Lifestyle – Press Herald Mon, 26 Jun 2017 20:58:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Andrew Crust, PSO assistant conductor, is also leaving Mon, 26 Jun 2017 18:35:38 +0000 The Portland Symphony Orchestra’s search for a music director got a little more complicated on Monday with the news that PSO assistant conductor Andrew Crust has accepted the assistant position with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra – the orchestra that hired the PSO’s outgoing music director Robert Moody.

That means that Moody and Crust will both depart Portland after the 2017-18 season for jobs in Memphis. It also means that in all likelihood the Portland orchestra will be without both a music director and an assistant during the 2018-19 season. Four finalists to replace Moody will conduct in Portland in the coming season as part of the orchestra’s audition process, and it’s unlikely the orchestra will have someone in place before fall 2018.

The orchestra won’t begin searching for an assistant conductor until it hires a replacement for Moody, said PSO executive director Carolyn Nishon. She also said the turnover in the artistic leadership will not affect the quality of the music or programming.

“For each of our music director candidates coming in the 2017-18, we are currently asking about their availability for 2018-19 dates,” Nishon said Monday. “This is done so that the winning candidate will be featured in the 2018-19 season as music director designate. Our goal is to ensure that while the 2018-19 will be the music director designate year, the new music director of the Portland Symphony will have a Maine presence.”

In addition, the orchestra will hire guest conductors for its PSO Discovery and youth concerts beginning in 2018. Those duties traditionally have fallen to the assistant conductor. “We will ensure that these concerts are led by excellent guest conductors who specialize in this type of performance,” she said.

Crust joined the orchestra last fall.

The four finalists to replace Moody are Ken-David Masur, assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony; Daniel Meyer, music director of the Asheville Symphony; Alexander Mickelthwate, music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra; and Eckart Preu, music director of the Spokane Symphony. Each candidate will conduct one classical concert and two pops concerts during the upcoming season.

Moody, who will have served the PSO for a decade by the time he departs, will conduct five concerts during the season. Moody’s final concert will be May 11, 2018, when he conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, also known as “Resurrection.”

Crust will conduct the majority of the PSO Discovery and Youth concerts for the 2017-18 season. As assistant conductor in Memphis, Crust will run the Memphis Youth Symphony and conduct a classical concert.

Moody served as conductor in Memphis on an interim basis beginning in October 2015, and signed a six-year contract that begins with the 2017-18 season in the spring. He will work in both cities in the upcoming concert season, a practice that is not uncommon in the orchestra world today.

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0 Crust, the Portland Symphony Orchestra's assistant conductor, is leaving to join PSO conductor Robert Moody in Memphis after this season.Mon, 26 Jun 2017 16:20:18 +0000
Horoscopes for June 26, 2017 Mon, 26 Jun 2017 14:05:50 +0000 0, 26 Jun 2017 10:08:00 +0000 Erin Andrews marries ex-NHL player Jarret Stoll Mon, 26 Jun 2017 02:53:57 +0000 NEW YORK — Sportscaster Erin Andrews and former NHL player Jarret Stoll have tied the knot.

Publicists for Andrews confirm that the 39-year-old Fox Sports sideline reporter and “Dancing with the Stars” co-host married Stoll on Saturday, his 35th birthday.

People magazine first reported the nuptials. According to the magazine, the wedding was held at sunset in Montana in front of a small group of family and friends.

Andrews wore a gown designed by Carolina Herrera.

The couple, who started dating in 2012, got engaged in December at Disneyland.

The wedding follows a rocky year for Andrews.

In September 2016, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, months after winning a stalking lawsuit.

She settled with two hotel companies that were found partially to blame for the stalker, who got a hotel room next to hers and posted nude video of her on the internet.

Stoll played in the NHL for 13 years, for Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minnesota and the New York Rangers.

]]> 0 Andrews, a sports broadcaster and "Dancing with the Stars" co-host, married Jarret Stoll over the weekend.Sun, 25 Jun 2017 22:53:57 +0000
Israel reneges on pledge to create mixed-gender prayer space at Western Wall Mon, 26 Jun 2017 00:33:44 +0000 JERUSALEM — Israel’s government on Sunday nixed an ambitious plan approved last year to allow mixed-gender religious services at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, angering many American Jews, who said they felt insulted and abandoned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.

Israel’s holy Jewish sites are managed by ultra-Orthodox Jews, and in keeping with their traditions, the Western Wall plaza is divided according to gender. Women are not permitted to read aloud from the Torah, wear prayer shawls or sing there.

Non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, including the Reform and Conservative denominations that are prevalent in the United States, allow men and women to pray side by side, and female rabbis regularly lead services.

Reform and Conservative Jewish leaders in the United States and Israel have long pressed for an area of the Western Wall where fathers can stand beside daughters and mothers beside sons for prayer and religious services.

A 2016 plan approved by the government to provide such an area was described as a “fair and creative solution” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It’s a place that is supposed to unite the Jewish people,” he said at the time.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center published in March 2016, more than half of American Jews identify as either Reform or Conservative, while only about 10 percent observe Orthodox practices.

In Israel, only a small minority are affiliated with those movements.

Sunday’s decision to cancel the new Western Wall arrangement has drawn denunciations from liberal Jews in Israel and the United States. It also appeared to threaten Netanyahu’s fragile coalition, with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman – head of a faction that represents secular Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union – vowing to fight back.

“It actually causes terrible harm to Jewish unity and to the alliance between the State of Israel and Diaspora Jewry,” Israeli media quoted him as saying.

The prime minister said in a statement that he would seek an alternative solution, appointing senior minister Tzachi Hanegbi to look into the matter.

“The prime minister’s decision came from the realization that over the last year and a half nothing has progressed with this plan, so another solution needs to be found,” Hanegbi said.

Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall, a feminist group that has been pushing for a solution at the site, described Netanyahu’s decision as “shameful.”

“It’s a terrible day for women in Israel when the prime minister sacrifices their rights while kowtowing to a handful of religious extremists, who want to enforce their religious customs while intentionally violating the rights of the majority of the Jewish world,” she said.

Even though the new prayer space had been approved by the government, the plan stalled because of ultra-Orthodox opposition. In September, Israel’s Reform and Conservative movements, together with Women of the Wall, filed a legal petition to force the government to divide the plaza.

]]> 0 Sun, 25 Jun 2017 20:37:06 +0000
Prince Harry admits doubts about his royal service Sun, 25 Jun 2017 22:41:31 +0000 LONDON — Prince Harry says he once “wanted out” of the British royal family.

In an interview published in the Mail on Sunday, the prince said the time he spent in the army was “the best escape I’ve ever had” and that he once considered giving up his title.

He said: “I felt I wanted out, but then decided to stay in and work out a role for myself.”

Harry is fifth in line to the throne.

The comments followed an interview published in Newsweek in which he said he doubted anyone in the royal family wanted to be king or queen. He said his family “will carry out our duties at the right time” and that they’re “not doing this for ourselves, but for the greater good of the people.”

– From news service reports

]]> 0 HARRYSun, 25 Jun 2017 18:53:24 +0000
Concert Review: Student performances transfix, sizzle at Portland Bach Festival Sun, 25 Jun 2017 22:01:46 +0000 The Portland Bach Festival took a break from its namesake on Saturday night, when it presented “Before and After Bach” at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke’s. The program was more or less as its name suggested, although of the six composers whose music was performed, the lifespans of four overlapped with Bach’s, and three were nearly exact contemporaries. The sixth, György Ligeti, who died in 2006, was the only composer who lived significantly later than Bach.

Stylistically, though, a very few years can make a difference. One of the post-Bach composers was one of Bach’s sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who was born in 1714, when Bach was 29. You might expect him to have composed in a style similar to that of his father (and teacher), but there was a clear generation gap, musically. Even in his time, the elder Bach’s style was regarded as fussy and antique, and by the time he died, in 1750, that approach was being supplanted by a sleeker, more direct style that would find its peak in the Classicism of Haydn and Mozart.

C.P.E. Bach was one of the pioneers of this new style, but his Trio Sonata in F major (H.588), composed five years after J.S. Bach’s death, has a foot in both worlds. The elegant flowing lines of the older style remain central here, but in place of the involved counterpoint that would have driven a Baroque trio sonata, C.P.E. gives us trim, stately dialogues.

The top lines of this trio are usually played by contrasting instruments – a bass recorder and a viola, usually – but the festival opted for a variant in which violists play both lines. Nicholas Cords and Danielle Farina more than made up for the lack of timbral variety, not only in passages where the spotlight shifts between the two lines, but in their carefully balanced tandem playing as well.

There was only one pre-Bach offering, the violinist-composer Johann Paul von Westhoff’s Partita No. 5 in D minor for unaccompanied violin. With the solo cello suites played at earlier festival concerts fresh in listeners’ ears, the Westhoff, composed in 1696 (when Bach was 11) demonstrated the tradition on which Bach built his solo string works.

For both composers, the challenge was wresting counterpoint from instruments more typically heard playing single lines, and if Westhoff’s solutions don’t quite approach the level of virtuosity that Bach attained, the Partita is an attractive piece, and violinist Keir GoGwilt did a superb job of projecting its rhythmic variety and thematic inventiveness.

The program included a work from the post-Bach solo string canon as well – Ligeti’s Viola Sonata, a dark, chromatic work, alternately introspective and forceful, and rich in influences of all sorts, including Hungarian folk themes, Baroque dance forms and jazz rhythms. The technically impeccable, interpretively transfixing performance by Jesús Rodolfo, a student in the festival’s new Bach Virtuosi program, was one of the evening’s highlights.

Other Bach Virtuosi players made strong contributions to the program as well. Daniel Yue gave a sizzling account of the solo violin line in Vivaldi’s “Winter” Concerto (Op. 8, No. 4) from “The Four Seasons,” and flutist Laura del Sol Jiménez and violist Sergio Muñoz gave a lively, urbane performance of Joseph Bodin de Boismortier‘s Suite in G minor (Op. 35, No. 3), one of two reminders, in this program, that at the very same time as J.S. Bach was putting the crowning touches on the German Baroque style, and his sons were veering off toward Classicism, French composers were writing light but ear-catching entertainments.

They also wrote weightier pieces, of course, and one of those – the “Troisième Leçon,” from François Couperin‘s “Leçons de ténèbres” – closed the program. The “Leçons,” a setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, were composed in 1703 for the week leading to Easter, and in this third section, Jeremiah’s pained verses are given to two sopranos, who sing both separately and in passages in which their lines wind inextricably around each other. Jolle Greenleaf‘s clear, bright timbre and Sherezade Panthaki‘s slightly deeper tone offset each other perfectly, and captured the soul-wrenching power of Jeremiah’s lament over the destruction of Jerusalem with vivid clarity.

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 Sun, 25 Jun 2017 18:09:21 +0000
Controversy surrounds new pirate ship exhibit at Portland Science Center Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Three hundred years ago this spring, a sudden and terrible storm drove the infamous pirate Black Sam Bellamy’s ship into the shoals of outer Cape Cod, bashing the Whydah to pieces off Wellfleet Beach, drowning Bellamy and most of his crew before they could reach their intended rendezvous point off the Maine coast.

Now many artifacts from the pirate wreck – including cannon, gold coins and muskets – are on display here at the Portland Science Center, the latest stop for his National Geographic-sponsored traveling exhibition, “Real Pirates.”

“Most of what’s out there about the pirates is all myth and fantasy and Johnny Depp, but what we have here is real,” said Barry Clifford, the underwater explorer whose team found the Whydah in 1984, as he helped unpack and assemble the exhibit in Portland last month. “Don’t believe everything you read and hear – that’s what it’s taught me. Use your eyes, your ears and your own intellect.”

But Clifford’s handling of the Whydah and other shipwrecks has come under fire from a range of critics who accuse him of being something of a pirate himself, mishandling archaeological sites, telling tall tales to further his interests, and intimidating people who stand in his way.

“I think Barry Clifford is just a journalism attraction,” says Ulrike Guerin, secretary for the Convention of the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, which issued devastating assessments of Clifford’s handling of wreck sites in Haiti and Madagascar after being asked to review them by those countries’ governments. “There was no real archaeological work and (there was) destruction to the site,” she says of his activities in Madagascar, where Clifford claimed to have found Captain William Kidd’s ship. “This is treasure hunting behavior.”


Whether archaeologist or treasure hunter, Clifford has assembled the most extensive collection of artifacts from the golden age of piracy, a 10-year outbreak in the early 18th century largely conducted by a single gang of pirates from their shared base at Nassau, in the Bahamas. This gang included many of the most famous pirates in history, including Blackbeard, Charles Vane, Calico Jack Rackham, the women pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny, the gentleman pirate Stede Bonnet and, of course, Bellamy.

One reason these pirates have kept their hold in the public imagination is because of their success: At their zenith in 1717 and 1718, they had paralyzed the commerce of three empires, terrorizing entire colonies and turning the naval warships tasked with policing the Atlantic into prey. Bellamy and others commanded swift, powerful, overmanned warships like the 300-ton Whydah, capable of overwhelming most any opponent.

Most disruptive, however, was their ideology. Many were former sailors who saw themselves as engaged in a social revolt against the shipowners and captains who had made their lives miserable. They elected and deposed their captains by popular vote, divided their plunder equally, and often welcomed escaped African-Caribbean and African-American slaves into their crews as equals.

Colonial officials lamented the wide public support the pirates had among ordinary people and feared that if the pirates attacked their settlements, it would prompt mass slave uprisings.

Witnesses confirmed that Bellamy’s crew was particularly idealistic, at least in matters of class if not race. In one action, they referred to themselves as Robin Hood’s men. “They vilify us, the scoundrels do, when there is only this difference (between us and them),” Bellamy reportedly told one of his captives. “They plunder the poor under the cover of law … and we plunder the rich under the cover of our own courage.”

Bellamy was also one of the most feared pirates, commanding a flotilla of armed vessels and a 30-gun flagship, the captured French slave ship Whydah, and hundreds of crewmen. By early April 1717, he was headed north up the Eastern seaboard in the general direction of Maine. Other vessels in his squadron made it to Monhegan and Damariscove Island (off Boothbay) where they awaited a rendezvous. But the Whydah never arrived.

Controversial salvage

In 1984, Clifford’s team discovered the remains of the Whydah in the surf off his native Cape Cod. According to Stephen Kiesling, who was hired to co-write a book about the project with him, Clifford rushed to expose the Whydah site as fast as possible before the arrival of an archaeologist, who under Massachusetts law was supposed to be overseeing the work.

“They opened up the entire area to see what was there and, in doing so, they homogenized it,” recalls Kiesling, now editor of a spirituality and health magazine in Oregon. It was the classic treasure hunters’ m.o., he says. “You go in, you find the thing, you immediately dig it up to see if anything is there, and after that you call in the archaeologists and authenticate it so you can start making money off it.”

Asked about Kiesling’s accusations, laid out in detail in a self-published book, “Walking the Plank: A True Adventure Among Pirates,” Clifford’s face flashed with anger. “Why would you ask me that?” he said. “I don’t have any comment on that. … It’s nothing to do with what we’ve done.”

Rob McClung, one of Kiesling’s key sources, was a childhood friend of Clifford’s, a former sheriff of Aspen, Colorado, and in the 1980s, Clifford’s business partner and right-hand man, raising money from investors, introducing Clifford to the Kennedys and running Clifford’s dive operations on the Whydah and other wrecks. He says Clifford would plant artifacts from one wreck site at another, or put previously salvaged artifacts back on the seafloor so he could “discover” them in front of camera crews.

“I tell you it was an ongoing fiasco, because the biggest problem we had was Barry,” McClung said by telephone from his home in the former Panama Canal Zone. “In a nutshell, Barry was the ringleader, a Barnham and Bailey circus. … I spent six years with Barry trying to run that project, and every time I turned around, I felt like I was being railroaded and he would ask me to say things that weren’t true.”

McClung says he’s the one who in 1985 discovered the Whydah’s bell, which stated the ship’s name and thus removed any doubt that they had found Bellamy’s ship. He says he had it raised and brought to the lab to be cataloged before calling Clifford, who was in New York at the time. “He went ballistic,” McClung says. “So Barry flew back up to the Cape, we loaded everything, took it back to the site, and put it back in.” Shortly thereafter, Clifford had him raise it again in front of a television crew. “As far as artifacts went, he just kept moving stuff around.”

Tensions with the academic archaeological community surfaced almost immediately. His first archaeologist, Edwin Dethlefsen, literally jumped ship while they were searching for the Whydah in 1983, wading ashore on Wellfleet Beach after allegedly discovering he had little actual control over the field work.

In 1995, Boston University archeology professor Ricardo Elia published a paper in a leading academic journal entitled “The Ethics of Collaboration: Archaeologists and the Whydah Project” in which he argued that participation in such commercial salvage projects contributed “to the exploitation of the resource base and the conversion of public patrimony into private gain.” (Elia declined to be interviewed for this story.)

Clifford says the academics have been after him from the start, motivated by hostility toward private sector archeology. “We’ve always been attacked by certain aspects of the academic community that believe that anybody who uses their own money is a treasure hunter,” he says, seated next to one of the Whydah’s 6-pound cannon at the Portland exhibit. “All of the things here have provenance, everything here has been conserved. I’ve never sold one artifact. This shows all the private sector can do.”


