Lifestyle – Portland Press Herald Fri, 15 Dec 2017 18:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Horoscopes for Dec. 15, 2017 Fri, 15 Dec 2017 09:01:25 +0000 0, 14 Dec 2017 14:30:17 +0000 It’s a Jedi night in Maine and the nation as latest Star Wars film opens Fri, 15 Dec 2017 03:44:00 +0000 There was no way Tom Long of Portland was going to miss the nationwide opening of “The Last Jedi,” the eighth episode in the Star Wars saga that has become a cultural touchstone for generations of moviegoers.

Long, 43, sported a Jedi costume while holding his ticket to the eagerly awaited installment of the series in the lobby of the Westbrook Cinemagic before the show Thursday night. He’s seen every single Star Wars film in a theater, including the 1977 original when he was 2.

“I don’t remember it, but I was there,” he said.

Phoebe Tran probably won’t have that problem even though she’s a relative newcomer to the ways of the Jedi. Attending the movie with the group of adults that included Long, the 7-year-old sported a Star Wars T-shirt.

Positive reviews and the return of Luke Skywalker to the franchise meant optimism for the new release was running high in the Cinemagic lobby before the show Thursday night.

Lane Boucher of Biddeford, wearing a Rey costume, likes all the Star Wars films – even the much-maligned prequels – and was looking forward to “The Last Jedi.”

Dressed as Jedi knights, 42-year-old Peter Spiegel, left, of Hallowell and Brian Juengst, 35, of Manchester stage a light-saber battle Thursday night on the sidewalk outside Regal Cinemas in Augusta. The Star Wars fans were about to watch Episode VIII in the saga: “The Last Jedi.” Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“I’ve heard some trepidation out there, but I’m excited,” she said. “I’m not too afraid.”

It was much the same in theaters across the state as loyal fans turned out in force.

At Regal Cinemas in Augusta, Jake Sturtevant and his family – who have their own podcast about Star Wars – were among a crowd that included plenty of fanboys and fangirls in costumes and Star Wars-related apparel.

Sturtevant, of Poland, was wearing a gray Star Wars hoodie, and his daughter, Bella, 11, and son, Simon, 8, were decked out in capes and blankets adorned with images of their favorite characters.

“I like Luke (Skywalker) the best,” Simon said. His sister didn’t name a favorite character, but did say she really enjoyed the first three films in the trilogy, Episodes I-III, which were released in 1999, 2002 and 2005, respectively.

Their podcast, which is called Sturt Wars and is available on SoundCloud, focuses on the children and what they think is happening in the Star Wars universe. Sturtevant said he’s happy to share his love for the franchise with his kids.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “To see that next generation of fans taking over is pretty special.”

Sturtevant grew up a Star Wars fan. He has a brother named Luke and a sister named Leah, but he said he never asked his mother if they are named after Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa. His mom was at the theater with the family Thursday and confirmed that the names were partly because of Star Wars.

Phoebe Tran, 7, sports a Star Wars shirt in the lobby of Cinemagic in Westbrook on Thursday for the nationwide opening of “The Last Jedi.” Tran went to the movie with a group of adults including Tom Long, left, who wore a Jedi costume for the occasion. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

The last Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens,” brought the death of Han Solo and the return of Skywalker, and the movie ended with Skywalker on a deserted island being handed a lightsaber by Rey, the main character in the film. Sturtevant said he’s curious to see what Skywalker’s role is in the film and what becomes of Leia, played by Carrie Fisher, who died unexpectedly almost a year ago.

“I’m really curious where they take things with the new characters and how they work in the story with Luke, because we haven’t seen him in a while,” Sturtevant said.

Director Rian Johnson is new to the franchise, and he has a tough act to follow. J.J. Abrams directed “The Force Awakens” and will return to direct Episode IX, which is set to be released in 2019.

“I think it’s great to see somebody new step into this middle (episode),” Sturtevant said. “To be able to see a different perspective is really interesting.”

The crowd included a mix of adults and families, and there were people in Star Wars leggings, cloaks, hoodies and robes. Just as they did two years ago on opening night, superfans Peter Spiegel and Brian Juengst brought their lightsabers and had a three-minute duel outside the theater.

“I’ve been able to avoid reviews and spoilers by a media shutdown,” Spiegel said. “My expectations are to go in and have fun.”

Spiegel, 42, of Hallowell, and Juengst, 35, of Manchester, predicted the film will address actress Carrie Fisher’s death in a shocking way – they both think her character, Leia, will die.

Juengst was looking forward to seeing how the new writer-director, Johnson – whose previous films included the noirish “Brick” in 2005, “The Brothers Bloom” in 2008 and 2012’s sci-fi adventure “Looper” – handles the story.

“‘Looper’ was based on a book, and he had a lot of source material to work with, and Star Wars is so rich with history,” he said. “There are already characters set in there, and he gets to play in this established sandbox, which makes a huge difference.”

Staff photographer Ben McCanna contributed to this report.

]]> 0 as Jedi knights, 42-year-old Peter Spiegel, left, of Hallowell and Brian Juengst, 35, of Manchester stage a light-saber battle Thursday night on the sidewalk outside Regal Cinemas in Augusta. The Star Wars fans were about to watch Episode VIII in the saga: "The Last Jedi."Fri, 15 Dec 2017 08:39:51 +0000
Many Americans 
say greetings at 
Christmastime not important Fri, 15 Dec 2017 01:42:44 +0000 As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump complained that the greeting “Merry Christmas” had fallen out of vogue. People would be saying it again once he took office, he promised.

And you’d hear the greeting more in department stores, too. He has said that repeatedly since occupying the Oval Office. “You’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again,” he pledged during a speech to the Heritage Foundation on Oct. 17.

But the president’s enthusiasm for the greeting isn’t as widely shared as he may think.

“Today, fully half of the U.S. public (52 percent) says a business’ choice of holiday greeting does not matter to them,” according results of a survey released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. In other words, “Merry Christmas” is fine, but “Happy holidays” will do.

Many surveyed agreed that the religious aspects of Christmas are not as prominent in American culture as in the past, but very few were bothered by this. Nine in 10 adults said they celebrate Christmas in some way.

The survey was conducted by telephone a few weeks ago, “among a representative sample” of 1,503 adults nationwide, Pew said. Among other findings:

• Fifty-five percent of American adults said they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, down from 59 percent in 2013.

• The number of Americans who believe no religious displays, such as nativity scenes, should be permitted on government property, has grown from 20 percent to 26 percent since 2014.

• Three-quarters of Republicans believe in the parts of the Christmas narrative, the survey said, compared to 47 percent of Democrats.

Despite the changes in attitudes, Trump’s push for “Merry Christmas,” plays well with his political base. “About half of those who identify with … the Republican Party express a preference for hearing ‘merry Christmas’ from business.” the survey said.

]]> 0 Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:33:04 +0000
Margaret Chase Smith Library showcases cards from U.S. leaders and Phyllis Diller Fri, 15 Dec 2017 01:18:52 +0000 SKOWHEGAN — There’s Bill and Hillary Clinton. And Ike. And Nixon.

Thousands of cards, personal notes and letters from the nation’s leaders poured into the mailbox at U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith’s home in Skowhegan every year beginning in November and stretching through New Year’s Day.

Margaret Chase Smith Undated U.S. Senate Historical Office photo

There were Thanksgiving greetings, Christmas cards and birthday cards – Dec. 14 was her birthday – mailed to the Skowhegan-born senator who was the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress and, in 1964, became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency by either of the two major parties.

Smith died at her home in Skowhegan on Memorial Day, May 29, 1995, at the age of 97.

A collection of seasonal greeting cards sent to Smith has been collected by John Taylor, library assistant at the Margaret Chase Smith Library on Norridgewock Road, and is open for public viewing. The collection also has been uploaded online to Pinterest.

Angela Stockwell, library collection specialist and the one-time personal secretary to Smith, said she remembers Christmas cards and letters pouring in by the dozens. Stockwell said the senator responded to every piece of mail she received, whether it was from Skowhegan locals or the White House.

John Taylor, library assistant at the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, assembled a collection of holiday greeting cards sent to the senator over the years and showed off notable ones on Thursday. Staff photo by David Leaming

“She dictated what she wanted to write to them, then I typed them,” Stockwell said. “Her mail was very important to her. That whole card period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, there would be thousands of cards that she would get – 60 or 70 a day. It was absolutely amazing. It was crazy, crazy. It was a busy, busy time.”

Taylor, the library assistant, said he came across a couple of Christmas cards a few years ago from U.S. presidents and heads of state and began checking for more. There were cards from vice presidents and people who ran for president, along with fellow senators, including Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie.

“So we decided to put it up on the Pinterest page, which is what we did,” he said. “The cards that she received from presidents would have been after her career had ended in the Senate or while she was working there from 1940 in Congress. The earliest that we have would be from the Eisenhowers – the first one was 1956.”

There are several cards from President Dwight Eisenhower, who served in the White House from 1953 to 1961. There is a signed portrait from President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, from Elizabeth and Bob Dole, from President George H.W. Bush and his vice president, Dan Quayle, Nelson Rockefeller and Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

“This one is from the Johnsons. It goes across party lines,” Taylor said of Lyndon Johnson, who was vice president under President John Kennedy and sworn in as the 36th president following Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963.

A birthday card, bottom, signed by former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and an invitation to a luncheon for Mrs. Clinton are part of a holiday greeting card collection at the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, on Thursday. Staff photo by David Leaming

“We have a few from Nixon, Ford, Vice President Agnew. This one’s from Muskie, who of course ran for president as well,” Taylor said, flipping through collection scrapbooks in the library’s research room.

There also is a card from George and Maude Mueller. George Mueller, who sent a photo of the first moon landing in his greeting card, was associate administrator for the Office of Manned Space Flight for NASA in the 1960s.

Conspicuously absent from the collection of greeting cards is anything from Kennedy. Taylor said the Republican Smith often disagreed with Kennedy, a Democrat.

“She sometimes questioned some of his actions and motives,” he said.

Among Smith’s admirers were comedienne Phyllis Diller and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“We have lots of cards from Phyllis Diller, actually for different holidays – Valentine’s, Halloween,” Taylor said.

Smith and Diller were affiliated through Northwood University of Michigan, which was responsible for all daily operations and programs at the library until 2012, when the University of Maine assumed those responsibilities.

Diller had been named as a distinguished woman as part of a Northwood program, of which Smith was chairwoman.

There is a birthday card from President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton and a personal letter from Hillary Clinton.

“This would have been personally from the first lady at the time,” Taylor said, referring to the letter from Mrs. Clinton. “It’s dated October 1993 and it’s talking about how Margaret was an inspiration for her and it’s signed on the back. It says she’s grateful still for her leadership today. She passed away in ’95, so Bill would have still been in office at that point.”

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:


]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 06:25:36 +0000
Bob Seidemann, photographer of Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, dies Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:02:09 +0000 Bob Seidemann, a Haight Street hipster who cared little for rock music but loved the freewheeling cultural scene of 1960s San Francisco, where he photographed Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead and went on to design more than 50 album covers, including a controversial image of a shirtless 11-year-old girl for the supergroup Blind Faith, died Nov. 27 at his home in Vallejo, California. He was 75.

He had Parkinson’s disease, said his wife, Belinda Seidemann.

Seidemann was working on commercial photo shoots in New York – herding sheep into freight elevators and posing baby chickens for barnyard-themed calendars – when he heard that people were dropping LSD and embracing free love in San Francisco.

He soon headed west to join them, immersing himself in what he called the “freak” scene of the city’s Haight-Ashbury and North Beach neighborhoods, where he befriended and soon began photographing members of the Grateful Dead and Joplin’s band, Big Brother and the Holding Company.

“To be honest with you, I wasn’t very interested in the music,” he told the website Collectors Weekly in 2015. “It was the scene, you know? I didn’t intend to become a documentarian; I was just hanging out, a friend of these people. I had a little bit of skill with the camera, able to do stuff that did not require a lot of expertise. As their work progressed, so did mine.”

Seidemann went on to photograph album covers for acts including singers Randy Newman and Gladys Knight, jazz musician Herbie Hancock, and rock music’s Bob Seger and Neil Young. He also spent 15 years taking artistic black-and-white photos of aging airplanes and historic figures in aviation, including World War II aviator James Doolittle and test pilot Chuck Yeager.

But he remained best known for his highly conceptual late-’60s rock photos, which captured the brazen sexuality of the Summer of Love and what Seidemann later described as “the golden calf of the moment” – the American rock star.

He took one of the best-known photos of the Grateful Dead, positioning guitarist Jerry Garcia and other band members on a sloping stretch of cookie-cutter houses in Daly City, California, in 1967. Police broke up the first attempt at a photo, but on a second try Seidemann applied a red filter to darken the sky and employed five mirror-wielding assistants to shine light into the faces of the Dead.

The result was an eerie juxtaposition of strait-laced suburbia and five men who looked, Seidemann said, like “mutant transplants from Jupiter, fresh out of their flying saucer.” It was soon turned into a top-selling poster, plastered on telephone poles and storefront windows across the Bay Area.

That same year, Seidemann took a pair of widely replicated portraits of Joplin, showing her in the first image wearing nothing but a cape and long strings of beads. “At the end of the photo session she wanted to take her clothes off,” Belinda Seidemann said. The resulting seminude image, with an earnest, bead-draped Joplin standing with her hands positioned over her groin, became a defining photo of the singer when it was published in Rolling Stone after Joplin’s death in 1970.

Seidemann maintained a close friendship with rocker Eric Clapton, who encouraged him to move to London in the late 1960s and commissioned him to devise an album cover for his new super group, a then-nameless outfit that featured Ginger Baker, who had played with Clapton in Cream, alongside Steve Winwood of Traffic and Ric Grech of Family.

The band didn’t last, breaking up after one tour and a single record in 1969. Yet the cover art of its self-titled record – “Blind Faith,” a name coined by Seidemann – proved enduring, in part for the surrealistic quality of its image and for the criticism it engendered from those who saw phallic imagery and child pornography. For the record’s second printing, the image was replaced with a photo Seidemann had taken of the band at Clapton’s apartment.

Seidemann later wrote that he had intended the artwork to evoke childlike innocence and optimism toward new technologies, symbolized by a naked girl on a grassy hillside holding a spaceshiplike object in her hand.

For the girl, Seidemann sought someone with “that singular flare of radiant innocence” – a young woman who was not too old to be “cheesecake,” and not young enough that her nudity meant “nothing.”

Seidemann eventually found Mariora Goschen, whose parents gave their permission and who had only one stipulation. For payment, she wanted “a young horse.” Years later, Goschen told Britain’s Independent newspaper that she received 40 pounds but was “still waiting for Eric Clapton to ring me about the horse.”

Robert Emett Seidemann was born in Manhattan on Dec. 28, 1941, and grew up in Queens, near what is now LaGuardia Airport. He struggled to read because of learning disabilities and graduated from a vocational school, the Manhattan High School of Aviation Trades.

A delivery job at a Manhattan photo lab led him to develop an interest in photography.

In addition to his wife of 37 years, the former Belinda Bryant of Vallejo, survivors include a younger brother.

Seidemann described his aviation series, “Airplane as Art,” part of the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, as his greatest achievement. But he also acknowledged an “almost miraculous quality” in his Blind Faith image.

“When I saw it on the retoucher’s table I felt a shock as if I had been struck by somebody,” he told the Independent, “a sense of detachment that was almost transcendental.”

]]> 0 Thu, 14 Dec 2017 21:30:13 +0000
How 3,000 very good golden retrievers could help all dogs live longer Thu, 14 Dec 2017 16:22:08 +0000 Most dogs get poked and prodded at the veterinarian’s office. Piper, a 4-year-old golden retriever in Chicago, gets far more scrutiny than that.

Her annual checkup this month took three hours. Her flaxen hair was trimmed and bagged, her toenails clipped and kept, her bodily fluids collected. Everything was destined for a biorepository in the Washington suburbs that holds similar samples from more than 3,000 other purebred golden retrievers from across the country. The dogs, though they do not know it, are participating in an ambitious, $32 million research project that researchers hope will yield insights into the causes of cancers and other diseases common to goldens, other breeds and maybe even humans.

All the dogs were enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study before they turned 2, and all will be closely tracked for their entire lives. The researchers, from Colorado State University and the Morris Animal Foundation, are not just analyzing biological matter. They’re also compiling exhaustive data, recorded and reported each year by the dogs’ owners, on every aspect of the pooches’ lives: What they eat, where they sleep, whether their lawns are treated with pesticides, whether their teeth get brushed and more.

Longitudinal studies like this – with information gathered in real time – help researchers detect causes and effects that might be missed in other kinds of studies. Some focused on humans who have tracked thousands of babies born in the United Kingdom during one week in 1970 and monitored the cardiovascular health of residents of Framingham, Massachusetts. But this is the first and largest lifetime longitudinal study of pets, and the hope is that it will shed light on links between golden retrievers’ health and their genetics, diets, environments and lifestyles.

