Thursday, December 17, 2009

An open letter to a PR person...

Dear PR person,

Hello. How are you? Wait a minute -- don't answer that -- I don't really care. Did you know that this is the third time you have contacted me about your idea/event/book? Are you familiar with our magazine? Oh, wait again, clearly you're not or you wouldn't be pitching me your idea/event/book.

See, we are a monthly regional publication that writes about specific things happening in a specific area in Maine. And being a monthly publication means that the event you are pitching me that is going to be happening this weekend will not be able to make it into the next magazine because it's already gone to print. We send our January/February magazine to the printer in the beginning of December so that it's on the shelves in a timely fashion.

And if you have taken the time to look at our publication online, you will see that we don't cover people from out-of-state, rock bands on tour, or do book reviews, though thanks for that free CD and book. No I haven't listened to it or read it and I probably won't.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Robert Frost was smart....

I'm reading a biography of Robert Frost that was lent to me by a friend. I've never been taken by his poetry in the way I am with other poets (Stephen Dobyns for example) but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in this American wordsmith.

In reading the first chapters I have come to a conclusion: people growing up in the educational system in the late 1800s and early 1900s were smarter than kids growing up now.

Sure it's a bold statement, but I really believe it to be true and here's why: there was no technology to waste their time. Sure, we're technologically savvy today. We know how to blog, facebook, twit, post videos on YouTube, tivo, and text. All of these distractions are getting in our way of being able to reason and think for ourselves.

Think about it...back in the day the only books around were what we call "classics" today. It was expensive to print books and there weren't as many. Heck -- you can pay a meager fee to publish your OWN book today! Kids back then read Homer and learned how to understand it! Parents read to their kids for entertainment. They didn't read Dr. Seuss, they read serious books! Books I probably can't understand now as a 30-something.

Don't get me wrong. I like technology. But I wonder if all these laptops in the classroom and fancy schmancy calculators are really doing us a whole lot of good if we can't read a paragraph or a chapter and talk about it thoughtfully?


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jenny 8. Lee took the buyout!

I saw in this Gawker post that Jennifer 8. Lee took the buyout from the New York Times and I'm a little surprised. She was sort of a "star" if you will of the metro section...with name recognition and all.
Jenny 8. Lee, who has spent the last two years as one of the creative and daring and agile brains behind City Room, and her instincts and inventiveness have helped make it the second most popular blog in our empire.

My friend Kaija from NYU j-school shadowed Lee for a story and I was sorta jealous. I'm dying to know what her plans are...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What Mimi Saw: Les Otten commercial

Les Otten is running for governor. I've been seeing his commercials all over the TV. In his 30 second appearance, Otten says the word "jobs" every five seconds.

A "gap year" before college...

I really liked reading this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. I also think it's kind of cool that this dad (Steve Yoder) has his kids, Isaac and Levi, pitch in on this column -- it gives another perspective that I really like.

I really wanted to take a "gap year" between high school and college. I had it all planned out. I was going to graduate from high school and then head off to a country in Central America (my first pick was Mexico) to be an American Field Service student. We had had lots of AFS students at my high school and I had been planning on being in the program since I was a sophomore. I wasn't even really thinking about college during my junior year when the rest of my friends were visiting schools across the country. As far as I was concerned I was going to live with a Mexican family and study at a Mexican high school and take a cultural year before hitting the books.

My senior year it all came crashing down.

The AFS age rules changed and I was too old to study abroad anywhere but Switzerland. I had spent 4 years studying Spanish and I wasn't content to spend a year learning French or German. I wanted to perfect my spanish! I cried a lot. I pleaded with AFS to make an exception for me. Nothing worked. I was devastated. My year of culture wasn't going to happen. Without an alternate plan I decided I'd have to head off to college after all.

I attended Northeastern University in Boston for my freshman year. I loved that school and I loved the city but it was a hard year for me. I knew a lot of people but I only had one really close friend. I was used to having tons of close friends and I was lonely a lot of the time. I was also financially strapped. Northeastern is a private school and it was expensive. It's also a 5-year school with a year planned in for internships. After my first year I decided to transfer back to the University of Maine in my hometown. It was a hard decision. I ended up becoming depressed and spent a sad semester in Maine.

But when live gives you lemons you make lemonade. I applied for an National Student Exchange (which is just like studying abroad except it's for schools in the U.S.) and chose a school in Baltimore, Towson University, to attend. It was the only school I was interested in and they had a great film/television program. I was also accepted into the Disney College Program and after one semester at UMaine, I packed my bags for a semester of learning and working in Orlando, Florida. That experience changed my perspective and I had a marvelous time. I consider that semester to be a semester off -- even though I did earn 3 college credits.

I had decided that If I wasn't accepted to Towson thorough the student exchange I was going to join the Peace Corps. UMaine wasn't for me. I longed for adventure. But I was accepted to Towson and I enrolled there for a year, paying my in-state tuition to UMaine.

I embraced Towson and ended up transferring there after my year was up. I ended up graduating from there in the winter of 2000.

I didn't have your normal college experience, and I wonder if I had taken that year after high school to study in another country if I would have followed the same path. Probably not. I wonder if I would have studied the same thing in college had I spent a year in Mexico. I have no idea. Perhaps I would have been more interested in spanish, education, or humanitarian work. Perhaps I wouldn't have gone to college at all -- but I find that unlikely. I really love learning.

When one door closes another door opens. It's cheesy but it's true I think. When I couldn't go to Mexico I did other things, not letting unhappiness stand in my way. I have always been one to take opportunities that present themselves to me. That's how I got my job working at Camden Yards for the Orioles in production. That's how I ended up in Baltimore in the first place. That's how I got my first real job at a post-production house in Boston. That's how I got into NYU for grad school and ended up working for publications like PRWeek, Inc. Magazine, and The Star-Ledger. That's also how I got the job I'm at now.

I learned from my AFS experience of NOT being able to study abroad that the worst someone can say is "no" and that the only person who can make me happy is me. My grandmother once told me that if you don't get what you like, like what you get. I prefer to keep trying to get what I like until I'm happy.

So should students take a year off before heading to college? I think it is a great opportunity, especially for students who aren't really sure what they want to study. Even taking a semester off or a year off in college, like my sister did to hike the Appalachian Trail, is a great idea. You are only young once. Time is too precious to waste floating through your own life without direction. Gain a perspective, make goals, and reach matter what they are.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Half Broke Horses

Melanie Brooks + Jeannette Walls = TLA.

I wish.

I fell so deeply in love with Jeannette's (yes we're on a first name basis) The Glass Castle that I almost 86'd a friend from my life because she kept forgiving to bring the copy I loaned her back to me. We have since reconciled and the book is happily back on my bookshelf, tucked in between Me Talk Pretty One Day and The Worst Hard Time.

I do have to confess that I bought this book with the intention of giving it away as a Christmas present. I was out of reading material and thought I could covertly read this novel and THEN gift it away. I have been very careful to not break the binding and I haven't dog-earred one single page.

But the book became my friend. Lily Casey Smith, the narrator and Jeannette's grandma, is too fun to give away. I can't. The book is now mine. I am happy about this.

