Lifestyle – The Portland Press Herald Thu, 23 Feb 2017 18:48:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 And the nominees for best Oscar-inspired cocktail are … Thu, 23 Feb 2017 16:03:56 +0000 0 GIFT, inspired by ‘Arrival’ Mark Hibbard, Bramhall 1 1/2 ounces Gordon’s Gin 3/4 ounce Aperol 3/4 ounce combier orange, 1 ounce pineapple juice 3/4 ounce lime, 1/4 ounce warm spiced grenadine 2 dashes Dove Shanks orange bitters 1/2 egg white Angostura float Activated charcoal Image courtesy of Bramhall THE GIFT, INSPIRED BY ‘ARRIVAL’ Mark Hibbard, Bramhall 1 1/2 ounces Gordon’s Gin 3/4 ounce Aperol 3/4 ounce combier orange, 1 ounce pineapple juice 3/4 ounce lime, 1/4 ounce warm spiced grenadine 2 dashes Dove Shanks orange bitters 1/2 egg white Angostura float Activated charcoal Image courtesy of Bramhall MANCHESTER BY THE SHORE, inspired by ‘Manchester by the Sea’ Nicole Bates, Grace 1 ounce lavender infused Hardshore gin 1 ounce Galliano 1 ounce cocchi americano Burnt orange garnish Image courtesy of Grace MANCHESTER BY THE SHORE, INSPIRED BY ‘MANCHESTER BY THE SEA’ Nicole Bates, Grace 1 ounce lavender infused Hardshore gin 1 ounce Galliano 1 ounce cocchi americano Burnt orange garnish Image courtesy of Grace THE FIELD MEDIC, inspired by ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ Adam Sousa, Sonny’s 1 1/2 ounces Vida Mezcal 3/4 ounce honey syrup 1 ounce fresh lemon juice 3 slices muddled ginger 1 dropper lava tincture (Dove Shanks bitters) Image courtesy of Sonny's THE FIELD MEDIC, INSPIRED BY ‘HACKSAW RIDGE’ Adam Sousa, Sonny’s 1 1/2 ounces Vida Mezcal 3/4 ounce honey syrup 1 ounce fresh lemon juice 3 slices muddled ginger 1 dropper lava tincture (Dove Shanks bitters) Image courtesy of Sonny's WALKER TEXAS RANGER, inspired by 'Hell or High Water' Trevin Hutchins, Rhum 1 ounce Johnnie Walker 1 ounce Vida Mezcal 1/2 ounce curacao 3/4 ounce lime 1 1/2 pineapple 1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup Image courtesy of Rhum WALKER TEXAS RANGER, INSPIRED BY 'HELL OR HIGH WATER' Trevin Hutchins, Rhum 1 ounce Johnnie Walker 1 ounce Vida Mezcal 1/2 ounce curacao 3/4 ounce lime 1 1/2 pineapple 1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup Image courtesy of Rhum GOLDEN GARAM MASALA, inspired by ‘Lion’ Matt Sherwood, Sur Lie 1 1/2 ounce Espolon reposado tequila 1/2 ounce Cardamaro 1/2 ounce persimmon shrub 1/2 ounce lemon 5 dashes Coastal Root Garam Marsala bitters Image courtesy of Sur Lie GOLDEN GARAM MASALA, INSPIRED BY ‘LION’ Matt Sherwood, Sur Lie 1 1/2 ounce Espolon reposado tequila 1/2 ounce Cardamaro 1/2 ounce persimmon shrub 1/2 ounce lemon 5 dashes Coastal Root Garam Marsala bitters Image courtesy of Sur Lie Thu, 23 Feb 2017 11:31:03 +0000 Portland Symphony Pops + ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ = musical celebration Thu, 23 Feb 2017 15:58:17 +0000 0, 23 Feb 2017 11:30:52 +0000 Horoscopes for Feb. 23, 2017 Thu, 23 Feb 2017 13:48:10 +0000 0, 23 Feb 2017 08:48:10 +0000 MaineToday Magazine: Did you hear the news today …. The PSO is doing ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ as the Beatles album turns 50 Thu, 23 Feb 2017 09:00:20 +0000 0, 22 Feb 2017 20:38:19 +0000 Lisa Marie Presley won’t have to pay husband alimony Wed, 22 Feb 2017 23:20:25 +0000 LOS ANGELES — A judge says Lisa Marie Presley won’t have to pay spousal support to her estranged husband while they fight over her assets, but she will have to pay some of his attorney’s fees.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patrick Cathcart on Wednesday ordered Presley to pay $50,000 to the lawyer representing her estranged husband, Michael Lockwood.

The order doesn’t affect the pair’s children, who are subject to a child welfare case and in the care of Presley’s mother.

Lockwood is challenging the validity of an agreement he signed after marrying Presley in 2006.

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Horoscopes for Feb. 22, 2017 Wed, 22 Feb 2017 13:44:32 +0000 0, 22 Feb 2017 08:44:32 +0000 Han Solo ‘Star Wars’ spinoff begins production
 at London studios Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:40:08 +0000 NEW YORK — Alden Ehrenreich has taken control of the Millennium Falcon. The Han Solo “Star Wars” spinoff has begun production.

The Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday that shooting began at London’s Pinewood Studios on Monday. To kick off the untitled movie, the studio released a photo of the cast at the controls of the Falcon.

Ehrenreich plays a younger version of Harrison Ford’s iconic smuggler and is seated amid cast members including Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and Donald Glover, who plays Lando Calrissian.

The film is directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who helmed “The Lego Movie.”

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Lindsay Lohan says she was ‘racially profiled’ wearing headscarf Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:35:41 +0000 Actress Lindsay Lohan claimed she was “racially profiled” at London Heathrow Airport recently while going through a security checkpoint wearing a headscarf.

In an appearance on “Good Morning Britain” on Tuesday, Lohan told hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid that she was stopped in a Heathrow security line while traveling from Turkey to the United States.

“When I was flying to New York recently, I was wearing a headscarf and I got stopped at the airport and racially profiled for the first time in my life,” Lohan said on the show. “She opened my passport and saw ‘Lindsay Lohan’ and started immediately apologizing, but then said, ‘Please, but take off your headscarf.’ ”

A video clip of Lohan’s appearance uploaded by “Good Morning Britain” appeared to have edited out the mention of her being “racially profiled.”

However, the Sun, a British tabloid, published a video clip that showed Lohan saying she was racially profiled, and many other outlets, including the Associated Press, reported the quote. The show itself tweeted the quote as well.

Lohan, the star of “Freaky Friday” and “Mean Girls,” told Morgan and Reid that she complied with the request to remove her headscarf but that the encounter was “jarring.”

“And I did. I mean, it’s OK,” Lohan said. “But what scared me was, in that moment, how would another woman who doesn’t feel comfortable taking off her headscarf feel?”

Lohan said she was wearing a headscarf out of “respect” because she was returning from Turkey, where she had met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Lohan in recent months has been speaking out on behalf of Syrian refugees.

]]> 0 Lohan says she was wearing a headscarf after returning from Turkey.Tue, 21 Feb 2017 19:56:16 +0000
Theater review: The class concerns of ‘Arms and the Man’ resonate today Tue, 21 Feb 2017 19:11:34 +0000 The intrepid folks at Pie Man Theatre have tapped a classic but still relevant play for their first major production of 2017.

George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man” is on one level a silly farce filled with characters from a 19th century world where questions of heroism, romance and class are cloaked in a lofty idealism that Shaw sought to lampoon. On a deeper level, the work suggests the perils in blindly accepting beliefs not well-tethered to a harsh reality.

The Pie Man cast, under the direction of Stephanie Ross, meets the challenge of this 1894 play and then some in a very lively and spirited production fueled by a well-developed understanding of Shaw’s work.

The play concerns the consequences of the appearance of a Serbian soldier who, pursued by his Bulgarian enemies, desperately seeks safety by climbing to the bedroom of a young woman from an aristocratic-minded Bulgarian family. Raina, the young woman, though hilariously prone to all sorts of artificial declarations of outrage and feigned modesty, is intrigued by the fellow she comes to call her “chocolate cream soldier,” after he hungrily accepts her offer of some of the sweet.

The war over, Raina’s father and fiancé return to resume their civilian lives only to find that Raina’s brief visitor (actually a Swiss mercenary) has upset the household equilibrium, which he continues to do upon his return. Add Raina’s class-conscious mother and some feisty servants to the mix, and long held but musty traditions get a theatrical workout in wickedly witty ways.

Emily Grotz, a junior theater major at the University of Southern Maine, steps up admirably to a big role as Raina, a young diva who thinks she has everyone fooled with her privileged postures until the Swiss soldier brings her back to earth. Grotz was great fun to watch, whether smothering her fiancé’s photo with kisses or frantically trying to keep her newfound love interest a secret.

Josh Brassard, as that man, gets to instruct Raina and the others in the realities of war and the challenges of peacetime. Brassard effectively showed his character’s delight in dealing with his laughably pompous hosts.

Cameron Foley works hard to steal scenes as the fake hero fiancé who not-so-secretly fancies the brassy maid, played by Allison Kelly. Their love-hate dialogue revealed Shaw’s take on the shallow roots of many class distinctions and romantic notions. Howard Rosenfield captures the clueless soul of the patriarch of the family, while Patricia Mew amusingly reveals the matriarch’s calculating wit. Kyle Aarons completes the cast for this theater-in-the-round production in dual roles as a drunken officer and a put-upon servant.

The vaguely period and somewhat whimsical costumes and scenery provide just enough context for a play that comes from long ago to make us laugh and think today.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

]]> 0 Grotz as Raina and Josh Brassard as BluntschliTue, 21 Feb 2017 18:56:15 +0000
SPACE Gallery will close for a month for renovations Tue, 21 Feb 2017 18:28:48 +0000 SPACE Gallery in Portland will close for a month beginning in early March for renovations and what interim Executive Director Gibson Fay-LeBlanc calls “unseen improvements” that will make the gallery and performance space better able to meet the needs of the community.

“We are an organization that is always trying to both respond to things that are happening in our community and lead with art of various kinds that is provocative and pushes people in different places,” he said. “This is a chance for our staff to re-energize and think about where we want to head in the future.”

Among the physical changes that people will notice will be a smaller exhibition space, built within the existing visual arts gallery, for multimedia art and pop-up exhibitions. Sound and lighting in the performance space will be upgraded, a box office will be built near the front door, and a new stage backdrop, designed by Maine artist Lisa Pixley, will be installed.

The improvements will cost about $13,000 and be paid for with grants, contributions and income from events. The gallery will close March 8 and reopen for the First Friday Art Walk on April 7.

At 538 Congress St., the nonprofit arts organization has been open 14 years and presents about 200 events and 15 art exhibitions annually, Fay-LeBlanc said. Improvements to the exhibition and performance spaces, as well as construction of a box office with regular weekday hours, reflect how SPACE has evolved during that time, he said.

There is more demand for multimedia art and a variety of performances, including theater, than there was a few years ago. The sound and lighting improvements will enhance the ability of SPACE to accommodate theater and other live performances, and the smaller gallery space will make it easier to adapt to the different kinds of art that artists want to present.

“There is so much happening there in the visual arts world that is hard for us to pull off. Having a smaller space seems more and more important,” Fay-LeBlanc said. “The sound refresh will be a first step toward making the sound bounce around a little less in the big room. Music shows in particular, but any kind of performance, should sound better with any of the improvements we are making.”

The changes come during a time of leadership transition. Longtime director Nat May left SPACE in November, and a search has begun for his replacement. The month-long closing gives the staff a chance to think about its work going forward. “After someone like Nat May leaves, you have to break the mold and start over,” he said.

The mission of SPACE isn’t changing, he added, but how it plans and presents its programs is evolving. When SPACE reopens, among the exhibitions will be a collection of flags, banners and signs from recent political protests.

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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Horoscopes for Feb. 21, 2017 Tue, 21 Feb 2017 13:24:26 +0000 0, 21 Feb 2017 08:25:48 +0000 U.S.-born panda cub Bao Bao bound for China Tue, 21 Feb 2017 01:37:25 +0000 WASHINGTON – The National Zoo is packing up its American-born panda cub Bao Bao for a one-way flight to China, where the 3-year-old will eventually join a panda breeding program.

The cub won’t have to worry about finding overhead bin space or dealing with a talkative seatmate on the 16-hour, nonstop flight Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday. She’ll be the only panda on the plane, traveling with a keeper and a veterinarian. Her accommodations are first class, too: a special metal crate the size of a double bed she can stretch out in. A sticker on its outside announces its contents: “one panda.”

In preparation for the trip, keepers have a packing list of Bao Bao’s favorite foods including: 55 pounds of bamboo, 5 pounds of apples and 2 pounds of sweet potatoes.

“Most of the flight, we hope she’s going to eat,” said panda keeper Marty Dearie, who will travel with Bao Bao to China and says pandas spend 13 to 16 hours a day eating.

Bao Bao is scheduled to depart the zoo Tuesday morning and travel to Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia, where she’ll board a special FedEx plane. Fans will be able to watch her departure on the zoo’s Facebook page.

Once Bao Bao arrives in Chengdu, China, she’ll be driven to her new home, one of the bases run by the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. Dearie will briefly remain with her while she gets adjusted. In time, when she reaches sexual maturity, between 5 and 6 years old, she’ll become part of a panda breeding program. The National Zoo says Bao Bao is traveling now because it’s better for pandas to travel in the winter months when it is cool.

Bao Bao delighted the zoo and panda fans when she was born Aug. 23, 2013. Her mother, Mei Xiang, gave birth to her first cub, Tai Shan, in 2005, but then failed to get pregnant for years. Then, a cub born in 2012 didn’t survive.

Brandie Smith, the zoo’s associate director of animal care sciences, said that when Bao Bao was born a year later she remembers “five minutes of pure joy” followed by “weeks of sleeplessness and worry.”

Since then, Bao Bao, whose name means “precious treasure” in Chinese, has grown from about the size of a stick of butter to more than 200 pounds. Her keepers describe her personality as “very independent,” sort of like a household cat.

Laurie Thompson, the assistant curator of giant pandas, said keepers have been preparing Bao Bao to leave for China since she was born, teaching her behaviors that will allow her Chinese keepers to do things like draw blood and perform ultrasounds. Thompson said Bao Bao’s departure is “definitely bittersweet,” but her keepers “know she’s ready” to leave.

“We’re ready. We’ve done our part, and we’re ready to send her to China so she can have her own babies someday,” Thompson said.

With Bao Bao’s departure, the National Zoo will have three remaining pandas.

]]> 0 Bao roams in an enclosure at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., in 2015. The 3-year-old panda is scheduled to leave Tuesday on a one-way flight to China to join a breeding program when she turns 5 or 6 years old.Mon, 20 Feb 2017 20:40:00 +0000
Charles Bartlett, matchmaker to JFK and Jackie, dies at 95 Mon, 20 Feb 2017 23:55:29 +0000 Charles Bartlett, a political reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for helping expose professional misconduct by the secretary of the Air Force but whose more enduring claim on history was having arranged a blind date between two of his most eligible friends – Jacqueline Bouvier and John F. Kennedy – died Feb. 17 at his home in Washington. He was 95.

The cause was a heart ailment, said his wife, Martha Bartlett.

Bartlett’s friendship with the future president and first lady stemmed from their overlapping social circles as children of vastly wealthy Catholic business executives. Bartlett, the son of a Chicago stockbroker, was a seventh-generation Yale graduate whose family wintered in South Florida near the Kennedys. Bartlett briefly dated Bouvier, who reportedly found him too buttoned-down for her taste.


He and Kennedy cemented a friendship in 1946. Both were back from wartime service in the Navy and on the cusp of careers in journalism and politics, respectively. They ran across each other at a Palm Beach, Florida, nightclub called Ta-boo. There was “a lot of common ground,” Bartlett later said.

Both wound up in Washington. Bartlett by that time was working as a correspondent for the Chattanooga, Tennessee, Times, a publication that carried little clout in the city’s political life. Kennedy reportedly offered a brotherly scold: “It’s a shame to keep writing that stuff and sending it down to die in Chattanooga.”

By his admission, what Bartlett lacked in burning career ambition he made up for in exceptional connections. In 1955, he had been tipped off to apparent conflicts of interest regarding the business affairs of Harold Talbott Jr., then serving as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s secretary of the Air Force.

Talbott was a partner in Paul Mulligan and Co., a management consulting company in New York that also held government contracts, and his continuing relationship with the firm gave off the distinct odor of profiteering from his government position. He wrote letters using official department stationery and used his office phone to call industrialists on Mulligan-related business.


Instead of keeping the information to himself, Bartlett decided to reach out to Kennedy’s brother Robert, then serving as a Democratic counsel on the Senate’s Homeland Security and Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

With the inside track on a major story, Bartlett won the Pulitzer for national reporting. It would remain the peak of a journalism career that lasted another half-century, as a syndicated columnist and a newsletter writer.

Mostly Bartlett became known for his close connection to John F. Kennedy. In 1951, Bartlett and his wife had been eager to play matchmaker to the dashing Massachusetts congressman with a roving eye.

They saw a suitable mate in Bouvier, a bewitching young socialite who exuded what Bartlett called “a basic joie de vivre.” It took the Bartletts months of arranging to get the couple together for a quiet dinner at the Bartlett home in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood.

The future first lady later told Time magazine that she agreed less out of enthusiasm for Kennedy than to get Bartlett to stop nagging her. “He got to be quite a bore about it,” she quipped.

The pairing was not an instant success, but it sparked an eventual courtship that led to marriage two years later. After Kennedy was elected president in 1960, Bartlett traveled with the first couple and was present for the baptism of their infant son, John Jr. He enjoyed favored access at the White House, which he said transformed him willingly into an advocate for the president.

