Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Alex Espinoza wins an American Book Award


A shout-out to Alex Espinoza, a Fresno State English professor, whose book “The Five Acts of Diego León” is one of the winners of the 35th annual American Book Awards.

The awards are given by the Before Columbus Foundation, a nonprofit founded by author-playwright Ishmael Reed. Here’s how they’re chosen:

The American Book Awards were created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community. The purpose of the awards is to recognize literary excellence without limitations or restrictions. There are no categories, no nominees, and therefore no losers. The award winners range from well-known and established writers to under-recognized authors and first works. There are no quotas for diversity, the winners list simply reflects it as a natural process. The Before Columbus Foundation views American culture as inclusive and has always considered the term “multicultural” to be not a description of various categories, groups, or “special interests,” but rather as the definition of all of American literature. The Awards are not bestowed by an industry organization, but rather are a writers’ award given by other writers.

Fourteen books were awarded this year, including Jamaica Kincaid’s “See Now Then.” Espinoza will get to pick up his award Oct. 26 in San Francisco. (Take pictures and send them to the Beehive, OK?)

After the jump: a list of this year’s winners.

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Bandgeek: Humperdinck, Daniels and Doyle


Aside from not eating at Burger King (the tax thing may be the least of its offences), your schedule for the next seven days looks full up, especially if you are into any sort of live music. The choices are presented here in our weekly roundup known as BANDGEEEEK!


  • EZ Mark’s Honky Tonk.
    A Sit-around jam. At Full Circle Brewing. 5:30 p.m. Free.

  • Engelbert Humperdinck.
    At Tachi Palace. 7:30 p.m. $35-$70.

  • Pacific Dub.
    W/ ONEoz. At Strummer’s. 8 p.m. $12. All ages. (Flier link)

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    Opening tonight: ‘The Tempest’

    One of Shakespeare’s most magical plays, “The Tempest,” opens tonight at Woodward Park. It’s the final production in the 2014 Woodward Shakespeare Festival season. From the company:

    The 10th season closes with Julie Ann Keller’s The Tempest, a magical tale of romance, vengeance and redemption. Rick Adamson plays the powerful sorcerer Prospero. Bridget Martin and Broderic Beard play the two lovers Miranda and Ferdinand. Joshua Taber and Abbygail Williams portray the fantastical spirit Ariel and the villainous creature Caliban. The production features original music composed by Emma Ferdinandi, winner of the Woodward Shakespeare Festival’s Young Composer’s Competition.

    The show plays 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Sept. 20 at the Festival Stage. Look for my interview with Keller in Friday’s issue of 7.

    Pictured: Miranda (Bridget Martin), Ferdinand (Broderic Beard), and Prospero (Richard Adamson).

    THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Comedy of Errors’

    comedy of errors

    There’s a sense of occasion with the new Good Company Players production of “The Comedy of Errors” at the 2nd Space Theatre. It’s been more than 20 years since Shakespeare graced the GCP stage, and this beautifully designed production feels like an important event. GCP has a fiercely loyal cadre of season subscribers, a fair number of whom I’m guessing don’t see theater anyplace else, so it’s quite possible that for some, this will be their first Shakespeare experience. That’s exciting.

    Director J. Daniel Herring has certainly made it easy for those first-timers to follow the action, which is basically the mother of all identical-twins-separated-at-birth storylines. Herring reimagines the tale in the style of Commedia dell’arte, which is best known today for its “stock” characters such as the Arlecchino, aka the acrobatic and witty Harlequin. 

    We learn the basics in an expository opening scene featuring a wandering father named Egeon (a hearty Henry Montelongo), who lost track of his twin sons — and the twin servants attending each — in a mishap that left each twin unaware of his sibling.

    Egeon doesn’t know that one master-and-servant pair ended up living in Ephesus, the city he’s just landed in, and the other master-and-servant pair has just gotten into town. Let the mistaken-identity games begin. (If a screenwriter tried something like this today, it’d be an Adam Sandler movie.)