But one thing makes me think -- and that is, how did my friend Jeannette know what her grandma talked like? Lily has a very pronounced way of talking and uses certain words in her conversation. He has a definite voice. Did Jeannette know this voice or did she make it up? I always wonder this when I read books like this. I wonder how realistic it all is. I mean, I believe the things that happened really happened -- I don't think Jeannette is making up her grandmother's life -- but was her grandmother REALLY this plucky woman she is made out to be? Did she really say things like "crum bum?"

In any case, it's not stopping me from loving this book. I have a literary and professional crush on my friend Jeannette. I'm so lucky to have her in my life.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Oh Tiger Woods...

You say that you are "dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means" and that "personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions."

Um. You're a celebrity darling. Don't you know that yet?

Celebrities are not held to the same standards of privacy as normal citizens. It's sort of what celebrity means. The fact that you thought you could have an affair with a 24-year-old cocktail waitress and keep it a secret makes me giggle. If heads of state can't put the kaibosh on their extra-marital affairs, what makes you think you could do the same?

You are a superstar in the world of gold and, heck, athletics as a whole. You are good at your job. You are a role model for athletes of all ages. Is it too much to ask that you also be a good person? I mean, I THOUGHT you were a good person. You have a nice smile, you don't throw temper tantrums, you have a lovely wife and a child, and you are close to your family. I suppose I just assumed you would have a semblance of respect for that.

But, you are a celebrity. You have wanton needs that can't be fulfilled by everyday life. What's a sexy little cocktail waitress here and there -- especially if they spell their name Jaimee? No big deal...right?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Mimi Saw: Gossip Girl

My excuse: I was bored. I don't usually watch TV, but I was home alone with nothing crafty to work on and my head hurt. I didn't want to think. But watching Gossip Girl actually gave me a lot to think about -- like...

  • Why are these 19-year-olds always talking about "going out for a drink" when they aren't legally old enough to get into a bar?

  • How is Serena qualified to work for a congressman without even having an internship or a college degree?

  • How in the world did Trip even get voted in as a congressman? He's like 20-years-old.

  • If Lily seriously did hang out by herself in her massive apartment throughout the better part of Thanksgiving drinking glass after glass of wine, how come she never got drunk?

  • Why is Taylor Momsen so skinny?

  • Why can't Chuck open his eyes?

  • What's wrong with Serena's mouth? It looks like she's constantly sucking on a Jolly Rancher or something.

  • Why is it that out of all of these kids only Vanessa goes to college?

  • How did Chase get that motorcycle into his apartment?

    It's amazing that just one episode created so many thought provoking questions! This is what American television is all about.
  • Monday, November 30, 2009

    What Mimi Saw: Disney's A Christmas Carol

    Right after I gave my boyfriend his handmade birthday gift and right after he broke up with me, my parents came over to my house to keep my sobbing self company. Instead of sitting around having them watch me cry and talk about my feelings and all that crap we decided to go see the new 3-D movie by Disney: A Christmas Carol.

    For a cartoon -- it was really scary. I'm not joking. I was scared several times. I wouldn't suggest bringing a young child to this show unless you want them burrowed in your lap. Now I admit -- I don't do the whole scary/horror movie thing because, well, I get easily scared. But the ghosts in A Christmas Carol were strangely real looking and creepy. The ghost of Marley moaned the entire time and his lower jaw came unhitched. Gross. The Ghost of Christmas Past was a creepy whispering candle dude with a flaming head. The Ghost of Christmas Present was a Scot who couldn't stop laughing, even as he was dying. And the Ghost of Christmas Future? He rode the four horses of the apocalypse. That's one scary mode of transportation.

    The 3-D effects weren't the kind that jumped out at you because they could. They enhanced the film subtly without cheap shots and tricks. I actually felt like I could feel the greasy-ness of Scrooge's limp hair. Gross but kind of cool.

    And the effects didn't stifle the message. If you're looking for something un-cheesy and fun to watch this holiday season I would highly recommend this movie. Bring your boyfriend -- if you have one.

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

    I am currently reading Olive Kitteridge on the suggestion of some of my friends on Facebook. Good suggestion guys! It took me a little while to get into it, but I'm over half way through and I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

    Set in the fictional coastal town of Crosby, Maine, Strout gives readers a glimpse into the lives of some of the locals. Olive, a retired junior high math teacher and wife to the town pharmacist, weaves her way through the lives of these townspeople in practically every story. It's a lovely way to write about a community but you have to pay attention. Time jumps from chapter to chapter and it can get confusing if you don't remember the names of the characters and the ties they have to each other.

    Growing up and currently living in a small Maine town where my parents are townies and everyone in town knows who my grandparents are, I feel connected to this book. If you've never been to Maine, Strout gives you a rare taste of what it really is like growing up and raising your kids in the same town -- knowing the same people all your life. I'm sure Crosby, Maine could be a microcosm for small town America, but the quaintness of coastal Maine is unlike any other place in the country. It's so -- New England.

    In any case, I'm not finished yet, but feel confident enough to suggest this book to my friends and veritable strangers. Hope you like it!

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    FairPoint Still Sucks

    I've blogged before about how much FairPoint sucks. That was back in April and they haven't been doing any better since then. I just read this story in the Bangor Daily that after a loss of $77 million last quarter and filing for bankruptcy in October, the "communications" company has hired a couple of Portland-based firms to beef up their marketing.
    FairPoint needs to win the public’s confidence after bungling the technical aspects of the network handover from Verizon, leaving many customers frustrated with dropped calls, billing errors and slow action on service orders.

    Trementozzi said he hoped advertising would be geared “to reassure the public that they’re a viable company here to do business and capable of handling products and services to the consumer.” - David Graham for the BDN.

    Will it work? I don't think so. People up here in New England aren't quick to forget when they've been wronged. And this company has wronged a vast amount of people.
    Michelle Kainen, a White River Junction, Vt., lawyer specializing in bankruptcy, said she, too, was not surprised at FairPoint’s efforts to step up marketing and advertising. But Kainen, who suffered a long delay in getting voicemail from the company and then lost messages in a voicemail box, laughed as she suggested one other area where the company could spend the money.

    “They ought to hire more customer service people,” Kainen said.

    I hear ya, Michelle...

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Education Program for Prisoners -- well done MPBN!

    I caught Maine Things Considered last night on MPBN radio while waiting in my car for my dinner companion. I'm so glad he was late. Susan Sharon did an amazing job on her story about the prison education program College Guild that it prompted me to see how I can be a volunteer reader. Ok, so I haven't done it yet but I will as soon as I'm done this post.

    The entire story was well researched with tons of great interviews. It's so nice to see that there are people out there with big hearts and an open mind who want to help some of the most helpless people in the country.

    Want to be inspired? Listen for yourself.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Funky Figures in the Penobscot Times

    For those of you who don't live in the Orono-Old Town Area, The Penobscot Times is a weekly paper that covers the news in our area. It's a nice little publication and editor Greta Sproul also seems to be the sole reporter -- her name is always on every article.

    Being the only reporter can be tough -- and I wonder if the workload is getting to Sproul. On the front page of the November 19th edition there is a story about a Maine dude, Gerald Brann, who impersonates Elton John. He was performing at Orono High School, "in conjunction with the presentation of a $20,000 check from Lane Construction on behalf of Project Graduation" Sproul reported.

    $20,000 for Project Graduation! That number jumped out at my mother, who, back in the day, helped plan Project Graduation for both me and my sister. That is one hell of a donation...

