About Town - January, 2008

Thursday, 31 January 2008

SAVE SOME DOUGH - Sign up for Opportunity Maine

If you're a student at a Maine college or university (public or private), you can sign up starting tomorrow to make yourself eligible for an income-tax break if you live and work in Maine after you graduate.

The program is called Opportunity Maine, and we've written about it before (see "Young and Dumb," by Al Diamon, March 7, 2007, and "Opportunity Maine - Missing the Target?" by Emily Parkhurst, April 4, 2007).

It's the law now, so give it a shot. Be careful of the fine print - even some of the regular-sized print in the "Frequently Asked Questions" section gets kind of complicated.

There are a few limits. Grad students need not apply - folks getting associate's or bachelor's degrees only.

The tax credit is based on tuition at UMaine or the state's community college system, so if you take out loans for a more-expensive college, you only get the credit for what you would have paid at a state school. (Of course, if you're attending Bowdoin or Colby, you won't have any loans, thanks to those colleges' largesse.)

And the program only helps people who graduate from Maine colleges, regardless of where they grew up. There's nothing for people who grew up in Maine, went to school elsewhere, and then came back. Nor is there anything in this law (touted as keeping young people in Maine) that would actually attract young people from elsewhere to move here, such as a tax break for anyone in the 18-35 age bracket.

But the group's major point is right on: students at Maine colleges and universities have nothing to lose by signing up at their schools' financial-aid offices. If you leave Maine after college, you won't get the tax credit, but there's no tax penalty. And if you ever move back, you can get the credit again.

It may not solve all of Maine's problems, or even any, but it's an interesting experiment and it can't hurt you to try.

(And yes, we know that longtime Portland Phoenix freelancer Tony Giampetruzzi is the communications director for Opportunity Maine. We're hoping he'll leave us alone about this for a week or two, at least!)

01/31/2008 16:43:06 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Kuzu -- the new EVOO?

I'm not even a real vegetarian, much less an adherent to a macrobiotic diet. But, as I aim for lower-impact eating, I've perused some macrobiotic books and web sites, on the lookout for new food ideas and recipes. From his "Maine author bookshelf," Jeff earthed up The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics, written a few years ago by former Portlander (and Portland Phoenix scribe) Jessica Porter. The book is an accessible and fun take on macrobiotic eating; one that explores the philosophy of food while providing some great recipes.

Now, Porter's trying out a new way to get the macrobiotic word to the masses: live-streaming cooking classes, broadcast once a week from her Hip Chick web site. For the moderate cost of $25, viewers get an hour and half of something very much like Porter's book -- casual instruction on seriously healthy food, with a sizeable dose of Porter's high spirits for good measure.

I tuned in at 8 p.m. last night for the course on cooking grains. From her home kitchen, and after a rambling opening monologue about her macro-slip-ups last week (a piece of pizza and some coffee -- if she'd only known that I was sipping beer and eating chips while I watched!),  Porter gave me and 11 other viewers (who hailed from all over Canada and the US) a crash course on barley, brown rice, millet, and other whole grains.

She cooked three tasty-looking dishes: simple pressure-cooked short-grain brown rice (a good meal for winter, we learned; short grain brown rice packs a more concentrated energy punch than long-grain, which is better suited for spring/summer meals), a barley salad with olives, pine nuts, dressing, and capers -- well, the capers were supposed to be there, but charmingly, she'd forgotten to buy them -- and my favorite, millet "mashed potatoes" with cauliflower. I've actually made this before, and it is amazing. Millet is soft, kind of like polenta, and when you blend it together with cooked cauliflower, the texture is comforting and delish. She topped hers with a shitake mushroom gravy, as she does in her book, which I can't wait to try.

Throughout, us online viewers were able to type questions into a chat screen, and on Porter's end, an off-screen computer-manner would read them aloud, for Porter to answer. The interactiveness was cool, and it could be even-better utilized -- I mean, how many times have I wanted to ask Rachael Ray about possible substitutions, or to repeat something, or whatever?

Next up, next Wednesday, is a segment on cooking beans. I've never had much luck with beans that don't come from a can, so this could be helpful. Cheers to Porter for harnessing the Internets to a healthy end!

01/31/2008 12:52:20 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Leap Day 2008

Are you one of the 200,000 Americans who only gets to celebrate their birthdays every four years, on Leap Day? (We're lucky enough to have such a specimen here in our office!)

If so (or even if not), we've stumbled upon an easy way for you to make some quick cash -- if you act fast. The Quadrennial Council is sponsoring a contest; participants can win $200..."just ask a candidate about their thoughts on The Quadrennial Council’s efforts to add February 29th to every calendar and catch it on video!" Already, there are some posts. Here's our favorite:

01/30/2008 14:51:53 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

UMaine law students keep on keeping on in RIAA case

Last month, two UMaine Law School students filed a motion to dismiss on behalf of two UMainers accused by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) of illegal downloading.

At the end of last week, Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk issued a recommendation to deny that motion -- basically, saying that the RIAA case could go ahead, instead of being thrown out, as the law clinic students had argued it should be. They'd said the RIAA's claims were too vague; Kravchuk said they weren't. (She also accused the RIAA of "gamesmanship," disparaging their strategy of lumping complaints together by school.)

Cumberland Law Clinic student lawyers Lisa Chmelecki and Hannah Ames plan to file an objection to Kravchuk's recommendation. (Check out further discussion of the ruling here.)

How effective will that objection be? While she wanted to save specific comment for their objection, the students' faculty advisor, Deirdre Smith, offered this brief legal lesson in an email:

"I can tell you that the general process is that, when a party objects to a recommendation [as Smith's students plan to do] the Court gives what's called a "de novo" review to the recommendation, meaning that the matter is considered anew or afresh without giving particular deference to the prior  recommendation."

Portland lawyer Bob Mittel, who represents several other UMaine students in the case, said by email that he too plans to file an objection.

