Saturday, 21 May 2022

Arts & Life

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Though born and raised in Jamaica, Stacy Ann Chin has lived in the United States for many years, long enough to have become naturalized to the seasonal patterns of the temperate climates of the northeast.

In “First Green” she uses words to paint a surrealist study of the changing season. Her images present like the speckling of a painting, each new image morphing into another fresh and distinctive image, ending with the promise of warmer days.

No doubt, Chin’s body still hungers for her warmer beginnings.

First Green
By Stacy Ann Chin

Earmark me images
speckles pretty
with the tears of a child

open windows and summer
approaching
ominous air-marked with the first green

leaf
over-turned poems
forgotten
mouths tinkling humor

pages rustling
soft
sensible shoes
cushion/support/words

they unwind me
orange and gray laces

you/me entwined/separate
swirled
ice cream hinting the weather

may soon be
warmer


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 Staceyann Chin, “First Green” from Crossfire (Haymarket Books, 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.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — While the COVID pandemic has many members of the community feeling uncertain and unsafe gathering in public just yet, Lake County’s Poet Laureate Georgina Marie Guardado, who was appointed at the onset of the pandemic in March of 2020, wanted to begin offering poetry in-person in a small, relaxed way.

During the pandemic local resident, massage therapist, sound healer and yoga instructor Laurel Lind also started her new business, Studio 127, in downtown Lakeport, located at 127 N. Main St.

Lind specializes in the sacred art of self-care. She offers a place undisturbed by the rush and flurry of each day, a place to recharge and re-energize, and a haven for relaxation, as well as rejuvenation. To walk through the doors of her business is to embark on a journey of stillness and radiance.

While she offers sound healing, yoga, and more in a large, quiet space with hardwood floors and a silver ceiling, in the front of her business is a magical shop with loose leaf tea, crystals, candles, clothing, mystical wares, and organic products for skin, face, and body care.

Guardado, an advocate and practitioner of self-care regimes, such as breath work, mindfulness, massage, and yoga, partnered with Lind to create the monthly Tea & Poetry offering at Studio 127, which began in February 2022.

The next Tea & Poetry will take place on Saturday, May 21, from 4 to 5 p.m.

Tea & Poetry is open to everyone, whether you’re new to poetry or an experienced writer, a fan of reading poetry, or a complete beginner to any creative writing.

Participants are invited to bring a meaningful item to add to an altar and/or a favorite poem to share, and pen and paper to free-write from prompts offered to the group. Participants will choose a loose-leaf tea from the studio’s varied selection to enjoy while reading and writing.

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions or to RSVP. A suggested donation of $10 is requested however no one is turned away due to lack of funds. Seating is limited to eight spaces.

Visit Studio 127 online at https://thestudio127.com/ and Guardado’s website at https://www.georginamariepoet.com/.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Kimberly Blaeser’s creed “What I Believe,” unfurls as a series of loaded riddle-like koans that lend themselves to meditative practice.

For her, the cost of faith and belief is a commitment to personal reflection and not the giving of “indulgences.”

At the heart of these reflections is a productive relationship between the human body and nature, and yet, in the end, there is a wonderful expression of the connections that exist between the living and the dead, and the spirits that populate our seen and unseen worlds: “…and that eyes we see in water are never our own.”

Sometimes a poem, like a prayer, rewards the ritual of repetition. This is such a poem.

What I Believe
By Kimberly Blaeser
after Michael Blumenthal

I believe the weave of cotton
will support my father's knees,
but no indulgences will change hands.

I believe nothing folds easily,
but that time will crease—
retrain the mind.

I believe in the arrowheads of words
and I believe in silence.

I believe the rattle of birch leaves
can shake sorrow from my bones,
but that we all become bare at our own pace.

I believe the songs of childhood
follow us into the kettles of age,
but the echoes will not disturb the land.

I believe the reach of the kayak paddle
can part the blue corridor of aloneness,
and that eyes we see in water are never our own.


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 Kimberly Blaeser, “What I Believe” from Copper Yearning, (Holy Cow! Press, 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.




‘MEMORY’ Rated R

There is no quit when it comes to Liam Neeson taking the leading role in action thrillers, and “Memory” proves to be no exception when calling for the seemingly ageless actor to display the requisite physical toughness.

However, the stereotype of Neeson the action figure that has gained traction since his role of revenge hero in the first “Taken” film is upended this time in the part of Alex Lewis, a professional hitman afflicted with incipient dementia.

