Friday, 18 June 2021

Arts & Life

Author Michelle Scully and her horse Simba. Photo by Nathan DeHart.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Writers, creatives, artists and community members are invited to join Lake County author Michelle Scully on a quest to uncover Hemingway's famous quote exhorting writers to write the “truest sentence you know.”

“Truth Serum” is offered Saturday, March 6, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Zoom by the Middletown Art Center.

“The workshop format will be free-flowing and begin with a discussion of what ‘the truest sentence’ means to each of us, then move into time to write, share, think, for sure laugh and maybe cry,” said Scully. “The quote blows me away, and while I challenged myself to do just that as a new year’s intention, I’ve shied away from the ferocity of it. These are such strange and challenging times, but filled with opportunity to winnow through what matters to us, to see more clearly the depths of our hearts, to stretch ourselves to find the good, bad, ugly, beautiful, redemptive within.”

Scully has written a memoir of her journey through a debilitating riding accident, recovery fueled by the wonderment of nature, horses, dogs, family and faith. She’s recently completed a children’s empowerment book and is watching dust collect on a historical fiction novel that’s challenging and exciting her.

Participants will only need a willingness to unravel Hemingway's challenge, computer, paper, pen or quill and papyrus whatever moves you to write.

Please register at www.middletownartcenter.org/classes. Participation is by donation of $25 to $50. A Zoom link will be provided following payment. No one is turned away for lack of funds.

The MAC continues to adjust and adapt its programming during this time of COVID-19. The gallery is open Thursday through Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or by appointment by phoning 707-809-8118.

Social distancing and mask-wearing are always observed at MAC. You can also visit the show virtually at www.middletownartcenter.org/current.

Find out more about events, programs, opportunities, and ways to support the MAC’s efforts to weave the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County at www.middletownartcenter.org.



‘BLITHE SPIRIT’ (Rated PG-13)

Anyone that is an aficionado of stage productions is well aware of the prolific nature of noted playwright Noel Coward, with many of his works such as “Present Laughter,” “Hay Fever,” “Private Lives;” and “Blithe Spirit” regularly staged for revivals.

Known for a wide range of styles that included farce and drawing room comedy, Noel Coward’s work displayed a casual ease with witty dialogue and biting humor that infused the insults and banter of his upper-class characters.

Coward’s high comedy was evident in “Blithe Spirit,” a comic play that was first staged on London’s West End in 1941 and then adapted for film starring Rex Harrison a few short years later.

One could easily lose count of the number of times “Blithe Spirit,” befitting its ghostly nature, has been revived on the West End and Broadway as well as in several film iterations, with the latest starring British actor Dan Stevens as leading character Charles Condomine.

Taking liberties with its source material, the newest “Blithe Spirit” concerns wealthy socialite and novelist Charles flailing in his attempts to adapt one of his bestselling books into a movie script for a Hollywood production of his impatient father-in-law.

The setting is the late 1930s in the gorgeous English countryside at an elegantly-appointed Art Deco mansion that might make one think of “Downton Abbey” if only because Dan Stevens had a central romantic role in that British period drama television series.

A love story is not really in the cards for Stevens this time around because it’s not just his writing that has been obstructed. His libido has faltered to the point that he whines, “Big Ben’s stopped chiming.” Such pedestrian wit would not likely escape Noel Coward’s lips.

Life would otherwise be grand for crime fiction novelist Charles with his second wife Ruth (Isla Fisher) if his writer’s block wasn’t so terrible that he could only type the word “HELP” followed by chewing madly on wadded-up sheets of paper.

Charles’ increasingly eccentric behavior proves to be a source of annoyance for Ruth because her father, a producer at the famous Pinewood Studios, gave her husband the job of turning one of his award-winning books into a ticket to fame and fortune in Hollywood.

For a temporary escape, Charles and Ruth choose an evening at a London theatre to enjoy a performance by the medium Madame Arcati (Dame Judi Dench), who ends up being exposed as a fraud by a failed rope trick.

Needing some inspiration to get back on track with his screenplay, Charles, his wife and two friends invite Madame Arcati to their country home for a séance that might help the writer inject an element of the occult into his script.

What could not have been foreseen is that the fake psychic conjures up Charles’ late wife Elvira (Leslie Mann), a vivacious American and his muse who died in a riding accident seven years ago.

None too happy that she’s been replaced in Charles’ life with another woman and visible only to her husband, Elvira decides to be a disruptive presence by tossing dishes, scaring the help and destroying garden plants.

That Ruth has also redecorated the house has caused Elvira great displeasure. With her devilish nature and spiteful streak, Elvira seeks to undermine the second wife’s superficial social affairs.

Elvira’s aim may be to drive Ruth from the arms of Charles to have him all to herself. In any event, Charles needs her inspiration as he’s been unable to write in the years since her death.

A clash between the earthly and astral planes is inevitable. Unlike the proper Ruth, Elvira is wildly passionate, unpredictable and so seductive that Charles succumbs to her bewitching spell.