01/29/2008 16:15:50 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Movement on Adams School reuse

The city's Community Development Committee (Cheryl Leeman, John Anton, and James Cohen) will meet at 5 p.m. today to review the draft Request for Proposals for what used to be the Adams Elementary School on Munjoy Hill.

Right now, the draft RFP primarily calls for affordable mixed housing for families, young people, and seniors, built in eco-friendly, energy-saving ways. It is based on recommendations from the Adams School Reuse Committee, which met during the spring of last year to gather ideas. The Community Building Collaborative, which held its own event in January, is pushing for a Community Learning Center, with space for local organizations and activity groups, as well as cooperative housing. That group is calling for people to attend tonight's meeting.

"We are asking people to emphasize three points," the CBC website reads. "1. The Request for Proposal for the Adams School should make community space as a threshold requirement for development. 2. Keeping the Adams School as a Community Center 3. Supporting A Company of Girls and other organizations using the building for community programs."

However it's unclear how these ideas would be funded (the CBC is currently applying for grants). A more traditional developer will likely be a more attractive bidder to the city, at least financially speaking.

**Update from Jonah Fertig, of the CBC, who writes in an email: "
My feeling is the draft RFP focuses too much on housing. Housing is definitely need in our community and it has been expressed through out the community visioning process that there is desire for housing on the Adams School as part of a multi-use development that includes community uses and green space."

01/29/2008 11:34:35 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Monday, 28 January 2008

Sports Mania

As if the fast-approaching Superbowl wasn't exciting enough, local sports fans will find out soon whether or not Portland will be home to an National Basketball Association Development League team (like the minors of hoops), starting with the 2008-09 season. The guys leading the charge (former TD North president Bill Ryan, and his son Bill Ryan Jr., who owns the Oxford Plains Speedway) have procured the help of former Celtics coaches and players to help sway NBA big wigs, who are also considering Manchester, NH.

At 4 p.m. on Thursday, in front of Portland's City Hall, Governor John Baldacci will get in on the act, and "will participate in a public welcome for [NBA] they visit Portland to determine if the city will be awarded an NBA Development League franchise."

So if you're out and about during the late afternoon on Thursday, be sure to paste on your biggest "I heart basketball" smile!

01/28/2008 15:54:47 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Friday, 25 January 2008

Maine Squeezes - Free Hugs in Monument Square

This afternoon, there's a guy in Monument Square giving out free hugs, which he normally does up by Congress Square. But Boo has moved downtown a bit, in hopes of encountering more people. "But there's more room for them to avoid me," he noted after exchanging hugs with me today.

He'll be there most afternoons - even in the cold - so stop by and get some love!

As part of the worldwide Free Hugs Campaign, there have been free hugs given out around town, and at the Maine Mall, as seen here:

01/25/2008 16:02:15 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [1] |  

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Tomorrow: Wear green, commute green

We got an email a few weeks ago from Sarah Cushman, a Portlander who's organizing Portland Green Streets Days on the last Friday of every month. On those days, people who live or work in Portland are encouraged to wear green and to commute in an eco-friendly manner -- walking, biking, taking the bus, etc. Apparently, when she kicked off the Green Street Days this fall, local businesses offered some discounts to particpants. Since then, the list has grown.

Here's the list of what businesses are going green tomorrow:
Discounts Around Town for Green Streets Participants on January 25, 2008!
  • Clayton’s Cafe (447 U.S. Route One, Yarmouth, 846-1117, Free small coffee to Green Streets participants that day!
  • Lobby Cafe (400 Congress Street - in the Post Office building, 671-5776): Free coffee with breakfast or lunch sandwich for all Green Streets participants!
  • Longfellow Books (1 Monument Way, 772-4045, 25% off all used books for Green Streets participants on Green Streets Day!
  • Panera Bread (343 Gorham Road, South Portland, 780-1212, free small coffee to Green Streets participants that day!
  • Butterfly Baby (543 Congress Street, 553-9255, 10% discount on all stock to Green Streets participants that day! (FYI, Butterfly Baby has cloth diapers, too - the only ones on the peninsula? - in addition to its other green friendly pre-natal to small child (& parent) products.)
  • Down-Home Cookin’ (28 Preble Street, 228-2064, menu at Formerly of the Portland Public Market with yummy offerings - 10% off breakfast items for Green Streets participants!
  • Hilltop Coffee Shop (99 Congress Street; 780-0025): free regular coffee for Green Streets participants who bring their own mug (1/2 off for those who don’t)!
  • Homegrown Herb & Tea (195 Congress Street; 774-3484): $1 Off tea for all participants!
  • Green Tree Clothing (437 Congress Street, 699-2909, 15% off all stock to Green Streets participants that day! (FYI, Green Tree has underwear, too - the only store on the peninsula? - and it’s great stuff!)
  • Guitar Grave (441 Congress Street, 775-4414, One free DVD with any purchase of $20 or more - & one pair of shoelaces!
  • North Star Cafe (225 Congress Street, 699-2994, stop by and let them know you are participating and pick up your free small coffee or tea!
  • Slainte! (24 Preble Street, 828-0900, $2 pints for all Green Streets participants that day - stop by for some great live music that afternoon and evening!
Participants are encouraged to take photos of their Green Street day, and send them to Cushman's website.

Sounds like a easy enough way to save some cash / get some exercise / set a good example for everyone else. I think I'll do it. Who's with me?

01/24/2008 15:40:17 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Great minds...

I recently participated in Idolator's (big music blog, subsidiary of the Gawker blogpire) 2007 music poll, with a half-assed ballot of my top 10 albums (slightly different from what's below) and a few reissues I could think of. The poll offers fairly predictable results, but is an interesting counterpart to the behemoth Village Voice Pazz and Jop poll, an aggregation of picks by more reputable critics.

