Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Arts & Life

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Florence Price and Marian Anderson were two great American artists whose collaborations — Price as pianist, arranger and composer, and Anderson as exemplary singer — represented the triumph of art over adversity.

Marlanda Dekine’s moving poem “I Am Bound for de Kingdom” is named after a negro spiritual for which these two black women are famous.

Dekine reminds us of the difficult world of racism experienced by their “ascendants” and shows how, with their art, they would take the risk and “leave the driveway.”

I Am Bound for de Kingdom
By Marlanda Dekine
—after Florence Price and Marian Anderson

My granddaddy Silas was born on the Nightingale plantation
in Plantersville, South Carolina, on riverbanks that loved
three generations of my kin, captured
in a green-tinted photograph, hanging in my daddy’s den.

Tonight, my eyes will take each old-world bird from the cropped space,
send them home with their songs and favorite foods.

Look out for me I’m a-coming too

with rice, okra, hard-boiled eggs, and Lord Calvert.

My daddy says if I get out of my car on Nightingale land,
the folks who own it might shoot. My daddy says,
“Never leave the driveway.”

Glory into my soul

I watch all of my ascendants. Their faces reflecting me
in that photograph. Their eyes are dead
black-eyed Susans.

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 Marlanda Dekine, “I Am Bound for de Kingdom” from Oxford American, Issue 115, Winter 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.

Kwame Dawes.

“The classics can console. But not enough,” wrote Derek Walcott, a poet who often found limited literary consolation in Greek mythology, as he wrote about his Caribbean world.

For Esteban Rodriquez in his poem, “37 El mundo”, the classics, with their allusions and myths, are not enough of a consolation to capture the labors of his father.

In the end, his father’s heroism is rooted in the grit and realism of a world of labor and struggle, and the truthful retelling of the story of his father is enough to create a new hybrid mythology of self.

37 El mundo
By Esteban Rodriquez

Even in dreams, your father is working,

and in the version you’d been having for weeks,

he lifts a large replica of the world, places it

on his back, and because his body here defies

logic and physics, carries it up a hill, which,

after you wake up, you know is a metaphor

for twelve-hour shifts, for pounding nails

into wood, for sliding steel into slots again

and again, and for the days when his back

is shaped into a crooked punctuation,

and his feet, marking the floor into a hieroglyph,

have lost more of their purpose, becoming quiet

when he gets home, so that all you see of him

is not comparisons to language, but two

swollen limbs, a body reclined on a La-Z-Boy,

a father relieved to call this silence his 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 ©2021 by Esteban Rodríguez, “37 El mundo” from Wildness Issue No. 2, August, 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.

Long before anyone gives much thought to a new season of television programming, the major networks always pitch their slate for a coming season to the national advertising community.

In showcasing the new series, Charlie Collier, CEO of FOX Entertainment, claimed his network entered the unveiling of programs as “the only company, no matter the platform, with advertising at its core.”

With Collier telling advertisers that “building barriers between our best content and our brand-partners isn’t our business model,” it’s the bottom-line that FOX holds back nothing from being available for free to viewers.

In another sense, FOX is holding back most of its new series for the midseason, including dramas and animated comedies, and fans of “9-1-1: Lone Star” will also have to wait for later in the season.

Animation remains a cornerstone of programming as FOX arguably got a big boost in its early days to become a viable fourth network when it launched “The Simpsons,” which is now the longest-running American scripted primetime series.

All-new animated comedy “Grimsburg” will star the voice of Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) as Marvin Flute, the greatest detective ever to catch a cannibal clown or correctly identify a mid-century modern armoire. But there’s one mystery he still can’t crack – his family.

Back in the town of Grimsburg where everyone has a secret or three, Flute will follow every lead he’s got to redeem himself with the ex-wife he never stopped loving, even if it means hanging out with the son he never bothered to get to know.

Set in mythical Ancient Greece, “Krapopolis” is an animated series that centers on a family of flawed humans, gods and monsters that tries to run one of the world’s first cities without killing each other.

Richard Ayoade voices Tyrannis, the benevolent King of Krapopolis, who tries to make do in a city that lives up to its name. Tyrannis’ mother, Deliria (Hannah Waddingham), is the goddess of self-destruction and questionable choices. Other members of the family are a hot mess.

Gordon Ramsay, the volatile British chef and restaurateur, finds his “Hell’s Kitchen” cooking competition still running on FOX, and coming at some point will be brand-new competition series “Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars.”

Hunting for the most exciting and innovative new food and drink entrepreneurs, Ramsay is now prepared to put his money where his mouth is, by backing the winner in an investment to take their idea to the next level.

To win Ramsay’s support, it will take more than just a great idea. As he pushes contestants to their limits through a series of relentless challenges, they’ll have to prove they possess drive, dedication, creativity, passion and talent to succeed.

Being the last entrepreneur standing will earn the winner a life-changing reward. That person will just need to survive Gordon Ramsay, the only angel investor. All we can say is good luck.

An American musical soap opera television series is nothing new. Only in the last decade, ABC’s “Nashville” chronicled the lives of various fictitious country music singers, with Connie Britton as a legendary superstar whose stardom began to fade.

