Saturday, 05 December 2020

Arts & Life



‘BRAVE NEW WORLD’ ON PEACOCK NETWORK

Maybe we don’t have enough streaming service providers, so NBC Universal has launched the Peacock network, a three-tiered subscription service of which one is free if you don’t mind advertising.

Named after the ubiquitous colorful logo of NBC, Peacock gets its start with streaming a few original programs, one of them being “Brave New World,” loosely based on Aldous Huxley’s groundbreaking 1932 novel which imagines a utopian society.

Actually, while the intention of the new world order envisions a place that has achieved peace and stability, “Brave New World” realizes a society that is a dystopian nightmare for any sentient being who operates with free will and independent thought.

The citizens of New London live in a sanitized environment that is almost as cold and sterile as Stalinist architecture, which seems fitting for a place where real human emotion is frowned upon or taboo.

The series begins by noting the three rules to be followed by all inhabitants of New London: no privacy, no family and no monogamy. Follow these rules, and it is said that “everyone is very happy” in this faux nirvana.

Just like any authoritarian regime, New London functions under a caste system where the elite rule and are known as Alphas and the next level Betas exist with few worries other than when to pop a mood-altering pill called soma.

The bottom of the rung belongs to the custodial class known as Epsilons. Their lives are regimented as they march in order and take their meals in a communal dining room where they act no more animated than robots.

For the amusement of the privileged, Alphas and Betas may take a vacation to a remote spot known as the Savage Lands Adventure Park, where people you might find living in trailer parks are gawked at like circus freaks.

Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd), an Alpha Plus, and Lenina Crowne (Jessica Brown Findlay), a Beta Plus, take a trip to Savage Lands, where visitors may be amused by the staging of the frenzy of a Black Friday melee at a big-box store.

Things go awry when Bernard and Lenina become embroiled in a harrowing and violent rebellion, only to be rescued by John the Savage (Alden Ehrenreich), who along with his alcoholic mother Linda (Demi Moore) escapes with them back to New London.

Wary of the attention coming his way in New London, John the Savage can’t help feeling out of place when cybernetic locals proclaim their desire to help him “transition from the primitive world of hardship, strife to ours…a society of harmony and happiness.”

Were “Brave New World” to have a rating for its language, violence and rampant promiscuous sex, it would deserve the letter R. The shiny veneer of New London is not paradise by any measure, unless being braindead is a good thing.

The deeper one gets into the episodes, the more interesting it becomes with John the Savage the catalyst for stirring up cosmic disturbances in the neatly-ordered world that the residents take for granted.

“Brave New World” charts a fascinating journey into a dystopian world of scary groupthink. At one point, John mentions to a leader, “You’ve got the whole thing rigged.” As an outsider, will John mess up the tidy order of New London?

‘EAST WING’ ON STARZ

The East Wing is part of the White House complex that has office space for the First Lady and her staff, and better-known West Wing serves the president’s executive office staff.

“The West Wing” was a popular series on the NBC network that worked its way through countless political donnybrooks and scandals during two terms of the fictional Democratic administration of Martin Sheen’s President Jed Bartlet.

The Starz cable channel has announced that Debra Messing will star in the half-hour comedy “East Wing” currently in development, with no particular premiere date in mind.

“East Wing” is created and written by actress and author Ali Wentworth, who is drawing from the experiences of her mother, Muffie Cabot, who served a couple of years in the White House as the social secretary for First Lady Nancy Reagan.

As with any of these types of programs, expect dramatic license with the story of Messing’s fictional Hollis Carlisle, a hostess extraordinaire who juggles her threatened husband, rebellious children, Nancy Reagan’s Chief of Staff and a crippling social anxiety disorder.

Wentworth has a reoccurring part as Hollis’s best friend, Kelly Forces, a stay-at-home mom who is threatened by Hollis’s success. Apparently, the husband is not the only threatened party. Maybe there will be others as well.

For promotional puffery, the president of Starz programming claimed the show is “a whip-smart comedy that despite its 1980’s set dressing is a pointed commentary on politics and the politics of being a woman today.”

Starz also claims that Messing, Wentworth and other cast regulars “will most definitely not be pulling any punches,” whatever that means. When the times comes, the audience, as it always does, will render its own judgment.