Not straying too far from his screen persona of righteous avenger, Neeson’s character is a bad guy with scruples, which means he has no compunction about killing sex traffickers or sleazy businessmen but draws the line on the more vulnerable.

Our first glimpse at Alex’s trade and his diminished mental capacity is a gruesome hit in a Mexican hospital, followed by his predicament of remembering where he put his car keys for a quick getaway.

As an assassin working both sides of the Texas/Mexico border, Alex’s fading memory is cause for retirement but he’s persuaded to take one last job because, even though unstated, he’s still got “a particular set of skills.”

Unable to resist the insistence of his Mexico City contact offering a large wad of cash for another job, Alex is instructed to kill two people in El Paso, which happens to be his home turf.

The first job is to eliminate wealthy businessman Ellis van Camp (Scot Williams) and retrieve the flash drive stored in his safe. Pulling off this part of the assignment is easily accomplished.

Upon discovering that the second victim is 13-year-old Beatriz (Mia Sanchez), who had been pimped out by her father (Antonio Jaramillo) to the entitled son of a prominent developer, Alex won’t kill a child.

Meanwhile, undercover FBI agent Vincent Serra (Guy Pierce) is hell-bent on stopping the sexual abuse of children, along with his partner Linda Amistead (Taj Atwal) and Mexican cop Hugo Marquez (Harold Torres).

Davana Sealman (Monica Bellucci), the well-known real estate mogul, along with her depraved son Randy (Josh Taylor), runs a sordid criminal enterprise of drugs and underage sex trafficking.

Connected with corrupt officials, the villainous Sealman has wide berth in El Paso for her nefarious endeavors, such that local detective Danny Mora (Ray Stevenson) rebuffs FBI agent Serra’s dogged pursuit of justice.

For his part, Alex is not deterred from going after Sealman even if she’s protected by lawmen and a feckless district attorney thwarts the determination of the FBI agents to bring down Sealman’s sex ring.

There may be a turf war between the El Paso authorities and the feds, but Alex goes about the business of dispatching the thugs not so easily apprehended by Serra’s crew even when his memory starts to falter.

An interesting twist is that Serra is so focused on cracking Sealman’s sex ring that he ends up in the tight spot of aligning with Alex in the takedown of sleazebags.

Arguably, “Memory” is the type of action thriller that might have been more suitable for a streaming service or straight-to-video, notwithstanding it’s better than Neeson’s recent “Blacklight.”

Nevertheless, “Memory” is a serviceable B-movie that delivers the action goods craved by Liam Neeson fans, even if it offers temporary enjoyment before eventually dropping into a memory hole.

FOREIGN FILMS ON DVD

Proving that action films don’t have to be homegrown, “Indemnity,” set for release on May 10th, is South Africa’s most ambitious thrill ride packed with stylishly choreographed fights, car crashes, explosions and daring fire rescues.

Traumatized Cape Town ex-fireman Theo Abrams (Jarrid Geduld) wakes up next to his wife’s corpse, with no recollection of what transpired and all evidence pointing to him as the killer.

Labeled the prime suspect, Theo quickly finds himself hunted by sinister forces and a ruthless deputy chief of police and embarks on a breakneck mission to uncover the truth behind his wife’s death.

As the former firefighter struggles to survive, connections are revealed between his past, the mysterious death of his spouse, and a government conspiracy with terrifying implications.

A newcomer to the genre, lead actor Jarrid Geduld spent three months with stunt masters and performed all his own stunts, including a record-breaking hanging suspension stunt performed outside a 21st floor window.

In 1969, the Norwegian government announced their discovery of one of the world’s largest oil fields in the neighboring North Sea, which launched a prosperous period of offshore drilling.

The disaster in “The Burning Sea” comes fifty years later, when a crack opens on the ocean floor causing a rig to collapse and it becomes clear there would be environmental consequences for these actions.

When a team of researchers, including submarine operator Sofia (Kristine Kujath Thorp), rushes in to search for the missing and assess the damage, they discover this is just the start of a possible apocalyptic catastrophe.

As rigs are evacuated, Sofia’s loving companion Stian (Henrik Bjelland) becomes trapped in the depths of the sea, and she must attempt one last life-saving measure by diving in for a rescue.

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




‘THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT’ Rated R

Nicolas Cage as a fictionalized version of himself in “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” has odd parallels to troubled legal, real estate and tax issues in his past.

