Friday, September 23, 2022

Book-signing event a success for newspaper columnist

By Ed Pierce

Columnist Andy Young of The Windham Eagle had little idea what to expect when he agreed to appear at a book-signing event at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop in Windham last weekend, but says he was pleasantly surprised to meet readers there while promoting his new book “Work(s) in Progress.”

Andy Young, a columnist for The Windham Eagle newspaper,
autographs a copy of his new book 'Work(s) in Progress'
for Windham High School student Lillian O'Brion during a
meet the author and book-signing event at Sherman's Maine
Coast Book Shop on Sept. 17. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE 
Young, a Kennebunk High School English teacher and a columnist for The Windham Eagle newspaper, penned the collection of essays contained in “Works(s) in Progress” over the span of 17 years and derived them from columns that he’s written for newspapers in Maine. His first book was called “Young Ideas” and came out in 2014.

He wanted to have his new book, issued by Jackanapes Publishing of Cumberland, available sooner, but circumstances and the global pandemic postponed its publication until this year.

“I wanted to have it for Christmas two years ago,” Young said. “Fortunately, someone put me in touch with a woman in Portland, Lori Harley, who puts together books and she was very helpful with all the layout stuff and even helped proofread it.”

Young’s column focusing on humorous observances about life has appeared in The Windham Eagle since May 2020 and he formerly wrote for the now-closed Maine newspapers Falmouth Community Leader, Yarmouth Notes and Biddeford Journal-Tribune.

According to Young, his favorite subject to write about is something all readers can relate to.

“I like to write about life and what life does,” he said.

His least favorite thing to write about, Young says, are “things everyone else writes about.”

He said for him, the best time to write his selected observations about life is before 7 a.m.

“Let me specifically say I do my best work between 4 and 8 a.m.,” Young said.

Among his personal favorite authors, Young says he enjoys the writing of novelist and newspaper columnist Carl Hiaasen and esteemed author and Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam.

“When it comes to non-fiction there is nobody better than Halberstam,” he said. “I could read his work all day.”

His appearance at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop was a success for several reasons, Young said.

“I sold some books and two of which were to people I hadn't previously known,” he said. “All copies were suitably inscribed, so everyone got 6.3 percent off the cover price.”

He said the exposure at Sherman’s was fantastic, he enjoyed meeting people there that day and for readers who couldn’t make it there, Sherman’s has a supply of “Works(s) in Progress” available for purchase.

Plans for yet another book are already in development, Young says.

“Yes, I’ve got one more and I’m already picturing what the cover will look like,” he said.

And for readers who seemingly can’t wait for the publication of his next book, Young said he hopes to continue to write his column for The Windham Eagle newspaper for as long as he can.

“I’m truly grateful to The Windham Eagle for including my column in the paper and I’m thankful so many readers like it,” he said. <

Movie Review: ‘Vengeance’ good, but falls a little short

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Written and directed by B.J. Novak, “Vengeance” is the story of a writer who travels to Texas to solve the death of a woman he had been seeing casually. What he finds is a shock to him and her family.

In this directorial debut, Novak stars along with Boyd Holbrook, Issa Rae, Dove Cameron, Ashton Kutcher, J. Smith-Cameron, Isabella Amara, Lio Tipton and John Mayer.

Ben Manalowitz (Novak) is a writer for The New Yorker and wants to tell a story people will connect with; his producer, Eliose (Rae) wants to help him do it.

When Ben gets a call from a grief-stricken family after the death of their daughter Abilene (Tipton) from an opioid overdose, they are convinced she and Ben were close, when really, they were barely acquaintances. They insist he fly to Texas and attend her funeral.

Her brother Ty (Holbrook) thinks she was murdered, and he and Ben are going to avenge her. Ben says as a personal boundary, he doesn’t avenge deaths, his life is not a Liam Neeson movie. Ty says being in Texas could be a good story. Eliose agrees and Ben flies down.

There is no actual proof of a murder, just theories because the truth might be too hard to accept.

Ben creates the podcast “Dead White Girl” and will record interviews with friends, family, and members of the community to try to get to the bottom of what might have really happened.

He goes to a recording studio where Abilene recorded a song and meets with Quentin Sellers (Kutcher) who, I found interesting initially. At one point Ben asks what advice Quentin would give and he tells him to just listen and repeat what you hear back.

The family gets very comfortable with Ben while he is staying with them. They are learning from him, and he is certainly learning from them.

This movie has funny moments, like when Ben visits a rodeo, tries a deep-fried Twinkie, and gets caught Shazaming “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” There is also some darker, more subtle humor.