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    Capo’s restaurant to raise money for Harkenrider family

    Update: This is one of those situations that restores your faith in the human race. Capo’s owner Cher Martin says the fundraiser was a big success, with 400 people dining in and many more getting take-out food. Here’s what she says about the total amount raised: “Several families handed over envelopes with cash. Those totaled approx $1,500. With our donation, the matching donation, a private $1,000 donor and money that is still coming in we raised approx $6,800 – $7,000.”

    Capo’s restaurant is holding a fundraiser Tuesday, Aug. 26 to benefit the daughter and pregnant widow of Matthew Harkenrider. Harkenrider is the 26-year-old man who was killed in that tragic crash at Fresno Street and Herndon Avenue by a woman who is accused of running a red light while high on methamphetamine. Harkenrider’s twin brother, Eric, has worked at Giuseppe Gallo’s in Clovis — another restaurant owned by the Martin family who owns Capo’s — for over a year.

    The fundraiser is at Capo’s from 4 p.m. to close Tuesday. Capo’s is in the Park Place shopping center at Palm and Nees avenues near GB3 in Fresno. (Note that the fundraiser is NOT at Giuseppe Gallo’s.) The restaurant will donate 20% of its gross sales from that time to a memorial fund at the Educational Employees Credit Union. Judging from the restaurant’s Facebook post about the event, the restaurant is going to get a big crowd, so make reservations. The donations will also come from takeout orders. Family friends of the Martins have pledged to match the restaurant’s donation.

    If you can’t make the event,  you can donate directly to the memorial fund at any EECU branch. The account is under the name Matthew Harkenrider Memorial Account #11956007.

    Win tickets to The Madera Fair


    We are officially entering fair season, which means a slew of musicians will be passing through the area in the next two months. Coming up is the Madera District Fair, which kicks off Sept. 4, and features performances from War (what is good for?), Dwight Yoakam and Foreigner.

    We’ll be giving away tickets to each show, starting with War, which plays Sept. 4. Yoakam plays Sept. 5 and Foreigner on Sept. 6.

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    What do you think about dogs on restaurant patios?

    Pooches will be soon be allowed on restaurant patios. A new state law signed last week legally allows people to bring their dogs to outdoor eating areas beginning Jan. 1. While there is plenty of rejoicing at this news (and far too many uses of the phrase “bone appetit”), I want to know what you think of this practice. Do you welcome it as a fun way to spend breakfast with Fido? Or does the thought of fur floating through the air and landing in your eggs Benedict gross you out? 

    I’d also like you to help me out with a future column. Where have you seen dogs welcomed on patios in the Fresno/Clovis already? Or where have people tried to bring dogs? Are any restaurants in town particularly pet friendly? 

    It’s worth noting that this new law is not a furry free-for-all. It comes with lots of rules, including:

    - The dog must be on a leash or in a carrier.

    - The dog cannot sit on a chair or bench (so that puppy in the picture is a no no).

    - Utensils, condiments, etc. must be stored in enclosed containers when dogs are present (meaning fur shouldn’t mingle with forks).

    - Employees who deal with food can’t pet dogs and if they do, they need to wash their hands.

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    Win tickets to Allan Holdsworth


    The Painted Table hosted the first in a pair of live music events at its space in the Tower Theatre on Sunday (the pop-noir band Leftover Cuties performed).

    This Sunday it hosts English jazz fusion guitarist/composer Allan Holdsworth. This is the guy that Frank Zappa once called “one of the most interesting guys on guitar on the planet.”

    We have tickets to give away to a Beehive reader. To enter to win, leave a comment in this post. Tell us who you think is the most interesting guy on guitar on the planet (Joseph Andreoli from Giraffes? Giraffes! is pretty interesting to me).

    The contest runs until noon Thursday. Winners will be chosen at random, notified by email and be able to pick up tickets at The Fresno Bee office (1626 E. Street) during normal business hours.

    Check out a video of Holdsworth (plus full contest rules) on the jump.

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    Announcement: Mega Old School Party Jam 2


    The Rotary Amphitheater at Woodward Park is under appreciated (if not underused) as a concert venue.

    But it will be busy in September.

