The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Lifestyle Fri, 27 May 2016 17:58:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Five reasons a local loves Acadia National Park Fri, 27 May 2016 02:53:06 +0000 0, 27 May 2016 09:20:53 +0000 Amy Schumer fires back at critics Thu, 26 May 2016 23:55:42 +0000 Amy Schumer has taken to social media to fire back at critics of her body.

The 34-year-old comedian has posted a picture of herself on Instagram in one piece bathing suit. The caption is directed to online “trolls” who she says write “unkind things.” She writes, “This is how I look. I feel happy” before adding that she thinks she looks “strong and healthy.”

Slamming body critics is nothing new for Schumer. She told Glamour magazine it was “not cool” in another Instagram post last month for mentioning her in an issue focused on plus size fashion.

She wrote that there’s nothing wrong with being plus-size, but disputed having a plus-size body, suggesting that labeling her body type that way could have a negative influence on young girls.

]]> 2, 27 May 2016 08:15:13 +0000
Johnny Depp to court: Don’t make me support estranged wife Thu, 26 May 2016 23:49:40 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp has asked a court to determine that he should not pay spousal support to his estranged wife, Amber Heard, who filed for divorce after 15 months of marriage.

Court records show Depp filed the response Wednesday to Heard’s divorce petition.

His response also requests that Heard, also an actor, pay her own attorney fees. It does not list a date of separation.

Heard filed for divorce on Monday and stated the couple separated the day before. Both actors cited irreconcilable differences for the breakup.

The actors married in February 2014. They have no children together, and the divorce filings do not indicate they have a prenuptial agreement.

]]> 0 Thu, 26 May 2016 19:49:40 +0000
Officials warn: Don’t take selfies with seals! Thu, 26 May 2016 23:36:06 +0000 BOSTON – Federal officials have a warning for beachgoers in New England during Memorial Day weekend: Don’t take selfies with the seals.

Seal pupping season is underway in the region, but people who approach a seal pup on the beach can put both themselves and the animal at risk, the Greater Atlantic Region of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries said in a statement Thursday.

“There is no selfie stick long enough!” officials warned. “As tempting as it might be to get that perfect shot of yourself or your child with an adorable seal pup, please do the right thing and leave the seal pup alone.”

It is normal behavior for a mother seal to leave her pup on the beach for up to 24 hours while she feeds, experts said. But if the mother sees people near her pup, she might feel it is too dangerous to return and abandon her young, with “devastating” consequences for the pup.

The statement also notes that wild animals act unpredictably and seals can leave a “lasting impression” with their powerful jaws.

“We have received reports of a number of injuries to humans as a result of getting too close to an animal during a quick photo op,” officials wrote.

Experts have long warned about the dangers of swimming too close to seals in the water, since seals are a favorite food for sharks and the sharks might not distinguish between people and their intended prey.

]]> 0, 26 May 2016 19:36:06 +0000
Poll: Many Americans opting for earlier, lower Social Security benefits Thu, 26 May 2016 23:27:38 +0000 CHICAGO — Taking Social Security benefits early comes with a price, yet more than 4 in 10 Americans who are 50 and over say they’ll dip into the program before reaching full retirement age.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released Thursday found that 44 percent report Social Security will be their biggest source of income during their retirement years.

Full benefits begin at 65 or 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954. Americans can begin collecting as early as age 62, but with benefits reduced by up to 30 percent, according to the Social Security Administration.

“One thing we know for certain is that claiming early can have long-term repercussions on your fiscal security as you age,” said Gary Koenig, vice president of financial security at the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Koenig said benefits increase significantly for those who wait, rising around 8 percent more for each additional year past age 66 and up to 70, when benefits max out.

“So we encourage people to delay as long as possible,” he said.

But waiting is a luxury many Americans don’t have.

Ken Chrzastek of Chicago began drawing Social Security benefits at age 62 and pulled $50,000 out of an IRA after losing a retail job two years ago. He has been unable to find even part-time work. “Hiring a 62-year-old is a liability for a company,” he said.

The poll found that Americans 50 and over have multiple sources of income for retirement but that Social Security is the most common by far. Eighty-six percent say they have or will have Social Security income. More than half had a retirement account such as a 401(k), 403(b), or an IRA. Slightly less had other savings. About 43 percent had a traditional pension.

The average age at which people expect to start or have started collecting Social Security benefits is 64. Just 9 percent said they would wait until after they turned 70.

Included in any discussion about Social Security are lingering questions about its solvency.

The Social Security trust fund has been running a surplus every year since 1984. Those surpluses are forecast to stop sometime around 2020, as more boomers start claiming benefits.

The Social Security Administration says interest income from the fund should be able to bridge this gap until 2034, when, without changes, payments could shrink but not disappear.

]]> 0, 26 May 2016 19:27:38 +0000
Moving sculpture to the garden is prickly project at Portland Museum of Art Thu, 26 May 2016 22:48:34 +0000 It took a crew of Portland Museum of Art employees – and a privately operated crane – to carefully move and install a sculpture in the museum’s Joan B. Burns Sculpture Garden on Thursday.

The work, titled “Hearsay,” is by John Bisbee, a contemporary sculptor who lives in Brunswick. The work, a giant cone, is made of brightly colored 12-inch spikes.

It had been on display in the museum’s Great Hall, and will now be a permanent exhibit in the garden.

Museum employees got the sculpture out the front door and prepared it to be moved down High Street to the garden. Cote Crane and Rigging did the heavy lifting with a crane, placing the sculpture in its new home. The move is intended to show the museum’s commitment to public art in the city.

See a video of a studio visit with John Bisbee here.

]]> 3, 27 May 2016 08:11:21 +0000
Portland Ovations’ next season includes Chenoweth, Alan Cumming and ‘Pippin’ Thu, 26 May 2016 15:30:33 +0000 0, 26 May 2016 16:11:06 +0000 80 outdoor concerts scheduled this summer in Portland, Freeport, Bangor Thu, 26 May 2016 15:25:45 +0000 0, 26 May 2016 16:10:26 +0000 MaineToday Magazine: Kenny Rogers is coming to town Thu, 26 May 2016 08:00:04 +0000 0, 25 May 2016 20:01:12 +0000 Portland Museum of Art to display new sculpture in outdoor garden Thu, 26 May 2016 00:10:36 +0000 A new sculpture by one of Maine’s best-known contemporary sculptors has been acquired by the Portland Museum of Art and will be installed Thursday in the museum’s outdoor sculpture garden on High Street.

John Bisbee’s “Hearsay” sculpture represents a giant cone made of brightly colored 12-inch spikes or nails. It has been on display in the museum’s Great Hall.

Graeme Kennedy, the museum’s spokesman, said the sculpture will be shown permanently in the Joan B. Burns Sculpture Garden. It will be taken through the front entrance of the Charles Shipman Payson building and down High Street to the garden, where it will be installed Thursday morning.

Kennedy said the museum’s decision to put the sculpture on public view in the garden “demonstrates its commitment to public art and its important role in Portland.”

Bisbee lives in Brunswick. His work has been reviewed by The Boston Globe, The New Yorker and The New York Times.

]]> 0, 26 May 2016 08:16:06 +0000
Reports surface that billionaire is financing Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Wed, 25 May 2016 23:16:58 +0000 ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Is Hulk Hogan’s courtroom cage match with Gawker being bankrolled by a high-tech billionaire with a grudge against the news-and-gossip site?

Two months after Hogan won a $140 million invasion-of-privacy verdict against Gawker for posting a sex tape of him, news reports say the pro wrestler is secretly backed by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, was outed as gay by a Gawker-owned website in 2007, and the Gawker empire has run a number of stories skewering Facebook.

Legal experts say there is nothing illegal – or even unethical – about someone financing a lawsuit. There are entire companies that invest in contingency claims, usually in product liability, personal injury, patent infringement and copyright cases. It is called “litigation financing.”

But a billionaire doing it out of what may be spite? That’s a little different, experts say.

“As much as this is not at all illegal or unethical, it just smells and feels wrong,” said Scott Greenfield, a New York lawyer who is managing editor of Fault Lines, an online legal magazine. “When a rich guy can basically afford to bring down a media outlet, that has horrible social ramifications, even if the particular outfit is one that everybody hates, like Gawker.”


On Wednesday, Hogan and Gawker were back in a Florida court, where Judge Pamela Campbell denied Gawker’s request for a new trial and refused to reduce the damages. Gawker vows to take the case to an appeals court.

Swirling in the background of the court proceedings were reports in The New York Times and Forbes that Thiel is footing Hogan’s legal bills against their common enemy, Gawker. The news stories cited unidentified sources.

Thiel, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $2.7 billion, didn’t immediately respond to interview requests made through email or on the voicemail of a mobile phone number he previously provided to an Associated Press reporter.

Hogan’s lawyers wouldn’t comment on the Thiel story but praised the judge for denying a new trial and accused Gawker of refusing to accept responsibility for “their reprehensible behavior and method of doing what they call journalism.”

Gawker reacted to the reports by saying: “There are very serious questions about whether Hulk Hogan financially benefited, and this case is far from over.”

Multiple media outlets report that tech billionaire Peter Thiel has been secretly funding Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker Media for publishing a sex tape.

Multiple media outlets report that tech billionaire Peter Thiel has been secretly funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Media for publishing a sex tape. 2012 Associated Press File Photo


Thiel has never hidden his contempt for Valleywag, a gossip site that Gawker periodically ran during the past decade to expose the secrets of Silicon Valley moguls, sometimes in salacious fashion.

In a 2009 interview, Thiel called Valleywag “the Silicon Valley equivalent of al-Qaida” and said it relies on people who “should be described as terrorists, not as writers or reporters.”

The attack spurred speculation that Thiel was still angry about a Valleywag report two years earlier about his sexuality. Others believe Thiel may have been far more upset about Valleywag’s stories mocking Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and questioning the social network’s value before it went public in 2012.

Those derogatory stories could have eroded the fortune Thiel was building in Facebook, where he remains a board member.

During Wednesday’s court proceedings, Gawker’s attorneys asked the judge to allow them to seek evidence from the other side regarding Thiel’s supposed involvement. But the judge said no.

Hogan sued Gawker after it posted a 2007 video of him having sex with the wife of his best friend, Tampa radio personality Bubba The Love Sponge Clem. Hogan said Clem betrayed him by secretly videotaping him.


Gawker is counting on the verdict to be overturned on appeal and has not said whether it can afford the full $140 million. During the trial, Gawker’s parent company, a collection of websites called Gawker Media, was estimated to be worth $83 million.

Earlier this month, Hogan sued Gawker again, saying the website leaked sealed court documents containing a transcript that quoted him making racist remarks. After the National Enquirer published the story, the WWE pro wrestling company severed its ties with Hogan. Gawker denies it leaked the transcript.

In legal circles, attorney James Sammataro of Miami said people speculated how Hogan could afford such a large “dream team” of lawyers.

Said Miami attorney Richard Wolfe: “It sounds to me that Hulk Hogan made a smart deal by getting the right guy to finance his lawsuit.”

Liedtke reported from San Francisco.

]]> 0, 26 May 2016 08:16:23 +0000
More young adults live with parents than alone or with spouse, partner, roommate Wed, 25 May 2016 15:14:07 +0000 For the first time in modern history, more 18-to-34-year-olds live with their parents than in any other living arrangement, according to a Pew Research Center report released Tuesday.

In 2014, nearly one-third of young adults lived in their parents’ home, a bigger group than those living with a spouse or romantic partner, living alone or with roommates, or living as single parents.

While millennials moving back with their parents have been the butt of jokes and hand-wringing for several years, and the recession of 2009 played a part in their doing so, this shift spans more than one generation. It has been decades in the making, a result of deep-rooted societal transformations in education, work and family building.

Since 1880, when the Census Bureau started keeping track, the most common arrangement for young people had been to live with a spouse or a significant other. That peaked in 1960, at 62 percent. But over the past 50 years, their options have opened up, making marriage just one of several possibilities.

As a result, the portion of young Americans settling down romantically has plunged to 31.6 percent, falling to second place for the first time.

“For earlier generations of young Americans, one of the major activities that they were focused on was partnering, forming a new family, maybe with children,” said Richard Fry, the study’s author. Now, they spend more time tending to studies and work, hoping to save enough to move out on their own.

A big reason is a decline in economic opportunities. As the cost of living has escalated and wages have stagnated, mounting student debt and rising home prices create obstacles to cohabitation and marriage.

“If you’re not living with your parents, you’re living with your roommates,” said Laura Zelaya, 28, a news producer who lives with her parents in Falls Church, Virginia, while she saves to buy a house. Her brother and sister also came home after college. “I don’t see a lot of people my age living alone.”

The trend is led by young men, whose fortunes have been waning since the 1960s. While they have always lived with their parents in greater numbers than young women, this has been their dominant housing arrangement since 2009. In 2014, 35 percent lived with parents, while only 28 percent lived with a spouse or partner. For young women, the percentages are flipped: 29 with parents and 35 with partners; the difference is explained by the fact that young women tend to marry slightly older men.

Unemployed young men are more likely to live with their parents than young men with jobs, and employment among young men has dropped significantly in recent decades.

“I moved in with my parents because I don’t really have to pay rent and I get free meals,” said Marshall Taliaferro, 25, of Leesburg, Virginia.

Taliaferro, who works in his father’s advertising agency and at a concert venue, says the setup is far from what he dreams of for himself.

“My ideal life is to be married, with maybe a kid or two, and at that point I would not be living with my parents; I would be living with my wife or girlfriend . . . and substantial enough pay. No parents would be lovely.”

The trend has significant economic and demographic implications. People who delay starting families could face fertility challenges down the road, and in the near term, “the spending that goes on in the formation of a household – the furniture purchases, the appliance purchases, the cable subscriptions – that isn’t happening,” Fry said.

But the shift goes beyond economics. The marriage rate began to fall in the 1960s as options for young people were widening.

“The main driving force in the past for living apart from family was getting married, and people used to marry young,” said Michael Rosenfeld, a sociology professor at Stanford University. “Part of the reason women lived with their parents was they couldn’t afford to live on their own and there were social pressures against doing so.”

But the introduction of the birth-control pill, the fading stigmas against premarital sex and out-of-wedlock childbirth, and the entry of more women into the workforce changed the landscape.

As a result, the median age of first marriage has risen from a 1956 low of 20 for women and 22 for men to 27 for women and 29 for men in 2014.

“Getting married early has lost a lot of its motivation for young people because young people have fewer kids” – meaning they don’t have to start early – “and women don’t need a man to support them . . . so people are more picky,” Rosenfeld said. “Those who can afford to live on their own tend to prefer that.”

In fact, the portion of young people living with their parents was even higher in 1940, at 35 percent. But many more people were married then.

Karla Torres, 25, and her boyfriend would love to live on their own. They have lived on and off with her mother in Falls Church, Virginia, since graduating from college and plan to move back in with her mother next week.

“When we’ve been living on our own, we haven’t been able to save,” said Torres, a news producer. She hopes to go to graduate school and her boyfriend wants to travel, so the move made sense.

“There was something of like, ‘I have a full-time job, I should be able to live on my own,’ ” she said. “But realistically this is our best option.”

Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, said the study signals an important demographic milestone.

“I see this as part of an overall trend in an increase in family diversity and decline in the nuclear-family household,” he said.

It also reflects a change in young women’s expectations and prospects. “Young women really don’t want to be dependent on a man they’re going to marry, and also they think they might have a better selection” if they wait until their careers are launched, he said. They may be right, he said. “A large number of men say they want a wife who is a major financial contributor to the household.”

And the stigma seems to be fading.

