Sunday, 28 February 2021

Arts & Life


Showtime’s “Moonbase 8,” a six-episode series that one could easily watch in one sitting without having to even take a bathroom break, offers a wry, offbeat take on astronaut training in the remote Arizona desert.

Nothing about Robert “Cap” Caputo (John C. Reilly), the ostensible team leader, and his colleagues, Michael “Skip” Henai (Fred Armisen) and Scott “Rook” Sloan (Tim Heidecker), will have you thinking about “The Right Stuff.”

These would-be astronauts are in a training competition with other camps in a simulated lunar environment for a NASA mission to be the first to experience habitation on the moon.

As an aside, fans of the Kansas City Chiefs may be thrilled that one of their Super Bowl champions has been picked for a quick tryout to determine if a civilian might adapt to an outer space experience, but don’t too excited about it, for reasons not to be revealed here.

“Moonbase 8” might be a cathartic release from the ongoing need for many to self-isolate during the pandemic, if only for the absurdity of witnessing these astronauts being tested to determine whether they not only survive but thrive in the ultimate seclusion of moon-like conditions.

The barren Arizona desert may be the closest thing in America to simulate the lunar landscape that allows NASA to rig a base camp in a modular building intended to sustain life in a harsh environment.

The real challenge for the three astronauts-in-training is coping with the mundane daily routine as if they are actually 238,900 miles from Earth instead of being stuck in a huge sand trap.

The series begins with the group celebrating their 200th day at the simulated moon base where the mail delivery brings them a $100 gift card from Harley-Davidson and Cap gets a notice that the City of Honolulu has booted his car.

Consistent with John C. Reilly’s comically stereotypical characters, Cap is played for a borderline juvenile goofball with a sense of desperation of how much he needs to succeed.

A helicopter pilot from Hawaii, Cap needs to turn his life around after failing at marriage and business, owing a ton of debt, and hoping to erase his image as a deadbeat father when he proves his worth as an astronaut.

A legacy candidate and apparently more cerebral than his crewmates, Skip is the son of a famous astronaut who went to the moon, but he’s obviously not cut out to follow in his father’s audacious footsteps.

The quiet one is Rook, a deeply religious person with a wife and twelve kids who gather for frequent video chats and who fervently believes that his mission is to spread the Gospel in outer space.

As a group, these hopeful astronauts are wholly inadequate at managing scarce resources. They are about to run out of a monthly water supply in barely a week, and their system that converts urine into potable water fails to eliminate the foul smell.

Meals in the compound consist of unappealing dehydrated food, a sore point driven home when they meet a crew from a nearby SpaceX camp where the trainees get to enjoy catered street food that includes Thai, Sicilian and Vietnamese cuisine.

The deadpan humor of the series hinges most importantly on the odd personality quirks of the crew. Adept at playing the buffoon, John C. Reilly’s incompetent Cap blusters his way through any obstacles while being self-aware of his inadequacies.

For his part, Skip comes across as pretty much a variation of the sketch characters perfected by Fred Armisen during his time with “Saturday Night Live” as well as with the idiosyncratic “Portlandia” series.

The pious Rook is so persistently bland and unaware that one has to wonder how he is either oblivious or indifferent to the presence of another man during the video chats with his family.

What all three wannabe astronauts have in common, aside from dreams of space travel and a measure of self-respect, is how awesome they are in their own mediocrity in search of achieving their goals.

One of the funniest scenes is when Cap flails about in trying to say what the acronym of NASA actually stands for. Odd moments like this reveal the subtle humor that is endearing to the series.

As far as watching half-hour comedy episodes goes, “Moonbase 8” might not be the “Must See TV” in the way that concept was once the hallmark of NBC’s marketing campaign, but enjoying the wry humor of the show would not be a bad way to consider streaming the series for an evening.

Showtime has released the premiere episode for free online sampling, as well as on streaming platforms. Amazon Prime Video offers the first episode to its members.

Of course, there’s the 30-day free trial offer if you feel like getting hooked into a Showtime subscription, or just take the gamble you’ll remember to cancel before the deadline.

