Wednesday, 05 August 2020

Arts & Life

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

I was once on Deer Isle, Maine, on the Fourth of July, and attended their own town parade.

Deer Isle isn’t big enough to mount a very long parade, so they ran it past us twice, first down to the water, and then back up. And we applauded as much with our second viewing as we did with the first.

July 4th parades are a wonderful institution. And here’s a parade for you, by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, who lives in southwest Colorado.

Her newest book, “Hush,” has just been published by Middle Creek Press.

In the Fourth of July Parade

Right down the middle of main street
the woman with the long red braids
and fairy wings strapped to her back
rode a unicycle more than two times
taller than she was—rode it with balance
and grace, her arms stretched out,
as if swimming through gravity,
as if embracing space—her smile an invitation
to join in her bliss. How simple it is, really,
to make of ourselves a gate that swings open
to the joy that is. How simple, like tossing
candy in a parade, to share the key to the gate.

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 Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, “In the Fourth of July Parade,” (2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. 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.

Now and then, I get a complaint from one of our readers saying that what we publish isn’t poetry because it doesn’t rhyme.

Actually, we’ve published quite a lot of poetry with rhymes—end-rhymes, half-rhymes, internal rhymes, and now and then a sonnet, if that sonnet is a fine poem, too.

And here’s one of those by Rhina P. Espaillat, a New Englander, from her book “And After All,” published by Able Muse Press.


My mother’s mother, toughened by the farm,
hardened by infants’ burials, used a knife
and swung an axe as if her woman’s arm
wielded a man’s hard will. Inured to life
and death alike, “What ails you now?” she’d say
ungently to the sick. She fed them, too,
roughly but well, and took the blood away—
and washed the dead, if there was that to do.
She told us children how the cows could sense
when their own calves were marked for butchering,
and how they lowed, their wordless eloquence
impossible to still with anything—
sweet clover, or her unremitting care.
She told it simply, but she faltered there.

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 Rhina P. Espaillat, "Butchering," from And After All, (Able Muse Press, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Rhina P. Espaillat 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.

Karla Huston was Wisconsin’s Poet Laureate in 2017 and 2018, and lives in Appleton. She’s published several books and chapbooks and does the good work of reviewing poetry for various journals. “Lip,” this lively portrait of her father, is previously unpublished, and our column was lucky to get first dibs on it.


When my father tuned his sousaphone,
he fiddled with tubes and oil

like when he restored the Model T, his hands
working the pipes and joints. And all around him

it’s polka polka, big oom-pas, little dancing girls
on the tips of the valves while he worked his embouchure

into the proper purse of lips. Somewhere
bar lights glinted off the big bell, the name “Bob”

engraved inside the swale, hill and valley
little dancehall at the end of a corn maze,

small towns in Wisconsin, a fireman’s dance
in a cavernous hall, a wedding gig or two.

He said nothing while he adjusted the weight
on knees already bruised and aching. When

cancer took a wedge out of his lip,
he had to give them up—The Beer Barrel,

the She’s-Too-Fat, the Blue-Eyes-Cryin’-in-the-Rain
Polka, the Liechtensteiner, a schottische or two.

The music lived in his head, the tip of his tongue,
the records stacked and dusty on the floor.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. American Life in Poetry 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 Karla Huston, “Lip”. Poem reprinted by permission of Karla Huston. 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.


True for all major networks this fall season, the NBC network faces challenges for a schedule that could be affected by the pandemic. Especially worrisome just might be the Sunday night lineup.

Programming for primetime Sunday relies on the NFL adhering to its announced program of pro football matchups for the network’s Sunday Night Football, which is preceded by Football Night in America’s highlights of the daytime games.

With the Raiders in the new Las Vegas Allegiant Stadium and the Rams and Chargers at the new Los Angeles SoFi Stadium, the team owners and the league are banking on a season to showcase the state-of-the-art facilities.

