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Thursday, 08 September 2022 15:17

Pigskin prognostication! Previewing the 2022 NFL season

Written by Allen Adams

Are you ready for some football?

By the time you read this, the 2022 NFL season may have already kicked off – the first game of this year’s slate is scheduled for September 8, with the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams hosting the Buffalo Bills, and I am a bit later than usual in putting this preview together – but with so much football ahead of us, there’s still plenty of time for making picks.

(And yes, before you ask, my very smart and very good dog Stella will be back for another season of Kibbles and Picks, the weekly feature wherein she proves to be much better than me at predicting the outcomes of regular season games. This year marks our tenth, and her victory last year means that she has come out on top in seven of the previous nine seasons. Will I be able to achieve some level of dignity here in year 10? Or will she continue her dominance? Those who have been following along likely already know the answer.)

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? Hell, I’m still getting used to the fact that there’s an extra regular season game, with the 17-game slate adding yet another variable of potential 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 2022 Maine Edge NFL Season Preview.

(y = division winner; x = wild card)

ORONO – The Collins Center for the Arts is back at it, bringing its usual collection of entertaining and engaging shows to the campus of the University of Maine in Orono.

The CCA – formerly known as the Maine Center for the Arts – has been a major hub for the region’s performing arts ever since the Bangor Symphony Orchestra christened its stage all the way back in 1986. The iconic building has played host to memorable acts large and small over the years, bringing a wonderful variety of arts and entertainment to our area.

The Collins Center is a foundational piece of the region’s cultural community; for over three decades, they have been a key part of the scene, offering quality programming at affordable prices year after year.

Even with the challenges that they – and all arts organizations and venues – have faced over the last two-plus years, the key figures at the CCA, from Executive Director Danny Williams on down, have pushed onward. Despite the obstacles – some new, some longstanding – they have managed to assemble a wonderful variety of music, theater and dance aimed at audiences of all ages. As per usual, the powers that be at the CCA have managed to ensure that there really is something for everyone. No surprise there – accessibility has always been a watchword for the organization.

The slate of performers in the 2022-23 season is a strong one, giving audiences a much more robust set of options than they’ve seen over the past couple of years, both in terms of their own scheduled offerings and their various partnerships.

There’s a lot to see, is what I’m saying.

Wednesday, 06 July 2022 14:46

Get on my lawn! Let’s talk yard games

Written by Allen Adams

As we prepare to leap with both feet into the dog days of summer here in the aftermath of the Fourth of July, we should do what we can to fully embrace the opportunities for outdoor fun provided by what remains of these too-brief summer months. The clock is ticking – it’s time to really start leaning into the fun in the sun portion of 2022. Even the cruelest of weather patterns will allow us at least a few days over the coming weeks in which to get out and enjoy what the season has to offer.

(Note: That previous sentence is an effort at a reverse jinx. We’ll see how it goes.)

However, there’s only so much lazing around one can do. There are only so many places to go for a swim. And while hitting the water is great, sometimes you’re looking for fun that doesn’t involve taking a trip to the coast or to your favorite dipping spot.

That’s where lawn games come in. That’s right, folks – it’s our annual look at the joys of stuff you can play in your yard!

Nothing says summertime quite like being out in the backyard with a frosty beverage in your hand and the scent of the grill in your nostrils. If you can add an element of competition to that, how can you go wrong?

There are plenty of traditional games that many of us have played since we were kids and will likely bring back fond (or not-so-fond) memories of summers gone by. However, there are also some more adult-oriented games that prove to be a lot of fun as well.

We’re going to take a look at a few personal favorites. We’ll revisit a handful of classics, but we’ll also bring newer games to the table – some that you may have heard of before, others you may not have. And among these newer games, chances are good that you’ll find at least one that speaks to you in that so-special “crush your enemies and see them driven before you” summertime kind of way.

(As an aside, if there’s anyone out there with a set of vintage lawn darts that they’re looking to get rid of, please contact me. Nothing says summertime fun like potential grievous bodily harm and the looming specter of death. This is very real talk –  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  if you’ve got a line on getting me my Jarts fix.)

Let’s talk lawn games.

BANGOR – A beloved recent theatrical tradition is returning to the area after a hiatus of a couple of years.

Penobscot Theatre Company’s next production will be the musical “9 to 5,” bringing back the theatre’s summer spectacular for the first time since 2019. This show – based on the 1980 movie of the same name – features music and lyrics by Dolly Parton with a book by Patricia Resnick, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay. Directed by Ethan Paulini, the production’s preview performances are set for June 23 and 24, with the official opening night set for June 25. From there, the show will run through July 31.

