The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Lifestyle Wed, 04 May 2016 04:49:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Beyonce backs watermelon juice startup company Wed, 04 May 2016 02:17:59 +0000 NEW YORK — When life handed Beyonce lemons, she made … watermelon water?

WTRMLN WTR, a startup beverage company that makes cold-pressed watermelon juice, announced Tuesday that Beyonce has joined as an investor.

Co-founder and creative director Jody Levy said in a statement that the entertainment icon, whose latest album is “Lemonade,” is “aligned with many of our company’s core values, especially our commitment to empowerment.”

Beyonce said in a statement that her investment is also “an investment in female leaders, fitness, American farmers and the health of people and our planet.”

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Study: ‘The Biggest Loser’ contestants gain weighty problem Wed, 04 May 2016 02:09:53 +0000 CHICAGO — A new study has found that many competitors on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” leave the show with a slower metabolism, making it more difficult to keep off the pounds.

The National Institutes of Health study finds that participants come out of the weight-loss reality competition burning about 500 fewer calories a day than expected. What’s more, the contestants who drop the most weight see the greatest slowing of their metabolisms.

Researchers say many contestants experience substantial weight gain in the years after the show.

The results show “in the most extreme cases how strongly the body fights back,” said lead author Kevin Hall, a researcher with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Hall said 500 calories is the size of a big lunch and the results mean participants have to reduce their daily calorie intake by that much to avoid gaining weight. He said the study doesn’t mean dieting is a lost cause but that show participants must change their lifestyles to fight weight gain.

The news isn’t all bad for “Biggest Loser” competitors, however. The study notes that participants have been quite successful at long-term weight loss when compared to people in other intervention programs aimed at shedding weight.

The study was published this month in the journal Obesity. It involved 14 contestants from Season 8 who were evaluated six years after the competition ended in 2009.

Kai Hibbard, a Season 3 contestant who has criticized the show for what she calls drastic weight-loss methods, said the results came as no surprise.

“I really was dancing around my living room, screaming ‘vindication’ ” when a friend texted her about the study, Hibbard said Tuesday from her home in Spokane, Washington.

Hibbard lost 118 pounds on the show nearly 10 years ago and has gained some but not all of it back. She was not part of the study and declined to reveal her weight.

Dr. Samuel Klein, a Washington University obesity researcher who wasn’t involved in the study, said the results reflect limitations of the “Biggest Loser” dieting approach.

“Nothing is impossible, but it shows that it’s very, very difficult. One year of aggressive therapy is really not enough,” Klein said. “You really have to go into a lifelong plan.”

Producers of the show released a written statement responding to the study, saying they “routinely re-evaluate to ensure all contestants receive the best care possible.”

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Independent film to zoom in on Chappaquiddick tragedy Tue, 03 May 2016 23:42:37 +0000 BOSTON — During a week in which the eyes of the nation were focused on NASA’s first moon landing, a tragic drama played out on a tiny Massachusetts island that would have political ramifications for decades to follow.

The late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s actions, explanations and motives in the hours and days after a car he was driving slipped off Chappaquiddick’s Dike Bridge on July 18, 1969, killing Mary Jo Kopechne, have been explored in numerous articles, books and documentaries. Now, the groundwork is being laid for an independent feature film that will perhaps rekindle questions lingering for nearly a half-century.

Australian-born “Zero Dark Thirty” star Jason Clarke will portray Kennedy in “Chappaquiddick” – the film’s working title – and John Curran, whose credits include “The Painted Veil,” will direct, said the movie’s co-producer and Apex Entertainment president and chief executive Mark Ciardi. Production is slated to begin around Labor Day with a tentative release in late 2017.

“In some parts it will be educational, that, wow, in 1969 this happened, with the moon landing in the backdrop, this event happened and how everything kind of played out after that,” said Ciardi, noting that younger generations may know little about the story.

Concentrating on the immediate aftermath of the accident, the film will contain elements of political and legal intrigue, but Ciardi adds: “I certainly wouldn’t characterize it as just a political movie at all.”

Kennedy went to Martha’s Vineyard to race in the Edgartown Regatta and that evening attended a party at a rented house on serene and picturesque Chappaquiddick, which is separated from the Vineyard by a narrow strait and accessed by a small, barge-like ferry. Guests included Kennedy friends and several women, including Kopechne, who had worked on the presidential campaign of his brother Robert F. Kennedy, assassinated a year earlier.

Kennedy and Kopechne, 28, left the party together and a short time later the car plunged into Poucha Pond. Kennedy escaped from the submerged vehicle and said he made several futile attempts to rescue Kopechne, who was trapped inside.

Kennedy, who later described his failure to report the incident to police for nine hours as “indefensible,” pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and was given a two-month suspended sentence. A grand jury was convened but no indictments were returned.

Chappaquiddick would cast a long shadow over Kennedy’s storied U.S. Senate career and likely helped thwart the Democrat’s hopes of winning the presidency.

In his memoir, “True Compass,” published shortly after his death from brain cancer in 2009, Kennedy acknowledged that many people remained skeptical and others “contemptuous” of his explanations surrounding the accident.

“I’ve had to live with that guilt for forty years,” Kennedy wrote. “But my burden is nothing compared to her (Kopechne) loss and the suffering her family had to endure.”

Producers are currently scouting locations for filming, according to Ciardi, who would not say if Chappaquiddick itself was a possible site.

Local officials say no request has been made to film on the island, which has changed little over time. The only vague reminder of the long-ago events are guardrails added to Dike Bridge to help prevent similar tragedies.

Kennedy’s widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, did not return a call seeking comment on the film.

Ciardi said he has not reached out to the Kennedy family and isn’t concerned about any potential backlash.

“What you try to do is have a portrayal of a story that, you know, feels fair and accurate,” he said.

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Meet Veto: LePage employs biting humor to name his new dog Tue, 03 May 2016 20:11:38 +0000 How do you put a tough week behind you?

Get a new dog.

That’s exactly what Gov. Paul LePage did Tuesday.

And in typical LePage fashion, he also appeared to jab at some of his adversaries in the Legislature. The dog is aptly named Veto. LePage has vetoed more bills than any other Maine governor, over 210 by last count. Gov. James Longley set the previous record of 118 from 1975 to 1979.

LePage adopted the new family member from the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society.

Veto is a 2-year-old male Jack Russell Terrier, said Zach Black, operations manager at the humane society. Black was pleased the pooch found a home; that it happened to be the Blaine House was irrelevant.

“We’re just happy to have anyone save a life – that’s what matters most,” Black said.

The adoption came a little over a month after the governor and his family lost Baxter, an 11-year-old white and brown Jack Russell terrier mix. Baxter died March 31 after his third bout with cancer. He had been with the family since 2008, when he was adopted from an animal shelter in Florida.

Baxter frequently greeted guests at the Blaine House. For a short period, he had his own Facebook page and a blog. There was even a children’s book written from his perspective.

Jack Russell Terriers are a small but sturdy breed known for being energetic and tenacious. They were originally bred as hunting companions.

A spokesman for the governor joked that Veto, who was previously a stray in New Orleans, will play a big role in the administration.

“The governor named him Veto because he is the mascot of good public policy, defender of the Maine people and protector of hard-working taxpayers from bad legislation,” LePage spokesman Peter Steele said in an email. “He will have a more prominent role in the administration than Baxter, perhaps even delivering vetoes to the second floor.”

Veto’s name had barely surfaced on social media when the Maine chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, a frequent critic of LePage and his policies, responded on Twitter, posting a photo of a black Labrador puppy.

“Funny – we just got an office dog, too,” the ACLU of Maine tweeted. “We’re naming her Override.”

Three minutes later they tweeted, “Just kidding! Cute dog, @Governor_LePage.”

The adoption comes on the heels of a difficult week for the governor, who is known for his abrasive style and frequent use of his veto pen.

LePage came under fire last week for using that veto pen to strike down a bill to expand access to a heroin overdose antidote – a veto that was overturned by the Legislature. He also was criticized for making fun of workers with foreign accents at the Maine Republican State Convention in Bangor, was accused by the Attorney General’s Office of holding an illegal meeting, and issued an apology after storming out of a dedication ceremony at the University of Maine-Farmington because two students were holding protest signs in the back of the crowd.

LePage has become frustrated by what he perceives as negative media coverage and a lack of progress on his efforts to reform state government, associates said.


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Seniors enjoy happily ever after, without marriage Tue, 03 May 2016 20:07:03 +0000 Some older couples who want social recognition for their love relationships are exchanging rings, throwing parties and holding wedding-type ceremonies, but they’re stopping short of getting legally married to avoid complications with retirement funds, property and grown children.

“It was important for our friends to know we were committed to each other,” recalled Dixie Reppe, 80, who wears a ring from her beau, Joe Pendergraft, 77, and refers to him as her fiance. “But the financial piece and the families – it’s a whole lot more complicated. We decided to keep those things separate.” The two live in adjoining apartments in Inverness Village in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Pendergraft bought her the ring after she visited him in Georgia. “He didn’t want people to think I’d spent time with a strange man in Georgia,” Reppe recalled with a laugh.

Once word got out about their relationship, “we weren’t sure how well accepted that would be,” said Reppe. She needn’t have worried: Her girlfriends threw her a surprise engagement party, and there were a few other informal gatherings with Champagne, chocolate and friends, where they could introduce themselves as a couple.

One benefit of formalizing a relationship this way is that it allows older couples to dispense with terms like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” which might be fine for 20-somethings, but can raise eyebrows among the 70- and 80-something set.

“Most of the time we refer to each other as husband and wife just to keep things not so complicated,” said Shirley Sapp, referring to her relationship with Doug Oxenhardt. “If you go the other route, people look at you like, ‘Well what’s the deal?'”

Sapp and Oxenhardt, both in their 70s, were widowed when they met, and each had two grown children. Those children were among 90 guests at their 2013 wedding ceremony in Missouri, complete with a pastor.

“It was just like any other marriage ceremony, except we didn’t have the last sentence where the minister will say, ‘By the powers vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife,'” Sapp recalled. “He was a really cool pastor, and when we told him our story, he said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it.'”

But while avoiding marriage may seem like an easy way to keep finances and estates separate, unmarried couples may still face some legal complications, according to Frederick Hertz, a California lawyer and co-author of “Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples.”

Hertz noted that some states honor common-law marriage and will consider couples married after a number of years whether or not they got a marriage license, while other states allow unmarried partners to claim money or property “based on an oral or implied agreement.”

Hertz also said that signing a credit card or lease with your partner could make you responsible for the other person’s debt. Other issues include who has legal authority for medical decisions, and when one partner dies, whether a surviving partner has the right to stay in the home where they lived together. That may depend on who owns it and who inherits it.

Housing is one thing Reppe and Pendergraft thought about early on. When they met, Reppe was living at Inverness Village in a unit that was too small for both of them. When the unit next door opened up, they “basically blew a hole through the wall and got the apartments connected,” she said. This way they have their own apartments, but they can also be together, and if something happens to one of them, the other will still have a place to live.

Sapp and Oxenhardt also own separate homes where they spend time together. She owns the villa in Florida where they spend winters, and he owns the house in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, where they live in the warm months. Their retirement finances are separate too: She worked for the Veterans Administration, and he has a pension from the railroads.

But whatever arrangements older couples make as they manage the logistics or social conventions of being together, the love and companionship they share makes it all worthwhile.

“I think when you get to this stage in life, if you found happiness, when you find someone to love and someone who loves you and you can share so many common interests and you don’t have to come home to an empty apartment, that’s pretty special,” said Reppe.

“We laugh a lot,” Pendergraft said.

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New Maine Flower Show to be held at Thompson’s Point in 2017 Tue, 03 May 2016 18:50:10 +0000 The inaugural Maine Flower Show will be held at Thompson’s Point in Portland next March, organizers announced Tuesday.

Members of the Maine Landscape & Nursery Association announced in January that they were creating their own annual event, dubbed the Maine Flower Show. Association members had participated in the Portland Flower Show, but wanted to start their own show to “better dictate how we represent our industry to the public,” executive director Don Sproul said at the time. Members also worried that the Portland Flower Show, which was canceled this year, was not attracting as many visitors as it once had and was not tightly focused enough on garden and yard work.

The Maine Flower Show will be held next year from March 29 to April 2 at Thompson’s Point, near outer Congress Street on the Fore River. The show will feature 20 display gardens and 120 exhibitors, Sproul said. It will be held in a 25,000-square-foot historic brick building and a 13,000-square-foot heated tent.

Thompson’s Point is a former industrial area being redeveloped for retail, residential and entertainment uses. The site hosts concerts, among other events.

Sproul said organizers of the Maine Flower Show aim to keep parking fees low, hopefully as low as $5, with some parking on Thompson’s Point and a shuttle bus service to off-site lots, Sproul said.

Sproul said people can look for updates on the show’s website,

The Portland Flower Show, usually an annual event, was not held this spring. Organizers said they were taking a year off to reorganize that event. That show is still tentatively planned for 2017, according to the Portland Flower Show Facebook page.

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‘Hamilton’ leads Tony nods, sets record with 16 nominations Tue, 03 May 2016 13:11:07 +0000 NEW YORK – The megahit musical “Hamilton” has grabbed a record-breaking 16 Tony Award nominations, the biggest haul in Broadway history and another notch in the show’s march into theatrical history.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop-flavored biography about the first U.S. treasury secretary on Tuesday broke the 15-nominations record held by “The Producers” and “Billy Elliot.” “Hamilton” was nominated in virtually every category it could compete in, from acting to scenic design.

Next month, it will compete for Broadway’s biggest crown – best new musical – with “Bright Star,” “School of Rock,” “Shuffle Along” and “Waitress.”

The best play category is composed of “Eclipsed,” “The Father,” “The Humans” and “King Charles III.”

The awards will be handed out June 12, with James Corden playing host from the Beacon Theatre.

After “Hamilton,” the other top nominations went to the new musical “Shuffle Along,” a show that explores a groundbreaking 95-year-old musical starring, written and directed by African-Americans, which got 10 nominations, and the revival of “She Loves Me,” which earned eight.

Audra McDonald, who was eligible as a lead actress in a musical, was not nominated and will not be able to win her seventh Tony.

“Hamilton” earned seven acting nominations – Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo, Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson and Renee Elise Goldsberry. It also earned nominations for scenic design, costumes, lighting design, direction, choreography, orchestrations, best book and best original score.

“Hamilton” has burst through the Broadway bubble like few shows. U.S. presidential candidates have tweeted about it, it has influenced the debate over the nation’s currency and the show has been referenced on “Saturday Night Live” and “Inside Amy Schumer.”

Hollywood stars didn’t do so well on Tuesday, with Clive Owen, Al Pacino, Bruce Willis, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan and George Takei all missing out on nods.

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Lights, cameras take over Portland diner to film ‘Witch Files’: Photos Mon, 02 May 2016 22:34:26 +0000 1, 03 May 2016 08:00:20 +0000 Hulk Hogan files new suit against Gawker Mon, 02 May 2016 21:06:11 +0000 ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan has sued Gawker again, saying the gossip website leaked sealed court documents with a transcript that quoted him making racist remarks.

