The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Lifestyle Sun, 23 Oct 2016 04:18:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Silence of Nobel-winning Dylan called ‘impolite and arrogant’ Sun, 23 Oct 2016 00:21:22 +0000 COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A member of the Swedish Academy that awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature to Bob Dylan says the songwriter’s silence since receiving the honor is “impolite and arrogant.”

“One can say that it is impolite and arrogant. He is who he is,” Per Wastberg told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

Wastberg said the academy still hopes to communicate with the 75-year-old artist, whose Nobel credits him with creating “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

“We have agreed not to lift a finger. The ball lies entirely on his half,” Wastberg said..

The academy said it has failed to reach the tight-lipped laureate since he became the first musician in the Nobel’s 115-year history to win the prize in literature. The award was mentioned on Dylan’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Literature laureates have skipped the ceremony before. In 2004, Austrian playwright/novelist Elfriede Jelinek stayed home, citing a social phobia.

Harold Pinter and Alice Munro missed the ceremony for health reasons in 2005 and 2013, respectively.

Only two people have declined a Nobel Prize in literature. Boris Pasternak did so under pressure from Soviet authorities in 1958 and Jean-Paul Sartre turned it down in 1964.

Privacy and the price of fame have been Dylan themes.

It’s easy to read a response to Wastberg’s remarks in the 1981 song, “The Groom’s Still Waiting at The Altar.”

“Try to be pure at heart, they arrest you for robbery,” part of the lyrics say. “Mistake your shyness for aloofness, your silence for snobbery.”

A Nobel Prize is worth about $930,000.

]]> 0, 22 Oct 2016 20:55:46 +0000
Motley Crue singer pleads guilty to battery Sat, 22 Oct 2016 23:55:54 +0000 LAS VEGAS — Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery for a sidewalk scuffle involving a woman outside a Las Vegas Strip resort in April.

Defense lawyer Richard Schonfeld said Friday the plea was submitted in writing Thursday in Las Vegas, and the 55-year-old rocker didn’t appear in court.

The judge fined Neil $1,000 and ordered him to undergo impulse control counseling and stay out of trouble for six months.

Motley Crue is known best for hard partying, famous girlfriends and 1980s-era hits like “Girls, Girls, Girls.”

– From news service reports

]]> 0 Sat, 22 Oct 2016 20:49:39 +0000
Longtime Waterville soup kitchen director stepping down Sat, 22 Oct 2016 23:17:31 +0000 WATERVILLE — Through good times and lean, Dick Willette Sr. has run the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen, ensuring thousands of needy people have had hot meals five days a week.

There were days during his 36 years of volunteering for the kitchen when he wasn’t sure he had enough money to feed the hungry for another month, so he’d dip into his own pocket to bail out the kitchen. When things got really tough, he appealed to the community and donors always came through.

While Willette, the soup kitchen director for the last 20 years, loves his work, he knows it is time to give up the reins and let someone younger take over.

“I’ve worked all my life and I just feel it’s time,” said Willette, who is 83.

He plans to retire from the soup kitchen Dec. 30 and hopes to find a replacement by Nov. 1, although he has had a difficult time finding someone willing to do it. “It might have to be two people – one to be treasurer and take care of the money and pay the bills, and the other one to run this place,” he said.

Willette is at the soup kitchen in the basement of Sacred Heart Church on Pleasant Street from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. five days a week, despite the fact that his legs are weak and he must use a walker to get around. About six years ago, his wife of 59 years, Grace, died, and he was devastated. But two years ago, he married Gloria Beaulieu, who owns and runs a food pantry in Fairfield Center and pays all of its expenses. They met when she delivered food to the soup kitchen. He said he wants to be able to travel with her while he can.

“I made up my mind,” he said. “I remarried. She’s a little younger and she hasn’t been anywhere, really, and we have a 31-foot travel camper and I plan to get done with no ties and travel to Florida and Alaska, take a trip and just enjoy a little bit of life.”

Monday through Friday, 80 to 140 people come to the kitchen to eat lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., according to Willette. He has 35 to 40 dedicated volunteers, many of whom have been there 20-plus years.

“I’ll be around,” he said. “I carry my cellphone and I’ll be around to answer questions. I’m not going to leave them in the lurch. Everyone seems to know what they’re doing.”


Willette’s shoes will be hard to fill, according to Paul McDonald, 79, who is a 22-year volunteer.

“The whole community here is going to miss him,” McDonald said. “He’s been stalwart. He’s organized; that’s the big thing. We can pick up things and sweep the floor, but to organize this kitchen takes special talents.”

Like Willette, McDonald said whenever things look bleak for the kitchen, people always pitch in to help with money or labor.

“It’s like there’s a blessing going on here,” he said.

Joan Phillips-Sandy accompanies students from Mount Merici Academy in Waterville to the soup kitchen every Wednesday during the school year to help serve food and clean up the dining room. She has done so for 31 years and knows Willette well.

“I can’t imagine this place without Dick,” Phillips-Sandy said, as sixth- and seventh-graders scooped food out of hot trays onto patrons’ plates this past Wednesday.


Willette, one of the soup kitchen’s founders, remembers the first day it was open – Sept. 17, 1980 – when several people came to eat.

It has been a struggle over the years. Four years ago, he was afraid the kitchen would have to close, but after stories appeared in the Morning Sentinel about the organization’s plight, people donated money, and that kept the kitchen afloat. But over time, that pot of money has dwindled.

“We’re not holding our own – we’re digging into our savings,” he said. “I’ve got about $50,000 to turn over to the new regime.”

The kitchen buys food from a food supplier in Greene and receives donations from Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets, as well as Mid-State Machine, United Way of Mid-Maine, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others, he said.

Donations are always needed, he said.

“Waterville, Winslow and Oakland have used us good,” Willette said. “I still have some checks coming in. Some people send in $5 or $10 a month. It helps and it’s rewarding to them.”

Willette owned and operated Chase Fuel in Winslow for 52 years, sold the business and retired 15 years ago while still running the soup kitchen.

“I hate to get done,” he said. “I’d rather die here. This place takes care of people, and that’s our goal – to take care of people.”


]]> 1, 22 Oct 2016 19:20:13 +0000
Bull riders put on a wild show in Portland Sat, 22 Oct 2016 21:00:00 +0000 About 40 professional bull riders took to the Cross Insurance Arena on Friday and Saturday for two nights of competition, where riders had to hold on for at least eight seconds. They were also at the mercy of judges who scored them on a 1-to-50 scale.

]]> 0, 22 Oct 2016 17:20:42 +0000
Reflections: God’s love and forgiveness can overcome even the deepest divisions Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Watching the worsening refugee crisis, I could no longer sit idly as 11 million Syrians – half of the country’s population – fled their homes. Of these, 4 million have sought protection in nearby lands, many of which have grown increasingly closed to accepting them.

Images of families trekking down endless roads, carrying their belongings and children, filled me with despair. What if they were our kids? But on a little budget with a big family, how could we help?

The answer was as close as my kitchen. Why not organize a Refugee Relief Dinner at our church, a small, somewhat elderly congregation. Granted, I’d never organized a church dinner or cooked – let alone tasted – Syrian food. But I could follow a recipe, and the Internet offered plenty. The big question: Would people come?

A recent poll by LifeWay Research found that Protestants are twice as likely to fear refugees as to help them. When I pitched my idea at church, one member asked whether the money would solely help Christians. If not, he said, people might not participate. Running through my head were Jesus’ words to love your enemies, “But if you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?” Matthew 5:46 (NLT).

“But we’re a church,” I said. “This is what we do, help people. All people.”

So that’s what we decided to do.

To better understand the refugee experience, we invited a former Liberian refugee, author Marcus Doe, to share his own story about losing his family and fleeing his homeland at age 11. Then we posted invitations all over town. Individual church members sponsored our speaker and donated ingredients for the meal. Local businesses and a farm did, too.

I had no idea how many to expect but cooked enough for 100. And, hey, if we ran out of food, maybe we’d all better understand the refugee experience. A week before our dinner, however, I’d received only one phone call, a gruff male voice asking, “Are you ready for a protest?”

“A what?” I answered.

“A protest,” he said.

Only then did I realize he meant in opposition to the dinner.

Not knowing what else to say, I invited him, too.

Five days before our meal, I dove in, kneading more than 80 rounds of Syrian flatbread; pureeing 11 pounds of humus; chopping 20 pounds of cucumber and tomatoes for Syrian salad; sautéing 10 pounds of garlicky green beans; simmering 240 Syrian meatballs seasoned with mounds of fresh-chopped parsley and pungent Baharat – a traditional blend of spices that I was more accustomed to sprinkling over pies than mixing in ground hamburger; and baking sticky-sweet yogurt and semolina cakes.

As I diced and mixed and baked and boiled, I noticed that in India and East Africa, the same ingredients used to make Syrian flatbread – water, salt, and oil – are called Chapatti. In South and Central America, it’s a tortilla. The same with Syrian salad – a blend of cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil – which I’d first tasted in Israel, where it is called Israeli salad.

Maybe we’re not so different, I realized. After all, we too come from the same ingredients – human beings created in the image of God – no matter what labels or languages divide us. Maybe this is why, at its core, the Bible’s message toward others is to love, to have compassion, to treat them the way you yourself want to be treated.

The night of the dinner, two Sunday school teachers and my mother-in-law helped set up. My 13-year-old daughter filled canning jars with flowers, and the spicy scent of cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, and cloves filled the fellowship hall as people straggled in. One woman paid for a table of 10 – despite only one person accepting her invitation. Nearly every seat was taken.

We never did face a protest that night, but together we raised $580 to help those whose lives have been scarred by fear and hate. We heard a powerful message about how God’s love and forgiveness can overcome even the deepest divisions. And, as the sun set over the neighboring fields and folks lingered in the parking lot, I knew that it was true.

Meadow Rue Merrill writes and reflects on God’s presence in her everyday life from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Her memoir, “Redeeming Ruth,” releases in May 2017. Find her at

]]> 0 Fri, 21 Oct 2016 20:51:08 +0000
Religion Calendar Sat, 22 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Operation Christmas Child Full Circle speaker. Alex Nsengimana, will share his story of receiving an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift as a child in Rwanda during the genocide in the 1990s. Free. Deering Center Community Church, 4 Brentwood St., Portland, 2-4 p.m. Saturday.

Maine Peace Walkers. Hosted by State Street Church, United Church of Christ. Potluck dinner followed by program. State Street Church, 159 State St., Portland,, 6-8 p.m. Saturday.

Operation Christmas Child Full Circle speaker. Alex Nsengimana will share his story of receiving an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift as a child in Rwanda during the genocide in the 1990s. Free. Evergreen Covenant Church, 1861 Main St., Sanford, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Ballot issue discussions: Education. Allen Avenue Unitarian Church, 524 Allen Ave., Portland,, Sunday.

Brunswick Weekly Tibetan Meditation. Come and join us while we learn about the principles of Tibetan Buddhist Meditation. $10 suggested donation. First Parish Church United Church of Christ, Brunswick, 9 Cleaveland St., 5:30-6:45 p.m. Monday.

Hallowell Buddhist Meditation, learn about the principles of Tibetan Buddhist meditation and philosophy. This is not a religious class, all are welcome. Class will begin with a short lecture, followed by guided meditation, group discussion and more meditation. $8 suggested donation. St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 20 Union St., Hallowell, 805-8683, 5:30-6:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Prayer, Promises, Hope and Faith. The Rev. Jeff Monroe of St. Augustine Anglican Church continues Bible Study series every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at 656 Route 1 in Scarborough, where the parish shares worship space with the West Scarborough United Methodist Church.

“Harvesting Hope.” A program sponsored by Interfaith Ministers of New England is a presentation of some of the Maine groups that have come together to help refugees make their way in Maine. Open to the public. Saturday, Oct. 29, from 9:30 a.m. to noon with potluck lunch to follow. Portland New Church. Stevens Avenue, Portland. For more information, call Jean Berman at 838-9000.

To submit an item for the Religion Calendar, go to and click on the calendar tab.

]]> 0 Sat, 22 Oct 2016 15:22:18 +0000
Portland hosts competition with some kick: Professional bull riding Sat, 22 Oct 2016 04:24:09 +0000 About 40 competitors on the Professional Bull Riders Tour opened two nights of competition Friday night at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

Each rider gets two rides, trying to stay on the bull for 8 seconds. The riders and the bulls are scored on a 1-50 system. The rider/bull pairing with the highest score moves on to the third and final round.

Riders are scored for how well they ride and stay on. The bulls  – which typically weigh 1,700 to 2,000 pounds – are scored on how much they buck and jump and twist.

About 70 tons of dirt were trucked into the arena for this weekend’s event.

Saturday’s competition is set to start at 7 p.m.

]]> 3, 22 Oct 2016 15:19:45 +0000
Donald Glover to join cast of ‘Star Wars’ film Sat, 22 Oct 2016 01:38:07 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Donald Glover is joining the “Star Wars” universe.

Disney announced Friday that the writer, actor and rapper will play Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo “Star Wars” film.

Alden Ehrenreich was previously cast as the title character.

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller say the new film will explore Lando in his formative years, before the events depicted in “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.”

The untitled film is set for release in 2018.

]]> 0 Fri, 21 Oct 2016 21:38:07 +0000
Lady Gaga returns to bar where career began Sat, 22 Oct 2016 01:32:52 +0000 NEW YORK — Lady Gaga returned to the New York City bar where she performed years ago as an unsigned act on the eve of her new album’s release, singing rock and pop songs for an audience including Robert De Niro, Helen Mirren, die-hard fans and music industry insiders.

Gaga sang tracks from “Joanne,” released Friday, at The Bitter End late Thursday, going from piano to guitar. She was backed by a band that included Mark Ronson, who produced the new album, and Hillary Lindsey, who co-wrote with Gaga. Ronson also plays guitar, bass or keyboards on many of the tracks. Other co-writers include Beck, Florence Welch, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, folk-rocker Josh Tillman and country hit maker Hillary Lindsey.

The Grammy winner, who grew up in New York City, performed songs like “Million Reasons” and “Joanne,” an homage to her aunt who died at 19 from lupus before Gaga was born (Joanne is the singer’s middle name). After the performance, Gaga performed outside for her feverish fans. She sang two more songs from the top of the bar’s roof, even sitting down on the edge of the roof to belt out the lyrics as fans and residents cheered her on.

The Thursday show, also attended by Gaga’s mother and father as well as Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of the Comedy Central series “Broad City,” was the second date on her Dive Bar Tour with Bud Light. She performed the first show two weeks ago in Nashville, Tennessee, and a third performance, at an unannounced location, will take place Oct. 27.

