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Allen Adams

Allen Adams

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Space has always been scary. There’s this unsettling blend of known and unknown when it comes to space – we can see a lot, sure, but there’s so much more that we can’t. It’s a vast mystery whose extreme inhospitality and infinite size make a battle out of every new discovery.

It is this place of wonder and fear that so fascinates Andy Weir. The engineer-turned-author returns to those harsh environs with his new book “Project Hail Mary” (Ballantine, $28.99), venturing deeper into space than in his previous offerings (“The Martian” and “Artemis”) while still maintaining the distinctive wonkiness that renders his work so idiosyncratically enjoyable.

This is a story about one man’s fight to survive in the face of overwhelming odds, bringing to bear every bit of cleverness and intuition in an effort to solve a huge problem. It’s a story of isolation, friendship and the looming specter of incomprehensible loss – all refracted through a prism of well-researched and joyful nerdery. And of course, the science is sound (and in more ways than one).

Wednesday, 05 May 2021 10:46

Meet the newest New England Patriots

The NFL Draft is over and the New England Patriots have added some new names to their ranks.

It has been a long time since the Pats have been in this position, drafting in the middle of the first round instead of the end, as they have more or less every season for the past two decades. Everyone was curious as to how Bill Belichick’s draft plan would unfold from this unfamiliar spot.

They seemed interested in potentially taking a long-term QB candidate, but with this front office, you just never know. Would they trade up if there was someone they liked? Would they trade down if there wasn’t?

And then Mac Jones dropped to them.

Jones will have every opportunity to succeed with this team. Some of the other names on this list might not have the same length runway. But that’s the joy of it – you never know when you might be meeting one of your team’s future stars for the first time. Best of luck, gentlemen.

And now, your new New England Patriots.

(Obligatory annual caveat: This is not an effort to grade the Patriots draft class. Literally nothing has changed about any of these players except that they have been given an opportunity to potentially make an NFL roster. As to whether any or all of them cash in on that opportunity, well … I can’t say. And neither can anyone else, no matter how authoritative they sound on TV or on the internet. Grading a draft that just happened is nonsense; a worthless exercise. This is just an introduction.)

Wednesday, 05 May 2021 10:44

Red Sox Report Card – April 2021

It’s a well-known fact that despite my insistence on doing it every year, my predictions with regard to professional sports outcomes are pretty hit or miss. Sometimes I do well, sometimes I miss horribly.

This year, as far as the Boston Red Sox are concerned, it has very much been the latter.

I genuinely thought that I was resisting the tug of my little homer heart when I downplayed Boston’s chances in the 2021 season. As always, I hope for the best from this squad, but my eyes told me that this was not going to be a great year for this team. The numbers said much the same.

And yet, here we are. The Red Sox led the American League in wins in the month of April, going 17-10 and sitting atop the American League East, a division in which I didn’t think they would even contend. And yes, there’s plenty of time for them to come back down to Earth, but for at least the first month, they are one of the teams to beat. It’s never great to be wrong, but this time certainly stings less than most.

On to the Report Card.

Our country’s history is packed with stories. And while some of those stories are generally familiar, even those that we’ve dug deeply into time and again have new nuances waiting for us to explore. Take the Salem Witch Trials, for instance. It’s one of those vividly bleak moments in time with which the majority of Americans bear at least a passing familiarity.

But those trials, as horrible as they were, were not the beginning of the story. Those terrible acts didn’t take place in a vacuum, but were rather the culmination of a decades-long period of repression and hysteria.

Chris Bohjalian’s new book “Hour of the Witch” (Doubleday, $28.95) takes us further back, some 30 years before the horrors of Salem. It’s a look at one woman’s efforts to reconcile her religion and her beliefs with the pain and suffering – emotional and physical – inflicted on her by those around her. It’s the story of what it means to stand up for oneself, even in the face of a society that has little interest in protecting her.

Blending historical events with page-turning thrills, “Hour of the Witch” offers a propulsive and powerful tale of what can happen when a person who is pushed to the brink simply refuses to accept the status quo and pushes forward in a quest for justice – even if that person knows deep down that justice is almost certainly not forthcoming.

Wednesday, 05 May 2021 10:15

Celebrity Slam - The Flesh Prince

One of the things that we pride ourselves on here at Celebrity Slam is our ongoing effort to make sure that we’re selecting our targets mindfully. Our goal is to make fun of people for saying and doing stupid things – we’re not here to tease people for the way that they look. We’re not here to mock someone for their weight or anything like that; there are so many ways for famous people to invite our scorn and derision through their behavior. We don’t need to take shots at appearances.

But when they do it themselves, well … we’d be remiss not to address it.

This brings us to Will Smith. Now, Will Smith might not be the same prominent figure that he was a few years ago, but he’s still one of the most famous people in the world. So when he took to Instagram and posted a photo of himself sporting a full-on dad bod, that’s a bold move.

The photo – which really is a delight – features the 52-year-old star wearing nothing but shorts and a windbreaker with no shirt. And he looks like … a regular dude. He posted the following caption to accompany the image:

“I’m gonna be real wit y’all – I’m in the worst shape of my life.”

