Friday, April 12, 2024

Cumberland County to stage second annual Touch A Truck event in Windham

Cumberland County’s 911 Regional Communications Center is preparing to host the second Annual Touch A Truck on Saturday, April 20 in Windham.

Cumberland County's 911 Regional Communications
Center will host the second Annual Touch A Truck 
from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 20 at 
22 High St. in Windham. The free event for
children and adults will be held rain or shine.
COURTESY PHOTO 
The county’s 911 Regional Communications Center is at 22 High St., Windham.

The free event will be held rain or shine, and this is the second time that the popular Touch A Truck event for children will be hosted by Cumberland County 911 Communications. Touch a Truck Activities will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and everyone is welcome to attend and participate.

This family friendly event will include:

** Fire Trucks

** K-9 Demonstrations

** "Sparky" the Dog

** Smokey Bear

** A Bounce House

** Food trucks

** Safety tips

** Vendors

** 9-1-1 Dispatch tours

The Cumberland County Regional Communications Center is a public safety emergency communications center. It provides emergency and non-emergency dispatching service for many public safety agencies within Cumberland County and serves as the Public Safety Answering Point for 19 of the 28 communities within the county.

As the Public Safety Answering Point for those communities, the 911 Regional Communications Center receives all 9-1-1 emergency phone calls for those areas within Cumberland County. <

Friday, April 5, 2024

Review: ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ a good time at the movies

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 55 minutes


When the discovery of an old artifact could bring another ice age to all of New York City, the Spengler family returns to the firehouse that started it all. While this family has what it takes to ghost bust some mean spirits, they’ll need the help of some of the original crew to take on a new and evil god, Garraka, before it’s too late. Whether you are a diehard fan or just a regular fan of the previous Ghostbuster movies, seeing this one on the big screen was decent and worthwhile.

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” has a star-studded cast of Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Dan Ackroyd, Annie Potts, William Atherton, Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Celeste O’Connor, and Emily Alyn Lind.

In 1904 New York City, chaos sweeps the city and leaves it frozen; the only survivor is a woman found clutching a mysterious orb.

Gary Grooberson (Rudd) and the Spengler family (Coon, Wolfhard and Grace) are on a job speeding through New York City. This is a very action-packed opening with a supped-up Ecto-1. Grooberson’s driving causes an accident and upsets Mayor Peck (Atherton) who says he will not rest until the firehouse is demolished.

Ray Stantz (Ackroyd) hosts a ghost-detecting show where people bring in items from their departed and he helps them to make contact – maybe.

After the incident with the mayor, Phoebe Spengler (Grace) is told she’s too young to bust ghosts and has to stop immediately. This upsets her.

Nadeem Razmaadi (Nanjiani) visits Stantz with a whole box of stuff from his grandmother’s place. Inside this box is the orb from 1904. They are unaware of what tampering with it will do.

While staying in the firehouse while everyone is out ghostbusting, Phoebe discovers a ghost, Melody (Lind) and befriends her.

At the firehouse there is a problem with the ghost containment unit, after 40 years, it’s full. When asked if anyone saw this coming, Janine Melnitz (Potts) said,

“It was the 80s, no one was worried about the future.”

Winston Zeddemore (Hudson) has already built a new unit at another location. There, they’ve trapped and studied many ghosts.

Dr. Peter Venkman (Murray) tests Nadeem and senses there is something up with him.

Doctor Hubert Wartzki (Oswalt) takes several Ghostbusters down to a special level of the library where he explains about the demon god Garraka’s intentions to raise the dead.

After the mayor orders the Ghostbusters out of the firehouse, it is revealed Melody is not who she was originally thought to be.

Phoebe’s in trouble and the orb is shattered with much of New York City freezing like in 1904. Garraka is coming for the containment unit.

I am not the biggest Ghostbusters fan. I don’t dislike the franchise, it’s just not my favorite. However, this movie brought back nostalgia, is funny, had cool special effects and it was nice to see most of the original cast in with some big names who brought new meaning to this installment.

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” isn’t as good as the original, but it’s a nice compendium to the series. Although it centers around ghosts, I did not find it all that scary, but it might be for younger viewers. It has mild language and violence. It has a nice message about family woven in. I enjoyed the updated equipment like the drone-operated ghost trap. I think you can see this as a stand-alone movie, though it helps if you know a little bit of the old and new backstory.

I give this three out of five Proton Packs.

Now playing only in theaters. <

Friday, March 22, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Barbie’ not cutesy and carries a message

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 54 minutes


For Barbie, every day in Barbie Land is perfect. She has parties, hangs out with friends (who are also named Barbie mostly) and just enjoys being Barbie ... until one day she has a thought of death and from there on, everything changes. Barbie needs to go to the Real World and find the girl who is having these thoughts. And then there’s Ken, who accompanies Barbie to the Real World. Can Barbie figure out what’s wrong and make things go back to normal, or is everything forever changed?

“Barbie stars Margot Robbie, Helen Mirren, Issa Rae, Kate McKinnon, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Hari Nef, Sharon Rooney, Ana Cruz Kayne, Dua Lipa, Ryan Gosling, Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Scott Evans, John Cena, Michael Cera, Will Ferrell, America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, and Rhea Pearlman.

Dolls have been around for a long, long, time. However, these were baby dolls and only gave girls the opportunity to play mothers – until Barbie. Barbie changed everything twice. There are many different types of Barbies and Barbie can be anything she wants; women can be anything they want. As far as Barbie knows, all problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved.

In Barbie Land, Barbie (Robbie) has a perfect day every day. Ken’s (Gosling) good days only exist if Barbie looks at him. It’s obvious that Ken has machismo.