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

Eddie Gale. Courtesy photo.


More than 20 Bay area jazz aficionados will present a livestream musical tribute on Saturday, Aug. 8, from 2 to 4 p.m. (PST), 5 to 7 p.m. (EST), to memorialize their friend and mentor jazz trumpeter Eddie Gale.

The Facebook livestream will be posted here.

The tribute sanctioned by Gale’s family to extend love and peace to friends, fans and the communities he served, is being coordinated by jazz pianist Valerie Mih with two notable Bay Area jazz men with their own jazz family legacies: Clifford Brown Jr., and Doug Ellington, the great-nephew of Duke Ellington.

Gale, a celebrated jazz recording artist, performer and educator who served as San Jose’s Ambassador of Jazz since 1974, succumbed to cancer July 10 at age 78.

“We have created this collaborative online musical memorial as a way to come together and celebrate Eddie Gale’s life, music and spirit,” said Mih who performed with Eddie Gale’s Band and Inner Peace Orchestra from the late 1990s to 2019.

This event will be hosted by Clifford Brown, Jr. and livestreamed from Doug Ellington’s music performance space in Oakland.

Performances will include pre-recorded musical videos contributed by various musicians, along with livestreamed performances. Some 20 musicians influenced by Gale have pledged to participate.

Clifford Brown, Jr., the son and namesake of the legendary jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown, will serve as concert host. Brown continues his late father’s legacy through youth outreach programs under the Clifford Brown Jazz Foundation, and as an award-winning jazz broadcaster.

Raised in a home steeped in creativity, Brown’s musical education was nurtured by his famous father and family friends such as Donald Byrd and Herbie Hancock. As host of The American Jazz Countdown on the Bay Area jazz station, KCSM, Brown has earned the Golden Mic Award as the San Francisco Bay Area’s Top Radio Personality and the Ampex Award of Excellence for Jazz Programmer of the Year.

Doug Ellington, the great-nephew of jazz legend Duke Ellington, has been a contributing musical force on the West Coast for over 20 years. As a trumpeter, bandleader of A New Urban Groove, and composer for stage and screen, Ellington has shared the stage with artists ranging from B.B. King, to pop star Solange, and various jazz artists. “The family tie allows me to have a unique perspective on what it means to Love Music,” he says.

Valerie Mih, professor of animation at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, is a multitalented artist in the fields of music and animation. She is composer and script writer for the animated children’s series “Treetop Family” and founder of the educational company “Quantum Physics for Kids,” which provides STEM classes and learning products for kids ages 7-13.

Confirmed concert participants include Faye Carol, India Cooke, Bill Crossman, Andre Custodio, Doug Ellington, Karl Evangelista and Grex, Mark Farley, Kathleen Farrell and Chuck Cunningham (Soul Tones), Karlton Hester, Vernon Hohenstein, Dante James, Michael James, Carolyn Jones, Diem Jones, Dennis Kyne, David Leikam, Eric Marshall, Valerie Mih, Hafez Modirzadeh, Destiny Muhammad, Sandra Poindexter, Marcus Shelby and Len Wood.



‘THE OLD GUARD’ (RATED R) ON NETFLIX

Now that films with a MPAA rating are being released on television streaming services rather than in traditional theaters, it may be appropriate to note the premise for the ratings.

In the case of the superhero action thriller “The Old Guard” streaming on Netflix, the R rating has been designated for the “sequences of graphic violence and language.” Gore and language should also be added into the mix.

What kind of superheroes are performing good deeds here? For one thing, they are not characteristic of caped crusaders or enhanced physical specimens of someone, say, like the Hulk that are found in DC Comics or Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

The superheroes in “The Old Guard” are bound to the human experience, with frailties and even mental constraints attendant to regular humans, but they are immortals with regenerative healing faculties.

The quartet of centuries-old warriors are led by Andromache of Scythia (Charlize Theron), who favors being called Andy and is a powerful woman of indeterminate age, as she seems unable to recall the century of her birth.

However, Andy has been around long enough that two of her compatriots are Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), a couple that were on the opposite sides of the Crusades before being killed in battle and then falling in love.

The relative youngster in the group is Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), who joined around the time of the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century after fighting on the side of the French Empire.

