Wednesday, 05 August 2020

Arts & Life

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

I'm writing this column on a summer day when a hungry crowd of Monarch butterfly caterpillars are eating the upper leaves of the milkweed just outside my door in Nebraska, and my wife and I are joyful that they're getting a good start at life.

The following poem is from Stuart Kestenbaum's new book, “How to Start Over,” from Deerbrook Editions. He lives in Maine and is the state's Poet Laureate.


The asters shake from stem to flower
waiting for the monarchs to alight.

Every butterfly knows that the end
is different from the beginning

and that it is always a part
of a longer story, in which we are always

transformed. When it's time to fly,
you know how, just the way you knew

how to breathe, just the way the air
knew to find its way into your lungs,

the way the geese know when to depart,
the way their wings know how to

speak to the wind, a partnership of feather
and glide, lifting into the blue dream.

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 Stuart Kestenbaum, "Joy," from How to Start Over, (Deerborn Editions, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Stuart Kestenbaum 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.

Jane Hirshfield, who lives in California, is one of our country's finest poets.

I found this beautiful meditation in “Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems,” published by Grayson Books of West Hartford, CT.

Ms. Hirshfield's most recent book of poetry is the newly-published Ledger: Poems from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Meeting the Light Completely

Even the long-beloved
was once
an unrecognized stranger.

Just so,
the chipped lip
of a blue-glazed cup,
blown field
of a yellow curtain,
might also,
flooding and falling,
ruin your heart.

A table painted with roses.
An empty clothesline.

Each time,
the found world surprises—
that is its nature.

And then
what is said by all lovers:
"What fools we were, not to have seen."

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 ©1994 by Jane Hirshfield, "Meeting the Light Completely," from Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, (Grayson Books, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Jane Hirshfield 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.

Karen Head lives in Georgia, and possums seem to live everywhere.

You may drive past a dead one on a roadside somewhere today.

Here's a poem in which the poet chooses to keep a safe distance from wildness.

Head's most recent book is Lost on Purpose, published by Iris Press in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.


The young possum foraging
outside my office window
seems unconcerned by my presence—
after all, I'm the one who's trapped.
I snack on almonds, watch
it nibble whatever it can find,
and though I am inclined to share,
I know that opening the window
will change the world.

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 Karen Head, "Proximity," from Lost on Purpose, (Iris Press, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Karen Head 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.


Sometimes it’s OK to arrive late to the party, and now that there is more time for binge-watching TV series, catching up with crime drama series “Ozark” on Netflix offers up the chance for a long-run.

“Ozark,” perhaps because of its illicit drug trade milieu, has been compared to series like “Breaking Bad,” and with the Redneck Riviera setting of the Lake of the Ozarks, maybe it’s a little bit more like “Justified.”

Jason Bateman, occasional director and star, has taken a darker turn than usual in his character of Marty Byrde, a Chicago financial adviser whose wizardry in moving around large amounts of money draws attention from the wrong people.

For Marty, the wrong people are not just the FBI, but the particularly vicious Mexican cartel kingpin Del (Esai Morales) who has entrusted millions of dollars in his care, only to discover that Marty’s associates have been skimming a share of the profits.

An ugly fate befalls those who get sideways with the cartel, and though Marty is spared a gruesome terminal outcome, it’s likely only because he just might be indispensable to making things right.

Giving up the gleaming high-rise office and the nice suburban home, Marty uproots his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) and two children, Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), for a move to lakeside living in Missouri.

Convincing the cartel that he can launder their drug money without drawing suspicion from the FBI in the Lake of the Ozarks, Marty goes about the business of looking for businesses that are either marginal or failing where he can pursue his trade.

Soon he’s involved with Rachel (Jordana Spiro), owner of a rundown resort motel, acquires a strip club by trickery and tangles with the conniving Ruth (Julia Garner), the sharp young member of a family of deadbeat crooks with designs of her own.

There’s also the not-so-small matter of tension in the Byrde family, from the revelation of Wendy’s infidelity to the teenage Charlotte’s angst and insolence to younger Jonah’s strange fascination with mutilated animals.

Almost everyone is grappling with demons in “Ozark,” from the undercover FBI agent monitoring the Byrde family who harbors secrets that could derail his career to a conflicted pastor holding services on the lake.

With comparisons to other crime dramas, “Ozark” has the surface feeling of being somewhat derivative, but it’s worth hanging in there to see if Marty can wiggle his way out of inevitable peril.


Cecil B. DeMille, early pioneer of American cinema, gained his directorial fame for the epic scale and cinematic showmanship of his films, most notably in the biblical-themed silent films “The Ten Commandments” (1923) and “The King of Kings” (1927).

DeMille obtained pop culture status in Billy Wilder’s 1950 film “Sunset Boulevard,” in which Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond, a demented former silent film star dreaming of a triumphant return to the screen, utters the famous line, “Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

Filmmaker Peter Brosnan, passionate in documenting an early tale of the famous director’s penchant for massive sets, devoted decades to an archeological detective story of unearthing the City of the Pharaoh in the sand dunes of a California beach.