Wednesday, 05 May 2021 10:13

Weird National Briefs (05/05/2021)

Tree’s company

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Authorities say a man was rescued after a tree that fell during high winds trapped him inside a portable toilet at Gettysburg National Military Park in south-central Pennsylvania.

The Barlow Volunteer Fire Department said on its Facebook page that the crew was called to Little Round Top shortly before 4 p.m. Friday. Assistant Chief Joe Robinson told the York Daily Record that they found a tree atop a vehicle but no one inside, and park rangers then told them the tree had trapped a man in the portable toilet.

Robinson said crews treated it like a car entrapment, cutting away the tree with a chain saw and then cutting the portable toilet open with another saw.

“He was very lucky,” said Robinson, who has been a volunteer firefighter for three decades. “It was a large tree, and it just missed striking him. It could have been very serious.”

The man was alert and talking to EMS as he was loaded into an ambulance to be taken to Gettysburg Hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening.

Emergency crews across the region were responding to many calls of downed trees and wires as well as fires during the windy conditions, officials said.

TME – Too bad he forgot his toilet-tree bag.

ORONO – There’s something inherently fun about outdoor theatre. I’m not sure I can put my finger on it; it’s more a combination of things. The sun, the fresh air - it just feels like a nice mix with theatre in general and Shakespeare in particular, at least to me. Watching people tell you a story while the sun sets is a heck of a way to spend an evening.

Now, our current circumstances have made it a bit more difficult. Take the University of Maine School of Performing Arts, for instance. Their plan was to present an outdoor production of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy “Twelfth Night, Or What You Will” in the Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden on the UMaine campus in Orono. Unfortunately, the ever-changing pandemic dynamics meant that they could not perform for audiences.

Well … not LIVE audiences, anyway.

See, rather than let the situation defeat them, they went ahead and did the show anyway. They’re theatre kids, folks – you’re not going to stop them.

And so, the University of Maine School of Performing Arts is presenting their filmed version of “Twelfth Night” for streaming through May 9. Directed by Julie Arnold Lisnet, the show is available through the UMaine SPA website – just visit www.umaine.edu/spa/tickets and you’ll be on your way. Tickets are $12 for the general public and just $3 for UMaine students.

Being out in the world can be difficult. So often, we find ourselves wanting nothing more than to forget about what’s out there and bury ourselves into the insular realms that we have built for ourselves. Some believe that all the connection we need can be found within our own four walls.

But what if the ones we love want more? And what if we’re forced by circumstance to venture forth and engage, even if it’s the last thing we want to do?

“The Outside Story” offers answers to those questions. Written and directed by Casimir Nozkowski – his feature debut in both capacities – and starring Brian Tyree Henry, it’s a quirky and intimate look at urban life reflected through the eyes of an introvert who is forced by circumstance to engage with his immediate surroundings in a way he never has before.

Driven by thoughtful, grounded performances, it’s a story of what it means to be a part of the world. It’s about what can happen – both good and bad – when we are forced out of our comfort zones. We can struggle against it or fully embrace it, but either way, we will be changed by the act of engagement.

I like it when a movie surprises me.

Maybe it’s a narrative surprise or an aesthetic surprise or a thematic surprise – doesn’t really matter to me. I dig it when a movie does something that is genuinely unexpected, when it becomes something different than anticipated.

And when it’s a kids’ movie? Let’s go.

“The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is the latest from the folks at Sony Pictures Animation. Directed by first-time feature director Mike Rianda and co-directed by Jeff Rowe from a script co-written by the two, it’s a CG film that manages to bring together two fairly disparate concepts together in a way that is both functional and fun.

Basically, what we have here is a movie that is a dysfunctional family road trip comedy AND a dystopian battle against the machine uprising. It really shouldn’t work, but somehow, the film manages to maintain its sense of goofball whimsy while also conveying genuine tension regarding the end of the world. It is heartfelt and hilarious animated fun that balances its seemingly incongruous parts with aplomb.

I’ve never read a Tom Clancy novel. I’ve seen a few adaptations of his work and have a general sense of his fundamental airport-fiction-with-militaristic-themes vibe, but I can’t say that I have a deep familiarity with his oeuvre.

But it’s all a matter of taste – the dude has topped the NYT best-seller list 17 times and has overall sales figures in nine digits, so what do I know?

However, I have to imagine that the new film adaptation “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” doesn’t necessarily live up to the man’s legacy, even with his name right there in the title. Directed by Stefano Sollima and co-written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples, the Amazon Studios original is a bit of a mess, with a convoluted plot and motivationless characters careening from set piece to set piece without a whole lot of rhyme or reason along the way.

Now, the film has Michael B. Jordan as its lead, which helps compensate for the more egregious flaws, but the reality is that as talented as he is, he’s just one actor. And even with all those muscles, he can’t lift this film out of the chaotic morass; he’s definitely an action star, but even a star’s shine can’t hide the ragged edges of this one.

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