Clifford’s more recent critics include UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency, which sent technical experts to Haiti and Madagascar at the request of those countries’ governments to investigate his handling of wreck sites. In 2014, Clifford proclaimed he’d found Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria, which sank off Haiti in 1492. UNESCO’s underwater archaeologists dove the sight and found fasteners of a type that wasn’t invented until 300 years after the sinking. The vessel, it concluded, could not be the Santa Maria. (Clifford maintains it is.)

From 1999 until 2015, Clifford’s team explored Sainte-Marie harbor, a notorious pirate lair in Madagascar, where they announced they had found Captain William Kidd’s Adventure Galley, pirate Christopher Condent’s Fiery Dragon, and other wrecks. In May 2015, Clifford announced he’d found a 100-pound silver ingot on the Kidd site and presented it to Madagascar’s president on the shore in a televised ceremony on the beach, which Clifford attended in full dive gear, as if he had just come up from the depths.

A UNESCO team visited the site and concluded the purported Adventure Galley wasn’t a ship at all, but rather “a broken part of the Sainte-Marie port constructions.” The Fiery Dragon was really a large Asian ship, they said, but several gold coins that had been found there were missing from the museum inventories where they were supposed to be kept. Tests showed the ingot was a lead ballast piece.

“Apparently Barry Clifford had not even the slightest test made,” Guerin says. “He took a piece of metal out of the bay and immediately it was pirate treasure.”

The team’s final report concluded the “recovery, inventory, storage and conservation of the finds have been carried out in an unscientific manner, without the necessary precautions and leading to damage to the sites as well as making it more difficult to understand the historic background of the sites.”

Guerin is more blunt: “There was no archaeological work. There was destruction to the site.”

Clifford dismisses the criticism. “With UNESCO, it’s all about politics and they have people who are professional writers who help protect them,” he says. “Anything I say or do, they say no. It’s incredible to me.”

In his defense, Clifford points to the exhibit all around him – sponsored and, thus, endorsed by the National Geographic Society – to his museums at Provincetown and Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and his laboratory filled with hundreds of thousands of artifacts from the wreck. “All this you see has been done by our work, and the money that comes from these exhibits goes to our expeditions,” he says. “They call us treasure hunters, but in 35 years we’ve never sold anything – it’s all stayed together.”

With the governments of Madagascar and Haiti less than welcoming, Clifford says he’s focused on the Whydah again, where he says the mother lode of treasure still awaits discovery. Period documents describe the bulk of the pirates’ treasure being kept below decks and, he argues, when the ship rolled over during the storm, the treasure ended up under everything else, including dozens of cannon the pirates had stashed in the bottom of the ship as ballast.

“That’s what we’re doing this summer, we’re looking under there,” he says. “There’s decades of work to do. We’ve only scratched the surface.”

Staff Writer Colin Woodard can be contacted at:

]]> 0 explorer Barry Clifford next to a display of silver coins recovered from the wreckage of the pirate ship Whydah, at the Whydah Pirate Museum, in Yarmouth, Massachusetts. Clifford found the sunken vessel off Cape Cod in 1984.Mon, 26 Jun 2017 09:00:55 +0000
In ‘The Girl of the Lake,’ Bill Roorbach does many things at once Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Short story collections are famously unreliable. Often they start well, then peter out, or they never manage to get off the ground. Unevenness is a common complaint. Bill Roorbach’s new collection, “The Girl of the Lake,” suffers from a problem that most authors could only wish for: So many of the stories are standouts that the others, which are merely strong, seem a bit lackluster by comparison. This is a fitting commentary on the author’s recent work. Larger-than-life characters and scenarios are his stock-in-trade. He writes in a palette of intense hues. Not that ordinary life gets short shrift, by any means. Roorbach imbues dailiness with a lusty energy. It just can’t compete with the operatic mien and scale of his bigger stories. It’s no coincidence that one of his bestselling novels is titled “Life Among Giants.”

In the current collection, the stories range widely enough in style and type that one could reasonably mistake it for an anthology of work by various authors. Or perhaps Bill Roorbach is a pseudonym for the multiple personalities that inhabit this versatile writer. Fact is, this book is all over the place, literally. Its narratives roam from Maine to Maui, from Ibiza to Belfast, with storylines as diverse as their locales. Roorbach moves deftly among different genres – adventure, romance and coming-of-age; suspense, drama and satire.

In “The Tragedie of King Lear,” a summer theater group breathes new life into a retiree still haunted by the loss of his wife. In “Princesa,” a famous actress turns heads and hearts at an over-the-top resort. In “Murder Cottage,” an old crime scene becomes the unlikely backdrop for an offbeat midlife romance.

In each story, Roorbach depicts his characters and scenes in lavish, sometimes excessive detail, showing them inside and out, bringing us into their world. Then he’ll insert one of his grand summations, a compiling of essence. Of a teen’s arrival at his grandmother’s house, Roorbach writes, “She smelled of cookies and lotion and woodsmoke and patted at his back as he patted at hers, hugged him longer than he’d been hugged since he was five, pushed him away to look at him, drew him back in.”

Roorbach is at his best when he navigates the often slippery terrain of human relations. Mating rituals, especially, provide ample fodder. In “Some Should,” a widowed pastor and a divorcée link up through an online dating site, then decide to meet. Their repartee, with its volleys of guile and deceit, is part rom-com, part psychodrama. And the writing is so vivid that readers will be hard put to turn away. Roorbach has reinvented the short story as page-turner.

“The Girl of the Lake” is a poignant, complicated, smart, sexy book, big-hearted in ways that matter. Roorbach is a keen observer of people, with enough fellow-feeling to go around. He confers a respect and humanity on his characters, regardless of their conduct. The only wonder is why this esteemed Maine author isn’t more widely known. In a state that boasts some of the nation’s top literary names, Roorbach surely ranks among the best.

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, 23 Jun 2017 17:46:40 +0000
This year you can listen in live to Bowdoin International Music Festival Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Beginning this week, parents of a violin student from China will be able listen to their son or daughter perform live from Brunswick, thanks to a new streaming service of the Bowdoin International Music Festival.

The festival, which begins its 53rd season on the Bowdoin campus on Monday, will stream some of its recitals, concerts, lectures and other events as a way to expand its reach and connect with people who are not part of the recital-hall audience.

The streaming service, #FestivalLive, will cost the festival $20,000 this year and is part of a larger effort to increase the festival’s appeal, especially among tech-savvy young people – and parents of students who live thousands of miles away.

In addition to streaming concerts, the Bowdoin festival also is hosting more free concerts in non-traditional venues, including Rising Tide Brewing Co. in Portland on July 20.

“It’s all about accessibility,” said Casey Oakes, the festival communications director. “Now a mom in China can get a text from her son saying, ‘I’m about to go on stage,’ and she can log on and watch her son perform live.”

So can anyone else with an internet-connected device. The festival will stream all of its Young Artists Series performances from Studzinski Recital Hall and the Festival Insight events, which include performances, talks and master classes.

The first streaming event will be a demonstration of rehearsal techniques hosted by the Ying Quartet at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Quartet members David and Phillip Ying are co-artistic directors of the festival. The first streaming concert will be the season’s inaugural performance of the Young Artists Series, at 7 p.m. Thursday.

At this time, there are no plans to stream the festival’s ticketed concerts, which take place at Studzinski and at Brunswick High School, although that might be an option in the future.

This year, the festival has 270 students on campus from 24 countries. Students from more than 50 countries applied, Oakes said. Students from 42 states represent the United States.

The festival’s live-streaming service taps into shifting audience trends and preferences that suggest digital access is a necessary evolutionary step, Executive Director Daniel Nitsch said. Several national opera companies and orchestras have made live-streaming part of their strategy for reaching new audience members, and “we want to do the same with chamber music,” Nitsch said.

The Ying Quartet hosts the first streaming event with a demonstration of rehearsal techniques at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Bowdoin International Music Festival

Oakes said live-streaming will help sell tickets. “We’re not going to lose any audience,” he said. “For me, live-streaming is a tool to get people to come and experience the concerts in person. It’s not meant to replace the live music experience.”

The streaming service can be accessed through the Livestream tab of the festival’s website, which has undergone a redesign with more photos and stories about faculty and alumni, and more interactive opportunities for visitors and prospective students. After the festival begins, it will include student profiles and other features.

The festival presents about 100 concerts each summer. Of those, 18 require a paid ticket – three weekly concerts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Two of the Festival Fridays concerts will feature concerto performances by guest soloists Anne Akiko Meyers and Joseph Kalichstein.

The Monday Showcase series features established ensembles, like the Borromeo, Jupiter, Parker and Ying quartets and the lesser-known Rolston String Quartet.

This year, the festival begins a new series, “The Music of,” which will explore the creative process of working composers. The artists will discuss aspects of their music and inspiration for 90 minutes and answer questions from the audience. This year’s series will include composers Derek Bermel, Andreia Pinto Correia, Jennifer Higdon, Aaron Kernis, Paola Prestini and Andrew Norman.

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0 2017 Bowdoin International Music Festival has 270 young artists from 24 countries.Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:56:28 +0000
Bath will celebrate restored Zorach ‘Spirit of the Sea’ fountain Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 BATH — After more than a decade of work to restore one of the finest examples of public art in Maine, the Friends of Zorach Fountain will celebrate their achievement with a public party at 3 p.m. Sunday at Patten Free Library, where William Zorach’s elegant “Spirit of the Sea” has enchanted residents and visitors since it was installed in 1962.

“It’s a celebration of the completion of the project,” said Linda Wood, president of the grassroots citizen group that formed in 2002 to conserve and restore the city-owned fountain and rebuild the pond that surrounds it. “It turned out wonderfully well.”

Sunday’s celebration will include recognition of the people who worked on the project, music and poetry. Mari Eosco, who chairs the City Council, will speak on behalf of the city. Charlie Ipcar, a grandson of Zorach, will perform music, and another grandson, Timothy, will read a poem. Maine sculptor Andreas von Huene of Woolwich will talk about Zorach and his vision, and landscape architect Bruce Riddell of Boothbay will discuss his own vision for the project and the park.

The Zorach fountain is among the most celebrated pieces of public art in Maine. The Bath Garden Club commissioned it in 1959. Zorach, a leading Modernist artist, donated the fountain, which was installed in 1962 in a city park on Washington Street. Forty years later, the Friends of Zorach Fountain formed to conserve it.

“Spirit of the Sea” is one of Zorach’s finest works. It’s similar to his “Spirit of Dance,” on permanent view at Radio City Music Hall and this summer at the Portland Museum of Art, with a female figure resting on a knee. In this one, the woman reaches skyward, as water cascades down her body.

It is cast in bronze, with a granite base.

Zorach, the husband of modernist painter Marguerite Zorach and father of painter Dahlov Ipcar, lived across the Kennebec River from Bath in Georgetown. He and his wife bought land in Georgetown in 1923 and spent their summers there before moving year-round. He died in Bath in 1966.

The early part of the restoration focused on the sculpture itself. The latest phase involved landscaping the pond and park that surrounds the sculpture. What used to be a pond of mud and muck is now one with clear water with new rock landscaping, a bridge and seating.

“Sunday’s celebration is to acknowledge how we got here,” Wood said. “We’re going to recognize people who played a part in the history of the fountain and acknowledge the donors who contributed to the effort.”

The timing couldn’t be better. Museums across Maine are showing a range of work by Zorach and his family. The Portland Museum of Art features his work in “A New American Sculpture;” the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland just opened an exhibition by Marguerite Zorach, “An Art-Filled Life;” and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art is showing early work by Dahlov Ipcar in “Creative Growth,” which closes Wednesday.

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0 had been a pond of mud and muck at Patten Free Library now shines with clear water, part of a decadelong effort to restore Zorach Fountain.Sat, 24 Jun 2017 18:05:31 +0000
Danger and cultural intrigue in North Korea drive ‘In the Shadow of the Sun’ Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Peaks Islander Anne Sibley O’Brien is an esteemed children’s book author and illustrator with numerous titles and awards to her credit. With “In the Shadow of the Sun,” her first novel, she writes for middle-grade readers while keeping to her longstanding themes dealing with multicultural diversity.

“In the Shadow of the Sun” is the story of 12-year-old Mia Andrews, who, along with her older brother, Simon, accompanies her father to North Korea on a special tour. Her father is involved in providing food relief to the starving nation. Mia is South Korean, adopted by the Andrews family as a baby, and returns to the peninsula for the first time on the tour. Her overwhelming observation is that here, “everyone is Korean… Being surrounded by Korean people was surreal… no one noticed her,” unlike back home in Connecticut, where she always gets stared at. In North Korea, it is her father and brother who stand out and garner suspicious looks.

The book is described as a “political escape thriller.” Early in their tour, Mia is presented with a special gift by a North Korean official but told not to open it until they return to America. In the privacy of her hotel room, however, she can’t resist. She opens it to find an elaborate wooden box. Inside the wooden box she finds a North Korean cell phone. Fond of electronic games, she powers it up and starts playing a version of one of her favorite games. Suddenly, the game aborts and photos appear on screen. Horrible photos of oppressive conditions in North Korean work camps, photos of starving and dead people, including children and babies.

Later, while she and her father and brother tour prominent national sites, she takes her brother aside to show him the photos. From a distant remove from the group, they witness the sudden arrest and abduction of their father. Knowing that they are in grave danger, too, they flee.

Thus begins their high-stakes, daring journey to safety. Compounding the difficulty is that the two siblings are estranged, Simon angry at his sister for supposedly ratting him out for a secret trip he took to attend a concert in New York City. He blames her for his having to come on the trip with their father. Simon is surly and dismissive. Usually acquiescent and deferential to her brother, Mia struggles to assert herself. Slowly, she comes to see herself in a new light. She recognizes the power that comes in being the one who blends in, who speaks Korean from years of classes back home, and because of her keen curiosity about the culture and geography of the country, she’s the one who is critical to their survival.

Anne Sibley O’Brien

“In the Shadow of the Sun” is a compelling thriller gauged to young readers, but is also an incisive and insightful portrait of a closed society that is largely unknown to the world. O’Brien uses short, parallel stories interspersed throughout of ordinary North Korean youth, providing quick portraits of the struggles, hardships and fears of living under repressive totalitarian rule. The portraits are fascinating and illuminating, never didactic or disruptive. O’Brien’s book mirrors the best of mainstream fiction in terms of its power to expand worldviews on complex situations and issues.

The story is well researched, but also comes somewhat naturally to O’Brien, as she spent several years growing up South Korea when her parents worked there as medical missionaries. She also has an adopted daughter who is Korean American. She brings her background and her ample gifts as a storyteller to her first novel, creating a stirring, satisfying read.

Frank O Smith is a Maine writer whose novel, “Dream Singer,” was named a Notable Book of the Year in Literary Fiction in 2014 by Shelf Unbound and was a finalist for the Bellwether Prize, created by best-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver “in support of a literature of social change.” Smith can be reached via his website:

]]> 0, 23 Jun 2017 17:57:14 +0000
Fundraiser supports hundreds served by Ronald McDonald House Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 We’ve all seen those McDonald’s signs about the billions served. It’s a smaller number for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine, but it has a heart-warming impact.

Last year, 594 families stayed at a Ronald McDonald House in Portland or Bangor to be close to children’s medical facilities.

“Today, we’re raising funds to keep families close to children while they are receiving medical treatment,” said development director Alicia Milne at the nonprofit’s annual Purses with Purpose fundraiser June 2 at The Woodlands Club in Falmouth.

One of the 240 women at the lunch event was Lisa Klessens, who stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Portland for six weeks last summer and now volunteers there every Thursday. The Klessens family traveled from Alaska last June so that son Chandler could receive services at Spring Harbor Hospital’s autism unit. They’ve since found a home in Scarborough.

“The biggest gift my husband and I could have asked for was a safe, secure and supportive place to stay as we ventured into this new chapter in our lives,” Klessens said. “Staying at the Ronald McDonald House allowed me one less thing to worry about.”

She talked about the bond between the mothers at the house, regardless of the age of their children or their medical issues. Most of the women were there without their husbands, who had to go back to work. That bond between women is at the core of the Purses with Purpose luncheon, a popular event for the past 12 years.

“It’s about encouraging one another as women,” said guest speaker Erin Ovalle, co-host of the “MaineLife” television show.

Getting hundreds of women together in the middle of a weekday – even if it’s for an auction, lunch with friends and a glass of wine – doesn’t happen easily. And that’s why Robin Chibroski, executive director of the nonprofit, is especially grateful.

“We have lots of choices,” she said, “and I am humbled and grateful that these women chose to come out and support us. It’s so amazing to me that Purses can raise nearly $55,000.”

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

]]> 0 Gadbois of South Portland with Trish Lefevre, Kelli O'Brien and Lori Coffin of Falmouth.Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:32:53 +0000
Some loyal listeners air grievances over change in WGAN’s ‘Morning Show’ Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — Like so many political pundits these days, Matt Gagnon and Ken Altshuler were talking about President Trump’s tweets – one in particular, about Hillary Clinton.

