Allen Adams

Allen Adams

edge staff writer

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Thursday, 09 September 2021 13:13

Kibbles and Picks 2021 – Week 1

That’s right! Everyone’s favorite man-versus-dog NFL picks feature is back!

For the ninth(!) year, The Maine Edge presents Kibbles and Picks, wherein I pick the winners of each week’s slate of NFL games in direct competition with my dog Stella. And for those keeping track of such things, Stella has outpicked me in six of those previous eight seasons.

Yep – out of eight attempts, I’ve outperformed my dog exactly twice. And both of those were close.

But hey – hope springs eternal or whatever. Maybe I’m steadfast or maybe just a glutton for punishment, but either way, I’m back to try again. So is Stella, though she’s less in her head about it than I am. She’s fully prepared to defeat me yet again – just because she is adorable and loves me doesn’t mean she’s going to take it easy on me.

It’s on. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 07 September 2021 15:05

‘The Actual Star’ burns bright

The power of story is significant, burning brightly across time and space. Our stories are what define us. Our stories turn the everyday now into history, the history into legend and the legend into myth. So much of our understanding of not just who we are, but who we were and who we may yet become, springs from story.

Monica Byrne understands that fundamental truth as well as anyone. Byrne follows up her excellent 2014 debut “The Girl in the Road” with a millenia-spanning triptych that marries past, present and future in a manner that’s not quite like anything you’ve read before.

“The Actual Star” (Harper Voyager, $27.99) is a stunningly realized work of literary fiction. Byrne blends elements of speculative and historical fiction to create a trio of timelines, each a thousand years apart, the individual stories serving to illustrate a fundamental truth of narrative power. The stories we tell, that we pass on, can come to define us in the eyes of those who follow. Flexible and fluid, these tales grow and evolve until they are both of us and not of us.

These stories – set in the years 1012, 2012 and 3012 – unspool as separate pieces that are nevertheless inherently bound up with one another. They are three, even as they are one. The book is intricately, densely plotted; narrative tendrils from each time reach out and entangle themselves with the other two. It could be knotty and difficult to follow; instead, thanks to Byrne’s gifts, it is simply a mesmerizing journey through three very different, yet very connected times.

Are you ready for some football?

By the time read this, the 2021 NFL season may have already kicked off – the first game of this year’s slate is scheduled for September 9, when the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play host to the Dallas Cowboys.

For the second year in a row, the NFL season will play out under the long shadow cast by the pandemic; it remains to be seen how the continuing evolution of that nationwide health concern will impact the schedule. Despite the NFL’s robust demands with regard to vaccination and other safety protocols, it seems likely that the game on the field will be impacted. How often and how thoroughly? Well, that remains to be seen.

With all of this uncertainty, it would seem to be even more foolish than usual to attempt to predict the outcome of the 2021 NFL regular season. And yet … here we are.

I will be making my usual predictions regarding how I believe the season will play out. And as usual, I anticipate being wildly off-base with a significant percentage of these predictions. I have a long and storied history of middling picks, after all – why expect anything different this time around? There’s even an extra regular season game, adding yet another little bit of possible inaccuracy to my personal equation.

And so, here you have it, friends – my monkey-dart-throwing attempt at prognostication. Ladies and gentlemen, your sure-to-be-inaccurate 2021 Maine Edge NFL Season Preview.

(y = division winner; x = wild card)

Tuesday, 07 September 2021 14:05

Celebrity Slam - Pork and beef

Feuds between famous folks serve as a primary fuel source for this feature, right alongside celebrity romances. We love beef – the spicier, the better.

That said, there’s a wide variety of beef out there. The vast spectrum of beef ranges all over the map. Sometimes, you get two very famous people going after one another – that beef doesn’t have to be all that spicy to be noteworthy; megafame buys you a lot of leeway. The less capital-F Famous the participants are, the more outlandish the beef needs to be.

Every once in a while, though, you get one that is delightful for reasons that you never would have imagined. We’re not talking about Kobe or Wagyu – this is beef so precious and rare that there isn’t even a name for it. Magical beef. Transcendent beef.

And folks, have we got something for you.

By now, you’ve probably heard all about Kanye West’s new album “Donda.” It dropped amidst a bit of controversy, with all sorts of back and forth going on between Ye and Drake, who also had a new album. The two rappers took shots at each other, dropping diss tracks and generally being big old d-bags to one another. It’s fine, it’s part of the deal – hip-hop beef sells records, and neither of these guys is a fool when it comes to the business side of things.

But we’ve already talked about the Kanye/Drake beef. Good stuff, for sure – these are top-tier famous guys and they definitely felt plenty comfortable going hard after one another. And yet, somehow, this hasn’t even been the best “Donda”-adjacent beef to hit in recent days. What’s that? You can’t imagine how any beef could possibly outshine this particular conflict? You want to know what famous figure could engage in Kanye beef that would supersede Drake?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you … Peppa Pig. Yes, really.

Tuesday, 07 September 2021 14:03

Weird National Briefs (09/08/2021)

Surplus spider surprise

AUBURN (AP) — A Maine landlord arranged for the rescue of 15 tarantulas and one python that had been left behind by a tenant.

Animal rescuer Drew Desjardins was called to the apartment Wednesday in Auburn, the Sun Journal reported.