In “Grace & Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House,” author Sally Bedell Smith wrote that Bartlett sought to position himself as an informal counselor, sending memos (“what JFK called ‘Bartlettisms’ “) about policy and personnel – even diet to help the president’s persistent back problems.

“Nothing mattered to me more than to have Jack Kennedy succeed as president,” he told Bedell Smith. “I made a cold decision on that. . . . It was not possible to be a good newspaperman and be a close friend of the president. . . . I felt I would protect anything he told me. He had reason to trust me because I didn’t blow on him.”

Perhaps the most vivid example of his loyalty and impeccable insider credentials took place during his reporting of the president’s handling of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis for the Saturday Evening Post, an article on which he teamed with journalist Stewart Alsop and that popularized the phrases “hawks and doves” and “eyeball to eyeball.”

The story caused a stir for its depiction of Adlai Stevenson II, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as an appeaser willing to deactivate the Guantanamo naval base and others in return for removal of Soviet missiles on Cuba.

Bartlett had secured Kennedy’s cooperation for the story and made a version available to Kennedy to review for accuracy. It came back with many hand edits by the president, and Alsop wanted to keep a copy for posterity. Bartlett said he “threw it in the fire at Stewart’s house to protect Kennedy.”

Charles Leffingwell Bartlett was born in Chicago on Aug. 14, 1921. He graduated in 1939 from the private St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts, and from Yale University in 1943. He did intelligence work for the Navy in the Pacific during World War II.

He had worked at the Yale student paper and, deciding on journalism as his future, he joined the Chattanooga Times because it was owned by members of the Sulzberger publishing dynasty who socialized with his parents.

Around the time of Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Bartlett left the Times and spent years as a syndicated columnist for the Chicago-based Field Newspaper Syndicate. Later in life, he wrote a newsletter of national and international news. With former Newsweek journalist Edward Weintal, he co-wrote “Facing the Brink: An Intimate Study of Crisis Diplomacy” (1967).

He was a past president of the Jefferson Awards Foundation, an organization that promotes community public service. He was a founding member and past president of the now-shuttered Federal City Club, which formed in 1964 as a riposte to the no-blacks policy of Washington’s Metropolitan Club.

Survivors include his wife of 66 years, Martha Buck Bartlett of Washington; three children, Peter Bartlett of Los Angeles, Robert Bartlett of The Woodlands, Texas, and film producer Helen Bartlett of Venice, California; and six grandchildren. A son, Michael Bartlett, died in 2008.

Over the decades, Bartlett rarely declined an interview request from anyone seeking insights into Kennedy as a public figure or a private man. He saw those sides close up, although he liked to note that his friend’s enduring mystique owed in part to his ability to compartmentalize so that everyone only saw fragments of the whole.

He was, Bartlett concluded, a man who pulled you in for a walk, for a laugh, for a dinner – and then kept you at a distance.

“No one ever knew John Kennedy,” he told author Richard Reeves, “not all of him.”


]]> 0 Mon, 20 Feb 2017 19:20:38 +0000
Premier American film critic Richard Schickel, dies at 84 Mon, 20 Feb 2017 23:01:32 +0000 Richard Schickel, whose erudite prose and piercing critiques made him one of America’s most important film critics in an era when cinema became increasingly ingrained in the cultural consciousness, died Saturday in Los Angeles after a series of strokes, his family said. He was 84.

In a career spanning five decades, thousands of reviews and dozens of books, Schickel chronicled Hollywood’s changing landscape, from the days when studios reigned with stars such as Katharine Hepburn to the rise of independent directors who summoned a new wave of realism that distilled the yearnings of a turbulent nation. A reviewer for Time magazine, Schickel had a legion of followers; he could be incisive and at times bruising in praising or panning a film.

“He was one of the fathers of American film criticism,” said his daughter Erika Schickel, a writer. “He had a singular voice. When he wrote or spoke, he had an old-fashioned way of turning a phrase. He was blunt and succinct both on the page and in life.”

In his 2015 memoir “Keepers: The Greatest Films – and Personal Favorites – of a Moviegoing Lifetime,” Richard Schickel wrote: “I just like to be there in the dark watching something – almost anything, if truth be known. In this habit – I don’t know if it is amiable or a mild, chronic illness – I have been indulged by wives, girlfriends, just plain friends and children. Of course, a lot of the time I’m alone, unashamedly killing an evening, no questions asked.”

Schickel began his career as a critic in the 1960s, joining a generation of voices, including Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris, who were capturing Hollywood at a time of aesthetic and financial change. Movies were speaking to the country’s identity, its fabric, and film critics often found themselves reviewing not only cinema but the moods of society. In his 1967 review of Stanley Kramer’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” Schickel wrote of the interracial love story starring Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy and Hepburn:

“Where to begin discussing the ineptitude with which the nightmare is realized on screen … . Kramer is earnestly preaching away on matters that have long since ceased to be true issues.”

He took on other classics as well, describing “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946) as “close to travesty” and “The Maltese Falcon” (1941) as “cramped and static.”

But Schickel did not inflate the role of the critic or for that matter the importance of cinema. Movies at their best, he said, were a “joyous enterprise” and at their worst a “harmless addiction.”

“Richard was a giant of American film criticism, one of the last survivors of a golden age,” Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan said. “No one could touch him for the high quality of his writing sustained over so many formats and so many years.”

Schickel was a prodigious writer and documentary filmmaker. His 37 biographies, critiques and other books included an array of subjects: Gary Cooper, James Cagney, Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Elia Kazan. He wrote and worked on 37 documentaries, including “From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga” and “Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin.”

His review of “The Aviator” went like this: “Director Martin Scorsese soars triumphantly close to the sun, and unlike Icarus, never falters in his flight. An epically scaled biography of Howard Hughes, the mad genius of airplanes, movies and womanizing, this is filmmaking on a grand, rare, often curiously poignant scale, featuring a stunning performance by Leonardo DiCaprio as one of the great American nut cases.”

]]> 0 Mon, 20 Feb 2017 18:16:17 +0000
Augusta’s Colonial Theatre faces high hurdles for $8.5 million renovation, expansion Mon, 20 Feb 2017 21:51:13 +0000 AUGUSTA — For as much optimism as the supporters of the Colonial Theatre have in their plan to renovate and reopen in downtown Augusta by 2019, a lot of work remains.

Richard Parkhurst, who has spearheaded the project, has set a deadline and has a plan.

“The really great thing now is that no water got in this winter,” he said, standing in the theater on a frigid day earlier this month. “As soon as the weather breaks, we’ll start on the floor. The engineering is all done and the materials list is made. It all depends on the weather.”

Not all the work that’s pending is construction.

Prime among the work to be done is raising the money to do the estimated $8.5 million project. About $2.2 million of that is expected to come from state and federal historic preservation tax credits. Parkhurst said the theater group already has raised nearly $1 million, and there are potential large donors “waiting on the sidelines” who have indicated they’ll also make donations to the project.

The city of Augusta has committed itself to contributing $300,000 to the project, though the city won’t pay those funds, City Manager William Bridgeo said, until the project is substantially complete. That will avoid spending taxpayer money only to see the project fail, such as if too little money is raised from other sources, or if for any reason the work doesn’t take place.

He said the $300,000 could come from money essentially left over from the recent $11 million expansion and renovation of Lithgow Public Library. He said the library project came in under budget, which is why $300,000 is available.

Parkhurst said this month the goal is to have the theater ready to open in 27 months. He said that goal is ambitious but not crazy.

He said they plan, this month, to apply for a $500,000 grant, and also plan to seek other grant funding.

Sam Tippet, of Sidney, president of the Colonial Theatre board of directors, expressed confidence that area people, businesses and organizations will step up to donate the money needed to restore and reopen the theater.

“There is a groundswell of support. We’re seeing more and more,” he said.

Bill Williamson, grandson of William B. Williamson, who built the theater in 1912, and co-chairman of the fundraising campaign, said he hopes people from outside the Augusta community also will contribute, especially with Augusta being the state capital. He said it may take a few years to raise all that money, but the result will be worth it, with a rejuvenated theater that he believes will also rejuvenate the downtown, the city and the region.

“I think it’s just going to take commitment and focus to raise the money,” Williamson said. “But look to what Waterville has done, with the opera house, and Rockland, with The Strand. There are so many examples where these old theaters have been rebuilt and rehabilitated and been a home run for the community.”

Augusta Mayor David Rollins acknowledged fundraising efforts might have to overcome donor fatigue. That’s because the project comes on the heels of recent fundraising efforts that helped build a new MaineGeneral Medical Center, Kennebec Valley YMCA, Cony High School, and a Lithgow Public Library expansion. But he’s confident it’ll happen and people will come through for the theater, as they did for each of the projects.

“No doubt there is donor fatigue. That’s certainly understandable, but at the same time I hope we all pull together and make this happen,” Rollins said. “This town and community have done unbelievable things. The amount of money we raised the last 12 years, they said couldn’t be done. I think we’ll get there because it is something that has to happen.”

Rollins said a renovated theater would help improve that end of Water Street, which has a few other dilapidated buildings.


The theater is also a couple doors down from Bread of Life Ministries’ soup kitchen on Water Street, which provides numerous people in need with a free meal at lunchtime during the week.

At an Augusta Planning Board meeting in September regarding an unrelated proposal to clarify and modify city zoning rules, several downtown merchants and city residents complained about the effect that users of such social services have had on the city, especially the downtown area. They said people waiting to get into the soup kitchen on Water Street have deterred potential customers from coming to their businesses. Some of them said those same people could hurt efforts to draw theatergoers to the Colonial Theatre once it is renovated.

“We’re not against Bread of Life, but we’re also trying to revitalize the old Colonial Theatre, and having those two so close together, I think is going to be very difficult,” said Stacey Shaw, who owns the relatively new Black & Tan restaurant, on Bridge Street just above Water Street, with her husband, Chris, who is also a veteran city police officer. “There are a lot of people who need help. We’re not against those people. We’d just like the downtown to be able to flourish, and that’s hard to do right now.”

Tippet, a former board member of Bread of Life, said he doesn’t think the Water Street soup kitchen will be an impediment to the theater being a success. He noted that it serves lunch only for a couple of hours a day, and theater activities are generally in the evenings. He also said the organization works hard to provide a valuable service to people who shouldn’t be judged unfairly just because they’re going to a soup kitchen.

“I see Bread of Life as a good neighbor and a very important organization,” he said.

This photo taken last week shows the Colonial Theatre in Augusta, where supporters hope to expand the building into the vacant lot next door as part of an $8.5 million renovation and expansion.

This photo taken last week shows the Colonial Theatre in Augusta, where supporters hope to expand the building into the vacant lot next door as part of an $8.5 million renovation and expansion. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

John Richardson, executive director of Bread of Life Ministries, the nonprofit group that operates the soup kitchen, declined to comment, saying only that he was focused on the work of serving the poor by feeding the hungry and housing the homeless, which he said is the organization’s mission.

Parkhurst said he is “not at all” concerned about the soup kitchen’s presence near the theater.

Tom Johnson, who owned and ran Capitol Computers between the theater and Bread of Life for 32 years before selling the business last year, said he doesn’t think the presence of the soup kitchen will be a problem for the theater.

“I was next to the soup kitchen and it hasn’t always been great, but we’ve managed to co-exist quite well,” he said. “The people running it seem to have sensitivity to the problem and do what they can. They’ve been there 27 years, I was there for 32 years. If I can survive next to it as a business, I don’t see why a theater couldn’t.”

Rollins said a group of local officials, residents and church leaders have been meeting regularly to ponder where social services might best be provided in the city. He said Bread of Life officials have declined to participate, but he’s hopeful they’ll come to the table and join that discussion.

If the theater is restored, is reopened and becomes successful, Parkhurst said, it may have a problem that, as problems go, would be a good problem to have — parking, or the lack thereof.

With about 800 seats planned, and no parking lot for the theater to call its own, a full house could leave some attendees searching for a place to park their cars.

Parkhurst noted there are city parking lots, such as one in nearby Mill Park; a parking garage just above Water Street; on-street parking; and other parking lots not far away that have spaces available at night. He’s hopeful the theater can work out an arrangement for parking spaces with the city. He also said shuttle buses from lots farther away could be a good option.

Tippet, Rollins and Parkhurst noted that attending events in other cities, such as Portland or Boston, often involves parking some distance away from the venue and walking a bit.


Supporters of the theater project have more than two years to work through these issues and others they may still encounter.

What’s still taking shape is the theater’s business plan.

“I don’t have any intention of running this thing, but I have some goals,” Parkhurst said. “I believe this building belongs to the community and I want it to be accessible.”

If a local band needs a place to rehearse, Parkhurst would like that to happen at the Colonial, and that’s just one example.

A youth theater troupe already has been formed and is expected to schedule performances for the space. The troupe, led by Barbara Helen Baker, an actress, director and theater teacher, plans to stage its first production well before the Colonial restoration will be complete. The musical is expected to be performed at various locations, including schools, in the area. Parkhurst and Baker said the idea is to have the troupe up and running so when the theater is open, programming can begin immediately.

The Colonial also is expected to host live performances by touring acts.

From his time working as the director of marketing and development for the Waterville Opera House for two and a half years, Dick Dyer is convinced demand for live entertainment exists in this region that is not being met.

“We tripled our programming from pent-up demand, and many of those people would travel a half-hour or more to attend shows,” he said.

Dyer is now a partner in Community Productions, through which he brings performers to the area.

“One of the elements that’s missing is a theater in the 800-to-1,200 seat size,” he said. “There’s only one venue in that size range in central Maine, and it’s the Waterville Opera House. The Skowhegan Opera House is not fully renovated, and beyond that, you have the (Augusta) Civic Center, and that takes you to a different level.”

The Augusta Civic Center, where Elvis Presley, the Grateful Dead and Pearl Jam have played, finds itself booking events such as banquets, trade shows, graduations and sports entertainment more often than touring musical acts.

“We still get calls for shows,” Civic Center Director Earl Kingsbury said, “but my simple answer is we’re too busy.”

Dates for annual events are booked well in advance, and that limits opportunities.

“If I looked now for a date in October 2018, I could give maybe one date,” he said.

Kingsbury said he doesn’t consider the Colonial competition for a couple of reasons. The Colonial will have a permanent stage, which makes booking theatrical productions there more feasible than at the Civic Center, where the staff would have to build a stage and a proscenium arch and rig up a curtain.

They are in different size classes; the Civic Center can accommodate an audience more than twice the size of the Colonial, and its size puts it in competition with the Bangor Waterfront concert facility, where many tours have scheduled stops since it opened in 2011.

“I think (the Colonial) will be great for the city and great for downtown. It’s something the city needs,” he said.

Dyer, who is working on booking shows for well into 2018, said he’s interested in what the Colonial Theatre will be doing.


That falls in part on the shoulders of Matthew Whitman.

“If I have my way, there will be a show at the Colonial on the grand opening day,” Whitman said. Through his company, JFW Productions, he works in artist management and production. For the Colonial, he’s working through the business plan.

Supporters have built into their fundraising plan $1.3 million for operating expenses for the first two years, but that funding doesn’t replace a business plan.

“There’s an awful lot of demographic research that goes into a plan like this,” he said, as well as hypothetical spreadsheets to determine what will be needed to keep the lights on and doors open.

“We’re trying to make decisions very deliberately,” he said. “This is a 501(c)(3) (non-profit), and where the money goes is very important. Everyone involved wants it to be very community-oriented.”

Whitman met Parkhurst via an introduction through the Snow Pond Arts Academy, which Whitman’s son attends. Whitman also is consulting with the Snow Pond Center for the Arts on its own renovation project.

“One of my favorite things in the world is taking what I have learned in my job and use it to help the community and help the kids,” he said. “After meeting with Richard, I think this is really going to work. It’s going to work well, and Richard has been taking the appropriate steps to do it right.”

The ongoing discussions are about striking the right balance of performances and finding the right operating model.

Parkhurst said theaters rely on donations and endowments to supplement revenue because theaters don’t make money.

But that’s not going to stop him and his team from completing the Colonial’s renovation, and neither will predictions of doom that can attach themselves to complicated and costly projects.

“We can spend our time trying to convince the naysayers,” Parkhurst said, “or we can convince a whole new group of people.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

Twitter: @kedwardskj

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

]]> 0 is a concept sketch of the exterior of the Colonial Theatre in downtown Augusta after it is renovated and expanded.Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:23:13 +0000
Fish Maine 2017 app, developed by West Gardiner man, is now free Mon, 20 Feb 2017 21:26:09 +0000 Some people do crossword puzzles for a hobby; Ron Cote builds apps.

A year ago, the West Gardiner man launched his first app, Fish Maine, which contains all the state’s fishing regulations.

Since then, he has released a Hunt Maine app, and just recently an update for the fishing app, Fish Maine 2017.

West Gardiner resident Ron Cote, shown in March 16, 2016, at Togus Pond in Augusta, has updated his fishing regulations smartphone app and now is offering it free. Staff file photo by Andy Molloy

For Cote, who is releasing the apps through his limited liability corporation, Northeast Logic, building the programs for mobile devices such as smartphones is like solving a puzzle. The information comes from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and it’s organized so that fishing enthusiasts can find what regulations apply to where they are, thanks to their GPS.

“This one will have directions to boat launches,” Cote said. “That’s new.”

Also new this year is the price: It’s free.

In the world of app development, developers can make money initially two ways. They can sell the app via Google Play or the App Store, or they can make it free and incorporate advertising on the site to earn some revenue.

Cote, who has a full-time job with the Maine Department of Transportation, originally planned an ad-free app, but he said he got a call from someone asking to advertise, and that’s how it started.

Scott Snell, a fishing guide who, with his wife, Alison, runs Wilsons on Moosehead Lake, a lodging and guide business in Greenville Junction, said he mentioned advertising to Cote last year.

“We were in the booth next to him at the sportsmen’s show,” Snell said. When he saw how the app works, he said he was blown away.