Hogan’s new lawsuit Monday comes on the heels of winning a $140 million verdict against Gawker after it posted a video of him having sex with his then-best friend’s wife.

Gawker denies that it leaked the sealed transcript to the National Enquirer. In the transcript, Hogan, who is white, makes several racist statements about his daughter’s ex-boyfriend, who is black. Once the Enquirer published the story, WWE severed its longtime ties with the famous wrestler.

— From news service

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Concert review: A ‘beautifully focused’ Fifth by the Portland Symphony Orchestra Mon, 02 May 2016 20:17:10 +0000 You might think that Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is the most frequently played warhorse in the classical music canon. But you would be wrong – at least, if you’re thinking in terms of concert performances, as opposed to recordings and broadcasts. Probably because of its supposed ubiquity, orchestras program it less frequently than you would expect; in fact, according to the most recently published repertory report by the League of American Orchestras, which monitors what its member ensembles play, the Fifth was not among the 10 most frequently performed works (although the Beethoven Seventh was).

Of course, an orchestra presenting the complete Beethoven symphony cycle, as most do every now and then, can obviously offer the Fifth without any special statistical pleading, and Robert Moody and the Portland Symphony Orchestra are in the midst of such a traversal, to be completed over three seasons, of which this is the second. To conclude this year’s installment, Moody led the orchestra in an excellent, well-polished performance of the Fifth on Sunday at Merrill Auditorium.

It’s easy to forget, if you hear the Fifth mostly on recordings, how thrilling a live performance of the work can be, even if you don’t agree with every detail of the conductor’s interpretation. I had a few quibbles on that account. I thought Moody’s decision to launch into the work’s familiar opening motto without waiting for the applause to end was a needless stunt, although I suppose if there’s one work in which you can get away with that, it’s this one. I also found his hushed, staccato reading of the final section of the third movement a bit precious, though never so much as to become cloying.

That said, an argument could be made for Moody’s approach. It put a welcome spotlight on the precise, chiseled playing of Mary Watt, oboist, and Janet Polk, the principal bassoonist. The insistent C on the timpani, more typically heard as a muffled rumble, had a palpable presence here. And the unusual daintiness Moody brought to this section proved an effective setup to the glorious, fortissimo rising chords that open the finale.

All told, the orchestra gave a beautifully focused, fully energized performance of the Fifth, with all the necessary elements in place, including a rich, full-bodied string sound, nicely textured and nearly flawless brass playing, characterful wind work and, above all, a sense of drama and grandeur.

Moody opened the concert with a sizzling account of Smetana’s “Bartered Bride” Overture – a splashy potboiler, to be sure, but one that showed off the nimbleness of the orchestra’s strings, not to mention the solidity and tightness of its ensemble playing.

The real business of the first half, though, was Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto (Op. 35), a work composed for Jascha Heifetz in 1945, and given a lustrous, warm-toned reading here by Christoph Koncz, a 29-year-old member of the Vienna Philharmonic who is also pursuing a career as a soloist and conductor.

Korngold remains best known for the film scores he composed after he fled the Nazis and landed in Hollywood in 1934. If you love classic films, you know his scores for “Captain Blood,” “The Sea Hawk” and “King’s Row,” just for starters. His Hollywood work essentially scuttled his career as a serious composer, Heifetz’s championship notwithstanding. Serious musicians and critics derided his music, unfairly, as “more corn than gold,” and performances were rare.

Nowadays, the classical music world has (more or less) outgrown its snobbery about film music and its composers, and Korngold is getting a fully deserved reconsideration. The Violin Concerto is a beautifully wrought score, steeped in Romanticism, but with a slight angularity and occasional harmonic twists that mark it as a mid-20th century work.

Koncz, who has a slight film association as well – you can see him, at 9 years old, playing the child prodigy Kaspar Weiss in “The Red Violin” – moved easily through its virtuosic passagework, but kept the emphasis on musicality rather than showiness. He and Moody were both performing the work for the first time, Moody said during the pre-concert talk. They played it with an evident unity of purpose, and the orchestra played the often spare, sometimes lush music with much the same warmth Koncz brought to it.

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

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Theater review: Energy, improv drive ‘They Don’t Pay’ at Portland Stage Mon, 02 May 2016 19:31:16 +0000 Dario Fo’s 1974 play “They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!” combines the high energy and improvisatory tradition of Commedia dell’arte with farce, satire and touches of classic sit-com to deliver both laughs and a timely message.

As the mainstage season finale of the Portland Stage Company opens, working class Antonia is returning to her Milan apartment with sacks full of groceries. She explains to her friend Margherita that a rebellion against huge price increases broke out at the store and, in the confusion that followed, items were, at best, only partially paid for.

Comic complications ensue as the ever-resourceful Antonia devises a scheme to hide some of the groceries in a fake “baby bump” under Margherita’s clothes. Antonia’s wits are constantly tested as alternately skeptical and suspicious spouses, not to mention law enforcement officers, try to figure out what’s really going on.

Everything’s played broadly with the accents of the ostensibly Italian characters more likely to remind one of stereotypical working class New Yorkers who “tawk” about getting “hoit” at “woik.” They gesture wildly, strike awkward, goofy poses and rush around the tenement set (by Anita Stewart) and out into the aisles of the theater. Underlying all the craziness, though, is some harsh social commentary on the struggles of workers and their families in a world seemingly set against them.

Director Ron Botting has obviously given the actors freedom within the confines of Fo’s story. It paid off at Friday’s opening as all seemed to be having fun, sharing occasional winks at the audience and cracking each other up along the way.

Emma O’Donnell was outstanding as the tenacious Antonia, ever ready to spin another tale in her efforts to save her family and friends from the perils of poverty. William Zielinski, as her husband Giovanni, pairs his character’s good-natured cluelessness effectively with his growing anger as a factory worker in a time of benefit cutbacks, outsourcing and downsizing.

Kimbre Lancaster and Timothy Hassler play the married friends and co-conspirators in trying to salvage both the appropriated food and their constantly threatened dignity. Hassler and Zielinski humorously played off each other like old-style bumbling buddies while Lancaster’s behind-the-beat reactions to O’Donnell made her an effective comic foil.

Jeffrey M. Bender has a plum assignment playing several eccentric characters. His contributions moved the story along while also serving to center some of the wilder comic flights.

“People need to take charge of their own lives,” Bender’s sympathetic cop says in one reflective moment. The characters in this show, despite their sometimes unhinged ways, are forced into an ever-deepening understanding of that wisdom.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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First piping plover nests of the year spotted on York County beaches Mon, 02 May 2016 19:10:51 +0000 The first piping plover nests of the season have been spotted on beaches in Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Old Orchard Beach.

Piping plovers, which nest on sandy beaches from spring through late summer, are protected as endangered in Maine and as threatened under federal law. They are known to nest along the Maine coast from Ogunquit to Georgetown.

Last year, 62 plover pairs – the most in the state since 2004 – raised 121 chicks to the age of flight, or fledgling. The 121 fledglings represent the second-highest number since monitoring began in Maine 30 years ago.

“When the piping plover was protected under the Endangered Species Act back in 1986, just 15 breeding pairs survived in Maine,” said Mark McCollough of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Thirty years later, the future is much brighter with a population of over 60 pairs. With continued support from coastal communities, we believe we can achieve recovery goals for these little beach-nesting birds.”

Once found throughout the Atlantic coastline, piping plovers are shore birds that measure just 7 inches long and weigh a mere 2 ounces as adults. Today the birds are listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act and “endangered” in Maine because of a combination of habitat loss, past human hunting and predation from other animals.

Roughly 2,000 piping plover pairs nest on beaches from North Carolina to Newfoundland. The tiny birds can be spotted skittering at the ocean’s edge or on mudflats searching for worms, bugs and other invertebrates. When they aren’t foraging, plovers can be found nesting in the transition area between dunes and the sandy beach. Plover chicks are so small they are often described as cottonballs walking on toothpick legs.

The towns of Wells, Ogunquit, Old Orchard Beach and Scarborough have established cooperative beach agreements with the wildlife agencies and the Bureau of Parks and Lands to protect plovers.

“Maine beaches are special places for people and for plovers,” said wildlife ecologist Laura Minich Zitske of Maine Audubon. “By following some specific steps on beaches with plovers, beachgoers play a critical part in conserving this delicate shorebird.”

The Maine Aububon says beachgoers can help by respecting all areas fenced or posted for protection of wildlife, watching plovers from a distance without disturbing them, following local pet ordinances and taking trash and food scraps off the beach.

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Prince siblings in probate court in 1st hearing on estate Mon, 02 May 2016 17:36:41 +0000 CHASKA, Minn. – Five of Prince’s six surviving siblings appeared in court Monday for the first hearing to start sorting out an estate certain to be worth millions, a task complicated because the star musician isn’t known to have left a will.

In a hearing that lasted a little over 12 minutes, Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide formalized his appointment last week of Bremer Trust to handle matters involving the estate of Prince, who died suddenly last month at age 57.

Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, requested the appointment so that the company can manage Prince’s estate until an executor is named. Eide asked the packed courtroom whether anyone knew of a will, and the courtroom was silent. Lawyers for Bremer Trust said they hadn’t found one but would keep looking.

“The court is not finding that there is no will, but that no will has yet been found,” the judge said.

The hearing didn’t address how long the estate may take to settle or how much it is worth. His property holdings alone in Minnesota, including his Paisely Park studios in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen, were worth about $27 million, but music industry experts say his earnings after death are likely to be far more.

Tyka Nelson is Prince’s only full sibling. Four half-siblings – Alfred Jackson, Norrine Nelson, Sharon Nelson and Omarr Baker – were present. A fifth, John Nelson, didn’t attend.

Norrine Nelson and Sharon Nelson exchanged a hug in the courtroom, and family members chatted quietly. Tyka Nelson sat at a table between her two lawyers, while the four others sat side-by-side in the well, just behind their lawyers. None of the siblings commented afterward.

Frank Wheaton, an attorney for Alfred Jackson, said afterward that the siblings were cooperating in settling the estate.

“Everyone is in full accord,” he said.

Even if all the heirs really are in agreement, it’s going to take a long time to settle the estate, Judith Younger, a University of Minnesota law professor who isn’t involved in the case, told The Associated Press. Other claimants are likely to come forward, any disagreements with tax authorities over the value of the estate could result in litigation, and Minnesota courts haven’t settled yet whether the rights to someone’s likeness, such as Prince’s, can be inherited.

“It a real mess that he left behind,” she said.

It’s also possible that a will could turn up and that it could lead to fights over its validity, Younger said.

“I find it so hard to believe,” Younger said, noting how careful Prince was to keep control of his music and other business affairs. “How can there not be a will?”

Susan Link, a Minneapolis estate attorney who also isn’t involved in the case, said she doesn’t think any of the lawyers involved will “fan the fire” of any discord among the siblings and that their decision last week to sit the siblings down together was a good move. If the siblings can’t agree, the personal representative will be going to court a lot, she said.

A law enforcement official told the AP that investigators are looking into whether Prince, who was found dead at his home on April 21, died from an overdose and whether a doctor was prescribing him drugs in the weeks beforehand. The official has been briefed on the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Eide did not set a date for future proceedings. But he noted the intense interest in the case, as reflected by the throng of media and lawyers inside and outside what would normally be a quiet suburban courtroom.

“We’re not used to this much notoriety in Carver County,” the judge said.

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First U.S. cruise in decades set to arrive in Havana Mon, 02 May 2016 12:44:03 +0000 HAVANA – The first U.S. cruise ship in nearly 40 years was crossing the Florida Straits from Miami to Havana on Monday, restarting commercial travel on waters that once represented a half-century of Cold War hostility.

The 704-passenger Adonia was to finish its nearly 17-hour journey at 9:30 a.m. EST, becoming the first U.S. cruise ship to dock in Havana since President Jimmy Carter eliminated virtually all restrictions of U.S. travel to Cuba in the late 1970s.

Travel limits were restored after Carter left office and U.S. cruises to Cuba only become possible again after Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro declared detente on Dec. 17, 2014.

The Adonia’s arrival is the first step toward a future in which thousands of ships a year could cross the Florida Straits, long closed to most U.S.-Cuba traffic due to tensions that once brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The straits were blocked by the U.S. during the Cuban Missile Crisis and tens of thousands of Cubans have fled across them to Florida on homemade rafts – with untold thousands dying in the process.

The number of Cubans trying to cross the straits is at its highest point in eight years and cruises and merchant ships regularly rescue rafters from the straits.

Before the 1959 Cuban revolution, cruise ships regularly traveled from the U.S. to Cuba, with elegant Caribbean cruises departing from New York and $42 overnight weekend jaunts leaving twice a week from Miami, said Michael L. Grace, an amateur cruise ship historian.

New York cruises featured dressy dinners, movies, dancing and betting on “horse races” in which steward dragged wooden horses around a ballroom track according to rolls of dice that determined how many feet each could move per turn.

The United Fruit company operated once-a-week cruise service out of New Orleans, too, he said.

“Cuba was a very big destination for Americans, just enormous,” he said.

Cruises dwindled in the years leading up to the Cuban Revolution and ended entirely after Castro overthrew the U.S.-backed government.

After Carter dropped limits on Cuba travel, 400 passengers, including musical legend Dizzy Gillespie sailed from New Orleans to Cuba on a 1977 “Jazz Cruise” aboard the MS Daphne. Like the Adonia, it sailed despite dockside protests by Cuban exiles, and continued protests and bomb threats forced Carras Cruises to cancel additional sailings, Grace said.

The following year, however, Daphne made a several cruises from New Orleans to Cuba and other destinations in the Caribbean.

Cuba cut back on all cruise tourism in 2005, ending a joint venture with Italian terminal management company Silares Terminales del Caribe and Fidel Castro blasted cruise ships during a 4 1/2 hour speech on state television.

“Floating hotels come, floating restaurants, floating theaters, floating diversions visit countries to leave their trash, their empty cans and papers for a few miserable cents,” Castro said.

Today, the Cuban government sees cruises as an easy source of revenue that can bring thousands more American travelers without placing additional demand on the country’s maxed-out food supplies and overbooked hotels.

Before detente, Americans made surreptitious yacht trips to Cuba during Caribbean vacations and the number of Americans coming by boat has climbed since 2014, including passengers on cruise ships registered in third countries and sailing from other ports in the Caribbean. Traffic remains low, however, for a major tourist attraction only 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Florida.

Aiming to change that as part of a policy of diplomatic and economic normalization, Obama approved U.S. cruises to Cuba in 2015. The Doral, Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line announced during Obama’s historic trip to Cuba in March that it would begin cruises to Cuba starting May 1.

Unexpected trouble arose after Cuban-Americans in Miami began complaining that Cuban rules barred them from traveling to the country of their birth by ship. As Carnival considered delaying the first sailing, Cuba announced April 22 it was changing the rule to allow Cubans and Cuban-Americans to travel on cruise ships, merchant vessels and, sometime in the future, yachts and other private boats.

Norwegian Cruise Line says it is in negotiations with Cuban authorities and hopes to begin cruises from the U.S. to Cuba this year.