But before the hosts of the popular WGAN morning talk show could debate the substance of the president’s message, the liberal Altshuler called Trump “an ass” and asked the conservative Gagnon whether that word was permissible on radio – and the political debate between the men quickly devolved into a conversation about curse words and pop culture.

The hosts of the WGAN “Morning News” in South Portland, a long-running talk-radio show that has built an audience of newshounds and political junkies drawn by sparring on the issues, broke for a commercial without ever discussing or explaining Trump’s comment.

The pairing of Gagnon and Altshuler, which began a year ago, has upset some of the show’s loyal listeners. Gagnon joined the show last June, and some listeners complain that the two hosts lack chemistry and focus, talk too much about their favorite movies, TV and music, and too often revert to sound effects, recorded clips from movies and dramatic hyperbole. On occasion, the talk veers toward the offensive.

When talking about a proposed pesticide ban in Portland recently, Gagnon said that environmentalist Rachel Carson, because of her work that led to the banning of many pesticides, caused more deaths than Adolf Hitler since pesticides could be used in developing countries to stop disease. He said later the comparison was “in jest” to make a point.

Some listeners and advertisers like the new team, praising Gagnon, who is head of a conservative think tank called The Maine Heritage Policy Center, for his insider’s knowledge of what’s going on in Augusta. Station management is also happy with the hosts.

Whether the complaints about the show since Gagnon joined it will translate to a loss of audience or advertising dollars is hard to gauge, as the station doesn’t release listener numbers and doesn’t subscribe to a ratings service. But for now it means some longtime WGAN listeners aren’t waking up as happily as they used to.

“It’s almost unlistenable for me. They can start on Trump, then it’s ‘Star Trek,’ then it’s Ken getting doughnuts in Freeport,” said Matt Tompkins, an owner of Digby’s convenience store in Westbrook, who has listened and called the show regularly for about five years. “It’s impossible to call in. They’ll announce the topics they’re going to discuss, then they argue so much they don’t get through them all.”

Mathews Brothers Co., a window maker in Belfast, pulled its ads from the show last December after about seven years, said Bob Maynes, marketing director for the company. The company stopped advertising partly because Maynes doesn’t like the show now and partly because, without the ratings service data, he was unsure about the size of WGAN’s audience. Maynes thinks Gagnon’s analytical approach to some issues makes him less “relatable” than his conservative predecessor on the show, Mike Violette. But his main gripe against the show now is that Altshuler and Gagnon don’t have good on-air chemistry.

“With Ken and Mike, the jabs felt good-natured and at the end of the day you knew they were friends,” said Maynes. “Ken and Matt sound like two people arguing in the corner at a cocktail party. I don’t think it reaches our customers.”

On a recent show, when discussing the Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act, Gagnon referred to the argument that the bill would leave many people with pre-existing conditions without coverage as one made by “morons.”


On WGAN’s morning talk show, Ken Altshuler advocates for the left … Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Radio talk shows pairing conservatives and liberals have long been a staple of the genre. Right now, at a time when political discourse seems more divisive than ever, the format is neither declining nor growing, says Matthew Harrison, executive editor of Talkers, a trade publication covering talk radio. But he thinks left-versus-right talk shows are more complex today, since there are divisions on each side, between traditional Republicans and Trump supporters, and between old-line Democrats and those who want the party to change, for example.

The differences between Altshuler and Gagnon are striking and easy to spot. These include their nearly 30-year age difference, their political philosophies and the fact that one of them (Gagnon) makes his living off politics while the other does not.

… and the right is represented by Matt Gagnon. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

But there are similarities, too. Both seem to have short attention spans on air, both are boisterous and outgoing and can be quick with a flip comment or insult. Around the same time Altshuler called President Trump “an ass,” Gagnon called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “fat.”

Altshuler, 64, is a proud liberal originally from Oklahoma who talks glowingly of college protests in the 1960s and ’70s. He’s a divorce lawyer who had little professional radio experience when he was offered his current morning spot on WGAN in 2002. He was paired with Mike McCardell, who had been a salesman before he attracted the attention of WGAN managers when he called the morning news show to make a point about gun control.

Growing up in Oklahoma City, Altshuler was drawn to radio and politics early on. As a middle schooler he was the mascot for a local radio show, and his duties involved appearing at local car dealerships with the hosts. At 16 in 1968, he boarded buses and traveled much of the country campaigning for Eugene McCarthy, a liberal Democrat who was seeking the presidential nomination that year on an anti-war platform. But as an adult, his career path veered to owning a bookstore in Keene, New Hampshire, before he went to law school and began practicing in Portland.

He said he turned to divorce law because, by the time he graduated from law school, he was 33 and didn’t feel he had time to work his way up in a firm. He opened his office and took what cases he could, which turned out to be mostly divorce cases. Divorce law allows him to “get my hands muddy dealing with people and solving problems,” he said.

He first came to the attention of WGAN officials when he proposed doing a law show. One of the managers there at the time had seen him on Portland’s public access cable channel and was impressed. Altshuler was then offered the job, on a trial basis, of hosting the WGAN morning show. While he could make more money just practicing law, Altshuler said he wants to stay on radio so that liberals like him have a voice.

“Successful talk radio is usually angry-guy radio, so liberals don’t do well on talk radio because they want to teach the world to sing and things like that,” said Altshuler. “I’m not an absolute liberal. I’m fiscally conservative. But I hate the idea of liberals feeling they have to apologize for being liberal.”


Depending on whom you talk to, Altshuler is either a strong voice for liberals or an example of why liberals don’t know what they’re talking about. Phil Cormier, 56, a commercial filmmaker from Portland, generally agrees with Altshuler and thinks he “holds his ground well” against Gagnon. Cormier is also one of the listeners who like the addition of Gagnon. He thinks the hosts are “two smart guys who disagree but seem to get along.”

But Paul Mattson, 60 and a gun instructor from Harrison, says Altshuler “tends to hyperventilate and express his utopian view without any factual basis.” He likes that Gagnon can base his opinions on professional experience.

Gagnon, 36, is a Maine native who has been involved in state and national politics his entire working career. He was offered the job at WGAN after being a fill-in host. As chief executive of The Maine Heritage Policy Center, he works to promote conservative policies and laws. Often the topics he comments on are issues he’s worked on directly, including a new state law that provides legal protection for primary care physicians who bypass insurance companies by charging their patients a regular, flat fee for routine health care services.

Growing up in Hampden, near Bangor, with a father who was an “old-school conservative,” Gagnon remembers being about 9 or 10 years old when the news show “20/20” on ABC became must-see TV for him each week. He was fascinated by news and politics but in high school did well in physics and chemistry. He enrolled at the University of Maine and thought he’d major in engineering.

He saw a poster asking for people to join student government. He did and felt like he had an impact on the school and the students. He joined the university’s Republican club when it had only three members and became one of its leaders while membership grew to 250. He changed his major to political science and after college had a variety of related jobs in and around Washington, D.C., including working for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, formed to help Republicans get elected, and briefly working on communications for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.

He became chief executive of The Maine Heritage Policy Center in 2014 and spends much of his time now working on Maine policy. That includes attending State House hearings and meetings with legislators.

When Gagnon was recently talking on air about the health care initiative that his group has been promoting, Altshuler said it was “boring” and soon loud snoring sound effects could be heard on the airwaves.

Gagnon thinks being on the radio helps him in his day job.

“It forces me to be up on everything and gives me the opportunity to interact with decision makers. We have the governor on every week,” he said.


Like Altshuler, some listeners find some of Gagnon’s insider talk boring. Some don’t like his flip or dramatic comments or the fact that, since he’s joined the show, both he and Altshuler punctuate some of their remarks with sound effects or recorded quotes from movies and TV.

Whether John Travolta might be gay was a topic the two men discussed recently.

Jeff Cole, 63, an insurance broker from Kennebunk who listens daily, said that while he thinks Gagnon’s comments can be “dramatic,” he likes his approach on issues. What he doesn’t like is how much pop culture talk the show now has.

“I think Matt is a very solid conservative, but what frustrates me is that they waste so much time on ridiculous sound effects and their favorite TV shows,” Cole said.

But for Steve Huss, owner of Batteries Plus Bulbs in Portland, the pairing of Gagnon and Altshuler has been a boon for business. Last year, shortly after Gagnon came on the show, Huss said, he had customers suggest he advertise on it. He had never listened to the show before but says, in the 10 months or so he’s been advertising with the show, the results have been “fantastic.”

“We ask when they come in who recommended us, and they say they heard our ads (on WGAN). Then I ask them if they’re a Ken fan or a Matt fan,” said Huss, 61, who sells batteries for anything from hearing aids to cars, plus a variety of light bulbs and fixtures.

Bob Adams, who manages WGAN and other Saga Communications stations in Portland, said he’s heard positive things about the host pairing from advertisers and he likes the addition of Gagnon. The balance between heavy politics and lighter fare makes for a better show, he said.

“Listeners thinking one host or the other is arrogant is to be expected, by the nature of what kind of show it is,” said Adams. “You never want people with opposing views to get so thick in the weeds they alienate each other and the listeners. The show is dominated by politics still, but there’s entertainment, too. It has more of a magazine feel.”


Altshuler and Gagnon say it’s taken some time to get used to each other on air, which may account for the talking over each other and the perceived combativeness.

Altshuler said that, in the first few months of Trump’s presidency, he got tired of Gagnon responding to every criticism of Trump with a criticism of Barack Obama, who is no longer president. A couple of times, he had to walk out of the studio and down the hall to get a cup of coffee, to cool off.

“The perception (of combativeness) has a little bit to do with our personalities,” Gagnon said. “We’re both very similar, both lean toward ADD and very boisterous and outgoing. When we hit a hot topic, it can sound more combative than it is.”

They both say the sound effects and pop culture talk are just reflections of who they are and how they interact with each other. Stored on laptop computers, their sound effects include the ringing of a bell and someone with a high voice intoning “shame,” often used when talking about a politician’s vote they disagreed with. Other times they summon a popular movie sound clip, like the character of Inigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride” stating plainly, “You killed my father, prepare to die.”

“I can’t be fake on the radio,” Gagnon said. “I like coaching Little League and music and movies, so I talk about that on the radio.”

Altshuler thinks he has fewer confrontations on air with Gagnon than he did with Violette. He says Gagnon, because of his work experience, comes at political topics from a more analytical standpoint than Violette, whose arguments were more “emotional.”

WGAN is part of a six-station group with studios on Western Avenue in South Portland and is owned by Saga Communications, which owns stations around the country in two dozen markets. Saga does not subscribe to ratings services, so its audience sizes are not documented by a third party, said Harrison at Talkers. Other radio stations that do subscribe to the primary radio ratings service, Nielsen, say Saga stations do not and they do not know what those stations’ ratings are.

WGAN, on two AM signals and on FM, can be heard all over Greater Portland. It’s by far the best-known commercial news radio station in the area. And it’s the only choice for people in the area who want a left-versus-right talk format.

Maine Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” which features reporting on local and national stories, has a large audience of news listeners. The public network says in Greater Portland “Morning Edition” has about 91,000 listeners each workweek from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. WLOB in Portland has a politics-heavy morning show hosted by conservative Ray Richardson, with various guests.

Stability often helps attract listeners, and Altshuler and Violette had been together on the WGAN “Morning News” for 12 years when Violette announced he was leaving, of his own accord, last June. Violette was the show’s conservative voice, but listeners like Maynes say he was more of an “everyman” than Gagnon and therefore more relatable.

Violette says he doesn’t listen to the WGAN “Morning News” now, so he offered no opinion of his replacement. When told they use sound effects, Violette said he had wanted to do more sound effects, but it was difficult. Altshuler said push-button access to a vast array of sound effects is new in the past year.

Unlike Gagnon or Altshuler, Violette was a longtime radio professional. He spent more than 20 years doing talk radio in Maine. When he left last year, he said talk radio can “burn you out a little.”

“Mike was a radio guy and he gave that show some structure,” said Tompkins, the convenience store owner from Westbrook. “Now the show is like sitting down at a bar and you find yourself between two people, at each end of the bar, talking loud and arguing back and forth. You just want to drink your beer fast and get out.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 210-1183 or at:

Twitter: RayRouthier

]]> 0's "Morning News" hosts Ken Altshuler, left and Matt Gagnon spar on the air Friday in the station's South Portland studio. The political discourse on the show, punctuated with sound effects and banter about pop culture, has alienated some longtime listeners of the broadcast.Mon, 26 Jun 2017 09:00:43 +0000
Actress Jennifer Ehle, beloved and busy, keeps her balance Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 In a play or on a movie, nearly everybody who works with Jennifer Ehle says the same thing: She’s one of the greatest, most authentic, least showy actresses alive. If her relative degree of fame in America – medium-ish – puzzles some of her champions, and her face remains more familiar than her name (pronounced EE-lee), so be it.

“In an ideal world, I would work with her on every project I do,” says director Kathryn Bigelow. The Oscar winner for “The Hurt Locker” cast Ehle in a key supporting role of a CIA analyst in “Zero Dark Thirty,” and brought her in for a cameo in Bigelow’s upcoming ’60s drama “Detroit.”

“She’s the actress of her generation,” asserts veteran stage director Jack O’Brien, who staged Tom Stoppard’s “Coast of Utopia” trilogy at Lincoln Center Theater. For that project Ehle won the second of two Tony Awards; the first was another Stoppard play, “The Real Thing,” a transfer from London and her high-profile introduction to Broadway. “I don’t think anyone can touch her. She has the quiet authority that marks a star. She commands the stage, and the screen, without even seeming to acknowledge that she’s being watched.”

In the perplexing editing phase of his virus epidemic thriller “Contagion,” filmed largely in Chicago, director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns ended up scrapping entire storylines in order to write and shoot additional footage focused on the Centers for Disease Control doctor played by Ehle, the one who ends up saving the world.

“She can do anything,” Soderbergh says of the actress. “She radiates intelligence, and she has the verbal facility to sell some pretty difficult language.” In “Contagion” Ehle’s character rattles off the following sentence, blithely: “I can see some structures on the surface that look like glycoproteins, but there’s nothing morphologically pathognomonic.” How Ehle deploys that one line to A) impart information, B) reveal something of the idiosyncratic character saying it, and C) hand the audience a strangely funny moment may well be the subject of a future graduate thesis project.

In J.T. Rogers’ play “Oslo,” which just won the Tony Award for best play and earned Ehle a best actress nomination, she plays Norwegian diplomat Mona Juul, who, along with her husband (Jefferson Mays), quietly established a back-channel negotiation in the Oslo Peace Accords in the early 1990s between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Israel. It’s a heady play, and Ehle’s a narrator as well as a determinedly recessive character. Someone, in other words, typically not nominated for a Tony.

“She’s a back-foot person, quite low-key,” Ehle told me between a recent matinee and evening “Oslo” double-header, on the Lincoln Center plaza. A theatrical press agent brings sandwiches and coffee. “So my questions (in rehearsal) are: What are this woman’s obstacles to expression? What are the reasons for her restraint? She’s diplomatic by profession and by nature. She’s cautious. It takes a lot for her to speak up, to speak her mind. But in terms of the story, she has to have a level of charisma, a level of attraction, for these people to find her compelling. It’s fun to put somebody like that together.”

Ehle, 47, was born in Winston-Salem, N.C., to a famous English actress mother (Rosemary Harris, 89) and an American novelist (John Ehle, 91). In London, Jennifer dropped out of drama school to take a major, ultimately notorious female lead in the 1992 Channel 4 miniseries adaptation of “The Camomile Lawn,” set in World War II. Her role, the impetuous Calypso, required copious, full-on nudity. The ogling didn’t die down for years. She was 21 at the time. “It never occurred to me,” she told the Sun newspaper in 2013, “that I was too young to deal with it all.”

Her triumph in the role of Elizabeth Bennet opposite Colin Firth (they dated for a year or so) in the 1995 BBC version of “Pride and Prejudice” reset expectations for good. She lived in England until the age of 30; the work came, sometimes more fulfillingly than others.

Then, in 2001, she married an American, writer Michael Ryan, whom she shares a home in Dutchess County, New York, with their two children, George and Talulah.

It’s a determinedly remote part of the world for someone with a film and stage career. Shortly after the birth of their daughter, a couple of things happened. One, she says, was getting cast in the pilot of “Game of Thrones,” as Catelyn Stark. “Talulah was so young,” she recalls, “and I really didn’t want to be working at all at that point, but I needed to.” So she did it, and then took on the role of Geoffrey Rush’s wife in “The King’s Speech.” That was that, she thought.

But “Game of Thrones” got picked up as a series. Ehle panicked; she’d signed an iron-clad three-year contract, and all she wanted to do was be at home, with her newly expanded family.

The producers, as it happened, were exceptionally gracious and let her out.

It was “Contagion,” which came up a little while later, that “changed a lot of things for me,” she says. “I really thought I’d be completely cut out, from day one.” After all, she’d recently been axed from the final cut of “Michael Clayton,” which Soderbergh produced; her scenes as George Clooney’s girlfriend were deemed less than crucial to the storyline.