“I was a little embarrassed; I was like, oh my gosh, does this mean I’m a failure?” said Kimberly Moser, 24, who moved in with her parents in Culver City, California, while she attended graduate school. “But when I tell people, I see it’s more accepted. They say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s smart, save money.’ ”

Even so, it can restrict social life. “Dealing with your parents, it’s hard to have people come over and do your own thing, have a party,” said Denis Burt, 26, of Ashburn, Virginia, who has lived with his parents aside from a couple of years during college.

It also can hamper romance. When Burt dated someone who was also living with parents, it was tricky. “You’re always trying to schedule times when you can be alone in your house.”

The trend is more pronounced among minorities, the study found, with 36 percent of black and Hispanic youths doing so.

In part, this is cultural. “My family’s Venezuelan, and I feel like it’s very normal in my culture not to leave till we get married,” Torres said, adding that her sister also lived at home until recently marrying.

But even though the percentage of minorities in the United States has risen, minorities are not driving the change. Among whites, the shift since 1960 is stark: from 19 percent living with parents then to 30 percent in 2014.

The study also found that people with lower education levels are more likely to live with parents than with romantic partners, while the more highly educated are more likely to live with romantic partners.

That does not surprise Cohen, the University of Maryland professor. “Marriage has declined faster for people with low levels of education, and that has a lot to do with their ability to attain the kind of economic security to make them feel able to settle down and be excited to do so.”

For them, he said, cohabitation is not necessarily a one-way street, especially as middle-aged people are less likely to own their homes now than 20 or 30 years ago.

“The care and support flows up and down the generations, especially among poorer people,” he said. “Now it’s more likely that both generations are economically insecure, and they’re taking care of each other.”

That is not a bad thing, said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families. “The kids who get this kind of support from their parents are more independent in their later years, because you’ve been able to provide them with that safety net.”

And while marriage is not dead, she said, it is no longer the main driver for young people.

“It’s not the only way that they organize their major decisions and transitions” such as buying a house, having children or forming social networks. “That could actually help in the long run, because you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket.”

]]> 2, 25 May 2016 13:12:57 +0000
Actress Beth Howland, who played Vera on ‘Alice,’ dies at 74 Wed, 25 May 2016 12:59:59 +0000 SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The actress who was best known for her role as a ditzy waitress on the 1970s and ’80s CBS sitcom “Alice” has died. Beth Howland was 74.

Her husband, actor Charles Kimbrough, tells The Associated Press that Howland died of lung cancer in Santa Monica, California, on Dec. 31. He says there was no funeral or memorial service and “that was her choice.”

Howland played naive diner waitress Vera Louise Gorman on “Alice” for the nine-year run of the comedy that ended in 1985, earning four Golden Globe nominations. Her credits also include parts on the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and “The Love Boat.”

Howland is also survived by a daughter from her previous marriage to actor Michael J. Pollard.

]]> 0 Wed, 25 May 2016 17:43:29 +0000
Stephen King, Richard Russo among writers signing Trump protest letter Wed, 25 May 2016 10:28:29 +0000 NEW YORK — Some of the country’s top writers are protesting Donald Trump’s way with words.

Stephen King, Junot Diaz and Jennifer Egan are among more than 450 authors who added their names this week to an online letter that condemns the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for his “appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society.”

The petition “unequivocally” opposes Trump’s election. Others supporting it include Anita Shreve, Amy Tan, Cheryl Strayed, Michael Chabon, “Lemony Snicket” author Daniel Handler and Maine writers Richard Russo, Lily King and Kate Christensen.

The letter does not include an endorsement of either of the two Democratic candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

]]> 55, 25 May 2016 20:09:12 +0000
Sickly tree that hides controversial Jesus mural needs a miracle Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — The pine tree planted to hide what some call the googly-eyed Jesus may be dying.

The long, green needles of the Austrian pine, which obscures a controversial mural of Jesus Christ on the bell tower of Holy Cross Catholic Church on Cottage Road, have mysteriously turned brown in recent weeks.

But people familiar with the 25-foot-tall tree say it has looked dead in the past and been brought back to life, in keeping with the subject of the mural, which depicts the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Christ. At the base of the 36-year-old mural, largely hidden by the tree, is a giant face of Jesus with his eyes rolled back that has drawn public criticism.

The man responsible for the tree’s last resurrection, Broadway Gardens owner Phil Roberts, said he noticed the tree’s poor condition last week and is working with church leaders to figure out a course of action.

Photos from March 31, top, and May 23, bottom, show that the green needles of the Austrian pine that obscures the mural of Jesus Christ on Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland turned brown in less than eight weeks.

Photos from March 31, top, and May 23, bottom, show that the green needles of the Austrian pine that obscures the mural of Jesus Christ on Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland turned brown in less than eight weeks.

“I think pollution is doing a number on it,” Roberts said Tuesday. “It’s got something going on.”

Roberts, who is a church member, said the tree also appeared to be dead a couple of years ago, but it rebounded after he applied a fertilizer and insecticide. Now, road salt and other pollution may be taking a toll once again.

“This time it may be gone,” Roberts said. “It may have to come out.”

Monsignor Michael Henchal, who oversees the parish that includes Holy Cross, didn’t respond to calls about the tree’s current condition.

On April 17, the Maine Sunday Telegram published a story about the tree and its strategic placement in front of the mural. At that time, the needles on the tree were green. In that story, Henchal said parishioners didn’t talk much about the mural, though the hidden Jesus is something of a legend among children who attend the parochial school next door.

"For many it was not a pleasant sight," said Bob Morency, a longtime parishioner at Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland.

“For many it was not a pleasant sight,” said Bob Morency, a longtime parishioner at Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland. 2001 Press Herald file photo/John Ewing

At the high-traffic intersection of Broadway and Cottage Road, the enamel-on-steel mural was installed in 1980 to replace a deteriorating tile facade on the church, which was built in 1950. Titled “Spirit of the Matter: A Christian Triptych,” the mural was designed by Damariscotta artist John Janii Laberge at the direction of a church committee.

In the April story, Laberge admitted that he has often thought of cutting the tree down with a chainsaw to expose his artwork. On Monday, Laberge said he had noticed the tree’s failing condition last week when he was dog-sitting for a friend in South Portland, but he was quick to deflect any suspicion that he is responsible.

“I didn’t poison it,” Laberge volunteered. “It may not be dead. I’ve seen it that way before and it came back. It’s probably just going through its seasonal changes.”

The response to the mural has been mixed from the start, especially to the whites of the eyes, which stare woefully toward heaven in a pose suggesting medieval religious art. While some say it’s an apt representation of pain and suffering, others say it’s creepy or scary. Laberge says he delivered on the church committee’s request to depict a “powerful, working-class Christ.”

“I wanted a strong, drive-by presence,” Laberge said. “I made something bold and big that tells something about the crucifixion and what came after. I warned them that depictions of Christ are a touchy thing.”

When Laberge drives past the mural today, he questions the negative reaction.

“It’s not that bad,” Laberge said. “A person who died on the cross is not going to look pretty.”

The pine tree hides the lowest part of the controversial mural depicting a suffering Jesus at Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland.

The pine tree hides the lowest part of the controversial mural depicting a suffering Jesus at Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The mural became the subject of community controversy in 2001, when church officials considered making changes to the artwork as part of building renovations. The renovations ran over budget, however, so the idea of altering the mural was dropped, church members said. Soon after, someone suggested planting a tree in front of the mural as a way to take care of the problem.

The plan seemed to be working until the tree started showing signs of stress in recent years. Whether it can be brought back from the brink a second time is unclear.

“While it’s possible for a tree of that type to lose all of its needles and come back, it’s unlikely,” said John Bott, spokesman for the Maine Forest Service.

Bott said it would be impossible for a professional forester to provide any further assessment without examining the tree in person.

Roberts, from Broadway Gardens, remains hopeful, although he questions the public interest in both the mural and the tree. He said he plans to consult with a professional arborist and meet with Monsignor Henchal before he does anything more to the tree.

“It’s just a work in progress,” Roberts said. “I can probably resurrect it again.”

]]> 20, 25 May 2016 07:51:30 +0000
Lawyer’s quest is to have chimpanzees considered ‘legal persons’ Tue, 24 May 2016 23:33:05 +0000 You probably know chimpanzees are very smart and very genetically similar to people, and you almost certainly view them as animals.

U.S. law views them as something more inanimate-sounding: things.

Steven Wise, a prominent animal-rights lawyer, calls chimps nonhuman animals. And he thinks they’re cognitively advanced enough that they should have the right to not be held as pets, in zoos or for research. So for years, he has been on a quest to get courts to view chimpanzees (and, eventually, other intelligent creatures, such as orcas) not as animals, not as things, but as “legal persons.”

His strategy: filing America’s first writs of habeas corpus on behalf of captive chimpanzees, challenging the legality of their detention and seeking to move them to sanctuaries. Because those have always been reserved for human prisoners, a court that granted the writ would be acknowledging the ape’s legal “personhood” – and right to be free.


Wise’s quixotic mission hasn’t yet persuaded judges. But it’s succeeded in getting media coverage and starting a conversation, at least in some corners. On Wednesday, that discussion will widen with the theater release – first in New York, and later in film festivals across the country – of a documentary chronicling the efforts of Wise and the group he founded, the Nonhuman Rights Project. The movie, “Unlocking the Cage,” was made by renowned filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, who are perhaps best known for their 1967 documentary about a Bob Dylan tour, “Dont Look Back.”

The movie is landing at a time when concerns about animal welfare are growing in importance to Americans, companies and politicians. It’s hardly splashy – it involves a lot of courtroom and a fair amount of Latin legalese – but it will no doubt make viewers think. I spoke to Wise recently about the film, his work and where it’s headed. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Animal-rights lawyer Steven M. Wise is seen in the documentary "Unlocking the Cage," with a chimp named Teko.

Animal-rights lawyer Steven M. Wise is seen in the documentary “Unlocking the Cage,” with a chimp named Teko. Photo courtesy of Pennebaker Hegedus films/HBO

Q: A Variety review of the film described you as trying to “trick” judges into granting chimps the same rights as humans, which I bet isn’t the way you see things. Does the documentary portray your quest as you see it?

A: Pennebaker and Hegedus shot probably 400 hours of film, and so they probably could have made 300 different movies. And I thought for 90 minutes that they had a reasonably accurate portrayal that caught the essence of what we’re trying to do. We call ourselves a civil-rights organization focused on the rights of nonhumans. We are trying to create a social revolution; tricking has nothing to do with it. Social revolutions don’t occur by mistake or accident. They emerge when people grapple with new and fundamental differences in policy and moral principles.

Q: Some people are referring to this movie as the “Blackfish” for chimps. But the target of “Blackfish” was a corporation, SeaWorld, which is responsive to public pressure. You’ve chosen to make changes in courts, where that’s not so much the case. Can a film like this have that sort of effect?

A: That’s one of the reasons that we chose to litigate under the common law. Common law judges have a duty to keep the common law abreast of changing scientific facts, moral principles and human experiences. We’re bringing evidence of these changes to the courtroom. We filed 165 pages of affidavits from the greatest scientists in the world on chimps that explain in detail what their cognitive abilities are. We filed lengthy memoranda and petitions for habeas corpus 1/8and3/8 in which we discuss how the common law evolves in general and how it evolved specifically in response to the thinghood of human slaves, children and women.

What we’re trying to do is broadly change the status of nonhuman animals as things without any rights to persons who have the capacity to have rights.

We’ve mentioned a Gallup poll from last year that showed that 30 percent of Americans thought that animals should have rights, and I think judges are interested in that. But they’re also interested in other ways of showing changes of attitudes, such as other kinds of court cases and legislation that show a deepening interest in nonhuman animals. They are interested in what their children have to say about it and their spouses, and what newspapers report and television shows. They can feel that it’s time for the common law to change.

Q: In the film, you’re shown practicing for hearings, and one challenge brought up is this: Why isn’t this just a welfare issue? Wouldn’t strengthening welfare laws benefit many animals, and not just your chimp plaintiffs?

A: Animal welfare laws have existed since 1821. But they don’t work. One reason they don’t work is they don’t change the “thinghood” status of nonhuman animals. They leave nonhuman animals as things that lack the capacity for rights. All human history shows that the only way that even the most fundamental interests of us human beings is protected is when we become rights-bearers. There’s no reason to think that’s not true for nonhuman animals as well.

So long as you’re a thing, you are at the entire mercy of persons. For example, even if nonhuman animals are the subject of anti-cruelty statutes, the animal herself has no recourse and can’t even get an injunction to stop it. Even if the human wrong-doer is prosecuted, the case is between the state vs. the person for being cruel to the animal, and all the remedies run to the state and not to the nonhuman animal victim.

Q: One judge denied you on the ground that chimpanzees lack the capacity to have duties and responsibilities that come along with personhood. You’ve since argued that chimps in fact do have duties and responsibilities. What do you mean by that?

A: We went to our experts, including Jane Goodall, and we asked whether chimpanzees can assume duties and responsibilities? And they unanimously said yes. So we filed 65 more pages of affidavits in which the experts provided numerous examples of this. Within chimpanzee communities, mothers have duties to children, males have patrol duties and duties to protect the young and the females. Two or three scientists have worked with communities that were partly chimpanzee and partly human. And they relate how those chimpanzees have to strip their beds and bring their bedding to be washed. And when they sit down to eat, they have to eat their first course of soup, and if they don’t, then none of them go onto the next course.

We’re not saying that chimpanzees assume duties and responsibilities at the level of a human adult. But they certainly assume duties and responsibilities at the level of a human child. You have to consider what sort of rights and fundamental interests we’re trying to protect, and they include the chimpanzees’ bodily liberty and their interest in not being imprisoned in a cage or enslaved. What kind of duties and responsibilities do you need to avoid being enslaved in a cage for your entire life? Not very sophisticated ones.

Q: You’re gearing up to launch a new habeas corpus case on behalf of an elephant. Why an elephant, and why now, when the chimp cases remain unsettled?

A: As with chimps, we will argue that elephants are autonomous beings who should not be enslaved or kept in cages. We’re almost ready. But elephant experts are always out in the bush, and they don’t have Internet and a computer. We’re in our third year working with many elephant experts to get us the affidavits we need to proceed. They are really the limiting factor – slowly, slowly they are coming in. We hope that we can file a lawsuit this fall.

We spent seven years putting all the states and 20 English-speaking countries in a hierarchy. We’re beginning to litigate in the states that we think are the most friendly or least hostile for us.

We concluded that New York was the best state to begin litigating the personhood of nonhuman animals. Soon we intend to litigate on behalf of elephants in a different state. That state had no chimpanzees, so we went on to our next animal plaintiff, which would be an elephant. Once there are sanctuaries for orcas – which there aren’t right now – we’re looking at filing a habeas corpus on their behalf, too. We’re looking at any nonhuman animal for whom we think we have sufficiently powerful data that shows they are autonomous beings.

Q: What’s an autonomous being? My cat decides when he wants to eat. Is he autonomous?

A: An autonomous being can freely choose how to live her life to constantly make choices, the way that we do. The New York courts, and other courts, make clear that autonomy is a supreme common law value.

I don’t know about a cat. There’s my personal opinion, but no judge cares about that. The issue is, what facts can we prove in court, if we’re claiming that autonomy is a sufficient condition for personhood? And, by the way, we don’t argue that autonomy is necessary for personhood, just that it’s sufficient, at least to the extent of a writ of habeas corpus.

That’s one of the reasons that we didn’t choose a cat, we chose a chimpanzee. There are hundreds and hundreds of articles that show that chimpanzees have what it takes to be autonomous.

Dogs are in our sight. They weren’t in our sight when I began. But more and more articles on dog cognition are coming out. We would need to understand what the remedy would be if dogs were declared legal persons. What are a dog’s fundamental interests? Certainly life, so we wouldn’t be able to kill them anymore. We might not be able to breed them anymore, either. Especially if they had a right to bodily integrity.

