Friday, 04 December 2020

Arts & Life

Cliff Lloyd. Courtesy photo.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – The Middletown Art Center invites community members to participate in “Expidoxos: Writing for Expression, Healing and Growth,” a creative writing workshop this Saturday, Nov. 21, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Zoom.

Writer, musician and photographer Cliff Lloyd will guide participants in a writing and reflection process that experiments with technique, helpful writing habits and various ways to express oneself through the written word.

It’s open to all who are interested in the craft of writing.

“This workshop is an opportunity to hone skills, nurture our relationship with writing, and explore the transformative power of sharing work in a safe and constructive environment,” said Lloyd. “Through this process we can enjoy and understand ourselves, each other and our world with greater compassion and clarity.”

Lloyd’s work is informed by the natural world and humankind’s evolving relationship with it. His involvement with a broad range of varied media projects and collaborations has spurned his passion for understanding the uniqueness of individuals and how varied perspectives, when channeled through artistic expression, can broaden and enrich our collective culture.

Lloyd says his “influences are from a wide range of writers and writer's groups. Most of my writing comes from literary events and spoken-word performances over the past couple of decades. This workshop focuses on the process and on sharing the experience of writing."

Participants are encouraged to share what they write during the workshop or read a piece they have already written. Paper and pen or digital word processing tools and access to Zoom are required.

Participation is by donation of $5 to 25. Pre-registration is required at www.middletownartcenter.org/classes. A Zoom link will be provided upon registration. No one is turned away for lack of funds. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information.

Find out more about Middletown Art Center and various ways to support their efforts to weave the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County at www.middletownartcenter.org.



‘EMILY IN PARIS’ ON NETFLIX

As fluffy as a croissant from a Parisian boulangerie and tasty like a crème brulee, Netflix’s 10-episode “Emily in Paris” may be loosely defined as a romantic comedy that fits nicely with the French capital’s moniker of “City of Love.”

Emily Cooper (Lily Cooper), a junior-level executive at a Chicago marketing firm, is properly skilled at social media strategies since she’s a millennial obsessed with Instagram and taking endless selfies quite often in mundane settings.

Having acquired the boutique French marketing company Savoir that deals with luxury products, the Chicago firm needs to send one of its executives to Paris to oversee the integration of a social media campaign from the American perspective.

When Emily’s middle-aged boss (Kate Walsh) unexpectedly becomes pregnant and thus unable to take the assignment in Paris, Emily is inexplicably chosen for the task despite her glaring lack of French language skills.

The culture clash in the workplace is immediate when the perky Emily shows up with only having mastered the French greeting of “bonjour” and full of ideas for marketing that offend the sensibilities of her new colleagues.

Savoir’s managing executive Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), aghast at Emily’s inability to communicate in anything other than English, is promptly dismissive of the American’s value to her firm.

Looking for any chance to send Emily packing back to Chicago, Sylvie throws up roadblocks to social media suggestions as out-of-step with French cultural norms. She also proves intimidating to an office staff that might otherwise start warming up to the foreign interloper.

Moving into an apartment on the fifth floor in a building without an elevator, Emily is startled to discover that in France the first floor starts at the level above the ground, leading to her mistake of entering the wrong unit.

As luck would have it, the occupant of said apartment is budding chef Gabriel (Lucas Bravo), a handsome young guy working at a nearby restaurant. Inevitable romantic sparks with Emily are as certain as the French love of pastries.

Yet, in the City of Love, it’s inescapable that Emily will have a number of suitors, and with the apparent lax French attitude toward marital fidelity, the American girl catches the notice of Savoir’s major client Antoine (William Abadie).

Convenient to a plot contrivance, complicated romantic relationships abound. The married Antoine, seemingly with the acquiescence of his spouse, is having an affair with Sylvie, who now suspects he may be attracted to Emily for reasons other than her catchy ideas.

Emily meets Camille (Camille Razat) while shopping for flowers, not knowing that she’s actually Gabriel’s girlfriend. Paris is a big city, but if you stay within one arrondissement the environment is evidently that of a small town where everyone knows the neighbors.

Having arrived in Paris without any friends and the boyfriend back home deciding not to visit for even a week’s vacation, Emily makes a new best friend with Mindy Chen (Ashley Park), a nanny for a couple’s small children.

Coming from a wealthy family in China, Mindy speaks three languages and has a singing voice that would make her a sensation but for stage fright. Mindy’s desire to stay in Paris is driven in part by escaping her father’s wish that she would enter the family business.

Mindy helps Emily to avoid some cultural faux pas and to navigate the local customs. On her own, Emily is easily seduced by all that Paris has to offer, including a chance encounter at the iconic Café de Flore with a pretentious professor that ends up in a one-night stand.

