Tuesday, 06 June 2023

Arts & Life

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

It is remarkable how our U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, in so few words, summarizes something of the cycle of our mortality with such clarity and grace.

With our first cry after birth, she says, we enter “ancestor road” — a place of creation and destruction — life, in other words — but what we carry loosely through this life are our memories.

Most comforting for me is the last line that affirms our purpose in life, “to make more.”

Memory Sack
By Joy Harjo

That first cry opens the earth door.
We join the ancestor road.
With our pack of memories
Slung slack on our backs
We venture into the circle
Of destruction,
Which is the circle
Of creation
And make more-

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 Joy Harjo, “MEMORY SACK” from An American Sunrise (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2019.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

One always won­ders just how much we should depend on what we know of a poet out­side of a giv­en poem, to engage and appre­ci­ate that poem.

And yet, it must mean some­thing that this ten­der lyric ode to moth­er­hood comes from an adoptee reflect­ing on how her life as a writer was shaped by the dili­gence and pre­science of her moth­er.

Tiana Nobile​’s poem, ​“Moth­er of Let­ters,” is an ele­gant thank you note to her moth­er, and by exten­sion, to the art of mothering.

Mother of Letters
By Tiana Nobile

For hours my mother hovered over us,
her hand gently guiding mine, her wrist
a helm for my unsteady ship.
I knew how to hold a pencil,
how to grip it between my thumb
and pointer finger, how to lean softly
to avoid a callus. I knew how to form
all my letters perfectly before starting school.
For every birthday, a new notebook
would appear wrapped tightly with a bow.
I would bury my nose inside it
as if the pages would write themselves
with my breath. The pages I'd fill with words
my young tongue was too knotted to express.

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 ©2021 by Tiana Nobile, “Mother of Letters” from Cleave (Hub City Press, 2021.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.


You don’t have to be of a certain age, because of streaming options, to be familiar with the ‘60s camp classic television series “Batman” to appreciate the comical times of the Caped Crusader’s battles with evildoers like the Penguin, the Riddler and the Joker.

Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, clad in a green suit adorned with question marks, offered riddles for his nefarious deeds. Burgess Meredith’s Penguin, who had an affinity for umbrellas, waddled around in a tuxedo imitating the namesake bird.

Cesar Romero’s clown-faced Joker was a villainous prankster leaving behind jokes as clues to his crimes. For Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” there are no cartoonish characters. Even the Joker is nowhere to be found.

This reboot of the DC universe’s crimefighter takes a different turn with Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne/Batman, as he is not the billionaire playboy of old, but rather a reclusive figure who causes a stir when making a rare public appearance without the costume.

More than ever, Gotham City is a putrid cesspool of violent criminals, corrupt politicians and morally compromised police officials. The crime-riddled streets are populated with the dregs of society who look like they escaped from a “Mad Max” movie.

“The Batman” is a nocturnal journey through the rain-soaked streets of the metropolis, the habitat for Batman who observes in one of many voiceovers, “They think I am hiding in the shadows. I am the shadows.”

In the midst of a heated campaign for mayor of Gotham City, the incumbent Don Mitchell
(Rupert Penry-Jones), the establishment favorite, is challenged by reformer and political neophyte Bella Real (Jayme Lawson) seeking real change.

The amoral mayor is having an affair with Annika (Hana Hrzic), who just happens to be a roommate with Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), and both of them work at the Iceberg Lounge, a nightclub favored by the criminal class and a few city officials like D.A. Gil Colson (Peter Sarsgaard).

Aside from dealing with petty thugs beating up on innocent bystanders, Batman gets called to duty by way of the Bat-signal when the mayor is brutally murdered in his own home on the eve of the election.

One of Batman’s closest friends is Jeffrey Wright’s Lt. Jim Gordon, who is on the crime scene of the gruesome death. To the chagrin of other police officials, Gordon has asked Batman to join him for some detective work.

The friendship between Batman and the lieutenant is rooted in mutual admiration for honesty and rectitude that is woefully lacking within Gotham City’s power structure and law enforcement.

It quickly becomes apparent that a serial killer is on the loose in “The Batman,” and the first slaying is that of the mayor, a gruesome act that is linked to the elusive Riddler (Paul Dano), who taunts Batman with a greeting card message teasing more deaths and mayhem to come.

This is enough to put the brooding Batman, a tortured soul, into a deeper funk. Even his faithful butler Alfred (Andy Serkis) can’t help, and possibly that’s because Batman remains anguished over the deaths of his parents.