Q: What’s the end result look like in your vision? No animals in captivity at all? No pets?

A: One of the arguments against us is the slippery slope. Somehow, critics say, if you can’t keep a chimpanzee in a cage it means that everybody has to be a vegan. Those two are far apart.

That’s one of the good things that New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe said in her Hercules and Leo opinion which denied a writ Wise filed on behalf of two research chimps at a New York university lab. In response to the attorney general making the slippery slope argument, she said, “I don’t care about the slippery slope; if the litigant in front of me is entitled to relief, then she’ll get it, and where that may lead is up to another judge.”

That’s the way common law should work.

]]> 3, 25 May 2016 07:55:55 +0000
Garrison Keillor schedules one last ‘News From Lake Wobegon’
before it’s gone Tue, 24 May 2016 22:57:15 +0000 MINNEAPOLIS — Garrison Keillor is bringing back familiar elements of “A Prairie Home Companion” at least one more time.

Keillor will host what he’s calling “The Minnesota Show” on Sept. 2 from the Minnesota State Fair. It’ll be broadcast on public radio stations nationally the following evening.

The show will be familiar, with sketches including private eye Guy Noir, the usual company of actors and the signature “News From Lake Wobegon.”

Keillor announced earlier he’s stepping down as “Prairie Home” host, with his final broadcast on July 1 from the Hollywood Bowl, airing July 2.

]]> 2 Tue, 24 May 2016 19:19:35 +0000
On the edge of wild lands, owners aim to keep pets safe Tue, 24 May 2016 20:11:18 +0000 Interior designer Heather Mourer and her family were considering a move from Denver when her young daughter saw a mountain lion across the street from the mid-century home in the suburbs they were considering.

They took the Golden, Colorado house anyway, with its view of the Rocky Mountain Front Range and just 20 minutes west of downtown Denver, moving in two years ago with their 50-pound mixed breed dog Ruby. Soon after, they inherited Chacha, a Chihuahua mix, and Mourer set out to inform herself about keeping pets safe, entering terms like “fences to keep mountain lions out” into an internet search engine.

Animal welfare advocates urge pet owners living at the edge of wildland to learn as much as they can about being safe and responsible neighbors to lions and coyote and bears.

And it’s become increasingly important: In a recent study on urbanization, the think tank Conservation Science Partners found that at any moment in the Western U.S., a bear is about 3.5 miles from significant human development.

A fence was deemed impractical after Mourer read it would need to be 12 feet tall to keep out a big cat. She has instead taken such steps as keeping the yard clear of rocks under which rodents could nest. Rabbits and mice might draw predators who would then become accustomed to being near the house and its prey-sized pets. The dogs’ food and water are inside. Unless it’s pickup day, trash cans are in the garage so as not to draw bears.

Mourer also is doing what veterinarians, animal shelter custodians and veteran mountain-area dwellers recommend: Keeping her dogs inside unless she is with them, and walking Ruby and Chacha on leashes to ensure they don’t run off alone. Mountain lions rarely attack when people are close.

In nearby Boulder, a town of 100,000 with extensive mountain parks and open spaces, rangers last year began allowing dogs on certain trails off-leash as long as their owners had viewed a video training course and could ensure their pets will be in sight and respond to voice commands.

“Training matters,” said Cory Smith, who is in charge of pet policy for the Washington, D.C-based Humane Society of the United States. She said the society recommends dogs be kept on leashes for their own safety and to ensure they don’t chase after or kill wild animals.

It’s not just dogs that shouldn’t wander, said Sue LeBarron, who manages the animal shelter for Clear Creek and Gilpin, Rocky Mountain counties west of Denver.

Her shelter recently built a “catio,” providing both a place for cats awaiting adoption to play and a model pet owners are encouraged to copy. Catios range from glorified window boxes built of lengths of wood covered in chicken wire to spacious verandas entirely enclosed in wire mesh. There, Fluffy can chase butterflies in the sun, safe from coyotes. As an added benefit, catioed cats won’t get into tussles with rabid raccoons or hunt birds.

LeBarron has heard owners say their cats will have a “fuller life” if they can roam.

“But they tend to live a much shorter life,” she said.

“There’s just too many hazards out there – coyotes, foxes,” LeBarron added. “Probably every day I get a call about a cat that didn’t come home.”

The concerns and responsibilities of pet owners in the cities aren’t so different from those of animal lovers in wilder places.

After Chris Shump moved to a Colorado mountain town from Massachusetts 25 years ago, he was initially angered when he got a ticket for walking his dog without a leash.

“My first inclination was that my dog should be off the leash, because if he can’t be off the leash here, then where can he be?” said Shump, who manages an outdoor sporting goods shop near the Vail Ski Resort.

Shump has had a succession of pets since then, the latest an 11-year-old chocolate Labrador, and now understands the importance of keeping dogs leashed. The leash has an added advantage. The jangle of a dog chain can let wild animals know a tame cousin is visiting, giving them time to retreat.

“It’s not like these things are out to get you,” he said. “We’re in their habitat.”

]]> 0, 25 May 2016 07:58:42 +0000
Video: Sanders wants David to keep his job on ‘Saturday Night Live’ Tue, 24 May 2016 14:20:27 +0000 LOS ANGELES – Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says comedian Larry David shouldn’t worry about his role on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

The Vermont senator joked in an interview with The Associated Press that he wants David to continue his job impersonating him on the late night show, which had its season finale last weekend.

Speaking to the camera, Sanders says to David: “Larry, I am deeply concerned about unemployment in America. I want you to keep your job on ‘Saturday Night Live.”‘

Sanders says he will “fight to win this nomination” and David “can have a job, guaranteed, good pay, four years. Stay with me, Larry.”

Sanders made a cameo appearance on the show in February before New Hampshire’s primary. The senator trails rival Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

]]> 1, 24 May 2016 10:36:30 +0000
Adult smoking rate in U.S. is falling fast Tue, 24 May 2016 13:01:22 +0000 NEW YORK — The nation seems to be kicking its smoking habit faster than ever before.

The rate of smoking among adults in the U.S. fell to 15 percent last year thanks to the biggest one-year decline in more than 20 years, according to a new government report.

The rate fell 2 percentage points from 2014, when about 17 percent of adults in a large national survey said they had recently smoked.

The smoking rate has been falling for decades, but it usually drops only 1 point or less in a year.

The last time there was a drop nearly as big was from 1992 to 1993, when the smoking rate fell 1.5 percentage points, according to Brian King of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported the new statistic Tuesday. It’s based on a large national survey that is the government’s primary measuring stick for many health-related trends.

Smoking is the nation’s leading cause of preventable illness, causing more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States, the CDC estimates.

Why the smoking rate fell so much in 2015 — and whether it will fall as fast again — is not quite clear.

About 50 years ago, roughly 42 percent of U.S. adults smoked. It was common nearly everywhere — in office buildings, restaurants, airplanes and even hospitals. The smoking rate’s gradual decline has coincided with an increased public understanding that smoking is a cause of cancer, heart disease and other lethal health problems.

Experts attribute recent declines decline to the mounting impact of anti-smoking advertising campaigns, cigarette taxes and smoking bans.

The increased marketing of electronic cigarettes and their growing popularity has also likely played a role. But it is not yet clear whether this will help further propel the decline in smoking, or contribute to an increase in smoking in years to come.

E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine into a vapor, delivering the chemical that smokers crave without the harmful by-products generated from burning tobacco.

That makes them a potentially useful tool to help smokers quit, but experts fear it also creates a new way for people to get addicted to nicotine.

Some CDC surveys have shown a boom in e-cigarette use among teenagers, and health officials fear many of those kids will get hooked on nicotine and later become smokers.

As today’s teenage e-cigarette users become adults in the next few years, “we may see 18-, 19- and 20-year olds pick up the habit,” worried Dr. Jonathan Whiteson, a smoking cessation specialist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

Still, he and others are optimistic in part because regulators are turning their attention to the potential dangers of e-cigarettes. Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration announced sweeping new rules that will for the first time apply long-standing rules covering traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, pipe tobacco and nicotine gels. Minors would be banned from buying the products.

“We’d expect continued declines in smoking, as we’ve seen in the past 50 years. But it’s hard to say what future holds,” King said.

]]> 2, 24 May 2016 09:18:43 +0000
Writings by Mother Teresa to be published in August Tue, 24 May 2016 12:28:01 +0000 NEW YORK — A collection of previously unreleased writings by Mother Teresa is coming out in August, weeks before the late Nobel Peace Prize winner is to be canonized.

Image, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it has set an Aug. 16 release date for “A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve.” The material in the book focuses on mercy and compassion and was compiled by the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, who has led the case for Mother Teresa’s sainthood.

On Sept. 4, Pope Francis will declare Blessed Teresa of Calcutta a saint. She died in 1997, at age 87.

Kolodiejchuk also edited “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta,” published in 2007.

]]> 0, 24 May 2016 09:19:21 +0000
Madonna responds to critics of her Prince tribute Tue, 24 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Madonna is dismissing critics of her tribute to Prince at the Billboard Music Awards with style.

A day after her performance of “Nothing Compares 2 U” and duet with Stevie Wonder on “Purple Rain,” the pop singer took to social media Monday and posted a picture of herself in a purple boa with a flower in her teeth.

She wrote that anyone who wants to do a tribute to Prince is welcome to, “whatever your age gender or skin color. If you loved him and he inspired you then show it!!! I love Prince 4 ever.” She later posed a video of her dancing with a caption that indicated the criticism didn’t bother her.

The decision to have Madonna honor Prince sparked criticism online and sparked a petition in the days before the awards show, with some asking that other musicians more closely aligned to Prince be involved as well. Madonna and Prince collaborated on “Love Song” from Madonna’s 1989 album, “Like a Prayer.”

Madonna’s performance on Sunday was met by a flurry of tweets complaining about her version of “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Some were underwhelmed, others found it inappropriate.

BET responded to Madonna’s performance on Twitter by advertising its upcoming Prince tribute during their awards show next month, adding the caption “Yeah, we saw that. Don’t worry. We got you.”

But Roots drummer Questlove, who introduced Madonna’s performance, defended her on Twitter, pleading for fans to “not get ugly” wondering what Prince would approve of.

]]> 0, 24 May 2016 08:11:37 +0000
Decades later, family of World War II soldier celebrates his homecoming Tue, 24 May 2016 01:26:19 +0000 NEW ORLEANS — More than seven decades after being killed during World War II, Pvt. Earl Joseph Keating finally came home to his native New Orleans after his remains were discovered on the Pacific island where he died in 1942.

It’s a journey long in the making.

Keating’s nephew, Nadau “du Treil” Michael Keating Jr., was only 6 months old when his 28-year-old uncle was killed Dec. 5, 1942. The private died at a place that came to be known as the Huggins Roadblock on the island of New Guinea just north of Australia – part of the bloody campaign to defeat the Japanese in the Pacific theater.

But the nephew remembers his grandmother’s message to him when he was just 12 years old and she was on her deathbed.

“She said ‘I want you to remember to please find Earl with your dad. Help your dad find Earl,’ ” he said.

Pvt. Keating was part of a group manning the roadblock when it came under withering attacks by the Japanese. The group repelled the onslaughts but suffered heavy casualties, including Keating and fellow Pvt. John H. Klopp, 25, also of New Orleans. Fellow soldiers buried them together.

But for Keating’s mother back home, the loss of one of her three sons never healed. She wrote the military repeatedly, beseeching them to find her son’s remains, and the family frequently remembered him in prayers.

It wasn’t until decades later that Michael Keating Jr., who lives in Lafayette, Louisiana, was able to answer that deathbed request with the help of villagers in Papua New Guinea. A villager out hunting came across the remains of the two men and some personal effects.

“He dug around and found a helmet and some artifacts such as the dog tags,” said Tyler Lege, Michael Keating’s young nephew. Word that some remains and effects had been found was eventually passed along to the U.S. military, which sent a team to investigate.

The U.S. military runs an extensive effort to recover the remains of missing troops from conflicts around the world. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency investigates reports of service members missing in action from Vietnam, World War II, the Korean War and other conflicts. There are 82,729 people unaccounted for from all conflicts, according to the organization’s Website. Yet troops from World War II make up the vast majority – 73,159.

To help identify Pvt. Keating’s remains, the U.S. military needed more DNA, said Michael Keating. He tracked down a cousin, Sue duTreil, and she and her brothers also provided DNA samples. Eventually the military was able to positively identify the remains.

“I’m so glad that he’s getting the attention that he deserves. He went through a lot from what we’ve learned,” said Sue duTreil. “I wasn’t born yet when Earl died and du Treil was only 6 months old, but somehow we have become the ones to help bring him home.”

Pvt. Keating will actually be buried in two places. Some of his remains were so intertwined with that of his friend, Pvt. Klopp, that they were buried with Klopp’s remains at Arlington National Cemetery in March. The remains that were positively identified as Keating’s arrived Monday.

The remains were met at the airport by family and a U.S. military honor guard and transported to the funeral home where an opera singer sang “Amazing Grace.”

During the May 28 funeral services, Michael Keating plans to read a letter written by his father to Pvt. Keating; it was never read by the young soldier because he died before it arrived. Instead the letter was stamped “Deceased” and returned to sender. After the funeral service, the soldier’s remains will be driven past the city’s World War II museum, where the American flag will be lowered to half-staff and taps sounded before the procession continues to the cemetery.

“It’s a lifelong promise of my parents and my grandparents and it’s being completed and it’s a great, great honor for me to be able to do this,” said Keating.

]]> 0, 24 May 2016 08:11:07 +0000
Bedside choirs offer peace, comfort with songs for the dying Mon, 23 May 2016 22:47:20 +0000 NEWTON, Mass. — The singers enter single file, taking slow, deliberate steps as they intone a soft melody.

Norman Doelling, an 85-year-old who recently suffered a stroke, is there waiting, an audience of one, eased into a recliner in the home where he’s lived for decades in the Boston suburbs.

“I guess I lived too long,” he jokes in a halting voice after the group finishes serenading him. “It was very charming. I have a great deal of appreciation. It was very nice of them to come and sing to an old man.”

The eight mostly older women are members of JourneySongs, one of hundreds of hospice choirs across the country and the world.

The all-volunteer a cappella groups sing, when invited, at the bedsides of the elderly and terminally ill in hospitals, nursing homes and private residences. They offer calming melodies meant to bring comfort to relatives, caregivers and their loved ones.


“We’re all about doing peaceful, quiet and uplifting songs,” said Kate Mason, the coordinator for JourneySongs. “It’s almost as good as a touch. We touch people with love through our music.”

Jean Doelling said she invited the choir as a way to brighten the day for her mostly bedridden husband, who had worked for decades at MIT.

“It just described what we’re experiencing,” the 83-year-old Doelling said after the group quietly files out of the house. “Norman is a very happy, content person. We’re experiencing the autumn of our life, and we’re doing it together.”

Singing to the dying has been done for centuries worldwide, mostly in the privacy of people’s homes, said Kate Munger, founder of Threshold Choir, a Santa Rosa, California, group that’s credited with helping launch the modern hospice choir movement.

But as end-of-life care moved to hospitals and nursing facilities, those traditions eroded, she said. Hospice choirs are, in some ways, trying to fill that void.

“It’s difficult and challenging work, but it’s also deeply satisfying,” Munger said. “People don’t sign up for this unless they’re sure this is something they’re called to do.”

Munger formed her group in 2000 after singing to a dying friend with AIDS. The nonprofit organization now has more than 100 chapters across the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

On a recent weekday night, dozens of volunteers gathered at a music school in Littleton, Massachusetts, about 40 miles north of Boston, for the twice-monthly rehearsal of the Threshold Singers at Indian Hill Music, a group affiliated with Munger’s organization.