We first get a look at Andy in Morocco. For all of her ageless qualities and dressed in black and wearing dark glasses, Andy has the look of a very modern woman who might be sipping lattes at an outdoor café and shopping in trendy stores.

Andy and her colleagues might more aptly be described as mercenaries for the greater good. And yet any commitment to the cause of fighting evil seems to be wearing on Andy, as she laments that the world is not becoming a better place for their efforts.

The angst that grips Andy’s mental well-being is exacerbated by grieving over the loss of her old colleague Quynh (Van Veronica Ngo), whose fate was sealed by being placed in an iron maiden and dropped into the bottom of the ocean during medieval times.

While Andy grappled with her sorrow and despair over global conditions, the quartet had been on hiatus for some time until Andy is asked by former CIA spook James Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to undertake a rescue mission of kidnapped Sudanese schoolgirls.

The mission goes badly as the quartet is ambushed in what obviously turned out to be a trap. The resulting bloody carnage, however, does allow us to have an understanding of how the superheroes are rather quickly restored to fighting shape.

Meanwhile, over in Afghanistan, young African-American Marine Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne) survives a fatal knife attack from a Taliban soldier with a miraculously speedy recovery that stuns her doctors and causes her to be ostracized by fellow soldiers that don’t understand her sudden immortality.

That Nile has the regenerative powers common to the other immortal warriors leads Andy to venture to the Afghan war zone to save Nile just in time before she’s shipped off by superiors presumably for medical experiments.

Though a brave soldier who had been unaware of her immortality, Nile is reluctant, to say the least, to become a recruit with the warriors. Understandably, her major concern is that she would never see her family again if pressed into service.

However, there is nothing like a truly noxious villain that would get one to change their mind about a mission. That baddie is Steve Merrick (Harry Melling), the nerdy head of a British pharmaceutical firm who is aware of the immortals and wants to subject them to genetic experiments.

To that end, Merrick’s goons abduct Joe and Nicky, resulting in the warriors being strapped to operating tables under the care of a scientist who may have been inspired by Josef Mengele for evil medical research.

Faced with the reality of Merrick’s wickedness, the once reluctant Nile comes to terms with a certain trepidation about her eternal earthly situation, and becomes a force in her own right for the supercharged battle to liberate her colleagues.

Even though the ageless warriors become fully restored after being killed in action, they feel pain when maimed or mortally wounded, which takes its toll on everyone’s psyche. This is becoming especially true for Andy, who’s expressing weariness and frustration.

“The Old Guard” is a different type of superhero action film in that the warriors may be adept at fighting with all kinds of weapons (Andy favors a medieval axe), but their power is primarily that of not dying and living to fight another day.

As one of the producers, Charlize Theron may have in mind developing “The Old Guard” into a franchise outside the orbit of the traditional comic book universe that dominates superhero films.

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

“Elemental” exhibit with “Sieve” by Scott Parady in the foreground. Photo by Middletown Art Center staff.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – The Middletown Art Center is opening its first exhibit since the shelter in place, “Elemental,” on Saturday, Aug. 8, from 6 to 8 p.m.

A second capsule exhibit, “Postcards from Isolation,” will be featured in the small gallery.

The public is invited to participate in an evening of arts and culture with artists and art appreciators online, via Zoom and Facebook, or onsite at MAC. Social distancing and masking will be observed at MAC indoors and outdoors.

“We are excited to launch our hybrid event model with this exhibit,” said MAC Programs Director Lisa Kaplan.

The Elemental show includes work by several new artists in addition to veteran MAC artists. Selected works on view are about or of the elements: water, earth, air, fire (light), metal, and wood. The exhibit will feature works on canvas, paper, photography and sculpture.

Concurrently, “Postcards from Isolation”, a community-wide collaborative exhibition documents a broad variety of artistic responses to the current pandemic and experiences of isolation, social distancing or other related COVID-19 themes.

The public is invited to create their own postcards Friday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at MAC during gallery hours, or if you are still sheltering in place, send a 5-inch by 8-inch postcard to MAC in any medium. Postcards will be selected for addition to the exhibit.

The remote opening will feature a guided virtual tour of the gallery. Napa Valley-based art and design professional Nicola Chipps is a new addition to the MAC staff and has recently been named curatorial advisor.