What’s the endgame in store for a supernatural battle to rid the couple’s home of an increasingly unhinged ghost? Will Madame Arcati be able to send the unwanted apparition back to her spectral resting place?

The resolution of these dilemmas would matter little if director Edward Hall and the three writers had employed the services of a clairvoyant to conjure up Noel Coward himself for help on the proper mix of dry wit and farce.

At its screwball core, “Blithe Spirit” is supposed to be a comedy of manners that should elicit plenty of laughs, which are unfortunately in relatively short supply in this newest adaptation.

With a cast as suffused with comedic talent normally evinced by Dan Stevens, Leslie Mann and Isla Fisher, one would have expected a charming comedic romp instead of a flaccid remake.

That “Blithe Spirit” has the fizzle of stale champagne must ultimately rest at the feet of the three writers that took license with Coward’s comedic gem. Perhaps they too suffered writer’s block in trying to channel the spirit of Noel Coward.

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

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Beginning writers often tell me their real lives aren’t interesting enough to write about, but the mere act of shaping a poem lifts its subject matter above the ordinary.

Here's Natasha Trethewey, who served two terms as U. S. Poet Laureate, illustrating just what I’ve described.

It’s from her book “Domestic Work,” from Graywolf Press. Trethewey lives in Illinois.

Editor’s Note: This column is a reprint from the American Life in Poetry archive as we bid farewell to Ted Kooser, and work to finalize the new website and forthcoming columns curated by Kwame Dawes.

Housekeeping

We mourn the broken things, chair legs
wrenched from their seats, chipped plates,
the threadbare clothes. We work the magic
of glue, drive the nails, mend the holes.
We save what we can, melt small pieces
of soap, gather fallen pecans, keep neck bones
for soup. Beating rugs against the house,
we watch dust, lit like stars, spreading
across the yard. Late afternoon, we draw
the blinds to cool the rooms, drive the bugs
out. My mother irons, singing, lost in reverie.
I mark the pages of a mail-order catalog,
listen for passing cars. All day we watch
for the mail, some news from a distant place.


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. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2000 by Natasha Trethewey, “Housekeeping,” from Domestic Work, (Graywolf Press, 2000). Poem reprinted by permission of Natasha Trethewey and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

I suspect that one thing some people have against reading poems is that they are so often so serious, so devoid of joy, as if we poets spend all our time brooding about mutability and death and never having any fun.

Here Cornelius Eady, who lives and teaches in Indiana, offers us a poem of pure pleasure.

Editor’s Note: This column is a reprint from the American Life in Poetry archive as we bid farewell to Ted Kooser, and work to finalize the new website and forthcoming columns curated by Kwame Dawes.

A Small Moment

I walk into the bakery next door
To my apartment. They are about
To pull some sort of toast with cheese
From the oven. When I ask:
What’s that smell? I am being
A poet, I am asking

What everyone else in the shop
Wanted to ask, but somehow couldn’t;
I am speaking on behalf of two other
Customers who wanted to buy the
Name of it. I ask the woman
Behind the counter for a percentage
Of her sale. Am I flirting?
Am I happy because the days
Are longer? Here’s what

She does: She takes her time
Choosing the slices. “I am picking
Out the good ones,” she tells me. It’s
April 14th. Spring, with five to ten
Degrees to go. Some days, I feel my duty;
Some days, I love my work.

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. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 1997 by Cornelius Eady, from Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems (Putnam, 2008). Reprinted by permission of Cornelius Eady. Introduction copyright @2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

“Pollinator Pole” by Emily Scheibel. Courtesy photo.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – Middletown Art Center is seeking artists interested in responding to the natural environment of Middletown Trailside Park through materials and content.

Participation is a unique opportunity to address continuous recovery through thoughtful artistry and/or restoration.

Projects should integrate the spirit and materials of the park and the ‘locus’ of Lake County.

The first public art venue in Lake County, EcoArts Sculpture Walk was founded in 2003 and featured work by 20 to 30 regional artists annually.

MAC opened in the spring of 2015 to expand arts access and provide a year-round arts venue.

That fall, the Valley fire devastated 76,067 acres in the South Lake County area, including the park, Sculpture Walk and 1,300 homes.

Though the park was transformed, the Sculpture Walk reopened in 2019.

The 2020 exhibit was stymied by COVID-19 but several works from the 2019 exhibit remain on view in the park.

“This 15th year of the Sculpture Walk our primary purpose remains supporting revitalization of the land, mending of damaged ecosystems, and inspiring a dialogue with nature both for artists and visitors”, said MAC Director Lisa Kaplan. “Historically, most work was removed in November, at the beginning of winter, but strong work that contributes to ecosystem revitalization may be permitted to remain onsite.”

A visit to the park is encouraged to observe the changed and recovering environment. Trailside Park is open from dawn to dusk daily and located about 1.5 miles outside of Middletown off Highway 175 at 21435 Dry Creek Cutoff.

Additional samples and videos of work and the 2019 exhibit guide can be found at​ www.middletownartcenter.org/ecoarts ​.