    I already told you about A Day to Remember, which brings its “Parks and Devastation” tour to the amphitheater Sept. 23.

    Before that is The Mega Old School Party Jam 2.

    The concert, scheduled for Sept. 5, is for fans of early hip-hop with performances from Treach and Kay Gee (of Naughty by Nature) Jalil & Ecstasy (of Whodini), plus Kurtis Blow, Shock G (of Digital Underground), Coolio and Young MC.

    Gates open at 5 p.m. and the show starts at 6:30 p.m.

    Tickets are $35-$40 and on sale now online at (thru Sept. 1), or at Rimco in Fresno (5375 N. Blackstone Ave.) or Visalia (1712 E. Main Street), at Ed Dena’s Auto Center, 1500 W. El Monte Way in Dinuba, or the Mega 97.9 studios located at Palm and Shaw in Fresno.

    Just for fun, click to jump to watch the video for “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

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    New place to eat: El TacoLicious

    El TacoLicious is easy to spot in its Belmont Avenue neighborhood — it’s the only place around with a fresh paint job and a big new sign. The restaurant opened in January, taking over for El Unico, right next door to Aldo’s Nightclub. The first thing you notice when you walk into the restaurant, at 555 W. Belmont Ave., is the happy decor: lime green walls, clouds painted on the ceiling and stools that look like giant beer bottle caps from Pacifico and Modelo.

    But it’s the food everybody cares about, right? El TacoLicious is fast-food Mexican, with a mix of authentic recipes and newfangled dishes. Nothing costs more than $6.25. The basic carne asada taco is the most popular, says owner Eddie Quintana, who also owns Aldo’s. And he duplicated his mom’s gordita recipe — a thin spongy dough that is briefly fried and then stuffed with meat, beans lettuce and pico de gallo.

    But there’s also some delightfully funky new items on the menu, including a Cali burrito. It’s like a regular buritto, but it has french fries inside. Quintana tells me it was inspired by surfers in San Diego who were so hungry after a day of surfing that a regular burrito just wouldn’t cut it. There’s also asada fries on the menu, courtesy of his college-age daughter’s urging. These are like nachos, with meat, beans, jalapenos, guacamole and “lots and lots of cheese,” only with french fries instead of chips. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, until 3 a.m. Saturday through Monday mornings.

    DIY: Clean it with baking soda

    Not long ago I made an amazing thrift store haul, which included one genuine diamond in the rough: a badly-tarnished silver platter that I picked up for $3.95. She’s so dingy and sad looking, I’m fairly certain that if my blue tag special could speak, she would just be silently weeping in her tainted, forgotten way.

    As an incredibly thrifty individual (READ: cheap), it stands to reason that spending twice as much on a silver polish as I did on my silver platter would be a no-go. Harkening back to earlier days and conversations with my grandmother, I remembered her advice about an inexpensive (READ: dirt cheap) silver-polishing solution: baking soda.

    There are a million reasons to trust baking soda with most tough cleaning jobs but the best one yet: just about every cleaning-solution manufacturer touts its greatness on their labels. 

    And this got me thinking: Why are we buying products with all these chemicals when, in the end, they all use the same magic ingredient available for 97 cents a box in the baking section? What else can this magic little cleaning muscle do?

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    Win tickets to Blu J’z at Arte Americas Nights in the Plaza

    nightsFresno’s summer days can be brutal. But our nights … our nights are so very lovely.

    Which is why Arte Americas hosts a series of Friday-night concerts in it outdoor pavilion each summer. The Nights in the Plaza series features local and regional bands playing Latin lazz and mariachi, Brazilian, Son Jarocho and rockabilly.

    We’ll be giving away passes each week (except Sept. 26) for the rest of the series’ run. This week’s concert features the local smooth jazz band The Blu J’z, which was featured on Friday as The Bee’s Artist You Should Know.

    To enter to win passes to see the band, leave a comment in this post. Tell us your favorite way to spend a warm summer’s night in the Valley. The contest runs through noon Thursday. Winners will be chosen at random, notified by email and be able to pick up the passes at The Fresno Bee office (1626 E. Street) during normal business hours. Passes are good for any concert night, but do not guarantee entry, so early arrival is suggested.