Not helping her cause at work is Emily’s lackadaisical approach to actually learning to speak French. When enrolled in a language class, Emily demonstrates study habits more in line with those of a high school dropout.

The City of Light, another nickname for the French capital, is very much a central character for this series. The tourist landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe create arresting visuals, especially when bathed in a nighttime glow.

Whether a photoshoot on the Pont Alexandre III, a boat ride on the Seine or exterior shots of a charming bistro, Paris is a place of great beauty that makes one wish for a European vacation at the earliest opportunity.

“Emily in Paris” fits neatly into the pantheon of show creator Darren Star’s penchant for writing television series such as “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Sex and the City,” which result in guilty pleasures from the vicarious enjoyment of glamorous lives.

Glamor resides easily within the confines of the Paris environment where stylish people wearing chic clothes strolling along expansive boulevards conjure up visions of elegance that we don’t see in everyday life.

As a result of the glitz and allure of the fabulous settings, “Emily in Paris,” even though the storyline is as predictable as Google tracking one’s online activity, holds appeal if for no other reason than the vicarious enjoyment of an exotic location during the pandemic.

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

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Over the years I haven’t chosen more than a few poems about the writing of poetry, mostly because if you don’t write poems you might not be interested.

But I do like this poem about poets by Richard Jones, from his new book “Avalon,” from Green Linden Press.

I, too, get up early to write in Nebraska, while Richard is up in Illinois.

Devotion

“Poetry not rest,” is trouble’s answer,
rising before the sun, setting out
in a gray light to the dull grumble
of thunder to balance the words
bottle or old wooden chair or bluebird
on a line’s life-or-death tightrope,
struggling to add color to the canvas,
purple or burnt umber, transcribing
seven violins crying to the willows,
or simply cutting a stem of rosemary,
the deep smell of earth for inspiration,
the earth and the grave, never resting,
working from sheer will and memory,
working with quill and ink if need be,
knowing trouble and rest won’t last,
that no one has the cure for this life
though we honor the day with words,
name the plow and extol the hammer,
knowing that even the poorest poet,
if a poet, is at a desk in a corner
of eternity, already long dead,
laboring to transform death to praise,
never wearying, never once losing faith.

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 (c) 2020 by Richard Jones, "Devotion," from Avalon, (Green Linden Press, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Richard Jones 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.

The ocarina call of a mourning dove, a woman mourning the death of a pet, and yet it all comes to looking forward to more and more life, whatever is there, wherever the mourning dove will lead her.

Linda Parsons lives in Knoxville, and her most recent book is Candescent, from Iris Press.

Valediction

I hear before seeing, no need to see
to know morning’s ocarina, plaintive
call, soft strut on leafmeal. It was the first
creature I saw when the needle was done
and my sheepdog limped into last night.
That dove, I thought, will house his sable
spirit, coat feathered like joy in the wind.
Dove comes when my scattered mind

needs herding—bitter anniversaries,
leavings dire as tornadic rumble. Comes
when sky rivers blue, cooing all’s well
after all. Comes not to forbid mourning,
but trills core deep, beyond the senses,
glances back to make sure I follow
its white-tipped tail. Plaintive ocarina,
call me to bear all the light coming.


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 Linda Parsons, "Valediction," (2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Linda Parsons. 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.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – Artists are invited to submit work for the upcoming exhibit, “Home,” at the Middletown Art Center, Lake County’s premier contemporary art gallery.

The curatorial team seeks strong, well-crafted work in any medium that speaks to the places where humans and other living beings establish roots, the shelters we occupy, and our connection to the place we call “Home”.

Submissions are due via email Nov. 20. The exhibit will open with a hybrid virtual and on-site reception on the evening of Dec. 5 and run through Feb. 28.

“The work at the MAC is as impressive as work I have seen in boutique galleries throughout the Bay Area and Wine Country,” said Nicola Chipps, co-curator at MAC and former art and design consultant at Ærena Galleries in the Napa Valley. “With support from a CARES grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, MAC is leveraging digital tools such as virtual exhibits and hybrid opening receptions to reach a broader audience.”

MAC has been a beacon of resilience and hope during challenges of widespread social distancing, sheltering in place and continuous years of wildfires. A dynamic contemporary arts resource, the gallery features rotating exhibits of exceptional work by regional artists.

Applications and high-resolution (300dpi) jpeg images of work are due via email by Nov. 20. Delivery of accepted work is Nov. 30 or by appointment. The submission fee is $40 for three entries, or free to MAC Professional Members.

Download an application and learn more about the benefits of exhibiting at MAC at www.middletownartcenter.org/artists.