]]> 0, 21 Oct 2016 21:32:52 +0000
New toys reflecting increasing diversity Sat, 22 Oct 2016 00:44:02 +0000 NEW YORK — Toy companies are working harder to think outside their usual box, offering more-inclusive items like dolls with disabilities, female superhero figures and characters with a range of skin tones.

Many of the products breaking down the barriers started with smaller businesses, but big names like Mattel and Hasbro are getting into the game and offering lots more options this holiday season.

What that means on the shelves is Barbies that have a greater variety of body types, eye colors and facial structures, a Lego mini-figure of a man who uses a wheelchair, and an American Girl doll with accessories like a diabetes kit and arm crutches in addition to the hearing aids and service dogs it has offered before. Other items include coding toys, robots and circuit builder sets aimed at both girls and boys.

Jennifer Weitzman, whose 5-year-old daughter Hannah has cochlear implants, has the American Girl doll with hearing aids and a Tinker Bell doll with a cochlear implant that Weitzman bought from a British site called

“She lit up when she was given them. She thinks it’s awesome that they have implants just like her,” said Weitzman, of Mount Kisco, New York. “For many kids, it helps them identify and makes them feel included.”

The trend started a few years ago, pushed by parents who didn’t see enough diversity in the toy aisle and were turning to the internet or startups to find items.


Increasingly, the inclusiveness in the toy aisle means dolls with disabilities. Toys R Us has carried an exclusive line since 2013 called Journey Girls, which includes a wheelchair and a crutch set. Its partnership with American Girl to carry the Truly Me collection starting this month will include dolls that also use crutches, diabetes kits and wheelchairs.

While Lego has had larger figures before that use wheelchairs, the mini-figure introduced this year comes as part of the “Fun in the Park” set, mixed in with several figures that don’t.

“The designers were thinking about what might you see in the park in the city,” said Lego spokesman Michael McNally.

Lego mini-figures had been yellow so that children could imagine their own identity for the characters. “We’ve always been about helping kids find themselves,” McNally said. But in 2004, it introduced flesh tones when representing real-life personalities.

Experts say it’s critical for children to play with toys that don’t perpetuate stereotypes about what’s considered beautiful. They say the toys children play with have lasting impressions on their careers and their confidence.

“There’s been some good progress, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Elizabeth Sweet, a sociologist and lecturer at California State University in Sacramento, California. “Kids need to see themselves in the toys and objects they interact with.”

For building toys, the company GoldieBlox, founded in 2012, was among the first to disrupt the pink aisle by offering construction sets aimed at girls. But it also realized it needed more racial diversity, and last fall introduced a black character called Ruby Rails and has since then added a Latina engineer called Valentina and other characters.

Many experts have been closely watching the moves made by Mattel, particularly with its iconic Barbie, whose business has been rebounding amid a makeover after seeing its sales suffer. The nation’s largest toy maker launched the Barbie Fashionista collection last year that offered more skin tones, eye colors and facial structures. This year, it added three body types – curvy, petite and tall. It said those items have been doing well. Spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni says the company is also looking to add different body shapes to the Barbie career line and the Fairytale doll collection.

Racial diversity can also be key. American Girl, which is owned by Mattel, launched a doll this year whose story is that she is growing up in civil rights-era Detroit. Wal-Mart’s My Life As doll collection has expanded the number of skin shades available, and Hasbro is adding more skin tones to its Baby Alive doll for next year.


Beyond introducing dolls and games that feature all kinds of characters, companies are starting to think differently about toys that have traditionally been aimed at boys or girls. The White House held a conference on gender stereotypes in media and toys, drawing executives from major toy companies.

Target Corp. phased out gender-based signage in the toy aisle last year. It also was for a time the exclusive seller of Mattel’s DC Super Hero Girls, including Wonder Woman and Batgirl, which were the first 6-inch action figures designed for girls. They join other female characters in the action figure aisle that include Black Widow and Star Wars heroine Rey, says Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of TTPM, an online toy review site.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is selling its first 18-inch boy doll this holiday season under the My Life As brand, and Hasbro plans to launch a boy doll under the Baby Alive brand next year.

John Frascotti, president of Hasbro Brands, cited My Little Pony, which originally was aimed at girls, and Nerf, which was traditionally for boys. Hasbro found the brands attract both boys and girls, so three years ago, it launched Nerf Rebelle that was styled for girls. As for My Little Pony, it’s expanding into comic books, usually more a domain for boys.

“We are focusing on storytelling and worrying less about gender,” he said.

]]> 0, 21 Oct 2016 21:00:02 +0000
Styxx nightclub to close after 30 years as haven for Portland’s gay community Sat, 22 Oct 2016 00:02:13 +0000 Styxx nightclub, which has provided a safe place for gay people in Portland for 30 years, is closing in January.

The club’s owner and manager is shuttering the Spring Street bar because business is down and people’s lifestyles are changing. Josh Moody said he probably should have closed a year or two ago.

“I’m sad, but I’m almost relieved at the same time,” he said Friday night. “It’s been pretty stressful. It’s still really fun, but business has been inconsistent.”

Portland has other gay bars, but Styxx has been at the center of Portland’s gay community since the 1980s, when it was known as The Underground. It is a huge bar, with multiple dance floors and enough room for 300 people. It’s located in the basement of a building at Spring and Cross streets, below Monument Square and a few blocks east of the Cross Insurance Arena.

Moody is proud that his bar has provided refuge for people who don’t feel safe or comfortable elsewhere, noting the nightspot also has been popular with straight people. He attributed the closing to several factors. The acceptance of the gay lifestyle across society has helped gay people feel safe hanging out in many places. They don’t necessarily need the comfort of a gay bar. People also are staying home more than they used to, and when they do go out they expect big events and a lot of excitement.

Across the board, it’s been difficult to draw consistent business night to night, week to week, Moody said. The decision to close was mutual between him and his landlord, he added. The inconsistencies of the business influenced his decision to close. “It’s just stressful. You never know week to week what it’s going to be,” he said.

Amy Boucher, 41, of Gorham has been coming to Styxx for more than a decade. She will miss it “because it’s welcoming. It’s like family. You’re never judged.”

For Amanda Tubbs of Portland, Styxx has always meant good luck. She won a trip to Las Vegas in a raffle and a trip to Hawaii in a singing contest at Styxx. On Friday, she performed with the Voulez-Vous Cabaret troupe in the club’s back room. “I love everybody here,” she said before going on stage. “I’ve always been able to be myself, whether I was happy or sad. I’ve always felt welcome. I love everything about this place, and I can’t believe it’s closing.”

Tubbs was accompanied by her fiance, Tyler Arnold, a musician. “It’s always a good time here,” Arnold said. “Everybody is super respectful.”

Moody, 36, began working at Styxx as a bartender when he moved to Portland in 2004. He bought the bar in 2009.

He’s unsure of his plans after Styxx closes in January, but is certain that his club has made life better for a lot of gay people in Portland.

“I think it helped a lot of people find themselves. For a lot of people – both as Styxx and The Underground – it was their first bar, the place they found themselves or the place they found their boyfriend.”

The need for a gay bar is there, he added.

“The need will always be there.”

]]> 8, 21 Oct 2016 22:03:02 +0000
Muslim center, Vatican to reopen talks in April Fri, 21 Oct 2016 22:54:22 +0000 VATICAN CITY — The Vatican and the prestigious Sunni Muslim center of learning, Al-Azhar, are expected to formally reopen talks next year after a five-year lull.

Officials from the Vatican’s office of interreligious affairs are going to Cairo this weekend for a preparatory meeting to lay the groundwork for the official restart of talks, scheduled for late April in Rome.

The Vatican announcement Friday comes after Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, met at the Vatican in May and embraced. It marked a turning point after Al-Azhar froze talks with the Vatican in 2011 to protest comments by then-Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict had demanded greater protection for Christians in Egypt after a New Year’s bombing on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria killed 21 people.

]]> 0 Fri, 21 Oct 2016 20:19:03 +0000
Objections follow baptism by football coach Fri, 21 Oct 2016 22:37:18 +0000 One sunny afternoon last month, Newton High School football coach Ryan Smith gave his players a different sort of pep talk.

“This world’s gonna give you a version of what a man is,” Smith told the players. “Scripture provides a totally separate entity of what a man is.”

Pointing to one of the teenagers, Smith said of the boy, “He made a decision that a man’s supposed to make. He accepted Christ as his savior.”

And then the Mississippi coach dunked the teenage football player in a brimming plastic tub of water, to baptize him in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

To onlookers and to thousands who watched a video of the baptism later, it was a beautiful expression of faith in the context of football. Commenters wrote on Facebook: “I have tears running down my face watching this. God is so good!” “Keep winning for Christ, Coach Smith!” “Praise God for a Christian role model like Ryan!!”

To others, the baptism was an inappropriate action that a public school employee never should have taken. And the Freedom From Religion Foundation is considering suing the Newton Municipal School District for what the organization views as a violation of the separation of church and state.

Federal courts have ruled that while students can pray at school, coaches, like other employees of public schools, cannot participate in religious activities with their players. “When a school’s football coach organizes and leads a baptism with his players, students on the team will perceive the religious ritual to be unequivocally endorsed by their school. This appearance of school sponsorship of a religious message violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Sam Grover wrote to the Mississippi school district.

Grover told The Post that he has sent at least a dozen similar letters to other schools in the Southern states he covers as an attorney, including Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Baptisms by football coaches, Grover said, seem to be something of a trend.

“The first one that gets a little bit of attention, it’s a feel-good story, and other coaches emulate it. That’s just my guess,” Grover said. He has only heard of football coaches baptizing students – not, say, English teachers. “Church and football are two pretty big institutions in the South. I think for that reason, they often go hand in hand.”

Two schools in Georgia came under fire for baptisms on the football field. At Villa Rica High School, 18 students were baptized last year; a church that conducted the ritual and posted a video of it online wrote in the caption: “We did this right before practice! Take a look and see how God is STILL in our schools!” Last month, another Georgia high school football team reportedly hosted a mass baptism to honor a recent graduate who died in a car accident.

In the dozen-plus cases that he has handled, Grover said most schools have read his letter and then confirmed that they would speak to the coach about not baptizing players again.

The Newton school district, however, is sticking by Coach Smith’s actions. In a statement, the school said that the baptism happened off school property – outside a dentist’s office, about a block away from the school, Superintendent Virginia Young told The Post. “The District feels this is a private matter of choice for that student. Any additional Newton Municipal School District students that attended the baptism did so as their own voluntary act,” the statement said.

Young said she doesn’t see a problem with a baptism of a student conducted by a school employee, as long as it takes place outside of school hours and off school property, and students aren’t compelled to attend.

That’s not enough, Grover said: “Those factors do not convert this into a completely private event. The only reason this coach has access to these players on the football team is because he’s the football coach.”

]]> 0, 21 Oct 2016 18:37:18 +0000
Vatican opens papal summer retreat to the public Fri, 21 Oct 2016 22:12:29 +0000 VATICAN CITY — Now this is an open house: The Vatican on Friday opened the private apartments at the papal summer retreat to the public, giving visitors a rare look at the bed where Popes Pius XII and Paul VI died and where John Paul II recovered from an assassination attempt in 1981.

Pope Francis has declined to use the palazzo in Castel Gandolfo, preferring to spend his summer downtime at home in the Vatican hotel suite where he lives. That has meant that the 135-acre estate in the Alban hills south of Rome has increasingly been opened up to the public.

In 2014, the gardens opened to visitors, in part to help offset the economic downturn the lakefront town has experienced since Francis decided to stay put in Rome. Last year, the Vatican inaugurated weekly train service so visitors can see both the Vatican and the leafy hilltop refuge in one day.

Now, visitors can tour the never-before-seen private apartment of the palazzo itself, including the Consistory Room where Pius XII made Angelo Roncalli a cardinal in 1953. Roncalli later became Pope John XXIII.

But the simple pontifical bedroom with a view of the lake and the single bed might be more of a draw, not least because of the unusual purpose it served during World War II.

The Alban region saw bloody fighting after Allied forces landed in coastal Anzio on Jan. 22, 1944. Residents fled toward the pontifical villas seeking sanctuary, and Pius XII opened the doors to more than 12,000 people until Rome was liberated on June 4, 1944.

As the Vatican tells it, some of the displaced were pregnant. An estimated 40 women gave birth on the pope’s bed itself; bearing offspring now affectionately called “the pope’s children.”

The Vatican Museums, home to the Sistine Chapel and other papal treasures, run the Castel Gandolfo estate, which features a working farm that supplies the Vatican with fresh dairy, eggs, honey and produce.

]]> 0, 21 Oct 2016 18:12:29 +0000
Concert review: Shellac makes the case again, simply, for rock Fri, 21 Oct 2016 18:57:51 +0000 With all the readily available technology for making music, there is still something exceedingly simple about the notion of a power trio playing instruments before an audience. Shellac frontman and celebrated rock-snob Steve Albini agrees; he prefers music handcrafted and raw, and sneers at what he feels is the manufactured nature of “club culture” whenever he’s asked. And while club culture has so thoroughly won the war against rock – at least in terms of audience size and influence – that it’s almost quaint when a rock musician redraws the tired old battle lines.

Yet Albini backs his talk up with performance. Shellac played at SPACE Gallery on Thursday evening and used their three instruments to generate a white-knuckled, exhilarating experience.

However, the common notion of Shellac as a “minimalist” band is overstated. Minimalism involves stripping components down to their most basic core. Shellac does the opposite: They start with what is, on the surface, very few components (a guitar, a bass guitar and a drumkit) and eke everything they possibly can out of these instruments. As befitting a band that boasts two recording engineers (bassist Bob Weston and Albini, who most famously worked on Nirvana’s “In Utero”), the microphones were meticulously positioned around the drum kit and fidgeted with throughout the performance. Custom-built amps rested atop the speakers, looking like something from a 1960s “Dr. Who” episode.

The result was as clean a sound as you’ll ever hear in a rock show of that volume. The listener is aware of every tone that the musicians select. Rather than the notes coming across as a pile of mush, the interplay between instruments is discernible and the dynamics dramatically shift with subtle adjustments. That is not to say the show is an intellectual rather than a visceral experience; the band pushes drummer Todd Trainer front and center stage, as if putting their whole band in your personal space, and hammer their instruments with headbutt-like intensity.