“The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille” has been re-released on DVD and streaming sites to coincide with the traditional Easter airing on television of “The Ten Commandments,” the Charlton Heston-as-Moses version that remains a popular Biblical story.

DeMille’s “lost city” refers to what Brosnan heard about in 1982 from his colleague Bruce Cardozo. In 1923, the pioneer filmmaker built the largest set in movie history for the silent film version of “The Ten Commandments” in the sand dunes of a California beach.

After the shooting had finished, the rumor was that the film set, which included 20 sphinxes and four 35-ton statues of Ramses, was buried in the sand dunes of the small town of Guadalupe in Santa Barbara County.

Nearly 60 years later, Brosnan began his quest to unearth the remains of the Egyptian setting with the help of archeologist John Parker, who eventually quit the project after growing weary of permitting snafus.

As narrator, Brosnan recounts the annoying red tape battles with government officials dismissively referred to as the “permit people” who dithered over whether an original exemption from regulations would hold up.

At one point, Brosnan is described as having a “Captain Ahab-type obsession” in recovering whatever artifacts of DeMille’s faux Egyptian grandeur would be discovered.

In true documentary fashion, Brosnan interviews people who were involved in different ways with the film and still alive to tell the tale, including a gentleman who was a kid when he snuck on to the Paramount lot to witness how DeMille staged the parting of the Red Sea.

For serious film buffs, “The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille” also offers a fascinating look at the creation of epic films from the sand dunes of Guadalupe to location shooting in Egypt for the 1956 version of “The Ten Commandments.”

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


As a prolific American novelist, Tom Clancy became very popular for churning out numerous books centered on espionage thrillers and military subjects, several of which became the source material for box office hits.

Amazon Prime Video is now streaming the entire second season of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” based on characters created by the noted author, and John Krasinski returns in the titular role.

While Season 1 had Ryan globetrotting to the volatile Middle East and elsewhere, Season 2 introduces us to a new look for Clancy’s CIA analyst hero. Clean-shaved the first go around, now he’s got a full beard and working on Capitol Hill for Senator Jim Moreno (Benito Martinez).

To be sure, Jack Ryan started out in the first season as a desk-bound financial analyst for the CIA who uncovered a terrorist plot while working under the cantankerous James Greer (Wendell Pierce) before getting into the rough-and-tumble of espionage.

With Season 2, it’s no surprise that Ryan won’t linger for long in the stuffy hallways of Congress after he tracks a potentially suspicious shipment of illegal arms in the Venezuelan jungle.

Venezuela has been in the news plenty over recent years, having much to do with a succession of corrupt, tyrannical leaders, each one as odious as the other for decimating their country. Here’s looking at you, now deceased Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.

The latest “Jack Ryan” seems very topical in many ways. Itching to get back into the fray, Ryan and his Senator boss head down to Venezuela for a “diplomatic” mission that does not go well.

The president of this South American country is Nicolas Reyes (Jordi Molla), who is so patently slippery and deceitful that he’s equally cartoonish and viciously thuggish. The wonderful Andy Garcia would have also been a great choice for this role.

Greer gets back in the picture when he gets sidelined from his new post in Moscow and ends up in Venezuela with Ryan just at the time President Reyes is facing a re-election campaign.

Reyes has an unexpected formidable opponent in Gloria Bonalde (Crisina Umana), a real contender whose husband, a former government Minister, has suspiciously been missing for more than a year.

On a covert mission with U.S. special forces, Ryan’s intel leads them up the Orinoco River to a compound deep in the jungle that is guarded by a bunch of mercenaries where contraband is located.

Before being relieved of duty in Venezuela, Ryan gets involved with mysterious Harriet “Harry” Baumann (Noomi Rapace), who might be a rogue agent but certainly knows about German hitman Max Schenkel (Tom Wlaschiha) who killed Ryan’s friend.

Ryan talks his superiors into letting him chase a lead in London to track down a shadowy figure behind the financing of arms deals, but it affords a chance for a cat-and-mouse game with the assassin Schenkel.

Then it is back to Venezuela for daring missions and political intrigue that makes “Jack Ryan” Season 2 worthy of binge-watching, especially now that we can’t leave home except for groceries and medicine.

An unanswered question is where will the next season take us on another thrilling adventure. Season 2 ends with a hint that there could be more corruption to be uncovered either at home or in connection with what was left behind in Venezuela.


Just like any other entertainment venue that would draw a crowd, New York’s Broadway theatres are closed for business at least until the middle of April but probably longer given the Big Apple’s notoriety as the nation’s current hotspot for the coronavirus pandemic.

Good news comes in the form of theater-loving audiences having another way to enjoy a show from home while theatres remain dark. London’s National Theatre will stream live productions for free on its YouTube channel.

