Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A Star is Bored

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2020 at 4:05 PM

KNOCK KNOCK Don’t answer; it’s probably a filmmaker. - NATHAN WRIGHT
  • Nathan Wright
  • KNOCK KNOCK Don’t answer; it’s probably a filmmaker.

Why wait for the inevitable deluge of COVID-19-themed horror films when you can script your own? Every filmaker worth a roll of gaffer’s tape is plotting their pandemic feature right now—don’t be left out like you were during the Great Burning Man Documentary Deluge of the early aughts.

Stay home, lock the doors and start your screenplay with our free Instant Pandemic Plot Thickener system.How does it work? Like this: If your house was haunted, wouldn’t you just leave? Normally, yes, but the pandemic plugs this age-old plot hole by promising a slow, painful death if you go outside.

Boom—you’re trapped! And … the wifi is down! If that’s not frightening enough, use the following screenwriting prompt to add more chills: In the dead of night, your partner whispers in your ear “I think there’s someone in the house …”Remember, this is a movie, not reality. In reality, everyone is so utterly bored with each others’ company that you’d welcome the intruder with open arms and a bottle of wine. But in the horror-show version of your quarantined life, the moment has to be bone-chilling. Choose one of the following:

1. Someone is surreptitiously living in your attic, a crawlspace, or the secret room that is discovered when the blueprints are examined in a dramatic second-act revelation.

2. YOU are surreptitiously living in the attic to avoid your family.Now add one of the following tried-and-true tropes:

1. A malevolent spirit inhabits one of your child’s toys, preferably a doll, especially the kind with eyes that suddenly open for no reason.

2. Your kid has an “imaginary friend”—with an Edwardian-era name like Gwilym—that they “talk to” through the closet.Pick one, then get jealous that the kid has someone to talk to who isn’t related to them. Start talking to Gwilym yourself.

Write down what you say. Presto—your screenplay is practically writing itself!At some point in your script, write a character who works in a spiritual capacity (a priest, exorcist, bartender, etc.) and have them attempt to purge the evil spirit through a Zoom call.

At a crucial moment, have your screen freeze and then run to every room in the house with your laptop trying to get a better connection. When you finally find a signal and resume your video call in the darkened bathroom, have the kid wander in and turn on the light … revealing—Ahhh!—you’re just talking to yourself in the mirror!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Rolling the Bard

Shakespeare’s B-Day Weed

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2020 at 5:02 PM


April 23 or so marks William Shakespeare’s 456th bday. For the sake of this chat, however, let’s just say it’s his 4-20th birthday. Because the question of the day is “Did Shakespeare smoke weed?”

Doobie, or not doobie? That is the question—the one that circulated the Internet a few years ago when anthropologist Francis Thackeray suggested that William Shakespeare might have sought creative inspiration by smoking pot.

Thackeray is the director of the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and in 2001 he conducted a study that found marijuana residue in pipe fragments unearthed in Shakespeare’s garden.

Though cannabis was cultivated in England during Shakespeare’s day for rope-making and other textiles, it’s unclear if it was used recreationally. “Some Shakespearean allusions, including a mention of a ‘noted weed’ in Sonnet 76, spurred Thackeray’s inquiry into whether Shakespeare may have used the mind-altering drug for inspiration,” wrote Life Science journal-contributor Stephanie Pappas.

About five years ago, Thackeray contemplated petitioning the Church of England to open the Bard’s grave and undertake a chemical analysis of his hair and nails in search of marijuana traces. There has been little mention of the project since. Because—I surmise—Thackeray is no longer high. Given some lines in Sonnet 76, I could see how, in certain states of mind, a phrase like “compounds strange” could be a pot allusion, next to the aforecited “noted weed.” Especially after a bong hit.

Two questions come to mind, however: Why are some always eager to pin the inspirations of creative types on dope? And secondly, who cares? W. H. Auden took Benzedrine in the morning and Seconal at night, but few mention it in the same breath as his poetry. And strung out as he was, even Auden addressed hazards of reading between the lines of Shakespeare’s poetry. This is from an introduction he once wrote to the Bard’s works:

“Probably, more nonsense has been talked and written, more intellectual and emotional energy expended in vain, on the sonnets of Shakespeare than on any other literary work in the world.”

But did Shakespeare smoke pot? Does it matter? Meh. Sure, my own writing is better when I’m high, but I only think that when I’m high. For the record, I wasn’t high when I wrote this ... though maybe I should’ve been. Anyway, Happy Birthday, Shakespeare. Get it? Shake…speare. Okay, I’ll stop.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Verdant Veritas

Posted By on Wed, Apr 15, 2020 at 12:16 PM


For some, the story of cannabis in California begins with the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016. For author Frances Rivetti, however, the narrative goes well “beyond the Redwood Curtain” and into a “shrouded underbelly” larded with criminality.