“It was one of those heartbreaking decisions filmmakers so often have to make,” Soderbegh told me. “I remember thinking: ‘Well, note to myself: Put her in one of your own films.’ ”

He did. The role of Dr. Ally Hextall, CDC wonk and Laurence Fishburne’s right-hand woman, was right up her alley. Nothing flamboyant on the page, but compelling and full of interpretive possibilities. Since she figured she might not make the final cut anyway, on “Contagion” Ehle felt “completely liberated, like I had the freedom to play her a little weird.” As luck had it, the preview cards and audience survey results indicated younger audiences, especially, wanted more science and more Ally, not less. Eager to comply, Soderbergh brought Ehle and her family to Chicago for a week of additional footage, written on the fly, delivered impeccably.

“Whatever her process is,” Soderbergh says, “Jennifer has that British or at least half-British quality of not burdening other people with it. Also, I should mention that if she doesn’t have the best cheekbones in the world, they’re tied for first.” Before I even get the question out, Soderbergh answers: “Faye Dunaway, circa 1974.”

The adjective “luminous” comes up with wearying repetition in Ehle interviews spanning three decades. “She has extraordinary dignity,” director O’Brien says, “and she’s incredibly warm and open. But she lives a very individual, very private life. On film, and on stage, you’re drawn to her. Even when she’s off in the corner you watch her listening.”

The sort of career Ehle is pulling off in America is far easier, geographically, to pull off in England, where actors zip from a West End play to a BBC miniseries to a film project without major time zone disruptions. Last summer she opened the off-Broadway edition of “Oslo” in the smaller Lincoln Center Theater space. When that run closed, in preparation for a transfer to the larger Broadway house, she promoted “A Quiet Passion” at the Toronto International Film Festival. In writer-director Terence Davies’ film, Ehle plays Vinnie, the ebullient sister of poet Emily Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon).

From there, Ehle worked on five films in two months. In Dublin, she co-starred with Mel Gibson and Sean Penn in first-time director Farhad Safinia’s adaptation of the nonfiction best-seller “The Professor and the Madman,” about the birth of and murderous intrigue surrounding the Oxford English Dictionary. While in Dublin, Ehle filmed a small role in “I Kill Giants,” the Zoe Saldana-headlined graphic novel adaptation directed by another first-timer, Anders Walter.

In Manhattan, she shot “Monster,” with Jeffrey Wright and Jennifer Hudson; then a quick day in Boston for Kathryn Bigelow and “Detroit.” Also Ehle squeezed in “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” for second-time feature filmmaker Desiree Akhavan.

“I hit a vein, a mother lode vein,” she says. The wind whips up on the Lincoln Center plaza. “I guess there’s been a sea change the last couple of years, starting with ‘A Quiet Passion.’ For years I took the smallest, tightest-scheduled jobs I could, to spend the least amount of time away from home. But I’ve started loosening my bonds a little bit. My children are 14 and 8 now, and I suddenly have these opportunities. And maybe as a family that’s of value, too. Children do love to be around grown-ups happily toiling. So I’ve been doing more. I feel fortunate to still be able to get work, and oddly more and better work than I’ve had before. It’s lovely. I’m grateful.”

She’s happiest, she says, “when the work isn’t results-oriented. When it’s back to, you know, just putting on a show, figuring out how to tell a good story. It’s easiest to find that in the theater. But I’ve been on a lot of film sets this last year where it feels like that, too.” With a quick gathering up of the sandwich wrappings, Ehle smiles and says it again, for emphasis. “That’s when I’m happiest in my work.”

]]> 0 Ehle, right, with Cynthia Nixon in "A Quiet Passion." Ehle plays the sister, Vinnie, to Nixon's Emily Dickinson.Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:32:03 +0000
Dystopia has emerged as ‘the default narrative of the generation’ Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Since the plagues of the Old Testament, we have contemplated the Apocalypse, the world rising in vengeance as men, women and children scurry across the brutal landscape of a lost paradise. Skies rain hail, locusts swarm, rivers turn to blood, darkness falls.

Our doomsday stories and how they scroll and flash before us have changed since the parchment days of the Bible. But we remain fascinated by the specter of our demise, whether the end is wrought by deities, our own folly or imposed by outside forces like monsters, asteroids and aliens that have haunted us since Orson Welles’ 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast.

Few of our dystopias, however, are as frightening as the planet gone asunder, polluted and destroyed by humanity’s amorality, recklessness and greed. Film and literature – to say nothing of our private insecurities – resound with a world that freezes, boils, chokes, cracks with earthquakes, dwindles with resources and succumbs to pestilence and disease.

Images of glacier walls crashing into oceans, arid lands, smudged skies and Hollywood disaster scenarios have reverberated across social media since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. The president said the pact, signed by 195 nations to reduce carbon emissions, would undercut business, hurt American workers and “weaken our sovereignty.”

“The Paris Agreement handicaps the United States’ economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense,” said Trump. “They don’t put America first. I do. And I always will.”

In “The Day After Tomorrow,” storms rage across the globe at the dawn of a new ice age. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Perhaps more than any other moment in his presidency, Trump’s action highlighted a Darwinian world view in which the planet is less a community than an unforgiving marketplace for countries to compete and barter. Terrorism, Russia’s cyber meddling in the U.S. election and the nuclear ambitions of North Korea, whose leader, Kim Jong Un, taunts like a despot in an end-of-days movie, have unsettled Americans. But exiting the climate pact has raised larger existential questions at a time of rising seas, droughts and melting ice caps.

Hollywood for decades has spun science fiction and horror out of environmental calamity. In 1973, the thriller “Soylent Green” ventured to 2022, when the Earth was endangered by pollution and the greenhouse effect. Natural disaster movies related to climate change and pollution became a staple, including “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004), about storms raging across the globe in a new ice age, and the Mad Max series going through “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), where roving clans fight over gasoline and water on a crazed and poisoned Earth.

These stories foreshadowed and articulated the anxieties of a new century marked by wars and multiplying images of environmental degradation. The planet seemed to be shrinking, and every click of the screen – every YouTube rant, beheading, cyclone and story uttered – made us intimate with the ills that for so long seemed foreign and safely beyond our borders.

The world in these films is dark and unredemptive, a landscape of memory and rage where pictures of beaches and fields of green are eerie artifacts of humanity’s hubris and capacity to imperil what gives it life. Man becomes cast against himself in a cruel struggle for survival, such as the father and son who roam, scavenge and hide beneath slate skies in “The Road” (2009). The mood and tone are similar in “Children of Men” (2006), set in a desolate and violent London after pollution and other evils, which prove just as devastating as an asteroid strike, have rendered humanity infertile.

As the science of global warming has matured and documentaries like Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006) have explored its devastating consequences, the planet’s frailty has come into sharper focus, even as many Republicans, including Trump, question the causes that could spell our undoing. That dilemma and Trump’s decision on the Paris treaty will figure in Gore’s upcoming follow-up: “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.”

In “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” a follow-up to his 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore revisits the consequences of global warming. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The preoccupation over the planet’s future and its increasing interconnectedness have, according to novelist Junot Diaz, made dystopian themes “the default narrative of the generation.”

“The steady drum beat of reports from our best and brightest scientists has made it explicitly clear that, whether we like or whether we want to admit it or not, we have damaged our planet in ways that have transformed us into a dystopian topos,” he said in a podcast with the Boston Review. “We are making the genre in which we are living, and we are making it at such an extraordinary rate.”

Trump’s election and the bitter political and societal chasms it revealed has brought back into vogue a number of dystopian novels, including George Orwell’s “1984,” Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the story of infertility and turning women into slaves, which has been adapted for a heralded Hulu series. As in “The Road,” the exact cause of cataclysm in “The Handmaid’s Tale” is nebulous, a frightening, creeping concoction that plays with our imagination.

There is little doubt about the cause of ruin in “Chasing Coral,” a Netflix documentary on climate change and the death of coral reefs. The film, which opens in July, focuses on how warming waters around the Great Barrier Reef in Australia are bleaching the reef’s colors – imagine a rainbow turning to ash – and ability to sustain life.

“Our oceans are dramatically changing and we are losing coral reefs on a global scale,” director Jeff Orlowski said. “We spent three years with divers, underwater photographers and experts to reveal the majesty of our oceans and the rapidly changing reality of our world. What we witnessed while making this film reshaped my understanding of the world.”

The film is likely to intensify the debate around global warming and how filmmaking and other arts challenge and speak to conflicting agendas. A timely, if seemingly satirical, blurring of the lines between our fictions, politics and realities comes to mind in “Dystopian Visions,” a new class former presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul will teach at George Washington University.

Such visions haunt and often remind us of nature’s splendor and fragility and what happens when species go extinct and winds howl arid and foul. They also leave us (and Hollywood) with questions: How does one generation explain to the next that their birthright is jeopardy? That chaos sprung from folly or chance is irreparable and that destiny is bound in dereliction?

In her 1826 post-apocalyptic novel about a plague, “The Last Man,” Mary Shelley, who also gave us “Frankenstein,” pondered: “What is there in our nature that is forever urging us on towards pain and misery?”

Kevin Costner’s interminable “Waterworld” (1995) imagined a planet where the polar ice caps melted and everyone lived on ships and floating outposts, hoarding jars of dirt like relics while searching for mythical dry land. In “Blade Runner” (1982), a revolutionary work by director Ridley Scott, Los Angeles of 2019 is a garish and desolate landscape where cops battle synthetic humans known as “replicants.” Earth has become shades of grays and neon, treeless and shadowed by Orwellian industrial towers. Not surprisingly, a sequel, “Blade Runner 2049,” will open this year.

But man is a creature of hope, cunning and delusion. Waste a planet, find an escape; or in biblical terms, endure banishment from the Garden of Eden. That is the theme of “Interstellar” (2014), in which a team of astronauts seeks a wormhole in space to deliver humanity from the shriveled crops, blowing dust and the environmental catastrophe Earth has become. It seems our ingenuity to find someplace new is stronger and more fierce than it is in fixing the place we are.

“We didn’t run out of planes and television sets,” says one character, “we ran out of food.”

That is too pessimistic an epithet for many Hollywood films, where even in demise there’s a promise of resurrection. A scientist played by Michael Caine, whose soothing voice can make a lie sound like the truth, adds: “We’re not meant to save the world. We’re meant to leave it.”

]]> 0 the "Mad Max" franchise, roving clans fight over gasoline and water on a poisoned Earth.Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:35:03 +0000
Deep Water: ‘Rough Edges’ by Thomas R. Moore Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 This week’s poem is filled with good words from the world of work: nail heads, tunks, yanks, bricks. The person talking to us in this poem doesn’t tell us exactly what to think; he notices the different ways that rough edges are dulled. He implies that, having moved to town from further out, he misses the rough edges, the wild and imperfect beauty of the country.

Tom Moore has published three collections, “The Bolt Cutters,” “Chet Sawing” and “Saving Nails,” and lives with his wife, Leslie, an artist and writer, in Belfast.

Rough Edges

By Thomas R. Moore

In the new room the sheet-rocker’s knife

makes soothing sounds as he smooths

the mud over the tape and the nail heads,

occasional tunks as he scoops more compound

off the hawk. It’s June, drying weather,

the trees dropping yellow pollen. The morning

sky is the blue of our fading forget-me-nots.

We are strangers to town, to mowers and

blowers, to lighted windows. No bear yanks

down our bird feeder. Bricks arrange our

front walk. We become like our neighbors:

polite, wary—our rough edges dulled. So with

the hulls in the harbor, the genteel curves,

the sloops and schooners of spectacular beauty.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Thomas R. Moore. It appears here by permission of the author.

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:36:27 +0000
John Singleton ‘breaks through the clutter’ with socially conscious films and television Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 For John Singleton, relief is not being part of the YouTube generation – or rather, not having to forge a career in the thick of it.

“I don’t think I could ever have accomplished what I have if I started now,” says Singleton, 49. “How do you break through the clutter, man? What everyone wants is to get their voice heard and by as many people as possible. But how do you quantify that in this world? I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s not for me.”

That’s not to say Singleton is inflexible to the shifts hitting Hollywood. The prolific producer-director, whose work often examines social issues, is having a late evening lunch at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A. during a break from production on his latest project: a television series called “Snowfall.” It’s his second show this year.

After more than two decades working in film and making his mark with flicks such as “Boyz N the Hood” and “2 Fast 2 Furious,” Singleton is taking a bolder leap into the world of television. Following a steady buildup of episodic directing for such series as “Empire,” “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” and “Billions,” he is strengthening his TV imprint.

Singleton launched the BET police drama “Rebel” – which he wrote, directed and executive produced – in March. July brings the unveiling of his more high-profile offering: FX’s drug drama “Snowfall,” in which he serves as the co-creator and an executive producer.

“I have a whole lot of stories to tell,” the L.A. native says. “With television, I’m like making a movie every week. What filmmaker doesn’t want to have the opportunity to do that?”

“Snowfall,” set in 1983, explores the early days of the crack cocaine epidemic in the inner-city neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The 10-episode first season interweaves the stories of a number of characters, including Franklin Saint (Damson Idris), a young street entrepreneur on the quest for power; Gustavo Zapata (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), a Mexican wrestler caught up in a power struggle within a crime family; Teddy McDonald (Carter Hudson), a CIA operative running from a dark past who begins an off-book operation to fund the Nicaraguan Contras; and Lucia Villanueva (Emily Rios), the self-possessed daughter of a Mexican crime lord.

“It’s an untold story,” Singleton says. “It’s the story about how cocaine changed Los Angeles. There’s a whole kind of oral history, folk tale about this era. And no one has dramatized it. I wanted to do that. It’s a nostalgic show. But very, very edgy.”

Singleton, wearing a black sweatshirt with the word “REBEL” emblazoned on the back, has returned to the presidential suite of the hotel to finish the final scenes on the last day of shooting for “Snowfall.” He is directing the episode, and a scene involving Hudson’s Teddy walking into the hotel to meet with some Colombians becomes more than just a simple walking shot to Singleton.

“About halfway through the take,” Hudson later analyzes, “I thought that I had forgotten something, and I sort of turned but then realized I had my briefcase and kept going. I thought it was a rehearsal. John was like, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing there, but keep that. Now we’re going to go in and do a real tight close-up.’

“He went into this long explanation about the ways in which Italian directors of spaghetti westerns pioneered this idea of the tension that is created when you contrast a really wide establishing shot with real tight close-up of someone’s face and how it makes the audience uncomfortable because they aren’t expecting to jump perspective that quickly,” Hudson adds. “I mean, it’s just a scene of me entering a hotel, but he’s using it to make people feel really unsettled. That’s John.”

The series, which had originally been set at Showtime before making its way to FX, is a homecoming of sorts for Singleton. Filming took place in South-Central and the Valley, where he grew up and went to school. But he’s quick to point out that this is not his story.

“My life changed when I went to school in the Valley, when I was in eighth grade,” he says. “It was the first time I went on the 405 Freeway. They were rich in Encino, Tarzana. You see a different life. Everyone was changed by the crack problem in my neighborhood. I remember ice cream trucks and you realize the ice cream truck isn’t selling ice cream, they’re selling crack.

“There’s an audience that lived through it,” Singleton adds, “and there’s another audience that were too young or not born that don’t know the repercussions of how things got the way they are.”

Reached later by phone, Eric Schrier, president of original programming at FX Networks, says Singleton’s relative newness to the world of television helped elevate the series.

“It’s like when he made ‘Boyz N the Hood’ – there was a freshness to it,” Schrier says. “His freshness to television brings a level of innovation and excitement to the piece.”

Singleton, back on the set, pauses for a moment to reflect on the timing of his foray into television.

“I think I came in at the right time for me,” he says. “Honestly speaking, I was bored with the whole industry. I was spending time on my boat in the marina, sailing up and down the coast. I became kind of an ocean vagabond – just reading and writing. I was disillusioned.

“I like to be on the next level of what’s new, but I was sitting in these meetings with people who don’t know anything about the outside world of Hollywood. It changed because Lee Daniels asked me to direct ‘Empire.’ And it was reenergizing. I was like, I could do this. I could create something. And I started writing.”

But to realize that when television is overstuffed with programming – a condition FX chief John Landgraf has termed “peak TV” – would seem to be fraught with obstacles. Singleton brushes that off.

“For me it’s great,” he says. “I used to run track in high school. The marketplace in television is so competitive, only the strong survive. I’m not going to put anything on TV that’s boring. I think different from the norm. I’m totally out of the box.”

]]> 0 in 1983, "Snowfall," with Carter Hudson as CIA operative Teddy McDonald, explores the early days of the crack cocaine epidemic in inner-city Los Angeles.Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:42:55 +0000
Follow Brown Lethem’s moral compass through distinctly different shows Sun, 25 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Richard Brown Lethem effectively has two separate shows on view at the Maine Jewish Museum. One, titled “Afflictions,” flows like a river of moral energy through rapids of human misery and conflict. The figurative works, mostly from the 1980s, pulse with objects, stories and maxims that the artist underscores with accompanying poetic phrases.