Snell said his guests travel from all over the East Coast to fish in Maine, where they may not be familiar with the local landmarks and place names.

“If I send them to a trout pond and they go to the wrong one, it’s easy to do, and they could be fishing illegally,” he said.

In Piscataquis County, for instance, there are three Notch Ponds.

While Snell acknowledged the IF&W book is the official source of fishing regulations, he said it ought to come with a map.

“Not every fisherman is really good with trying to take the (’Maine Atlas and) Gazetteer’ and figuring out which Indian Pond, Great Pond or Long Pond they are going to,” he said.

Cote said he just about broke even when he charged for the app, but it wasn’t about the money. He developed the app because he didn’t want to run afoul of fishing regulations himself, or risk heading out without the regulation book.

“If we give it away, and did some advertising, then we could break even and even more people could use it,” he said.

So far he’s taken ads from the Maine Guides, Wilsons and a fish taxidermist. He opted for businesses that are relevant to the fishing crowd.

Late last year, Cote also released Hunt Maine, an app that provides handy smartphone access to Maine’s hunting regulations. It currently costs $3, but Cote plans to make that one free, too.

Cote said he may branch out to other apps.

“People have asked me about building different things, like an app to show cemetery locations where someone is buried,” he said. “It can be done. I have also been thinking about snowmobile trail apps. There’s some demand for some of that stuff out there, but I want to get (the fishing app) a little more refined.”

When Cote debuted the app last year, IF&W spokesman Mark Latti said the department’s regulation book is the only definitive source of regulations because it’s filed with the Maine secretary of state’s office annually, as required by law. Latti confirmed Friday that that’s still the department’s stance.

For his part, Cote is working on making the app a little more user-friendly by having depth information come up in lake search results. That will probably be done in March.

For now, the updated app is available in Google Play for Android phones, and it will come to the App Store for iPhones soon.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

]]> 0 Gardiner resident Ron Cote, shown in March 16, 2016, at Togus Pond in Augusta, has updated his fishing regulations smartphone app and now is offering it free.Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:21:07 +0000
Portland’s classical music station WBACH goes off the air Mon, 20 Feb 2017 16:42:13 +0000 Portland’s only commercial classical music station, WBACH, is off the air and has been replaced with a simulcast of a country music station.

A statement Monday from Binnie Media, which owns the license, did not say why the switch was made.

“We would like to thank the fans of WBACH and classical music for listening over the years and we regret any inconvenience as a result of the changes,” operations manager Stan Bennett said in the statement.

WBACH, at 96.9 FM and 106.9 FM, has broadcast for 25 years, although there have been some interruptions. It was off the air more than half a year before returning to Portland airwaves in 2013.

Binnie Media of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, has offices in Portland, where it operates several other stations, including 99.9 The Wolf, a country music station. That station will now broadcast on 96.9 FM as well, according to the company.

“Now country music fans can hear Wolf Country crystal-clear in offices and apartment buildings downtown where they may have had difficulty in the past,” the statement read.

A note on the WBACH website Monday said simply, “This site is no longer on the air.”

Former on-air host and program director Scott Hooper said he was let go several weeks ago after 22 years at the station. He said that at the time of his departure he was the station’s only full-time local on-air host. Hooper declined to give other details of his termination or discuss the station.

Listeners noticed the station was off the air over the weekend and began posting about it on social media.

Dean Stein, who plays violin for the Portland String Quartet, lamented the demise of WBACH.

“WBACH provided the staples of the classical repertoire, and I often found myself recommending it to people new to classical music,” he said. “I am sorry that a commercially viable classical music station cannot survive in this day and age and will miss their music.”

The loss of WBACH does not mean the end of classical music on the radio in Maine. Maine Public offers several signals for classical music programming.

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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

Twitter: PPHEricRussell


]]> 0 Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:41:39 +0000
Concert review: Music’s Quill shows degrees of improvisatory skill Mon, 20 Feb 2017 01:39:45 +0000 Music’s Quill devoted its Saturday evening program, in the small chapel of St. Luke’s Cathedral, mostly to Baroque vocal music, with the group’s fine tenor, Timothy Neill Johnson, holding the spotlight. But the group’s instrumentalists – Timothy Burris, playing archlute and theorbo, and Raffael Scheck, switching between cellos with different tunings – each performed solo pieces as well, and what the vocal and instrumental music shared, to varying degrees, was an approach to interpretation that demands improvisatory skill.

The vocal works, for example, were continuo songs – that is, music in which the vocal lines are written out fully, but allow leeway for extemporaneous ornamentation, while the continuo, or accompanying parts, are scored simply as a bass line with numerical figuration indicating the necessary harmonies. How this figured bass is brought to life is, to a great extent, up to the musicians.

It’s trickier than you might think. Although the bass lines must be rendered straightforwardly, listeners expect a lutenist to produce inventive accompaniments that punctuate and perhaps comment on, or respond to, the song’s melody and text. But an accompaniment that is so detailed that it arrests the attention can be a problem, since the vocal line, after all, is the main business of the song.

The singer, too, must find a sensible balance between presenting the vocal line as written, and adding embellishments that must be pleasing and virtuosic, yet not so arresting that they obscure the words. Further complicating matters, the line between not enough embellishment, and too much, varies from one listener to the next. For my taste, the Music’s Quill musicians could have been more elaborate with their improvisations, but it could not be said that they failed to meet the style’s demands.

The vocal works were split between love songs of Giulio Caccini and airs by Henry Purcell. Caccini, like his colleagues in the Florentine Camerata – the group that created opera – was concerned with capturing the essence of emotion in his vocal music, so for him, leaving room for improvisation meant allowing singers to magnify those emotions as they saw fit in the heat of performance.

Johnson was at his best in Caccini’s plaintive “Amarilli, Mia Bella,” in which he ornamented the refrain subtly at first, and more elaborately in the final verse. Similarly, in the more energetic “Torna, Deh Torna,” he applied a different set of ornaments to each verse, again increasing their adventurousness as the piece unfolded.

The Purcell set included “Music for a While,” “O, Solitude” and “Evening Hymn,” all works built upon a ground (a repeating bass figure). Like the Caccini songs, these are heard most frequently in performances by countertenors or sopranos. Putting them in the tenor range did them no violence, but the Purcell settings seemed to fall high in Johnson’s range, and he strained at times, particularly in “O, Solitude.”

Supporting Johnson in the Purcell and Caccini songs, Scheck played the bass lines firmly, and Burris filled out the texture gracefully, for the most part leaving attention-grabbing decorations to the bars between lines or verses. An exception was Caccini’s “Mentre Che Fra Doglie e Pene,” at the end of the program, which benefitted from a more rhythmically assertive theorbo accompaniment.

Burris had a better opportunity to demonstrate his improvisatory skills in Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger’s “Toccata Arpeggiata,” the score of which shows only a series of chords, printed as whole notes, which the performer must play in a harp-like style, ideally as something more thoughtful than straightforward arpeggios.

Burris’s solution was gentle and elegant, as was his shapely rendering of a similarly compose-it-yourself prelude by the French composer François Dufaut, in which the printed score is a series of undifferentiated quarter notes, into which the player must breathe a rhythmic soul.

Scheck devoted his solo moments to exacting, texturally transparent performances of two attractive ricercars by Domenico Gabrielli, lively pieces that create the impression of counterpoint – or at least, of independent bass lines and melodies.

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, 19 Feb 2017 21:00:05 +0000
‘Great Wall’ fails to measure up against ‘Lego Batman’ at box office Sun, 19 Feb 2017 23:50:50 +0000 NEW YORK — “The Great Wall” was a hit in China. In North America, it was a dud.

The most expensive film ever made in China and with a budget of $150 million, “The Great Wall” was intended to prove that the world’s No. 2 movie marketplace could produce Hollywood-sized blockbusters of its own. Though it ran up $171 million in ticket sales in China, “The Great Wall” pulled in $18.1 million in its North American debut over Presidents Day weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.

That was good enough for third place, falling behind last weekend’s top two films, “The Lego Batman” and “Fifty Shades Darker.” The Warner Bros. animated release easily led the box office again with $34.2 million in its second week, sliding only 35 percent. Universal’s “Fifty Shades Darker” sold $21 million in tickets in its second week. The erotic sequel continues to play well overseas, where it led international business with $43.7 million over the weekend.

Slammed by critics, “The Great Wall” didn’t measure up to its initial ambitions. It was produced by Legendary Entertainment, which has since been acquired by Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group. The film, directed by Zhang Yimou, originated with an idea by Legendary chief executive Thomas Tull, who left the company last month.

But “The Great Wall” isn’t a bomb. It has made $244.6 million overseas and performed over the weekend in North America slightly better than some pundits expected.

“This is absolutely a strategy that’s worldwide,” said Nick Carpou, distribution chief for Universal. “Worldwide, we are one of many markets.”

Universal could still claim four of the top 10 films, the other two being “A Dog’s Purpose” ($5.6 million in its fourth week) and “Split” ($7 million in its fifth week), so far the top film of 2017.

More East-West productions like “The Great Wall” are sure to follow. Studios already regularly partner with Chinese film companies on everything from “Transformers: Age of Extinction” to “Warcraft,” a flop in the U.S. and Canada with $47.4 million, but a $220.8 million hit in China.

– Associated Press

]]> 0 Damon plays William Garin in a scene from "The Great Wall."Sun, 19 Feb 2017 19:16:00 +0000
Waterville, Rockland show gains that historic theaters can bring Sun, 19 Feb 2017 19:42:15 +0000 AUGUSTA — For the supporters of the Colonial Theatre, the vision is so clear.

In 27 months or so, the restored historic theater with a new annex at the north end of Augusta’s historic downtown will offer space for a variety of performances, events and community uses along with an art gallery and restaurant that will raise the profile of the arts in the capital region.

That’s a lot of weight for one project to carry, but Richard Parkhurst, who is heading the redevelopment efforts, strongly believes it can happen, it should happen and it will happen.

“It’s essential,” Augusta Mayor David Rollins said. “It’s absolutely essential to the vitality of the city.”

As it now stands, the Colonial Theatre is a brick shell with a new roof enclosing a space whose distinguishing features include a stage, a cantilevered balcony and a big hole in the floor.

As ambitious as the redevelopment plans are, they are not unique.

Across the United States, communities have backed efforts to renovate and revitalize their historic theaters.

“It creates economic development and it drives business,” said Ken Stein, president and chief executive officer of the League of Historic American Theatres. “But I think most people, when they are talking about show business, focus on the show and forget the business.”

What a theater is uniquely able to do, Stein said from his office in Austin, Texas, is draw people to a destination and prompt them to spend money.

The League of Historic American Theaters is a nonprofit that works to sustain historic theaters in the United States and Canada and offers training and resources to make historic theaters sustainable businesses.

“People are making a choice and making plans around a choice,” Stein said. “They’re paying for a meal, parking, baby sitters and going shopping to dress up maybe. When we do economic impact studies on theaters, we take that into account.”

Stein saw it when he was working to revive a historic theater in Austin. He and his staff watched as the plywood came off the windows of neighborhood shops and restaurants start to move in and partner with the theater for events. “It happens again and again,” he said, and it doesn’t matter whether the theater produces its own shows or hosts music and comedy or shows movies.

Stein has developed, with the help of a model by Americans for the Arts, a snapshot of the effect of historic theaters. A single historic theater in a city with a population of less than 50,000 can sustain 32 full-time equivalent jobs, can create $1.1 million in total expenditures and can generate $96,000 for local and state governments. It also can add $684,000 to household incomes.

“One thing holds true,” he said. “Theaters that are open and operating, as long as they have a good business plan in place and they know what the community is looking for, they become fantastic revenue generators.”

Across central and midcoast Maine, supporters and funders have backed theater projects ranging from the Chocolate Church in Bath and the Franco American Heritage Center in a former church in Lewiston to the Snow Pond Center for the Arts in Sidney and the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in Gardiner. Boothbay Harbor, Rockport, Camden, Skowhegan and Waterville all have historic opera houses. And Rockland has the Strand, which like the Colonial, started as a movie theater.

The experiences of two of these theaters shed light on the effect a historic theater can have.


Two and three decades ago, it was “Camden by the Sea and Rockland by the Smell.”

The coastal Knox County fishing community was not the city it is today.

“It was the worst place in the world,” Jessie Davis said.

When she was growing up on Mount Desert Island, Davis passed through Rockland on the way to visit friends in Owl’s Head.

“If you told me I would love it here, I would not have believed it,” she said.

Now Davis lives in Rockland with her family, and she’s the executive director of the Strand Theatre on Rockland’s Main Street. While the city’s revitalization started long before the Simmons family bought and renovated the theater, the Strand has played a role in its success.

“It’s ingrained in Rockland becoming an arts destination,” said Audra Caler Bell, Rockland’s Community Development director.

Rockland has long been home to the Farnsworth Art Museum, which has undergone an expansion. The Center for Maine Contemporary Art relocated there from Rockport in 2015, and Rockland’s Main Street is lined with art galleries, shops and restaurants.

“When you have a theater or performing arts venue, it brings people to the city at a time when you want it to be more vibrant,” Caler Bell said.

Most retail shops tend to close for the day around 6 p.m., but evening events bring people downtown to support restaurants and bars. For Davis, the Strand’s lighted marquee signals that something is going on in the city and adds a level of attractiveness to the area.

“I can say this because I hear it all the time,” Davis said. “The Strand is a real quality-of-life enhancer for the community, certainly for those who take part in the programs.”

Rockland businessman Joseph Dondis built the Strand six months after the catastrophic downtown fire of 1922, which leveled four business blocks. For eight decades, the Strand hosted movies, dance recitals, vaudeville shows and theatrical productions. It outlasted two rival theaters by the 1960s and added a second theater space by sectioning off the balcony.

Last year, the 350-seat theater welcomed 39,000 people from 200 communities for 179 events. Those events include the Camden International Film Festival in September; the Camden Conference, which was held last weekend; movies; live music performances; and live-streamed performances from the Metropolitan Opera and the National Theatre.

“We haven’t invested in studies for the economic impact of the Strand, but there’s a lot of evidence that the theater takes Rockland up to the next tier for small cities,” Davis said.


In Waterville, which like Augusta has a history as a mill town, the $5 million worth of renovations at the Opera House in 2013 ushered in 21st-century technology, new balcony seating, restored woodwork, new flooring, and a new set shop, dressing rooms and freight elevator.

“The economic impact of a thriving historic theater can’t be overstated,” said Kimberly Lindlof, president and chief executive officer of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce in Waterville. “It brings economic vitality to downtown and the whole region.”

Lindlof was chairwoman of the Waterville Opera House board of directors during the capital campaign and build-out, when the opera house was closed for nine months. Her board at the Chamber of Commerce supported her role on the opera house’s board and the time that entailed because of the economic impact it has on the community.

When she was a child, Lindlof said, downtown Waterville was a retail center filled with department stores. But as department stores have consolidated or closed and strip malls have drawn retail activity closer to Interstate 95, downtown Waterville had to recreate itself.

Through Waterville Creates!, which includes the opera house and other cultural organizations, such as the Colby College Museum of Art, the Waterville area now is being promoted as an arts destination. The Maine International Film Festival, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2017, likewise draws visitors and national attention over the course of the 10-day event. In its history, it has honored actors such as Gabriel Byrne , Glenn Close and Sissy Spacek.

“If the Colonial Theatre in Augusta does anything like the Opera House does in Waterville,” Lindlof said, “it should have a very good impact.”

That’s what Michael Hall is hoping for.

Hall, executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, said he expects the Colonial Theatre, like Gardiner’s Johnson Hall, will draw people in from across the region.

Right now, he said, a cultural void exists in Augusta, which is the only capital city in the country that doesn’t have a performing arts center.

“We don’t want to be ‘Disgusta’ any more,” he said. “We want to compete with other capital cities.”

From an economic development standpoint, it will bring more tourism into Augusta, Hall said, and it could fuel interest in developing a boutique hotel on Water Street. Even though Augusta’s population is relatively small, hundreds of thousands people live within an hour’s drive of Maine’s capital city.

The 800-seat theater will be able to draw acts that will in turn draw people who will travel to Augusta and spend money, he said, in restaurants and bars.

Those expectations mirror the projections provided by the League of Historic American Theatres.

But there is an added element, Stein said.

If a historic theater is open and operating, it’s because of a love story between the community and its theater, he said.

“These are magical spaces,” he said. “When you get a community to fall in love with one of these buildings, it won’t go away anytime soon.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

]]> 0 Waterville Opera House sets the stage on June 22, 2016, for an upcoming show in Waterville.Sun, 19 Feb 2017 14:42:15 +0000
All of the best new psychedelic album covers are made by the same guy Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 To gaze at the cover of “Oczy Mlody” – the latest album by psych-rock lifers the Flaming Lips – is to feel confused. Slime bursts from the silhouette of a neon pink head. Bronze air vibrates. The album’s title is displayed in amorphous purple font that is at once ancient and futuristic. It looks like wall art from an alien head shop. The image is the work of Lexington, Kentucky-based musician and artist Robert Beatty.

While gathering material for his new book, “Floodgate Companion,” Beatty posted an early version of this image to Instagram. Not long afterward, Lips singer Wayne Coyne began leaving flattering emoji-heavy comments and later wrote to Beatty seeking permission to use the picture. “He didn’t even know that I did album covers,” says Beatty, who was a bit moved by the Coyne’s out-of-the-blue adulation. “It was strange for me,” he says. “They were such an important band for me as a teenager. They were one of the only weirder bands that you could see on TV.”

Now 35, Beatty emerged from the mid-’00s American underground music scene where he designed concert fliers, record covers and released experimental albums as a member of bands Hair Police and Three Legged Race.