A fellow named Glenn McDonald now spends some time every year obsessively comparing the two polls and its voters, and it turns out my picks are in pretty good company. Among the ten voters whose Best Album ballots are most similar to mine, Idolator editor Jess Harvell, Pitchfork editor Ryan Schreiber, and Matt Shaer, a book reviewer, music critic, and very nice guy who writes frequently for the Boston Globe and doesn't update his fine blog often enough. The three of us are mainly joined by our love for the Dirty Projectors, and I cordially distance myself from their love of the consensus album of the year, LCD Soundsystem's shallow Sound of Silver.

I also note that I'm the only person on Idolator's entire ballot to mention Deer Tick's War Elephant, an album that at least got some formidable love from at least one major review site. As the band's said, it's a cryin' shame...

01/24/2008 11:38:57 by Christopher Gray | Comments [0] |  

The Alewife is a species of small shad

I didn't know that! I thought Alewife was just a stop on the Boston T.

Anyway, the alewives of Maine are in luck, because they have a coalition of state environmental advocacy groups working in Augusta to restore their historic spawning grounds.

That's one of several legislative priorities announced at a press conference this morning. The Maine League of Conservation Voters, along with 25 other eco-organizations, also threw their weight behind bills that would:
1) set energy efficiency standards for residential buildings in Maine
2) establish CO2 pollution-emission standards for gasification faclities and major new power plants in the state
3) require toy manufacturers to disclose the use of certain chemicals -- and encourage the use of safer alternatives, if feasible
4) create a tax credit that would encourage the re-use of historic buildings in an effort to reduce sprawl and keep new developements within downtown areas

01/24/2008 11:15:02 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Into Great Silents

As promised in this week's "8 Days a Week," some additional detail about upcoming silent film events around the area. (A post which perhaps should be titled: everything I write is too long, and maybe I ought to reconsider my "style".)

Sheer coincidence or hip fad? We don’t know, but Maine’s about to get silent film crazy.

            The action begins at the Meg Perry Center on Friday, January 25, when Tempera, Over a Cardboard Sea, and Northern B Stars score a variety of short silents (cowboys westerns, Russian 8mm films, and orginal footage) in a concert to benefit the venue. It begins at 8 pm on 644 Congress St., entry is by donation. Call 207.615.3609 for details.

            The following morning, Brunswick’s Eveningstar Cinema hosts their annual “Songfest” event, wherein ten singer/songwriters (including Vanessa Torres and organizer Dave Bullard) perform to a backdrop of nature films. This begins at 10 am in Maine St.’s Pontine Mall, tickets are $8. 207.729.6796.

            Also this week, One Longfellow Square begins an exciting four-part series of local musicians playing original scores to classic silents. It begins with the inestimable Samuel James playing along with one of the great silent comedies, Buster Keaton’s The General, wherein Keaton proves that he is the Bill Murray of the 1920s. Look for future installments with Tempera and some assembling of the Cerberus Shoal crew in the months to come. The General screens at 8 pm, January 30th and 31st. Tickets are $8, call 207.761.1757 for more information.

            Next week: DJ Spooky’s remix of the D.W. Griffith’s racist landmark Birth of a Nation, coming to Bates College February 2nd, and the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ hop on the bandwagon at the Merrill Auditorium February 8th. Also, as part of this year's "Longfellow Days" festivities, there'll be a February 9th screening of Uncle Tom's Cabin with live music at the Eveningstar in Brunswick.

01/23/2008 17:03:09 by Christopher Gray | Comments [0] |  

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Update on Roe anniversary

Earlier today, Jeff brought our attention to the fact that today is the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. To commemorate the date, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is co-sponsoring a forum at the University of Southern Maine tonight, from 6-8 p.m. at the Glickman Family Library. Several experts, young and old, will be on hand to talk about the reproductive-rights landscape, then and now.

As the PPNNE press release points out, Maine's "abortion rate of 10.5  per 1000 [is] considerably lower than the national average of 19.4 per 1000." Last week, the New York-based non-profit Guttmacher Institute announced that US abortion rates are the lowest they've been since 1974. The next challenge will be to figure out why.

01/22/2008 14:54:09 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

We [heart] Stephen King

Stephen King was on the Today Show this morning, promoting his new book, Duma Key. Despite the fact that solicited questions for King from the general public, none of the chosen questioners was from King's home state of Maine. However, he did offer a shout out in his interview:

Q: If, after your death, you knew that only one of your stories would be remembered, which one would you want it to be? –Randy, Mesa, Ariz.
There’s a story called “The Reach,” which really is the Maine that I grew up in and people that I know, so that’s the one.

BTW, did you know that King has come out in support of Barack Obama?

01/22/2008 14:17:43 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

MARKING ROE - Targeting Collins

We wrote about it back in spring 2006, but today, on the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, the People for the American Way will launch a series of ads targeting US Senator Susan Collins for having backed the appointments of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

Here's the first ad, starring actress Kathleen Turner, who has certainly played her fair share of empowered women:

01/22/2008 11:28:46 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Best Albums of 2007 - Total, final, whatever.

I’ve deleted all previous entries to this long-running attempt to complete my Best of ’07 list; here’s the whole shebang.

Honorable Mentions (all very strong, but either too uneven, too lacking in peaks, or not listened to enough to warrant top ten consideration): The Acorn, Glory Hope Mountain; Aesop Rock, None Shall Pass; Beirut, The Flying Club Cup; Burial, Untrue; Deerhunter, Cryptograms; El-P, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead; The Field, From Here We Go Sublime; Frog Eyes, Tears of the Valedictorian; Future of the Left, Curses; Great Lake Swimmers, Ongiara; Les Savy Fav, Let's Stay Friends; Marissa Nadler, Songs III: Bird on the Water; M.I.A., Kala; Okkervil River, The Stage Names; Pantha Du Prince, This Bliss; Radiohead, In Rainbows; John Vanderslice, Emerald City; Yeasayer, All Hour Cymbals

Albums that threaten this list's future authenticity:

Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam - Possibly the band’s best album yet. Not included due to Panda Bear, and infrequent desire to listen to the album, but I expect the group to go even further in conceiving an alternate future for pop music that will probably never come to light. AC are, to me, becoming a sort of litmus test for my appreciation of other music critics: if you’re not on board, you probably just can’t handle the new.