Big Green Country is Rivetti’s “journalistic reconstruction into fiction of what’s really going on in this part of the world, today.” A British expat-turned-local-journalist and now-novelist, Rivetti’s first two books are the nonfiction Fog Valley Crush and Fog Valley Winter, which record the region’s farm-to-table movement and immigrant agricultural history. Though Big Green Country is a marked departure for Rivetti, at least in genre, her creative process mirrors that of her journalistic work.

“I spent the first year researching, talking to many people on both sides of the fence, growers and folks who’d grown up in Mendocino and Humboldt as well as young people, especially women who had experiences as trimmers,” Rivetti says. “I read crime reports and government reports and firsthand accounts of women who have been sex trafficked.”

Initially, she thought this process would yield a local version of A Year in Provence. Instead, she uncovered a culture of lawlessness, rural poverty, addiction and alternative medicine, a broken health care system—and the stark reality of human trafficking, all within the region known as the Emerald Triangle.

By using a reality-based backdrop, Rivetti hoped to shine a spotlight on aspects of our region that have often gone unseen.

“Every time I’ve read to a group, one or two people in attendance confessed that they had absolutely no idea any of this was happening in our region,” says Rivetti, whose characters and their experiences are fictional departures from real people and events.

In the meantime, Rivetti is considering the options for promoting Big Green Country during the shelter-in-place mandate. She was fortunate to speak to local book groups prior to the quarantine but is now considering virtual book events via apps like Zoom.

“It’s not easy to get the word out as an indie author and I believe that now is the time for us to look at the books being written by those in our communities,” Rivetti says. “I actually think this is a revolutionary time to write and publish and I am glad that I am able to utilize my reporting skills to share important stories, via nonfiction and fiction.”

‘Big Green Country’, Fog Valley Press, 358 pages. Available locally from as well as More info at
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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Seize life by the quote

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2020 at 6:00 PM


When I first stood on the periphery of what we could call my screenwriting career, some Hollywood wag asked me “What’s your quote?” He meant “what’s your rate, your fee, your market value?” But I thought he meant my favorite movie quote—like, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” which I wish I’d said. Years later, I found a writerly quote that I love and HATE because ... it’s a meme.

With an image of a sunset … words hovering there, in all caps, over a shimmering sea like some Wayne White word painting. It reads: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

Who would say such soothing sophistry? Insert Internet wormhole here. The quote is most often attributed to George Eliot, of whom everything I know fits in two data points:

A) He was a she. Or, rather, she used a male nom de plume because women writers weren’t taken seriously in the 19th century.

B) She was not George Sand, who was also a 19th-century writer and used her pseudonym for the same reasons.

Also, names were just plain complicated for her, as she once wrote: “My name is not Marie-Aurore de Saxe, Marquise of Dudevant, as several of my biographers have asserted, but Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin.” And then she probably added, “Screw it, just call me ‘George.’”

So, George Eliot allegedly writes, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been,” and a century-and-a-half later, Rebecca Mead, in her New Yorker essay “Middlemarch and Me,” tries to find the origin of the quotation, which she first read on a refrigerator magnet. Then Mead observes, “the sentence didn’t sound to me like anything George Eliot would say” and some literary sleuthing ensues. Spoiler alert—it’s made up.

But it begs the question—what did you want to be? Did you want to be a writer too? I wanted to be many things. Too many things. But the unified field theory of my life has always included writing in the equation. And though writing can sometimes feel very far away, let me assure you, there’s always a way back. If you’re the writing type, this is what you do: Write a word. Then another. And another. And so forth.

At some point, maybe change your name to George. But do the work—it’s okay to start now—because, frankly, my dear, it’s never too late to be what you might have been.

Starting April 6, download Daedalus Howell’s books for free at
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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

M-M-M-My Corona

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2020 at 4:37 PM

BAT MAN Papa Bakes frontman Eric W. Baker sings ‘My Corona’ in bat drag. - YOUTUBE
  • BAT MAN Papa Bakes frontman Eric W. Baker sings ‘My Corona’ in bat drag.
It was inevitable that the Knack’s 1979 classic track, “My Sharona,” would catch corona and go viral as a song satire. Though pop-parody godfather Weird Al scrupulously avoided the notion (“Yeah, no, sorry. Not gonna do ‘My Corona,’” he tweeted when petitioned by fans to cover the song), others have risen (or sunk?) to the occasion.