Barbie’s perfect day is brought to a screeching halt when she asks the other Barbies if they ever think of dying. When Barbie’s heels touch the ground, it’s apparent this Stereotypical Barbie is malfunctioning. She has to visit Weird Barbie (McKinnon) who tells her there’s a rip in the membrane between Barbie Land and the Real World. Whoever is playing with Barbie must be sad, and Barbie has to help her to help herself.

Don’t blame Weird Barbie, it’s Mattel who makes the rules.

Barbie agrees to go to the Real World, and Ken sneaks in the back of her car.

In the Real World, Barbie is objectified, and Ken is celebrated (in his mind). Ken learns about patriarchy and gets a little too into it.

Ken sees a male-dominated world and Barbie sees the life of the girl who used to play with her and despair.

When Barbie goes looking for the girl playing with her, she is chastised by Sasha (Greenblatt) who tells her she’s been making women feel bad about themselves since she was invented. Barbie wants girls to feel powerful.

The FBI alerts Mattel that two of their dolls have escaped and this sends the executives, including Mattel CEO (Ferrell) into a panic.

Mattel finds her and has a plan for everything to go back to normal, but she escapes with the help of Ruth Handler (Pearlman).

Barbie learns it’s a woman, Gloria (Ferrara) who’s been feeling sad. This explains Barbie’s existential crisis. However, it still needs to be fixed.

Nominated for eight Academy Awards and winning for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures for Bille Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s “What Was I Made For?” plus a slew of other awards, the “Barbie” movie has definitely made its mark on the world. This was certainly not what I was expecting, in a good way; I think I was expecting a cutesy story about Barbie. It’s poignant and deals with adult themes, like misogyny, objectification, feminism, equal rights, patriarchy, empowerment, toxic masculinity, existentialism, self-identity, depression, anxiety and others I’m sure I missed. “Barbie” opens up several good talking points to have discussions about real world situations with kids of all ages. It’s funny, well-written, well-acted and cast.

Two thumbs up.

Now streaming on Max and available to rent. <

Friday, March 15, 2024

Easy to propagate plants are meant to be shared

By Kendra Raymond

I don’t know about you, but I have a bit of a penchant for grabbing opportunities to propagate plants for little to no cost. The challenge of growing a full plant from a tiny cutting can be an enjoyable and rewarding journey.

A healthy citronella plant which has been
propogated by cuttings is shown.
PHOTYO BY KENDRA RAYMOND
Recently, I found myself at the auto parts counter face to face with a mono-color spider plant. Having never seen this type before, I politely requested a “spiderette” from the clerk, who muttered, “Whatever turns you on”. Well, I was pretty delighted marching out of the place with my license plate bolts and a ready-to-plant cutting.

Many plants can be propagated by cuttings, which means you snip off a section and place it in a medium such as water or soil. To grow, the plant must eventually produce roots to anchor itself, take up water and nutrients, thus becoming established. If your plant thrives, the process can continue, and you can root endless plants for yourself or to share with others.

As a professional horticulturist, I can attest to the value of home plant propagation. My daughter is well-known in her circle of friends for gifting various rooted plants. This is an inexpensive way to share something that you have invested time and love to cultivate. She enjoys visiting thrift shops and yard sales to find quirky planting vessels that fit the recipient’s personalities.

A Purdue University Extension publication lists the benefits of propagating by rooting as:

** The new plant will be identical to the parent plant. Plants grown from seed will often be different from the parent plant and from each other.

** Propagating a new plant via cuttings avoids the difficulties of propagating by seed. Additionally, some seeds are difficult to germinate, taking two to three years for the seedling to appear.

What types of plants are best?

Some plants can reproduce by cuttings and others cannot. If you wish to root cuttings, it is essential to be aware of the species that will respond to this method. Some of the easiest selections are: pothos, monstera, jade, spider plant, snake plant, jade, hoya, African violet, and ivy. When in doubt, or to learn more, check out the gardening.org list of 40 top plants to propagate here: https://gardening.org/houseplants-you-can-propagate-from-cuttings/

How do I take the cuttings?

Choose a healthy well-established plant that can withstand the loss of a small section. I just use a set of kids craft scissors and snip a bit off the tip. This can be a leaf and a bit of stem, or a larger section of stem can be included. It is a good idea to make your cut where leaves connect. The freshly cut section can be dipped in a commercial rooting compound or not.

What about the rooting?

The type of plant you hope to grow will determine the best rooting method. Plants like geranium and spider plant enjoy being placed directly into soil. Choose a specially designed starting compound which contains the right amount of air and nutrients to grow roots. Make a small hole with a pencil or your finger, pop the plant below the soil surface and before you know it – poof, a new plant. I have been cultivating a scented geranium (Citronella) all winter. It is growing like wildfire, so every couple of weeks I take a cutting and plant it directly into its own pot. The cutting encourages lateral growth, and the new plants continue to grow from the base.

Other plants will respond well to rooting in water. Plants such as African violet and monstera will root from just one leaf. Once the roots emerge, simply plant in potting soil. A snake plant can be a lot of fun to grow. Cut a leaf section and place it in water. This is one of the easiest plants to propagate.

With all propagating operations, keep your plants in diffused sun, average humidity, and warmth.

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” - Saint Basil

Texas A&M University has published a fantastic guide for beginning propagators:

https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/ornamental/a-reference-guide-to-plant-care-handling-and-merchandising/propagating-foliage-flowering-plants/ <

Friday, March 8, 2024

Syfy’s ‘Resident Alien,’ a strange but worthwhile winner

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: TV-14
2 seasons on Netflix with a third season currently airing on the SyFy channel


It’s a mystery within a mystery. It does get a little weird in spots. When an alien’s ship crashes in the small town of Patience, Colorado, the alien takes the form of Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, who has a cabin by the lake. In order to do so, the alien kills Vanderspeigle and throws his body in the lake.