Some of “these dogs will get cancer as they age . . . but in the meantime, they are doing everything that dogs do,” said principal investigator Rodney Page, a veterinary oncologist who directs Colorado State’s Flint Animal Cancer Center. As for tracking the minutiae of participants’ lives, “some of these things seem kind of silly, but you never know what you’re going to identify as a significant risk factor with an outcome that you could easily change.”

That information, by extension, could be useful for other breeds, as well as people, who develop cancer and respond to treatments in similar ways to dogs.

At its core, the study is about cancer – what Page calls “the No. 1 concern among dog owners.” The disease is the leading cause of death in dogs over age 2 and something diagnosed in half of dogs older than 10. The prevalence is believed to be slightly higher in golden retrievers, which most often succumb to mast cell tumors, bone cancer, lymphoma or hemangiosarcoma (originating in the lining of blood vessels).

But that is not the only reason the bouncy, amiable breed is the study’s focus. Goldens are the third-most popular dogs in the United States, which made it easier for researchers to find 3,000 subjects; they also tend to have besotted owners who pay close attention to their health – an important criteria for a project that demands years of owner commitment.

Golden retrievers “are right beside us when we’re running, when we’re having dinner, when we’re out traveling. They basically reflect a lot of the same exposures and activities that we have,” Page said.

The study began in 2012. It has produced no major revelations yet; its oldest participants are 7 and not widely afflicted with cancer or other ills. But annual surveys have yielded interesting tidbits about the dogs’ lives. One in five sleeps with its owner. Forty percent swim at least once a week. Twenty-two percent drink or eat from a plastic bowl, and about one in four eats grass.

And the researchers’ prediction – that the breed’s owners would be an enthusiastic study group – has been validated. They have an incredibly active private Facebook group, plus local meetups with their “hero” pets.

“We have a really passionate cohort, is the best way to describe it,” study veterinarian Sharon Albright said.

When a Chicago golden named Piper briefly fell ill last year, her owner, Joe Brennan, posted a photo of her wrapped in blankets to the Facebook group. More than 100 well-wishers quickly responded, he said.

Joe and Kristin Brennan of Chicago with Piper. Photo courtesy of Joe Brennan

Brennan and his wife had enrolled Piper in the study shortly after they purchased her from a breeder. Brennan’s mother had two golden retrievers that died of cancer, and he said he wanted “to give back and maybe play some tiny part” in reducing the breed’s risk for the disease.

And one of the conditions as Kelly Hinkle adopted Maizie in 2016 was that she keep the 2 1/2-year-old dog in the study. “I’m like, ‘Of course I’d continue!’ ” said Hinkle, a Silver Spring, Maryland, veterinarian who was especially excited by the project’s emphasis on exposure to both inside and outside environmental factors.

“A lot of common things, like hip dysplasia, that’s the way they’re bred,” she said. “But getting tumors or cancer – is that a genetic thing or something we’ve done throughout their lifetimes to cause that?”

Although cancer rates may be higher among golden retrievers, they’re not necessarily increasing. Cancer is a disease of older age, and today’s dogs, which mostly stay indoors and see vets more often than their ancestors, are living longer. Experts say the prevalence in goldens may be partly explained by their sheer abundance.

“Do you see a lot of goldens that have skin diseases? Do you see a lot of goldens that have flea allergies? Yes,” said Jaime Modiano, a canine cancer researcher at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine who is not involved in the study. “Golden owners as a group tend to be very attentive and attached to their dogs,” and so they seek out care when they suspect a problem.

The project’s focus on golden retrievers might be an inherent limitation, said Modiano, whose lab has done multi-breed studies that found certain genetic markers create a higher level of risk in some kinds of dogs. “If you look at a single breed, you’re going to lose part of the picture,” Modiano said. Still, the study’s large sample size and systematic, controlled approach will yield data that could fuel research on questions that go well beyond cancer, he said – such as whether goldens in some geographic regions or with certain traits, like size or coat color, are more or less likely to have particular conditions.

“Being able to discriminate random chance becomes a lot easier when you have large numbers,” he explained. “It really is ambitious, and the treasure trove of material that they are going to get will be remarkable.”

Gathering all this data depends on owners, whose vet visits are subsidized. One is Matt Morley, a lawyer in Chevy Chase, Maryland, whose retriever, Hayley, had lymphoma and died in 2013. He enrolled her successor, Nellie, in hopes of helping other dogs as well as people.

“Whatever they learn in this study could have real human applications,” Morley said. “All the drugs my original dog was taking, they’re all drugs that people who have cancer take.”

Owners commit to spending a few hours for the study every year. They say goldens are well worth it.

“They’re the smartest dogs ever,” Brennan gushed. “They’re the most loyal things you’ll ever meet in your life.”

Piper was found to have a bit of hip dysplasia but no other issues at her recent exam, where Brennan snapped a photo of her. It shows her sitting proudly, wearing a green bandanna printed with a yellow silhouette of a golden retriever and the words “Study Enrolled Dog.”

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‘Last Jedi’ tops ‘Force Awakens’ among critics as film opens Thu, 14 Dec 2017 14:36:47 +0000 Fans who have lined up for days to see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” could have told you so, but critics’ reviews that have been pouring out also reveal a lot of love for Walt Disney Co.’s latest film in the space adventure saga.

Of 43 reviews from top critics, including those at the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, 95 percent were positive, according to That beat the 89 percent score for the extremely successful “Force Awakens,” which became the biggest U.S. movie of all time in 2015.

While loyal “Star Wars” fans always turn out, the positive word of mouth from reviewers will boost box-office sales and help Disney draw in a new generation of fans in the U.S. and beyond. The consensus among critics is that the movie “honors the saga’s rich legacy while adding some surprising twists,” according to the site.

“The Last Jedi,” which opens in several Asian and European markets on Wednesday and on Dec. 15 in the U.S., is the eighth film in the series created by George Lucas. For Disney, it’s the second installment in a new trilogy and the third “Star Wars” film, including last year’s spinoff “Rogue One,” since the entertainment giant bought series producer Lucasfilm.

Burbank, California-based Disney is anticipating that “The Last Jedi” could reach $200 million on its opening U.S. weekend. That’s more than “Rogue One” but less than the record-setting $248 million weekend of “The Force Awakens.”

For international markets, Disney isn’t providing a forecast. “The Force Awakens” holds the current record for opening-weekend sales outside the U.S. with $281 million, followed by “Avatar” with $164.5 million and “The Hobbit 1” with $138 million, Disney said.

The movie opened in more than a dozen countries, including France, Italy, and Indonesia, on Wednesday, followed by more than 30 markets on Thursday, including theaters in Maine. On Jan. 5, the film will debut in China, a country of 1.4 billion people and a crucial part of Disney’s campaign to attract new enthusiasts to the franchise.

Chinese audiences haven’t embraced the saga as much as those in the U.S. and Europe, where fans have created a sub-culture spanning generations watching “Star Wars” films and buying related merchandise. While the original trilogy from the 1970s and 1980s created a loyal fan base in western countries, the movies weren’t widely available in China and never attracted a following.

While “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “The Force Awakens” topped the U.S. box office in 2016 and 2015, “Rogue” ranked 33rd and “The Force” 13th in China on the years they debuted in the country, according to Box Office Mojo.

]]> 0, 14 Dec 2017 12:34:39 +0000
Bangor police agree to bring a rescue dog home in time for Christmas Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:40:47 +0000 At the intersection of happenstance and need, there was a border collie and the Bangor Police Department. A woman in Waldoboro contacted the department when she saw two officers were in Washington, D.C., escorting a Wreaths Across America trip to Arlington National Cemetery. She had a request: Would the officers pick up her rescue dog?

The woman had adopted a 14-week-old border collie puppy in Virginia named Tessa, but didn’t have a way to transport the pup to Maine before Christmas. She saw the officers were in the neighborhood and wondering if they had room for an extra passenger.

It was not a tough sell. From the Bangor PD Facebook page: “The conversation went like this-

TC: ‘Can you two bring a puppy back from Virginia after your visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday? I am working on a Christmas miracle.’

Officer Jordan Perry: ‘Yes, let me check with Danny’ (Hollers to Danny) ‘The Lieutenant wants to know if we can pick up a puppy in Virginia and deliver it to Maine.’

Officer Danny Place: ‘Of course.’ ”

As you might expect, the Facebook post about the journey has gone viral, being shared over 7,000 times as of 8:30 a.m. on Thursday.

On Friday, the officers were given a bag of dog food for the prospective passenger.

]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 10:58:53 +0000
Horoscopes for Dec. 14, 2017 Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:41:19 +0000 0, 14 Dec 2017 11:04:53 +0000 Check out the Portland area’s favorite food and drink spots of 2017 Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:00:56 +0000 0, 14 Dec 2017 12:26:36 +0000 Mother looks to cheer son after they fled California wildfires Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 A woman in Portland is thankful that she and her young son are OK after deadly wildfires this fall forced them to leave their home in northern California.

But now they are starting over with virtually nothing, just as the holidays approach.

“My son and I are homeless,” she wrote to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund. “We relocated to Portland because we lost everything in the Santa Rosa, California, wildfires on Oct. 9. We drove 12 days by car to get here. We’ve hit a huge hardship and I need help with making my 4-year-old son’s holidays bright and cheerful. Please help.”

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents. Bruce Roberts was the original pen name of the newspaper columnist who co-founded the fund in 1949.

The fund – now in its 68th year – is accepting applications for toys from needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties.

Applications can be downloaded at or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed to you.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made at or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund and mailing them to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.


Happy Holidays to all! Derek Berg $250

In memory of David Edward and David Richard Farnham $25

In memory of Tom and Brett Cooper $25

Anonymous $20

Merry Christmas! $40

United Way of Greater Portland Staff $115

Happy Holidays from Celia, Owen, Finn, Molly, Easton and Clara $100

In memory of our daughter, Lerin. Robert and Maryanne Foley $100

The Groban-Fischman Family $100

Anonymous $100

Conroy Family $50

In loving memory of Louis Atripaldi from Frances Atripaldi $50

Merry Christmas! Charlie & Cathy Toppi $50

Anonymous $50

From Bill Carr, in loving memory of Rebecca Fox Carr and Howard Fox. $50

In memory of Phil and Henty LaRou $200

Merry Christmas! Betty Bailey $50

Katie O $100

Anonymous $20

Peace & Love to all! $75

Anonymous $20

In memory of Lucy, who loved Christmas as much as the kids! Nancy & Tim $50

Anonymous $50

Love Trumps Hate $30

In memory of Alexander J Frustaci, The Gagnon family $100

Bill & Deb Mulvey $100

Anonymous $50

Total year to date: $54,629

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will induct 6 nominees in 2018 Wed, 13 Dec 2017 23:33:45 +0000 NEW YORK — Iconic singer Nina Simone and New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi lead the 2018 class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, which includes four first-time nominees.

The Cars, as well as first-time contenders Dire Straits, The Moody Blues and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, also are part of the 2018 class announced Wednesday. They will be inducted April 14 in Cleveland, Ohio.

The six inductees were chosen from a group of 19 nominees.

Tharpe, a pioneering guitarist who performed gospel music and was known to some as “the godmother of rock ‘n’ roll,” will be inducted with the Award for Early Influence. She died in 1973.

]]> 0 Wed, 13 Dec 2017 18:33:45 +0000
ABBA exhibit opening near Waterloo station in London Wed, 13 Dec 2017 23:25:40 +0000 LONDON — ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus says a new London exhibition about the Swedish pop group took him right back to the 1970s – and he realized some things haven’t changed.

“Abba: Super Troupers” includes reconstructions of the hotel room in England where band members stayed after winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with “Waterloo,” a ’70s recording studio and a typically drab British living room of the era.

Ulvaeus said Wednesday that a television set in the exhibit “showed footage from 1973-74, how the Brits were hesitant about Europe back then, in the very same way as they are now, which is really sad, I think.”

He said Britain’s departure from the European Union was “like losing – not losing a friend because you’re still there – but somehow you don’t want to be in the team, and I think that’s sad.”

The exhibition at London’s Southbank Centre features items from the ABBA museum in Stockholm and private archives, including costumes, handwritten notes, photos and musical instruments.

It sets the rise of the spangly Swedish superstars “against the shifting socioeconomic and political conditions of the time” – a period when Britain was beset by strikes, power shortages and financial crisis.

At a preview of the show, Ulvaeus said it brought back old memories. But he said the four members of ABBA would never reunite for live concerts, because it “would be such hassle … It would be enormous. And it would take such … you cannot imagine the tension,” he said.

The exhibition opens Thursday and runs until April 29. Fittingly, the nearest train and subway station is Waterloo.

]]> 0 Ulvaeus poses to promote the exhibition "ABBA: Super Troupers" in London on Wednesday.Wed, 13 Dec 2017 19:01:58 +0000
Bates lecturer places 2nd on ‘Jeopardy!,’ now knows what Dunkirk means in Flemish Wed, 13 Dec 2017 14:36:39 +0000 Bates history lecturer Ian Shin finished in second place on Tuesday night’s episode of “Jeopardy!”

The episode, which was filmed Aug. 30, found Shin competing against returning champion LaKedra Pam and new contestant Sarah Woodring on topics including Robert Siegel, holiday songs and poetry.

Pam stood victorious at the end of this episode, as well, but Shin was just happy that he didn’t get any of the history-related questions wrong.

“That would have been embarrassing,” he said.

After the first round, he said his nerves went away and he figured out the buzzer a little better and was able to stay pretty even with Pam through most of the episode.

Woodring spent a lot of the time in the red but rallied toward the end of the game.

Shin had a viewing of the episode with about 50 students, staff and faculty Tuesday night, and said they turned it into a little cheering party for Woodring to get out of the red.

The topic that most took Shin by surprise was the holiday song category because even though it was airing in December, the show was filmed in August.

“I didn’t anticipate it,” he said.

One category Shin really mastered was Robert Seigel, senior host of NPR’s award-winning evening newsmagazine “All Things Considered.”

“I owe that to my husband, Peter,” he said.

Shin said he never listened to NPR before they met, and Peter introduced him to it.

“We wake up to the ‘Morning Edition,’ ” he said. “Even though I hate to fulfill the stereotype of a professor listening to NPR.”

When asked if he would go on the show again, he replied, “In a heartbeat, absolutely.”

Shin said the two categories he had the toughest time with were poetry and the anagrams of state capitals.

He said they were all impressed by Pam, who was able to untangle the anagrams very quickly.

Shin took home $2,000 as the second-place winner. He said he didn’t have any big plans for the money right now; he’ll probably save it.

He said knowing the outcome, that he didn’t win, he didn’t want to over-hype the episode to people.

After the viewing, he said a friend told him he should have read up on game theory.

“If I hadn’t bet anything on Final Jeopardy, I could have won,” he said. “But now I’ll never forget what Dunkirk stands for in Flemish.”

The Final Jeopardy category was French cities and the answer was: The name of this city in the Département du Nord comes from the Flemish for “Church of the Dunes.”

Shin said he didn’t have high expectations going into it, thinking it would just be a cool cocktail story.

“My thinking was, ‘Let’s have fun and see how this goes,'” he said.

“It’s a show people are for some reason still into, and I’m glad I’ll be able to talk about it now,” he said.

Shin said that having made a career of teaching, there’s something special about celebrating knowledge.

“I’m happy to participate in this part of American culture,” he said.

]]> 0, 13 Dec 2017 19:03:10 +0000
Horoscopes for Dec. 13, 2017 Wed, 13 Dec 2017 09:01:26 +0000 0, 12 Dec 2017 15:40:50 +0000 Sean Spicer inks book deal to write about ‘mainstream media’ Wed, 13 Dec 2017 03:19:05 +0000 NEW YORK — Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, has a book deal. But don’t expect him to criticize his former boss, President Trump. Spicer’s target will be some of the media outlets he once sparred with.

Regnery Publishing, a leading conservative press, announced Tuesday that Spicer’s book will come out next summer. Its working title is “The Briefing.”

Spicer quit as press secretary in July, just six months into Trump’s presidency. He had a contentious relationship with the so-called “mainstream press” and is remembered for his ridiculed statement that the president’s inauguration was the most widely seen in history.

Spicer said in a statement that Trump faced “rampant hostility” from the “mainstream media” and that he will reveal a side to the administration little known to the general public.

]]> 0 House press secretary Sean Spicer, shown in May, has resigned shortly after the hiring of a new communications director.Wed, 13 Dec 2017 05:47:16 +0000
Royal appearances thrill crowd at European premiere of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Wed, 13 Dec 2017 00:33:02 +0000 LONDON — Prince William and Prince Harry joined the cast of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” at the film’s European premiere Tuesday, delighting fans who braved the London cold for a glimpse of Hollywood stars and British royalty.

But cast and crew were silent on reports that the royal siblings make a cameo appearance in the much-anticipated film. The tuxedo-clad princes walked the red carpet at London’s Royal Albert Hall for the black-tie gala, a benefit for their Royal Foundation charity – though without William’s pregnant wife Kate or Harry’s fiancee, Meghan Markle.

Royal officials have refused to comment on reports that the princes recorded a scene playing Stormtroopers in the sci-fi saga when they visited the film’s set in April 2016. At the time they were filmed meeting crew members, battling with light sabers and hugging a Wookie.

