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Allen Adams

Allen Adams

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Few writers today have been working the cultural criticism beat as long and as successfully as Chuck Klosterman. To many, his is THE voice when it comes to pop analysis and contextualization. But while his latest book might explore some of those same ideas, it does so through a different literary lens.

“Raised in Captivity: Fictional Nonfiction” (Penguin, $26) offers the same sort of quick-hit cleverness that permeates Klosterman’s nonfiction, but via a delivery medium of short fiction. Flash fiction, really – none of the 34 pieces that make up this collection is more than a handful of pages and some are considerably shorter.

The book’s subtitle is an accurate one – the tales contained within are brief, fictionalized explorations of the same ideas and hypotheticals that feature prominently in Klosterman’s nonfiction work. They are strange and offbeat, small and skewed glimpses of the zeitgeist through weird-colored glasses – think “Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror,” only in a much bigger hurry. And while they vary in length, style and tone, all of them ring loudly with the author’s distinctive voice.

Cooperstown is set to come alive for another Hall of Fame induction weekend. From July 19-22, festivities will abound in the small upstate New York town that plays host to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The 2019 class is another in a long line of big ones – four players were voted in by the writers, while another two were added by committee. That’s half-a-dozen new players, with the Hall’s first-ever unanimous inductee leading the way.

Longtime Yankees closer Mariano Rivera became the first player to be named on every single ballot, breaking the percentage record of 99.3 set three years ago by Ken Griffey Jr. Rivera is joined by the late Roy Halladay – also in his first year on the ballot – as well as career Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez in his last year of eligibility and longtime starting pitcher Mike Mussina. The two committee additions are Lee Smith and Harold Baines.

One of the most influential authors in the history of sports writing has died.

Jim Bouton, author of the seminal baseball book “Ball Four,” passed away last week at the age of 80. He was a tireless evangelist for the game that he loved … even during the decades in which his book meant that the game didn’t love him back.

“Ball Four” hit bookstores in 1970, a book that explored the world of major league baseball from the inside in a manner utterly unlike anything the public had ever seen. Bouton’s voice was brutally honest and hilariously funny, exposing readers to the true inner workings of the game for the first time.

What separated “Ball Four” from the sports-related books that preceded it was that honesty. Bouton pulled back the curtain of mythology that had long surrounded the game and its players. This book was not saccharine feel-good pap or legend-building. There was none of the hagiography or cronyism that marked baseball writing to that point. It showed fans the truth, warts and all.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019 19:34

See you later, alligator – ‘Crawl’

Appearances can be deceiving.

A lot of the time, you can watch a trailer or two and just KNOW that particular movie is going to be good or bad. A handful of seconds of footage and a basic idea of plot and provenance and you feel confident of your opinion. This movie will be great, that movie will be terrible, etc.

But sometimes – not often, but sometimes – your seemingly solid take is dead wrong.

I was pretty sure “Crawl” was going to be a bad movie. The overwrought scenes in the trailers, the fundamental silliness of the central plot – all of it spelled mediocre-at-best genre fare. It was the sort of movie that I almost didn’t bother to see, so sure was I of what I would get. Seriously – if we’d had three wide releases this week, this would almost certainly have been the unseen bronze medalist.

I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong.

Now, I’m not saying that “Crawl” is a GOOD movie, because it is not. It is shlock. But it is beautifully sincere, well-crafted shlock. It is shlock that is gleefully and unapologetically itself. It is fully committed to the bit to such a degree that it quickly becomes extremely hard not to lean into it yourself.

Basically, you never forget how ridiculous it all is, but neither does the movie, and so everyone just embraces it and has a fantastic time.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019 19:31

‘Stuber’ far from five stars

Who among us doesn’t love a good buddy comedy? A movie with a dynamic central pairing that has good chemistry and good comedic timing – the sort of movie that can coast on the charisma of the foundational duo – can really be a great time. The right casting can cover for a lot of issues in terms of story and style.

“Stuber” is ALMOST such a movie.

The buddies in question are Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista – and honestly, it’s a really good match. They’re a wonderful set of contrasts, in terms of both sensibility and physicality. There’s an ease between them that makes for an engaging relationship.

Unfortunately, it isn’t enough. There’s a stylistic inconsistency on the part of director Michael Dowse – the film can’t seem to choose a tone, leading to some shifts in energy that are pretty jarring. Add to that a muddy script from Tripper Clancy and you’re left with a film that, while entertaining at points, fails to fully utilize the considerable abilities of the two performers at its center.

There are good books. There are great books. And then there are books that are … more.

Books that marry deft, propulsive prose with potent, stomach-punch emotions and meticulously-conceived characters. Books that tell remarkable stories while simultaneously transcending the stories being told. Books that take hold of your brains and your guts with equally ironclad grips, demanding your attention and imagination.

Books like Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys” (Doubleday, $24.95).

Whitehead has long been considered among the best of his writerly generation; his last offering – 2016’s “The Underground Railroad” – won the Pulitzer Prize, among many others. The staggering thing is this: he’s still getting better.