Seated in a circle, the members took turns lying in a reclining chair in the center as small groups of singers performed at their side, much as they would to a patient.

“It’s the least ego of any singing that I’ve done,” said Charlotte Russell, the group’s music director and a voice instructor. “It’s not about standing out as a soloist. It’s about comforting the person who is dying and also giving their family a little respite. It sort of takes that weight off them because you’re sharing that vigil with them.”

Singing experience generally isn’t a requirement, and volunteers aren’t trained as hospice care workers.

Choirs affiliated with the Threshold Choir sing spare melodies that are often just a simple phrase – “You are not alone. I am here beside you” is a commonly used one – repeated in different vocal styles by small groups of two to four singers.

JourneySongs, the group that visits Norman Doelling, takes a slightly different approach.

The members perform a wide range of songs from different faith and world traditions, as well as some popular music. They also opt for larger groups of singers.


But most choirs, regardless of their approach, will ask a few questions in advance to get a sense of the person’s personality and what songs might be appropriate.

On this particular day, the JourneySongs singers know that Norman was a competitive sailor and that the couple sailed frequently from New England’s waters to the Bahamas.

They do a rendition of “Crossing the Bar,” a sea-themed Alfred Lord Tennyson poem often interpreted as a metaphor for a person’s final journey in life.

Jean Doelling’s face lights up. “That was always a favorite of Norman’s,” she said. “There’s a version of it in our kitchen, hanging on the wall. Isn’t that right, Norman?”

Her husband nods. “That was very nice.”

]]> 0, 24 May 2016 10:44:31 +0000
Anthony Bourdain dines with President Obama Mon, 23 May 2016 22:47:02 +0000 NEW YORK — President Barack Obama dined in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Monday with CNN personality Anthony Bourdain, whose “Parts Unknown” food travelogue is one of the network’s most popular nonfiction series.

Bourdain met with Obama to discuss the purpose of Obama’s trip to Asia and his interest in the people, food and culture of Vietnam, CNN said.

A huge crowd gathered outside the restaurant Bun cha Huong Lien, then let out a cheer when the president came out. Obama shook a lot of hands and waved repeatedly before vanishing into the motorcade.

Bourdain later tweeted that the meal cost $6, and he picked up the check.

Bourdain’s show has been on CNN since 2013. For each episode the chef travels to a different part of the world to explore that area’s culture, primarily by sharing in the area’s distinct native cuisine.

The interview with Obama will be featured in the eighth season of “Parts Unknown,” which begins in September.

]]> 4, 23 May 2016 19:56:13 +0000
Theater Review: An excellent cast ensemble delights with Mad Horse’s ‘Stupid Bird’ Mon, 23 May 2016 16:37:47 +0000 Anton Chekhov’s play “The Seagull” is rife with the longing and despair that humans pile on each other, only, perhaps, to be undone by the unyielding passage of time. Aaron Posner borrows all that for his adaptation of that play, “Stupid F**king Bird,” staged with aplomb by an exquisitely cast ensemble at Mad Horse Theatre (now through June 5).

Posner’s take is decidedly up to date (does human despair ever go out of style, really?), leavened with humor in a way that depends mightily on the actors’ timing, and not just for the moments played for obvious laughs.

As in “The Seagull,” the action takes place at a lakeside summer home, with people who know each other all too well. But, though there’s plenty of the kind of modern family dysfunction that plagues many families who gather for whatever reason, there’s also much talk of theater and life. Chekhov’s play does too, but the meta here is brimming — by design, the audience is a bit-player in this production. There’s no play without the audience, of course, but Posner makes sure that’s especially true for “Stupid F**king Bird”; the fourth wall is poked at and even shredded a few times.

Brent Askari as Dev, who’s most resigned to his lot in life yet possibly the happiest, too, is especially delightful, but the production is one of equals. The play is soaked with multi-layered riffs and happenings (“Do you want a Lifesaver?”) that flirt with absurdity without losing its foundation of realness. Conrad (David Bliss) is a young man with a failure-to-launch syndrome. Christine Louise Marshall gives you reasons to love, if not quite like, narcissistic Emma. Shannon Campbell’s Mash is woeful, until finally she gives up. Burke Brimmer’s Trig is arrogant, but we believe he has a reason for that. And poor Nina (Casey Turner), well, we all know what bad choices will get you.

While these actors seem to delight in their opportunities to play for laughs, they also elicit deep feelings for each character, whose foibles are painfully on display. And that only serves to remind us of our own.

“Where was I during my 40s?” asks Sorn (played with rectitude by James Herrera). “I mean, I know I was there. I can show you my tax returns. But where was I?”

On a beautiful late spring Saturday night in South Portland, the house wasn’t full, but the audience was game to play its part. That would have been enhanced if the house were packed, so bring friends and play along.

Luckily, Mad Horse’s intimate black box is suited extremely well for this play. You’ll notice Chekhov, whether you’re familiar with “The Seagull” or not (you needn’t be to fully enjoy this take, though those that are will enjoy yet more layers). As Sorn says: “It’s a wonderful script, I think. Funny and sad… and very true.”

Daphne Howland is a freelance writer based in Portland.

]]> 0, 23 May 2016 12:45:07 +0000
Theater Review: Ogunquit’s ‘Let It Be’ will transport you to the days of The Beatles Mon, 23 May 2016 13:54:32 +0000 The Ogunquit Playhouse opened its 84th season Friday night with “Let It Be – A Celebration of the Music of The Beatles,” paying tribute to a band that’s music has been adored by generations around the world for over a half a century. A massive Union Jack flag faded to sheer black, revealing the silhouetted Fab Four performing “I Saw Her Standing There” in Liverpool’s iconic Cavern Club in 1960. And, in legendary fashion, the look-alike Beatles soon had patrons dancing in the aisles, under the spell of Beatlemania.

The Ogunquit Playhouse has assembled a star-studded cast of musicians that includes two members of the original Broadway cast – JT Curtis as George Harrison and Chris McBurney as Ringo Starr – and London-based original West End cast member Michael Gagliano as John Lennon. Chicago-based musician Neil Candelora steps into the shoes of Paul McCartney, and the production’s New York-based music supervisor, Daniel A. Weiss, lends his talents on keyboard, providing tasty solos and enhancing horn section effects.

Like Ogunquit’s previous productions of “Buddy” and “The Million Dollar Quartet,” the musicians in “Let It Be” are performing live, singing and playing all the instruments heard on stage. But, “Let It Be” offers audiences a unique experience that’s strikingly different from the prior tribute productions. There is no storyline, opting instead to offer audiences a two-hour concert, featuring over 40 hits, including “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Yesterday,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Come Together” and “Imagine.”

The two-act set list follows The Beatle’s historic rise from Liverpool-based musicians to international superstars, highlighting such important events as the Ed Sullivan Show, Shea Stadium, the band’s foray into film, the death of manager Brian Epstein and the band’s final public performance on Jan. 30, 1969.

Two large vintage television-like screens enhance the visual experience, showing news clips from the ’60s and ’70s, and sound bites taken from interviews with the real-life Fab Four provide insight into their lives and careers.

Watching Candelora, Curtis, Gagliano and McBurney perform, it’s easy to forget that they aren’t The Beatles. They look and sound like the real deal, mastering their sound, mannerisms and distinct British accents. Stunning costumes aid the four in their transformation from mop tops to hippies, with their brightly colored satin “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” uniforms deserving special note.

Like their real-life counterparts, Ogunquit’s Fab Four knows how to put on a concert that engages the audience. Gagliano was a live wire Friday, using enthusiasm and a thick British accent to incite the crowd to get up and dance.

A large part of the second set is dedicated to “what if,” encouraging the audience to imagine that The Beatles united for a reunion performance on Lennon’s 40th birthday, Oct. 9, 1980. The imaginary set highlights the individual talents of each performer, vocally and instrumentally.

Curtis delivered a standout performance Friday on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which features a solo originally recorded by Eric Clapton. It was both gorgeous and a true testament of his musicianship. When he broke a string on the solo, he swapped out for a new guitar mid-performance, garnering a standing ovation from the audience at the song’s close.

In keeping with the concert theme, the evening ended with a three-song encore of “Back In the USSR,” “Let It Be,” and a rousing rendition of “Hey Jude.”

For those who missed out on seeing The Beatles perform live, or wished they had the opportunity to see them again, Ogunquit Playhouse’s “Let It Be” is well worth checking out. It is an audio-visual feast for music lovers, beautifully executed by the five-member cast and an impressive behind-the-scenes staff that includes members from the touring production team, the Annerin Production team and the original U.K. creative team.

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

Twitter: @ahboyle

]]> 0, 23 May 2016 10:03:20 +0000
Chewbacca Mom’s infectious laugh draws more than 137 million views Mon, 23 May 2016 13:16:25 +0000 NEW YORK – Before last week, Candace Payne’s infectious laugh was known only to her close friends and family. After she went into hysterics donning a toy Chewbacca mask in a video she posted online, more than 137 million viewers know it too.

Payne went live on Facebook from her car in a Texas parking lot after buying the mask Thursday. By Sunday night, she was in New York City, awaiting a Monday morning appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“The world, as a whole, is in need of a good laugh,” she said on “GMA” when asked why she thought her video had struck a chord.

Payne said she headed to a Kohl’s department store in search of yoga pants Thursday when she brushed the Chewbacca mask by mistake. After the toy emitted the Star Wars creature’s distinctive roar, she said she had to have it.

“I don’t think my kids need that, I think I need that,” she said she thought.

After making a few more stops, she said the mask was “just calling from the bag” and she posted to Facebook .

On Friday, representatives of Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based Kohl’s came to her Grand Prarie, Texas, home bearing Chewbacca masks for her husband and two children along with other Star Wars toys and $2,500 in gift cards. On “Good Morning America,” she was presented with more toys and another $2,500 gift certificate.

ABC and the Star Wars franchise are both part of The Walt Disney Company.

Since the first Facebook live video Thursday, Payne has posted several more about her experience, including one from behind the scenes at the ABC morning show.

After a whirlwind couple of days, Payne summed up the experience on “Good Morning America,” saying the best part about it is “being able to share joy with people.”

]]> 0, 23 May 2016 22:14:22 +0000
Health officials try to get jump on Zika preparations with money in limbo Mon, 23 May 2016 10:09:52 +0000 WASHINGTON – Beg, borrow and steal: Zika preparation involves a bit of all three as federal, state and local health officials try to get a jump on the mosquito-borne virus while Congress haggles over how much money they really need.

With that financing in limbo, health officials are shifting resources and setting priorities – and not just in states where mosquitoes are starting to buzz. All but six states so far have seen travel-associated cases of Zika.

“Stealing money from myself” is how Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health describes raiding his agency’s malaria, tuberculosis and influenza programs to fund a Zika vaccine.

He needs more cash by the end of June to keep the vaccine on schedule. And there’s no guarantee those other critical diseases will recoup about $20 million.

“If we don’t get something soon, then we’re going to have a real problem,” Fauci said.

Adding to the stress: What if another health emergency comes along at the same time?

“It’s Zika now, but three months from now, who knows what it might be?” said Dr. Tim Jones, state epidemiologist in Tennessee, where few counties have mosquito eradication efforts.

Yet with funding pleas unanswered, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted $44 million to Zika from emergency preparedness grants that help state and local health departments with crises from flu outbreaks to hurricanes.

“You have to be careful when you take cuts from core infrastructure for the disease of the day,” Tennessee’s Jones said. “That’s a risky way to do things.”

Zika can cause devastating birth defects and fetal death if pregnant women become infected. Mosquitoes aren’t yet spreading Zika in the continental U.S., but the epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean has experts predicting small outbreaks here as mosquito season heats up. The more than 540 U.S. cases diagnosed so far involve travel to outbreak areas or sex with infected travelers. The CDC is tracking the outcomes of 157 Zika-infected pregnant women in the U.S., plus another 122 in U.S. territories.

Three months ago, President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fend off Zika. The House and Senate are arguing over how much to grant – and whether the money should come from cuts to other programs – with no final agreement in sight. House Republicans say the administration has padded its Zika request.

The Obama administration already shifted nearly $600 million from funds for Ebola flare-ups in West Africa and other accounts. On Friday, the president said lifetime care for a child born with Zika-caused brain damage may cost up to $10 million.

“Add that up. It doesn’t take a lot of cases for you to get to $1.9 billion. Why wouldn’t we want to make that investment now?” Obama said.

Many state and local health departments aren’t waiting, but efforts vary widely:

–Florida is no stranger to mosquito-borne outbreaks – it has handled small outbreaks of dengue, carried by the same mosquito as Zika – and is squeezing money out of its usual budget to step up training and traps for areas that need extra help. Officials opened a Zika information hotline that has fielded more than 1,700 calls since February. Miami-Dade County is stepping up enforcement of standing water violations and statewide, residents are being told to screen windows and rid their property of containers that trap rainwater.

Gov. Rick Scott has said the threat of a Zika outbreak should trigger the same response as an approaching hurricane and last week lobbied in Washington for more resources. While Scott hasn’t named a dollar figure, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has supported Obama’s request. “It’s a mistake for Congress to try and deal with Zika on the cheap,” he said on Friday.

–New Orleans’ health department has begun sending staffers into neighborhoods to educate residents about Zika and advise them on making their yards less mosquito-friendly – workers also preparing for hurricane season.

“Whether we get money or not, we’re going to do what we got to do,” said health director Charlotte Parent. “But it sure would help to have those extra bodies to get that work done.”

–Virginia took about $700,000 remaining from a federal Ebola grant to hire two mosquito biologists, pay for some testing of mosquitoes and travelers, and educate the public, including plans to hang information on 450,000 doors.

This marks Virginia’s first mosquito surveillance program since 2007.

–Texas can perform dozens of blood tests a week for Zika, but that capacity could easily be overwhelmed if there’s an outbreak, Health Commissioner John Hellerstedt said.

The state is spending $2 million in federal emergency preparedness money on public awareness but can’t estimate how much more it needs, in part because mosquito control, like in many states, is funded almost entirely at the county and local level.

–Savannah and surrounding Chatham County has Georgia’s best-funded mosquito-control department at $3.8 million and will send some mosquitoes for Zika testing at the University of Georgia.

“A lot of these counties wouldn’t be able to afford to do that,” said Savannah mosquito control director Jeff Heusel.

]]> 1 Mon, 23 May 2016 08:08:30 +0000
Flashback: Bayside before Interstate 295 Mon, 23 May 2016 09:01:51 +0000 beforeafter

1960 photograph courtesy of the Portland Public Library special collections and archives; modern-day view rendered from Apple Maps

An aerial photograph of Bayside from the July 25, 1960, Portland Evening Express shows the neighborhood that was demolished to make way for Interstate 295 and the massive Exit 6 cloverleaf interchange. Forest Avenue runs through the center of the photograph, with Deering Oaks park to the left.

The large brick building in the center of the historic photograph, near the corner of Marginal Way and Forest Avenue, was a coal plant owned by A. R. Wright, a company later known as Wright Express and, today, as Wex.

The Portland Room of the Portland Public Library is in the process of organizing and conserving the archival collection of original Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram and Evening Express photographic negatives — a major collection that spans from 1937 to 2005. Find more photos at

]]> 4, 20 May 2016 17:01:43 +0000
Mark Cuban ‘absolutely’ considers VP run – on either side Mon, 23 May 2016 02:16:04 +0000 Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he’d “absolutely” consider being Republican Donald Trump’s running mate. He’d also “absolutely” consider being Democrat Hillary Clinton’s.

