Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Memory Keeper's Daugher by Kim Edwards

This is one of those books I have consistently taken off the shelf at Borders and then put back. I couldn't commit to it. But when my friend Lisa gave it to me for free I figured, why not?

I can't really describe what made me put it back on the shelf for the past year or so. I've done the same thing with Water for Elephants. I even really liked the cover! I am more than half way through and while it's an ok book, it's not keeping me awake at night with anticipation.

It does, however, give an ethical dilemma that is an interesting topic for conversation. Here's a little synopsis: A doctor and his wife are pregnant in the mid 1960s. She births a healthy son and then follows a tiny daughter with Downs syndrome. The doctor gives the baby girl to the nurse, a woman named Caroline, to bring it to an institution as he doesn't believe she will live very long. He lies to his wife saying the baby girl dies. Caroline can't let herself leave the infant at the home and instead raises her herself. So the book follows the lives of each family with each child.

Throughout the entire book Norah, the doctor's wife, grieves for the lost daughter. I sort of want to slap her and tell her to get over it and pay attention to her husband and son. Does that sound really cold of me? Well, I don't care. She needs to have some therapy or something to deal with it. She's so pathetic for most of the book that I want to literally take her shoulders and shake her.

I have learned a bit about children with Downs and how their parents had to fight to let them in the public school system. My mother worked with a Downs syndrome boy for 7 years one-on-one in the public school system here. He grew up to live in a group home and have a part time job at the local grocery store. People in the 1960s and 70s didn't expect anything from children with this disease...we have come far as a society in our acceptance of them -- though probably not far enough.

Anyway. I'm not done yet so maybe my opinion will change. Maybe not.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Unleash your wallet

I read this post on Recession Wire and completely saw myself in Sara Clemence.

It's a challenge to be frugal, and when you learn you can live your life a certain way you feel a sense of accomplishment. I have never sent my laundry out, mind you, but when I worked at the Portland Press Herald I was making more money than I ever had in my life and I actually felt rich. Sure I didn't have to drive to work and lived in a small apartment, but I could buy normal stuff like a pair of jeans without thinking twice about it.

I have lived my life in frugal measurements. I have never (except for the aforementioned stint at the PPH) had enough money that I didn't have to worry. Even now that I've bought a house, I have no clue what my taxes and bills are going to be for the year. So I'm again living frugally.

I go through stints when I just want to SPEND MONEY, even though I don't particularly like shopping. I just want to buy stuff that I want with reckless abandon. I usually don't but I'm not going to lie, I do indulge myself every once in a while. (And by indulge I mean pay someone to paint my toe nails, get a facial, or a really good eyebrow wax). I prefer to save my money. I really like to travel and I will plan well in advance to do so.

When I was in grad school my boyfriend and I had a "fun fund" where we would put our spare change. When we got about $30 or so in it we'd treat ourselves to dinner at a restaurant. Nothing huge but when you don't have money and really want to do something, the "fun fund" was there to help. It was also fun to go to Commerce Bank and change in the change. You even get to guess how much it is and if you're close you win a prize! I got a red "C" bank once. Then I gave it to a kid. I'm a really good guesser.

This economy has not really helped me become frugal -- because I have always been frugal. My parents are frugal. I have never not had a job since the age of 18. Perhaps that has shown me the value of a dollar -- but it was more expectations from my parents than a lousy economy.

The Maine Edge

I like alternative newspapers, I really do. And I know some people who work for The Maine Edge and I think they're swell. Their paper, however, is confused. It doesn't know what it wants to cover for news.

On one hand they want to be local. I get that. But they use AP stories and celebrity news to fill their pages. Which I don't get. You either need to be a local paper or a non-local paper. Having both is weird. Here is an example....

In the Edge Style section they have four stories:
1. The Frugal Edge about berry picking in Maine.
2. Ask Todd Parker - the Dear Abby of The Edge.
3. The Cooking Edge about Sunday brunch.
4. Dolce & Gabbana, Armani open Milan menswear.

Hm. One of these things clearly doesn't belong here. How many Mainers really CARE about Italian fashion happening overseas? And on the same page as blueberries and brunch? It confused me.

If you are going to add pages to your publication, make the content useful to your readers. Why just stick some AP story in there to fill up space? Instead of Dolce & Gabbana how about a story on local fashion, resale shops, or even a Maine designer? Dolce schmoltce I say.

