Thursday, 24 September 2020

Arts & Life

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

We’re entering a new kind of autumn. This one arrives after months and months when everything was new and strange, and offered very little but bad news for the future.

All spring and summer parents wondered, can a country have autumn without buses full of students laughing together?

Although the fortunes of people can’t be predicted, nature can be. Or some of it can.

Here’s a poem by Barbara Crooker of Pennsylvania to introduce September. It was first published in a recent issue of Spillway.

And Now It’s September,

and the garden diminishes: cucumber leaves rumpled
and rusty, zucchini felled by borers, tomatoes sparse
on the vines. But out in the perennial beds, there’s one last
blast of color: ignitions of goldenrod, flamboyant
asters, spiraling mums, all those flashy spikes waving
in the wind, conducting summer’s final notes.
The ornamental grasses have gone to seed, haloed
in the last light. Nights grow chilly, but the days
are still warm; I wear the sun like a shawl on my neck
and arms. Hundreds of blackbirds ribbon in, settle
in the trees, so many black leaves, then, just as suddenly,
they’re gone. This is autumn’s great Departure Gate,
and everyone, boarding passes in hand, waits
patiently in a long, long line.


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 Barbara Crooker, "And Now It’s September," (Spillway, No. 23, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Barbara Crooker 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.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

I like poems that rhyme so smoothly and inconspicuously that when you get to the end and look back you’re surprised to discover that you’ve just read a sonnet, this one by Eleanor Channell, who lives in California.

This poem appeared in the journal Rattle.

Rivermouth

If you weren’t here, I’d fear the surge
of surf. I’d watch the moon wax and wane,
feel the constant pulling of tides, the urge
to drown myself in pity and booze, to explain
my life as “Cape Disappointment” with hard luck
spinning and winning souls like mine, a jetty
of riprap pointing to my faults, the muck
of my past too deep to dredge. But you say
you see in me a strength that strengthens you,
a heart that yearns for your heart and finds it,
upsetting even the odds we thought we knew,
renewing old hopes, confounding old conflicts.
All I know is we’re here, my love, our bed warm,
your body a bulwark to ride out the storm.

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 ©Eleanor Channell, "Rivermouth," from Rattle, (No. 67, Spring 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Eleanor Channell 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.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is conducting its annual art contest to select the design for the state’s 2020-2021 upland game bird stamp.

The California Upland Game Bird Stamp Art Contest is open to all U.S. residents ages 18 and older.

Entries will be accepted from Nov. 9 through Dec. 4.

This year’s stamp will feature the mourning dove (Zenaida macroura).

These popular migratory upland game birds are found throughout California in a variety of habitats.

Common in grassland, cropland and open woodland environments, they are often seen foraging on the ground for a wide variety of seeds.

The characteristic sound of a mourning dove taking flight is generated by special flight feathers which vibrate rapidly to create a whistling sound, which increases in pitch when a dove is startled by a predator, communicating danger to other birds nearby.

Entries must include at least one mourning dove, preferably in a habitat or setting representative of California.

Entries will be judged on originality, artistic composition, anatomical accuracy and suitability for reproduction as a stamp and print.

The contest will be judged by a panel of experts in the fields of ornithology, conservation, art and printing. The winning artist will be selected during a judging event in December.

An upland game bird validation is required for hunting migratory and resident upland game birds in California.

The money generated from stamp sales is dedicated to upland game bird-related conservation projects, education, hunting opportunities and outreach. CDFW sells over 150,000 upland game bird validations annually.

Any individual who purchases an upland game bird validation may request their free collectible stamp by visiting www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/collector-stamps. For collectors who do not purchase a hunting license or upland game bird validation, or for hunters who wish to purchase additional collectible stamps, an order form is also available on the website.

For contest information and entry forms, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/upland-game-bird-stamp.




‘TENET’ RATED PG-13

With films like “Inception” and “Interstellar” in his portfolio, writer and director Christopher Nolan has established himself as an auteur of cerebral and existential thrillers that seemingly defy the typical time and space continuum.

Now along comes “Tenet,” an audacious journey through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real-time. Nolan resorts to inversion, reversing the natural order of things to move his story in a new dimension.

Time is an unalterable dynamic in our existence, but in the hands of Christopher Nolan, time becomes a compellingly controllable strand that is able to be bent, twisted, juxtaposed, or most tellingly, inverted.

In his own words as reported in the press notes, the writer-director of “Tenet” claims, “The story takes on ideas of time and how we experience it – interacting a science fiction component with the classic elements of the spy genre.”