“Nebraska Triangle” features more intimate (and more recent) paintings that lean towards abstraction with bits of totemic imagery floating to the fore. These works hint at maps, personal places, mystical visions, sand or cave painting, and symbols that suggest artifacts, mysticism and environmentalism influenced by Native American history and culture.

While the newer works have a lesser sense of urgency than the visceral engagement of “Afflictions,” the bodies of work share far more than the recognizable hand of a single artist. In fact, they are more united by their underlying moral philosophy than by Brown Lethem’s painting style. Moreover, their shared aesthetic reaches back through American Regionalism (no doubt related to having grown up in Missouri and studied at the Kansas City Art Institute in the early 1950s) and into early Modernism’s concerns with the everyman’s struggle for justice and an unpoisoned perspective.

Several of Brown Lethem’s narrative works recount specific stories: “The Falling Red Hat,” for example, is about a black man who was arrested then wrested from the sheriff by a mob so they could burn him alive – without any semblance of due process. “Threading the Needle” is about a Brooklyn man who was found on the street, dead of an overdose. The thrust of the “Nebraska Triangle” work, however, is not about the specific but the breadth of the critical issues. Brown Lethem’s largest and most powerful works are from the late ’80s and their accompanying phrases succinctly deliver broader social maxims. Accompanied by his snarling dog, the bold figure of the “The Clever Tomb Guard” is about to lose to lightning the kite he has long flown in a storm “despite the vicissitudes of civil war and the waning days of the empire,” the wall text reads. The gorgeously painted “Eerie Basin” – however dark and smeary – presents a man dumping a trash can in the dark of night with the simple stipulation that “what goes down, must come up.” And “While the Worker Sleeps” shows a literal dog-eat-dog nightmare raging in the stormy dreams of the American worker.

“While the Worker Sleeps,” from “Afflictions.” photo by George Barker

Brown Letham’s older paintings do not hide their bold content, but literalism and narrative are fugitive in the subtle “Nebraska Triangle” work. There, the imagery is fleeting, like traces of symbols long ago nearly erased from buckskin or adobe walls. The fractured bits force us to follow like a hunter barely tracking the very cold trail of long-passed prey. A feather. A stick. Triangles here and there. Vague symbols. These are all tracks, quiet and dissociated, but proof that there is a strand of story, of life, of meaning. The triangle is the vaguest wisp of a map, a child’s fleeting memory, history fading. Brown Lethem is driven by the mystery rather than the arrogance of promised knowledge. In a nutshell, this is Romanticism fully opposed to Enlightenment thinking. And this is what stitches together the two bodies of work.

“Clever Tomb Guard,” from “Afflictions.” Photo by George Barker

It would be nice if we could get all we need from a pairing as pithy (and brilliant) as “sense” and “sensibility.” But Brown Lethem’s concerns lead us away from the Enlightenment’s inclination for the clarity of science to moral philosophy where the Romantic Revolution grappled with complicated notions like freedom and aesthetics. I see no better terms for Brown Lethem than the towering figure of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Kant’s take on freedom, for example, followed the idea of “autonomy” – from the Greek words for “self” and “rule.” Freedom, in other words, isn’t chaos or anarchy, but the self in a setting of free will governed by one’s own morality.

These ideas enter like a flash onto Brown Lethem’s sympathetic references to Native Americans – and specifically to the tribes of the area we now know as Nebraska. One canvas features a burning paper marked “1877” which, absent other markers, we almost have to take as a reference to when the government overthrew the Treaty of 1854 and forced the Poncas to relocate to Oklahoma. Despite the specific reference, the artist leaves us with the aesthetic of historical wrongdoing rather than the specifics of any crime – wrongful wandering or, at the very least, pointless. And this broader notion of individual perspective and morality – rather than anesthetized historical fact – leaves us with the romantic priority of life and mystery. Nodding to Mary Shelley, we could say the animal is not the carcass on the dissecting table, but the life in the living organism.

“Eerie Basin,” from “Afflictions.” Photo by George Barker

The Berwick-based Brown Lethem began coming to Maine in 1991. And it was about that time that he shifted his main current of content from human conflict to quieter concerns like the humanitarian whisper of environmentalism. But the correlation on timing does not explain how his work shifted or why.

How do we follow Brown Lethem’s move from his human-condition “Afflictions” to the less specific and mystical works of “Nebraska Triangle”? These self-articulated works are at once both unique to the artist and universal in message. This led me straight to Kant’s notion of the “categorical imperative’ which he explained in 1785: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” Considering the anti-war position of the artist’s Quakerism, we can easily see the “Afflictions” as Brown Lethem’s own categorical imperatives.

“Negotiation,” from “Nebraska Triangle.” Photo by George Barker

He shifts from the struggle for specific freedom and autonomy to a more inclusive perspective. He originally sets out to speak as an individual in universal terms then acquires a more universal perspective that prioritizes mystery. The appeal is evident: It is softer, quieter and less likely to be read as preachy or moralistic. The experience is one we can share with the artist instead of one that requires us to agree (or not) with his imperatives.

In the two shows, we move with him from specific meaning to the shared space of mystery.

Brown Lethem is an extraordinarily talented and erudite painter whose work has been honored by museums and about whom books have been written. While I find in his paintings vast troves of nuanced moral philosophy, his work exudes its own power – evident, plainspoken and appealing. You certainly don’t need to know anything about Goethe, Kant or Schiller to understand and appreciate Brown Lethem’s work. In fact, if you don’t know their work in moral philosophy, I can think of no better introduction than the paintings of Brown Lethem.

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

]]> 0"Clever Tomb Guard," from "Afflictions."Fri, 23 Jun 2017 18:07:42 +0000
Augusta summer celebration moves to renovated Mill Park Sat, 24 Jun 2017 22:42:55 +0000 AUGUSTA — An annual festival held in Augusta every summer has come a long way from its roots as a raucous race down the Kennebec River.

The Whatever Race was stopped years ago – some participants had taken to drinking alcohol, and organizers didn’t want it to become dangerous. To continue the celebration in a family-friendly form, the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce began holding festivals in other parts the city, most recently in Capitol Park.

On Saturday, the festival’s evolution continued with several new offerings, including two bandstands from which country music and classic rock could be heard, and a motorized ride that resembled an old-fashioned steam train.

But its greatest change was actually a return: This year’s festival was held in plain view of the Kennebec River, in the newly renovated Mill Park.

Several visitors were impressed with the new space.

“I like the more central location,” said Michelle Noiles of Augusta, as she watched her 2-year-old son, Aiden, play in an inflatable bounce house. “I know the neighborhood enough, and it’s in walking distance for some people I know.”

Noiles also appreciated that the event was free and targeted toward children.

Charles Eichacker can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

Twitter: ceichacker

]]> 0 Tyler, 6, of Augusta, gets a flag painted on her face Saturday during Kennebec River Day at Mill Park in Augusta.Sat, 24 Jun 2017 19:19:01 +0000
Video of Mormon teen revealing she’s gay sparks debate Sat, 24 Jun 2017 20:09:51 +0000 SALT LAKE CITY — A video of a young Mormon girl revealing to her congregation that she is lesbian and still loved by God – before her microphone is turned off by local church leaders – is sparking a new round of discussions about how the religion handles LGBT issues.

Savannah, 13, spoke on May 7 in Eagle Mountain, Utah, about her belief that she is the child of heavenly parents who didn’t make any mistakes when she was created. Her comments came during a once-a-month portion of Mormon Sunday services where members are encouraged to share feelings and beliefs.

“They did not mess up when they gave me freckles or when they made me to be gay,” she said, wearing a white shirt and red tie. “God loves me just this way.”

Her mother, Heather Kester, said Friday that her daughter was passionate about coming out in church to be a voice and example for other LGBT children who struggle for acceptance within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She asked that Savannah’s full name be withheld to protect her privacy.

The Mormon religion is one of many conservative faith groups upholding theological opposition to same-sex relationships amid widespread social acceptance and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage. At the same time, the Mormon church is trying to foster an empathetic stance toward LGBT people.

The video, which Kester said was taken by a friend of Savannah who came to support her, generated buzz after it was circulated online this month and featured in a Mormon LGBT podcast.

While some consider Savannah a hero, other Mormons are upset that it was videotaped and is being circulated by church critics to try to paint the church in an unflattering light.

Judd Law, the lay bishop who leads the congregation south of Salt Lake City, said in a statement distributed by church headquarters that Savannah is a “brave young girl” and that the congregation is making sure that she and her family feel loved.

But he called problematic the unauthorized recording and the “disruptive demonstration” by a group of non-Mormon adults who were there.

Law said they exploited the events to politicize worship services and violate church decorum.

“We do not politic in our chapels, and exploiting this recording for political purposes is inconsistent with the nature of our worship services,” he said.

Law didn’t address or explain the decision by two of his counselors to cut the microphone. Law wasn’t at the service that day.

Savannah read from written notes from the pulpit. Kester said she is not Mormon, but her husband is and Savannah has been raised in the religion.

“I do not choose to be this way and this is not a fad,” Savannah told the congregation. “I cannot make someone else gay. … I believe that God wants us to treat each other with kindness, even if people are different, especially if they are different.”

Her microphone was muted after about two minutes – shortly after she said she’s not a “horrible sinner” and that she someday hopes to have a partner, get married and have a family. She turned around to listen to something a man in a suit told her and then was walked down from the pulpit.

Kester said her daughter came and cried in her lap. She told her she was beautiful and that God loved her, Kester said.

“I was devastated for her,” Kester said, adding, “I was angry at how that was handled.”

]]> 0 provided by Heather Kester shows her daughter Savannah, a 13-year-old Mormon girl who told her congregation during a Sunday service that she is gay.Sat, 24 Jun 2017 18:49:50 +0000
‘Cartel’ novelist: Trump should turn page on drug war Sat, 24 Jun 2017 19:39:40 +0000 NEW YORK — A crime novelist has a few words, and then some, for the White House’s plans for a new war on drugs.

“The Cartel” author Don Winslow is taking out a full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times that calls President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions “woefully ignorant” about the causes of drugs and crime and about how to combat them.

Winslow has written prophetically about the drug wars. “The Cartel” was published in 2015 and featured a prison escape by a drug lord based on Mexico’s El Chapo. After the book came out the real El Chapo escaped, but he was recaptured.

– From news service reports

]]> 0 Sat, 24 Jun 2017 19:39:01 +0000
Johnny Depp apologizes for bad Trump joke Sat, 24 Jun 2017 19:37:14 +0000 NEW YORK — Johnny Depp apologized Friday for joking about assassinating Donald Trump during an appearance at a large festival in Britain, the latest example of artists using violent imagery when dealing with the president.

“When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” Depp asked the crowd at Glastonbury Festival, in reference to the death of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth in 1865.

The 54-year-old “Pirates of the Caribbean” star then added: “I want to clarify, I am not an actor. I lie for a living. However, it has been a while and maybe it is time.”

Depp said in a statement Friday that he did not intend any malice and was trying to be amusing.

“I apologize for the bad joke I attempted last night in poor taste about President Trump,” the statement said. “It did not come out as intended, and I intended no malice. I was only trying to amuse, not to harm anyone.”

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Friday “the lack of outrage” over Depp’s comments was “a little troubling.”

“The president has made it clear that we should denounce violence in all of its forms. And if we are going to hold to that standard then we should agree that that standard be universally called out,” he said.

That message was undercut when an adviser to Trump’s campaign who called for Hillary Clinton to be shot visited the White House just hours before Spicer spoke to the media.

Al Baldasaro, who advised Trump on veterans issues, said last summer that he believed Clinton “committed treason” for putting American lives at risk while secretary of state. He then said “anyone that commits treason should be shot.”

– From news service reports

]]> 0 Johnny Depp arrives at the Glastonbury music festival on Thursday.Sat, 24 Jun 2017 19:40:25 +0000
Reflections: Think of travel as a spiritual act, for we are one human family Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Since my husband and I were happily able to retire four years ago, one of our chief joys in life is travel. We’ve enjoyed road trips and ocean cruises, winter idylls in tropical places, and spring and fall explorations of different parts of Europe. We almost always have at least two trips in the works, and we do most of the planning ourselves – it’s part of the fun! In each European city we visit, we walk and use public transportation, because it gets us closer to the people who live and work there. We travel light, with only a 21-inch carry-on each, and we bring home almost no souvenirs except pictures, and the personal transformation that getting out of one’s domestic comfort zone offers.

After each trip, we talk together about our memories – the beauty of the landscapes, the wonders of art and history and culture in great museums, churches, synagogues and mosques. But more than any of these, we recall the personal encounters with people, both locals and fellow travelers, around things mundane and profound, particular and universal.

There was the hotel clerk in Amsterdam who considered being fluent in English, but also German, French, Spanish and Portuguese, and of course Dutch, unremarkable, and in fact necessary in order to work. There was the friendly group of young people who made room for us on the patio of a Brussels beer hall, including us in the celebration of the 30th birthday of one of the young men, a rite of passage with dubious overtones because he is, at this advanced age, unmarried. There were people in Berlin going to work and school, running mundane errands and carrying home groceries and children, amidst the Brandenburg Gate and remnants of the Berlin Wall, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, reminders of a history that is in books for us, but in the daily lives of Europeans. There was the German couple on vacation in Switzerland, who, when I shared that I was born in Germany, my father an American officer who was part of the occupying force after the war, told us about his father, conscripted into Hitler’s army at gunpoint and killed three days before the war’s end, their family then ostracized because they’d been on the wrong side of history.

And everywhere, there were immigrants: the server in Belgium whose parents were from Syria, the guide in Prague who had followed a job opportunity from Italy; the Scottish historian who found work in Switzerland; the Iranian family running a shop in Augsburg; the American living in Amsterdam because professional opportunities in the art world are there.

Friends at home sometimes ask if we’re worried about terror attacks, given the explosions in Brussels, the Christmas market attack in Berlin, the knife attacks in London, the concert bombing in Manchester. But frankly, we’re more concerned about gun crime in the U.S. than these far less frequent incidents, and we refuse to allow them to keep us from traveling. Our favorite travel writer, Rick Steves, has written about “Travel as a Political Act,” but we think of it also as a spiritual act – an act of solidarity with people whose lives and loves, whose hopes and dreams, whose struggles and joys are in countries and cultures and languages different from our own. For truly, we are one human family, as Lloyd Stone’s stirring lyric says so well:

This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands afar and mine;

this is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:

but other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean, and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;

but other lands have sunlight too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:

O hear my song, thou God of all the nations, a song of peace for their land and for mine.

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

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Jun 2017 19:16:09 +0000
Falmouth performance artist will bring incontinence to Fringe Festival in Scotland Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The performance artist who turned heads and made headlines with a bizarre interpretive dance before the Portland City Council in March is taking her show about incontinence to Scotland.

Sara Juli, 39, of Falmouth will perform her original piece, “Tense Vagina: an actual diagnosis,” at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

The festival in Scotland was the first and remains the largest alternative and experimental theater festival of its kind, and one of the largest gathering of artists in the world. Edinburgh has inspired hundreds of other fringe festivals across the world, including PortFringe in Portland, which wraps up this weekend.

Sara Juli’s performance in March at a Portland City Council meeting.

Juli will perform “Tense Vagina” 22 times over three weeks in Edinburgh, beginning Aug. 3. She premiered the piece at SPACE Gallery in Portland in October 2015.

“It’s been a longtime goal of mine,” Juli said Friday night, before flying home to Maine after performances in North Carolina this week. “I have been making dance since I was a little girl, and I have such a passion for it. So many forces come upon you as you age that push you to make choices outside your passion. Through it all, I feel so proud that I have stayed connected to who I am as a performer.”

Part dance, part theater and part stand-up comedy, “Tense Vagina” explores the bladder-control issues that Juli experienced following the birth of her children. The show explains her condition and the treatment she received to alleviate it.

As the subtitle of the performance piece implies, “Tense Vagina” describes an actual medical diagnosis. Juli got the idea for her theater piece as she received physical therapy at the Pelvic Floor Rehab Center of New England. The piece uses humor, movement, sound, text, and audience engagement.

Since she debuted the piece at SPACE, Juli has presented “Tense Vagina” at the Chocolate Factory Theater in New York, the Dance Complex in Boston and American Dance Festival in Durham, North Carolina. The New Yorker magazine described it as “like a standup routine performed in a supine position while doing Kegel exercises.”

She credited Nat May, the former SPACE executive director, for creating the opportunity for her to take “Tense Vagina” to a worldwide audience. May invited a representative of the American Dance Festival to Portland to see her perform, which led to an offer for her to perform last summer at the festival. From there, she got an invitation to perform in Scotland.

Sara Juli of Falmouth moved to Maine from New York. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

“It’s been an amazing progression of opportunities that started with SPACE,” she said.

Juli studied dance in college and moved to New York with the intent of making her career in dance. She and her family moved to Falmouth in 2014. She runs a consulting firm, Surala Consulting, advising artists and nonprofits about fundraising.

She has created a dozen pieces over the past decade. She was in North Carolina this week to debut a new one, “The Lecturn,” which is about the rules that “consume our society.” Other subjects of her work include money management, the death of a parent and promiscuity.

Though she has never performed in Scotland, she has toured internationally with her art, performing in the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, England and Russia. Earlier this year, she was named the 2017 Maine Fellow for the Performing Arts.