Battles, Mirrored - Not included because... well basically because I’m more sympathetic to Menomena, I guess. Initially, it felt like Battles - in going a little bit pop, and adding vocals - may have sacrificed some of their spartan intensity. I don’t really feel that way anymore.

Ned Collette, Future Suture - The album I most regret excluding. Collette is a singer/songwriter from Australia (this album is not yet available in the US), and Future Suture is his second album (and second Great Album). He sing/speaks his way through noirish stories of love’s charred aftermath, deft at realistically bridging the gap between what was and what no longer is. Future Suture broadens that scope, though, with Collette applying his punchy imagery to political folk songs. Collette’s debut established him as an especially nimble guitar player, and the active heartache of his lyrics was enough to make this stony listener moisten; here, he stunningly does the same thing with anti-Bush sentiment, a trope I can rarely stand in a song. He’s seamlessly incorporated his guitar work into some lavish psychedelic rock arrangements, an artistic development that would normally take a guy a few albums. It’s a major work, and if Collette doesn’t find his brush with fame anytime soon, I expect he’ll be looked back upon as the Nick Drake of the ‘00s.

Dirty Projectors, Rise Above - Another one I left off due to a slightly excessive level of difficulty, Rise Above is nonetheless the DPs richly deserved mainstream-indie breakthrough, both a meta-delight (this is a reimagining of Black Flag’s classic Damaged) and a lush, imaginative rock album all its own. Hunt down the closing title track, one of my favorite songs of 2007.

Nina Nastasia & Jim White, You Follow Me - My AOTY for a brief time in the fall, this is a gorgeous collaboration: Nastasia’s wonderfully plaintive voice and lyrics are an unlikely and sometimes exhilirating companion to Jim White’s gentle, improvised drums.

No Age, Weirdo Rippers - A more explicitly punk take on the alternating song-and-haze trick that Deerhunter’s come to fame with, this collection of No Age’s past singles promises great things for their Sub Pop debut, out in May.

St. Vincent, Marry Me - Though I favor Deer Tick and No Age, Marry Me really feels like the debut of the year. Out of nowhere, Feist has some very adventurous, sexy, intrepid competition to deal with.

Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - I’ve been calling Spoon my favorite band since 2001, and I probably still will, but something about Ga - the band’s mainstream breakthrough, and the album where people stopped thinking of them as cold, uncompromising snobs - left me wanting, well, less. Their new friends - spanish guitars and horns - settle in pretty nicely, and “The Ghost of You Lingers” was a wonderful fuck-you of a first single, but the album could have used more of it. A few too many songs feel like the one weak track that seems to be on every other Spoon album.

Sunset Rubdown, Random Spirit Lover - Excluded for a minor reason. Musically, it’s an unexpectedly dazzling follow-up to last year’s Shut Up I Am Dreaming, but I’ve got a lingering fear that Spencer Krug’s lyrical tropes (references to horses, snakes, mythic beasts, etc.) are verging on self-parody. To be fair, though, I only consider this during the one or two tracks on the album that don’t knock me out, and had I seen the band in concert last week rather than three months ago, I would have still been so stunned by a jockish crowd’s embracing them in Boston that this would have ranked very highly.

10) Supersilent, 8

Compounding the torture of narrowing this list (seriously, all of those HMs are really good, and most of them are awesome), I got flustered by it’s whiteboy hipsterity and forced myself to include at least one album outside of standard blogger fare. With that, I give you 8, a beautiful and terrifying album that opens the mind to a wealth of Lynchian (David) imagery. What sort of imagery? Well, throughout the course of this hour-plus free jazz/noise/art-rock/post-rock opus, I generally see a miniature leprechaun in a stovepipe cap (akin to the killer in the movie, Leprechaun) tip-toeing around my prostrate body, poking at and bouncing on my stomach until he bellyflops onto it, rips it open and gnarls at my innards. Except this is all happening on a self-consuming emotional level, so instead of whimsically considering said evil leprechaun, I am flanked by the ghosts of every horrifying thought and possibility I’ve ever faced as alien woodpeckers circle the periphery. There is no redemption in this experience, and rest assured I likely won’t return often, but its immaculate conception requires no small amount of talent.

9) The National, Boxer

This band… It’s tempting to give Boxer the AOTY and be done with the rest. (I’m ranking it this low in an attempt at objectivity I’ll regret in a few weeks, though it will never replace my #1.) I listened to this album more than any other in 2007, and spent days in the office exclusively listening to the National’s last three albums on a repeating eight-hour shuffle. I scrutinized Boxer until I sucked the life out of it. I know every false note and trite lyric. I hate the hollow drumming on “Brainy.” I know the chorus of “Apartment Story” is kind of flat. I don’t even think “we’re half awake in a fake empire” is a good lyric anymore. But it doesn’t matter. Boxer isn’t for me or you; it’s for us, together or apart.

Boxer’s strengths and weaknesses reinforce one another until its whole totally outweighs the sum of its parts. It is a clinic on the power of chemistry. Five instrumentalists playing in such delicate harmony that even a muted bridge feels like a cascade, led to church by vocalist Matt Berninger’s velveteen musings about heartache. You relate to the bad poetry and you’re endeared with the relatable narratives of drunken stupors and numbed perspective, and Boxer aligns so closely with your hopes and fears, your successes and failures, that you can’t approach it with anything other than reverence. Congratulations, boys: you captured the zeitgeist. It’s about time someone did.

(And as a postscript, if you think this entry is trite corny bullshit, go see the band in concert. The National turn grown fratboys into puppies and apathetic hipsters into stoic worshippers. Also note that this does not make for an ideal concertgoing environment, but it’s a hell of a phenomenon.)