“9 to 5” was meant to fill this slot during the 2020 season, but the show was postponed due to COVID. Now – after the summer slot went unfilled in 2021 as well – the big, flashy extravaganza is back!

Past shows to fill this slot – billed for years as the “surprise” show – include musicals like “Rock of Ages,” “The Full Monty” and “Mamma Mia!” The one non-musical exception was the beloved comedy “Shear Madness.” Regardless, the show was always intended to serve as a big, bold close to the season, a chance for area audiences to enjoy some summer fun.

There’s no need to delve too deeply into the plot particulars, but here’s a brief synopsis courtesy of the PTC website:

This hilarious story of friendship and revenge in the rolodex era is outrageous, thought-provoking, and even a little romantic! When three female co-workers are pushed to the boiling point, they each concoct hilarious plans to get even with the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot they call their boss. Hey, a girl can scheme, can’t she?

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Seeing a show of this scale grace the Bangor Opera House stage once again is truly welcome. However, that scale means that there are a LOT of people working VERY hard to bring the production to life. Whether we’re talking about the performers or the production team, making something this big work involves a ton of collaborative effort.

As such, I thought it might be nice to offer readers a bit of perspective on the show through some conversations with a few of the principals. Director Ethan Paulini and actors Christie Robinson and Heather Astbury-Libby – two of the three women in the central trio – were kind enough to share some of their thoughts about the show, their process and what it’s like to be bringing summer excitement back to the Opera House stage.

There’s a lot to love about summer in Maine.

Once again, summer’s arrival is upon us. The weather is warming up and the days are approaching their greatest length. People near and far are going to descend on our state’s beaches, mountains and forests; people are going to swim and hike and boat and generally experience the outdoors in a fashion that one can only achieve in Maine.

But there are other summertime perks, too.

For those who love live theater, there are loads of options. Companies near and far are bringing exciting work to stages all over the region; no matter where you might be, there’s a good chance that you’ve got some excellent theater happening nearby.

Our focus is on the greater Bangor area, but we also go fairly far afield, venturing in every direction to show you just how many great summertime offerings there are out there. Comedies and dramas and musicals, classics and new plays – there’s something for just about every theatrical taste coming our way over the coming months.

It’s well worth your time to experience some of what our area’s summer stages have to offer. Here’s a look at just some of what’s to come.

ORONO – The University of Maine is ready to take us all out to the ballgame.

Orono is playing host to the America East baseball tournament for the first time since 2018, and the top-seeded Black Bears are looking to continue their conference dominance and make their way to the NCAAs.

Coach Nick Derba’s squad has put together one hell of a season – and it’s not over yet.

Starting on May 25 and running through May 28, Mahaney Diamond will feature nine or 10 games, with the ultimate prize being an America East title and a shot at an NCAA regional. The first three days will feature three games a day (the host Black Bears have their first game at 11 a.m. on May 26, just FYI – we’ve included a schedule as part of this story), with Saturday offering one or two, depending on how the rest of the tourney shakes out.

Now I – TME editor Allen Adams – am a big fan of baseball. However, I also recognize that when it comes to the college game, my analytic skills (such as they are) are not nearly up to the task. And so, I reached out to someone far more capable and far more familiar with the UMaine season specifically and the AE baseball landscape in general to give you – the reader – what you need.

In an effort to deliver some top-notch analysis of what’s to come, I asked Bryan Stackpole, local sports broadcaster extraordinaire, to put something together for us. And reader, you’ll be glad that I did, because Mr. Stackpole has assembled an outstanding look at UMaine and the other teams in the tournament. If you’re looking for a crash course on the AE tournament, you’ve come to the right place – Stack has taken care of you. This isn’t the first time he has brought his breadth of knowledge to our pages – he worked on a World Cup preview for us a few years back that was exceptional, just as one example – but this is as good as it gets.

Take it away, Stack.

My affinity for the written word is no secret. I’ve been reviewing books in these pages for coming up on 15 years now, and I was a voracious reader even before it became part of my job.

I have my favorites, of course – who doesn’t? Anyone who spends significant time turning pages has authors whose work they find particularly appealing. And it’s always exciting when one of your favorites has a new book coming out.

But there’s something even more exciting than that – when TWO of your favorites EACH have a new book coming out.

Such is the case for me here in mid-May, when two authors whose work I very much enjoy have new novels dropping within a week of one another.

On May 10, Chris Bohjalian’s newest book “The Lioness” was published by Doubleday. It’s a sharp and propulsive work of historical fiction revolving around mid-century Hollywood types and a safari gone horribly wrong, with each chapter moving from character perspective to character perspective and featuring Bohjalian’s trademark meticulousness of research. It’s a real adventure of a read.