The MAC Gallery is open Friday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by appointment at 707-809-8118. You can also see the current show virtually at www.middletownartcenter.org/current.

The MAC continues to adjust and innovate during this time of COVID-19. Social distancing and masking are always observed.

Find out more about events, programs, opportunities and ways to support the MAC’s efforts to weave the arts and culture into the fabric of life in Lake County at www.middletownartcenter.org.



‘THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT’ ON NETFLIX

A seven-episode Netflix series centered on the story of a gifted young female challenging the mid-20th Century male-dominated world of competitive chess may not initially sound like great entertainment but it would be a grave mistake to harbor that misconception.

“The Queen’s Gambit,” the name for an opening chess move, is a story not only focused on the cerebral world of chess as a sport but also about obsession, addiction, and self-destructive behavior that threatens to undermine the brilliance of a child prodigy.

The opening setting is Paris 1967, with American chess whiz Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) roused from her hotel room from what may have been a drunken night of debauchery for a bout with one the best chess players in the world.

The outcome of that match will have to play out at a later time, because the scene shifts back to Kentucky in the Fifties, when nine-year-old Beth (Isa Johnston) survives an automobile crash that kills her troubled, genius mother.

Born into a family that had once been financially secure and with an absentee father nowhere to be found, Beth was living in a decrepit trailer with her mother Alice (Chloe Pirrie) and now she’s an orphan.

Ending up at the Methuen Home for young girls that observes strict rules, the introverted Beth makes few friends, but does find common cause with an older, more cynical girl Jolene (Moses Ingram) who becomes an ally and lifelong friend.

Given that whip-smart Beth completes her classroom assignments faster than the others, she is tasked with cleaning chalkboard erasers in the basement, where she encounters the janitor playing solitary games of chess.

Intrigued by the custodian’s studious affection for the game, Bath watches the reclusive Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp) moving the chess pieces on the 64-square board and eventually convinces him to become a mentor.

With an inquisitive mind that she may have inherited from her mother who had a doctorate from Cornell University, Beth quickly demonstrates a grasp for the game that would be unusual in a person so young.

In a fairly short amount of time, Beth manages to best the experienced player. Impressed by the youngster’s skill, Mr. Shaibel arranges for his student to enter a chess tournament at the local high school, where she thumps the practiced opponents.

Meanwhile, the orphanage doles out so-called vitamins on a daily basis to the kids, but the green ones are actually a tranquilizer that is intended to keep the girls docile but results in a mind-altering impact on Beth.

On the advice of Jolene, Beth saves the green pills for nighttime gazing at the dormitory ceiling to visually imagine huge chess pieces moving about in moves that emulate noted stratagems of chess grandmasters.

As a teenager, Beth is adopted by the Wheatleys who reside in Lexington, Kentucky. The notion of an idyllic new life is soon shattered by the fact that the aloof father Allston (Patrick Kennedy) is a traveling salesman who makes excuses to stay on the road.

The mother Alma (Marielle Heller), realizing her marriage is slipping away, is a functioning alcoholic and a gifted piano player who could have carved her own path if not for stage fright.

However tenuous the connection between Alma and Beth, the two of them forge a symbiotic relationship imbued with vulnerability and addiction. Both pop pills and Beth develops an unhealthy attraction to alcohol as an emotional crutch.

After winning the Kentucky regional chess championship by beating local whiz Harry Beltik (Harry Melling), Beth is primed for more contests, which garners the interest of Alma upon realizing prize money is at hand in chess matches.

Beth and her mother embark on a whirlwind of travel, while the media start to bring attention to the young chess prodigy. A tournament win in Cincinnati opens the door to more opportunities.

At the US Open in Las Vegas, Beth meets her equal in US champion Benny Watts (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), but with the good fortune of him on the sidelines the ability to become the American winner is within reach.

A trip to Mexico City allows Beth to meet Russian grandmaster Vasily Borgov (Marcin Dorocinski), the chess equivalent of the Great White Whale that Beth will eventually have to chase on her trajectory to greater fame.

Graced with terrific period settings that include glitzy Las Vegas, glamorous Paris and Cold War-era Soviet Union, “The Queen’s Gambit” is a visual treat of production values that one has to marvel at the precision of the details.

But more than gorgeous visuals, this limited series is a compelling character study of a chess player who remains an enigma to friends and competitors, seemingly reluctant to have serious emotional connections with anyone.

If anything, the performance of Anya Taylor-Joy as the chess master who battles her inner demons with varying degrees of success and failure is something to behold.

The leading character’s impressively skilled and glamourous outcast, often driven by anger or self-doubt, makes “The Queen’s Gambit” a worthy binge-watch.

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

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
12.05.2020 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Clearlake Christmas Parade
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

Mini Calendar

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