The reality show star also said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” that maybe he’ll run for president in 2020 or 2024. Cuban said Trump has a “real chance to win” but his statements sound like, “he’s proposing things based off the last person he talked to.”

]]> 3, 23 May 2016 08:13:17 +0000
Dance Review: Portland Ballet excels in ‘The Armed Man’ Sun, 22 May 2016 23:10:00 +0000 Nell Shipman’s magnificent “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace” is intelligent, beautiful and deeply spiritual.

First choreographed and performed in 2013, “The Armed Man” was reprised Friday and Saturday in three performances by the Portland Ballet Company at Portland High School’s John Ford Theater.

The music, by Kurt Jenkins, was dedicated to Kosovo victims, but its theme – especially as embodied by Shipman’s choreography – is universal, not bound by a single event’s storyline.

The piece’s dozen sections span musical styles from medieval to modern, with choral passages based on both religious texts and war-inspired poetry. What binds it all together is the arc of a soldier’s struggle before, during and after facing the gut-wrenching reality of battle.

In Shipman’s composition, the Soldier in Body (Wyatt Barr) is accompanied by Life (Jennifer Jones), Death (Erica Diesl) and Conscience (Morgan Brown Sanborn) as he journeys into and through battle, and then by Soldier in Spirit (Joseph Jefferies) when the battle is done.

The identified characters, and the flow of music and choreography, are supported by a corps of female dancers (Amelia Bielen, Colleen Edwards, Deborah Grammatic, Kelsey Harrison, Kaitlyn Hayes, Meghan McCoy Seedner, Annie Moore, Kaleigh Natale and Eliana Trenam).

Shipman’s choreography is remarkably textured. Themes and formations are echoed among passages, and the movement interweaves classical and contemporary steps and shapes.

Sometimes the steps pick up primary rhythms; at other times they roll smoothly across fast tempos or pick out vigorous beats from lyrical passages. In group sections, dancers make inevitable-seeming transitions between counterpoint and unison, including formations with militaristic evocation.

The female dancers wear tan dance dresses with slashes across them to suggest wounds. The long skirts enhance sweeping movement, and in one repeated phrase the dancers bunch them in an expression of mourning.

Shipman has mostly avoided overly literal interpretations, but now and then clear imagery punctuates the dancing, keeping the soldier’s story in the fore.

Soldier in Body partners both Life and Death, but while his movement with Life includes breezy lifts and gentle, mutual embraces, Death clings to him in unreciprocated attachments.

When the soldier is struck down, the female dancers surround him closely, hunched over with small, jerking pulses and outstretched limbs; it is an image of still-warm carnage.

At Saturday’s matinee, the Portland Ballet dancers were nearly perfect in their expression of the piece. Fast footwork on pointe and fluid extensions were equally well executed, and every dancer was on board with the choreography’s stylistic and emotional demands.

Diesl gave Death sternness without ugliness; her movements were strong and expressive but with a matter-of-fact quality in Death’s more violent suggestions that increased the pathos without overdramatizing.

As Life, Jones portrayed lightness throughout, with gorgeous extensions, turns and lifts. Her change of expression from the struggle with Death to a joyous pas de deux with Soldier in Spirit was brilliantly subtle, shown in eyes that went from neutral to lit, an emerging slight smile and a lightening of her shoulder carriage.

Soldier in Spirit appears after the battle. First, Spirit dances a somber solo while Body lies still. Then, Spirit and Body perform a reconciling duet with lifts that alternately push away and cling.

Spirit’s duet with Life follows, filled with classical lifts and turns. Jefferies and Jones are practiced partners, and their fluency allowed for a technically demanding passage to come across as pure expression.

“The Armed Man” is drawn with a gentle but clear hand. Its messages about interior and interpersonal conflict are purposeful without a trace of polarizing or preaching heavy-handedness. The takeaway effect is enlightening and, dare it be said, healing.

Shipman’s choreography is equally sophisticated and accessible. Dance enthusiasts can trace her movement vocabulary and the nuanced sentences she has created with it. But the artistry stands on its own, able to envelop and move a viewer with no knowledge of, or even inclination toward, ballet.

“The Armed Man” was prefaced by spoken testimonies about the impact of war, presented by The Telling Room. Speakers, most originally from Iraq, varied among the three performances and included teens as well as older adults. One speaker was accompanied by an emotional cello solo performed by Robin Jellis.

Jennifer Brewer is a Portland-based freelance writer.

]]> 0 Sun, 22 May 2016 23:30:04 +0000
‘Angry Birds Movie’ knocks ‘Captain America’ off first-place perch Sun, 22 May 2016 22:17:01 +0000 LOS ANGELES — “Captain America” has found a worthy competitor in a bunch of flightless birds. “The Angry Birds Movie” soared to $39 million in its debut weekend, knocking “Captain America: Civil War” off its first-place perch, while new adult comedies “Neighbors 2” and “The Nice Guys” struggled to get their footing, according to comScore estimates Sunday.

Rovio Animation spearheaded the production of “The Angry Birds Movie,” which cost around $73 million to make, and it opened strong internationally last weekend. The film has already earned $150 million worldwide, according to estimates from Sony, which is distributing the film.

“The Angry Birds Movie” features the voices of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad and Danny McBride and has received mixed reviews from critics in its attempt to create a compelling story out of a fairly simplistic app-based game. But audiences under 25 gave the film an A CinemaScore, which should help the film continue to perform well over Memorial Day weekend.

“It’s very difficult turning a video-game property into a successful movie,” said Josh Greenstein, Sony’s president of worldwide marketing and distribution. “To use a bad pun, we are flying high.”

Video-game adaptations have not had the best track record, but comScore’s Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian notes that the success of “Angry Birds” likely has more to do with its family appeal and ingrained brand recognition.

“Families are always looking for out-of-the-home content,” Dergarabedian said, noting also that this is the latest in a string of very successful PG-rated films including “The Jungle Book” and “Zootopia.”

– The Associated Press

]]> 1, 23 May 2016 08:19:25 +0000
UMass lab steps up tick testing efforts for spring Sun, 22 May 2016 13:58:23 +0000 BOSTON – A University of Massachusetts laboratory that tests ticks that people find on themselves or their pets for diseases that could possibly be passed on is stepping up its efforts as tick season kicks into high gear.

The Laboratory of Medical Zoology in Amherst is partnering with about two dozen towns in the state to offer discounted tick testing that lab director Steve Rich said can help treatment of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

On a grander scale, the thousands of ticks sent to the lab from all over the country every year are helping to determine where ticks are found, what diseases they carry, and how they spread.

There are about 30,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease per year in the U.S., the most common tick-borne disease in humans, but that’s probably about one-tenth of the actual cases, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme is one of about a dozen diseases ticks can pass on to humans and pets.

“This is a serious public health issue,” Rich, a UMass microbiology professor said.

There are other labs that perform a similar service, but not for the $50 that the UMass lab charges and not as fast, Rich said. His laboratory guarantees a five-day turnaround, and can often have the test results within 24 hours. Some labs take weeks.

His tests are not a diagnosis, but getting the results fast can help doctors and veterinarians plan a course of treatment.

The lab’s work is invaluable, said Larry Dapsis, an entomologist for the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension who has worked with the lab for about five years. Cape Cod has a particularly acute tick problem.

“What we have found is that people are being exposed to more diseases than we thought,” he said. “It’s not just about Lyme anymore.” Other tick-borne diseases, including anaplasmosis and babesiosis, are also on the rise according to the CDC.

Cape residents can pay just $15 for a tick test, with grant money making up the difference. Towns elsewhere are offering half-price tests.

The information is shared with doctors, town health departments and even civic organizations, and used to educate people on how to avoid tick bites in the first place.

“The lab’s data gives people a lot of peace of mind,” Dapsis said.

]]> 0, 22 May 2016 11:46:07 +0000
Interactive map: States of religion Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:43 +0000

Percentage of people who are “highly religious.”

  • 30 – 39%
  • 40 – 49%
  • 50 – 59%
  • 60 – 69%
  • 70 – 79%
NOTE: State details include national ranking
SOURCE: Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. February 26, 2016
]]> 5, 23 May 2016 16:35:04 +0000
Book review: Life of Maine congressman and death in a duel examined Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Jonathan Cilley is remembered today as a freshman congressman from Maine mortally wounded in a 1838 duel with another congressman.

The point of honor on which the action was waged is convoluted and largely forgotten, though the more attuned historical readers probably know that Cilley graduated with the famous Bowdoin College class of 1825, which included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, a U.S. senator and two other subsequent congressmen.

Shortly after Cilley’s dramatic death, there was a barrage of editorial memorials and a biographical sketch by classmate Hawthorne. By the time of the Civil War, Cilley and the once notorious incident were regulated to footnote status.

In 2002, Eve Anderson published the attractively packaged volume, “A Breach of Privilege: Cilley Family Letters, 1820-1867,” a 500-page compendium focused on the politician and his family up through the rebellion. This provided important documentary insight and wonderful illustrations.

Now follows a fascinating psychological and political biography of Cilley by Wells psychologist Roger Ginn. “New England Must Not be Trampled Upon” is a clear, thoughtful book examining what would motivate an intelligent, ambitious, educated individual to meet another supposedly like-minded person with loaded rifles on the so-called field of honor.

In fact the Code Duello had been outlawed in Washington, D.C., by the very body the duelers served in. To satisfy honor, they had to step into the pastures of Maryland.

The duel was a way of life among Southern gentlemen who saw themselves in the upper strata of society. Among New Englanders, it was considered bad form and a “stupid” way of solving an impasse. However, it was often a defining fact in the Early National Period: Aaron Burr fatally wounded Alexander Hamilton, Capt. Stephen Decatur was shot dead by a rival officer, and President Jackson, who was just leaving office, was a walking receptacle for old shot gained in dueling.

Ginn does a wonderful job of capturing the era, attitudes in the various regions concerning honor and arms, codes and belief systems. He also delves into Cilley’s personality, family, community life and political beliefs.

Ginn does well by Cilley’s adversary, Congressman William Graves of Kentucky, as well as newspaper owner James Watson Webb and all those around Cilley.

The crux of the dispute, well told by Ginn, concerned a letter from Webb to Cilley, delivered by hand by Graves.

Cilley refused to take Webb’s letter, setting off a series of ridiculous and seemingly reversible events.

Where does the blame lie? That’s for readers to discern.

For all his agonizing over a trifling affair, Cilley sacrificed life, love, family and even reputation.

Indeed, Ginn’s study shows the congressman to have been somewhat hollow, more interested in his career and what people thought about him than the great issues of the day.

If there was a tragedy, it was of Cilley’s own making.

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

]]> 0, 21 May 2016 20:47:53 +0000
A changing religious landscape: Where the spirit moves Maine Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The first time Christy Thyng went to a service at Eastpoint Christian Church in Portland, she knew she was in the right place.

It was a little louder and flashier than traditional Baptist services she had attended near her home in Kittery. Located in a former warehouse on the road to the Portland International Jetport, Eastpoint’s 360-seat auditorium was filled and lit for a performance. A contemporary rock band opened and closed the nondenominational service. Bible verses and song lyrics flashed on large screens above a modern stage. All of that would take some getting used to.

But Pastor Scott Taube’s preaching had an immediate and profound impact on Thyng. He delivered a welcoming sermon rooted in the pages of the Bible and spoke with love and compassion about the challenges of modern living.

She’s been traveling 45 minutes to Portland for Sunday services ever since.

“It was very clear that God was moving and speaking through him,” said Thyng, 40, a wife and mother of four. “He’s constantly sharing experiences from his own life. He’s just like everybody else. Even though it’s a bit of a drive, there’s something really happening at that church.”

Thyng and her family are among a growing number of Mainers, especially young people, who are swelling the ranks of nondenominational Christian churches across a state known for being among the least religious in America. Some are new to churchgoing. Many are trading traditional religious practices and mindsets for worship services and community outreach programs that strive to make the Gospel relevant to 21st century believers.

Eastpoint’s growth is so dramatic – a fourth Sunday service was added in April and weekly attendance has topped 1,300 in a little more than a decade – that church leaders recently announced an ambitious $7 million plan to move into a former big-box store near the Maine Mall in South Portland. From LifeChurch in Gorham to The Rock Church of Greater Bangor, similar congregations across Maine are attracting new members, adding worship services, building larger auditoriums and expanding to other locations.

“People still want the Lord, they just don’t necessarily want it in the same way,” said Kirk Winters, lead pastor of The Rock Church of Greater Bangor, which is on the verge of a $2 million expansion.


Growth among nondenominational congregations comes as many mainline Protestant churches – Baptist, Episcopal, Methodist, etc. – and Roman Catholic churches in Maine struggle to fill their pews. Only 34 percent of Mainers say religion is very important in their lives and 22 percent say they attend worship services at least weekly, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2015 Religious Landscape Study. In Alabama, the most religious state, 77 percent say religion is very important and 51 percent worship weekly.

The number of nondenominational evangelical Christians in Maine is still relatively small – they make up about 1 percent of all adult Mainers, or about 10,000 people over age 17, the Pew study found. About 21 percent of the state’s population is Catholic and 37 percent belong to various Protestant denominations.

But nationally, nondenominational church members are the only Christians whose numbers appear to be growing, from 3.4 percent of U.S. adults in 2007 to 4.5 percent in 2014, the Pew survey found. And while dependable comparative data on state-level memberships are unavailable before 2010, nondenominational churches appear to be growing and multiplying in Maine, from a relative handful of congregations with a few thousand members in the 1990s, to 178 congregations with nearly 26,000 members of all ages in 2010, according to the U.S. Religion Census.

In contrast, the number of Mainers who are Catholic, the state’s largest denomination, fell from 283,000 in 2000 to 190,100 in 2010, a decline that has led to the closing of 18 churches since 2006 and the consolidation from 135 parishes to 55, according to church officials.

“Nondenominational churches are dramatically on the rise,” said Scott Thumma, professor of sociology of religion at Hartford Seminary and director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Connecticut. Thumma is a leading expert and author on evangelicalism and nondenominational churches.

Outreach Pastor Kurt Holmgren leads a sermon at a recent Eastpoint Christian Church service. "We believe you should love everybody," Holmgren said, "no matter what they believe."

Outreach Pastor Kurt Holmgren leads a sermon at a recent Eastpoint Christian Church service. “We believe you should love everybody,” Holmgren said, “no matter what they believe.” Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Being nondenominational has become so desirable, Thumma said, some established churches are minimizing denominational ties and traditions, or dropping them altogether. Church names often include words such as “life,” “grace,” “point” and other uplifting concepts. Any connection to a denomination, if there is one, is often diminished or absent from church literature or websites.

Tracking this shift has been difficult because nondenominational churches aren’t organized under one administrative authority, though many are connected through organized affiliations, and most denominations aren’t eager to relinquish oversight of churches or report declining memberships.

“Sometimes the denominational identity carries a lot more negative baggage,” Thumma said. “Nondenominational churches are offering an alternative product in the religious marketplace. It’s a highly successful model at this point and it really is changing the landscape of religion in America.”


Without the labels, limitations and sometimes negative preconceptions associated with denominations, these independent congregations defy easy description or categorization.

Some are being “planted” by organizations with ties to churches in more religious areas of the southern and midwestern United States. Their members send pastors, support staff and money to establish new congregations in New England, as they would for a foreign mission. Others are developing as outgrowths of churches here in Maine.

Often, nondenominational churches aim to provide greater opportunities for community involvement and increased clerical accountability in the wake of recent high-profile church scandals. Many have strong youth ministries and small groups that provide opportunities for Bible instruction, socializing and support for men, women, singles and people struggling with grief, addiction and other issues.

Church leaders are undeterred by disapproval or criticism in a state where firm belief in God fell from 59 percent in 2007 to 48 percent in 2014, according to the Pew study. In contrast, 82 percent of adults in Alabama have an unwavering belief in the Almighty.