Star John Boyega has said the royal duo filmed a scene during their visit to London’s Pinewood Studios, though it’s unclear whether it made the final cut.

Cast members on the red carpet at London’s Royal Albert Hall pleaded ignorance, and director Rian Johnson would not comment on the reported royal cameo.

“I can neither confirm nor deny it,” he said.

London-born star Boyega was joined on the red carpet by fellow cast members including Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Benicio del Toro, Anthony Daniels – who has played C-3PO in the “Star Wars” series since 1977 – and Mark Hamill, who returns as Luke Skywalker.

Hours before the screening, hundreds of fans lined up on one of the coldest days of the year for a glimpse of the stars, the royals and a phalanx of Stormtroopers who marched in formation up the red carpet.

“You never get used to this kind of passion and enthusiasm,” Hamill said. “It’s just wonderful. The fans have been so supportive over the years. Their enthusiasm is infectious.”

The eighth film in the “Star Wars” series, “The Last Jedi” had its world premiere Sunday in Los Angeles. The adventure is a follow-up to “The Force Awakens,” which brought the franchise back to movie screens in 2015.

It is the last film to feature Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. Fisher died in December 2016 at 60, shortly after completing her final scenes.

Hamill said fans were helping him get through his sadness at Fisher’s death.

“I shouldn’t be upset she’s not around, I should be grateful for all the time I had with her,” he said. “She was hilarious, adorable, (and) as tough as she acted, she had a vulnerability.”

“She was so much fun. You’re going to love her tonight, she’s great in the film!” he added.

]]> 0 has it Britain's Prince Harry and his brother have a cameo in 'The Last Jedi.' Tuesday.Tue, 12 Dec 2017 20:38:58 +0000
South Portland woman will compete on ABC’s ‘The Bachelor’ Tue, 12 Dec 2017 16:58:43 +0000 Can a second Maine woman find love and a husband on national TV?

Chelsea Roy of South Portland will try to answer that question beginning in January.

Roy, 29, is one of the 29 contestants competing on the upcoming season of ABC’s “The Bachelor.” She and women from all over the country will be vying for the attention of one man, Arie Luyendyk Jr. Luyendyk is supposed to pick the one woman who captures his heart, with lights blaring and cameras rolling, by season’s end. The first episode of the new season is scheduled for Jan. 1 at 8 p.m.

Chelsea Roy of South Portland is one of the 29 women trying to make Arie Luyendyk Jr. fall in love with them on the upcoming season of “The Bachelor” on ABC. The episode airs Jan. 1, 2018 at 8 p.m. ABC photo

In 2012, Ashley Hebert of Madawaska became the first Maine women to find marriage on reality television. Hebert, a dental student, had been a contestant on “The Bachelor,” as Roy is. She did not win love on that show, but her screen presence convinced producers to make her the star of the companion series “The Bachelorette,” where she got her pick of men. She picked J.P. Rosenbaum, and the two were later married. Their marriage was filmed and shown as a prime time special on ABC.

Hebert told E! Online in January that she and Rosenbaum were happily married and have two children.

Roy was announced as a contestant on “The Bachelor” this week on the ABC website. Contestants are prohibited from talking about their time on the show before episodes air. Contestants are also not paid for their time on the show.

On her biography on the ABC website, Roy says she played soccer and field hockey in grammar school, and lists her guilty pleasure as “sweet tooth!” Her ideal weather is sunny and in the mid-70s. She lists her job as real estate executive assistant. On dates, she fears dead silence and “over-the-top PDA” or public displays of affection.

When asked to list her most romantic non-U.S. city she replied: “Take this girl to France! It’s where all the love stories seem to be based in the fairy tales I heard as a little girl.”

On the ABC website, Roy is shown wearing a dark gown as she meets Luyendyk, at the California mansion where the show’s opening episode was filmed.

“The Bachelor” shows women having one-on-one romantic time with the bachelor in question and also shows the contestants getting a little testy at times with one another. Some episodes show the bachelor and bachelorettes traveling to romantic locales on dates. At the end of each episode, the bachelor culls the field down, so there are fewer contestants each week.

At the end of the season, the bachelor can choose one woman to propose to or one woman to pursue a relationship with off-camera.

Luyendyk, 36, is a race car driver from Arizona and was on “The Bachelorette” in 2012, where he came awfully close to proposing to Emily Maynard.

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

Twitter: @RayRouthier

]]> 0, 12 Dec 2017 20:37:22 +0000
Horoscopes for Dec. 12, 2017 Tue, 12 Dec 2017 09:01:58 +0000 0, 11 Dec 2017 14:50:04 +0000 Boy, 6, rakes in $11 million with toy reviews on YouTube Tue, 12 Dec 2017 02:23:35 +0000 For kids these days, some of the biggest stars are not actors but YouTube stars.

And one of the biggest of them all is a 6-year-old named Ryan who plays with toys – mesmerizing millions of children across the globe.

Since he was 3 years old, Ryan’s parents have been capturing videos of him opening toys, playing with them and “reviewing” them for videos posted on their YouTube channel, “Ryan ToysReview.”

Ryan’s last name, and his place of residence are a closely guarded secret, and not without reason.

Ryan has become a multi-millionaire, according to Forbes magazine’s just-out list of highest paid YouTube entrepreneurs. He was ranked number eight, having brought in $11 million in revenue between June 1, 2016, and June 1, 2017, before management fees and taxes, of course. He tied with the comedy channel Smosh, created by Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox.

Children everywhere have become hooked, watching his videos for hours a day, even mimicking him and starting their own YouTube channels.

Combined, the world’s 10 highest-paid YouTube stars earned $127 million, up 80 percent from last year. According to Forbes, this boost came thanks to ad dollars from a surge in views – including a healthy sum from “Ryan ToysReview.” During the 12 months considered by Forbes, “Ryan ToysReview” counted over 8 billion views.

What has grown into a viral phenomenon began with a simple, unremarkable 15-minute video about a Lego Duplo train set. When his family started recording and posting the videos in March 2015, the 3-year-old barely had any views let alone reviews, according to a profile of Ryan in Verge. In his first video, he simply opened a Lego box, set up the blocks, and played with them.

“Ryan was watching a lot of toy review channels,” his mother, who declined to be named, told TubeFilter last year. “One day, he asked me, ‘How come I’m not on YouTube when all the other kids are?’ So we just decided – yeah, we can do that.”

About four months in, his channel saw an explosion of traffic, driven primarily by a viral video of Ryan reviewing a hundred toys at once.

“Ryan ToysReview” took off. Now, he’s at more than 10 million subscribers and over 16 million views.

Each time someone clicks on one of Ryan’s videos, his family makes money. There are ads and links to ads all over the place.

Ryan has real impact.

“If a product gets ten million, twenty millions views, and you see that Ryan loves it, or other kids love it, it has a huge impact at retail,” Jim Silver, CEO of the review site Toys, Tots, Pets, and More, told the Verge when Ryan was still 5 years old. “He’s really the youngest success that we’ve seen.”

]]> 0, 12 Dec 2017 05:44:37 +0000
Theater review: Footlights’ ‘Christmas Carol’ an uplifting take on the Dickens classic Tue, 12 Dec 2017 01:16:43 +0000 In the preface to “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens wrote that he endeavored with his “ghostly little book” not to put his “readers out of humor,” but rather “haunt their houses pleasantly.” One hundred seventy-four years later, generations of readers and theatergoers are still spellbound by Dickens’ “ghost of an idea.” Footlights Theatre keeps his message of social change shining brightly, chasing away the holiday bah humbugs with an adaptation by executive artistic director Michael J. Tobin that’s heartfelt, spirited and loads of fun.

The theater is offering a fully staged production, with 125 costumes and old-fashioned special effects that have audience members leaping from their chairs one minute and laughing with good humor the next. Thirteen cast members perform the classic tale, accented by narration that captures Dickens’s descriptive storytelling.

Set in 19th-century England, “A Christmas Carol” is the miraculous story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s reformation from cold-hearted moneylender to a steward of the Christmas spirit. Haunted by three ghosts, his eyes are opened to the magic of the season.

Tobin stars as Scrooge, capturing the essence of the “covetous old sinner” with a booming gruff voice and prominent cane-assisted limp. Adding dimension, he allows the audience to glimpse Scrooge’s underlying vulnerability, foreshadowing his post-ghost transformation, which Tobin delivers with joy-inducing giddiness that is made all the more entertaining paired with Gretchen G. Wood’s dumbfounded charwoman.

Michael J. Tobin as Scrooge in the Footlights Theatre production of “A Christmas Carol.” Photo courtesy of Footlights Theatre

Footlights’ “A Christmas Carol” highlights Scrooge’s shut-up heart and miserly ways with moving scenes that are often left out of productions. The local butcher (David Murray) begs Scrooge not to take his cart in payment and a woman (Rebecca Cole) clutching her freezing baby pleads with Scrooge not to put her husband in debtor’s prison.

As usual, Scrooge’s treatment of his clerk, Bob Cratchit, played with great feeling by Charlie Cole, is reprehensible, making Scrooge’s transformation all the more dramatic.

The rendition also elicits plenty of contagious laughter as Scrooge embarks on his ghostly journey through the past, present and future. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig (Rick Kusturin and Wood) are a joyous treat as they host a Christmas Eve party where Scrooge apprenticed as a young man, and the businessmen (Kusturin and Cole) are over the top as they callously weigh the benefits of attending a funeral in Scrooge’s future.

With the exception of Tobin and Talia Spiegel, who is beyond adorable as Tiny Tim, each cast member plays multiple characters. Cheryl Reynolds looks stunning in white as the Ghost of Christmas Past and is all heart as Mrs. Cratchit. Andrew Hanscom shows diversity as Scrooge’s boisterous nephew Fred and Scrooge’s money-obsessed younger self. And Paul J. Bell inhabits a variety of characters, including a delightfully ghastly version of Scrooge’s ghostly former partner, Jacob Marley.

Ava Cass, Anja Machado and Isabella Rose Coulombe complete the wonderful cast, bringing to life such characters as Fan, Peter Cratchit and Martha Cratchit.

This production of “A Christmas Carol” is an uplifting holiday treasure that joyfully raises spirits and reminds us “there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

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

Twitter: @ahboyle

]]> 0 J. Tobin as Scrooge in the Footlights Theatre production of "A Christmas Carol."Tue, 12 Dec 2017 00:30:36 +0000
Concert review: As always, the PSO makes ‘Magic’ in Christmas show Tue, 12 Dec 2017 01:14:34 +0000 In its 38th year, the “Magic of Christmas,” the annual holiday celebration presented by the Portland Symphony Orchestra, once again has gotten things right.

There is a bit less obvious dazzle than last year, when guest acrobats from the Cirque de la Symphonie performed high above the Merrill Auditorium stage as part of the program, but the soaring instrumental and vocal music, colorful lights and positive spirit were more than enough to make this year’s show another holiday treat.

Two takes on a sleigh ride theme established both the sophisticated and folksy charm of the program. Prokofiev’s “Troika,” a short piece the Russian composer wrote for a film, succeeded in establishing the exhilaration of a bracing trip through the snow in a sleigh pulled by three horses. Later, during the traditional “Sleigh Ride,” ever popular at the “Magic of Christmas” shows, the orchestra and chorus donned Santa hats and antlers to create a more playful ambiance.

The numbers performed by guest singer Suzanne Nance likewise traversed a musical distance between formal and popular appeal. On “O, ce veste minunata,” Nance applied her classically trained soprano to a Romanian Christmas carol. Later, she brought considerable warmth to the more familiar “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Susie Pepper, another impressive guest in the program, stayed in a popular vein with “All I Want for Christmas is You,” a Mariah Carey tune, and later gained the attention of the many youngsters in the near-capacity crowd with a rousing rendition of “Let It Go” from the megahit “Frozen.”

The two singers joined forces on a new medley based on rock and popular songs that include the word “Magic” in their titles.

A rousing “Fanfare and Flourishes For a Festive Occasion,” featuring the PSO brass section and Ray Cornils at the Kotzschmar Organ, began the second half of the roughly two-hour performance. Imaginative lighting and stained-glass décor added a distinctive touch to a series of sacred pieces that followed.

With Nicolas Dosman sharing conducting duties with Robert Moody, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” led to the return of Nance for a moving “O Holy Night.” The “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah followed and was particularly stirring when the soprano voices, among the dozens of singers in the chorus, reached ever higher.

Moody, who is in his last season at the helm of the PSO, was his usual affable self, cracking a couple of corny jokes, leading a sing-along and adding his own solo voice to an inspiring “My Grown Up Christmas List.”

His musical gifts to the state will be remembered.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

]]> 0 Moody conducts the Portland Symphony Orchestra in his last run of "Magic of Christmas" shows.Tue, 12 Dec 2017 00:29:18 +0000
‘Shape of Water,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ lead Golden Globes Mon, 11 Dec 2017 16:04:47 +0000 NEW YORK — Guillermo del Toro’s Cold War-era fairytale “The Shape of Water” swam away with a leading seven nominations from the Golden Globes, while the HBO drama “Big Little Lies” led television nominees with six nods.

In what’s being viewed as a wide-open Oscar race so far, several films followed closely behind “The Shape of Water,” including Steven Spielberg’s Pentagon Papers drama “The Post,” with six nominations, including best actress for Meryl Streep and best actor for Tom Hanks. Martin McDonagh’s revenge drama “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” also got a major boost in the nominations announced Monday in Beverly Hills, California, with six nods, including best actress for Frances McDormand and supporting actor for Sam Rockwell.

But as the most prominent platform yet in Hollywood’s awards season to confront the post-Harvey Weinstein landscape, the Globes also enthusiastically supported Ridley Scott’s J. Paul Getty drama “All the Money in the World.” Christopher Plummer, who has replaced Kevin Spacey in the film, was nominated for best supporting actor. Scott was also nominated for best director and Michelle Williams for best actress.

A rough cut of the film was screened for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts on the Globes. Scott is quickly reediting the movie to eradicate Spacey, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by numerous men.

“It must have been a herculean effort, because Christopher Plummer is all the way through the movie,” said Meher Tatna, president of the press association. “He really pulled off the impossible.”

Notably left out were frequent Globes-nominees “House of Cards” and “Transparent,” two of the TV shows affected by the cascading fallout of sexual harassment allegations in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s ouster. As usual, the nominations were partly announced on NBC’s “Today” show, where Matt Lauer was recently fired following allegations of sexual misconduct.

The nominees for best picture drama are: the tender young romance “Call Me By Your Name,” Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic “Dunkirk,” “The Post,” “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

The nominees for best picture comedy or musical are: James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist,” Jordan Peele’s horror sensation “Get Out,” Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age tale “Lady Bird,” the upcoming musical “The Greatest Showman,” and the Tonya Harding comic-drama “I, Tonya.”

Despite considerable backlash, “Get Out” ended up on the comedy side of the Globes after being submitted that way by Universal Pictures. Peele himself slyly commented on the controversy, calling his social critique of latent racism “a documentary.” The Globes passed over Peele’s script, but newcomer Daniel Kaluuya was nominated for best actor in a comedy.

Though some predicted and feared an acting field lacking diversity, the nominees were fairly inclusive. Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”), Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”), Hong Chau (“Downsizing”) and Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”) were among the 30 film acting nominees.

But the best director category remained all-male, as it has for most of Globes and Academy Awards history. Many had thought this year might be different due to directors like Gerwig, Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman”) and Dee Rees (“Mudbound”). But the nominees were: Spielberg, del Toro, Nolan, McDonagh and Scott.

The morning’s biggest surprise, aside from the success of “All the Money in the World,” might have been the omission of the romantic comedy “The Big Sick,” penned by real-life couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Another Oscar underdog, “The Florida Project,” emerged with only one nomination, for Willem Dafoe’s supporting performance as the manager of a low-rent motel.

Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg in a scene from “All the Money in the World.” Williams was nominated for a best actress Golden Globe for her role. Fabio Lovino/Sony-TriStar Pictures via AP

In the television categories, the Emmy-winning “Big Little Lies” earned a host of acting nods (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgard, Laura Dern) as well as best limited series. (HBO recently announced a second season for “Big Little Lies,” which will change its category in other awards shows.)

FX’s Bette Davis and Joan Crawford chronicle “Feud: Bette and Joan” landed four nominations, including nods for Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon. Amazon’s just-debuted “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” scored two nods, including best comedy series. Also with multiple nominations were Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and NBC’s “This Is Us.”

Gary Oldman, nominated for best actor for his Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” said the scandals have cast an unusual pall over the season, where Weinstein was for decades a dominating force.

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in a scene from “Darkest Hour.” Oldman is nominated for a Golden Globe for best actor in a motion picture drama. Jack English/Focus Features via AP

“How should we celebrate? Well, I don’t think any of it’s funny, so I guess that people will stay away from it in the ceremony,” said Oldman by phone Monday. “It’s evolution, and it’s good that we sort of start to check ourselves about what we do and what we say and how we do it and how we say it to people, so I think it’s ultimately a good thing. But I can’t see too much of this coming up in (the show), up there on the platform, as it were, on the podium. It’s not something to joke about, I don’t think.”