Beginning on April 2nd, the inaugural broadcast will be Richard Bean’s hilarious slapstick comedy “One Man, Two Guvnors,” starring James Corden, who took home a Tony Award when the show transferred from London to Broadway.

“One Man, Two Guvnors,” similar to other productions to follow, will screen every Thursday at 11 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time and then remain available for seven days. The Playbill website provided this helpful link:

Here in the United States, James Corden is probably best known for taking over from Craig Ferguson a late-night television talk show that is now titled “The Late Late Show with James Corden” on CBS.

Eight years ago, I was fortunate to have been in New York and caught “One Man, Two Guvnors,” which is without any doubt one of the wildest, gut-busting hilarious comedy productions ever produced on Broadway, and I say this as a fan of the genre with no hesitation.

Nothing really beats seeing this type of production live on stage in front of an appreciative audience. Not sure how it will play out on television, but it is definitely worth giving a try, and I will hope to relive the joy once experienced in person.

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


To say that we are living in crazy times gets even weirder when you ponder that the origin of the novel coronavirus pandemic has been identified by experts to have originated in bats sold at “wet markets” in Wuhan.

The coronavirus is a zoonotic disease that jumps from animals to humans. Some researchers say that bats may have passed the virus to pangolins, which then passed it to humans. Civets might also be involved. What are pangolins and civets anyway?

Whatever the case may be with this virus that is grinding our country, and especially California, to a virtual halt, movie theaters are closed and the studios have delayed their releases. James Bond won’t even show up in his new film until November.

Now that we have all become shut-ins, what to do for some entertainment besides reading and playing video games? It’s time to check out television and cable shows and subscribe to Netflix or other streaming services.

On the recommendation of a friend, I tuned into the Canadian crime series “Republic of Doyle” on Netflix. Granted it’s not new; the six-season series got its start a decade ago, but it’s not dated by any topical references to current events or the latest gossip from Hollywood.

To its credit, “Republic of Doyle,” more than a detective show procedural, thrives on the comedic undertones of a dysfunctional father-son team running a family private eye business.

As the patriarch of the enterprise, Sean McGinley’s Malachy Doyle is a former police officer in St. John’s, Newfoundland and his son Jake Doyle (Allan Hawco) has had an abbreviated law enforcement career for reasons not explained at least in the first season.

With a roving eye for every pretty woman that crosses his path, Jake is in the throes of a volatile dissolution from his soon-to-be ex-wife Nikki (Rachel Wilson), a doctor at the local hospital who often treats one of the Doyle family members for on-the-job injuries.

The relationship between Jake and his father is often fraught with comic tension, as they both express their emotions and personality quirks through a combination of disdain, annoyance and crankiness.

For the widower Malachy, his irascibility flows partially from the frustration of having the separated Jake bunking in at his house when he’s in a relationship with his live-in new love Rose (Lynda Boyd), a strong-willed partner who helps out the detective business.

Thinking of a similar father-son dynamic for a television series brings to mind the one-season Netflix series “The Good Cop” in which Tony Danza’s former rogue NYPD cop lives with his straight-laced NYPD detective son (Josh Groban) and offers him street-wise advice.

Luck often seems to elude Jake, whether he’s about to have a romantic fling or facing violent conflict with a criminal. At one point, Malachy exclaims “why is it every time we do anything you take a beating?”

In the very first episode, Jake is in hot pursuit of tagger Des (Mark O’Brien) who believes his graffiti is a work of art. Jake thinks otherwise when Des retaliates by spray painting his classic 1968 Pontiac GTO.

Before long, Des ends up working for the Doyle family business as an apprentice, showing aptitude for the work even though a lot of the time he’s as jumpy as a cat on a hot tin roof.

Another great dynamic in this series is Jake’s infatuation with the pretty Constable Leslie Bennett (Krystin Pellerin), soon to be a Sergeant, that turns into an on-again, off-again relationship that depends on how Jake flubs a rendezvous or trips up a police investigation.

Aside from the fact that Jake seems to get punched in the face or kicked in sensitive places about every five minutes, the best parts are the verbal lashings he endures from angry Nikki, exasperated Leslie and his annoyed father.

The verbal jabs from Malachy are often priceless. On one occasion, the father unleashes by telling Jake “you are an accident waiting to happen. You are an emotional train wreck with behavioral disorders.”

One of the fascinating aspects of “Republic of Doyle” is the setting of St. John’s, Newfoundland, where the eye-catching, multi-colored houses and the arresting visuals of the scenic seaside vistas are a gift to the city’s tourism bureau.

It’s not just the scenery of the remote eastern part of Canada that is terrific. Most of the talented primary actors, including show co-creator Allan Hawco, are from Newfoundland. That Sean McGinley is of Irish heritage makes him an outlier to all-Canadian cast.

The combination of clever plots, gifted actors, beautiful scenery and crisp, witty dialogue makes “Republic of Doyle” an enjoyable romp that offers plenty enough fun that alleviates the mind from thinking too much about the dire straits we are in at the moment.

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

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