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If you haven’t read Chris Bohjalian, you really should.

It’s not like you don’t have options – over the course of his decades-long career, Bohjalian has written over 20 novels. He’s graced the New York Times bestseller list numerous times. And unlike many of his contemporaries, he has shown not just the willingness, but the ability to explore a wide range of themes and styles along the way, even as he maintains a consistency of voice throughout.

From his 1988 debut novel “A Killing in the Real World” to his latest work “Hour of the Witch,” which was released just this week (you can read our review here), Bohjalian has demonstrated a proclivity for taut narratives and well-realized characters. He’s that rare writer whose prolificity has never undermined the quality of his output – if anything, he just keeps getting better, even as he refuses to be bound by the trappings of any particular genre.

Few authors are able to combine Bohjalian’s prose gifts with his unwavering empathy and concern for the world around him. He wraps important issues in compelling narratives, leaving the reader to be exposed to powerful ideas even as they turn page after thrilling page.

Remember how much fun it was to have a houseful of friends over on a Saturday night? Those days will return. In the meantime, singer-songwriter A.J. Croce, with his friends, have put together “By Request,” an outrageously fun album of diverse pop, rock, jazz, blues and soul cover songs – from Randy Newman to The Beach Boys - that gives us a glimpse of how much fun it would be to crash a Croce house party.

A.J. Croce has become firmly established over the last three decades as one of America’s finest musical craftsmen through nine albums of original songs encompassing multiple genres. It became evident during an interview with The Maine Edge that he’s also a musicologist in possession of an almost encyclopedic knowledge of music history and music-makers. Croce says he did his best to tighten the reins on his broad taste when it came to selecting titles for “By Request.”

“As much as this album is a celebration of different kinds of music I love, it’s about the celebration of friendship, being together and entertaining friends,” Croce said. “This record was recorded live in the studio, and I produced it with that in mind, as if I could welcome the audience over to my place, hang out and play music for them.”

“By Request” features a mix of well-known songs and others that are waiting to be discovered by new listeners, as Croce (who augments his piano by also playing guitar, organ and harmonium) and his touring band deliver each one with a great spirit of fun and spontaneity.        

Better late than never.

It feels weird to be writing an Academy Awards preview in April instead of February, but thanks to the pandemic, that’s where we are. 2020 was also a weird year for movies in general, what with the extended closure of movie theaters and the general lack of enthusiasm by Hollywood for releasing their big-ticket offerings.

Still, the Academy pushed back the Oscars by a couple of months and expanded the eligibility window for films, both in terms of timeline and of distribution. It only makes sense that after a year unlike any other, we would wind up with an Oscars unlike any other.

And as always, I’m here to offer up my thoughts.

This is the 93rd edition of Hollywood’s favorite awards show. It’s also the 14th time I’ve offered up my Oscars predictions, if you can believe that. You might think that after 14 years, I know what I’m doing. And maybe I do … to an extent. I’ve gotten pretty good at sussing out who is going to win. But the real joy of these awards is that there are always going to be some surprises. You just never know, and in a strange year like this one, who can say what will happen?

Here are my picks. I’ve gone in-depth on the big-ticket categories and included winners for all the others. And as always, the disclaimer: these are my predictions as to who WILL win, as opposed to my feelings about who SHOULD win. There will always be a degree of disconnect, though perhaps a touch less than in previous years.

Let’s hit the red carpet.

BANGOR – It was six months ago, give or take, when the State of Maine, nearly four years after its citizens voted to legalize recreational marijuana through a referendum vote in November of 2016, finally gave the go-ahead for retail adult use sales in the state.

By the terms of that law, adults 21 years of age or older with a valid ID are able to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of a combination of marijuana and marijuana concentrate that includes no more than five grams of marijuana concentrate.

In the half-year since storefronts began opening their doors in early October, the industry has seen steady and impressive economic growth, though as with any relatively new endeavor, there have been some growing pains along the way. The truth is that these current circumstances are the culmination of a gradual journey.

Here at The Maine Edge, we really miss the live music experience, and you’ve told us that you really miss it too. Most stages, venues and concert halls have been quiet for more than a year and that silence is deafening. We miss the intimate in-person shows at Bangor Arts Exchange, the magic of live theater at Penobscot Theatre, the symphonies and concerts at the Collins Center in Orono – and we miss seeing legends take the big stage downtown.

