Life & Culture – Press Herald Wed, 21 Mar 2018 16:57:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Popularity of burgers surpasses classic baguette sandwiches in France Wed, 21 Mar 2018 16:40:16 +0000 PARIS — Forget the baguette. The French are going crazy for burgers.

Figures released this week revealed that sales of the jambon-beurre – the ham and butter baguette sandwich, a classic of French snacking – have been surpassed by sales of American-style burgers.

The study by restaurant consultants Gira Conseil showed that about 1.2 billion ham and butter sandwiches were sold in 2017, while 1.4 billion burgers were eaten over the same period.

“Even the Americans are looking at us with wide-eyed amazement,” Bernard Boutboul, general director of Gira Conseil, told The Associated Press.

The classic French jambon-beurre sandwich: ham on a buttered baguette. Shutterstock photo

“Obviously the rise in popularity is not linked to sales at McDonald’s or other fast-food restaurants,” Boutboul said in a phone interview. “It’s due to the growing number of restaurants putting burgers on their menu.”

Eighty percent of restaurants in France included burgers on their menu last year, he said.

Overall, sales of both sandwiches and burgers are on the rise. The study notes that “the ham and butter sandwich recorded a 1.3 percent growth in 2017 while burger (sales) keep booming with 9 percent” growth.

“The French’s favorite sandwich is losing ground, slowly but steadily,” the study said.

Boutboul said the burger frenzy started about a decade ago after three-star Michelin chef Yannick Alleno, based in Paris, won the New York Times’ award for the best burger in the world.

According to the consultant’s figures, half of the 2.4 billion sandwiches sold in 2017 were jambon-beurre.

“Despite a rise in the numbers of jambon-beurre consumed this year, long gone are the prosperous years,” the study said. “In 2012, the jambon-beurre market share was 62 percent. It lost more than 11 percent over five years.”

]]> 0, 21 Mar 2018 12:55:31 +0000
Persian New Year: Baha’i couple mark Nowruz with food, fasting and community service Wed, 21 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 Parivash Rohani stirred the chopped onions and bite-sized pieces of chicken sizzling in a large pot on the stovetop in her Portland kitchen. She was making fesenjan, a traditional Iranian stew with chicken, ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup, that is often served at the Persian New Year.

While she let the chicken and onions cook, Rohani pulled out a big jar of pomegranate syrup – so dark red it is almost brown – that her father brought to her from Iran. It was made by family friends who grow pomegranates in Ardestan, the city where Rohani was born. Rohani said it’s just pomegranate juice that’s been boiled – nothing is added, as might be in commercial syrups.

“Sometimes pomegranate is sour and we add a little bit of sugar, but this is good,” she said, tapping her stirring spoon on the side of the pot.

As many as 300 million people worldwide celebrate the Persian New Year, with dancing, food and other activities. Nowruz – which translates to “New Day” – begins on or around the spring equinox, which this year falls on March 21 in Iran, where the holiday originated centuries ago. The festivities last for 13 days, and typically include foods such as fesenjan and two other dishes Rohani made to go with it – an herb-and-egg dish called kookoo sabzi and Persian saffron rice, cooked until it develops a coveted crispy bottom layer, which is called the tahdig.

Nasser Rohani, Parivash’s husband, still remembers fighting with his siblings over the crispy bits when he was a child.

The Rohanis have not lived in Iran since the 1970s, but they still celebrate Nowruz (the Baha’i spell it Naw-Rúz) as a religious holiday that is an important part of their Baha’i faith. Rohani has been fasting since March 2 as part of her observance, and can’t eat until after sundown each day. “Many people think that Nowruz is important to us because we are from Iran,” she said. “But Baha’i is all over the globe.”

The National Iranian American Council estimates 228 Iranian-Americans live in Maine. Of those, Nasser Rohani estimates just 50 are Baha’is.

Rohani maintains a link with her native country through family and treasured possessions, such as a huge Persian cookbook, its binding falling apart, that her mother gave her when she married. She pulled it down from a shelf and thumbed through it. A few spots revealed handwritten notations she made years ago. She hasn’t used the book a lot, but certain recipes, such as an Iranian cake her daughter loves, became family favorites.

As she prepared the kookoo sabzi, she noted that “many, many people would have (this)” at the New Year. This afternoon, she decided to experiment with it – baking it in the oven in a muffin tin to make individual portions instead of cooking it on the stovetop as usual. Nasser, who loves to cook, rigorously stirred the herb-and-egg mixture.

“Mixing it so much will make it more fluffy,” he said.

The recipe serves eight, but Rohani says she loves it so much it only serves five in her household.


In Iran, preparations for the new year typically begin a month ahead.

“People do a lot of deep, deep cleaning – spring cleaning, really,” Rohani said. “And then you buy a lot of different sweets, or you bake a lot of different sweets. In some families, people come together and bake for days – rice cookies or chickpea cookies or pastry.”

Parivash Rohani has her husband, Nasser Rohani, taste-test rice while cooking a Nowruz meal. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Just as Christians buy a new Easter outfit every year, she said, Iranians splurge on new clothes to wear during Nowruz.

“When we were growing up we couldn’t wait for Nowruz because everything – your dress, your shoes, your socks – everything was brand new,” Rohani said. “You buy it in some families a month ahead, and then you go and look in the closet and say, ‘When is the new year coming? I want to wear my new dress.’ ”

On the Wednesday before the old year ends, people build fires and jump over them while singing a song, asking the fire to burn up their problems and give warmth and color to their lives.

Rohani left the fesenjan to bubble on the stove while she and her husband sat at her kitchen table to talk about the holiday. She cut up a honeydew melon for her guests but didn’t eat it herself since she was still fasting.

Although she has a recipe, she put the stew together without measuring anything, and she skipped the fenugreek and garlic chives listed as optional in her recipe because she doesn’t like them. While most Iranians cook with butter, Rohani prefers healthier olive oil.

A centerpiece of Nowruz is the Haft-Seen table, the couple explained. Families set a table with seven items that begin with the letter S. The items represent things that people hope to bring into the new year, such as garlic (seer) for health, dried fruit (senjed) for love, and vinegar (serkeh) for wisdom and patience.

Why the letter S? “There is not any rhyme or reason because it is more than 3,000 years old,” Rohani said.

Families also grow sprouts from lentils or some other plant for the table. The new growth must be a few inches long before Nowruz arrives.

“Iran is not a very green country,” Nasser Rohani said, “so to represent the coming of the new year, they have to show some green,”

Goldfish and money may also go on the table, along with a holy book for Muslims or Zoroastrians, or the Bible for Christians. People who are not religious often add a book of poetry.

The Haft-Seen table remains set for at least 10 days because after the equinox, families visit each other. The elderly give money – crisp, new bills – to the children who visit them. On the 13th day – the last day of the celebration – families go on a picnic.

“They have to picnic near a river – the flowing water – because it is a good omen to get the sprout thing and throw it in the water and make a wish,” Rohani said.


Persian New Year festivities are as lively as ever in Iran, Rohani said, because people view them as “an uprising against the government.”

“When the Islamic government took over, they wanted to get rid of all the traditional, important days because they didn’t want anything un-Islamic to exist and people enjoy it,” she said. But trying to ban holidays only made them more popular, and Persian New Year celebrations, especially, have blossomed.

Rohani was just 18 when the Iranian revolution broke out in 1979. She had planned to study law, but after the revolution Baha’is were not allowed to enter university, and if they were already enrolled, they were expelled.

Then her family’s home in Shiraz was burned down, and they lost everything overnight. Rohani and her two female cousins, ages 19 and 21, were sent to safety in India.

“After something so drastic, you don’t feel safe anymore,” Rohani said. “You feel like ‘my god, these are my people and none of them really stood beside me to defend me. How can I live here now?’ ”

After the revolution, 10 of Rohani’s friends – all Baha’i – were hanged.

Rohani stayed in India until 1986. There she met and married Nasser, who had come to India for an education, and the couple emigrated to California. They ultimately settled in Maine to be closer to her in-laws, who lived in New Brunswick at the time.

Rohani wasn’t taught to cook as a child. “When I was a girl, I was spoiled,” she said, but in India she and her cousins shared kitchen duties. Whoever got home from school first would start making dinner, “so we just learned by putting things together.”

Rohani eventually became a nurse, and a mom. She and Nasser have four adult children. Nasser recently retired after more than 30 years as a computer analyst at L.L. Bean.

It’s still not safe for Baha’is in Iran, Rohani said. A few months ago, her sister-in-law was arrested for holding a small religious meeting in her home. “She was in solitary confinement for a month,” Rohani said. “She was released on bail awaiting her sentence, and we are all really worried for her because she has a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old.”


When all of the dishes, including a salad Nasser made, were spread out on the family’s kitchen island for serving, it made for a colorful display – the dark red pomegranate, the green herbs, the yellow saffron in the rice. The herbs gave the kookoo sabzi an earthy flavor, while the fesenjen was both sweet and sour. And it was easy to see why children fight over the fun-to-eat crunchy bits of rice.

Parivash and Nasser Rohani cook food for a Nowruz meal. Staff photos by Brianna Soukup

After dinner, Rohani served tea in beautiful gold and glass teacups from Iran. A silver spoonholder shaped like a swan held small, ornate silver teaspoons.

Although the Rohanis still feast on traditional Persian New Year dishes, they no longer celebrate Persian New Year as a cultural holiday, partly because many of the traditional festivities seem outdated to them. Rohani cleans her house every day, she says, and she has plenty of clothes. She doesn’t set out a Haft-Seen table. When she was a child, her father was in the army and her family moved so often, and so unexpectedly, that her mother stopped doing it.

“It’s beautiful, and I admire people who are committed to do it,” she said, “but my mother was never committed, so I never grew up having that every year.”

But Rohani will continue fasting through March 25. And on Nowruz, she and her family will venture out to do some kind of service – visit the sick in the hospital or perhaps residents of a nursing home, collect money for the poor – to give back to the community.

“We both left Iran a long, long time ago and we are here,” Nasser Rohani said. “We are Americans now.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Rohani has her husband, Nasser Rohani, taste-test rice while cooking a Nowruz meal.Wed, 21 Mar 2018 11:38:52 +0000
‘Sex and the City’ star Cynthia Nixon makes first campaign appearance of governor’s bid Wed, 21 Mar 2018 00:18:34 +0000 NEW YORK — Newly announced New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon on Tuesday criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo, her Democratic primary opponent, for favoring corporations and the rich over average New Yorkers.

The liberal activist and “Sex and the City” actress took aim at Cuomo in her first official campaign appearance, telling the audience at the Bethesda Healing Center in Brooklyn that she had just made it to the event “in the nick of time” because of subway delays that she blamed on “Cuomo’s MTA.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority oversees the subways, and Cuomo controls the MTA. An MTA spokesman said on Twitter there had been a sick passenger.

Nixon went on to criticize inequality in the state, which she blamed on policy choices like tax cuts for corporations and wealthier New Yorkers, and called out corruption in state government.

“If Washington is a swamp, Albany is a cesspool,” she said. She cited a former Cuomo top aide, Joseph Percoco, who was convicted this month on federal bribery and fraud charges.

Cuomo was not accused of any wrongdoing, but the trial put a spotlight on Albany’s pay-to-play culture.

Nixon said she voted for Cuomo eight years ago in hopes of his being a “real Democrat” but that “New York’s eight years under the Cuomo administration have been an exercise in living with disappointment, dysfunction, and dishonesty.”

She said the state could have tackled a range of issues, from fully funding public schools to fixing the beleaguered subway system and enacting campaign finance reform.

]]> 0, 20 Mar 2018 21:40:22 +0000
That’s Sir Ringo, if you please: Beatles great is knighted Tue, 20 Mar 2018 23:49:45 +0000 LONDON — Call him Sir Ringo now, or Sir Richard to be more precise. Either way, it’s a fitting honor for the former Beatles drummer, who has waited decades for the recognition.

The 77-year-old Ringo Starr received his long-awaited knighthood from Prince William Tuesday. He used his real name Richard Starkey.

He said the honor “means a lot.”

The other surviving Beatle, Paul McCartney, was knighted in 1997.

“I had dinner with him last week and we were both actually laughing about where we came from, and we’ve ended up in the palace and it’s now Sir Paul and Sir Richard,” said Starr.

]]> 0 Starr is on tour with his All-Starr band, wrapping on July 2 in Los Angeles. He turns 76 on July 7.Tue, 20 Mar 2018 21:20:30 +0000
Watch: A Maine farm family takes us maple sugaring Tue, 20 Mar 2018 17:16:25 +0000 Videographer Roger McCord documents the making of maple syrup by the Parsons family in Gorham. Multiple generations of the family take us into the woods, introduce us to “The Bombadier” and share their history.

Maine Maple Sunday is March 25, when the Parsons will welcome the public to see their sugaring operation, as do many farmers in Maine. To get the full list of farms and their schedules, click here.

Find other fun spring activities at

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Watch: 102- and 100-year-old runners set world records Tue, 20 Mar 2018 15:33:00 +0000 If this doesn’t inspire people to get up and move, nothing will.

Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins, who is 102 years old and clearly still going strong, set the world record for the 60-meter dash in the women’s 100-plus age competition at 24.79. She was competing at the USA Track and Field Masters Indoor Championships this weekend in Landover, Maryland.

And Orville Rogers, 100, set a record in the 60 for men in the 100-plus age group at 19.13.

Rogers, who is from Dallas, also set a pending world age-group record in the 400 with a time of 4:16.90; his 60 time was 19.13. A World War II bomber pilot and former airline pilot, Rogers, who took up running when he was inspired at the age of 50 by Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s “Aerobics” book, overcame a 2011 stroke that temporarily paralyzed his left hand, foot and hip.

“How wonderful it is, how great it is, to be alive,” he told Dallas’ WFAA last December. “I really enjoy life.”

Rogers faced stiff competition from Roy Englert, a 95-year-old man from Springfield, Virginia, and Dixon Hemphill, a 93-year-old Fairfax, Virginia, man with whom he has a friendly running rivalry. Englert set a pending world record in the M95 3,000-meter race with a time of 26:52.17, breaking the previous mark by almost four minutes.

At 102, Hawkins, who is from Baton Rouge, is the oldest woman in the history of the USATF Championships. She was a cycling enthusiast for years, taking up competitive running when she was 100.

“I just like the feeling of being independent and doing something a little different and testing myself, trying to get better. I want to please my family is the other thing,” Hawkins told The Washington Post last summer. “Having a mama that can do this pleases them, and it pleases me to please them.”

]]> 0, 20 Mar 2018 12:49:43 +0000
Theater review: Gifted cast gives Mad Horse’s ‘Reasons’ an emotionally satisfying ride Tue, 20 Mar 2018 14:57:09 +0000 Playwright Neil LaBute has long been a controversial figure because of the extreme characterizations and themes in his work. His name would not generally be associated with the word “regular.” But that’s the word he chose to get the relationship wrecking ball swinging in his “Reasons to Be Pretty,” a gripping production of which is now running at Mad Horse Theatre.

The author is known for his talent in exposing the dangers hidden beneath the language of everyday life. So, when a young woman in this 2008 play goes into a rage after she learns that her boyfriend has referred to her looks as “regular,” it’s soon clear that there’s more there than can be easily resolved.

Marie Stewart-Harmon and Jake Cote as Steph and Greg. Photo by Craig Robinson

The initial confrontation is formidable, with Steph, played by Marie Stewart-Harmon, in boyfriend Greg’s face as the play opens. An obscenity-laced harangue devolves into an unbroken stream of obscene language as words fail her and the possibility of an amicable resolution fades.

Stewart-Harmon starts with a bracing screech but later compellingly traverses her character’s journey from pure flailing toward a sort of forgiving, though the force of her disquiet hangs in the air. Steph asserts she must “protect what I have.”

Greg, played by Jake Cote, is an affable, working-class guy with an intellectual bent who tries to smooth things over by offering a combination of puzzled apology and quick wit. Cote is exceptionally good in delivering Greg’s soft-spoken humor as the young man attempts to calm things down while also avoiding some hard truths.

Add to the mix the emerging troubles of Greg’s sexually wandering co-worker and pal Kent, played by Kelsey Anderson-Taylor, and Kent’s too easily objectified security guard wife, Carly, played by Allison McCall.

The discontents of the foursome make for a gloomy theatrical foundation. But it’s one that gradually gains light and warmth through the author’s apparent concern and the Mad Horse cast’s engaging performances.

Each character offers a telling monologue and Carly’s emphasizes the limitations of a focus on appearance when genuine communication is lost. “Beauty comes at a price,” she observes. This character’s problems may be the simplest, but perhaps for that reason, the most moving. The others earn a more measured compassion by the end.

Director Christopher Price has focused the minimally appointed production on the humanity that shines through as these conflicted characters uneasily move toward a more mature understanding.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

]]> 0 Stewart-Harmon and Jake Cote as Steph and Greg.Tue, 20 Mar 2018 11:05:21 +0000
Bento the Keyboard Cat dies at age 9. Condolences pour in. Tue, 20 Mar 2018 11:37:35 +0000 It’s nearly impossible to go online these days and not come across videos of cats swinging from ceiling fans or being scared by cucumbers. Cats litter Facebook and Snapchat and appear on social media accounts boasting hundreds of thousands of followers. The most successful Internet cat entrepreneurs can make tens of thousands of dollars each year from advertising and merchandising.