Dick Wolf’s franchise “Chicago” series takes up all of Wednesday night, and new for this fall is a spinoff from his “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” That would be “Law & Order: Organized Crime,” starring Christopher Meloni reprising his “SVU” detective Elliot Stabler.

Nearly a decade ago, Detective Stabler was written out of “SVU,” but now he’s back in a special unit of the NYPD leading a battle against organized crime after a devastating personal loss. What tragedy may have befallen Stabler is apparently not known at this time.

The network is touting the fact that Stabler must not only adapt to changes in the criminal justice system, but leading a task force to take down powerful criminal syndicates is a path to absolution and rebuilding his life.

On “Special Victims Unit,” Meloni’s Stabler was partnered with Mariska Hargitay’s detective Olivia Benson, where they had great chemistry as a team. Chances are good for potential crossovers of the two “Law & Order” shows to reunite them.

Ted Danson’s run on “The Good Place” has come to an end, freeing him up to take the lead in “Mr. Mayor,” which looks to be a midseason comedy series. His role is described as a wealthy businessman who runs for mayor of Los Angeles for all the wrong reasons.

After winning the election, the mayor has to figure out what he stands for, gain the respect of his staff, and connect with his teenage daughter. The last wealthy guy elected mayor of Los Angeles was Richard Riordan, but this is not his story.


An early casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic, “My Spy” had the misfortune of a planned theatrical release in mid-March just when movie theaters had to shut down. It’s now available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Nothing is terribly spectacular about the premise of a hulking former wrestler paired up with a precocious child, as this has been done before with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, John Cena and other beefy characters.

Now it’s the turn of the heavily tattooed Dave Bautista (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), a retired WWE wrestler, former mixed martial artist and bodybuilder. His brawn serves him well as hardened CIA agent JJ.

The film is front-loaded with a heavy action scene in an abandoned Chernobyl site where JJ poses as an arms dealer negotiating with a renegade Russian general and a bunch of terrorists seeking a nuclear device.

All hell breaks loose as JJ goes full cowboy to wipe out all the bad guys and escape with the plutonium. The only problem is that he fails at his primary mission of finding out the plans of the terrorists.

Back at the CIA headquarters in Langley, JJ gets dressed down by his boss David Kim (Ken Jeong) for botching the mission and for lacking covert spy skills which require subtlety, finesse and emotional intelligence.

His last chance at being an agent is a seemingly lightweight surveillance assignment in Chicago to monitor a widowed single mom Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), an ER nurse who lives with her 9-year-old daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman).

An even worse part of the task is being teamed up with goofy CIA tech analyst Bobbi (Kristen Schaal), who desperately wants JJ to teach her the finer points of being a field agent.

The mission’s purpose is to catch Kate’s nefarious brother-in-law (Greg Bryk), an international terrorist who may come looking for something left behind by Kate’s deceased husband.

After planting high-tech cameras in the apartment of their targets, JJ and Bobbi are rudely surprised to be discovered by Sophie, who proceeds to blackmail JJ to being her new best friend and to teach her about spycraft.

Reluctantly, JJ takes Sophie ice skating, buys her ice cream, shows up at her school’s Special Friends Day and manages to teach a few bullies some important lessons.

The best part of the tutelage is when Sophie becomes adept at beating a polygraph test, outsmarting her tutor in a training move, and spouting off pithy statements with the panache of James Bond.

“My Spy” is so predictable that only a person who has not watched a movie in the past two or three decades might be surprised by the outcome. But what the heck, it’s a slight comedic diversion that is still watchable.

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


The one caveat to apply to any preview information about the fall season on any major network is simply that everything is subject to change or delay even though production of television shows is resuming with new guidelines and protocols being followed.

Notwithstanding possibilities to move forward shooting new episodes, networks are not able to identify firm dates for premieres, but let’s hope that returning series and new shows get back on track before we run out of streaming options.