The nominees were announced from Beverly Hills after still-burning fires ravaged Southern California for the past week. The Thomas Fire has destroyed some 790 structures and forced thousands to evacuate their homes, with the blazes even entering the nearby neighborhood of Bel Air.

The Globes haven’t traditionally predicted the Oscars, but they did last January. The Globes best-picture winners – “Moonlight” and “La La Land” – both ultimately ended up on the stage for the final award of the Oscars, with “Moonlight” emerging victorious only after the infamous envelope flub. The press association, which has worked in recent years to curtail its reputation for odd choices, is composed of approximately 90 freelance international journalists.

The last Globes broadcast, hosted by Jimmy Fallon, averaged 20 million viewers, an upswing of 8 percent, according to Nielsen. This year, Fallon’s NBC late-night partner, Seth Meyers, will host the Jan. 7 ceremony.

No Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement recipient has yet been chosen. Last year’s honoree, Streep, spoke forcefully against the then President-elect Donald Trump, shortly before his inauguration, leading him to criticize the actress as “overrated.” This year, she – along with Spielberg and Hanks – return with a pointed and timely drama, “The Post,” about the power of the press to counter lies emanating from the White House.

Said Streep in a statement: “I’m thrilled for the movie, for Steven and Tom, and for the incredible ensemble of actors who made this movie need its moment in history.”

Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard in “Big Little Lies.” Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO via AP

Complete television nominations are:


– Series, Drama: “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “This Is Us,” “Stranger Things” and “Game of Thrones.”

– Series, Musical or Comedy: “black-ish,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Master of None,” “Smilf” and “Will & Grace.”

– Movie or Limited Series:  “Big Little Lies,” “Fargo,” “Feud: Bette and Joan,” “The Sinner” and “Top of the Lake: China Girl.”

– Actor, Movie or Limited Series: Robert De Niro, “The Wizard of Lies.” Jude Law, “The Young Pope,” Kyle MacLachlan, “Twin Peaks,” Ewan McGregor, “Fargo,” Geoffrey Rush, “Genius,”

– Actress, Musical or Comedy: Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”; Alison Brie, “Glow”; Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”;  Issa Rae, “Insecure” and Frankie Shaw, “Smilf.”

– Actor, Movie or Limited Series:  Anthony Anderson, “black-ish”; Aziz Ansari, “Master of None”; Kevin Bacon, “I Love Dick”; William H. Macy, “Shameless” and Eric McCormack, “Will & Grace.”

Lindsey Bahr, Sandy Cohen and Ryan Pearson contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

]]> 0, 11 Dec 2017 11:36:25 +0000
Hepatitis cases mount in wake of opioid epidemic Mon, 11 Dec 2017 15:01:22 +0000

Propelled by the opioid epidemic, Maine’s hepatitis B cases have surged this year, more than doubling the five-year average, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hepatitis B cases – both chronic and acute – through Oct. 31 surpassed the total number of cases reported for all of 2016. There were 163 chronic hepatitis B cases through Oct. 31, with 67 acute cases during the same time period. For calendar year 2016, there were 157 chronic and 52 acute cases of hepatitis B. The 2017 hepatitis B cases far outpace five-year averages, which were 88 chronic cases and 10 acute cases for the same January-to-October time period.

Hepatitis C cases have also increased, although not as dramatically, with 1,596 cases of chronic hepatitis C through October. Annual hepatitis C cases have increased from about 1,200 cases five years ago to between 1,400 and 1,600 cases per year since 2014.

Health experts say that the rise in hepatitis B and C cases coincides with the state’s heroin crisis, as sharing dirty needles is a major risk factor. Other risk factors are unprotected sex and unsanitary conditions.

“We think it’s the main driver of hepatitis B cases, as the cases we’ve investigated have been linked to drug use,” said Dr. Siiri Bennett, Maine’s epidemiologist.

Chronic means the disease – an inflammation of the liver commonly caused by a viral infection – has lasted longer than six months, while acute cases are new infections.

Hepatitis B has symptoms that include fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, abdominal pain, dark urine and jaundice. Chronic cases can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis C has the same symptoms.

Meanwhile, Maine has seen a recent increase in hepatitis A cases, with four during the past three months, the Maine CDC reported on Monday.

While the year-to-date number of hepatitis A cases – six – is normal, “this increase in cases is unusual for this length of time,” the Maine CDC said in a news release.

There were eight cases of hepatitis A per year for the previous three years, 2014-16, according to the Maine CDC website.

Health policy experts say there’s a clear link between increased intravenous drug usage and hepatitis B and C, and Maine’s opioid epidemic has substantially worsened over the past five years. Intravenous drug use is less closely tied to hepatitis A, but it is also a risk factor for the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Maine’s drug overdose deaths reached an all-time high in 2016, with 376 deaths, and there were 185 overdose deaths through the first half of 2017.

There is a vaccine for hepatitis B and A, but not for hepatitis C, which can cause long-term health problems, even death.

“You can get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B in one shot, and we’re encouraging people to do so,” Bennett said. “Hepatitis B cases are rapidly increasing, and it’s very worrisome.”

Zoe Odlin-Platz, community health promotion specialist at the Portland Needle Exchange, said the hepatitis B numbers are “very concerning.”

Odlin-Platz said the needle exchange promotes the use of sterile needles and helps people use safely while seeking recovery. But at the same time hepatitis rates are climbing, the needle exchange clinic in Lewiston closed, leaving the state with only five needle exchange sites – Portland, Augusta, Ellsworth, Bangor and Machias.

For the hepatitis A cases, Bennett said even though the Maine numbers are similar to previous years, the Maine CDC issued a news release to be proactive, after seeing outbreaks in other states, such as California and Kentucky.

“Outbreaks in several other U.S. states and European countries have shown that, while anyone not vaccinated against hepatitis A can get the illness, certain groups are at greater risk than others,” the Maine CDC said. “Symptoms can range from a mild illness to a severe sickness that can last several months.”

Hepatitis A symptoms are similar to those of hepatitis B.

Hepatitis A spreads “from person to person by swallowing something that is contaminated with feces, from someone who is infected with hepatitis A (for example, contaminated food and water, or through fecal-oral sexual contact). Most infections occur from contact with a household member or sex partner who has hepatitis A,” said the Maine CDC.

The agency recommends that to protect against hepatitis A, people should get vaccinated and always wash hands after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, having sex, and before preparing or eating food.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

Twitter: joelawlorph

]]> 0, 12 Dec 2017 00:49:51 +0000
Horoscopes for Dec. 11, 2017 Mon, 11 Dec 2017 09:01:32 +0000 0, 11 Dec 2017 07:53:31 +0000 ‘Coco’ keeps top spot at weekend box office Sun, 10 Dec 2017 22:41:10 +0000 LOS ANGELES — The animated family film “Coco” has topped the box office for a third time on a quiet, pre-“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” weekend in theaters.

Disney estimated Sunday that “Coco” added $18.3 million, which would bring its domestic total to $135.5 million.

The weekend’s sole new wide release was the Morgan Freeman film “Just Getting Started,” which launched to a meager $3.2 million from 2,161 theaters and barely made the top 10.

Most studios have chosen to avoid competing against “The Last Jedi,” which is expected to dominate theaters and moviegoer attention when it opens on Dec. 15.

Thus, most of the charts have looked quite similar for the past few weeks. Warner Bros. and DC’s “Justice League” took second place with $9.6 million and Lionsgate’s sleeper hit “Wonder,” which has now passed $100 million, placed third with $8.5 million. Warner Bros. also crossed the $2 billion benchmark domestically Saturday – the first studio to do so in 2017.

This quiet period before “Star Wars” has allowed some of the indie and prestige titles to thrive in limited releases and expansions, like James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist.” The film, about the making of one of the worst films of all time, “The Room,” expanded to 840 locations in its second weekend in theaters. It managed to bring in $6.4 million, landing it in fourth place.

Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age film “Lady Bird” also added 363 locations and placed 9th in its sixth weekend in theaters. With the $3.5 million from this weekend, “Lady Bird” has netted $22.3 million.

The Guillermo del Toro-directed romantic fantasy “The Shape of Water” expanded to 41 theaters in its second weekend and earned $1.1 million.

– From news service reports

]]> 0 estimated Sunday that its animated film "Coco" added another $18.3 million to its blockbuster earnings.Sun, 10 Dec 2017 18:16:41 +0000
Jane Fonda’s 80th birthday benefits a cause Sun, 10 Dec 2017 22:29:06 +0000 ATLANTA — Jane Fonda used her 80th birthday celebration to raise $1.3 million for her foundation.

The two-time Oscar-winner held the “Eight Decades of Jane” fundraiser at an upscale hotel Saturday night. The event recognized Fonda’s life achievements along with her foundation, Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential, which she created in 1995.

The Atlanta-based nonprofit focuses on teen pregnancy prevention and adolescent health.

Guests included CNN founder and ex-husband Ted Turner, her son Troy Garity and producer Paula Weinstein. James Taylor and Carole King performed “So Far Away” and “You’ve Got a Friend.”

– From news service reports

]]> 0 Sun, 10 Dec 2017 18:27:00 +0000
New ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres to cheers and praise Sun, 10 Dec 2017 14:30:56 +0000 LOS ANGELES — There were cheers, gasps, droid photo opportunities, casino games and more than a few standing ovations at the jam-packed world premiere of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” Saturday night in Los Angeles, which many are already praising online. Rian Johnson, the writer and director of the eighth installment of the franchise, dedicated the night to the late Carrie Fisher, who died after filming had completed.

“She’s up there flipping the bird and saying, ‘Don’t bring this night down with solemn tributes,'” Johnson said on stage at the Shrine Auditorium. It was in that spirit that Johnson excitedly introduced his cast, including Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac. Hamill and composer John Williams, who Johnson called one of the “greatest living film composers” were among the few who got standing ovations.

“Let’s watch a Star Wars movie!” Johnson exclaimed as the cast took their seats, the lights dimmed and the yellow Star Wars logo and iconic scrawl appeared on screen to signal the start of the film. The enthusiastic audience laughed and cheered throughout much of the two-and-a-half-hour film. One audience member even shrieked “What?!” at a key scene deep in the film.

The elaborate premiere featured a massive assault vehicle and a procession of Stormtroopers and droids that preceded the first showing of the film in advance of its Dec. 15 release. The mood was joyous and pregnant with anticipation for the highly anticipated and guarded film, which sees the return of Hamill’s Luke Skywalker as well as Fisher’s final performance.

Daisy Ridley arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Formal reviews won’t be out for a few days, but journalists and others at the screening who shared their initial reactions online said “The Last Jedi” packed the adventure expected in a Star Wars film, but took it into new territory.

J.J. Abrams, who directed 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and will return to direct Episode IX told The Associated Press that the film was “great” and that “Rian killed it.”

“Logan” director James Mangold also praised the film’s director, calling the movie “a great chapter of a blockbuster franchise,” that also had Johnson’s “voice shining through.”

Producer Adam F. Goldberg wrote that the film made him feel like a kid again.

Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican said the film “will shatter you and then make you feel whole again.”

Many who posted online about the premiere said they were still processing the film.

Attendees at Saturday’s premiere were the first people outside the cast, filmmakers and top executives at Walt Disney Co. and Lucasfilm who had seen “The Last Jedi.” Director Edgar Wright, Patton Oswalt, Greta Gerwig, “Stranger Things” actor Gaten Matarazzo, and Constance Zimmer were among the attendees Saturday.

Wright, who makes a cameo appearance in the film as a rebel, added on Twitter that the film was, “Really great.”

At the after-party, which was modeled after Canto Bight, a casino-based city in the Star Wars galaxy seen in “The Last Jedi,” attendees could play blackjack, roulette and craps to win commemorative Star Wars pins.

Fans at the premiere were also treated to up-close looks at new characters, including an elite squad of guards clad in red armor as well as a collection of droids, including the droids C-3PO, R2-D2, and BB-8, who walked and rolled down the red carpet before the film’s stars arrived.

“It’s a Star Wars movie, and the energy tonight is pretty amazing,” said a beaming Andy Serkis, who plays the villain Supreme Leader Snoke.

Ridley, who plays Rey, arrived wearing a shimmering dress adorned with stars. Ridley was in good spirits, saying about her dress, “I mean, it’s just fun. It’s fun. And I feel fun. And it’s got stars on it.”

Newcomer Kelly Marie Tran wore a bright red dress with a lengthy train behind it. John Boyega, who earlier in the day tweeted that he might miss the premiere because a snowstorm had snarled travel out of Atlanta, arrived sporting a dark blue tuxedo and turtleneck.

Secrecy about the film remained in place on the red carpet. Anthony Daniels, who plays C-3PO, told a reporter looking for details on the film, “I’m going to let you work out everything for yourself.”

“The Last Jedi,” which arrives in theaters on Dec. 15, is one of the year’s biggest releases. Early box office projections are for the film to debut in the $200 million range for its first weekend.

]]> 0, 14 Dec 2017 08:31:37 +0000
Cubism redux? See the paintings of Richard Keen Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Richard Keen paints coastal imagery in the sort of pop Cubist style one might associate with David Hockney or Georges Braque … had Braque ever been happy.

Keen sets off swaths of solid, bright colors with bold outlines. The outlines are clear – typically either straight lines or describable curves. But even when he limits himself to straight lines and solid colors, his work is never simplistic. That’s because right out front, Keen aligns himself with an energized, heady modernism that hails back to the most revolutionary moment of the avant-garde in painting: Synthetic Cubism.

Cubism in its original form, as propagated by Picasso and Braque, is complicated to explain, yet easy to see. Likewise, Keen’s work is easy to see, understand, enjoy and appreciate, however hard it is to discuss. It is visual rather than verbal. Painting that prides itself in description, such as high-focus realism, is based on recognition (and skill) – the stuff of words. Keen’s work, on the other hand, is about visual ideas – forms and systems and how they relate.

“Urban Seascapes,” now on view at Elizabeth Moss Galleries in Falmouth, features a range of Keen’s paintings situated at the edge of recognizably “Maine” sub-genres: coastal landscapes, marines, boating designs, nautical still lifes and so on.

“Sea Geometry No. 214,” acrylic and oil on canvas, 2017, 64 by 60 inches.

Keen’s interest in the range of artistic genres not only emphasizes his own range, but it allows him to bring to bear different systems of information, of knowledge. Keen has long relied on systems logic – things with rules, like math or games – rather than simple imagery, but as he matures as a painter, this reliance appears more and more as a painter’s visual intelligence as opposed to conceptualist gestures (i.e., ideas untethered to the medium). Keen is a painter, and, with growing clarity, he wants us to experience his work on painterly terms.

“Sea Geometry: No. 210,” for example, is a white-framed 2-foot-square image that doubles as a seascape with coral skies and a cross-sectional diagram of a wooden boat. Like other of Keen’s images, “210” flows with the strategic logic of game theory. An encaustic (wax paint) white form takes the center visual spot but bends around to the right like the diacritical mark of a school marm – bold, definite and defining.

Keen also pursues “map logic,” my own term for shapes that are defined by multiple systems. The shape of Maine, for example, combines coast, boundary-defining rivers and politically drawn lines on maps to achieve its iconic shape. That map logic is precisely why Keen’s forms challenge us: Any given edge or curve has a reason. When he takes the nautical shape of boat cross-section or, say, the white-edged blue sail form in a painting like “Sea Geometry No. 209” and puts it against the far-ground coast, it’s not simply a thing in a landscape; it’s a study in the contrast of forms. And, as with late Cubism, we see Keen’s conclusions throughout the visual echoes of the painting in its forms, gestures, shapes and flow of colors. Keen is all about playfully highlighting the logic of visual intelligence, and he does it with the open-mindedness of a chess-player. His particular appeal is his acknowledgment that, however crafty we may be, human strategies will always be nominated by nature. Keen references boat forms, for example, which appeared well before the math to describe them accurately (calculus) existed. Boatmakers weren’t making engineering calculations, he reminds us, but were emulating what they saw in nature. In other words, Keen’s works hint at the history of human intuition (including painterly sensibilities) in the physical world, rather than the achievements of technology.

“Sea Geometry No. 202,” acrylic and oil on canvas, 2017, 48 by 48 inches.

At 5 feet on its smaller side, Keen’s “Sea Geometry No. 214” combines many things. It clearly appears as a landscape, for one, depicting the ocean with an island in the background. With a dark vertical line running down near its center (with a blue triangle at the top, pointing down to the line’s apogee), it becomes a geometrical tale of the curved vectors of sailing. Below the crepuscular coral sky, the dropped vertical line flows from the oddly shaped island in silhouette in the far background of the scene. We sense the visual play of Cubism in witty echoes, say, of the center mast flowing to the left and the extended-hand gesture of the central white shape. It’s clearly meant to play the leading role of a sail, but Keen jokingly follows the top line down, above the weight-curved bottom form to remind us of a breast. Impressively, Keen leaves the wit to the realm of mathematics: So many forms echo off the “breast” that we have to see it as a mathematically derived form rather than as a sexualized aspect of the human body. It’s a brilliant painting and no less handsome than smart.

