Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Arts & Life



‘AL DAVIS VS. THE NFL’ ON ESPN

No matter where the NFL’s Raiders end up playing, whether Los Angeles, Las Vegas or someday in London or Mexico City (who knows?), the Oakland Raiders still hold a special place in the hearts of many football fans in Northern California, home of their origins.

Sports fans of all stripes are likely familiar with ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary series. One of the greatest rivalries in the history of the National Football League has nothing to do with teams, and ESPN is there to capture the story for posterity.

The real clash of the titans was the conflict between former Raiders owner Al Davis and former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, a battle so intense that the ESPN press release refers to it as “a three-decade-long Shakespearean feud.”

Appropriately, the newest ESPN Films “30 for 30” documentary is titled “Al Davis vs. the NFL,” which airs on ESPN and will be available on ESPN+ immediately after its debut on February 4th.

Considering that both Al Davis and Pete Rozelle have passed away, the film takes a fresh, alternative approach by allowing their spirits to tell their own story by using innovative technology, commonly known as “deepfake,” to narrate in first-person.

Better still are the video clips of both men talking most often to the press, whether it’s the Raiders owner either celebrating Super Bowl victories or airing his grievances or the NFL commissioner commenting on the legal battles.

The film traces the relationship from their early clashes in the American Football League and National Football League wars of the 1960s, prior to their merger, through their tacit reconciliation upon Rozelle’s retirement in 1989.

The nettlesome thorn that aggravated Rozelle was the antitrust lawsuit that Davis filed against the NFL in 1980 when the Raiders owner wanted to move his team from Oakland to Los Angeles, in pursuit of a state-of-the-art stadium, but the league would not approve.

Clips of the legendary broadcaster Howard Cosell record his observation that Al Davis, willing to do anything to beat an opponent, would “fight like Roberto Duran in his prime.”

Of course, the outlaw image was part of the Raiders mystique back in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly the nasty on-field rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers in a decade where they would meet several times in the playoffs.

The Raiders lived by the Davis motto of “Just Win, Baby” and “Will to Win.” Davis noted that the adage in professional football is to “take what they give you” but that his team would “go the other way and take what we want.”

Recalling the glorious 1976 season which led to the Raiders winning their first Super Bowl, Davis praised George Atkinson and Jack Tatum who “wrecked fear in the hearts of everyone who has ever played this game in the secondary.”

Steelers head coach Chuck Noll had choice words for Atkinson’s clotheslining of Lynn Swann, claiming that “You have a criminal element in every society and apparently we have it in the National Football League too.” And let’s not forget that Jack Tatum earned the moniker “Assassin.”

Lawsuits didn’t just involve the league. Atkinson filed a $2 million slander suit in San Francisco federal court against the Steelers and Coach Noll. Atkinson is quoted lobbing accusations on Steelers defensive tackle Joe Greene for kicking and spitting on players.

Likely more apropos the feud between Davis and Rozelle was Howard Cosell’s reflection on the parallel in literature of the obsession from Herman Melville’s classic “Moby Dick,” with Captain Ahab’s relentless pursuit of the White Whale.

If Davis is the White Whale, he eventually eluded the Captain because he relocated the team to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but had to wait almost forty years to get his dream stadium in Sin City.

One has to wonder what Rozelle, if he were alive today, would think about Las Vegas hosting the fabled franchise after all the legal hassles in the relocation to the entertainment capital of the world.

The film quotes Rozelle saying that his differences with Davis “developed over business matters not personal,” and that he always “considered Al like a charming rogue,” who had “gone outlaw.”

The most joyous moments for Al Davis were likely the three times that Pete Rozelle had the uncomfortable job of handing the Super Bowl trophy to the Raiders owner, especially when the team became the first wild card to go all the way.

Raider Nation will never be quite the same in Vegas. The team’s state-of-the-art stadium has everything except the atmosphere of the renegade aura of Oakland, exemplified best by the Black Hole and the tailgate parties. The good old days will be missed.

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



‘WALKER’ ON THE CW

The CW network, skewing to a younger demographic than CBS, has decided that it would be a good idea to reboot “Walker, Texas Ranger” of Chuck Norris fame into simply “Walker” with Jared Padalecki, who is unlikely to remind anybody of the original lawman.

With his chiseled looks and scruffy face, only the cowboy hat and the shiny badge worn by this new Cordell Walker would suggest that someone who looks more like a Calvin Klein jeans model would actually be the tough guy Texas Ranger of yore.

Judging from the first episode, the new Walker is less about action than dealing with family drama, but that has much to do with the initial storyline of the lawman grieving over the violent death of his wife Emily (Genevieve Padalecki).

Walker’s coping mechanism with sorrow sent him away on an undercover mission for nearly a year, during which time his teenage kids Stella (Violet Brinson) and August (Kale Culley) were left behind in the care of grandparents Bonham (Mitch Pileggi) and Abeline Walker (Molly Hagan).