Their set covered much of their career, leaning most on the 2014 album, “Dude Incredible.” “My Black Ass,” the first song on their 1994 debut, was played near the start of the set and got the biggest response, as ever finding the sweet spot halfway between The Fall and Primus. Other highlights included the brief yet rambunctious songs from “Terraform” (1998) and the song “Prayer to God” off “1000 Hurts” (2000), with its persistent, cathartic chant of “Just (expletive) kill him, kill him already.”

Opening act Shannon Wright put on a superb set of solo rock, which vacillated between minor-key dirges and explosive outbursts. At one point, Wright grew frustrated with talking from the bar area and turned her volume way up, drowning out the audience members and also vastly improving the sound. It’s hard to blame people for talking in this case. Doors to the venue opened just minutes before showtime, and it was a rare event to find so many longtime Portlanders in attendance – salt-and-pepper beards were the look of the hour – so there was catching up to do. The gathering culminated in an evening of music, movement, and community – the exact hallmarks of club culture, just with different tools.

Robert Ker is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

]]> 0, 21 Oct 2016 23:02:19 +0000
Thom Jones, prize-winning author, dies at 71 Fri, 21 Oct 2016 03:14:58 +0000 During the 1990s, Thom Jones rose from obscurity to become one of the brightest literary talents in the country. He was a high school janitor and onetime boxer who, in his late 40s, submitted a short story to the New Yorker that, against all odds, the magazine published.

“The Pugilist at Rest” won the prestigious O. Henry Award and became the title of Jones’ first collection, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Other stories soon appeared in the Atlantic, Esquire, Harper’s and Playboy.

“Writers as good as Thom Jones appear but rarely,” novelist Thomas McGuane wrote in the New York Times Book Review in 1993.

His tales reflected the troubled lives of damaged men who were boxers, Marines, heavy drinkers or blue-collar workers – all of which Jones had been, at one time or another. His characters always wanted more from life than it offered.

Three collections of short stories came out between 1993 and 1999. Then Jones largely fell silent and did not publish another book for the rest of his life.

He died Oct. 14 at the age of 71.

The cause was complications from diabetes, said his wife, Sally Jones.

Even during the years when he was working in factories, pushing a broom, getting fired from jobs, battling illness and going through rehab, Jones always thought of himself as a writer.

“I’m a great believer in fate, and I believe that all those things in my life had to happen – being a drunk, a boxer, the epilepsy, the diabetes,” he told the Seattle Times. “You have to suffer a lot before you can be a writer of fiction.”

Jones almost found acclaim in his early 20s, when one of his stories was accepted by the Atlantic. But he refused to make the changes requested by the editor, and it never appeared.

He studied at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the early 1970s and watched as several of his classmates, including Tracy Kidder, became celebrated authors.

A decade later, Jones was working as a janitor at a high school in Lacey, Wash. One morning at home, he saw Kidder interviewed on television.

He quit drinking and began to write. “The Pugilist at Rest,” his first and most famous story was inspired by Jones’ stint in the Marines.

An amateur boxer who had more than 150 fights in his teens, Jones went into the ring at Camp Pendleton, California, to face a more experienced Marine champion. He was so badly beaten that he ended up in a psychiatric facility with a medical discharge.

“The guys in my unit all got killed in Vietnam, except for one,” Jones told the New York Times in 1993. “I wanted to go. I was such a fool. My best friend went and he got killed. ”

“The Pugilist at Rest,” which Jones wrote in about 12 hours, derived from those experiences. Even though he did not go to Vietnam, he depicted the field of battle with brutal intensity.

“There was a reservoir of malice … in my soul, and it poured forth freely in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam,” he wrote.

“One of the great things about the New Yorker,” he said in 1993, “is that they read their mail. I put something out there – and I’m nobody – and I made it.”

]]> 0 Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:05:02 +0000
Jamaica celebrates reggae’s Peter Tosh with a new museum Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:58:10 +0000 KINGSTON, Jamaica — Slain reggae legend Peter Tosh is getting some of the same historical treatment in his native Jamaica as the late Bob Marley.

A museum devoted to the life and music of Tosh opened Wednesday near the Marley museum that has long been a major tourist attraction in the Jamaican capital.

Tosh was among founding members of what was originally known in 1964 as the Wailing Wailers, along with Marley, Bunny Livingston and Junior Braithwaite. The band was later called simply “The Wailers.”

Tosh went on to have a successful solo career.

He was shot and killed during a 1987 attack on his home.

]]> 0 Thu, 20 Oct 2016 20:58:10 +0000
Check out Brew Fest, a comic expo or a haunting in Parsonsfield this weekend Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:21:42 +0000 0, 21 Oct 2016 14:22:09 +0000 Jon Bon Jovi says he won’t buy Titans Thu, 20 Oct 2016 22:43:35 +0000 NEW YORK — Bon Jovi’s upcoming album is entitled, “This House is Not For Sale,” and apparently neither are the Tennessee Titans.

CBS Sports reported this week that Bon Jovi and Peyton Manning were “monitoring the Tennessee Titans ownership situation,” leading to speculation they were looking to purchase the Nashville-based team. That prompted Titans acting owner Amy Adams Strunk to say the team is not for sale.

On Wednesday, Jon Bon Jovi sat down with The Associated Press to set the record straight.

“Let me dispel the rumors right now,” he said with a laugh. “I wake up to these headlines with my name on them and they’re just not true. I want to make it perfectly clear that the team is not for sale, nor has it ever been, and I respect and admire (late franchise founder) Bud Adams’ legacy. End of story, I wish them all the success in the world.”

He added: “You wake up to that and you’re, ‘Wait a minute. I don’t want to upset anybody. I didn’t do anything.”‘

While the New Jersey rocker hopes to add NFL owner to his resume one day, it’s not happening yet.

“I love the NFL, and I did in fact try to buy the Buffalo Bills, but this has nothing to do with that. All I’m doing – I’m in the music business. End of story.”

]]> 1, 20 Oct 2016 20:29:30 +0000
Bull riders will be holding on tight at Cross Insurance Arena this weekend Thu, 20 Oct 2016 14:33:38 +0000 0, 20 Oct 2016 11:34:46 +0000 Kotzschmar friends and ChoralArt hire a new executive director Thu, 20 Oct 2016 01:21:16 +0000 The Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ and ChoralArt, formerly the Choral Art Society, have hired a Fulbright Scholar as their new executive director. Brooke Hubner, who worked as administrative coordinator for the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce, replaces Kathleen Grammer, who left the organizations this summer.

Hubner brings a musical background to the job. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music and English from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. She studied organ performance, and sang in choirs. “I have always wanted to be involved in supporting music and the arts in some capacity,” she said in a prepared statement. “As executive director for both FOKO and ChoralArt, I get to promote the artistry of two things I love, pipe organ and choir music.”

As a Fulbright Scholar, she applied her scholarship toward earning a master’s in Atlantic Canada Studies with a focus on Acadian music from St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia. After her academic career, she sang in choirs and served as a board member for the Lincoln Arts Festival Chorus, assisting with concert planning and promotion.

She wants to use her position to reinforce the music education for children, particularly as it relates to the organ. “As a kid, I thought it was magical that this one instrument could produce so many different sounds,” she said. “I would like to give young children the same experience. Teaching children about the organ and fostering in them an appreciation of organ music will build our audience for the future.”


]]> 1 Thu, 20 Oct 2016 08:45:59 +0000
MaineToday Magazine: Harvest on the Harbor Thu, 20 Oct 2016 00:41:00 +0000 0, 19 Oct 2016 20:49:23 +0000 Elena Barnet, wife of painter Will Barnet, dies at 93 Wed, 19 Oct 2016 23:05:28 +0000 Before she met the painter Will Barnet, Elena Ciurlys unknowingly prepared to become the subject for his paintings. She studied dance in Vienna, and learned how to present herself with grace and elegance.

She arrived in New York after World War II, and met Barnet at the Arts Students League. The couple married and began spending time on the coast of Maine at Chamberlain. At dusk one evening, Will Barnet caught a glimpse of his wife standing alone on the porch, her figure silhouetted against the sea. He made a quick sketch of his strong, proud wife as she stood straight and tall and cast her gaze across the water. The image became a recurring motif in his paintings, which have been shown in museums around the world.

Elena Barnet, 93, the daughter of a scholar and a concert pianist from Lithuania, died Oct. 10 in Brunswick. She was a longtime resident of New York, who spent her summers in Maine – in Chamberlain for many years and also in Phippsburg, where daughter Ona Barnet operates an inn.

Ellie Porta-Barnet, also a painter, said her grandmother’s water’s-edge pose was natural. The family enjoyed coming to Maine, which became an influence in Barnet’s work and the eventual home for future generations of Barnets. “She loved being in Chamberlain out there on the point, with the open sea and wind in her face. She loved standing on the deck and how expansive it felt,” Porta-Barnet said. “I imagine it reminded her of home.”

She was born July 24, 1923 in Kaunas, Lithuania. Her career in dance took her to Vienna, Austria. After World War II, her parents arranged for her to emigrate to United States because they worried about her life under Soviet rule. She came to the United States through Ellis Island in 1947, living with relatives in New York.

She danced professionally in the United States, and met Barnet in 1953 through their mutual association at the Arts Students League. They married within three months of meeting. She became a stepmother to her husband’s three sons from a previous marriage, and gave birth to Ona in 1954.

In New York, they lived above the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park. Barnet easily fell into the rhythm of New York’s creative community, surrounded by artists, musicians and writers, while also pursuing her own interests. Barnet earned her undergraduate degree from the New School and a master’s in social work at Hunter College. She worked for many years at Memorial Sloan Kettering as a social worker.

When the grandkids visited New York from Maine, Will and Elena Barnet entertained with what Will Porta called “mind-expanding” experiences. “My grandmother was very knowledgeable and appreciative of art, but our discussions also trended toward politics and history, with her experience coming to this country and growing up in an occupied country during World War II,” Porta said. “Politics especially. She would carve out a portion of the morning or afternoon to read one or more newspapers. They subscribed to The New York Times, the New Yorker, The New York Times Review of Books, the Wall Street Journal.”

She enjoyed being attached to the art world, and liked sitting – or standing – as a subject for her husband’s paintings.

“She loved it,” Porta-Barnet said. “She used to model for a dance troupe for some ads when she first was in New York. She didn’t at all mind sitting for him and being his subject. She always supported him and always appreciated being a part of his work.”

Will Barnet died in November 2012.

Andres Verzosa, interim director of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, knew Barnet as gracious and fiercely loyal to her husband and his work. She always looked out for his best interests personally and professionally, he said. Verzosa became friendly with the family a few years ago, after he arranged an exhibition of art work by Will Barnet and his granddaughter at Verzosa’s now-closed Portland gallery. Elena Barnet called Verzosa to thank him for supporting her husband and granddaughter. She was so pleased with the show, she asked Verzosa to choose a drawing by Will Barnet to keep for himself.

“It was magical,” Verzosa said. “She could not have been more graceful or more kind. I couldn’t believe it.”

After her husband died in 2012, Barnet stayed in New York and promoted his career through the Will Barnet Foundation. After her summer in Phippsburg this year, she stayed in Maine, moving into an assisted living apartment in Brunswick.

She is survived by her daughter Ona and her husband, Randall Gowell of Phippsburg; stepsons Peter, Richard and Todd Barnet and their families; grandson Will Porta and his spouse, Roslyn Gerwin; granddaugher Ellie Porta-Barnet and her spouse, Andrew Rice; and a great-granddaughter, Willa Rice.

She and her husband are buried at Trinity Wall Street Cemetery at Broadway and 155th Street in New York.

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 1, 19 Oct 2016 23:22:23 +0000
Phil Chess, record label co-founder, dies at 95 Wed, 19 Oct 2016 22:50:27 +0000 CHICAGO — Phil Chess, co-founder of a Chicago record label that amassed perhaps the most influential blues catalog of all time and launched the careers of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, has died. He was 95.

Chess died overnight in Tucson, Arizona, according to his nephew Craig Glicken, who spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday.

Chess and his brother, Leonard, founded Chess Records in 1950, a label that not only recorded blues artists, but also the early rock ‘n’ roll of Chuck Berry and Etta James’ rich vocal stylings.

But it was Chess Records that helped raise Chicago to its status as the capital of blues, recalled Buddy Guy.

“Phil and Leonard Chess were cuttin’ the type of music nobody else was paying attention to – Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy, Jimmy Rogers, I could go on and on – and now you can take a walk down (Chicago’s) State Street today and see a portrait of Muddy that’s 10 stories tall,” Guy, who recorded at Chess, said Wednesday in an emailed statement. “The Chess brothers had a lot to do with that. … I’ll always be grateful for that.”

The brothers started out with a liquor store, then ran the Macomba Lounge nightclub and music venue and eventually got into the music recording business, though neither had ever played an instrument.

Chess Records’ first release was a Gene Ammons’ version of “My Foolish Heart.” Then came Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone” – a song so influential it became the name of the English rock band and the magazine.

Phil Chess was born Fiszel Czyz in Motol, Poland, on April 5, 1921. He changed his name to Phil Chess after the family immigrated to the U.S.

He served in the Army for 31/2 years during World War II. When he returned home, he joined his brother working the bar and later forming Chess Records.

For the next 19 years, they recorded a staggering lineup of America’s greatest blues, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll musicians out of a two-story building at 2120 S. Michigan Avenue, which still stands.

They focused on everything from jazz saxophone, minimalist blues and the seeds of rock ‘n’ roll through artists like Ike Turner, whose Chess Records tune “Rocket 88” is considered by some to be the first rock song.

Keith Richards called 2120 S. Michigan Ave. “hallowed ground”; it’s where the Rolling Stones in 1964 recorded “It’s All Over Now,” their first No. 1 hit.

Leonard Chess died of a heart attack in 1969. That same year, Chess Records was sold and Phil moved to Arizona, where he worked in radio.

Leonard Chess was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and both brothers are in the Blues Hall of Fame.

]]> 0, 19 Oct 2016 18:50:27 +0000
Kardashians ‘more aware’ after robbery Wed, 19 Oct 2016 22:36:36 +0000 LOS ANGELES —Khloe Kardashian is calling her sister’s robbery in Paris “a wake up call for everybody” but is pushing back against criticism that Kim Kardashian West had been too public in displaying her wealth.

“Pulling back on social media I think is a personal choice. … No matter what you post or don’t post. … That shouldn’t give someone a reason to feel like they could do anything like that to you,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “But we definitely are just being more aware and I think just making changes to our lives.”

Armed robbers forced their way into West’s hotel room, tied her up and locked her in a bathroom before making off with more than $10 million worth of jewelry.

