young family: David and Cherise Hartman and their young son, Mikey, in a picture taken in late 2009. Cherise Hartman is expecting a baby girl this summer. Photo courtesy of the Hartman family.



Looking for good amidst tragedy

David Hartman was a grown man, off on his own in the world, and his family didn't see him everyday. However, for them, one of the great heartaches is knowing the quiet, serious young man won't be coming for visits, and they can't tell him they love him.

“God has to be the fixer,” said Alvin Hartman.

It's already providing opportunities to touch lives. “I'm finding I'm ministering to a lot more people because of this,” said Greg Hartman.

He added, “It's amazing how much this really touches people.”

David Hartman's sister, Ladona, will miss calling her older brother for advice, and spending time together, like they did when he visited Lake County last summer, when she was able to take several weeks off to visit.

“David loved his family,” his father remembered.

They explained that when they talk to people about David Hartman, many people start to cry.

David Hartman's family also is convinced that God will bring good out of this tragedy.

The family plans to give more of its time to helping Operation Tango Mike and Craven. David Hartman's grandmother, Ladona, and sister said they plan to assist with OTM packing parties, and grandfather Alvin Hartman has offered his services as a chaplain.

The family said they could never offer the community enough thanks for its kindness.

A memorial Facebook page for David Hartman, created by his 14-year-old sister Bethany, can be found at!/pages/In-Memory-of-Sergeant-1st-Class-David-James-Hartman/295594093994?ref=ts .

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

The beloved Western Meadowlark is the state bird for six Western states. Courtesy photo.




Fine, clear, dazzling, morning, the sun an hour high, the air just tart enough.

What a stamp in advance my day receives from the song of that meadow lark perch’d on a fence-stake twenty rods distant! Two or three liquid-simple notes, repeated at intervals, full of careless happiness and hope. With its peculiar shimmering slow progress and rapid-noiseless action of the wings, it flies on a way, lights on another stake, and so on to another, shimmering and singing many minutes.

Walt Whitman – Specimen Days, March 16, 1878




Distinctly a bird of the Americas, the First People often included this singing, long-legged, walking bird in many of their stories and legends, but it wasn’t until Lewis and Clark first noted the yellow-breasted bird in 1805 that it caught the attention of the ornithologists of their day.

Even so, it wasn’t until 1840 that this Western songbird was named. John James Audubon dubbed it neglecta (nee-GLEK-tah; Latin for neglected) because, as he wrote in 1840, although "the existence of this species was known to the celebrated explorers of the West, Lewis and Clark, no one has since taken the least notice of it."

Today the Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta, is an abundant and familiar bird of open country that you can see singing its familiar song from fence posts along roadsides; or you might catch it walking though grasslands and agricultural areas with a few dozen others.

This bird is so well-loved that it is the official state bird for six Western states – Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming – and there is barely a western movie made that doesn’t have the familiar melodic song of the meadowlark in its soundtrack.

A member of the same bird family as blackbirds and orioles, the meadowlark is distinctly not a “black bird,” having a bright yellow breast and undercarriage, a bold black “V” on its chest, and a back of streaked brown and white (we’ll be forgiven if we think the bird looks like it is sporting a modern suit of clothes).

Meadowlark legs are long, and their tails are short, with white outer tail-feathers that are obvious in flight. During the breeding season the yellow and black become more pronounced.

In winter you can see meadowlarks in groups, or with other blackbirds and starlings. In early spring, they will be doing their dance of mating.

The male will begin singing continuously, a beautiful song advertising his presence to the females from shrub tops, fence posts, utility poles or any other high structure. If she notices him and there are no other male meadowlarks around to challenge him a sort of chase will begin, the pace kept by the female.

The male at some point will stop and face the female, breast forward, head up, and if she chooses to pay further attention to him they will mate and the female will then begin making a nest. Successful males will often mate with two (or more) females.

The female will build her nest on the ground, typically under dense vegetation which makes it very difficult to find. The nest will be built mostly from grass that is tightly interwoven, and it will be shaped like a dome, with side entrances. The completed nest will be very waterproof.