They’re acting on the premise that while many people today might be “anti-institution,” they aren’t necessarily “anti-religion,” said Thom Rainer, president and CEO of Lifeway, a Nashville-based nonprofit that is the largest seller of Christian books and other resources in the world. It’s also part of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America.

Rainer is a widely known church consultant and author of books such as “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” who puts out a regular Web podcast on current issues in Christianity, and he has worked with a variety of congregations facing both positive and negative growth challenges.

“Denominational names are driving some people away,” Rainer said. “Many of the denominational churches have a negative brand. Nondenominational churches offer a fresh chance for people to try a church without a brand. I think the move toward nondenominationalism is in its early stages and it will increase.”


The Sunday afternoon service at Eastpoint had already started when Patty Peterson and her husband, Larry, slipped into their seats and immediately began singing along with the rest of the congregation. The couple exuded joy throughout the gathering, smiling at each other occasionally, his arm draped across her shoulders during the sermon.

The Petersons, who live in Gorham and have two adult children, started attending Eastpoint about five years ago. They came from a mainline Protestant church that was struggling and they were looking for something more, said Patty Peterson, 61, who works as a nanny.

At Eastpoint, the couple found a vibrant congregation with members of all ages that has enriched their lives far beyond Sunday services. They especially enjoy small group meetings and Bible classes that help them delve more deeply into their faith, cope with everyday challenges and do good works in the wider community.

Locally, church members help recent immigrants, hold recovery support groups and volunteer as street pastors who patrol downtown Portland on weekend nights looking for people who need assistance of any kind. They also have missions in Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Haiti. But it’s the atmosphere at the church that grabs most people.

“It’s comfortable,” Peterson said of Eastpoint. “You can walk in and feel welcome. The Holy Spirit is so obviously alive and at work at Eastpoint. That’s where the joy comes from.”

Paul Hancock of Naples sways to the music at Eastpoint Christian Church at a recent service in Portland. Weekly attendance has grown to 1,300 in a little more than a decade, prompting leaders to plan an ambitious $7 million move to a former big-box store in South Portland.

Paul Hancock of Naples sways to the music at Eastpoint Christian Church at a recent service in Portland. Weekly attendance has grown to 1,300 in a little more than a decade, prompting leaders to plan an ambitious $7 million move to a former big-box store in South Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Church leaders balk when critics question their motives and describe their outreach efforts as a form of trickery or a scam to win converts and support a tax-free enterprise.

“We don’t love people to convert them,” said Kurt Holmgren, Eastpoint’s outreach pastor. “We love people because we are converted. No bones about it, we believe Jesus is the way to go. But we believe you should love everybody, no matter what they believe.”


Eastpoint’s growth became obvious in March, when church leaders announced plans to create a “community center with a church inside” in a 92,000-square-foot commercial building that previously housed Bob’s Discount Furniture and HomeGoods chain stores.

South Portland’s Planning Board approved the project this month and Pastor Taube hopes to complete the purchase by mid-June, start renovations in July and celebrate a first service in the new church next Easter.

Financed through a Colorado-based nonprofit that supports church construction, the new church would have a 1,500-seat auditorium, a 40-seat cafe, 20 classrooms and meeting rooms, an indoor basketball court and an indoor soccer field.

If all goes well, it would be Eastpoint’s fourth move since Taube started the church in a rented movie theater in South Portland in 2004. He had been a pastor at much larger churches in Ohio – so-called “megachurches” with 2,000 members or more. He sent out three rounds of direct-mail invitations to 65,000 homes in Greater Portland. About 220 people showed up for the first service.

“I thought there was a definite need in this area, compared to the Midwest, where there’s a church on every corner,” Taube said. “And this is where the church in America began.”

LifeChurch in Gorham is another nondenominational church that’s growing. Started in the Howard Johnson’s ballroom in South Portland in 1996, it now has an average weekly attendance of 800 members at three weekend services.

Senior Pastor Brian Undlin said the congregation’s “slow and steady” growth led to the start of a second site with its own pastor in Bath in 2007. It now has 120 regular attendants who meet at the town’s senior center. The church plans to start a third site in Windham soon.

“It’s kind of a natural progression,” Undlin said. “A lot of people were driving from Bath. Now we have a lot of people from Windham. We’re kind of looking at the people God is sending us and trying to serve them better.”

The Rock Church of Greater Bangor, which grew out of The Rock Church of Greater Portland, plans to build a $2 million addition this summer to expand maximum seating capacity from 320 to 735 people, said Lead Pastor Kirk Winters. The church is already holding four services each Sunday to accommodate 1,035 regular attendants. It also holds worship services at sites in Orono and Sullivan, and it’s helping to jump-start established churches in Southwest Harbor and Washburn that had flagging memberships.

“This was our biggest year ever,” Winters said. “With the vast majority of Mainers, we have an opportunity to help them develop a relationship with Christ. We partner with people. We don’t care who gets the glory. We just want to reach people.”


Eastpoint Christian Church was planted here. Taube was recruited to be its founding pastor and partially funded by Restoration House Ministries in Manchester, New Hampshire, a church-planting organization that has started 16 churches across New England since 2000.

Dan Clymer, executive director of Restoration House, said more than 30 churches in the South and Midwest support his organization financially. They recall New England’s Puritan roots, when Harvard College was founded to train ministers, long before it became a secular intellectual bastion. They recognize the historical precedence for a religious reawakening in the region, following similar movements in the 1700s and 1800s, and they see a need to bring the Gospel to the many “unchurched” people who live here.

“They understand that New England is one of the most influential regions of the world,” Clymer said of his supporters. “They want the church to make a difference in New England because it also will make a difference in the world.”

It cost $650,000 to launch Eastpoint for the first four years, half of which was funded by Restoration House, Clymer said. Taube and his wife, Beth, along with two other couples from Ohio, raised the other half. They came to Maine a year before the first service to begin building a congregation.

It doesn’t surprise Clymer that Taube has been so successful. Restoration House seeks pastors who are dedicated to exploring and targeting the needs of the communities they serve. It encourages pastors to join secular organizations, such as the local chamber of commerce or Rotary Club, to make connections and meet people where they live. And it expects pastors to develop congregations that reflect and actively engage in the local culture.

“It’s difficult to find church leaders who are humble enough to know what they don’t know,” Clymer said. “If I believed in cloning, which I don’t, I would clone Scott Taube because he’s humble enough to know what he doesn’t know.”

That humility must be sustained for a church to remain relevant, said Jeff Tarbox, pastor of New Life Church in Biddeford.

Tarbox founded New Life in 1983 as an Advent Christian church. It became nondenominational in 1998 and now has about 1,100 members from 58 ZIP codes throughout southern Maine and New Hampshire.

At 59, Tarbox said he’s striving to stay flexible and maintain the right balance of faith and pragmatism. He believes his church exists for nonmembers who have yet to walk through its doors and he knows people “don’t choose churches based on labels anymore.”

“We’re going to work to stay relevant to the current generation rather than stay focused on mine,” Tarbox said. “If I’m not working toward that, we’re going to wake up one day and everybody in the room will have gray hair.”


Walk into Eastpoint on a Sunday evening and you’ll see dozens of middle- and high-school age kids playing interactive games, discussing Scripture or just hanging out. The church has about 120 active members in that age group.

Its strong youth ministry is one reason Melodie Gage and her husband, Chris, decided to join Eastpoint when his job with the U.S. State Department allowed the family to settle in Scarborough after living abroad for more than 20 years.

Through the youth group, Fusion, and other adults at Eastpoint, the couple’s two children, Evan, 17, and Olivia, 14, have been surrounded by “intelligent and loving role models who look out for them,” said Melodie Gage, 55. Having that support system has been especially important in recent months as Gage battled a serious illness, she said.

For Olivia Gage, who is an eighth-grader at Scarborough Middle School, Eastpoint provides both social and spiritual grounding, in part because some of her friends at school also attend the church.

“They really connect with each age group, no matter how old you are,” Olivia Gage said. “It’s really great to know that some of my friends share the same beliefs as me. My faith gives me a foundation for how I interact with people and how I present myself in the world.”

To appeal to younger believers, many churches are embracing technology, such as cellphone apps that make it easy to download worship service programs, listen to videotaped sermons or make financial contributions. Technology is especially attractive to members of the millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000, said Rainer, the Lifeway CEO.

Millennials also tend to be “very spiritual” and less interested in all things “churchy,” Rainer said. They’re seeking more connected, intentional relationships at home, at work and in their communities. They’re attracted to new faith experiences that include relaxed, conversational worship services and meaningful community action.

They also want pastors who are accessible and transparent about church operations and show integrity in their personal and professional lives, Rainer said. That’s something millennials share with many older church members.

“The desire for accountability has increased with each generation,” Rainer said, especially when it comes to financial matters.

While many nondenominational congregations openly seek donations on their websites and ask members to “tithe” – or give as much as 10 percent of their income to the church – some also appear to be very open about how much they collect and what they do with the money.

Eastpoint, for instance, publishes financial information in its weekly program for worship services. At its April 10 service, it reported receiving $30,286 in gifts the week before – $3,576 more than its weekly goal and just $16,424 shy of its year-to-date goal of $347,230.

That kind of transparency is important to members like Christy Thyng of Kittery. She and her husband, Matthew, who works at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, make a point of giving 10 percent of their income to Eastpoint.

They support Eastpoint’s missions, including the $7 million plan to move to a larger location, though it has come at some sacrifice to their family of six.

“We haven’t been away on a vacation since the 12-year-old was 4, and that’s OK,” Christy Thyng said. “The possibility of (Eastpoint) getting into a bigger place that can further the goals of the church the way (Taube) envisions – it’s a win for everyone.”

Christy Thyng, 40, of Kittery shares communion with her 4-year-old daughter, Makayla, at Eastpoint Christian Church in Portland. "The move to a different church was a big decision," Christy Thyng said. "Lots of the churches (she and her husband, Matthew) visited were really good, but we found our spiritual home at Eastpoint."

Christy Thyng, 40, of Kittery shares communion with her 4-year-old daughter, Makayla, at Eastpoint Christian Church in Portland. “The move to a different church was a big decision,” Christy Thyng said. “Lots of the churches (she and her husband, Matthew) visited were really good, but we found our spiritual home at Eastpoint.” Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


The contemporary music fades, the band steps out of the spotlights and Scott Taube takes the stage at Eastpoint’s Sunday afternoon service.

Unassuming in jeans and a dark purple polo shirt, Taube stands near a round, bar-height table and begins speaking about the universal battle for self-control in the face of sin. His words are measured and his tone is calm, with an occasional lilt that tugs the listener’s attention. Without the Lord, he explains, we are powerless against any challenge, whether to avoid lashing out at loved ones or to fight whatever addiction troubles us.

“It is very possible to stumble less,” Taube assures his flock. “It’s not time to take control. It’s time to surrender. Because he will take control and he will do a much better job than you or me.”

Taube describes the devil as a deceiver waiting to trip us up and the Father as a savior offering a warm embrace. You won’t hear fire and brimstone at Eastpoint and most other nondenominational church services. You probably won’t see a lectern or pulpit, either, or a clerical collar, or even a necktie.

You likely won’t hear Taube or pastors like him urging church members to vote against gay rights, or protest at an abortion clinic, or vote for a particular party or candidate.

“I spend zero time talking about the issues in the media,” Taube said. “We’re not a church with a hate agenda. We’re not an issues-based church.”

That being said, Eastpoint and similar nondenominational churches hold to the belief that the Bible is clear on the subjects of homosexuality, abortion and other contemporary controversies. Marriage is between a man and a woman, they say, and abortion is taking a life.

When church members are conflicted in any area that Taube considers sin, he will pray with them and advise them if they seek it, but ultimately he believes each individual must sort out his or her sins and find redemption in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

It’s an approach that makes many nondenominational churches seem less outwardly judgmental and more welcoming. It’s also part of a conscious effort to be part of and bring change to the communities around them.

“Haters do a disservice to all others,” said Winters, pastor of The Rock Church of Greater Bangor. “That doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth, but we speak the truth with love and try to help people work through their issues.”


Christy and Matthew Thyng attended services at several other churches near their home in Kittery before they brought their family to Eastpoint.

The moment of spiritual clarity came a little over a year ago. Their oldest child, Andrew, was one of several high school students who had taken a bus from Eastpoint for a weekend visit to Liberty University, a large Christian college in Lynchburg, Virginia, which he now attends. When the Thyngs traveled back to Eastpoint that Sunday to pick him up, they decided to attend a service there, too.

“The move to a different church was a big decision,” Christy Thyng recalled. “Lots of the churches we visited were really good, but we found our spiritual home at Eastpoint.”

Now, the whole family is eager to attend Eastpoint each Sunday, Thyng said. Sixteen-year-old Madison makes sure everyone is up and ready to go on time. The hour-and-a-half round trip between Kittery and Portland has made it difficult for the family to take part in other activities during the week, such as young adult cookouts or weekend women’s retreats, but Thyng said she hopes to change that.

“The desire to be more involved is very real,” she said. “Sunday morning isn’t a drag to go to church. I look forward to it every week to be with people who believe the same things that I believe. I want more of that in my life.”


]]> 48, 23 May 2016 13:10:41 +0000
Abbe Museum’s new exhibition tells difficult Native American stories Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BAR HARBOR — If nothing else, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko wants people who visit the Abbe Museum to leave with one piece of knowledge firmly planted forever in their brain: Native people still live in Maine.

“It’s amazing how many of our visitors don’t realize that,” the museum director said. “They’re always surprised.”

That may reflect, in part, how the museum told its story in the past. The Abbe sometimes told the Native story from the perspective of history, using domestic artifacts and items discovered in archaeology digs to inform visitors about how Indians lived and what their lives were like.

That storytelling method has changed. The only museum in Maine dedicated to Wabanaki history and culture has opened a long-term exhibition, “People of the First Light,” that tells a 12,000-year narrative of the Native culture in Maine, including the present.

It could just as easily be titled, “We’re Still Here.” The museum, which includes Native Americans on its administrative and curatorial teams, worked with tribal representatives across Indian country in Maine to tell a story from the Native perspective. In the museum world, that process is known as “decolonization,” and the Abbe is earning praise for its aggressive implementation of the practice. In the past, it might have told a similar story, but without the direct perspective of the Native Americans either in presentation or conception, or omitting key historical moments or events that have caused trauma and turmoil.

“It means not following the standard narrative of how the country was settled and bringing in broader perspectives and multiple points of view,” said Harold Closter, director of Smithsonian Affiliations, which encourages partnerships among museums and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. “It means recognizing there were people here and those people are still here and they are part of the fabric of our history and our national culture.”

The Abbe, the only Smithsonian affiliate in Maine, has been practicing decolonization for a few years, but formally adopted the principle as part of a new strategic plan in 2015. “People of the First Light” is the first exhibition where it’s fully expressed. Most voices in the exhibition are Indian voices, and many are the voices of Indians living in Maine today. The museum worked with nearly 30 Wabanaki curators, consultants and artists to create the exhibition, curator Julia Gray said.

The move toward decolonization is not new. Some museums have been practicing it for two or three decades. We’ve seen it recently in Maine with the exhibition of Edward Curtis photographs at the Portland Museum of Art through May 29. Catlin-Legutko moderated a discussion at the PMA about the photographs, to put them in context with when they were taken and how they’ve been interpreted over time and the hurtful stereotypes they have helped perpetuate.

The new Abbe exhibition includes objects and artifacts from Indian life we’re conditioned to expect to see: Birch canoes, woven baskets made from wood, domestic items unearthed in archaeological digs and regalia from ceremonial occasions. There’s a display about language, including audio of Native speakers. Another shows the Wabanaki homeland before “(e)xplorers, colonizers, and non-Native people and governments” imposed boundaries and their own names.