The 4-foot-square “Sea Geometry No. 202” may be the most obviously apt painting in “Urban Seascapes.” It is a John Marin-esque island seascape, but with vividly painted and compartmentalized sections. A scene with dark lands and golden skies pushes in from the middle left; a similar scene floats above it from the painting’s central-ish mast pole. A flat gray form sweeps down from its perch at the left of the image, so sharply that it cuts through all. A vessel-defining grid tilts horizontally away from us at the central base of the image. The painting is rich and complex, but it’s easy to see because the forms function extremely well as abstraction.

Keen’s multi-system Cubist approach has an effect quite the opposite of most other painters: Typically, a painter’s style reigns in his work. But while Keen’s style is easy enough to recognize, his systems approach moves his paintings visually away from each other so that his body of work is unusually varied. We too often prize the branding of style over inventiveness. Keen might have a strategic approach, but the moment he bumps one system into another, he has to think in real time: There is no recipe or obvious outcome for any of his works. And that certainly works for me.

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

]]> 0"Sea Geometry No. 210," acrylic and oil on canvas, 2017, 24 by 24 inches.Fri, 08 Dec 2017 17:03:08 +0000
What Washington needs now is a Jonathan Swift-style kick in the pants Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 If Gulliver could travel through time, instead of sailing around the world, imagine how familiar the yahoos of Washington would look to him now. What would he say about the roaring Lilliputians and the swollen Brobdingnagians stomping around the capital?

Jonathan Swift, we need you more than ever.

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the birth of the brilliant Irish writer, born Nov. 30, 1667. That we know of Swift at all is one of the sweetest fortunes of literary history. His father died of syphilis before Jonathan was born. A wet nurse whisked him to England for three years. He depended on the generosity of an uncle. He was almost killed by a mail bomb. But despite those precarious turns, Swift became a poet, a priest, a political operator and, of course, the greatest satirist in the English language.

The longevity of Swift’s work is a testament to its potency because no genre fades as quickly: Satires are the cut flowers of literature. Time wilts their wit, fading their bright colors like old political cartoons that poke fun at fat cats we no longer recognize. (Voltaire adored Samuel Butler’s 1663 mock heroic poem “Hudibras,” but try reading it now without footnotes.)

As contemporary allusions are worn away by the acid rain of history, the profound insights of a great work of satire grow more prominent. Today, scholars relish the anti-Whig references in “Gulliver’s Travels,” but the rest of us can still enjoy its wicked critique of hubris, vanity and illogic. George Orwell, himself a genius at political satire, noted that Swift “possessed a terrible intensity of vision, capable of picking out a single hidden truth and then magnifying it and distorting it.”

Now, though, the pre-satirized absurdities of the Trump era call into question the potency of this genre. What comic genius can compete with the news? Most days, the White House sounds kookier than tea at the Mad Hatter’s table. One minute Reince Priebus is groveling, “Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda.” The next, Betsy DeVos is suggesting that schools might need guns to protect students from grizzly bears.

This is climate change nobody should believe in, and it’s made us all weirdly self-conscious about satire. On Facebook, one constantly sees real stories prefaced with the advisory: “Not from the Onion!” Otherwise, who would accept headlines about a former ghost-hunter considered to be a federal district court judge, or the Secretary of the Treasury neglecting to disclose $100 million in personal assets? With the Grabber-in-Chief constantly stroking himself, the Oval Office outstrips the imaginations of even our cleverest writers. This year, both Salman Rushdie and Harold Jacobson aimed for the heart of the bloated beast – and missed badly.

W.B. Yeats knew what he was talking about when he said of Swift, “Imitate him if you dare.”

Consider the remarkable persistence of “A Modest Proposal,” published anonymously in 1729. Swift’s ironic phrase is such a hardy part of our language that it’s easy to forget how unlikely it is that we’d still be referring to a 3,000-word political pamphlet almost 300 years later. Originally titled “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public,” the essay burns with rage at a privileged class willing to ignore and rationalize human suffering. Although the plight of starving Irishmen may be unimaginable to us today, the centuries have done nothing to mute Swift’s savage indignation. He still sounds as timely as last night’s “Daily Show.”

If you haven’t read “A Modest Proposal” since high school, look it up again and be astounded. Speaking in the voice of a perfectly reasonable bureaucrat, Swift begins by describing the piteous state of beggars and their children “all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms.” In response to this “deplorable state,” he announces a solution, “having no other motive than the publick good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich”:

Why not harvest these Irish babies?

“A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled.”

Much of Swift’s essay is taken up with various statistics and logistical explanations, a hellacious spreadsheet of infant flesh to lay out the case for utilizing 100,000 children nursed to approximately 28 pounds each. In those well-modulated sentences, Swift washes individuals and their pain away. As John Stubbs writes in his recent biography, Swift possessed an “unequalled capacity to endow a ludicrous line of argument with an air of steadfast reason.” The bloody solution of “A Modest Proposal” is easy to laugh off as a bit of grotesque hyperbole, but the real horror of the essay remains its bland, bureaucratic tone – the same sterile language of accounting that justified American slavery, the Holocaust or any scheme that slices human lives into the columns of a ledger.

Even now, our political leaders are scheming to strip millions of Americans of health insurance so that the resultant federal savings can be lavished on the richest citizens. That may not be a recipe for roasting babies au gratin, but it makes a tasty birthday cake.

If politicians haven’t changed their menu much in 300 years, the rest of us still face the same risk of indigestion. Remember that “Gulliver’s Travels” ends with the intrepid narrator isolated and disgusted. Orwell assumed that Gulliver reflected his creator’s morose character and claimed that Swift suffered from a “general hatred of humanity” stoked by a perverse obsession with mankind’s sins and weaknesses. Stubbs argues that the image of Swift as a “misanthropic monster” is not entirely fair, but Gulliver’s fate is instructive, nonetheless.

Now that we’re all strident critics trading the day’s outrages across Twitter and the dining room table, how are we to avoid being sickened by our own bitter indignation? The bile in a satirist’s mind must be balanced with hope, or the whole enterprise is doomed. Surely, Swift wouldn’t have bothered to poke fun at cruelty, incompetence and hypocrisy unless he believed, on some level, that such scalding exposure could awaken a better nature.

On his 350th birthday, it’s good to remember that despair is the satirist’s temptation and the citizen’s poison.

]]> 0, 08 Dec 2017 16:37:58 +0000
Universal truths from a small-town philosopher Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 At a time of change, when common ground is becoming less common, it helps to have a tour guide who can navigate the American landscape. That’s a job for Howard Mansfield, who offers a unique lens on our history, customs and habits. A cultural historian and author of eight books, Mansfield is the guy you wish could accompany you on a long walk. You just know he would see things that you’d miss along the way.

“Summer Over Autumn: A Small Book of Small-Town Life” is Mansfield’s latest title, a collection of short essays that’s modest only in size. These 21 eclectic pieces find the author out and about in his hometown of Hancock, New Hampshire; running in a local election; working his land; and tending to Christopher Hogwood, his very theatrical pig.

“Our pig is a Zen eater. He becomes his food,” Mansfield says. “No remorse. No guilty dinner chat about fat or sugar or pesticides.”

The book highlights Mansfield’s range, showing him to be equal parts citizen, philosopher and cultural critic, weighing in on issues large and small. Among his musings, he tackles the thorny problem of elders behind the wheel; considers the jagged history of a Queen Anne chair that he inherited upon buying his house; and laments the planting of invasive roses that won’t give up.

In “The Skeezix Chronicles,” Mansfield recalls the story of an antique Ford 9N tractor that his wife bought for his birthday. “To operate a 9N is to step back to our machine past,” he says, “to a time before cars had power steering, power brakes, and automatic transmissions, before cars got so easy to drive that some people busy themselves texting.”

In the title story, Mansfeld adds to the mythology of northern New England weather, describing the period in late August – “Summer Over Autumn” – when the two seasons co-exist. “It’s a moment poised on the seesaw, right at the fulcrum,” he notes. “Sitting still, you can feel summer passing, retreating as fog retreats. It’s like passing through a doorway.”

If Mansfield has a knack for elevating the ordinary and seeing it fresh, he is equally adept at decoding transactions that are often mired in complication. Two of the best pieces in the book exemplify this skill: In “The Ask,” Mansfield takes on the matter of fundraising and how the ritual dance of asking for donations clashes with our sensibilities.

“In small towns, and society in general, we live by the Don’t Ask. We let our neighbors pursue their lives in happiness or sorrow,” he writes. “We give our neighbors the room to live. We don’t question their contradictions. When I was younger, I would have called this hypocrisy. Now I think it may be kindness, or just the mercy we show each other.”

And his essay, “On Going Late to Yard Sales,” is sufficiently astute that you’ll think twice about showing up early.

“Summer Over Autumn” is one of those books that you read, nodding in assent. Mansfield delivers an embarrassment of quotable lines and passages – more than many writers manage in a lifetime. While much of the book centers on small-town life, the takeaway from each piece tends to be universal. Mansfield’s wry, humane, poetic brand of common sense has no geographic bounds.

Joan Silverman writes op-eds, essays and book reviews. Her work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News.

]]> 0, 08 Dec 2017 16:39:49 +0000
Toy Fund: Parents struggling to make ends meet get a helping hand Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Sometimes there’s no one reason a parent feels forced to ask for help at the holidays.

It’s just life, an economy that leaves some families behind, and a desire to let children be children a little longer.

“I am a single father of two boys,” a man from the midcoast wrote to the fund. “I work full time. However, my expenses exceed my income. This is not due to having extras. This is just living expenses and car insurance – actual, normal bills. I barely make it paycheck to paycheck.”

His boys are 13 and 11, and he doesn’t want real life to ruin their Christmas. “I really don’t like asking for help, but I do want my boys to wake up with a smile Christmas morning.”

The fund is getting many similar notes from parents who say they’re healthy and working hard, but just can’t keep up.

“I am a single mother with a 6-year-old daughter,” a woman wrote the fund. “I work as a certified nursing assistant. My income versus any extra expenses above the regular – rent, electric, auto, insurance, gas, food – leaves me with nothing much to give my child a Christmas deserving of any child. I go to a food bank in my town twice a month just to have food in my house. I struggle constantly to make ends meet. To receive this help would be such a blessing.”

The generosity of newspaper readers they’ve never met means both parents, and many more, will be able to provide holiday joy to children who deserve nothing less.

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children. Bruce Roberts was the original pen name of the columnist who co-founded the fund in 1949.

The fund – in its 68th year – is accepting applications for toys from families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties.

Applications can be downloaded at or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made at or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund, mailed to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.

For more information, go to: <URL destination=””>

</URL>See more stories at

]]> 0 Sat, 09 Dec 2017 19:26:20 +0000
Society Notebook: LearningWorks marks a half-century of helping kids Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “Our most important work right now is reaching students no one else can reach,” said Heather Davis, executive director of LearningWorks, at the nonprofit’s 50th anniversary bash on Nov. 15 at the historic U.S. Custom House on Commercial Street in Portland.

“We are here for students who need to learn English but can’t afford an education. We are here for students who can’t find their way in the traditional education system. We are here for kids who have fallen into the criminal justice system and need a way out.”

Guests mingled in the landmark’s Customs Hall and perused a photo exhibit from LearningWorks’ 50 Stories Project, featuring photos of students, clients, staff and volunteers who have had a direct impact on the organization’s success over the years. Liz Leddy, a LearningWorks alum, was the featured speaker.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills was joined by Colleen Tucker, an attorney with Preti Flaherty; Victoria Bonebakker, a former board member of LearningWorks; Charlie Miller, founder of The Children’s Initiative; and Sarah Campbell, director of the Portland Public Library.

Xavier Botana, Portland’s superintendent of schools, chatted with Adele Ngoy, president of Women United Around the World, and Anja Hanson of Portland Adult Education. Alain Nahimana, executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Center of Greater Portland, was joined by Mary Allen Lindemann, co-founder of Coffee By Design, and Damas Rugaba, board chair of the Immigrant Welcome Center.

“LearningWorks has been a road to success for thousands of Maine children who otherwise wouldn’t have made it,” said Mills, admiring the crowd of supporters. “Students that no one else could reach. We need a LearningWorks and this kind of programming everywhere in the state of Maine.”

“They are a great partner to the schools here in Portland,” Botana said of the nonprofit that provides free community-based education programming for children and families throughout southern Maine. “It’s a place where many of our kids go to get a great opportunity to learn that extends what they learn during the school day.”

“We bring our students from a place of struggle and hopelessness to a graduation stage, to the workforce and into the community,” said Davis, who is marking her first year as executive director. “I am so grateful to everyone who joined us to mark our 50th anniversary and support the work we are doing with students across Maine.”

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

]]> 0 Pope and Diane Donaldson of Bangor Savings Bank's commercial lending division.Sun, 10 Dec 2017 18:19:45 +0000
An enigma, yes, yet this philanthropist was a force for Bethel Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Aside from a snoozer of a cover, which features a bland studio portrait of philanthropist William Bingham 2nd, (1879-1955), looking like his contemporary, Calvin Coolidge, and seemingly designed to sell as few books as possible, Stanley Russell Howe’s new biography of the man is lively and thoroughly documented. Furthermore, it offers entry into a little-known time in the history of Bethel, Oxford County and Maine from the turn of the 19th century to post-World War II.

By following the life of the eccentric Bingham and the often equally unusual people in his orbit, including locals and some from away, a curious picture emerges, some of it expected and some revealed in fresh ways.

Historian Howe is the former director of Bethel Historical Society, a veteran author and grandson of one of Bingham’s staffers. As Howe notes:

“The closest I ever came to seeing him was undoubtedly the exciting time (in 1955) when my grandmother took me up in his personal elevator (the first one I had ever ridden) to the second floor. When we arrived on the upper floor, I recall asking which room was Mr. Bingham’s, and my grandmother simply pointed to his door down the hall from the elevator entrance.”

During his lifetime, Bingham was an enigma to almost everyone. Born into a privileged Cleveland, Ohio, family, young William had a sheltered and troubled childhood. Howe digs deeply into the family background, and as a working historian myself, I must say this is one of the most impressively researched and revealing biographies to emerge in years. Bingham’s driven businessman father came to see his son as little more than a dilettante and valetudinarian, and once, after a hard day’s work, smashed his son’s violin in a moment of rage. Music was one of Bingham’s few early passions.

Finding himself and his place in the world was a struggle that finally started to take form in the Bethel Clinic, run by the colorful Dr. John George Gehring and his wife, Marian True Gehring. This unorthodox treatment center took on well-known patients and, by the early 20th century, was known as the “resting place for Harvard University,” given the number of professors registered as clients.

Bingham would become a key element of the Gehring circle, taking on advisors, including Marian’s son by her first marriage, George B. Farnsworth (1880-1947), and, later, Dr. Arthur L. Walters.

The book delineates how the increasingly isolated philanthropist, often in consultation with the strong-minded Farnsworth, helped shape and revitalize Gould Academy, the Bethel Inn, Bethel Water Company, Bates College and even funded Edmund S. Muskie’s legal education at Cornell. (Muskie would become governor of Maine, a U.S. senator from Maine and U.S. secretary of state.) Dr. Samuel Proger’s obituary of Bingham was correct: “His actions were based on a compelling desire to be helpful.”

Howe’s examination of letters and archives reveals Bingham to be a basically good and honorable donor, a shy man who liked people, mostly from a distance, but had few deep, abiding friendships. His generosity made Bethel a special place. But Howe is too good a historian to overlook or dismiss the prejudice, anti-Jewish and anti-labor sentiments and class differences of the day that emerge in the letters, mostly from associates. Farnsworth, in particular, exposes himself, writing in 1941, “The Communistic situation here in Maine is beyond belief.” Using Bingham funds, Farnsworth hired three “spotters” to investigate. A year later, investigations went beyond communists: “Any German or Italian person is under suspicion.”

But usually, Bingham spent his money the way he wished: on schools, public works or hospitals in Oxford County, Ohio or Massachusetts. When a public school burned in Hodgdon, way up on the Canadian border, Bingham sent money despite Farnsworth’s attempt to veto. It was Bingham’s money and his decision.

William David Barry is a local historian who has authored/co-authored seven books, including “Maine: The Wilder Side of New England” and “Deering: A Social and Architectural History,” He is currently writing a history of the Maine Historical Society. He lives in Portland with his wife, Debra, and their cat, Nadine.

]]> 0, 08 Dec 2017 16:38:11 +0000
Maine parody site is far from fake news, and enough readers get the joke Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 In early December, New Maine News reported that climate scientists had determined the cause of the state’s unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of snow: a new snowmobile purchased by a man from Rangeley.

The parody news site (think Maine version of The Onion) was, of course, poking fun at a gripe you’re likely to hear by the coffee pots at a corner store – that as soon as you buy an expensive new snow toy, the weather won’t cooperate.

It’s about as believable a news story as “Sexy Paul LePage” being the least popular Halloween costume for seven years in a row, or Portland’s mayor calling out the name of his native New York in bed – other “articles” on the site. But, these days, with ads and click bait posing as news stories, journalism being dismissed as fake news and politicians offering “alternative facts,” it can be hard to tell whether a ridiculous headline is real or, as in this case, satire.