For those who watch these videos, however, it’s not about the money. For some, it’s about that warm fuzzy vibe that makes them feel “more positive” about life than they otherwise might, according to one academic study.

One of best-loved of these celebrity cats was Bento, an affable orange tabby more commonly known by his Internet moniker Keyboard Cat.

Bento lovers are now in mourning, however. He succumbed to liver cancer on March 8, his owner Charlie Schmidt told The Washington Post. Fans were alerted of his death when Schmidt, a Spokane, Washington-based artist, posted a touching tribute to YouTube Friday.

It’s important to note that Bento is the second Keyboard Cat and not the star of the original 2007 YouTube video, which went viral in 2009 and launched a synth-keyboard-playing feline into Internet stardom, the Spokesman-Review reported.

The first Keyboard Cat video – shot on VHS in 1984 then later digitized – features the musical talents of Schmidt’s other cat, Fatso, who passed away more than 20 years ago.

When Schmidt filmed the original video on a winter day long before YouTube even existed, he had no idea it would go viral and become a widely-circulated meme, used to document Internet fails, or embarrassing moments.

“I wasn’t aiming for anything except relieving my boredom,” he said in a phone interview Monday.

In fact, Schmidt said the inspiration for the video came from things he found lying around his house, which just happened to be his cat, a keyboard and an infant T-shift from JC Penny. (Having no baby, he still can’t explain why he had an infant shirt at home. In any case, it’s now framed and hanging in his office.)

So he was surprised when a video he describes as “low-resolution, poorly produced, badly framed [and] improvised,” became an overnight Internet sensation. The original video has since amassed more than 50 million views.

The meteoric rise of Fatso as the first Keyboard Cat inspired him to see if he could create more videos with another cat and “keep the spirit of Fatso alive.”

Enter Bento.

Adopted from a shelter in 2010, Schmidt said Bento, who bears a striking resemblance to his predecessor, shouldered the enormous responsibility of Internet fame without blinking an eye.

Three days after his adoption, Schmidt got out the keyboard and camera, and Bento became the star of “Keyboard Cat REINCARNATED!,” the first of many videos in which Bento was the leading cat.

“Trust me, not every cat in the world can do this or everybody would be and there would be a million Keyboard Cats,” Schmidt said, adding that Bento craved the attention.

Aside from YouTube, Bento has also appeared in a Wonderful Pistachios commercial and was featured in a campaign to encourage pet adoption from shelters. Schmidt also runs a merchandise store stocked with paraphernalia ranging from branded mugs to an animatronic stuffed toy.

The loss of such a prolific Internet celebrity has sent people around the world into a tailspin.

Since the tribute video was posted, Schmidt said Keyboard Cat’s social media channels and his own personal email have been inundated with condolence messages from around the world.

“I got an email today from people in South Africa who were asking me, ‘What do I do with my 6-year-old, he won’t stop crying,'” he said.

Many also took to Twitter to express their sorrow, resulting in their reactions being curated into a trending moment yesterday.

Users remembered Keyboard Cat, eulogizing him as a “hero” and a “legend.” Countless tweets included GIFs or photos of the cat playing the keyboard, or as one user described it “[tickling] the ivories with his gifted kitty paws.”

Even fellow Internet-famous cats expressed sympathies. “Rest in Peace Keyboard Cat,” said a Twitter post from the Grumpy Cat account.

Although the Internet is grieving the loss of a treasured meme, Schmidt said he lost a piece of himself.

“If I was on the computer, [Bento] was on the computer. If I was in the shower, he’d be on the bath mat,” he said. “It’s just like a legend, ‘Bento will not be without Charlie.'”

Bedtime, he said, is when he misses Bento the most.

“I’d just get in [bed] and he would snuggle up,” Schmidt said. “He would come really close and then put his paw on your arm. That was a good way to end a day.”

While he would prefer to just make a cup of soup, watch TV and process Bento’s death, Schmidt said he knows he has a responsibility to Keyboard Cat’s fans to carry on Bento’s legacy.

But, he has not yet decided if that means starting the search for a Keyboard Cat 3.0.

“I’m not doing any dating right now with cats, but it can happen,” he said.

]]> 0, 20 Mar 2018 09:39:17 +0000
Horoscopes for March 20, 2018 Tue, 20 Mar 2018 08:01:11 +0000 0, 19 Mar 2018 14:56:28 +0000 For TV food host Andrew Zimmern, Portland is the city of fatherly love Tue, 20 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000

Host Andrew Zimmern outside Duckfat in Portland last summer. Photo courtesy of Travel Channel

Usually when you see Andrew Zimmern hosting one of his globe-trotting TV shows, it’s all about the food.

But when a Portland-centric episode of his new show, “The Zimmern List,” airs Tuesday night, it’ll be largely about his dad.

“The whole episode is really an homage to him. I went to places that he first turned me on to,” Zimmern, 56, said Monday from his home in Minnesota. “It was a very poignant and personal episode for me. I think it’s one of the better pieces I’ve done for television.”

Andrew Zimmern at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset last summer. Photo courtesy of Travel Channel

Robert Zimmern, who died in 2015 at the age of 89, lived the last 10 years of his life near Portland’s Back Cove. The younger Zimmern came often to visit his father and his father’s husband, the painter Andre Laporte. Both were fans of good food and helped Zimmern discover the wonders of Portland’s food landscape.

“Before my father moved there the only restaurant I’d been to was Fore Street. But when they lived there it was like having an advance team for the show, finding all the best places for me,” said Zimmern.

The episode will air Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on Travel Channel. The new series focuses on Zimmern’s favorite food cities and favorite foods. He said Monday that Portland is “one of the places I consider home,” along with Minneapolis, where he lives full time, and New York, where he grew up and where his career as a chef took off. He also attended summer camp in Raymond as a youngster and says he continues to visit Maine at least a couple of times a year. When in Maine, he likes sailing, exploring beaches and taking drives through the mountains.

Zimmern is probably best known for his long-running Travel Channel show “Bizarre Foods,” where he introduces viewers to delicacies like buffalo heart or ant eggs. That show has been on since 2006. He says he was introduced to the pleasures of exotic food and travel by his father, who worked in advertising and took his son all over the world with him. “The Zimmern List” made its debut March 13.

For the episode airing Tuesday, Zimmern visited Maine last summer and spent a few days chowing on his favorite local foods. He grabbed a box of doughnuts at The Holy Donut in the Old Port, munched fries at Duckfat and also visited Miyake and Fore Street. He grabbed a whoopie pie at Two Fat Cats Bakery, but says he thinks that scene was cut from the episode because of time constraints.

Andrew Zimmern and his big box of doughnuts outside The Holy Donut in Portland’s Old Port last summer. Photo courtesy of Travel Channel

He also ventured outside of Portland for lobster, at Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown and Red’s Eats in Wiscasset.

He also filmed at Standard Baking Co. on Commercial St., a spot he’d visit daily when he was in town to see his father and stepfather. Zimmern said his stepfather was particularly fond of baguettes. Every day, no matter what he got for himself, Zimmern always bought two baguettes. During the filming, he talked about the breakfast treats he loves at Standard Baking Co., bought some and began walking out the door. When he got near the camera he realized he had also bought two baguettes, out of habit.

“I just started crying,” said Zimmern. “I was buying bread for people who were no longer living.”

His stepfather died less than a year before his father did, Zimmern said.

Zimmern also does business in Maine. He has worked with Gryffon Ridge Spice Merchants in Litchfield to create spice blends for his online shop, inspired by places he’s traveled.

Andrew Zimmern samples fries with the staff at Duckfat during filming in Portland last summer for “The Zimmern List,” a Travel Channel show about his favorite foods and food cities. Zimmern’s father, who died in 2015, introduced him to Portland’s food scene. Photo courtesy of Travel Channel

While in Portland, Zimmern was impressed with how much the food scene has grown since he started coming here to visit his father, around 2005. At Duckfat, he asked lots of questions about the local cream, eggs, hogs and potatoes used to create the menu.

“It’s interesting that in a state so known for lobster, there are also some of the best cheesemakers and farmers,” said Zimmern.

A couple of weeks before his father died, Zimmern took him out to eat at Back Bay Grill. Robert Zimmern, who at that point was in a wheelchair and didn’t get out much, had been a regular there and considered it his neighborhood spot for great food. When they sat down, Zimmern’s father asked to say hello to the general manager, but he was off. Later in the meal, the general manager, called at home by staff, showed up to say hello and chat with his longtime loyal customer.

“That reminded me that it’s the people that make a restaurant special,” said Zimmern. “I keep going back to Maine because I love the people and because of the way the place makes me feel. And the fact that the food is spectacular.”

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

Twitter: @RayRouthier

]]> 0 Zimmern outside of Two Fat Cats in Portland. He visited the bakery for an episode of the Travel Channel's "The Zimmern List" airing Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. Photo courtesy of Travel ChannelTue, 20 Mar 2018 12:34:43 +0000
John Oliver answers Pences’ bunny book with his own, alternate version Tue, 20 Mar 2018 01:36:58 +0000 NEW YORK – John Oliver has trolled his way to the top.

The HBO host’s spoof of a new picture book by the wife and daughter of Vice President Mike Pence was No. 1 on and out of stock as of midday Monday.

“Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of a Vice President” is a tribute to the Pence family’s beloved rabbit. It was written by the vice president’s daughter, Charlotte Pence, and illustrated by his wife, Karen Pence.

Oliver’s book, which he announced over the weekend, is called “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo.” The story is the same, almost: This Marlon Bundo has fallen for a male bunny.

“There are a few small differences between the two books,” Oliver said on his show, noting Pence’s opposition to gay marriage and other LGBTQ rights. “This is a sweet story about Marlon Bundo falling in love.”

Published by Chronicle Books, the parody was written by “Last Week” contributor Jill Twiss and illustrated by EG Keller. Proceeds are being donated to The Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth, and AIDS United.

It’s not the only current best-seller inspired by the Trump administration. No. 2 on Amazon was James Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty,” the upcoming memoir by the FBI director fired last year by President Trump. At No. 3 on Monday was “Russian Roulette,” in which Michael Isikoff and David Corn investigate Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

The Pence book, meanwhile is a best-seller, too, ranked No. 11 on Amazon.

]]> 0, 20 Mar 2018 08:38:44 +0000
Tribeca Festival to host reunions for two films Mon, 19 Mar 2018 21:31:05 +0000 NEW YORK — The 25th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” and the 35th anniversary of Brian De Palma’s “Scarface” will be celebrated with reunion screenings at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The New York festival announced Monday that Spielberg will join Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and Embeth Davidtz for a post-screening conversation April 26 at the Beacon Theatre. The “Scarface” event will reunite De Palma, Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer on April 19 at the Beacon Theatre.

The festival will also host an anniversary screening of 1992’s “In the Soup,” an acclaimed independent film directed by Alexandre Rockwell. The largely forgotten release, starring Steve Buscemi and Seymour Cassel, has been restored after a Kickstarter campaign to repair the remaining, damaged print.

Also slated for on-stage interviews at Tribeca are Bradley Cooper, Jamie Foxx, Spike Lee and Alec Baldwin. The festival runs April 18-29.

]]> 0 25th anniversary of Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List" will be celebrated with a reunion.Mon, 19 Mar 2018 17:31:05 +0000
‘On the catwalk… Oh on the catwalk, yeah. I do my little turn on the catwalk.’ Sun, 18 Mar 2018 23:17:31 +0000 AUGUSTA — As they walked into the Augusta Armory on Sunday, Manny and Alexia Ortega weren’t planning to leave with a cat, but it was not a certainty that they wouldn’t.

The Ortegas, with their children Ben and Carmen, drove from Alfred to Augusta for the final day of the Nauticats Annual Cat Show, a show of The International Cat Association.

People came from as far away as Texas and Canada to show their cats over the three-day event, which also promotes cat adoption and care.

Inside the main hall, Brigitte Pouliot and her sister were preparing the five cats they brought from Montreal for judging. Hers are Persians, and she brought along an American short hair to show for a friend.

Pouliot, who is a senior marketing director for a real estate company, has been breeding Anouchka Persians as a hobby for more than a decade and routinely travels to show them.

“What I want is my line, which is Anouchka, to be recognized as a championship line,” Pouliot said.

One of them, Adelaide, a 9-month-old calico, has already been ranked as a supreme grand champion as an adult, and is currently the 20th best kitten in the world, although that might change before the end of the season in April.

“It’s quite spectacular that she has been able to achieve the supreme grand champion title, which is the highest in TICA, in only two shows because it usually takes four, five or six shows to do it,” Pouliot said.

In competition, cats are considered kittens until they are seven months, 30 days old. Pouliot said she’s continuing to show Adelaide to improve her ranking to one of the best cats in the region.

Showing cats is a way for Pouliot to compare her cats with others and to confirm her breeding program is heading in the right direction.

The International Cat Association bills itself as the fastest-growing registry of pedigreed cats in the world, and is the world’s largest genetic registry of pedigreed cats.

Donna Madison, northeast regional director for TICA and one of the judges for the Augusta show, speaks in the verbal shorthand of the standards of the cat world. For the Persians she was judging, she was looking for a cobby body – one that’s sturdy and muscular – a short tail, small ears and a flat face. She demonstrated the flatness of the face by holding a finger against the face of the cat she was judging.

“We’re looking for roundedness and big eyes,” Madison said. “Very big eyes.”

Both pedigreed and household pets are judged, and they are subject to the rules and regulations of the association. But it’s not all about the competition.

“We have classes for kids where they learn to take care of their kitties,” Madison said.

Some of the cats shown are rescue cats, Madison said, and cats are available for adoption at the shows.

The association also promotes spaying and neutering programs and a cat therapy program.

The shows draw people from all over. In past years, contestants have come from overseas, she said, but none traveled that far this year.

Madison said despite the competition, friendships are made and communities are built. In her years of showing, she has made friends from all over the United States.

“I always have someone to go have dinner with,” she said.

The Ortegas have two cats at home already, 14-month-old litter mates Blizzard and Zap. Both are white with bi-color eyes – one blue and one amber – and one has extra toes; the family refers to them as oven mitts.

Manny Ortega said the drive to the show was a perfect family outing for a Sunday.

The question of adding a cat to the family had not been wholly decided, but Ben and Carmen were excited at the prospect.

Alexia Ortega has had a Maine Coon cat in the past and has a soft spot for them.

“You’re the one who brought it up,” Alexia Ortega told her husband as they walked into the show.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:;

Twitter: @JLowellKJ;

]]> 0 Pouliot brushes a feline before showing it at the cat show in Augusta.Mon, 19 Mar 2018 08:25:43 +0000
Vandalized mural by artist Banksy drawing crowds in New York City Sun, 18 Mar 2018 23:05:45 +0000 NEW YORK — British graffiti artist Banksy is drawing crowds to his New York City mural, but for an unfortunate reason.

It seems somebody has added a signature tag to his artful protest of the imprisonment of a Turkish artist and journalist. Plenty of pedestrians were getting a look Saturday at the signings scrawled across the bottom half of his 70-foot-long mural.

The mural bearing the slogan “Free Zehra Dogan” was recently installed on the Houston Bowery Wall, made famous by Keith Haring in the late 1970s.

The mural protests the jailing of Dogan, an ethnic Kurd, after she painted the Turkish flag flying over the rubble of a destroyed town. Dogan, was convicted last March.

Banksy’s mural shows her jailed behind a set of black tally marks representing her days in prison.

]]> 0 Sun, 18 Mar 2018 19:23:24 +0000
Ava DuVernay’s unprecedented journey to ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Sun, 18 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Ava DuVernay didn’t pick up a camera until the age of 32.

It’s an extraordinary fact, considering the trajectories of most Hollywood directors. Orson Welles filmed “Citizen Kane” at 25. Steven Spielberg was 27 when he made “Jaws.” A 23-year-old John Singleton directed “Boyz N the Hood.”

It was already doubtful that DuVernay could jump from a career in film marketing and publicity so late and without even a film degree to back her up. That she is also a black woman made it even more unlikely.

But in just 13 years, DuVernay has successfully and improbably risen to the upper echelons of the entertainment industry, as a filmmaker, producer and agent of change, breaking down barriers and smashing ceilings wherever she sets her sights.

Now, at 45, she has an Oscar-nomination (for the documentary “The 13th”), a historic Golden Globe nomination (for “Selma” she was the first black female director to get that recognition) and has also become the first woman of color to get over $100 million to make a live-action movie. That film, “A Wrinkle in Time,” with its $103 million production budget, is now in theaters.

The Walt Disney Co. acquired the rights to Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery Medal-winning 1962 novel in 2010, and it went through various writers and budget points. The story about an awkward 13-year-old girl, Meg Murry, who travels through time and space, was a notoriously unwieldy one that carried the dreaded “un-filmable” stigma.

“I was shocked that they called me,” says DuVernay. “I’d done ‘Selma’ and ‘The 13th.’ How did they even think that would work? But they did. And when they said I could make her a girl of color, it just grabbed my whole heart.”

DuVernay set off to do the impossible – make a big budget, kids-targeted sci-fi blockbuster with an unknown 13-year-old black actress (Storm Reid, now 14) as the lead.

“I think it’s incredible that Disney made the decision to hire Ava on this and gave her the creative control to cast whoever she wanted,” says Reese Witherspoon, who co-stars in the film as one of the mystical “Mrs.” alongside Oprah Winfrey and Mindy Kaling.