We asked you to tell us about the best shows you’ve seen at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, presented by Waterfront Concerts. The votes are in and your picks are fascinating to say the least.

Before we reveal the list of your favorite shows, let’s look back at the rise of Waterfront Concerts and the effect it has had on the area’s economy and entertainment landscape.

It’s been nearly 20 months since Waterfront Concerts last staged a show at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, a venue that was preparing for its biggest season to date when Covid cleared the schedule for 2020.

Over 10 seasons, from July 2010, when Celtic Woman was featured as the inaugural concert at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, through August 2019, when Breaking Benjamin performed with four support bands, Waterfront Concerts staged 152 shows that brought well over one million concertgoers to downtown Bangor. In the process of entertaining all of those folks, the greater Bangor area’s entertainment landscape was transformed as a direct result of the concert series, which some believed to be an unworkable prospect.

Are we living in a simulation?

It’s a question that has risen to prominence in certain technophilosophical circles in recent years, though in truth, the skeptical hypothesis regarding just how real reality is has been around for centuries; perhaps the most pop culturally present of those ancient arguments are things like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave or the “butterfly dream” from the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, though many other long-ago thinkers expressed similar ideas.

What it boils down to is the notion that everything about the universe we occupy, from the tiniest molecule to the most massive star, is a computer simulation. That includes us, by the way.

This current flavor of this theory springs largely from work in the early 2000s by the Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom, whose premise presupposes that future predictions regarding the massive increase of computing power are accurate and that at some point, said supercomputing capacity would be devoted to running simulations of civilization’s forebears. Assuming those simulations are sufficiently detailed and fine-tuned, the people in them will be conscious and sentient … and virtual.

Bostrom’s simulation argument – which he calls a trilemma – states that one of these three statements is almost certain to be true:

  1.     The fraction of human-level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage (i.e. capable of developing these sort of immense simulations) is very close to zero.
  2.     The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running simulations of their evolutionary history, or variations thereof, is close to zero.
  3.     The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation are very close to one.

Bostrom goes on to posit through anthropic reasoning that IF that third statement is true, then we are almost certainly living in a simulation.

There – that’s everything that five minutes on Wikipedia could teach me about simulation theory. You’re welcome.

But that’s not the whole story. In fact, we here in The Maine Edge’s Investigative Futurism Department have spent several hours digging into a different possibility with regard to our simulated world – a possibility that hits us where we live. You see, after much experimentation and deliberation, the IFD has come to an undeniable and paradigm-shattering conclusion.

We ARE in a simulation, but not one crafted by the powers that be in some far-flung future. No, the simulation in which we exist is not, one could argue, a simulation at all.

We’re characters in a story. Specifically, a Stephen King story.

Friday, 19 March 2021 11:33

Play ball! Previewing the 2021 MLB season

Written by Allen Adams

Believe it or not, Opening Day is almost upon us.

In just a few days, Major League Baseball will hit the field for the start of the 2021 season. It remains to be seen how teams will respond this year, after the truncated season of 2020. And this year will be plenty different as well. Teams will be playing before a limited or no audience. COVID issues may (and almost certainly will) still arise. There’s even talk of some change in the physical makeup of the ball itself.

It will be different. And yet … the bat will still crack. The glove will still pop. Familiar faces will display their usual excellence and unknowns will display unexpected transcendence. And for the more data-driven – the numbers will continue to tell you the truth. The joy of that part of baseball is that there will ALWAYS be more numbers.

We all love it for different reasons.

So we’ll see if the Los Angeles Dodgers can become the first back-to-back MLB champs in a generation. We’ll see if MVPs Jose Abreu and Freddie Freeman can follow up on their award-winning seasons. We’ll see if Cy Young winners Shane Bieber and Trevor Bauer can manage a second straight great year. We’ll find out which young phenoms are the real deal and which are fool’s gold, which long-timers are out of gas or still have a little left in the tank.

It’s a complicated time in the world, and sports fandom is not exempt. Whether you think these games could be happening more safely (or not happening at all), the reality is that the 2021 season is going to take place, for better or worse. Here are one man’s thoughts on how that season might play out.

Play ball!

(Division winners = x; Wild Card winners = y)

AUGUSTA – What a year. It was a Sunday night year ago on March 15, 2020 when Maine Gov. Janet Mills declared a state of emergency after 12 cases of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 were reported across the state. Much about the coronavirus was still unknown back then, but it was already beginning to disrupt the world.