Little does Batman know at the initial brush of investigating the death of the Riddler’s first victim that more torment and pain are in store as family secrets come to light in mysterious ways, courtesy of the serial killer.

Circumstances bring Selina and Batman together to pursue leads that fit each one’s agenda, and while they may be at odds sometimes, they make a good pair confronting the Penguin (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell), who reports to his boss, the crime lord Carmine Falcone (John Turturro).

Most of the time it rains in Gotham City, thereby heightening the grim mood that pervades throughout the series of murders and other catastrophes that beset the populace. Yet, “The Batman” is masterful in depicting trauma that even the hero can’t fully fix.

Don’t come to “The Batman” expecting humor or wisecracks to lighten its deadly seriousness. Darkness reigns and daylight never shines on Gotham City. This is as far away as one can get from Adam West’s frivolity, but it seems fitting for the times we are living in today.

Not the typical superhero adventure, “The Batman” is foremost a detective story, with Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego working hand-in-hand with Gotham’s finest detective in Jim Gordon. Of course, it helps immensely that Batman has more tools at his disposal.

A real bonus to appreciating “The Batman” are the soundtrack by Michael Giacchino and cinematography by Greig Fraser, both of which capture the tenor and essence of Gotham’s forbidding chaos.

Compared to other Caped Crusader films, “The Batman” is a modern film noir, where the flaws and foibles of the main characters, even those of the hero, are on full display.

Unlike other indestructible superheroes, Batman’s humanity and emotions make for a more compelling hero. Everything adds up to making “The Batman” one of the best DC adaptations, and it is definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

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

‘DOG’ Rated PG-13

While some similarities in tone may exist, Channing Tatum’s wild journey with a PTSD-scarred Belgian Malinois in “Dog” conjures up memories of the comedic relationship of Tom Hanks partnership with a rambunctious dog in “Turner & Hooch.”

It’s more pleasurable to have a man-and-dog buddy comedy than the canine tearjerkers such as “Marley & Me” and “A Dog’s Purpose.” At least one won’t need to bring a box of Kleenex to the theater for “Dog.”

Tatum Channing, who doesn’t have a wide range of acting talent but is right for the part with his charisma, is Jackson Briggs, an ex-Army Ranger veteran of Afghanistan who suffered a brain injury that has him sidelined but itching to return to battle.

Working in a sandwich shop in the Pacific Northwest offers no satisfaction for a warrior. The ticket back to duty is an assignment to take Army dog Lulu on a road trip to Arizona for the funeral of a veteran who served with Briggs and was the handler of the war hero canine.

The trip is not going to be on an airplane with Lulu acting the part of a service animal, because the dog lacks the social graces to be around other people and four-legged creatures. Lulu needs to be muzzled, and possibly heavily medicated.

Briggs packs his unwilling companion into his vintage ’84 Ford Bronco for what is not going to be a leisurely drive down the Pacific Coast, heading to Arizona by way of Los Angeles. How hard is it going to be to drive a dog to a destination? Pretty difficult, it turns out.

First of all, Lulu is not exactly a passive passenger along for the ride. In fact, the canine warrior has anger issues related to traumatic stress that result in her tearing to shred the car’s seat.

Misadventures aplenty await the duo, from encounters with a suspicious pot grower and his psychic wife, a liaison with new age women, to Briggs scoring a free room at a swanky San Francisco hotel by pretending to be blind.

“Dog” has legs, not because the canine has four of them, but as far as any kind of comedy goes, laughs have been in short order on the big screen and this movie is hanging around at the multiplex to deliver the enjoyable crowd-pleasing levity that we badly need.


The History Channel has lined up some interesting nonfiction series that are somewhere on the horizon at the moment and seemingly worth the wait.

The title of “Five Families” represents what you probably think it does, namely a series about the dramatic rise and fall of New York’s mafia families – Genovese, Gambino, Bonnano, Colombo and Lucchese.

For decades these five families ruled New York and built the American Mafia into an underworld empire. The series will follow the Mob from its violent growth in Prohibition, its golden age of domination in the 1970s and 1980s, up through its heated war with law enforcement.

Executive producer Ray Liotta, an actor who knows his way around crime dramas, in talking about power, money and status, said “there’s a reason why there’s so much public intrigue around the mafia and why it continues to be a pop culture mainstay.”