Khloe Kardashian, 32, said the Oct. 3 robbery was “an incredibly traumatic experience for Kim and she’s definitely taking some well needed and much deserved time off.”

She said she isn’t sure when Kardashian West, 35, would make another public appearance, but she batted down rumors that her sister would be leaving the family’s reality series “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

Kardashian made the comments while promoting her new fall denim line Good American with co-designer Emma Grede.

She said she agreed to partner up with Grede to design the brand for the curvy woman. The jeans range in size from zero to 24.

“I was always body shamed, and that was something that was super important to me to really teach girls to love themselves and love their bodies,” said Kardashian.

]]> 0, 19 Oct 2016 18:36:36 +0000
Amy Schumer’s sorry that she criticized Trump – not really Wed, 19 Oct 2016 22:36:10 +0000 NEW YORK — Amy Schumer has issued a sarcastic apology days after some 200 people walked out of a Tampa, Florida, show in which she criticized Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and expressed her support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The comedian read a “Dear Tampa” letter during her show Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York. She questioned how she could think it was “OK to spend five minutes having a peaceful conversation with someone with different views.” She also said she’s going “to a rehab facility” that will teach her “how to make all people happy.”



A Tampa Bay Times reporter who attended the weekend show estimated that about 200 attendees left after Schumer, a prominent supporter of Hillary Clinton, blasted Trump.

]]> 1 Wed, 19 Oct 2016 20:47:33 +0000
Bernie Sanders is coming to South Portland to promote his new book Wed, 19 Oct 2016 15:36:35 +0000 Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is coming to the Books-A-Million near the Maine Mall in South Portland to promote his new memoir.

Sanders is scheduled to meet with fans on Nov. 21 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the bookstore at 430 Gorham Road. Sanders’ book includes personal experiences from his recent campaign against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

Tickets are required to attend the event and are available for purchase from the Books-A-Million store or online at The $28.49 price includes a copy of the book. Guests will have a chance to have a photograph taken with Sanders, but Sanders will not be signing books.

]]> 8, 19 Oct 2016 14:54:58 +0000
As ‘The Simpsons’ nears a record, there’s no end in sight Tue, 18 Oct 2016 23:51:40 +0000 As “The Simpsons” nears the record for most episodes of an American scripted prime-time show – the Fox series celebrated its 600th episode Sunday, just 35 behind all-time champ “Gunsmoke” – the minds behind the animated program sometimes get hit with the question:

So when is the show finally going to ride off into the Springfield sunset?

“Never!” replies a laughing David Silverman, the longtime “Simpsons” producer who directed “The Simpsons Movie” (2007), as well as Sunday’s virtual-reality “couch gag.”

“We don’t want it to end,” says Silverman, who has been there since the very beginning, animating the interstitial shorts when the Simpsons debuted in 1987 on “The Tracey Ullman Show.”

“We say, ‘Keep it going!’ 600? I say: ‘1,000! Do I hear 2,000!’ ” says Silverman, his voice elevating for effect while speaking Monday at a suburban Washington pub – not so far from where he spent part of his youth in Silver Spring, Maryland.

For the sake of comparison, as well as inspiration, Silverman cites the run of Looney Tunes, the classic animated comedy shorts from Warner Bros. that spanned 1930 to 1969.

“It wasn’t that they were running out of ideas, per se,” says Silverman, citing Tex Avery’s Oscar-nominated “A Wild Hare” (1940) as the pinnacle of Looney Tunes animation. “They just ran out of a delivery system.” The Warner Bros. Cartoons studio closed as the ’70s dawned, marking the end of the “golden age” of animation.

“For ‘The Simpsons,’ so far, we haven’t run out of the delivery system,” notes Silverman, whose show holds the record for most seasons (27) of an American scripted prime-time show, with the renewal already announced for season 28.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to the future of home entertainment,” the producer continues, “but I think there’s always going to be some aspect of the big TV screen.”

“I don’t know why you’d stop it,” says Silverman of “The Simpsons,” which was co-created by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks and the late Sam Simon. “We’re having a great time.”

]]> 1, 19 Oct 2016 08:15:39 +0000
Tobey Maguire, Jennifer Meyer ending marriage after 9 years Tue, 18 Oct 2016 21:33:45 +0000 LOS ANGELES —Tobey Maguire and Jennifer Meyer have separated after nine years of marriage.

Maguire’s representative has confirmed a People magazine report on the breakup.

The former couple tells People in a joint statement that the decision came “after much soul searching and consideration.” Maguire and Meyer say their “first priority remains raising our children together with enduring love, respect and friendship.”

Maguire and Meyer have a 9-year-old daughter, Ruby, and a 7-year-old son, Otis.

Meyer is a jewelry designer and the daughter of longtime Hollywood executive Ron Meyer.

– From news service reports

]]> 0 Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:16:13 +0000
Chuck Berry, 90, plans first new album in more than 35 years Tue, 18 Oct 2016 15:59:49 +0000 ST. LOUIS — Ninety-year-old rock ’n’ roll legend Chuck Berry is set to release his first new studio album in more than 35 years.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Berry’s album, titled “Chuck,” will be available in 2017.

Chuck Berry attends the dedication of a statue in his honor in University City, Mo., in 2011. 2011, in University City, Mo. Associated Press/Jeff Roberson

Chuck Berry attends the dedication of a statue in his honor in University City, Mo., in 2011. 2011, in University City, Mo. Associated Press/Jeff Roberson


The album was recorded in St. Louis-area studios and will feature mostly original work by Berry, who turned 90 on Tuesday. He is the sole producer on the album.

Jimmy Marsala, a bassist in Berry’s longtime band, suggests the new album took so long to come together because Berry wanted to make sure it lived up to everyone’s expectations. His last studio album was “Rock It” in 1979.

Marsala said Berry – whose writing credits include “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “Johnny B. Goode” – started working on the new album as soon as “Rock It” was completed.

“He was constantly working on stuff all the time, on airplanes, writing lyrics down, always coming up with new ideas – ‘Let’s try this, let’s try that,’ ” Marsala said.

Spokesman Joe Edwards says the new album is a gift to his fans. Berry’s son, Charles Berry Jr., says the songs “cover the spectrum from hard-driving rockers to soulful, thought-provoking time capsules of a life’s work.”

According to Edwards, Berry is likely retired from touring, but anything can happen.

Chuck Berry performs his "duck walk" in 1980. The location is not known. Associated Press

Chuck Berry performs his “duck walk” in 1980.  Associated Press


Berry played his 200th concert at a St. Louis restaurant and music club called The Duck Room in 2014 before pulling back from touring.

Artifacts from Berry’s career are on display at the National Blues Museum in downtown St. Louis, the city where he was born, and the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

]]> 1, 18 Oct 2016 17:11:51 +0000
NBC fires Billy Bush in fallout from lewd Trump tape Tue, 18 Oct 2016 00:06:22 +0000 NEW YORK – NBC News has fired “Today” show host Billy Bush, who was caught on tape in a vulgar conversation about women with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump before an “Access Hollywood” appearance.

Bush was suspended at the morning show two days after contents of the 2005 tape were reported on Oct. 7. NBC and Bush’s representatives had been negotiating terms of his exit before Monday’s announcement.

On the tape, Bush is heard laughing as Trump talks about fame enabling him to grope and try to have sex with women not his wife.

Bush later said he was “embarrassed and ashamed.” Trump has since denied groping women.

Bush, who had been at “Today” for two months, is the nephew of Republican former President George H.W. Bush.

NBC made the announcement of his firing in a note from “Today” show top executive Noah Oppenheim to his staff. Oppenheim called Bush, who spent 15 years at “Access Hollywood,” “a valued colleague and longtime member of the broader NBC family. We wish him success as he goes forward.”

Bush, a 44-year-old father of three, said that he was “deeply grateful for the conversations I’ve had with my daughters, and for all of the support from family, friends and colleagues. I look forward to what lies ahead.”

The separation agreement with NBC includes no non-compete clause, meaning Bush is free to seek work elsewhere right away, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who was not authorized to speak publicly about terms of the deal and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. There were no other details about the terms immediately available.

]]> 4, 17 Oct 2016 20:56:35 +0000
‘Price is Right’ contestants make history Mon, 17 Oct 2016 23:20:36 +0000 LOS ANGELES — “Price is Right” history was made on Monday’s episode when a trio of contestants spun $1 on the game show’s colorful wheel.

The three contestants each landed on different combinations of $1 in a pair of spins during one of the show’s showcase showdowns.

The game show famously awards contestants who earn $1 on the wheel without going over a $1,000 price and a chance to spin again.

“The Price is Right” host Drew Carey pumped his fist in the air after the contestants achieved the first three-way $1 tie in the show’s history .

The three contestants celebrated by jumping up and down while embracing in a group hug.

The long-running CBS game show is currently airing its 45th season.

]]> 1 Mon, 17 Oct 2016 19:20:36 +0000
Stephen Colbert show hitting road on election night Mon, 17 Oct 2016 23:16:02 +0000 Stephen Colbert is taking his show (and his curse words) on the road (metaphorically) for election night.

Colbert will provide live election night coverage on Showtime, an outlet that will allow the “Daily Show” alum to speak freely as the final hours of the 2016 election play out. David Nevins, president and CEO of Showtime Networks, made the announcement Monday after tipping the possibility during the Television Critics Association summer press tour earlier this year.

“It’ll be all the political comedy you love from my CBS show, with all the swearing and nudity you love from Showtime,” Colbert said.

]]> 0 Mon, 17 Oct 2016 20:23:28 +0000
Former Nirvana bassist says ranked-choice voting is key to election reform Mon, 17 Oct 2016 22:46:18 +0000 Like a lot of people, Krist Novoselic opens up his Facebook page and cringes. Friends on the political left attack friends on the political right, and Novoselic sees the discourse going straight down the drain. An independent who may not vote for either major party candidate for U.S. president, he sometimes feels accosted as a spoiler by his friends because he’s not supporting their candidate.

The former bass player for the rock band Nirvana has an idea for stopping the noise: Ranked-choice voting. Novoselic barnstormed Portland on Monday in support of the ballot measure facing Maine voters on Nov. 8. Novoselic is speaking out in support of Question 5, because he says it will help promote election reform by giving voters more choices. The proposal would introduce ranked-choice voting in primaries and general elections for U.S. senators, U.S. representatives, members of the Maine Legislature and the state’s governor. Portland uses ranked-choice voting in its mayoral elections.

Long active politically, Novoselic is traveling the country to support election reform. He cited Maine’s ballot initiative as an important part of the national reform effort. “Ranked-choice voting in Maine is so important, because it’s the model for the rest of the country,” he said in an interview at the Portland Press Herald.

Novoselic, who also played briefly in the Foo Fighters, has been politically active much of his adult life, and has made election reform a key issue. His interest in the issue stems from his desire to see more candidates and more views represented on the ballot. Now 51, he recently earned his college degree and started playing with a couple of bands back home in Washington.

He was scheduled to play a fundraiser for ranked-choice voting Monday night at Bayside Bowl. First, he stopped in to the newsroom to discuss the issue. This conversation has been edited slightly for length and clarity:

Q: Welcome to Maine. Why are you here?

A: I am here to promote ranked-choice voting in Maine, Question 5 on the ballot on Nov. 8, urging Mainers to vote yes for meaningful election reform, for more choices on the ballot, to vote for a candidate that you really want to vote for without worrying you are going to elect someone you really, really don’t like.

Q: Give me some examples of that.

A: So you get this ballot, and you rank your favorite candidate as your first choice, your second (and) third choice and so on. If you first choice gets a majority of votes, they’re elected and the election is over. But if there is no majority, then they kick out the last-place candidate and they redistribute those second and third choices to the remaining candidates, and maybe that’s enough to get someone elected. It’s kind of like having a primary election. You vote in the primary election, and if the candidate you vote for wins the primary, you vote for them again in the general election. But if your candidate doesn’t win the primary, you need a second choice in the general election. So what ranked-choice voting does – it asks you to do all that on one ballot.

Q: One of the criticisms is that it may be confusing to some people.

A: Our system right now is confusing to so many people. Whoever makes that charge that ranked-choice voting is confusing – first of all, people rank things all the time. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? What’s your favorite travel destination? Second of all, if you look at election systems holistically, they’re very complicated. Who draws the districts that we live in? How do they draw the districts that we live in? It’s all this complicated, sophisticated data. Who determines who’s going to be this nominee? These are all complicated social processes. Ranked-choice voting is very simple. You get a ballot – one, two, three, (and) you elect your favorite candidate.

Q: You’ve been politically active for some time. You’ve debated running for office in the past. Are you thinking about running for an office? What would prompt you to run?

A: I’d have to want to move to Olympia or Washington, D.C., and I am very happy living in rural Washington state. I am active in my local Grange. I know the Grange is really important in Maine. I’m the master of my Grange, and I am community-oriented. I graduated from college last May with a degree in social sciences, and the next thing I know I am in two bands. So, I am happy advocating for election reform. I think it’s cutting edge, I think it’s really needed and the more people I talk to about it, people are really receptive. It’s really nice to talk to Mainers, and they’re all like, ‘Yeah, we are voting yes on ranked-choice voting because we need change, and I wanted more choice. I’m tired of all the negativity.’ With ranked-choice voting, there is empirical scientific data, there is evidence that there is less negative campaigning with ranked-choice voting.

Q: Why was it important for you to get your degree?

A: I went to school on a lark. My nephew was going to school that first Monday morning in September, to community college, and I just jumped in the car with him. It was crazy. But I stuck with it. I went to community college for a year and studied hard, but it was kind of a commute – and something about going to school every day. And then I saw this sign that said, ‘Earn your degree in your pajamas at Washington State University.’ So I applied and got accepted. It took me six years to get my degree, because I was still playing music, I was doing election reform. I just did it. Great experience, I recommend it for anyone I know. College can be expensive, and it’s a real time commitment.

Q: Are you going to watch the debate Wednesday?

A: What am I doing Wednesday? Probably not. I have watched part of one of the debates. I would watch the debate if there were more candidates in there and if it was a lively debate. But I know what to expect.


]]> 20, 18 Oct 2016 00:28:59 +0000
Theater review: In ‘Last Gas,’ one more chance for happiness Mon, 17 Oct 2016 20:33:06 +0000 Ever seen one of those side-effect-laden drug commercials that claim to restore happiness and thought, “Is that drug right for me?” To the audience’s amusement, the main character in John Cariani’s play, “Last Gas,” finds out the hard way that what’s right for some people may not be right for all.