The ABC network is initially launching three new series, including a drama from productive writer and producer David E. Kelley (most recently, HBO’s “Big Little Lies”), a new sitcom and the revival of a game show.

Visionary storyteller Kelley comes up with “Big Sky,” a thriller in which private detectives decide to partner with a former police officer to pursue a serial kidnapper.

The detectives Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) and Cody Hoyt (Ryan Phillippe) join forces with Cody’s estranged wife and ex-cop Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick) to search for two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway in Montana.

When they discover that these are not the only girls who have disappeared in the area, a race against the clock ensues to stop the killer before another woman is taken. Until then, the highways of Montana are not safe.

Reaching back to more than five decades ago, ABC is reviving the classic “Supermarket Sweep” game show that first aired on the network in 1965, only to be rebooted years later on Lifetime and PAX TV.

The fast-paced series follows three teams of two as they battle it out using their grocery shopping skills and knowledge of merchandise to win big prizes. Always looking for bargains, this writer would probably not do well in this type of contest.

Arriving during the midseason, “Call Your Mother” is a comedy that follows an empty-nester mother (Kyra Sedgwick) who wonders how she ended up alone while her children live their best lives thousands of miles away.

Mom decides her place is with family and as she reinserts herself into their lives, her children realize they might actually need her more than they thought. Guess the kids will be calling their mother in this aptly-titled series.


According to Rotten Tomatoes, the critic reviews of “The Last Days of American Crime,” a Netflix original TV movie, are so negative that it rates a 0 percent score and fares little better with a 25 percent rating with audience reviews.

Something this potentially awful almost begs for a look, if only to discover whether a contrarian position should be considered or merited to spark a conversation about the banality of an exercise in futuristic crimefighting.

The basic premise of “The Last Days of American Crime,” as implied in the titular conceit, is that criminal behavior would be eliminated by an Orwellian exercise of mind control in a system called the American Peace Initiative, or API for those who love acronyms.

The government is on the verge of launching the API system that will impede one’s desire to commit a crime. Countdown clocks to liftoff are everywhere, as if everyone is anxiously awaiting the strike of midnight for a Happy New Year.

That the end is near for criminal enterprise has turned the urban core into a hellish landscape of street violence, looting, dumpsters on fire, and topless women dancing on top of cars.

Graham Bricke (Edgar Ramirez) is seeking revenge for the death of his brother in prison. At a bar, he gets seduced by femme fatale Shelby (Anna Brewster) for a quickie in a restroom.

Shelby is engaged to Kevin Cash (Michael Pitt), the son of the local crime lord (Patrick Bergen). An unhinged sociopath, Cash wants to enlist Bricke’s help for one last big heist before the API launch.

The target is $1 billion stored in a vault near the Canadian border. The heist game plan is explained in the simplest of terms as, “Take the money. Drive to Canada. Die rich.” What brilliant mind could outline such a bold scheme?

Before the actual heist occurs, there are many action scenes so inane as to dull the brain to a state of abject indifference or disbelief. One criminal gets tortured while bound to a chair in a trailer that is set on fire, and he still manages to escape.

A well-planned heist can be fascinating to watch, but when that time rolls around it turns out to be about as thrilling as waiting in line for a dinner reservation.

“The Last Days of American Crime” could have developed a compelling heist amidst chaotic dehumanizing turmoil but instead the result is mostly bereft of a coherent story, rational dialogue and consequential character development.

Wasting two-and-a-half hours watching this dystopian nightmare of violence and mayhem so lamely delivered it may cause one to contemplate a chip implant that wards off making bad decisions on entertainment choices.

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


Even though a big question mark hangs over the fall schedule for any major television network, CBS has announced plans to bring back, in its own words, “80 percent of its top-rated television lineup.”

At least for the fall, the math suggests a higher return of established series, as only two series appear to be on the schedule.