Chipps will host a livestream conversation with the Elemental exhibition artists via Zoom and Facebook beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. Some artists will be present at MAC while others will be joining via Zoom.

“Virtual Tours are an exciting new digital step forward for MAC,” said Chipps. “The 2020 pandemic has accelerated the need to innovate and continue to assure accessibility to the arts for all. This exhibit is another way that MAC continues to broaden its audience and uphold the mission to provide rich cultural experiences, whether virtually or through safely distanced protocols.”

The 360-degree virtual tour is provided by Third Eye Visuals and will be available for the duration of the exhibit and archived on MAC’s website.

MAC’s doors will open at 6 p.m. and the virtual exhibit will be launched at that time for home viewing. The guided tour and livestream begin at 6:30 p.m. promptly. All are invited and encouraged to join free of charge. Visit www.MiddletownArtCenter.org on Saturday evening for the zoom link.

Visitors to the gallery will enter in their “bubbles” or independently, with masks and social distancing observed. A limited number of visitors will be allowed in the gallery at a given time. There will also be refreshments and live music outside in the MAC Art Garden.

“Elemental” will be on view through the end of October. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday or by appointment by calling 707-809-8118.

In addition to “Postcards from Isolation,” a mini-exhibit of a selection of work from “Being Leonardo,” an Artists in School project with Middletown schools is also on view in the gallery. Being Leonardo was funded with support from the California Arts Council.

Artists wishing to learn more about exhibiting at MAC can visit www.middletownartcenter.org/calls-for-work .

The MAC is located at 21456 State Highway 175 at the junction of Highway 29 in the heart of Middletown.

Visit www.middletownartcenter.org to stay up to date on all that is happening at MAC and learn more about upcoming calls for work, exhibitions, classes, events, and ways to help support and sustain MAC and its work weaving the arts into daily life in Lake County.

“Postcards from Isolation.” Photo by Middletown Art Center staff.

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

S.C. Hahn is an American poet now living in Stockholm where, as you’ll see, it can be every bit as hard to get out of bed after an operation as it is here.

You can hear the machinery creaking, can’t you?

Getting Out of Bed After Surgery

This site has no industrial crane that swings
an arm around and lowers it to receive
a load to raise—pallets of bricks for a wall
or rods of steel rebar that will arc
in a bridge high over a river: here is only
a bed, the low hill of a sheet, and an older
man whose gears, stiff with disuse, are leveraging
his body, first untucking the legs to lower
them down to the floor, then bracing the beam
of a left arm against the mattress, the right hand
gripping a bed rail, and then the engine of pain
turns the whole contraption of bone and flesh
into a slow motion, up in increments
like a demolition film that’s run in reverse
until a newer center of gravity is reached,
and the laws of physics require that whatever is down
must rise to meet a life that stands waiting.


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 S.C. Hahn, “Getting Out of Bed After Surgery,” (2020). Poem reprinted by permission of S.C. Hahn. 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.

Maine’s former poet laureate, Wesley McNair, is one of my favorite writers.

Godine has just published a touching book-length memoir, in verse, entitled “Dwellers in the House of the Lord.” Though it’s impossible to convey the sweep of a poem of 63 pages, here is a short excerpt to give you some idea of the poem’s open-handed style.

At this point McNair’s sister has separated from Mike, her abusive husband, and the poet’s feelings are mixed, just as many of yours might be, or have been, in such a situation.

I, too, am confused. I reach out
to the Mike who calls me
Buddy, the Navy name
for friend, and in every secret
phone call, I reach out also
to my sister, bereft and alone.


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 Dwellers in the House of the Lord, (David R. Godine, 2020). Poem copyright ©2020 by Wesley McNair. Reprinted with the permission of David R. Godine, 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

5Dec
12.05.2020 5:30 pm - 5:45 pm
Virtual Christmas tree lighting
5Dec
12.05.2020 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Gallery Open Reception: Home
Middletown Art Center
5Dec
6Dec
12Dec
12.12.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
13Dec
12.13.2020 8:30 am - 11:00 am
American Legion Post breakfast
19Dec
12.19.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
24Dec
12.24.2020
Christmas Eve
25Dec
12.25.2020
Christmas Day
26Dec
12.26.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market

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