The play, which opened the Public Theatre’s 26th season Friday, is set in remote northern Maine at Paradis’ Last Convenient Store – the last chance for gas, food and a phone before entering the wilds outside Canada.

It’s a quaint general store, recreated with vivid detail by set designer Jennifer B. Madigan.

Nat Paradis, played with touching humor by Augustus Kelley, runs the store with his randy father Dwight, played by Kurt Zischke. The two share a dated apartment on the second floor.

On the eve of his 41st birthday, Nat finds himself desperately seeking happiness. He is willing to try anything, including a drug called “Elatra.” Nat’s best friend, Guy Gagnon (Ben Loving) offers to take him to Boston for a Red Sox vs. Yankees game, but the arrival in town of his former girlfriend, Lurene Legasse Soloway (Mary Mossberg), leaves Nat further confused, afraid he’ll miss out on his last chance.

Raised in Presque Isle, John Cariani is perhaps best known for his widely produced play, “Almost, Maine,” a collection of quirky vignettes about love and life in northern Maine. “Last Gas” lacks the quirkiness of “Almost, Maine,” at times feeling a bit long and drawn out.

That’s not to say that the play isn’t witty or filled with colorful characters. Along with Nat, Dwight and Guy, the small town includes Nat’s teenage son, Troy (Brandon Tyler Harris) and Troy’s mother, Cherry-Tracy Pulsifer (Katharine McLeod). Lurene moved to New York but has returned to the County for her mother’s committal ceremony.

Cariani has a knack for creating characters that poke fun at how Mainers are perceived. Cherry-Tracy stands out as the stereotypical forest ranger, with a penchant for writing citations. McLeod nicely plays up the character’s foibles, eliciting laughs with her character’s in-your-face personality.

Loving’s deadpan delivery as Guy adds to the laughs, as does Zischke’s swaggering portrayal of Dwight.

Cariani also has fun weaving in the ongoing rivalry between Red Sox and Yankees fans, including having Nat use the Sox as an amusing excuse to Lurene as to why he is having trouble getting past first base with her.

“Last Gas” is a touching comedy with a thought-provoking twist that reminds audiences about the importance of being true to oneself. Otherwise, the last stop may yield little more than a tank of unhappiness and unfulfilled desires.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

Twitter: @ahboyle

]]> 0, 17 Oct 2016 18:36:26 +0000
Concert review: Despair and love make two parts of ChoralArt show Mon, 17 Oct 2016 16:29:46 +0000 ChoralART, the choir known until recently as the Choral Art Society, opened its 45th season with “Light Shines Eternal,” a program designed to leave its listeners shaken at the end of the first half, but soothed at the concert’s conclusion.

Emotional tugs of war of this sort, with the human spirit as the battleground, are typical in theater, opera and film, but there is nothing in choral music that inherently precludes creating such a striking effect. It’s just a matter of finding the right combination of works.

Robert Russell, the choir’s conductor, found that powerful chemistry in the two large works he conducted at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke’s on Sunday afternoon.

The first, “Holocaust Cantata: Songs from the Camps” (1998) by the renowned choral conductor and composer Donald McCullough, is based on poetry and songs composed by concentration camp prisoners. Polish and Yiddish folk melodies, and even military tunes repurposed to fit poems about life in the camps, are woven through the set. Brief but wrenching excerpts from survivors’ memoirs – and, in one case, Nazi orders about how the Polish intelligentsia, Jews and resisters were to be dealt with – were read between movements.

Since the texts and melodies were all from existing sources, McCullough’s job was really one of compiling and arranging. He did a masterly job, usually presenting the melodies unadorned at first, then in rich harmonizations, either on their own or with piano and cello accompaniments.

Two movements included solo vocal sections: “The Train,” with words by Krystyna Zywulska, and an anonymous melody, was sung affectingly by tenor Darrell Leighton; “Song of Days Now Gone,” the work’s finale, with words and music by Jozef Kropinski, benefited from a powerful but supple performance by soprano Molly Harmon, who was joined late in the piece by mezzo-soprano Andrea Graichen.

The piano and cello lines, played superbly by cellist Miriam Bolkosky (who had played in the work’s premiere, in Washington, 18 years ago) and pianist Diane Walsh, were not merely accompaniments – in fact, they rarely served in that capacity. Consistently melancholy, but also achingly beautiful, they sometimes introduced the choral pieces and sometimes offered a wordless commentary that was somewhat more complex and starkly emotional than the choral themes. Toward the end of the work, they had a reflective movement of their own.

The second half of the program was devoted to a work by James Whitbourn a British composer. Russell could have extended the Holocaust theme using music by Whitbourn as well: The composer’s “Annalies” (2004) is a choral setting based on “The Diary of Anne Frank.” But that would have been a full program on its own (that work runs nearly 80 minutes), and even excerpting it would have made for a relentlessly bleak afternoon.

Instead, Russell wisely offered Whitbourn’s “Luminosity” (2007), a variegated meditation on spiritual light, transcendence and divine love, using ancient Christian texts, and in one case, a reflection of a 19th century Buddhist nun. It offset McCullough’s work perfectly, providing a response, if not quite an answer, to the questions McCullough’s piece inevitably raises about the human capacity for unadulterated evil.

Whitbourn’s choral writing has a bright, translucent quality that suits the mystical texts he has chosen, among them the observation, by Julian of Norwich, the 14th century theologian, that “all things have being through the love of God,” and Teresa of Ávila’s description of the soul as a diamond castle.

To underscore both the ancient and multicultural elements of his libretto, Whitbourn accompanies his choral settings with an idiosyncratic ensemble that includes tanpura (the Indian drone instrument, played by Sara Wasdahl); viola (which matches the spirit of the tanpura by using a raga scale, played deftly by Kimberly Lehmann); tam-tam (for climactic percussive emphasis, played by Zach Gagnon) and organ (used in the traditional way, played by Dan Moore).

The ChoralART singers, 51-voices strong, brought a polished, finely balanced sound, as well as admirable clarity of diction, to both works. The narrators in the McCullough were Erik Jorgensen, a member of the Maine House of Representatives; Mark Vogelzang, president of Maine Public Broadcasting; Rabbi Carolyn Braun of Temple Beth El in Portland; and Aileen Andrews, a member of the choir.

Allan Kozinn is a former music critic and culture writer for The New York Times who lives in Portland. He can be contacted at:

Twitter: kozinn

]]> 0 Wed, 19 Oct 2016 11:30:30 +0000
Harvard museum to dust off curiosities long kept in storage Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:30:14 +0000 CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – As one of the world’s oldest museums dedicated to anthropology turns 150, it’s undergoing some big changes to showcase its significant role in developing the discipline.

Leaders of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University hinted this month at changes to come when they trotted out – for one day only – some of its quirkier, rarely seen pieces as part of a birthday bash marking the day in 1866 when philanthropist George Peabody committed $150,000 to help found the museum.

Among the curiosities was a grizzly bear claw necklace from Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s expedition to the Pacific coast and a grotesque, 19th century “mermaid” made of papier-mâché, wood and fish parts that showman P.T. Barnum once took on a national tour to fanfare.

The “FeeJee Mermaid” and other items long sitting in storage will find a permanent home in public view as part of a new exhibition exploring the Peabody’s role in anthropology, said Castle McLaughlin, a museum curator.

When it opens in April, “All the World is Here: Harvard’s Peabody Museum and the Invention of American Anthropology” will feature roughly 600 objects. Officials hope to show a greater range of the museum’s more than 1 million items, only a fraction of which are on display now.

Detail of an ancient shark tooth sword from the South Pacific are displayed as part of the Arts of War exhibit at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. The Peabody, one of the oldest and largest museums in the world focused on the study of societies and cultures, turns 150 years old this month. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Detail of an ancient shark tooth sword from the South Pacific are displayed as part of the Arts of War exhibit at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. The Peabody, one of the oldest and largest museums in the world focused on the study of societies and cultures, turns 150 years old this month. Associated Press/Charles Krupa

“Harvard was very much in the business of developing anthropology,” said Jane Pickering, head of Harvard’s science and culture museums. “It’s a really interesting occasion to reflect on the Peabody and its role. Within its field, it’s incredible. The size and quality of its collection is truly astonishing.”

McLaughlin said the display will be the largest and perhaps most ambitious the museum has attempted, taking up an entire floor. The museum, which opened on Harvard’s campus in 1877, currently has two levels of exhibit space open.

The new exhibition will highlight curiosities collected by American ship captains that traveled to the Far East from the late 1700s to mid-1800s, of which the “Feejee Mermaid” is a prime example.

The museum’s many famed excavations – from the prehistoric earthwork in Ohio known as Great Serpent Mound to the Mayan ruins of Copan in western Honduras – will also be a focus, as will the museum’s role in the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.

The Peabody’s director at the time, Frederick Ward Putnam, played a leading role in planning the lavish fair, which took place in Chicago and celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas. Putnam scoured the globe for unique artifacts and helped introduce the principles of anthropology to the wider public through the fair.

Jeffrey Quilter, the Peabody’s current director, said the World’s Columbian Exposition highlights the dual legacy of anthropology during those early decades of the profession.

On one hand, he said, it exposed more people to the diversity of world cultures. On the other, it inadvertently helped bolster advocates of colonialism and imperialism.

As the Peabody turns 150, Quilter said, the museum continues to play a vital role in navigating the complex cultures humans have created.

“We’re not just an anthropology museum. We’re interacting with so many other disciplines, from literature to political science to the study of ancient DNA,” he says. “These collections are never dead. They’re constantly being revitalized by people who come back with new ways to study them.”

]]> 0, 17 Oct 2016 07:49:49 +0000
New Hampshire speedway serves as launching pad for pumpkins Sun, 16 Oct 2016 23:05:54 +0000 LOUDON, N.H. — Pumpkins went ballistic at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway over the weekend.

Sixteen teams from as far away as Virginia came to the racetrack to use trebuchets, catapults and air guns to launch the fall fruit.

Some of the pumpkins weighed in at 1,000 pounds, and some flew up to two-thirds of a mile.

The event included large, crane-like launchers to throw cars, motorcycles, a boat and pianos. When a pumpkin misfired, participants called the result a “pie.”

“A lot of work to travel and set up,” said Dave Shepard, a member of the Mista Ballista team from Framingham, Massachusetts. “Takes six guys maybe 10-12 hours.”


]]> 1, 16 Oct 2016 19:19:02 +0000
Ben Affleck’s ‘Accountant’ tallies $24.7 million opening Sun, 16 Oct 2016 21:45:22 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Ben Affleck is still a box office draw outside of the bat suit.

His new thriller “The Accountant” opened to a chart-topping $24.7 million this weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. Gavin O’Connor directed the R-rated thriller, starring Affleck as an autistic mathematician. The film didn’t play especially well with critics, but audiences, who were 58 percent male and 68 percent over the age of 35, gave it a promising “A” CinemaScore.

It’s the continuation of what proves to be a long and fruitful partnership between Affleck and Warner Bros. Although “The Accountant,” which cost a reported $40 million to produce, didn’t quite hit the heights of “Gone Girl’s” $37.5 million opening, it is in the range of some of his other R-rated fall openings with the studio. “Argo,” for instance, launched to $19.5 million in 2012, and “The Town,” took in $23.8 million in 2010.

“The Accountant” also far-surpassed Warner Bros.’ early predictions for the film, which had it in the $15 to $20 million range.

“We’re in the Ben Affleck business, and we’re proud of it. We’ve had a lot of movies with him, and we have a lot of movies coming up with him,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution. “Audiences just love him.”

Affleck’s mob drama “Live By Night,” which he wrote, directed and stars in, opens on Christmas. He also has the DC comics films with the studio.

The weekend’s other new star-driven project, “Kevin Hart: What Now?” narrowly took second place over last week’s champ “The Girl on the Train.”

– The Associated Press

]]> 1, 17 Oct 2016 07:54:06 +0000
Community paramedicine delivers health care to your door Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:06 +0000 Keri Smith of Lewiston landed in the emergency room so often that the doctors, nurses and support staff knew her by first name.

Caught in what she called a “vicious cycle” of symptoms from her anxiety, asthma and diabetes, she turned to costly emergency department care to help ease anxiety attacks, bad asthma flare-ups and spikes in her blood sugar.

Smith’s primary care doctor intervened and suggested that she might benefit from non-traditional home visits and care from a new line of defense in Maine’s medical system – community paramedics.

Community paramedics are health care workers connected with an ambulance service or first-responder system. They provide care at home to patients who may not qualify for traditional home health care visits, but still need a range of help from vital sign checks, nutritional support and access to food banks, to wound care or to monitor prescription use.

For the past year, Smith, 36, has received care from Daphne Russell, a community paramedic with United Ambulance. Through weekly or biweekly appointments at home, Russell has provided Smith with referrals to mental health care resources, has helped her get a volunteer job to provide distraction and ease her anxiety and has provided regular checks on her vitals, diet and self-care routines.

“The home visits helped me reduce the ER visits and supplied me with different resources,” said Smith, who has saved money and reduced stress through her paramedicine service.

“Instead of just focusing on the medical issues alone, Daphne looked at my problems as a whole and helped me navigate around different issues.”

Russell arrives for a patient visit.

Russell arrives for a patient visit.


Community paramedicine began in Maine under a pilot program in 2012 when 12 initial services were authorized by the Legislature. The program was paid for by participating ambulance services and first responder groups. Since then, two additional ambulance services have been approved and three to four more are applying for the CP program, said Jay Bradshaw, project coordinator for the program in Maine. There are 275 EMS groups in Maine, so those participating in the CP program represent a small fraction of providers.

But interest is growing. The topic was the focus of a two-day conference in South Portland last May that drew roughly 100 attendees from a range of emergency services providers across northern New England.

“The interest is definitely there,” said Bradshaw “Having a conference dedicated to this one topic is significant in and of itself.”

But stakeholders concede that the future expansion and sustainability of CPs in Maine remains unclear, due in part to funding.

Right now, the ambulance services pay for the CP personnel or time taken by EMTs to make CP-related house calls in some communities.

Kevin McGinnis, community paramedicine chief for North East Mobile Health Services, who coined the phrase community paramedicine in 2001, said “The math is complicated. It generally doesn’t work yet. CP programs have not quite figured out how to be in the black yet.”

Community paramedics check vital signs, monitor prescription use and provide a range of other types of support.

Community paramedics check vital signs, monitor prescription use and provide a range of other types of support.