She will then lay four to six eggs and incubate them for 13 to 14 days. After the eggs hatch the female will provide most of the food, although the male may help a bit. The young meadowlarks will leave the nest 10 to 12 days after hatching. At this age they still cannot fly but can run very well, and, with the help of shadowy and cryptic feathers, can hide successfully in the grass.





A Western Meadowlark singing from its perch atop a fence post. Courtesy photo.



Meadowlarks forage mostly on the ground, probing the soil with their bills, eating grasshoppers, beetles and caterpillars (even the hairy ones) by the thousands. In the fall and winter, seeds and grains become an important addition to their diet.

You will notice as you watch them on the ground that they neither hop nor run but always walk, a style of movement that is comparatively uncommon among birds. You may also notice that immediately upon landing the male will flirt his tale vigorously once or twice, showing the white outer feathers.

Western Meadowlarks are full-time residents throughout much of their range, but when deep snow covers food sources they may move into sheltered valleys. Some populations do appear to be long-distance migrants.

Here in Northern California, as in other parts of their range, Western Meadowlarks are abundant and widespread, but breeding populations have declined somewhat in recent years. Much of this decline can probably be attributed to habitat destruction from livestock grazing, mowing and development, and perhaps as a result of contamination from pesticides.

These birds are extremely sensitive to human disturbance during the breeding season and will abort nesting attempts if they are flushed while incubating eggs.

The meadowlark has a just claim on the affections of people whose fields he adorns.

Debra Chase is the executive director of Tuleyome. She resides on a small family farm in Colusa County.

Tuleyome is a local nonprofit working to protect both our wild heritage and our agricultural heritage for future generations. Past Tuleyome Tales articles are available in the library section of their Web site,

Jazz pianist Rodney Franklin shared his magic at the Concert with Conversation on Saturday, March 27, 2010, at the Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, Calif. Photo by Jillian Billester.







UPPER LAKE – Last Saturday, March 27, just before intermission at the Tallman Hotel’s Concert with Conversation featuring the prolific stylings of Jazz pianist Rodney Franklin and bassist/band leader Curtis Olson, I glanced around the room and noted some of the changing faces of Lake County.


The hotel’s Riffe's meeting room was slightly over the advertised 40-ticket limit. In that intimate setting was the enraptured countenances of music lovers, really into what Misters Franklin and Olsen were putting down.


This burgeoning appreciation of Jazz/Funk/Fusion in Lake County is no new thing. A few years back, when James Brown’s last guitarist Robert Watson was the music director at the now defunct Konocti Blues Café, Watson consistently brought in a cast of world-class players from the above-mentioned genres, including Franklin, Miles Davis guitarist Barry Finnerty, Maze/Santana drummer Billy Johnson, Sly & The Family Stone’s Rusty Allen and a host of others.


So, memory not withstanding, it was refreshing to see the patrons at the Tallman come to support the event, many of whom never made it to the KBC.


The cool thing about Concerts with Conversation is the workshop-style format. As the title of the series suggests, dialogue between the artists and the audience is encouraged.


One of the first things out of the mouth of Curtis Olson was how much he admired Rodney Franklin’s understanding and execution of harmonic structure. A little history on the evolution of Rodney Franklin as he himself explained during a break in the music.


“As a child born and raised in Berkeley, I was placed in a great music program at the age of 6 and was taking Jazz piano lessons,” he explained.


“Instrumental in my early development was Dr. Herb Wong, KJAZ disc jockey and music educator. Dr. Wong would consistently bring world class Jazz musicians to our school,” Franklin continued. “As a youngster I saw Miles Davis and Rhasaan Roland Kirk at school. I was introduced personally to Oscar Peterson, who so dazzled me with his playing that I decided that’s what I would do.


“I entered my first music competition at age 8,” he added. “I played in an award-winning junior high jazz band. We lost our first three competitions, which made us get serious enough to win one hundred-seventeen in a row.”


Curtis Olson was a witness to the prowess of the Berkeley Music Education program. Olson grew up in nearby Pittsburg, Calif., and remembers as a high schooler, Franklin's junior high school band coming to Pittsburg and outplaying by far the Pittsburgh High School Band.


That experience, said Olson, spurred him to study harder and as fate would have it, he and Franklin started playing the occasional gig together later in life.