At a moment when the LP cover has taken on a diminished stature – shrinking from a 12-by-12-inch cardboard sleeve to a iPhone thumbnail – Beatty’s work remains eye-catching. His drawings and digital airbrush paintings mulch vintage counterculture – old sci-fi paperbacks, ’60s ‘zines – with a grotesque punk-inspired sensibility.

As a result, he has become a sought-after album cover artist, creating designs for musicians that are both fringe (Don’t DJ, Steve Moore) and popular (Real Estate, Tame Impala). He describes his first book, “Floodgate Companion,” as a sort of lookbook of otherworldly design concepts.

Here, he discusses a selection of his most notable record covers.

Burning Star Core – “Challenger” (2008). Robert Beatty/Via The Washington Post

1. Burning Star Core – “Challenger” (2008)

“Challenger” is notable for being one of the first record covers where Beatty employed the digital airbrushing technique that would become his calling card. “That was the cover that was really the beginning of all of this,” he says. “It caught a lot of people’s attention.”

Musically speaking, the record offers a gritty take on drone and minimalism. However, the cover image – a fountain of vibrant psychedelic glop blasting forth from a cracked eggshell – suggests a more uplifting tone, framing the sounds as transcendent rather than foreboding. “I felt like it would be the cover that I never lived down,” says Beatty. “At least, until I did that Tame Impala cover.”

Tame Impala – “Currents” (2015). Robert Beatty/Via The Washington Post

2. Tame Impala – “Currents” (2015)

The basic concept came from the Australian psych-rock band’s guitarist, Kevin Parker. “He came to me with a lot of reference images of fluid dynamics – the way that air or water molecules flow around obstacles in their path,” explains Beatty. The result is part physics textbook, part lava lamp. Looking at the image now, the artist sees a few parallels to another zone-out classic, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” Both use simple imagery – light traveling through a prism, lines bending around a sphere – to imply a narrative of transformation. “I’m doing all these record covers and I’m just remaking ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ on accident.”

Thee Oh Sees – “A Weird Exits” (2016). Robert Beatty/Via The Washington Post

3. Thee Oh Sees – “A Weird Exits” (2016)

A literal interpretation of the album’s oblique title, the image depicts a hallway lined with exotic exits. “It’s kind of based on old cartoons where somebody would go in a door in a hallway and come out on the other side of the hallway,” says Beatty. According to Beatty, John Dwyer – who leads the Los Angeles-based garage rock band – has an affinity for grotesque comedy and horror imagery. “He wants the things that other people make me take off of record covers,” he says. “Things that are a little too grotesque.”

Chris Forsyth & Solar Motel Band – “The Rarity of Experience Pts. I & II” Robert Beatty/Via The Washington Post

4. Chris Forsyth & Solar Motel Band – “The Rarity of Experience Pts. I & II” (2016)

Each song on the Philadelphia-based guitarist’s double record is given its own image. “That’s a very prog thing to do, I think, to have a sort of storybook that goes along with the record,” says Beatty. Some of the images are fairly straightforward, while others take gonzo liberties. Forsyth wrote the song “Boston Street Lullaby” while sitting next to his sleeping son. Beatty took that inspiration and came up with a serene-looking E.T. fetus adrift in warm cosmic light. “It’s one of those times where somebody asked me to do something endearing and I wind up with something that’s alien and kind of frightening.”

Forma – “The Physicalist” (2016). Robert Beatty/Via The Washington Post

5. Forma – “The Physicalist” (2016)

The Brooklyn-based synthesizer ensemble asked Beatty for an image that evoked mythological themes and Renaissance art. The result is a landscape painting with a Middle Earth sensibility. Inspired by a book of photographs by Japanese film director Shuji Terayama, Beatty decided to place the painting in a frame. “It feels like you’re hanging it on the wall somewhere, rather than viewing the scene from your own perspective,” he says. “It’s a step removed from your reality.”

Secret Circuit – “Afterlife” (2013). Robert Beatty/Via The Washington Post

6. Secret Circuit – “Afterlife” (2013)

This cover, for the Los Angeles-based electronic music producer Eddie Ruscha, falls among Beatty’s more abstract works. Amid a haze of tie-dye smog, a pink blob follows a gleaming circuit board through a portal into another dimension. “I don’t think Eddie gave me much to reference for that one, explains Beatty. “He wanted it to be a glowing aura of somebody’s spirit who had departed this world – (a depiction) of something moving from one plane into another.”

Oneohtrix Point Never – “Commissions I” (2014). Robert Beatty/Via The Washington Post

7. Oneohtrix Point Never – “Commissions I” (2014)

This cover designed for by experimental electronic composer Daniel Lopatin forgoes Beatty’s airbrush techniques in favor of graphic design. “There’s a very simple movement and decay represented in those falling bars,” he says. “In (Lopatin’s) music, there’s often a thread of things building up and then collapsing underneath you. It’s almost like he was composing songs and then disassembling them, like if you had a wall of dominoes and you flick one. It’s trying to convey that feeling through the imagery.”

]]> 0 Star Core – "Challenger" (2008).Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:42:10 +0000
Society Notebook: Junior League of Portland brings finery to the winery Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 The Junior League of Portland’s annual Fire & Ice Fete generated a lot of interest this year, selling out and raising $20,000 to further the organization’s mission.

“We got a really amazing response,” said Shannon Vachon, chair of the Feb. 10 event at Cellardoor Winery at Thompson’s Point in Portland. “We’ve seen the most amount of sponsorships that we’ve seen in the past four years.”

In addition to being the largest annual fundraiser for the group of women volunteers and the perfect excuse to dress to the nines, the fete is an opportunity to honor a change-maker in the community. The 2017 recipient was Tiffanie Panagakos, unit director of the Riverton and Sagamore Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Panagakos, who attended the event with her fiancé, Bruce Shepard, and several of her colleagues from the Boys & Girls Clubs. She said the Junior League approached her nine years ago about the Kids in the Kitchen event, and “it fit right in with our Boys & Girls Club mission and goals: healthy lifestyles, character leadership and academic success.”

“Tiffanie has been working with new members every year for as long as I’ve been part of the league, so it was very exciting to see her honored,” said Shikha Vasaiwala, who will be president of the Junior League of Portland in 2018. “And there was something about the venue this year that generated a lot of excitement and helped us sell a lot of tickets.”

“We’re training women leaders and working on some of the most urgent or underfunded issues in Greater Portland,” said Katie Clark, president of the Junior League of Portland. These issues include human trafficking prevention and awareness, in partnership with the Maine Freedom Project, and child abuse and neglect prevention, working with the Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, part of Opportunity Alliance.

The local league has 278 members, including 82 women who are actively volunteering. “That’s 82 women who are committed to working to improve the community,” Clark said. “That’s a lot of woman power.”

“The Junior League is a training organization to learn how to make a difference in nonprofits,” said Jillian Rich, president-elect. “As women leaders and volunteers, whether in the Junior League or other nonprofits in the Portland area, we feel empowered to make a difference.”

With the league’s current focus on youth at risk, event organizers brought in the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra to set the musical tone for the event.

“It was a really fun environment to perform in,” said Kevin Oates, founder and director of the group, adding that he was pleased to see guests talking with and congratulating his student musicians between songs.

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

]]> 0 league members Gabrielle Beck, left, of Windham, Lilli Atcheson of South Portland and Martha Kneeland of Portland.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:29:12 +0000
‘Setting Free the Kites’ details a Maine story of friendship forged in hardship Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 When I was in junior high, upset that no one seemed to understand my perspective or feelings, my mother tried to comfort me by offering, “Well, everyone’s an island.” It didn’t help. (What happened to, “This, too, shall pass”?)

Years later, I remember my desperate refusal of her words, though that feisty naiveté is gone. The rueful kind of laughter we all often have when remembering episodes of our past is among many of the emotions, and perhaps the strongest, that Alex George conveys in his heart-rending second novel, “Setting Free the Kites.” A beautifully told, nostalgic tale about friendship, George brings to life true, strongly independent characters that transform the reader into a big kid, running right alongside them throughout the novel.

The story opens briefly in the present day, at the construction site of a long-abandoned paper mill in Haverford, a fictional small town in midcoast Maine, where the narrator, Robert Carter, has come to take a last look as demolition of the building begins. The mill, where he and his best friend escaped to on so many summer days, represents the most defining time of his life. “Inside those old brick walls, the light of uncomplicated happiness shone down on us, as warm and as comforting as the sun,” Robert recounts. “But such a bright light casts long, dark shadows.” The novel then flashes back 40 years, as Robert tells the story of his friendship with Nathan Tilly. Together during an incredibly turbulent time, several tragedies occur that change their families and their lives forever.

Although author Alex George is British and lives in Missouri, it’s obvious that he has both done his research and spent his time well while visiting Maine. Through Robert, he describes the beach in winter, highlighting the drastic contrast of black ocean water against the undisturbed white of snow-covered sand, “as if the cold had bled all color out of the world. I had never seen the shoreline more stark, or more beautiful.”

Apart from a few small quibbles – Maine’s paper mills mostly are located well inland – George’s depiction of Haverford is so authentic, the town could easily exist alongside Brunswick, Rockland, Harpswell, or any other small town along the Gulf of Maine that “stuck out a leg and pulled up its skirt,” to lure in tourist dollars to keep the local economy alive as other industries declined.

In Haverford’s case, the attraction is Fun-A-Lot, a 13-acre amusement park run by Robert’s father and the town’s largest summer employer. From behind-the-scenes George uses the park to show the backside of the version of Maine marketed to tourists, as well as to introduce us to many of the complex personalities that drive the plot and highlight the local vibe with both kind and humorous descriptions.

George’s lovable characters earn the reader’s concern as quickly as the first impression of a real-life friend. Robert is sweet and hesitant, pensive and introverted, while Nathan is the fearless, fun-loving free spirit who pushes limits – the coaxing “why not?” to Robert’s worrisome “why?” As similar in some ways as they are opposites, both are endearingly unjaded. Then there’s Robert’s punk-rock loving older brother Liam, who has muscular dystrophy, and Lewis Jenks, the craggy war veteran-turned-repairman at Fun-A-Lot.

Themes of disappointment, loss and living life to the fullest emerge as Robert and Nathan’s relationship grows. Despite the highs and lows of their friendship, together they experience many firsts, from first jobs and first obsessive crushes, to many more first nibbles of knowledge, they provide a consistency for each other that their own families can’t provide, deepening the bond they share.

The tension between the carefree lifestyle of youth pulling against the perplexing realities we discover as we mature out of childhood makes “Setting Free the Kites” an effecting, emotional read. So many excellently crafted details are packed into its pages, poignantly capturing the rapid change of emotions during adolescence. As the boys become aware of life’s many complexities, their story is a reminder that good and true friends are like the bridges that connect the islands to the mainland.

Marae Hart is a graduate of the University of Iowa and the Salt Institute. She is a freelance writer and can be contacted at:

]]> 0 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:23:14 +0000
Illustration Institute summer residency program offers rental cabins to artists Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 A new artist residency program on Peaks Island offers illustrators, writers and artists the opportunity to rent one of two secluded island cabins from June 24 to Sept. 30. The newly formed Illustration Institute, which promotes and encourages illustration with exhibitions and workshops, launched the Faison Artist Residency to give artists a place to work. Rent is $1,000 a week, and families are welcome.

The institute is renting two houses set in the woods across the lane from each other. One is made of stone with a large outdoor deck. The other is a wooden house with screened-in porches. Each house has a separate space for studio work, inside and out. Nancy Gibson Nash, director of programming for the Illustration Institute, called this summer’s residency program a “soft launch” of what she hopes will evolve into a summer-long Maine children’s book arts intensive.

The program is named in honor of Marilyn Faison, who Nash described as “a treasure unique to Peaks.” She graduated from Rhode Island School of Design and worked as fashion and shoe designer most of her career. She was known for her vibrant spirit, her love of antiques, red shoes and modern art. “The residency is intended to honor her legacy and celebrate creativity in all forms,” Nash said in a press release.

For details and rental information, visit or

]]> 0 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 16:28:15 +0000
Deep Water: ‘Crossword’ by Sally Bliumis-Dunn Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 This week’s poem uses the speaker’s regular crossword habit to explore how the mind works and how much words matter. What I enjoy most here is how the poet, Sally Bliumis-Dunn, who lives in Harpswell with her family, makes us go on the same journey in the poem, searching for the right word, that one goes on when doing a crossword puzzle.

There are also some nice sound effects at work here. The effects are called assonance, consonance and alliteration, if you care to know the terms, but all you really need to know is that there’s repeated consonant and vowel sounds that riff off each other and please our mouths and ears when we read the poem. That chiming begins in the first sentence: “…promise order / in the morning mess / of mulling over // the latest political morass….”


By Sally Bliumis-Dunn

The white and black squares

promise order

in the morning mess

of mulling over

the latest political morass,

what’s on sale at Kohl’s,

the book review.

Each letter, shared,

which lifts away

some sheen of loneliness I

can’t quite explain.

This week, “arsenic” and “forsythia”

are joined by their i’s

like long-estranged cousins.

And when they ask

for the French equivalent of sky,

I’m back on a wooden chair

in Madame Baumlin’s

eighth- grade class, passing

a note to David, having

no idea, as my hand grazes his,

that he will drown sailing

that next summer.

I like doing the crossword

with my husband –

Source of support,

three letters.

I’m the one who guesses it,

glad he doesn’t think

of “bra” in this way.

The puzzle rests

on the counter all week.

I like coming back,

looking at the same clue

I found insolvable

the day before, my mind

often a mystery to me,

turning corners when I sleep

or am upstairs folding clothes.

They get added to pounds.

Yesterday I thought

it had to do with money or meat;

now I can see the chain-link fence

at the local animal shelter.

Of course. “Strays”.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. This column is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2010 Sally Bliumis-Dunn. It appeared in “Second Skin” published by Wind Publications in 2010 and appears here by permission of the author.

]]> 0 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:46:33 +0000
When it comes to Franco-American fiddling, Don Roy takes a bow Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 GORHAM — Don Roy began playing the fiddle as a teenager at house parties, where fiddles and guitars were passed around and songs exchanged deep into the night. He quickly became better than the older and more experienced people he was playing with, including the uncle who taught him, Lucien Mathieu of Westbrook.

Roy won his first fiddle contest six months after he started playing, and racked up so many titles that some of his peers stopped competing when they saw his name on the roster of entrants. “Don’s playing. No sense in bothering to sign up,” said one.

Now 56, Roy is considered the dean of Franco-American fiddling. He’s the only person who has won three Individual Artist Fellowships in the traditional arts from the Maine Arts Commission, in 1994, 2001 and 2008. The award recognizes his adherence to the Franco-American fiddle tradition and his work to preserve it. He’s played at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and the Library of Congress and performed on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” About a decade ago, Roy completed the circle on his career by learning to make his own fiddles.

He also writes, arranges and records songs at his home studio, which he built with the money that accompanied his most recent Maine Arts Commission fellowship. He released his latest CD, “Franco American Fiddler,” last fall.

Now 56, Roy, who grew up in a large French family in Rockland, has been fiddling since he was 15, when his uncle gave him his first instrument. “I just shoved it under my chin and started sawing,” he said.

“To my ear, he’s the finest of the French fiddlers in all of New England,” said Bau Graves, executive director of the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago and co-founder of the former Center for Cultural Exchange in Portland. “He’s among the very finest tradition bearers. Musical traditions need to have people like Don, who care deeply about maintaining the tradition. He wants to play the tunes like his uncle taught him to play them. Lucien was a great fiddler. Don is a better fiddler.”

Roy’s story is rooted in tradition. He grew up in a large French family in Rockland. On weekends, they drove to Winslow to visit his grandparents. House parties broke out when aunts and uncles dropped in with their instruments. For school vacation, Roy traveled by bus to his Uncle Lucien’s house in Westbrook, ostensibly to fish. At night, they played music.

In the early years, Roy accompanied his uncle on the guitar. When Roy turned 15, his uncle gave him a fiddle and began teaching him to play. That was the extent of his formal training. “I just shoved it under my chin and started sawing,” Roy said. “I just wanted to do it because Uncle Lucien was doing it, and once I started I really liked it.”

When he went home, Roy brought several records of French fiddling that his uncle had given him. “We had a record player that had 16 speeds on it, and I figured out real quick if I slowed it down to 16 and tuned my fiddle up a half a step, I was right on. The record was going slow so I could follow it. I spent hours doing that. I wore out records and scratched them all up,” Roy said.

He learned to play by ear and picked his way through the songs. He had the interest, aptitude and patience – and the heritage.

Those early house parties informed his playing with an authentic quality and provided a window to a specific tradition of fiddling that was disappearing with the passing of the older players. Roy dabbled, and still does, with other influences and styles, but he’s always stayed close to the French traditions of his youth.

Roy applies varnish to a work-in-progress fiddle in his Gorham shop. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

“What we do is something that was passed on,” he said. “A lot of people learn how to play the fiddle and they think, ‘Well what kind of style do I want to play?’ They tend to become replicists or copyists. You can only go so far with that. There are a lot of things that are hidden within the music of a specific heritage. It not only takes a good player, but it takes a good teacher to bring that out.”

Roy’s playing is distinguished by its crispness, precision and drive. “He’s got so much rhythm in his bowing, I find it astonishing,” Graves said.

Roy’s breakthrough came in the late 1980s, when Graves began booking the entertainment for Portland’s New Year’s Eve party. He wanted all the best French fiddlers in Maine for a house-party concert, and he enlisted Roy, his uncle and a few others to pull it together.

“It was sort of a loose thing,” Graves said. “I told them, ‘You guys have all the repertoire in common. I don’t care how you do it.'”

It proved hugely popular, because the fiddlers transferred the joy and unscripted energy of the house parties directly to the stage. The authenticity of what they were doing was obvious to everyone, Graves said. Graves arranged regional and national tours, and the band represented Maine’s Franco-American musical heritage at folk festivals across New England and across the country.

That’s when Roy understood how unusual his upbringing truly was.