    We’ll have a new contest up every Monday so keep checking back. Complete performer schedule and contest rules on the jump.

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    2014-15 classical music preview

    In Sunday’s Spotlight section I give a peek at the array of musical options for classical music lovers coming up in the 2014-15 season.

    Fresno Pacific University is first out of the gate with an upcoming Thursday (Aug. 28) opening concert in the Pacific Artist Series featuring The Hord Consort, made up of  John Hord (piano), Pamela Ellzey (flute) and Terry Estabrook (mezzo soprano).

    My column includes lots of highlights, from the original “Cantata for Living Martyrs” commissioned for the Fresno Philharmonic as it marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide to an appearance by noted pianist Eliso Virsaladze (of the Republic of Georgia) with the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series.

    I couldn’t fit complete season schedules into the print edition, but here I’ve compiled  links and text to as many full season schedules as I could compile. Be aware that some websites have not yet been updated with 2014-15 season schedules. If I’ve left something out, let me know:

    The Masterworks lineup includes the return of William Barton on the didgeridoo (Sept. 28), cellist Zuill Bailey (Nov. 7-9), guitarist Charles Ramiez with guest conductor José-Luis Novo (Jan. 25), pianist Lukáš Vondráček (Feb. 13-15), and a special program titled “Witness and Rebirth” marking the Armenian Genocide (April 25) featuring soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, the Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale and Fresno State Concert Choir. Pops concerts include the annual holiday affair (Dec. 6) and “Broadway Classics” (May 9). Masterworks schedule / Pops schedule

    Two operas are on the lineup: “A Streetcar Named Desire” (Feb. 15) and “Tosca” (May 7). Full schedule

    The season lineup features Garrick Ohlsson (Sept. 7), Richard Goode (Oct. 24), Denis Kozhukhin (Nov. 23), Samuel Soria (Jan. 11), Beatrice Rana (Feb. 4), Kuok-Wai Lio (March 6), Eliso Virsaladze (April 17) and Barry Douglas (May 3). Full schedule

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    Tonight: Go Dwntwn


    Jamie Leffler and Robert Cepeda are the principal musicians and songwriters for the Los Angeles indie-pop group Dwntwn (pronounced Downtown), but over the past four years they’ve worked to keep from being the typical boy-girl duo. Which probably wasn’t difficult considering Leffler had just broken up with Cepeda’s brother when the two started playing music together.

    Oddly, they say, was’t as awkward as you’d think.

    I had some email correspondence with the band in advance of tonight’s show at Peeve’s Public House.

    I always like to start with the “newsy” stuff. So, what is happening with the band right now?

    We are in the middle of a west coast run that ends on Saturday in Fresno! We’ve been rehearsing a lot getting ready for the shows and we are excited to be playing all of the new songs off of our EP that came out a couple of months ago.

    You just released a video for “Heroine.” Tell us some about the song and the process of making the video?

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    Big Fresno Fair finalizes entertainment schedule


    The Big Fresno Fair has finalized this year’s entertainment lineup and it includes some hip-hop, classic rock, country, comedy and now … crooning.

    Tony Bennett will perform on the fair’s closing night, Oct. 13. Tickets are $45-$50 and on sale 9 a.m. Aug. 29. The 88-year old singer has been topping the charts since the ’50s with songs like “Because of You” and “Rags to Riches,” and continues to stay relevant. His duets album with Lady Gaga is set for release in September.

    The fair also announced the addition of alternative rock newcomers the Kongos (Oct. 10), comedian Jim Gaffigan (Oct. 1) and the La Buena Corrido Fest, featuring Larry Hernandez, Proyecto X and Jorge Valenzuela (Oct. 5). Tickets for Gaffigan are $30-$35 and on sale now. Tickets for Kongos are $8-$12. The La Buena Corrido Fest is $10-$30. Both will be on sale to the general public starting 9 a.m. Aug. 29.

    The additions come with a change of dates for comedian Gabriel Iglesias, who is now performing Oct. 4. You can see the full fair schedule on the jump.