Fortunately for New Maine News creator Seth Macy, enough people get the joke. Macy, a writer and former estate caretaker from Rockland, started the site in October. With an average of 50,000 page views a week and more than 7,300 followers on Facebook, he’s already drummed up enough ad revenue to cover his costs.

Fans say it’s obviously satire and are laughing out loud at New Maine News’ take on the people, trends and quirks unique to Maine. But some critics say the site, which isn’t clearly labeled as satirical content so as not to ruin the joke, helps continue the trend of blurring the line of what’s true and what isn’t, especially when it comes to the internet.

Belfast City Councilor Michael Hurley was upset by a New Maine News story in November that said Belfast was stamping out poverty by making it illegal for poor people to live in the well-heeled tourist town, attributing fake quotes to a real city councilor, Mary Mortier, such as: “Let’s face it, the poor are noble, hard-working and downtrodden, but they also drive their loud trucks through town and shop at places like Walmart.” Macy, who picked Mortier’s name at random from the city’s website, removed it after getting several complaints. She didn’t return a phone call seeking comment for this story.

“I do think the site is funny, but I think it’s sophomoric, to just make up quotes from a real person,” Hurley said. “People read things online and believe what they want. If you look at the comments on (New Maine News), some people believe the stories.”

One of those people is Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling’s mother, who called him to ask what was going on when she saw the story: “Portland City Council Says Mayor Must Pay for Own Top Hat and Sash” – a dig on Strimling for being accused of trying to grab more power than the city charter allows.

Strimling, however, has a sense of humor about it. Both times he was lampooned by the site, he posted the stories from his own Facebook page.

“I thought the pieces were very funny,” he said. “I think parody can get at deeper truths. He (Macy) touched on some of the back and forth, some of the tension, that’s going on with the council.”

Still, people do get fooled by the ever-growing number of parody and fake news sites that post enticing headlines just to get page views, like stories that appeared last year about pop star Katy Perry moving to Portland and a Harry Potter spinoff film being shot in Maine. New Maine News has a motto across its homepage that, to someone unfamiliar with Maine media, could be taken at face value: “Maine’s only trusted source for local real breaking news.” But since satire and parody are included in the First Amendment, Macy is pretty confident what he’s doing is protected speech.

Macy has written satire before, for gaming sites mostly. He’s a big fan of The Onion, probably the best known national satire site. He also remembers, as a youngster in the ’80s, seeing the Maineiac Express — a twice-printed newspaper parody with headlines like “Northern Maine Secedes!” and “Illiteracy declared official second language.”

Macy, 40, grew up on North Haven island near Rockland, where his father is a minister. Married with two children, he has worked as a caretaker of island property and is currently working as a freelance writer for gaming sites like Imagine Games Network and Hard Drive.

He started New Maine News mostly “to write some funny stuff and make my friends laugh.” He doesn’t want his satire to be political, like so much is, but wants to follow The Onion’s lead and lampoon the nuts and bolts of daily life – in his case, daily life in Maine.

“The Onion makes fun of everybody and everything, and that’s what I’m striving to do. I never want my stories to let people know what my politics are,” Macy said.

Macy writes all the satirical stories himself, usually posting one a day with photo-shopped art – like a woman in a winter scene wearing a sleeping bag with arm holes and a headline claiming it’s the season’s “hottest trend.” He pays close attention to Maine news and events, and keeps an eye out for anything that’ll make a funny headline. His advertisers, such as Yopp Skis in Bethel, pay enough to cover the costs of producing the site at home on his computer, including software and WordPress services. He also sells New Maine News hats and T-shirts on the site and has started a campaign on the funding site to raise money to pay people who want to submit satirical articles to New Maine News.

Tim Sample, a veteran Maine humorist known nationally, said he enjoyed several of the stories he saw on New Maine News, including one about Uncle Henry’s new swimsuit issue. It said the venerable Maine publication, where people place ads for everything from firewood to unwanted wedding rings, was putting out an edition listing ads for swimsuits. No pictures, just written ads, including one for a “lace-up flower 2-piece,” $140 or best offer, in Rumford.

Sample thinks parody is getting harder and harder to do, because some of the things happening in the world – like the president’s Twitter usage – already seem like something a comedian might dream up.

“Parody is an interesting form of humor, very hit-and-miss, and it depends largely on how familiar someone is with the subject, and what their own views on it are,” Sample said. “For parody to work, you need an agreed-upon norm and then you have to exaggerate that. But today it’s hard to find an agreed-upon norm about anything, or something that doesn’t already seem like exaggeration.”

]]> 0, ME - NOVEMBER 9: Seth Macy created and writes pieces for the satirical website New Maine News, which pokes fun at all things Maine. Macy is photographed at his Rockland home on Thursday, November 9, 2017.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 20:57:09 +0000
A world of material takes over Center for Maine Contemporary Art Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 ROCKLAND — Jackie Brown’s art shifted when she learned about research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Angela Belcher, whose specialties include materials science and biological engineering. She was particularly taken by Belcher’s ability to alter viruses to grow batteries and found striking the scientist’s language about manipulating the periodic table and combining elements in unnatural ways.

“The implications of this are pretty mind-blowing and full of exciting potential, but it’s also disconcerting to think about what might happen as we meddle with nature,” said Brown, a sculptor from Bath and assistant professor of art at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.

We get an idea of what that meddling might look like at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland, where Brown’s “Mutated Growth” is the centerpiece of an expansive, evocative and curious exhibition, “Materiality! The Matter of Matter.”

“Mutated Growth” looks like a biology experiment gone awry, with mutant organs and imagined biological systems in yellow, green, red and other vibrant colors. It’s part of a large-scale group show with 12 Maine artists, organized around the idea of material – how artists use new and unexpected materials in their work and expand the dimensions and potential of traditional materials. All the work is new, and much of it was created for this exhibition. Some of the artists are widely known, and others are making their debut in Maine.

Curated by CMCA’s associate curator Bethany Engstrom, “Materiality!” fills all the public spaces at CMCA with work that takes advantage of the gallery’s tall ceilings, large walls and open rooms. Art made with wood, metal, canvas, plastic, pollen, rubber, clay, silver and other components hangs from the walls, suspends from the ceilings and sits on the floor. “It’s amazing to see what people are doing with material here in Maine,” Engstrom said. “They are really pushing the materials they are using and what can be done with them. There’s a fun factor associated with a lot of this work.”

“Rock,” “Paper” and “Scissors,” by Emilie Stark-Menneg, form an homage to her 94-year-old grandmother, Lucille Stark, “a powerhouse, giving intelligent and compassionate wisdom to her family and friends,” Stark-Menneg said. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

That fun factor may explain why this show is popular with school groups. It’s colorful and playful, CMCA Executive Director Suzette McAvoy said, and kids respond to its energy and vibrancy. “Materiality!” opened in mid-November and is on view through Feb. 11.

Brown’s mutant biological forms, which she makes with clay, chipboard, concrete, epoxy, foam, paint, plaster, poly, metal, rubber and wood, ooze through the space, suggesting growth, movement and transformation. Her pieces feel alive, active and organic.

Brown, who began teaching sculpture at Bowdoin in 2014, started her art practice sculpting the human figure. Over time, as she broke down the figure and deconstructed the body, she began thinking of the body as a series of interconnected systems. This revolutionized her work and altered her approach to making things. “I started to engage abstraction, and it was through abstraction that a new world of forms and ideas opened up for me,” she wrote in an email. “I started relating the systems of the body to other systems of growth in the natural world, and I began to think more broadly about biological forms responding, relating and reacting to one another.”

The work on view at CMCA is a result of that process and involves splicing together previous installations to create something new “so the work is always malleable, always morphing and expanding, always in a state of becoming something new,” Brown wrote. This is the first time she has shown her sculptures in Maine.

At the heart of the work is a love of material and an ongoing curiosity about what it means to be alive, Brown said. “I hope the installation invites people to look closely and to have a visceral experience as they move through the space and encounter the myriad of forms, colors and surfaces.”

Engstrom got the idea for this show during CMCA’s biennial cycle a year ago. While managing submissions for the biennial jury, she saw a theme emerging in the work. “So many artists were speaking through the material itself,” she said. “I knew some of these artists and started speaking with them and doing studio visits. It evolved from that. I didn’t have a particular vision at the beginning. I let it evolve as I began seeing the work.”

Emilie Stark-Menneg, who keeps a studio in Brunswick, is showing four large-scale paintings, including “Big Kitty Picture Show.” Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette


During that time, Benjamin Potter of Belfast was painting a mural on a building in Rockland as part of his residency with the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation. Engstrom took notice, and they began talking. That led to a studio visit, which led to Potter’s inclusion in “Materiality!”

His piece, “Small Mountains,” consists of ceramic block forms painted with silver and pollen. His block forms look like a cityscape of low-rise buildings, except he hangs these vertically on the wall instead of placing them on a flat, horizontal surface. They’re textured to look like topographical maps, but the most compelling element of this work is Potter’s use of pollen to add color. He collects pollen from cattails that grow in a marsh in Belfast, wading into the marsh in the early summer, snapping the tops off the cattails and allowing them to dry before sifting out the pollen. He fills a large mason jar or two each season.

In his own way, he is using the Maine landscape in his art. Potter, 47, has been using nontraditional materials – dirt, ash and soot, in addition to pollen – since high school because they are unpredictable. “They won’t do what you expect they will do or what you want them to do, and that chance is a nod to the much larger world that we live in,” said Potter, who teaches art at Unity College.

The material of Ian Trask consists of things he picks from his community’s waste stream. He is among a growing class of artists who use their concerns about the environment as fuel for their art practice. Trask, who lives in Brunswick and has a studio at Fort Andross, collects common materials that might otherwise end up in landfills or recycling centers and makes orbs of varying sizes. At CMCA, he is showing a piece called “Bound” that brings together more than 100 orbs, or spores, of pill bottles, plastic bags, wine corks, cardboard and other common household objects. They range from 2 inches to 3 feet in diameter. Trask transforms waste material into art through reinterpretation and reinvention.

“Bound” has been one of the most popular pieces in the show, McAvoy said, likely because people enjoy identifying the materials and understanding their roles in our lives. A common response to this body of work is that it’s fun, Trask said. The work addresses what he calls “a seriously depressing topic” in a playful manner.

“In my opinion, this makes it easier to approach and engage with. Once I can get people up close, the process of recognition and identification begins,” he said. “Presenting the sculptures at this quantity produces a visual effect that reminds me of some sort of kaleidoscopic treasure hunt.”

He hopes his art encourages people to think about the waste they produce and how they handle it. His work is timely and important. “We’re at a moment in time when it almost feels like our progress on tackling our waste problem is stalling out,” he said. “It’s been long understood that dumping everything into landfills isn’t going to work. Collectively, we’ve all gotten better at picking recyclable items out of the waste stream, and our recycling options are even expanding and improving. And creative reuse is being incorporated into large-scale manufacturing and building projects. Yet it still seems like an impossibly hard, uphill battle.”

He collects his materials from his communities. In addition to pulling from the trash he generates, he accesses the waste streams that exist around him. When he is looking for a specific item, he reaches out to his network and asks for it, such as he did a few years ago when he built a monumental installation of blister pack material. At other times, the process is more passive and open. “I encourage my community to think of me before they throw something out,” he said. “Of course not everything offered to me is aesthetically interesting or useful in any obvious way. But it’s counter-productive to be too selective and turn things away, so I try to develop systems for utilizing and consuming it all.”

“Bound” at the CMCA is an example of what happens when he openly accepts and incorporates whatever waste materials are donated. He makes spores with ropes, electrical cords, plastic rings. The donation-based relationship with his community is among the most interesting parts of his practice, he said. “It becomes more than a donation. It’s a collaboration with those around me – they shape my art, and I shape their thoughts.”

Ian Trask’s materials consist of things he picks from his community’s waste stream. For “Bound,” the Brunswick artist created orbs made of pill bottles, plastic bags, wine corks, cardboard and other discarded household objects. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette


Painter Emilie Stark-Menneg, who also has a studio at Fort Andross in Brunswick, is showing four large-scale paintings in “Materiality!” Three form a series of tributes to her grandmother, Lucile Stark, who, at 94, “is a powerhouse, giving intelligent and compassionate wisdom to her family and friends,” the artist said. She painted her grandmother large as a tribute to her energy and spirit. “She is grappling with the hardships of aging, the physical and mental toll of losing one’s loved ones and one’s ability to negotiate independently in the world. I am awed by her stoicism and her ability to move forward with dignity and resilience.”

She made her paintings with many different kinds of paint and created a beaded-tapestry effect by pushing paint through a window screen. She discovered the process by accident. “I was trying to paint on top of the screen; when I turned it over, the undulating, pixelated surface of the backside was surprising and way more interesting,” she said.

She pressed paint through a cake-frosting bag, creating little buttons that texture her paintings and look good enough to eat. She likes combining materials in new and unusual ways and loves showing her large, experimental canvases at CMCA. “I feel the space elevates the paintings (and) gives them room to breathe and expand into new imaginative realms,” she said. “The gallery feels spiritual and contemplative, which gives my riotous, saturated paintings room to be wild and dance.”

Stark-Menneg’s neon-bright paintings hang in the same gallery as Brown’s colorful, organic sculpture, and they share space with a wall-size canvas installation by Aaron Stephan of Portland. Collectively, those three artists present visitors with a wildly exuberant experience, centered on color, form, imagination and whimsy.

McAvoy said the timing is good for this exhibition, which anchors CMCA’s second winter season in Rockland. The gallery moved from its longtime home in Rockport in June 2016. CMCA projected first-year attendance at 35,000 and exceeded that number by more than 5,000 visitors, McAvoy said. More than 5,500 people visited CMCA during Rockland’s monthly art walks from May to November.

In a late-November story about Rockland’s arts revival, the Boston Globe described the midcoast city as “an artsy enclave, with a swelling cluster of studios and galleries, and a vibrant, growing community of artists, chefs, boatbuilders, sculptors, architects, and more.”

McAvoy said CMCA is one reason for the city’s resurgence.

“It brings a sense of joy and satisfaction to see all of the plans, hard work and vision have come to fruition and are working the way we knew they could. We knew the audience and the support were here,” she said.

“The artists are responding to the space, and the public is responding to the art. We’re stretching the idea of what Maine art is and what Maine art can be, and this exhibition embodies that idea.”


]]> 0"Mutated Growth," by Jackie Brown of Bath, is the centerpiece of "Materiality! The Matter of Matter," which features the work of 12 artists. Brown's mutated biological forms are made with clay, chipboard, concrete, epoxy, foam, paint, plaster, poly, metal, rubber and wood.Fri, 08 Dec 2017 17:33:58 +0000
Deep Water: ‘Broth’ by Richard Foerster Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 The arrival of winter also brings a craving for soup, to warm us from the inside out. This week’s poem beautifully describes making broth.

It should be noted that for a poet like Richard Foerster, himself a master craftsman, this poem can also be read as an ars poetica, or a poem that explains the art of poetry. To make a great poem, one also needs “whatever bits we find at hand,” to be “Precise, / but not precise,” “to pique the senses,” and even to add a bit of “poison” to “exact the cure” that poems (and broth) provide.

Richard Foerster is the author of seven books, including his most recent, “River Road” (Texas Review Press, 2015). He has won many awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maine Arts Commission. He lives in York, where he also works as a freelance editor and typesetter.


By Richard Foerster

Some days we cannot help

but stand, chilled to the marrow,

and so let the water brim

with whatever bits we find at hand,

then ease into the kettle the wrecked keel

of a chicken – how like an alchemist

anyone intent on making soup.

The onion, halved then quartered,

separates into a lifetime

of crescent moons, and the carrot’s

bright disks float like so many risings

gathered into a single day. Precise,

but not precise. It’s not so much practice

as instinct to know that six

peppercorns are enough to pique

the senses, or that a trickle

of salt, rolled from the palm, honors

the one that bore us and will swallow

us again. Somehow we learn

that the parsley must be bitter

as the earth after Eden and one smatter

of thyme is enough to soothe the soul.

We do not think twice about adding

the bay leaf with its tincture of poison.

When we ache, we’ll gladly shiver

to stir the broth, then sip, trusting

in the delicate balance of the common-

place to exact the cure.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1998 Richard Foerster. It appeared originally in “Trillium” (BOA Editions, 1998) and appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to

]]> 0 Fri, 08 Dec 2017 16:30:07 +0000
MECA’s new president sees arts education as key to navigating an ever-changing world Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Laura Freid has a resume peppered with Ivy League schools that led to a globe-trotting job with a world-famous musician, which she left to become the newest president of Maine College of Art.

“I wanted to do something in my career that could really help artists stay artists their whole life,” she said.

Freid became MECA president this past July, leaving a 12-year partnership with the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and their collaboration, the Silk Road Project. He was the public face of the global cultural arts organization, while Freid served as CEO and executive director. Before that, she worked as chief communications officer at Harvard University and as an executive vice president at Brown University.

Coming to an art school feels like a natural landing spot at this moment in her life and career, and also at this moment in the world. Freid is an advocate for passion-based learning and believes that art-school students are best equipped to handle the challenges and opportunities of the world today and tomorrow, because art is present everywhere we look.