On May 17, literary clown prince Christopher Moore’s latest “Razzmatazz” dropped courtesy of William Morrow. A sequel to Moore’s excellent 2018 novel “Noir,” this one is also set in the past – post-WWII San Francisco, where we get to enjoy the continuing adventures of Sammy Tiffin, bartender and reluctant hero, as he tries to solve a mystery and save himself and his friends. Weird and laugh-out-loud funny.

(Our full reviews of "The Lioness" and "Razzmatazz" are available.)

Now, this isn’t the first time that I’ve had two authors I admire release works so close together. So what makes this instance so special – special enough that I’ve chosen to make it our cover story for this week?

BELFAST – A beloved keystone of Maine’s musical landscape is back.

The All Roads Music Festival is making its return to Belfast, bringing together scores of Maine musicians in celebration of the state’s vibrant music scene. The festival takes place over two days – May 20 and 21 – and features some of the very best that Maine has to offer. Unfolding across four different venues, All Roads promises to be a great time for any music lover. Tickets and more information can be obtained at the festival’s website at www.allroadsmusicfest.org.

The previous All Roads – the fifth in all – took place back in 2019. The circumstances of the pandemic meant that both the 2020 and 2021 incarnations of the festival were cancelled. Now, we’re just days away from the return here in 2022.

And as per usual, it’s a hell of a bill.

There are bands and artists familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of Maine’s current scene. We’re talking Lady Lamb, The Mallett Brothers Band, Dave Gutter, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers – talented, inventive musicians bringing their immense gifts together as part of the full-on sonic celebration that is All Roads.

There will be music from across all genres – whatever you like, you’re almost certainly going to be able to find it on one festival stage or another. In addition, All Roads is playing host to the always-wildly-successful Maine Songwriters Circle, where a group of talented songwriters get together and share a little of their collected collective wisdom.

Now, this isn’t to say that EVERY act is from Maine – there are some outliers here and there – but the reality is that even those that are “from away” are very much in keeping with the spirit of camaraderie that marks this event. It’s a spirit that is even more apparent in the can-do attitude of getting back to business after two years.

That’s right – it’s that time again!

Now, you might well be thinking “A summer movie preview? But it’s only the beginning of May!” And that’s totally understandable because, well … it’s only the beginning of May.

However, there’s no disputing that the theatrical release calendar has shifted significantly in recent years. We’ve been seeing more traditional “summer” movies get their release in May (and there are a bunch of those this year) and fewer in the mid-to-late August release dates. This means that we have a lot more May movies to talk about (but we will get to a handful of August offerings as well).

What this means is that summer movie previews have become very much an early May phenomenon – one which I am wholeheartedly embracing.

As for why this specific week, it’s simple – there’s an MCU movie hitting that first weekend, and honestly, Marvel’s late spring/early summer entry has become the de facto start of blockbuster season. Just one more way in which Kevin Feige and company have essentially taken command of the industry writ large.

So here we are – 22 movies for the summer of 2022. Now, it should be noted that there are plenty of eagerly anticipated offerings coming to us by way of the various streaming services as well. However, while many of those films match the studio movies in scope, ambition and cost, I’ll be focusing on theatrical releases here (though when there is a day-and-date streaming release as well, I will be sure to note it).

And with that – let’s go to the movies!

For many of us, puzzles are a part of our daily lives.

Every day, millions of people dedicate time and energy to solving puzzles. Whether we’re talking about word-based puzzles like crosswords and cryptics or mechanical puzzles like Rubik’s Cubes and Japanese puzzle boxes, there are people out there devoting their leisure to finding solutions. Chess problems and riddles and jigsaw puzzles – the list goes on and on. If you’re so inclined, there’s a type of puzzle out there for just about everyone.

And A.J. Jacobs decided to try just as many as he could.

Those attempts have resulted in a new book, titled “The Puzzler: One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life” (Crown, $28) and currently available wherever books are sold. It’s an effort to delve into not just his own deep, lifelong connection to puzzles, but also to the world in which puzzlers operate; he runs the gamut of genres, all to explore just what it is that attracts us to puzzles and the value that that attraction can add to other aspects of our lives.

It's the latest work of participatory nonfiction from Jacobs, who has previously penned such books as “The Year of Living Biblically” and “Thanks a Thousand.” He spent years traveling the world, engaging with elite puzzlers – makers and solvers alike – to help bring to light the low-key obsession that so many people share, the ongoing quest for that “aha” moment that is in many ways unique to puzzling.

(You can find our full review of "The Puzzler" here.)

Jacobs was kind enough to carve out some time from his busy schedule to join me over Zoom for a freewheeling conversation about the book, about puzzles and about why so many people are enamored with a hobby built upon the struggles inherent to our participation in it.

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