Sunday, 28 February 2021

Arts & Life

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Naomi Shihab Nye lives in San Antonio, Texas. Here she perfectly captures a moment in childhood that nearly all of us may remember: being too small for the games the big kids were playing, and fastening tightly upon some little thing of our own.

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.

Boy and Egg

Every few minutes, he wants
to march the trail of flattened rye grass
back to the house of muttering
hens. He too could make
a bed in hay. Yesterday the egg so fresh
it felt hot in his hand and he pressed it
to his ear while the other children
laughed and ran with a ball, leaving him,
so little yet, too forgetful in games,
ready to cry if the ball brushed him,
riveted to the secret of birds
caught up inside his fist,
not ready to give it over
to the refrigerator
or the rest of the day.


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. Reprinted from Fuel, published by BOA Editions by permission of the author. Copyright © 1998 by Naomi Shihab Nye. 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.

NORTH COAST, Calif. – The Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference, or MCWC, has posted the program for MCWC 2021, its 32nd conference, which like last year’s event will be held online via Zoom in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s conference faculty will include keynote speaker Wendy C. Ortiz, authors Lillian Li, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Saretta Morgan, Chris Dennis, Alex Sanchez, Suzanne Rivecca, Krys Malcolm Belc and Sam Krowchenko, and literary agents Elise Capron and Tricia Skinner, along with other special guests, writers and publishing experts.

View the complete schedule by visiting http://mcwc.org.

Applications for scholarships to attend MCWC 2021 are now open for submissions. Writers of all ages and levels of experience are encouraged to apply by visiting http://mcwc.org/scholarships. The deadline to apply for a scholarship is Feb. 15, 2021.

Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by Feb. 28, and general registration will open to the public on March 1.

“MCWC is pleased to offer a range of full scholarships to our conference designed to make our conference accessible to writers from diverse backgrounds and to reward writing of outstanding merit,” Executive Director Lisa Locascio said.

She said scholarships are available specifically for writers from underrepresented groups on the basis of age, ethnicity, sexual identity, disability, social or cultural background, and financial need.

There are scholarships available for MCWC first-time attendees and for those who have never attended a writers’ conference before. There are scholarships for Mendocino County high school students as well.

“We especially want to encourage local young writers to apply and come get a taste of a world-class literary gathering where they can meet fellow writers and gain valuable feedback on their writing. MCWC exists to serve and enrich our beautiful Mendocino County home, and we want to give back in every way we can,” said Locascio.

The scholarship judging categories are organized by submission genre, including the categories of novel, short fiction, middle grade/young adult, poetry, memoir, nonfiction, and speculative fiction.

All applications will be considered for all possible scholarships, and all applicants are welcome to register for the conference regardless of the outcome of their scholarship application.

Locascio added, “Since the conference is online again this year, we hope that writers who might not be able to come to the coast for a four-day stay will apply for a scholarship that will enable them to join from the comfort of their homes.”

The conference encourages all writers to apply.

For more information about registration, visit www.mcwc.org. Questions can be directed to Lisa Locascio at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




‘WONDER WOMAN 1984’ RATED PG-13

The origin story of Wonder Woman was developed in the 2017 film named after the DC Universe superhero, delivering the elegant, stunning and strong Gal Gadot as the demigod warrior on a mission to thwart the Germans during the First World War.

“Wonder Woman 1984” places Diana Prince (Gadot reprising the role), whose alter ego is the superhero, into the thick of the Cold War era where a con-man utilizing the television medium to promote a Ponzi scheme may prove more threatening to mankind than the Soviets.

But first, the film opens with a flashback to the paradise island of Themyscira that is inhabited solely by Amazon warrior women. As a young girl, Diana competes in a grueling triathlon against adult women more than twice her size.

Showing grit and determination in a contest of skill and strength that represents a hybrid of Olympic competition and a fantasy match in a “Harry Potter” film, Diana learns a valuable and virtuous life lesson from her elders.

The year 1984 brings the still elegant Diana to the position of a staff archeologist at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., where she studies and catalogs ancient artifacts, one of them being a seemingly ordinary stone object that is anything but mundane.

