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Allen Adams

Allen Adams

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Thursday, 24 September 2020 13:03

Kibbles and Picks 2020 – Week 3

I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that I had a heck of a run in Week 2. I missed on just three of the week’s 16 games, putting up a 13-3 record. As you might imagine, that was good enough for me to take a bite out of Stella’s early lead.

How big, you ask? Well … that brings me to the bad news.

See, Stella had a really good week as well, outdoing Week 1’s 11-5 record by one. That 12-4 means that my huge week only managed to reduce her lead by a single measly game. Any progress is good progress, but still – I could have used a bigger swing.

Maybe I’ll get it this week, where Stella and I once again differ on seven games. But here’s the thing – I only have so many 13-3’s in me. And behind her adorable face is a ruthless commitment to making sure I know just how big a fluke last season was. So … we’ll see?

Wednesday, 23 September 2020 12:17

MLB award races in 2020’s home stretch

Hard to believe that the 2020 MLB season has reached its end. As of press time, there are just a scant handful of games left in the strangest season we’ve ever seen. But before we reach the 60(ish) game mark and the season’s conclusion – and before we venture into the also-unprecedented 16-game playoff field – I thought it might be fun to check in with our season awards predictor.

Those who follow our baseball coverage here at The Maine Edge are aware of our usual Clubhouse Leaders feature, where we do quarterly predictions regarding the various MLB season awards – Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP. However, given this year’s circumstances, we mixed it up a little (a quarterly breakdown would have meant a story every 15 games or so – a bit much, right?).

We made our predictions at the start of the season and now, as we approach its end, we’re going to revisit and revise those picks. Let’s see how close I got, shall we? And how close I will get?

(Note: All statistics current as of Sept. 20)

What does it mean to be a sports hero? There are so many different arenas in which athletes can excel and become part of the story of their sport, whether we’re talking about professional championships or individual records or Olympic glory or some combination therein. Athletic prowess has been turning ordinary men and women into legends for centuries.

But while some heroes become ensconced, forever part of the story of their sport, others fade into the margins of history. No matter how highly celebrated and decorated in their day, they don’t maintain their spot in the popular imagination. But those athletes and their feats still matter, even if they’ve been forgotten … and their stories still deserve to be told.

Kevin Martin’s “The Irish Whales: Olympians of Old New York” (Rowman & Littlefield, $32) relates the tale of one such group of forgotten heroes. These men, a collection of Irish immigrants to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were athletic sensations during that stretch. As a group, these men thoroughly dominated the world of field events through the early days of the modern Olympics, becoming sensations on both sides of the Atlantic and bringing great pride to both their native country and their adopted homeland.

Through a meticulously detailed and researched exploration of these men, a new appreciation can be gained for these athletic marvels who, despite global fame in their day, ultimately faded into relative obscurity. Their greatness is undeniable; this book proves a worthwhile introduction to that greatness.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020 11:53

Celebrity Slam - Kanye's stream of consciousness

There are a few areas into which we don’t like to venture here at Celebrity Slam. We prefer to stay out of the political realm as a rule; we’re not here to get into fights, we just want to make fun of celebrities. Also, we try to avoid any situations that potentially involve dangerous mental illness issues; there are some things that just aren’t funny.

That combination of factors means that we haven’t seen as much of our old friend Kanye West in this space as we once did. Between his on-again off-again struggles with emotional balance and his independent run for President, he ticks both of those boxes.

However, good old Kanye recently went on Twitter and unleashed a rant that culminated in a bizarre and pretty gross video. What were the contents of that video?

Don’t worry – we’ll get there.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020 11:50

Weird National Briefs (09/23/2020)

Surprise snake

MCCOMB, Miss. (AP) — A woman in Mississippi received a slithering surprise when she got home from work last week: a snake that had been lodged on top of her front door landed on her head.

The encounter happened after the intruder made its way on top of Christina Mitchell’s door on Thursday, the Enterprise-Journal reported. “I felt this thump on my head,” Mitchell said. “I looked down and the snake had landed at my feet in the house.”

The newspaper reports the 10-inch (25-centimeter) serpent then darted to the kitchen while Mitchell called her husband to let him know about their new visitor. But she didn’t wait for help. She grabbed a broom and ushered the reptile out of her house in McComb, a city located about 80 miles (127 kilometers) south of Jackson.

“He did his striking pose because it was just a scared little rat snake,” Mitchell said. “He tried to bite at my broom whenever I put him outside. He probably thought that was really rude. We kind of had a stare-down.”

Based on the photo Mitchell took, her sparring partner looked like an Eastern Rat snake, a largely nonvenomous reptile, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Mitchell was concerned since the animal had a large jaw, but she has been familiar with snakes since she was a child and says she would not go out of her way to kill an animal, even if it lands in her house.

“I actually really like snakes,” she said. “I think they’re fascinating.”

She also does not plan to move the pitcher plant, even though it might have attracted the snake.