When the town doctor, Sam Hodges is found murdered, the town calls on Vanderspeigle to solve the murder, but he has to learn how to fit in his new human body. I know this sounds a bit out there, but I enjoyed this very much, and it’s not as gory/violent as it sounds.

This Syfy original stars Alan Tudyk, Sara Tomko, Levi Fiehler, Elizabeth Bowen, Judah Prehn, Corey Reynolds, Alice Wetterlund, Meredith Garretson, Gary Farmer, Gracelyn Awad Rinke and Jenna Lamia.

The alien’s mission was to drop his device on Earth and go back home.

“Nobody in their right mind would live in a place like this, unless they have something to hide,” says alien Harry (Tudyk) at the start of the series.

After the alien assumes the body of the actual Harry Vanderspiegle, he learns to talk by watching “Law & Order.” He becomes mildly obsessed with Detective Lennie Briscoe and in one episode later in the series even dresses, and acts like the detective, using very similar speech patterns and mannerisms.

One of my favorite lines was when alien Harry says, “A birthday party is just a participation trophy.”

Town Doctor Sam Hodges is found dead and the local sheriff and medical professional Asta (Tomko) and Mayor Ben Hawthorne (Fiehler) ask alien Harry to help figure out how he died. Alien Harry knows in order to survive and complete his mission he must fit in. Alien Harry’s awkward movements and responses to questions or statements he might not fully understand made me root for him, despite the fact that his goal is to vanquish human life.

The actual Harry Vanderspiegle is at the bottom of the lake near his cabin. The alien must also find his body before it washes ashore.

Despite his weirdness, he does make friends with Asta and others in the town. And then there is Max (Prehn) who can see alien Harry in his true form and knows he’s an alien.

This is based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse. I don’t know how closely the show follows the comic, but before watching this, I had only seen Alan Tudyk in a couple movies and didn’t think much of him. After seeing him play alien Harry Vanderspeigle, I have a whole new appreciation for his talent.

He is only made better by his great supporting cast. His “alien” mannerisms and dialect make this fun show that much funnier. There is mild language and sexual content. It has a great soundtrack with a lot of endearing, sweet moments. Harry learns what it means to be human and maybe even develop a feeling or two.

Detective Lennie Briscoe gives it two thumbs up. Kung! Kung!

Currently airing on the Syfy channel, with the first two seasons available to stream on Netflix and all seasons available to stream on Peacock. <

Friday, February 23, 2024

‘A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks a moving portrayal of imprint of one man

By Matt Pascarella

Not rated
Runtime: 1 hour, 29 minutes


Author. Filmmaker. Photographer. Gordon Parks was first hired by Life magazine where he told the story of Harlem gang leaders through photography. Parks said he himself might have picked up a gun or a knife if he hadn’t found the camera first. While he also wrote books and directed films, maybe most notably “Shaft,” photography was Parks’ major form of expression. This documentary has interviews with past individuals who worked with Parks and present individuals, of a younger generation, who are inspired by him and chose the camera as their weapon as well.

Max’s “A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks” stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Devin Allen, Maurice Berger, Jelani Cobb, Latoya Ruby Frazier, Nelson George, Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay, and Anderson Cooper, along with archival footage of Parks and others.

The documentary opens with photographer Devin Allen talking about wanting to pursue art and how his pursual of art started as a personal journey, but the deeper he got the more powerful he realized an image can be.

In Baltimore in April 2015, there were riots and protests over the arrest and death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. Allen was in Baltimore and snapped a shot of the rioters which later found its way to the cover of Time magazine. Allen credits Parks for his interest in photography.

Parks used photography as a way to express his feelings about racism. He was from a dangerous part of Kansas and had seen several of his friends die from gun violence.

He became an observer and understood what was going on around him. He started his photojournalism career by selling pictures to the newspaper. He found value, interest and art in ordinary people and shone a light on them during a time when African Americans were being put down.

Parks took a photo of cleaning woman Ella Watson and through his photographs, Parks shows he understands the humanity of his subjects.

Latoya Ruby Frazier photographed reactions to the Flint water crisis in 2016. She photographed a mother and daughter, and her images were representative of the work of Parks.

Parks’ first big break was a piece on gang leaders in Harlem for Life magazine.

“No one is a gangster 24 hours a day, they have a family,” said Parks.

In 1949, Parks was hired as the first African American to the staff of Life magazine. By the 1950s, Parks was an established photographer and tried to use his camera to capture things he experienced as a young, African American in America.

Through his images, he wanted to show that segregation was not benign. His work demanded America take a look at itself.

Parks covered everything from segregation to fashion to photographing Malcom X and Muhammad Ali.

He directed the 1969 film “The Learning Tree” and 1971’s “Shaft,” which was a big success.

Parks wanted to keep moving forward and his photographs remain timeless to this day – sometimes, unfortunately, telling similar stories. His photography continues to inspire.

Before coming across this documentary, I had never heard of Gordon Parks. I knew the old adage of “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but Parks’ work takes that to a whole new level. His photography during turbulent times in American history evokes so much emotion in the experiences African Americans were going through during these times. This is a heavy, but very moving documentary and made me see and think about certain photographs he took in a different way. While this documentary is immense, it’s definitely worth watching. We can take so many photos today and not think anything of it, so seeing Parks capture important imagery during key points in history gave me a greater understanding of the importance of a well-timed photograph.

Two thumbs up.

Now available on Max. <

Friday, February 16, 2024

District 2 honors fourteen WHS musicians to perform in festival concerts

By Jolene Bailey

Music is all around us and is a deep passion for many. For 14 Windham High School students, their passion for music and talent was rewarded with their selection to perform in the District 2 Music Festivals, sponsored by the Maine Music Educators Association.

