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2019: The Year in Review

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Wow – so that was 2019.

We’ve come to the end of another year, and so we thought we’d take a look back at some of our favorite stories from the past 12 months.

It’s a wide variety, featuring interviews with actors, comedians, authors, scientists and more. As always, we did our best to offer up informative and entertaining stories to engage our readers.

Join us as we remember the stories of 2019; here’s hoping you enjoyed reading these stories as much as we enjoyed writing them.

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Allen’s Year in Review

Steve Martin & Martin Short

Anyone with any knowledge of comedy knows who Steve Martin and Martin Short are.

With Steve Martin, perhaps you’re familiar with his iconic, game-changing standup work in the 1970s. Or his iconic guest turns on “Saturday Night Live.” Maybe you’re a fan of his film work – everything from the lunatic absurdity of “The Jerk” or “The Man with Two Brains” to more mainstream fare like “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” or “Parenthood.” He’s also an accomplished musician, novelist and playwright, because of course he is.

With Martin Short, you might have first encountered him on the paradigm-shifting Canadian sketch show “SCTV.” He did a turn on “SNL” as well, which in turn led to films like “Innerspace” and “Three Fugitives” and “Mars Attacks!” He created the iconic character Jiminy Glick and brought him to a wide variety of stages and screens. He also hosted an eponymous syndicated talk show and, oh yeah, has a Tony.

As someone with a deep love of comedy that was formed in large part when these two were in their heyday, I have a heartfelt admiration for them both. Each of them helped shape my comedic sensibility in a real way. While a decade-plus in this business has largely inured me to feeling starstruck, there are still occasional exceptions. This interview – conducted in advance of the duo’s tour stop at the Cross Center back in September – was one of those exceptions.

And they were charming and forthcoming and – surprise – very funny. An absolute personal and professional highlight for me.

Seriously – I got to talk to two of the “Three Amigos.” It’s a miracle that I was able to keep it together. But I did manage to avoid completely fanboying out. Well … mostly avoid.

Mandy Patinkin

Few performers have achieved the kind of varied success that Mandy Patinkin has over the years. You might know him from his eight years as Saul Berenson on the Showtime series “Homeland” or his well-regarded stints on shows like “Chicago Hope” (for which he won an Emmy). Or maybe you know him from his time on the Broadway stage, winning acclaim for his work in musicals such as “Evita.”

And of course: he was Inigo Montoya, the swashbuckling Spaniard from the beloved film classic “The Princess Bride.”

(Editor’s note: Real talk, don’t sleep on 1988’s “Alien Nation” – he’s legitimately fantastic in that.)

I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Patinkin in advance of his concert performance at Bar Harbor’s Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor last month. He was as charming and forthcoming as you would hope he would be; ready and willing to engage in a thoughtful conversation.

Over the course of our interview, he offered an in-depth look into his process. He talks about how the “Diaries” project came about and what led him to want to tour with it, as well as some insight as to how much music means to him and his well-being. He discussed his philanthropic work and his feelings about the current state of the world. And – since I would have been remiss if I hadn’t – I talked to him a little bit about “The Princess Bride.”

Seriously – I have Inigo Montoya on the phone and I’m NOT going to ask him about it? Please.

It’s always wonderful when someone you admire turns out to be even nicer and cooler than you hope. Mandy Patinkin was like that, an enthusiastic interviewee who was clearly doing his best to make sure that both of us had a good time.

Sarah Parcak

Dr. Sarah Parcak’s Twitter handle says it all - @indyfromspace. Yeah, that’s right – she’s a space archaeologist.

This summer, I had the chance to talk to Parcak (a Bangor native, no big deal) about her new book “Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past.” Her work involves the use of satellite imagery to determine the presence (or absence) of archaeological sites that otherwise could only be discovered via traditional boots-on-the-ground methods.

Forget the fedora – we’re finding the past by way of the future!

Parcak’s fame in scientific circles has been steadily growing over the past decade or so. Things really blew up for her when she was awarded the million-dollar TED Prize in 2015. She appeared on “Late Night with Stephen Colbert,” bringing awareness of her work to a whole new level. She founded the website GlobalXPlorer, which allows users to do their own metaphorical digging, using satellite images to go on their own archaeological scavenger hunts from on high.

Let me repeat – she is a space archaeologist. It sounds like the sort of job that a precocious six-year-old would invent, something along the lines of “cowboy astronaut” or “baseball player president.” But make no mistake – she is real.

And she is SPECTACULAR.