Yet, the long-running, popular “Hawaii Five-O” called its quits after 10 seasons with an episode last April aptly titled “Aloha.”

One new series, reminiscent of the reboot of the departed “Hawaii Five-O” is “The Equalizer,” which is described as “reimagining of the classic series” that starred British actor Edward Woodward as a retired American intelligence agent acting as a pro bono protector.

The new version stars Queen Latifah as Robyn McCall, an enigmatic woman with a mysterious background who uses her extensive skills to help those with nowhere else to turn.

Appearing to others as an ordinary single mom quietly raising a teenage daughter, Robyn McCall is known only to a few as an anonymous guardian angel and defender of the less fortunate.

A series that ran four seasons, the original “The Equalizer” also spawned two movies of the same title, starring Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, doling out vigilante justice to nasty Russian mafia thugs.

There has been some speculation that a third installment of “The Equalizer” could be realized on the big screen in another two years, but that would only make sense if Denzel Washington takes the lead role.

With prolific writer and creator of television series Chuck Lorre (“Two and a Half Men”) the driving force, the new comedy series “B Positive” will star Thomas Middleditch as a therapist and newly divorced dad who is faced with finding a kidney donor.

Middleditch’s Drew finds a donor when he runs into Gina (Annaleigh Ashford), a rough-around-the-edges woman from his past who volunteers her own, thus forming a friendship that will forever impact both of their lives.

“The Silence of the Lambs,” a movie almost three decades old, provides the source material for a new midseason series entitled “Clarice,” which was the given name of Jodie Foster’s rookie FBI agent.

Starring Rebecca Breeds in the titular role, “Clarice” dives into the untold personal story of FBI agent Clarice Starling as she returns to the field in 1993, six months after the events of “The Silence of the Lambs.” We may have to revisit the film to refresh fading memories.


Playing as a movie within a television program, the first image of “The Vast of Night” is a black-and-white television set announcing that night’s episode of a program named “Paradox Theater.”

The announcer’s voice sounds so eerily like that of Rod Serling that one momentarily gets the feeling of being transported back nearly six decades ago to the science-fiction realm of “The Twilight Zone.”

The voice intones “You are entering a realm between clandestine and forgotten, a slipstream caught between channels, the secret museum of mankind, the private library of shadows – all taking place on a stage forged from mysteries.” This is pure Serling-type monologue.

Running at 90 minutes including the credits, “The Vast of Night,” eschewing overwrought special effects, is a character-driven science-fiction story that focuses on one night’s experiences in the 1950s of a teenage girl and a late-night radio DJ in a small New Mexico town.

Though young, winsome high school student Fay (Sierra McCormick) works nights as a switchboard operator, she’s first seen meeting up with radio host Everett (Jake Horowitz) before the start of the season’s first big basketball game.

Going on duty that evening at the switchboard, Fay hears a strange audio frequency that disrupts phone calls, and a sense of odd happenings start to mount with a woman’s panicked call about something hovering in the sky.

A mesmerizing stretch of time with Fay at the switchboard, alternately trying to figure out what is happening with crossed lines and then experiencing a growing sense of disquiet, is itself enthralling.

Fay and Everett get pulled down the rabbit hole of what Rod Serling would surely craft for mystery when a guy named Billy (the never seen Bruce Davis) reveals unsettling government UFO secrets during a spellbinding phone call to the radio show.

Then comes another call from senior citizen Mabel (Gail Cronauer) who beckons Fay and Everett to her home to talk about similar activity in the past she does not wish to discuss over the phone.

Not to be overlooked is Fay’s absolute fascination with futuristic inventions that would include radio-controlled cars, underground trains crossing the country in one hour, and everyone being assigned a telephone number at birth.

First-time director Andrew Patterson, working with few gimmicks other than stealthy long camera movements and the screen spookily going black on occasions to heighten suspense, delivers a twisty plot with a bold cinematic style in the appealing “The Vast of Night.”

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

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