“When I started playing out, I realized that these house parties weren’t something that was happening in everybody’s family,” he said. “As soon as you leave New England, you’re a celebrity, and you feel like you are doing something really special.”

Roy also writes, arranges and records songs. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Roy lives in Gorham with his wife and musical partner, Cindy. She plays piano in the Don Roy Trio, which also includes bass player Jay Young. The trio began playing in 1994, after the Maine French Fiddlers stopped touring.

“When the French Fiddlers were done, I figured that would be end of it. But the phone kept ringing,” Roy said. “The second call from Garrison Keillor, the second call from the Kennedy Center, that launches you into a different atmosphere. I thought, ‘Well, this is real.'”

Early on, Don and Cindy Roy were connected by their families’ love of music and shared French roots. Don’s Uncle Lucien was a friend of Cindy’s grandfather, Alphy Martin, who also lived in Westbrook and played the piano. Cindy and her family lived with her grandparents while her parents saved money to build a home. Mathieu was a regular visitor, and Cindy knew that Roy was Mathieu’s “hotshot fiddler” nephew.

“I had been to a party with my parents at Lucien’s house, and there was Don. But we never met. He was playing music with everybody and I was there listening,” Cindy said.

They formally met on a blind date in 1980 and married a year later. They immediately started playing music together. Cindy was primarily a guitarist, though she knew the piano. Her grandfather taught her to play the piano “un peu” – a little – and she took lessons with Westbrook music teacher Blanche Vachon.

Roy encouraged Cindy to accompany him on the piano. “I know you know how to play,” he told her. “I know you know these chords. Let me show you how to fit them into what I am doing.”

They’ve been musical and life partners since. Cindy’s grandfather died before she married Roy, and never knew of her musical journey. She thinks her pepe would be proud. “Holy moly, what must he be thinking as he’s watching me,” she said.

It took Cindy many years to embrace her French heritage. Music helped her do it. When she was a child, she wished she was Irish. “There was a stigma,” she said. “French people, when they immigrated to Maine, they didn’t understand the language and were given menial jobs and looked on as if they were stupid. Because of that, I did not learn French in the family. My grandparents spoke French, but nobody spoke French to me. It wasn’t passed down.”

Roy’s parents spoke French, but not to their kids – “except the swear words,” he said. These days, Cindy speaks a little French. Don does not – except the swear words.

Kathleen Mundell, a traditional arts specialist with the Maine Arts Commission, said Roy is among Maine’s most prominent arts ambassadors. Roy performs music that’s specific to a geographic area and ethnic group, but timeless because it perpetuates traditions from prior generations. In folk circles, that’s known as generivity, or the idea of leaving something behind for the next generation.

Roy embodies that principle with his teaching workshops, apprenticeships and an ability to pass along his love of fiddle playing and fiddle making to others, Mundell said.

“He’s been able to maintain and revive interest in traditional music,” she said. “The scene is really quite healthy now, and Don has a lot to do with why.”

Roy, on the move in his Gorham shop, learned to play fiddle at the age of 15. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

One of the reasons is Fiddle-icious, a fiddle orchestra Roy began in 2000 with a few other enthusiasts that now has more than 150 members. They meet monthly at West Falmouth Congregation Church, and they present a series of concerts each fall that support local nonprofit agencies doing good work in the community. Roy started the group because he wanted to give back.

“I had a prayer answered, and I always said if that happened I would start teaching for free,” he said.

He’s also a regular instructor at the Maine Fiddle Camp, he teaches privately and at festivals across the country.

For the past dozen years, he’s been making fiddles. It started when his friend Jonathan Cooper, a prominent fiddle maker from Maine, moved to Gorham just a few miles from Roy’s house. Roy started dropping by.

The art of creating an instrument is different than the joy of pulling music out of the air. Music is ephemeral, lasting only in its moment of creation and its memory. A fiddle could last a couple hundred years.

“I made one and it sounded really good, so I kept making them,” Roy said. “It’s something I really like to do. I like the science of it and how the curves must flow together and how several things have to come together at once.”

He hosts regular meetings at his shop of the Misfit Fiddle Makers, a self-described group of ragtag DIY henchmen. They make fiddles together, pushing each other to try different methods and materials and to experiment with technique and design. They follow the rules but bend them.

Paul Cormier drives to Gorham from Randolph, New Hampshire, to make fiddles with Roy. Cormier, who grew up in Gray, is a fiddler from way back and was among those who stopped entering fiddle contests when he learned that Roy was competing. They became friends years later, building their relationship around music, fiddle making and a love of tinkering.

A while back, Cormier came across a 16-foot blue spruce log that was as straight as a telephone pole, 20 inches in diameter at the base, 18 at the top – perfect for fiddles, except that it wasn’t a high-end piece of European wood. Cormier sought the advice of Roy, who once salvaged a beam from a blown-down nearby barn and made fiddles from it – to the dismay of the purists.

“Don came down, took a look and said, ‘There’s no reason why we can’t make fiddles out of that stuff. It doesn’t have to be from Italy and 300 years old,'” Cormier said. “I really like that about him. He’s not afraid to thumb his nose at the fiddle police and try different woods or different techniques.”

They bought the log for $180.

Roy has played the fiddle nearly 42 years now. It began when Uncle Lucien gave him a fiddle, a bunch of records and told him to listen and play.

“That wooden box has been the biggest key I have ever had,” he said. “It’s opened so many doors.”

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0 56, Roy, who grew up in a large French family in Rockland, has been fiddling since he was 15, when his uncle gave him his first instrument. "I just shoved it under my chin and started sawing," he said.Mon, 20 Feb 2017 13:25:24 +0000
Adia Victoria gave Americana music an opportunity to reckon with its history Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Nashville has been buzzing for months now about blues singer Adia Victoria’s feud with the Americana Music Association. It started with Charles Aaron’s piece, “Americana’s Year of Reckoning,” which ran at in December.

He interviewed Victoria for the piece, and she had some pointed questions for him about why he considered her an Americana artist. “So, my question for you is – why did you want to interview me for an article about Americana?” she said. “My record is not an Americana record. I’m not an Americana artist. I have no interest in being appropriated by that genre.”

This led to Craig Havighurst, a country music scholar, writing a response defending the genre and the Americana Music Association, which he felt had been unfairly maligned by Aaron and Victoria. He argued that Americana is an open and accepting genre, one in which Victoria should feel welcome.

Victoria responded in an open letter, which read in part:

“There is an arrogance in assuming that your community can claim an artist because she represents the things you would like to see yourself representing. Americana thinks of itself as the more ‘enlightened’ arm of the country music machine, yet I look at the artists you laud, and I am met with the same homogenous blanket of White (throw in a few token artists of color to keep the mix right.)”

Victoria’s efforts to be seen as an African-American artist playing in a tradition of African-American art have been strangely and surprisingly difficult. If you listen to her album “Beyond the Bloodhounds,” you can hear the influence of Nina Simone, a large pantheon of blues artists and even the harmonies of girl groups such as The Marvelettes or The Crystals.

Yet in 2015, Liz Raiss at Fader in an article titled “Meet Adia Victoria, a poet making country music a little creepier” called Victoria’s songs a “sinister breed of gothic country music.” But it’s not country music. It’s not Americana. Why do people keep insisting that her music, which doesn’t sound like music in those genres, must be in those genres?

The answer, I think, is exactly what Victoria says. She’s being claimed by people who want to see themselves representing the things they’ve decided she represents – a deep knowledge and appreciation of African-American musical forms channeled into genres they’re familiar with – whether that’s accurate or not.

Every year, Nashville puts out music that is incredibly commercially successful and every year, people complain that this – whatever “this” is this year – is not real country music. (For a while now we’ve been bemoaning all the beer, girls and trucks songs as being bro-country and therefore not real country.) The genius, then, of Americana music has been how it’s posited itself as “real” country music in opposition to commercial country music. The pitch is that these aren’t the folks going for commercial success (even though some of them have had it). These are the folks who are really tuned into the real roots of American music, who know and love the history of American music.


In Aaron’s MTV piece, he places Americana as the descendant of Southern rock and, to some extent, I guess he’s right. But I would argue that Americana solidified into a genre because of two enormous cultural influences: Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz,” the documentary of The Band’s last concert, and the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

“The Last Waltz” would dictate what an Americana concert should look like: a talented house band, lots of famous guests, a feel-good singalong at the end. (Catch any replay of the Americana Music Awards and see what I mean. Even many of the performers are the same ones who appeared in the documentary.) The “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack shaped how Americana music would sound and which constellation of musicians would be at its core.

There’s a famous scene in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” in which the white protagonists crash a Ku Klux Klan rally and save their black friend from being lynched. As is everything else in the movie, it’s played for farce. Tommy, the intended victim, is rescued by bighearted white men. There’s a wonderful, bone-chilling rendition of the song “O, Death.” This real American tragedy for black people becomes in the movie a charming caper for white people that even features a great song. When white people want black people to feel welcome in a genre with a musical and visual aesthetic that has at its core black tragedy as white joke, is it really so hard for white people to understand that black people might be uncomfortable with that welcome?

There’s a similar tension at the heart of “The Last Waltz.” Early in the movie, The Band plays its iconic song, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” This song is beautiful and deeply moving. It’s also about the tragedy of the defeat of the Confederacy (a topic Americana is still not that shy about tackling – see “Carry Me Back” by Old Crow Medicine Show or “Missionary Ridge” by Shovels & Rope.) But then there are appearances by the Staple Singers and Muddy Waters, as if The Band or Scorsese or both are trying to show that black people don’t mind if white people want to have their rebel fantasies. It doesn’t affect their shared affection for each other and this great music.

That’s one way to read it.

But context changes things. And there at that concert in 1976, not even a decade removed from the Rev. Martin Luther King’s death, Muddy Waters stands on that stage after the Confederate cry-fest singing “I’m a man. I spell M. A, child. N. That represent man,” how can you not hear the echoes of the signs of the Memphis sanitation workers whose placards reading”I Am a Man” brought King to town that terrible April in 1968? Waters was spelling out what’s at stake for him and other African-Americans and what’s ignored in the tragic nostalgia of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”


Still, let’s look closely at that nostalgia, that past to which Americana music is alluding with everything from ubiquitousness of the banjo to the popularity of dressing in old-fashioned fancy clothes that have gone a little shabby. The true root of much of roots music and, in fact, much of American popular music is blackface minstrelsy – white people impersonating their stereotypes of black people and fooling themselves into believing that it gave them insight into what it means to be black in America while performing songs they’ve either explicitly ripped off from black people or songs other white people wrote for them they knew audiences would think sounded “black.” (Yes, black blackface minstrelsy was also very popular, but black people were not painting their faces with burnt cork for black audiences because they thought it was great that white people did it for white audiences.)

Yes, Americana music is so good in large part because they’re tapping into an old and pleasing aesthetic, but let’s be clear: It’s an aesthetic born out of minstrelsy. Yet even as white Americana performers put on their bowlers and their vests and strum their banjos, there’s almost no recognition of where that aesthetic comes from. Even when artists are dressing in an “old-timey” fashion or paying homage to “old-timey” music, those old times aren’t really specified. The enormous cultural influence of blackface minstrelsy on “old-timey” America remains unacknowledged and I suspect mostly unknown to the very people so deeply influenced by it.

Without a recognition of the deep and troubling cultural legacy Americana music is tapping into, there can be no reckoning with Americana’s approach of keeping and celebrating the fun parts of blackface minstrelsy while trying to leave behind all the ugliness.

On its surface, the impulse to save what’s good and ditch what’s bad in roots music seems like the right one. Obviously, we’re better off now that white people aren’t playing in blackface to white audiences on a regular basis. And though it’s obnoxious, the impulse to want black people to see how hard we white people are trying and to validate our efforts comes from a good place of wanting to be better than we were. But it puts African-Americans in the unfair position of being asked to grant white people dispensation from feeling bad about the traditions we still participate in.

You can’t ask people to pretend to have selective cultural amnesia. If you like Adia Victoria because her music is a brilliant synthesis of a lot of American musical traditions – in other words, because she knows her stuff – and you like to see yourself as someone who also knows a lot about American musical traditions, it’s not fair to be mad at her for knowing history and making her judgments about whether she wants to participate in your genre based on that knowledge.

Knowing your history means knowing all of it. If Americana wants to reward people with a sense of history, it can’t be mad at the people who have learned its history. Americana can claim to be welcoming, but as long as it’s just ignoring the ugliness at its root instead of reckoning with it, there’s going to be a limit to the artists who find that welcome sincere.

]]> 0, 17 Feb 2017 16:47:14 +0000
Trump getting a difficult lesson in the reality of TV Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 There’s a case building that television – more than wealth or family or real estate, certainly more than politics – is what President Donald Trump loves most.

The evidence was there all along. A camera in the room is the only thing that seems to truly animate him, for it brings with it the promise of big (or easily inflatable) ratings. A television show is the only thing that ever offered Trump, briefly, a unanimous and undisputed success. Absent the camera, he is an even bigger fan of watching TV, much like his fellow Americans who harbor a hard addiction to watching cable-news shows morning, noon and night.

There have been reports (usually anonymously sourced) that some of Trump’s staff members wish he didn’t watch so much, but why would he stop? The long-offered promise of truly interactive TV has arrived for at least one American: him. Cable news hangs on his every word, while he returns the favor by mimicking some of its worst talking points, often within enough minutes to create an unsettling semblance of harmony.

Sad! As HBO’s John Oliver showed in a clip Sunday night on the long-awaited return of his satirical politics show, “Last Week Tonight,” Trump is so addicted to cable news that the cabin of Air Force One now echoes with the cheapo commercials that accompany his all-day diet of noise, including the Empire flooring jingle (“Eight-hundred, five-eight-eight …”) Our president, Oliver joked, is like the septuagenarian who has collapsed and died alone in a house with the TV blaring; it takes neighbors days to notice anything amiss.

Thus, Oliver concluded, the only way to get a factual argument across to the president is to make a set of catheter ads to air during cable news, featuring a folksy ol’ cowboy who subliminally explains such necessary concepts as the nuclear triad. Oliver’s ads began airing in the Washington, D.C., market on Monday morning on Fox, CNN and MSNBC. Maybe just maybe Trump noticed.

Meanwhile, a fomenting Trump resistance movement has seen that televised mockery might be effective in creating the sort of tiny cracks that eventually cause meaningful collapse. The mockery required for this job is not the kind of whip-smart, fact-based, ironic criticism inherited from Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” and still practiced with dedicated verve by TBS’ Samantha Bee, NBC’s Seth Meyers, CBS’ Stephen Colbert and Oliver (who spent 24 minutes Sunday night on a segment devoted to the preservation of the concept of “facts.”)

Rather it’s the plain, old fashioned, over-the-top mockery that shows a White House hopelessly out of control, compromised, flaccid from the get-go and comically inept. This was best displayed by none other than Melissa McCarthy, a comedic film and TV star recruited by her pals at NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” to lampoon White House press secretary Sean Spicer on the show’s Feb. 4 episode and again a week later.

The sketches were so brutally effective – starting from their obvious top layer of derision for Spicer’s bellicose, combative style, all the way down to the more ingeniously subliminal dig of having women portray the innumerable men who surround and advise the president – that they set off a wave of excitement on the left: Can it really be as easy as dishing up the most basic form of insult humor and then broadcasting it far and wide? Does electoral revenge reside in a barrage of unsophisticated, easy-to-write, tiny-hands jokes (or, in a supercut from Oliver’s show, the insultingly spot-on “Donald Trump doesn’t know how to shake hands”), rather than a clever, humorously but laboriously spun counterpoint of wonky facts?

Perhaps. In anticipation of “SNL’s” Feb. 11 episode, hosted for the 17th time by actor Alec Baldwin, who has found some always-needed career rejuvenation as the show’s go-to Trump impersonator since last fall’s campaign, America’s TV addicts and critics (who now include most of the political press corps) rubbed their hands together in anticipatory glee: Would the episode be just mildly devastating or completely annihilating?

That the episode was found a tad wanting is nothing new to lifetime “SNL” watchers. The show is nothing if not a decades-long study in demand-resistance, causing its viewers to always desire more than it actually delivers. Lorne Michaels, who now controls far more of the TV comedy realm than a mere 90 minutes on Saturday nights, wisely avoids taking requests from his audience, because we tend, as a voting bloc, to suggest the easiest and least original premises and jokes.

Yet, sensing the desires of the internet zeitgeist, “SNL” featured a short, melancholy film in which cast member Leslie Jones floated the idea that she, not Baldwin, should step into the role of Trump. Her fellow cast members interrogated her intent as Jones sat in a makeup chair acquiring an orange comb-over, wondering whether there’s a workable shtick here: Could having a black woman play Trump be an effective weapon against the watcher-in-chief? The ultimate insult, as it were?

Melissa McCarthy pulled no punches as press secretary Sean Spicer on “Saturday Night Live.” Photo by Will Heath/NBC

This assumes that Trump still watches “SNL.” He may profess not to – but honestly, come on. It’s hard to believe that he’d be able to resist looking at anything that’s about him, or even, perhaps, taking credit for the show’s impressive jump in ratings. “SNL” is now enjoying its highest-rated season in 22 years, according to Variety.

Lest anyone forget, many viewers of “SNL” still hold the show culpable in providing some of the crucial hot air that floated Trump to his many victories, by allowing him to host while he was a serious contender for the presidential race. The time for truly effective mockery came and went while “SNL” and the rest of the comedy world dilly-dallied with Trump.

All presidents have watched more than their share of TV. One thinks of LBJ’s custom array of TV sets in the Oval Office to track all three networks in breaking-news situations, or the Reagans enjoying a night in front of the tube with their TV dinner tray tables. Even the Obamas made sure to get on the inside track with HBO, having “Game of Thrones” screeners delivered before they aired.