FOX’s first new series to start in September will be “Monarch,” a Texas-sized, multi-generational musical drama about America’s first family of country music, in which Susan Sarandon plays tough as nails Queen of Country Music Dottie Cantrell Roman.

Dottie and her beloved husband Albie Roman (country music star Trace Adkins) have created a country music dynasty, and even though the Roman name is synonymous with authenticity, the very foundation of their success is a lie.

And when their reign as country royalty is put in jeopardy, heir to the crown Nicky Roman (Anna Friel) will stop at nothing to protect her family’s legacy, while ensuring her own quest for stardom.

“Alert” is a character-driven police procedural about the Los Angeles Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit. When officer Nikki Parker’s son goes missing, she joins the Unit to help other people find their loved ones, even as she searches for her own.

Six years later, her world is turned upside-down when her ex-husband, Devon Zoellner, shows up with a proof-of-life photo of their missing boy. Or is it? A heart-pounding, life-or-death search for a missing person takes place in each episode.

It’s a case-of-the-week show with a case-of-a-lifetime story running through it – a story that alternately brings the two main characters gut-wrenching heartache and heart-pounding joy.

Based on a British crime anthology comes the provocative series of “Accused” that takes one on the journey of the defendant. Each episode opens in a courtroom of the accused, with viewers knowing nothing about their crime or how they ended up on trial.

Told from the defendant’s point of view through flashbacks, “Accused” holds a mirror up to the current times with evocative and emotional stories.

Michael Chiklis (“The Shield”) guest-stars in the premiere episode as Dr. Scott Corbett, a successful brain surgeon, who faces the limits of unconditional love upon discovering his teenage son may be planning a violent attack at school.

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




‘WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING’ RATED PG-13

A literary phenomenon that skyrocketed to the top of bestseller lists with over 12 million copies sold, Delia Owens’ “Where the Crawdads Sing” began its journey to the big screen when Reese Witherspoon picked it for her book club.

Mind you, my tastes run to nonfiction, mostly to history and biographies, and thus the fiction novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” as the origin for the movie of the same title never came across my radar.

Moreover, Delia Owens, with college degrees in zoology and animal behavior, had a successful career as a wildlife scientist who spent years in the African wilderness chronicling observations of wildlife for nonfiction books that she authored.

As a wildlife biologist studying nature in remote areas, Owens was inspired even from her childhood experience living in the woods to create a captivating mystery about an abandoned child who raised herself to adulthood in the dangerous marshlands of North Carolina.

There is an obvious built-in audience for the cinematic adaptation of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” and I will leave it to others to determine how faithful the screenplay by Lucy Alibar is to the source material.

Some may feel the result is overheated Southern melodrama with the contrivances of an underdog story, a murder mystery, a criminal trial and romantic conflicts mixed into the story of an isolated and resilient outsider stuck in a backwater area.

The setting is 1969 and two kids riding bikes in the marshlands outside of Barkley Cove, North Carolina come across the body of a young man who may have fallen to his death from a forsaken fire tower.

Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson), once the town’s star quarterback and now heir apparent to a successful business, turns out to be the victim of ostensible foul play. The townsfolk are quick to target Kya Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones) as the culprit.

The young adult Kya is the mythic “Marsh Girl,” an outsider who has lived her entire life in a shack so deep in the marshlands it can only be accessed on foot or by a small motorboat.

As a suspect in the murder of Chase, Kya is fortunate to be taken on as a pro bono case by retired local defense attorney Tom Milton (David Strathairn), who recognizes his swamp-dwelling client has never been treated fairly by the tightknit community.

Little is known and much is assumed about the “Marsh Girl” by almost everybody in Barkley Cove, and for our benefit there are flashbacks as far back as 1953, when young Kya (Jojo Regina) finds her life thrown into dysfunctional turmoil.

Her father (Garret Dillahunt) is a cruel, abusive drunk whose physical violence drives Kya’s mom (Ahna O’Reilly) to leave with one suitcase and never return, and she’s soon followed by all four of Kya’s older siblings.

Life with father is hardly ideal. Kya tries to stay clear of his furious eruptions so as to avoid physical aggression. But fairly soon the father also disappears, abandoning Kya to the fate of raising herself in the marsh.

Amazingly, Kya proves to be precocious for someone so young and uneducated, demonstrating an ability to be self-reliant by gathering mussels to barter with the kindly owners of a bait-and-tackle shop.

The shop owners are Jumpin’ (Sterling Macer Jr.) and Mabel (Michael Hyatt), apparently the only Black people in this rural area, and they turn out to be as close to surrogate parents for Kya as practically no one else pays attention to her.

But then in her teenage years, Kya is befriended by Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith), who we don’t know much about other than he spent a lot of time in the swamps. Over time, Tate teaches Kya how to read and write, and eventually they fall in love.

Much is expected of Tate, and he goes off to college with the promise to return for the 4th of July fireworks. Time passes without any sight of Tate, and then Kya meets Chase, an arrogant rich boy who seems to be an unlikely suitor.