8) Parts & Labor, Mapmaker 

It wound up being a total underdog’s race in the rock AOTY category, short on veterans and big on tactical shifts. Future of the Left managed to be, literally and figuratively, the new McLusky. Les Savy Fav kicked the Hold Steady’s ass with Let’s Stay Friends. More broadly, Battles, Sunset Rubdown, Blitzen Trapper and Frog Eyes all put a unique and excellent spin on what the future of the genre might be, tweaking formulas in unexpected ways and coming out the better for it.

It’s Mapmaker that really delivers the thrills, though. Remarkable for a band that has exactly one gimmick: a keyboard that’s been best described as a “dentist drill,” a sound that’s mechanical but pitched to a point where it whirs with a propulsive force. Add this to a high school band’s triumphalist punk rock ethos, catapaulted by militant drumming and seasoned guitar work – anthems so confident, in patience and youthful panache, that it’s shocking to realize this is a sophomore album – and you’ve got the rare rock opus equally vital for your aged Stoner pops and your rebellious little brother.

7) Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha

Spiritual cousin to Boxer in its dogmatic aim for a subdued atmosphere, Bird’s latest may be his best, if only because the mood suits him so well. Even when he lets loose – that incomparable whistle ushering in the howling “Black Matter” – Bird’s performance is, for the first time, tempered just a bit by the anti-corporate anger and paranoia that’s always informed his lyrics. He doesn’t wink at his metaphors (no “there will be snacks” rug-pulling here) or engage in any of the cheeseball whimsy that cemented him as a crossover success. Instead, Armchair Apocrypha represents the fusion of composer and linguist that the artist’s best songs have always hinted at. Bird’s words ensure the album’s still fun to engage with, his violin guarantees drama and magnificence, but the two have never worked together so harmoniously, or sorrowfully.

6) Field Music, Tones of Town

I’ve previously described Field Music as “The History Boys’s forgotten indie-pop band.” Their craft is mannered and technically immaculate, but can seem a little cold and, well, British. After about 25 spins (we’re probably in the seventies now, this is my most-played AOTY), I realized what kept me coming back: the band’s start-stop rhythms and allergy towards time signatures aren’t just interesting, they’re completely elastic. Tones of Town is a spring-loaded pop album, mixed and played to within an inch of its life. What at first come off as simple hooks, delicately sung, pass muster even compared to the more obvious feats of this list’s #3. But Field Music doesn’t seem interested in spelling that out for you. Must be some old British modesty. Regardless, an excellent and timeless second album that’s made this trio, IMO, the most overlooked band in Indie.

5) Feist, The Reminder

For the most adept year-end entry re: Feist, check this out. (Jessica Faulds, you are my dream girl-music-critic.) The sentiment is dead on. For that month or two where Feist was haloed as indie rock’s brightest crossover hope since the Shins (and probably even brighter than that), The Reminder was heaven. The part where “So Sorry” completely one-ups the commandingly intimate sorrow of everything on Let it Die, then seguing to the cute grungy guitar and sparkle-magic xylophone of “I Feel It All,” then seguing ad nauseum into eleven other songs that could single-handedly replace the whole of adult contemporary radio… that was a unifying, optimistic moment. Then those of you with TVs started complaining about the Apple commercial, started pretending “1234” was this year’s “Young Folks,” started doubting Leslie’s integrity and even her beauty. Well I would say fuck you guys, but instead thanks for making me realize that it’s “Limit to Your Love” that’s actually the ultimate banger here. Feist’s mainstream victory also provided the most hilarious of many ridiculous incidents re: this year’s Grammy nominations: one of the Canada scene’s more seasoned performers is apparently one of the 2007’s Best New Artists.  In the sense that The Reminder’s strong enough to make us forget that Feist was ever part of Peaches, Broken Social Scene, or recorded two previous solo albums, maybe the nod makes sense.

(Also, apologies for this entry overlooking the fact that the emotional/lyrical content of this album is high-caliber, and completely undeserving of the defensiveness and counterhype portrayed above. Look what the world’s come to.)


4) Deer Tick, War Elephant



My ideology is not that of a Pitchfork-hater, and I don’t believe the site is a malignant force, but once in a while I wonder. In those halcyon days before Pitchfork was granted (self-imposed or not, who knows…) the status of indie music’s lighthouse for the mainstream, the site used to make a maddening and fascinating habit of trashing albums by well-established indie acts who (sub-culturally) popular sentiment deemed beyond reproach. Those days appear to have passed, and now the site’s taken up the unfortunate habit of reserving their hastier dismissals toward new acts a nudge away from widespread critical success. Their review of Deer Tick’s revelatory debut – which reads like Rolling Stone’s takes on de facto AOTY candidates for most web zines – acknowledges John McCauley’s caustic wit, yet somehow remains oblivious to its depth, the music-crit equvalent of thinking No Country for Old Men is an amofal film.


And, while there may not be deeper meaning lurking beneath the whole of War Elephant, you won’t find many false notes and there’s an awful lot to chew on. McCauley’s voice, rotten with whiskey and tobacco, is a marvel, funny and vulnerable, wise and playful. His delivery gives a visceral kick to lines like “murdered my throat screaming bloody all night," and he subverts tropes and aphorisms like an old country giant. Intellectually, it’s fun to consider the authenticity and ramifications of a 21-year old guy singing the thoughts of what ought to be a middle-aged minstrel who’s been chomped up and spit out; McCauley has a ball with the notion too, pulling the rug out from under the listener with a last-minute burst of cabaret. Come to think of it, I should dispose of the No Country for Old Men comparison; McCauley’s the Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood) of 2007.


The writing gets hasty here, but we’re jumping from late-December to January 17 here, and I’m finishing up for posterity’s sake.


3) Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?



(Note: this blurb is an excerpt of a review I wrote of the album upon its release. This was one of my first published articles, hence its sucking.) Hissing Fauna feels like the actualization of everything Kevin Barnes has always wanted his band to be. All it took was a bout with depression and alcoholism.