I am not an avid reader of The Edge for this reason. I don't like surprises -- and I'm constantly surprised with their content. The writers that they have on staff know how to cover local stuff -- stick with them and worry about quality, not quantity.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

5 reasons why the Bangor Daily News website sucks

I need to take a moment to complain about the Bangor Daily News website. I do not like it. In fact, I think it's terrible. My reasons are simple and based on common sense:

1. Color. Is this sagey, pale green a new color for them? Because throughout my 31 years of life I have associated the BDN with a dark, pine green color. That used to be their color...and now I'm confused about this lame green on their website.

2. Logo.
Why isn't the Bangor Daily News logo on the site? The content in the newspaper is what is on the site...so why brand it differently if you aren't offering different content?

3. Drop down menus.
This is my BIGGEST pet peeve and could be fixed easily and SHOULD be fixed. The top tabs, which include News, Business, Sports, Outdoors etc. have unreadable drop down topics. The text is hidden UNDERNEATH the photos and text below it. It is so frustrating and makes the BDN website look so unprofessional. Someone fix it PLEASE!

4. Blogs. The old BDN website used to showcase their blogs clearly. Now I have no idea where they are. The blog logos used to be right on the home page where a simple click would bring you right to them. Now I think they are hidden somewhere in the Lifestyle drop down menu, but as you read in #3, the menu items can't be read.

5. Original content.
Is there any? And if not why? The Portland Press Herald puts breaking news up on their home page -- stuff you can't find in the daily paper and won't be able to read about until tomorrow. They also highlight their blogs appropriately.

These are simple, common sense issues. I'm sure more people than just little ol' me are also frustrated with the site. What surprises me is that they MUST know about the drop down menu issue and have done nothing to fix it! Why are they satisfied with just being sort of ok when they could be great?

Monday, June 22, 2009


I have put Barbara Walters behind me. She really lost my interest in the end there. The book was so L O N G ! And I'm not opposed to long books per se. This one just dragged. Perhaps if she wasn't so conversational it wouldn't have seemed so drawn out.

Anyway. On to something new. And thanks to my friend Lisa I have a whole bunch of books to choose from! When I figure out what's next I'll let you know. I usually like to find some good beach reading but with all this rain it doesn't look like I'll be going to the beach anytime soon.

How sad.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Marjane Satrapi

I liked Marjane Satrapi's comic-book-novel Persepolis so much that I went right ahead and read Persepolis 2 this weekend as well.

For an Iranian family, the Satrapis were very liberal and forward thinking. So much so that they sent their only daughter, Marji, to Vienna when she was 14 years old to study and finish school. This was in the 1980s. At 18, homeless and sick, Satrapi returns to Iran and her family, but time has changed everything...especially Marji herself.

I don't want to give too much away so I'm going to keep it short. I will say that
I loved reading about her story and the history of Iran through illustrations. It wasn't at all juvenile. I would suggest this book to anyone who maybe needs a break and wants to ingest something a little different.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just another reason why I love Nordstoms

The classiest department store in the country (according to moi) just made me love them more. They are carrying a new brand of jeans for normal curvy women like me! CJ by Cookie Johnson. Cookie (Magic's wife) and Michael Glasser (designer of super skinny jean brands Seven For All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity) have teamed up to make jeans for NORMAL SIZED PEOPLE.

This is good news for me since I am not (and have never been) the size of an anorexic tween. I'm not obese. I have hips. A butt. CURVES. And, gasp, I want my jeans to fit, look flattering, and not show my butt crack. You'd think this was too much to ask for!

This article
in The Wall Street Journal covers it all and, if you are a normal sized 8 girl like me who can never find cool jeans that fit, I suggest you read it. Then drive to the Natick Mall and get yourself a pair.

New Book: Persepolis

So my Barbara Walters autobiography is coming to a close. She writes it in such a conversational way that it feels like reading one long Barbara Walters Special. I'm sure she intended to write it that way but it was a little weird to me. She's say things like "more on that topic in a bit" and stuff like that. Not out of place, since she is writing about her own life, just not a style I have read before.

Anyway. My mom brought home a huge beach bag filled with books that our friend Lisa gave to her. I picked out five that I am adding to my reading list for the summer. Good beach reads but not too chi chi. Thanks Lisa!