He found that four of 19 tarantulas had died and that the ball python did not have water. Desjardins said Thursday that he took the surviving animals back to his home and that they were doing fine.

All the recovered animals are illegal in Maine and will be relocated. There was no word on whether the tenant was being sought.

TME – I don’t care who you are – 15 is too many tarantulas.

It’s tough to refute the notion that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the most significant segment of the cinematic landscape over the past 15 or so years. The MCU is omnipresent, as close to a fully shared movie experience as anything.

But time waits for no one. Not even superheroes.

The characters who have served as the foundation of the MCU – as well as the actors who play them – are moving on. The shift was always inevitable, but now, in Phase Four, things are really starting to snowball.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” – directed by Destin Daniel Cretton – reads as a bit of a departure for the powers that be at Marvel. This is a character that is arguably the most obscure yet to receive a headlining film of their own, a character that is fundamentally different in many ways – both overt and subtle – than those that have come before.

It’s a bold choice – and an effective one.

This film tries to do something we haven’t seen before from the MCU. Yes, the Marvel formula is still in effect, but it is being applied in a novel way. We’ve seen these movies riff on other genres – space operas and paranoid thrillers and war movies – but this is the first time we’ve ventured toward the realm of Eastern action cinema. This is a Marvel movie that both stars and is directed by people of Asian descent.

Do you want to see an MCU kung fu movie? Because that’s what this is. And it works.

Monday, 06 September 2021 13:58

‘Cinderella’ a musical misfire

Every time we see another remake/reboot/reimagining of a classic tale, it begs the question: is this necessary?

Look, I’m not naïve – I recognize the nature of the business, with the familiarity of IP ruling the day. Even so, you have to wonder whether what we’re getting is something that people actually want to watch. Are people clamoring to see some vague variation on a story they’ve seen a thousand times before?

The folks behind the new “Cinderella” – currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video – seem to think so. As to whether they’re right, well … I have my doubts.

This new version of the classic fairy tale is directed and adapted for the screen by Kay Cannon, best known as the writer of all three films in the “Pitch Perfect” series. Basically, it’s the story you know with a few feints at feminine empowerment and a whole bunch of pop songs that have been put through the musical theatre wringer. It’s OK for what it is, but the truth is that it’s basically a mediocre jukebox musical and not much else.

This is a story that feels polished to within an inch of its life, to where there’s almost nothing there, all style and no substance, despite its best efforts to have you believe otherwise. It’s like a gift, gloriously sparkly and beribboned, festooned with all manner of decorative accents, but when you open the box … there’s nothing inside.

There are a surprising number of movies out there that are built on the premise of someone dying, only to return from the Great Beyond to right various wrongs. Technically, these are ghost stories, though a lot of them are somewhat inexplicably played for laughs.

On the relatively rare occasion that the conceit works, you get a movie that is heartfelt and funny and that fully earns whatever emotional payoff it seeks. These are the films that manage to be both funny and poignant, deriving genuine humor and pathos from the narrative circumstances.

When it doesn’t work, well … that’s when you get “Afterlife of the Party.”

The Netflix streamer – directed by Stephen Herek from a script by Carrie Freedle – is a derivative clunker of a film, seemingly assembled from vague recollections of far better movies. It’s the sort of movie that attempts to elicit laughs through broad comedy and tears through fraught emotionality, only to succeed on neither front, resulting in a vapid and unsatisfying movie experience.

Wednesday, 01 September 2021 12:21

OBC to partner with UMaine athlete

ORONO – An area brewery is partnering with a UMaine athlete in an attempt at mutual support.

Orono Brewing Company is in the process of establishing a relationship with Shanna Scribner, a University of Maine graduate student and track and field athlete. The new NCAA policy surrounding name, image and likeness (NIL) went into effect on July 1, greatly expanding the opportunities for college athletes to benefit from their relative celebrity.

This change – which sprang from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in mid-June about possible antitrust violations stemming from the NCAA’s prohibition of athletes’ profit from their NIL – in turn led to 13 states passing legislation that began on July 1 either allowing college athletes to earn money from their NIL or prohibiting the NCAA from punishing those who did. In addition, another 11 states will have similar laws in effect by 2023.

Maine is not one of these states; with no legislation on the books, UMaine and other schools in the state will likely defer to NCAA guidelines.

The Scribner-OBC partnership started the same way so many things start these days – through the magic of social media.

Wednesday, 01 September 2021 12:06

Celebrity Slam - Remembering Ed Asner

I’m as susceptible to sentimentality as anyone.

Sure, the vast majority of what happens in this space is scornful cynicism. Mockery and derision abound. And don’t get me wrong, there’s something deeply satisfying of poking fun at the various missteps and misdeeds of the rich and famous. Most weeks, that’s exactly what we do.

Hell, last week there was enough material for multiple Slams courtesy of Kanye alone.

However, sometimes, it’s important to recognize the truly great humans in the Hollywood sphere – particularly when the time comes for us to bid them a fond farewell.

The great Ed Asner passed away recently at the age of 91. And when I say “great,” I don’t mean as an actor – although he definitely was. I mean as a human being; all one has to do is look at the outpouring of affection that followed in the wake of his passing, story after story after story of Asner generally being a good dude.

And let’s be real – there aren’t enough good dudes in the world.

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