By the time she declared the emergency, then-Pres. Donald Trump had already made the declaration for the U.S. The cruise ship Grand Princess was trapped off the California coast with 100 cases aboard that resulted in eight deaths, while its sister ship Diamond Princess was idled off the coast of Japan with 712 cases and 14 deaths – all of them passengers. The World Health Organization had declared the coronavirus a pandemic.

But that wasn’t all. International travel to the U.S. from China and most of Europe had been banned. As panic selling ensued, rapid declines in the S&P 500 triggered stock market-wide halts in securities trading. The NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive just before the team’s game with the Oklahoma City Thunder. And there were already over 3,000 cases in the U.S. and the country had suffered 69 deaths. All that in the span of just weeks.

In the days after Mills declared the public health state of emergency, the Maine legislature passed emergency legislation that would provide funding for the coronavirus response efforts, extend unemployment benefits to the nearly 250,000 Mainers who would eventually file for unemployment claims amid months of business closures, and give Mills emergency authority to change or suspend laws in the absence of lawmakers while the emergency was in effect.

It would be the last time the legislature would meet in full session for almost a full year – they met in a new session for the first time on March 4, 2021. During that time, Mills would go on to issue 79 executive orders to combat the pandemic.

And in the following weeks, terms like “flattening the curve” and “essential businesses” would lead to the temporary closure of many companies across the state that were deemed nonessential under new “Stay at Home” orders. For many, two weeks turned into three months turned into 10 of phased re-openings. Unfortunately, hundreds of businesses across Maine never came back.

And in the year since the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) – the state agency charged with protecting the public’s health – was activated to respond to the pandemic, the agency has kept track of thousands of cases daily, shipped millions of pieces of personal protection equipment (PPE), managed the distribution of therapeutics and vaccines, investigated hundreds of outbreaks across the state and contact-traced thousands more to prevent more outbreaks.

Yes, it is a year later. Yes, this pandemic has certainly taken its toll. It could have been better. But it could also have been much worse.

BANGOR – A hilarious whodunit is coming your way courtesy of Penobscot Theatre Company!

PTC continues their innovative and industrious response to the current circumstances with their presentation of “Who Killed Zolan Mize?” The latest entry in the theatre’s ongoing Digitus Theatrum mainstage season, it’s an interactive murder mystery that will be livestreaming beginning on March 11 and running through April 3. To purchase a link or to find more information, visit the PTC website at wwws.penobscottheatre.org or call the box office at 942-3333.

The show is the brainchild of Rachel and Brendan Powers, a married pair of Florida-based actors who are likely familiar to area audiences; both have graced the Bangor Opera House stage in recent years – Rachel in the theatre’s 2018 production of Lindsey Ferrentino’s “Ugly Lies the Bone” and Brendan in both Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” (2014) and Tracy Letts’s “August: Osage County” (2015).

“Who Killed Zolan Mize?” lets audiences engage in the fun as they watch a pair of detectives question six quirky suspects. Viewers are invited to share ideas and observations with their fellow detectives along the way in the “Clues Journal,” as well as joining into a series of in-home scavenger hunts. Once all the evidence is in, audience members share their thoughts on the case with the detectives and a vote is held. The suspect with the most votes wins (or loses, I suppose, depending on your perspective).

Following each performance will be a post-show talkback. This is a chance for audiences to ask Rachel and Brendan any questions they may have, both about the show and about the pair’s own experiences in the theatre and screen acting industries.

(A personal note: having worked with both Rachel and Brendan on shows in the past, I can vouch for the fact that they are not only talented and tremendously knowledgeable, but also among the kindest, most genuine folks you’re ever likely to find. If you see the show, stick around – you’ll enjoy what they have to say, whatever that winds up being.)

ORONO – Early March. Traditionally a time when basketball and hockey take center stage on the sports calendar along with the occasional glimpse at spring training baseball but this year, football is in the air.

The global pandemic had minimal impact on so-called “big time” college football last fall because of, well … money. However, programs at the FCS level, without the pressure of network contracts, were actually able to put the health and well-being of student athletes first and now will attempt to play a reduced spring schedule.

The Colonial Athletic Association’s teams, with the exception of opt-out Towson, will play six conference games and have the option of picking up one or two non-conference opponents. The University of Maine Black Bears, who only found out they can play home games last week, will play a six-game conference-only schedule, all of them against teams from the “northern” half of the CAA.

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