As we continue to ask ourselves what Trump watches, and how or if it shapes his decisions, it’s probably worth noting that there’s a lot he doesn’t watch – or at least, we’ve never been told of anything remotely interesting in his DVR queue.

If insider accounts are to be believed, it’s all news, all the time – and perhaps still looking in on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice,” the show that still credits him as an executive producer even though he goes out of his way to pooh-pooh its current iteration. (About this, he’s not wrong. The only reason left to watch “Celebrity Apprentice” might be if you’re in a Nielsen family and want to irritate the president.)

In other words, he’s missing so much – some of the greatest television ever made, much of it rich in instructive, metaphorical storytelling about power and moral consequence.

Even though Trump appears to lack the necessary attention span, I still find myself wishing that he had joined me and the 10 or so other Americans who were transfixed by HBO’s “The Young Pope,” a befuddlingly beautiful 10-episode series that just concluded. It’s about a new pope, Pius XIII (Jude Law), who is determined to drain the swamp that is Vatican City. He is steadfast in his conservative beliefs and unconcerned with alienating the church’s liberal side. He loathes the press. He won’t travel. He is consumed by a sort of divine narcissism and he can deliver a real scorcher of a sermon to his underlings.

Yet, not only did Pius win over the cardinals with his agenda, he also, finally, convinced the rest of us that his aim was true. In 10 hours, he went from a horrifying firebrand to a persuasive messenger, maybe even a pope for the ages.

In this way, TV always has something to tell us, even when we’re the president. And the president might seem more human if he would very publicly pick up a few, well-made scripted shows and tell us what he thought about them. The first step is learning how to change the channel and break some bad viewing habits.

]]> 0 Baldwin as President Donald Trump on "Saturday Night Live."Fri, 17 Feb 2017 16:42:26 +0000
‘Piece of the World’ explores the relationship between Andrew Wyeth and his most famous subject Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 On the heels of her acclaimed novel, “Orphan Train,” Christina Baker Kline turns her attention to rural life in the first half of the 20th century. Sparked by Andrew Wyeth’s renowned 1948 painting, “Christina’s World,” which depicts a woman lying in a field, her face hidden from view, looking toward a house on a hill, Kline wanted to know more about this woman. Who was she, and what kind of life did she lead?

In her absorbing new novel, “A Piece of the World,” Kline uses the historical record to lay the groundwork, then reimagines life as Christina Olson might have lived it. The result is a portrait of Maine farm life, of an iron-willed spinster with polio and the accidental friendship that changes everything.

As the book opens, Betsy James, a teenager who summers in Cushing, stops to visits her older neighbor, Christina Olson, on a nearby farm. Betsy asks whether her new friend, Andy, can paint a picture of Christina’s house. The friend turns out to be a young Andrew Wyeth, and Betsy, his soon-to-be wife. From the first meeting with Christina, Andy conveys a disarming candor and charm that will become his hallmark. Throughout the story, he ambles in and out of the house, coming and going at will, leaving a trail of broken eggshells from the mixing of tempera paint. He proves to be a welcome reprieve from the rigors of farm life and the insular world Christina inhabits.

Christina Baker Kline Photo by Karin Diana

Christina narrates the book, alternating between her early and later years. Throughout, she battles with a life of near-confinement. At her father’s insistence, Christina left school at age 12 to work on the farm, thus ending her dream of becoming a teacher. She had few friends and little opportunity. A summer romance with a Harvard man ended badly, further dimming her hopes for a different life.

Still there was a larger obstacle that would wreak havoc on Kline’s stubborn and prickly protagonist: Born with a degenerative disease that would become disabling, Christina routinely resisted help. As her mobility fails, she refuses even to use a wheelchair and would rather crawl on her elbows to a neighbor’s house than accept a ride. All the while, she haltingly goes about her litany of chores – cooking and sewing, attending to her ailing parents and ongoing tasks around the farm.

“Everything comes back to this body, this faulty carapace,” she says. Then later: “The pain has become part of me, just something I live with, like my pale eyelashes.”

The centerpiece of the story is the bond that forms between Christina and Andy. Their age disparity notwithstanding – Christina was 46, Andy 22 when they met – they serve as mirrors for each other. Andy, himself hobbled by a twisted right leg, bad hip and a residual limp, is unfazed by Christina’s infirmity, a stark contrast to others whose pity she detests.

“You’re like me,” he says. “You get on with it. I admire that.”

Their scenes together, just talking, and the scenes of Andy working, figuring the angles and details of his portraits and landscapes, are among the most appealing in the book. Through his eyes, Christina sees ordinary tools and objects in a new way. The rote familiarity of the farm becomes transformed. Yet it’s Andy’s acceptance of things as they are that Christina finds so heartening.

“Andy doesn’t usually bring anything, or offer to help. He doesn’t register alarm at the way we live. He doesn’t see us as a project that needs fixing,” Kline writes. “All the things that most people fret about, Andy likes. There’s more grandeur in the bleached bones of a storm-rubbed house, he declares, than in drab tidiness.”

Although Andy has been painting Christina’s brother, Al, he has yet to ask Christina to pose for him. At first she demurs, until Andy points out that she’s always posing. By that he means that she’s accustomed to people’s concern, “used to being observed, but not really…. seen.” His comment is so astute that she can’t refuse. And so the famed, eponymous painting gets underway.

This book about hardship and pride, friendship and empathy, starts slowly before finding its pace. Once there, the story moves briskly. In the hands of a lesser writer, Christina’s plight might seem unwieldy or mawkish. Yet Kline, who splits her time between New Jersey and Maine, has a graceful, arresting style that lifts the narrative, and her portrayal of Andy leavens the entire story. For as much as we learn about the life and times of Christina Olson, it’s Kline’s rendering of Andrew Wyeth – decent, charming, wise – that leaves us wanting more.

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, 20 Feb 2017 09:37:30 +0000
‘Abstraction’ goes long at Greenhut Galleries Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Established in 1977 by Peggy Golden, Greenhut Galleries is Portland’s oldest gallery. Frost Gully Gallery in Freeport, which opened in 1966, closed last year, making Greenhut the respected elder of the Portland area gallery scene.

Greenhut is now showing “Abstraction,” a rather basic show that somehow manages to raise some remarkable questions. By “basic,” I mean nothing demeaning – it’s a strong show – but what is most remarkable is how natural it feels.

The team-curated show features a pair of the gallery’s long-time artists, Jon Imber and George Lloyd. But it also includes newer ones: the reductive but powerful paintings of Ken Greenleaf and a work by gallery employee, Chris Beneman, whose constructed architectural monoprint image is a pulsing high point of the show. As a whole, “Abstraction” is testament to Maine contemporary art’s no longer taking a back seat to more traditional observation-based painting.

Greenhut smartly starts “Abstraction” with a large painting by Frederick Lynch in the front the window. Lynch died in 2016 at the age of 80 after a long and highly engaged career as one of Maine’s leading abstractionists. “Division 114” acts like a geometrically carved wooden room divider barely jammed into the 7-foot canvas. Lynch acknowledged the corners of the canvas with the darkest bits of the scene where the trompe-l’oeil-ish architectonic surface form didn’t quite reach out. This is in fact a witty blend of the modernist practice of emphasizing the literal edges and corners of a canvas to underscore its literalness and of postmodernism’s willingness to play games with any tool, however fictional or cliché. The result: We see the painting as a flat, cornered rectangle with artist-energized painting stuff happening all over the surface. We see the thing, the process, the intention, the faith.

But the main problem with “Abstraction” is immediately apparent: There are too many works in too small a space. This is initially visually distracting, but there is an argument for more-is-better if you’re actually there to see as much art as you can. While this is less an issue for the more self-contained paintings, it’s tough on works that rely on an object presence. Noriko Sakanishi’s grandfather clock-like “Sentinel,” for example, looks like something jammed into an attic if you approach from the left side of the space, but it’s strong if you enter from the right and see it straight on. Sentinels need space to watch over, and this one is no exception.

Lynch’s other work is a complicated object painting that suffers from lack of space, as do a few of the tightly grouped grids in the side gallery such as Willa Vennema’s “The Circular Nature of Chaos and Order,” which feels like a circle jammed into a box, and, in particular, Allison Goodwin’s “The Sum of Its Parts,” a playful piece that comes across as too many kids on a cramped city playground.

Still, the work is generally very strong. I was particularly struck by new-to-me Lisa Noonis’ “Birch,” a rhythmically rich and pleasantly vertical visual field worked with a light touch. The strongest work in the context of the cramped show is Tom Flanagan’s jumpy and jagged “Shelter.” Conversely, Penelope Jones’ “Byzantine Permutations” bubbles to the top by carving out its own corner of historically layered decorative elegance. George Lloyd’s small paintings pack a visual punch, but they’re hard to see on the busy walls unless you specifically give them a few moments of their own: Do it. The payoff is big.

“Abstraction” is not short on appeal. Daniel Anselmi’s, Sandra Quinn’s and Ingrid Ellison’s elegantly finished square paintings all shift in real time with the mesmerizing grace of dancers. Nor is it short on formal intelligence, which arrives in spades with the unfurling shaped-canvas geometry of Ken Greenleaf’s “Lotus Blossom” and Lori Tremblay’s musically mapped blues unfolding as a circular tri-fold earth.

By far the strangest and most intriguing work in “Abstraction” is another square work – Tom Paiement’s “Tone Scale,” which features five horizontally stacked folder-tab-colored lucite bars in the middle of a two-foot skin-toned panel. Four of the bars are LED text screens. The middle one is blank, seemingly playing the role of the drawn line in L. Ron Hubbard’s famous explanation of his Scientology “Emotional Tone Scale”: “Just draw a horizontal line on the page. Put the people who are less alive on the bottom and the people who are more alive on the top.” Hubbard, in fact, listed 81 steps on the logarithmically numbered scale. And it is these that Paiement flashes at us. It’s a startling piece in the context of Donald Trump’s current anti-Muslim efforts. But Paiement’s ironical weaponry, unlike the Scientology scale, is comfortably capable of handling multiple positions simultaneously. On one hand, the work is about painting’s inability to respond to the shifting emotional states of its viewers. On the other hand, Scientology ostensibly values creativity and yet has tied itself to a dogmatic orthodoxy of labeling and judging anyone and everyone on its enumerated terms.

An awareness of Paiement’s art in general isn’t necessary, but it helps: He doesn’t comment on the Tone Scale. He doesn’t need to. He lets the systems logic and the gallery practice of contemporary art viewers do the work. Contemporary art, after all, is charged with explaining its own self-contained logic. The fact that we have to reach out further to educate ourselves and judge the merits of the piece as we would judge any work of contemporary art puts the ideas (and orthodoxy) of Scientology in a standard line of critical inquiry.

The result is a bit of self-education by the viewer, but the creative context is challenging. It’s a fair question to ask yourself if Paiement is an earnest Scientologist, and in the end, the hypocrisy revealed by the contrasting of internal art logic with the externally imposed religious dogma doesn’t discount that possibility. And there’s the wit. It’s one thing to come up with this system, as Hubbard did. But it’s another altogether to follow Hubbard in using it to judge yourself and others. Paiement is far too subversive to straightforwardly announce his own judginess. Besides, if it weren’t up to such iconoclasm, it wouldn’t be art – it would be religious testimony. And religion it ain’t.

You might not see Paiement’s “Tone Scale” as abstraction, but you would be hard-pressed to argue it isn’t. To me, it is an extraordinarily timely work because it offers a path for Paiement to open up a critical line of thinking about religion: That it is inextricable from irony, a truth made clear by organized religions throughout history that have preached a variation on “love they neighbor” while simultaneously judging and persecuting people of other faiths.

The greatest quality of contemporary art is that it can build its own paths to content. This is precisely why it is such a powerful cultural tool. Contemporary art can be pretty or revolutionary. It can fun or political. It can be quiet or spiritual. It can be anything. We make the mistake of assuming an abstract painting’s standard of success is aesthetic – when it can be so much more. There is a reason why both Hitler and Stalin saw abstraction as a threat and made it illegal. Something that can do anything, after all, can be very powerful indeed.

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

]]> 0 11-12, by Daniel Anselmi, artist-painted paper collage on panel, 24 by 24 inches.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:45:04 +0000
HBO’s ‘Big Little Lies’ transcends the usual rich-mommies drama Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 In other hands (such as Bravo’s or Lifetime’s), the seven-episode HBO miniseries “Big Little Lies” would seem like one more needless, farcical ascent to higher income brackets to scrutinize the gossipy, status-conscious and downright mean lifestyles of the upper crust. Zeroing in on women usually, these tales specialize in disdain for the cliques of yoga-toned mama bears who’ve turned parenting into a brutally competitive sport and dedicated their lives to seeming perfect.

More than a decade since the arrival of “Desperate Housewives” and “Real Housewives,” television is now forever strewn with similar stories (imagined or “real”) of women who seem incapable of treating one another with kindness and respect. The bite is often meant as a kind of moral satire, but, in the aggregate, it amounts to a depressing statement about the entire gender. It’s also a wildly popular genre.

“Big Little Lies,” which premieres Sunday night, is certainly filled with the tropes of mommy blogs and dagger-eyed encounters in the school pickup/drop-off lane. But the series is so exquisitely conceived and structured – and so remarkably acted by a top-notch cast that includes two of Hollywood’s most resolute performers, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon – that the soapy layer quickly rinses away in the first episode. What remains is a deeply absorbing, highly addictive murder mystery matched with a carefully considered psychological work-up of an elite community.

Adapted from Liane Moriarty’s best-selling 2014 novel, the plot of “Big Little Lies” has been relocated from its original Australian setting to Monterey, California, the idyllic seaside town where a local elementary school, Otter Bay, is considered so excellent that it attracts the pampered children of techie zillionaires who live in the cliffside homes along the beach. The hothouse atmosphere is palpable on orientation day, as beautiful moms and dads arrive with their beautiful, eager first-graders.

Among the adults is Madeline Mackenzie (Witherspoon), a nosy and talkative Queen Bee doing her best to ignore the fact that her daughter, Chloe (Darby Camp), is in the same class as a half-sister, the child of Madeline’s ex-husband, Nathan (James Tupper), and his second wife, Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz). Mingling about, Madeline introduces her best friend, Celeste Wright (Kidman), who gave up a legal career to focus on her twin boys, to Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley), a young single mom who just moved to Monterey.

Soon enough there is major drama, when Amabella (Ivy George), the daughter of a successful venture capitalist, Renata Klein (Laura Dern), accuses Jane’s son, Ziggy (Iain Armitage), of trying to choke her. Cries of bullying and assault are initially mishandled by a teacher, while Madeline rushes to defend Jane and Ziggy, mostly because she’s never liked Renata.

Chronologically, “Big Little Lies” is structured as a walk-back, as police investigate a murder that occurred at the school’s Elvis-and-Audrey-Hepburn-themed gala fundraiser, some weeks after school started and during a period of heightened animosities. The story is spliced together with witness accounts from a rabble of other parents, school administrators and the like – all of them too eager to share rumors about one another.

Could a playground spat get this out of control? “Big Little Lies” suggests so, but it also thoroughly probes beneath the surfaces of Madeline, Celeste and Renata’s marital and personal difficulties. It also uncovers Jane’s darkest secret. Husbands factor prominently in the narrative (as one witness explains to the cops, “It wasn’t just the mothers”), especially Celeste’s frighteningly abusive spouse, Perry (Alexander Skarsgard), and Madeline’s emotionally neglected second husband, Ed (Adam Scott).

“Big Little Lies” is also, to my recollection, the rare drama that treats children as key characters rather than incidental nuisances, demanding performances from its youngest cast members that other shows would use mainly as precocious walk-ons. It’s a task that nearly all the children in “Big Little Lies” manage to fulfill, to such a degree that it’s tempting to consider the story entirely from their perspectives.

That’s only a passing thought, however, since Witherspoon and Kidman have clearly decided that “Big Little Lies” is not merely a chance to dabble in prestige TV. Even though they’re both playing to type (Kidman once again as an ethereally composed woman facing sexual and physical violence; Witherspoon as another self-absorbed busybody who hits a breaking point), they have each outdone themselves here, bringing to their roles a real sense for the contours of pain, as well as a mature, wry sense of humor.

I don’t know how “Big Little Lies” ends (HBO coyly sent all but the final episode), but, having read around in Moriarty’s novel (avoiding the conclusion), I know just enough to realize that tone means everything in the task of turning this story into a strong TV show. Sure, tone almost always means everything, but “Big Little Lies” succeeds from a perfect collaboration between a script-writing producer, David E. Kelley (yes, of “Ally McBeal”), and a film director, Jean-Marc Vallée, who so artfully directed Witherspoon and Dern in the 2014 film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s solo-hike memoir, “Wild,” turning that book into a strangely effective collage of memory and stamina.

In television, script-writing is often accomplished through a group effort overseen by a showrunner, while directing is handed off from episode to episode. Here, Kelley wrote and Vallee directed every episode of “Big Little Lies,” which not only heightens continuity (we’re basically looking at a seven-hour film), it once again makes me wish that more of the new shows we’re getting these days would commit themselves to a single, terrific season – a contained story, rather than a launching pad for a long saga.

Between Kelley’s knack for melding irony and suffering and Vallée’s dreamy attention to the illusions that prop up the characters’ coastal California bliss, “Big Little Lies” becomes a sinfully pleasurable and even thought-provoking experience.

]]> 0 Witherspoon, left, Shailene Woodley and Nicole Kidman in HBO's "Big Little Lies."Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:30:28 +0000
Dollhouses, model railroads take over Augusta armory Sat, 18 Feb 2017 22:59:01 +0000 AUGUSTA — In an auditorium buzzing with model railways, tracks and cars in various sizes, the dollhouses and accouterments seemed out of sync.

But it’s all a matter of scale.

“Generally, a man who has a model railroad for a hobby will have a wife who has a dollhouse,” said Barbara Hagan of Windsor. “She’s doing something in a different scale.”

