Wednesday, 05 August 2020

Arts & Life

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

I had to drop out of a philosophy class in college because I'd begun to think about what I was thinking about and I was getting dizzy and sick.

Here's a poem by Danusha Laméris about getting relief from thinking. It's from “Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems,” published by Grayson Books of West Hartford, Connecticut.

The poet lives in Santa Cruz, California, and she has a book forthcoming in April 2020 from the University of Pittsburgh Press entitled “Bonfire Opera.”


Don't you wish they would stop, all the thoughts
swirling around in your head, bees in a hive, dancers
tapping their way across the stage? I should rake the leaves
in the carport, buy Christmas lights. Was there really life on Mars?
What will I cook for dinner? I walk up the driveway,
put out the garbage bins. I should stop using plastic bags,
visit my friend whose husband just left her for the Swedish nanny.
I wish I hadn't said Patrick's painting looked "ominous."
Maybe that's why he hasn't called. Does the car need oil again?
There's a hole in the ozone the size of Texas and everything
seems to be speeding up. Come, let's stand by the window
and look out at the light on the field. Let's watch how the clouds
cover the sun and almost nothing stirs in the grass.

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 ©2013 by Danusha Laméris, "Thinking," from The Moons of August, (Autumn House Press, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of Danusha Laméris 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.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Lake County poets are invited to enter the Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest.

Last year 2018-2020 Lake County Poet Laureate Richard Schmidt won with his “Rodeo Cowgirl” poem and was invited to Lincoln to read it.

The Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest began in 2005 as a regional contest for Lincoln and Placer counties.

In later years the contest extended to the greater Sacramento area. In 2010, a poet from Ohio entered the contest and in 2012, the contest became international with a poet entering from Queensland, Australia.

The contest is now in its 16th year and the number of poets entering has grown.

In 2017 the most entrants in the history of the contest drew 182 poets from 43 California cities, seven states outside California and from Canada, England, India, Nigeria and Singapore.

Last year winning poets came from 17 California cities, four states – Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts and Ohio – and one from London, England.

A special division “Young Poets” category is set up for poets 18 years or under.

Last year 13 young poets entered the contest with ages ranging from 12 to 17. There are five categories to challenge the poets’ imagination.

Poets may submit a maximum of three poems, one from each of the five categories.

The deadline for entrants is July 18. Poems must be submitted in hard copy to Alan Lowe, contest coordinator.

Forms may be found here and additional information can be obtained by emailing Lowe at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

First, second and third-place winners are selected in each category, both for adult and young poets.

The winning poets are invited to read their poems at the Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest Special Event on Oct. 11 at the Lincoln Public Library in Lincoln.

If a winner is unable to attend, their poem will be read by a member of the Poets Club of Lincoln.


Pop culture is thriving right now on Netflix if for no other reason than most of the people not involved with essential businesses are trapped at home and tuning into programming that might not have gained a lot of traction otherwise.

Could that be the reason for the sudden national obsession with “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”? What explanation is there for the fascination with all the misfits on the margins of society that inhabit the strange world of exotic animals held in captivity?

Everyone seems to be talking about a character named Joe Exotic, the gun-toting redneck, gay polygamist with the bleached mullet who runs the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic with almost daily White House briefings from the coronavirus task force, and a presumed journalist asks President Trump if he’s considering a pardon for Joe Exotic now languishing in jail.

On to more of a serious matter is the question of whether Joe Exotic, whose real name keeps changing depending on the shedding of his birth surname to adopt a combination of names of the men he happens to marry, has obtained his long-sought-after celebrity status thanks to Netflix.

If he were not in prison right now, would Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, be running for political office again, as he once did in his quixotic campaigns for president and then governor of Oklahoma in 2018, where he came in third in the Libertarian Party primary?

The seven-episode docuseries, featuring interviews of Joe and his employees, the oddball assortment of competitors, his campaign manager, shady businessmen, law enforcement officials and his greatest nemesis, raises more questions than answers about everything.

That Joe Exotic ends up in the Grady County jail is no surprise since the first episode establishes that he’s getting three square meals a day while languishing in a cell probably much more confined than the cages for his tigers.

Bragging of the over 200 tigers and other big cats in captivity at his animal park, the flamboyant showman Joe Exotic, dressed in colorful unbuttoned print shirts with a gun holster strapped to his waist, finances his operation by charging visitors to cuddle and play with tiger cubs.