In a reflection of the solitary responsibility shouldered by one possessing superpowers, Diana appears to be a loner, even aloof from her colleagues. This also could be her still longing for the lost love of her life, pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a casualty of war.

However, she befriends Smithsonian colleague Barbara Minerva (Kirsten Wiig), a nerdy, awkward geologist who is overlooked or dismissed by workmates and harassed by louts on city streets.

Barbara takes an interest in the odd stone object that Diana has deemed to be of no significant value, at least not until TV con artist Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) who peddles get-rich-quick schemes on oil prospecting wants to get his hands on it.

The stone has power to grant anyone’s wish, which leads to Steve’s return from the dead. Diana’s love has delightfully humorous fish-out-of-water encounters with the marvels of technology and the gaudiness of contemporary wardrobes.

As for her part, Barbara covets the confidence, strength and appeal of her glamorous colleague, not realizing that there is much more to Diana’s poise and beauty than surface appearances.

Meanwhile, the snake oil salesman Maxwell Lord, who cares about no one other than himself and his young son Alistair (Lucian Perez), ingratiates himself into the museum’s work for ulterior motives.

The beginning and middle parts of the story in the nation’s capital allow Diana to moonlight on occasions in crimefighting with random acts of heroism, like rescuing kids from deranged robbers at a mall or saving an oblivious pedestrian from being creamed by a speeding Pontiac.

But when Steve is back in the picture, the duo take flight in a purloined jet and head to the Middle East for other heroic acts contra the dastardly plans of Maxwell Lord for world domination and supremacy in the oil markets, or something to that effect.

Truth of the matter is that in the middle part, aside from great stunts by Wonder Woman disrupting a hostile military convoy in the desert, a lot of the action, with the exception of fight scenes in the White House, becomes forgettable not long after the viewing.

What is not so unmemorable is the evolution of Barbara into full villain mode as the Cheetah, whose powers grow stronger while Diana’s appear to diminish. And yet, the Cheetah looks more like a cast member in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical than true menace.

In his quest for self-aggrandizement, Maxwell Lord becomes more a caricature of overacting than a true threat to the world, even though he’s a megalomaniac destined to fail as he’s ultimately no match for Wonder Woman.

In this dreadful year of a global pandemic, movie studios have struggled with how or even whether to open any tentpole films that deserve the big screen experience. “Wonder Woman 1984” may be viewed on HBO Max and whatever theaters might be open.

Does this superhero movie lose its full impact by being seen on a flat screen in one’s family room? The hunger for blockbuster entertainment not on a streaming service makes it worth the effort for fans of this genre.

At a running time of two and a half hours, “Wonder Woman 1984” could have been trimmed, or at the very least, the wait to get to the climactic action with Diana in full superhero costume, whipping her mystical lasso, could have come sooner.

Be sure to hang through the end credits for a special appearance of an iconic figure, still looking marvelous after all these years and demonstrating that she’s still got it.

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



‘CALL ME KAT’ ON FOX

You could probably count on one finger the number of times the biography of a television performer would list both actor and neuroscientist as their occupation. That narrows it down to Mayim Bialik, best known for small screen roles in “Blossom” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

Starting her career as a child actress, Bialik has an extensive resume of roles in both film and television, but mostly the latter. Now she has the lead role in the new FOX series “Call Me Kat” as the titular character.

In between acting gigs spanning a few decades from a young age, Bialik found time to pursue an academic career as well. It wasn’t enough to graduate with a degree in neuroscience and teach; Bialik managed to secure a doctorate in the same field of study at UCLA.

Fans of British television may recognize the premise of “Call Me Kat” from a BBC production comedy of “Miranda,” which was written by and starred Miranda Hart as the impossibly clumsy and hopeless romantic who lives above the joke shop she owns and operates.

During a recent FOX pre-Winter Press Tour, Bialik observed that “Miranda” was about a character breaking the fourth wall and “having this kind of dynamic, exceedingly eccentric and really life-loving kind of woman,” which is the type of vibe coming to an American program.