The problems community paramedicine is trying to address are significant. According to a 2010 study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, frequent users of emergency departments represented 4.5 percent to 8 percent of individual ER patients, but accounted for 21 to 28 percent of all visits.

A RAND Corp. study found that between 14 and 27 percent of all emergency department visits were for non-urgent care and could save $4.4 billion a year nationally if handled in other settings such as a doctor’s office or after-hours clinic.

Besides delivering health care to people in their homes, the CP program attempts to reduce costs by eliminating unnecessary ER visits, preventing hospital readmissions and cutting out ambulance calls. In the pilot programs, CPs handled 2,704 calls from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2015, according to an evaluation by the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service.

“Every time an ambulance rolls, there’s a cost in it. If someone calls 911 for something that doesn’t require an EMT, that’s a waste of money and services,” Russell said.

Russell, who previously worked as a paramedic and studied to be a CP at Colorado Mountain College, said her incentive to become one of the state’s first group of CPs was to fill the gap between true emergency care and home health care for which many patients may not qualify or a lack of access to any care.

“Access to care is a big concern in Maine. The need is so great in our community. The CP program fills that gap and keeps people healthy,” Russell said.

McGinnis echoes that his company’s involvement stems from a desire to deliver needed services.

“For North East Mobile Health, we’re committed to doing it – not because it’s going to be a moneymaker – it’s the right thing to do,” McGinnis said. North East is the largest emergency medical service in Maine.

Still, Bradshaw acknowledges that the ambulance services “can’t do this forever for free. The services that jumped into it started it because they saw it as part of their community responsibility. It’s a give-back to the community. But as this continues, they need to at least get their expenses covered.”

EMS is largely funded by Medicare and Medicaid nationally, which reimburses the emergency services for transferring someone to a hospital. The services don’t get reimbursed for making house calls on patients to coordinate Meals on Wheels, or to check on how their wound is healing or to verify that a patient is complying with taking medication.

“Forty percent of EMS calls are urgent or emergencies. Sixty percent of EMS calls could be handled in another setting but we don’t get paid to do this,” McGinnis said.

Maine is looking at other regions for ideas. In Minnesota, for example, Medicaid now pays for most CP calls.

But a recent effort to have MaineCare funds used for CP programs in Maine suffered a setback. A study to understand the cost parameters associated with the CP program was supposed to be undertaken this summer by the state Department of Health and Human Services, but was derailed by political gridlock, said McGinnis. The study was intended to be used as the basis of a proposed plan to increase the use of community paramedicine throughout the state.

“But without the study, there can be no plan,” said McGinnis. “It’s extremely unfortunate that Augusta got in the way (of) a program that clearly demonstrates a delivery of health care for people whose needs are not being met and in a way that would reduce the cost of health care.”

The challenge in getting reimbursement for CP calls is that there are few good case studies to prove the cost – and cost-savings – from the program. In theory, it makes sense that keeping people healthier and out of the ER and away from hospital readmissions saves money, but it’s difficult to quantify, McGinnis said.

The Muskie evaluation noted that “because the health care services the community paramedic provides is one of prevention .. many pilot sites noted that it is difficult to put a cost on this service.”

“It’s a chicken and egg argument. You can’t get reimbursement without data to prove your argument. And you can’t get data without providing care – but who pays for that?” Bradshaw asked.

A report to the Legislature on the status of Maine’s CP program is expected in January.

]]> 2, 13 Oct 2016 12:43:04 +0000
On his first new album in years, Randy Newman takes a poke at Putin Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A new Randy Newman song doesn’t come around every day. He’s notoriously slow in the studio, a master craftsman who has only released four studio albums in the last 36 years.

But when Newman does emerge, it’s with his satirical pop powers undiminished. That’s what you’ll hear in “Putin,” a tune released last week to the public as part of a new album coming from Newman in early 2017.

Inspired by the Russian leader’s penchant for bare-chested photo ops and a geopolitical approach that’s somewhat short of soft and cuddly, Newman has crafted a song that tells Putin’s story from multiple perspectives. It’s fully orchestrated to boot.

Newman spoke with us by phone about “Putin.”

Q: You saw the picture of the shirtless Putin on a horse?

A: Horse, tractor. I can’t remember if he had a bare chest on that giant tractor he was driving around. It’s certainly that kind of thing. A person with that much extraordinary amount of power, doing things like that is disturbing but also kind of amusing.

Q: Do you wake up one morning and hear the Putin girls in your head?

A: I don’t think I set out to write a song about Putin but I’ll tell you, another thing that inspired it, there’s an old song in the ’40s, by the Golden Gate Quartet, a gospel song called “Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’ when he fought the beast of Berlin.” About Hitler and Stalin. And I love it, that song. So I think “Stalin Stallin'” is what really pointed the direction to me. “Putin putting his paints on. Stalin wasn’t stallin’.”

Q: And we also have you rhyming of “Kurds” and “way” with “curds” and “whey,” which is delicious.

A: I have to give credit where it’s due. I heard it, years ago, Harry Shearer was pretending to be Dan Rather walking through the halls and thinking about his copy and said, “Kurds are in the way.” Or something like that And then he said, “curds and whey.” It’s a great joke.

Q: The last time we talked, in 2008, you were putting out your last record. This was pre-Obama. You were very, I don’t know if depressed is the right word, but you felt things were bleak. Has anything changed? The empire hasn’t ended, as you sang back then.

A: No, but there’s threats to it. A candidate like this. You keep wondering whether people will see that he’s a liar and not very bright.

Q: You don’t mean Gary Johnson, right?

A: No, I don’t think he’s a liar. It’s a big surprise to me about the country that there are 40 million people prepared to vote for (Trump). They wouldn’t want him as a friend. No matter who you are, you wouldn’t want him on your bowling team or to have dinner with him or anything. They would recognize it immediately in a guy. A big blowhard, braggart.

Q: Last time around you were complaining about how far right you felt the Republican Party had slipped.

A: They got what they deserved. It’s not like they’re radically different in terms of policies in terms of who he is. He’s more liberal than they are, no doubt. Cruz is further to the right. It’s like they drifted so far, I thought they drifted out of the American mainstream completely and they’d have to adjust. To get nominated by that party you’ve got to be pretty reactionary, really.

Q: What is it about the timing of “Putin”? You want it out now, not in the spring when your album is released.

A: I think that people will lose interest after this surfeit of political talk and attention after the election. And I’m just anxious to get something out. I hate having to wait. I’ve got the thing done. I just want to see what happens. I’m curious to see how the thing is received.

Q: Obviously Trump and Putin have been linked together recently. Did you consider how you might bring Trump into this thing?

A: Didn’t know it when I wrote it and didn’t know that there was some obvious connection. This is the Republican Party who has run against Russia for 80 years and you know, (Trump) hasn’t mentioned (Putin) except in a positive way.

Q: Last election you sang “I’m dreaming of a white president,” or your narrator did.

A: I felt I needed to say that because it was implicit in so much of the vote against Obama. I don’t care what anyone says. There are millions of people who thought that there’s a million white people better qualified than a black man to be president of the country. So I wrote a song about it.

Q: That song was very direct. We can connect it immediately to the election. This song is a little more abstract. Do you even think in that way when you’re writing the song?

A: No. I want them to get what I mean. And all I mean is fairly straightforward. I’m saying it in that it’s not black and white, really, and he shows in the song more doubt than maybe the real Putin shows. He says, ‘I can’t do it. I can’t do this big job here and pull the people into the 21st century’ and he asks the girls, who say, ‘no, you can do it.’

Q: He needs those girls.

A: Yeah, they give him the confidence and he’s talking with his wife and about the war and it’s hardly a resort worth fighting for, the Black Sea. Things aren’t black and white in the world. I try to make him interestingly human which, of course, he is.

Q: You aren’t out there trying to overtly trying to politicize but with a song like this, do you imagine it being played in a way it can influence something in the election?

A: No. The belief in the ’70s was that music was changing the world. I never believed that it had that great an effect. The effect Madonna had on fashion and sort of mores of young girls was a bigger deal than anything Dylan may have said, even.

Q: Things have changed a lot since you started putting out records. I was just showing my daughter “Rednecks” and trying to explain to her what was going on there. She’s 14 and I found it was a little hard to explain that there was a world like this where songs like this could be written and released in the mainstream.

A: I don’t play it much now because it requires such an explanation. I can do it but it’s like explaining a joke. It’s not a joke. Also that problem with the songs about the North having some idea they had a moral superiority to the South isn’t necessarily true anymore. I think people know the problem is the whole country. I think it’s different now. I’m not more careful with what I say but on both sides of the spectrum there’s a pressure to be careful with what you say.

Q: And that’s something that influences what you’re doing? Or do you just do what you do?

A: Yes, although I wouldn’t use the (n-word) I use in “Rednecks” now in almost any circumstances.

Q: This record you’re making. How far along is it?

A: Just mixing now. The reason they’re waiting now is because I’m doing the pictures and I can’t promote it or go on the road with it. I wish it could come out tomorrow. It’s sort of different. The songs are a step for me in that there are a few songs that have more than one character in it. Which I can’t remember doing very much of. The “Putin” song sort of does. There’s a song about Sonny Boy Williamson and one about a pair of famous brothers. And let’s see, I’m happy with it … I had a teacher one time who said, some day you do something where you use everything you know. You don’t do it ostentatiously where you see the workings going on. But some day, if you’re lucky, that will happen. This is the case where I did that about as well as I can do.

Q: We just heard Paul Simon declaring he’s thinking of retiring. He’s 74. You’re 72. But you don’t sound like a man thinking this is it for me, I’m done.

A: I’m thinking about it. But I think I’ll wait until I see that I’m getting worse at what I’m doing. I don’t quite see it yet.

Q: I’m not sure that we’re the best judges of our own demise. Right? I mean, remember Willie Mays.

A: Definitely not. But I mean, I wrote that song, “I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It).” No one taps you on the shoulder and says, “You’re past it. You outta give it up.”

]]> 0, 15 Oct 2016 09:41:05 +0000
Want to turn belly fat to flat? Get some sleep Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Where there’s fat, oh, how we want flat. We try everything from fad diets to pointless pills. Here’s what really works.

It’s a pretty universal desire. I’m not talking about the living-forever wish – I mean having a flat belly. Have you ever heard anyone say, “No, actually, I’d like to go with the round, protruding kind.”

No, didn’t think so.

But how do we get there?

Claims are everywhere. If you believe what you see online, there are exercises that give you six-pack abs in 30 days, tart-cherry-based diets that eliminate flab in a jiffy or, a personal favorite, “belly-fat-fighting pills.”

“There are an infinite set of claims out there spread by the fitness, diet and supplement industry,” says Scott Kahan, a doctor and the director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington.

“The claims are overinflated or just plain wrong,” he says. “We all want that silver bullet, but it just doesn’t exist.”

So, as much as you don’t want to hear it, fighting belly fat is neither fast nor easy. You have to go back to the basics: Make general health and fitness part of your everyday life.

“Exercise, nutrition, sleep and reducing stress are all important factors in reducing belly fat in particular and improving general health,” Kahan says. “I can’t prioritize them, but small changes in one or several of the categories can make a big difference.”

• • •

Let’s consider the two types of belly fat we see (and most of us have).

There is subcutaneous fat – the love-handle kind. It’s unsightly but not metabolically active. In other words, it sits there without creating too much havoc in our bodies, says Cassia Denton, a personal trainer and group fitness director at Balance Gym in the District.

But then there is visceral belly fat – the fat that surrounds your organs. This is potentially dangerous.

“These visceral fat cells actually pump out hormones into your body. They’re like an endocrine organ,” Denton says. “They can directly affect your LDL levels adversely.” (LDL is the “bad” cholesterol.) These fat cells and the hormones they create can also increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes, she says. Finally, they increase inflammation in the body, which taxes the immune system.

How do you know if you have this potentially dangerous type of fat?

One indication is your waist circumference. Anything more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women may raise a red flag to your doctor and inspire further investigation.

Also, where fat is deposited – having an apple-shaped body (as opposed to a pear-shaped body) is an indication that there may be a concern regarding visceral fat. That depends on factors including genetics, hormones and stress level, Kahan says.

• • •

Now let’s see what we can do to beat the bulge.

At the exercise end of things, Kahan recommends the government guidelines of 150 minutes of cardio a week and a couple of resistance training “bouts,” as he puts it.

Denton says she would like to see more emphasis on resistance training because it helps create more lean muscle mass, which helps raise your overall metabolism. Moderate aerobic work, such as running, also has a place. Resistance training can’t be done every day because the body needs a couple of days to recover, while steady-state aerobic work can be done more often, even daily.

So if you want to work out every day, try alternating cardio and resistance, she says.

Resistance training not only improves the resting metabolic rate, but it also appears to improve the health of the actual muscle cells, Kahan says.

And finally, will it help our belly shape if we do a thousand crunches a day?

“You can tone, but you can’t spot-reduce,” Kahan says.

When it comes to nutrition, there are several key points, says Rebecca Mohning, a Washington-area registered dietitian and owner of the Expert Nutrition website (

“Hydration and increasing fiber in the diet are important,” Mohning says.

Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, beans and vegetables, are also key in creating a healthful diet that reduces belly fat.

But, Mohning says, if you haven’t been eating cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, introduce them gradually, or you might experience bloating – which is sometimes confused with belly fat.

“Carbonation and gum can also make you feel bloated,” she says. Bloating might be reduced by probiotics, added to the diet through foods such as kefir or through supplements.

She recommends eating slowly and reducing sugar, which we now know causes inflammation and metabolic disorder in the body.

Eating enough protein as we age is also important. As we hit middle age, as much as 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal can be helpful, she says.

• • •

Surprisingly, though, as a nutritionist who works with a lot of athletes, Mohning considers neither nutrition nor exercise to be the prime weapons in the fight against a tubby tummy. Instead, she points to sleep and stress.

“I would say No. 1 is sleep, No. 2 is stress, followed by nutrition and then exercise,” she says. “If you’re exhausted, it’s better to sleep the extra 30 to 40 minutes than to exercise.”

Why is this?

Because while we can’t affect our genetics in terms of where we deposit fat, we can affect our levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which has been shown to specifically increase belly fat.

Not only does cortisol affect where we deposit fat, but it also encourages us to eat more sugar and make other unhealthy food choices as we deal with the cortisol-induced flight-or-fight rush of anxiety coursing through the body.

Yoga, meditation and good sleep (no caffeine or alcohol before bedtime, and keep the bedroom cool, dark, quiet and screen-free, suggests Mohning) are all crucial.

In short: “Stress management is part of weight management,” she says.