Cruise traffic is key to the Cuban government’s reengineering of the industrial Port of Havana as a tourist attraction. After decades of treating the more than 500-year-old bay as a receptacle for industrial waste, the government is moving container traffic to the Port of Mariel west of the city, tearing out abandoned buildings and slowly renovating decrepit warehouses as breweries and museums connected by waterfront promenades.

Cruise dockings will be limited by the port’s single cruise terminal, which can handle two ships at a time.

Carnival says the Adonia will cruise twice a month from Miami to Havana, where it will start a $1,800 per person seven-day circuit of Cuba with stops in the cities of Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. The trips include on-board workshops on Cuban history and culture and walking tours of the cities that make them qualify as “people-to-people” educational travel, avoiding a ban on pure tourism that remains part of U.S. law.

Michael Weissenstein on Twitter:

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Flashback: fiddlers in 1988 and 2014 Mon, 02 May 2016 08:01:00 +0000 This photograph, from the Jan. 21, 1988 Portland Evening Express, shows fiddler Greg Boardman, who had organized a fiddling event at State Street Church too benefit Habitat for Humanity.

Another snapshot from 2014, below, shows fiddler Don LeBlanc, of the La Famille LeBlanc band, at the start the Festival de la Bastille on Friday July 11, 2014 in Augusta.

858815_1000309543 148363+20140711+.jpg

]]> 0, 29 Apr 2016 15:31:54 +0000
Young African refugee honored for courage Mon, 02 May 2016 01:28:27 +0000 SKOWHEGAN — If you don’t kill the lion, the lion will kill you.

The lion was real for Aziza Perkins, 17, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Central Africa, and now living in Maine.

The lion is also a metaphor.

She killed the real lion with an African bow and arrow device called a flash while fetching water with other girls from her village of Mokali near the capital city, Kinshasa.

The metaphorical lion was the continuing war in Perkins’ homeland, in which her grandfather and her father were shot to death. The lion also was life in a tin shack without windows, becoming a refugee at age 13 and being sexually abused at age 15.

Now a junior at Skowhegan Area High School, Perkins and her 2-year-old daughter, Tiana, were adopted formally in April and live with her new mother, Michele Perkins, in Norridgewock.

Life is good and the lion is dead.

“When I was in Congo, I killed a lion,” Perkins said in a recent interview. “When we were going to get water, walking 2 miles like we usually do, we saw a big lion. The chance was – I get killed or I kill the lion. So I killed the lion and we actually had the lion for supper. It was really good.”

Perkins was 11 at the time.

Perkins recently was the recipient of the Julia Clukey Courage Award, presented to her at the high school by Clukey, an Olympic athlete in luge competition and a native of Augusta.

The award, which Clukey gives to students at schools she visits, focuses on encouraging young people to find their passion, create a plan and pursue their dreams in spite of adversity. Clukey, 31, is a survivor of Arnold-Chiari malformation, a brain disorder involving structural defects.

Clukey also is the 2012 national champion in luge and is training for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

She presented the award to Perkins in a March 31 ceremony at the school.

Perkins, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and her daughter, Tiana, now live with their adoptive family in Norridgewock.

Perkins, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and her daughter, Tiana, now live with their adoptive family in Norridgewock.


Skowhegan Area High School Principal Monique Poulin said the school’s Student Council members anonymously nominated students who they felt had demonstrated an ability to overcome adversity or challenge, Poulin said. The names then were passed along to the school faculty, which voted on the award recipient.

“(Perkins) arrived in Maine speaking three languages – French, Lingala and Swahili – despite the fact that school was not an option for her as a female in her country,” Poulin said. “She has learned English since her arrival by immersion and support at home and school. She works hard every day in all of her classes, is on the honor roll and is in the top 20 percent of her class.”

Clukey said in an interview that she began speaking at schools in Maine six years ago but only recently started giving out the courage awards. There have been six recipients so far, including Perkins, and Clukey said she still has 16 more schools to visit this year.

She said Perkins is an inspiration, not only to her, but to Perkins’ classmates and other young people in Maine. She said Perkins’ nomination “speaks volumes, too, of the community in Skowhegan that this young girl is able to live out her dreams for a second chance in Maine.”


“I really like it here, going to school,” Perkins said. “I didn’t expect being able to come to school without having to pay money, because in Congo, girls really don’t go to school; and to think I’d actually go to college, have a job, I’m really happy.”

Perkins arrived in the United States in February 2012 as a refugee from Congo, not speaking a word of English. She and four siblings and her biological mother first lived in North Carolina, but they fled the state when local authorities moved to take the children because of neglect.

They arrived in Portland later the same year. Within a week, state Department of Health and Human Services workers took the children. Caseworkers allowed them to reunite in 2013 in Lewiston.

Perkins noted that before she went into foster care, “I was abused and entered foster care seven months pregnant, at 15 years old.”

She went in November 2013 to Michele Perkins’ home in Norridgewock, through placement by DHHS, to live with Perkins’ six other children, five of whom also are adopted. Her daughter, Tiana, was born on Jan. 5, 2014.

Michele Perkins, 50, is a licensed foster parent and an adult case manager at Reach Family Services. Aziza Perkins remained in foster care for 876 days before being formally adopted by Michele Perkins on April 20.

Julia Clukey, left, Aziza Perkins and Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, show off Perkins' Julia Clukey Courage Award. The Skowhegan Area High School senior received the award March 31.

Julia Clukey, left, Aziza Perkins and Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, show off Perkins’ Julia Clukey Courage Award. The Skowhegan Area High School senior received the award March 31.


The war in Congo has claimed up to 6 million lives, either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition.

While Aziza Perkins talked comfortably about all that has happened to her in her young life, the memories and the trauma are not far from the surface.

“It’s not – it’s not easy to talk about it,” she said. “I talk about it just because you are asking.”

She said it took courage to leave Congo to come to United States; it took courage to learn English and to come to Maine, where the winters can be severe; and it took courage to fight to stay in Maine and to keep her child at age 15.

When she found out she was the award winner, she cried.

“I think I was chosen for the award because I’ve been through a lot in Congo, like seeing all the people killed – a gun going to my head – not eating anything through the day, going to the river two miles to get water and wash clothes,” she said.

Also, she said, “It was very bad in Lewiston. My mom didn’t give me food.”

Michele Perkins, whose husband died several years ago in a plane crash, agreed, saying Aziza Perkins has experienced much in her young life.

“I think it’s a huge honor and it’s well deserved, having gone through everything she’s gone through and still be a very successful mother,” she said.

“She’s on the honor roll at her school. It’s well deserved. She’s had harder circumstances than most of us can imagine and has still overcome and is doing extremely well.”

Aziza Perkins said she wants to go to college after high school to study international business and psychology.

“When I graduate, I want to have a job,” she said. “I want to travel and go help people in Africa.

“I want to help students and kids to have a chance to go to school, because school is really important for people in Congo.”


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Royals celebrate Princess Charlotte’s 1st birthday Mon, 02 May 2016 00:32:50 +0000 LONDON — Kensington Palace officials have released new photos of Princess Charlotte ahead of her first birthday.

The daughter of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge turns 1 on Monday. A palace statement said Sunday the photos were taken by the duchess in April at their country home.

It says William and Kate “are very happy to be able to share these important family moments and hope that everyone enjoys these lovely photos as much as they do.”

– From news service reports

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Family Guy creator to sing with Boston Pops opening night Sun, 01 May 2016 21:52:51 +0000 BOSTON — Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane is helping the Boston Pops kick off its spring concert series.

The 42-year-old actor and filmmaker will be the orchestra’s opening night guest on Friday. He’ll be singing a selection of popular songs from the 1940s and 1950s, according to the ensemble.

The New England native is no stranger to the orchestra: He also appeared with them over the summer.

MacFarlane was born in Kent, Connecticut, and graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island.

Founded in 1885, the Boston Pops consists of musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and generally plays popular music.

The following week, composer John Williams is slated to lead the orchestra in selections from “Star Wars,” ”Jaws,” ”Indiana Jones” and other movies he’s scored.

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Concert review: Strong vocals carry to good effect in opera workshop’s ‘Poppea’ Sun, 01 May 2016 21:52:40 +0000 The University of Southern Maine’s School of Music in Gorham has a useful and interesting Opera Workshop, in which undergraduate singers prepare scenes from operas and musical theater works, and present them in concert. It is valuable work for young singers, and it is rare to see it on an undergraduate level. More typically, such programs are offered in graduate school, when voices are settled and polished, acting techniques have been assimilated, and the students have more real-life experience to draw on.

This year, some of the scenes the workshop undertook were from “The Coronation of Poppea,” Claudio Monteverdi’s 1643 work about the Roman Emperor Nero’s decision to repudiate his wife, Octavia, and elevate his mistress, Poppea, to the throne, and the backstairs machinations that made that possible. Because the scene study went well, Ellen Chickering, the program’s director, decided to stage the full opera. She presented her young charges in an appealing, modestly staged production of the work on Saturday afternoon at the school’s Corthell Concert Hall.

Actually, the version the Opera Workshop presented was not quite complete: The full opera runs about 3½ hours, and Chickering’s version came in at just over two. But the trims were things like dialogues between soldiers, Mercury’s warning to the philosopher Seneca that Nero has decreed his death, and Poppea’s rejoicing over Seneca’s demise – nothing absolutely essential to the plot, in other words.

The students sang in English rather than Italian, and generally projected their texts clearly enough to be understood. The biggest compromise, apart from the trimming, was the use of two electronic keyboards instead of an orchestra. Tina Davis, playing an instrument set to sound like a harpsichord, accompanied the arias and recitatives; Scott Wheatley played the orchestral ritornellos on a keyboard in which harpsichord sounds were combined with the spacey timbres of synthesized strings. You got used to it.

The class designed the scenery and costumes, which were spare but serviceable, and closer in spirit to Monteverdi’s time than to ancient Rome. And under Chickering’s direction, the singers moved around the stage economically and sensibly, with a few updated touches. In the Prologue, when the Goddesses of Fortune and Virtue expound on their influence in human affairs, Nora Cronin, as the Goddess of Love, listened with the bored, eye-rolling impatience of a modern teenager. She stopped short of shrugging and adding “Whatever” after Virtue’s aria – but it was implied, before making her own argument, that Love’s influence trumps them both.

The range of vocal and dramatic ability was fairly broad, but of course, students at this early stage in their studies cannot be judged too exactingly, and the performance as a whole was impressive, particularly given the complexity of the characters. Nerone (or Nero) and Poppea, after all, are presented as smitten lovers, but they are also murderous, self-involved monsters, something more experienced singers usually account for in their portrayals.

Several singers were exceptional, and worth keeping an eye on. Not least were two countertenors, male singers who work in the alto and soprano ranges, taking on roles that in Monteverdi’s day would have been sung by castratos. Christopher Garrepy as Ottone, Poppea’s former lover, and James Brown as Arnalta, Poppea’s nurse, each produced a fully supported tone and brought a measure of subtlety to their singing and acting.

Helena Crothers-Villers, the mezzo-soprano who sang Octavia, Nero’s spurned wife, brought a centered, beautifully tuned sound, as well as a sense of gravity tempered by anger, to the role. And Rachel Shukan, as both the Goddess of Fortune and Drusilla, Octavia’s lady-in-waiting (who is in love with Ottone) used her powerful soprano to excellent effect.

Soprano Rhiannon Vonder Haar was vocally strong, if dramatically inconsistent, as Nerone, and soprano Cathryn Matthews was a good match as Poppea. Singers who made important contributions in the smaller roles included Kiersten Curtis (Goddess of Virtue and Pallade); Jeffrey Mosher (Liberto), Matthew LaBege (Seneca), and Teremy Garen, Logan MacDonald and Thomas Hanlon (Seneca’s entourage and celebrants at the coronation).

Chickering said that her workshop’s next production would be Otto Nicolai’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” in March 2017.

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

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Jazz fest’s last day kicks off after storm cancels some sets Sun, 01 May 2016 17:56:43 +0000 NEW ORLEANS — A day after thunderstorms forced the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival to close early, another downpour Sunday turned parts of the Fair Grounds Race Track into swimming pools for geese and forced several of the last day’s acts to end their sets early.

Other performances in big tents were not affected, festival spokesman Matthew Goldman said.

Ketha Page waded across calf-high water to help her husband pack up their folding chairs and get under the Blues Tent.

“Yesterday, it was up to my knees,” she said. “But when we got here this morning, it was dry.”

Page said she stayed Saturday until 4:45 p.m. in hopes of hearing Stevie Wonder, who was supposed to close out one of the main stages. Instead, Wonder gave an impromptu performance hours later at a nightclub. On Sunday, Page hoped to hear Bonnie Raitt and Neil Young.

Organizers let people who came Saturday use that same ticket Sunday.

At the General Store, owner Debby Shapiro said she couldn’t remember how many umbrellas they’d sold. By late Sunday morning, they had eight left.

Rain ponchos were common. One girl and her mother wore matching red one, the woman’s down to her thighs, the girl’s just a few inches above the ground.

Acts Sunday include jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis; the Isley Brothers; gospel singer Mavis Staples; Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue; and singer Lena Prima.

She has an interview on one of the festival’s 12 stages and a performance 2 hours later on another, with the Lena Prima Band.

Prima’s show includes both songs she’s written (mostly with her husband, bassist Tim Fahey, or with singer-songwriter Ingrid Lucia) and songs written or made popular by her father, whose many hits included “Sing, Sing, Sing,” `’Jump, Jive an’ Wail,” and “A Sunday Kind of Love.”

Her own songs embrace many genres, including reggae, country, rock, and New Orleans sound, sometimes with a gospel vibe.

Her father’s music is also hard to classify, she said in an interview ahead of the festival.

Louis Prima, who voiced the orangutan King Louie for the 1967 Disney animation of “The Jungle Book,” moved from New Orleans jazz to swing, big band, a Las Vegas lounge act, and a pop-rock band.

Prima said she’s always loved her father’s music. She also loved his stories about growing up in New Orleans, which included running after Louis Armstrong’s band as it drove around town on a flatbed truck, playing to publicize appearances.

She grew up mostly in Las Vegas, with intermittent stints in New Orleans and in suburban Covington, where he owned a golf course.

At 18, Lena Prima was fronting a heavy metal band. Working two or three day jobs and singing at clubs at night was exhausting, and heavy metal gave way to grunge. Prima’s best high school friend was singing in Las Vegas casinos with cover bands and suggested she try it.

It was a hard decision, she said, but she eventually took her friend’s advice and enjoyed full-time singing: “Three, four, five sets a night. It was hard but great.”

After 10 years, she put her own show together. She’d been featuring a few of her father’s songs, and found fans coming up afterward to talk about him. In 2000, the tribute became the show.

Prima played the 2010 Jazz Fest and was entranced by the city’s passion for music and musicians’ support for each other.

“People go to New Orleans for music. They don’t do that in Vegas anymore,” she said.

She and Fahey moved around Christmas 2011. During the move, they got a call from the Monteleone hotel, which was opening a lounge and asked if she’d like to open it in January. They have a standing Friday date.

“From the moment I went up there and sang that first song with that band, I felt … `Ahhhh.’ I felt great,” she said.