This album is a beast. Pervasive, guttural drum-machine rhythms and canned synth lines act as a gloss over a maelstrom of digital trickery and ferocious washes of guitar. The chaotic background is an uncanny fit for Barnes’s early mid-life crisis: he’s questioning the morality of drinking and partying as a new husband and dad, and the surroundings of this punch-drunk party engulf him. Twelve-minute centerpiece “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” finds Barnes begging for forgiveness with desperate excess that barely can barely contain itself, until you latch onto the nuance and progression of his pleas as the vultures circle around him and he fights them away. Other tracks tone down the drama into pieces more poppy and digestible, but the message is entirely clear: young-adulthood may be trite and superficial, but it’s a fight to grow out of. In Barnes’s manic eyes, that moral’s never been as coherent, innovative, or thrilling.


2) Menomena, Friend and Foe



I can’t imagine a band leaving me more eager to relive my teenage angst than Menomena. Their songs are guitar and keyboard licks, saxophone honks and skronks, and drumlines chopped up and filtered through a computer program they created, called Deeler. Part of the genius of the tracks is that they’re not as flashy as that intense production would imply (the trickery was much more obvious on their debut, I Am the Fun Blame Monster). Deeler allows the band to rachet their hugely triumphant anthems and more intricate, somber material to tremendously suspenseful heights. Friend and Foe is quite literally moving; the start-stops and tidal waves of momentum pull your body around, and no 2007 album better rewards a good pair of headphones (I hesitated to rank the album this high during a two-month stretch where I was stuck with iPod earbuds; new Sennheisers were like a rebirth). Menomena’s fairly emo approach to lyrics (pissed-off and demanding catharsis, post-9/11 paranoid at times) feels totally justified by the accompanying arrangements; if I owned this album in high school, I never would have needed Elliott Smith. Also, congrats to the band on a well-deserved Grammy nomination for best album artwork.


1) Panda Bear, Person Pitch

(Note: From a review of the album I wrote in May, hence its being a little bit better than the Of Montreal thing.) Panda Bear’s new album is built from striking found sounds and samples: tribal drum beats, underwater sound effects, planes taking off, non-verbal vocal incantations, and various other oddities. It’s all very innovative and unusual, just the sort of one-of-a-kind pastiche you’d expect from a member of Brooklyn’s preeminent experimental pop group, Animal Collective. What makes Panda Bear’s second solo project, Person Pitch, such a revelation, though, are its lyrics. A choice hook: “Coolness is having courage to do what’s right/I try to remember always just to have a good time.”

When you think about what qualifies as honest or emotionally cathartic music these days, you hear about acts like Sufjan Stevens and the Arcade Fire. While certainly genuine, their honesty is only viable because it’s filtered through a post-ironic frame. Stevens employs thirty-word song titles and a high-school band’s worth of orchestral flourishes to make a simple, touching point; the Arcade Fire use a church organ and beat each other over the head with drumsticks to prove that they really, really mean it. Pop culture is so ingrained with sarcasm that it takes such massive productions to get anyone to pay attention. Panda Bear subverts this phenomenon by treating his voice — and by extension his message — just as playfully as he does his samples.

Opener “Comfy in Nautica” is a deceptively simple but undeniably triumphant beginning. What sounds like a train rolling by fades and breaks into a tribal loop of hand claps, foot stomps, and a one-note wordless incantation. As Panda Bear begins his aforementioned refrain, fighter jets take off across the mix and his hypnotic repetition of “good time” becomes subsumed by something akin to a spaceship. These incongruous sources — from the rails to a drum circle, to the clouds and outer space — attain the all-encompassing power of an epic journey, and yes, a good time to boot.

Thereafter, Panda Bear’s vocals are more fully absorbed into the mix. “Take Pills,” about the relief of coming off anti-depressants, is projected through a pool of soupy water, coming up for air with reassurances like “I feel stronger/We don’t need ‘em” and “Take it one day at a time.” “Bros” and “Good Girl/Carrots” both exceed twelve minutes, each comprised of a few wildly different movements bridged by sudden but seamless transitions. The latter carries a frantic house/dub beat through a jungle of incoherent bellowing into a piano-heavy declaration of autonomy, which then gives way to a third act made with a traditional reggae beat and xylophone, Panda Bear assuring us “It’s good to sometimes slow it down.” After a jarring first minute or two, the amorphous atmosphere becomes the track’s sustaining force; wherever you are, you’re about to move on.

The last track, the short and tender “Ponytails,” is a spare piano lullaby. Bookending the album with plaintive sentiments similar to how it began, Panda Bear chants, “When my soul stops growing I get so hungry/And I wish it never would stop growing.” A heavy dose of reverb makes the refrain float off into the cosmos. It’s a quiet summation of the imagination and contentment that makes Person Pitch a joyous and pure experience.

01/17/2008 17:29:47 by Christopher Gray | Comments [0] |  

21-year-old Watervillian seeks state House seat, ruffles feathers

There's an article in today's PPH about Henry Beck, a 21-year-old Colby College junior who'll run for the Waterville state House seat now occupied by Democrat Marilyn Canavan. Beck, who currently serves as a Waterville City Council, is one of those go-getters who makes normals like you and me feel bad about ourselves. He's also pissed off some Dems in the state by voicing his opposition to state Net Neutrality laws -- and blogger and Susan Collins staffer Lance Dutson took him to task for doing so in the spring of last year.

(Beck is supporting Chellie Pingree for Congress. Pingree is an enthusiastic longtime supporter of Net Neutrality; she came out to support her future opponent and state senator Ethan Strimling when he proposed Maine's Net Neutrality law in 2007.)

01/17/2008 11:11:19 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Ron Paul comes to Portland

In preparation for the Maine Republican Party caucuses on February 1, 2, and 3, presidential candidate Ron Paul will open a campaign office on Congress St tomorrow; he'll hold a grand opening party there (437 Congress) between 7-9 p.m.