“Designers are the problem-solvers of the future,” Freid said in an interview in her Portland office. “The 21st century is the creative century, and an arts education is a great education to have. We are all walking around with art on our wrists, on our tablets and on our phones. We need people in the world who can present that art in a beautiful way.”

Freid lives in a condo in Portland’s East End and walks to work most days. She appreciates the vibrancy of Munjoy Hill and Portland as a whole. Her husband lives and works in Massachusetts, and they own a house in Newton.

She spent her first 100 days in Portland listening. She’s met with more than 800 people since she arrived in July, including folks directly associated with MECA and those on the periphery of the school.

She said yes to MECA because she wanted to further integrate her interests in arts and education. Freid studied philosophy as an undergraduate at Washington University, earned a master’s in business from the Boston University School of Management and a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania. “My intellectual interest is in aesthetics and the philosophy of aesthetics, so art is very important to me, and I think to the world,” she said. “Art helps us understand what’s going on in our life.”

Mostly, she loves being around students who are creative, active and engaged. The period in people’s lives between the ages of 18 and 24 are when so many transformational experiences occur, “and when you find out who you are and what you contribute to your world,” she said.

When Freid researched MECA after being asked to apply, one of the things she noted was the school’s Artists at Work program, which connects students to internships, jobs, commissions, professional development opportunities, community partners and residencies so they can work in their fields of training. At Harvard, Freid began a cultural entrepreneurship program that encouraged artists and business people to create businesses that serve society. She saw parallels between the program at Harvard and the program at MECA and was impressed.

As president, her job is to figure out what the school will look like in five, 10 and 20 years from now.

The challenges are mostly financial, and those are tied to the cost of doing business in Portland. MECA’s fall enrollment was 512, which continues a trend of enrollment increases. Of those students, about half live in downtown dorms owned or rented by MECA. The school has to increase its housing stock at a time when affordable housing is harder to find. “Supply and demand is decreasing our students’ ability to find housing at a reasonable cost,” Freid said. “We want students to focus on their learning and not have to worry too much about their housing.”

Toward that end, she has convened an informal task force to explore downtown options. The next step will be making a plan and raising money. The school’s annual budget is $14.3 million, and Freid said the school “needs to increase fundraising and corporate and foundation support.”

The opportunities are as endless as imagination. She wants MECA students to “go deep” in their studies so they can avail themselves to all possibilities.

When she talks about MECA to people in the community, she reminds them of the importance of creativity in America’s economy and culture. “It’s important to understand that everything we touch and see and feel has been designed and made by somebody,” she reminds people. “When we go online, everything we look at was designed by an artist.”

Supporting students through scholarships, she said, is one of the most important things a person can do. That’s especially true now, when America’s investment in the arts is less than solid. “We spend a lot of time applauding ourselves for our creativity, but we are not investing enough in the creative leaders of tomorrow. If we don’t watch it, we might turn out like some societies that have very accomplished engineers and mathematicians, but they are lacking creativity. And when you lack creativity, you aren’t innovating.”


]]> 0"I can think of nothing more important than investing in our artists of tomorrow," said Maine College of Art President Laura Freid, who is working on improving housing availability and scholarship opportunities for MECA students.Fri, 08 Dec 2017 16:46:40 +0000
With the Golden Globes’ recent respectability, don’t expect any surprises in the nominations Sun, 10 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Where have all the weirdos gone in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the ones who’d nominate “Burlesque” for best motion picture or think that Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie both deserved nods for the complete lack of chemistry they displayed in “The Tourist”?

The last few years, the Golden Globes have been far too respectable. And where’s the fun in that? Don’t look for these freshly minted pillars of good taste to change course this year. Nominations will be announced Dec. 11.



“The Post”

“The Shape of Water”

“Call Me By Your Name”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

On the cusp: “Darkest Hour,” “Mudbound,” “Phantom Thread,” “The Florida Project”

Analysis: “Three Billboards” could have gone for comedy and earned a nod. Perhaps the movie’s log line – grieving mother puts up billboards criticizing police for not solving her daughter’s rape and murder – gave the studio pause. It doesn’t sound funny, even though it does have comic moments. But it’s too good not to be nominated here.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and its star, Frances McDormand, are contenders in the motion picture drama and actress, drama categories. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight via AP


Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”

Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Jennifer Lawrence, “mother!”

Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”

On the cusp: Kate Winslet, “Wonder Wheel”; Gal Gadot, “Wonder Woman”; Diane Kruger, “In the Fade”; Annette Bening, “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”

Analysis: Lawrence would be a bold choice, one that would position the HFPA as champions for daring (overbearing) cinema. Plus, it would put Lawrence – a three-time winner – in the room, which would be good for ratings, a more likely consideration for this bunch.


Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”

Timothee Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”

Tom Hanks, “The Post”

Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

On the cusp: Jake Gyllenhaal, “Stronger”

Analysis: As mentioned, the Globes used to be all about star power, but that has changed recently as choices have skewed more toward critics’ favorites. All to say: There was a time when Gyllenhaal would have made it in ahead of Chalamet. But, with the commercial failure of “Stronger,” I don’t think that’s going to happen. Plus, the rest of the field boasts enough brand names – especially Hanks and Washington – to keep NBC happy.

“The Greatest Showman” and its star, Hugh Jackman, are to be watched in the motion picture, musical/comedy and actor, movie musical/comedy categories. Photo by Niko Tavernise/Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox


“Get Out”

“Lady Bird”

“The Big Sick”

“The Greatest Showman”

“The Disaster Artist”

On the cusp: “I, Tonya,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Battle of the Sexes,” “Downsizing,” “The Meyerowitz Stories”

Analysis: Voters could go all-indie by rewarding the black comedies “I, Tonya” and “The Disaster Artist.” Or they could go bigger, with Disney’s blockbuster “Beauty and the Beast” or “The Greatest Showman,” a big musical about circus founder P.T. Barnum. The HFPA loves musicals, so at least one of those two picks up a nod.


Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”

Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

Judi Dench, “Victoria and Abdul”

Emma Stone, “Battle of the Sexes”

Salma Hayek, “Beatriz at Dinner”

On the cusp: Helen Mirren, “The Leisure Seeker”; Emma Watson, “Beauty and the Beast”; Michelle Williams, “The Greatest Showman”

Analysis: Hayek could be among the “surprises,” but her understated, playful performance stands among the year’s best. Williams is something of an X factor – at press time, few outside the HFPA have seen “The Greatest Showman” – but she has a strong history with the group.


James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

Kumail Nanjiani, “The Big Sick”

Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”

Hugh Jackman, “The Greatest Showman”

Steve Carell, “Battle of the Sexes”

On the cusp: Matt Damon, “Downsizing”; Dan Stevens, “Beauty and the Beast”; Adam Sandler, “The Meyerowitz Stories”

Analysis: Damon is an HFPA favorite with two Globes to go along with seven nominations, so he’ll be in the running. But Carell (eight noms, one win) and Jackman (two noms, one win) have a history here too, and their movies, I’m told, played better with voters. And don’t completely discount Sandler, who has been nominated before.


“The Handmaid’s Tale”

“Stranger Things”

“Game of Thrones”

“The Deuce”

“The Crown”

On the cusp: “This Is Us”

Analysis: You have to go back a long way to find a year that the HFPA didn’t recognize a first-year show here, which puts HBO’s well-regarded “The Deuce” in the mix. If it’s nominated though, it’ll be at the expense of one of last year’s rookie shows. Or maybe feting “The Handmaid’s Tale” will be enough to scratch that itch, since it premiered too late for last year.


Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Deuce”

Claire Foy, “The Crown”

Caitriona Balfe, “Outlander”

Mandy Moore, “This Is Us”

On the cusp: Laura Linney, “Ozark”; Katherine Langford, “13 Reasons Why”; Carrie Coon, “The Leftovers”; Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”; Keri Russell, “The Americans”

Analysis: Voters have boosted Gyllenhaal over the years – she won a Globe in 2015 for her lead turn on the miniseries “The Honourable Woman” – and she’s a sure bet to land a spot here for her boundary-pushing work on “The Deuce.” Balfe has earned nods the last two years, recognition the HFPA should be proud of bestowing.


James Franco, “The Deuce”

Jason Bateman, “Ozark”

Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”

Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”

Freddie Highmore, “The Good Doctor”

On the cusp: Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”; Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”; Sam Heughan, “Outlander”

Analysis: Remember who won here last year? Billy Bob Thornton for “Goliath.” That show’s second season won’t air until 2018, leaving the category open for … wait … how many Golden Globes is Franco going to win this year? Two seems almost a safe bet.


“Will & Grace”


“Master of None”


“Curb Your Enthusiasm”

On the cusp: “Insecure,” “GLOW,” “Better Things,” “Mozart in the Jungle,” “The Mayor”

Analysis: “Will & Grace” picked up 27 Globe nominations over the years, including five series nods, and it never won anything. Zero for 27. Maybe the revival will change its luck. The HFPA has never been that enamored with “Veep” anyway.

Eric McCormack and Debra Messing and their series, “Will & Grace,” are hopefuls in the comedy series categories. Photo by Chris Haston/Courtesy of NBC


Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

Debra Messing, “Will & Grace”

Alison Brie, “GLOW”

Tracee Ellis Ross, “black-ish”

Issa Rae, “Insecure”

On the cusp: Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”; Gina Rodriguez, “Jane the Virgin”; Rachel Bloom, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”; Kristen Bell, “The Good Place”

Analysis: This feels like a great spot to finally give the gifted Brie, so good over the years in so many different things (“Community,” “Mad Men”), some recognition. She’s fearless and funny as an actress-turned-wrestler on Netflix’s “GLOW.” It will also be interesting to see if the group gives some love to “Better Things” in the wake of Pamela Adlon severing ties to Louis C.K.


Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

Anthony Anderson, “black-ish”

Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

Eric McCormack, “Will & Grace”

Aziz Ansari, “Master of None”

On the cusp: Gael Garcia Bernal, “Mozart in the Jungle”; Ted Danson, “The Good Place”

Analysis: The previous eight seasons of “Curb” netted just three series nominations and three acting nods for David. Not exactly pretty, pretty good. But the novelty of its return after a six-year hiatus should be good enough to earn David a nomination – provided voters didn’t watch him host “Saturday Night Live” earlier this month.

]]> 0"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and its star, Frances McDormand, are contenders in the motion picture drama and actress, drama categories.Fri, 08 Dec 2017 16:45:04 +0000
Janelle Monae debuts art installation Sun, 10 Dec 2017 02:29:05 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Janelle Monae is exploring the intersection between technology and surveillance in a new art installation she created in partnership with the women’s website Refinery 29.

Monae’s “What’s Your Frequency?” was unveiled earlier this week when the site’s interactive exhibition 29Rooms made its Los Angeles debut. The entertainer is among several celebrity contributors to the temporary exhibit. Demi Lovato, Margot Robbie, Emma Roberts and Jill Soloway also collaborated with the site to create installations for the exhibit.

A huge tent in downtown Los Angeles houses the 29 interactive spaces dreamed up by artists and brands. Monae worked for months with the Refinery 29 team to create her room: A space surrounded by mirrors and surveillance cameras, filled with mannequins chained together. Some of them have TV monitors for heads, and footage from the surveillance cameras occasionally plays on them.

“Being an artist, I try not to pass up any opportunities to create art that’s meaningful, that’s thought provoking, and that’s exactly what this room is,” said Monae, a singer, songwriter and actress making her first venture into such physical art.

“One of the things I wanted to touch on was mass surveillance, the weaponization of technology and cultural uniformity, and what does it mean when we’re at such a nascent stage psychologically and technology is advancing exponentially.” How do we deal with that? It’s like we’re babies with chainsaws.”

She said she hopes her installation will stimulate conversation and questions about conformity and individuality and surveillance and freedom.

Lovato’s room is a temporary tattoo parlor. Robbie’s is a mountain of trophies with inscriptions like “I don’t apologize for who I am” inspired by her new film, “I, Tonya.” Roberts envisioned a giant typewriter, Joan Didion quotes and pages of stories all over the walls. Soloway created a bathroom tagged in trans-positive graffiti where the stalls told stories from transgender people.

One room is filled with punching bags and boxing gloves painted with feminist slogans. Another invites guests to paint on paper lanterns. There’s a merry-go-round of disco balls, a human car wash and a room called “The Womb” that’s all cushy inside where visitors hear a woman’s heartbeat and calm, affirming voice.

]]> 0 Monae's exhibit examines the relationship between technology and surveillance.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 21:37:43 +0000
Christmas at Norlands harkens to simpler era Sun, 10 Dec 2017 01:08:23 +0000 LIVERMORE — At the Norlands Living History Center on Saturday, there were no bright red and green baubles, colorful lights or golden garland – but Christmas was in the air.

The lack of lavish decorations, reflecting a simpler time at the annual Christmas at Norlands event, was noticed by guests. It wasn’t until 1870, the year portrayed at the center, that President Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a legal holiday.

Inside the Washburn mansion, fires blazed in cast-iron wood stoves and the scents of decadent delicacies wafted through the crowded halls.

A Christmas tree in the dining room was hung with simple, homemade gifts, a tradition of the time.

Guests could participate in the cookie walk in the farmer’s cottage or listen to stories about the original inhabitants of the house, the Washburn family, from “Martha Washburn Stephenson,” the eldest daughter, portrayed by Willi Irish, director of interpretation at the center.

In the kitchen a boiled dinner bubbled merrily, tended by Faith Dexter, 17, of Leeds, and Maddie Gray, 14, of Lewiston, who planned to go caroling along the grounds with their brothers after dinner. Dexter is a historical interpreter at the center, and Gray volunteers.

“I heard caroling was involved, so I was sold,” Gray said. “And I love history.”

Jim and Sam, the center’s draft horses, were pulling guests in wagons outside the barn, which Director Sheri Leahan said they’ve made “a lot of progress” on rebuilding, since a fire in 2008 destroyed it. Inside the new barn are two pigs, Porkchop and Sausage, that many guests, including Aubrey Briggs, 7, of Sabattus, were “really excited about.”

Briggs’ mother, Brittany Willard, said they also came for the arts and crafts, and because it was “something new.”

All proceeds from the event will benefit the center, which is undergoing renovations, including a new ice house that will store blocks of ice harvested from nearby Bartlett Pond.

]]> 0 Dexter, 17, of Leeds, lifts the lid on a boiled dinner simmering during the annual Christmas at Norlands event Saturday.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 20:21:59 +0000
Bono calls for transparency over his offshore stake Sat, 09 Dec 2017 21:19:04 +0000 BERLIN — U2 frontman Bono says he takes the investigation into his business arrangements “incredibly seriously” and wants them to be transparent.

Bono was named in the “Paradise Papers” leaks that detailed the offshore tax arrangements of high-profile individuals.

The documents obtained by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung showed the rocker to have been a stakeholder in a company based in low-tax Malta that owned a shopping mall in Lithuania.

The paper quoted Bono saying he wants fans to know: “Should anything fishy have happened, I would be at least as angry as they would.”

]]> 0 Sat, 09 Dec 2017 17:51:48 +0000
Concert review: Christmas story blends arcane, familiar Sat, 09 Dec 2017 21:10:32 +0000 St. Mary Schola, the chamber choir and period instrument group directed by Bruce Fithian, is one of the most finely polished choirs in Portland, and the competition is hefty. But even if it weren’t, you would have to admire the care and logic with which its “Christmas Pastorale” programs are built.

Typically an alternation of readings (both antique and relatively modern) and musical works (from the Medieval through Baroque eras), these annual tellings of the Christmas story balance the arcane and the familiar, but their real attraction is that they give you other things to ponder as well.

This year’s program, which Fithian led on Friday evening at St. Luke’s Cathedral (there are two more performances at other churches this week), looked at writers’ and composers’ responses to the mystical and doctrinal backdrop of Christmas – among them, the virgin birth and the idea of God taking human form – as well as the more folkloric expansions on the story, including dialogues between shepherds and angels as they await Jesus’ birth.

Woven through that was a fascinating look at an entirely different subject – the evolution of English, as traced in several of the readings. It’s one thing to match texts with musical works that reflect the same sentiments or plot lines, but Fithian went further, choosing antique versions of texts that we know in more modern forms.

Introducing Josquin des Prez’s magnificently flowing setting of “In principio erat verbum” (“In the Beginning Was the Word”), for example, Fithian could have used a modern English translation of Josquin’s New Testament source text, the opening sentences of the Gospel of John. Instead, the reading was drawn from William Wycliffe’s late 14th-century Bible, which reads and sounds differently: The lines we know as “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being,” is rendered as “Alle thingis weren maad bi hym, and withouten hym was maad no thing.”

An even earlier, more Germanic version of English, scarcely intelligible to modern ears, was heard in an excerpt from the Exeter Book, which dates back to the eighth or ninth centuries and ends with the same praise heard in the Sanctus of the Roman Catholic Mass – a rich example of which, from Monteverdi’s “Missa in Illo Tempore,” immediately followed.

More conventional English readings came from the King James Bible, William Dunbar, who straddled the 15th and 16th centuries, the 17th-century poet Robert Herrick and the 19th-century poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. A French poem, Théophile Gautier’s “Noël,” prefaced the program’s largest work (even in the excerpted form heard here), Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s “Pastorale sur la Naissance de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ” (H. 483).