In a similar fashion to its British cousin, Bialik’s Kat has to cope with a bossy mother who is desperately trying to marry her off, considering that she’s 39 and does not have many prospects until possibly an old high school classmate arrives on the scene.

Struggling every day against society and her mother Sheila (Swoosie Kurtz) to prove that she can still live a happy and fulfilling life despite still being single, Kat arrives at a crossroads in her life after the death of her father and quitting her job as a math professor.

With finding Mr. Right a possible option but not a pressing need, Kate decides to spend her entire life savings to open a cat café in Louisville, Kentucky and employ friends in her new venture.

Helping to run the café are impudent Randi (Kyla Pratt), who chastises a regular who fails to tip, and flamboyant Phil (Leslie Jordan), a senior citizen recently dumped by his partner.

The British series may not have feline companions roaming the joke shop, so at least the idea of serving coffee and pastries to patrons that are not allergic to cats is one facet of originality for this series.

In “Miranda” one running gag is that the lead character is so tall and sturdy that she is often called “sir” or otherwise mistaken for the opposite sex. That’s not so much an issue for Kat, though there is a slight nod to that notion in the first episode.

Social anxiety is a condition that plagues both Miranda and Kat. Both are not very good at relationships or make bad choices in dating. They tend to fabricate false identities when engaging a conversation with an unattached male.

That Kat is socially awkward, stumbles when talking to a member of the opposite sex or nervously prevaricates about her romantic life can’t be fully blamed on her meddling mother.

Maybe the return to Louisville of her former crush and good friend Max (Cheyenne Jackson) to take a job as a bartender at the piano bar across the street, working with his friend Carter (Julian Grant), will lead to something.

Kat’s insecurity or social anxiety plays out with Max when she fibs about her status, claiming to be married with two kids until the story shifts to a divorce and the loss of the children to frostbite on a Himalayan vacation.

The $64,000 question hanging over Kat is whether she remains content to be single at age 39 as often claimed, or whether chemistry with Max leads to something more than a platonic relationship.

Much like the British version, Kat talks directly to the camera, breaking the fourth wall. During the press tour, Bialik referred to the audience as “another person in her life,” noting that the viewers are “in on her experiences because that’s how she views the world.”

That Bialik, by all measures, has a cheerful, amiable personality is an endearing quality for any performer, which may explain her observation during the press tour that “acting chose me” when she had two possible career paths.

Despite the sweetly awkward vulnerability of Bialik’s Kat, the comedy material on display in the series, at least for the four episodes offered for press preview, allows for a modest sitcom of no lasting significance.

However, there would be no harm in giving “Call Me Kat” a quick onceover before switching over to Hulu to compare it to “Miranda,” and then deciding whether to watch either series if you have the inclination or desire.

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

Ted‌ ‌Kooser.‌ ‌Photo‌ ‌credit:‌ ‌UNL‌ ‌Publications‌ ‌and‌ ‌Photography.‌ ‌

 ‌Time‌ ‌to‌ ‌clean‌ ‌out‌ ‌a‌ ‌closet‌ ‌and‌ ‌make‌ ‌room‌ ‌for‌ ‌whatever‌ ‌2021‌ ‌will‌ ‌bring‌ ‌us!‌ ‌ ‌

I‌ ‌hope‌ ‌every‌ ‌one‌ ‌of‌ ‌you‌ ‌has‌ ‌a‌ ‌new‌ ‌year‌ ‌that’s‌ ‌much‌ ‌better‌ ‌and‌ ‌happier‌ ‌than‌ ‌the‌ ‌one‌ ‌we’re‌ ‌all‌ ‌shoving‌ ‌behind.‌ ‌ ‌

This‌ ‌is‌ ‌the‌ ‌last‌ ‌column‌ ‌I’ll‌ ‌have‌ ‌a‌ ‌part‌ ‌in,‌ ‌and‌ ‌I’ve‌ ‌written‌ ‌a‌ ‌little‌ ‌goodbye‌ ‌poem‌ ‌for‌ ‌you.‌ ‌ ‌