Paul got 6 percent of the vote in the Michigan primary yesterday, which Mitt Romney won. Paul did better than Fred Thompson (4 percent) and Rudy Guiliani (3 percent). (Side note -- Check out this piece by New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney, which postulates about the outcome in Michigan: "On the most tangible level, the vote on Tuesday was proof from the ballot box of what polls have shown: this is a party that is adrift, deeply divided and uninspired when it comes to its presidential candidates and unsure of how to counter an energized Democratic Party."

Paul isn't the only presidential candidate who's eager for support in Maine, which most other candidates have largely written off. Dennis Kucinich supporters in the state are also trying to rustle up support for their candidate in the Dem's February 10 caucuses; progressives hope that a vote for DK could raise their profile among Maine liberals. (It's not up on the Web site yet, but I have a piece in this week's Phoenix about the strengths and weaknesses of the Kucinich campaign. Check it out.)

01/16/2008 14:13:17 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Food Co-op

There was great turnout at the Portland Food Co-op's community forum -- about 100 people crowded into the downstairs of the Williston West Church.

The panel (Emily Graham, a co-op steering committee member; David Siegfried, another steering committee member, and a former Boston Co-op employee; Scott Cooper, co-manager of the Rising Tide Cooperative in Damariscotta; and John Bliss, of the Broadturn Farm in Scarborough) didn't discuss anything "new" -- at least for people who have been following the issue.

BUT it will be very interesting to hear the results of the survey they distributed among forum attendees, especially if there were previouly uninvolved people in the audience. The survey asks several questions about what types of food/goods people would likely buy at a storefront food cooperative, how much money they spend on groceries per week, etc. It also asks respondants to rate several factors in terms of how they influence purchasing patterns: sustainable farming, local production, organic, fair trade, taste, price, quality. I hope the co-op shares the results with the general public.

01/16/2008 11:45:35 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Food + Politics in Portland

Just a reminder that tonight, at the Williston West Church in the West End, the Portland Food Cooperative will hold its community forum, seeking input from Portlanders about what they'd like to see in a local food grocer (it's especially timely given that Thursday is Wild Oats' last day -- get down to the store on Marginal Way for major discounts on whatever's left on the shelves). I wrote about the group's efforts last month; I'll be there tonight and will report back tomorrow.

It sure isn't a slow week when it comes to opportunities for community involvement. Tomorrow night, three of the six Democratic candidates for Tom Allen's Congress seat will be at Zero Station (222 Anderson St) for a Citizen Salon-sponsored discussion. The rest of the hopefuls will have their turn next week. Citizen Salon emails contradict what's posted at the blog, so I'm not sure who will be there on what night, but it looks like Adam Cote, the Iraq war vet, will definitely be attending this evening's event. The rest of the gang -- Ethan Strimling, Chellie Pingree, Mark Lawrence, Michael Brennan, and Steve Meister -- will be split between tonight and next Wednesday.

01/15/2008 14:17:57 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [2] |  

Monday, 14 January 2008

Got Peanuts?

At home, as well as here at Portland Phoenix HQ, I amass packing materials that I don't want to be discarded willy-nilly into landfills. The most pesky of these are those styrofoam packing peanuts -- it shocks me that they still exist -- which aren't recyclable, are annoying to store, and absorb so much static electricty that they jump out of whatever bag you attempt to corral them in.

So I was excited this morning to get my Ideal Bite daily tip, which clued me in to the existence of the Plastic Loose Fill Council. At its web site, you can search for local packing-peanut drop-off sites, where said styrofoam offenders are collected for reuse. Here are the closest sites to Portland:

Mail-It Unlimited
45 Portland Rd, U.S. Route 1
Shoppers Village
Kennebunk, ME  04043-6686
(207) 985-2087

SACO, ME  04072-
(207) 776-5973

01/14/2008 11:09:16 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [1] |  

Friday, 11 January 2008

Never heard of VingTech before? Neither had we

Peace activists and social-service groups protested at yesterday's opening of a weapons-manufacturing plant in Biddeford, saying Governor John Baldacci shouldn't offer tax breaks to war profiteers while cutting spending on services to Mainers who are poor, disabled, sick, or elderly. (See "Everyone's a Neocon Now," by Lance Tapley, December 21, 2007.)

VingTech a large Norwegian firm, opened a 40-person plant in Biddeford that will make parts and optics to military machine guns. Because it is located in a state-designated Pine Tree Development Zone (a program that now extends to 30,000 acres of Maine land), the company will pay little or no state income taxes for the next ten years.

About 20 protestors from Peace Action Maine and other groups rallied outside the building during the opening ceremony. Initially, five protestors blocked the main entrance to the building, but were ordered to leave by police. The protest continued on public property beside the road in front of the building, with activists carrying signs reading "Break the War Cycle" and "Good Jobs, Not Blood Jobs."

Both Baldacci and US Senator Susan Collins (a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee) have spoken in favor of VingTech's expansion to Biddeford, and Collins attended the event. Here are their comments: City of Biddeford Press Release.

Stephanie Gharakhanian, one of Peace Action Maine’s co-coordinators, says, “Peace Action Maine’s position is that our state’s local economy should not depend on a corporation whose very existence requires the continuation and escalation of the war. Also, there is no reason to celebrate the arrival of such a company to Maine. Our actions today were in solidarity with yesterday’s protests at the State House. Maine should not offer tax breaks to war profiteers, while it gives budget cuts to social agencies that provide critical services to some of those needy members of the state.”

Here are some photos from the event: the protestors blocking the door (plus someone going incognito for some reason); a protestor showing a sign to folks inside the building; and one of the posters (the one saying "Good Jobs, Not Blood Jobs").

--By Kimberly Fischer

01/11/2008 11:28:00 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Wednesday, 09 January 2008

Guessing game refresher

A couple weeks back we printed and posted online a photo of one of the candidates vying to represent Maine in Washington DC, and asked you to send us your guesses.