    Also on the horizon is the Madera District Fair, which run Sept. 4-7 and features performances from War (Sept. 4), Dwight Yoakam (Sept. 5), Foreigner (Sept. 6) Los Tucanes (Sept. 7). Showtimes and ticket information can be found at or by calling (866) 973-9610 or (559) 674-8511.

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    See this: Psych-rock band Sleepy Sun


    UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect the correct show date, which is tomorrow.

    San Francisco psych-rock band Sleepy Sun plays tomorrow at Strummer’s and it could be your only chance to see them at a local venue.

    “We don’t hit towns like Fresno often,” says Bret Constantino, who sings for the band, which released its fourth album “Maui Tears” in January.

    “And who knows it might be the last time,” he says.

    The band plays with Boston’s Quilt and locals Planets Live in Houses and Beastmaker and if you are a fan of heavy-riffed, fuzzed out psychedelia, you’ll want to make it out. Especially given that Sleepy Sun is known for the sheer presence of their live show. It’s why the Arctic Monkey’s hauled them out on tour in 2010. Same with the Black Angels in 2011.

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    The Starbucks pumpkin spice latte is coming — eventually

    In the world of Starbucks fans, the pumpkin spice latte is a really big deal. It’s a drink that’s only available for a limited time in the fall and always inspires lots of Facebook photos of Starbucks cups and nicely manicured nails. It even has its own abbreviation, PSL. Like some highly anticipated birth, the PSL is due to arrive any day now.

    As far as I can tell, Sept. 2 is the official release date. But some stores will have it earlier. It appears the Starbucks marketing machine is capitalizing on the excitement surrounding the PSL with a little social media game. Customers who play the game can “unlock” the drink early for anyone ordering at their store.

    So, to get the drink early, Starbucks is encouraging customers to follow @TheRealPSL Twitter account. The internet savvy latte started tweeting clues yesterday and will continue through Monday. Customers are encouraged to “work through the game challenges with the help of the PSL community.” Customers who correctly figure out the special password will unlock the PSL for the stores they visit, meaning anyone can order a PSL after that whether they have the password or not. The earliest this will happen is Tuesday. Still confused? Read this. And if you’re one of the truly dedicated who do this, please tell us in the comments which Fresno-area stores have the drink available early.

    5 Things You Should Do This Weekend


    Skip the Ice Bucket Challenge. Do one of these instead.

    1. Catacomb Brew release party.
    The Catacomb Party won’t be back until 2015. In the mean time you can drink its tasty, tasty brew.

    2. Greek Fest
    As our friend Kopi would say, “Opa!”

    3. Friends of the Fresno Country Library Big Book Sale
    Look, your favorite! Books.

    4. “Synergy,” Inner Ear’s 12th Anniversary party
    A dozen years of poetry slams, jams and collab(oration)s. Congratulations are in order.

    5. WWE
    I miss Jimmy Snuka.

    For music-specific events, check out my weekly music roundup known as BANDGEEEK!

    You review: Rascal Flatts

    Rascal Flatts‘ “Rewind 2014″ tour was arguably the biggest show to hit town this week (and it was a big week for live music).

    The Ohio trio stands out as one of most prolific (and popular) country acts of the decade. The group has been recognized by just about any country-music organization that hands out awards, and is one of the nation’s best-selling touring acts (of any genre). The band has sold more than 7 million tickets since debuting in 2000. That includes selling more than 10,000 tickets to each of their previous Fresno shows — in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

    Last night’s show had the bonus of featuring Sheryl Crow and country up-and-comers Gloriana.

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    Bandgeek: Rascal Flatts, Man Man and D.R.I.


    It’s Greek Fest weekend. So you’ll be busy dancing and eating and yelling Opa! There are also dozens of live, musical performances happening at the city’s bars, clubs and theater if that’s more your speed. Here’s you weekly BANDGEEK! list.