    But when you jump to page 4 to finish the story there is a photo of Brann (in his Elton John get-up) with two guys from Lane Construction and Sunrise Materials holding up a big fake check for exactly $1,500.

    How the heck did Sproul get that wrong? Especially with a photo? $20,000 is a huge chunk of change for an after graduation party for about 60-ish kids and a huge red light for a fact check.

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Real Simple redeems itself

    So I recently posted about how sucky Real Simple magazine was in November. I gave it to one of my coworkers, pointing out all the stupid crap they put in there (like how to load my dishwasher and 7 stupid things to do with an old CD) and she still took it to look at. Idiot (just kidding, Sandy!)

    Getting ready for a recent trip to our nation's capital I decided to pick out a magazine for the plane trip -- one of my most favorite things to do. I instantly bought Real Simple. I was lured by the beautiful cover (image left) and had momentarily forgotten how much the last issue disappointed me. As you can see I'm easily distracted. I read it with trepidation.

    But you know what? It didn't suck! It's like the editorial staff actually read my post! (They totally didn't -- but how cool would that have been?) Inside I found a bunch of gift ideas for the men in my family and found a bunch of cool craft ideas for things I could make myself rather than pay a lot of money for! I love when that happens.

    So it was a good purchase. I dog-eared a bunch of pages and I am ready to set out on some new craft projects with glee. Thanks guys!

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Rich Dad, Poor Dad

    I finally got around to reading this book. It was published in 1997 and I was wondering how the economic downturn would relate to the story. Author Robert Kiyosaki's advice is really timeless.

    Most of the stuff I already knew. Credit card debt = bad. But it was interesting how he put my assets and liabilities in check for me. I'm struggling with how to categorize my educational loans -- are they an asset or a liability? The asset is that they gave me skills to freelance and have my job. The liability is that they are something I have to pay each month -- like my car and mortgage. Ugh.

    Basically it comes down to the fact that I have no assets and all liabilities. Assets are things like stocks, bonds, rental property, mutual funds, etc. that make money for you without you having to work for it. I am signing up for my companies 401k program next week but still. I have very little (5k about) in a retirement plan and even less (2k) in Roth IRAs. Yikes. My liability category, though, is full: mortgage, taxes, car payment, insurance, heating oil, loans, blah blah blah!

    It did make me see my goals more clearly...which are to:

    1. pay off my car and drive it until it falls apart at the seams.
    2. get a pay raise
    3. invest said money from no car payment and raise to create more assets
    4. put an extra mortgage payment towards my house each year
    5. not look to upgrade (ie, new car, new house, new luxuries)

    I would love to own a rental property down the line, and living in a college town that's probably easier to do than if I lived in the middle of nowhere. I'd like to go into an investment like that with my family members but then again that can be tricky. I tried to talk my dad into doing something like that for his retirement. He and my bro-in-law John could be in charge of maintenance, I would be in charge of rent and tenants, and my sister could do...I don't know....something else.

    I firmly believe in getting your money to work for you. And I know I need to be more financially savvy. It's my new year's resolution for 2010....thanks Rich Dad!

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Weird Catalogs

    I bought my grandparents' house this summer when my grandmother decided to move into assisted living. Sometimes I get some weird mail addressed to them -- not anything important mind you -- just junk mail and occasional catalogs.

    I got a Miles Kimball catalog in the mail recently -- their Christmas 2009 issue. I leafed through it one night out of sheer boredom and found a plethora of really weird things. I decided they were strange enough to share with you.

    This so called "Sheet and Blanket Support" made me giggle. I guess if you had really big feet this might be a bit more comfortable -- but it really goes above and beyond just not tucking your sheets and blankets tightly under your mattress. And, in case you were wondering, the vinyl-coated steel support won't rust. Call me crazy but I thought metal only rusted when exposed to water. If it's raining under your comforter you have bigger problems to worry about than creating a tent for your feet...

    I love how this photo alerts the readers that these knee warmers save energy. Not sure about the ladybug, though. The write up in the catalog says these warmers "provide soothing comfort when winter winds blow." Here's a crazy idea -- if your knees are cold put some pants on! Or if you want to wear a skirt, wear tights! How ones knees could be cold but their shins and thighs could be toasty warm is beyond me.

    I sort of love this product. I mean, why let your tight pants motivate you to exercise and go on a diet when you can just make them bigger. It's called a Comf-O-Mate. I'd call it a Gut Buster.

    I actually own this rope timer though I don't think my mother got it from the Miles Kimball catalog. "Just wear this timer around your neck and you'll never miss its cheerful ring!" I can tell you, from experience, that the ring this timer gives off is NOT cheerful. It is, in fact, a blood curdling, heart attack inducing, ear shattering bell. If I wore it around my neck I might drop dead when it went off.

    I grew up going to Catholic church every Sunday and not ONCE did Santa Claus appear in our Christmas Eve re-enactments of the birth of Jesus.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

    This book gave me nightmares. Literally. I had a dream that my friend's little sister was going to commit suicide. It was my job to talk her out of it. I tried to tell her all the things she was good at and her sister wasn't. I also told her that she couldn't kill herself because there was no way her husband was going to be able to take care of their two kids by themselves. Thankfully it was a dream.

    This book is a true story about this teenager, Brent, who doused himself with gasoline and lit himself on fire in the bathroom of his home. Gross. And really sad. It sort of reads like a diary and is somewhat graphic when it comes to the pain he goes through having burned 85% of his body. Runyon takes you through the "incident" and the first year of his recovery.

    If you're thinking about burning yourself to death I highly recommend you read this book first. It will take all of the romance out of it for you. It was hard to read at times -- especially the parts when his parents break down and cry. This kid is dealing with some real serious depression as a teen and it ends up following him into his adult years, too. If you've never been depressed or been close to someone who has had to deal with depression, you might not really get this book. I got it.

    Many people have, even if fleeting, thought about what it would be like to kill themselves. This book shows you exactly what it's like for someone to live through a suicide attempt and what they and their family members go through. It's a fast read, as it's written in the voice of a 14-year-old, but it's still powerful. Heck -- powerful enough to give me a nightmare.

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    Real Simple thinks I'm stupid

    Well, maybe not ME in particular, but their readers as a whole. I picked up the November issue and began to leaf through it. The editor's note from Kristin Van Ogtrop made me smile -- Kristin promised me 14 brand new monthly columns! Wowzers! Then I started reading.

    Good lord. Real Simple thinks I need to know about the dumbest things. Here are some examples:

    How to load my dishwasher
    How to decorate with the color blue
    The difference between one ply and three ply toilet paper
    7 dumb things I can use an old CD or jewel case for
    To keep my black pants black I shouldn't wash them so much (duh)
    How to embrace change
    How to wash my face
    What shampoo their testers liked best
    Taking a deep breath helps to reduce stress (4 pages on this earth shattering discovery)
    How to do sit ups
    How to clean my stove in 10 mintues

    I'm so bored I can't even write anymore....

    Weird typos

    I was reading this story, posted on the Portland Press Herald's website from the Associated Press, and realized that there are some serious typos:

    WASHINGTON -- Authorities say Fort Hood shooting Nidal Malik Hasan remains in a coma but is expected to live.

    I think they mean "shooter" here.