The original posting is here, but the photo itself is below. Someone mailed in an entry guessing it's Tom Allen. But we're not prepared to disclose the truth yet - so submit your guesses now!

01/09/2008 16:23:17 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Tuesday, 08 January 2008

Is Laurie Dobson for real? *update*

The third party candidate for US Senate, who's running as an independent against Tom Allen and Susan Collins, says that she is. She's filed paperwork with the FEC, but no campaign contributions show up yet. Her candidacy has caused a bit of a fracas at, the progressive blog site, where she's angrily fired back at those who say her campaign is based on vanity.

She sends out emails to the press -- the latest one, sent around on Saturday, calls on presidential candidates and Congress "to create a five-year moratorium on residential and commercial foreclosures," which she says threated "all Mainers, not just cash-strapped homeowners."

The trouble is, that same email says her platform is "covered in depth at her website," -- but as of this afternoon, that web site is merely a placeholder -- that is, if you type "" (as many of us do these days, foregoing the "www") -- thank you, reader Tom, for pointing out that if you INCLUDE the WWW, the site is up and running! oops -- my tech-savviness got the better of me. You can check out //, however, for more information on Dobson's phantom campaign, which stresses ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, impeaching the president and veep, and "free medical coverage for all those serving their country and their families."

01/08/2008 15:15:56 by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [1] |  

CREATING ECONOMY - the art of reuse

Stopped by (at their invitation) a new studio in Portland yesterday, called Studio Dwell (no Web site yet). It's over on Thompson's Point, in past Prime Artist Studios' rehearsal spaces. It's a cool spot, formerly an industrial welding shop (and before that, who knows what kind of manufacturing went on there?), and now a place where Roman and Sherri Kropp are basing their creative-reuse home-decorating business.

They have all kinds of amazing items, like a a massive tree trunk out of which Roman has been making bar stools and end tables. They also have some Chinese-made clay roofing tiles left over from an exhibit of Chinese art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, limestone and other stone slabs, and some massive mahogany doors. All of them are salvaged or reused from elsewhere, and are for sale, either as is or modified in some way to suit a buyer's needs.

There are several businesses like this cropping up around town, like Portland Architectural Salvage on Preble Street. It's a cool niche, making interesting houses without chopping down trees or quarrying new rock. What are your favorite places along this line?

01/08/2008 09:59:49 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Friday, 04 January 2008

Press Herald Watch - Sister paper in Washington cuts back

Beyond the deep cuts the Seattle Times will have to make (as I discussed in this post earlier in the week), it appears the trickling down has begun: the Yakima Herald Republic, another Seattle Times-owned company (like the Press Herald, Morning Sentinel, and Kennebec Journal), is laying off five support workers people and leaving a reporter's job unfilled, according to its own report (with a hat-tip to Romenesko).

Any effects of the massive spending cuts on the Maine newspapers remain to be seen, but this is a sign that the entire Blethen portfolio may be taking a large budget hit, rather than just the Seattle Times itself.

01/04/2008 17:01:51 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

THOUGHT CRIME - Allen, Michaud, Collins back outlawing thinking

Update January 8, 10 am - Just a short note that Snowe's press officer is still "waiting to hear" about Snowe's position on freedom of thought.

We've written about it before - see "Anti-Activist Bill Backed by Collins, Allen, and Michaud," by Jeff Inglis, November 16, 2007 - but this week's Hartford Advocate has more on the Congress's unprecedented action to outlaw thinking the feds don't like. Both of Maine's US Reps, Tom Allen and Mike Michaud, have already voted for it, and US Senator Susan Collins is the lead sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, where it hasn't yet come up for a vote.

We're trying to get US Senator Olympia Snowe's take on the bill, but in the meantime have a read of the Advocate's story, which is titled simply enough: "The Thought Crime Law."

And don't forget to contact Collins (contact info below) to ask her to stop her efforts to outlaw free thought and free speech:

Call her in DC at 202.224.2523
In Caribou at 207.493.7873
In Bangor: 207.945.0417
In Augusta: 207.622.8414
In Lewiston: 207.784.6969
In Biddeford: 207.283.1101
In Portland: 207.780.3575

01/04/2008 11:48:17 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Starbucks helps local stores

Slate writer Taylor Clark examines how Starbucks helps small coffee shops, and how some local coffee chains are using Starbucks's own store-location strategy against them. An interesting perspective on buying local.

01/04/2008 10:14:54 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Bull Moose Local Top Ten for 12/24-12/30

Well, Bob Marley does it again. And he's not even a musician!

(Sorry - forgot to post this earlier in the week. It'll be back in the paper in the next issue, now that the holiday weird schedule is over.)

Top Ten Local CDs

December 24-30, 2007












01/04/2008 10:13:07 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  


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Tap into the buzz in Portland, Maine. A collaboration of Portland Phoenix news staff.

SAVE SOME DOUGH - Sign up for Opportunity Maine
Kuzu -- the new EVOO?
Leap Day 2008
UMaine law students keep on keeping on in RIAA case
Movement on Adams School reuse
Sports Mania
Maine Squeezes - Free Hugs in Monument Square
Tomorrow: Wear green, commute green
Great minds...
The Alewife is a species of small shad
Into Great Silents
Update on Roe anniversary
We [heart] Stephen King
MARKING ROE - Targeting Collins
Best Albums of 2007 - Total, final, whatever.
21-year-old Watervillian seeks state House seat, ruffles feathers
Ron Paul comes to Portland
Food Co-op
Food + Politics in Portland
Got Peanuts?
Never heard of VingTech before? Neither had we
Guessing game refresher
Is Laurie Dobson for real? *update*
CREATING ECONOMY - the art of reuse
Press Herald Watch - Sister paper in Washington cuts back
THOUGHT CRIME - Allen, Michaud, Collins back outlawing thinking
Starbucks helps local stores
Bull Moose Local Top Ten for 12/24-12/30



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