Saturday night’s Concert with Conversation found the duo playing from the songbooks of Hoagy Carmichael, Ray Charles, George Gershwin, Stevie Wonder and originals as well.


Franklin was on the road for years with Stevie Wonder. Olson was on the road with Ray Charles for years as well. They both told interesting revealing anecdotes about their respective tenures.


This reviewer has seen Franklin in action close to a half a dozen times or more. It was my second time hearing Curtis Olson. They complemented each other very well.


The all-important eye contact, in terms of their improvisational delivery, was very evident. Franklin would call out a key signature, then at the last millisecond before the down beat, change it and Olson could not be thrown off. Great chops – and I don’t mean suey.


And in other pertinent Lake County Music News, Twice As Good was awarded the Best New Band of The Year at the West Coast Blues Hall Of Fame Awards Show held at the Oakland Airport Hilton on Sunday, March 28.


The house was packed as Paul and Rich Steward received their award among other awarded luminaries such as Jazz great John Handy, Laura Joplin, who received a posthumous award for her sister Janis, Snooky Flowers, saxophonist who recorded with Janis and Big Brother and The Holding Company, Juan Escovedo for Shela E., Zakiya Hooker, Freddie Hughes and many, many more.


Keep prayin, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts!


T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. 



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Paul and Rich Steward of Twice As Good recently received the award for the Best New Band of The Year at the West Coast Blues Hall Of Fame Awards Show. Here they show off their award at the Bue Wing Saloon and Cafe in Upper Lake, Calif. Photo by Bernie Butcher.

LAKEPORT – Well it is finally spring!

It’s April. After what seems to have been a very long and wet winter, the flowers are blooming, the lake is almost full and the trees are beginning to bud, even the new trees we have planted at the south side of the Soper-Reese.

We have put enough pear and crepe myrtle trees to eventually provide cooling shade for our outdoor events in the courtyard. It may take a few seasons before they actually grow big enough but they have started.

And we have started to engage the community more and more with an ever-expanding offering of shows at the theater.

On April 9 and 10 we will welcome the first of what may become a series of concerts featuring Christian bands and other artists from around the nation.

The local alternative Christian rock band “Revolution” will be headlining a concert playing music fit for the whole family. Blake Miller will be a featured guest singing along with Sebrina Dolloso lead singer of “Revolution.”

The opening band is the “Pneumati Band,” a national touring family band from Oregon. Proceeds from this series will go to benefit Compassion 2 Help, a not for profit organization providing food, clothing and support for our own needy neighbors here in Lake County.

The Triskela Celtic Harp Trio will return Saturday, April 17, for a concert of traditional Celtic and original harp tunes. They were a near sellout last time they appeared on stage and I am sure they will be well received this time.

The new band “Uncorked” will open for Triskela. Uncorked has been assembled by Eleanor Cook and features the fine talents of Andi Skelton, Don Coffin, Dennis Hadley, Dan Harris, Teale Love and Greg Bushta. What a great lineup for the month of April.

The North Bay Realtor Association enjoyed their last conference so much that they have decided to use our venue the next round of meetings on April 29. Using the Soper-Reese as a meeting place for both businesses and nonprofits helps to anchor it as a much-needed conference venue for Lakeport.

We are also excited to be hosting the 29th annual Spring Dance Festival this year. This major fund raiser for the Lake County Arts Council has longer legs than most of the dancers. This marks the first time that it has been held at the theater.

All of the dance studios in the county are contributing to this display of almost 200 dancers and all

participants are very busy rehearsing for this showcase of the Terpsichorean muse. The Dance Festival is the first weekend in May with a tech rehearsal on the last day of April.

You may have noticed on our posters and on our Web site that we are affiliated with the American Association of Community Theatre.

The AACT is a group of community theaters joined together from around the country sharing resources, experiences, directions and ideas about operating and maintaining performing art centers and theaters.

We are proud members of this organization and rely upon their network of seasoned experts to help us bring a professional live stage experience to the entire community.

Visit our Web site for more details about the Soper-Reese and all of our upcoming shows at: .