Before I start one of those books, though, I will be reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. It's a novel-comic book and looks very interesting!
Satrapi's autobiography is a timely and timeless story of a young girl's life under the Islamic Revolution. Descended from the last Emperor of Iran, Satrapi is nine when fundamentalist rebels overthrow the Shah. While Satrapi's radical parents and their community initially welcome the ouster, they soon learn a new brand of totalitarianism is taking over. Satrapi's art is minimal and stark yet often charming and humorous as it depicts the madness around her.-- From Publishers Weekly
I doubt it'll take me long to read...since it's practically all illustrations. It's an interesting and clever way to take a serious topic and make it understandable by everyone. Has anyone read it?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Did you know about HARO?

I didn't until I read a post about it on The Renegade Writer blog.

HARO = Help A Reporter Out. It's a place for journalists to look for sources. Peter Shankman, CEO, entrepreneur, go-to for sources (apparently) started HARO on Facebook after his journalist friends kept asking him for sources for their stories. Journalists just have to fill out a nifty form and it gets sent out to a whole bunch of "experts" at the click of a button. All you have to do is wait for the responses to roll in -- and if The Renegade Writer is to be believed, she gets more responses than she can handle. The best part? It's FREE!

Maybe not the mode of choice for writing on deadline, but definitely something to check out. Anyone else out there use it?

The Kiss of No Return

My sister sent me this story about Bonny Eagle High School that was on the Yahoo.com homepage today.
On Friday night, when the senior class was waiting to graduate, excitement began to grow. Students bounced a large inflatable rubber duck. The noise level rose. And then came "the kiss." When called, one student walked on stage to receive his diploma and blew a kiss to his family. The school administrator, clearly not the sentimental sort, sent the student back to his seat ... sans diploma.
Seriously? That's a little harsh if you ask me. God forbid a son blow a kiss into the crowd. Had he dropped his pants and mooned everyone I can understand the harsh repercussions. But to deny someone a diploma because of a kiss? Embarrassing for both parties!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Puckerbrush turns 30!

My old high school English teacher, Sandy Phippen, has taken over the reigns of the Puckerbrush Review, which is my favorite Maine literary journal (and not just because some of my poetry has appeared in it.)

The Bangor Daily ran a nice story on the 30th Anniversary Issue. Here is my favorite paragraph:
Also early on appears a brief fiction by longtime Puckerbrush contributor Farnham Blair, “Important Message To Be Slipped Under The Driver’s Side Windshield Wiper Of Range Rovers, Especially Those Bearing A High Gloss And Vanity Plates,” the understated, gorgeously ironic kind of comment on life hereabouts for which one wishes Blair would get more attention.
Hear hear! Farnham Blair DOES deserve more attention. I adore his witty writing and love to read his short stories. This one in particular sounds right up my alley!

Happy 30th Birthday Puckerbrush! Keep up the good work.

What Mimi Saw: Rachel Getting Married

I love RedBox -- those red movie rental units in the grocery store. I had been wanting to see Rachel Getting Married for some time now, and I was delighted to see it in the RedBox!

This movie stars Anne Hathaway. I know, I know....the chick from Disney's Princess Diaries...but don't turn up your nose. She was actually quite good as the black sheep sister who is a recovering drug addict. Hathaway really shows her acting chops in this role so cut her some slack.

The movie depicting a disfunctional family getting ready for daughter Rachel's wedding made me so glad to be a part of a functioning family. Nothing like a dark, depressing movie to make you thankful for what you've got.

MB and I did think, however, that the movie focused so much on the conflict that the character development was a bit lacking. Oh and if you like previews the ones on this DVD look really good!

Anyway...check it out for yourself. If anything it'll make every other wedding you ever go to a sheer delight.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Out of place advertising

My sister gets Ready Made Magazine -- a DIY, green, recycling-is-good mag that is an interesting read. It has a lot of instructions on how to make/go things like make a waterproof couch for your deck, solar lamps, side tables out of mailing tubes, etc. I like to look through to see what crazy things they have re purposed into something else.

So I'm flipping through the magazine in bed last night when I come to a stiff insert for Natural American Cigarettes. Huh? A green, recycling-is-good magazine has a huge advertisement -- with COUPONS to boot -- for cigarettes? Odd.