In March, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling invited her to open the City Council meeting with a brief performance. After her introduction, Juli moved to the front of the council dais and began panting, flailing, spinning, kicking, hand-standing and jazz-handing throughout the council chamber. Near the end of her performance, she jumped on a member of the audience and mimicked being sick.

Performing 22 times in 25 days will be taxing, physically and vocally, she said.

“I’ll be headed to Scotland full of lozenges and honey – and a hope and a prayer.”

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0 Juli performs her unusual interpretive dance before the City Council in March, during which she pretended to vomit on a member of the audience.Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:35:52 +0000
Holy month of Ramadan enriches believers Sat, 24 Jun 2017 00:03:37 +0000 NAPERVILLE, Ill. — Not one bite of food or sip of water from sunup to sundown. No alcohol. No sex. No tobacco.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began this year on May 26 and will end June 24, is hard. It’s supposed to be. It’s a time of sacrifice but also a time to focus on God and faith and family.

“We keep reminding people that we do not view Ramadan as a burden,” said Aadil Farid, former president of the Naperville Islamic Center. “We view Ramadan as an opportunity, as a platform, as a tool that enriches our mind, body and soul. It provides us an opportunity to stop and think and reflect. By refraining from food, it allows us to think that we are connected with the entirety of humanity through very basic needs.”

For healthy adults, fasting begins at sunrise, which was 5:24 a.m. on the first day of Ramadan and 5:19 a.m. on the last. Any meal must be consumed before that time. Then it’s no dinner until sunset at about 8:30 p.m. The only people excluded are the elderly, pregnant women, children and those who are ill, although all must still participate in daily prayers and reading from the Quran and can abstain from other things, such as watching television.

Ramadan is divided into three parts that each last 10 days. The final 10 days are considered the most blessed and the most important. “Within those last 10 days is when the first verses of the Quran were actually revealed,” Aadil Farid said.

The month of fasting and prayer is meant to be a time in which people re-assess their lives and improve their relationship with God and others, said Safa Farid, Aadil Farid’s 22-year-old daughter.

“When you’re not focusing on things meant to survive like eating, sleeping and drinking, then you’re more focused on the spiritual side of you,” Safa Farid said. “Then you can focus more on looking into the word of God and seeing what he said and working on your soul essentially.”

During Ramadan, many mosques and Islamic centers offer fast-breaking meals, called iftar, and prayer after sunset. Around 8 p.m. Thursday, people began trickling into the Islamic Center of Naperville in preparation of the end of that day’s fast.

Charity and generosity are particularly emphasized during Ramadan, so many volunteer to set up tables and serve food. “People compete to the extent that everybody wants to serve,” Aadil Farid said. “It is said this month that the reward of any good deed gets multiplied by 70 times normal.”

And for those who cannot fast, “anyone who assists in helping someone break their fast gets the reward that’s like the reward if they were fasting as well,” Safa Farid said.

The fast is traditionally broken with the consumption of dates, which the Prophet Mohammed consumed to break his own fast after God revealed the first verses of the Quran to him. Women eat and pray separate from the men, and the Islamic Center serves dinner to about 450 or 500 people each night.

Because the dates of Ramadan are set by the lunar calendar, the times of meals and prayers will change with the time of year. This year, dinner is served at about 8:45 p.m., and people eat and socialize until about 10 p.m. The food is catered and the menu changes every day.

The last prayer of the day begins about 10:20 p.m. Women pack various rooms in the mosque—those with children under the age of 10 and those who need to sit in chairs while they pray—have their own rooms. Some people leave after the first set of prayers, which this week ended at about 11:15 p.m. Others continue praying until after midnight.

Attendance for the nightly prayers in the first week of Ramadan drew nearly 1,500 people each night, Aadil Farid said. In the last few nights, close to 2,000 people are expected to attend.

Although the message is reinforced that the holy month is a time for self-evaluation, self-improvement and rededication to the faith, many will experience the “Ramadan slump” in the middle of the month, Safa Farid said.

The beginning of Ramadan draws excitement and a sense of community as people get to see their friends and family every day for the nightly prayers that are specific to Ramadan, Farid said.

“After the first week or week-and-a-half, the fatigue kind of starts to kick in from your lack of energy and your lack of sleep,” Farid said. But things kick into high gear at the end, Farid and her father agreed.

]]> 0 Muslim worshipper prays during the holy month of Ramadan as pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.Fri, 23 Jun 2017 20:10:33 +0000
Pope seeks to encourage Colombian reconciliation Fri, 23 Jun 2017 23:20:55 +0000 VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will preside over a reconciliation ceremony between Colombian victims and former guerrillas during a September visit aimed at consolidating the peace process to end Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict.

Francis will also pay homage to the patron saint of slaves, the 16th century Jesuit priest St. Peter Claver, when he travels to the former slave-trading hub of Cartagena.

The Vatican on Friday released details of Francis’ Sept. 6-11 trip, his fifth to Latin America and the first papal visit to Colombia since St. John Paul II’s pilgrimage in 1986.

Highlights include a Mass in Bogota’s Simon Bolivar park that is expected to draw up to 1 million people. A day later, the pope is scheduled to preside over a prayer for national reconciliation in Villavicencio, a traditional stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Earlier this week, FARC members began the final handover of individual weapons as part of the nation’s historic peace accord, which was signed last year after an initial one was rejected by Colombians in a referendum.

Francis had said he would only come to Colombia once a peace agreement was sealed. He gave a strong push to Colombian negotiators when he visited Cuba in 2015, telling them they didn’t have the right to abandon peace efforts.

In addition to the main peace and reconciliation thrust of the trip, Francis is likely to use his time in Colombia to touch on drug trafficking and Colombia’s cocaine trade, the environment given Colombia’s location in the Amazon rainforest, as well as poverty and social inequality.

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Jun 2017 20:13:00 +0000
Actress, model Lauren Hutton to receive Maine International Film Festival award Fri, 23 Jun 2017 23:09:35 +0000 WATERVILLE — Actress, model and producer Lauren Hutton will receive the Mid-Life Achievement Award next month at the 20th annual Maine International Film Festival.

Hutton, 73, who has starred in dozens of films, will be awarded the accolade at 6:30 p.m. July 20 at the Waterville Opera House where her movie” American Gigolo,” also starring Richard Gere, will be shown.

Festival programmer Ken Eisen said Friday that Hutton was very involved in what he would call the golden age of American filmmaking in the 1970s, and she has broken all the rules for aging, having modeled nude at 61 and continuing to model at 73.

“She has just completely redefined not just modeling but the whole definition of female beauty, I think,” Eisen said. “She is also a very, very good actress.”

Hutton was unavailable for an interview Friday but emailed the following comment to the Sentinel: “I’m really flattered and honored to be in the company of so many wonderful artists who have received this award, including many I know and have worked with. And thrilled this is a Mid-Life Achievement Award, which means I have a lot to look forward to and accomplish.”

Hutton’s best-known films are from the ’70s and ’80s and include “The Gambler,” which also stars James Caan and will be shown at the festival, according to Eisen. Hutton is one of 48 actors who star in “A Wedding,” directed by Robert Altman, to be shown at MIFF. “Welcome to L.A.,” featuring Hutton and former MIFF award winners Keith Carradine and Sissy Spacek, also is part of the lineup.

Hutton will be at the festival about a week — from July 15-22, according to Eisen.

“It will be really nice to have her,” he said. “I think she’s going to be a really fantastic guest to have, partly because her appeal is not just as an actress, but as a kind of iconic cultural figure.”

Hutton will join the list of previous achievement award winners Ed Harris, Glenn Close, Lili Taylor, Sissy Spacek, Jonathan Demme, Keith Carradine, Walter Hill, Michael Murphy, Gabriel Byrne, Jay Cocks, Robert Benton, Peter Fonda, Jos Stelling, Arthur Penn, Terrence Malick, John Turturro, Thelma Schoonmaker, Malcolm McDowell and Bud Cort.

The festival runs through July 23 and includes the opening night film, “The Sounding,” directed by and featuring Catherine Eaton and filmed off the Maine coast.

A program of the Maine Film Center, the festival brings film enthusiasts and writers, producers, actors and directors from all over the world to the Waterville Opera House, Railroad Square Cinema and Common Street Arts where about 100 independent and American and foreign-made films are screened.

Festival Director Shannon Haines said the festival has grown and become like a family over 20 years.

“The 20th anniversary feels like such an incredible milestone,” Haines said Friday. “The fact that the festival has grown and thrived over the past two decades is a testament to our outstanding programming, an amazing and dedicated staff and to what has become a close-knit community of film lovers. We are also very fortunate to have a group of filmmakers and past guests who have become like family to us, which is evident by the number of guests who are returning this year to celebrate this important milestone with us.”

The festival this year is being dedicated to director Jonathan Demme, who died April 26. Demme, director of films such as “Philadelphia” and “The Silence of the Lambs,” had attended the festival several times and was the Mid-Life Achievement Award winner in 2002. He and Eisen, a festival founder, were good friends, and Demme had accepted Eisen’s invitation last August to attend this year’s festival as well.

“He may have been the very first to accept,” Eisen said. “He was the most wonderful person I have ever met. He was a role model — just a completely good person, my definition of a really good person.”

Demme, he said, made all sorts of films, but he believes he made those such as “Philadelphia” and “Beloved” for a larger social purpose.

“Nobody who ever met him didn’t think that he was the greatest guy,” Eisen said. “He was there, he was present, he was interested in everything and everybody.”

Several of Demme’s films, including “Cousin Bobby,” a documentary about Demme’s cousin who was a minister in Harlem, will be shown, as will “Stop Making Sense” and “Something Wild.” Nationally, a lot of independent art houses will show “Stop Making Sense” July 19 as a tribute to Demme, Eisen said.

As part of celebrating the 20th annual festival, many former MIFF guests deemed by festival-goers as festival favorites are returning to Waterville and bringing either their own films or films they love. They include British filmmakers Sean Martin and Louise Milne, who are bringing four films, two of which will be world premieres and two American premieres, according to Eisen. One of the films they will bring, “Charlie Chaplin Lived Here,” is a documentary about Scottish filmmaker Bill Douglas’ lifelong Chaplin obsession.

Arshak Amerbekyan, of Armenia, will bring his new black and white film, “Mariam’s Day Off,” about a young prostitute who meets an artist in a park. Michael Murphy, who won the Mid-Life Achievement Award in 2015, will bring “Double Indemnity,” a film from 1944 starring Barbara Stanwyk, Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson.

Eisen said Murphy will talk about the film and his perspective on it.

“Michael’s family was friends with Edward G. Robinson, and he was in their house growing up,” Eisen said. “He’s going to sort of reminisce about growing up in L.A. to some extent and just present this fantastic film we will have a 35 mm print of.”

Vermont filmmaker Nora Jacobson will return to the festival with “Delivered Vacant” about housing wars in Hoboken. Jacobson’s film “My Mother’s Early Lovers” won MIFF’s audience award in 1999.

Producer Jim Stark, who produced the early films of Jim Jarmusch, will bring “Factotum.” Actress Verna Bloom will bring “The Immigrant,” and her husband, Jay Cocks, a former achievement award winner, will present “A Matter of Life or Death.”

Hilary Brougher, who attended the festival in its first year and several times thereafter, will bring “The Sticky Fingers of Time,” and Eisen’s wife, actress Karen Young, who also directs the MIFF shorts program, will bring “Carnival of Souls,” a “cheapy knock-off, almost macabre film from 1962 that is in black and white and very surreal,” according to Eisen.


A highlight of the festival is its centerpiece film, “Bambi,” which is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

“Bambi,” according to Eisen, has Maine connections. Though it is not set in an identifiable place, the filmmakers imported deer from Maine as models for the film’s animators, he said. The deer were taken by train from Maine to Walt Disney Studios in 1940s Hollywood, Eisen said.

“The sketchings for the surroundings and everything also came from Maine,” he said. “They sent their animators to do that.”

Maurice Day of Damariscotta worked for Disney and was sent to photograph Mount Katahdin for the visual development of the film, and the musical composer, Frank Churchill, was from Rumford, according to Eisen.

“It’s kind of a Maine movie that no one knew was a Maine movie,” he said.

The idea for presenting “Bambi” came from Tom Wilhite, who lives on the Maine coast and years ago headed up a Hollywood studio, he said. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ film will be used for the showing.

“We are using the archival 35 mm print, so it should look just pristine and gorgeous and fantastic,” Eisen said.

For the first time, Tom DiCillo, who was at the forefront of the American independent filmmaking movement when people started to hear about it in the 1980s and ’90s, will present “Living in Oblivion,” “Delirious,” and “Box of Moonlight,” three films from that era. He also will present his new film, “Down in Shadowland,” a black and white documentary shot in the New York subways.

MIFF on Edge will be hosted by Common Street Arts throughout the festival and will include returning filmmaker Kerry Laitala.

Eisen said other filmmakers who had attended previous festivals and were invited to the 20th really wanted to come but are working on films and unable to be there.

“We had really sweet notes from people who are shooting. Ed Harris and Keith Carradine are involved in TV shows and shooting during the course of MIFF. Both said they’d love to be here, but their schedules don’t allow it.”

Roger Deakins will receive a major new award named for Karl Struss who was a pioneer cinematographer in Hollywood and won the first Oscar for cinematography.

“Deakins has been nominated for Oscars 13 times and he’s never won,” Eisen said. “Everybody thinks his time is due.”

Eisen said he thinks Deakins’ film “Blade Runner 2049,” which will be released in October, is sure to win an Oscar.

Films Deakins has worked on and which will be shown at the festival are “No Country for Old Men,” “Skyfall,” “Prisoners,” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”

The black-and-white Hollywood film “Deep Waters” from 1948 will be shown twice during the festival. Shot in Maine, it is about a fisherman played by Dana Andrews and a welfare worker played by Jean Peters. The film is based on the book “Spoonhandle,” written by Ruth Moore.

Festival tickets are available at or by calling 866-811-4111.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


]]> 0 Hutton, 73, an actress, model and producer, will receive the Mid-Life Achievement Award next month at the 20th annual Maine International Film Festival in Waterville.Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:34:38 +0000
Federal court clears Mississippi’s LGBT objections law Fri, 23 Jun 2017 23:07:32 +0000 JACKSON, Miss. — A federal appeals court said Thursday that Mississippi can enforce a law that allows merchants and government employees to cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples, but opponents of the law immediately pledged to appeal.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a judge’s decision that had blocked the law.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves had ruled that the law unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for LGBT people. His ruling prevented the law from taking effect last July.

The 5th Circuit panel did not rule on whether the law is constitutional.

It said plaintiffs failed to prove they would be harmed by the law, “but the federal courts must withhold judgment unless and until that plaintiff comes forward.”

Legal experts said the law is the broadest religious-objections measure enacted by any state.

Championed and signed in 2016 by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, it aims to protect three beliefs: marriage is only between a man and a woman; sex should only take place in such a marriage; and a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered.

It would allow clerks to cite religious objections to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and would protect merchants who refuse services to LGBT people. It could affect adoptions and foster care, business practices and school bathroom policies.

Robert McDuff, an attorney for some of the people who sued to try to block the law, criticized the appeals court for saying plaintiffs had failed to show they would be harmed.

“People should not have to live through discrimination in order to challenge this obviously unconstitutional bill,” McDuff said.

]]> 0 of the Human Rights Campaign speak against a law that allows denying services to same-sex couples.Fri, 23 Jun 2017 19:07:32 +0000
Journalist Gabe Pressman dies at 93 Fri, 23 Jun 2017 22:07:24 +0000 NEW YORK — Gabe Pressman, an intrepid, Emmy-winning journalist who still relished going to work at the age of 93, died in his sleep early Friday at a Manhattan hospital.

“This is an incredibly sad day for the WNBC family,” said Eric Lerner, president and general manager of the station where Pressman worked for more than 50 years. “He was truly one of a kind and represented the very best in television news reporting.”

Pressman launched his six-decade broadcast career after stints at New Jersey’s Newark Evening News and the New York World Telegram and Sun. He covered the 1956 sinking of the Italian ocean liner Andrea Doria, riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the Woodstock festival in 1969 and the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

He interviewed every New York City mayor since Robert Wagner in the 1950s and every U.S. president from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton.

Other notables interviewed by Pressman included Fidel Castro, Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Malcolm X.

Although he was primarily a broadcast journalist, he “never stopped loving writing,” said his daughter Liz Pressman, who called him “an inspiration.”

He wrote on Facebook every few days and enjoyed “a large audience there,” she said.

Pressman starred for years – including April of this year – at Inner Circle, a charity show that pokes fun at politics.

Embracing self-deprecating humor about his age and experience, Pressman closed the show “playing ‘Gabe Madison,’ lecturing Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway and President Trump on the First Amendment,” said Inner Circle President Terry Sheridan.

“As always, his just appearing on stage would bring down the house.”

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Jun 2017 18:07:24 +0000
‘Cake Boss’ star loses his mother to ALS Fri, 23 Jun 2017 22:00:59 +0000 HOBOKEN, N.J. — The mother of “Cake Boss” reality star Buddy Valastro has died. Mary Valastro was 69 years old.