2024 District 2 Vocal Festival musicians perform in concert
Jan. 24 at the Windham High School Performing Arts
Center. The choral group was made up of students from
across the Greater Portland area and included 12 students
from Windham High. Three WHS students also performed
in the District 2 Instrumental Festival concert Feb. 2
at Deering High School. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
Student auditions for the annual event were held at the Greater Portland high schools last fall and only the finest performers were honored with selection for district concerts. District 2 is a music organization which invites students to perform in band, chorus, orchestra, and jazz with students teaming up to perform at festivals vocally and instrumentally.

The District 2 Vocal Festival Concert was performed at Windham High School on Jan. 26-27 and the Instrumental Festival was performed Feb. 2-3 at Deering High School in Portland.

WHS students honored with selection to perform in the District 2 Vocal Festival for chorus include Ashlynn Cuthbert, Lily Lundberg, Laura Bearce, Abi Coleman, Karly Day, Sasha Funk, Ava Dickson, Jacob Lowberg, Stuart Gabaree, Lochlin Post van der Burg, Nick Davenport and Ralph Leavitt.

Three WHS were honored with selection to perform in the District 2 Instrumental Festival are Ellise Gallop, Rowan Cummings and Nick Davenport.

“District 2 is a way to grow yourself as a singer, but it also forces you to be social and meet a bunch of new people who enjoy the same things as you” said WHS sophomore Ava Dickson, who was honored with District 2 selection for chorus this year after also being selected last year as a freshman.

Dickson has been involved with music ever since her early days of childhood. She is also a performer in the Windham Chamber Singers and can often be spotted in the theater at school.

“The audition process can be stressful if it's your first time, but the judges in each room are very supportive and once you're in the audition room your nerves just go away,” said Dickson.

Before the auditions, each student is given a variety of songs and sheet music for different levels to learn.

“As soon as I get my music, I try to listen to each song a few times to get myself comfortable with the rhythms, and I mostly practice on the weekends,” said Dickson. “The most challenging song we had to sing was probably Dies Irae, as this song was in a different language so it took time to make sure I was pronouncing everything correctly.”

2024 District 2 Vocal Festival performer Ashlynn Cuthbert is a freshman at WHS. She said she will treasure the experience and the new friends she made with performers chosen for the District 2 Festival from other schools.

“District 2 is not a competition. While the auditions are sometimes competitive, the overall idea of the festival is communities coming together to make great music,” Cuthbert said. “To make things into a competition would be against that ideal. I love that it is not a competition because it just shows that music is supposed to bring people together, not separate them.”

Cuthbert also was honored with selection to perform in District 2 festivals at the middle school level as a seventh and eighth grader in the past but worked intensely this year to do well during her audition and in performing at the festival concert.

"I practiced a little bit each night, increasing each night as the festival got closer. Some nights I would just listen to the pieces, others I would sing along, and some nights I would sing it with the accompaniment” said Cuthbert.

She said she was humbled to be included among the group of outstanding high school students performing this year.

“District 2 is like the culmination of all the talent and hard work of the choirs in our area. The people who have been accepted into this choir that only lasts for a couple days truly hold it as something to be proud of,” Cuthbert said. “The energy and vibe that stems from that is indescribable. You can also feel the passion and excitement in the rehearsal room because everyone in there has worked so hard to get to that spot.” <

Friday, February 9, 2024

‘Argylle’ a fun ride that will keep you guessing

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hours, 19 minutes

This movie takes place in or around “The Kingsman” universe, but I’m not familiar with that universe and enjoyed this film immensely. I wasn’t asking myself a lot of questions that may have been answered in previous movies.

Elly Conway is a popular writer who likes to keep to herself. Her “Argylle” series tells the story of a secret agent and a global spy network that unintentionally begins happening in real life. She is approached by an espionage agent, Aidan, who wants her to tell him what happens next in her series, so he can stop Director Ritter and protect the world. However, there may be things Aidan isn’t telling her.

“Argylle” stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Henry Cavill, Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, Dua Lipa, Ariana DeBose, Samuel L. Jackson, John Cena, and Catherine O’Hara.

Elly Conway (Howard) is a successful writer of the spy series “Argylle” and is finishing a reading where an enthusiastic group has many questions about the series.

This movie begins with action right away. Elly has finished book five in her spy series. Her mother (O’Hara) really wants to know what happens. She tells Elly the book isn’t ready and needs another chapter – readers can’t be left on a cliffhanger.

Ellie is struggling with the ending. She decides to take a train (she has a fear of flying) to visit her mom. A guy sits down next to her – despite her mild protest – and asks if she’s read the “Argylle” series. He (Rockwell) quickly recognizes her; his name is Aidan. He works in espionage.

As it turns out, no one on the train can be trusted and Aidan helps Elly and her cat Alfie escape. He tells her it’s bear-hug-o’clock as they escape from the train.

Elly wakes up in a cabin and Aidan tells her all about Director Ritter (Cranston) and what he is trying to do. Aidan says that her books have been predicting events in real time. He thinks Elly’s imagination is the key to stopping Ritter.

She is weary of trusting Aidan, but he seems legitimate. The two go to London.

Aidan wants to know how book five ends. As Elly is trying to help, they are located by Ritter. It’s a race against time to figure out what happens. Elly is onto a clue.

Aidan and Elly find something in a lock box. Ritter is not far behind.

Elly overhears Aidan on the phone and wonders if she is in trouble and if Aidan really is who he says.

Elly’s mother and father meet her in London.

Aidan warns her more bad guys are coming. She and Aidan go to France where they meet Alfie (Jackson).

Alfie says it’s time to meet the real Agent Argylle. The bigger the spy, the bigger the lie.

She and Aidan head to the Arabian Peninsula. Ritter is still following them.

This is a great movie. It had action, humor, a lot of twists and turns, all coupled with an all-star cast who give stellar performances. I was guessing until the very end; “what’s really going on here?” The movie is a little on the long side, but it kept me engrossed and waiting to see what would happen next. It’s one of the better mystery movies I’ve seen in recent years. There is extremely mild language, and I didn’t think it was overly violent.