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Novelist, rescued by a Maine Maritime Academy sailing vessel, ready to set sail again Sun, 01 May 2016 14:31:43 +0000 A novelist who was twice rescued from storm-battered sailboats hopes his next adventure lacks in such drama.

South Carolina author Michael Hurley plans to sail around the world after using the experience of scuttling his sailboat on a failed trans-Atlantic crossing for his new book, “The Passage.”

“I love the freedom of sailing on the ocean. There’s no limit. The horizon extends. There’s nothing to stop you from going wherever you want to go,” he said from England.

The former corporate lawyer captured international attention last summer when his 30-foot sailboat began taking on water as he sailed solo from Charleston, South Carolina, to Ireland.

He credits a decision he and his wife made to renew their vows days before his rescue for saving his life. Absent that, he said, he may have tried to continue sailing after his vessel began sinking with more storms looming ahead.

He was rescued south of Newfoundland by students on the Maine Maritime Academy’s training vessel, State of Maine.

Elements of the adventure are rolled into “The Passage,” the tale of a spiritual journey by a broken stockbroker who encounters a stowaway who changes his life while sailing to Ireland.

The book, which goes on sale June 1, features an attempted trans-Atlantic crossing, a harrowing rescue and a Robert Burns poem, character and details drawn from his experiences aboard the State of Maine. After his rescue, Hurley made a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Spain for a time of reflection and that, too, found its way into his book.

In the end, he and his wife never renewed their vows, and their marriage didn’t survive. Part of that may have to do with Hurley’s wanderlust.

Hurley, 58, is an experienced mariner who has no intention of remaining on terra firma – despite his spate of bad luck.

He was rescued by the Coast Guard in 2012 and had to scuttle his storm-damaged Gypsy Moon between Haiti and Cuba. The boat had lost its headsail in a storm, and then a rogue wave sheared the engine off its mounts, leaving the sailboat helpless.

After his latest rescue, he worked on his book in Wales before decamping for London and buying a 1967 Camper & Nicholson, a yacht that bears the name Nevermore.

The 32-foot fiberglass boat is heavy and strong, and suitable for his goal of traveling and living in the boat, he said.

But Jonathan Beale, from Burnham Yacht Harbour, an England boatyard that has worked on Hurley’s new sailboat, had some reservations about Hurley’s plan to sail the old boat around the world.

He doesn’t share Hurley’s opinion that the 49-year-old sailboat is an oldie but goodie. “It’s an oldie. That’s all I’m saying,” he said.

And Susan Ryan Hurley said she fears the man she’s divorcing won’t survive his latest effort to sail the world’s oceans. “The whole sailing thing is in his blood. Sometimes I think he’s planning his own death,” she said from South Carolina.

Now living temporarily in France, Hurley is ready to take advantage of a narrow weather window this month to sail to the Canary Islands. After riding out the hurricane season there, he’ll head to the Caribbean. Then, he plans to sail the world.

“It’s a gypsy lifestyle but it’s a simple and beautiful way to live. It’s the freedom of sailing that’s always attracted me. The wind is free. The ocean is free. If you have the chance to enjoy both in a sailboat, then you’re free,” he said.

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Actor-director Don Cheadle adds jazz legend to his growing gallery of portraits Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 CHICAGO — We’re in a strangely busy cycle for musical biopics. Tom Hiddleston plays singer-songwriter Hank Williams, cheatin’ and boozin’ his way through “I Saw the Light,” while Ethan Hawke portrays jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, the cool, forlorn subject of “Born to be Blue.”

Now another, greater jazz trumpeter enters the fray: Miles Davis, the chameleonic visionary at the center of “Miles Ahead.” It’s not the usual biopic. It’s a freewheeling imagining of Davis at a creative crossroads, his mind and the movie toggling between time periods and musical styles. The more you care about the historical record and straight-ahead narrative conventions, the less it’ll appeal to you.

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis in "Miles Ahead." MUST CREDIT: Brian Douglas, Sony Pictures Classics

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis in “Miles Ahead.” Brian Douglas, Sony Pictures Classics

Years in development, “Miles Ahead” was produced, co-written and directed by Don Cheadle, who also stars as Davis. For the record: It didn’t happen overnight, but with stealthy technique and rock-steady instincts, Cheadle has asserted himself as one of a handful of American actors who, practically everybody agrees, is great. He improves every project just by being in it, watching, listening, interpreting. Honestly: Do you know anyone who doesn’t admire Don Cheadle? I’d love to hear the reasons.

The Academy Award nominee (for “Hotel Rwanda”) is all over the place, juggling assignments. In Season 5 of the Showtime series “House of Lies,” the 51-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, native continues on his merry way as rascal management consultant Marty Kaan, a J. Pierpont Finch for a new age of corporate blather. Cheadle’s also now firmly a part of the Marvel “Avengers” movie universe, as Rhodey, aka, War Machine, Iron Man’s comrade in arms.

“Miles Ahead” is not that sort of enterprise. For one thing, Cheadle and company made it for a tick under $9 million, which wouldn’t pay for Robert Downey Jr.’s goatee maintenance. For another, it’s not designed to appeal to the widest possible spread of presold fans worldwide. It’s smaller and wilder than that, focusing on a period in Davis’ life in the late ’70s when he’d succumbed to drug-fueled reclusiveness and paranoia, before breaking through to a new career phase back in the public eye.

The movie took many years and several rewrites to find backers.

“Not finding our financing for so long, and hearing so many ‘no’s, gave us a lot of time to work on the script,” Cheadle told me recently over breakfast in Chicago. He also told me that films such as “Run, Lola, Run” (the breathless, time-skipping German thriller) had a more considerable influence on Cheadle’s ideas for “Miles Ahead” than anything in the standard-issue biopic genre.

Cheadle said there’s a misconception about the film’s other major character, a (fictional) music journalist played by Ewan McGregor. The character was there in all the drafts of the “Miles Ahead” script co-written by Cheadle and Steven Baigelman.

“We always knew we wanted a journalist to sort of break into Miles’ life,” Cheadle said, noting that he’s a “composite of several people who didn’t know if they’d be writing a profile of Miles or an obituary.” Cheadle does acknowledge, however, that McGregor got the project off the runway. “We cast the role in a certain way in order to get the financing,” he said. Cheadle and company shot the New York-set “Miles Ahead” in Cincinnati two years ago, just after Todd Haynes filmed “Carol” there.

At the restaurant table, Cheadle and I were not alone. He brought along his high school drama teacher. Now a Chicago-area resident and freelance director, Catherine Davis cast Cheadle in a slew of shows, everything from “Oklahoma!” to “Oliver!” to “The Fantasticks,” back at East High School, part of the Denver public school system. Cheadle’s parents settled the family in Denver when Don was in fifth grade.

“Whenever I come through Chicago, I make sure to see her,” he said of Davis.

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis in "Miles Ahead."

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis in “Miles Ahead.”

“He was fabulous,” she replied. “Even then.”

Cheadle again: “We also wrote plays and had a mime show. I don’t know if you saw ‘The Tonight Show’ the other night, but Jimmy Fallon showed a picture from the high school yearbook of me in the mime show.” He turned his head to his right and smiled. “This woman’s a big part of why I’m here right now. It’s not why I invited her to breakfast, though. We were both hungry, is all.”

After a decade of guest and recurring roles on TV and small parts in the movies, Cheadle turned a wider circle of heads in 1995 opposite Denzel Washington in “Devil in a Blue Dress,” the Walter Mosley adaptation directed by Carl Franklin. As Mouse, the gangster from the South who said little but scared everybody, Cheadle made his mark. This was a meaty, nasty, funny role, a lot more interesting than the one he played in 38 episodes of the David E. Kelley quirkfest “Picket Fences.”

The steady, blandish supporting role of the small-town Wisconsin district attorney, Cheadle said, “was a big deal for me at the time, being 12th person on the call sheet. I was the ‘heart’ of the show. The ‘spiritual center,’ and all around me it was, like, this dude’s got a foot fetish, that woman’s baby was born in a cow, and I’m stuck being the ‘soul’ of the piece.” He’s laughing but clearly he has no trouble recalling the frustration he felt as an actor, a generation ago. “Black people, you’re either the beast or the saint.” The protagonist of “Miles Ahead” defies both extremes.

A couple of days after, I called Davis to hear more about the early ’80s Don Cheadle, the one she got to know just before he took the leap and headed west from Denver to the prestigious, progressive California Institute of the Arts.

“In the most subtle and humble way,” she told me of Cheadle’s high school career, “Don was Mister Everything. He was in everything. He was in the a cappella choir, the jazz band, he was in all my shows. He communicated with everyone. He wasn’t quiet as in ‘shy,’ but he was quietly assured in his own accomplishments.” She paused, and added: “I think he just tries to be honest in his work. And he’s done so much that speaks so loudly without him having to brag about it.”

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Painter Nancy Glassman exhibits work from the watershed Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 ROCKLAND — The artist Nancy Glassman moved to her home in Searsmont in 1982 and has been poking around the St. Georges River watershed since, easel and paints in hand. Painting outdoors, she captures the seasonal cycles and how the changing light reveals the colors and moods of the land and water.

“The nuances of the minute seasonal changes enthrall me,” she said. “Our culture trains us to ignore these things so we can do all the stuff we are supposed to do, like earning money and being responsible adults. By nature, I am subversive. I think paying attention to what our bodies are made to respond to is deeply important. I hope my paintings help people do that.”

Glassman shows her work beginning Friday in a season-opening exhibition, “Living in the Watershed,” at Caldbeck Gallery in Rockland. Her paintings are being shown in tandem with work by George Mason, artist-in-residence for the Georges River Land Trust.

For the exhibition, Glassman assembled paintings that she has made over the years and spent considerable time outdoors last fall and winter making new work. “I felt inspired to paint a whole lot,” she said, “so I put on some crazy looking outfits and had a blast painting outdoors. I enjoyed going out to spots where I could set up my easel and just paint the water, the movement of the water and the plants along the edge. It was absolutely thrilling.”

When she connects with nature, she feels she is leaving “my own self and joining with the energy of the life-force around me. It’s totally restorative.”

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For author Tess Gerritsen, success brings more artistic freedom – finally Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 CAMDEN — Although she’s published 26 books, had a TV series based on her characters, and lands regularly on best-seller lists, Tess Gerritsen worries about whether her work will sell.

She has seldom relaxed enough to just write what she wants to write. Until now.

Her latest book, “Playing with Fire,” focuses intensely on music, something Gerritten has been passionate about most of her life. She plays piano and violin, and hosts Celtic music jam sessions at her home. But never tried to publish a story about music or musicians before. She didn’t think it would be commercial enough.

“I have ideas deep in my heart that I know are not commercial. I have a little voice in my head that says, ‘Can you sell this?'” Gerritsen, 62, said. “Now is the time to stop thinking about whether it’s commercial and just see if there are stories I’m dying to tell.”

“Playing with Fire,” which came out in October, is about a violinist who finds a mysterious piece of sheet music in Italy, which she believes has horrific powers. Her family, meanwhile, begins to think she’s ill or perhaps crazy. Gerritsen herself composed the supposedly-cursed piece, “Incendio,” for the book. She’ll perform it on keyboard Tuesday at One Longfellow Square in Portland, along with Maine violinist Tracey Jasas-Hardel, as part of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram’s Maine Voices Live series.

Gerritsen didn’t sit down one day and decide to write about music. The idea came to her unexpectedly, in a dream, almost forcing her to consider it. “Playing with Fire” has gotten critical praise but readers have been “hot and cold” about it, Gerritsen said. She has an email address on her website, so readers can easily tell her what they think. Many feel like the book’s ending tricked them, she said, but Gerritsen said the clues to the eventual ending are visible throughout the book.

Writing “Playing with Fire” has started Gerritsen on a path of pursuing projects she has a definite passion for.

She’s working on a horror film called “Island Zero” with her 32-year-old son Josh – she wrote it, he directed. She also is considering making a documentary film about man’s long fascination with the pig, from Roman mythology to wild boar hunts to pigs as companions.

And she’s become something of an advocate for creative rights. She sued Warner Bros. in 2014, claiming she was owed more than $10 million of the profits from the Oscar-winning film “Gravity.” She had sold the film rights to her 1999 novel “Gravity” to New Line Cinema, later acquired by Warner Bros. But Warner Bros. never paid Gerritsen the money she says she was owed under the contract, claiming they did not acquire New Line’s contractual obligations. The book and the film both focus on a woman in a space shuttle or space station, and include perilous crashes and collisions in space.

Gerritsen says she learned how hard it is for writers to protect their work at times, and that some 50 similar suits filed by writers against studios over the last 20 years were all unsuccessful. She eventually dropped her suit, she said, partly so she could retain the right to speak publicly about it.

While her own drive to succeed is strong, she also has a strong desire at this point in her career to take a stand on behalf of other writers. There’s a page on her web site titled, “My Gravity Lawsuit and How It Affects Every Writer Who Sells to Hollywood.”

Best-selling author Tess Gerritsen in the backyard of her Camden home, which overlooks Penobscot Bay.

Best-selling author Tess Gerritsen in the backyard of her Camden home, which overlooks Penobscot Bay. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


Gerritsen credits her parents for pushing her to be successful and well-rounded. When she was 7 years old Gerritsen told her father, a Chinese-American restaurant cook, that she wanted to be a writer. He told her to study hard and seek out a career that would be more secure, maybe science or medicine. Wanting to please her parents, Gerritsen compromised. She became a doctor, then a writer.

The two disciplines have meshed pretty successfully for Gerritsen. Her medical school lessons and five years as a practitioner have come in handy, helping her create the popular “Rizzoli & Isles” book series about a medical examiner and detective working together. Her characters, Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles, are the basis of the TNT TV series “Rizzoli & Isles.” She’s wrapping up work on the 12th book in that series, “Strange Girl.”

And her musical mastery was crucial in “Playing with Fire.”

“I have to be thankful that I had parents who were very demanding,” said Gerritsen, whose father was born in America while her mother was born in China. “I think it was an immigrant thing, striving to succeed, to push their children to succeed. When people talk today (negatively) about immigration, they forget the great energy added to society because of these strivers.”

Though her parents may have pushed her to learn specific skills, like medicine and music, Gerritsen’s natural curiosity has been central to her success as well.

“Curiosity is something you’re born with. I’ve learned about so many things through my writing, from mummies and the space program to music and Venice,” Gerritsen said, sitting in the living room of her oceanfront home in Camden.

Gerritsen usually starts her novels not knowing exactly what’s going to happen. But the basic idea for “Playing with Fire” came to her pretty much intact, in the form of a dream, while on vacation in Venice, Italy.

She dreamt that she was playing the violin, and she knew the piece was disturbing, but beautiful. There was a baby sitting next to her, and the baby’s eyes began to glow red. The child then became a monster.

When she woke, her mind was first filled with questions about what the dream might have meant. Her daughter-in-law was pregnant at the time, so could the dream be somehow connected to anxiety about her first grandchild? Soon the big question on her mind was what kind of book this idea might spur.

“It was clearly not a crime novel. So I walked around Venice and thought about it,” Gerritsen said.