As soon as Ben begins to make progress, something happens. His producer says they have enough for the podcast and tells him to come back. He chooses to stay and that’s when the real truths come out.

With a movie title like “Vengeance” you would think there would be action and maybe some violence. There is very little of that. This is a satirical fish out of water revenge movie but is more satire than revenge. This movie has more heart than action – and that’s not a bad thing.

As you get further and further along in Ben’s podcast, I found it very interesting, and it is definitely something that I might listen to in my long list of podcasts.

My fault with this movie lies in the ending. I liked it but think it could have been done differently.

This is absolutely worth seeing or renting, but I only give it one podcast microphone up.

Streaming on NBC’s Peacock and available to rent. <

Friday, September 9, 2022

Oldies Dance to return in October

If classic rock n’ roll is the soundtrack to generations of music lovers, the Rock n’ Roll Oldies Dance is a way to let loose and embrace a trip back through time on the dance floor.

The 20th Rock n' Roll Oldies Benefit Dance will be held
from 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday Oct. 15 at the Eagle's Hall
in Biddeford. For tickets, call 207-284-4692. 
The 20th edition of the popular benefit dance will be held from 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Eagle’s Hall, 57 Birch St. in Biddeford and is the largest community fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House of Portland. Tickets are just $10 with proceeds donated to the Ronald McDonald House, which provides comfort for the families of pediatric patients, 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.

Oldies Dance Group organizer Bruce Martin says that to date, the organization has raised $85,500 for Ronald McDonald House and he recommends that anyone interested in attending the dance to act fast as tickets are a hot commodity, selling out quickly with seating limited.

“I’m constantly amazed at how quickly these tickets sell,” Martin said. “It’s confirmation that people still love to dance, and they love to listen to classic rock n’ roll oldies music. We can only accommodate about 300 people at each of these dances, so I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in attending to call and get their tickets as soon as possible.”

According to Martin, the Oldies Dance Group sold 349 tickets to its May 7 dance in just 10 days and had to turn away 82 additional requests for tickets because of seating limitations. This reinforces the continuing popularity of rock n’ roll music and public support for the Ronald McDonald House, he said.

Martin attributes the ongoing success of the oldies dance in the community to the public’s enduring love for some of the greatest rock n’ roll music from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. He said that for many participants, the Oldies Dance is an opportunity to get out of the house on a Saturday evening and dance the night away in a safe and comfortable setting or just socialize with friends and listen to some classic tunes.

“Without a doubt, the most popular song at every dance is ‘Unchained Melody’ by the Righteous Brothers,” Martin said. “Even guys who don’t normally dance get up and are out on the dance floor for that one. The music is fantastic and takes you back to a simpler time where you know all the words to the songs by heart and the beat is contagious and makes you want to get up and express yourself through dancing. Those memorable Motown hits and anything we play by Elvis Presley ensure the dance floor will be packed.”

The bottom line though is that each Oldies Dance is highly affordable and raises money in a fun way to support the important work that the staff of the Ronald McDonald House in Portland is doing, he said.

To purchase tickets for the October dance or for more information, call Bruce Martin at 207-284-4692. <

Movie review: Heartfelt ‘Gigi & Nate’ film falls short

By Matt Pascarella

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

What starts in an incredibly emotional and heart-breaking place, does eventually ease up and become a less intense movie about a teenager, Nate, who weeks before he was to head off to college contracts meningitis and goes through a harrowing life-change that takes a toll on himself and his family.

To help Nate who has become paralyzed, his family gets a service animal, a Capuchin monkey name Gigi, to help him. It starts off nice and very effective for Nate, but a run-in with an animal activist group puts the fate of Gigi’s companionship and service to Nate in jeopardy.

Intended to be a feel-good movie, and it is in spots, the ending leaves much to be desired and glosses over what could have been a more satisfying conclusion against the movie’s antagonist.

“Gigi & Nate” stars Charlie Row, Marcia Gay Harden, Jim Belushi, Zoe Margaret Colletti, Josephine Langford, Diane Ladd, Hannah Riley, Sasha Compere, Deja Dee and Welker White.

Nate (Rowe) goes off with some friends on the Fourth of July and meets Lori (Colletti). They all go out on a boat for some tubing. Later, Nate jumps from a cliff into the water. Initially, he seems fine, but later complains of a headache.

After their dinner gets rained on, Nate is found throwing up and is having trouble breathing. He is rushed to the hospital where it is discovered his brain is swelling. He is airlifted to another hospital closer to where his family lives.

Four years later Nate is a quadriplegic. He lives a completely different life with his mother, Claire (Harden), father, Dan (Belushi) and sister Annabelle (Riley).