This image released by Disney shows Storm Reid, from left, Deric McCabe and Reese Witherspoon in a scene from “A Wrinkle In Time.” Associated Press/Atsushi Nishijima/Disney

Winfrey, Witherspoon and Kaling, all hardworking multi-hyphenates themselves, marveled at DuVernay’s tireless work ethic and attention to detail. Once she even sent costume designer Paco Delgado back to hand paint hundreds of eyes on one of Winfrey’s costumes because that’s what she had seen in the concept drawing.

“I was like, ‘I think it’s fine without the eyes? I think it’s ok!’ Winfrey recalled.

DuVernay laughed that Winfrey recounted that moment.

“She came out and everyone applauded for the dress and it was extraordinary,” DuVernay explains. “But I looked and I said, ‘Well on the sketch there were little eyes. Where are those?’ And he was like, ‘Well this looks good too.’ And I’m like, ‘Well let’s go take a look at that anyway.”

Asking for what she needs, and wants, is something DuVernay has learned as she’s gotten older.

“Film is forever,” she says. “It’s cemented. You’ve got to do it right now and it’s got to be the best it can be. So, let’s go back and put the eyes on the dress.”

Witherspoon says she has never met a director who spends so much time talking about others: Acknowledging everyone’s contributions in a cast and crew of hundreds, and then spending weekends talking about other people’s work too, from Patty Jenkins to Ryan Coogler.

DuVernay always has something in the works. She’s afraid if she slows down, it might all go away.

“I just feel like I have a short window in this industry. There is no precedent for a black woman making films consistently. There are beautiful black women directors but there are seven-year, six-year gaps between them,” she says. “Even though people tell me it’s ok, I think it’s all going to stop tomorrow. I want to do as much as I can do when I can. It’s not unreasonable, you know? Tomorrow they can say, `No we don’t want you to make movies anymore.”‘

And indeed there is still that idea that female filmmakers are not given second chances, even when they succeed. It’s something DuVernay thinks about often.

“I look at Guy Ritchie. That guy is bulletproof,” she says. “He can make something that doesn’t work. The next week he’s the director of another thing. I look at him and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s fantastic.’ But that wouldn’t have been Patty Jenkins and it won’t be me.”

“Wrinkle” is a film that is first and foremost for children ages 8 to 12, DuVernay says. Before a screening she asked the audience to try to watch it through the eyes of a child – an unusual request for something from an already very kid-friendly studio like Disney, which makes films for the younger set that nonetheless appeal to a wide swath of ages.

And it’s the film she wanted to make, for the 12-year-old her, and for someone like Kaling, who says that she always loved sci-fi but that it never loved her back.

“I’ll always direct things but who knows if that price point ever comes again. I’m ok with that. This is a big swing,” DuVernay says. “But the chance to put a black girl in flight? I will risk it. I risk it for those images. It may not hit now, but somewhere a Mindy Kaling, a chubby girl with glasses and brown skin will see it and it will mean something. Or, a Caucasian boy will see how a black girl says, ‘Do you trust me’ and the Caucasian boy says, ‘I trust you,’ and he follows her. Just to plant that seed and say that’s ok, you can follow a girl? Those images? I’ll risk it. I’ll risk it for that.”

]]> 0 DUVERNAYFri, 16 Mar 2018 16:27:59 +0000
Society Notebook: Women of all colors and cultures come together for a fashion show Sun, 18 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 It’s a small world after all – at least at the annual Women United Around the World Gala at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland.

“We’re not a melting pot. We’re a mixed salad,” said incoming board member Lana Wichmann, an immigrant from South Africa. “Fashion is a universal language that crosses the language barrier. No one needs to explain. We’re all proud of where we came from.”

The ninth annual multi-ethnic dinner and international fashion show March 3 raised $5,000 to support industrial sewing classes for immigrant women in the Greater Portland area, helping them find work with bridal shops or manufacturers or go into business for themselves. The evening’s entertainment began with dance performances reflecting cultures from around the world, from Colombia to China to Sudan. Then 30 local women walked the runway. Most were not models but immigrants, proudly sharing traditional clothing from their motherlands, from Burundi to the Philippines.

“It’s amazing how people’s traditional dress can unite different cultures in Maine,” said Alain Nahimana, executive director of Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center.

Following the International Women’s Day 2018 theme of Press for Progress, four local women were honored with Press for Progress Awards at the gala. The honorees were Beth Stickney, co-founder of Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project; Odette Bowman, founding director of A Company of Girls, a nationally recognized after-school program; Magnifique Butera, a Congolese immigrant who founded The Children’s House childcare center in Portland; and Zoe Sahloul, founder and executive director of New England Arab American Organization.

Sahloul commented that each of the nominees is working to bring diverse Mainers together and to encourage women to be role models for their families and communities.

“We all come in different colors, with different religions, representing different communities and political affiliations,” said Sahloul, who escaped civil war in Lebanon. “But we can come together in peace and work with each other in a way that gives back to the community. We all work separately but also in partnership.”

“This is a crucial time for us all,” said Adele Ngoy, a Congolese immigrant who founded Women United Around the World, owns Antoine’s Tailor Shop and volunteers to teach industrial sewing classes. “Women are a force for change.”

“Look around, these women here have endured much, many escaping danger, even death, seeking freedom, arriving with only the clothes on their backs,” said event emcee Tory Ryden. “You are beautiful women, and we are humbled by your strength and resilience.”

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

]]> 0 Beri, an immigrant from South Sudan, and Magnifique Butera, director of The Children's House childcare center.Wed, 14 Mar 2018 16:11:03 +0000
Book review: How Picasso’s ‘she-devils’ changed art forever Sun, 18 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 An “exorcism painting.”

That’s how Pablo Picasso described “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” what some experts consider the first example of cubism and all acknowledge as a primary portal to modernism.

Created in 1907, the painting was so revolutionary that it rattled the artist himself. Picasso rolled up the canvas and stashed it away, stung by peers’ scorn and wrung out by the eight months he’d spent conjuring it in his seedy Montmartre studio. Only Georges Braque, with whom Picasso would soon share an uncharacteristically cooperative partnership, quickly gleaned the canvas’ utter originality. It took years for the cognoscenti to reckon with and admire the way this remarkable work shattered and reconstituted artistic paradigms.

“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” is a group portrait of five prostitutes in a brothel. Its semi-sensical planes are spliced and splintered. The figures’ primitive, angular proportions are wildly distorted, echoing ancient Iberian sculptures Picasso had seen at the Louvre, and the two women on the right have faces reflective of African masks that the artist admired. A platter of fruit in the foreground is stony, a curiously off-putting emblem of what should be inviting.

“Les Demoiselles” is “a cathartic painting, a great cry of lust, anger, anguish, and release – a form of black magic in which Picasso summons his demons in order to vanquish them,” writes Miles J. Unger in “Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World.” Unger, a culture writer for the Economist who has also written books on Michelangelo and Winslow Homer, closely chronicles Picasso’s painful but liberating exorcism, the social and aesthetic factors that contributed to it, and the cubism it messily birthed.

If you’re an art lover, this is an engrossing read. Unger draws not just from his own wide knowledge and considered taste but from an imposing array of journals, memoirs, biographies and periodicals. From these he offers a historically and psychologically rich account of the young Picasso and his coteries in Barcelona and Paris.

The author escorts us into the painter’s bare-bones studio, so cold in winter that tea froze in its cup. We accompany the volatile, sparkling-eyed charmer to the slummy muraled cafes and dance halls where artists, writers, journalists and models drank, flirted and quarreled. We stroll the dark streets where muggers lurked in wait for day-trippers eager to sample the hillside Montmartre demimonde on Paris’ periphery. We venture into town to visit the cluttered storefront galleries of sometimes unscrupulous art dealers, and the erudite but combative enclaves of prescient collectors like the Steins.

Picasso was stirred by symbolism, fauvism and the stylistic innovations of, among others, El Greco, Ingres and Cézanne. He was energized by the street-savvy renderings of Toulouse-Lautrec and taken with the winsome savage innocence of Gauguin and, to some degree, Henri Rousseau. He responded also to the literary currents of the time, channeled through André Salmon, Guillaume Apollinaire and other writer friends. But most of all, Picasso wanted to be like no one else. Fiercely competitive, he amplified ugliness to counter the prettiness of his professorial arch-frenemy Henri Matisse. Their quest to be at the sword’s tip of the avant-garde inspired and exhausted them both.

Given his later fame and wealth, it’s easy to forget that Picasso’s first journeys to Paris to become an artist ended with his retreat to Spain, seeking handouts and reassurance from his family even as he ridiculed their parochialism.

But by 1907, Picasso’s Paris buyers had finally come around to the melancholy blue-period paintings redolent of death and mourning after the suicide of his artist and poet friend Carlos Casagemas. Aficionados were also embracing the opium-warmed reveries of Picasso’s rose period. Any other painter, in that situation, would have simply kept churning out those sought-after blues and roses. Finally, a signature style!

Not Picasso.

Though self-centered, calculating, jealous and sometimes cruel, he was also truly visionary – or, more accurately, in an unrelenting quest for whatever vision came next, as long as it was altogether original. With “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” he ruptured the planes of the two-dimensional canvas. In affinity with Cézanne, he asserted the painting as an object in itself, not a mere rendering of objects.

“Les Demoiselles” tore apart and reordered reality, turning a traditional sensual motif into a grotesque, scary grouping of angular naked forms that bust every which way out of their frame, sexually confusing and intimidating us while testing our visual sanity. Unger and others see the work as, among other things, a nightmarish vision of venereal disease, with which Picasso may well have had some experience.

“The women themselves may be singularly unsexy,” Unger writes, “but the rhythmic push and pull to which space is subjected diffuses the erotic charge across the entire surface of the canvas – an instance of what Freud would term polymorphous perversity, i.e., the childish impulse to seek gratification in all sensation.”

“Working mostly at night in the cramped, filthy, ill-lit studio,” he writes, “this man, who thrived on conviviality, was forced to become a solitary pilgrim to a goal he could not see and could barely even imagine. … For weeks on end, these ‘monsters’ were practically Picasso’s only companions as his friends fled and his domestic life spiraled downward.”

Readers enamored of this crucial moment in art history might complement Unger’s detailed telling with the more panoramic and accessible “In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art,” by Sue Roe. The two books together – Unger’s in close-up, Roe’s in the broad view – wonderfully capture how Picasso’s personal history, temperament and aesthetic development combined with the revolutionary currents in turn-of-the-century Parisian culture to bring about this unforgettable depiction of five primordial she-devils, a painting that Picasso’s writer friend André Salmon called “the incandescent crater from which emerged the fire of present art.”

]]> 0"Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" by Pablo Picasso.Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:34:13 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Sweet (sometimes too much so), whimsical New England-y small plates at Moxy in Portsmouth Sun, 18 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 The woman behind me at Moxy asked her question a few seconds after she accidentally set fire to a cloth napkin. She and her dining companion flapped the flaming rag through the air in a panic before eventually dropping it on the floor and stomping it into a smoldering mess. Everyone’s eyes were suddenly on them. Everyone’s ears, too, because we all heard her take a calming breath, then inquire with a laugh, “So, now that I’ve got your attention: How many of those dishes would you order again?”

Her friend waved a little smoke away and started tabulating plates on his fingers. I also saw diners at neighboring tables turn back to their food and boot up their own mental calculators.

When you think about it, the ratio of good-to-bad dishes is a pretty good metric of success for a restaurant that gives patrons a chance to taste many small plates over the course of a few hours, rather than just one or two larger items.

“We ate seven things,” our neighbor finally replied. “I’d probably eat four of them again.”

But knowing that chef/owner Matt Louis has been a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Northeast award an impressive four consecutive years running, that seemed like a low number to me – almost certainly one he would find disappointing.

Louis, who trained with Thomas Keller at Bouchon, The French Laundry and eventually at New York’s Per Se, returned to his home state of New Hampshire a little over a decade ago. After a stint at the Wentworth by the Sea hotel, he and local restaurant developer Jay McSharry opened Moxy in a quirky building in Portsmouth’s Historic District in May 2012. “I actually don’t know if there are any right angles in the entire space, but that just adds a lot of personality to it,” Louis said.

Exposed brick walls painted teal, orange and yellow add to the sense of playfulness throughout the restaurant and prime customers for an unorthodox perspective on small-plates dining. Louis calls his approach “Not Spanish. It’s modern American, with a focus on northern New England history, culture and foodstuffs,” and that’s an accurate enough description. He omits that, with close ties to local food producers, Moxy could just as easily be marketed as a farm-to-table restaurant.

But doing so might risk making the place sound too serious and strip away a little of Moxy’s carefully cultivated whimsy. You can see it in menu categories such as “one fish, two fish,” “clean plate club,” and “bigger & interactive.” It’s also there in occasionally kooky ingredient pairings that go a step too far, yielding tapas you can imagine being served in a carnival funhouse.

Take the cauliflower and carrots ($9), for example. When it arrives at the table, it looks like a straightforward, wintery roasted-vegetable dish made with local overwintered carrots, shaved Tomme cheese and boiled cider, a traditional New England reduction that makes a lively substitute for maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. But dig in, and you discover that every bite also smuggles in an unwelcome stowaway: chunks of an oat-and-pumpkin-seed crumble that tastes exactly like granola. It’s as if someone sprinkled cereal over dinner.

Bizarre contrasts also confuse the hasty pudding frites ($5), essentially fried polenta cubes topped with dueling swirls of molasses BBQ sauce and buttermilk ranch dressing – a combination straight out of someone’s pregnancy-cravings diary.

Or the still-crunchy multicolored Maine carrots ($6), drizzled with pink peppercorn vinaigrette and served in a clear glass bowl coated with an unattractive pink smear of whipped beet yogurt. The kitchen stirs shards of a buttery sunflower seed brittle into the carrots, offering extra crunch that the dish simply does not need. Worse, the brittle tips the equilibrium of the dish toward the too-sweet.

Unfortunately, an excess of sweetness diminishes several of Moxy’s dishes. In the chili pepper cornbread ($4), the restaurant’s homegrown pepper blend adds a hefty mule-kick of heat, but even that isn’t enough to counterbalance the sugar in the batter, not to mention the accompanying maple butter that tastes like cake frosting.

Perhaps the biggest misfire comes from one of the most promising dishes, the caramelized ricotta ($6). Here, Louis and his team take charred onions, top them with a quenelle of their outstanding housemade ricotta – smooth from the addition of heavy cream and a little wild from buttermilk – and serve them together with shatteringly crisp cornmeal crackers as thin as sheets of Airmail stationery. Had they left the dish there, it would have been one of the best items on the menu. Instead, they treat the ricotta like a crème brûlée, showering it with sugar that is torched into a candy shell. It’s overkill, especially with the sweet, softened onions already on the plate.

Even the restaurant’s most popular dish, short rib marmalade ($9), suffers a bit from too much sweetness introduced when the slow-braised beef is shredded and cooked down with shallots, sugar and red wine vinegar. Luckily, the elements still work together, more or less in harmony, thanks to savory components like pickled red onions and a pungent cow’s milk bleu cheese from Brookford Farm in Canterbury, New Hampshire.

Beef short rib marmalade, the restaurant’s most popular dish, features savory components like pickled red onions and a pungent cow’s milk bleu cheese.

The menu’s more savory dishes are, by and large, its most successful ones. One, the Misty Knoll Farms chicken thighs ($14), is a New England-style tribute to David Chang’s now-famous bo ssam lettuce wraps that he serves at Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York. Whereas Chang’s wraps are Korean and sizable enough to feed three people, Louis’s are no bigger than a large appetizer and feature pan-seared chicken thighs, herbed crème fraîche, housemade hot sauce and crispy slivers of fried onion.

Another homage, Moxy’s mini red hot dogs ($11), made with local pork from Breezy Hill Farm in South Berwick, are a riff on traditional Spanish bocadillos, the small sandwiches that appear on practically every traditional tapas menu. “I figured, if we’re going to make little hot dogs for our bocadillos, and we’re a mile away from Maine, we should make them red,” Louis said. Served on miniature challah buns and dressed with local cheddar and a streak of bacon-and-Fresno-chili jam, they make perfect conceptual sense and, much more importantly, are a pleasure to eat.

Pastry chef Tyler Elliott’s chewy, molasses-flavored hermit cookie triangles ($8) also fit right in with Moxy’s efforts to anchor its dishes in New England history and tradition. Hermits used to be known for their ability to keep for weeks, or even months, but my dinner guest and I didn’t give Elliott’s a chance to showcase that particular strength. We polished ours off quickly with dripping spoonfuls of the accompanying spiced rum ice cream.

Still, when I think back to my recent meal at Moxy, one dish – probably the simplest thing I ate that night – stands out. Crispy, deep-fried Rhode Island calamari rings and tentacles dredged in buttermilk and breaded in a half-and-half mixture of corn starch and all-purpose flour ($8). “When I was doing my research for Moxy, I looked way back in time,” Louis said. “But for that dish, I had to look at modern times. It’s what (chef and New England food expert) Jasper White told me to do. Not directly, but through his cookbook.” Uncomplicated, as the best tapas usually are, and paired with a bracingly tart, chunky piccalilli, it’s a dish that I would very happily order again and again.

Andrew Ross has written about food in the United Kingdom and in New York, where he co-founded NYCnosh, a food website. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is an internet researcher and higher education consultant. Contact him at:

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

]]> 0 triangles are accompanied by a scoop of spiced rum ice cream.Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:38:13 +0000
Art review: Work by world-class couple evokes a physical response Sun, 18 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 “Rona Pondick and Robert Feintuch: Heads, Hands, Feet; Sleeping, Holding, Dreaming, Dying” at the Bates College Museum of Art is profound, engaging, disturbing and exciting. It’s also almost over and likely will be the best show in Maine this year, so don’t miss it.