She walked into the Ghetto, the Jewish section, with its many memorials to Jews who were deported from Venice during World War II. On one plaque she saw the names of deported individuals and noticed several with the last name Todesco. She imagined they were a family. In her book, the Todescos are forced from their home, including violinist Lorenzo Todesco. “I’ve never had a book where the beginning, middle and end is all there for me,” Gerritsen said.

The book also features a contemporary violinist and mother who discovers a mysterious piece of sheet music that apparently makes her child turn vicious when she plays. The book intertwines her story with the story of Lorenzo Todesco and his family.

Though Gerritsen felt comfortable writing about the musicians and music in the book, she was not as comfortable at first writing about the plight of the Italian Jews, something she knew little about before doing research. But she felt she understood Lorenzo, as a fellow musician.

“I took it from the point of view of the tribe of musicians, the fact that you can put the same sheet of music in front of a violinist from China or Italy and they can both play. So I thought I could write this story because I’m in that tribe,” Gerritsen said.

Gerritsen’s home has the trappings of an active, passionate musician. There’s an old black upright piano in the living room, the piano Gerritsen learned on as a child. In a room off the living room is a sparkling black grand piano, which Gerritsen plays today. Then there’s a case with her violin, bought in the violin-making center of Cremona, Italy. Gerritsen has opened her home to musician friends for jam sessions, mostly involving Celtic music. On vacation in Ireland a decade ago, she brought her violin with her and found that playing in pubs got her free Guinness every night.

Gerritsen’s “Incendio” has been recorded by Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, a solo violinist who tours internationally and performs with major orchestras around the world. Hou said when she began reading the music Gerritsen wrote, before she knew what the book was about, the piece spoke to her.

“It was like a magical portal opened, and I started picturing things, even though I had no idea what the book was about. It was haunting and beautiful and pulled me in,” said Hou, who has performed with Gerritsen during book promotion events. “I think it’s absolutely astonishing that she was able to convey so much with this piece of music.”858986_139475 FIRE34.jpg


Gerritsen grew up in San Diego, where her father was a restaurant cook and her mother a social worker whose parents sent her to America when Communists took over after World War II. Gerritsen’s mother never saw her parents again.

Gerritsen said San Diego was “more like small-town” when she grew up. Her family was “firmly middle class.”

She eventually attended medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, where she met her husband, Jacob Gerritsen. The couple moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where both worked as doctors, and they lived there for 12 years.

Gerritsen practiced medicine for about five years, before having her two sons. She says what she liked most about being a doctor was meeting people from all walks of life and hearing their stories. She didn’t like the unpredictable hours and emergency calls late at night.

Staying home to care for her oldest son, Gerritsen decided to start writing, when he was napping or at night. Her first novel, “Call After Midnight,” was published in 1987. But it was her first medical thriller, “Harvest” in 1996, that marked her debut on the New York Times Best Sellers list.


Though Hawaii was a beautiful place to live, Gerritsen said she always felt slightly unsettled living on an island, cut off from the world by water. After vacationing in Maine, she and her husband decided to move to Camden, about 25 years ago.

They rented a home at first, and Gerritsen didn’t feel “financially secure enough” to buy the oceanfront home they now live in until 2003.

One day while Gerritsen and her son were weeding the garden at Josh’s Lincolnville farm, Gerritsen started talking about making a film about killer pigs.

“She said to me, ‘Let’s make a horror movie. They’re fun, and they have a great rate of return,'” Josh Gerritsen remembered. “And I loved the killer pig idea.”

They soon decided to make a movie together. Though not about killer pigs.

Instead Gerritsen wrote a script for a horror film called “Island Zero,” about the horrific happenings on a Maine island after the ferry stops coming. Global warming figures in the plot, as Gerritsen explores what sort of monstrous things might be “dredged up” from the ocean by man’s tampering with the environment.

The film’s best-known cast member is Laila Robins, a veteran actress who played the ambassador to Pakistan on the Showtime cable series “Homeland.” It was filmed around Camden in March and funded by the Gerritsens. They hope to complete editing and post-production this fall and submit the film to festivals, with an eye for a possible release to theaters next year.

Tess Gerritsen says that if the film “makes back its budget,” she’d like to make another one with her son.

But she hasn’t given up on pigs. Instead, she’d like to make a documentary film about mankind’s fascination with pigs. She’s considering a documentary, instead of a book, because of the visual possibilities. Her son is experienced with drone photography, and Gerritsen likes the idea of using drones to film a wild boar hunt. She says the film could explore Roman myths about pigs, truffle hunting, pig slaughters, the personality of pigs and why so much of the world’s population won’t eat pigs. She doesn’t know everything there is to know about pigs, yet, but she knows how to ask questions.

“I’m always asking questions, and that’s the cool thing about what I do,” Gerritsen said.

Her questions lead to stories, stories she can’t wait to tell.


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Book review: ‘Greenpeace Captain’ tales inspire awe, action Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Peter Willcox has led an exciting life, and he tells about it with gusto in “Greenpeace Captain,” his autobiography “as told to” a sailing buddy, Ronald Weiss. The author is captain of one of the vessels with which Greenpeace often makes the headlines.

At this point, after 30 years, he is their most experienced captain, and he is clearly very good at his job. In one sortie described in the book, he puts his ship through a hair-raising pas-de-deux with a Soviet tanker.

Greenpeace itself hardly needs introduction. Willcox has mostly been involved with the organization’s efforts to “bear witness” to environmental degradation and, as its website puts it, to use “high-profile, non-violent conflict to raise the level and quality of public debate.”

When not at sea doing the Lord’s work, Willcox lives with his wife on Islesboro.

“Greenpeace Captain” starts with a bang: on board the Rainbow Warrior, the environmental group’s flagship, in a New Zealand harbor when it was mined by French intelligence agents in 1985. One of his comrades died in the attack.859010_617617 Greenpeace Captain c.jpg

The book ends with the story of the “Arctic 30,” Greenpeace campaigners arrested by Russian Special Forces in 2013 for protesting oil drilling in the Arctic Circle. He gives an account of the two months the team spent in a Russian prison in Murmansk with a possible 15-year sentence hanging over their heads. In the end, the protesters were released as part of an amnesty before the Sochi Olympic Games, along with the female punk band Pussy Riot.

In his 30 years with the organization, Willcox has been involved with some of Greenpeace’s most celebrated and most controversial actions around the world. That includes protesting whale-killing off the coast of Peru and in the Bering Sea (think of that dramatic image of an inflatable boat in front of a harpoon gun), nuclear testing in French Polynesia (the reason for the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior), nuclear waste dumping in the Sea of Japan, and trade in “conflict” timber between Africa and the Mediterranean.

As a child, Willcox’s favorite reading was the Hornblower books by C.S. Forrester, and like a good naval hero of that era, he has also led raids on land, in one instance breaking into a coal-fired power plant in Turkey, on another delivering (by fork-lift) toxic waste to the American Embassy in Manila.

In all these adventures, Willcox and the Greenpeace crew variously maneuvered their boats into harm’s way, swam, climbed, dangled, locked themselves to anchor chains and generally played for time and publicity. What they never did is cause damage or deliberately risk violence with the authorities or with whoever they were protesting against. That is Greenpeace’s cardinal rule.

The use of publicity is key, and Greenpeace’s international network is astonishingly good at getting it exactly where and when it’s needed – and succeeding in its cause. Willcox lists a number of occasions when his actions could be credited with bringing environmental abuse to a halt.

He and the crews he leads – Willcox is far from done with the sea or Greenpeace – are truly brave people and deserve our admiration. Most of the book is a real page-turner with the reader rooting for the guys in white hats.859010_617617 Peter Willcox (c) Gr.jpg

Yet, from time to time, an oddly obtuse tone seeps in. His Russian cellmate in the Murmansk prison “enjoyed being in the cell with me,” relates Willcox, “because he knew we weren’t going to get picked on for keeping the TV on too late at night. I was probably the best thing that was going to happen to him for the rest of his life.” The Russian was going to get 25 years in Siberia for selling pot.

On another occasion, while facing jail time in Peru for boarding a whaler, surprisingly, Willcox didn’t know it might be construed as piracy – he admits he hoped the action would get him “noticed” at Greenpeace headquarters: “For me getting noticed wasn’t about climbing the corporate ladder so much as it was about getting the cool assignments.”

But these are small reservations. I came away from this book feeling inspired by the energy, courage and determination of men and women like Peter Willcox.

Even as he relaxes in front of a roaring fire at home for the first time since being freed in Russia, he’s looking ahead. “There’s a long-standing maritime tradition to come to the aid of anyone at sea who is in peril. So when the ocean itself is in trouble, I can’t refuse the call.”

Thomas Urquhart is a former director of Maine Audubon and the author of “For the Beauty of the Earth.”

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Jonathan Franzen fancies his TV Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It might surprise fans of Jonathan Franzen to know that the esteemed novelist enjoys television as much as he does.

Yes, that Jonathan Franzen: The brainy Time magazine cover boy who wrote “The Corrections” and “Freedom” and who has devoted most of his adult life to the written word. The same guy who penned a famous essay that, in part, lamented how modern literary works too often get lost amid the cultural saturation of electronic media.

Franzen is in his Santa Cruz, Calif., home, speaking passionately over the phone to a reporter about how he and his “spouse equivalent” Kathryn Chetkovich are forever searching for a great show to binge-watch. Currently, they’re deep into the British crime drama “Happy Valley.” He was a “huge fan” of “Friday Night Lights” and devoured all five seasons of “Breaking Bad” – twice.

And don’t even get him started on “The Killing.”

“Oh, I cried at the end, it was so good,” he says.

Franzen has resisted the urge to view it as a “secondary medium that I’m sort of jealous of.” Instead, he regards today’s serial dramas – at least the good ones – as a reincarnation of the 19th-century social novel.

“You look at what Dickens was doing: He was writing the way these shows write – trying to keep ahead of the deadline for the next episode,” he says. “There’s something very satisfying about episodic storytelling like that. And it’s so much different from surfing the Web, because these are actual sustained and carefully crafted narratives that mean something.”

Franzen’s respect for the medium fits in nicely with his tentative plans to “cautiously re-enter” the television world. As he speaks, his latest critically acclaimed novel, “Purity” (2015), is being peddled to Hollywood in the form of a 20-hour limited series. Binge-worthy? We’ll see.

Actor Daniel Craig is already attached to the project, along with director Todd Field (“Little Children,” among other feature films). As of this conversation, a deal had yet to be finalized, but Variety recently reported that “multiple bidders” are interested. If “Purity” gets the green light, Franzen would be involved with some of the story planning and script writing.

“It’s kind of strange. In the past, I’ve actually tried to write novels that resist being adapted for TV or film,” says Franzen, whose 2001 masterpiece, “The Corrections,” was developed as a series at HBO, but did not get picked up. “Nevertheless, it would be kind of fun to see what the series would look like. The great thing about standout actors is that they can often find things in the character or in the lines of dialogue, that the writer can’t perceive.”

Published last September, “Purity” tells the story of Purity Tyler, an aimless college graduate who goes by her Dickensian nickname “Pip.” She was raised under unusual circumstances by a reclusive, cabin-dwelling mother amid the fog and redwoods of Felton, Calif., and winds up in Oakland, squatting in a house full of anarchists. From there, she bounces to Bolivia and Denver in a series of jobs and relationships and meets an array of equally offbeat characters, some of whom are hiding dark secrets.


Franzen became a full-time resident of Santa Cruz just over a year ago, but had been shuttling between the area and New York City since 1998. “Purity” marks the first time he has set any part of a book in Northern California.

“Novels don’t really work for me if I’m not loving something,” he explains. “I have to love the characters, and it helps to really love something about the place. I love the Santa Cruz Mountains. Felton is just 12 minutes from the heart of Santa Cruz, but it’s a whole different world. It’s remarkably rugged and off the grid. If you’re trying to imagine Pip’s mom living under the radar, that’s very doable in the Santa Cruz Mountains.”

As for Oakland, Franzen says it’s the major Bay Area city that is “the most simpatico with me.” A childhood friend lives there and the author visits often.

“Because I imagined Pip living for free in a squatter’s house, it made sense (to use the locale), given that it was, and still is, a center for the Occupy movement,” he says. “Besides that, Pip wouldn’t have ventured too far from her mother. And though it’s never said in so many words, I imagine her having attended UC Berkeley.”

Franzen is certainly no beach guy (“I’ve never been on a surf board”), but he has become fully integrated into Santa Cruz, where, when not writing, he plays tennis with friends and engages in plenty of bird-watching, his most avid hobby (“Birds are a primary source of joy in my life.”). In 2012, he delivered the commencement speech for Cowell College at UC Santa Cruz. Last year, he launched the book tour for “Purity” at Santa Cruz High School.

Ironically, there was a time when Franzen, who was raised in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, couldn’t have imagined himself as a Californian.

“When California – and particularly the Bay Area – came to mind, I had this image of people being smashed on cabernet and lounging in the hot tub,” he recalls with a laugh. “And because I didn’t really know any Californians, I swallowed the stereotype. Of course, I was wrong, and I came to realize that, among a lot of other things, it’s one of the great centers of literacy and learning in the country, if not the world.”

Eventually, Franzen, who maintains an office on the UC Santa Cruz campus, plans to get to work on another novel – when the time feels right.

“Typically, after being locked up in a little room with a book for so long, my first impulse is to try to get back out into the world and do some journalism or nonfiction,” he says. “But then, of course, I start missing the drug of being in a novel. There is simply no better drug for me.”

Until then, there’s always TV – even if it’s only a game show. The author, an “intermittent but longtime watcher” of “Jeopardy!,” was invited to be a contestant during the show’s “Power Players” tournament, taped earlier this month for a mid-May airing.

“I’ve often wondered what it would be like to play,” says Franzen, who isn’t permitted to reveal how he fared. “It turned out to be really fun, once I figured out the timing of the clicker. We only got to do one show, win or lose, but by the end I was wishing we could play all day.”

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Lauren Fensterstock brings to life a dark force in Chelsea Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Frieze is an annual contemporary art fair held on Randall’s Island in New York City. It’s not quite Miami’s Art Basel, but with growing crowds, it’s getting there. With Frieze New York set to open on May 5, I was expecting during a visit last month to see the galleries dressed up for the new-flavor-affair art fair, but Chelsea wasn’t yet at its best. There were some excellent shows, most notably the abstract paintings of Qui Xiaofei at Pace, Serge Poliakoff at Cheim & Read and Stanley Boxer at Berry Campbell. But the quiet baseline served up a surprise: The best show in Chelsea, where the cream of the crop set up shop, was Portland artist Lauren Fensterstock’s “The Order of Things” at Claire Oliver.

Fensterstock’s work broadly feels like what you might have gotten if Louise Nevelson had made Goth grottos: oozing down from the soaring entry ceiling, three vast and bulbous charcoal stalactites greet the viewers. Even from a distance, they have the dream-intoxicated and dark-edged preciousness of Victorian fiction (think of the 19th-century black-clad gothic of Mary Shelley or Edgar Allen Poe).