To say that Walker’s children were resentful of their father’s prolonged absence would be an understatement, but that’s why this new series, at least from the outset, spends time on resolving family issues that even draw Walker’s brother (Keegan Allen) into the picture.

Meanwhile, the workplace changes in a few dramatic ways for Walker when he learns that his old Ranger partner Larry James (Coby Bell) is now a captain and his new boss, while he acquires a female partner in Micki Ramirez (Lindsey Morgan).

“Walker” makes a few nods to political correctness that probably never would have happened in the original. For one, having a Latina Texas Ranger for a partner is definitely a departure on both gender and ethnic grounds, and Ranger Ramirez makes for a resilient colleague.

On more familiar ground in terms of what would be expected in the old days, Walker proves so aggressive when a punk suspect takes a swing at him that his partner steps in so he won’t cross the line into unnecessary brutality.

One has to wonder how Walker’s penchant for bending the rules is going to play out over time with a partner who represents a generational difference more tuned into restraint and going by the book.

During the network’s virtual press tour, the best question posed to showrunner Anne Fricke was why this series would use the name Walker as opposed to something brand new that doesn’t recall the memory of Chuck Norris.

We already know that the latest Cordell Walker is no longer the Texas Ranger skilled in the martial arts. Fricke noted that “Walker” is about “the life of this character and the family and friends around him.”

Using the name “Walker” allows this new series, as Fricke observed, “to keep the familiarity” that comes from inheriting a legacy while also forging a path that aside from classic Stetson hats and the Texas twang feels so divergent from the original.

This revamped version of “Walker” may find itself on solid footing since the network reports that the series debut rustled up the largest audience for a new series premiere on The CW in the last five years.



‘SILENCE & DARKNESS’ NOT RATED

An unnerving family dynamic emerges in the idyllic Vermont countryside where an ostensibly loving father cares for two daughters with different disabilities that don’t impede their living relatively normal lives.

Beth (Joan Glackin) is deaf, while Anna (Mina Walker) is blind. The inseparable girls communicate with sign language conducted by touch, and they dance, cook and even prep for a talent show as a guitar-playing duo.

Their father (Jordan Lage) is a doctor practicing in a small town, who has a fetish for dental hygiene and flossing that becomes creepy when it affects his strange affair with a married woman (Ariel Zevon).

We don’t know much about the devoted sisters other than the symbiotic nature of their reliance on each other, melded together to act as one whole human being. But we do realize they have their own coded messages they tap on each other’s arms and hands.

Acting in a seemingly sterile, clerical manner, the father monitors and records their behavior on cassette tapes as if parenting has become a clinical experiment of child psychology. Or is this something more sinister?

The happy equilibrium of the household starts to crack on the day that their neighbor Mrs. Bishop (Sandra Gartner) pounds hysterically on their front door, claiming her dog has found a human bone in the woods near the house.

Father dismisses the frenzied rant, letting his daughters know that he thinks “Mrs. Bishop may be off her meds.” This leads the girls to ask about their mother’s death, which causes the father to react violently.

From this point forward, a sense of dread creeps into the picture, and life becomes more uncomfortable for the girls as they realize something is not right. “Silence & Darkness” takes a turn to eerie menace.

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



‘CALL YOUR MOTHER’ ON ABC

The new ABC sitcom “Call Your Mother” stars Kyra Sedgwick as an overbearing mom so concerned about not hearing from her adult son for four days that if she were piloting a helicopter from Iowa to Los Angeles to drop in on her child it would have seemed fitting.

As a widowed single mother who raised two millennial children, Jean wonders how she ended-up alone while Freddie (Joey Bragg) and his older sister Jackie (Rachel Sennott) moved to the carefree paradise of California.

Fretting that an endless stream of phone calls to her son go answered, Jean jumps on a plane to Los Angeles and barges in on Freddie at his apartment just at the moment he’s cuddling with vacuous social media influencer Celia (Emma Caymares).

That mom’s unannounced visit is not greeted with enthusiasm is an understatement, even if she came bearing gifts of socks and Freddie’s favorite toilet paper. If there’s a joke with these presents, it fails to connect, much like misfiring punchlines.

Then there’s Jackie, who not only is aghast at mom’s arrival but has not been on speaking terms with her brother for reasons not immediately clear but may be related to a mother’s meddling contributing to a dysfunctional family dynamic.

However, both Jackie and Freddie, though maybe not equal in the eyes of their mother, are relatively excitable persons not able to appreciate Jean’s “we are a village” speech when gathered at mom’s place.

As one who says her sex life has been nonexistent for years, Jean may soon find romantic comfort with her landlord Danny (Patrick Brammall), a newly-divorced therapist who may need counseling for his oversharing about his wife’s infidelity.

That the lovable golden retriever Ripper, belonging to the owner of the guest house rented by Jean, proves to be the most winning character in the series does not bode well for the future of the formulaic “Call Your Mother.”

After all, the cute canine does not have any lines of dialogue to spice up the mostly flat humor delivered by the two-legged actors. Maybe it’s time to call in new writers if there is a chance to salvage a series that sputters right out of the gate.