“I just love my pitcher plant,” she said. “I feel like I’ll just take my chances and open my door really slow from now on.”

TME – Either move or burn down the house – those are your choices.

The relationships that exist between people – and the motivations that drive them – are often the best fodder for storytelling. The reasons we do the things we do and the people for whom we do them can be the purest distillation of our character.

Novelist Donald Ray Pollock has a knack for evoking the dark side of that equation; his books are packed with the brutality and evil that people do even while feeling utterly justified in doing them.

That sense of physical and emotional violence is omnipresent in “The Devil All the Time,” an adaptation of Pollock’s 2011 novel of the same name. Directed by Antonio Campos from a screenplay he co-wrote with his brother Paulo, the film is set in midcentury West Virginia and Ohio and follows a sprawling collection of different characters through narratives whose connections – both overt and subtle – constantly ebb and flow toward one another.

It’s a story of sin, of the evil that even the pious are capable of if they can convince themselves of the righteousness of their acts. It’s a striking representation of the time and place, to be sure, while also featuring an incredible collection of talent in the cast. But that unrelenting representation of the dark side of human nature, the ongoing parade of terrible people doing terrible things for terrible reasons – it’s a lot. The bleakly entangled constancy of sex and violence and power and religion is frankly exhausting, though the excellent performances and quality filmmaking make it worth the undertaking nevertheless.

Genre filmmaking has long been used as a tool for social commentary. The trappings of sci-fi or horror or what have you give cover for filmmakers to deliver messaging that might be met with more resistance other arenas of expression. The extrapolation and/or exaggeration of typical mores can say a lot about the world.

“Antebellum” – currently available via VOD – certainly TRIES to say something, though whether it is ultimately successful is debatable. The movie, written and directed by first-time feature filmmaking duo of Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, attempts to bring together the past and present of racism and white supremacist ideas in service of a horror story. Unfortunately, using real-life horrors as the basis for fictional ones requires a delicacy and sophistication that “Antebellum” can’t quite manage.

It’s a well-made film, with good performances. It just doesn’t deliver on the underlying ideas; instead, it reads as using historical atrocities as simple horror fodder, largely content to stay on the surface of the overt rather than diving fully into the ideological depths. This means that “Antebellum” feels more exploitative than it ought; it seems unlikely that that was the intent, but it rings wrong regardless.

Sunday, 20 September 2020 14:25

‘Alive’ a bloody, brutal horror offering

Memory – both its presence and its absence – has long been a central theme of the horror genre. Remembering past trauma can be truly terrifying, but so too is knowing of said trauma without being able to remember it. Amnesia offers a great deal of scary narrative possibility.

The new film “Alive,” directed by Rob Grant from a script cowritten by Chuck McCue and Maine native Jules Vincent, offers up a grisly exploration of just how that lack of memory can make a horrifying situation – one steeped in gory intensity and stirred by a wonderfully unhinged performance from Angus Macfadyen – all the more frightening.

The small cast – the majority of the film features just three actors – allows for the development of an intimacy that intensifies the impact of the gruesome actions we’re witnessing, as well as lending itself to the claustrophobic nature of the setting. And their relative anonymity – names are nebulous to the degree that they exist – offers a canvas onto which we can project ourselves.

I dig unreliable narrators.

Few storytelling devices delight me as much – and none more so. That added layer of ambiguity, that feeling of being unable to fully trust the very person serving as the window into the narrative … it adds a dimension that I find irresistible.

Irresistible, I should say, if (and this is a BIG if) it is executed skillfully. Obviously, stories are better when they’re well-told, but a poorly-drawn unreliable narrator is as regrettable as a sharply-hewn one is wonderful. Good can be great, but bad can be truly abysmal – and the margin for error is razor-thin.

We get one of the good ones in Susanna Clarke’s new novel “Piranesi” (Bloomsbury, $27) – her first since 2004’s acclaimed “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.” The titular character more than rises to the occasion, sharing the story of the impossible place in which he lives in a manner that is both overtly and subtly untrustworthy. And when you put that in the sort of lush and vividly-realized fantastical setting that Clarke creates, well … you’ve got something pretty special.

So much of Hollywood is driven by spectacle. There’s a bigger-is-better ethos at work that drives more and more of the industry with each passing year, often crowding out some of the less flashy fare. Yet one could argue that movies work even more effectively as a medium for delivering smaller, more intimate stories. Bigger might be better, but sometimes, smaller is superb.

Take “Blackbird,” the new film directed by Roger Michell. A remake of the 2014 Dutch film “Silent Heart,” “Blackbird” is the story of an ailing matriarch bringing her family together for one final celebration of their lives together before her death – a death that she intends to be entirely on her own terms.

Featuring an absolutely stacked cast, “Blackbird” is a heartfelt meditation on the familial complexities that come with death and a look at how an impending loss can impact our choices. It’s a movie about choices and wrestling with the consequences of those choices and how, in the end, we must allow people to make those choices for themselves.

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