Oh -- but these are NATURAL cigarettes made with 100% ORGANIC tobacco and *ADDITIVE-FREE tobacco (if that even really exists). Does that make it ok? I can't tell you the last time I saw a cigarette ad...on TV, in a magazine, wherever. I'm not gonna lie -- I was a little offended that Ready Made would allow such an advertisement. Does their target audience of hipsters smoke? Do they really need the advertising dollars? I don't know...but I didn't like it.

*note: HA! I had originally posed this as ADDICTIVE-FREE, which is how my brain decided to read the ad. A comment by Jody set me straight...addictive-free was a bit of a stretch :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Jeannine Guttman Gone

Twenty-two nonunion employees at Blethen Maine (Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, and Morning Sentinel) are out of work -- most of them are senior editorial staff. ONE of them is Jeannine Guttman, who laid me off twice.

I was let go twice at the same job? Yes. Here's the short of the long of it....I was hired last May to head up MaineBusiness.com. I moved 2 hours south. Six weeks later I get laid off. Then I was offered a job that -- had I refused would have meant no unemployment benefits -- at the Press Herald doing a job a glorified monkey could do. Six weeks later I got laid off. Again.

When the sale of a newspaper happens it's not uncommon for top editorial staff to lose their jobs. Guttman has been on the chopping block for quite a while. When I got laid off for the second time I sent her an email. I never got a response. Karma? That might be a bit much to hope for but that company treated me so shoddily that the demise of the head honchos tickles me a little bit....not gonna lie.

Click here
for the story and comments on Media Mutt.

Abort The One You're With

There's a new product out on the market that boasts it's up to 80% effective (at home) at determining the sex of your baby at 10 measly weeks of conception. For $35 you can find out if you're having your FOURTH baby boy or that precious little girl you have been DYING to have.

poses the question that should be burning on everyone's mind -- if the results aren't what the parents were hoping for -- will they get a sex-selected abortion? Jezebel included some of the testimonials from the product maker, IntelliGender. They seem to toe the line...

"I tested with your product in early March 2009. The test came back with results that we were having a girl. I just had a 3d ultrasound and its confirmed that we are having a girl!! We are so excited after 3 boys we got our princess on her way! Your product is great and truly works! Thank you Intelligender!"
Hooray! After giving birth THREE TIMES you finally got what you wanted!

I wanted to let you guys know, I'm 16wks and I took your test last wed. morning 3/4/09, the test clearly said I'm having a boy. I already have three boys so I was wondering if this time around it might be a girl. So I decided to go get an ultrasound done on sat. 3/7/09, sure enough I am having a boy! Thank you and I am so excited about my little guy!!
Riiiiiight. I'm SO SURE you're so excited. Those TWO exclamation marks don't fool me.

The Recession Finally Hits Hipsters

Oh Williamsburg! Oh loft of rich hipsters in their 20s and 30s who rely on Daddy and Mommy's money! It's about damn time someone took you down a peg.

According to this New York Times article, those annoyingly advantaged kids you went to NYU, Amherst, Yale, and UPenn with are having to downsize.
Famed for its concentration of heavily subsidized 20-something residents — also nicknamed trust-funders or trustafarians — Williamsburg is showing signs of trouble. Parents whose money helped fuel one of the city’s most radical gentrifications in recent years have stopped buying their children new luxury condos, subsidizing rents and providing cash to spend at Bedford Avenue’s boutiques and coffee houses. - NYT
These parents are having to worry about their retirement savings and clenching their fists. For their children this means they either have to 1. Get a paying job or 2. Move home. I don't know ONE person in all of my educational pursuits that has graduated and said "Gee...I don't think I'll get a job. My parents will just pay me to LIVE." Clearly I am in a lower caste system.
The culture of the area often mocks residents who depend on their families. Misha Calvert, 26, a writer who relied on her parents during her first year in the city, now has three roommates, works in freelance jobs and organizes parties to help keep her afloat while she writes plays and acts in films. There is a “giant stigma,” she said, for Williamsburg residents who are not financially independent.

“It takes the wind out of you if you’re not the independent, self-reliant artist you claim to be,” she said, “if you’re just daddy’s little girl.”
Really Misha? Ya think so?

