Monday, 30 November 2020

Arts & Life

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

We have lots of poets who would enjoy being described as “a poet first, and a (fill in the job) second," as if for them writing poems is the most important thing in their lives.

As I see it, Patricia Frolander is, instead, a widowed Wyoming ranch manager, a loving mother and grandmother first, and a poet, second. I like those priorities.

Here’s a poem about the loss of her rancher husband of many years. It’s from her book “Second Wind,” from High Plains Press.

Dream Watch

I softly call your name as I slip into the stand of wheat,
fifty-five acres of gold.
Careful not to shell the seed, my aged hands
push ripened stems aside.

You must be here for you love the fullness of a crop.
Yards farther, I call again.
The hawk above must wonder
at the trails through the field.

Did you leave with the winnowing scythe,
the burning heat of August?
For some good reason, I cannot find you here,
amid the nightly dreams and tear-damp pillow.


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 Patricia Frolander, "Dream Watch," from Second Wind, (High Plains Press, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Patricia Frolander 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.

NORTH COAST, Calif. – Held this past summer via Zoom, the first-ever virtual Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference was a well-earned success, and participants are asking for more.

The Conference, or MCWC, is now offering a Winter Publishing Series, a three-part series featuring online seminars focused on publishing topics:

– “Save The…Novel?” with Francesca Lia Block, Dec. 5, 12 p.m. PST.
– “Submitting Strategies” with Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Jan. 9, 12 p.m. PST.
– “Publishing with Small Presses” with Diana Arterian, Feb. 6, 12 p.m. PST.

Each seminar will be two hours in length and will include a presentation, resources, and questions and answers.

Registration is $20 each, or $50 for all three. Recordings of the seminars will be made available to registrants who are unable to attend live.

These seminars were developed in response to the great demand for MCWC programming on these topics at the 2020 Conference.

“We're excited to offer these seminars, which we designed in response to requests from our 2020 participants. Our instructors are experienced, we're honored to have them join us to share their knowledge, and writers will benefit from their expertise,” said Executive Director Lisa Locascio.

“I'm particularly excited for the iconic Francesca Lia Block's seminar on applying a beats structure to fiction, and I know that writers will be eager to learn from ‘Women Who Submit’ founder Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo and distinguished poet, teacher, and translator Diana Arterian,” Locascio said. “There's a lot of information out there about how to pursue publishing through the traditional agented path, and comparatively less about how writers can find, submit to, and publish their work with independent presses and magazines. Francesca, Xochitl, and Diana are here to show our community the way forward, and MCWC is so excited to partner with these great writers on this new venture.”

These seminars also serve another important purpose for MCWC this year: fundraising. Like so many arts organizations during COVID-19, MCWC faces a significant budget shortfall.

Every registration helps the organization continue creating meaningful, prestigious and high-quality literary programming for the community.

For more information about registration, please visit our website, www.mcwc.org.




‘MOONBASE 8’ ON SHOWTIME

Showtime’s “Moonbase 8,” a six-episode series that one could easily watch in one sitting without having to even take a bathroom break, offers a wry, offbeat take on astronaut training in the remote Arizona desert.

Nothing about Robert “Cap” Caputo (John C. Reilly), the ostensible team leader, and his colleagues, Michael “Skip” Henai (Fred Armisen) and Scott “Rook” Sloan (Tim Heidecker), will have you thinking about “The Right Stuff.”

These would-be astronauts are in a training competition with other camps in a simulated lunar environment for a NASA mission to be the first to experience habitation on the moon.

As an aside, fans of the Kansas City Chiefs may be thrilled that one of their Super Bowl champions has been picked for a quick tryout to determine if a civilian might adapt to an outer space experience, but don’t too excited about it, for reasons not to be revealed here.

“Moonbase 8” might be a cathartic release from the ongoing need for many to self-isolate during the pandemic, if only for the absurdity of witnessing these astronauts being tested to determine whether they not only survive but thrive in the ultimate seclusion of moon-like conditions.

The barren Arizona desert may be the closest thing in America to simulate the lunar landscape that allows NASA to rig a base camp in a modular building intended to sustain life in a harsh environment.

The real challenge for the three astronauts-in-training is coping with the mundane daily routine as if they are actually 238,900 miles from Earth instead of being stuck in a huge sand trap.