]]> 0, 13 Oct 2016 16:57:32 +0000
Art Review: Bowdoin show is witty, ironic and excellent Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “This Is a Portrait If I Say So,” an exhibition at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, is premised on the idea that people may be represented by qualities other than physical likeness. Western visual culture has long embraced that idea. Story subjects are usually recognized by their attributes – not their faces. “Attribute” is in fact the word for the metaphorical markers that have always accompanied the Christian saints, and Western painting grew up in the Church: The guy tied to a post and shot through with arrows must be Saint Sebastian, the old man with a lion is Saint Jerome, and so on.

Secular stories also feature the props of myth and moral: The hatchet-holding boy next to the chopped cherry tree is George Washington.

With modernism (and arguably the advent of photography), however, the realistically painted portrait became a complicated and highly charged object. Painterly realism, after all, was the stuff of the academy – and if there was one gathering point for the modernists, it was the shunting of the top-down institutionalized culture of the academy.

At Bowdoin, the first piece is Robert Rauschenberg’s last-minute masterwork of conceptual art from which the exhibition gets its title. Preoccupied with a major exhibition in Sweden, Rauschenberg forgot he had promised to make a portrait for the opening of Iris Clert’s gallery in Paris in 1961. So the American artist sent a telegram from Stockholm that simply stated: “THIS IS A PORTRAIT OF IRIS CLERT IF I SAY SO.”

Whether you’re a fan of conceptual art or not, the piece is certainly a conversation starter. It references its subject – Iris Clert – and lays clear the author and his intentions. At the most basic level, it takes aim at the heart of representation: convention. A word, after all, only has meaning if we agree it does. For something to be recognized as referring to something, it has to cross the threshold of convention. In the study of signs known as semiotics, there are three main paths this can take: An icon looks like the thing (traditional painting); an index has a physical relation to the thing (a fingerprint); and a symbol can be an arbitrary convention (the word “dog” or the idea that a red octagon means “stop”).

“This Is a Portrait If I Say So” covers a tremendous range of content because it looks to creative, powerful and surprising notions of portrait from the past 100 years. While a few modes like iconography, description, metaphor and association bubble to the top, the exhibition’s success rides boundary-pushing possibilities. This makes for a challenging show that requires viewers to rethink practically every piece they see.

The star quality of the work makes that effort particularly rewarding and helps give the work context through prior knowledge of the artists. For example, Bowdoin has brought from Minnesota one of Marsden Hartley’s portraits of a German officer, part of his brilliant cubist series that became the high-water mark of American modernist painting. This painting alone is worth the trip, but it is accompanied by a no less brilliant Hartley portrait of Gertrude Stein. While much of the work is fresh from the edges, the well-known artists in “This Is a Portrait If I Say So” facilitate the project of recognition – the very subject of the show: Pablo Picasso, Yoko Ono, Jasper Johns, Georgia O’Keefe, Marcel Duchamp, Jim Dine, Ross Blechner, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Mel Bochner, Dan Flavin, Charles Demuth, Alfred Steiglitz, Robert Indiana and Florine Stettheimer among many others.

The challenge of the exhibition lies in the range of the works, each of which not only yields its own subject, but its own internal logic. Fortunately, the works are accompanied by insightful labels and an exemplary (and hefty) scholarly catalog.

Much of the work is witty. Dan Flavin’s “Barbara Roses” for example, is an exquisite potted light fixture in the shape of a rose – which he presented to his critical champion, Barbara Rose. Jason Salavon’s video installation laughs at a compendium of his own Google searches. Janine Antoni’s “Butterfly Kisses” follows the magical realism notion of compelling specificity: Each side of a sheet has 1,124 marks made by her heavily mascaraed eyelashes; it looks like a girlishly magical – and beautiful – dark Mark Tobey. Roni Horn’s oblong steel ball is unlikely, but the description of how the subtly irregular object came to remind her of herself is compelling – and then seeing the oblong shadows dancing around it makes the theatricality of it fascinating: Is it hiding its quirks under the distorted shadows, or are they furthering the non-spherical effect? Glenn Ligon’s deployment of friends’ descriptions of him in the form of runaway slave notices (a bona fide genre at one time) sting with echoes of unsaid assumptions about how Americans were once invited to doubt the free status of anyone who appeared to be of African descent. Man Ray’s blend of cartoonish joking and savvy symbolism leads from the initial giggles to a subtle art compendium, along with a handprint that leads back through Rauschenberg’s fingerprint to the notion of traces and deductive evidence.

Particularly strong works include Ross Blechner’s gay pride flag painting with a star of David quietly embedded near the top. It powerfully converts the diversity symbol into a painterly field and creates havoc with perspectives and priorities. LJ Robert’s single-strand embroidery reads like a scrapbook of late ’80s symbols in the vein of ACT UP; its echoes are ghostly and dangerously powerful still. Byron Kim’s grids of color panels seem to represent color palettes for the skin of individuals, most notably his son when he was 12 months old. In this context, we can no longer miss what Kim’s approach intentionally leaves out.

“This Is a Portrait If I Say So” is an excellent launching point for thinking about how art works. And because of that, it is a particularly powerful introduction to many of the critical ideas taken on by the modernist painters in particular. It is an exciting exhibition, informative, entertaining and challenging.

From the start, it is loaded with witty irony. Rauschenberg insists, “THIS IS A PORTRAIT OF IRIS CLERT IF I SAY SO.” But does he ever actually say so?

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:

]]> 0, 15 Oct 2016 17:28:12 +0000
Back injuries most common type of injuries for workers Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Debra Labbe, 56, has devised a comprehensive strategy to treat chronic back pain related to her job as a nurse at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

She sees a chiropractor, exercises, stretches, builds up her core muscles, spends time in her hot tub and sparingly takes ibuprofen.

She’s far from alone, as back injuries are the most common non-fatal occupational injury, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2014, there were about 200,000 cases where employees missed at least one day of work due to a back injury, out of 1.15 million total cases of occupational missed time for injuries, according to a 2015 report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After back injuries, workers most commonly hurt their hands and knees. Sprains, strains and tears were the most common types of injuries.

In Maine, it’s only getting worse. According to Maine Department of Labor data, injuries to a person’s lumbar region were the most reported occupational injury in 2014, representing 14.3 percent of all injuries. Five years earlier, back injuries were 10.7 percent of occupational injuries.

Health care employees have among the highest rates of injuries for workers, second only to those working in the transportation and warehousing sectors.

“There’s a lot of stress on the body on the job,” said Labbe, of Raymond, explaining that she wears heavy lead aprons when patients are having radiation treatments, and she needs to move patients and equipment.

Labbe said her work, running and hiking have put stress on her back, and the chiropractic care along with the other techniques controls her pain. She said she never got an injury, but as she’s aged the back pain has worsened.

Since she started her treatment regimen this winter, her pain has improved.

“I have noticed a big difference,” said Labbe, who recently received a lower back manipulation by Robert Lavoie at his Gorham chiropractic clinic.

Lavoie said he sees many cases related to occupations, but not just the blue-collar jobs that the public associates with injuries – such as lobstermen, construction workers or plumbers.

“The body was not meant to sit in front of a computer for eight to 10 hours a day,” Lavoie said.

Lavoie said sedentary workers are often surprised to learn that they are susceptible to back injuries or chronic back pain.

“They’re getting all of these aches and pains and wondering why,” he said.

Lavoie recommends ergonomics – having the computer monitors at the correct height, for instance, or work stations that give employees the choice to sit or stand throughout the work day.

But he said frequent breaks are also helpful. If possible, take a short walk away from the computer monitor every hour.

For workers who do physical labor, proper lifting technique is important, but so is good nutrition and sleep, strengthening core muscles, exercise, massage and yoga. Wearing a brace can also be helpful.

“It’s not any one thing that we do. We have to treat the whole body,” Lavoie said.

He said at any job, be careful to avoid repetitive, unnatural body movements, such as excessive twisting or even constantly looking down while texting on a cellphone.

“We call that ‘text neck,’ ” Lavoie said.

Lavoie said chiropractors are seeing more patients who formerly were on opioids now that there’s more realization of their dangers. Maine had a record 272 drug overdoses in 2015 – most caused by opioids – and is on pace to exceed that record in 2016. Lavoie said patients and doctors are searching for alternatives to opioids to treat chronic pain. There have not been any long-term studies that prove the effectiveness of opioids in treating chronic pain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Lavoie said medication has a place, but it should be used in conjunction with other treatments and not as the primary way to treat pain.

“All the drugs do is mask your pain. It is not treating the underlying conditions, the reasons why you are having pain,” he said. q

]]> 1, 13 Oct 2016 17:12:28 +0000
How one of America’s oldest languages landed in “The Magnificent Seven” Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 COMANCHE TRIBAL COMPLEX, Okla. — Johnny Poolaw took his 10-year-old niece to see “The Magnificent Seven” because he wanted to show her a strong Comanche character in a movie that opened No. 1 at the box office.

Nestled in their seats at a historic theater in the heart of Oklahoma’s Indian Country, Poolaw and his niece eagerly awaited the appearance of Red Harvest, played by Native American actor Martin Sensmeier. But the real surprise came when Sensmeier and Denzel Washington’s character exchanged words: They spoke flawlessly in the Comanche language. A collective gasp came from the mostly Native audience.

“It was like, ‘Oh my God, they’re speaking Comanche!'” said Poolaw, vice president of student and academic affairs at Comanche Nation College. “This is a Native person playing a Native character speaking a Native language.”

The rarity of a moment like that in a big-budget movie is hard to overstate, said Poolaw and other Native Americans who praise Antoine Fuqua, the director who remade the classic 1960 Western, for his attention to authenticity. To them, the few minutes of Comanche spoken in “The Magnificent Seven” signal two important developments: long-overdue improvement in how Hollywood portrays Native Americans and the payoff of intensive efforts to preserve America’s first languages.

Comanches have fought hard to save theirs, helped by outside grant money that the tribe’s language preservation committee used to expand classes, hold a language festival and offer enrolled members free dictionaries and tutorial DVDs. Still, the United Nations’ cultural heritage agency considers Comanche “severely endangered,” with only about 100 speakers. It’s among roughly 150 indigenous languages the U.S. Census Bureau counts as still in existence – a figure that academics warn could dwindle to fewer than two dozen by 2050, a legacy of the government’s former forced-schooling campaign that banned Native languages.

That ugly history is why so many Native Americans got a thrill from hearing Comanche alive and onscreen – spoken not only by Sensmeier, an Alaska Native in his breakout role, but by Oscar winner Washington, who leads “The Magnificent Seven.”

To accomplish those few moments, the producers turned to Oklahoma-born artist and film consultant Jhane Myers, a Comanche who’s previously worked as a consultant with Johnny Depp on “The Lone Ranger” and Mel Gibson on “Apocalypto,” in addition to documentary projects. Forrest Goodluck, the young Native actor who appeared in last year’s Leonardo Dicaprio film “The Revenant,” is a graduate of a film camp Myers runs in New Mexico, where she’s based.

In a phone interview from Santa Fe, Myers said her top priority was ensuring the authenticity of Comanche parts of the script, tweaking it to omit words that sounded wrong and then reading the lines to elders to check the translations. She sent the actors voice recordings she had made on her smartphone so they could practice their pronunciation. On set, she found herself face-to-face with Washington, rehearsing the lines with him and laughing when he joked that he was a “black Indian.”

Myers kept her involvement secret from the wider Comanche community, partly out of a custom against bragging and partly because she wanted moviegoers to experience the surprise that Poolaw and his niece got at the theater in Carnegie, Okla.

“I didn’t tell anyone because I wanted people to go to the movies and hear Denzel speaking Comanche and be blown away,” Myers said. “If I don’t ever do another thing in film, I know that I did this thing and I did it right.”

The one thing that’s off about Sensmeier’s Comanche portrayal is his hair, which was long when he first showed up on set but ended up cropped in the movie. Myers explained that it was because he had rushed home to Alaska during filming due to a death in the family and returned with his head shaven in accordance with tribal mourning customs. The producers were forced to improvise.

“Our history has been mistold and romanticized because we weren’t ready for the opportunity or we weren’t even asked,” Myers said. “But we are ready now. And now we’re being asked.”


Poolaw said he was proud to show his niece a Native hero on the big screen. He said there were so few good roles when he was growing up that the 1989 miniseries “Lonesome Dove,” based on the novel by Larry McMurtry and featuring Comanche characters, was a major event in Indian Country. For four nights, he recalled, families sat rapt before their televisions – he likened it to the collective viewing experience of African-Americans who watched “Roots” in 1977.

Now, Poolaw said, roles are getting even better. For one thing, they’re increasingly played by Natives themselves rather than white or Latino actors. And in films set in the so-called Wild West days, historical accuracy has improved, with more nuance about why indigenous tribes fought to protect their lands and people from the newly arrived Europeans.

The week before he watched “The Magnificent Seven,” Poolaw said, he learned in a Comanche history class about the fearsome reputation of the Comanches.

“They were ‘lords of the plains’ and they had that title because they fought everybody and had control of the land. They were pretty tough, rugged warriors, and other tribes feared us,” Poolaw said. “When I saw the character in the movie, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s who we were and what we were like.'”

Wallace Coffey, the six-term chairman of the Comanche Nation who stepped down earlier this year, named several Hollywood filmmakers who’ve traveled to Oklahoma seeking help with historical records or language. He said he was glad Hollywood types were finally interested in getting the portrayals right, and that Comanche language initiatives had paid off enough to help.

While he’d prefer Native Americans to write and direct their own stories, Coffey said, it’s undeniably exciting to have movie stars embrace the culture in respectful ways, as was the case with Depp, who spoke a couple of lines in Comanche in “The Lone Ranger.” Coffey said Depp visited Oklahoma multiple times and addressed him as “ah-tah,” Comanche for “uncle.”

“When he came to the Comanche Fair to ride in the parade he said, ‘Ah-tah, will you not advertise it?’ I said, ‘Word of mouth?’ He said, ‘Word of mouth.’ Still, we had 17,000 people show up – most of them women,” Coffey recalled with a chuckle.

]]> 0, 15 Oct 2016 09:16:15 +0000
Deep Water: ‘The Well’ by Bruce Guernsey Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Edited and introduced by Gibson Fay-LeBlanc.

Today’s poem doesn’t seem to need much introduction. The speaker considers a well, presumably on his property, and tests it with a pebble to see how high the water is. Like the best simple poems, it can be enjoyed for its simplicity, but there’s also more there, if you look for it.