Eric W. Baker of Papa Bakes currently leads the YouTube charts with his band’s take, which features the revised lyric, “Ooh my little deadly one, my deadly one, symptoms don’t show up for some time, Corona … M-M-M-My Corona!” It’s worth a spin, not least of which for the video’s classic ’80s white cyclorama set (which sounds much fancier when written than it actually is). Good or bad taste? Probably no more unpalatable than the Mexican lager the band sips throughout the vid. I’ll let you guess which one.

• • •

While we’re kicking around pandemic puns consider this: Though National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a NaNoWriMo) isn’t until November, it’s probably high time to dust of the manuscript moldering in your desk drawer and hunker down for CoroNaNoWriMo. Instead of taking a month to write 50,000 words, you can use your Corona-enforced downtime to write your own version of the Never Ending Story.

• • •

When solo, I’m the alpha male in the movie unspooling in my own mind. But amongst the urban canyons of our empty streets, I am now the Omega Man. In other words, I’m the last man on earth until I have to get six feet away from the other last men on earth in the grocery store.

During the fires last fall, I acquired a fashionably black N-95 mask that matches my sartorial uniform of dark blazers and boots. It pushes my look from “casual sophisticate” to “calculating psychopath” in about three seconds. Needless to say, I’m no longer the one stepping aside in the wine aisle. Thus far, I’ve only been bested for a bottle by a gent dressed as a Plague Doctor—beaky mask, black hat, cloak and all. Dude earned that $8 bottle of pinot so far as I’m concerned. Moreover, his creepy presence suggests it’s time to update our slogan— #SonomaStrong suited the esprit de corps of our community during the fires but this moment is entirely weirder—#SonomaStrange is more apt. Alas, someone is already squatting the domain name (I had to check).

Naturally, #SonomaStrange merch, like “My Corona,” is inevitable. Tag your #SonomaStrange pics on Instagram and I’ll compile a “Corona Casual” virtual fashion show at Remember, fellow dystopian fashionistas—you’re not alone. You’re … fabulous.

Interim Editor Daedalus Howell is quarantined online at

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Sci-Fi Takes Center Stage

'Galatea' launches at Spreckels

Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 2020 at 7:29 PM

FINAL FRONTIER Androids take the stage in 'Galatea.' - RICK DECKARD
  • Rick Deckard
  • FINAL FRONTIER Androids take the stage in 'Galatea.'

To genre purists, the idea of androids navigating the footlights of a stageplay may lack the obvious Reese's factor ("two great tastes together at last").

There's precedent, however; 2020 marks the 100-year anniversary of the coinage of the word "robot," courtesy of Czech playwright Karel Capek and his play R.U.R.: Rossum's Universal Robots, published in 1920. Here, playwright David Templeton takes the baton and points it deep into outer space to explore the most interior of matters.

Many know of Templeton's contributions to these very pages the past quarter-century or of his various turns as a playwright in the last decade or so (Drumming with Anubis, Wretch Like Me), but now Templeton is boldly going where no Sonoma County theater has gone before in his play, Galatea.

It's 2167 and robot-specialist Dr. Margaret Mailer (Madeleine Ashe) conducts a series of clinical sessions with an android named 71 (Abbey Lee), the sole-surviving member of a "synthetic support crew" assigned to the colony-vessel Galatea. But that's not the weird part—the Galatea disappeared over 100 years ago along with its 2,000 human passengers. As 71's shrink-sessions progress, Dr. Mailer realizes she's hiding something—something potentially horrifying.

Much of Templeton's onstage writing has been autobiographical—heavy stuff like overcoming a teenage bout of Christian fundamentalism. And yet, the genre's trappings and tropes (robots; long, cryogenic naps) opened ways for Templeton to explore his own existential quandaries—as it has with many sci-fi writers.

"In some ways, it's one of the most personal plays I've ever written," says Templeton, who is most-likely human (though his dead-on impression of Donald Sutherland as a pod person from Invasion of the Body Snatchers does raise questions).

Another human aboard this theatrical vessel is director Marty Pistone, whose own science fiction bona fides include appearing on-screen as Controller #2 in Star Trek 4: The Journey Home and performing stunts in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

"The questions and conundrums that 'Galatea' explores—questions about the meaning of humanity and its value on Earth—are questions I've been thinking about for much of my life," Templeton says.

Indeed, questions loom—namely, how did 71 wind up alone in deep space, and what exactly happened aboard the Galatea? But perhaps the deeper mystery Templeton and his characters hope to solve—and one to which this particular mix of artists, genre and medium are uniquely suited—is: what does it mean to be human?