The exhibition also includes information that may be less expected. One kiosk includes information about the legal fights for water rights that Indians have waged in Maine. Another has stories from the state Truth & Reconciliation Commission, which investigated why so many Wabanaki children have been removed from their homes by the state.

Another kiosk is dedicated to headlines from articles about Native issues that are regularly updated. The most recent ones were from an Indian mascot controversy in the Maine town of Skowhegan.

“These are hot issues and news headlines that are important to Native people today,” Catlin-Legutko said. “They are exactly the issues we should be exploring.”

Among the consultants was Donna Sanipass of Presque Isle, whose parents, Mary and Donald Sanipass, were well-known Indian basketmakers in northern Maine. Donald Sanipass died in 2006, and Mary is still making baskets at 80.

The museum wanted to show some of their baskets. A basketmaker herself, Donna Sanipass agreed to work with the Abbe because she is proud of her heritage and dismayed how little people know about Indians from Maine. “It is very important that people know who we really are. We are not from the West,” Sanipass said. “Our traditions are a bit different form people out in the West. When people ask about me — they don’t even ask about me. They just say, ‘My grandmother was a Cherokee.’ And I am supposed to relate to that? It’s important that people know who we are, our culture. It’s not what they see on TV. It’s not what they read in the history books.”

Gina Brooks, a Maliseet Indian from Wabanaki territory in New Brunswick, Canada, has shown her art at the Abbe on many occasions and will serve as an artist-in-residence this summer. She helped the Abbe illustrate a section of the exhibition that deals with traditional storytelling. Her art includes basketry, carving and printmaking.

She credited the museum staff — Natives and non-Natives alike — for taking on topics important to Native people, such as water rights and border issues, and exploring them from the perspective of art and culture.

“The Abbe really wants people to understand our perspective,” she said. “They advocate on our behalf and have accepted the challenge to understand us better.”

The Wabanaki confederacy, also known as “People of the First Light” or “People of the Dawnland,” includes the four principal nations of Indians in Maine: the Micmac, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot.

Beth Harris Hess of Cape Elizabeth toured the exhibition last week. She noticed the new storytelling tone, and was impressed with what she described as “an authenticity” in the collection and how the culture was presented. “What impressed me most deeply about the Abbe was the way the entire collection has been designed and executed with full integration and involvement of Maine’s modern native peoples,” she said.

A little more than two years ago, the museum joined the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, a member organization based in New York and including about 200 museums and historic sites that connect the past to present to preserve stories so people can learn from history and the mistakes of their ancestors. The coalition promotes the telling of difficult stories, and among its principles is the idea that the need to remember often competes with the pressure to forget.

The Abbe joined the organization to learn how to answer the hurtful comments its staff encountered from visitors with information that leads to learning.

At the front desk, receptionists have been asked questions and overhead statements that have left them confused about how to respond:

“Those pictures don’t look like Indians, they look European. They probably aren’t real Indians anymore.”

“Are your Indians poor?”

“Bathrooms? I bet they didn’t have those in the tipis!”

“Can I touch an Indian?”

Sarah Pharaon, senior director of methodology and practice for the coalition, has been to the Abbe twice to work with the staff about communication and storytelling.

Too often, she said, museums and historic sites interpret history from the perspective of those who work there, and not from the perspective of those whose lives were, and in some cases still are, affected by what happened throughout that history. By empowering Native people from Maine to tell “their owns truths and their owns stories,” the Abbe is helping to reduce cultural hierarchy in Maine, Pharaon said.

In a short time, the Abbe has become a model for the International Coalition of Sits of Conscience, because it has embraced storytelling from the inside out. “Museums and historic sites have long legacies of fostering trauma and in some ways capitalizing and exploiting trauma,” she said. “The Abbe is one the museums leading the conversation on how we can critically examine the work we do and do in a better way.”

The Abbe opened in 1928 and is named for Dr. Robert Abbe, a New York physician and summer resident of Bar Harbor. He built a collection of early Native artifacts from the area, and established the museum at Sieur de Monts Spring in what is now Acadia National Park.

That original site is still open seasonally. The museum opened its main museum in downtown Bar Harbor in 2001. It draws about 30,000 visitors a year and operates with a budget of about $1 million.

Kathleen Mundell, who runs the Maine Arts Commission’s traditional arts program, called the Abbe staff “courageous” for exploring difficult issues and beginning difficult but important conversations.

“The museum world has shifted, and the Abbe is shifting with it. They are definitely telling their stories through the eyes of the people whose stories are represented,” said Mundell, who curated an exhibition at the museum in 2009. “It’s an important place for the state of Maine.”

]]> 0, 23 May 2016 13:03:58 +0000
Penobscot museum pairs photos, paintings Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Penobscot Marine Museum, 5 Church St. in Searsport, is featuring a unique exhibit of vintage photos and contemporary art beginning Saturday.

The exhibit, “Maine: A Continuum of Place,” runs through Oct. 16. An opening reception for the show, with guest curator Carl Little, will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday. The public is invited to attend.

Little, author of “Paintings of Maine,” “Art of the Maine Islands” and other books, chose vintage photographs and postcards of coastal Maine from the museum’s collection and paired them with images of those places by contemporary Maine artists. The photographs, which will have been enlarged, and the artworks will be displayed side by side.

The exhibition features the work of 17 artists from across Maine including Joel Babb, Susan Lewis Baines, Nancy Morgan Barnes, Mary Bourke, Sam Cady, Alison Goodwin, Philip Frey, Liddy Hubbell, Tina Ingraham, Ben Lincoln, Jeff Loxterkamp, Caren-Marie Michel, Linda Norton, Winslow Myer, Karen Spitfire, Jude Valentine and David Vickery.

For more information call 548-0334 or go to

]]> 0, 21 May 2016 20:41:37 +0000
Society Notebook: PORTopera hits the high notes at gala Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 PORTopera’s annual gala, held at the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel on May 6, was truly an enclave of sophisticated arts patrons who gather each year to raise money for the opera company and enjoy a private concert by some of its premier talent.

“The arts in Portland are thriving, and PORTopera is so proud to be a part of that,” said Caroline Koelker, managing director of the company, who attended with her husband, Joshua.

“We’re looking forward to a wonderful production of ‘Carmen’ this year by our artistic director, Dona D. Vaughn, and ‘The Medium,’ which will be performed by our young artists.”

Glamour was in full swing as tuxedoed and bejeweled guests chatted over cocktails before sitting down for a formal dinner and performance. The gala, titled “A Night At The Opera,” raised money for PORTopera’s 21st season, which features performances in the month of July.

Connie Bingham, PORTopera’s board treasurer, was joined by Bill Schwind, a former trustee, and Kathleen Grammer, an advisory board member. Jack Riddle, co-founder and board member, attended with his wife, Bonnie. Mary and Kenneth Nelson of Falmouth were there, as well as Kevin Schochat and Leslie Hart, who recently relocated from Manhattan to Munjoy Hill.

John Hatcher of Keller Williams/The John Hatcher Group; Dan Crewe, president of The Bob Crewe Foundation; and Elizabeth McLellan, president of Partners for World Health enjoyed the evening, as did Michael Greer, the executive director of Portland Ballet, Tom Johnson, director of Victoria Mansion, and PORTopera board member April Ylvisaker.

“We like to think of ourselves as the little opera company that could,” said Ann L. Elderkin, president of the board. “We’re an amazing opera company that gets positive reviews in Opera News, and we’re able to pull together the kind of support that allows us to be a vibrant company in a small community. Portland is a wonderfully supportive community of the arts.”

“A lot of companies are no longer in existence, and we are still here,” explained Artistic Director Dona D. Vaughn, who has been with PORTopera since its inception. “This community realizes the importance of a very fine opera company that brings world-class singers, who are always eager to return.”

As PORTopera singers Lucas Levy (tenor), Joshua Quinn (bass-baritone) and Heather Johnson (mezzo-soprano) prepared to take the stage, Vaughn welcomed guests and thanked them for their patronage.

“Can you believe it? PORT- opera is 22 years this year!” she exclaimed to the crowded ballroom. “I know you are here because you are passionate people, because passionate people love opera. Or, because you love someone who does!”

With great laughter and appreciation, the crowd was treated to a prequel of what promises to be spectacular upcoming season.

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

]]> 0, 21 May 2016 11:38:04 +0000
Signings, etc. Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Hancock Lumber president and author Kevin Hancock will talk about his book, “Not for Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse,” at a Lunch ‘n Learn event. Winner of a 2016 National Indie Excellence Award, the book details lessons Hancock gained on solo trips to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, after a diagnosis of a rare voice disorder at a challenging time for his family’s business. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing, with $10 from each sale benefiting the Scarborough Public Library. Bring a lunch; beverages and dessert will be provided.

WHEN: Noon Thursday

WHERE: Scarborough Public Library, 48 Gorham Road


INFO: 725-1727,

]]> 0, 21 May 2016 20:42:55 +0000
How comic book movies are making comic books worse Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 This year, the Marvel/Disney movie “Captain America: Civil War,” now showing, takes the coveted spot of Superhero Movie That Kicks Off Blockbuster Season.

Which could also be known as A Good Time To Be Reminded That Superhero Comics Are Now Way Too Much Like Movies.

I am not going to complain about superhero movies as movies. I don’t care that once colorful costumes are forced to be muted and dark and tough-looking on human actors (“Batman v Superman,” the black leather X-Men). I don’t care that too many superhero movies rely on disaster-porn cliches (“Man of Steel,” “Avengers”) or that the Marvel Cinematic Universe/shared universe theory of storytelling turns movies into episodic entertainment rather than something that can stand on its own (even “Age of Ultron” director Joss Whedon has complained about this).

OK, maybe I care a little.

I’m here to complain about how superhero movies have not made superhero comics better.

If anything, since the first Spider-Man movie crossed the $300 million mark back in 2002, superhero comics have, on the whole, stagnated. One is reluctant to point to a direct causation, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck …

What was once a form that prided itself on being fast, cheap and out of control is now intellectual property worth millions, subject to the sort of five- and 10-year planning that would impress an aging Soviet. Title after title that Marvel (Avengers, Spider-Man, X-Men) and DC (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) release reads as if it were pre-approved from the TV and movie side of things.

Superhero comics are not the kid-aimed, dream-logic wish fulfillment of the 1940s and ’50s. They’re not the attempts to appeal to teens of the ’60s and ’70s, full of angsty heroes and dense plots rocketing ever forward.

They’re not the grimmer and grittier comics of the 1980s, such as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “Watchmen” or Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns.” They’re not the urban fantasies of the 1990s such as Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” or Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s “Preacher.”

What once was a form that was gleefully lowbrow and willfully weird is now, as a friend elegantly put it, “just more middle-brow crap.”


“Civil War” is the third “Captain America” movie and the 13th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the fall, “Doctor Strange,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, will be the 14th.

At one point, “Civil War” was going to share the opening weekend spotlight with DC Comics/Warner Brothers’ “Batman v Superman,” but the latter was moved back to March, the better to have the market to itself. This was probably wise in terms of box office, but for critics it was a bit like cinematic global warming.

Later this summer, Fox presents “X-Men: Apocalypse,” the ninth film in the X-Men franchise if you count the “Wolverine” movies and “Deadpool,” the $58 million movie that, thanks to its loose wit and clever execution, has grossed more than $760 million worldwide. That’s a far better return on investment than “Batman v Superman,” a $250 million film that has made just $851 million globally (yes, that “just” looks absurd out of context).

Warner’s “Suicide Squad,” a movie about Batman villains more or less, arrives in August.


Go into your friendly neighborhood comic shop. A superhero comic book will probably cost between $2.99 and $4.99 and contain about 22 pages of story.

In 1986, the average superhero comic book cost 60 cents. In 1996, the average comic cost between $1.95 and $2.50.

According to the Consumer Price Index calculator, 60 cents in 1986 should have the buying power of about $1.30 now, though $2.50 in 1995 dollars is about $3.89 now, so it looks like inflation has calmed down a bit, right?

Well, that 2016 comic is likely part of a multi-issue storyline, difficult to parse by itself, part of a four- to eight-part story that will be collected in a comic-size “trade paperback” that will retail for about $15 to $20. Most of the time, it’s that paperback that is a complete story, not the individual issue as was the case in decades past.

Part of the reason comics from decades past might seem stilted to the modern reader is that each issue needed to be a potential point of entry – powers and relationships were often re-explained in every one.

As storylines have gotten longer or become, in comics parlance, “decompressed,” the vast majority of titles have begun to feel more and more like work that is easily adaptable to the big screen. Everything reads the same.

It is impossible to imagine this shift without the work of Brian Michael Bendis, who pens slow-moving stories heavily indebted to the chatty style of David Mamet and Aaron Sorkin.

His writing on “Ultimate Spider-Man” (2000-2009) and “Avengers” (2004-2012) set the tone for the Marvel Cinematic Universe; the best elements of his series “Alias” (2001-2004) were turned into the Netflix series “Jessica Jones.” His pacing became the house style at Marvel, and he remains an influential creator.

At this point, most of the monthly genre comics I buy come from the independent Image Comics, where the creators own their work. Image is also good at providing value-added “back matter” after the main story – an essay, a solid letters page, some sort of supplementary material – that is in the single issue but not in the trade.

And Image is also home to Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead,” which is a weird little miracle in that it succeeds brilliantly as both a comic book and a TV show.

Image has struck gold by trusting creators and their visions – it is easily the most interesting publisher of genre comics around. And I like a number of them, mostly the stranger science-fiction books. But there’s no getting around the fact that even some of the ones I like feel like TV or movie pitches.

I can’t blame comic book creators for using their comics to show that they can break down a movie or TV script – that is where the money is.

And I’m not going to say that when a comic is optioned for big or small screen adaptation, it is an inherent failure as a comic.

But I might think it to myself now and then.


What do I miss the most about superhero comics, what do I want for all genre comics, really? I want what has become middle-brow to become bonkers low-brow again.

I want more insanity. I want genre comics to be filled with the unfilmable. I want scenarios that could not possibly work on the big screen. I want dense, lunatic stories that span centuries. I want stuff that works on the page better than it works on the screen, all the time.

Here are a few signs of life:

Scott Snyder’s outstanding run on “Batman” (DC) is at the stranger end of the superhero spectrum. Batman wrestling a lion and fighting a giant flower-man among DayGlo backgrounds? Heck yes. Commissioner Gordon in a Bat-mecha? More please.

Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan’s terrific space opera/family drama “Saga” (Image) is packed with images that would look absurd on the big screen, including robots with TVs for heads and a talking seal named Ghus. It has been rewarded with sales of about 50,000 per issue and trade paperback sales in the five-figures, terrific for an indie book in 2016. These two can make “Saga” for as long as they want. Also at Image, check out Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s “ODY-C,” essentially a gender-switched, sci-fi version of “The Odyssey” that looks like a psychedelic French comic from 1976 – which is awesome.

Over at Marvel, “Ms. Marvel,” by G. Willow Wilson, concerns a Muslim teenage girl with superpowers, including hands and feet that grow incredibly large as the rest of her stays human-size. Hilarious on the page, silly on screen: perfect. I am also a huge fan of Tom King’s “Vision” for Marvel, which employs a third-person omniscient narration style that is so out of vogue it feels genuinely fresh.

But these are the exceptions, not the rule.

You may love comics that read like movies. You may feel that getting a movie out of your favorite character is the ultimate way that character should exist in the popular imagination. If so, go with Rao. You have quite literally dozens upon dozens of titles to choose from.