He announced on Instagram on Thursday that his mother’s “battle with ALS has ended.” He wrote that she is no longer suffering and he hopes that “she’s dancing to ‘I Will Survive’ with my dad.”

Mary Valastro was born in Italy in 1948 and immigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was 6, settling in Hoboken, New Jersey. She married Bartolo Valastro in 1965, shortly after buying Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken. They had five children.

Buddy Valastro took over the bakery in 1994.

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Jun 2017 18:00:59 +0000
Religion Calendar Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:55:03 +0000 Gospel symposium. Free. Redeemer Lutheran Church, 410 Main St., Gorham, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.

Drop-in meditation class on enhancing our kindness and improving relationships. $10. The Yoga Center, 449 Forest Ave., Portland., 10-11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Youth concert. Choir of over 30 voices from Burke, Virginia. South Freeport Congregational Church, 98 South Freeport Road. Free. 7:30 pm. Sunday.

Free half-day Vacation Bible School. South Freeport Church, 98 South Freeport Road. 9 a.m.-noon Monday through Friday.

Service of comfort and hope. Monthly evening service of contemplation where anyone may come into the sanctuary for reflection and prayer. Last Wednesday of each month. First Parish Congregational Church. 12 Beach St., Saco., 7-7:30 p.m.

Matthew Fox speaks on science and spirituality. $20 advance, $25 at door. First Parish Church, 425 Congress St., Portland. 8 p.m. Friday.

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

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Jun 2017 19:22:10 +0000
Hollywood’s 2018 Walk of Fame star honorees named Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:49:09 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Snoop Dogg, Shonda Rhimes, “Weird Al” Yankovic and late entertainers Bernie Mac and Steve Irwin will be receiving stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame next year.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce revealed the 2018 honorees Thursday.

Other recipients include Lin-Manuel Miranda, Taraji P. Henson, RuPaul, Simon Cowell, Jennifer Lawrence, Zoe Saldana and Lynda Carter.

Jack Black, Anthony Anderson, Carrie Underwood and Mary J. Blige are also part of the Walk of Fame’s class of 2018.

Walk of Fame honorees or their sponsoring studios must pay $40,000 for each star.

– From news service reports

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Jun 2017 19:24:11 +0000
Ron Howard will complete ‘Star Wars’ spinoff Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:44:40 +0000 The rumors have proved true: Ron Howard will return to space to complete the “Star Wars” young Han Solo spinoff film, Lucasfilm said Thursday.

Howard, who directed 1995’s “Apollo 13” and won Oscars in 2002 for directing and producing “A Beautiful Mind,” will step into the breach left suddenly this week by directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were fired from the anthology film over “creative differences” with bosses at Lucasfilm.

Although the untitled film reportedly had about two more months of shooting – including five weeks of planned reshoots – that timetable could change markedly based on how Howard and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy decide to pivot.

The film, which began shooting in London in late January, is still set for release next May.

Howard worked with Lucasfilm three decades ago on the fantasy film “Willow,” based on a story by “Star Wars” creator George Lucas.

Howard also has experience with space-set stories, not only with “Apollo 13” but also the 1998 miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon,” for which he won an Emmy and worked with frequent collaborator Tom Hanks.

As a feature-film director, Howard has had a mostly commercially fallow period since 2009, when his “Da Vinci Code” sequel “Angels & Demons” grossed nearly a half-billion dollars worldwide – one year after he delivered a critical hit with the Oscar-nominated “Frost/Nixon.”

In Howard, Lucasfilm lands a consummate studio pro with a long track record of success whose films often feature warm humor and technical prowess.

– From news service reports

]]> 0 Howard will step in after the surprise departure of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.Fri, 23 Jun 2017 19:25:14 +0000
Greek dishes the big draw at annual Portland festival Fri, 23 Jun 2017 20:55:29 +0000 Diners headed for the annual Greek Food Festival Friday for spanakopita, kourabiedes and gyros at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Portland.

The three-day festival each year draws more than 10,000 visitors and includes live music and traditional dancing. It continues through Saturday.

Parishioner and volunteer Letslase Tesema prepares salads behind the scenes during the Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Portland. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Demo Varipatis of South Portland, a member of the church for 50 years, fills orders for Greek fries. A sprinkle of oregano gives the fries their Greek twist. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Phil Sferes of Saco dresses a gyro while filling an order. The Greek Festival continues through Saturday. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Ouda Baxter of South Portland sits with family friend Marianne Mateosian, 3, of Portland as the youngster eats a Koulourakia cookie. Staff photo by Derek Davis


]]> 0, ME - JUNE 23: Phil Sferes of Saco dresses a gyro while filling an order at the Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. (Staff photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Sat, 24 Jun 2017 14:46:17 +0000
Concert Review: Portland Bach Festival beautifully open to interpretation Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:28:51 +0000 In its quest to bring the music of Bach and his contemporaries to every corner of Portland and its environs, the Portland Bach Festival has already presented performances this season at a bowling alley, two churches and a social hall on the city’s waterfront. On Thursday evening, the festival took over the acoustically vibrant sanctuary at Etz Chaim Synagogue, in the Maine Jewish Museum.

The shape of the program was much like that of the festival’s Sunday evening opener: One of the six suites for unaccompanied cello opened the program, as an extended prelude of sorts, followed by chamber concertos (branching out, this time, to included one by Bach’s prolific contemporary, Antonio Vivaldi) and ending with one of Bach’s sacred settings (or, in this case, excerpts from one that would, in a complete performance, have taken about three hours).

The cellist this time was Beilang Zhu, who gave a commanding account of the Suite No. 2 in D minor (BWV 1008). Like her colleague Paul Dwyer, who gave an exciting performance of the Suite No. 3 in C major (BWV 1009) at the opening concert, on Sunday, Zhu uses a period cello.

But the two players have very different sounds and styles. Where Dwyer exploited the Baroque cello’s bright, textured timbre, Zhu produced a deeper, heftier tone, closer to that of a modern cello, though with an occasional edge that came as a reminder that she was using the instrument’s earlier form.

And where Dwyer focused on the dance impulses that drive each of the suite’s movements, Zhu offered a high-energy, pressurized traversal that treated the suite’s dance characteristics as footnotes, and instead, embraced the full works as a unified whole – a strikingly different approach than she took at last year’s festival, when she played the Suite No. 6 in D major (BWV 1012).

Given a choice, I prefer Dwyer’s approach, but Zhu’s performance had a compelling, virtuosic grandeur. And one of the great things about this festival is that it is non-dogmatic. It celebrates the fact that musical interpretation is not monolithic.

That was even more apparent in the performance of the Violin Concerto in E major (BWV 1042), in which Lewis Kaplan, the festival’s founder and artistic director, was the soloist. Kaplan, at 83, has seen countless changes, both evolutionary and revolutionary, in Bach performance style. That may account, at least in part, for the festival’s openness to different and sometimes even antithetical interpretive approaches, to say nothing of the fact that it presents period and modern instruments side by side.

Kaplan used a modern violin in a performance that was softer-edged and less relentlessly driven than is the current fashion in Baroque playing. It recalled a time when Bach was seen, above all, as the most regal of the composers in classical music’s pantheon, and though the young players in the supporting ensemble take a different view – as was evident from their own performances later in the evening – they followed Kaplan’s lead unequivocally.

After the intermission, flutist Emi Ferguson, violinist Ariadne Daskalakis, Zhu on cello and Arthur Haas at the harpsichord, gave a trim, vigorous reading of Vivaldi’s Concerto in D minor (RV 96), all using period instruments. Most notable among these was Ferguson’s wooden traverse flute, which produces a very different sound – more rounded, more organically flexible – than the modern silver flute she played in Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 2, on Sunday.

The performance was dazzling, its best moments having the quality of a jam session, in which Vivaldi pitted virtuosic violin and flute lines against each other, leaving it to the players to outshine each other in one flighty passage after another. Ferguson and Daskalakis responded vigorously to the challenge.

Both players also made vital contributions in the concert’s final group, playing the obbligato lines in arias from Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” (BWV 244), just about – but not quite – wresting the spotlight from a fine group of vocal soloists. The best of these were countertenor Jay Carter’s graceful rendering of “Erbarme dich” and tenor Steven Caldicott Wilson’s passionate reading of “Geduld, Geduld,” but the contributions by soprano Sherezade Panthaki and baritone David McFerrin were also beautifully projected and vocally pleasing.

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 Fri, 23 Jun 2017 19:27:42 +0000
Illinois Catholic bishop decrees no Communion, funerals for same-sex couples Fri, 23 Jun 2017 15:12:31 +0000 The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, is calling on priests there to deny Holy Communion and even funeral rites to people in same-sex unions unless they show “some signs of repentance” for their relationships before death.

The decree by Bishop Thomas Paprocki also said that people “living publicly” in same-sex marriages may not receive the sacrament of confirmation or be admitted to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a process by which many converts become Catholic, preparing them for baptism and confirmation.

At the same time, Paprocki said that children living with a Catholic parent or parents in a same-sex marriage may be baptized. But when it comes to same-sex unions, priests cannot bless couples, church property cannot be used for ceremonies and diocesan employees are forbidden from participating, the decree said.

The bishop’s decree has not yet been made public by the diocese, but was sent to clergy and diocesan staff in an email last week. That email, in turn, was shared with other clergy around the country, as well as Catholic LGBT organizations, which posted the document and condemned it as unduly harsh, particularly in light of Pope Francis’ more compassionate posture.

“Although some other bishops and dioceses have instituted similar policies in part, this document is mean-spirited and hurtful in the extreme,” Christopher Pett, incoming president of DignityUSA, said in a news release by the organization that rallies the church for full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics.

Although same-sex marriages have been legal across the United States since the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the decree reiterates church teaching that marriage is a “covenant between one man and one woman.” The church’s official catechism states that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”

Four years ago, after gay marriage was legally recognized in Illinois, Paprocki “performed an exorcism in response to the law, suggesting politicians were ‘morally complicit’ in assisting the sins of same-sex couples,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

The 64-year-old bishop, trained as a lawyer as well as priest, has served the Springfield diocese since 2010. He was previously a priest and auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and is known for his passion for running and penchant for playing hockey.

In a statement provided to The Post, the bishop said of the decree: “These norms are necessary in light of changes in the law and in our culture regarding these issues.” The decree states:

Jesus Christ himself affirmed the privileged place of marriage in human and Christian society by raising it to the dignity of a sacrament. Consequently, the church not only has the authority, but the serious obligation to affirm its authentic teaching on marriage to preserve and foster the sacred value of the married state.

Last year, the pope released a 256-page document, “The Joy of Love,” which affirmed the church’s traditional views on marriage, as The Post reported. At the same time, the pope said unconventional unions are not without their “constructive elements.” He called on the church’s clergy to be pastoral and not to use doctrine as a weapon.

Other clergy have also embraced a more welcoming approach. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, recently welcomed dozens of gay and lesbian Catholics to worship. “I am Joseph your brother,” Tobin told the group, according to a New York Times report. “I am your brother, as a disciple of Jesus. I am your brother, as a sinner who finds mercy with the Lord.”

The Rev. James Martin’s latest book – “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the L.G.B.T. Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity – also calls for a gentler approach. Of the Paprocki degree, the noted Jesuit author said in a pointed Facebook post:

If bishops ban members of same-sex marriages from receiving a Catholic funeral, they also have to be consistent. They must also ban divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received annulments, women who has or man who fathers a child out of wedlock, members of straight couples who are living together before marriage, and anyone using birth control. For those are all against church teaching as well. Moreover, they must ban anyone who does not care for the poor, or care for the environment, and anyone who supports torture, for those are church teachings too. More basically, they must ban people who are not loving, not forgiving and not merciful, for these represent the teachings of Jesus, the most fundamental of all church teachings. To focus only on LGBT people, without a similar focus on the moral and sexual behavior of straight people is, in the words of the Catechism, a “sign of unjust discrimination.”

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:28:48 +0000
Horoscopes for June 23, 2017 Fri, 23 Jun 2017 08:00:15 +0000 0, 23 Jun 2017 08:14:52 +0000 U.S. attorney fired by Trump working on book Thu, 22 Jun 2017 23:21:22 +0000 NEW YORK — Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney fired by President Trump, has a book deal.

Alfred A. Knopf announced Thursday that Bharara was working on a book about the “search for justice” that would come out early in 2019. Bharara was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for 7 1/2 years. His prominent cases included the conviction of Sheldon Silver, former Speaker of the New York State Assembly.

Bharara was fired abruptly by Trump in March and has since said the president tried to cultivate a relationship with him, potentially compromising his independence.

– From news service reports

]]> 0 Thu, 22 Jun 2017 19:55:28 +0000
Ever wanted to paint a mural? Get your chance Saturday in downtown Augusta Thu, 22 Jun 2017 21:34:53 +0000 AUGUSTA — Artist Clint Pettengill wants community members to come together to give color and life to a large mural he created to show how the community came together, in the past, to create the Augusta we know today.

So on Saturday Pettengill, a Winthrop artist who studied at the University of Maine at Augusta, will hand over his paint brushes to the people of the community, including children and adults who might have never completed a work of art, so they can finish the work he designed.

The piece, which has a theme of “Be a bridge from what is, to what will be,” features icons from Augusta’s past, including Old Fort Western and the Colonial Theatre, and nods to logging and other industries that helped create Augusta’s once-vibrant downtown, next to a flowing Kennebec River. Pettengill said he wanted it to depict Augusta’s early history and how the downtown grew out of early industries.

Pettengill and a group of volunteers already have placed an outline of the artwork on the downtown Augusta wall it will occupy. But other than the blue background, the mural still needs to be painted to be complete, a task the artist said he has no concerns about turning over to members of the community, regardless of their artistic background, or lack thereof. Which, he noted, fits in with theme of the piece itself.

“We’re trying to make it as accessible as possible, so everybody can feel part of a bigger whole,” Pettengill said. “It’s what the project is all about — a bunch of people throughout time building a great city together.”

The mural is one of multiple murals planned for downtown Augusta, and would be the second to be completed. It will join a mural done by UMA students in Peter Precourt’s public art course, a postcardlike mural featuring Augusta, on the wall of 179 Water St., at the corner of Water and Bridge streets, which was completed earlier this month.

Alyra Donisvitch and a group of volunteers including members of the current class of the Kennebec Leadership Institute have been working to bring the mural, which they call a “Community Celebration Mural,” by Pettengill to a previously nondescript Front Street wall, along the Kennebec River waterfront, roughly across Water Street from the Downtown Diner.

And they want members of the community to come from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday to paint in the mural.

“We’re inviting the whole community, anybody who is available, to come fill it in,” Donisvitch said. “We’re describing it as a life-size coloring book. No experience is required. Definitely all ages.”

She said part of the idea of the project is group members had been hearing the Kennebec Valley region, and downtown Augusta, were perhaps lacking in having a community-like feel to them.

“So the idea behind it is, by offering this opportunity for people to work together, to contribute brush strokes to the wall, you bring the community together, so they can have a shared experience and have a place to come back to, where they can say, ‘I partook in this experience,’” Donisvitch said. “The idea behind it is to celebrate our community’s past, present and future.”

Pettengill, who contributed his time at no charge for the project, will be on hand with other volunteers to guide and assist mural-painters.

The mural will cover a large city-owned retaining wall.

The mural incorporates a set of stairs already along the wall, which provide pedestrian access between Water and Front streets. People painted on the wall behind the stairs are in clothing from different time periods, with their garb becoming more modern the higher up the stairs each person is located.

Pettengill, 37, said he comes from a family of builders, and the mural, in part, pays tribute to people who put in hard work to build the cities we live in today.

In 2013 a visiting team of downtown experts was brought to Augusta through the Main Street Maine program and spent three days in the city’s downtown, seeing what was there and what wasn’t, and made recommendations for how to help spur economic and community development there.

One of the things lacking downtown, team members told local building and business owners and others at the end of their visit, was some public art.

The downtown mural initiative aims to address that lack of public art in the city’s downtown, with plans to add at least one more this summer, on the wall of Riverfront Barbecue overlooking the city’s Market Square Park on Water Street. Officials also hope the murals will attract visitors to the city.

Saturday’s community mural-painting was timed to coincide with the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce-organized Whatever 2017 Family Festival’s Kennebec River Day, which will be taking place a short distance away at Mill Park, also alongside the Kennebec River. Events taking place as part of that include live musical and dance performances, a petanque tournament, demonstrations at Old Fort Western, face painting, fly casting demonstrations, horse-drawn wagon rides, games, and chainsaw woodcarving demonstrations.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

Twitter: @kedwardskj

]]> 0 photo by Joe Phelan This Thursday photo shows the outline of the mural that the public is invited to help finish Saturday in downtown Augusta.Fri, 23 Jun 2017 10:26:05 +0000
Maine Senate backs bill to raise minimum age for buying tobacco to 21 Thu, 22 Jun 2017 18:29:28 +0000 The Maine Senate overwhelmingly supported a bill Thursday that would raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The measure still requires an initial vote in the House, as well as additional votes in both chambers before it could be sent to the governor, who might veto it because it could mean lost revenue.