As a reputed aficionado of the James Bond films, Nolan’s ambitious scope is to produce a global action thriller with one man in a secret organization trying to save the world from the deadly plans of an egomaniacal villain.

That singular agent is only known as The Protagonist (John David Washington), apparently a CIA operative recruited by a mysterious intelligence group that puts him through a test for a promotion to a top-secret assignment that would be challenging even for Agent 007.

The action begins with a rather startling terrorist assault on an opera house in Kiev. The Protagonist has embedded himself as a double agent within the terror group with the objective of retrieving an unknown valuable property.

The details of the mission are elusive but the execution of the heist is a pulse-pounding introduction to thrilling action that is heightened by the thunderous musical score of Ludwig Goransson that is every bit as bombastic as what you might expect from Hans Zimmer.

Following this heist escapade, The Protagonist is teamed up with new British partner Neil (Robert Pattinson), an enigmatic figure about whom we learn so little that his background and previous affiliations remain undisclosed.

The audience may wonder about Neil’s relationship to The Protagonist. Is he a comrade or a foe? How do we decide if this is someone to trust or should we be skeptical? What is before the audience for consideration are complicated matters on many levels.

The one thing that is abundantly clear is that the malevolent antagonist in this espionage thriller is Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh), a vicious Russian oligarch dealing arms that expose the world to the threat of annihilation.

The quest to uncover sinister underground networks of international arms dealers and terrorists takes Neil and The Protagonist on journeys that may or may not be fruitful to the endgame.

One such venture has the duo traveling to Mumbai where they scale the exterior of a high-rise building to the penthouse lair of arms dealer Priya (Indian actress Dimple Kapadia) who holds vital information about the Russian villain Sator.

The Protagonist’s pathway to reaching Sator is through the oligarch’s estranged wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) who is residing in London and taking care of their young son who is attending a private school.

Now that we have arrived this deep into the plot, we must reflect that what has transpired seems confusing. Indeed, the story is convoluted on many levels, and it helps little that much of the dialogue is hard to hear due to poor sound.

The excitement is more visual than any conversation that takes place, with the possible exception of the chilling malice that oozes from the amoral, predatory Russian oligarch defined by his sadistic character.

When the action kicks in, it’s really great, even during the instances where the science-fiction is layered in. A jet airliner barreling along the runaway for a direct hit on a building is one of the more linear set-pieces.

However, when a scientist (Clemence Poesy) introduces The Protagonist to bullets that go back in time, she says, “Don’t try to understand it.” Well, we may not fully grasp the meaning of this inversion either.

Yet, the best part of non-linear action comes with an exciting car chase sequence on a highway with vehicles careening backwards and forwards, some of them flipping in the air and crashing spectacularly.

During these uncertain times when movie theaters remain closed in parts of the nation, the salient question is whether “Tenet” should be considered a fitting candidate for home viewing. Apparently not for Christopher Nolan, and there are valid reasons why.

In keeping with his asymmetrical technique of storytelling and to amplify the immersive moviegoing experience, Nolan once again relies on IMAX cameras and large-format film to pull the audience deep into the story.

“Tenet” is a sensory experience in visual and auditory terms that can only be gratified to the fullest extent on the big screen. Above all else, “Tenet” is a grand yet baffling spectacle that is incapable of being downsized to a living room flat screen.

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



‘THE SLEEPOVER’ ON NETFLIX

An action caper with heart, “The Sleepover” is a family adventure-comedy that takes an interesting turn when teenager Clancy (Sadie Stanley) and her younger middle-school brother Kevin (Maxwell Simkins) discover the secret life of their stay-at-home mom.

The parents seem like normal suburban folks. The father, Ron (Ken Marino), is a pastry shop owner always willing to test his latest concoctions with the family. The mother, Margot (Malin Ackerman), volunteers as a lunch monitor at the local school.

Kevin’s goofball antics get him into trouble at school. A class presentation of his father’s biography is such farfetched fiction that his teacher requires a do-over. His outlandish dance moves in the school bathroom get caught on camera and go viral.

Clancy, a talented cellist with daunting stage fright, is more subdued, and yet highly irritated that she’s the only one in her grade without a cellphone that her overprotective mother won’t let her have.

Kevin has a sleepover with his nerdy friend Lewis (Lucas Jaye), a bedwetter who happens to be uptight about anything outside of his dull routine. Meanwhile, Clancy wants to sneak out to a party with her friend Mim (Cree Cicchino), a social media maven.