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

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

The ocarina call of a mourning dove, a woman mourning the death of a pet, and yet it all comes to looking forward to more and more life, whatever is there, wherever the mourning dove will lead her.

Linda Parsons lives in Knoxville, and her most recent book is Candescent, from Iris Press.


I hear before seeing, no need to see
to know morning’s ocarina, plaintive
call, soft strut on leafmeal. It was the first
creature I saw when the needle was done
and my sheepdog limped into last night.
That dove, I thought, will house his sable
spirit, coat feathered like joy in the wind.
Dove comes when my scattered mind

needs herding—bitter anniversaries,
leavings dire as tornadic rumble. Comes
when sky rivers blue, cooing all’s well
after all. Comes not to forbid mourning,
but trills core deep, beyond the senses,
glances back to make sure I follow
its white-tipped tail. Plaintive ocarina,
call me to bear all the light coming.

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 Linda Parsons, "Valediction," (2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Linda Parsons. 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.

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

The curatorial team seeks strong, well-crafted work in any medium that speaks to the places where humans and other living beings establish roots, the shelters we occupy, and our connection to the place we call “Home”.

Submissions are due via email Nov. 20. The exhibit will open with a hybrid virtual and on-site reception on the evening of Dec. 5 and run through Feb. 28.

“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 (300dpi) jpeg images of work are due via email by Nov. 20. Delivery of accepted work is Nov. 30 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

The MAC Gallery is open Friday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by appointment at 707-809-8118. You can also see the current show virtually at

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

Cliff Lloyd. Courtesy photo.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – The Middletown Art Center invites community members to participate in “Expidoxos: Writing for Expression, Healing and Growth,” a creative writing workshop this Saturday, Nov. 21, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Zoom.

Writer, musician and photographer Cliff Lloyd will guide participants in a writing and reflection process that experiments with technique, helpful writing habits and various ways to express oneself through the written word.

It’s open to all who are interested in the craft of writing.

“This workshop is an opportunity to hone skills, nurture our relationship with writing, and explore the transformative power of sharing work in a safe and constructive environment,” said Lloyd. “Through this process we can enjoy and understand ourselves, each other and our world with greater compassion and clarity.”

Lloyd’s work is informed by the natural world and humankind’s evolving relationship with it. His involvement with a broad range of varied media projects and collaborations has spurned his passion for understanding the uniqueness of individuals and how varied perspectives, when channeled through artistic expression, can broaden and enrich our collective culture.

Lloyd says his “influences are from a wide range of writers and writer's groups. Most of my writing comes from literary events and spoken-word performances over the past couple of decades. This workshop focuses on the process and on sharing the experience of writing."

Participants are encouraged to share what they write during the workshop or read a piece they have already written. Paper and pen or digital word processing tools and access to Zoom are required.

Participation is by donation of $5 to 25. Pre-registration is required at A Zoom link will be provided upon registration. No one is turned away for lack of funds. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information.

Find out more about Middletown Art Center and various ways to support their efforts to weave the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County at


As fluffy as a croissant from a Parisian boulangerie and tasty like a crème brulee, Netflix’s 10-episode “Emily in Paris” may be loosely defined as a romantic comedy that fits nicely with the French capital’s moniker of “City of Love.”

Emily Cooper (Lily Cooper), a junior-level executive at a Chicago marketing firm, is properly skilled at social media strategies since she’s a millennial obsessed with Instagram and taking endless selfies quite often in mundane settings.

Having acquired the boutique French marketing company Savoir that deals with luxury products, the Chicago firm needs to send one of its executives to Paris to oversee the integration of a social media campaign from the American perspective.

When Emily’s middle-aged boss (Kate Walsh) unexpectedly becomes pregnant and thus unable to take the assignment in Paris, Emily is inexplicably chosen for the task despite her glaring lack of French language skills.

The culture clash in the workplace is immediate when the perky Emily shows up with only having mastered the French greeting of “bonjour” and full of ideas for marketing that offend the sensibilities of her new colleagues.

Savoir’s managing executive Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), aghast at Emily’s inability to communicate in anything other than English, is promptly dismissive of the American’s value to her firm.