Parts toward the end were a little silly and overdone, but I think that was on purpose. See this on the big, big screen – you won’t regret it. Stick around past the credits for an extra scene that sheds light on ... well, you’ll have to see that to figure that out.

Two cat backpacks up.

Now playing only in theaters. <

Friday, February 2, 2024

Raymond Ski Program offers outdoor winter adventure for children

By Kendra Raymond

Keeping kids active during the winter months can be a challenge. Luckily, the Raymond Ski Program is around to solve that problem for some lucky area youngsters. Sponsored by the Raymond Parks and Recreation Department, the group provides opportunities for children to learn more about skiing while also improving their skills.

Raymond Ski Program participants have fun
while riding on the Raymond Parks and
Recreation bus to Pleasant Mountain in
Bridgton for an afternoon of fresh air and 
healthy activity on the ski slopes there.
COURTESY PHOTO  
The ski club kicked off its season recently. The five-week program meets after school each Friday for an exciting evening of skiing. Kids and volunteers ride in a donated bus to Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton for an afternoon of fresh air and healthy activity.

Raymond Parks and Recreation director Joseph Crocker said that the ski season had a slow start this year due to the less-than-ideal skiing conditions, but things are picking up now and the participants are enthusiastic.

“Anyone that is participating is pretty excited,” Crocker said. “We tend to see that with skiing.”

To save on costs, the group partners with skiers from RSU 14 in Windham to get a discounted group rate. Most of the participants have their own gear, but equipment rental is also provided at an added cost.

The kids can practice their skills or choose to add lessons, which is extra.

“Because of the amount it costs, we try to keep it as low as we can to keep it affordable,” Crocker said.

According to Crocker, there are 23 participants in the Raymond Ski Program this year and there is an enrollment cap. He said that numbers are a little lower than in the past. However, the program is in its rebuilding phase after the pandemic and its momentum is growing.

Students in grades 2 through 8 are encouraged to join. Typically, the bus leaves around 3 p.m. from Raymond Elementary School and Jordan-Small Middle School and returns around 7:45 p.m.

As with many youth organizations, the help of adult volunteers is needed and welcomed.

“We primarily rely on volunteers for chaperoning. We really value their time,” Crocker said.

Helping with students can be rewarding for both the volunteer and the child. It is also a great opportunity for local high school students to gain volunteer hours. There are 12 volunteer positions that must be filled for the program to run.

Ski chaperones get an added perk receiving a free lift ticket on the day they volunteer, Crocker said.

The deadline for this year’s ski club has passed but it’s never too early to start thinking about next season. Typically, sign ups close about two weeks before the season starts, because of the paperwork and onboarding involved.

The healthychildren.org website suggests that children who spend time outside are physically healthier, are more engaged in learning, have better behavior, and are mentally healthier. And the book “Balanced and Barefoot” by pediatric occupational therapist Angela J. Hanscom discusses the importance of outdoor play and freedom of movement to children’s cognitive development. In today’s world filled with screens and sedentary lifestyles, Hanscom offers practical and fun activities for kids of all ages and locations.

Winter Kids is a Maine non-profit designed to encourage kids to get outdoors in the winter. With resources such as outdoor story walks, snowshoe loan, an App, family day, and Learn Outside Guide, there is something for just about everyone. The Winter Kids website says that their goal is to help children and families enjoy healthy and fun outdoor winter lifestyles while nurturing a connection to the natural environment.

The Raymond Ski Program does just that. Not only are the kids out in nature, but they are actively engaging in fitness, interacting with other youth outside of school, meeting new people, and learning a skill. All ability levels are welcomed, and the atmosphere is inclusive, welcoming, and supportive.

If you would like to help out with the ski program, contact the Parks and Rec director by email: joseph.crocker@raymondmaine.org . Chaperones and other support are always welcomed. Crocker said, “Volunteers are key to our program. We couldn’t do it without them”.

Have a child that is interested in learning more about the ski club? Visit the Raymond Parks and Recreation website: https://raymond.recdesk.com/Community/Home or on Facebook under Raymond Parks and Rec.

For more information about Pleasant Mountain Ski Area, visit https://www.pleasantmountain.com/ <

Friday, January 26, 2024

Review: Expectations for ‘Wonka’ fall short

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 hour, 56 minutes


Wonka is a man who simply wants to make people happy by giving them chocolate. And only a select few have a problem with it. After quickly spending his savings, he is conned to stay at Mrs. Scrubbit’s boardinghouse despite being warned by an orphan, Noodle, to read the fine print, of which there is a lot.

In order to pay off his debt he sells “Hoverchocs,” a chocolate that enables people to fly. Crooked rival chocolatiers, one of whom is Mr. Slugworth, try to put him away. He befriends Noodle and promises to help her escape the clutches of Mrs. Scrubbit.

“Wonka” stars Timothee Chalamet, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Matilda Tucker, Olivia Coleman, Calah Lane, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Matthew Bayton, Freya Parker and Keegan-Michael Key and Hugh Grant.

Willy Wonka (Chalamet) wants to show the world his chocolate. He has nothing to offer but chocolate and a hatful of dreams. He has big plans to make a fortune when he arrives in Victorian England.

However, these plans fall through when he runs out of money and is swindled when trying to stay at a boardinghouse by Mrs. Scrubbit (Coleman) for not reading the fine print of a very lengthy clause. He is warned to do so by Noodle (Lane), an orphan working at the boardinghouse. It is later discovered that Wonka is illiterate; Noodle begins to teach him how to read.

When Wonka arrives at the Gallery Gourmet, he hands out magic chocolates called “Hoverchocs,” which make a person fly after being consumed.

Police call Wonka a disturbance and feel threatened by him; so, they decide to get rid of him.