But if you find that sort of thing wanting, know that there are all kinds of comics that are 10 times as bonkers as anything you can see on screen, that go places that movies can’t hope to go. Like a recently deceased pop star once said, go crazy.

]]> 0, 21 May 2016 11:30:54 +0000
Art review: Turning 25, Peregrine Press soars at Lewis Gallery Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As a show of prints, the quarter-century celebration of the print cooperative Peregrine Press, featuring works by 49 past and present members, is mixed – ranging from superb to something less – but as an introduction to the group and its goals, it a stellar exhibition.

Peregrine is Maine’s oldest nonprofit fine print press. It has 30 active members and a worthy mission that starts with the non-toxic artists’ cooperative printing facility and includes mentoring and education through lectures, workshops and exhibits.

In addition to an excellent catalog that accompanies this show at the Portland Public Library’s Lewis Gallery, Peregrine has published two impressive portfolios, “First Impressions” in 2008 and “Local Conditions” in 2013. Editions of each are held in notable museum collections, and their inclusion in “Art of the Hand-Pulled Print: Peregrine Press at 25” solidifies the show’s status both as a historical survey and a vehicle of collaboration.

The didactic focus of technical shows (such as those highlighting encaustic or wet plate photography) generally annoys me because it misleads viewers into confusing technique with content, but the Peregrine process displays are both informative and engaging.

Fittingly, the most impressive work is the giant collaborative peregrine falcon kite hovering above the gallery. It is playful and handsome.

Because the show is based on inclusiveness among the 30 current members and important past members, it was not curated with an eye to slick presentation. But I prefer jumble and integrity to falsified aesthetic veneers most any day. Besides, big shows of individual works like this one make it easier to focus on your favorites without needing to bend them all into a coherent narrative.

"Cell 1" by Jeff Woodbury, two-color screen print.

“Cell 1” by Jeff Woodbury, two-color screen print.

Jeff Woodbury’s DIY toy model weapon prints earn first mention. His two-color screenprint uzi practically quivers with dangerously playful brilliance. Building on ideas about children’s play culture, real security issues involving 3D printing, issues of weapons proliferation and a newly blossoming nostalgia for Cold War American exceptionalism, Woodbury slam-dunks an artistic trifecta: content, presentation and technique.

The visual standout is Alice Spencer’s color masterpiece “Tree Patchwork,” a joyous thing of happy beauty. For visual impact, nothing pulled me in like the late (and wonderful) Dorothy Schwartz’s woodcut “Darwin’s Bee” in eye-popping black, white and red.

"Sanctuary" by Liz Prescott, monotype, woodcut, collage.

“Sanctuary” by Liz Prescott, monotype, woodcut, collage.

Similarly catchy but with a looping complexity is Liz Prescott’s color-rich monotype, woodcut and collage “Sanctuary.” For its grasp on smoky painterly qualities in a horizontal landscape, Larinda Meade’s intaglio “Restless” is a worthy work.

"Snorkel Book" by Lin Lisberger, collaged monotype on carved wood.

“Snorkel Book” by Lin Lisberger, collaged monotype on carved wood.

The most creative piece is Lin Lisberger’s “Snorkel Book,” a spiky hot-dog-like carved wood sculpture with collaged monotype forms on it playing the part of tattoos on a swanky wooden frankfurter bun. Alison Hildreth, whose great hanging glass installation offers perpetual welcome to the library’s entry hall, is well-represented by a drypoint and etching imaginary archaeological treasure map punctuated by a series of pointed-to red destination forms.

Among many other elegantly detailed, well-drawn or well-designed works, I reserve particular praise for Grace DeGennaro’s “Weaving,” a hand-colored monotype that clearly sets a high bar for content and craftsmanship relating to process, pattern, piecework traditionally associated with women, mathematical design, sacred geometries and, on top of that, pulsing 1960s Op Art aesthetics.

Print scholars, collectors and dealers – including catalog essayist Aprile Gallant, a curator at the Smith College Museum of Art – will sometimes point to the 1960s as the critical starting point for the “collaborative print movement.” I agree with this, but I think the most accurate narrative smartly pushes printmaking into the studio craft movement, for all the right reasons.

"Searching," by Alison Derby Hildreth, etching, drypoint.

“Searching,” by Alison Derby Hildreth, etching, drypoint.

After World War II, the art world was remade in the shape of the American myth of creative genius. The European erudition model of art had failed in its war-crumbled culture (or so we conveniently liked to pretend) and so artists switched from being students of cultural history to being self-expressionists.

Surrealism paved the way for American Abstract Expressionism to take the scepter of the arts – and its top market billing. This model was particularly appealing to artists who worked in technical craft media, such as clay, metal and glass, because of the directness of the material and the primordial feel (and framing finish) of fire. Clay artists at the American Craft Council gathered together to start the studio glass movement in the early 1960s.

Buoyed by academic communities funded by the GI Bill, artists worked together to find their way through technical media like glass art, wood-fired ceramics and printmaking. The logic of Abstract Expressionism dictated that any form-creating media driven by self-expression was a valid artistic vehicle, but many of the traditionally snobbier academic painters sought to maintain an art-versus-craft hierarchy.

This drove many social-oriented visual artists toward the lower barrier and more democratic art of printmaking, particularly because of the sense of community created around sharing tools and presses and working in shareable, exchangeable and low-cost multiples.

In other words, some of Peregrine’s finest qualities stem from the collaborative print movement’s intentional proximity to the values of the studio craft movement: technical excellence, community ethics, affordable art, collaborative culture and, fundamentally, teamwork. While these qualities may be more obvious in jazz and glassblowing, they are often similarly important to ceramics and printmaking.

It hardly matters that I see the work in “Peregrine Press at 25” as fine craft, since I see little value in distinguishing art from craft besides acknowledging craft’s elevated community standards. Such communities are vital to art-rich regions like Maine and, within them, standards of excellence and ethics come into focus.

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

]]> 1, 21 May 2016 20:42:24 +0000
Book review: Young readers will find ‘Girl Called Vincent’ full of romance and struggle Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In her introduction, Krystyna Poray Goddu describes her discovery of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry as a 12-year-old, in a scene likely to be re-created by young readers of “A Girl Called Vincent”: In an attic bedroom, pre-adolescent drama and dreams as company, Goddu read and reread Millay’s poetry, “feeling chills and heat and fascination.”

“A Girl Called Vincent” is a biography of Millay, written for middle-schoolers and younger teens. Goddu drew upon archives from Vassar College Libraries and the Library of Congress to include images and quotations from Millay and her family and friends. She also includes excerpts from Millay’s poems throughout the book.

The story is chronological, beginning with Millay’s birth in Rockland, Maine, and ending with her death in Austerlitz, New York.

Until she left for college at Vassar in 1913, Millay lived with her mother and two sisters, mostly in coastal Maine, which proved the perfect backdrop to her childhood, containing both the romance and struggle that marked much of the writer’s life.

When Millay was still a child, her mother asked her father to move out. Millay’s mother supported the family as a nurse and her jobs often kept her away from home for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. Those early years of responsibility and autonomy shaped Millay’s personality, strengthening her independent spirit.

Millay’s relationship with her mother is central to her development as a writer. Her mother was passionate about the arts and taught her girls to “sing, play the piano, perform, and write poetry when they were very young.” Without explicitly addressing it, Goddu highlights the historical pressures applied to women and the feminist qualities expressed by both Millay and her mother.

More than half of the book focuses on the first 25 years of Millay’s life, exploring her early development as a poet, adolescent yearning for love and adjustment to life in New York.

Excerpts from Millay’s diaries reveal a depth of thought and feeling knocking up against fabricated melodrama as she wrote to an imaginary lover. Her own words make Millay relatable, even as she is making waves in the literary world at age 20.

The quotations Goddu carefully selected to bring Millay’s voice to the story clearly reveal her personality. She responds to an editor, correcting his salutation: “It may astonish you that I am no ‘Esquire’ at all, nor even a plain ‘Mister’; in fact, I am just an aspiring ‘Miss’ of twenty.”

And in her history entrance exam for Vassar, Millay wrote, “At precisely this point the pleasant lady in an Alice-blue coat … requests us all to bring our papers to a close. As I know a great deal about American history which I haven’t had a chance to say, I am sorry, but obedient.”

Even as she includes these charming excerpts from Millay’s own writing, Goddu does not shy away from the challenging realities of Millay’s life.

She documents her financial struggles, tension between independence and relationships with men, pain, a reliance on morphine and drinking, and hospitalizations for both physical and mental ailments.

It’s no surprise that Goddu was a school librarian and middle-school writing teacher – she has written a book that will engage both students and educators.

As all good stories do, “A Girl Called Vincent” creates opportunities for readers to experience a different time and place through someone else’s life.

The care and interest Goddu conjures for Millay will translate to social issues, historical events and poetry itself.

Heidi Sistare is a writer and social worker who lives in Portland. She attended the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and has work published in The Rumpus, Slice Magazine and other publications. Contact her at:

Twitter: @heidisistare

]]> 0, 21 May 2016 20:46:34 +0000
Kim Kardashian still standing by her man Sat, 21 May 2016 19:35:39 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Kim Kardashian is praising husband Kanye West’s bizarre appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

The rapper covered a variety of topics as he rambled nearly uninterrupted for seven and a half minutes Thursday.’ At one point he danced around on stage before chiding those who would refer to him as “whacko Kanye.” West wrapped things up by telling the audience, “I’m sorry for the realness.”

Kardashian posted “Proud of my baby” on Twitter. She also acknowledges the buzz around the segment by saying “LOL” to another Twitter user who described it as “twitter kanye in real life.”

– From news service reports

]]> 0 Sat, 21 May 2016 17:06:31 +0000
Sean Penn’s film panned at Cannes Sat, 21 May 2016 19:23:09 +0000 It’s been a tough year for tough guy Sean Penn. First there was the controversy over what some called his self-serving interview with drug lord El Chapo. Now comes the actor’s latest directorial effort, which many critics have described as the bomb of the Cannes Film Festival.

On Friday, Penn was in Cannes to debut a romantic drama called “The Last Face.” According to an Australian news outlet, the screening audience reacted with unintended laughter during the movie, and with boos once the credits began to roll. Things were reportedly just as awkward between Penn and his ex-fiance Charlize Theron, who stars in the film. According to some accounts, Penn and Theron could barely look at each other during a festival press session.

Theron and Javier Bardem play aid workers who fall in love in African war zones. Did the critics hate it on Twitter.

From Dave Calhoun, global film editor at Time Out: “Sean Penn’s THE LAST FACE: awful. Pompous romance with human suffering as wallpaper. Pleads empathy with Africa. Zero real black characters.”

And from critic Jason Gorber: “Sean Penn’s THE LAST FACE – A risible disaster, all the more tragic for butchering serious and vital tale. Amateur, appalling cannes2016.”

This scorcher came from Guy Lodge, Variety’s U.K. reviewer, who speculated about whether the film led to the breakup: “Is it possible Charlize Theron saw a rough cut of THE LAST FACE and then ended things with Sean Penn? I would.”

The bad reviews, coupled with what the Daily Beast called Theron’s “guarded stares” at her ex, may have accomplished the impossible: making us feel sorry for Penn.

– From news service reports

]]> 0, 21 May 2016 17:08:19 +0000
Photo gallery: Bigfoot lands in Portland Sat, 21 May 2016 19:02:15 +0000 0, 21 May 2016 21:38:37 +0000 10 things to do in Maine this weekend Sat, 21 May 2016 08:00:50 +0000 1, 20 May 2016 18:55:19 +0000 Religion Calendar Sat, 21 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Friends of the Groom,” a series of humorous skits focusing on the human encounter with the divine. $10 for show; workshop free with reservation, Raymond Village Community Church, 27 Main St., 650-7845, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 7:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday, 10 to 11 a.m. Sunday.

Holy Grounds Coffee House open mic. Free. Church of the Holy Spirit, 1047 Congress St., Portland,, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tibetan Buddhist Prayers for the Dead and Vairocana Empowerment. Khenpo Kunga Dhundop, abbot of Pema Ts’al Sakya Monastic Institute to speak. Suggested donation: $30 to $50, Curtis Memorial Library, 23 Pleasant St., Brunswick, 201-805-8683, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Beholding Nature: Spiritual Ecology Through the Eyes of the Heart. Ongoing discussion of Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, including experiential practices in broadening perception and opening the “eyes of the heart.” By donation. Unity of Greater Portland, 54 River Road, Windham,, 6:30 p.m. Monday.

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

]]> 0 Fri, 20 May 2016 19:16:52 +0000
Reflections: A pen pal seething with religious intolerance is no pal Sat, 21 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I have a pen pal, except he’s not a pal. My pen pal is not the kind you’d wish to meet in person or whose letters you’d cherish, the way I did when, as a teenager in a small town in Kurdistan, Iran, corresponding with an Austrian girl of my age, dreaming of spending an exciting life, dancing and singing with her and our many children in the rolling green hills below the Alps, mimicking the happy scenes of the popular movie “The Sound of Music.” This pen pal is anonymous, probably a man, an angry dude, hiding behind a pseudonym, expressing anger and hatred toward everything foreign, including my religion, and my being a Muslim. His words hurt like sharp needles.

He writes religiously every time a terrorist attack, committed by criminals claiming to be Muslims, happens in the Western world, and not elsewhere, as if to suggest it is geography that decides whose lives matter or not. His violent language, darkened by the lack of lucidity, makes me see him as a fearful man terrified by the demographic changes taking place around him and the world passing him by. Reading between the lines, I could feel his desperation, missing the time when Maine was as white as the snow on Mount Washington’s summit.

His emails; long texts, words I picture were stabbed angrily on a keyboard, show up on my inbox, every time my writings in support of immigrant causes, or to showcase the interfaith efforts, multiculturism, or to counter stereotypes that target minorities, including Muslims, appear in the local newspapers. His words are as toxic as the newspapers’ reader comment sections.

Every time I sit to write, as I do now, I shudder to think how he’d respond, and what would he label me next. I know outing him in this column, though no reader could possibly know who he is, would not please him.

I write back when I can, pleading, with no success, to have him see the oneness and the sameness of the core values that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share. In my responses, I gently invite him to feel the beauty that each faith tradition, despite its historical or contemporary shortcomings, has to offer. I suggest why and how distinctions have to be made between a faith and the criminal thoughts and actions of its followers. He dismisses my pleas, mocks me, and lectures me, repeating the lies, myths and ugly accusations he finds on dubious, and biased, websites. I imagine him not to read much history, for he’d have known of African Muslims’ presence in the New World, starting in the 14th and 15th century, before the birth of the Republic, or, the story of the Founding Fathers exchanging letters with Muslim rulers of that era. He might be a coffee drinker, use alphabet to write to me, add zero here and there, enjoy alcohol, all Arabic words borrowed by English, and not realizing these were given to the West by the early Arabs and Muslims.

I know his America has no room for me, and people like me. To him, my humanity is eclipsed by my ethnicity, faith, and race. He sees me representing some 1.5 billion Muslims, and billions more non-white persons, living across the world.

In his words, I hear the echo of a past where immigrants coming to Maine were met with distrust, hostility, and violence. I hear the ghosts of a troubled history here, when members of the Ku Klux Klan marched in cities across Maine, mostly targeting Catholics and Jews, for there were few African Americans here back then. He might have been there, in spirit, when in 1854 an angry Know Nothing mob burned down a Catholic church in Bath, or centuries and decades later when synagogues were desecrated, and a severed pig head was rolled inside a mosque in Lewiston.

A cyber-stalker, or a pen pal, he’s no pal.

Reza Jalali, a writer and an educator, is the author of “Homesick Mosque and Other Stories” and “Poets and the Assassin,” a play about women in Iran and Islam.

]]> 2 Fri, 20 May 2016 19:13:43 +0000