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.
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 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: . 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: or on Facebook under Raymond Parks and Rec.

For more information about Pleasant Mountain Ski Area, visit <