In the main gallery, Fensterstock’s works come in three forms: a series of almost preciously detailed monochrome florals made of tiny shells or black paper under bell jars, which further the Victorian gothic flavor; a pair of three-foot glass-topped black cubes with black cut paper jungle-like floral interiors; and a trio of black hanging wall cabinets bubbling with alien-like floral growths.

Fensterstock’s black object surfaces are tar-rich and thick as though their paint medium is plastic tool dip. In her use of shells, her touch ranges from large, potent forms to tiny, feather-like baby mussel shells that play the part of flower petals. Her cut paper work reveals extraordinary facility combined with seemingly infinite obsessive insistence.

"Cave / Bouquet"

“Cave / Bouquet”

It is not by chance that glass artist Beth Lipman also has work on view at Claire Oliver: Lipman has received international accolades for her obsessive full-table smorgasbord still lives of clear blown glass. But the nuance and sophistication of Fensterstock’s craft-oriented, concept-driven art pushes well past the ambition of Lipman’s work. Even Fensterstock’s title, “The Order of Things,” named after the English title of Michel Foucault’s seminal 1966 book “Les Mots et les Choses,” announces her philosophical engagement with critical theory and issues of discourse. Foucault’s book argues that what we can know (scientific discourses) changes as epistemological assumptions shift between historical eras.

This isn’t some vague connection for Fensterstock. She targets the leaky edges of Foucault’s conclusions. To wit, the bell jars are tools for scientific observation (either as dust covers or vacuum containers). And Fensterstock’s wall cabinets aren’t subtle in their references to the “wunderkammers” (cabinets of curiosities) which, from the Renaissance through the Victorian era, gathered as many geological, biological and anthropological objects from as far and wide as possible. Such prized collections ultimately developed into to our notion of museums (consider the Victorian and terrific L.C. Bates Museum in Hinckley), but they were status symbols for the wealthy and worldly with an imperialist twist. While such collections were ostensibly related to an Enlightenment mentality, Fensterstock reminds us how Baroque, Romantic and Victorian they now seem. And with her tar-black epistemological shell game, she reminds us that the foreign – the alien – is outside our discourse of knowledge because it is beyond our language.

What Fensterstock is showing us with “The Order of Things” is not what we know, but what things look like before we have reeled them in with labels and encyclopedic classification. And with the bell jar logic (think Sylvia Plath), the Nevelson black cabinets, Queen Victoria’s Victorianism, and the feminine art alternatives of craft and floral design, Fensterstock’s terms of “otherness” take a decidedly female character.

Fensterstock’s focus on scientific discourse, rather than science per se, allows us to follow her aesthetic trails through moral relativism fixed points like Mary Shelley’s 1818 gothic novel “Frankenstein” running thick with Romanticism’s critique of science (individual perspective versus objective truth). It allows a certain indulgence in the irrational aspects of her obsession with detail, aesthetics and material. With Romanticism as our guide not through the dark but into it, we are welcomed to indulge in the sublime aesthetics of Fensterstock’s art.

"Grotto 2"

“Grotto 2”

While clearly inspired by Foucault’s book, Fensterstock’s art does not require knowing anything about him to understand it. Her gothic aesthetic and Victorian weirdness blaze an easy path to the irrational and indescribable, for which science has no answer. And in a Chelsea gallery, it’s easy to see we’ve been here before: Heinrich Wofflin’s seminal book, “Renaissance and Baroque,” for example, sees all art through the ages as cycling back and forth between rational (Renaissance) and emotional (Baroque). Fensterstock’s repeated use of the term “Baroque” makes a strong case for what she’s doing.

It can be argued that Frankenstein’s monster has been reanimated in the form of zombies – which have overrun American popular culture. Fensterstock’s work hints at the reason: Maybe we’re shifting from a historical moment defined by scientific knowledge toward one defined by our obsessions, emotions, fears and notions of otherness. With a delicately gorgeous touch in her indefatigable efforts to breathe new life into fine craft and dark Romanticism, Fensterstock, whatever her intentions, has brought to life some very powerful and conceptually robust contemporary art.

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

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Society Notebook: Realtors pitch in toward Habitat for Humanity’s first neighborhood in Maine Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Amid cabinetry, appliances, light fixtures and tools for sale at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore shop in Portland, area Realtors raised $9,500 with live and silent auctions to benefit a Habitat neighborhood being built in Scarborough.

“There are 13 homes that are going to be built out of this in Scarborough,” said Greater Portland Board of Realtors (GPBR) board member Paula Broydrick.

“This event gets people here at the ReStore to get the community to get familiar with the ReStore, what it is and what it offers the community,” said Lisa DiBiase, owner of Landing Real Estate.

“Everything we sell here is donated to us by individuals, contractors and manufacturers,” said Godfrey Wood, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland. “Then the public comes in and purchase items for renovations.”

“One of the ways that Habitat for Humanity raises funds for our programs is to have ReStores,” said Alexa Plotkin, manager of the Portland ReStore. “ReStore shops are the biggest fundraiser for Habitat in the Greater Portland area, and the GPBR has been supporting us for years.”

“Those funds allow us to build homes for those in need,” said Raylene Estabrook, president elect of GPBR. “Realtors do build communities, and that goes for all spectrums.”

“It’s the American dream,” added GPBR board member Adrienne Murphy.

“Realtors have been incredibly instrumental in helping Habitat grow,” said Steve Thomas, a Habitat for Humanity partner best known for hosting “This Old House” and “Renovation Nation.”

“This Habitat affiliate is a lender, a builder, a retailer and a landlord,” Wood said, explaining that Habitat’s goal is to get people into safe, decent and attainable homes.

The neighborhood being built at Carpenter Court in Scarborough will include Habitat for Humanity homes as well as homes being built by Scarborough Housing Alliance with different qualifying requirements. Volunteers from GPBR will be working on the build site May 20-27.

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

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Portlanders Susan Conley and Winky Lewis document a year’s journey through ‘motherland’ Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Winky Lewis and Susan Conley didn’t stop time, but they came close.

Their new book, “Stop Here, This is the Place,” is a collaboration between friends and neighbors, between a photographer and a writer and between mothers whose children are best friends. At the beginning of each week for one year, starting in the spring, Lewis, the photographer, sent a photo to Conley, the writer, who responded by sending a small story back.

Most of the photos involved their kids and the wide West End street that serves as their playground. One house separates them. Their five kids – Lewis has three, Conley has two – are interchangeable parts. “We’ve raised our kids together,” said Lewis, who spoke about the book with Conley in a Portland coffee shop. Both families moved into the neighborhood on Bowdoin Street in Portland in 2001, at roughly the same time.

859058_927715 Stop Here book cover.jpgThe photos and text tell a very small story about a very small place in a very big world. Motherhood doesn’t allow actual slowdowns, but the project enabled them to pause long enough to appreciate the small moments that often go unnoticed.

They’ll discuss their book Thursday night at the Portland Museum of Art. Portland illustrator Scott Nash will guide a discussion about their collaborative process, as artists and friends.

Their book, published by Down East, celebrates, as they say, “a year in motherland.” These are photos of children at play that capture moments of exploration and growth and friendship. They began the project in spring 2013, when the youngest of the child tribe was 9.

The book includes 52 photos and stories, one for each week.

From a writer’s perspective, the process was liberating and a bit terrifying, Conley said. On one hand, it was wildly fun, because she never knew week to week what the topic would be. The creative dialogue always began with the photo, which Conley treated as a blueprint or outline.

The challenge, she said, was finding her voice. Looking at the photos reminded her of growing up in rural Maine and allowed her to say things she’s always wanted to say about that. On one page, she writes with the authority of a mother:

“Right before the boy fell asleep, he asked his mother what he should dream about.

He was on his stomach with his little face towards the wall, leaving her already.

His dreams called to him, and the pale flowers rang like chimes.

Oceans, the mother said. And rivers. And trees.

That is how much I love you, she said.

More than these three things.”

On another page, Conley writes with the precocious imagination of a little girl:

“Flying. Yeah. It’s something I do whenever I can.

I fly in the morning when the sun rises.

I fly at night when there’s no moon.

I fly with my eyes opened or closed.

It’s the very greatest thing.

Sometimes I wear my new back-to-school outfit when I’m flying.

Sometimes I just put on my wings and practice lift off.”

Winky Lewis photo

Winky Lewis photo

The process allowed what she calls “the indulgence to go back in time.” She described her small stories as poetry, which was an early creative output for her writing. Writing poetry again – and writing about being a young child – felt like a gift “with a bow,” she said.

For Lewis, the photos allowed her to drop in on the lives of the children as an objective observer. Looking at the photos from the perspective of three years, she’s sometimes surprised at the range of emotions that are part of the year-long narrative. There are sprinkler fights and children dancing in the street, and there are pouty faces that underlie the trauma of being 12. “There are issues that are really real,” Lewis said.

The friends began their project in spring 2013. They barely talked about it, and neither edited the other’s work. They just reacted, as artists and mothers.

Lewis sent Conley a photo each week, and Conley wrote quickly. She often looked only briefly at the photo at first in search of her initial emotional reaction, and tried to write from that spot.

After a few months, they wondered if they were writing a book without realizing it. Lewis sent photos and text to her brother, a designer. Monty Lewis laid out of a draft of what a book might look like.

When Down East said yes, they realized their little world had suddenly become much bigger.

Initially, they wondered if it was a good idea to share the photos and stories of their children with strangers. Whatever fears they had were allayed by the reaction to the book.

Their kids like it, too – even the older boys who thought it was kind of dorky at first.


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Book review: ‘Seasons in My Garden’ reflects on growth and rootedness Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It is common for those who embrace the monastic life to refer to it as “a calling.” This is how Sister Elizabeth Wagner describes her response to reading a book on Teresa of Avila that a teacher gave her in high school. “My heart opened, my dreams expanded, and I knew my calling.”

In her collection of essays, “Seasons in My Garden,” Wagner tells of the journey that led her to a monastic life at Transfiguration Hermitage near Windsor, Maine, and the nature of her daily life there. She writes that the journey had its trials from the start. “I had fallen in love with a dream of a contemplative life, but there were some major hurdles – such as not being Catholic, not thinking I actually believed in God, not having any idea of how to find a monastery or how to enter it.”

“Seasons in My Garden” follows Wagner’s life through the cycle of the seasons of the year. Her life is ordered by the Liturgy of the Hours, the set of prayers and hymns the sisters gather to recite each day, and by the work she does in tending to the hermitage’s extensive gardens. Her book not only takes the reader inside the walls of the small cloister, but inside Wagner herself, into the interior, spiritual garden that must also be carefully tended to ensure that her faith and her connection to God continue to blossom.858932_4576 9781594716348.jpg

The book is divided into four sections framed by each of the four seasons. The contemplative life she describes is neither easy nor idyllic. In the short prologue, she writes, “I didn’t come to Maine gladly … it felt as if I’d been exiled to Siberia.” She begins the story in winter, which is the hardest season for her. She writes of how the leafless trees are reflective of her interior mood and her struggle with faith, stripped to “bare bones,” where boredom is prevalent, confined as she is largely to her cell to do her readings and prayers. “The cell,” she writes, “is so very often the place of struggle and combat,” for life in the cloister offers few distractions, such that the struggle “looms enormously large.” She misses the touch of naked earth in her hands, beneath her feet. Winter is a trial of faith that makes her anxious to the point sometimes of wanting to flee.

“Winter in Maine is truly a crucible: a slow chalice of transformation. One is pushed deep down into oneself by the weight of winter; long snowy days; long snow-covered months.” A time of standing “far off in unworthiness… in fear – for God will judge us.”

Her winter lament makes for a difficult start of the story. But moving into the spring, the story begins to open more, like new life in the garden. The writing is less discursive, the mood less somber, the specificity of detail stronger, though her struggle with faith remains ever constant.

Summer is a time of urgency, for there is much to do in tending the profusion of growth in the garden that warm weather brings. It also brings one afternoon a sudden deluge that floods the central garden and the bell tower used to call the sisters to Vespers, the evening prayers. Wagner does not want to put boots on to go out and ring the bell, so she runs through the cloister knocking on doors to summon everyone.

The next morning, the Gospel for the day was Matthew 14:22-33, about Jesus walking on water in a storm to be with his disciples in a boat out at sea. Peter, seeing this, likewise steps out upon the water, begins walking, but when he looks down he loses faith and sinks. Wagner dwells on this, drawing a comparison to her avoidance the day earlier to proceed through the water to ring the bell. “Walking on water is what Jesus did at a moment of urgent necessity for his disciples, and it was also a moment of epiphany, a revelation of who he is and what all of God’s salvation history is about. Walking on water is what we do also, each day of our lives, when we step out in faith… Walking on water, the garden tells me, is possible. Even in a storm. Even when drowning. Even when – especially when – we don’t realize the amazing story we’re caught up in.”

Wagner repeatedly draws parallels between ordinary events and spiritual lessons. Every event is pregnant with possible spiritual gleanings, she attests. “The texture of our simple daily experience is the privileged place of God’s presence. We need only to become more aware of it.” The challenge is indeed to be aware of it.

 Sister Elizabeth Wagner

Sister Elizabeth Wagner

“Rarely do we focus on the simple place where we are right now. Yet, it is only here and now in the present – this time, this place, these thoughts, this task – where God waits for us to be present.”

In “Stillness,” the last chapter in the “Autumn” section, Wagner comes full circle in her reflections on winter, how autumn begins to prepare one for the hardship. Here, in contrast to her tone and mood in the opening section, she views in a new light the returning to the time of snow and being forced inside. She realizes that winter brings its own rich gifts.

“Winter brings quiet. Winter brings stillness.” The contemplative life is all about cultivating stillness. Late in November, the first snow comes. “The snow enforces physical stillness. Inner stillness arrives by sheer gift. There are times when God’s hand hovers over us, and all our inner noise is hushed. We are dropped into a place beyond words, below thoughts, far from emotion and desire. All is stilled, and we are in Presence.”

Monasteries have been likened to “great engines of prayer.” Wagner also makes clear that they are places of extraordinary ordinariness, where one cannot flee from the profound nature of daily existence. This time, this place, these thoughts mark the journey. As Wagner makes clear, being fully present in those things is the only means of being in the “Presence” of that which one seeks.

Frank O Smith’s novel, “Dream Singer,” was named a Notable Book of the Year in Literary Fiction in 2014 by “Shelf Unbound,” an international review magazine. Smith can be reached via his website:

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Book review: Richard Russo proves you can go home again Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Richard Russo’s “Nobody’s Fool,” published in 1993, isn’t a novel that clamors for a follow-up. A long book about small-town life in upstate New York, it seemed to have accomplished what its author set out to do, capturing with humor and compassion some pivotal moments in the lives of fictional North Bath’s working-class residents, chief among them Donald “Sully” Sullivan, unambitious day laborer and town gadfly.

Set 10 years later than the original, the sequel finds Sully, now financially independent thanks to a lucky off-track bet, at another personal crossroads. The main focus of the narrative, however, shifts to concentrate largely on one of the bit players from the first book. Douglas Raymer, then an easily rattled police officer, is now the town’s equally self-doubting chief of police. It is he who undergoes the greatest degree of change over the course of a few jam-packed days.

