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Allen Adams

Allen Adams

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America has always been fertile ground for those with … unconventional ideas. That fertility ebbs and flows, to be sure, with one of the high points – perhaps THE high point – being the middle of the 20th century. The odd energy of the post-war period manifested itself in a tendency for people to search for enlightenment in new ways. And once the notion of ETs and UFOs entered the picture, well – things got weird.

People didn’t understand … and people who don’t understand can be dangerous.

That weirdness and its generational aftermath, for those inside and outside alike, serve as the foundation of Brian Castleberry’s debut novel “Nine Shiny Objects” (Custom House, $27.99). This novel-in-stories of sorts takes a long look at the America of the latter half of the 20th century, viewing it through the lens of a short-lived fringe group of UFO fanatics and the traumatic fallout of the years following its collapse.

By following a variety of individuals via their connections to the group, we bear witness as the booming postwar years give way to the counterculture ‘60s, the hedonistic ‘70s and the go-go ‘80s. But even with the growing generational remove, all of the people we encounter bear the psychological repercussions springing from the too-brief life of that initial collective while also dealing with a changing America.

Thursday, 02 July 2020 11:39

Celebrity Slam - Grip it and rip it

Hello friends! We have returned!

Now that The Maine Edge is back in print, we here at Celebrity Slam have decided to make our way back as well. The truth is that in these trying times, it’s good to be able to have a laugh or two – particularly at the expense of the rich and famous, who despite everything going on in the world still manage to find time to say and do dumb and/or goofy things.

This week’s entry might not have as much star power as we usually see in this space, but it more than makes up for it in sheer joyous silliness. Believe it or not, we’re hitting the PGA links.

Specifically, we’re talking about the Travelers Championship, which took place over the weekend. And we’re talking about Ian Poulter, a veteran of professional golf with a decorated career. Why are we talking about Ian Poulter, you may ask?

Well … let’s just say that he gave a whole new meaning to the golf adage “grip it and rip it.”

Thursday, 02 July 2020 11:37

Weird National Briefs (07/01/2020)

Whose kid is this?

ODESSA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida woman has filed a lawsuit seeking either a paternity test on her goats or a refund — and she’s not kidding.

Kris Hedstrom filed the suit against her neighbor, Heather Dayner, last month seeking DNA for the goats she purchased. Hedstrom paid Dayner $900 for five Nigerian dwarf goats in December.

According to the lawsuit, Hedstrom believed the goats — Bella, Gigi, Rosie, Zelda and Margoat — could be registered with the American Dairy Goat Association, a group that records goat pedigrees. Registered goats have higher values than unregistered goats.

Dayner, who has been selling goats at Baxter Lane Farm for about 10 years, typically provides information to her clients so they can register their animals themselves.

She said the father goat was registered, but the Tampa Bay Times reports the American Dairy Goat Association rejected Hedstrom’s application to register the babies because Dayner is not an active member.

Proving paternity would require about 40 of the father goat’s hair follicles for a DNA test, so Hedstrom wrote Dayner a letter requesting the DNA in February.

Dayner offered to refund the money in exchange for the goats.

She said Hedstrom called police on her for three months straight and has trespassed on her farm. A Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy visited the property at least three times in the spring.

Dayner said she didn’t hear anything else from Hedstrom until the lawsuit was filed.

TME – Someone get Maury Povich’s people on the phone ASAP.

Thursday, 02 July 2020 11:34

Patriots sign QB Cam Newton

It turns out that the New England Patriots might have a former MVP under center this season after all.

It won’t be Tom Brady, of course; the longtime Patriot has moved on to Tampa and will be playing for the Buccaneers this season. Instead, Pats fans may have the opportunity to watch Cam Newton do his thing from the quarterback position.

Thursday, 02 July 2020 11:19

MIFF goes to the drive-in in 2020

SKOWHEGAN – Like many arts and cultural events, the Maine International Film Festival faced a difficult reckoning in 2020 thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Organizers were forced to look for alternative solutions. Luckily for area film buffs, they found one.

MIFF is going to the drive-in.

The festival has teamed up with the Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre to present a scaled-down version of their scheduled slate. Running July 7-16, MIFF will screen one offering per night at the drive-in starting at 8:45 p.m. In addition, some programming will be made available for streaming for film fans from farther afield. For more information on programming, check out www.miff.org.

If you’re like me, you’ve often wondered what would happen if you were to combine ABBA with Bjork, divide that into into two people and enter the result in the Eurovision Song Contest. Now, thanks to Will Farrell and Netflix, we finally have an answer.

“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” – directed by David Dobkin and starring Ferrell (who also co-wrote the script) and Rachel McAdams – is the story of a mismatched pair of Icelandic oddballs whose strange band accidentally winds up representing their country in the legendary Eurovision Song Contest.