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Topless Coffee Shop That Won't Die

The story of the Vassalboro topless coffee shop is still going. And going. Recently someone set the business on fire and burned it down after owner Donald Crabtree was talking about turning it into a strip club. The poor guys home was even totaled in the fire. He's planning on having clothed waitresses work in a tent in the parking lot collect donations to rebuild.

Damn hick Mainers! If they don't like what you're doing at work they burn it down...and your house for good measure. This business made money. It employed people. It was a service. If you don't like it don't go there.

I hope they find the person/people who decided it was better to burn down someone's legit business and house rather than avoid it. This story makes me sad. I never really wanted to go to the topless coffee shop but I figured it would be someplace for me to go when my journalism career ended.

Read earlier posts here and here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Junk Mail Stinks

I hate junk mail. When it shows up in my mailbox it goes right into my recycling. What a waste! I read something on MaineBusiness.com, however, that lightened my spirits.

There is a company out there called Tonic Mailstopper that, for $20 a year, will virtually rid your mailbox of unwanted junkmail. When you sign up, Mailstopper will automatically take your name off of 5 of the biggest mailing companies. You can also select from a list of mailers and catalogs that you get that you wish you didn't and poof -- gone from your life like a plate of mashed potatoes and ham glaze placed in front of my face.
Within 90 days, you'll have a cleaner mailbox, be safer from identity theft, and we'll even plant 5 trees on your behalf. Hey, combined with all the paper you save, it's like growing your own tiny forest. - from their website
AND you can even give it as a gift to your tree-hugging friends. Hows that for a "green gift"?!

But WHY isn't it FREE!?! It should be. Junk mail should be against the law.

What Mimi Saw: Milk

Before I watched Milk last night I was unable to disassociate Sean Penn with the mentally retarded character he played in I Am Sam. Whenever I heard his name or saw a photo of him I thought of him as being mentally retarded. Kudos to his acting I guess.

Now I can't disassociate him with being gay.

This movie won 2 Oscar's and it was clear why: IT WAS AWESOME! It literally transported me back to the 1970s. I am always amazed at movies that are set in a certain time period...where does Hollywood store all of these old cars, furniture, and terrible costumes?
In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into major public office in America. His victory was not just a victory for gay rights; he forged coalitions across the political spectrum. From senior citizens to union workers, Harvey Milk changed the very nature of what it means to be a fighter for human rights and became, before his untimely death in 1978, a hero for all Americans.
I had no clue that Harvey Milk existed before I watched this movie -- or that crazy people like Anita Bryant tried to keep gay American's from working in schools or renting apartments. That seems so foreign to me in 2009.

It makes me glad that I live at a time in America where gays and lesbians are more accepted and have rights to protect them. AND that New England is leading the country when it comes to gay marriage. Harvey Milk started something in San Francisco and, while it's taken a while to spread, spread it has.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What do you think...

So I had an incident at work today that has me feeling down in the dumps. I just got back from Florida to find out that another magazine in the southern part of our state (and not in our readership area) wanted to purchase a photo that Leslie took for an article I wrote. The article was about how "famous" people in Maine like to relax...so I interviewed Sen. Susan Collins, Don McLean (Mr. American Pie), local weatherman/pastor Steve McKay. No small feat. Leslie did an amazing job on the photos!

This other magazine we'll call Southland Monthly wanted to purchase our shot of Susan Collins in her kitchen. I hesitated. My boss wanted to sell it to them for $1,000 -- then changed it to $500. I wanted to know what the article was about. I mean, TWO stories about Susan Collins' kitchen in a tiny state like Maine?

Note: I have written a few freelance articles for Southland so I decided to email my editor contacts to find out what the buzz was about.

My email:
Hello! Not sure if you remember me but I have done some freelancing for you in the past. Our photo editor told me you are looking to purchase a photo of Susan Collins in her kitchen. I'd like to know what your story is about before releasing our photos. I worked really hard to get that interview and photo shoot so I want to make sure your story doesn't piggy back on mine! I'm sure you understand.

Editor's email:
When have you known us to "piggyback" on stories?
This was about something altogether different, but we're no longer interested in the photo.
I felt like it was my right to know how they wanted to use the photo. Apparently they are doing a story on kitchens. I had no clue.

I feel like I have burned a bridge and also that I have robbed Leslie of a byline in another magazine. Was I out of order?