Who doesn’t like a heist film? I still rank “The Bank Job” starring Jason Statham, based on the true story of a daring London job, as one of the best in the genre. Gene Hackman in “Heist” is another really good one.

“History’s Greatest Heists with Pierce Brosnan” is a one-hour nonfiction series delving inside the most unbelievable, elaborate real-life heists from the Wilcox train robbery of 1899 to Boston’s Great Brinks robbery in 1950.

Acting as the host, Pierce Brosnan, who may know something about capers after his turn as James Bond, reveals that “great heist stories are thrilling, and when well told, have the ability to bring the viewer along as almost a co-conspirator to the crime itself.”

Each episode examines the story of one incredible heist, breaking down every aspect including the team, the mark, the plan, how they carried it out, and the fallout. Heists across history have become legends, and the History Channel is here to tell the tale.

The four-part documentary event “Harlem Hellfighters” will bring the complex and courageous story of the Harlem Hellfighters to life through the eyes of three men: band leader James Europe and Privates Henry Johnson and Horace Pippin.

A century ago, an all-black regiment was formed in New York as the U.S. geared up to enter the Great War. This infantry group consisting mostly of members from Harlem faced intense racism at home during training and later confronted shocking discrimination in the field.

Their extraordinary courage displayed in battle earned them the name Harlem Hellfighters and France’s highest military honor, the Croix de Guerre. “Harlem Hellfighters” is bound to honor the legacy of brave warriors who fought ferociously in the war’s horror-filled trenches.

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

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) has announced the start of his 2022 Congressional Art Competition and encouraged local high school students to submit their artwork.

Each year, this competition allows the chance for students to have their art displayed in the United States Capitol for an entire year.

“Every year, the Congressional Art Competition provides an opportunity to showcase the incredible work and artistic ability of students throughout California’s Fifth District,” said Thompson. “I am excited to see the art that our students create, and I look forward to showcasing the grand prize winner’s art in our nation’s Capitol building and hosting them for a reception in Washington.”

The 2022 Congressional Art Competition is open to all high school students in California’s Fifth district.

Artwork must be submitted by Friday, April 15, and must be submitted virtually via a high-resolution photograph of the artwork to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Submissions must include this completed form.

Please find the 2022 rules for students and teachers by clicking here and the guide to copyright and plagiarism here.

Corine Pearce demonstrates weaving, wearing an acorn pouch. Photo by Gemini Garcia.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — Join basket weavers of all skill levels and across cultures on Saturday, March 12, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Middletown Art Center and on Zoom when the popular WEAVING workshop series continues.

Corine Pearce will lead participants in “Beginning/Intermediate Weaving: Simple Twine Baskets and Acorn Pouches.” The workshop includes a presentation on weaving materials.

“Weaving is part of safeguarding our culture,” said Pearce, whose Pomo name means “basket-flower-woman.”

As a basket weaver herself, as well as an author, educator and lead artist of the WEAVING project, her vision is “to grow the number of traditional basket-makers and inspire more artists. I have spent the last three years harvesting and hand-processing a large quantity of natural, native materials to teach larger classes and to mentor new weavers, especially youth. This project provides a framework to gather generations together. Growing plants, harvesting them, and weaving baskets together will unite us,” said Pearce.

Preregistration is required as there is limited space available at MAC. Zoom access is available to view the presentation and enjoy weaving in-community. Direct instruction for Zoom participants will be limited.

Learn more about the WEAVING project and register at middletownartcenter.org/weaving. Fees are sliding scale and support the project and project documentation.

WEAVING was designed to provide a forum for understanding and sharing of the cultural traditions and history that have shaped Lake County. Using baskets as a vessel for healing and unity, the holistic process of basketry, from plant cultivation and preparation to weaving in community, revitalizes traditional cultural practices, increases non-Indigenous awareness of these practices, and weaves bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

The project will culminate in exhibits of traditional and contemporary Indigenous art at the Middletown Art Center Gallery in July in tandem with Pomo heritage basket exhibits at the County’s three Historical Museums.

WEAVING is supported in part by a grant award from the California Arts Council, a state agency.

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

Upcoming Calendar

06.07.2023 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Clearlake City Council special meeting
06.07.2023 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
East Region Town Hall
06.08.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
06.09.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Crafters group
06.10.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Crafters group
06.10.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild
06.10.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
06.12.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild
Lakeport Senior Center
Flag Day

Mini Calendar



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