    Retired Col. Terry Lee, who said he had worked with Hasan, told Fox News said Hasan had hoped President Barack Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq and got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars.

    told Fox News said Hasan? Huh?

    I'm interested to know if this is an AP mistake or a Press Herald mistake. Either way...spell check! If one of my college students had passed this in they would have been in BIG trouble.

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    When to quit...

    Very rarely do I start a book and not be compelled to finish. I do a fair bit of research when looking for a new book to read and I know what genres I like and don't like. I picked The Third Child by Marge Piercy out of a bunch of beach reading from a friend. I have read and enjoyed some of Piercy's poetry in the past. This book, however, is abysmal.

    When I picked up this book I had no idea it was Piercy's 16th novel. I don't know if she's running out of things to write about or what, but I didn't get half-way through it before happily setting it aside. Have you ever written a book that made you think to yourself, "Hey, I can write better than this!" Well, I'm no novelist but I began to think that I had written prose like this in junior high.

    Piercy describes people in such a way that you know she wants it to be subtle, but it's not. Perhaps the book bothers me so much because it's about privileged college students. Maybe it's because the book doesn't really depict college as I know it to be. Maybe because the main character, Melissa, is such a whiney little brat.

    I just don't buy this story. The dialogue is weird and the characters aren't all that interesting to me. The relationships seem unrealistic. There's nothing original about the writing. I gave up.

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    Finished: Beyond the Pale

    I grabbed this book by Elana Dykewomon off my roommate's bookshelf. She was a women's studies major in college and has lots of "women unite!" books from her years as an undergraduate. This book interested me for a few reasons:

    1. It was about Russian immigrants during the early 1900s.
    2. It was about the early women's movement in NYC.
    3. It told the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company.

    It's also about lesbians. Russian lesbians in fact. Now I have nothing against lesbians, but I have never really read anything where they were the main characters. And go ahead and get your mind out of the gutter -- there wasn't any erotic writing in this book at all.

    I actually learned a lot. I also began to wonder how many women during that time disguised themselves as men to get better wages. I've always held a soft spot for immigrants who were successful doing whatever they did in their home country and then came to America for a better life and ended up doing a job that was vastly below their education level.

    And while I'm not a feminist, I did like reading about the womens' unions during that time and what they fought for. I sometimes get cranky and tired working a 40+ hour workweek. I should be so lucky as to not have to fight tooth and nail for an 8-hour work day. Ah how literature puts things into perspective for me.

    Unethical: Bangor Daily and the Press Herald

    This morning on my way to work I heard a public service announcement about the upcoming election. One of the most popular votes on the ballot is one about gay marriage. There are two camps. The Vote No on 1 people: who want to uphold the referendum and allow gay married people to get married in Maine and the Vote Yes on 1 people: who want to axe the referendum and keep marriage in Maine to one woman and one man.

    The PSA pointed out that both the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald back the Vote No on 1 people. They then quoted a lengthy statement from the BDN on how marriage equality in Maine is important and so on and so forth.

    The fact that newspapers take a stand on any issue is one of my biggest pet peeves.

    News organizations are supposed to be unbiased. It's their job. When newspapers release a statement saying they support a certain candidate or ballot issue, they're taking sides. They're making friends and enemies. But it's not their job to do so. How can people even begin to think that the BDN or Press Herald is unbiased and fair in their reporting if they are going to choose sides in an argument? How can readers have faith that the news isn't slanted?

    If you are working towards a reputation of fair and balanced news reporting, choosing sides or backing candidates is the wrong way to do it. Newspapers should mimic Switzerland. Who hates Switzerland? No one starts a war with them because they never choose a side! That's the way a newspaper should be run. They should report the news as it happens and let their readers decide for themselves.

    I found this snippit on Al Diamon's blog for Down East:
    On Oct. 18, the papers carried an explanation on their editorial pages of the process used to make political endorsements.

    According to the item, decisions on ballot issues and candidates will be made by a majority vote of a board composed of editor/publisher Richard Connor and editorial writers at the three papers, as well as the company’s chief financial officer, human resources director and circulation director.

    By adding members from outside the traditional circle of editorial employees, Connor said the endorsement process would “represent the entire newspaper” and add “diversity.”
    It seems the people running these papers WANT to represent the entire newspaper.....

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    What Mimi Saw: Where the Wild Things Are

    Last night I went to see Where the Wild Things Are. Note: going to a movie on a Monday night is great -- we practically had the theater all to ourselves.

    While I was familiar with the storybook, I didn't really remember it so I can't explain to you how closely related the two are. I did notice that Maurice Sendak (author of the book) was one of the producers. What I loved most about the movie:

    1. The names of the Wild Things: Carol, Ira, Alexander, and Judith just to name a few. Since when was a 'monster' named Judith?

    2. The color. Subdued and almost dreamlike.

    3. The soundtrack. The sweet voice of Karen O was a perfect choice for this film.

    It was sort of a sleepy film...slow in some areas. Perhaps it was too long. Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood. But I noticed a lack of energy in a lot of the movie.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Feeling stupid at work...

    I admit that I feel like an absolute idiot at work at least once a month. It comes with the territory I think. I have stepped into a leadership role as a relative rookie, working with a group of people who have been publishing a magazine together for the past five years.

    My stupidness is mostly due to the learning curve. I came to this company fresh -- never having helped publish a monthly magazine in my life. Sure I had worked at as an online reporter for a national magazine in New York City, a newspaper in New Jersey, and as a blogger in Portland, Maine, but no glossy magazine stuff. I've learned a lot over the past year. I've been humbled and humiliated, too.

    Luckily the media business is a fast paced one where one day your mistake is brushed aside the next. Not that YOU forget about it or that your coworkers forget about it...but dwelling on a mistake doesn't fix it. Best to learn from the mistake and try not to make it again.

    How do I get over feeling like a total boob? I mope around my house. I cry on my boyfriend's shoulder. I complain to my sister, mother, and father. I make my 2-and-a-half year old niece give me big hugs, and I take a nap. All those things. And I move on and push forward...because deadlines stop for no one, no matter how pitiful you are.

    I found this blog post on The Urban Muse on this topic. It has some good ideas on how to handle a crisis of confidence. For all you people out there, writers or not, who have felt like you reached rock bottom, read it. Practice it. Give yourself time to get over it. And move on.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    5 Things I Learned on Recessionwire...

    I read this post on today and felt both happy and sad. I'm happy that, while losing their home due to job loss, the couple in question is in a stable, loving, and supportive relationship. I'm sad that they bought a home with a $5,000 a month mortgage.

    Their house of their dreams cost them $5,000 to own. That's a lot of money. Sure, it's outside of Los Angeles, but who needs a house that expensive? It's The author of the post, Stephanie Walker, is a playwright, blogger, and freelance writer. What job did she have that she made that kind of dough...and how come she felt so secure being a writer?

    Am I missing something? Her husband must be making bank and she must have had some hot-shot job to be able to afford a house that expensive. But I wonder...what made it expensive? Location? Probably. Size? For sure. Why do we need so much room? Why do our bathrooms need to be big enough to hold living room furniture?

    I'm glad that losing their dream house made them realize what was so important -- their relationship. How do people lose sight of that in the first place?