Feintuch is a Bates professor and has work in the collection of the Portland Museum of Art. But don’t get the wrong idea. Feintuch is a New York artist who commutes, and the chance to see his work is rare in these parts.

“Heads,” in fact, is a much rarer opportunity than one might think: While Pondick and Feintuch are a married couple who met at the Yale University School of Art in 1975, this is their first major two-person show, and Feintuch’s first at Bates.

Despite his local footing, Feintuch is an important international artist. Both he and Pondick show with Sonnabend Gallery in the U.S. and across the pond, but she is a worldwide art star – and for good reason. Her sculpture, which combines human and animal elements, is striking, uncomfortably odd and powerful. It’s also some of the best crafted sculpture I have ever seen – and that purview includes classical sculpture that I studied in Europe.

Pondick’s “Wallaby,” for example, is a smooth-as-glass stainless steel with a stylized wallaby body, a tiny human head and a full-size human forearm as its left arm. The figure’s tail juts out straight, making it about 4 feet long. The subtle right bend in the tiny human neck and its gesture down to the left betray a deep understanding of Mannerist painting – the hyper-sophisticated affected style that immediately followed the High Renaissance. The creature seems to be aware of its own disproportion, the monstrosity of its own human arm.

The viewer’s response to a work like “Wallaby” (and therefore any of Pondick’s works) is a blend of physical revulsion and amazed captivation. The Freudian term for this type of oddity is “the uncanny” – a primary vehicle of Surrealism. To encounter something uncanny is to encounter something that is questionably alive. Moreover, this type of psychological response is palpably physical to the viewer, and the physicality of the viewer’s mental response is a basic element to the work of both Pondick and Feintuch.

Sonnabend Gallery, New York; Zevitas/Marcus Gallery, Los Angeles; and the artist
“Wallaby,” by Rona Pondick, 2007-12, stainless steel, 24 by 44 x 10 inches. Photo courtesy of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London/Paris/Salzburg;

And while both are technical virtuosos, Pondick’s sense of sculptural finish moves beyond virtually anything in America. Maine museums have plenty of great painting. But we don’t have sculpture like Pondick’s. We see this in her work across finishes: Her strongest works include a milk-perfect, forward-facing painted bronze beaver with a human head, a cast rubber splay-legged marmot with the same close-eyed head hugging the ground with mismatched human hands for arms, and the bizarre rust-colored “Untitled Animal” that looks like a big cat crawling into being from a discarded human leg.

Feintuch’s abilities appear more easily in his earlier works. “Standing with Newspaper” (2007) features a bald standing man seen in profile with his head bent forward, wearing only (white) shorts, holding a newspaper in his near hand. Behind him a simple table remains only partially painted. Feintuch’s touch with acrylic emulsions rivals that of the best watercolorists. The wall behind and the absent shorts act like the white of watercolor paper. The reductive scene gets complicated with open form. It’s a masterwork of feigned simplicity.

Feintuch’s newer work incorporates the sense of volume in a way that activates our physical (rather than just visual) response. We see “Fat Hercules” (2011), for example, from behind. He is bloated, soft-pink from disuse and propped up by a crutch at his side and another at his lower back. Next to the butt crutch is a cudgel Hercules also hides behind his back. The club has a double effect: It reminds us of his offensive ferocity, but also of his personal need to make up for the deficits of his befallen state. As both a potent phallic stand-in and a sign of his increasing impotence, it’s a mixed message.

Pondick’s figures are similarly complex, and she competently spreads out in several directions. Her “Dog” combines a seemingly symmetrical (but nothing here is so simple) and highly-polished yellow stainless steel dog body with a close-to-life-sized human head – a leitmotif of Pondick’s work that, with its closed eyes, we should take as a self-portrait of Pondick’s own head. (It’s also the main event in the little “Mouse,” among others.) It’s part sphinx, part watchdog and part nightmare. The closed eyes hint at the process of casting a person’s head, but also at dreams or death, an idea that carries over to Feintuch’s most iconic works.

“Legs Up,” by Robert Feintuch, 2013, polymer emulsion on honeycomb panel, 28 by 36 inches. Photo courtesy of Sonnabend Gallery, New York; Zevitas/Marcus Gallery, Los Angeles; and the artist

“Legs Up” (2013) might be Feintuch’s most complete image. Clouds occupy the center of the image, with a soft blue sky above and ground-like clouds below. (He is a cloud master.) Between the two layers of cloud is a sliver of a man’s torso and head with a pointing-fingered hand at the edge. Rhetorical gestures such as this hand were a mainstay of Renaissance painting (think da Vinci’s John the Baptist or God’s gesture toward Adam in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel), and they play a key supporting role in both Pondick’s and Feintuch’s work. The legs – two feet with necrotically pole-thin lower legs jutting straight up – of “Legs Up” can read as a symbol of death; and they certainly cannot line up with the torso. Then again, the torso could be a dreaming sleeper, with the hand gesture as a reminder that a dreamer is a type of creative god. The legs, from that perspective, could read in many ways, including as a symbol of someone diving deep into a dream.

Nor is this creative god-like perspective unique for “Heads.” Besides Hercules, Feintuch presents himself as the wine-god Bacchus, again from the back (the big flat pink back is a thing; and it’s brilliantly hilarious), alone with his beloved grapes. We see Feintuch as Bacchus again in “Two-Fisted,” but this time with a more direct reference to Mannerists like Michelangelo (yup), with a deliciously affected left hand (curved fingers and matching gestures). “Two-Fisted,” as well, is a testament to Feintuch’s ability with the brush. The left hand is thrown into relief by the figure’s flat, chair-like back, and it’s complemented by his scratchy swaths of salt-and-pepper hair – an extraordinary passage of painting.

“Heads” is truly a remarkable exhibition on many levels. Feintuch and Pondick are both notably spare, which adds a sense of clarity. Their work digs deep in art history (while the nods are to the Mannerists, the true shadow is cast by the late Philip Guston), but since the work elicits a physical response in the viewer, it’s accessible to anyone. The work is dazzling from a technical perspective (a little star power doesn’t hurt), and it is gorgeously displayed in the museum’s handsome main gallery.

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

]]> 0 Gallery, New York; Zevitas/Marcus Gallery, Los Angeles; and the artist "Wallaby," by Rona Pondick, 2007-12, stainless steel, 24 by 44 x 10 inches.Sun, 18 Mar 2018 17:44:37 +0000
Deep Water: ‘Winter Blue’ by Martin Steingesser Sun, 18 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 This week’s poem offers a different way to think about the snowstorms of the last few weeks. Here, a storm helps the speaker remember “all those snowfalls an occasion / for falling together.” Here, a storm’s “soft blue light” reminds him to praise his longtime love and revel in the ways their love has changed over the years. The poem’s title refers both to the season of the year and to the season of the speaker’s life.

Martin Steingesser is the author of three books, “Brothers of Morning,” “The Thinking Heart” and “Yellow Horses.” He has taught poetry in and around Maine for many years and was Portland’s first poet laureate.

Winter Blue

By Martin Steingesser

Standing at the window

half the afternoon, watching snow fall,

fall and fall in a soft blue light. How many

have I watched this way? Never mind

the shoveling-out days, snow going

from avenues of clouds to gritty streets.

I’m thinking of our whiteout storms,

our first, all those snowfalls an occasion

for falling together—ribald love. Ribald,

from Old High German, to be in heat:

copulate, Merriam Webster says, to rub.

The wind’s blowing hard now, trees

and branches arching, pushing back,

black silhouettes in the last ink blue

light. Fifteen years, and I go on loving

loving you, though more like the trees.

To rub, yes, with a slowness now,

rubbing like close trees, with a patience

for certain winds, leaning

into years, the long, bluing nights.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2017 Martin Steingesser. It appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to

]]> 0 Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:53:36 +0000
From away and gone forever, Elaine Ford proves she knew Maine in posthumously published stories Sun, 18 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 On June 29 of last year, Elaine Ford learned that Islandport Press had accepted her manuscript and would publish her collection of short stories. The next day, Ford entered hospice care to face the final stages of brain cancer. Two months later, on Aug. 27, she died at age 78.

Maine’s literary community will celebrate the posthumous publication of “This Time Might Be Different: Stories of Maine” with a book launch at 2 p.m. March 25, at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick. The event will include readings from the short-story collection and a discussion about Ford and her writing.

Ford’s husband, Arthur Boatin, said his wife was pleased to receive the news about her book, despite her failing health. “It was very bittersweet timing,” said Boatin, of Topsham.

Ford wrote novels and taught others to write with creativity, clarity and conviction. Her writing was incisive and sharp, and she told hard truths about Maine, resisting cliches and sentimentality. Her subjects were believable, sympathetic characters struggling with the consequences of their bad decisions.

The new book includes short stories about Maine that she tells with humor, irony and great respect for the truth, however difficult the truth might be to process. Most of the stories are set in Washington and Hancock counties. They tell of a woman who is thinking about leaving and never coming back, a man who is debating robbing the laundromat and other characters who face various life-changing dilemmas. She writes about mud season and late-winter snow, always telling her stories from the perspective of the people who have to shovel it.

The stories contain hallmarks of her writing: lean, unpretentious, funny, evocative of place and populated with people who live complicated lives and who wish to improve them, against hope.

Ford wasn’t from Maine – she moved here in 1985 – but she understood Maine and Mainers, said longtime friend and former Maine poet laureate Baron Wormser.

“If you are from Maine, whether you are born in Maine or not, there is a dilemma or a challenge when you are writing about Maine,” he said. “Maine is a very particular place, and a lot of people go back many generations. You move there and you want to write about it because you live there, but there’s a great question: What the hell do you really know about it?”

Ford managed to write authentically about Maine because she was perspicacious about the human condition, Wormser said. She was perceptive and understanding.

Elaine Ford died last year, just two months after learning that her “This Time Might Be Different: Stories of Maine” would be published by Islandport Press. Photo by Michele Stapleton

“As a writer, Elaine always kept her eye on the human condition. She wasn’t lulled by the facade that Maine can present, and that stood her in good stead in terms of writing fiction that is set in Maine. She didn’t try too hard, so to speak. If you come from somewhere and are excited about being there, you can think you know more than you really know. That would not have been Elaine. She understood and respected boundaries, her own and other peoples.’ ”

As a teacher at the University of Maine, Ford respected other writers’ work and helped her students develop their own voices and become strong writers, said Naomi Jacobs, her colleague at the college. In one instance, that involved helping a student sign with a literary agent. Ford believed so strongly in the student’s writing, she worked with her to be sure she was positioned for success, Jacobs said.

She treated every student with professional respect, said Jacobs. “The students loved her, but they joked about being put through the ringer by Elaine,” she said. “She had an impact on so many people. She took her work very seriously. She was kind, but she knew that kindness involved being honest.”

Ford had an accomplished career. She won a Guggenheim fellowship and two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. She published five novels, four of them in 10 years, beginning with “The Playhouse” in 1980 when she was 41, and all with big New York publishing houses.

She had less success publishing her books in the decades that followed but never slowed in her writing, Boatin said. When Ford died, he said, she left five completed book-length manuscripts. In 2015, when she was 76, she also expanded her repertoire, moving into playwriting. She adapted existing short stories into one-act plays. “Original Brasses, Fine Patina” was produced in New York in 2016, and “Elwood’s Last Job” got a production in Portland last year. Both stories are in the new book.

This spring, the Maine Playwrights Festival will be dedicated to Ford for the example of her successful, late-in-life venture into playwriting. The festival begins April 26 in the studio theater at Portland Stage.

Ford and Boatin lived in Millbridge for 16 years, moving to Harpswell in 2001. They moved to Topsham in 2015 when her illness worsened.

While Ford received good reviews and was widely respected as a wordsmith – she had such national stature that The New York Times wrote about her death – her books didn’t achieve best-selling status, and her stories became darker with time. “Elaine was never a smiles-and-happy-endings type of writer, but beginning with ‘Monkey Bay’ (in 1989), her visions seemed to darken,” Boatin said. Her stories were about the bad choices that people made, leading to longlasting and inescapable disappointment. Some publishers may have felt those stories would be harder to sell to readers, he theorized.

Ford just kept on writing, and Boatin kept on encouraging and supporting her. It was her husband’s love and dedication to her that led to the publication of “This Time Might Be Different.”

He arranged the meeting at Islandport to discuss the book, and he didn’t tell his wife about it. He didn’t want to build up her hopes. He only shared the news after Islandport committed to the project. By then, she was too sick to celebrate, but she was pleased, Boatin said.

And he is confident that his wife would be happy that her friends will gather to celebrate her new book – and hopeful that people find it authentic.

“She will, wherever she is, have her fingers crossed that people who know Maine will find it’s true to Maine,” Boatin said.

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0 Ford died last year, just two months after learning that her "This Time Might Be Different: Stories of Maine" would be published by Islandport Press.Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:57:07 +0000
Captivated by curling, Maine artist captures the likeness and attention of the U.S. Olympic team Sun, 18 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 The men’s U.S. Olympic curling team got off to a rocky start in South Korea last month, and Bruce McMillan wanted to help.

He’s been captivated by Olympic curling for several years, and while watching it on TV in February, he began painting watercolors of the action. Then he started sending his work to the men’s team via Twitter, along with words of encouragement like “Way to go guys, keep on smiling” and “May the stones be with you. Watching tonight in Maine.”

After a 2-4 record had them on the brink of elimination, the men’s team went on to win a gold medal, the first ever for the United States. Coincidence? Maybe, but the team’s skip, John Shuster, appreciated McMillan’s watercolors so much that he is having prints of two of them made and framed as presents for his teammates. One depicts Shuster kicking his leg in celebration, while the other shows the whole team celebrating, both after wins over Canada.

“Would like to purchase many of your works from the past week,” Shuster tweeted to McMillan, during the games. McMillan tweeted back that he would not sell the works, but wanted to give them to Shuster as a thank-you gift “for all the curling memories.”

McMillan, 70, has seen his work and passions take him all over the map, literally and figuratively. The Shapleigh resident has had a long and critically acclaimed career as a children’s author, penning some 40 books and winning the Maine Library Association’s Katahdin Award for lifetime achievement in 2006. Other winners include Robert McCloskey, Dahlov Ipcar and Lois Lowry.

He’s traveled the world photographing natural wonders for his children’s books. He lived with a family in Alaska for several weeks for “Salmon Summer” and roamed an island off Iceland for “Nights of the Pufflings.” He went to Antarctica for pictures for three books, including “Summer Ice.” His photos have also appeared in a slew of magazines, including Life, Natural History, People, Reader’s Digest and Yankee.


McMillan’s photographer’s eye and passion for life’s dramas drew him to curling during the 2006 Olympics. He watched a very young John Shuster in his first Olympics. Always wanting to see things for himself, shortly after those Olympics, McMillan traveled to Lowell, Massachusetts, for a national curling event. From then on, he was hooked on curling, a sport that captivated Americans last month, partly because it looks like anyone can do it, and partly because the competitors have an incredible level of skill few of us can understand.

One of two watercolors Bruce McMillan of Shapleigh is sending to U.S. Olympic Curling skip John Shuster. Shuster plans to have prints framed for his teammates. The painting depicts Shuster celebrating after his team beat Canada to stay alive in the round robin portion of the competition.
Image courtesy of Bruce McMillan

“I’ve always liked watching people who are really passionate and excited and really know what they’re doing, whether it’s laying bricks or whatever,” said McMillan. “The curling in the Olympics is so good, it’s like a chess match, with all the strategy and precision.”

McMillan has never met Shuster. But he has closely watched Shuster’s ups and downs in a sport where few people know the participants’ names. The Minnesota native was just 23 in his first Olympics, in 2006, on a team that won the bronze medal. In 2010, Shuster was a skip, sort of the quarterback of the team. But his performance was poor and he was actually benched during the Olympics. He kept at it and made the Olympics again in 2014, in Russia. But his team finished ninth.

So expectations weren’t high for Shuster’s team in 2018. In fact, before the 2018 Olympics, he was cut from the U.S. High Performance training program for curlers and formed his own team, “The Rejects.” Shuster lost more than 20 pounds to get into shape – running down the ice with a broom or sliding a stone for hours at a time takes more stamina than one might think. Shuster’s team earned its way into the South Korean games, got off to a 2-4 start, then went on a miraculous run and won the gold.

Since then, they’ve been media darlings, interviewed on network TV morning shows and making appearances all over the country. Maybe because of that hectic schedule, Shuster didn’t respond to requests for an interview for this story.

But Shuster has made time to tweet and call McMillan several times since winning gold. He talked to McMillan about getting those two watercolors, so he could frame them for his teammates. And he also asked McMillan for permission to use a poem McMillan wrote, which he tweeted to Shuster after the gold medal win. Shuster told McMillan he might have a friend of his make prints of the poem, as a way to promote curling.

The poem is titled “Their Gold Journey” and reads: “Five strive, weigh play, hurl curl, knock rock, great eight, hold gold, guys highs, fame came.”


McMillan only took up painting with watercolors about eight years ago, after he was well-established as a children’s author and photographer. He bought watercolor sets for himself and two grandchildren, then 8 and 10 years old, as something they could do together. He now paints regularly and posts his work on his blog.