Exotic’s tourist attraction draws the ire of his chief nemesis, Carole Baskin, the CEO of Big Cat Rescue based in Tampa, Florida, who maintains a sanctuary with her third husband Howard, who oddly enough could pass for a Prince Charles lookalike.

In her view, Carole maintains that the petting zoo aspect of the cubs which may make for great selfies is a form of abuse, but the real story is how these creatures become disposable when trafficked to other collectors.

As the series moves along, the bitter rivalry between Joe and Carole reaches such a disturbing level of hatred that the Oklahoma zookeeper regularly features the animal rights activist in various states of being harmed or killed in his Internet series of Joe Exotic TV.

Part of what motivates Joe’s extreme vitriolic behavior towards Carole, culminating in the murder-for-hire plot that lands him in the hoosegow for 22 years, is an outlandish conspiracy theory that she killed her previous husband and fed his remains to tigers.

The third episode has plenty of focus on the 1997 disappearance of kooky Carole’s second husband, the millionaire Don Lewis who spent a lot of time on frequent trips to Costa Rica. Exotic was only too eager to spread innuendos of foul play.

Other eccentric characters in the exotic animal trade are also highlighted and interviewed. The middle-aged Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, fashioning himself as a cult leader married to several young women, runs an animal park in Myrtle Beach.

Not to be outdone in the polygamy game, Exotic holds a wedding ceremony for his marriage to two men at the same time, one of which is the young Travis Maldonado who meets a tragic fate when demonstrating wrongly off-camera that a gun without its clip would not fire.

Another animal collector, featured only too briefly, is a former Miami drug lord Mario Tabraue, who claims that he inspired Al Pacino’s murderous character in “Scarface.” It’s astonishing that he comes off as more normal than others in Exotic’s weird orbit.

As for a shady businessman in the mix, enter Jeff Lowe, a felon who forms a partnership with a nearly bankrupt Joe to keep the animal park functioning and ends up in a bind for sneaking tigers into a Vegas hotel room.

We’ve only scratched the surface of the eccentric characters, some of them missing limbs and others lacking a good dental plan, that populate the surreal, strange world of the “Tiger King,” that is so appropriately subtitled as “Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”

The bottom line is that this Netflix docuseries is akin to watching a train wreck or a hundred car pileup on the interstate. Many of us have nothing more pressing to do than observe in disbelief.

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


April 15th is a milestone every year as the deadline for filing of tax returns.

But April 15, 1947, is one of the most historically unforgettable dates of the post-World War II era, right up there with the moon landing and the day President Kennedy was assassinated.

Baseball fans immediately recognize that this date in 1947 marks the breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball when Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on Opening Day.

Now that those who enjoy the nation’s pastime have been relegated to reruns of vintage games as this year’s opening day has come and gone with stadiums around the country sitting idle, PBS has resurrected its two-part “Jackie Robinson” documentary.

For a limited time, PBS has made the Ken Burns documentary available for streaming to commemorate the celebration of the first African-American to play at the major league level.

Part 1 of “Jackie Robinson” is devoted to his early life and baseball career, focused on the significance of the first player in the Negro Leagues to get drafted into the majors by the visionary Branch Rickey, general manager of the Dodgers.

Though born to a family of sharecroppers in Cairo, Georgia, Jack Roosevelt Robinson (his middle name is in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt) was raised in Pasadena, California where his athletic ability served him well in school.

Robinson proved to be an all-around athlete and film clips of his football career demonstrate his talent for running the ball. At UCLA, he was the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: football, baseball, basketball and track.

That he was good at football caught the attention of the media and writer George Will narrated the Los Angeles Times article that noted Robinson “carried the football as though he was carrying a watermelon running from its owner who had a shotgun.”

Before he could pursue a professional career in sports, Robinson was drafted into a segregated unit of the Army during World War II. Way ahead of Rosa Parks, Robinson once refused the order of a civilian driver to move to the back of a military bus.

The military police that responded were disrespectful and Robinson refused to back down, which then lead to his arrest on the charge of insubordination. Taking an aggressive posture with an officer reflected his strong sense of social justice.