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Same difference

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2020 at 5:12 PM

MIRROR MIRROR Andy Warhol's 'Liz #6' and Dr. Frankenfurter&mdash;separated at birth? - COURTESY SFMOMA/20TH CENTURY FOX<
  • Courtesy SFMOMA/20th Century Fox<
  • MIRROR MIRROR Andy Warhol's 'Liz #6' and Dr. Frankenfurter—separated at birth?

On view on floor five as part of the "Pop, Minimal, and Figurative Art" exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is Andy Warhol's Liz #6, an iconic work that we've all seen.

But have you seen it side by side with Tim Curry's Dr. Frank N. Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show? See above—now you have. The resemblance is uncanny in that "separated at birth" kind of way. Surely, this sixth Liz Taylor was the inspiration for Curry's make-up, right? Happy to debate this with you at a drinking establishment of your choice—just say when, where and the name on your tab. I see you shiver with antici......pation.

• • •

Starting Monday, Petaluma will be the scene of a massive arboreal apocalypse as the city fells trees along Highway 101 between Lakeville Street (Highway 116) and Corona Road (a name that makes you want to wear a face mask). Unless you're a vampire, this shouldn't affect your commute—the tree slaying will close northbound lanes from 10pm to 6am and southbound lanes from 7pm to 4am—for the next seven weeks. Alas, it never occurred to the powers-that-be to instead keep the trees and rip out the highway, as an act of civic healing. This particular leg of 101 has artificially divided Petaluma and fomented an intense East-West rivalry that's led to calls to dam the Petaluma River and create Petaluma Bay to flood the side opposite their own.

Did English 101 teach us nothing? Being the "egg basket of the world" at the time F. Scott Fitzgerald was writing the Great Gatsby, surely Petaluma was the inspiration for East Egg and West Egg (aha!), the tony enclaves that indicated whether you come from old money or new money. I don't know where Petaluma's money is now, let alone its relative youth, but I do know that "mature trees" are showcased on every million-dollar-plus real estate listing (which is to say every listing at this point). Factor that into your nest egg, P-town.

• • •

Someone has vandalized undercover artist Banksy's latest mural in Bristol, England, leading others to ask "Wait, isn't Banksy's art itself technically vandalism?" Armed with spray paint and stencils, the much-lauded Banksy surreptitiously appropriates city walls as his canvases, which can become worth millions—that is, until another artist scrawls "BCC Wankers" across it in an apparent critique of the "Bristol City Council." Sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but value in the art world starts with the holder of the spray can. A decade ago Banksy created six pieces during a San Francisco "residency"—surely Sonoma, Napa and Marin are next.

Nominate local targets for Banksy-treatment on our Facebook page ( and we'll pass them along (and, naturally, take a gallerist's commission).

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Cotati Goes Mardi Gras on Feb. 29

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2020 at 4:49 PM

The Cotati Crawl, through the small downtown’s array of venues and drinking establishments, is a long-running tradition in Sonoma County—especially for Sonoma State students. This weekend, Leap Day offers a chance for a special daylong festival, the Cotati Gras, co-produced by Body Language Productions, in which 30-plus bands, DJs and artists take over spaces like Spancky’s Bar, with participating eateries and special offerings like a silent disco. Join in the festivities on Saturday, Feb. 29, along Old Redwood Highway in downtown Cotati. 2pm to 2am. Free.
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Barbara Baer Launches New Novel in Occidental on Mar. 1

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2020 at 4:45 PM


Two early-20th century immigrant families, one a group of western pioneers and one a New York–socialite crowd, find their lives suddenly thrown together in Barbara Baer’s new novel, The Ice Palace Waltz. Stanford-educated Baer is the author of three previous novels, and The Ice Palace Waltz is a well-researched and timely tapestry that touches on mining towns and Manhattan speculators. Baer reads from the novel at a book launch event on Sunday, March 1, at Occidental Center for the Arts, 3850 Doris Murphy Court, Occidental. 2pm. Free admission. 707.874.9392.
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Sonoma State Hosts Social Justice Week Mar. 2–7

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2020 at 4:42 PM


Sonoma State University’s Social Justice Week takes the time to engage SSU students and the public in lectures, films, presentations and activities. The week opens on March 2 with a talk and screening featuring Michael Nagler of Metta Center for Nonviolence, a performance by Ballet Folklorico Netzahualcoyotl and more. March 3 includes talks on veterans opposed to war and low-wage workers rising up, and March 4 continues with topics like public banking and killer drones. March 2–7, at Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. Livestream available. Full schedule is at
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