When Wonka was younger, he wanted to be a magician. It was his mother (Tucker) who made chocolate, but died before she could see him follow in her footsteps. He never found the secret to his mother’s chocolate.

A chocolate cartel, made of rival chocolatiers, including Mr. Slugworth (Holdbrook-Smith) force Wonka to leave town, but he bands together with Noodle and offers her the deal of a lifetime of chocolate. They plan to escape when Wonka discovers his chocolate was stolen by an Oompa Loompa (Grant).

Wonka learns of a secret chocolate stash and gets everyone working off debt from Mrs. Scrubbit’s boardinghouse to help him.

Meanwhile, Mr. Slugworth is doing everything he can to make Wonka go away.

Going into this movie, it’s hard not to naturally compare it to the 1971 “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” starring Gene Wilder; and I think the less said about Johnny Depp’s version, the better. I guess when I think of Willy Wonka I think of an older man, and that is not the portion of the story being told here. Oh, and I should warn up front this is a musical, and while most of the songs are somewhat catchy, I wanted more story and less singing. Chalamet’s portrayal of the chocolate-obsessed visionary who wants to bring happiness to a very chocolate-obsessed town is good ... but not great. I can’t quite put my finger on what is missing. I enjoyed the backstory of why he wanted to become a chocolatier and I thought the ending was a sweet one (no pun intended).

I am not a fan of Hugh Grant, but did enjoy him as a single Oompa Loompa, who is not imprisoned by Wonka, but rather a nuisance to him because he steals his chocolate. As a whole, the movie is a little on the weak side and I thought it dragged a bit in the middle. Unless you are a fan, there’s no reason to see this in the theater.

Three-quarters of a chocolate bar up.

Now playing in select theaters. <

Friday, January 19, 2024

Little Free Libraries provide great community resources

By Kendra Raymond

Have you noticed random decorated boxes on lawns around town? Maybe you are already a “Little Free Library” patron? Whether a newbie or seasoned consumer, everyone can reap the rewards of this free book opportunity right in our community.

A Little Free Library is shown in a Raymond
neighborhood. The concept is growing in
popularity across the Lakes Region because
of its simplicity and resident interest in
reading. PHOTO BY KENDRA RAYMOND
A Little Free Library is a permanent structure, located at a home or in a public area. Each is filled with books that have been donated. The premise is that you can take a book and leave a book. However, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this book resource. So, if you need books, or have extras, it is all perfectly acceptable.

The Little Free Library website explains their purpose as a mission is to be a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Library book-exchange boxes.

“Our vision is a Little Free Library in every community and a book for every reader. We believe all people are empowered when the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read is not limited by time, space, or privilege. This is accomplished by providing book access 24/7, encouraging new libraries to open especially in high need areas, supporting diverse books, and engaging community partnerships,” a website statement reads.

Former Raymond resident Cinda Roy started the Hawthorne House Little Free Library in Raymond back in 2018 which includes a separate library for children’s books. Roy has since moved away, so several other residents have stepped up to keep an eye on it.

Hawthorne House Trustee Ed Kranich built the original structure.

“The library is maintained by me and a few other Hawthorne House trustees,” Kranich said. “There is not much involved with maintaining it. I check it periodically and if there are not many books I put some more in there.”

How do I find one?

The first step is to visit the LFL website, or better yet download the App. It is easy to enter the town you’d like to search for using the magnifying glass icon at the top of the page. The system will show a map of the area, with pins pointing to each library, including the address. At present, there are three listed in Raymond and Casco and several located in the Windham area. It is also possible to come across a LFL that has not been registered in the system. Don’t forget that there are Little Free Libraries everywhere. When travelling, it can be fun to explore what LFLs in other towns may have to offer.

Do I need to share a book?


Nope, it is completely acceptable to simply select the books you want and take them. Kranich says that some people who take books from the library replace them, but it isn’t mandatory. However, a good LFL patron should be responsible and replenish libraries when you are able. Most everyone has a few books lying around collecting dust that could be moved along for someone else to enjoy. Kranich said that one of the tenets of the Little Free Library is “take a book, leave a book,” so that’s a good mantra to keep in mind.

What types of books?


The books you will find in a LFL can vary quite a bit. While some locations have themes, most include a variety of selections. Oftentimes, you will see fiction, non-fiction, biographies, cookbooks, or children’s books – the possibilities are endless. LFL believes in the importance of offering diverse books as well to grow our understanding and empathy.

What if I’m interested in starting one?


It is a fairly simple process. Begin by choosing a safe and legal location that is easy to access. Next build or purchase a library enclosure. You will need to register your Little Free Library and purchase an official charter sign. Then, by setting up your steward account, the library will be up and running and located on the map. Now spread the word.

“I think it’s been a good thing,” Kranich said. “Encouraging people to read more books is a good thing.”

Here’s some great resources as you get started:

Little Free Library website: https://littlefreelibrary.org

Download the Little Free Library mobile app: LittleFreeLibrary.org/app

Check out LFL on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. <

 

Friday, January 12, 2024

‘The Family Plan’ a family friendly comedy, with action

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 58 minutes


Dan Morgan is a used car salesman with a family and wife, living in Buffalo, New York. He’s gotten into a bit of a routine, which he’s become comfortable with, but his wife Jessica wants something to shake things up. Little does she know, Dan has a secret. 

When he realizes he’s being followed and a couple of people try to attack him, Dan takes his family on a cross-country trip to Las Vegas where he plans to reveal who he is really is ... or was. This action-filled comedy is a fast-moving adventure that I enjoyed.

“The Family Plan” stars Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, Zoe Colletti, Van Crosby, Iliana Norris, Vienna Norris, Maggie Q, Ciaran Hinds and Said Taghmaoui.