For all his perceived quirks, Cage is more than just an actor. In the words of director/co-writer Tom Gormican, Cage has become not only “a cultural figure,” but the “patron saint of strangeness” and this film sets out to prove it.

In the dramatized tale of this film, Cage is first seen deep into compounding his personal and professional difficulties. His career is floundering and huge debts are about to put him out on the streets.

Divorced from makeup artist Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and not relating well to their teen daughter Addy (Lily Sheen), Cage receives the distressing news that he’s not getting a great role that could easily launch his comeback.

Hallucinating at times with the surreal presence of his younger self named Nicky, apparently from his “Wild at Heart” era, Cage is admonished that he’s a movie star and not an ordinary mortal dealing with family and career issues.

But the best that his smarmy agent Richard Fink (Neil Patrick Harris) can come up with is a strange invitation to collect one million dollars to attend the birthday celebration of obsessed fan Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal).

With no other options on how to pay $600,000 owed to his hotel residence, Cage ends up as the guest of honor at the eccentric billionaire’s oceanfront estate on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

The movie-obsessed Javi, who includes “Paddington 2” as one of his personal favorites, maintains his own little museum of Nicolas Cage memorabilia, including film props and a life-size wax figure brandishing two golden handguns.

Bonding over a love of cinema, Javi persuades Cage to take a look at a screenplay that offers a chance for their incipient friendship to evolve into a working collaboration that could easily be a caricature of Hollywood fantasy.

The wrinkle to this tale of fandom is that Javi is an international arms dealer, and two CIA agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz) enlist Cage on a spy mission to rescue a kidnapped daughter of a political leader.

The movie turns into the kind of action thriller that was once the staple of Cage’s career, and now he’s mired in his screen persona of confronting thugs in the Gutierrez crime family with some gunplay and a car chase through quaint Spanish streets.

More than anything, “Massive Talent” places Cage in absurd situations of living up to his own legend, channeling his most iconic screen characters in order to save himself and his loved ones.

TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL FINALE

The 13th TCM Classic Film Festival, or as I prefer to call it the 11th because the last two gatherings were virtual, came to an end with the usual flourish.

Classic films on display include fan favorites that most cinephiles have already enjoyed over the years. It’s great to see Humphrey Bogart in “Key Largo” or Paul Newman and Robert Redford in “The Sting” on the big screen.

On the last day of the festival, the better option was to choose films not as readily available. Watching Piper Laurie and Rock Hudson as young actors in 1952’s “Has Anybody Seen My Gal” was a welcome treat.

Ostensibly, the star was Charles Coburn in the role of aging bachelor Samuel Fulton, a millionaire without an heir, who wants to find out if the family of the woman who rejected his marriage proposal decades ago deserves to inherit his fortune.

Fulton finagles his way into the home of the Blaisdell family as a boarder under an assumed name and arranges for them to receive an unexpected windfall and sits back to observe the results of his anonymous beneficence.

The family patriarch (Larry Gates), who runs a pharmacy and soda fountain in a small town, is prompted by his social-climbing wife (Lynn Bari) to sell the family home and business in order to relocate to a wealthy neighborhood.

Piper Laurie’s Millicent, the eldest Blaisdell daughter, is romantically linked to Rock Hudson’s soda jerk Dan Stebbins, but her disapproving mother tries to arrange a marriage with a rich socialite.

The nouveau riche status of the Blaisdells is soon derailed by poor decisions, and the family finds themselves broke and returning back to their old lives. Yet, everyone seems to be happier, and a life lesson proves that the grass is not always greener on the other side

“Has Anybody Seen My Gal” is a remarkably agreeable and charming comedy, mostly due to Coburn’s bluffing his way into an ordinary lifestyle, going so far as to train as a soda jerk with hilarious mishaps.

A bonus for film buffs at the screening was seeing James Dean in a cameo appearance as a soda fountain customer and hearing from Piper Laurie in person that Charles Coburn’s fondness for pinching young ladies was problematic even back then.

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





‘THE BAD GUYS’ Rated PG

Animated films have mostly lost their luster and appeal, at least from my perspective in recent years. For instance, Disney’s animated films too often appear to be a variation of the same style and themes.

This, of course, is just a matter of opinion which you may discuss among yourselves. My recent general avoidance of animation may be skewed by perception of missing innovation.

That’s why it’s so refreshing and original that DreamWorks Animation has delivered a true family-friendly entertainment with “The Bad Guys” that everyone on the age spectrum is able to enjoy.