He paints things he sees – a snowplow was a recent work – and posts his musings and facts he finds interesting. He paints a lot of fruit and scenes of trees and hills and the ocean as well.

All the works appear on his blog, about one every couple of days. Most of the originals are for sale, usually starting at about $100. They can be ordered from his blog.

His Olympic curling watercolors, about a dozen of them, were done from scenes he saw on TV. On Feb. 26, he posted “That Unbelievable Historic Eight End” (an end is like an inning in curling) after the gold medal win. It shows Shuster holding a broom and pumping a fist. McMillan paints in a dreamy, non-literal way, so there are no facial features to be seen.

Children’s author and watercolor artist Bruce McMillan of Shapleigh tweeted to members of the U.S. Olympic Curling Team during February’s Olympics, often showing them a watercolor he did of their matches. He did a dozen curling paintings in all and is sending two to skip John Shuster.

Of the 12 paintings, two are going to Shuster, and five are not for sale, being held by McMillan for a possible exhibit at some point. The other five are for sale on his blog, prices ranging from $115 to $137.

As soon as McMillan started tweeting his watercolors and his words of encouragement to the Olympians, Shuster began responding. Even though he was in the middle of an Olympic competition.

After McMillan tweeted his painting of the men’s team celebrating a win over Canada in the semifinals, Shuster tweeted to him: “Wow Bruce, thank you so much. It’s gorgeous.”

After the team’s first win over Canada in the Olympics, Shuster sent a picture of himself celebrating, with his leg kicking high, to McMillan. “If you painted your rendition of this one, I’d buy it in a heartbeat!” Shuster tweeted.

McMillan did paint it, but wouldn’t take money. It’s one of the paintings he’s sending to Shuster.

McMillan said sending the paintings to Shuster was his way of thanking him for the great memories of watching the U.S. men’s curling team and its dramatic victory.

“It was really a Cinderella story, and I was just so happy to watch it,” said McMillan.

To see more of Bruce McMillan’s watercolors, including his curling scenes done during the Olympics, go to

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

Twitter: @RayRouthier

]]> 0's author and watercolor artist Bruce McMillan tweeted to members of the U.S. Olympic curling team during February's Olympics, often sharing a painting he made of their matches. He did a dozen in all.Fri, 16 Mar 2018 17:01:15 +0000
‘Maine in World War I’ is a worthy entry in history series Sun, 18 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 When a copy of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America: Maine in World War I” landed on my desk last fall, 100 years after America entered the war, it raised several questions.

I first started reviewing the “Images of America” series in the mid-1990s when that company was based in New Hampshire. It was then a subsidiary of England’s Chalford Publishing. Beginning in 1993, each title had a uniform number of pages and sepia-colored illustrations – usually vintage snapshots or postcards. At that time, the influx of historical images seemed clever and cost-effective, but over the years, the quality of the individual books proved decidedly mixed.

The arrival of a new title documenting Maine’s entry into the First World War – co-written by Earle G. Shettleworth Jr. and Jason C. Libby – seemed a good time not only to consider the book itself, but also to take a fresh look at the series and its evolution. Arcadia, now based in South Carolina, has a total of 14,338 imprints, with 245 directly pertaining to Maine. Walk into any contemporary bookstore and you will see ranks of red, black and sepia bindings of this series filling whole shelves.

The frontispiece illustration for “Maine in World War I” boasts an idealized American doughboy carrying a rifle and Old Glory – an image that parallels many shot during the Civil War. But almost all the other photographs in the book document real – as opposed to idealized – Mainers and war machines.

Chapter 1 of “Maine in World War I,” “Prelude to War,” shows photos of the British-Canadian recruiting tent in Monument Square in Portland; the interned German luxury liner SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie, at Bar Harbor in 1914; and a graffitied rail car in Maine announcing, “Bangor to Texas” in 1915.

In Chapter 2, we see troops leaving for the European front as well as Peter Neptune, then governor of the Passamaquoddy Nation, meeting with a recruiter. His son, Moses Neptune, a member of the 103rd Regiment, was among the two dozen members of his nation to serve in the trenches. Tragically, Moses was killed in the war.

The book continues with chapters on “Parades, Rallies and Civilian Support,” “War Industries” and “Over There.”

Chapter 5, “Coastal Defenses,” shows the big guns and forts, and even a survivor of the fishing schooner that sank off Cape Porpoise. Finally, the last chapter, “Peace and Remembrance,” depicts monuments to fallen Mainers. Whereas the images in the other chapters are simple and unembellished, this last chapter is the volume’s only romantic section, showing idealized, angelic statues.

I like books where even historians are surprised. I was taken by a portrait of Fireman 2nd Class, Arthur A. Carr of Westbrook, who served aboard the USS DeKalb. Earlier in the war, this ship had been the German raider, SS Prinz Eitel Friedrich, which, in 1915, sank the first American ship in the war, the Maine-built William P. Frye. I’d had no idea before studying the images in this book that the raider had been captured and repurposed by the Americans.

Taken together, “Maine in World War I” is surely one of the best “Images of America” books, with its wonderful photographs, first-rate documentation and rich personal touches.

And given Shettleworth’s hand in it, I’m not surprised. Few writer/historians in our region are more widely published or respected. Since the mid-1960s, he has played an outsized role in Maine, spreading knowledge of our shared cultural history. He is no stranger to the series, either: Shettleworth, journalist, author, former director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and current state historian, is now on his 10th title for the series.

I sat down with him to talk about “Images of America.”

Q: Earle, what do you think of the overall value of the series? I assume it’s positive because you keep coming back.

A: Arcadia Books and the history series serve a very important role in the documentary-photograph gathering process. Each book includes 100 images, many of which have never been published, and gets them out to the public.

Q: Some of the early titles focused on towns were put together by enthusiasts, and in several cases were badly captioned, misdated or misidentified. Recognizing that the books’ editing was in the hands of the author, not the publisher, I thought they made for dangerous historical guides.

A: Yes, they still rely on authors checking carefully, but there has been a substantive overall improvement both in the reproduction of photographs and the entire process. When I go to a bookstore that has an Arcadia display, inevitably there is at least one person taking the time to look at them, often engaged by the old photographs.

Q: Engaged in Maine or family history?

A: Both. And for me, to be part of that is a worthwhile role for a popular public historian. I would not do it unless I thought it had real value.

Q: Tell me about your co-author.

A: Good teamwork is everything. Jason C. Libby is a native Mainer, a member of the Maine Historic Preservation Council, a teacher and writer with an extensive knowledge of Maine, and has his own photographic collection.

Q: An excellent match. But why World War I and Maine besides the obvious centennial?

A: Last year, as state historian, I delivered a lecture on the entry of the United States and Maine into World War I in 1917. Building up to that, I had uncovered a large body of untapped pictorial material, including primary photographs of the home-front training camps and “over-there.” Indeed, before the war, Germany produced most visual postcards for America, and now came a flowering of local photo postcards.

Q: Your father (Earle G. Shettleworth Sr., 1899-1986, to whom the book is dedicated) served in World War I?

A: Just barely, and I did not know until going through his papers after he passed. I found he bought a Liberty Bond as a student at Deering High School. He volunteered in a shipyard and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. However, the war ended before he got to fly.

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

]]> 0, 16 Mar 2018 17:03:34 +0000
Actress Yara Shahidi joins U.N. campaign Sat, 17 Mar 2018 21:21:26 +0000 NEW YORK — Actress Yara Shahidi wants young people to know that little by little, it’s possible to make a difference in the world.

The star of Freeform’s “Grown-ish” is one of a group of influencers across the globe taking part in a movement called Little x Little.

Yara Shahidi Associated Press

There are more than 2 billion people worldwide born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s making up Generation Z.

Little x Little’s goal is to inspire as many of those Gen Z’ers as they can to do 2 billion tiny acts of good by 2030 in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Participants are encouraged to post their own efforts to do good on social media – using #LittlexLittle – and share ideas, which range from reducing meat consumption to ditching the car and biking instead.

In the two weeks since a “Little x Little” anthem video launched on YouTube explaining the project, it’s been viewed more than 15 million times.

Shahidi, 18, says to look no further than this week’s student walkout to protest gun violence and the upcoming March for Our Lives rallies as an example that young people are socially engaged and want to make the world better.

She also says there’s a benefit to the abundance of time they spend on their phones.

“Because of our interconnectivity, we see people that aren’t directly in front of us and understand there’s something greater to contribute to,” she said.

Her own personal examples of doing good include contributing money and time to causes within a mile radius of her own home.

]]> 0 Shahidi, star of "Grown-ish" is joining influencers across the globe to inspire young people to do 2 billion positive acts by 2030. Omar Vega/Invision/APSat, 17 Mar 2018 18:07:26 +0000
Matt Damon denies published report of move to Australia Sat, 17 Mar 2018 21:01:25 +0000 LOS ANGELES — A publicist for Matt Damon is batting down reports that the actor is moving to Australia with his family, and that such a move would have been inspired by anger over President Trump.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Sydney had reported that Damon was buying a home in Byron Bay near actor Chris Hemsworth. The two recently appeared in “Thor: Ragnarok” together.

Damon spokeswoman Jennifer Allen said Damon has been to Australia a lot recently.

But Damon has not bought a home there nor is he relocating there, she said.

]]> 0 Sat, 17 Mar 2018 17:45:55 +0000
In New York, ‘We’re all immigrants’ on St. Patrick’s Day Sat, 17 Mar 2018 20:54:39 +0000 NEW YORK — Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar joined in as Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue came alive with the sound of bagpipes, trumpets and lots of green Saturday at the 257th running of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Several bagpipe bands led a parade made up of over 100 marching bands after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke briefly, calling it a “day of inclusion” and adding: “We’re all immigrants.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, also a Democrat, marched with police Commissioner James O’Neill under sunny skies as some spectators sipped coffee to stay warm several days before the start of spring.

Varadkar watched the parade at St. Patrick’s Cathedral before joining the march himself.

The parade, which began at 11 a.m., typically lasts nearly six hours. An estimated 150,000 marchers were to make the 1.4-mile trek past Central Park, the Cathedral and Trump Tower.

A big event since the mid-1800s, the parade has been a celebration of Irish culture and of Irish immigrants, who once faced nativist calls for their exclusion from the workforce – and from the country – when they began arriving in the city in huge numbers during the Irish Famine.

In the 1990s, the parade’s organizers were involved in annual fights over whether to exclude openly gay groups from the march.

Those battles are now history.

This year, at least two groups in the parade have banners identifying marchers as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

For the 167th time, the lead group marching in the parade was 800 members of the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, of the New York Army National Guard. The regiment, once predominantly made up of Irish immigrants, first led the parade in 1851 as a deterrent to anti-immigrant violence.

Judy Hughes, whose father used to march with the 69th Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Fighting Irish,” said she’s been attending the parade “since I was a little girl.”

Her husband, Bill Hughes, a retired police officer who marched in the parade for 10 years, looked on as a band marched by.

“It’s better being on the other side,” he said.

This year’s grand marshal was Loretta Brennan Glucksman, chairman of The American Ireland Fund, a group that has raised millions of dollars for philanthropic projects in Ireland, including funding for integrated schools for Catholic and Protestant children in Northern Ireland.

She was riding along the parade route in a Central Park horse carriage, driven by a family friend.

]]> 0 bagpipe unit representing the New York State Police takes part in the St. Patrick's Day parade on Fifth Avenue in New York on Saturday. Several bagpipe bands led a parade made up of over 100 marching bands after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke briefly, calling it a "day of inclusion" and adding: "We're all immigrants." Associated PressSat, 17 Mar 2018 17:11:14 +0000
Vatican bows to pressure, releases retired pope’s letter Sat, 17 Mar 2018 19:58:12 +0000 VATICAN CITY — The Vatican bowed to pressure Saturday and released the complete letter by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI about Pope Francis after coming under blistering criticism for selectively citing it in a press release and digitally manipulating a photograph of it.

The previously hidden part of the letter provides the real explanation why Benedict refused to provide commentary on a new Vatican-published compilation of books about Francis’ theological and philosophical background that was released to mark his fifth anniversary as pope.

Benedict noted that one of the authors involved in the project had launched “virulent,” “anti-papist” attacks against his papacy and teaching. He said he was “surprised” the Vatican had chosen the theologian to be included in the 11-volume “The Theology of Pope Francis.”

The Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications said Saturday it was releasing the full text of the letter due to the controversy over the “presumed manipulation” of information when the volume was launched Monday, on the eve of Francis’ anniversary.

It said its decision to withhold part of the letter at the time was based on its desire for reserve “not because of any desire to censure.”

The so-called “Lettergate” scandal has embarrassed the Vatican for the past week and fueled the growing chasm between supporters of Francis’ pastoral-focused papacy and conservatives who long for the doctrine-minded papacy of Benedict.

The Secretariat for Communication, in particular, was accused of spreading “fake news” for having omitted key parts of Benedict’s letter and digitally blurring a photograph of the document where Benedict begins to explain why he won’t comment on the book.

The scandal began when the prefect of the office, Monsignor Dario Vigano, read part of Benedict’s letter aloud at the book presentation. In the parts Vigano chose to read, Benedict confirmed that Francis has a solid theological and philosophical training and he praised the book initiative for showing the “interior continuity” between the two papacies.

But Benedict’s full caveat was never made public in the press release or the photo, leaving the impression that the retired pope had read the volume and fully endorsed it, when in fact he hadn’t.

]]> 0, 17 Mar 2018 16:43:11 +0000
Reflections: When golden years sneak up on us, remember our spiritual roots Sat, 17 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 What do we need to navigate the “golden years”?

I am well into my seventh decade on this planet. “How did this happen?” my young inner self asks. We were the generation that didn’t trust anyone over 30, remember? Yes, we were naïve and full of ourselves, but this march of time seems truly mysterious. I notice that the decades slipping by do not guarantee that we will obtain wisdom, or humility, or even self-awareness. And just as we did not seem to respect our elders as 20-somethings, aging in itself still does not automatically command respect in our culture.

How does one navigate the time one has left, when it seems that most of our life is behind us, when we hear of illness and death in our contemporaries every day, when the world seems to be falling apart, when species are dying, when our own body betrays us in frailty and dis-ease? I see grandparents taking care of grandchildren as well as aging parents. As my mother used to say, “The golden years aren’t really so golden, are they?” It seems that just when our physical strength is ebbing, life keeps asking more of us, not less.

I remember in my 20s when my teacher used to always be talking about surrender and letting go. We spent a lot of time meditating and in spiritual practice to find the still point within. Now I feel like all of that spiritual work was in preparation for this time of life. For what is grief and loss, if not letting go? How does one live with a barrage of loss and bad news without finding a still point within, without a connection to something eternal, without unconditional love?

I remember when my mother was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and I was reading the list of symptoms. Depression was listed as one of them. As I watched her decline over the years, I often thought of that list and wondered how they could call depression a symptom, when it seemed like a natural response to such a diminishment of one’s precious physical vehicle in the world.

And yet, I have known more than a few people living with chronic pain or terminal illness who did not crumble in despair, who rose to a new level of strength and gratitude. Most of the people I know in that situation do have some sort of spiritual foundation to draw upon, as well as a strong support network of family and friends. Sometimes suffering can draw a person deeper into a struggle, which forces a sinking into faith, and a search for the eternal. However, I have also seen people just give up under the crushing weight of their suffering. Is the difference feeling loved and held in community, or is it the interior grounding in one’s faith? I don’t know the answer, but I know that we could do a much better job of creating community for those who need it the most.

It seems that all religions are preparing us for adversity, illness and death. And yet, this getting older sneaks up on us. We never think it will happen to us. Inside we don’t feel “old.” My father-in-law is 96 and doesn’t understand people reacting to his various complaints as symptoms of being old. In his mind he is not old. It is a fine line we tread between acceptance of certain physical realities, yet continuing to remain hopeful and engaged in life. My father-in-law may be an example of an optimist, but to me we need more than optimism to navigate this part of our lives. We need a strong heart to be able to cry with our brothers and sisters in their grief and loss and to be able to see beyond our own concerns and pains to hold the suffering of others. We need unclouded eyes to be able to see the beauty all around us: in the flight of a bird, in our grandchildren’s eyes, in the silent testament of the trees. We need to hear the small still voice of God calling us gently and quietly to take time for silence, rest, and renewal. We need to touch the infinite, which gives us strength and hope when all appears to be crumbling. We need to taste the divine presence, which gives us the knowing that we are more than our physical bodies and that we are held in love beyond anything we can imagine in our minds.

Rev. Cathy M. Grigsby is an Interfaith minister who teaches at the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine, is the co-founder of the Interfaith Ministers of New England, an artist, a spiritual director, and a retired art teacher. She can be contacted at:

]]> 0 Fri, 16 Mar 2018 19:42:40 +0000
Vatican alters photo of retired Pope Benedict’s letter Fri, 16 Mar 2018 23:49:23 +0000 VATICAN CITY — The Vatican admitted this week that it altered a photo sent to the media of a letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI about Pope Francis. The manipulation changed the meaning of the image in a way that violated photojournalist industry standards.

The Vatican’s communications office released the photo of the letter Monday on the eve of Francis’ five-year anniversary. The letter was cited by Monsignor Dario Vigano, chief of communications, to rebut critics of Francis who question his theological and philosophical heft and say he represents a rupture from Benedict’s doctrine-minded papacy.

In the part of the letter that is legible in the photo, Benedict praised a new volume of books on the theology of Francis as evidence of the “foolish prejudice” of his critics. The book project, Benedict wrote, “helps to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, with all the differences in style and temperament.”