Hagan should know. Her late husband, Richard, was a model train buff.

“The hobbies sort of complement each other,” Hagan said. “If you’re working on one scale and he’s working on another, you understand each other’s requirements.”

The 31st Whitefield Lions Club Model Railroad and Doll House Show held Saturday at the Augusta State Armory attracted hundreds of spectators.

Steven P. Laundrie of Randolph, a Lions Club member who organizes the show, said it is limited to about 100 tables and attracts some exhibitors year after year.

Richard Hagan coordinated the Whitefield Lions Club Model Railroad and Doll House Show for many years, and Hagan was an exhibitor for 29 years.

However, Barbara Hagan, who has a dollhouse shop in her home, said this will be her final year at the show.

At 81, she said, “I’m getting too old.”

She brought a four-room dollhouse this year as well as a series of room boxes she had crafted, including an exquisite carpenter’s shop where tiny tools await the return of a skilled cabinetmaker, and a fire extinguisher is atop the workbench in case of a disaster.

Hagan’s dollhouse shop is one of the few remaining in the area, she said, adding, “There used to be a lot of shops, but with the economy the way it is, there’s not as much discretionary income.”

She showed off what looked like a dining room hutch in a 1:12 scale, but the top half was a miniature dollhouse itself, set in a 1:144 scale, also known as micro scale, with staircases rising between floors. In fact, the 1:144 scale is close to the “N” model railway scale, 1:160.

Kathy Allen of Sidney, whose items were set up next to Hagan’s, said collectors sometimes move from larger to smaller scale as the numbers of their collectibles increase. It’s all a matter of conserving space.

Allen has made miniature items for doll houses for more than 30 years, explaining that most are 1:12 scale; in that dimension, a 6-foot-tall person would be depicted as a 6-inch-tall doll. “That’s the common scale,” Allen said.

In that scale, she fashions colorful Christmas and Valentine table settings that would look totally at home on a dollhouse dining table.

“Doll house people party a lot,” Allen said. “They decorate for the holidays, have lots of pets, and mine have tea parties.”

She calls her work “scrapping” or “upcycling.” She takes pieces of ordinary items, such as children’s erasers, to create red and white cookies spread on baking trays and cooling racks.

“I’ve been cursed with the ability to see alternate uses for things,” Allen said.

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

Twitter: betadams

]]> 0 Hagan poses for a photo with a doll house Saturday during the 31st annual Whitefield Lions Club Model Railroad and Doll House Show at the Augusta State Armory.Sat, 18 Feb 2017 18:32:21 +0000
Mariah Carey confirms dancer is her new beau Sat, 18 Feb 2017 20:03:00 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Mariah Carey has a vision of love for her backup dancer Bryan Tanaka.

Carey, who posted an Instagram picture with her and Tanaka drinking champagne in a tub on Valentine’s Day, confirmed the romance in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, though she declined to say much more than that.

“I’m just going to be like ‘I really don’t talk about my personal life.’ Because that’s what I used to do and it really worked for a minute, back, a while ago,” she said, smiling. “I just don’t feel comfortable talking about my personal life. … Me and my boyfriend don’t want to do that.”

Carey’s reluctance to talk in the media about her romance is understandable given the drama that erupted when she and billionaire James Packer broke up last year. The split wasn’t amicable and led to plenty of tabloid headlines.

But it seems to have also inspired Carey musically. Her latest single, “I Don’t,” featuring rapper YG, is about a breakup: “We got together and did the song in like a day and the video the next day.”

In the video, Carey dresses in sexy white lingerie with a white bridal garter on her thigh. In one line, YG raps, “Hold up, give me my ring back. Never mind you could keep that.” Meanwhile, Carey flips off the camera with the ring on her middle finger – a ring that looks just like the one Packer gave her.

– From news service reports

]]> 0 Carey talks with boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., right, as her boyfriend, Bryan Tanaka, stands near by at an NBA game Wednesday in Los Angeles.Sat, 18 Feb 2017 17:45:58 +0000
New Jersey shore residents suspicious of a new reality show Sat, 18 Feb 2017 19:58:54 +0000 SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. — Some residents of a shore town stung by MTV’s “Jersey Shore” are wary about plans by a bar featured in that series to hold a casting call for a new reality show.

The Bamboo Bar in Seaside Heights is looking for “loud and fun” single people at a casting call Saturday.

The planned show is tentatively titled “I Love Summer” and would follow roommates who work on the beach during the day and at the bar at night.

Bamboo Bar owner John Saddy told the Asbury Park Press that it’s not as wild as “Jersey Shore,” which debuted in 2009.

– From news service reports

]]> 0 Sat, 18 Feb 2017 17:42:36 +0000
Religion Calendar Sat, 18 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Buddhism Unwrapped. Introducing path to Buddhahood. $10 suggested donation. Merrymeeting Arts Center, 9 Main St., Bowdoinham,, 10-11:15 a.m. Sunday.

ChIME Interfaith Worship Service: Service led by student chaplains Jon Gale and Diana Pease. Free. Chaplaincy Institute of Maine, 302 Stevens Ave., Portland,, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Sunday.

“Yes … Peace is Possible.” Class. Donations accepted. Unity Church of Greater Portland, 54 River Road, Windham,, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Community Chaplains Needed Now: Open House at the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine. Dean Angie Arndt hosting. Free. 302 Stevens Ave., Portland,, 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday.

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

]]> 0 Sat, 18 Feb 2017 23:14:40 +0000
Reflections: ‘Alternative facts’ needed when honesty is in short supply Sat, 18 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “Honesty,” in the words of Poet David Whyte, “is reached through the doorway of grief and loss. Where we cannot go in our mind, memory or body, we cannot be straight with one another, with the world or with ourselves.”

If what he says is true, and I believe it is, it may explain why honesty is in such short supply these days and why we find the need to create “alternative facts” to protect ourselves and our world view. The term “alternative facts” is the most recent soundbite and euphemism for falsehoods masquerading as facts. The term may have originated with Kellyanne Conway, but the practice of creating them did not. Alternative facts have been used to explain away unfortunate emails, they have been used to deny climate change, even to justify going to war. (Most of us will remember the “facts” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.)

Flights from facts are not limited to the political realm. Creationists present alternative facts to counter accepted science on the age of the earth, and the evolution of life on that earth. These “alternative facts” come from a literal interpretation of Genesis.

As children we may have learned the value of alternative facts to explain the broken window or the disappearance of cookies in the jar. I know I did, and my alternative facts often included my younger brother.

Consider David Whyte’s words and you understand why honesty is so hard. To be honest about ourselves, a situation or an event can be painful because it does so often involve loss. Fear of loss and its subsequent grief keeps us all dancing at that doorway causing us to perpetrate dishonesties, conscious and unconscious, great and small. Step into honesty, and we put ourselves in danger of losing the certainty of our faith, or our world perspective, or our prejudices about others. Step through that doorway into honesty about ourselves and we risk losing the esteem, the regard, even the love of others, be they our family and friends, our constituents, our colleagues. Step through that doorway and you come face to face with the undeniable fact that you are a human being, vulnerable, imperfect and mortal.

Scripture tells us “you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free,” to which many have appended, “Yes, but first it will hurt like hell!” No wonder that the truth is often described as “hard.” My courageous friends who have gone through Twelve Step programs toward recovery tell me about the searing internal inventory that must be taken as part of the process. That sort of honesty does hurt and the truth that is uncovered is often hard and ugly. But, as one person said, it is a “dark grace that saves us,” and in the words of Bill Wilson, founder of AA, the process “is for the sake of truth and humility and a growth in generosity of spirit” for the self and for others.

I see honesty, then, as more than a noble cause or virtue, but as a spiritual practice. Honesty is anchored in humility and love, and has no need of alternative facts, deceits, falsehoods or denial. We may step through the doorway and hit rock bottom, but at least we hit honest rock.

Grief and loss are part of the human condition and we cannot avoid them. We are all, at some time, forced through that fearsome doorway. Anyone who promises they can protect you from that experience, or who finds a scapegoat to blame, is in my estimation a charlatan, pulling strings behind the curtain. But when you find those who are willing to walk with you through the loss and grief, into whatever the future holds, who do not try to explain it away or deny your experience, you have found companions worthy of your trust. It may be you go with angels unaware.

The Rev. Janet Dorman is the pastor at Foreside Community Church, UCC, and can be reached at

]]> 0 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 20:41:14 +0000
Massachusetts art exhibit asks, ‘What is wearable?’ Sat, 18 Feb 2017 04:09:31 +0000 SALEM, Mass. — They are outfits you might expect to see in Lady Gaga’s closet: a flamingo pink Fiberglas frock and a wooden one-piece replica of Notre Dame Cathedral.

But these wild and whimsical ensembles are part of the “WOW – World of Wearable Art” exhibition opening Saturday at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.

The quirky show, a collision of art and the craziest of couture, offers visitors a chance to view 32 award-winning costumes from the New Zealand-based design competition of the same name.

Nearly three decades ago, the contest began when organizers asked an eclectic international mix of boat builders, taxidermists, amateur enthusiasts and others to push the boundaries of clothing and artwork.

“What do all these people have in common? Basically, it’s the ability to use the body as a blank canvas,” said Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, the exhibition’s coordinating curator.

Garment submissions must be made to fit the models who wear the artwork in an elaborate stage show.

“This exhibit asks the question, ‘What is wearable?’ ” Roscoe Hartigan said.

With each ensemble, there are central ideas for viewers to ponder.

One example is a piece called “Inkling,” by Gillian Saunders. The horned body armor with a protruding dragon head and red heart on the belt was conceived after Saunders wondered what the human body might look like if it had more tattoo ink than blood running through its veins.

Lynne Christiansen’s “Gothic Habit,” the wearable Notre Dame Cathedral, was inspired by the spiritual feeling some get when entering a church, temple or mosque. Christiansen wondered whether wearing a miniature edifice could capture the same sentiment.

Yet some of the ensembles take on a more solemn tone.

“Beast in the Beauty,” created by Alaskan carpenter David Walker, reflects his late wife’s battle with breast cancer. Worn with the wooden dress is a blond helmet representing her chemotherapy-induced baldness.

Walker’s wife was a collaborator on the project and died before it was finished.

“This shows just how much people have invested of themselves in these ensembles,” Roscoe Hartigan said.

Carol Boisvert, of Wilmington, Massachusetts, said she was struck by the numerous almost-hidden details contained within each piece.

“It’s deceptive because you don’t know what you’re truly looking at until you’re up close,” she said.

Tracey Cahalane, of Salem, New Hampshire, was impressed by the wide-ranging color spectrum in the works on display.

“The amount of color the artists used is astonishing,” Cahalane said.

“WOW – World of Wearable Art” runs through June 11.

]]> 0 piece called "American Dream," above, by Sarah Thomas is among the unusual costumes in the collection, which encourages the viewer to ponder a central question and also to search for hidden details. At top is "Lady Curiosity" by Fifi Colston.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 23:28:20 +0000
Dick Bruna, Dutch illustrator of Miffy rabbit books, dies at 89 Sat, 18 Feb 2017 01:56:20 +0000 THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dick Bruna, the Dutch “spiritual father” of Miffy, the white rabbit who enchanted millions of young children around the world for more than half a century, has died at age 89, his publisher announced Friday.

Decades before Instagram made square images immensely popular, illustrator and artist Bruna understood their power. For years, his Miffy books were printed in a square format.

“He thought that size was really good for two little children’s hands, and he loved the visual impact, too,” longtime friend Marja Kerkhof, of his Dutch publisher Mercis, said in a telephone interview.

Bruna “passed away peacefully in his sleep” Thursday night in the central Dutch city of Utrecht, Kerkhof said.

The simplicity of Bruna’s characters drew adoration not only from children, but also from adult art lovers. Amsterdam’s venerable Rijksmuseum put on a show featuring his work in 2015.

He wrote and illustrated a total of 124 books, but Miffy, known in the Netherlands as Nijntje, a contraction of the Dutch word for rabbit, was far and away his most popular and best known character.

Bruna created 32 books about the rabbit, which were translated into more than 50 languages and sold more than 85 million copies, Kerkhof said. The man his publisher described as Miffy’s “spiritual father” stopped drawing in 2011.

Miffy, who turns 62 this year, is a merchandising juggernaut, featuring on stationery, toys and children’s trinkets sold across the world as part of a multimillion-euro (dollar) business.

“He was very much loved around the world. I remember traveling with him to Australia, to New Zealand, to Asia, to Japan. Wherever he would go, people would queue up for signing sessions of his books,” Kerkhof said.

She said the public’s affection for both Bruna and Miffy stemmed from the illustrations’ simplicity.

]]> 0 man places flowers at Miffy's statue outside the Nijntje Museum, or Miffy Museum, in Utrecht, Netherlands, on Friday.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 21:28:17 +0000
Greek artist Jannis Kounellis dies at age 80 Sat, 18 Feb 2017 01:42:49 +0000 MILAN — Greek artist Jannis Kounellis, a major exponent of the Italian art movement Arte Povera who made Italy his adopted home, has died in Rome at age 80.

The Villa Mafalda hospital in Rome confirmed his death late Thursday, but declined to provide further details.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Twitter that Kounellis’ death was “another great loss for our culture” and “leaves us poorer.” Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini tweeted that Kounellis was “a great master, Italian by adoption, who with his work marked contemporary art.”

Kounellis came to Italy in the 1950s to study at Rome’s Accademia di Belle Arti. After starting out as a painter, he became associated with the avant-garde Arte Povera, or impoverished art, movement in the late 1960s, moving toward installations.

]]> 0 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 20:46:22 +0000
Hugh Jackman says he’s ‘fine’ after cancer bout Sat, 18 Feb 2017 01:36:35 +0000 BERLIN — Hugh Jackman arrived at the premiere of “Logan” with a small bandage on his nose after taking to Twitter to announce he had been treated for skin cancer once again.

But Jackman insisted he’s OK. “It is fine, it is all done, all fixed, all out. Thank you for asking,” he said at the Friday night debut of the film at the Berlin Film Festival.

Jackman revealed Monday that he had another basal cell carcinoma on his nose, tweeted out a picture of his bandaged nose, and urged people to wear sunscreen.

But his focus Friday was the “Logan” premiere. It’s the third installment of the “Wolverine” spinoff series, and it may be the most ambitious. It’s competing at the Berlin festival, which was a goal for Jackman when he signed on to do it.

“I didn’t want it to be seen as a comic book movie, I wanted it to be seen as a film on its own,” he said.

The movie is set in a dystopian future and sees Wolverine caring for an aged Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart).

Stewart said he didn’t need any convincing to get on board. “I had no doubts whatsoever. When I began to understand some of the content of this film, I was all for it. The film is unusual, very different and I think remarkable,” he said.

Jackman has said that this movie is the end of the road for him and Wolverine. So what does he remember?

“The last day was an action day and I was sore and hurt and it was great,” he laughed.

]]> 0 Hugh Jackman and actress Dafne Keen joke during a photo op for the film "Logan" at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, on Friday.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 20:47:08 +0000
Kidman confirms past engagement to rock musician Sat, 18 Feb 2017 01:23:08 +0000 NEW YORK — Actress Nicole Kidman has revealed that she was once engaged to musician Lenny Kravitz.

Kidman confirmed the engagement with the rocker in a recent interview with Net-A-Porter’s magazine “The Edit,” in which she was discussing her upcoming HBO series “Big Little Lies.” Kidman said she already knew co-star Zoe Kravitz because she was once engaged to her father.

Kidman dated Lenny Kravitz a couple of years after her divorce from actor Tom Cruise in 2001. She never disclosed an engagement, although she talked about a failed engagement in 2007 with an unnamed ex.

]]> 0 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 20:47:47 +0000
Talk to babies and let them babble Sat, 18 Feb 2017 01:16:20 +0000 WASHINGTON — Even infants can have conversations with mom or dad. Their turn just tends to involve a smile or some gibberish instead of words.

That’s a key lesson from programs that are coaching parents to talk more with their babies – and recording their attempts.

At issue is how to bridge the infamous “word gap,” the fact that affluent children hear far more words before they start school than low-income kids. New research suggests intervening early can at least boost the words at-risk tots hear, and maybe influence some school-readiness factors.

One program in Providence, Rhode Island, straps “word pedometers” onto tots to record how many words a day they hear from family or caregivers – not TV. Another in New York City records video of parents practicing conversation strategies with babies too young to even say “Da-da.”

“Parents say: ‘Wow, look what I did there. I made a sound and my child smiled at me,” said Dr. Alan Mendelsohn of New York University. “The power in that is really something.”

The research was presented Friday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

Scientists have long known the power of simply of talking to babies – the sooner the better. A landmark 1995 study found that poor children hear a fraction of the words their peers in wealthier homes do, adding up to about 30 million fewer words by age 3. The reasons are myriad. If mom’s exhausted from two jobs, she’s less likely to read that extra bedtime story or have time to explore “this little piggie” when putting on a tot’s socks.

Those children have smaller vocabularies and lag academically, and can find it hard to catch up. That’s in part because early experiences shape how the brain develops in those critical first years of life.

Programs are popping up around the country to spread the “let’s talk” message. Researchers outlined some promising findings Friday – and noted the problem is about more than word quantity.

“Yes, you can talk more, but what is the quality of your language?” said Caitlin Molina, executive director of the Providence Talks program. “It’s not just the adult word count but the conversational turns, the back and forth, that engage the child.”

Providence Talks has enrolled more than 1,300 babies and toddlers since 2014 in programs that train parents to build in more conversation during the day. First, coaches provide strategies. Don’t just read the book but ask about the pictures. Turn off the radio in the car to talk about where you’re going. Describe the colors when dressing a tot, and pause to give them a chance to babble back.