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Scary Monsters

    I can not watch scary movies. Period. I have the sort of imagination that runs wild. The last scary movie I watched was The Ring several years ago when I was still living in Boston. It really freaked me out. For months afterwards I would look over my shoulder while walking around my neighborhood, convinced that the freaky long-haired girl that crawled out of the television screen was following me. I knew she wasn't, but my imagination ran with it.

    My niece, Ayda, seems to enjoy movies with villans -- albeit Disney ones. She likes to pretend to be scared and grab on to anyone sitting next to her. One of her favorite movies is Sleeping Beauty. She loves Princess Aurora to the point that she likes to pretend she IS Princess Aurora and fake sleep until one of us kisses her to wake her up.

    I hadn't seen the movie for years until she got it as a gift on DVD. I remember being scared silly by the evil witch, Malificent. She's even scary TODAY! Thos horns, that green face, the eerie music that comes along with her presence. She was the scariest thing in the world when I was a little kid...and to be honest, she's still scary. I can't believe Ayda can stand her.

    A post on Scribbit made me feel a little better about my fear of this cartoon witch. Malificent made the list on Scribbit's Best/Worst Villans.
    I'm including her on the list because she gave me nightmares when I was a kid. Serious nightmares. It was the horns I think, or maybe that whole thing about being able to change into a dragon? Nope, it was the horns, definitely the horns. - Scribbit
    It was definitely the horns.

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Sad Story. Sadder Reporting.

    I just read this story in The New York Times that Conde Nast is closing three of their magazines...including Gourmet. Sure it's sad news. No one likes losing their jobs. But Stephanie Clifford, who penned the article, didn't do the company any favors with her writing.
    The moves are significant for the publisher. It has never been quick to close titles, and in the last year or so has closed only newer titles, Condé Nast Portfolio and Domino, along with folding Men’s Vogue into Vogue.
    Who says the moves are significant for the publisher? Clifford? I think this needs to be attributed. Perhaps the cuts are saving a lot of money and keeping them from going under. What does 'significant' mean here anyway?
    Condé Nast tends to hold tight to its prestigious titles, making the Gourmet closing all the more startling. In an interview in February, even Paul Jowdy, publisher of the in-house rival Bon Appétit, said that such a closing was unlikely. (To be fair to Mr. Jowdy, the economy has plummeted, and Condé Nast has been hit particularly hard since then. Its magazines have lost more than 8,000 ad pages, excluding its bridal titles, so far this year.)
    To be fair to Mr. Jowdy? Is the writer apologizing here? It sounds like Clifford is offering excuses for why the magazines folded. Why couldn't she just find someone credible to talk to about why the magazines were being closed rather than speculate for herself?
    “They would never do that,” Mr. Jowdy said in February. “They’re both very important magazines in the culinary world, and they’re very different magazines, and they’re both very healthy. So there’s all these rumors that are just ridiculous. I try not to pay attention to them, but you have to know — if you think of two of the most prestigious, credible, trusted magazines in the industry, you’re going to say Bon Appétit and Gourmet.”
    This is a really weird ending to me. Basically Clifford just stuck in a random quote from EIGHT MONTHS AGO showing that EIGHT MONTHS AGO no one thought Gourmet would be cut. Eight months is a long time ago and not even very interesting. I would expect a writer for the NYT would do a better job.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    What Mimi Saw: The National Parks - America's Best Idea

    Last night, by complete accident, I caught an episode of Ken Burns's new project The National Parks: America's Best Idea. And much to my delight I caught the episode featuring the Grand Canyon and Acadia National Park.

    I have never been to the Grand Canyon, and if it's anything like the Rocky Mountains, there aren't words to describe how you feel standing next to it. There are literally no words. I was floored at my spectacular timing and luck when Acadia was featured next. My heart swelled with pride as I saw how spectacularly Burns and his crew captured a place so special to me. I think as Mainers we tend to take the beauty of our surroundings for granted, especially if we don't travel and see anything else. It was great to know that people all across America were getting a sneak peek behind one of the most beautiful places in our country -- and it was right here in Maine!

    Below is a 26 minute preview of episode 2. It really is worth watching if you have some time. You can find more video previews here.

    Why Wikipedia can't be trusted

    I harp on this to my journalism students every chance I get. Wikipedia is NOT a reliable news source. Here is a great example...

    In my last post I turned to Wikipedia to get some information on Pearl S. Buck. Under the "Humanitarian Efforts" category it said that Buck had established Welcome House Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency.

    I googled Welcome House, Inc. to find their website. What I found out was that Welcome House, Inc. was NOT an adoption agency -- it's a company that is dedicated to helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities live full and rewarding lives by providing a variety of residential services in an atmosphere of a caring community.


    Buck's adoption program is actually called Welcome House Adoption Program. VERY different than Welcome House, Inc. SOMEBODY didn't do their research and anyone who wants to know more about Pearl S. Buck suffers.

    The Good Earth

    Oh Pearl S. Buck -- how I adore thee! Some of you may know my adoration with books about China and Chinese people. Amy Tan is one of my favorite authors. I'm not sure WHY I have such an interest in this culture -- probably because it is so different than anything I know and am used to. China has an interesting history (to say the least) and it interests me. I am not, however, interested in visiting China. Strange? Yeah.

    Anyway. I am almost done with The Good Earth. I honestly can't believe I haven't read this book until now. I look forward to snuggling up in bed every night to read it. My snuggling time has gotten earlier and earlier...last night I was in bed reading at 8:30!

    There is something so satisfying when reading a classic like this. It was written and published in 1912 (before the cultural revolution) and the writing style is so different than today's flippant and often ridiculous vocabulary. It's almost like reading a very very long poem. It sounds good in my head.

    But Buck did more than write, which is why I think she's such a cool lady. She established Welcome House, the first international interracial adoption agency...very forward thinking at the time.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    Crown Jewels

    Get this:
    Miss Maine's crown turns up missing
    September 29, 2009 17:43 EDT

    PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- The woman crowned Miss Maine in June is missing a key piece of her wardrobe.

    Susie Stauble of Gray is without a crown after someone stole it from her car last week.

    Stauble tells WGME-TV that she kept the crown in a special brown box in the back seat of her car. Last week, she discovered it was missing as she was preparing for a speaking engagement.

    Stauble says replacing the crown would be expensive, so she hopes it's returned to her before January when she will represent Maine in the Miss America Pageant. -- WGME-TV,
    Good God Miss Maine! You're keeping your jewels in "a special brown box" (cardboard) in the back seat of your car!?! Is that any way to treat your royal adornments? At least you could have kept them in the trunk...

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Some Good Writing

    My friend Anne pointed me in the direction of this article in The Boston Globe. A professor at Boston University, Lou Ureneck talks about who got him interested in writing and reporting and what he feels is a responsibility to introduce writing to other young people.
    I’m in a position now to pass along the gift of encouragement. This has been one of those marvelous life turns that seem too good to be true. The students who come to me mostly want to be journalists. They are drawn by the excitement of the news, the chance to do work that matters and the urge to write. I love them for wanting to be reporters.

    As I work with them, I can’t help but think that there are many others out there in the world who deserve this gift of writing. I think of the young people who are not in college because they lack the money or encouragement. It’s the people in the worst circumstances who most would benefit from the chance to see that their experiences and observations have value, and that the value can be expressed by writing. I salute those teachers who bring writing programs to prisons. - Lou Ureneck
    If I didn't write I don't know what I would do. It has helped me through some of the toughest times in my life. It helps me communicate in a way I can't do verbally. It has introduced me to some of the most interesting people I know.