Talking to Sarah Parcak was a real treat; not only is she passionate and brilliant, but she’s down-to-earth and wildly funny to boot. Her book reflects all of those qualities as well – you might have noticed it on my year-end list of recommended reads. We talked about her work, about writing the book and about her vocal presence in the social media realm; her willingness to share her beliefs about all things great and small is refreshing and inspiring.

In truth, we should all aspire to be a little more like Sarah Parcak.

Hack AE

I’ll be honest, I only had the vaguest idea what a hackathon even was when I started working on this story back in February.

UMaine served as the host site for America East Hackathon 2019. Known as Hack AE, the event took 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.

This was the third year of Hack AE. It is what is known as a “civic hackathon” and is organized by the America East Academic Consortium; the AEAC is the academic initiative of the America East athletic conference.

This year’s event focused on agriculture. Small farmers and other independent agricultural and agricultural-adjacent enterprises were the targets. Essentially, Hack AE 2019 brought together students of considerable cross-disciplinary skill from all over in an effort to help integrate technology and general tech-savviness into the world of small agriculture.

Basically, a hackathon is an opportunity for people to tackle an issue in an unconventional way, bringing whatever skills they have to the table in an effort to come up with something effective. One of the joys of creative collaboration is a willingness to throw everything at the wall and seeing what sticks; that’s essentially what a hackathon is. It’s teams of excited, enthusiastic and engaged people coming together and throwing themselves at a problem.

It was really fascinating to learn more about this ongoing event. With the help of Peter Schilling, Executive Director of UMaine’s Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, I was able to share the story of this cool event with our readers.

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These are just a few of the great stories I had the opportunity to write over the course of the past year. I got to write about Blue Hill’s Word Literary Festival, learning more about that event and how it has grown and changed as it brings a celebration of the written word to life. Speaking of the written word, I reviewed dozens of books this year.

On the theatrical side of things, I not only wrote previews and reviews of all manner of seasons and shows, but I also got to dig deeper with stories about the 15-year outdoor Shakespeare sojourn of Ten Bucks Theatre Company and the annual Maine Drama Festival’s high school one-act competition.

Oh, and I got to be self-serving a few times, most notably with stories about improv – my troupe the Focus Group marked 10 years of entertaining the greater Bangor masses, while the annual Improv ME Festival marked its sixth year of bringing improv from all over to our backyard.

Add to that the multitude of movies I was able to review (this time also marks the rough endpoint of my first year as a Tomatometer-approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes) and the wealth of sports stories I was able to write and you’ve got, well … just one hell of a year.

As always, we are grateful that you folks continue to pick us up and read us. Without you, we’re simply shouting into the void, and while that can be cathartic, there’s something nice about knowing that you’re out there. Maybe you like what we have to say, maybe you don’t, maybe you’re indifferent – so long as you’re reading, we’re happy to keep writing.

Here’s to 2019 – thanks to you all!

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Mike’s Year in Review

Time flies when you’re having fun. It was a fun year here at The Maine Edge and the fact that you’ve spent it with us makes us happier than little Ralphie when his dad handed him that awkwardly wrapped Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.

2019 gave me an opportunity to interview some fascinating figures in music, TV, movies and books, including local personalities who are doing great things. My primary focus tends to be music. I am constantly amazed at the level of musical talent in our state, and bringing their stories to you has been very gratifying.

The year also gave me a chance to connect with people outside of Maine, including actor and comedian Chris Kattan, formerly of Saturday Night Live. His memoir “Baby Don’t Hurt Me” was both hilarious and heartbreaking. During my interview with Chris, he spoke of his parents’ influence on his choice to pursue comedy as a career, and the pain he endures to this day from a horrific on-set accident at SNL that ultimately led to his departure.

My cover story with Robby Takac of Goo Goo Dolls gave me a chance to go deep with him on his affection toward Maine, his band’s early days, and how surprised we would all be if we could see what really happens backstage at a Goo Goo Dolls concert.

My August interview with television journalist Ann Curry (who doesn’t love her?) made me an even bigger fan of her work. Ann is the real deal. Her new show “Chasing The Cure” has already helped save lives, and that’s pretty cool.

When Phish came to Bangor for back-to-back concerts last summer, I shared my personal Phish story with readers, and heard from dozens of the band’s fans, who in turn shared their stories with me. As you read this, the band is prepping for a four-night run in New York City that will culminate with another three-set New Year’s Eve show, complete with an annual surprise midnight stunt.

There, I managed to work Phish into one more Maine Edge story. My work here is done, but not before I thank you for picking us up each week, and bringing us into your homes. You may reach me at the email address you’ll find on our masthead. In the meantime, keep on rocking in the free world. See you next year!

Last modified on Monday, 23 December 2019 17:10

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