Then, one day every two weeks, the children wear a small recorder that counts how many words they hear and the number of those “conversational turns.” It can count the returning baby babble but not the TV or radio. Parents are given the scores, to track their own progress. Early results show two-thirds of participating families improve.

]]> 0 Taveras reads a book to Gracey Niebla in Providence, R.I. The city is in the third year of boosting language skills for children from low-income families.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 20:48:30 +0000
Of saints and scoundrels: Are Oscar nominees judged on off-screen behavior? Sat, 18 Feb 2017 01:00:10 +0000 NEW YORK — As the final votes pour in ahead of the Academy Awards’ Tuesday afternoon deadline, Hollywood is drawing to a close an awards season that has, from Nate Parker to Mel Gibson, often been a confounding morality play.

By even movie standards, the dramatic swings of fortune are hard to believe. Parker, hailed as an Oscar sure-thing at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, saw his “The Birth of a Nation” torpedoed by the fallout of an 18-year-old rape allegation against him and the tragedy that followed. But just as Parker was disappearing, Mel Gibson, a pariah for the last decade, engineered an unexpected comeback that culminated with six nominations for his “Hacksaw Ridge,” including best picture.

Hollywood’s scales of justice, never particularly scientific, have rarely been harder to read.

The sometimes puzzling ethical calculus has prompted many to question the standards – some amalgamation of art, fame, race, facts and rumor – used to weigh the bad behavior of stars and would-be nominees.

Some of the closest races this Oscar season – including that of Casey Affleck, one of the best-actor favorites – have been over whether a contender was nimble enough to outrun his past. Everyone agrees: such judgments are playing an increasingly significant role in awards season and show business, in general.

Gibson was one of the few to publicly defend Parker, who in 1999 was charged – along with his Penn State roommate and “Birth of a Nation” collaborator Jean Celestin – with raping another student. Parker was acquitted, Celestin was convicted, but the charge was later overturned, and the alleged victim, whose family said she never recovered from the incident, killed herself years later .

Parker has steadily maintained his innocence, but his Facebook responses and his evasion of the topic at a press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival did little to stem the backlash against him. (An attorney for Parker didn’t respond to interview requests.)

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Gibson said during a Hollywood Reporter round-table interview. “He was cleared of all that stuff. And it was years ago.”

Gibson (who declined to be interviewed) has had his own scandals to overcome. His anti-Semitic tirade in 2006, recorded while being arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, was seemingly the end to his stardom. He later plead no contest in 2011 to domestic battery of former girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. Damning audio recordings surfaced of their arguments, too.

But his comeback was seemingly made official by the Oscars. And Gibson is now reportedly in talks to direct a sequel to “Suicide Squad.”


The spotlight of illustrious platforms like the Oscars tends to shine a light on previously dormant cases. It was the 2014 Golden Globes lifetime achievement award for Woody Allen that led Ronan Farrow to renew the 25-year-old molestation allegations against the filmmaker, which Allen has long denied.

Even Roman Polanski, whose “The Pianist” won best picture in 2003, was forced to step down as president of France’s Cesar Awards after protests by women’s groups. The director pleaded guilty in 1977 to unlawful sex with a minor.

“This mirrors the larger trend within the culture,” says Scott Berkowitz, president of the anti-sexual assault organization RAINN . “People are paying vastly more attention to sexual violence issues and personal behavior and the atmosphere has become much more sympathetic toward victims and much more scornful of defenders. Part of that trend has been because of celebrity cases.”

Though it’s done little to upset his winning streak, Affleck has been trailed through awards season by sexual harassment allegations made against him in 2010 while directing the mockumentary “I’m Not There.” Producer Amanda White, in a civil suit, alleged Affleck made “unwelcome sexual advances” during shooting. Cinematographer Magdalena Gorka, in a separate suit, said Affleck got into bed with her without her consent. The suits were settled for undisclosed sums. A publicist for Affleck said the terms of the settlement preclude him from discussing it.

Many articles have conflated Affleck’s alleged crimes with those of Parker’s, suggesting race has played a role in their varied treatment, despite the considerable differences between them. Some analysts believe the questionable comparison affected the Oscar race. Affleck’s formidable rival, Denzel Washington (“Fences”), pulled out a surprise win at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and many now peg him as the front runner.

“With Casey Affleck, there’s a lot of people who felt compelled to prove their colorblindness by finding an example of a white person misbehaving and dredging that up,” says Scott Feinberg, awards expert for The Hollywood Reporter. “And yet even if he did what he was accused of, which was never proven in court, it is not in any way a direct parallel to what Nate Parker was accused of. Sexual harassment is not the same thing as rape.”


Feinberg recently co-wrote a column saying Oscar voters should limit their judgments to the screen. It’s a personal decision for moviegoers and Oscar voters, alike, as evidenced by the stream of op-eds that have accompanied this awards season – from author Roxane Gay to actress Constance Wu to actress Gabrielle Union, a rape survivor.

Former federal prosecutor Priya Sopori says there is danger in cases that were argued in criminal or civil court being retried on social media without deep knowledge of the evidence. “What you don’t want is people playing judge, jury and executioner on Twitter,” Sopori says.

Stan Goldman, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, believes the internet makes the public less likely to let go of old cases. “There’s a reason the law has statues of limitations. We don’t want somebody’s past continuing to haunt them,” says Goldman. “But maybe time should not heal all wounds. Our crimes should, perhaps, follow us. But there should be some basis for it.”

So how much does any of this influence the average academy voter? Bruce Feldman, a former awards strategist and academy member, says he struggles with these questions every year.

“It’s not just the high-profile public cases of misbehavior that might affect an individual’s vote,” says Feldman. “There’s also all the people we work with in this industry, many of whom treat others very badly on a daily basis, whose transgressions aren’t reported in the press. Academy members aren’t robots. We’re human, with the same feelings and imperfections as everyone. Personally, I try very hard to base my vote purely on artistic merit. Oscars are awarded for achievement, not on whether you’re a saint or a scoundrel.”

]]> 0 Mel Gibson, center, and actor Vince Vaughn work on the set of the film "Hacksaw Ridge." Many thought Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade in 2006, recorded while being arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, was the end to his stardom.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 20:13:23 +0000
Catholic Church is urged to acknowledge, fight racism Sat, 18 Feb 2017 00:29:02 +0000 MODESTO, Calif. — Speakers at a Vatican-sponsored conference in Northern California have called on the Roman Catholic Church to acknowledge its own racism and urged those attending to fight against oppression.

More than 600 clergy and social justice activists are meeting in Modesto, California, for a conference on economic inequality that also included a session Friday on racism in the United States.

Pope Francis welcomed the group Thursday night with a letter in which he said “no people is criminal and no religion is terrorist” and he urged those gathered to make neighbors of anyone in need, especially those without homes, money or work.

The gathering comes as the world grapples with the effect of President Donald Trump’s efforts to change U.S. immigration policy. The agenda does not mention Trump, and speakers did not name him. But his recent announcement of a crackdown on people illegally in the country and limitations on who is allowed into the U.S. are likely to be discussed.

Innocent Rugaragu, a 42-year-old member of the PICO National Network immigration reform group, said he never thought people could be rounded up and deported from a country as wealthy as the United States, which he said has always stood for hope to people around the world.

Rugaragu, who is from Kigali, Rwanda, does not know how to convey to the Trump administration that the worries are real and not an attack on the president. “These are genuine people who are really concerned and don’t have evil intentions,” he said.

Catholics have long worked with refugees and migrants, but not all of them are opposed to the president’s orders.

Chris Jackson of the organization Catholics4Trump said in an email that Trump’s ban limiting entry from seven predominantly Muslim countries is reasonable and designed to protect citizens. “Catholicism has always recognized the right of nations to have and enforce borders,” he said.

Speakers at Friday’s panel on racism urged people to stand together, regardless of class or color, gender or immigration status.

]]> 0 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 19:29:02 +0000
Washington Supreme Court rules against florist who denied service to gay couple Sat, 18 Feb 2017 00:28:59 +0000 OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that a florist who refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding broke the state’s antidiscrimination law, even though she claimed doing so would violate her religious beliefs.

A lower court had fined Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Richland, Washington, for denying service to a gay couple in 2013, and ordered her to pay a $1,000 fine.

Stutzman argued that she was exercising her First Amendment rights. But the court held that her floral arrangements do not constitute protected free speech, and that providing flowers to a same-sex wedding would not serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage.

“As Stutzman acknowledged at deposition, providing flowers for a wedding between Muslims would not necessarily constitute an endorsement of Islam, nor would providing flowers for an atheist couple endorse atheism,” the opinion said.

Stutzman’s lawyers immediately said they would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

“It’s wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will,” Stutzman’s attorney, Kristen Waggoner, wrote in a statement issued after the ruling. “Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees.”

It’s one of several lawsuits around the country – including some involving bakers – about whether businesses can refuse to provide services over causes they disagree with, or whether they must serve everyone equally.

A Colorado case involving a baker who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Lambda Legal. In 2014, the court declined to hear an appeal of a case out of New Mexico that went against a photographer who denied a same-sex couple service.

Gov. Jay Inslee lauded Thursday’s ruling, saying it was “in favor of equality for all Washingtonians.”

“By ruling that intolerance based on sexual orientation is unlawful, the Court affirmed that Washington state will remain a place where no one can be discriminated against because of who they love,” Inslee said in a written statement.

Stutzman had previously sold the couple flowers and knew they were gay. However, Stutzman told them that she couldn’t provide flowers for their wedding because same-sex marriage was incompatible with her Christian beliefs.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the couple sued her, saying she broke state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, and the lower court agreed. The state’s nine high court justices upheld that verdict.

The court rejected several arguments put forth by Stutzman, including the assertion that since other florists were willing to serve the couple, no harm occurred.

“As every other court to address the question has concluded, public accommodations laws do not simply guarantee access to goods or services. Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace,” the court wrote. “Were we to carve out a patchwork of exceptions for ostensibly justified discrimination, that purpose would be fatally undermined.”

The case thrust the great-grandmother into the national spotlight and she testified before state lawmakers in Indiana and Kansas.

Michael Scott, a Seattle attorney who worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to represent Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed – the couple denied the flowers – had previously told justices he didn’t believe Stutzman’s floral creations constituted speech. By providing flowers for a same-sex marriage, he argued, “she’s not endorsing same-sex marriage. She’s selling what she sells.”

Ferguson had said the state’s argument rested on longstanding principle, and uprooting it would weaken anti-discrimination law.

After the arguments in the Supreme Court case last November, at a packed theater at Belle-vue College, a large crowd of Stutzman’s supporters greeted her outside, chanting her name and waving signs that said “Justice For Barronelle.”

In a February 2015 ruling, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom found that Stutzman’s refusal to provide flowers because of sexual orientation violated Washington’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. The following month, Ekstrom ordered Stutzman to pay a $1,000 penalty to the state and $1 in costs and fees.

]]> 0 Stutzman, left, a Richland, Wash., florist who was fined for denying service to a gay couple in 2013, smiles as she is surrounded by supporters after a hearing Nov. 16, 2016, before Washington's Supreme Court in Bellevue, Wash. Curt Freed, left, and Robert Ingersoll sued florist Barronelle Stutzman for refusing to provide services for their wedding.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 19:28:59 +0000
‘Vinyl Cafe’ host Stuart McLean dies at 68 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 19:37:22 +0000 Stuart McLean, the longtime host and producer of public radio’s “Vinyl Cafe,” has died.

McLean, who was 68, died from melanoma.

McLean was based in Canada, but spent much time in Maine, WCSH reports.

McLean took yearly trips to Biddeford Pool to plan the upcoming season of his radio show with his producer.

Stuart McLean hosted the public radio show “The Vinyl Cafe.” Photo courtesy WCSH

]]> 0, 17 Feb 2017 20:42:34 +0000
Renamed Asylum nightclub will hold 1,000 for shows after $9 million expansion Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:46:40 +0000

Aura co-owner Krista Newman said, “We think this will give us the chance to attract a whole new list of artists, which is exciting. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Asylum nightclub, a fixture of downtown Portland’s entertainment scene for nearly 20 years, is changing its name to Aura as a part of a $9.1 million expansion and makeover that will double its capacity, its owners announced Friday. The owners say the expansion will allow the venue to host a wider range of events, including more national concerts, weddings and conferences.

Aura is scheduled to open in April, and on Friday the owners hosted an invitation-only tour of the expansion in progress. The renovated main concert space will have a capacity of about 1,000 people, compared with roughly 500 before, and could host as many as 100 concerts a year. The venue had been known in recent years more for deejays and dancing, with national and local acts as part of the mix.

The new capacity ranks Aura in the middle of Portland’s music venues, based on size, between clubs and large theaters. The largest indoor venue regularly used for concerts is Cross Insurance Arena, with a capacity of more than 6,000, depending on how seating is configured. The city has two large fixed-seat theater venues, the city-owned Merrill Auditorium with a capacity of about 1,900 people and the State Theatre with about 1,800. After Aura would come Port City Music Hall, with a capacity of 500 or more, then smaller clubs.

“The research we did showed there was really nothing this size around here, for concerts or other events,” said Krista Newman, a co-owner. “We think this will give us the chance to attract a whole new list of artists, which is exciting. And we’ll have local bands, too.”

Construction is progressing on Aura, previously Asylum, as seen from Free Street in Portland on Friday. Staff photo by Derek Davis

The owners Friday released a list of more than 20 national acts already booked between April and September, including Dwight Yoakam, Todd Rundgren, Buddy Guy, Wynonna Judd, Bret Michaels, Everclear and Frankie Ballard. The first scheduled show is April 27, featuring Get the Led Out, a Led Zeppelin tribute band. The booking of music acts at Aura will be handled as a joint venture involving Live Nation, a national concert and event booking company, and Bangor-based Waterfront Concerts, which brings national acts each summer to Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor and The Maine State Pier in Portland.

The size of the new Aura, and the seating configuration, was decided upon with help from Live Nation and Waterfront Concerts, said Newman. Because Portland has not had a 1,000-capacity venue, something that falls between the clubs and the theaters, the city was missing out on some national acts touring in the region, said Bob Duteau, a Live Nation representative who was at Aura Friday. He also said the addition of room for about 700 seats, depending on the show, helps draw different acts. Rundgren, for instance, had his biggest hits in the 1970s and can fill a big venue, but his audience probably doesn’t want to stand all night.

Duteau said he’s had acts play nearby, like at the Casino Ballroom in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, but then forgo a stop in Portland because the right venue wasn’t available.

The Portland club previously known as Asylum is undergoing a $9 million renovation and is expected to reopen in April as Aura. The new venue will have a 1,000-seat capacity and will be marketed for concerts, conferences and other events. Visitors get a tour of the main stage area Friday. Staff photo by Derek Davis

The new layout of the main concert and event space includes a stage, a floor-level standing area directly in front, and a raised viewing area with room for seats beyond that. On one side of the venue is a massive, 30-foot wall of windows looking out onto Free Street. A balcony will ring about two-thirds of the space, with seating for 144 and standing room for about the same amount of people. Newman said developing a venue where everyone could see the stage was important to her and her partners.

Besides concerts, the owners hope the new Aura will attract weddings, conferences and corporate events. There is a VIP room for “meet and greet” events with the band, plus another bar area in the basement and the adjacent sports bar. When complete, the renovation will have increased the venue’s size from about 10,000 square feet to about 25,000. One definition of the word aura is “the distinctive atmosphere or quality that seems to surround and be generated by a person, thing, or place.” Newman said she and her partners picked the name because it had a “soothing” quality and they wanted a name that reflected the venue’s ability to host more than just concerts.

People wait in the “pool room” to tour the new club Aura on Friday. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Owners Newman, Laurie Willey and Valerie Levy opened Asylum, at 121 Center St., in 1997. They had no experience in the club business, yet have survived 20 years. Two other clubs opened the same month: Metropolis and Millennium. Both of those are long closed.

Asylum/Aura was once known as Morganfield’s, a restaurant and concert venue focusing on blues and folk acts. Over the years, Asylum became known for its 1,500-square foot exterior graffiti wall, off Free Street. The owners gave local artists permission to create giant murals filling the wall. The wall was torn down in August as part of the expansion.

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

]]> 0 co-owner Krista Newman said, "We think this will give us the chance to attract a whole new list of artists, which is exciting.Sat, 18 Feb 2017 17:28:29 +0000
Horoscopes for Feb. 17, 2017 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:00:46 +0000 0, 16 Feb 2017 13:14:13 +0000 Massachusetts judge tosses out defamation lawsuit against Cosby Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:00:30 +0000 SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A federal judge in Massachusetts has dismissed a defamation lawsuit against comedian Bill Cosby, although he still faces criminal charges in Pennsylvania.

Judge Mark Mastroianni ruled Thursday that Katherine McKee didn’t adequately show Cosby defamed her when his representatives called a 2014 New York Daily News story on her rape allegations defamatory and demanded a retraction.

The former actress alleged the 79-year-old Cosby raped her in a Detroit hotel in 1974.

McKee was among dozens of women to come forward with allegations recently and among at least eight suing for defamation in Massachusetts, where Cosby owns a home.

Cosby’s lawyers called Thursday’s decision the “correct outcome.” McKee’s attorneys didn’t immediately comment.

In Pennsylvania, “The Cosby Show” star has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting a former employee at Temple University.

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Roman Polanski’s attorney seeks testimony of former prosecutor Thu, 16 Feb 2017 23:34:50 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Roman Polanski’s attorney has asked a Los Angeles judge to unseal testimony given by a former prosecutor who handled the fugitive director’s long-running sexual assault case.

Harland Braun wrote a letter filed Feb. 10 seeking to unseal testimony given in 2010 by a former prosecutor handling Polanski’s case. Braun’s letter says the testimony is crucial to trying to resolve Polanski’s case.

Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl and fled the U.S. in 1978 on the eve of sentencing. He has said he was mistreated by a judge and prosecutors.

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