Used car salesman, Dan (Wahlberg) has a less-than-excited family of three kids and wife, Jessica (Monaghan). Dan and Jessica are celebrating their 18th anniversary.

Jessica tells Dan he is a creature of habit and wishes the family was more spontaneous and traveled more. She feels trapped and wishes their lives were bigger.

When Dan backs down from a confrontation, he later feels bad about it.

While at the grocery store, Dan gets in another confrontation, but this time he doesn’t back down.

As it turns out, Dan is not who he says he is. He doesn’t want to let his family in on his true identity. He gets a call from past-associate Augie (Taghmaoui) and Dan tells him to meet him in Las Vegas in three days.

As it turns out, Dan’s kids, Nina and Kyle (Colletti and Crosby) aren’t doing what they say they are.

Dan is being followed again but outsmarts them.

He frees his family from the shackles of technology with the flick of his wrist.

Back at his home, someone is looking for him.

Despite all the people following Dan, this trip slowly brings the family together.

Nina gets revenge on a cheating boyfriend. A laser tag game between Dan and Kyle helps them learn about each other.

“You conned me; you’re a laser tag savant,” said Kyle.

“No, I was a kid in the 80s,” said Dan.

Despite this, Dan still hasn’t told his family his secret. He tries to at dinner, but struggles.

Dan and Jessica are attacked in a Las Vegas hotel room, and now Dan has to come clean.

Dan tells them they cannot go back to Buffalo. The family gets upset.

Jessica will take the kids and is leaving first thing in the morning. Jessica meets Dan’s ex-girlfriend who holds the family captive.

More secrets are revealed, and decisions need to be made.

This movie is action-packed, but not bloody. It’s fast paced and has twists and turns at many corners. It’s very fun and sincere. One of my favorite things about this movie were baby Max’s reactions and facial expressions, especially during the supermarket scene. It carries the message that regardless of how lame you think they might be, family is important and will be there to support you. It reminded me that if you feel you’re stuck in a rut, it’s never too late to do what you want and be who you want. This one is a winner, Marky Mark.

Two disposable cameras up.

Available on Apple TV+. <

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Oldies Dance Group raises $10,416 for Ronald McDonald House

By Ed Pierce

YORK COUNTY – Rock n’ roll music is as popular as ever and as evidence of that, the Oldies Dance Group raised more than $10,000 during its latest dance to support the Ronald McDonald House of Portland.

Members of the Oldies Dance Group Committee present a 
check for $10,416 to Ronald McDonald House of Portland.
From left are Helen Vadnais; Ray Gagnon; Katherine Russo;
Bruce Martin; Wendy Twitchell; Elvis Presley; Ian Tovell,
Development & Marketing Director for the Ronald
MacDonald House of Portland; Diane Dubois; Janet 
Sparkowich; Gail Cole; and Debora Berry.
SUBMITTED PHOTO
The organization’s 22nd dance in 15 years on Oct. 7 at the Eagle’s Hall in Biddeford sold 355 tickets in just four days and earned $10,416, pushing the total amount that the Oldies Dance Group has raised through its dances for the Ronald McDonald House to $110,416. The Ronald McDonald House provides comfort for the families of pediatric patients in Maine and supports programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and enables family centered care to ensure that family members are fully supported and actively involved in their child’s care.

“It’s very gratifying that the public keeps coming back time after time to our dances and we can’t thank them and all of the businesses and individuals who continue to make this the largest community fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House of Portland,” said Bruce Martin, Oldies Dance Group organizer. “It truly shows their care about others and a strong commitment to assisting sick children in Maine and their families.”

According to Martin, the rock n’ roll dances hosted by the Oldies Dance Group twice a year remain wildly popular, and the generosity shown by the community to support the fundraising mission of the Oldies Dance Group is exceptional.

“For those who question if people still love rock n’ roll music and a night out of dancing, the fact that we continue to sell out each dance demonstrates they haven’t forgotten this great music and sure love getting out on the dance floor,” Martin said.

The next Rock n’ Roll Oldies Benefit Dance will be the 23rd dance hosted by the Oldies Dance Group and will be held from 7 p.m. to midnight April 13, 2024, at the Eagle’s Hall, 57 Birch St., Biddeford. Tickets are just $10 and sell out quickly as seating is limited.

Martin said that rock n’ roll music links generations in the community and that the dance playlist includes songs that everybody knows, loves and is familiar with.

“These dances really are just a great night out to have fun, socialize with friends, listen to great music and dance to your favorite songs,” Martin said. “It’s heartwarming to be a part of something that supports such a worthy cause.”

For additional information, to purchase tickets or to volunteer, call Bruce Martin at 207-284-4692. <

Friday, December 22, 2023

Peacock’s ‘Genie’ will get you in the holiday spirit

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 hour, 32 minutes


This is no “Aladdin” or “Kazaam,” but it will leave you feeling good with the spirit of the season. When Bernard misses his daughter’s birthday, his wife decides to take their daughter to her mother’s place through the holidays. Bernard happens upon a jewelry box that releases a genie who grants him unlimited wishes.

Bernard needs to decide if he can make time for his daughter and wife before it’s too late; maybe the genie, Flora, can help. With a great soundtrack featuring Otis Redding, Louie Armstrong, Stevie Wonder, Solomon Burke and Bubba Sparxx, this movie is an all-around winner.

‘Genie’ stars Melissa McCarthy, Paapa Essiedu, Denee Benton, Jordyn Mcintosh, Alan Cumming, Marc Maron, LaChanze and Ellen Cleghorne.

Bernard (Essiedu) misses his daughter, Eve’s (McIntosh) birthday and afterward his boss (Cumming) fires him.

Bernard’s wife Julie (Benton) decides they need some time apart through the holidays.

Alone in his apartment, Bernard rubs a jewelry box and releases Flora

(McCarthy), a genie who grants him unlimited wishes – as is the custom, that three wishes stuff is for fairytales.