The kids’ plans for the night are upended when Margot and Ron get kidnapped at gunpoint. It turns out that Margot has a secret past unknown to the rest of the family. She’s been in witness protection for years after turning state’s evidence against her old crew.

Unlikely as it seems, Margot was a master jewel thief in league with a bunch of fellow crooks, including her ex-flame Leo (Joe Manganiello), a hunky stud who’s bound to elicit pangs of jealousy from Margot’s somewhat awkward husband.

Following a trail of clues left behind by Margot, the kids locate a storage locker filled with gadgets that would be the envy of James Bond and other action heroes. Now it’s up to the spunky quartet to get from Cape Cod to Boston where a major heist is to occur at a gala affair.

Put to the test of one last job, Margot is tasked with stealing a jeweled crown from a royal couple, and Ron is forced to tag along disguised as an assistant with an amusing lack of control over various bodily functions and inability to maintain a French accent.

When the time is right, Margot reveals that she’s got the chops of a skilled fighter that match those of someone like Charlize Theron in “Atomic Blonde” and the recent Netflix film, “The Old Guard.”

Nothing about “The Sleepover” suggests that a groundbreaking twist on the family-centered adventure genre is at hand. That hardly matters when the hyperactive rescue mission results in a pleasant and enjoyable caper that is watchable fun for the family.

Netflix is certainly the right platform for “The Sleepover,” a perfectly serviceable made-for-TV movie that is more appropriate for home entertainment than viewing at the multiplex that might not be open for business anyway.

THE CW NETWORK FALL SEASON PREVIEW

An asterisk continues to haunt the legend of Roger Maris breaking the home run record of Babe Ruth that occurred when regular season games had expanded from 154 to 162. Something similar hangs over sports this year, but also on programming for the fall television season.

The CW network is not alone for what has been described as a heavily asterisked schedule looming for the upcoming 2020-21 TV season. The pandemic has scrambled not only production of shows but the timetable for new programs to be premiered.

Nevertheless, CW has one new series coming this fall in “Devils,” an international thriller that follows Massimo Ruggero (Alessandro Borghi), the head of trading at an investment bank, and his mentor, Dominic Morgan (Patrick Dempsey), the CEO of the bank.

After Dominic appoints another colleague above Massimo following a nasty promotion battle, Massino ends up the prime suspect in a murder investigation. To clear his name, Massimo becomes involved in a financial war and is forced choose whether to support or oppose Dominic.

The greatly anticipated “Superman & Lois” is now set to debut in January 2021. The Man of Steel aka Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin) and journalist Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) are now dealing with the stress and pressures of being working parents in today’s society.

Complicating the daunting job of raising two boys, Clark and Lois must concern themselves with whether or not their sons Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin) could inherit their superhero father’s Kryptonian superpowers as they grow older.

Returning to Smallville, Clark and Lois are reacquainted with Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui), a local loan officer and Clark’s first love, and her Fire Chief husband Kyle Cushing (Erik Valdez).

Dull moments are not found in the life of a superhero, as Lois’ father (Dylan Walsh) expects Superman to vanquish a villain at a moment’s notice. Idyllic life in Smallville for Clark and Lois is also upended when a mysterious stranger (Wole Parks) enters their lives.

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

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Lovers of poetry will be pleased to learn that Louisiana State University Press has just published Pulitzer Prize winner Henry Taylor’s new and selected poems, “This Tilted World is Where I Live.”

Some of his finest poems are longer than the space this column permits, but here’s a shorter one that will give you a taste. Taylor lives in New Mexico.

Art and Life

In the Portland Museum of Art’s snack bar
one July morning, a young woman worked
at the board that lists the specials of the day.
From her little stepladder she leaned in

with various colored chalks, using both point
and edge, adjusting with her fingertips,
experimenting with size and color, print
and script, once or twice stepping down and back,

then homing in on what was to be solved.
The whole thing might have taken her ten minutes.
At last she moved a little farther back
to see how what she’d done had changed the room,

while we, who had the good luck to be there
at the beginning of her day, beheld
the change she couldn’t know that she had wrought
merely by how her red hair caught the light.


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 Henry Taylor, “Art and Life," from This Tilted World is Where I Live, (Louisiana State University Press, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Henry Taylor 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.

Upcoming Calendar

26Sep
09.26.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
29Sep
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29Sep
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1Oct
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3Oct
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6Oct
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8Oct
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10Oct
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