As “Everybody’s Fool” opens, Raymer reluctantly attends the burial of a local judge, and even at the graveside he cannot stop obsessing about the strange garage door opener he found in his wife’s car. Before she died in a freak accident, Becka Raymer had planned to run off with her secret lover, and Raymer believes that the wayward remote control will somehow prove with whom she intended to leave, a notion that causes him great psychological turmoil.

Russo writes, “Since losing Becka, he had come unmoored. Somewhere along the line he’d lost not only his wife but his faith in justice, in both this world and the next.” Raymer’s mental unmooring is strong enough to cause him to faint in the heat and send him tumbling face first into the judge’s open grave.

Raymer’s is not the only close confrontation with mortality in Bath that day. The wall of a dubious real estate enterprise known as The Old Mill Lofts, undermined by a lake of septic goo bubbling up underneath it, collapses and nearly kills a passing driver. At Raymer’s run-down apartment building, a wayward contraband cobra incites a panicky evacuation. And then there’s Sully predicament in the wake of his visit to the VA cardiologist, the diagnosis of encroaching congestive heart failure, with the prognosis of two years, “but probably closer to one” if he chooses to do nothing about it.

Whether still among the living or not, most characters from the previous book show up eventually in this one. Rub Squeers, Sully’s partner in horrible odd jobs, frets that he’s being replaced in his best friend’s affections. Sully’s off-and-on married lover, Ruth, is less concerned with their haphazard relationship, more worried that her daughter has taken up again with her abusive and unpredictable ex, Roy Purdy. Beryl Peoples, Sully’s eighth-grade English teacher and former landlady, has long since passed away, but Sully is still haunted by the question she was fond of asking him, “Does it ever trouble you that you haven’t done more with the life God gave you?”

A lot happens in the roughly 48-hour span of “Everybody’s Fool,” perhaps too much. Raymer in particular suffers more indignities and experiences more epiphanies in two days than is strictly believable, even after he’s struck by lightning and experiences a disconcerting episode of dual personality. Sully’s son and grandson, so crucial to the first book, are mostly kept off-stage this time, which is just as well, since the accumulation of plot threads is already remarkably heavy without their presence.859028_609409 fool.jpg

A number of sad and distressing events happen in “Everybody’s Fool,” but it is at heart a comedy. Russo keeps the jokes coming with well-practiced regularity, and no one is likely to complain that some are overly broad, when the majority hit their mark.

Like a 15-year high school class reunion, “Everybody’s Fool” ends up feeling not entirely necessary but worth experiencing if circumstances allow. Even at nearly 500 pages, it manages to not wear out its welcome. Sully and his North Bath cohorts still have an irrepressible gift of gab, and it’s a pleasure to hear them trade wisecracks and a few unpleasant truths.

If “Everybody’s Fool” lacks the depth and moral heft of Russo’s “Bridge of Sighs” or the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Empire Falls,” it seems on an equal footing with the campus comedy “Straight Man” and feels more substantial and well-tuned than “That Old Cape Magic.” No matter where it ranks amid Russo’s output, “Everybody’s Fool” displays his trademark style, that easy, sardonic and yet not unkind authorial voice that reveals the characters’ inner lives, full of well-worn habit and surprising contradiction, with honesty, humor and compassion.


Berkeley writer Michael Berry is a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, native who has contributed to Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, New Hampshire Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books and many other publications. He can be contacted at:

Twitter: mlberry

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Obama headlines at his last correspondents’ dinner as president Sun, 01 May 2016 04:03:12 +0000 WASHINGTON — Even though President Barack Obama and his wife can’t wait to get out of the White House, being a lame duck can hurt a guy.

“Last week Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe,” Obama cracked at the White House Correspondents’ dinner Saturday night. “That was a slap in the face.”

Obama drew plenty of laughs with his barbed remarks to a ballroom filled with journalists, politicians, and movie and television stars. It was his eighth appearance at the event and his last as president. TV host Larry Wilmore provided the professional comedy for the evening.

“If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year,” Obama said. “Earn me some serious Tubmans.”

The president waxed nostalgic at times. “Eight years ago I said it was time to change the tone of our politics. In hindsight, I clearly should have been more specific.”

And he acknowledged that the years had taken their toll. “I’m gray, grizzled … counting down the days to my death panel.”

Turning serious at the end of his remarks, the president thanked the White House press corps and praised a free press.

“I just have two more words to say: Obama out.” With that, he held out the mic and dropped it.

As usual the Washington Hilton ballroom was a celebrity-spotters dream. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and other government officials taking a seat. Also on hand were Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump, a regular in recent years, was absent this time, but a son and daughter-in-law, Donald Jr. and Vanessa Trump, were spotted on the red carpet.

Among the film and television performers at the event were Oscar winners Helen Mirren and Jared Leto, “Breaking Bad” actor Bryan Cranston, “Independence Day” stars Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, actress Rachel McAdams, and “Night Manager” miniseries star Tom Hiddleston.

Proceeds from the dinner go toward journalism scholarships and reporting awards. This year’s winners:

Carol Lee of the Wall Street Journal, winner of the Aldo Beckman Memorial Award for excellence in White House coverage.

Matt Viser of the Boston Globe, winner of the Merriman Smith Award for outstanding White House coverage under deadline pressure.

Norah O’Donnell of CBS News, winner of the Merriman Smith Award for broadcast journalism.

Terrence McCoy of The Washington Post and Neela Banerjee, John Cushman Jr., David Hasemyer and Lisa Song of InsideClimate, winners of the Edgar A. Poe award, which recognizes excellence in coverage of events or investigative topics of regional or national interest.

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Music review: Despite tech problems, Julianna Barwick never out of the loop Sat, 30 Apr 2016 22:13:54 +0000 Julianna Barwick strips music to a few basic ingredients: the human voice, and often just two or three pieces of technological equipment.

Primarily using just a looper, a sampler and keyboard, she sings brief, occasionally wordless, phrases into a microphone, loops them, and builds them atop one another until a full choir blossoms from the small components. She typically accompanies these vocals with minimalist, repetitive keyboard passages that slowly cycle through keys, not unlike a Philip Glass composition.

The total effect is stunning – her 2011 album “The Magic Place” and her 2016 album “Will” are among the finest records of recent years. They’re stately, celestial and otherworldly, sounding like the Cocteau Twins sprinkled with American gospel and a dash of Enya.

But what happens to her live performance when she is unable to loop her voice?

That was the issue at SPACE Gallery in Portland this past Friday. At the start of the show, a broken-up Barwick explained to the crowd that her looper fell off of her setup and broke, and that she’d be returning to Maine this summer to play a proper show.

As this piece of equipment is essential to what she does – imagine Jimi Hendrix breaking his guitar just before going onstage – nobody would have blamed her for canceling the gig. Instead, she played the songs she could play without the benefit of layering her voice to create her usual sonic bedrock.

To her ears, the whole performance likely sounded off. To fans who are deeply familiar with her catalog, swaths of the show were barely recognizable from their studio recordings. But to most audience members, and particularly those who were unfamiliar with her work, it no doubt sounded like heaven. While Barwick has astute compositional sensibilities and is an expert at using technological tools to realize her ideas, her greatest asset will always be her voice – which requires little gadgetry to move listeners.

She displayed a lower register that you could luxuriate in, reverberating mightily off the walls of the venue, and also a higher range that was both full-bodied and ethereal at once. The room was dark, the tempo was slow, and the music was loud. As is typical with her performances, it was less a concert than a spiritual, meditative experience.

It’s difficult to imagine what kinds of challenges the performance presented for Barwick, who played at the Middle East nightclub in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the evening before and had less than 24 hours to drive north, try to fix her looper and throw together an unrehearsed set. Regardless of how it was accomplished, she succeeded, and if she really does come back this summer, it’s not a show to miss.

Cellist and songwriter Nat Baldwin opened for Barwick. Baldwin’s work is influenced by 1980s avant-garde cellist Arthur Russell (he even performed a terrific cover of “A Little Lost,” one of Russell’s finest works), but also stands apart from that influence, as on his affecting “Wasted.”

Baldwin is associated with a number of highly regarded indie-rock bands; he is a member of Dirty Projectors, and has appeared on albums by Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear. He’s also a native of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and has been a regular at Maine venues for many years. This was his first performance as a resident of Portland, however, and we’re excited to have him here.

Robert Ker is a freelance music writer in Portland.

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Ninja Turtles named family ambassadors for New York City Sat, 30 Apr 2016 21:50:53 +0000 NEW YORK — The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are New York City’s official family ambassadors for 2016.

The city’s tourism agency, NYC & Company, has announced that the sewer-dwelling reptiles will star in ads to encourage families to explore New York.

Agency CEO Fred Dixon said the turtles are “the perfect guides to help families discover the vibrancy and excitement throughout the five boroughs.”

The crime-fighting ninja turtles – Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael – started out in comic books in the 1980s before branching out to TV and film. The latest movie came out in 2014 and a sequel is set for release in June.

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Religion calendar Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The Abyssinian Meeting House Education Committee presents Goldee Greene accompanied by pianist Thew Elliot in a one-woman, history-based drama with music set in Greenwich Village in 1938. Saturday at 7 p.m., at Trinity Church, 580 Forest Ave. in Portland and Sunday at 3 p.m. at The Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick, 15 Pleasant St. in Brunswick.

End of Life Issues. Information session by the Consoling Hearts Ministry of the Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes. Advance registration required. Free. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 307 Congress St., Portland, (207) 773-7740, 9:30 a.m. – noon Saturday.

Dances of Universal Peace, The Dances of Universal Peace pairs chants from a variety of world spiritual traditions with simple circle dance movements. Suggested donation $5-$15, Creating Space Yoga Studio, 1717 Congress St., Stroudwater, Portland. 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday.

Thresholds Conference: End-of-Life Conversations: What to say and do. International expert on hospice and palliative care to give a step-by-step guide for talking about what matters most, when every moment counts. $20, Talbot Lecture Hall, Luther Bonney Hall, Portland campus, USM, 95 Bedford St., Portland. Noon – 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Yom HaShoah Film Series, Maine Jewish Film Festival honors Holocaust Remembrance Day with free documentary about an underground courier who risks his life trying to prevent the Holocaust. Free, Maine College of Art, Osher Hall, 522 Congress St., Portland. 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. Wednesday.

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

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Reflections: No matter what happens, only love is guaranteed to last Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “She won’t know the difference.” The neurologist shook his head.

In my lap I held Ruth, a 2-year-old abandoned baby with cerebral palsy that my family and I hoped to adopt from an orphanage in Uganda. Ruth had arrived in Maine one year before on a medical visa to receive therapy for cerebral palsy, a brain injury that left her unable to walk or talk.

Months before, while serving as her host family, we’d discovered that Ruth was also profoundly deaf – a devastating diagnosis since she was unable to use her hands to communicate. Now, one week before taking Ruth back to East Africa on a month-long trip to collect paperwork for her adoption, I was being told not to bother.

Ruth’s disabilities meant that she would never advance beyond the physical abilities of a 6-month-old, the neurologist said. In his words, she was also likely profoundly mentally retarded. “In my opinion, it won’t matter whether you adopt Ruth or leave her in Uganda,” he said. “She won’t know the difference.”

My husband, Dana, and I – along with our three young children – adopted Ruth anyway. In our early 30s, we were young and naive enough not to realize how hard the road with Ruth would be. All we knew was that we loved her – despite what loving her would cost us. But, with all of his education and experience, the neurologist failed to realize what a lasting transformation such love can make in the life of a child and family.

No, Ruth didn’t pull her crooked legs out of her stroller and walk the triumphant August day we returned from Uganda with papers declaring her a permanent American resident. She didn’t open her mouth and speak at the little courthouse, just up the road from our home, the following February when we celebrated her adoption. But slowly, beautifully – as Ruth became rooted in the love of our family and church, and our schools and community – she blossomed into a radiantly happy little girl who defied the doctor’s dire predictions.

Despite being told that she’d never understand spoken language, Ruth learned to hear with the help of a cochlear implant. She loved books and school and by first grade could spell the names of all the kids in her class by sticking out her tongue when someone pointed to the correct letter on an alphabet board. And she loved to play, squealing with delight when her same-age sister dressed her as a queen and pulled her around the house in her wheelchair while pretending to be a horse.

But what neither the neurologist – nor we – expected was how little time Ruth had. Two months before her eighth birthday, the rare condition responsible for her cerebral palsy and deafness caused Ruth to die in her sleep. The shock and grief of losing our daughter was excruciating. Equally unendurable was the devastating suspicion that, in the end, our decision to adopt Ruth hadn’t mattered, after all.

“It didn’t make a difference,” I sobbed to Dana one night during that long, dark winter.

“How can you say that?” he challenged me. “We gave Ruth everything we had. That’s all God was asking. And you know what? She knew the difference. That girl knew we loved her.”

This April, Ruth would have turned 13. In the five years she’s been gone, we still ache from the loss of her. But in that time, we’ve also come to know that every sorrow and sacrifice was worth it. Instead of dying forsaken and unclaimed – as many people with disabilities do in the developing world – Ruth knew that she was beloved upon this earth.

“All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end,” the apostle Paul wrote in I Cor. 13:8, “but love goes on forever.”

Nine months after our daughter’s death, that love changed the life of another little girl with cerebral palsy when Dana brought Ruth’s wheelchair to Uganda through a Christian outreach, Wheels for the World. So even if you love and lose, keep sharing God’s love anyway. Love in the face of suffering and grief and heartache and loss. Love beyond racial and religious and physical borders and barriers.

Love like a fool, without considering what such love will cost. Because, no matter how and when life ends, only love is guaranteed to last.

Meadow Rue Merrill writes and reflects on God’s presence in her ordinary life from her little cottage in the woods in the midcoast. Find her at

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VIPs aplenty back Prince Harry’s Invictus Games Sat, 30 Apr 2016 02:36:56 +0000 LONDON — It helps to have friends in high places when you’re promoting an athletic event.

That’s certainly the case for Prince Harry, who released a video Friday promoting the upcoming Invictus Games for wounded veterans.

The cast includes his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II as well as Barack and Michelle Obama, who Harry and his brother Prince William had over for dinner last week in London.

The video starts with Harry and the queen looking at an Invictus brochure when they get a video phone message from Mrs. Obama. It shows the Obamas accepting Harry’s challenge to the Invictus Games, with a man in uniform behind them saying “Boom!”

The queen, bemused by the Americans, says, “Oh really? Please.” Harry then says “Boom!” with a wicked grin.

Elizabeth also made a widely-viewed promotional video with 007 star Daniel Craig for the 2012 London Olympics.

The Invictus Games are an international paralympic-style competition in which wounded veterans take part in sports including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and indoor rowing.

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Despite reports, Will Ferrell says he’s not pursuing Reagan film Sat, 30 Apr 2016 01:18:21 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Will Ferrell is not pursuing a film project about Ronald Reagan, a spokesman for the actor said. The actor had read the script for “Reagan” but had never committed to developing or starring in the comedic film, which had prompted a family backlash.

The script had been described in Variety as a satire about the president falling into dementia at the start of his second term.