The series begins with the group celebrating their 200th day at the simulated moon base where the mail delivery brings them a $100 gift card from Harley-Davidson and Cap gets a notice that the City of Honolulu has booted his car.

Consistent with John C. Reilly’s comically stereotypical characters, Cap is played for a borderline juvenile goofball with a sense of desperation of how much he needs to succeed.

A helicopter pilot from Hawaii, Cap needs to turn his life around after failing at marriage and business, owing a ton of debt, and hoping to erase his image as a deadbeat father when he proves his worth as an astronaut.

A legacy candidate and apparently more cerebral than his crewmates, Skip is the son of a famous astronaut who went to the moon, but he’s obviously not cut out to follow in his father’s audacious footsteps.

The quiet one is Rook, a deeply religious person with a wife and twelve kids who gather for frequent video chats and who fervently believes that his mission is to spread the Gospel in outer space.

As a group, these hopeful astronauts are wholly inadequate at managing scarce resources. They are about to run out of a monthly water supply in barely a week, and their system that converts urine into potable water fails to eliminate the foul smell.

Meals in the compound consist of unappealing dehydrated food, a sore point driven home when they meet a crew from a nearby SpaceX camp where the trainees get to enjoy catered street food that includes Thai, Sicilian and Vietnamese cuisine.

The deadpan humor of the series hinges most importantly on the odd personality quirks of the crew. Adept at playing the buffoon, John C. Reilly’s incompetent Cap blusters his way through any obstacles while being self-aware of his inadequacies.

For his part, Skip comes across as pretty much a variation of the sketch characters perfected by Fred Armisen during his time with “Saturday Night Live” as well as with the idiosyncratic “Portlandia” series.

The pious Rook is so persistently bland and unaware that one has to wonder how he is either oblivious or indifferent to the presence of another man during the video chats with his family.

What all three wannabe astronauts have in common, aside from dreams of space travel and a measure of self-respect, is how awesome they are in their own mediocrity in search of achieving their goals.

One of the funniest scenes is when Cap flails about in trying to say what the acronym of NASA actually stands for. Odd moments like this reveal the subtle humor that is endearing to the series.

As far as watching half-hour comedy episodes goes, “Moonbase 8” might not be the “Must See TV” in the way that concept was once the hallmark of NBC’s marketing campaign, but enjoying the wry humor of the show would not be a bad way to consider streaming the series for an evening.

Showtime has released the premiere episode for free online sampling, as well as on streaming platforms. Amazon Prime Video offers the first episode to its members.

Of course, there’s the 30-day free trial offer if you feel like getting hooked into a Showtime subscription, or just take the gamble you’ll remember to cancel before the deadline.

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




‘BIG SKY’ ON ABC NETWORK

A visionary storyteller, former practicing lawyer David E. Kelley got his start in the entertainment business as a writer for Steven Bochco’s “L.A. Law,” which led to a career as creator of several networks series, including “Picket Fences” and “Boston Legal.”

In recent years, Kelley created series in cable television with HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and “The Undoing.” Cable offers more latitude than network television, and so his latest entry of “Big Sky” for ABC may lack the lurid edginess that comes with more creative freedom.

At the core of the “Big Sky” story is the kidnapping of young girls by a psychopath whose motive is not clearly in focus at first. Could it be a weird sexual fetish that may not play out too well on a network series?

Appropriate to the show’s title, the setting is Montana, known for its wide vistas and open spaces. The first scene is at the Dirty Spoon diner in Helena, a casual place with signage proclaiming “You Kill It! We Grill It!”

Sitting alone with a cup of coffee, Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick) suddenly rushes out of the joint after hearing a love song, heading off to her office to confront Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) with the question, “Are you sleeping with my husband?”

Jenny’s husband, from whom she is actually separated, is Cody Hoyt (Ryan Phillippe), but together along with Cassie they own a private detective agency, thus creating an awkward situation that soon erupts in a saloon brawl between the two women.

Meanwhile, two teenage sisters Danielle and Grace Sullivan (Natalie Alyn Lind and Jade Pettyjohn, respectively) have the hit road from Colorado so that Danielle can visit her boyfriend in Montana who just happens to be the son of the Hoyts.