Happy‌ ‌New‌ ‌Year!‌ ‌

A‌ ‌Donation‌ ‌of‌ ‌Shoes‌ ‌

They’re‌ ‌on‌ ‌their‌ ‌way‌ ‌to‌ ‌Goodwill‌ ‌
in‌ ‌Destiny’s‌ ‌old‌ ‌cardboard‌ ‌carton,‌ ‌
the‌ ‌flaps‌ ‌folded‌ ‌inside,‌ ‌lending‌ ‌its‌ ‌
scuffed‌ ‌shoulders‌ ‌a‌ ‌look‌ ‌of‌ ‌authority,‌ ‌
the‌ ‌box‌ ‌knowing‌ ‌the‌ ‌route,‌ ‌the‌ ‌shoes‌ ‌
badly‌ ‌lost‌ ‌and‌ ‌confused,‌ ‌their‌ ‌toes‌ ‌
starting‌ ‌in‌ ‌every‌ ‌direction‌ ‌at‌ ‌once,‌ ‌
clambering‌ ‌over‌ ‌each‌ ‌other,‌ ‌laces‌ ‌
entangled—wingtip,‌ ‌slip-on,‌ ‌work-‌ ‌
boot‌ ‌and‌ ‌sneaker—every‌ ‌pair‌ ‌
trying‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌one‌ ‌last,‌ ‌lingering‌ ‌look‌ ‌
at‌ ‌the‌ ‌closet‌ ‌before‌ ‌settling‌ ‌down‌ ‌
into‌ ‌their‌ ‌smell.‌ ‌What’s‌ ‌the‌ ‌saddest‌ ‌
about‌ ‌this‌ ‌is‌ ‌seeing‌ ‌those‌ ‌insoles‌ ‌
floating‌ ‌up‌ ‌naked,‌ ‌pale‌ ‌flounders‌ ‌
beat‌ ‌flat‌ ‌and‌ ‌then‌ ‌dried,‌ ‌no‌ ‌longer‌ ‌
to‌ ‌swim‌ ‌through‌ ‌the‌ ‌ocean‌ ‌of‌ ‌days,‌ ‌
led‌ ‌on‌ ‌by‌ ‌plump‌ ‌dolphins‌ ‌of‌ ‌feet.‌ ‌


American‌ ‌Life‌ ‌in‌ ‌Poetry‌ ‌does‌ ‌not‌ ‌accept‌ ‌unsolicited‌ ‌manuscripts.‌ ‌It‌ ‌is‌ ‌made‌ ‌possible‌ ‌by‌ ‌The‌ ‌Poetry‌ ‌Foundation,‌ ‌publisher‌ ‌of‌ ‌Poetry‌ ‌magazine.‌ ‌It‌ ‌is‌ ‌also‌ ‌supported‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌Department‌ ‌of‌ ‌English‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌University‌ ‌of‌ ‌Nebraska,‌ ‌Lincoln.‌ ‌Poem‌ ‌copyright‌ ‌©2020‌ ‌by‌ ‌Ted‌ ‌Kooser,‌ ‌"A‌ ‌Donation‌ ‌of‌ ‌Shoes."‌ ‌Poem‌ ‌reprinted‌ ‌by‌ ‌permission‌ ‌of‌ ‌Ted‌ ‌Kooser.‌ ‌

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

We three at American Life in Poetry, Ted, Pat and Cameron, wish you a happy and wholesome 2020, and here’s a poem to celebrate our friendship with you and our 15th year of weekly poems.

Warren Woessner is a poet and a patent attorney who lives in Minneapolis. If you’ve invented a new kind of poem and want to get it patented, well, he’s pretty busy and probably can’t help you with that.

His newest book is “Exit – Sky” from Holy Cow! Press.

New Year's Eve

5 p.m., corner booth,
Oak Bar, Plaza Hotel,
New York City, Center
of the World of all
that matters.

Where a Belvedere martini,
up with a twist, contemplates you
like a languid gold fish
in a clear garden pool,
or a suspended tear

that you can take back inside,
like that first full breath,
in case you need it,
as the world gets ready
to start all over again again.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by Warren Woessner, "New Year’s Eve," from Exit – Sky, (Holy Cow! Press, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Warren Woessner and the publisher. Introduction copyright @2020 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.

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