  • Ando Ehlers.
    Split 7 ” tour. SS Web and It’ll Grow Back. At Audie’s Olympic. 9 p.m. $5. (Flier link)

  • Fashawn.
    The Ecology listening party. At Strummer’s. 8:30 p.m. This show is sold out. (Flier link)

  • Built to Spill.
    W/Slam Dunk and The Warm Hair. At Cellar Door, Visalia. 8 p.m. $20. (Flier link)

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    Opening tonight: ‘The Comedy of Errors’

    Tonight’s opening at the 2nd Space Theatre is a first for Good Company Players: The new production of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” is being done in a Commedia dell’arte style. Director J. Daniel Herring is setting the play in a town square, performed by a traveling band of actors that include many of the stock characters associated with Commedia dell’arte. From GCP:

    In this merry mix-up by the Bard, two sets of identical twins are separated as children in a shipwreck – they land on far distant shores, not knowing what happened to the others. Once grown, Antipholus of Syracuse (MATTHEW RUDOLF SCHILTZ) and his servant Dromio (DANIELLE VALDIVIA) travel to Ephesus and are mistaken for their long-lost twin brothers, Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus (KEN STOCKS and BRIANNE JANAE VOGT). When they meet by accident as adults, the possibilities are endless: mistaken identities, near-seductions, false arrests, and wild accusations of adultery, larceny, and insanity are flung about with wild abandon.

    This is the first Shakespeare production done by Good Company since 1993′s “Twelfth Night.”

    “The Comedy of Errors” continues Thursdays-Sundays through Oct. 12. Look for my interview with Herring about the show in Friday’s 7 section.

    Matthew McConaughey didn’t balk at doing TV

    Years ago, I had a discussion with a fellow journalist about whether it was better to write about television or film. TV seemed to be the best way to go because not every TV actor will be in a movie but almost every movie actor will work on some TV project. The most recent example was the casting of Matthew McConaughey in the HBO series “True Detective.”

    The work McConaughey and Woody Harrelson did in the cable crime thriller earned them both nominations in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category for “The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards” to be handed out Aug. 25. McConaughey already has picked up honors at the Television Critics Association Awards and the Critics Choice Television Awards for his performance.

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    Cancelled: Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus at Visalia’s Oval Park


    The circus won’t be coming to town after all. At least not Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus.

    The concert tour, which features Frampton, Buddy Guy and Randy Bachman was scheduled for Aug. 29 at Oval Park in Visalia. That show was canceled due to “unforeseen logistical circumstances,” according to a release received this morning. All tickets will be refunded at their original point of purchase. Online purchases will be refunded back to the original accounts on which the orders were placed. A refund confirmation will be send via email.

    The concert was a fundraiser for the Visalia Rescue Mission and the first step in an attempt to revitalize Oval Park and the surrounding neighborhood. Frampton along with the other performers will make a donation to support the ongoing efforts of the Mission.

    The tour will continue throughout the summer and fall.

    Tonight: North Fresno ArtHop

    Assemblage and mixed-media artist Myrna Axt is the guest featured artist for North Fresno ArtHop at The Vintage Market, 601 W. Shaw Ave. She’ll be featuring her assemblage “characters” and small works. She writes: 

    There is something magical about taking an ordinary or dilapidated object and reviving it into something extraordinary. My art reflects my surroundings, imagination and many times my, my political view. One of my outlets has been creating assemblage art, a three-dimensional composition, putting together found objects, altered bits and pieces, along with my imagery.

    ArtHop runs 5-8 p.m. Check out the Fresno Arts Council’s website for more venues. Pictured: Axt’s “Where’s Pooh? (Bear).”

    Seth Meyers ready for Emmy hosting duty

    Seth Meyers feels more confident stepping into the role of host for “The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards,” airing at 5 p.m. Aug. 25, because he’s been hosting “Late Night” for the past six moths. The late-night NBC program has given him a much broader platform to work on his comic skills than he had during his weekly appearances on “Saturday Night Live.”

    “I feel certainly the most ready I’ve ever felt. But I think I’d feel more ready a year from now as well. It’s great to be able to do a monologue every night. That has been so helpful for approaching something like this,” Meyers says. “My skill set is always going to be in the monologue and telling the jokes and the understanding of how much work you have to put into getting a really good monologue to open a show like this.”

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