A long-haul trucker, Ronald Pergman (Brian Geraghty), a 38-year-old man still living at home, is being mocked by his domineering mother (Valerie Mahaffey) for being a failure, if only for the reason that her friends boast of kids with important white-collar jobs.

Lecturing her son about not cleaning up after himself in keeping with her “my house, my rules” edict, Ronald’s mother exhibits attitudes that would cause any child to have “mommy issues,” which seem to cast Ronald into a Norman Bates mindset.

Local law enforcement appears primarily in the form of state trooper Rick Legarski (John Carroll Lynch) who is harried by a spouse feeling romantically neglected. That Legarski has a lot of quirks is first revealed in an oddly weird exchange with a stranded out-of-state visitor.

The nettlesome love triangle between the Hoyts and Cassie has to be put on hold when it becomes apparent that the arrival of the two sisters is long overdue, and the private eyes are engaged to help solve the mystery.

If you have seen any advertising for the show or even read the brief synopsis about young girls being kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway, then there is really no spoiler being revealed here.

An accident on the interstate takes the two sisters to a backroad where they narrowly miss being hit by Ronald’s rig. Angered by the incident, Danielle unwisely decides to pass the trucker to hurl profane insults, not knowing how deranged he is.

Apparently, the girls are too young to know about Steven Spielberg’s “Duel,” a cautionary tale about offending a psychotic truck driver who gives perilous chase to someone with the audacity to race ahead.

As misfortune goes, the sisters run out of gas on the desolate highway, and now along comes Ronald seeking twisted vengeance for hurt feelings, or something. But why kidnap the girls? Is it some sort of sexual perversion or just Norman Bates-like derangement?

The end of the first episode has a shocking twist that will not be divulged with even any vague hints of the big surprise. That’s the way David E. Kelley would like to tantalize the audience with a real cliffhanger series.

During ABC’s virtual press tour in late September, Kelley proclaimed that “at the end of each episode, I think the audience should be leaning in and say what’s going to happen next?” I’m not sure how he tops the first shocker in the episodes to follow.

“Big Sky” is a tantalizing thriller, but it is one where any layer of mystery is undercut to a degree in that Ronald is so transparently evil from the start. However, keep an eye on some of the other players for their motivations that might come out of left field.

Apropos of almost nothing, a quick mention of the pandemic here and there makes the story contemporary, but it appears nobody is adhering to protocols. Perhaps “Big Sky” seeks to offer much-needed escapism from our woes, or unbeknownst to the CDC the virus skipped over Montana.

At this early stage, deciding to invest time in this twisty thriller requires viewing at least a few episodes and see if the series lives up to the expectations of surprises in store according to the show creator.

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

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.


James Crews is the editor of a very timely anthology entitled “Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection,” published by Green Writers Press.

He’s also an accomplished poet and the author of several books, including “Bluebird.”

This poem first appeared, appropriately, at Gratefulness.org.

Winter Morning

When I can no longer say thank you

for this new day and the waking into it,

for the cold scrape of the kitchen chair

and the ticking of the space heater glowing

orange as it warms the floor near my feet,

I know it’s because I’ve been fooled again

by the selfish, unruly man who lives in me

and believes he deserves only safety

and comfort. But if I pause as I do now,

and watch the streetlights outside flashing

off one by one like old men blinking their

cloudy eyes, if I listen to my tired neighbors

slamming car doors hard against the morning

and see the steaming coffee in their mugs

kissing chapped lips as they sip and

exhale each of their worries white into

the icy air around their faces—then I can

remember this one life is a gift each of us

was handed and told to open: Untie the bow

and tear off the paper, look inside

and be grateful for whatever you find

even if it is only the scent of a tangerine

that lingers on the fingers long after

you’ve finished peeling it.


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 James Crews, “Winter Morning,” from Gratefulness.org, (2019). Poem reprinted by permission of James Crews 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.

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.

Upcoming Calendar

1Dec
12.01.2020 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Board of Supervisors
1Dec
12.01.2020 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Mendocino College Symposium
1Dec
12.01.2020 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Lakeport City Council
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
12Dec
12.12.2020 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Lake County Farmers’ Finest Saturday market
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

Mini Calendar

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