    As I write this one of my former students shares my office as an intern. How cool is that?

    What Mimi Keeps Seeing: Sea Bags

    Sea Bags. Cool idea but over priced and over hyped.

    This company based in Portland, Maine started in 1999. They make cute tote bags out of recycled sails (as in sailboats). They make a killing on them, too, since the sails are recycled and donated and the bags run somewhere between $95 and $145. For people who want a little taste of New England, they're a huge hit. I'm just tired of seeing press about them EVERYWHERE!

    Sure they're durable, waterproof, and you can throw them in the washing machine. But should they cost so much money? Maybe they DON'T cost a lot of money and I'm just poor. If that's the case let me know and I'll stop complaining.

    I just feel like the constant press (they are being featured in the October issue of the new Maine magazine -- of course) and the fact that you can get one pretty much anywhere these days (I saw them at a couple shops in Bar Harbor on Sunday) takes the special-ness out of them.

    As a business they are doing everything right to make money. Great PR (they've been featured in magazines like Vanity Fair, Elle, and Lucky) and they are getting their product out to the people. But I think this overhaul of their product is too much. Sure, get the word out there...brand yourself...but don't overdo it to the point of saturation. Hopefully they won't turn into another fad.

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Love on the Set

    I really enjoyed reading this article by Aron Gaudet, director and editor of the documentary film "The Way We Get By" about the Maine Troop Greeters.

    It takes a special couple to be able to live together, sleep together, and work together. I'm not sure I could do it but these two have been doing it for about 5 years now with no end in sight -- they get married in October.
    It was January of 2004 when I first met Gita Pullapilly. My friend and Gita’s co-worker, Dan Ferrigan, had brought us together because he thought we might share a similar dislike for our jobs in television news and a similar interest in documentaries. The first thing I said to Gita was, “I know you don’t want to work in television, so what do you want to do with your life?”— She would later tell me she was put off by my forwardness, but it made her think about her future. -- Aron Gaudet
    Thankfully Gita gave Aron another many times have we written someone off because of a bad first impression?

    In any case, falling in love on the job has it's pros and cons. Luckily these two have been successful.

    Parking in Bangor

    Gotten a parking ticket recently in Bangor? Well, even if you haven't you should read this hilarious post by Al Diamon of Media Mutt.

    Friday, September 18, 2009

    What I Learned from Charlotte's Web

    I found this amazingly on-point blog post about Charlotte (the spider/copywriter from the book Charlotte's Web) at The Urban Muse. I think it's really cool and always surprising where we can take writing lessons from. Charlotte might be just a spider in E.B. White's book, but she has a lot of good points. Read them here.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    The Ellsworth American: Digital

    I sort of love what The Ellsworth American has done with its website. It no longer publishes the newspaper online. They've come up with two genius ideas and ways to get the news you want:

    1. Digital version of the newspaper. For a fee, you can read The Ellsworth American online in a fully searchable digital edition. You have to PAY to read the newspaper online...what a novel idea.

    2. Fenceviewer. This is where you can get free community news. It's not the newspaper, but web content FOR the web. I get the sense that the stories written here are more daily as opposed to the weekly paper. I could be wrong.

    A newspaper making their readers pay for their content! How cool is that? Will other papers follow suit? Perhaps. If they want to stay in business I think they should. It makes perfect sense for a weekly to do what The Ellsworth American did. Have the most prominent news for free on the website...because other news outlets will probably be covering the same thing...and keep their longer feature articles for pay in the paper. This also ads added advertising possibilities to the company. Bravo!

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    "A Bold Plan" for the UMaine System

    I read this article with trepidation. As a sometimes adjunct professor who taught Writing & Reporting for Print at UMaine during the spring semester, I am part of the "restructuring" process. My class had two sections -- I taught one of them. Since the class is held in the computer lab there is a cap on enrollment -- about 20 students I believe. Each spring I always had a waiting list of students who wanted to get into my class. It was a 200 level introductory course that all mass communications/journalism majors had to take to earn their degree. My section has been canceled this spring, leaving just one and, I'm assuming, a lot of angry students who are trying to fulfill their writing requirement.

    They say they are cutting back classes with low enrollment -- but they are also cutting back on classes with more than enough students. I have seen frustrated students be driven to tears because of cuts in the journalism program. Some of them can no longer graduate on time. The students who are studying advertising have no program at all left -- it was cut.

    Bold, yes. I wonder how the University of Maine system plans on boosting enrollment while they raise tuition and cut back on academic and athletic programs. This fall there is no women's volleyball team and no men's soccer. Students are fed up with paying more and getting less and I don't blame them. Going to a state school is often the most affordable way for Maine students to get an education, but should they have to suffer watered down academic programs to save a few bucks? If you ask me I'd rather invest more money into my education and go to a school that offers a wide variety of classes, has a good reputation, has ample work study, and doesn't raise tuition to make a buck at the expense of my experience.
    The plan identifies cost savings totaling $31.3 million by 2013 in the area of administrative, student, and financial services. In addition, it calls for $8 million to $10 million in cost reductions related to academic programs and services, and projects revenue increases of $3 million to $5 million as a result of improved student recruitment and retention. - Bangor Daily News
    $10 million in cuts to academic programs and services. That's a huge red flag to me. They're going to need that $3-5 million to retain and recruit students...especially when they talk about cutting financial services.

    This may not impact the smaller schools as much as it will UMaine Orono. Students have lots of choices of where to attend college for their 4-year degree. Competition is fierce. This plan doesn't seem to fit with the overall goal of keeping the best and brightest in state. If students can't get a quality education at their state school, what will make them come back to work? This is a bold plan...but I'm not sure it's the right one.

    Wednesday, September 9, 2009

    What Mimi Needs: This T-shirt

    So I sort of promoted myself at work today. I don't get any more $$ but instead of being the assistant editor I'm now the managing editor. I know, crazy stuff. So I was thinking I needed my own theme music or something now that I'm such a big shot. My friend sent me this idea....I think it's a good one.

    Can't you just see me walking around the office with my very own sound effects? I mean, I make sound effects already but if all I had to do was push a button to make myself heard I'd rule the school. And, much like this young man, I'd be hip, rad, and everyone would want to high 5 me. I'm going to put this t-shirt on my Christmas wish list right now!

    What Mimi Saw: Oregon Trail

    Any of you people out there who were in elementary school in the 80s knows about the computer game Oregon Trail. When I was in elementary school my mother used to borrow the floppy discs from our school for the summer. My sister and I spent countless hours creating families to travel the trail. I loved everything about that game...making up names for my family, shooting buffalo, and buying supplies. We didn't have cable or video games. Heck, we even RENTED a VCR from the grocery store on the weekends. Oregon Trail was the epitome of fun.

    If you loved playing Oregon Trail as much as I did then you'll surely like this skit I found on YouTube. Oh were so much fun.

    Thursday, September 3, 2009

    What Mimi Saw: Being Erica

    Some teenagers fantasize about being an American Idol, a movie star, or a life saving brain surgeon. I fantasized about being Canadian. I know, it's weird, but since high school I have harbored this fascination with Canadians. Why I didn't attend college in Canada is beyond me...I should have especially with the amazing exchange rate in the mid 1990s. People don't harbor resentment against Canadians like they do Americans. And Canada has some pretty cool cities. And Canadians say things like "Grade 11.." instead of "In my junior year of high school..." and "I met him in University..." instead of "I met him in college..."