This linguistic sideline also found its way in to the music: Fithian opened the program with two 15th-century English carols, “Nowell, Owt of Your Slepe” and “Alleluia: A Newë Work.”

Those pieces also introduced the superb state of the choir’s beautifully blended, carefully shaped sound, an impression furthered by the Josquin and Monteverdi works, in which Fithian drew an exquisitely silken sound from his singers, and brought a measure of flexibility – mostly in his use of fluid dynamics, especially at phrase endings – to his interpretations. That flexibility also enlivened later Baroque works, including Michael Praetorius’ “Resonet in laudibus” and the Charpentier.

The program included some admirable solo and small ensemble work. Molly Harmon, who sang the expansive Angel’s aria, and bass John D. Adams, who sang the role of the Ancient One, were the standouts in the Charpentier. Tenor Martin Lescault brought his clear, powerful tone to “O Seelenparadies,” from Bach’s Cantata No. 172, and was joined by Fithian (who, besides conducting and playing harpsichord, is a tenor) and countertenor Christopher Garrepy for a smooth, melting account of Dufay’s “Flos Florum.”

Lescault and another tenor, Paul McGovern, and two sopranos, Christine Letcher and Rachel Keller, gave a lively performance of the Gloria from Praetorius’ “Missa Gantz Teudsch,” and Schütz’s “Rorate coeli desuper” was gracefully served by Adams, Letcher and mezzo-soprano Andrea Graichen.

The accompanying ensemble, which included several Portland early music regulars and a few guest players, performed at a high level, particularly in the Charpentier, in which alternating string and recorder lines kept the instrumental interludes dancing.

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

Twitter: kozinn

]]> 0 Sat, 09 Dec 2017 17:52:57 +0000
Reflections: Look to the coming light to refresh your winter-weary soul Sat, 09 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “The stones themselves will cry out.”

So said Jesus, according to the Christian Gospel of Luke, in the event that his followers were silenced. Stones do indeed speak in many ways. Gravestones tell of the lives of the dearly departed, bearing witness to their accomplishments and the esteem in which they were held.

Small stones left on these monuments tell of the visits of those who cared. Cornerstones speak of the time and purpose of the construction of great buildings. Milestones tell of progress along a roadway or in life. Cairns, piles of stones left among by hikers along the trail, tell of – and point to – the path taken and the accomplishment of those completing a trek. And standing stone monuments found in many parts of the world but particularly in England, Ireland and Scotland, speak to us in ways that remain shrouded in mystery of the circle of seasons and days and of the advent of darkness and of light.

As we move through these dark days of December many of us in the northern hemisphere look forward to the Winter Solstice, when the weak winter sun ceases its decline into the southern sky and starts to climb northward to warm and brighten our days once again. Across Anglo-Saxon and Celtic lands, over 1,000 ancient standing stone circles bear witness to this, and more. In England, perhaps the best known ancient standing stone circle at Stonehenge, hundreds gather to watch and celebrate as the sun rises on the Solstice in perfect alignment with the ancient head, heel and altar stones. At Ireland’s Newgrange, even more ancient than Stonehenge, the mysterious inner chamber is illuminated by the rising sun only on the Winter Solstice, where it lights for a scant few minutes the triple spiral carving, a design found in religious and symbolic art from Neolithic Celtic and ancient Greek and Asian cultures as well. Diana Gabeldon’s very popular “Outlander” series of novels feature a mysterious stone circle near Inverness in Scotland, whose metaphysical power is palpable and through which time travel is made possible. Having myself walked among the ancient standing stones in many Scottish locations, including the Great Glen of Kilmartin near Inverness, I am able to say that while no one has been known to be transported through time, the stones there do speak powerfully of a spiritual “thin place,” a location in which the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds is blurred and somewhat more permeable.

Celebrations of the return of the light shape so many various but similar religious and cultural festivals that one sees in the warp and woof of them a universal human longing and experience, woven with history and culture and written in the lasing nature of stones. As the standing stones attest, Pagan spiritual communities have observed and celebrated the Winter Solstice for centuries. Pagan Rome celebrated Saturnalia for 12 days at the end of December and beginning of January, a celebration that with the Christianization of the Empire, became the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” These commemorate the birth of Jesus, called “The Light of the World”; the Jewish Festival of Light in Hanukkah lifts up the light of religious freedom with the successive lighting of eight candles on eight nights; the Hindu Festival of Lights at Diwali celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil with lighted lamps and in the modern era, with electric lights, everywhere; and the lighting of the candles in the contemporary African-American celebration of light at Kwaanza celebrates traditional cultural and community values that enlighten us all. Each and all of these speak to the life-giving power of light, and its symbolism of goodness, wisdom, and life itself for all people.

When the light fades, the stones bear witness, reminding and pointing us toward the promise of light’s return. They cry out to remind us of our corporeal and spiritual need for light, as we light candles and trees and lamps and decorations of all kinds. They sing of our universal human need for light and love and the warmth of celebration, especially at this dark and cold time of the year. And they remind us of the many ways to speak of these things, across continents and millennia, as they stand to remind us of times and cultures, past and present, and to point us to a future of light and life.

“The stones themselves will cry out!” So may it be, as they point us to light and life beyond our own. And as we embrace the return of the light, each in our own way, let us remember that ours is but one of the many ways of understanding light and darkness and the journey that leads us from the one to the other.

Andrea Thompson McCall is a retired minister of the United Church of Christ who served as interfaith chaplain at the University of Southern Maine.

]]> 0 Fri, 08 Dec 2017 20:32:35 +0000
‘Game of Thrones’ won’t return until 2019, says star Sophie Turner Sat, 09 Dec 2017 02:44:51 +0000 Winter is coming, but it may take a while.

“Game of Thrones” star Sophie Turner revealed to Variety that the eighth and final season of the HBO show will air in 2019.

Turner did offer another tidbit about the show, though, particularly how Sansa Stark will deal with Littlefinger’s death.

“It’s going to be tricky for her, because at the end of last season, she felt that she had everything set up. She had her family back together.,” she told Variety.

“This season, there’s a new threat … . This season is more a passionate fight for her than a political, manipulative kind of fight.”

]]> 0 Fri, 08 Dec 2017 22:49:11 +0000
John Legend will headline Nobel Peace Prize concert on Monday Sat, 09 Dec 2017 01:47:38 +0000 NEW YORK — The Nobel Peace Prize winner will be serenaded by John Legend on Monday, and for that they can thank Legend’s infant daughter – and a second baby on the way.

The Grammy winner will take the stage at the Telenor Arena in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 11 for Nobel Peace Prize Concert, a gig he takes while mindful of the world he’d like to leave for his children.

“Having kids puts in context for me the kinds of things kids need to be successful and healthy and happy. And realizing that far too many kids don’t have that,” the singer-songwriter said by phone from Los Angeles. “That’s what being a father has done for me.”

John Legend will sing at the Nobel Peace Prize concert. He says fatherhood has made him globally mindful. Associated Press/Amy Harris, Invision

Legend, who performed at the 2006 peace prize concert, said he’s honored to celebrate the same award that was handed to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Barack Obama. “I’m glad it’s being given to a group who is dedicated to actually making the world safer for everybody,” he said.

Other performers include Zara Larsson, Sigrid, Matoma and Lukas Graham. Actor David Oyelowo will host and it’s highly likely Legend will sing “Glory” from the film “Selma” starring Oyelowo as King. It can be seen live online.

Concert producer Odd Arvid Strømstad said asking Legend to return this year made sense. “We had John Legend as one of the artists in 2006 in the beginning of his career, and that was a very good experience. Since then he has had an amazing career. Therefore, we have over the years discussed inviting him back,” he said.

Late last month, Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, announced they were expecting their second child. Their daughter, Luna, was born in 2016. He said he goes to the concert this year mindful of his new role as a father.

“It puts a little more focus on what the world is going to be. You want it to be safe. You want it to be peaceful. You want people to have opportunity. You want people to have justice.”

Legend has lately found himself more vocal politically, backing a protesting NFL player, pushing for reforms in the criminal justice system and aiding marchers in New York demanding justice for a man who died in police custody.

“Having our current president in office, it makes all of us a bit more aware of what’s happening because he’s causing a lot more concern that previous leaders have,” he said. “I’ve always been really aware but I think it’s making me speak out even more than I have before because there’s so much we have to be concerned about.”

]]> 0 Legend will sing at the Nobel Peace Prize concert. He says fatherhood has made him globally mindful.Fri, 08 Dec 2017 22:51:39 +0000
Vatican found lacking in prosecuting laundering cases Sat, 09 Dec 2017 01:10:37 +0000 VATICAN CITY — European evaluators have praised the Vatican’s financial watchdogs for efficiently flagging suspicious transactions but have once again faulted Vatican prosecutors for failing to bring any money laundering cases to trial.

The Council of Europe’s Moneyval evaluators issued a periodic report Friday on the Vatican’s compliance with international norms to fight money laundering and terrorist financing. The Vatican submitted to the Moneyval compliance process in a bid to shed its image as a tax haven and as part of financial reforms initiated by Pope Benedict XVI.

The report repeated the main complaint made by Moneyval in 2015, that Vatican prosecutors were freezing assets when they received reports of suspicious transactions, but weren’t following through with prosecutions.

Moneyval reported that the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority had flagged 69 possibly problematic transactions since 2013, resulting in 27 criminal investigations being opened.

But not one money laundering case has come to indictment.

The report said that while Moneyval evaluators couldn’t check the quality of the evidence provided to prosecutors, “the success rate of the promoter (prosecutor) before the Tribunal so far is not encouraging.”

In the one major case that did go ahead, the ex-president and ex-treasurer of the Vatican’s pediatric hospital were tried on embezzlement charges for allegedly diverting donations to spruce up a cardinal’s apartment. The ex-president was convicted of the lesser offense of abuse of office and given a suspended one-year sentence. The ex-treasurer was absolved.

The report noted that the Vatican’s gendarmes had recently created a financial police unit, and that the prosecutors’ office had added an assistant with experience prosecuting financial crimes. Moneyval said it hoped such developments would produce prosecutions by the time evaluators review the Vatican again in 2019.

]]> 0 Fri, 08 Dec 2017 20:10:37 +0000
Jerusalem: Special, shared, complicated Sat, 09 Dec 2017 01:09:45 +0000 Three major religions have coexisted – not always easily – in a city that holds deep meaning for each.

NEW YORK — Jerusalem holds deep religious significance for Jews, Muslims and Christians, heightening the stakes for President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize the city as Israel’s capital.

Jerusalem includes the holiest ground in Judaism, the third-holiest shrine in Islam and major Christian sites linked to the life of Jesus.

The three religions have co- existed in Jerusalem with mixed results, under long-standing agreements that give oversight of different sectors in the Old City to separate coalitions of Muslims and Christian groups, and to Israeli authorities. Trump’s announcement Wednesday has no direct impact on those arrangements, but creates new tensions around already fraught relationships.

Pope Francis said he was “profoundly concerned” over the move and appealed to these shared ties to Jerusalem among the monotheistic faiths, “who venerate the holy places of their respective religions and has a special vocation to peace.”

Here are facts on the city’s significance to the three religions:


The Temple Mount, on a hilltop compound that is also revered by Muslims, is where the biblical Jewish Temples stood thousands of years ago and is considered the holiest site in Judaism. When Jews pray, they face Jerusalem. Those in Jerusalem face the Temple Mount. At the end of the Passover Seder, Jews say “Next year in Jerusalem,” among other traditions.

The Western Wall, in the heart of the Old City in Jerusalem, is the holiest place where Jews can pray and draws Jews from around the world.


The Temple Mount is home to the third-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina, and is at the center of one of the most important moments in Islam: the Prophet Muhammad’s Night Journey and Ascension.

According to Islamic teaching, Muhammad was carried by the angel Gabriel on a winged horse from Mecca to Jerusalem’s Noble Sanctuary, where he prayed with other prophets and ascended to Heaven before returning.

“Muhammad saw God face-to-face. Muslims are trying to see God face-to-face,” said Omid Safi, a Duke University professor and author of “Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters.” “It’s simply the defining experience that spiritual seekers are trying to replicate in their own life.”

Muslims originally prayed facing in the direction of Jerusalem, putting Islam among the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Christianity, before reorienting the direction of prayer toward Mecca, Safi said.


The most pivotal developments in the Christian faith occurred in and around Jerusalem. Christian tradition holds that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the dead. The city includes the Garden of Gesthemane, where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before his Crucifixion, among other sites of significance for believers.

Christian pilgrims have been visiting the site for centuries.

“Jerusalem is important to Christians because Jerusalem was important to Jesus,” said the Rev. James Martin, author of “Jesus: A Pilgrimage.”


The administration of the various sites in Jerusalem is complicated.

The Islamic Waqf, or trust, administers the Temple Mount complex. Jordan, which is the former ruler of the Old City, retains custodial rights over the area and oversees the complex.

Any Israeli attempts to add oversight of that sector have sometimes sparked violence.

Separately, the Israeli government controls the Western Wall, while a group of Christians administers the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Rev. Deanna Ferree Womack, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said those religious connections “have been employed both to unite and to divide” throughout history.

]]> 0 Jerusalem, a Palestinian prays in front of the Dome of the Rock during Ramadan at the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.Fri, 08 Dec 2017 20:29:28 +0000
A rebellious rancher’s odd take on Mormonism Sat, 09 Dec 2017 00:59:41 +0000 LAS VEGAS — Fifteen years before Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy led an armed standoff against federal agents near his arid desert ranch, the devout Mormon combed through Latter-day Saints scripture and writings with his neighbor, another rancher upset about how the government regulates the public land around them.

The pair found support for their beliefs, and they have since passed their findings on to others who continue to challenge what they consider federal overreach and a collapse of the U.S. Constitution.

They compiled the works, highlighted and annotated, into an anthology called “The Nay Book,” named for rancher Keith Nay, Bundy’s late neighbor. The nearly 200-page booklet starts with a letter from Bundy outlining the document’s central question: “What is the Constitutional duty of a member of the Lord’s church?”

Bundy found answers in the scripture that he believed directed and justified him in “defending my rights and my ranch against the federal government’s tyrannical” usurpation of his land.

“The Nay Book” is a document rarely found outside Bundy’s inner circle, and it appears to lay a religious foundation for the rancher’s strong and consistent views that the federal government has been trampling his rights. More than an issue of the control of public land and federal taxation, it shows that Bundy and those close to him tie a unique interpretation of Mormon tenets to fundamental American governance and believe that defending their land is both a political and a religious necessity.

An illustration of Betsy Ross stitching an American flag is on the book’s cover, the words “Freedom, Liberty, for God We Stand” hanging over her head. The book explores what the Nay and Bundy families believe Mormon prophets have said from the beginning about the Constitution – that it is a sacred document but that American society is on the “brink of ruin” because its meanings have eroded.

Bundy family supporters discussed the book outside the federal courthouse in Las Vegas, where Bundy – along with his sons Ryan and Ammon, and a Montana militiaman named Ryan Payne – are on trial for a standoff at the Bundy Ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada, in April 2014. In a livestream from the courthouse in November, Shawna Cox, who has said in the past that she is Bundy’s personal secretary, read aloud from “The Nay Book.”

“The book is phenomenal,” she said, noting that it has given the Bundy family strength. “Cliven has been pushing, pushing, pushing to get everybody to understand this book.”

The LDS Church has never supported the Bundy cause. In early 2016, the church condemned Ammon and Ryan Bundy’s armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge – a bird sanctuary – in Oregon, noting at the time that church leaders were “deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on scriptural principles. This armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis.”

]]> 0 BUNDYFri, 08 Dec 2017 19:59:41 +0000
Widespread flu reported in 7 states, including in New England Fri, 08 Dec 2017 18:09:38 +0000 NEW YORK – This year’s flu season is off to a quick start and so far it seems to be dominated by a nasty bug.

Health officials say the flu vaccine seems well matched to the viruses making people sick, but it’s too early to tell how bad this season will be. The main flu bug this season tends to cause more deaths and hospitalizations, and vaccines tend not to work as well against this type.

Flu began picking up last month. By the end of last week, seven states reported widespread flu activity: Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Virginia.

Most flu seasons don’t really get going until around Christmas. That’s how last year’s flu season played out.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the latest data Friday.

Is the flu near you? Check our Maine counties map

Cumulative total for the season, as of


The flu season runs from October into May. It isn’t clear why flu is seasonal. It is probably a combination of cold weather forcing people into close proximity indoors and cold dry air which seems to make transmission of the virus easier and also to prevent humans from fighting off the flu.

Hover over the map for detailed county-by-county statistics, or compare week-by-week numbers by hovering over each week’s bar in the bar chart.

This interactive was updated on November 30, 2017 to include the most recent data from the previous week.

]]> 0 flu vaccine injection is administered by a pharmacist in Brownsville, Texas. Health officials say the flu vaccine seems well matched to the viruses making people sick this year, but it's too early to tell how bad this season will be.Sat, 09 Dec 2017 00:55:26 +0000