Looking for any chance to send Emily packing back to Chicago, Sylvie throws up roadblocks to social media suggestions as out-of-step with French cultural norms. She also proves intimidating to an office staff that might otherwise start warming up to the foreign interloper.

Moving into an apartment on the fifth floor in a building without an elevator, Emily is startled to discover that in France the first floor starts at the level above the ground, leading to her mistake of entering the wrong unit.

As luck would have it, the occupant of said apartment is budding chef Gabriel (Lucas Bravo), a handsome young guy working at a nearby restaurant. Inevitable romantic sparks with Emily are as certain as the French love of pastries.

Yet, in the City of Love, it’s inescapable that Emily will have a number of suitors, and with the apparent lax French attitude toward marital fidelity, the American girl catches the notice of Savoir’s major client Antoine (William Abadie).

Convenient to a plot contrivance, complicated romantic relationships abound. The married Antoine, seemingly with the acquiescence of his spouse, is having an affair with Sylvie, who now suspects he may be attracted to Emily for reasons other than her catchy ideas.

Emily meets Camille (Camille Razat) while shopping for flowers, not knowing that she’s actually Gabriel’s girlfriend. Paris is a big city, but if you stay within one arrondissement the environment is evidently that of a small town where everyone knows the neighbors.

Having arrived in Paris without any friends and the boyfriend back home deciding not to visit for even a week’s vacation, Emily makes a new best friend with Mindy Chen (Ashley Park), a nanny for a couple’s small children.

Coming from a wealthy family in China, Mindy speaks three languages and has a singing voice that would make her a sensation but for stage fright. Mindy’s desire to stay in Paris is driven in part by escaping her father’s wish that she would enter the family business.

Mindy helps Emily to avoid some cultural faux pas and to navigate the local customs. On her own, Emily is easily seduced by all that Paris has to offer, including a chance encounter at the iconic Café de Flore with a pretentious professor that ends up in a one-night stand.

Not helping her cause at work is Emily’s lackadaisical approach to actually learning to speak French. When enrolled in a language class, Emily demonstrates study habits more in line with those of a high school dropout.

The City of Light, another nickname for the French capital, is very much a central character for this series. The tourist landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe create arresting visuals, especially when bathed in a nighttime glow.

Whether a photoshoot on the Pont Alexandre III, a boat ride on the Seine or exterior shots of a charming bistro, Paris is a place of great beauty that makes one wish for a European vacation at the earliest opportunity.

“Emily in Paris” fits neatly into the pantheon of show creator Darren Star’s penchant for writing television series such as “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Sex and the City,” which result in guilty pleasures from the vicarious enjoyment of glamorous lives.

Glamor resides easily within the confines of the Paris environment where stylish people wearing chic clothes strolling along expansive boulevards conjure up visions of elegance that we don’t see in everyday life.

As a result of the glitz and allure of the fabulous settings, “Emily in Paris,” even though the storyline is as predictable as Google tracking one’s online activity, holds appeal if for no other reason than the vicarious enjoyment of an exotic location during the pandemic.

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

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Over the years I haven’t chosen more than a few poems about the writing of poetry, mostly because if you don’t write poems you might not be interested.

But I do like this poem about poets by Richard Jones, from his new book “Avalon,” from Green Linden Press.

I, too, get up early to write in Nebraska, while Richard is up in Illinois.


“Poetry not rest,” is trouble’s answer,
rising before the sun, setting out
in a gray light to the dull grumble
of thunder to balance the words
bottle or old wooden chair or bluebird
on a line’s life-or-death tightrope,
struggling to add color to the canvas,
purple or burnt umber, transcribing
seven violins crying to the willows,
or simply cutting a stem of rosemary,
the deep smell of earth for inspiration,
the earth and the grave, never resting,
working from sheer will and memory,
working with quill and ink if need be,
knowing trouble and rest won’t last,
that no one has the cure for this life
though we honor the day with words,
name the plow and extol the hammer,
knowing that even the poorest poet,
if a poet, is at a desk in a corner
of eternity, already long dead,
laboring to transform death to praise,
never wearying, never once losing faith.

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 (c) 2020 by Richard Jones, "Devotion," from Avalon, (Green Linden Press, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Richard Jones 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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