If the bill becomes law, though, Maine would be just the third state, after Hawaii and California, to raise its minimum purchasing age to 21. People ages 18 to 20 would still be allowed to smoke or use other tobacco products

The vote in the Senate was 31-4, well above the two-thirds support needed to override a veto. The House could take the bill up as early as Friday. LePage’s office did not respond to a request for comment about his position on the bill.

The bill was amended Thursday to allow anyone who is 18 as of July 2018 to buy products.

Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, the bill’s sponsor, testified during the public hearing last month that he has been affected personally by tobacco going back to his military service decades ago. He said he wanted to help prevent young people from starting in the first place.

“Tobacco is the only product that, when used as intended, causes addiction, disease and death,” he said. “When I left the Army, I was heavily addicted to tobacco, smoking two packs a day. Tobacco has also tragically affected my family. I lost both my father and brother to lung cancer.”

Sen. Michael Carpenter, D-Houlton, shared a story Thursday on the Senate floor about being addicted to smoking for many years. He said he tried to quit multiple times without success. Then one Christmas, he asked his then-13-year-old daughter for gift ideas. She told him she wanted him to quit smoking. He finally did.

Although support was strong in the Senate, not everyone was on board.

Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, said he viewed the bill as another example of a “nanny state” regulation and criticized fellow Republicans for supporting it.

“As one of the younger members of this body, I will say that the perception that younger adults are children, incapable of making the same decisions for themselves – decisions that all other adult Maine people are allowed to make for themselves – without the help of nanny government is insulting,” Brakey said. “If you only have the freedom to make good decisions, do you have any freedom at all?”

During the public hearing last month, opponents worried about potential lost revenue. The bill’s original fiscal note projected that the loss could total more than $8 million over the next two years. The amendment that passed Thursday to adjust the date when the minimum-age change would take place reduced that to about $106,000.

Shelley Doak, representing the Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association, was among those who said the state could lose revenue, perhaps to bordering states such as Massachusetts or New Hampshire, where the minimum age remains 18. She also said consumers could get around the new regulation by purchasing tobacco products online.

“Limiting youth access is a laudable goal, but there are unintended consequences of increasing the age from 18 to 21 to purchase tobacco products,” Doak testified. “It creates a variance setting Maine apart and likely diverting business activity across the border or to online retailers. Face-to-face transactions, products behind the counter, products locked in cases, extensive employee training and point-of-sale software to ensure that tobacco products are only sold to age-eligible adults (are) … likely not employed through Internet sales.”

The Retail Association of Maine also opposed the bill for similar reasons.

Although only two states have increased the minimum age to 21, more than 200 individual communities have passed local laws to do so. Last year, Portland became the first city in Maine to increase the age to 21.

Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor, a retired physician, said increasing the age is a logical incremental step.

“I think we have a right, and indeed an obligation, to warn people against the dangers and to make it just a little harder for people to get started,” Gratwick said.

Lance Boucher, representing the American Lung Association in Maine, said last month that the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids estimates that there are 27,000 youths under the age of 18 in Maine who will ultimately die prematurely from smoking. He said studies by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that adults, even smokers, overwhelmingly support an increase in the minimum age.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

]]> 0, 23 Jun 2017 05:43:48 +0000
Soldier who lost 4 limbs is opening a Maine retreat to help others like him Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:35:15 +0000 ROME, Maine — Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills awoke in a hospital on his 25th birthday to learn that an explosion in Afghanistan had robbed him of all four limbs. He later told his wife to take their daughter and their belongings, and just go. He didn’t want her saddled with his burden.

“She assured me that’s not how this works,” Mills said, “and she stayed by my side.”

Family support aided his recovery, Mills said, and now a foundation he created is bringing others with war injuries and their families to Maine to continue their healing while surrounded by others who understand what they’ve gone through.

The retreat at the lakeside estate of the late cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden will be dedicated this weekend after an overhaul that included accessibility upgrades.

Mills uses his personal story to offer encouragement: “I don’t look at myself and pity myself. I tell people to never give up, never quit, and to always keep pushing forward.”

The soldier’s life changed abruptly on April 10, 2012, when a bomb that evaded detection detonated when Mills unwittingly dropped his backpack on it.

The blast disintegrated his right arm and leg, shredded his wrist and blew several fingers off. His left leg dangled.

As life drained from him, Mills used what was left of his remaining hand to make a radio call for help for the others.

“My medic came up to me and I tried to fight him off, saying, ‘Doc, you’re not going to save me. There’s really no reason to keep trying. It’s OK. I accept what happened. Just tell my family I love them, and don’t waste your time,'” he told The Associated Press.

At the field hospital, his remaining leg came off with his pants as he was undressed for surgery. Two days later, his left arm was removed.

When it came to recovery, Mills said, the support of his family was just as important as top-notch medical care. His wife remained with him. Their 6-month-old daughter lifted his spirits. His father-in-law lived with him at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and oversaw construction of a home adapted for his disabilities.

This architect’s rendering of the Travis Mills Foundation Retreat is posted on the foundation’s GoFundMe website page. Image from Travis Mills Foundation's GoFundMe page

“Without my wife and daughter, I can’t tell you that I’d be sitting here today doing as well as I’m doing,” he said. “That’s why we do what we do. Because we believe there is more healing with the family and other people in the same situation.”

His wife, Kelsey, pregnant with their second child, said her husband has been competitive since his days as high school football captain in Vassar, Michigan. He was always the “life of the party,” she said, which helps to explain his charisma, enthusiasm and constant jokes.

“He’s always had a strong drive, and getting injured was like a challenge to him to overcome it,” she said.

These days, he travels 165 days a year, delivering motivational speeches, and it seems there’s little he can’t do thanks to grit and advanced prosthetics. He’s gone skydiving, participated in adaptive skiing and mountain biking, and paddled on lakes. He’s written a book, “Tough As They Come.”

The retreat is an extension of Mills’ work at Walter Reed, where he lifted others’ spirits while recovering from his wounds over a 19-month period.

This summer, 56 families will be served free of charge.

They’ll kayak, go tubing and fish, allowing injured soldiers and Marines to see that they don’t have to sit on the sidelines during family activities, Mills said.

Nearly $3 million in cash and in-kind contributions have gone into the camp, building on a pilot program. Mills hopes to raise enough money to create a permanent endowment.

Craig Buck said his son-in-law knows that not all injured military personnel have received the same family support. “This is his way of paying it forward,” Buck said. “That’s the reason we built the retreat.”

]]> 0, 22 Jun 2017 23:09:32 +0000
Horoscopes for June 22, 2017 Thu, 22 Jun 2017 08:00:43 +0000 0, 21 Jun 2017 15:45:00 +0000 MaineToday Magazine: We’ve rounded up the best fairs and fests of the summer Thu, 22 Jun 2017 08:00:16 +0000 0, 23 Jun 2017 16:42:11 +0000 Bill to outlaw drivers’ use of hand-held devices has few opponents Thu, 22 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000

Anthony DiBiase of Scarborough, an Uber driver, says roads will be safer if drivers aren’t allowed to use hand-held devices, but pulling over to answer a text message “can cause a hazard of its own.” Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Even those potentially inconvenienced by the law say they see the value of curbing distracted drivers.

The growing use of hands-free technology in cars may mute widespread opposition to pending legislation that would add Maine to the list of states that prohibit the use of any hand-held device while driving.

A measure to widen the state law that already bans texting while driving will be headed to Gov. Paul LePage’s desk soon after it clears some procedural hurdles in the Legislature. Both the state House and Senate already have backed the bill. LePage’s office hasn’t said whether he will sign it, but he did sign a bill in 2011 that outlawed texting and driving.

Fifteen other states have laws that ban drivers from using hand-held devices, including Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire in New England. Lawmakers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are considering joining that group.

Drivers around Portland said the measure may help decrease some of the distracted driving they say other motorists seem to practice.

Josh DuPaul said he’s a witness to many cases of driving while texting, despite the existing law, when he makes deliveries for RSVP, the Portland beverage company.

“Honestly, I see it a lot,” he said Wednesday. “I’m high up in this (delivery truck) and I see them constantly up and down” with cellphones, he says of other drivers.

If people followed the proposed law, which calls for fines starting at $75 for a first offense and a possible license suspension for a repeat offender, DuPaul said it would probably make the roads safer.

Lindsay Carter of Otisfield works in paint sales and is on the road almost all the time. She said a full ban on cellphone use while driving would probably put her out of a job, but she uses a hands-free device – which Maine’s law would allow. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Anthony DiBiase of Scarborough agrees, but said he has to assess how the law will affect him as an Uber driver. He normally gets text messages alerting him to a paying customer, DiBiase said, and having to pull over to answer a message might cause those fares to go to other drivers who are able to respond quicker.

“It would be more inconvenient,” he said, noting that pulling off to the side of the road can cause a hazard of its own.

“It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” DiBiase said.

The decision to broaden the law to ban any use of a hand-held device, whether to text, make a call, get directions from a GPS device or check email, comes as ticketing for texting while driving has jumped.

According to state officials, police wrote 48 tickets for texting and driving the first year the law went into effect and 866 last year. But even at that increased enforcement level, police believe the law is underreported and difficult to address, in part because drivers spotted by patrol officers can say they were doing something else with their cellphones other than texting. Cellphone records that would prove texting while driving are usually only subpoenaed when there’s a serious or fatal crash and police suspect a driver was texting instead of paying attention to the road.

Lindsay Carter of Otisfield said a full ban on cellphone use while driving would probably put her out of a job, but she uses a hands-free device that allows her to take and make calls while keeping both hands on the wheel.

Carter said about 90 percent of her job in paint sales involves either phone calls or emails and, since she’s on the road almost all the time, not being able to contact people that way would make her work impossible.

Carter said her employer supplies her and other salespeople with their phones and with hands-free devices to make and take calls while driving. She pulls off to the side of the road or waits until she makes a stop to see a customer before checking and responding to emails, she said.

Her company, which she declined to identify, is clear that safety takes precedence, Carter said.

“This is something we talk about every day,” she said.

Louis Shulman of Portland, another Uber driver, said he has his phone set up to route calls through his stereo system, freeing him from having to pick it up.

He said a law outlawing hand-held devices “may do me a favor because a lot of people drive distracted.”

Being on the road all the time has taught him that trying to juggle a cellphone or GPS device while driving is too much.

“I know how dangerous it is and how quickly things can change when you’re driving,” he said.

Lauren Thomas of South Portland said the law might have a side benefit of helping people draw some boundaries around how much technology intrudes on their lives.

“I think I’m OK with it,” she said of the proposed law. “I get a lot of calls when I drive. It would be nice to tell my boss, ‘I can’t take the call right now.’ ”

Edward Murphy can be contacted at:

]]> 0 representative Lindsay Carter, top, of Otisfield relies on a hands-free device when she's on the road. Uber driver Anthony DiBiase of Scarborough says roads will be safer if hand-helds are outlawed, but pulling over to answer a text message "can cause a hazard of its own."Thu, 22 Jun 2017 00:08:42 +0000
From dawn to dusk, the summer solstice in photos Thu, 22 Jun 2017 01:17:00 +0000 It’s the day that many of us in Maine wait for all year – the summer solstice, the day with the most daylight.

Portland Press Herald photographers captured the longest day from the first light, before 4:30 a.m., to the last, around 8:30 p.m.

With plenty of sunshine, the scenes give us something we’ll want to look back on in those dark days of December.

]]> 0, ME - JUNE 21: 4:56 a.m. Clouds above Nubble Light in York catch the light from the sun at dawn on the summer solstice in York on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (Staff Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer)Thu, 22 Jun 2017 20:17:11 +0000
Most American vacationers just want to relax Thu, 22 Jun 2017 00:38:31 +0000 Never mind the hike. Where’s the hammock?

A new poll about summer travel finds that the No. 1 thing Americans want to do on vacation is … nothing.

Almost three-fourths of Americans say resting and relaxing is very or extremely important to them when they go on vacation, according to the survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Interestingly, most Americans say staying home and doing nothing isn’t ideal. Instead, they want a change of scenery. Of those who plan a summer vacation, 92 percent are going away and only 8 percent are making it a staycation. More than half of those polled said relaxing at home doesn’t count as a real vacation.

How about unplugging?

Only 22 percent “completely disconnect” while on vacation. A third don’t even try to get away from the internet and social media. Some of those surveyed – 42 percent – say they dial back their time online a little.

But most Americans do avoid working on vacation. Sixty percent of workers say they don’t check in with work at all when they’re on vacation, while 32 percent say they work or check in with work a little.

Eight percent may fall into the workaholic category: They work or check in with the office “a lot.”

]]> 0 survey shows three-fourths of Americans prefer restful vacations that take them away from home.Wed, 21 Jun 2017 22:06:06 +0000
Daniel Day-Lewis retiring from acting Wed, 21 Jun 2017 21:55:51 +0000 NEW YORK — Daniel Day-Lewis, one of the most widely respected actors of his generation and a three-time Oscar-winner, says he’s retiring from acting.

The 60-year-old actor announced Tuesday that he has shot his last film and performed in his last play. That makes Paul Thomas Anderson’s already filmed “Phantom Thread,” due out in December, his final film.

“Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor,” his representative Leslee Dart said in a statement. “He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his representatives will make any further comment on this subject.”

The announcement sent shockwaves through Hollywood, where Day-Lewis is revered as possibly the finest actor of his time. But Day-Lewis has also long been an exceptionally deliberate performer who often spends years preparing for a role, crafting his characters with an uncommon, methodical completeness.

“I don’t dismember a character into its component parts and then kind of bolt it all together, and off you go,” Day-Lewis said in 2012, discussing Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” “I tend to try and allow things to happen slowly, over a long period of time. As I feel I’m growing into a sense of that life, if I’m lucky, I begin to hear a voice.”

He has stepped away from film before. In the late 1990s, he famously apprenticed as a shoemaker in Florence, Italy – a period he called “semi-retirement.” “Phantom Thread,” which Focus Features will release Dec. 25, is his first film in five years, following “Lincoln.”

The five-time Academy Award nominee is the only one to win best actor three times, for “My Left Foot,” “Lincoln” and “There Will Be Blood.”

]]> 0 Day-Lewis' final film, "Phantom Thread," will be released Dec. 25.Wed, 21 Jun 2017 17:55:51 +0000
George Clooney, partners offered $1 billion for tequila brand Wed, 21 Jun 2017 21:36:04 +0000 NEW YORK — Global liquor behemoth Diageo said Wednesday it will pay up to $1 billion to buy a tequila brand co-founded by movie star George Clooney.

Clooney founded the Casamigos brand four years ago with partners Rande Gerber and Mike Meldma.

Diageo said it will pay $700 million for Casamigos at first, and another $300 million over 10 years if the brand reaches certain performance milestones.

London-based Diageo’s other brands include Johnnie Walker, Guinness and Captain Morgan.

Clooney and Gerber, an entrepreneur who is married to model Cindy Crawford, have appeared in ads for the brand.

]]> 0 Wed, 21 Jun 2017 17:39:25 +0000
Judge orders release of names of jurors in Bill Cosby trial Wed, 21 Jun 2017 21:19:44 +0000 NORRISTOWN, Pa. – The judge who presided over Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial on Wednesday ordered the public release of the identities of the jurors who deadlocked in the case, but warned them not to divulge what other jurors said during deliberations.

Judge Steven O’Neill granted a request by a dozen media organizations, including The Associated Press and the major TV networks, to release the names. He said the jurors would first be contacted and given instructions on what they can and cannot say if they talk to reporters.

The judge declared a mistrial Saturday after the jury deliberated for 52 hours without a verdict. Prosecutors plan to retry the 79-year-old entertainer on charges he drugged and molested a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. Cosby said the encounter with Andrea Constand was consensual.

Lawyers for news outlets had argued that jurors’ names should be public to ensure transparency in the judicial process. Prosecutors and defense lawyers had argued they should remain secret, saying releasing them would make it more difficult to select a jury in Cosby’s second trial.

O’Neill cited the media’s First Amendment rights and Supreme Court precedent in ordering the release of the names. But he forbade jurors from talking about what other members of the jury said in the deliberating room or from revealing any votes cast in the case.

“Any disclosure of what was said and done during deliberations in this case would give a chilling effect upon the future jurors in this case and their ability to deliberate freely,” he wrote. “Further, future jurors will be reluctant to speak up or to say what they think when deliberating if they fear that what they say during deliberations will not be kept secret.”

The judge plans to hold Cosby’s second trial in the next four months.

He ruled one day after a hearing at which the media outlets argued that jurors should be free to discuss their backgrounds, the sequestration process and their individual views, even if they do not disclose the jury split or other jurors’ comments.

“This is a critical part of the justice system,” lawyer Eli Segal argued. “We are entitled to them.”

The jury was selected from the Pittsburgh area and spent two weeks sequestered 300 miles from home.

The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.

]]> 0 Cosby exits the Montgomery County Courthouse after a mistrial was declared in his sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pa.Wed, 21 Jun 2017 17:25:11 +0000
Horoscopes for June 21, 2017 Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:50 +0000 0, 20 Jun 2017 15:04:55 +0000