“The Well” comes to us from Bruce Guernsey, who taught creative writing and American literature for 25 years at Eastern Illinois University and divides his time between Charleston, Illinois, and Bethel, Maine.

Guernsey captures the quiet rhythms of speech. Lines like “The mystery of water underground” and “I drop a stone in ours to hear” sound like they could be in a poem by Robert Frost, our American master at using a line to find the music in how people talk.

There’s also darkness here. The pebble becomes “a star, falling through the night” when the well is dry. And what are those fins that “move through the dark, deep” at the end of the poem? There’s danger down in the bottom of the well, or something unnamable, or something we need to live.

The Well

By Bruce Guernsey

The mystery of water underground,

the dark stream where the dead kneel

cupping their pale hands,

splashing the stillness from their eyes.

I drop a stone in ours to hear

if there’s water for the children’s bath.

And if it’s dry, no sound—the pebble

a star, falling through the night.

Here, a rope once hung, a bucket

on its noose. Here, the cattle gathered

summer evenings at the trough,

their dull heads bowed.

No one fishes this hole, or ever did,

though in the cold, moonless pools

fins move through the dark, deep

in the ground, where spawning begins.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. This column is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2012 Bruce Guernsey. First published in From Rain: Poems, 1970-2010 (Ecco Qua Press, 2012), and appears here by permission of the author.

]]> 0 Sat, 15 Oct 2016 21:32:35 +0000
Book Review: The game is life in ‘Gamblers Anatomy’ Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Writer Jonathan Lethem takes his readers places that they wouldn’t have imagined. It is his gift and his challenge. He succeeds masterfully in his new novel, “A Gambler’s Anatomy,” using the board game backgammon as both a central story element and a psychological substrata that shades character interactions.

Alexander Bruno, a middle-aged man of passable good looks, makes his living playing high-stakes backgammon. A streak of expensive losses in Singapore, however, prompts him to travel to Berlin seeking to regroup and pay his debt. He is grievously aware, however, that a “blot” — a blind spot — has begun to obscure his vision in one eye. Worse, he reasons, it’s causing him to lose the telepathic abilities he has long relied on in becoming one of the game’s premiere players. He is obsessed with the blot’s presence and the headaches it seems to be spawning. He fears he might be dying.

Backgammon, one of the oldest board games in the world, is played with 30 pieces called “checkers” or “men,” among other names. Opponents arrange their pieces on their own side of the board and use dice to advance their positions. Players can dominate a position on the board by holding it with two or more pieces. The weakest spot is held only by one piece, known as a “blot,” which can be captured and forced to start over again. The goal is to successfully move all of one’s pieces around the board where they are then retired. Bets are made with every dice roll, and can be doubled, requiring the opponent to either accept the doubling or forfeit the match. It is a game of luck, strategy and psychological finesse.

Bruno arrives in Berlin to play a “potential whale,” someone likely to lose a colossal sum. “Bruno had for his entire life associated backgammon with candor, the dice not determining fate so much as revealing character,” Lethe writes. Yet, Bruno often falls victim to his own character foible, a personal blindspot that allows his concentration to be broken by his sexual desires. Initially, he gathers sizable winnings, until his opponent breaks his focus by having a half-naked, masked woman bearing a tray of food enter the room. Not only does Bruno lose a prodigious amount before the evening is over, but he ends up in the hospital, his slackening vigor presaged by a nosebleed that couldn’t be staunched.

After tests, he is informed that he has a tumorous cancer growing behind his eye and that his best hope is a rare surgery performed by a pioneer in the field, requiring him to return to Berkeley, California. Berkeley happens to be where he grew up, bouncing as a boy with his sad mother from squalid apartments to homeless shelters. It’s is a place he escaped after high school with the intent of never returning.

The setup for his return is a happenstance encounter with a childhood acquaintance, Keith Stolarsky, and Stolarsky’s girlfriend at an elite club while Bruno was in Singapore. When they were kids, Bruno largely felt disdain for Stolarsky, for reasons Stolarsky again makes apparent. Bruno humors Stolarsky in a match, in part because he finds his girlfriend alluring. Stolarsky has become a wealthy entrepreneur, owning “half of Telegraph Avenue” in Berkeley, running a portfolio of seedy apartments, fast food joints and other ventures. The two men play, Bruno leaping ahead with sizable earnings until he grows either bored or distracted, causing him to lose much of his money.

Stolarsky subsequently becomes his benefactor, enabling Bruno to return from overseas to Berkeley for the surgery, which is performed by a narcissist who peels back Bruno’s face from his forehead to his mouth in order to remove the tumor. The surgery and hospital bill is paid by Stolarsky, putting Bruno deeply in his debt. After the bandages are removed, Bruno leaves the hospital wearing a hooded mask. Stolarsky puts him up in a flophouse apartment he owns and gives him a job at one of his burger joints.

Bruno now passes, in the world he grew up in and loathes, as a freak. But the blot in his vision has, indeed, been removed. Slowly he comes to sense the power of his perceived telepathy returning, with his mask giving him a powerful psychological edge, alluring and enticing his opponents, but serving as a barrier they cannot penetrate.

Lethem, who lives part time in Maine, moves his men around the board of his story like a backgammon master. Things get curiouser and curiouser before Lethem’s unexpected end game. “A Gambler’s Anatomy” is a complex unfolding of character that revolves around games of all manner and dimensions. Ultimately, the heart of the story lies not in any moral imperative, but in the question of who plays whom — and who gets played.

Frank O Smith is a Maine writer and ghostwriter whose novel, “Dream Singer,” was named as a finalist for the Bellwether Prize, created by best-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver. Smith can be reached via his website:

]]> 0 Sat, 15 Oct 2016 21:47:46 +0000
Maine musicians helping each other onto national stage Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Ryan Zoidis could be the Kevin Bacon of the Maine music scene.

You know, that game where you try to see how few actors you can name before getting to someone who worked with Bacon? You can do the same thing with Zoidis, and it doesn’t take long to find links between him and other Maine-based musicians doing big things in their careers.

Zoidis, who lives in South Portland, went to the Berklee College of Music in Boston in the mid ’90s and met fellow student Eric Krasno, a Florida native. The two helped form a funk band called Lettuce. A few years later, Zoidis and Krasno became friendly with the Portland band Rustic Overtones. Zoidis played with Rustic for a time, and Krasno later started writing songs with Rustic frontman Dave Gutter. A couple years ago, Krasno used some connections of his own to help Gutter land a job writing songs for the latest album by legendary New Orleans singer Aaron Neville. The album, “Apache,” came out in July.

From playing around Portland, Zoidis and Krasno both knew Lyle Divinsky, a Portland singer who moved to New York a few years ago. Divinsky played around New York and eventually got recommended for the job of lead singer for The Motet, a Colorado-based funk band that began in the late ’90s. Krasno, who had produced an album for The Motet, gave Divinsky a glowing recommendation. Divinsky got the job early this year, and by mid-summer he was singing before 10,000 people at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado.

The connections between Zoidis, Divinsky and Gutter help illustrate how Maine musicians making careers for themselves outside of the state often lend a helping hand to each other, make an introduction, or just lend moral support. It’s an example, the musicians say, of how strong and vibrant the Maine music scene is, specifically in Portland.

“I think it’s all about perspective and approach,” said Divinsky, 31. “I’ve never met anyone in (the Portland scene) who is competitive in a negative way. We’re not playing just because it’s fun and we’re looking for a party. We all care deeply and want to share that feeling. I think there’s a special energy in Portland.”

Guitarist Adam Agati, 33 and from Cape Elizabeth, says he also was helped by connections with other Maine artists. Agati started playing gigs in Portland clubs and bars when he was still a teenager. He was living in New York around the same time as Divinsky, and says playing and recording with Divinsky helped him. Agati had been a guitarist in jazz bands and played in Nashville for a while before coming to New York. He said he wanted to branch out from jazz and play rock, soul and other kinds of music, but he didn’t know a lot of people in New York who weren’t jazz musicians.

Mutual Maine friends led him to Divinsky. Agati said playing with Divinksy helped him meet other musicians in New York, and find other opportunities. Agati is now composing film music in Los Angeles and preparing for a European tour with a band called Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles.

“We have talent in this market that can compete with anyone, but we still live in Maine, so to do bigger things you need to catch a break,” said Ken Bell, who runs the Portland House of Music and formerly ran The Big Easy, a club on Market Street. “It happens a lot where (musicians) from Maine put the word in someone’s ear, do something to help each other along. It’s great to see so many of them spreading the love.”


Zoidis, 41, lives in South Portland when he’s not on tour with Lettuce or other artists. He’s also played with an impressive list of pop music stars, including Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Bob Weir. Though he went to college in Boston, Zoidis played in the Portland scene and kept in touch with other young musicians. He had gone to high school in Portland with Jon Roods, who in the mid-1990s helped form the core one of Portland’s best-known and most successful rock bands, Rustic Overtones. Gutter was the band’s lead singer.

Rustic Overtones played shows in the 1990s with various bands Zoidis was in, and at some point Zoidis’ Portland friends invited him to join Rustic. The band had a big following locally and got signed to a recording deal by Arista in 1999. But because of internal changes at the label, the band never released an album with Arista. A few years later the band released an album with the smaller Tommy Boy label, but never gained major national success. Zoidis left the band around the time it was signed to Tommy Boy.

But Zoidis and his bandmates in Lettuce kept in touch with the Rustic Overtones members. And the connections continue to pay off.

“The Portland scene is what it is because it’s a place where you can work on your craft and not have to kill yourself working a day job, though it is getting more expensive than it used to be,” said Zoidis. “It just seems to be conducive to creative people.”

Lettuce will be touring throughout the rest of this year, in major cities, drawing audiences in the thousands at some venues. The band is scheduled to play Portland’s State Theatre Dec. 30. In the spring, it will tour Japan. Members of Lettuce are hoping to start a series of funk-focused festivals in different cities, Zoidis said.


Gutter, 41, still sings with Rustic Overtones. But he has spent much of his career writing songs for other artists – Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Res, Gramatik, Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton among them – and he has worked for several years with Krasno as his partner.

Krasno had played over the years and become friendly with Ivan Neville, Aaron Neville’s son. That connection helped get Krasno and Gutter get an audition with the elder Neville.

Neville, who was in Maine recently for two concerts, said he liked Gutter’s ideas right away. He especially liked the fact that Gutter wanted to take his poetry, which he’s been writing for years, and make some into songs.

“They both did a real good job. I really liked the way (Gutter) put the things,” said Neville.

Gutter looked over hundreds of Neville’s poems to find those that could become lyrics. The poems were about Neville’s life and his view of the world. The song “Stompin’ Ground” was written from a poem about growing up in New Orleans. Gutter said when he read the poem he could hear the horns and New Orleans-style percussion that eventually became part of the song.

When Gutter would come up with a tune or a lyric, he’d have to sing a little bit of it as a demo to Neville, kind of like taking batting practice in front of David Ortiz.

At one point while recording at a studio in Vermont, Gutter and Neville were stuck for a line in the song “Heaven,” which is about being forgiven at the gates of heaven. Gutter’s daughter Kani, who was 8, came into the room and asked what the grownups were puzzling over. They told her and the little girl said, “Why don’t you just say ‘Heaven, I hope I meet you there.'” So they put that line in the song.

“He has put such a stamp on music over the years, so it was cool that he was so open to everyone’s ideas,” Gutter said.

]]> 1, 16 Oct 2016 10:16:53 +0000
Yarmouth Art Festival opens 4-day run Wednesday Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The Yarmouth Art Festival opens Wednesday with the work of nearly 100 Maine artists on display.

The juried show runs through Saturday at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 396 Gilman Road.

The festival has received 486 submissions of work from 120 Maine artists including paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography. Of that, 169 pieces from 94 artists were selected by the panel of jurors for the 2016 show.

This year’s jurors are artist Suzanne Harden; Peg Golden, former owner of The Greenhut Gallery in Portland, and Chris Thompson, partner at Parallax Partners, Inc. and former art professor at MECA.

The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

An artists’ reception, including music and refreshments, will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday.

Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

An online catalog displays all the pieces in the show, along with information about each artist.

For more info: 781-3805,

]]> 0, 15 Oct 2016 21:46:37 +0000
Society Notebook: Portland Buy Local holds Indie Biz Awards Sun, 16 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Besides being a good party, the annual Portland Buy Local Indie Biz Awards are a testament that independent businesses are better together.

“It’s a really tight community for a big city,” said Tony Cox, owner of Casco Bay Frames and Gallery and president of Portland Buy Local’s board of directors. “We have such a diverse following of people who understand that buying local can make an impact on our economy, and everyone can do it.”

Nearly 300 people turned out to Portland House of Music and Events for the free event, in which 50 nominees waited to hear the winners in 10 categories.

“I’m super honored to honor other local businesses and entrepreneurs that overcame the fear of starting something new,” said longtime event emcee Erin Ovalle, host of the “MaineLife” television show and co-founder of Style Me Portland. “Independents are the heart and soul of what makes Portland and Maine what they are.”

The Buy Local Champion award – the only board-appointed award – went to Mary Allen Lindemann, longtime owner of Coffee by Design. “Vote with your money and keep local business in Portland,” she said.

The Made in Portland award went to Anchorpak founder Colin Sullivan-Stevens, wearing one of the company’s ergonomic over-the-shoulder bags.

Food was a persistent theme among the winners: Portland’s Best Kept Secret award went to Treehouse Cafe. The Best New Business award went to Sisters Gourmet Deli. The Flavor of Portland went to Aurora Provisions. The Portland Icon went to The Holy Donut. And the Better Together award went to the Portland Farmers’ Market.

Not to worry about the thriving beer scene being left out, the Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind award went to Maine Beer Tours.

The Business to Business award went to Xpress Copy, and the Environmental Hero award went to Garbage to Garden.

“The people in this room do so much for the city,” said Jenn Thompson, Portland Buy Local program manager, the nonprofit’s sole employee. “And we’re super excited to be here at Portland Home of Music and Events, because they’re a member.”

Former Indie Biz Awards host SPACE Gallery received the Creative Crusader award.

“It feels incredible to have so many people gather in one place,” said Buy Local board member Elise Loschiavo. “The energy is wonderful. Local business is what makes Portland special. It’s truly different from other cities that feel homogeneous.”

Jay and Karina Garcia, who moved from Los Angeles to Portland in the spring, thoroughly enjoyed their first Indie Biz Awards night.

“This is the grooviest town,” he said. “We’ve been supporting all the restaurants. It’s a fat man’s dream.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

]]> 0, 15 Oct 2016 17:25:54 +0000