Bert Hutt is artistic director for the Soper-Reese Community Theatre in Lakeport, Calif.

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GLENN COUNTY – A man who allegedly used floral deliveries as a premise to burglarize homes in Glenn County was arrested earlier this week on the North Coast.

Joshua Tannenbaum, 40, of Anderson, is in the Mendocino County Jail for driving a vehicle allegedly stolen from Chico, according to Glenn County Sheriff Larry Jones.

Last Sunday at about 10 a.m. the Glenn County Communications Center received a call of a burglary occurring at 1854 State Highway 45 in Glenn, Jones reported.

While Glenn County Sheriff’s deputies were responding, the victim told the dispatcher that a blue pickup had backed up to a shed, and it was now at her gas pump.

When Sgt. Sean Arlin and Detective Dan Blair arrived at the residence, the vehicle was gone.

The deputies were able to obtain a description of the suspect – which they allege to be Tannenbaum – and the vehicle, said Jones, and they learned that the suspect had taken some property from the shed as well as the gasoline.

About an hour later, Blair received a call about a person trying to steal a motorcycle at 7783 County Road 16 just west of Hamilton City.

The owner was able to get his motorcycle back and described the suspect as a white male adult with short brown hair, wearing a black baseball cap, a dark blue jacket, and tan or brown canvas pants.

The suspect in that incident also was driving a blue pickup. The victim was able to give Blair a license plate number of the vehicle, Jones said.

After further investigation, Glenn County detectives learned that the blue pickup had been stolen out of Chico.

The following day Glenn County detectives learned that the blue pickup had been recovered in Ukiah, and that the California Highway Patrol had taken Tannenbaum into custody.

Sheriff’s Detective Greg Felton went to Ukiah and recovered property in the pickup taken from the burglary at 1854 State Highway 45 in Glenn. One particular recovered item was a commercial grade leave blower valued at $450.

Upon returning to Glenn County, Felton contacted both victims and they were able to identify the pickup and Tannenbaum as being involved in the burglary and theft of the motorcycle.

As Tannenbaum is on active state parole, Mendocino authorities have obtained a no-bail hold.

Based on the Glenn County Sheriff’s Office investigation, the Glenn County District Attorney’s Office has charged Tannenbaum, who has a very extensive criminal history, with burglary and vehicle theft. Tannenbaum is expected be transferred to the Glenn County Jail when he is released from Mendocino County.

It is believed Tannenbaum had been approaching homes in Glenn County, and possibly other areas, with fresh flowers in his hands, Jones said.

If someone answered the door, as a ruse, he would explain he was there to make a floral delivery and leave. If no one would answer, he would think it safe to attempt a burglary.

The Glenn County Sheriff’s Office would like to hear from anyone who may have experienced a suspicious floral delivery. Contact the office at 530-934-6431.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that, based on accumulated scientific data, the delta smelt warrants uplisting from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act but that uplisting at this time is precluded by the need to address higher priority species first.

The service will develop a proposed rule to reclassify this species as priorities allow. The finding of “warranted but precluded” will have no practical effect on protections for the delta smelt, existing federal actions, or water flows in the delta smelt habitat.

Delta smelt are fish native and only found in the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta Estuary in California, found only from the San Pablo Bay upstream through the Delta in Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano and Yolo counties.

Their historical range is thought to have extended from San Pablo Bay upstream to at least the city of Sacramento on the Sacramento River and the city of Mossdale on the San Joaquin River.

They were once one of the most common pelagic (living in open water away from the bottom) fish in the upper Sacramento–San Joaquin Estuary, which is where Clear Lake's water travels to via Cache Creek and the Yolo Bypass.

The delta smelt was first listed as threatened under the ESA in 1993 due to habitat loss, drought, introduced species, and reduction of food items.

Critical habitat was designated for the species in 1994. The most recent estimate of delta smelt is the lowest ever recorded – about one-tenth the level it was in 2003.

In addition, a 2005 population viability analysis calculated a 50 percent likelihood that the species could become extinct within the next 20 years.

There are several primary threats to delta smelt, including the direct entrainments by state and federal water export facilities, summer and fall increases in salinity and water clarity, and competition with introduced species.

