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Wednesday, 24 April 2019 12:19

Independent Bookstore Day marks fifth year

Written by Allen Adams

A celebration of independent bookstores is marking its fifth year.

Independent Bookstore Day (or Indie Bookstore Day) began life in 2014 as California Bookstore Day before expanding into a more nationally-oriented event the following year.

IBD lands on the last Saturday in April – April 27 this year. It’s a time when many bookstores will feature special items, author signings and other events as they participate in the festivities and embrace the joys of the indie bookseller. You can find out more at www.indiebookstoreday.com.

If Independent Bookstore Day seems reminiscent of last weekend’s Record Store Day, there’s a very good reason for that. The initial California celebration was actually inspired by the ongoing success displayed by Record Store Day.

In honor of Independent Bookstore Day – and independent bookstores everywhere – we thought it appropriate to chat with some of the folks at Downtown Bangor’s beloved bookstore The Briar Patch about what draws someone to the book business, what a bookstore can mean to a community and even a reading recommendation or two.

Briar Patch owner Gibran Graham and bookseller Abby Rice were kind enough to answer a few questions ahead of the celebration – The Briar Patch will have a number of IBD-exclusive items on hand from 10 a.m. on – and share with us some of their thoughts.

(Please note: The Briar Patch is only one of the many quality independent bookstores that are scattered all over our state, each of which possessed of its own unique character and a similar devotion to the business of the printed page.)

BREWER – One of the region’s entertainment mainstays is turning 10.

Improv comedy troupe The Focus Group is marking its 10-year anniversary with a celebratory performance. “Our Big Dumb Decade” will take place on April 19 at the Next Generation Theatre in Brewer – the longtime home of the group. The show starts at 8 p.m.; tickets are $5.

The show will feature members of the group both past and present, as well as a number of special guests who have shared the stage with the Focus Group at various times over the past decade.

(Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, the writer of this story – and this note – is a founding member of The Focus Group. He is also not even a little bit sorry to be taking advantage of his position to promote this auspicious anniversary.)

Wednesday, 10 April 2019 12:22

Mainers making musical magic

Written by Mike Dow

Chalk it up to Maine’s long winters, or the fact that much of our state is rural in nature, but there seems to be an unusually high percentage of extraordinarily talented musicians in our state.

You’ll find them literally everywhere - from Stockholm to South Portland – populating each town, city and village in between. Some are doctors, bankers and lawyers; some work on the farm, teach in our schools or work at the supermarket; some rely solely on music to pay all of the bills.

They each possess a distinct set of skills usually honed from a young age that were sometimes (but not always) inspired by a family member, a friend or simply a passion to learn.

I reached out to six acclaimed Maine-based musicians all over the state to discover who they are, what they do, why they do it, and how it makes them feel. I asked them all the same questions (more or less) but got a wide array of responses.

In recent years, Bangor and beer have become synonymous. The region has become a legitimate hotbed for interesting and talented beermakers. The craft beer explosion has been a remarkable thing to watch as more and more passionate brewers decide to try and bring their sudsy dreams to fruition.

Leaving aside the economic impact – which is undeniably significant – it’s just great to know that there are places all over where you can find and enjoy an exceptional beer. We’re up to our ears in options from breweries large and small. No matter what your taste might be, you’ll be able to find something to suit your particular palate at an area brewery.

And since National Beer Day is coming right up, we thought it might be nice to take a moment and celebrate beer in general and Bangor-area beer in particular.

What’s National Beer Day, you ask?

National Beer Day is what we like to call an “unofficial” holiday. Sure, it isn’t acknowledged on any federal calendar, but that doesn’t make it any less legitimate. Look at some of the other “holidays” that share the same month. April Fools’ Day? Not an official holiday, but who doesn’t love pulling a harmless prank or two? We sure do love it here at The Maine Edge. And what about Earth Day? Again, not official, but who would argue against its importance and/or legitimacy?

So it is with National Beer Day (and New Beer’s Eve, of course). Is it silly? Of course it is. Still, there’s something to be said for a day set aside to celebrate something that so many of us enjoy. Beer is a part of our national consciousness in a way that few other consumables are.

Think about the huge variety of beer you see when you go to the grocery store or visit your local watering hole. Think about the utter ubiquity of beer commercials on our television airwaves. Think about the rapidly-growing contingent of small craft breweries offering their own unique takes on the classic beverage. Think about the multitude of homebrewers making their own beers in their own homes – a throwback to those Prohibition days, only without the fear of reprisal and with the assistance of dedicated outlets such as our own Central Street Farmhouse.

Beer has become an American institution. So why not set aside a day to celebrate? Tip back a tall cold one on April 7, my friends. Heck, if I had my druthers, I’d make it a whole week, because really, is a single day enough? Let’s remember that there was a time, not so long ago, when you couldn’t just stroll into your favorite pub and order a pint. It’s a freedom that we’re privileged to have.

As for why it is April 7…

One of the many, many things for which The Maine Edge is renowned is its uncanny ability to get exclusive interviews with literary figures who are notoriously reclusive and/or glacially productive. This publication – specifically its lead literary critic (and the writer of this story) – has managed to get some of the 20th century’s most difficult to pin down authors.