“The Nickel Boys” is Whitehead’s seventh book – and arguably his best yet. He eschews the genre flourishes with which his previous storytelling ventures have been peppered, instead committing to a straightforward realism that allows just the briefest glimmers of hopefulness against a nigh-unrelentingly bleak backdrop.

BREWER – One of central Maine’s beloved cultural traditions is marking a milestone this summer.

Ten Bucks Theatre Company’s production of “Richard III” – running July 18-21 at Brewer’s Indian Trail Park, July 25-28 at the Orono Public Library Amphitheater and Aug. 1-4 at Fort Knox in Prospect – marks the company’s 15th outdoor production.

Since their first Shakespeare Under the Stars production – “Taming of the Shrew” in 2004 – Ten Bucks has produced a show almost every summer since, with 2008 being the lone exception.

Julie Lisnet is one of the co-founders of Ten Bucks Theatre Company and was there at the table when the decision was first made to set off on this Shakespearean journey.

(Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, I am also a co-founder of Ten Bucks Theatre and I was also part of the conversations that led down this path.)

“Hard to believe TBT will be 20 in 2020,” Lisnet said. “I’m getting old!

“So, it [Shakespeare Under the Stars] came about because in 2002, PTC shut down the Maine Shakespeare Festival. Most of us co-founding members – you, me, Catherine LeClair, Bob Libbey, Rebecca Cook, Ron Adams, Kenny Volock, Sharon Zolper – we had all been involved with Maine Shakespeare. After PTC shut it down and no Shakespeare was had in 2003, people started asking TBT to take up the mantle. So we did.”

What followed was the aforementioned “Taming of the Shrew” in Brewer’s Indian Trail Park and a long list of outdoor shows:

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (2005); “Macbeth” (2006; “As You Like It” (2007); “Twelfth Night” (2009); “Romeo and Juliet” (2010); “Hamlet” (2011); “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (2012); “The Tempest” (2013); “Julius Caesar” (2014); “Dracula,” the sole non-Shakespeare of the bunch (2015); “The Comedy of Errors” (2016); “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (2017); “Macbeth” (2018); and opening this weekend, “Richard III.”

Over the years, Ten Bucks has expanded into new venues. Early on, shows stayed put in Brewer, but subsequent productions have hit the road – the current run sees them play three venues in three weeks, starting at Indian Trail Park before spending a week at the Orono Public Library Amphitheater and then closing out the run with a week at Fort Knox in Prospect.

All of it done out of a love of Shakespeare and a passion for their craft. Scores of people coming together with a simple singular goal – to bring out the Bard.

In an effort to look back at this history, I spoke to six people who have been extensively involved with the outdoor productions of Ten Bucks. Joining Lisnet are Aimee Gerow, Katie Toole, Nathan Roach, Ben Layman and Adam Cousins. Each was invited to share thoughts and memories of their times on the outdoor stage. And share they did.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019 17:19

Criminal Mischief (07/17/2019)

Bangor PD seeks vandals

BANGOR – Officials from the Bangor PD are asking people for help in identifying the perpetrator(s) of recent acts of vandalism.

Over the past several days, Bangor PD has been investigating what appear to be random acts of vandalism. Officers believe more than one person is responsible for the actions, consisting of breaking several windows around the city. The suspects are using projectiles to break car windows along with the windows of private residences and some businesses as well.

Currently, law enforcement is working to identify those responsible for these crimes. They are interested in any video and/or pictures that will aid in our investigation. Early indications are that one of the vehicles possibly related to the investigation is maroon/red colored SUV that appears to be a GMC (possibly an Envoy).

If anyone recognizes that vehicle or has other information that may lead to those responsible, they should contact Det. Dustin Dow at 947-7384 x5737 or via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Callers can also press option #5 to leave a message on the anonymous tip line.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019 17:06

Celebrity Slam - Tool of the trade

We’re big fans of beef here at Celebrity Slam. It’s no secret – anyone who has spent any time reading this feature knows that we love nothing more than biting into a sizzling bit of grade-A celebrity feud tenderloin.

And we’ve been spoiled in recent weeks – there has been a lot of celeb-on-celeb beefing that has given us plenty of fodder. Unfortunately, there are no new Bieber-issued fight challenges to Tom Cruise this time around. It has been great, but alas – all good things must end. Or at least pause briefly.

That said, this doesn’t mean we can’t go back to the Bieber well again. Because here’s the thing: Despite being wildly successful and one of the most famous people on the planet, the Biebs has a tendency to be actively disliked by people. And when that active dislike comes from other famous people, well … we’ve got some beef on the grill.

This brings us to Maynard James Keenan. That’s right – this item about Justin Bieber springs from actions taken by the front man of Tool.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019 17:03

Weird National Briefs (07/17/2019)

Dog rescue

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — A 75-year-old Florida man says he kicked an alligator in the snout after it attacked his dog.

Buddy Ackerman says the 8-foot (2.44-meter) gator came from a retention pond near his Palm Harbor condominium earlier this week and grabbed the dog while they were out for an early morning walk.

He kicked the gator until it let go of the golden retriever. Neither animal was injured.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Florida wildlife officials came and trapped the gator later that day.

TME – No joke here – give that guy a medal.

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