The Vatican admitted to The Associated Press on Wednesday that it blurred the two final lines of the first page where Benedict begins to explain that he didn’t actually read the books in question. He wrote that he cannot contribute a theological assessment of Francis as requested by Vigano because he has other projects to do.

A Vatican spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, didn’t explain why the Holy See blurred the lines other than to say it never intended for the full letter to be released. In fact, the entire second page of the letter is covered in the photo by a stack of books, with just Benedict’s tiny signature showing, to prove its authenticity.

The missing content significantly altered the meaning of the quotes the Vatican chose to highlight, which were widely picked up by the media. Those quotes suggested that Benedict had read the volume, agreed with it and given it his full endorsement and assessment. The doctoring of the photo is significant because news media rely on Vatican photographers for images of the pope at events that are otherwise closed to independent media.

Vigano read parts of the letter during a news conference launching the volume, including the lines that were blurred out. A journalist who attended the presentation, Sandro Magister, transcribed Vigano’s comments and posted them on his blog. But Vigano didn’t read the whole letter.


The Vatican didn’t respond to a request to see the full text.

Most independent news media, including The Associated Press, follow strict standards that forbid digital manipulation of photos.

“No element should be digitally added to or subtracted from any photograph,” read the AP norms, which are considered to be the industry standard among news agencies.

Vigano heads the Vatican’s new Secretariat for Communications, which has brought all Vatican media under one umbrella in a bid to reduce costs and improve efficiency, part of Francis’ reform efforts. The office’s recent message for the church’s World Day of Social Communications denounced “fake news” as evil and urged media to seek the truth.

]]> 0 Fri, 16 Mar 2018 19:49:23 +0000
For Hawking, atheism was not a theory Fri, 16 Mar 2018 23:38:24 +0000 British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking schmoozed with popes during his lifetime, even though he was an avowed atheist. The famous scientist, who died Wednesday in England at 76, was often asked to explain his views on faith and God. During interviews, he explained his belief that there was no need for a creator.

He said during an interview with El Mundo in 2014: “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”

That followed comments made to Reuters in 2007 in which Hawking, who had lived with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS – since 1963, described himself as “not religious in the normal sense.”

“I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science,” he said. “The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.”

Because of his involvement in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which fosters “interaction between faith and reason and encouraging dialogue between science and spiritual, cultural, philosophical and religious values,” he visited the Vatican over the years. Hawking gave a talk on “The Origin of the Universe” during the group’s 2016 conference at the Vatican.

During those visits, he met with religious leaders, including Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI. In his comments to the Academy in 2010, Benedict seemed to refer to Hawking, saying, “Scientists do not create the world; they learn about it and attempt to imitate it.”

In Hawking’s writings about the universe’s origin, he and co-author Leonard Mlodinow posited in the 2010 book “The Grand Design” that the Big Bang was inevitable.

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” the book says. “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

In discussing the book, he told ABC News: “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist. But science makes God unnecessary … The laws of physics can explain the universe without the need for a creator.”

Hawking’s earlier best-selling cosmology book, “A Brief History of Time,” also discussed black holes and the Big Bang. The 1988 book offered his “theory of everything” that understanding the universe offers a glimpse of “the mind of God.”

He also explained throughout his life his thoughts on a possible afterlife, saying, “I believe the simplest explanation is, there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife, either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

In 2011, his comments to the Guardian explained his stance further: “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

Hawking, who was born on Jan. 8, 1942, and lived with his disease for much longer than expected, also said during the interview: “I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.”

]]> 0 Francis greets physicist Stephen Hawking during an audience with participants at a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican in 2016. Hawking, whose brilliant mind ranged across time and space, died Wednesday.Fri, 16 Mar 2018 19:38:24 +0000
Photos: Highlights from Portland’s St. Patricks Day Parade Fri, 16 Mar 2018 21:10:00 +0000 Freezing temperatures and a brisk wind couldn’t put a damper on the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Portland on Saturday. Hundreds of marchers participated, including bagpipe players, Irish step dancers and even a dapper Slugger, who traded in his traditional Sea Dogs uniform for a shamrock blazer.

Throngs of onlookers lined the route along Commercial Street watching the passing floats, bands and contingents from fire and police departments. The farthest-traveled award went to members of the Goleen Unit of the Irish Coast Guard, who marched alongside the local U.S. Coast Guard color guard.

Marchers included the Claddagh Mhor Pipe Band, Dunlop Highland Band, Kora Shriners Highlanders, the Stillson School of Irish Dance, contingents from the Maine Irish Heritage Center, Ancient Order of the Hibernians, Maine Police Emerald Society, Maine Gaelic Sports Association, The Portland Hurling Club, Girl Scouts of America, and Burns Ceili Group, as well as local union representatives and public safety officials from area police and fire departments. It ended with a rally at Bell Buoy Park followed by a reception at the Maine Irish Heritage Center that drew about 450 people. The parade has been hosted by the Irish American Club of Maine since the club was founded in 1973.

]]> 0, ME - MARCH 17: Sea Dogs' mascot Slugger gets into the St. Patrick's Day spirit by dancing a jig Saturday on Commercial Street during the annual parade. (Staff photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)Sat, 17 Mar 2018 19:14:55 +0000
Former ballerina trains to become Lara Croft Fri, 16 Mar 2018 21:03:37 +0000 LOS ANGELES — It took months of training and endless plates of protein to transform former ballerina Alicia Vikander into musclebound action hero Lara Croft for the new “Tomb Raider” film.

The 29-year-old Oscar winner spent seven months working with Swedish trainer and nutritionist Magnus Lygdback, who also helped Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck get into superhero shape for “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League.”

Lygdback and his team of fitness professionals hosted a boot camp in Los Angeles recently to demonstrate Vikander’s “Tomb Raider” training regimen.

“Physically, anyone can train to be a superhero,” Lygdback said.

Diet is paramount, even more than physical training, he said. He directs his clients to eat every three hours and avoid sugar and “fast carbs” like white rice and flour.

“You’ll see a big change, mentally and physically, just by changing the nutrition,” he said.

Vikander spent seven months preparing to become Croft. The first three were just about diet, Lygdback said. His clean-eating plan includes lots of protein and vegetables. A sampling at the “Tomb Raider” boot camp featured broccoli blossoms and seared steak. He said 17 out of 20 meals should be on point, with three splurge meals in the mix.

“I love desserts. I love chocolate. I love a glass of Barolo on a Saturday night,” said Lygdback, whose Hercules-shaped form appears to have zero body fat.

Four months ahead of filming, Vikander began working daily with Lygdback for hour-long sessions incorporating martial arts, weight training and movement education to give her a greater command of her body.


]]> 0 image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Alicia Vikander in a scene from "Tomb Raider."Fri, 16 Mar 2018 17:03:37 +0000
Aretha Franklin cancels 2 concerts on doctor’s orders Fri, 16 Mar 2018 20:56:29 +0000 NEW YORK — Aretha Franklin is canceling two upcoming concerts on doctor’s orders.

The Queen of Soul’s management team said Friday that Franklin will not perform March 25 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, New Jersey. That show would have taken place on her 76th birthday.

Franklin also won’t appear April 28 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Her team said the singer “has been ordered by her doctor to stay off the road and rest completely for at least the next two months.” It said she is “extremely disappointed she cannot perform as she had expected.”

]]> 0 Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:56:29 +0000
Falmouth theater getting hate calls for staging play with Holocaust theme Fri, 16 Mar 2018 15:44:28 +0000

Michael J. Tobin, executive artistic director of Footlights Theatre, says, “Not all theatre can be happy, funny and full of musical numbers.” Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

FALMOUTH — A community theater in Falmouth has received 11 hate calls since it began production of a Holocaust-themed play last week.

Michael J. Tobin, executive artistic director of Footlights Theatre, described the phone calls as vile and hateful, but not threatening. “I had one woman tell me, ‘I don’t want to see a play about those (expletive) Jews,” Tobin said Friday night as he and the cast prepared for another performance of “APPELL: The Other Side of the Fence.”

It’s a new play by first-time playwright Anne Drakopolous, who adapted it from personal accounts, poems, stories and memories of Holocaust survivors. Among the survivors portrayed in the play are Kurt and Sonja Messerschmidt of Portland, who married in a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia in 1944, survived the Holocaust and immigrated to the United States, settling in Portland in 1951. Kurt Messerschmidt died in September, and Sonja died in 2010.

Tobin sent an email Thursday to patrons and supporters detailing some of the calls. “I need people to know this is happening,” he said. “It’s not an open invitation to hate again.”

People attending the play and actors involved in it expressed outrage and surprise on Friday night.

“Are you serious? That just surprises me. I really thought we were past that,” said Josie DiPhilippo, a student from the University of Southern Maine, who was unaware of media reports that the theater had been targeted.

“It’s sad there are people out there in this day and age who still feel this way,” said Carolyn Thomas of Falmouth, who attended with her partner, Jennifer Curran. Their daughter, Meghan Scott Curran, performs in the play. “The political environment we’re in right now seems to make it OK to express those opinions,” Thomas said.

Jackie Oliveri, an actress who portrays Sonja Messerschmidt, echoed that dismay. “A part of me can’t believe it. This is Maine. In Maine, you don’t run into that kind of hate. But this is a different political climate now, and it’s OK to hate,” she said.

Phyllis McQuaide, left, Ann Foskett Miller, Cheryl Reynolds, Victoria Machado, Jackie Oliveri and Pam Mutty in “APPELL: The Other Side of the Fence.” Photo by Cooper Caron

She is proud to be involved in a play that tells the stories of Holocaust survivors, who overcame hate and whose stories serve as inspiration for others facing oppression. “I’m honored to play Sonja Messerschmidt,” Oliveri said. “Her message is one of hope, and that’s what I try to hold on to.”

Tobin said most of the calls have come from women, and based on the timbre of their voices, he thinks most of them were older women. One man who called told Tobin the Holocaust never happened.

“I tried to talk to him. I want to engage. I want to know why they feel the way they do, but they don’t want to talk about it,” he said.

He received two calls in September, when he announced that Footlights would produce the play. By the time it opened on March 8, the theater had received five calls, and six more have come in since the opening, he said. No one has left a message. In each instance, Tobin has talked directly with the person making the call, he said.

While the calls have been troubling, they reaffirm his belief that doing the show was a good idea, he said. “This show is about survivors. It’s inspirational. You listen to these people and hear about how they overcame such horrific circumstances,” he said.

The play, which runs through March 24, centers on a small group of Holocaust prisoners who tell their stories while waiting outside for roll call.

Carolyn Thomas and Jennifer Curran of Falmouth speak Friday night about the hate calls that Footlights Theatre has received since it opened a Holocaust-themed play last week. Thomas said, “It’s sad there are people out there in this day and age who still feel this way.” Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

David Greenham, program director of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, located in Augusta, said he’s not surprised that the show has provoked a negative response.

“There is a great divisiveness in our country right now, not only anti-Semitism but anything that is considered different,” he said.

The Anti-Defamation League reported this month that anti-Semitic incidents increased by 57 percent in the U.S. last year, the highest number that the organization has recorded in more than two decades.

The ADL said the sharp rise includes 952 vandalism incidents, an increase of 86 percent from 2016. The group also counted 1,015 incidents of harassment, a 41 percent increase from 2016.

ADL national director and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told The Associated Press that the “alarming” increase appears to be fueled by emboldened far-right extremists as well as the “divisive state of our national discourse.”

Greenham said he doesn’t think the feelings expressed by the callers are new, but that it seems like people are more willing to be open about those feelings.

“It’s a tremendous test for our democracy and our understanding of the First Amendment,” he said. “For me, I feel like it’s bad when people express opinions that are hateful, but I would rather see that than seeing them just silently hold opinions. If they are open about it, then conversations can be had that move things forward.”

In his email, Tobin characterized the calls as “filled with such hate, denial and uneducated judgment.”

Tobin wrote that the play is difficult to watch but said that’s the point.

“Look, not all theatre can be happy, funny and full of musical numbers. We need to do important theatre like this. We must do important theatre like this,” he wrote. “And I (and the cast) are very proud of APPELL and all it brings to the stage, to our patrons and to the memories of those that lived it, survived it and died because of it.”

Marty Pottenger of Portland came to the theater Friday night to hear the stories of survivors. She attended an opening at the Maine Jewish Museum last week, watched eight films as part of the Maine Jewish Film Festival during the week, and capped her week off by attending “APPELL: The Other Side of the Fence.”

She said she had no time or space for hate in her life. “I am here for the power of love,” she said.

]]> 0, NH - MARCH 16: Michael J. Tobin, executive artistic director of Footlights Theatre at the Falmouth theater Friday, March 16, 2018. (Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Sat, 17 Mar 2018 00:12:22 +0000
Cannabis lounge opens in San Francisco Fri, 16 Mar 2018 00:03:28 +0000 SAN FRANCISCO — The smoke was thick and business brisk at the Barbary Coast Dispensary’s marijuana smoking lounge, a darkened room that resembles a steakhouse or upscale sports tavern with its red leather seats, deep booths with high dividers, and hardwood floors.

“There’s nothing like this in Jersey,” said grinning Atlantic City resident Rick Thompson, getting high with his cousins in San Francisco.

In fact, there’s nothing like the Barbary Coast lounge almost anywhere in the United States, a conundrum confronting many marijuana enthusiasts who find it increasingly easy to buy pot but harder to find legal places to smoke it.

Only California permits marijuana smoking at marijuana retailers with specially designed lounges. But it also allows cities to ban those kinds of shops.

Unsurprisingly, San Francisco is the trailblazer. It’s the only city in the state to fully embrace Amsterdam-like coffee shops, the iconic tourist stops in the Netherlands where people can buy and smoke marijuana in the same shop.

San Francisco’s marijuana “czar” Nicole Elliot said new permits will be issued once city health officials finalize regulations designed to protect workers from secondhand smoke and the neighborhood from unwelcomed odors. The lounges are required to install expensive heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to prevent the distinct marijuana odor from leaking outside.

Other California cities are warming to the idea.

The city of West Hollywood has approved plans to issue up to eight licenses; the tiny San Francisco Bay Area town of Alameda said it will allow two; and Oakland and South Lake Tahoe each have one lounge. Sacramento, Los Angeles and other cities are discussing the issue but have not authorized any lounges.

Jackie Rocco, the city of West Hollywood’s business development manager, said residents and cannabis businesses complain there is “no safe place, no legal place, to use it.”

Rocco said city officials envision smoking lounges set up like traditional bars, but for now the idea is more concept than plan.

Meanwhile, lawmakers and officials in other states are dithering over the issue.

Massachusetts marijuana regulators considered approval of “cannabis cafes.” But the proposal came under withering criticism from Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration and law enforcement officials, who claimed among other things that opening such businesses would lead to more dangerously stoned drivers.

The five-member Cannabis Control Commission ultimately yielded to pressure by agreeing to put off a decision on licensing any cafes until after the initial rollout of retail marijuana operations, expected this summer. Members of the panel, however, continue to support the idea.

“Those who wish to consume cannabis are going to do so whether social sites exist or not, and are going to make driving decisions regardless of where they consume,” said Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Massachusetts chapter of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project.

“Social sites will simply give cannabis users the same options available to alcohol users,” he said.

In Colorado, one of the first states to broadly legalize, lawmakers failed in a close vote to make so-called “tasting rooms” legal. However, cities may do it, and Denver has authorized lounges where consumers bring their own marijuana, issuing a single permit so far.

Nevada has put off a vote on the issue until next year. Oregon has considered and rejected legislation. In Alaska, regulators rejected onsite use last year but are scheduled to revisit the issue next month.

]]> 0, 15 Mar 2018 23:08:55 +0000
Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran among stars who will cover Elton John across two albums Thu, 15 Mar 2018 21:34:07 +0000 NEW YORK — Elton John’s songs will be reworked by top artists including Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Willie Nelson and Chris Stapleton.

John announced Thursday the April 6 release of two albums.

“Revamp” will include covers by pop and rock stars from Mary J. Blige to Miley Cyrus.

Miranda Lambert and Dolly Parton will appear on the country album “Restoration.”

“Restoration” also will feature Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Don Henley, Little Big Town, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, Brothers Osborne, Dierks Bentley, Rhonda Vincent and Lee Ann Womack.

]]> 0 John and his band perform during a concert Friday night at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.Thu, 15 Mar 2018 20:41:56 +0000
Harper Lee estate sues over Broadway adaptation of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Thu, 15 Mar 2018 21:28:04 +0000 BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The estate of “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee has filed suit over an upcoming Broadway adaptation of the novel.

The lawsuit argues that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s script wrongly alters Atticus Finch and other characters from the book.

The suit, which includes a copy of a contract signed by Lee and dated about eight months before her death in February 2016, contends that Sorkin’s script violates the agreement by portraying Finch, the noble attorney who represents a black man wrongly accused of rape in “Mockingbird,” as someone else in the play.

Filed against the theater company of New York producer Scott Rudin, the complaint cites an interview with the online publication Vulture in which Sorkin was quoted as saying the small-town lawyer would evolve from a racist apologist at the start of the show to become “Atticus Finch by the end of the play.”

Such a change during a play could fit with the character evolution shown between the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Mockingbird” and Lee’s first draft of the novel, finally released in 2015 as “Go Set a Watchman.”

But the lawsuit contends the script would violate the contact by changing Finch and other characters and adding still more people who aren’t in the novel.