This is a legitimately weird movie, one that revels in its sense of exaggerated cultural absurdity and is unapologetic in its steadfast refusal to concern itself with making sense. It is both celebration and satire, a goofy love letter to Eurovision that leans into the over-the-top pomp and circumstance that helps define the beloved contest. It is relentlessly ridiculous, loose and shaggy and rife with inexplicable accents. It is a movie that won’t be everyone’s cup of brennivin, but if you’re into it, you will be INTO IT.

Real talk: I enjoyed the hell out of this movie, but your mileage definitely may vary.

Anyone with eyes and ears is aware that we’re currently living in an extremely polarized time. That polarization makes it both a great time and a tough time to make a political comedy. On the one hand, the landscape is littered with targets for satirization. On the other hand, it’s all just so f---ing bleak out there.

Into this dichotomy drops “Irresistible.” Currently available via VOD services, the film is written and directed by Jon Stewart. It tells the tale of what happens when a small-town mayoral race captures the attention of high-level political operatives on both sides of the partisan divide. These operatives swoop in and turn this minor municipal election into a big-money campaign. It’s ostensibly an ideological fight, but it soon becomes clear that there’s far more to it than that.

Stewart’s body of work from “The Daily Show” on up would seem to make him the ideal candidate (no pun intended) to make a film like this. And it’s a dynamite cast, led by Steve Carell, Chris Cooper and Rose Byrne. The talent is here, for sure.

So why isn’t this movie better?

Not that it’s bad, per se. It has its moments. It just feels like it is trying to be all things to all people, which is ironic considering its subject matter. It never commits to a tone, resulting in an overall feeling of meh-ness that undercuts whatever satiric impact it might have made. Political commentary? Sly satire? Underdog tale? “Irresistible” is all of these – and hence none of them.

Stop me if you heard this one: a professional wrestler who transitioned to acting makes an action comedy in which he shares the screen with a precocious child costar.

Ever since the double leg drop of Hulk Hogan’s “Suburban Commando” and “Mr. Nanny,” it seems that part of the formula for getting over a wrestler as a movie star involves that sort of kid-oriented flick. Hogan did it, the Rock did it (wildly successfully, it should be added) and now we’re seeing offerings from the likes of John Cena and Dave Bautista.

Bautista stars in “My Spy,” currently available on Amazon Prime Video and for rental, precisely the sort of odd couple kiddie comedy we’re talking about. Now, Bautista is an interesting case, in that he initially skipped a few steps in the wrestler-to-movie star plan thanks to his delightful turn as Drax in the MCU, but apparently he still has to follow the rules, even if he does it out of order.

As you might expect, there’s not much here that you haven’t seen before. The standard beats are all present, landing with a steady deliberateness. This is not a movie that surprises in terms of structure or story; you’re pretty sure how it’s all going to go from the top.

And yet … it’s actually not bad. Not great, mind you, but charming enough, thanks to Bautista and (particularly) his young costar. It’s all perfectly pleasant, with some dumb jokes and a couple of fun supporting turns and some fun kid-friendly(ish) action sequences. Not memorable, but in a vaguely pleasant way.

Honestly, it could have been worse.

The world of elite competitive sports is a fascinating one, studded with stars and fantastic feats. We watch and we marvel and we revel in the incredible athleticism that plays out on the fields and in the arenas that make up the grandest stage. We LOVE sports.

But there’s another side to that love affair – a side that can be unpleasant, harmful and, sometimes, utterly horrifying.

“Athlete A” – a documentary by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, currently streaming on Netflix – tells a story that reveals just how dark the dark side of sports can get. It’s the story of the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal, in which team physician Dr. Larry Nassar took advantage of his position to abuse hundreds of girls over the course of decades – and in which the leadership of USA Gymnastics attempted to cover it all up. The film walks the viewer through the investigation, led by reporters at the Indianapolis Star, while also engaging with some of the first women to go public with their allegations of abuse.

Watching this film isn’t always easy – there are some gut-wrenching moments that will land hard no matter how much you already know of the story. But “Athlete A” is important filmmaking, a cinematic document of a story that forces us to take a long hard look in the mirror of our fandom. It’s a reminder that a win-at-all-costs mentality can be dangerous – because some costs are devastatingly, unconscionably high.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 12:07

‘The Biggest Bluff’ is the nuts

Play the man, not the cards. It’s an adage that has been circulating in the poker world since there has been a poker world in which it could circulate. But how true is it?

That’s one of the fundamental questions explored in Maria Konnikova’s new book “The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win” (Penguin Press, $28). Konnikova is the perfect person to explore such a question, combining a longtime study of psychology and human behavior and a complete lack of knowledge regarding poker. Through answering that question, she sought to get a firmer grasp on the role of chance in the way our worlds operate.

She gained that understanding, to be sure, but that was far from all.

The pitch was simple – go from utter neophyte to the World Series of Poker in one year. But while she achieved her goal, Konnikova also wound up completely changing the trajectory of her life, both personally and professionally. Her voyage through the poker world opened her eyes to a number of truths about herself and her perceptions and proclivities.

It also turned her into a hell of a player. A good player … and a surprisingly successful one.

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