Reagan’s children Michael Reagan and Patti Davis, as well as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, issued statements against the idea of a film portraying dementia and Alzheimer’s in a comedic fashion.

Ferrell’s spokesman said that “Reagan” is “by no means” an Alzheimer’s comedy.

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Plenty of things you can do in Maine this weekend Sat, 30 Apr 2016 00:10:02 +0000 0, 29 Apr 2016 20:10:22 +0000 They’re all the cat’s pajamas at Augusta show Fri, 29 Apr 2016 23:50:40 +0000 AUGUSTA — The Augusta State Armory on Western Avenue was filled with the sounds of meows and purring – and the odor of kitty litter – during the opening night of Nauticats’ cat show Friday.

The show, which runs through Sunday, is the final one of the season for members of The International Cat Association and will feature more than 100 cats from all over North America.

Club president Donna Madison, who is also one of the judges, said the show will be different this year because owners who have top-ranked cats need the additional points, but owners who can’t win a regional competition don’t need to attend. The season ends Sunday.

“They come from all over,” Madison said. “There is a lot of strategy involved, because you have to think about where your competition is. At the end of the show, one of these cats will be the best in the Northeast region.”

Lisa Ledoux flew to Maine from outside of Tampa, Florida, because her cat is ranked 25th in the world.

“I don’t want him to fall out of the Top 25, so I’m here to hopefully get more points,” Ledoux said. “There wasn’t a show this weekend in our region, and this one was the closest.” Ledoux said attending cat shows is a way to see parts of the country she might not have seen otherwise.

“I love the weather and the low humidity,” Ledoux said. “And I almost died when I saw a ‘watch out for moose’ sign leaving the airport.”

Brigitte Pouliot brought several of her Persian cats from Montreal, where she is a breeder. But her featured cat this weekend is a 14-pounder named A Sky Full of Stars, which is the title of a Coldplay song. Not coincidentally, Pouliot also calls the cat Chris, after Chris Martin, Coldplay’s lead singer.

The 1½-year-old is a top-ranked Persian, so like Ledoux, Pouliot is in Maine collecting points.

“He is the 22nd-best cat in the world, so I have to be here,” Pouliot said. “I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years, and it’s fun because you can travel and meet people. I’ve made friends everywhere.”

The armory was set up with seven “rings” along its walls, where the cats are judged throughout the weekend, some getting the opportunity to compete more than 20 times. The center of the armory has tables filled with fancy carriers, litter boxes and some of the best-groomed cats from around the world. The owners spent the afternoon priming and preparing their fancy felines with brushes and combs, readying them for their big moments in front of the judges.

For the competition, the cats are organized by breed and age and are judged on certain association standards, including condition and balance. This weekend’s competition also features a household pet division, meaning just about every cat could participate, including two owned by Cathy Dunlap of Sabattus.

“I think the household division is the most fun but also the most difficult, because there are no standards,” Dunlap said.

Many participants said while the show brings out plenty of competition, it is all good-natured and friendly. Madison said the shows have been successful for the past two decades for that reason.

“Everyone knows each other and is nice to each other,” Madison said. “Some people have very stressful jobs, and they come here to get away from that. It is a good stress reliever.”

Feline awareness is a major theme for the weekend, and the rescue group Forgotten Felines of Maine hopes to educate those attending the show about strays and caring for feral cats.

“There is a problem with strays all over the state, but it isn’t as bad as in other states,” director Pam Hansberry said. “We hopefully can raise awareness, educate the public and adopt the 15 cats we have with us this weekend.”

The show continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and is open to the public. Admission costs $5 for adults and $4 for students 12 and older. The armory is at 179 Western Ave.

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A mostly sunny weekend: Weather from Mainetoday Fri, 29 Apr 2016 15:40:44 +0000 0, 29 Apr 2016 11:53:54 +0000 Vandals carve graffiti on famous arch at Arches National Park in Utah Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:30:50 +0000 SALT LAKE CITY — Rangers at Utah’s Arches National Park were investigating large graffiti Thursday that was carved so deeply into a famous red rock arch that it might be impossible to erase, officials said.

The carvings discovered earlier this month measure about 4 feet across and 3 feet high, park Superintendent Kate Cannon said.

The vandalism is part of a “tidal wave of graffiti” at Arches and other national parks in recent years, she said.

Two years ago, at least eight national parks in the West began the delicate task of cleaning up graffiti-like paintings left on famous, picturesque landscapes. The damage was discovered after images were shared on social media.

The Arches rock formation, commonly known as Frame Arch, is off a popular hiking trail where visitors can look through it and view the park’s iconic, stand-alone Delicate Arch.

Cannon said the graffiti was etched so deeply that it might have taken at least an hour for someone to carve.

She said park workers can try to reduce the carving’s visibility by grinding down the rock around it, but that causes further damage to the surface. She said they could also try to fill in the etchings with some kind of material that blends in, but it’s unclear if that would be a permanent or unnoticeable treatment.

Defacing surfaces in the park is illegal and anyone caught can face up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Social media seems to be a driver of increased vandalism, but Cannon said graffiti generally has become inexplicably popular among visitors.

“It is really overwhelming,” she said.

Officials hope public outrage and vigilance can ease the problem.

“We take great pains to be out in the park and around where people are,” Cannon said of park ranger patrols. “Unfortunately, we can’t be everywhere all the time.”

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Portland Stage opens Dario Fo’s comedy ‘They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!’ Fri, 29 Apr 2016 01:30:13 +0000 0, 28 Apr 2016 21:30:39 +0000 Get outside with your pup: 7 great places for dogs to play in Portland Fri, 29 Apr 2016 01:25:36 +0000 0, 28 Apr 2016 21:31:50 +0000 Katy Perry will perform at Cannes fundraiser Fri, 29 Apr 2016 01:17:44 +0000 NEW YORK — Katy Perry will be lighting up the French Riviera like fireworks next month.

The singer will perform at amfAR’s “Cinema Against AIDS” event, the glitzy A-list fundraiser held annually during the Cannes Film Festival.

The fundraiser, which takes place just outside of Cannes in Antibes, France, will again feature Sharon Stone, amfAR’s global campaign chair; the actress had to bow out last year. Other stars set to attend include Kevin Spacey and Heidi Klum.

The May 19 event raises money for AIDS research.

More than $30 million was raised last year, according to amfAR.

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Manhattan chef Sara Jenkins to open Mediterranean restaurant in Rockport Thu, 28 Apr 2016 23:22:36 +0000 Sara Jenkins, well known in Manhattan for the sandwich shop Porchetta and the rustic Italian restaurant Porsena, is moving to Rockport to launch a Mediterranean restaurant in the space occupied previously by Salt Water Farm Café. She hopes to open the restaurant, to be named Nina June after a childhood nickname, in early June.

Jenkins has lived and cooked in New York City for 17 years. Her porchetta sandwich caused a sensation when her tiny East Village shop opened in 2008, winning the top spot on that year’s Time Out New York “100 Best Things We Ate” list. Porsena is a New York Times Critics’ Pick.

“Her approach to food is as authentically Italian as anyone’s has ever been,” said Mitchell Davis, vice president of the James Beard Foundation in New York and an occasional resident of Italy. Whatever she cooks “comes out with an Italian sensibility that is pure and simple and in some ways unadulterated but very soulful.”


She came by that approach honestly. Although Jenkins attended Gould Academy in Bethel, she had an international childhood, including many years in Italy. She is the daughter of foreign correspondent and food writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins, who lives in Camden and is well known for her cookbooks and other writings on Mediterranean food.

In New York, Sara Jenkins has been pegged as a rustic Italian cook. In Maine, she is looking forward to a little more creative freedom in the kitchen, a chance to roam more broadly around the Mediterranean region, Jenkins said in a telephone interview from New York. She listed the cuisines of Spain, Turkey and the Middle East as those she’s eager to explore more thoroughly.

Sara Jenkins, right, spends time at a kitchen in Cuba in 2012.

Sara Jenkins, right, spends time at a kitchen in Cuba in 2012.

“I’m almost scared of using the Mediterranean tag because it’s been so abused, but essentially to me it’s a cuisine of local ingredients, focused on seafood, vegetables, grains and greens, olive oil and a small amount of meat,” Jenkins said. “And that’s really what I like to cook. Kind of clean food that’s well sourced.”

Jenkins, who said she is on the verge of signing the lease, described the former Salt Water space as “turnkey.” It has room for about 50 diners inside and another 20 or so on the deck.

Salt Water Farm Café opened in the spring of 2013 in Rockport’s newly renovated Union Hall. Owned by Annemarie Ahearn, in tandem with her Salt Water Farm Cooking School in Lincolnville, it was a gorgeous rustic-chic spot – The Wall Street Journal described it as “Brooklyn-meets-Mayberry” – with glorious views of the water. After two years, the restaurant closed for the season – and apparently for good – in September.

“The cooking school was growing really quickly, and that’s sort of where my heart lies,” Ahearn said in explaining why she decided to close the restaurant. “I realized if I wanted it to continue to grow, that’s where I had to focus. Sara (Jenkins) has more than 10 years of cooking experience, and she seemed like a really good fit for the space and the town. I’m really excited for her, and I can’t wait to be a customer.”


Jenkins gave two reasons for moving to Maine: “I have a kid (a 9-year-old son), and I’d like to raise him in Maine, and I’ve gotten really excited and jazzed by everything going on in Maine in the food scene in the past 10 years.”

She named Long Grain in Camden, the Palace Diner in Biddeford, the Slipway in Thomaston, Chase’s Daily in Belfast and Suzuki Sushi Bar in Rockland among the restaurants that make her eager to cook in a state once better known for fried clams, clam chowder and lobster rolls than for its varied, farm-to-table cuisine. “I happen to love fried clams, clam chowder and lobster rolls,” she noted.

Jenkins is not selling her Manhattan restaurants. She opened Porchetta with her cousin, who still manages it, and she described the Porsena kitchen as very solid. She expects to be traveling back and forth to some extent, but says she is ready to leave the city.

“There is a level of fetishization of food that seems to be going on (in New York), and I’m really over it,” she said. “I want to cook good food for people who appreciate it and not be stressed out about ‘Did I make it onto this list? Are enough people talking about me?’

“New York is just too difficult to live in at this point in my life,” she said. “Usually I shuffle between home and work, home and work, home and work. Ten years ago I would go out after work, but I have a kid. Many people ask me, ‘What I am going to do in the winter (in Maine)?’ I am going to read books. I never get to read books.”


She also hopes to have more time for writing. Jenkins has co-written two cookbooks (one, “The Four Seasons of Pasta,” with her mother) and wrote a series of columns for The Atlantic website.

Jenkins, who will commute to Maine in May and move here in June, said she is “plugging away” at hiring, local sourcing, developing the menu and figuring out prices for Nina June; she expects the most expensive entree to be $35.

The name Nina (pronounced NINE-a) June comes from a nickname her grandfather gave her as a baby. Jenkins was born on June 9, and he suggested she be named Nina June so she’d never forget her birthday. She was named Sara, but the nickname stuck.

Ideally, Jenkins would open Nina June, at least for breakfast, on her 51st birthday – a former Porsena sous chef will help with the launch – and be serving three meals a day through the summer by July 4.


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New documentary ‘One Team’ captures spirit of Lewiston Thu, 28 Apr 2016 17:24:44 +0000 0, 28 Apr 2016 13:26:08 +0000 5 great outdoor Portland dining spots to kick-start summer Thu, 28 Apr 2016 17:11:56 +0000 0, 28 Apr 2016 13:14:09 +0000 Investigators working to determine whether Prince died of drug overdose Thu, 28 Apr 2016 14:10:09 +0000 MINNEAPOLIS — Investigators are looking into whether Prince died from an overdose and whether a doctor was prescribing him drugs in the weeks before he was found dead at his home in suburban Minneapolis, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The official said that among the things investigators are looking at is whether a doctor was with Prince on the plane that made an emergency landing in Illinois less than a week before the star died.

The law enforcement official has been briefed on the investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The official said investigators are also looking into what kind of drugs were on the plane and at Prince’s house in suburban Minneapolis.

The official also confirmed some details that have previously been reported by other media outlets, including TMZ.

Prince’s plane made an emergency stop in Moline, in western Illinois, on April 15 and he was found unconscious on the plane, the official said. The person said first responders gave Prince a shot of Narcan, which is used in suspected opioid overdoses. The official said the so-called save shot was given when the plane was on the tarmac in Moline as Prince returned to Minneapolis after a performance in Atlanta.

The official said investigators are looking at whether Prince overdosed on the plane and whether an overdose killed him, and at what kind of drugs were involved. One possibility is the powerful painkiller Percocet or something similar, the official said.

Narcan can be used on people even if an overdose isn’t confirmed because it wouldn’t necessarily be harmful.

While it’s premature to say where the investigation is heading, the mention of a doctor calls to mind other celebrity deaths, including Michael Jackson’s. Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for his role in prescribing a powerful anesthetic that contributed to the pop star’s death in 2009.

A second law enforcement official told AP that prescription drugs were discovered at Prince’s home when the musician was found dead on April 21.

That official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation into Prince’s death. The official did not elaborate. An autopsy has been performed, but results aren’t expected for three to four weeks. The search warrant for Prince’s Paisley Park home and studio — carried out the day of his death — was filed Thursday under seal at the request of investigators who said it would hamper their investigation if contents were public.

An affidavit in support of sealing the warrant, signed by Carver County Chief Deputy Jason Kamerud, also warned that disclosing details in the warrant could cause “the search or related searches to be unsuccessful” and risk injury to innocent people.

Kamerud declined to comment Thursday on the reports of drugs found at Paisley Park, and told AP that he strongly disputed reports by several media outlets that investigators had asked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for help in the case.

“We have not asked them for help, or asked them to be a part of the investigation,” Kamerud said. “We might contact them to help us, but that hasn’t happened. We don’t have the medical examiner’s report yet. We don’t know to what extent pharmaceuticals could be a part of this.”

Leo Hawkins, a DEA spokesman in Chicago, said he had no comment.

Prince’s death came two weeks after he canceled concerts in Atlanta, saying he wasn’t feeling well. He played a pair of makeup shows April 14 in that city. Prince was scheduled to perform two shows in St. Louis but canceled them shortly before his death due to health concerns.

Longtime friend and collaborator Sheila E. has told the AP that Prince had physical issues from performing, citing hip and knee problems that she said came from years of jumping off risers and stage speakers in heels.

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Wife’s attorney calls Spector’s divorce filing ‘bizarre’ Thu, 28 Apr 2016 00:03:34 +0000 LOS ANGELES — An attorney for Phil Spector’s wife called a divorce filing by the imprisoned music producer heartbreakingly bizarre and said she has provided the best possible care for him.

Attorney Aaron Abramowitz wrote in a statement Tuesday that Rachelle Spector has been devoted to her husband and has been providing him support and the best possible care while he is incarcerated.

“This whole situation is heartbreakingly bizarre,” Abramowitz wrote. “It is regrettable that Mr. Spector has failed to recognize the efforts made by Rachelle in spending tens of thousands of dollars on his medical and dental costs while incarcerated.”

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