Applications and concept sketches may be submitted anytime before April 12.

Photos of work in progress or finished work are welcome. Applications can be found at www.middletownartcenter.org/ecoarts and should be submitted via email to
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.​.

The MAC Gallery is open Thursday through Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or by appointment at 707-809-8118.

You can also see the current show virtually at ​www.middletownartcenter.org/home ​.

The MAC continues to adjust and innovate during this time of COVID-19. Social distancing and masking are always observed.

Find out more about MAC events, programs, opportunities, and ways to support the MAC’s efforts to weave the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County at www.middletownartcenter.org ​.



‘CRIME SCENE: THE VANISHING AT THE CECIL HOTEL’ ON NETFLIX


A tourist checking into a hotel would usually check out at the front desk at the end of a stay. What happens when a guest arrives at a hotel, settles into a room and there’s never a sign of departure?

That’s the mystery behind the bizarre case of a young Canadian visitor taking up lodging in a sketchy hotel in a dangerous part of downtown Los Angeles, which is uncomfortably proximate to the widespread homeless encampments of Skid Row.

Netflix’s four-part docuseries “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” explores what happened to 21-year-old Elisa Lam, a student at the University of British Columbia and a prodigious blogger who used Tumblr as a personal diary.

Director and Executive Producer Joe Berlinger (“Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes”), a serious filmmaker with landmark documentaries to his credit, has expressed a fascination with what can make a certain place a nexus of crime.

“The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” is equally focused on the unfortunate disappearance of Elisa Lam and the history of a once glorious hotel built in 1924, which one of the many talking heads in the documentary asks is “consumed by a nexus of dark energy.”

For another person, the Cecil Hotel is described as “an exalted space of crime, of violence, of spookiness that continues to call to us.” But it’s the affordable room rate that draws Elisa Lam to the Cecil on January 28, 2013.

At about the same time, a young couple from England checked in to the Cecil, observing their awe of the very spacious lobby that was beautiful and grand, and indeed it appears to be exactly that.

Another talking head found the Cecil to be a “very deceiving hotel. There’s a lot of beauty to it, but it was the complete opposite of beauty.” He’s either been a guest in a shabby room or was ruminating about the hotel’s notorious history.

This docuseries should be a cautionary tale for any unwary traveler unfamiliar with their surroundings. LAPD Detective Sergeant Jim McSorley says the neighborhood is “Ground Zero of one of the most dangerous and violent places in the United States of America.”

Interestingly, what we learn about Elisa as a person is exclusively derived from her prolific social media posts which paint a fascinating picture of the mind of a person eager for adventure while coping with a bipolar disorder.

Her first days in Los Angeles appear to be normal activities, with a visit to a fabled bookstore and a television show taping where it is revealed her odd behavior had her escorted from the premises.

Whether a flight of fancy or insightful, one of Elisa posts on Tumblr divulged a thought process in her state of mind that could be very telling: “My mouth is my downfall and it will get me in trouble.”

The night of January 31, 2013, is the last time that Elisa is seen, and it happens to be from video surveillance of a hotel elevator which fuels a wide range of conspiracy theories and speculations that consume social media, blogs and YouTube.

In the video, Elisa is seen acting strangely, entering and exiting and then re-entering the elevator, pushing the buttons of multiple floors, making odd hand gestures and looking as if someone might be in the hallway, and then hiding in a corner of the elevator.

When this video is released by the police in hopes of getting clues to her vanishing, internet sleuths and conspiracy theorists go into overdrive, with some accusing the police and the hotel of a cover-up and others targeting a potential suspect.

With nothing more to latch on to than a death metal video, a musician with the stage name of Morbid (Pablo Vergara), the lead singer of Dynasty of Darkness and worshipper of Satan, is identified by a foreign news outlet as a suspect.

As it turns out, Pablo Vergara stayed at the hotel a year earlier and the police found he was not in the country at the same time as Elisa. In an interview, Vergara sums up that the Cecil is “just a portal to hell. Once you step in there, bad things happen.”

Amy Price, the hotel’s general manager at the time, adds her views to the hotel’s problems with drug dealers, prostitutes, and murders, noting that around 80 deaths occurred during her ten years.

The Cecil was even the home to infamous serial killer Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker. Was Elisa Lam a victim of a murderous guest or one of the low-income tenants? Was she a victim of a psychotic episode due to her bipolar disorder?

A fascination with true-crime stories is trying to figure out what really happened. In this case, there are so many questions, and the best reason to watch “The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” to the end is likely your own thoughts about why and how Elisa Lam wound up in a bad place.

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

Upcoming Calendar

19Jun
06.19.2021
Juneteenth
19Jun
06.19.2021 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Clear Lake Shoreline Clean-Up Day
19Jun
06.19.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
19Jun
20Jun
06.20.2021
Father's Day
22Jun
06.22.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Tuesday market
23Jun
06.23.2021 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
NCO hearing on 2022/2023 Community Action Plan
26Jun
06.26.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
29Jun
06.29.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Tuesday market
3Jul
07.03.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market

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