    My fantasies have been invigorated by the CBC -- Canada's PBS. There is this show called Being Erica that I am slightly obsessed with. It's about this 30-something named Erica Strange who lives in Toronto who has the ability to go back in time and change her past. Erin Karpluk plays Erica and I think she is just super. I want to Netflix the entire show. It shows on CBC Monday at 9pm. Check it out!

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Have you heard of The Dugger Family?

    They're this family with 18 children who live in Arkansas. They announced this morning on The Today Show that baby 19 is on the way! HOLY COW! 19 KIDS! That's a hell of a lot of kids. How in the world do these parents PAY for these children? Their new baby will be born AFTER their first grandchild. How weird is that!?
    As conservative Christians, they decided after that to let God decide how many children they would have.

    They adhere to a Christian movement called Quiverfull, whose members take seriously the biblical exhortation to be fruitful and multiply and believe that every child is a gift from Providence.

    All the children are home-schooled and all learn to play the violin and piano. The older children help raise the younger ones under a buddy system. Jim Bob, a former state legislator, is involved in a number of businesses, including commercial real estate. -- The Today Show
    I've seen their TLC show and I am amazed at how organized it all is. All of the children have assigned jobs to do and no one seems to be left out or forgotten. A far cry from Octomom. Instead of being disgusted I'm amazed at Michelle and Jim Bob (no joke) Dugger. I have no clue how they can emotionally and financially handle all of these children -- but they do it and still find time to have sex!

    Friday, August 28, 2009

    RIP: Reading Rainbow

    When I was little my mom ran a daycare out of her house in the summertime. With no neighbors, having kids come to our house for the day was great fun for my sister and I. Jennie wasn't in school yet and I was too young to care about hanging out with my school friends.

    Every morning when the kids would show up we'd all sit in front of our television and watch PBS. As soon as Reading Rainbow was over my mother would turn the TV off and shoo us kids outside to play for the rest of the day. I didn't grow up with cable TV, a VCR, or video games.

    I have always loved books and I especially loved the show Reading Rainbow. I wanted to be one of the kids who gave a short on-air book report at the end of the show. I'd see the books that other kids were reading and want to check them out of the library to read myself. What a great show!

    Today marks the end of Reading Rainbow's 26-year run on PBS. Why is it ending? Because kids don't read anymore? Nope. No one wants to put up the several hundred thousand dollars it would take to renew Reading Rainbow's broadcasting rights. This is so sad to me. It's like public broadcasting is giving up on getting kids excited about reading.
    Linda Simensky, vice president for children's programming at PBS, says that when Reading Rainbow was developed in the early 1980s, it was an era when the question was: "How do we get kids to read books?"

    Since then, she explains, research has shown that teaching the mechanics of reading should be the network's priority. - NPR
    I argue that if a child doesn't like to read they won't matter what. How will PBS teach reading mechanics? I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Today is a sad day for this child of the '80s.

    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    The Maine Edge -- on the edge

    Do you see anything odd about this recent cover for The Maine Edge? Perhaps the girl looks a little young to be straddling whipped cream? And is that a thong bikini bottom she's wearing?

    I have to admit that I was a little stunned at this cover when I saw it last week. I mean -- it's skimpy! The Edge used it as their Facebook photo last week and censored out the bottom half of that pre-pubescent girl. I thought it was odd to censor it online and not censor it in print -- but clearly the peeps at The Edge had no idea they would get so many comments and complaints about it. They got so many, in fact, that editor Mike Fern wrote an editor's letter about it...something he hasn't done since the first issue of The Maine Edge came out in 2006.
    As a media outlet that is part of the community and its social fabric, we have a responsibility to inform our readers in a manner that represents both our personality and taste, and a duty to do so in a fashion that is not only acceptable to us but also to the community we serve.

    For some, last week's cover art did not satisfy that level of responsibility and generated a reaction that was unintended, yet warranted when take from the perspective of our readership. - Mike Fern
    Fern goes on to address the age of the model and strange shadow across the young woman's nether-regions.
    While the cover art was an illustrative attempt to convey a simple "hot summer/cool drinks" type of message, unfortunately its interpretation was much different and not up to our usual standard of clearly defining art. - Mike Fern
    Anytime you put a teenager in a bikini and whipped cream and a cherry my dirty mind starts "interpreting."

    Good call by Mike Fern for the letter. It was a very good idea and well written.

    Good PR job

    Whoever is doing the PR for the new Maine magazine is doing one hell of a job! I've been seeing news about their September launch EVERWHERE! Twitter, MaineBiz, the local nightly news, and now on I feel like I'm being inundated by their launch news and that's exactly what they want.

    With all the hype I hope they don't fall prey to the overexposure. And I hope that they can deliver. There's nothing worse than getting excited to check something out and being disappointed. I do really love their homepage. Clean, simple, easy to digest. And speaking of digest...their blueberry pie cover looks yummy!

    Mimi in the News

    It's not common for a journalist to be written about by another journalist...but that's exactly what happened to me! I was interviewed by Katy England from The Maine Edge about my blogging for a main feature article. Hooray!

    I was flattered that Katy thought of me. I mean, who reads this blog anyway besides my sister and a few of my friends? I've been working hard at promoting the MaineBuzz blog for work so hopefully this bit o' press will help.

    Check out the article here.

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    New Book: Little Bee

    I have never read anything by Chris Cleave (nor have I heard of him) but my friend Lisa gave me this new book to read and since I just happened to finish Travels With Charley and have yet to pick up The Good Earth, Little Bee has snuck its way into my reading list. Lucky book!

    I know nothing about it except what I have read on -- that being that it was an Amazon Best of the Month for February, 2009.
    All you should know going in to Little Bee is that what happens on the beach is brutal, and that it braids the fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple--journalists trying to repair their strained marriage with a free holiday--who should have stayed behind their resort's walls. - review
    Lisa is a sucker for books about journalists and since I am a journalist our reading tastes overlap here and there. I can't wait to sink my teeth into this one!

    I have a crush on John Steinbeck

    I know he's dead, but I have an intellectual crush on this guy. I just finished reading Travels With Charley and I adored it. I was amazed at how his views of America and American's haven't changed much since he wrote the book in 1960. His chapter on Texas was spot on, for example, on how the wealthy and ranches go hand in hand. He said that no state or national politician from Texas could really get elected if he didn't own a ranch. Interesting.

    This passage on the south (he passed through during the war for Civil Rights) struck me as particularly thoughtful:
    The South is in the pain of labor with the nature of its future child still unknown. And I have thought that such is the bitterness of the labor that the child has been forgotten.
    Sigh. The way this man rights is poetic. It's so well crafted that it sounds easy - though writers will tell you it's actually quite difficult.

    Another sentence struck me too, this one written about the giant redwood trees in Oregon -- a place I have yet to visit:
    From my earliest childhood I've felt that something was going on in the groves, something of which I was not a part.
    Though he's talking about Oregon it reminds me of Maine.