Nate is understandably angry and depressed and even attempts to kill himself.

Claire requests a service animal and that’s when Nate meets Capuchin monkey Gigi. It’s a rocky start with the possibility of returning Gigi discussed by Claire and Dan.

After Gigi observes Nate’s day-to-day routine for a while, she eventually figures out how to help him. One such instance is when she lifts his fingers up so he can grip a ball during a therapy session.

Gigi and Nate go everywhere, and Nate’s attitude is greatly improved.

While the two are in the grocery store one day Nate runs into Lori, who invites him to a party.

Nate also runs into Chloe Gaines (White) who says the monkey is a public health issue, and they need to leave the supermarket. This interaction later leads to protests and a hearing to decide if the state of Tennessee will ban Capuchin monkeys as service animals. Nate testifies and tells the committee Gigi is not a screen he stares at or a robot he orders around and that he wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Gigi.

Loosely based on real-life events, I thought this would be a feel-good, cheery movie. It has its moments, but overall, I say this is sub-par at best. The first 15 to 20 minutes are stressful. What followed did not have me leaving the theater feeling uplifted, but kind of let down. The solution to the problem that arises misses an opportunity for another victory for this guy whose life is tough enough. Wait until this comes to streaming if you really want to see it.

Now playing only in theaters. <

Windham Parks and Recreation prepares for upcoming fall activities

By Masha Yurkevich

Summer was a blast, with fun days at the beach and stary nights by the campfire. But as the calendar turns to September, fall is hiding just around the corner. Leaves changing colors and warmer clothes exchanging summer dresses, sandals and shorts doesn’t mean that fun times and making lifetime memories has to stop; fall in Maine is a wonderful and beautiful time to take advantage of and enjoy all that Maine has to offer. Windham’s Parks and Recreation Department help people make the most out of the beautiful time by coming together and offering fun activities for people of all ages.

Last year's Halloween Costume Contest and
Family Winner were Leanna, Bryce and Isaac
as Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Fall activities for the department start in September and run all the way through December. It includes holiday and community events such as the popular Halloween Costume Contest, Family Line Dancing Party, Holiday Light Parade and the North Pole Hotline, youth programs such as Playdates in the Park, Kiddie Gym, School Vacation Trips, Mad Science, Hiking Club and karate, adult sports programs like Tennis in Parks, Men’s Basketball League, Sunday Open Gym and Adult Pickleball. There are also events for seniors that include apple picking, a visit to the Fryeburg Fair, a holiday lunch and concert, a mystery breakfast outing, fall foliage trips and much more. There are also discounted tickets, Shawnee Peak night season passes, Sesame Street Live and Disney on Ice.

For many of the events, there is a registration start and end time and specific deadlines for participants to enroll.

Kelsey Crowe is the Deputy Director at Windham Parks and Recreation and has been a part of Windham Parks and Recreation for five years.

“Some programs and events are free to participate in like Trunk or Treat, but most programs have a cost,” says Crowe. “We do have scholarship money available that families and seniors can apply for through Windham Social Services if needed.”

While some events are free and some require a fee, there are also events that welcome donations, such as the Family Line Dancing Party.

Most of the programs and events are open to everyone whether they are Windham residents or non-residents. There are a few programs that are for Windham residents only, like the after-school program for kids at Windham Middle School, or the Halloween Costume Contest because it is free to enter, and Windham Parks and Recreation covers the cost of prizes to the participants.

“Many of our programs and events also have registration deadlines so we can plan and prepare for the number of participants at the event,” said Crowe.

There are many benefits of Parks and Recreation in any community and here are a few: programs and events provide a social outlet and a way to connect with people in the community, after school programs provide a safe space for at-risk youth, and senior programs enhance seniors' quality of life.

“There is never just one person in charge of an event or program in our department, we all work together to prepare for the event, and everyone helps to run the event as well,” Crowe said. “Many of our programs and events would not be possible without the support of many Windham businesses and organizations who volunteer and donate their time to help us throughout the year.”

Many of the large community events have been going on for many years, before Crowe’s time with Windham, and they have been very successful. During COVID, the activities had come to a bit of a halt. Many of previous the activities included people interacting and being surrounded by each other. Parks and Recreation had to come up with some new programs and events where the community could participate and be together but at a safe distance like the Town Wide Easter and Light Parade or Winter Bingo where families would go to our different parks and do different activities to complete a bingo. As life is slowly getting back to normal, so are the events and activities.

To find more information about upcoming programs and events, please visit the Windham Parks and Recreation website, There is also a flyer with all upcoming fall activities and events with the registration dates, location and more information and details. People can also stop by the office at Windham Town Hall for more information. <