The lawsuit asks a judge to enforce a section of the agreement that says the play won’t “depart in any manner from the spirit of the novel nor alter its characters.”

The play is scheduled to open in New York in December.

]]> 0 Sorkin, left, and "To Kill A Mockingbird" author Harper Lee, above.Thu, 15 Mar 2018 20:52:11 +0000
French baker fined $3,600 for working too hard Thu, 15 Mar 2018 17:20:49 +0000 Boy, those Europeans really do appreciate their holidays! So much so that one small business owner got fined $3,600 for not taking one.

In France, everyone is required to take a day off per week. Even if you run your own business. That lesson was learned the hard way by Cedric Vaivre, who owns a bakery in the tourist region of Lake Bakey in Lusigny-sur-Barse, which is about 120 miles southeast of Paris.

To meet the demands of the summer season, Vaivre made fresh croissants and baguettes seven days a week. However, local labor laws say that small businesses can only work six out of seven days maximum. The laws are there to protect workers from exploitation and that’s fair enough. In fact, bakeries, which are known to push their employees to work at all hours of the night, are particularly under scrutiny in France. But what about the owners? Can’t they choose to work seven days in a row if they want to? Apparently not.

“These kind of laws are killing our businesses,” Christian Branle, the town’s mayor, told The Mirror. “You have to show some common sense if you’re a small rural community in an area where there is not a lot of competition.” Many proprietors in French towns like Lusigny-sur-Barse depend on the summer tourist trade for their livelihoods, and prohibiting them from opening every day cuts heavily into their profits. “We need to allow people to work when visitors need this service,” Branle said.

He’s certainly got public opinion on his side. Some customers who enjoy the baker’s fresh bread every morning called the fine “disgusting” and now more than 500 people have signed a petition supporting his right to work a full seven days.

Vaivre has yet to pay the fine.

]]> 0, 15 Mar 2018 17:16:22 +0000
FDA moves to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes to make them less addictive Thu, 15 Mar 2018 16:04:50 +0000 WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the first concrete action to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to make them much less addictive, opening a regulatory process described as a “historic first step” by the agency’s top official.

Commissioner Scott Gottlieb unveiled an “advance notice of proposed rulemaking,” the earliest step in what promises to be a long, complicated regulatory effort to lower nicotine levels to be minimally addictive or nonaddictive.

The notice, to be published Friday in the Federal Register, includes new data published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday based on a possible policy scenario. That FDA-funded analysis found that slashing nicotine levels could push the smoking rate down to 1.4 percent from the current 15 percent of adults. That in turn would result in 8 million fewer tobacco-related deaths through the end of the century – which Gottlieb termed “an undeniable public health benefit.”

The evaluation was based on reducing nicotine levels to 0.4 milligrams per gram of tobacco filler, FDA officials told reporters during a teleconference.

Many adults try to quit smoking each year but fail because nicotine is such an addictive substance, said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. Cutting the nicotine level would not only help them succeed, but it also could keep young people who may be experimenting with cigarettes from becoming addicted, he said.

The nicotine notice will be open for public comment for 90 days. FDA officials are seeking input on what the maximum nicotine level in cigarettes should be and whether such a limit should be implemented all at once or gradually. Nicotine levels can be manipulated by leaf blending, chemical extraction and genetic engineering.

Other critical issues that will need to be addressed, according to officials, include the potential for illicit trade in high-nicotine cigarettes and whether addicted smokers would compensate for lower nicotine levels by smoking more. After the comment period ends, officials will decide whether to move forward with a formal proposal.

Thursday’s action follows Gottlieb’s announcement last summer that the agency would pursue a comprehensive plan on tobacco and nicotine regulation in an effort to avert millions of tobacco-related deaths. Smoking is at an all-time low in the United States, and tobacco use among young people is also at historically low rates. Still, smoking causes 480,000 deaths annually in this country.

The 2009 Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA the power to regulate tobacco, though not to ban it.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an antismoking group, said that Thursday’s action will have “enormous significance” – provided it is followed by quick FDA action to develop and adopt a final rule.

“It would be the most significant public health proposal we have seen from the U.S. government in the last 20 years,” Myers said. No regulatory agency in the world has seriously proposed reducing nicotine in cigarettes, he said.

“While this issue has been discussed conceptually for years, this is first time we have a government agency saying it is achievable, feasible and can be implemented in a way that doesn’t cause serious negative consequences,” Myers said.

Robin Koval, chief executive and president of Truth Initiative, another anti-tobacco group, also praised the effort, calling it a “a serious, strong response.” But it will be important for the FDA also to move forward on other fronts, she said, including on new e-cigarette rules that were delayed last summer by Gottlieb.

In discussing his comprehensive tobacco strategy on Thursday, Gottlieb said he sees “a historic opportunity” to use nicotine reduction as a way to move smokers from conventional cigarettes to products that provide nicotine without the serious health hazards posed by burning tobacco. Those alternative nicotine-delivery products include e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapies.

A spokesman for Philip Morris International said the company was still reviewing the agency’s advance notice. The firm previously had expressed support for Gottlieb’s nicotine regulation plan, which he said “encourages the development of innovative new tobacco products that may be less harmful than cigarettes.”

James Figlar, executive vice president of research and development for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, said in a statement that he looks forward “to working with FDA on its science-based review of nicotine levels in cigarettes and to build on the opportunity of establishing a regulatory framework that is based on tobacco harm reduction and recognizes the continuum of risk.”

The FDA also said Thursday that it plans to soon issue two other advance notices: One on the role that flavors, including menthol, play in the use and cessation of use of tobacco products; and the other on the regulation of premium cigars.

]]> 0, 15 Mar 2018 20:37:39 +0000
This year, it’s a St. Patrick’s Saturday. Here’s where you can run out and celebrate. Thu, 15 Mar 2018 02:48:05 +0000 0, 14 Mar 2018 22:48:37 +0000 Move over McDreamy, it’s another Mainer’s era on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Thu, 15 Mar 2018 01:26:32 +0000 During the dozen or so years Tameson Duffy struggled to become a Hollywood screenwriter, working as a dog walker or giving out drink samples at Whole Foods to pay the bills, she did not think of giving up once.

She thought of it many, many times.

Maine native Tameson Duffy, a writer for the long-running ABC medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” wrote the episode airing Thursday. Travis Tanner photo

“Oh, absolutely, all the time. That was the biggest challenge, to keep finding your way out of disappointment and rejection,” said Duffy, 48, now a writer with the long-running ABC medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” “I would think about how I left Maine, I had all this student loan debt, and I was working some stupid job.”

Duffy will literally get to see the results of her resilience Thursday at 8 p.m. when the first “Grey’s Anatomy” episode she penned airs. She’s been a staff writer, contributing to all the episodes, since last spring. She still gets emotional talking about the day she was offered the job to join the show for its 14th season.

“I freaked out. I said, ‘Oh my God. What? Are you – ‘ and then I got teary,” said Duffy.

Duffy was a fan of “Grey’s Anatomy,” and especially the writers, way before she ever worked with them. She said she always admired how relatable the characters seemed to be and the “humanity and humor” conveyed in the writing.

“These were people who were saving lives, but their own lives were falling apart,” Duffy said. One of the show’s original stars was Patrick Dempsey, originally from Lewiston and known on the show as “McDreamy,” but he left “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2015 before Duffy joined it.

During a TV writer’s strike about 10 years ago, Duffy decided to join a picket line that included “Grey’s Anatomy” writers and staff, to show her support for them. She was living in Los Angeles, having earned a master’s degree in screenwriting at UCLA a couple years earlier.

Ellen Pompeo in a scene from the episode of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” airing Thursday at 8 p.m. Maine native Tameson Duffy is a writer with the show and wrote this episode. ABC/Mitch Haaseth photo

As she was leaving the picket line, one of the “Grey’s Anatomy” people started talking with her. It turned out to be Krista Vernoff, a former writer on the show who is now the series’ show runner, the person who has the final say on scripts and production.

Duffy happened to know someone who knew Vernoff, and the two stayed in touch. Duffy eventually worked as a research assistant helping Vernoff write a fitness book. Over the years, Vernoff recommended Duffy for some writing jobs and read scripts Duffy was working on.

Then, last year, Vernoff invited Duffy to pitch stories for a “Grey’s Anatomy” episode. She wrote that episode – the one that’s airing Thursday – as a freelancer, but it convinced Vernoff to hire her as one of the show’s 11 writers. There are also three medical doctors on staff, to help with medical details in the scripts.

Duffy got interested in acting as a youngster, partly because she’s always been interested in people’s stories. After graduating from York High School and studying at the University of Maine, she acted while working other jobs for more than a dozen years. She lived in Portland and was in several productions of the Mad Horse Theatre ensemble. But eventually, she felt that acting and the roles available to her as a woman were too limiting. “I was either a virgin, a mother or a hooker, and I got really frustrated,” said Duffy. “I decided I wanted to write.”

She got her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Maine and then applied to the screenwriting program at UCLA, and got in. She drove out to California with her mother. Besides more menial jobs, she worked in the industry as an assistant to writers, actors and show runners. She also wrote some film shorts.

Each episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” is written by one writer, but all the other writers contribute, sitting in a room with a white board, jotting down ideas and helping to make characters come to life, Duffy said. Writers might have to turn out a script in two days or have two weeks to do it, she said. The group of writers help plan out all the stories for a season.

“We ask ‘What is Meredith (Grey, the lead character) going to face? What are the relatable problems, challenges we can give these characters?” Duffy said.

Duffy said she couldn’t talk specifically about what happens in the episode she wrote. But ABC press materials describe it this way: “Meredith tries to learn more about Marie Cerone’s history with her mother. Meanwhile, Jo is applying for fellowships around the country and it throws Alex for a loop: and Tom Koracick helps April acknowledge her crisis of faith.”

Kelly McCreary and Jesse Williams in a scene from an episode of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” airing Thursday at 8 p.m. Maine native Tameson Duffy, now living in California, wrote the episode. ABC/Mitch Haaseth

That’s a lot to keep straight. Especially when some of the characters, like Meredith, have 14 seasons’ worth of life events that viewers have already seen. Some of the writers are longtime veterans too, and they help sort things out, like telling a writer to delete something if it already happened to the character.

Duffy will watch the episode she wrote with a friend who is coming from Maine, and with her wife, actress and comedian Frances Nichols. Nichols was cast this season as Nurse Karen on “Grey’s Anatomy.” As proof that Hollywood is a small town, Duffy and Nichols got their jobs on the show independently of each other.

As the writer of Thursday’s episode, Duffy got to be at the filming, in a crucial role. She said, unlike films where the director’s vision clearly takes precedent, a TV show’s director takes advice and notes from the writer and passes them on to the actors. If a scene needs to be funnier or more emotional, the writer will point that out, Duffy said.

“A challenge of the job is staying true to the characters. You need them to go through a real human journey,” said Duffy.

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

Twitter: @RayRouthier

]]> 0 McCreary and Jesse Williams in a scene from an episode of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" airing Thursday at 8 p.m. Maine native Tameson Duffy, now living in California, wrote the episode. ABC/Mitch Haaseth photoThu, 15 Mar 2018 09:25:07 +0000
Happiness study puts Finland at the top of the world – despite the cold Thu, 15 Mar 2018 00:10:00 +0000 HELSINKI — If cold weather and a lack of sunlight in winter are enough to get you down, chances are you’re not Finnish.

The World Happiness Report published Wednesday put Finland at the top among 156 countries ranked by happiness levels, based on factors such as life expectancy, social support and corruption.

Finland has emerged as the happiest place to live even though little sun and low temperatures are often blamed for high rates of depression.

“Well, our politics and our economics. … I think the basics are quite good in Finland,” said Sofia Holm, 24-year-old resident of Helsinki, the Nordic country’s capital. “So, yes, we have the perfect circumstances to have a happy life here in Finland.”

And that’s not forgetting other plentiful attractions like skiing and saunas and, for children of all ages, Santa Claus.

“It’s a great thing to live in the happiest country although it’s snowing and we are walking in this wet snow,” said Helsinki resident Inari Lepisto, 28. “Yes, we have many things that make me happy.”

This year, the annual report published by the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network also evaluated 117 countries by the happiness and well-being of their immigrants.

In 2015, more than a million migrants entered Europe, and a few thousand made it to Finland, a relatively homogenous country with about 300,000 foreigners and residents with foreign roots, out of its 5.5 million people.

Finland’s largest immigrant groups come from other European nations, but there also are communities from Afghanistan, China, Iraq and Somalia.

John Helliwell, a co-editor of the World Happiness Report and professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia, noted that all the countries in the Top 10 scored highest both in overall happiness and regarding the happiness of immigrants. He said a society’s happiness seems contagious.

Finland nudged neighboring Norway into second place.

The United States fell to 18th place from 14th last year.

]]> 0 sit in a sauna in Leppavirta, in central Finland. Frequent sauna baths may help men live longer, a Finnish study suggests.Wed, 14 Mar 2018 23:17:55 +0000
Rapper’s mother asks DA to help her jailed son Wed, 14 Mar 2018 22:49:24 +0000 PHILADELPHIA — The mother of jailed rapper Meek Mill is calling on Philadelphia’s district attorney to “step in” and help her son.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the plea by Kathy Williams came during a brief news conference Tuesday before the start of a criminal justice panel at the University of Pennsylvania.

Williams strongly criticized the judge who sentenced Mill to two to four years in prison last fall for violating probation on a roughly decade-old gun and drug case. An appeals court in December denied a request to free the 30-year-old musician on bail.

]]> 0 Wed, 14 Mar 2018 18:49:24 +0000
It might take a second look, but ‘Poole’s’ can bring the diner feel to your table Wed, 14 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000

“Poole’s: Recipe and Stories from a Modern Diner.” By Ashley Christensen. Ten Speed Press, 2016. $35

There is something quintessentially American about eating at a diner: The close proximity of other customers. Watching cooks in action. Spinning on a vinyl upholstered stool.

For me, a good diner requires multiple visits to get a true sense of the food, the vibe and the clientele. Then, with credentials confirmed, they become favorite and frequent haunts.

Similarly, it took several trips inside the pages of “Poole’s: Recipes and Stories From a Modern Diner,” before I grew comfortable. The nearly 300-page book is much more than a quick flip through a litany of recipes. This is Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christensen’s loving ode to her Raleigh, North Carolina, diner; her philosophy on modern comfort food; and an essay on why she calls her patrons “guests,” not customers.

Chapter titles like Counter Snacks, Vinaigrettes, and Bowls & Such at first glance lacked clarity, and I wished there were more pictures of the finished dishes. But when I learned Christensen uses “vinaigrette” as a synonym for salad, I caught on. Her four go-to recipes for quick and flavorful oil and vinegar combinations also helped. I can vouch for the deliciously simple Bibb Lettuce Salad. The Pork Ribs with Mustard Sorghum Sauce, from the Counter Snacks chapter (think appetizers), were another hit with my own guests.

Taking the time to read Christensen’s story is worthwhile. My copy of “Poole’s” now has sticky notes dotting each section. The book is written in a witty, whimsical manner that encourages adventurousness in the kitchen. Whether it was something as simple as learning why spices should be scattered from eye level (more even diffusion) or making a tarragon-infused white wine reduction, I felt my skills improving.

Maybe that’s why I opted to test drive the Caramelized Onion-Tomato Soup with Jarlsberg Croutons. My previous soup experience begins and ends with a can opener and a heat source. This recipe called for two pots, the aforementioned tarragon reduction, a combination of patience and timing, more salt than I’ve ever used in my life, and the faith that combining two classic soups was even a good idea.

Sure enough, I learned a few things, like:

Four cups of wine is greater than one standard bottle.

Two pounds of thinly sliced onions barely fit in the skillet to start but after cooking ended up not even covering the surface.

They must use really large serving crocks at Poole’s because this makes way more than six servings.

Two days later my house still smells like onions.

And, as the three empty soup crocks on my table proved, this recipe produces a rich, flavorful soup that can stand as a meal.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

Twitter: SteveCCraig


Serves 6

1/2 cup olive oil

6 cloves garlic, crushed

2 (28-ounce) cans diced organic tomatoes

Sea salt

2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil

2 pounds yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 6 cups)

4 cups dry white wine

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

6 to 7 whole sprigs tarragon, leaves intact

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard


1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil

1/2 baguette, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 cup grated Jarlsberg (any nutty, melty cheese, such as Gruyère, would work well here)

1. In a large Dutch oven, combine the olive oil and garlic. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 2 teaspoons sea salt and increase the heat to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes; the tomatoes and garlic will be falling apart and the flavors will be cohesive.

2. Meanwhile, in a high-sided sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions and 2 teaspoons salt. Turn the heat to high, stirring frequently. Once the pan is hot (about 1 minute), reduce the heat to medium and cover; cook, covered, for 20 minutes. When you remove the lid, lots of moisture will escape and the onions will have begun to caramelize. Cook, stirring, until the onions are thick and deep brown. Transfer the onions to a bowl and return the pan to high heat.

3. Add the wine, vinegar and tarragon. Cook until the liquid has reduced down to become thick and syrupy. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.

4. Strain the tarragon infusion into the stewed tomato mixture, discarding the solids. Stir in the caramelized onions, mustard and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 20 minutes.

5. While the soup is simmering, make the croutons. Line a plate with paper towels. In a large skillet over high heat, heat the oil. When it shimmers, add the baguette slices in an even layer; when they begin to turn golden on the bottom, add the butter, turn the heat down to medium, and swirl to coat. Fry the bread for 3 to 4 minutes on one side, until it is dark, golden brown. Transfer to the paper-lined plate.