    What Steinbeck writes about the anxiousness of Americans about the Russians can be translated today for our anxiousness about the Middle East. If I could create my own Rocinante (the truck/home he traveled in) and take a year off from work and paying my bills, I would drive Steinbeck's trail with my version of Charley -- a long-haired chihuahua named Miles. This is my dream...

    This book, along with On the Road make me want to get out there and see the country even though I despise driving long distances. It makes me want to explore, to see, to experience...I guess that's why I am a journalist and long to write. To all writers have this inherent need for learning and adventure? Probably not...but I'm sure it helps.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    Quoting another news source: what's fair?

    I have been told to never, under any circumstances, use another news source's stories for quotes for my own story. I understand that MaineBiz does this frequently in their short online news stories. If they are ok with quoting other Maine newspapers then that's their business. Personally I think it's unethical but who am I? No one important that's who.

    Anyway. I follow MaineBiz on twitter and click on the stories they post there once in a while. The most recent story that caught my attention was this one about FairPoint. I can't get enough news about this terrible's like a car wreck -- just can't turn my head away.

    But enough about FairPoint...what I want to talk about is what's fair when quoting another news source.

    Of course naming the news source in your story is critical. If you don't you could be taken to court for plagiarism. But what about linking the quote to the web page of the news source you are taking it from? Wouldn't that be fair? Or at least linking the name of the other news source to their homepage. I mean, if you are going to steal -- I mean use -- their quotes I think a little kickback would be nice. It's so easy to do these days what with technology and stuff.

    So hey, MaineBiz, how about showing some link-y love to your favorite news sources?

    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Starbucks price change

    I read this article in the Seattle Times about Starbucks raising its prices -- the third time since 2004. Simple drink prices will actually drip 5 to 10 cents while the prices for more complicate drinks, like a grande non-fat no whip caramel macchiato, will go up around 30 cents. The last time Starbucks raised prices it was due to a drop in traffic at their U.S. stores.

    Some comments on the story:
    my kids tell me it's about getting the Starbucks cup so you can walk around with it all day and all the other kids think your cool. - Spudpicker in Idaho

    I stopped drinking mochas and switched to drip coffee months ago, mainly to lose weight, but saving money was also a nice side benefit. I've noticed Starbucks advertising its inexpensive, basic coffee more lately. - Plural of Ninja in Seattle

    Have they gone mad? I mean, to say sales have declined because folks can't afford to go, and then raise the prices so that the ones who still go - can't anymore. I hope it backfires on them like I think it will. They raise the price of my Macchiato 1 penny more and I'm through with them. Plenty of small espresso stands I could support. - Keats69 in Seattle

    To me, Starbucks is a luxury. When I worked on Newbury Street in Boston we used to do a Starbucks run for our clients and it wasn't cheap! If the price of the beverages has you down, try looking for a local alternative. That way even if you are spending the same amount of money on a drink it's going to a small business owner.

    I am not a coffee drinker -- and those Starbucks specialty drinks have WAY too much fat in them for me to consume on a daily basis (heck, monthly basis) for me to feel ok about it. I keep a box of Swiss Miss hot chocolate by my desk when I want something warm and comforting. As for caffeine? A diet coke does the trick.

    As for locally - I've seen half of the Starbucks (even the brand new one) close down this year. People in Maine take pride in buying local and don't care so much about spending more money on a brand -- especially when it comes to something that doesn't last a cup of coffee. I'd be interested to see how Starbucks is doing in a metropolitan area like NYC.

    Are you a Starbucks fan?

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Depressing Books

    This "depressing book" list was compiled by Michelle at Scribbit -- a blog I like to read. I've just copied the list below...for plot synopses check out the Scribbit link above. Michelle has a great sense of humor and I love her writing style.

    1. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (next on my to-read list)

    2. Escape from Sobibor by Richard Rashke (read it and own it)

    3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (one of my favorites)

    4. The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson

    5. Misery by Anton Checkov

    6. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

    7. Tess of the D'Urbervilles (keep wanting to read but haven't yet)

    8. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (read and liked)

    9. L'Etranger by Albert Camus

    10. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

    Got any titles you'd like to ad?

    What Mimi Saw: Julie and Julia

    I took my mother to see Julie & Julia last night. It was the best $12 I've spent in a while. First -- it was $12 for both of us! If I was still living in NYC and wanted to take mum to this movie it would have cost us $12 A PIECE! Second -- I love Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

    Meryl became Julia Child. Her mannerisms, her speech, her everything. It was uncanny to say the least. I knew next to nothing about Julia Child but learned so much in this movie. It made me want to live in Paris and learn how to cook. I neither speak French nor love to cook so this movie really had an impact on me!

    Click here to watch the trailer. I couldn't find one on YouTube without an annoying commercial at the beginning. If you are looking for a good way to beat the heat for a couple of hours GO see this movie. You wont be sorry!

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    Target vs. Walmart

    I was reading this article in Business Week and couldn't help but feel the need to pontificate on it.

    I love Target. I really do. I go there to pick up cleaning supplies, face soap, neat lamps, bathroom rugs, and curtains. It's easy and their design is fun. However, there is a new Walmart in town that has a grocery store attached. I can't BELIEVE how cheap stuff is there. From hot cocoa to boxes of cereal to fruits and vegetables -- their prices are cheaper than the local grocery stores. Kraft Mac & Cheese for $0.57? You can't beat it.

    I've noticed that this new Walmart is looking a lot like the Target that I know and love. Celebrities like Miley Cyrus have teamed up with designers to create a clothing line. Walmart is getting chicer and with their low prices are now rivaling Target.

    Being on a budget, I shop at Walmart to save money. I'm not proud of it, because I like to support my local businesses, but in this economy it makes sense and cents for me. It'll be interesting to see where I now go to purchase my goods now that there is a bright and shiny new Walmart (with groceries AND a pharmacy where I get my meds) in town.

    What would you do?

    I'm in the middle of a sticky situation. Here's the story...

    A freelance writer is writing a story on the practice of Reiki. The PR peeps at a local hospital set him up with a patient to interview knowing that the patient (we'll call her Ann) doesn't want her last name used in the story. The hospital people also work with our photographer in setting up a photo shoot with Ann while she is having Reiki.

    Half of us think it's awkward for us to publish a photo with Ann without using her last name in the story. The other half of us think it's no big deal. What would you do in this situation? Please leave a comment!

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    The Boys of Summer

    It's HOT and HUMID this week in Maine. My heart goes out to all the little leaguers who are clothed in unbreathable polyester playing in the Senior League World Series here in Bangor. It's an odd place to hold a world playoffs - there are teams from across America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. I went to the field with my photog friend Shane Sunday morning to do some research for a little story I'm writing.

    This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Bangor West Little League team winning the state title. To mark the occasion, a hearty breakfast and dedication ceremony took place at the Shawn T. Mansfield stadium in Bangor. For those of you who aren't familiar with this lovely baseball diamond, it was built in 1990 with funds from Stephen King -- the best-selling horror writer who lives in the area and whose son, Owen, played on the 1989 team.

    In doing my research I found a nice article in the Boston Herald about the team and how they ended up in a Stephen King short story. It's a small-town American story about a rag-tag team of boys who did something uplifting for their community. Sort of like those cheesy sports movies like "The Mighty Ducks" but this one is true. Check it out for yourself!

    Photo by the Bangor Daily News