For his part, Chase is the opposite of Tate, and his interest in Kya never really seems sincere, which becomes readily apparent on the occasion that Kya runs into him with his family during a rare trip into town.

The courtroom drama of Kya’s murder trial may be the least compelling aspect of this film insofar as the theatrics are subdued and the evidence presented by the prosecution appears to lack the substance that a smart defense lawyer could not refute in a closing argument.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” tugs at the heartstrings with its rooting interest in the hope that Kya will be acquitted of the murder charge and find a lifetime of happiness with true love.

A very satisfying and mesmerizing performance by Daisy Edgar-Jones, who must overcome so many slights and disrespect from the townspeople, keeps the audience thoroughly engaged, and hopefully fans of the novel will feel the same.

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



‘MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU’ RATED PG-13

Beginning with 2010’s “Despicable Me,” Gru and the Minions, with Kevin, Stuart and Bob front-and-center, the pill-shaped international icons of mischief, mayhem and joy have delighted audiences in their elaborate criminal master plans.

An origin story of how Gru became a villain and allied with the banana-colored, goggle-eyed creatures, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” takes us on a wild trip suffused with 1970s pop culture.

The year is 1976, and the fashion trends that were all the rage in California come vividly to life in an explosion of brilliant colors, resulting in spectacular animation.

Long before he becomes the master of evil, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is just an 11-3/4-year-old boy in suburban San Francisco, plotting to take over the world from his basement.

During career day at school, while others aspire to be doctors or firemen, the mischievous Gru, with his precocious bent to the evil side, proudly announces that he wants to be a supervillain, and of course, gets mocked by his classmates.

Still too young to have mastered villainy, young Gru finds his incipient evil plans are not going particularly well, but then he crosses paths with the Minions and they join forces for a lasting bond.

The trio of Minions featured prominently (though I am unable to tell one from the other even if differentiated by having either one or two eyes) has a new member in Otto, sporting braces and a desperate need to please.

Meanwhile the infamous supervillain crew known as the Vicious 6 journey to a jungle to steal the powerful Zodiac Stone. The aging group leader Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin) suffers a betrayal from his cohorts, presumably left to die.

The Vicious 6 won’t be the same with Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), sporting an afro even bigger than that of Angela Davis and swinging a lethal disco-ball mace, who looks like she belongs in a blaxploitation movie.

Remaining members of the Vicious crew include Lucy Lawless’ Nun-chuck, dressed in traditional nun’s habit; and Danny Trejo’s Stronghold, whose giant iron hands are both a menace to others and a burden to him.

Nordic roller-skating champion Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren) dispenses his enemies with spin kicks from his spiked skates; and the nihilistic Jean-Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme, the perfect fit) is armed literally with a giant robotic claw.

With Wild Knuckles dropped from Vicious 6, the most devoted fanboy Gru interviews to become their newest member, but they are not impressed by the diminutive, wannabe villain.

The Vicious 6 underestimate Gru, who outsmarts them by stealing the ancient pendant that gives them enormous power. With Gru on the run, the Minions try to master the art of kung fu, and things just get nuttier from there.

“Minions: The Rise of Gru” is family-friendly entertainment that the kids are bound to enjoy, knowing the popularity of the little yellow jokesters, while adults may enjoy the sight gags, such as three Minions hilariously filling in as the flight crew on a passenger jet.



‘THE TERMINAL LIST’ ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

Normally cast in roles where an easygoing manner and a sense of humor matters, Chris Pratt demonstrates serious chops in the tense, dramatic part of a Navy SEAL caught in a web of betrayal by sinister forces in “The Terminal List” on Amazon Prime Video.

The eight-episode series begins with Pratt as Lt. Commander James Reese leading a platoon of fellow SEALs through a precarious mission that goes horribly wrong, and he ends up the only survivor returning home with an impaired memory.

Reese’s recall of the mission differs widely with the official version of events, but as soon as he’s attacked by masked henchmen during an MRI scan, it’s obvious something nefarious is afoot. Or is he just imagining an assault?

Things take an even more serious turn when harm comes to his wife Lauren (Riley Keough) and young daughter Lucy (Arlo Metz), and Reese will go to great lengths for bloody, brutal and unrelenting revenge.

The commander soon runs afoul of Navy Admiral Pillar (Nick Chinlund) and some other officers, most of whom seem to be desk-bound jockeys without the slightest appreciation of what Reese had to endure in a faraway land.

While suffering symptoms of a concussion, Reese becomes aware that he and his platoon may have been subjected to a failed experiment, which leads to a shady corporate tycoon (Jai Courtney) as one of many villains along with corrupt government officials.

Stirring the pot is investigative journalist Katie Buranek (Constance Wu) looking into the conspiracy theory angle. Meanwhile, Reese gets support from his CIA friend Ben (Taylor Kitsch) and fellow veteran Liz (Tyner Rushing).

It’s interesting how the public rates “The Terminal List” an extremely high score that is wildly divergent from the ratings given by critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

The people have it right, as they often do. Chris Pratt delivers the goods in this suspenseful thriller series with high-octane action that is on target as an audience pleaser.

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

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