Additional threats are predation by striped and largemouth bass and inland silversides, entrainment into power plants, contaminants, and small population size. In addition, existing regulatory mechanisms are not adequate to halt the decline of delta smelt since the time of listing as a threatened species.

The service reported that it's still unable to determine with certainty which threats or combinations of threats are directly responsible for the decrease in delta smelt abundance.

However, the apparent low abundance of delta smelt in concert with ongoing threats throughout its range indicates that the delta smelt is now in danger of extinction throughout its range.

Therefore, based on a review of the best scientific and commercial information available, the service finds that the delta smelt meets the definition of an endangered species under the Act, and that it warrants reclassification from threatened to endangered.

However, the service will not begin a formal rulemaking to reclassify delta smelt at this time.

Reclassification of delta smelt is considered a lower priority than other actions needing attention, because the species is currently listed as threatened, which receives certain protections under the Act. Service regulations prohibit take for threatened species in the same way as endangered species.

Other protections include those under section 7(a)(2) of the Act whereby federal agencies must insure that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species.

For the complete 12-month finding on the petition to reclassify the delta smelt from threatened to endangered, please visit .

For more information on the delta smelt provided by the service, go to and open the Delta in the Spotlight box on the home page to begin.

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MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) trail system on the Upper Lake Ranger District of the Mendocino National Forest will be closed to vehicle traffic for six days, beginning the morning of Saturday, April 3.

The closure order covers only the Upper Lake Ranger District and is scheduled to lift the morning of Friday, April 9, conditions permitting.

The OHV trails on the Grindstone Ranger District are still open.

The closure is the result of rain and snow this week that have left trails muddy and, in some places, covered by more than a foot of snow.

Additional storm systems in the current forecast are predicted to bring more rain and snow to the Upper Lake Ranger District and trail system.

Using the trails in their current condition would result in damage not only to the trails, but would also impact other resources including soils, water quality, and wildlife habitat.

“We recognize this is a popular weekend for recreation on the Forest, particularly for OHV enthusiasts,” said Forest Supervisor Tom Contreras. “We appreciate the public’s understanding and cooperation with the temporary OHV trail system closure. By closing the trails now and preventing further damage, we are reducing the risk of longer closures for costly repairs and restoration efforts. Waiting for conditions to improve and the trails to dry out will help us continue to provide quality recreation areas for OHV riders.”

The Emergency Trail Closure for the Upper Lake Ranger District of the Mendocino National Forest is formally referenced under Order Number 08-10-03.

Violation of this closure order is punishable by a fine of no more than $5,000 for an individual, $10,000 for an organization, or up to six months imprisonment or both.

For more information, please contact the Mendocino National Forest at 530-934-3316 or visit

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NORTHSHORE – The body of a Lakeport man reported missing early in March has been found.

William Michael Farrell's body was found floating in Clear Lake along the Northshore, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Bauman reported that a motorist traveling eastbound along Highway 20 Thursday just before 11 a.m. saw what he believed to be a body floating in the water just a few feet from the shore between Lucerne and Glenhaven.

After stopping to verify what he saw, the man reported his discovery to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and deputies responded by land and from the lake, Bauman said.

Upon their arrival, Bauman said deputies recovered the body of a white male adult wearing clothing similar to what Farrell was believed to have been wearing when he disappeared several weeks ago.

At the scene deputies located a wallet and and saw that the body had tattoos which positively identified the remains as that of the 49-year-old Farrell, Bauman said.

Farrell had been reported missing on March 8, the day after he embarked in his older 14-foot wooden boat from the Konocti Vista Resort Marina to go to a friend’s house in North Lakeport, as Lake County News has reported.

The sheriff's investigation found that Farrell never reached his destination and two days after he was reported missing, the Sheriff’s Marine Patrol recovered his unoccupied partially submerged boat from the lake about 400 feet off of the Buckingham Peninsula.

There were no obvious signs of trauma to the remains found Thursday morning and there were no obvious signs of a collision or other damage to the boat when it was recovered three weeks ago, Bauman said.

The cause of Farrell’s apparent drowning is pending further investigation. Bauman said an autopsy will be scheduled to try and determine the exact manner and cause of his death.



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