Saturday, 15 May 2021

Arts & Life

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.

Rebecca Roudman of Dirty Cello. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – From Purple Haze to the Orange Blossom Special, Dirty Cello is all high energy fun.

This four-member band is perfect for starting up a funky, electric dance party in the comfort and safety of your own home.

Rebecca Roudman plays the cello like it was a lead guitar and she sings like a rock star with attitude. Her group has played all over the world putting a highly danceable and original spin on blues and bluegrass.

The Soper Reese Theatre presented Dirty Cello in virtual concert on Feb. 14.

The concert will be available on-demand through Feb. 28.

For tickets, pay what you can. Go to www.soperreesetheatre.com.

For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




‘CLARICE’ AND ‘THE EQUALIZER’ ON CBS

“Clarice” is all about exactly what you think. The name can never be separated from the chilling horror of “The Silence of the Lambs” film that starred a young Jodie Foster as FBI trainee Clarice Starling.

What does not surface in this new CBS series is even a mention of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist who was imprisoned in maximum security isolation for being a serial killer that dabbled in cannibalism with a side of fava beans and a nice chianti.

More than a film rights issue disallowing a reference to the fabled cannibal, the show producer Alex Kurtzman obliquely noted to critics at the winter press tour that the Lecter storyline “had been explored in great depth by so many brilliant people.”

Moreover, if the Hannibal Lecter angle were to be raised in a new format, the series would be treading territory that has been slogged by so many others in films and even a television series that followed “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Set in 1993, “Clarice” picks up one year after the trauma of the young female FBI trainee having to confront the serial killer Buffalo Bill to rescue a senator’s daughter trapped in a dry well.

Suffering from PTSD as the result of too many flashbacks from the rescue mission, Clarice (Rebecca Breeds) has been relegated to the safe confines of the Behavioral Science Unit and subjected to sessions with a condescending therapist (Shawn Doyle).

Viewed as a media darling for her notoriety, Clarice’s exclusion from field work has probably much to do with the suspicion of a male-dominated hierarchy in the FBI that questions her abilities, if partly for lack of a deep resume in the agency.

That’s no concern for Ruth Martin (Jayne Atkinson), the senator in the film who is now the attorney general and indebted to Clarice for saving her daughter Catherine (Marnee Carpenter) from the nightmare of Buffalo Bill’s basement.

That the attorney general insists Clarice must join the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP) that is led by hostile supervisor Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz) sets the stage in the first episode for the series premise of another hunt for a serial killer.

It’s a bit of an odd note that the second episode veers off into a standoff with a militia group where the FBI honchos fret about an explosive situation so close in time to the fiasco of the deadly siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

For Clarice, dealing with a cult leader may be little different than divining the motives of a sociopathic killer, but whether she succeeds as an agent despite her damaged psyche could be reason enough to tune into “Clarice.”

“The Equalizer,” first popularized as a crime drama television series starring Edward Woodward and later in two films with Denzel Washington in the role of righteous vigilante Robert McCall, has taken a gender twist with Queen Latifah as Robyn McCall.

As a crime procedural, this new version relies on the strength of character of a Black woman empowered to right wrongs and to seek justice that eludes a person in need with nowhere to turn for meaningful support.

Queen Latifah is a most appropriate choice for a role that calls for equal parts compassion and toughness. One has to wonder, however, if this series might have been even more fitting for Pam Grier in her prime almost fifty years ago.

In vigilante movies like “Coffy” and “Foxy Brown,” Grier’s avenging angel took no prisoners when exacting revenge on drug dealers and murderers. But Grier’s heroics occurred in a different era when Blaxploitation was a popular urban genre.

Whether Queen Latifah would have been a proper fit in Grier’s memorable roles may be an open question, but “The Equalizer” does offer opportunities for her to prove a toughness of spirit as well as physicality for vigilantism.

Robyn McCall is a former CIA intelligence officer who apparently seems to have been involved in a bungled operation in a third world country that hastened her departure from government service.