To be fair, only one episode of “Call Your Mother” was available to review, but the characters need to be more than one-dimensional, though Austin Crute, as Jackie’s gay roommate Lane, shines with his off-beat demeanor.

‘THE CHASE’ ON ABC

Watching an episode of the new, at least on network television, game show “The Chase” was purely accidental, and then it dawned on me that I had already seen this TV series in a foreign land.

While on the treadmill at a London hotel in 2019, I became engrossed with “The Chase,” where the host was some guy they called “The Beast,” and not just for his physical size but for the fact he was a quiz genius that relished pummeling the contestants.

For the episode I watched on ABC, “Jeopardy” champion Ken Jennings, the all-time greatest winner now serving in the position of the Chaser that three contestants must outperform in answering trivia questions, comes off like the irritating brainy kid in school.

Not only is Jennings going to match his British cousin as a trivia bully, two other “Jeopardy” champions, namely Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer, will alternate as Chasers.
Meanwhile, the Chasers-in-waiting sit in a lounge and occasionally lob a few snarky remarks.

The game show is gimmicky in that each contestant participates in a one-minute lightning round to bank money for their team before being positioned at the bottom of a huge angled game board where the Chaser looms above in a most intimidating manner.

The money earned in the lightning round is placed on the game board and each contestant must answer multiple-choice questions correctly to move the money down into the bank while trying to stay ahead of the Chaser who has to answer the same questions.

If the Chaser overtakes a contestant, that player is out of the game and the only chance for the other players to have a shot of winning any money is, as expected, to beat the Chaser to the bank during their turn.

But that’s not the end of the line. There’s the “Final Chase” where the surviving players now act as a team to beat the Chaser in a more convoluted round that does up the ante for tension and excitement.

The fun part of game shows that test trivia knowledge was never more evident than during the reign of Alex Trebek as the genial host of “Jeopardy.” Viewers at home could blurt out their own responses in the form of a question and feel like actual contestants.

Attempting to answer questions in “The Chase” offers vicarious thrills when you get something right that the host failed to do, especially if you best the smug Ken Jennings who will never be as likable as Alex Trebek, at least in my opinion.

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

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

This week’s column is by Ladan Osman, who is originally from Somalia but who now lives in Chicago. I like “Tonight” for the way it looks with clear eyes at one of the rough edges of American life, then greets us with a hopeful wave.

Editor’s Note: This column (336) 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.

Tonight

Tonight is a drunk man,
his dirty shirt.

There is no couple chatting by the recycling bins,
offering to help me unload my plastics.

There is not even the black and white cat
that balances elegantly on the lip of the dumpster.

There is only the smell of sour breath. Sweat on the collar of my shirt.
A water bottle rolling under a car.
Me in my too-small pajama pants stacking juice jugs on neighbors’ juice jugs.

I look to see if there is someone drinking on their balcony.

I tell myself I will wave.

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 ©2010 by Ladan Osman, and reprinted by permission of the poet. 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.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Arizonan Alberto Rios probably observed this shamel ash often, its year-round green leaves never changing.

On this particular day, however, he recognizes a difference—a yellow leaf. In doing so he offers us a glimpse of how something small yet unexpected may stay with us, perhaps even become a secret pleasure.

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.

A Yellow Leaf

A yellow leaf in the branches
Of a shamel ash
In the front yard;
I see it, a yellow leaf
Among so many.
Nothing distinguishes it,
Nothing striking, striped, stripped,
Strident, nothing
More than its yellow
On this day,
Which is enough, which makes me
Think of it later in the day,
Remember it in conversation
With a friend,
Though I do not mention it—
A yellow leaf on a shamel ash
On a clear day
In an Arizona winter,
A January like so many.

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 The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, Copper Canyon Press, 2002, by permission of the author. 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.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Here, poet Yusef Komunyakaa, who teaches at New York University, shows us a fine portrait of the hard life of a worker—in this case, a horse—and, through metaphor, the terrible, clumsy beauty of his final moments.

Editor’s Note: This column (154) 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.

Yellowjackets

When the plowblade struck
An old stump hiding under
The soil like a beggar’s
Rotten tooth, they swarmed up
& Mister Jackson left the plow
Wedged like a whaler’s harpoon.
The horse was midnight
Against dusk, tethered to somebody’s
Pocketwatch. He shivered, but not
The way women shook their heads
Before mirrors at the five
& dime—a deeper connection
To the low field’s evening star.
He stood there, in tracechains,
Lathered in froth, just
Stopped by a great, goofy
Calmness. He whinnied
Once, & then the whole
Beautiful, blue-black sky
Fell on his back.


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 ©2001 by Yusef Komunyakaa, reprinted from “Pleasure Dome: New & Collected Poems, 1975-1999,” Wesleyan Univ. Press, 2001, by permission. 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.

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06.15.2021 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Community Visioning Forum Planning Committee
15Jun
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19Jun
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