Flora explains she was put in the box by an angry sorcerer many, many years ago and Bernard’s wish is her command.

Bernard explains his problems to Flora; she sweetly offers to kill his boss, but Bernard turns her down.

Flora said that wishes cannot change people’s feelings and you cannot time travel.

Flora and Bernard travel to see Julie at her mother’s house. It does not go well and ends up solving nothing.

Julie’s mother says that silence and solitude will make Bernard realize what’s important.

Back at the apartment, Bernard introduces Flora to pizza.

“It’s just a triangle of red bread,” she says.

After taking a bite she says, “This is Heaven.”

Flora then discovers Spot-iffy, as she calls it, in this funny scene.

When Bernard and Flora go shopping, Flora gets a new outfit and discovers hand sanitizer which she finds zesty.

Bernard explains Christmas to her. As it turns out, Flora knew Jesus and thought he was kidding about the whole Son of God thing.

“Christmas is also a time where kids learn all about disappointment,” says Bernard.

Bernard uses his wishes to do some good. Flora joins in.

When the two go to a movie, she falls in love with Tom Cruise. Then she strikes up a thing with Lenny the Doorman (Maron).

Bernard can be there for Eve and Julie. They have ice cream together, but Bernard is less-than-thrilled when they are joined by Julie’s childhood friend.

Later, a surprise visit from Bernard’s family only complicates matters.

Flora suggests “WWTCD – What Would Tom Cruise Do?” a Wishion Impossible mission to get Julie and Eve back. She suggests Bernard spruce up his apartment.

When the Louvre discovers the Mona Lisa is missing, (because it’s in Bernard’s apartment), it could be trouble for Bernard.

Eve gets to spend the night with her dad. Afterward, Julie and Eve have a nice dinner at Bernard’s apartment. Julie wants to talk about what their relationship might look like long-term.

A fire breaks out in the apartment, the Mona Lisa gets noticed and Bernard and Flora are taken to jail. Flora takes some excellent mug shots.

This is one of Melissa McCarthy’s best performances. Flora is such a fun

character. This is a feel-good movie the whole family can watch around the holidays. It’s definitely worth signing up for Peacock just to see this movie. As far as I’m concerned, it’s worth buying this movie and not signing up for Peacock, sorry NBC.

It’s a nice, happy story about the power of friendship and what’s really important in life. It gets a little emotional at times and shows that with effort – and a little magic – second chances are possible. I watched this twice and enjoyed it as much the second time as I did the first time.

Two Tom Cruise sweatshirts up.

Available to stream on Peacock or to buy.<

Friday, December 15, 2023

Collaboration between students ignites passion for reading

By Lorraine Glowczak

The Raymond Elementary School (RES) library was filled with intergenerational bibliomania on a Friday afternoon in late November as 10 Windham High School (WHS) students traveled to Raymond to read books to third grade students, eagerly waiting in anticipation. The 25-minute “read to me’ experience fostered a love for the written word and built a sense of community and mentorship between the two schools.

During a recent reading adventure, third-grade
students from Raymond Elementary School
were enthralled as Windham High School
students read to them. Beatriz De Sturdze,
a third grader, right, attentively listened
as WHS senior Lydia Wilson read
'Horton Hears a Who' to her class.
PHOTO BY LORRAINE GLOWCZAK   
The 25 third graders, who were divided into groups of five and paired with a high school mentor, had the opportunity to listen to and then discuss books from popular childhood literature. This cooperative event was spearheaded by Valerie Carpentier, WHS Library Media Specialist.

“I initiated this collaboration between the high school and RES to empower all students in their reading,” she said. “I was building upon the Maine Department of Education’s (DOE) Read to ME Challenge that begins in February every year. I hope to increase the program to include more students within the district very soon.”

According to the DOE website, The Read to ME Challenge is a month-long public awareness campaign to promote childhood literacy in Maine. The Challenge is an opportunity to contribute to a child’s literacy growth by reading aloud in any language to one or more children for at least 15 minutes a day.

Carpentier also mentioned that countless research shows reading out loud to children helps develop their language skills, early literacy, as well as their social-emotional intelligence. 

"Pairing all that wonderful learning with being read to by a high schooler has such a positive impact on children,” she said.

A few students were willing to share their experience of the day including third grader Beatriz De Sturdze. The young bookworm said that her mentor made the afternoon of storytelling fun and interesting.

“She actually used a funny voice and spoke louder and raised her voice up and down while she told the story.”

De Sturdze said that her mother reads to her every day, but it was fun having another person to look up to.

“She made me want to read more because of her funny voice,” she said. “It made me giggle and laugh.”

An avid reader and third grader Kieran Allen shared a different experience.

“It was sort of like an adventure,” Allen said. “I read sometimes on my own but there are times it is nice to take a break and have someone I don’t know read to me. It’s nice to just listen to the story and relax.”

De Sturdze’s reading mentor, WHS senior Lydia Wilson, said her participation in this collaborative opportunity was two-fold.

“I decided to take part in reading to the RES students because I like kids,” Wilson said. “But not only that, I was a RES student and I wanted to go back to see the teachers and the spaces where I first learned to read myself.”

According to the Nationwide Children’s® pediatric organization, reading with young children can help them develop a skill they will use for the rest of their lives while fostering a love of an activity that also enhances brain development.

“Children who are exposed to reading before preschool tend to develop larger vocabularies and are more likely to succeed during their formal education. If a child is not proficient in reading by third grade, they are at a higher risk for not graduating from high school,” the organization’s pediatrics say.

Carpentier plans to increase the reading program to all elementary schools in the district and to become a regular occurrence throughout the school year. It’s her goal to spread the love of reading and connect the school communities on a greater level while building bridges between younger and older students, fostering a culture of mentorship, compassion, and a shared passion for the written word. <