An old colleague, William Bishop (Chris Noth), surfaces with offers of lucrative work in private security, but Robyn has perhaps other ideas that don’t quite gel until she finds a young woman needing saving from a bunch of thugs.

Contemplating her future and caring for her rebellious 15-year-old daughter Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes), with the help of her Aunt Vi (Lorraine Toussaint) to balance life as a working mother, Robyn seeks to keep her clandestine work a secret from family.

Not the lone wolf that Denzel Washington portrayed, Latifah’s vigilante gets help from Melody (Liza Lipara), an edgy bar owner and sharpshooter, and her husband Harry (Adam Goldberg), a paranoid and brilliant hacker.

Robyn’s handiwork also draws the attention of NYPD Detective Marcus Dante (Terry Kittles), who doggedly seeks to uncover the identity of the person known as The Equalizer.

When only the first episode was available to review, it’s not easy to fathom whether “The Equalizer” will capture our attention, thus the viewers must choose.

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




‘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.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

In many American poems, the poet makes a personal appearance and offers us a revealing monologue from center stage, but there are lots of fine poems in which the poet, a stranger in a strange place, observes the lives of others from a distance and imagines her way into them.

This poem by Lita Hooper is a good example of this kind of writing.

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.

Love Worn

In a tavern on the Southside of Chicago
a man sits with his wife. From their corner booth
each stares at strangers just beyond the other's shoulder,
nodding to the songs of their youth. Tonight they will not fight.

Thirty years of marriage sits between them
like a bomb. The woman shifts
then rubs her right wrist as the man recalls the day
when they sat on the porch of her parents' home.

Even then he could feel the absence of something
desired or planned. There was the smell
of a freshly tarred driveway, the slow heat,
him offering his future to folks he did not know.

And there was the blooming magnolia tree in the distance—
its oversized petals like those on the woman's dress,
making her belly even larger, her hands
disappearing into the folds.

When the last neighbor or friend leaves their booth
he stares at her hands, which are now closer to his,
remembers that there had always been some joy. Leaning
closer, he believes he can see their daughter in her eyes.


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. From Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade, University of Michigan Press, 2006, by permission of the author. Poem copyright © 2006 by Lita Hooper. 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.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – Artists are invited to submit work for the upcoming exhibit, “Apart & Connected,” at the Middletown Art Center, Lake County’s premier contemporary art gallery.

The curatorial team seeks strong, well-crafted work in any medium that expresses the new normal which now marks over one year of challenges with distancing and how we strive to maintain connectedness.

Submissions are due via email Feb. 28, with a hybrid virtual and on-site opening reception March 20. The exhibit will run through June 20.

“The work at the MAC is as impressive as work I have seen in boutique galleries throughout the Bay Area and Wine Country,” said Nicola Chipps, co-curator at MAC and former art and design consultant at Ærena Galleries in the Napa Valley. “With support from a CARES grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, MAC is leveraging digital tools such as virtual exhibits and hybrid opening receptions to reach a broader audience.”

MAC has been a beacon of resilience and hope during challenges of widespread social distancing, sheltering in place and continuous years of wildfires.

A dynamic contemporary arts resource, the gallery features rotating exhibits of exceptional work by regional artists.

Applications and high-resolution (300 dpi) jpeg images of work are due via email by Feb. 28. Delivery of accepted work is March 12 or by appointment.

The submission fee is $40 for three entries, or free to MAC Professional Members. Download an application and learn more about the benefits of exhibiting at MAC at www.middletownartcenter.org/calls-for-work.

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

Upcoming Calendar

15May
05.15.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
15May
05.15.2021 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
American Legion Post flag retirement ceremony
15May
16May
05.16.2021 9:00 am - 2:00 pm
Lake County Fair cleanup event
16May
05.16.2021 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Konocti Fire Lookout volunteer meeting
17May
05.17.2021
Tax Day
18May
05.18.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Tuesday market
18May
05.18.2021 11:00 am - 3:30 pm
Lakeport Community Blood Drive
22May
05.22.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
25May
05.25.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Tuesday market

Mini Calendar

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