Considering the paucity of in-depth communication with these figures, it seems appropriate that we (I) compile and share some of the highlights of our interviews. As such, we’re I’m) sharing interviews from previous years with brilliant and famous writers such as Thomas Pynchon, George R.R. Martin and Cormac McCarthy – interviews in which we (I) engaged as an intellectual equal with some true giants of the written word.

Each of these interviews is an achievement in its own right, but together they are a phenomenal feat, combining first-rate investigative skills, literary theoretical brilliance and a poetic pen.

So please, enjoy some of our (my) finest work.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019 12:27

Play ball! A 2019 MLB Preview

Written by Allen Adams

It might be hard to believe, considering how much snow we’ve seen recently, but spring is here. Whatever the weather says, the truth is that baseball season is just around the corner! Spring training is coming to a conclusion – we’re on the verge of seeing games that count!

There’s plenty to be excited about in 2019. The biggest contracts in the history of the game have been signed. The stars are poised to pick up where they left off; reigning MVPs (Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich) and Cy Young winners (Blake Snell and Jacob deGrom) and Rookies of the Year (Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto) are all ready to get back to work. Meanwhile, new faces like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez are almost here. Plus, there are the names that we don’t know well (or at all) yet, but who will capture our attention before the season is through.

There are going to be a lot of home runs and a lot of strikeouts. There will be stars who perform to expectations and unknowns who shock the world. There will be delightful highs and unfortunate lows. There’s no way to say for certain what will go down on the field in 2019.

But let’s give it a go anyway.

BANGOR – Too often, we think of science as SCIENCE, some far-removed thing that has little connection with most of our everyday lives. We allow ourselves to be intimidated by this notion that science is something far too complex for any but the most specialized among us to truly understand it.

And nothing could be further from the truth.

Science is EVERYWHERE, a fact that is celebrated annually by the Maine Science Festival. This year’s MSF – which marks the fifth year of the event – takes place March 13-17 at locations all over the greater Bangor area. Scores of events aimed at bringing science to joyful, relatable life – as well as finding those connections to the world we live in everyday – are happening over that span.

And at the risk of sounding cliché, it really is fun for all ages. There will be plenty to do and to learn for young children, teenagers and adults alike. Seriously – if you have even the slightest bit of curiosity, you’ll find something to fascinate you at the Maine Science Festival.

Oh, and the vast majority of events are absolutely free.

You can find more information and a full schedule at www.mainesciencefestival.org. And you should absolutely do that, because any effort on my part to convey the vast and varied sweep of offerings over MSF weekend would be lacking. There’s just SO MUCH SCIENCE.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Kate Dickerson is the Director of the Maine Science Festival and one of the driving forces behind turning it into one of the most anticipated events on the cultural calendar. She was kind enough to engage with The Maine Edge via email for a Q&A that was not only incredibly informative, but also illustrative of the passion she carries for this project.

Stages all over the state are being prepped for the largest scholastic drama weekend of the year.

The Maine Drama Festival has been a going concern for nearly a century, giving high school students all over the state an opportunity to take to the stage and encounter like-minded students in a competitive, yet supportive environment. Under the auspices of the Maine Principals Association, schools from across Maine come together to present the theatrical work that they have produced.

Memories of the hardwood might still echo following the recent high school basketball tournaments – memories of hard-fought, hard-won games. But it’s a different sort of scholastic competition playing out next weekend in venues across the state - a competition whose players are just as devoted and just as passionate as any who took to the floor at the Cross Insurance Center, the Augusta Civic Center or the Cumberland County Civic Center.

The regionals of the 2019 MPA One-Act Play Festival are set to play out over nine different stages this weekend. Some 80 different high schools sent their thespians out to tread the boards, playing their hearts out and offering a pure love for and devotion to the power of the theater.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019 13:57

A hack day’s night – Hack AE hits UMaine

Written by Allen Adams

ORONO – The University of Maine is preparing to play host to a unique weekend of problem solving.

UMaine is the site for America East Hackathon 2019. Known as Hack AE, the event takes place March 2-3 on the University of Maine Campus in Orono. Scores of students from all over the country will be landing in Orono, primed to use their myriad skills to find unconventional solutions to specific problems.

It’s Oscar time again!

This year marks the 91st Academy Awards. 91 years of Hollywood’s biggest night of self-celebration and self-congratulation. Nearly a century of dazzling gowns and dapper tuxedos and impactful acceptance speeches and inane interviews on the red carpet. Generations of excitement and disappointment.

As someone who loves the movies, I love the Oscars. Yes, they’ve grown increasingly out of touch over the years, but so what? There’s something exciting about rewarding the best of the best – even if what seems like the best of the best today might not seem so great later on down the road.

This marks the 12th Oscar preview I’ve written for The Maine Edge. I’ve been doing this for a dozen years. You might think that means I know something. And maybe I do … but not that much. While I’ve gotten pretty good at determining just who is going to win, the reality is that there are always going to be some surprises. That’s the joy of it – you just never know.

Here’s a look at my predictions for the 2019 Academy Awards. I've included write-ups for the big ones - the four acting categories, director and Best Picture - and just picked the winners for the rest.

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