Fortunately, Robinson was found not guilty during a court-martial and then penned a sharply-worded to the Adjutant General expressing his disgust with how the Army treated him and asking to be retired from the military. An honorable discharge was granted.

Robinson’s baseball career got launched when he signed with the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the teams in the Negro Leagues, where he drew the attention of Branch Rickey who was scouting for talent to add to the Dodgers’ roster.

Interviewed for the documentary, the legendary Buck O’Neil, who played most of his career with the Kansas City Monarchs, revealed that Robinson hated the Negro Leagues because they were poorly financed and operated in a hectic, disorganized fashion.

The key to Rickey drafting Robinson into the Dodger farm team in Montreal was to convince the proud ballplayer that he would have to hold his temper in check and not respond to the vicious taunts, racial epithets and worse while not retaliating.

Racial discrimination against Robinson was so pervasive that there were teams in Southern cities in the minor leagues that refused to play if Robinson was on the field. One city canceled a game claiming the lights didn’t work, and this was for a day game.

Robinson’s widow, Rachel, playing a prominent role in the documentary, observes that her husband felt the pressure to succeed on the field to achieve social progress because “he felt the weight of black people on his shoulders.”

Animosity to a black player was no less virulent when Robinson made his entry on to the majestic grounds of Ebbets Field and even some Dodger teammates like Dixie Walker asked to be traded rather than play with a man of color.

The second part of “Jackie Robinson,” though it includes film clip highlights of his playing days in Brooklyn, incorporates a look at Robinson’s life after baseball when he wrote a newspaper column and assumed a more assertive stance as a civil rights activist.

Robinson entered the business world as the first black person to serve as vice president of a major American corporation, the Chock full o’ Nuts company that originated from a chain of New York coffee shops.

Not affiliated with any political party, Robinson was nonetheless involved and surprised many by actively supporting Richard Nixon during the 1960 presidential campaign after being unimpressed by his opponent.

Both history buffs and baseball lovers should enjoy “Jackie Robinson” for the great footage of great moments like stealing home plate in the 1955 World Series and public speaking for civil rights. Hurry to catch this on the PBS website before you have to search elsewhere.

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

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

How many poets does it take to change a light bulb? Only one.

Here’s a poem by Jared Carter from his new book, “The Land Itself,” from Monongahela Press.

This is a fine example of how a talented poet can make a gift for us from the most ordinary subject.

Carter lives in Indianapolis. His “Darkened Rooms of Summer: New and Selected Poems,” is published by the University of Nebraska Press in a series I edit for them.

Changing the Front Porch Light for Thanksgiving

To balance there, again, in the early dark,
three rungs up on the old stepladder,
afraid to go any higher, it wobbles so—
to reach out and find the first set-screw
stripped of its thread, barely holding the lip
in place—to stretch even farther, twisting
the next one to break the rust, turning
the last with the tips of your fingers until
the white globe drops down smooth and round
in your hands, and you see inside a pool
of intermingled wings and bodies, so dry
it stirs beneath your breath. To watch them
flutter, again, across the grass, when you
climb down and shake them out in the wind.

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 Jared Carter, "Changing the Front Porch Light for Thanksgiving," from The Land Itself, Monongahela Press, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Jared Carter 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.

LAKEPORT, Calif. – Due to COVID-19 virus concerns, the Lake County Symphony Association has announced the cancellation of this year’s Mother’s Day concert as well as the LCSA Home Wine and Beer Makers’ Festival, scheduled for June 20.

LCSA President Ed Bublitz said the action was necessary in order to comply with current health and safety regulations in California.

LCSA members and others who purchased tickets should have already received information about refunds or replacement options for the canceled concert.

Remaining concerts scheduled for this year – the August Baroque Concert, November Fall Concert and December Holiday Concert – are expected to take place pending approval by public health officials.

Upcoming Calendar

08.06.2020 10:30 am - 1:00 pm
Lakeport Police medication collection
08.06.2020 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clearlake City Council
08.06.2020 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Thompson virtual town hall
08.07.2020 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Farmer’s Market and Makers Faire
08.08.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
08.11.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers’ Finest Tuesday market
08.11.2020 10:30 am - 1:00 pm
Lakeport Police medication collection
08.12.2020 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Lake County Democratic Party
08.13.2020 10:30 am - 1:00 pm
Lakeport Police medication collection

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