6. Stack three croutons in the center of each of six ovenproof soup bowls, placing a small pinch of cheese between each layer. Ladle the soup around the stacks of bread to fill the bowls. Sprinkle a last pinch of cheese in the center of each bowl. Place the bowls under the broiler and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve.

]]> 0, 14 Mar 2018 03:15:34 +0000
Morse High School alumnus donates $50,000 to school’s music program Tue, 13 Mar 2018 22:09:22 +0000 BATH — Concerned that the federal government under President Trump will not support the arts financially, a 1962 graduate of Morse High School, now retired and living in California, has donated $50,000 to create a Music Enrichment Fund to provide scholarships so students can attend summer youth music schools and to expose them to the Portland Symphony Orchestra and other musical groups in Maine.

Allen Commeau, a trombone player at Morse who also served as band president and continued playing at the University of Maine, said he had been thinking about supporting the high school music department for many years.

“But the catalyst was reading that our current president had decided to defund the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities,” Commeau said in a phone interview Tuesday. “These are two programs that were established by Kennedy administration back in the 1960s, and they have been very successful. They are programs that if defunded will have a profound effect on small cities and town around the country, like Bath.”

In his budget proposal, Trump has proposed eliminating the NEA and NEH. Congress has yet to act on his proposal. Commeau didn’t want to wait to see what Congress decided. “That’s what lit the fire for me, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” he said.

Commeau worked as an accountant and helped the Massachusetts Institute of Technology manage its investments and endowments before moving to California and becoming involved in real estate.

Anthony Marro, the band director at Morse, said the gift was a surprise for everyone involved in the music program. “I was sitting in the band room in the middle of January, and a secretary came down and told me someone called and donated $50,000. I said, ‘Are you sure?’ ”

Commeau said he hoped other Morse music alumni and people in Bath also will contribute to the fund.

Playing music changed his life, he said, giving him confidence and teaching him the importance of listening and working cooperatively with other people. While in the band at Morse, he received a scholarship from the Bath Lion’s Club to attend the University of New Hampshire Summer Youth Music School for three summers. He played music in college at the University of Maine, and has made music a priority in life.

“This sort of thing can have a profound effect on young students,” he said. “It’s all about opening doors for students.”

The Music Enrichment Fund will be administered by the Morse High School Music Association, a booster club for the school’s music programs. A board will be established to review student applications and oversee the distribution of funds.

More than 250 students participate in band and chorus at Morse and Bath Middle School. All will be eligible to apply for music scholarships, Marro said.

The fund also will be used to expose student-musicians to professional orchestras and ensembles.

“The big thing for what it means to the music department, these are things the regular school budget can’t afford to do. We can’t send kids to summer camps, and we can’t bring them to the Portland Symphony or the Bangor Symphony (orchestras). It’s just not in the budget,” Marro said. “I don’t know how many of our students have actually been able to see something like that, but I bet it’s just a fraction of them who have seen an orchestra perform live.”

Commeau said he was grateful for opportunities he had coming of age in Bath, and wants to make sure others have similar opportunities.

“It’s a great town to grow up in. It was a very positive environment for me both at Morse and as a resident of Bath,” he said.

Beth Schultz is a parent of three music students in Bath and treasurer of the Morse High School Music Association. Raising money, she said, is difficult. She hopes Commeau’s gift seeds more donations from the community.

“Every year I hope that maybe we can raise enough money to take all of the kids and expose them to this or that, but it’s just something we haven’t been able to do,” she said. “It’s almost like Mr. Commeau was listening to our conversations. Out of the blue, it makes all of these things possible.”

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0 Commeau, shown here at the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra Concert in Bamberg, Germany, donated $50,000 to the music program at Morse High School in Bath.Tue, 13 Mar 2018 19:41:58 +0000
James Comey to make daytime talk show debut on ‘The View’ Tue, 13 Mar 2018 21:13:08 +0000 NEW YORK — Former FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to appear on ABC’s “The View.”

Host Whoopi Goldberg on Tuesday announced that Comey will participate in his first daytime talk show interview on April 18. Goldberg says they’ll have a lot to talk about.

The appearance will come after an April 15 interview on the network’s “20/20” program before Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty,” is released.

Republican President Donald Trump fired Comey last May. Comey has since made his personal feelings about Trump known, testifying in detail about personal interactions he says troubled him.

]]> 0 FBI Director James Comey testifying earlier this month. Senate Intelligence Committee leaders have been assured they'll be able to review his memos.Reuters/Jonathan ErnstTue, 13 Mar 2018 18:00:00 +0000
Horoscopes March 13, 2018 Tue, 13 Mar 2018 08:01:07 +0000 0, 12 Mar 2018 14:30:28 +0000 Portland sculptor’s public art says welcome to San Diego – with a twist Tue, 13 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000

Aaron T Stephan uses a lift as he disassembles his sculpture “Paths Woven” with assistant Elizabeth Kleene at Stephan’s Portland studio. He won a $275,000 commission from the San Diego airport authority last March and has been working on the project most of the year since. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

From the bucket of a mechanical lift, sculptor Aaron T Stephan shouts out numbers and letters like a bingo caller: “24B, 38A, 26E.” On the floor below, an assistant, Tessa Greene O’Brien, writes everything in a notebook and repeats the numbers and letters back to him.

Precision is essential. Stephan and his team are taking apart and packing for transport an intricate wooden suspended sculpture, “Paths Woven,” that consists of 25 twisted wooden ladders that are spun around each other like a giant double-helix. The sculpture is 65 feet long and 16 feet in diameter at its widest, and consists of 125 separate pieces. Each piece is marked so Stephan will know how to reassemble his artwork.

That will happen this spring when Stephan, a Portland artist with a national following, installs the piece in a new building at the San Diego International Airport.

“This one is complicated,” he said with a small laugh.

“Paths Woven” is among the most ambitious projects Stephan has taken on in the 15-plus years he’s been making public art. He won a $275,000 commission from the San Diego airport authority last March and has been working on the project most of the year since. That money is supposed to cover all of his costs associated with the piece, including its design, fabrication and installation, as well as his pay, wages for his assistants and the bill for trucking everything – estimated at about $5,000 – more than 3,000 miles from Portland to San Diego.

He designed and built everything himself, constructing the ladders with six layers of laminated Maine maple, and one with walnut that is local to San Diego. He used more than 4 miles of laminated wood, 70 gallons of glue, and hundreds of dowels and clamps.

By using thin layers of wood, Stephan allowed each section to find its natural flexibility and achieve the spiral effect he envisioned when he conceived the piece. The ladders share a basic shape, but each one is unique.

“I wanted to let the wood do what it wanted to do,” he said. “It makes a more graceful curve than I could.”

A rendering shows “Paths Woven” as it is intended to appear in San Diego International Airport’s new lobby, where friends and loved ones will unite with arriving passengers.


Stephan installed the sculpture as a dry run in a rented warehouse in Portland, and will truck it to San Diego in May. It will take about two weeks to put it back together. The new airport building will open in late June or early July, said Lauren Lockhart, arts program manager for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

“Paths Woven” will be suspended from the ceiling of the “meeter-greeter” lobby of the airport’s new Federal Inspection Services Facility. That’s where friends and loved ones will unite with arriving international passengers, Lockhart said. It’s a glass-walled room with natural light and will be lit at night, so Stephan’s piece will be visible from the airport road just outside the building.

He won a competitive bid process for the project, responding to a public call for a light and airy work of art that would communicate “a sense of welcome and embrace.” He was among 48 artists who submitted proposals.

A panel of art and design professionals “saw the wonderful accessibility of the piece. It’s beautifully handcrafted, and showed the expertise that Aaron has in terms of fabrication,” Lockhart said. “There are so many imaginative possibilities of the piece. Everyone has a different interpretation, and that is something we love and strive to achieve. Our audience is incredibly diverse and has different levels of experience with art.”

Stephan saw it as an opportunity to create a piece of art that represents a pathway forward. The international terminal is a place where “you are coming off a plane and entering a community,” he said. “For me, that was the jumping off point.”

Aaron T Stephan disassembles his wooden sculpture “Paths Woven” at his Portland studio on Feb. 28. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette


Whether people are arriving in the country for the first time or returning from a trip abroad, “Paths Woven” represents a gateway of limitless possibilities. Travelers will first encounter a single ladder, which leads to many ladders that turn in among themselves to form a twisted maze of connections.

Stephan, 43, is one of Maine’s most successful and high-profile artists. He’s won dozens of public art commissions in the state and across the country, including “Paths Crossed,” an early iteration of the San Diego piece, at Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis. He’s the artist who will install funky street lamps at Woodfords Corner this fall, and his super-tall table and chairs, “Lift,” anchor the lobby of the Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

Stephan completed his undergraduate studies at the State University of New York at Purchase and earned his master’s degree at Maine College of Art in 2002. He studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and has landed artist residencies at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York, and the Kohler Foundation in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Tom Denenberg, director of the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont, tapped Stephan to install two temporary pieces last summer, “30 Columns” and “Flat World.” One is a series of columns made of polycomposite and aluminum, painted white, anchored in the earth and arranged to fan out like a deck of cards. The other is a massive cast-iron ball, 6 feet in diameter.

Both commanded attention because of the way they were put together and the visual force of their physical character, said Denenberg, who became familiar with Stephan when Denenberg worked as curator and interim director of the Portland Museum of Art.

Studio assistant Elizabeth Kleene takes down a portion of Aaron T Stephan’s wooden sculpture “Paths Woven” at Stephan’s Portland studio. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette


Stephan understands materials and environments, and finds his creative expression at their intersection. He’s a smart artist, an inventive engineer and a craftsman with inherent respect for and mastery of his material, be it wood, iron, plastic or something else, Denenberg said.

“He absorbs context and his environment, and he’s got this serious, playful intellect,” he said, describing the artist as “almost Escher-like. You can sort of tell that Aaron was the guy in high school who was probably drawing those things. He just happened to be the guy who grew up to execute them.”

Stephan spent most of 2017 working on the “Paths Woven” piece, designing it, lining up permits and materials and then cutting and gluing, sanding and re-sanding, clamping and un-clamping. It takes a long time to turn 4 miles of wood into 25 shaped ladders.

It will all be worth it, he said, when “Paths Woven” inspires awe among travelers who are weary from their journey and eager for enlightenment.

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0 T Stephan uses a lift as he disassembles his sculpture "Paths Woven" with assistant Elizabeth Kleene at Stephan's Portland studio. He won a $275,000 commission from the San Diego airport authority last March and has been working on the project most of the year since.Mon, 12 Mar 2018 23:58:01 +0000
Colby College gets $2 million gift for arts center in downtown Waterville Tue, 13 Mar 2018 02:38:29 +0000 WATERVILLE — A longtime Colby College supporter is donating $2 million for a contemporary art gallery in a downtown arts center planned by Colby and Waterville Creates! at 93 Main St., college officials announced.

The donor is Colby Trustee Emeritus Paul J. Schupf, who received an honorary degree from the college in 2006. Schupf has given several significant contributions to Colby in the past, making possible the Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Works of Alex Katz, and the Paul J. Schupf Sculpture Court at the Colby College Museum of Art; the Paul J. Schupf Scientific Computing Center; the Anthony-Mitchell-Schupf residence hall; and the Colby College-Memorial Sloan Kettering Summer Internship.

Schupf, a collector, has also donated numerous works of art, including pieces by Katz and a gift of more than 150 works on paper by Richard Serra.

Colby and Waterville Creates! are trying to raise $18 million to $20 million to transform The Center at 93 Main St. into a thriving art and film center, including the contemporary art gallery on the first floor and a relocated Railroad Square Cinema with new equipment and seating on the second.

The gallery, to be named after Schupf, allows the Colby art museum to expand into downtown Waterville, Colby officials said in a statement.

As part of the downtown arts complex, the Schupf gallery will feature a rotating program of contemporary art exhibitions. Regularly scheduled gallery events will be held in the space.

“The Schupf gallery will be a vital part of the new center for contemporary art and film, which has been conceived to create a hub of activity on Main Street and cement Waterville’s place as a destination for the arts,” Colby President David A. Greene said in the statement. “Once again, Paul Schupf has given so generously to help make art accessible to the Waterville community and visitors from Maine and beyond.”

Schupf is an emeritus member of the Colby College Museum of Art’s board of governors and served as a college trustee for many years.

“Starting in 1985 with President Bill Cotter and museum director Hugh J. Gourley III, I became entranced by the wonderful, adventurous Colby College Museum of Art,” Schupf said in the statement. “When David Greene discussed with me the possibility of creating a gallery in Waterville, I jumped on board immediately. The donation of the Paul J. Schupf gallery for contemporary art in downtown Waterville is just another manifestation of my admiration for the college and its museum.”

On March 5, Colby and Waterville Creates! announced plans to transform the downtown building to help make Waterville a singular destination for the arts in Maine. The project will feature new and renovated space to support leading programs in visual arts, theater, film and arts education.

The larger complex will include the Waterville Opera House, Common Street Arts, the Maine Film Center and the cinema. It is expected to attract even more visitors to Main Street, anchored by a hotel Colby plans to build a block from Castonguay Square and Colby’s Bill and Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, which is expected to house 200 Colby students, faculty and staff at 150 Main St.

Colby also bought and renovated 173 Main St. across the street from the Commons. The former Waterville Savings Bank building houses software consultant CGI Group, Colby employees and a student business incubator.

]]> 0 Center in downtown Waterville, shown as it looked in April 2016 before it became an arts hub that includes a gallery and studios, is the focus of a plan advanced by Colby College and Waterville Creates! to transform it into an arts and film center. The project received a $2 million donation from trustee emeritus and art collector Paul J. Schupf.Mon, 12 Mar 2018 23:24:52 +0000
Theater review: Sobering Footlights production is an important Holocaust reminder Tue, 13 Mar 2018 01:22:45 +0000 With hate crimes on the rise and a volatile political climate in the forefront of the minds of many, Footlights Theatre in Falmouth is revisiting the Holocaust, when 11 million people – including Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and those with disabilities – were exterminated for simply being different.

Anne Drakopolous’ “Appell: The Other Side of the Fence” is making its world premiere, offering moving first-hand accounts of the Holocaust, based on stories from survivors and their families.

Footlights’ announcement that the theater would stage Drakopolous’ debut play was met with a backlash of phone calls expressing anti-Semitic sentiments and anger that the theater was staging a play about the Holocaust. Despite the threats and disgruntled feedback, “Appell” opened Friday night to a standing ovation.

The play is set in a concentration camp during World War II. Chicken wire serves as the backdrop, giving those in the audience the feeling that they are imprisoned along with the 16-member cast. Low lighting, ringing gunshot sound effects and black costuming with colorful symbols – yellow stars for Jews and pink triangles for homosexuals – add to the somber eeriness of the production.

Families are ripped apart, homosexuals are brutalized, newborn babies are tossed away like garbage and children are tortured and maimed in heart-wrenching remembrances recounted by the cast as Holocaust prisoners in the one-act, 90-minute production. The images painted by the cast’s words are disturbing, but artfully rendered.

Alexandra Spiegel (160344) was bone-chilling Friday as a 13-year-old girl who was savagely experimented on by the notorious Nazi SS “Angel of Death,” Josef Mengele. The look in her eyes as she recounted her character’s horrific experience was beyond haunting, and her brief screams were blood-curdling.

The stories come one after another. A young woman, played by Allie Souza (64735), bravely risks her life to keep a promise that she made to her mom (157178, played by Ann Foskett Miller), desperately trying to save her unseen brother from the gas chamber. Cheryl Reynolds’ character (71978) is reunited with her most prized procession – a photograph – after being the only survivor of a family of 21. A man, played by Paul Menezes (B3005), graphically recalls surviving executed bodies being piled atop him as they fell into a pit after being shot at point-blank range.

Among the recounted horrors, there is an unquenchable resilience. Sonja and Kurt, played by Jackie Oliveri (44124) and David Murray (7952), tell their heartwarming story of survival and emigration to Portland, where they lived a fulfilling life, married 66 years.

Combined, the stories paint a larger picture not only of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, but the strength of those who survived the unthinkable torment and unlivable conditions. Mark Calkins (A7063), Jaymie K. Chamberlin (39164), Victoria Machado (140603), Phyllis McQuaide (157622), Patricia Mew (39934), Pam Mutty (107984), Anja Machado (44591) and Meghan Scott Curran (2318) round out the poignant cast of prisoners.

Bob Porzio is tasked with the difficult role of being the face of Nazi Germany as the only visible SS officer in the play. His looming character embodies the abhorrent barbarism of the Holocaust, while giving glimpses into the underlying conflict raging within a man conscripted into the depraved Adolf Hitler’s army. His character also relays sobering facts about concentration-camp practices and educates with details such as that “appell” means “roll call” in German.

There are very few Holocaust survivors still alive to tell their life stories today, making it easier for the savagery of the Holocaust to fade into history. “Appell: The Other Side of the Fence” is a stirring play that successfully reminds us to never forget, graphically painting indelible images onto the minds of theatergoers.

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

Twitter: @ahboyle

]]> 0 McQuaide, left, Ann Foskett Miller, Cheryl Reynolds, Victoria Machado, Jackie Oliveri and Pam Mutty star in "Appell: The Other Side of the Fence."Mon, 12 Mar 2018 23:19:36 +0000