The bad guys are dashing pickpocket Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell); slithering safecracker Mr. Snake (Marc Maron); master-of-disguise Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson); short-fused “muscle” Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos); and Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina), the sharp-tongued expert hacker.

This quintet of crackerjack criminals has a deserved reputation as irredeemable animal outlaws that have managed to strike fear in the citizenry and exasperate law enforcement, particularly excitable police chief Misty Luggins (Alex Borstein).

Things take a turn when after the gang is caught, the dapper, ultra-smooth Mr. Wolf brokers a deal with the foxy Governor Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz) to avoid prison with the most-wanted villains putatively deciding to go straight.

Mr. Wolf’s deal doesn’t sit very well with the crew, but now under the tutelage of Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade), an arrogant guinea pig with a British accent, the bad guys will have to pretend at least to mend their ways.

How will it be possible for these hardened criminals who have terrorized the city for so long be able to reform their behavior? Will these dastardly criminals avoid a potential recidivism?

Complicating matters is the tension that arises between Mr. Wolf’s wanting to do good while his pals remain subversively tied to planning heists as if they were the lead characters in “Ocean’s Eleven.”

The fun in “The Bad Guys” comes from the wise-cracking animals who take so much pleasure in their capers and how they torment the police chief, as well as the high-speed chases in Mr. Wolf’s vintage muscle car.

The fast pace of “The Bad Guys” is exhilarating and the gags are funny. Tune in to experience the joy and find out if the bad guys finally redeem themselves.

TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL REPORT

For the TCM Classic Film Festival, movies of the 1940s and 1950s on display may not necessarily be classics in the mold of “Casablanca” or “Giant,” but in the case of “Queen Bee” and “The Letter,” they offer an insight to the draw of iconic actors.

In an introduction to “Queen Bee,” writer and filmmaker William Joyce noted the checkered career of star Joan Crawford went from being the “high priestess of glamor” to “box office poison” before reinventing herself for the classic “Mildred Pierce.”

Though it received mixed reviews in 1955, “Queen Bee” is a gem for showing Joan Crawford at her best and her worst in this lurid melodrama as she deliciously flaunts her wiles with an amusingly vicious streak.

As a Southern matriarch out to keep her former lover Jud Prentiss (John Ireland) from marrying her sister-in-law (Betsy Palmer), Crawford’s Eva Phillips is evil personified.

Eva thrashes one rival’s bedroom and uses the engagement party to reveal her past affair. Does her ruthless skewering actually lead one of the leading characters to suicide?

Joan Crawford’s manic energy as the noxious shrew leads her to dominate every scene, and as William Joyce so aptly observed, her character “descends to devour everyone in the movie.”

Arguably, Joan Crawford takes a serious approach to her character’s mean traits that drove her husband to alcoholism and bitterness. From a contemporary viewpoint, her performance looks like a generous helping of delightful “camp.”

Bette Davis was another strong actress with a stellar career who made several films directed by William Wyler, with whom she had a romantic and professional relationship according to Kathryn Sermak, the cofounder of the Bette Davis Foundation.

In an introduction to 1940’s “The Letter,” Sermak observed that star Bette Davis was an actor from the old school who created her character from within her persona. Fittingly, Davis was known to have respected Joan Crawford.

An emotionally potent film, “The Letter” showcases Davis in a stellar performance as Leslie Crosbie, an upper-class woman who pumps six bullets into a lover and then spends the rest of the film lying to cover her real motive.

Though claiming self-defense, Leslie is arrested for murder and her husband Robert (Herbert Marshall) hires attorney Howard Joyce (James Stephenson) to defend her.

Predictably enough, blackmail and intrigue beset the trial. The lawyer uncovers an incriminating letter that casts serious doubt on the veracity of Leslie’s story of victimhood.

“The Letter” may not rise to the level of vintage film noir, but a dark tale of murder and adultery is about as good as it gets when stirring the pot with a heavy dose of duplicity and conspiracy. An icon of that era, Bette Davis delivers the goods.

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

Upcoming Calendar

23May
05.23.2022 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Lake County 29'ers Cribbage Club Meeting
23May
05.23.2022 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Scotts Valley Advisory Council
24May
05.24.2022 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
25May
05.25.2022 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Annual invasive weed tour
26May
05.26.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
28May
28May
05.28.2022 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Cobb Estate Sale
28May
05.28.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Steele
28May
05.28.2022 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Rodman Preserve public hours
29May
05.29.2022 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Cobb Estate Sale

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