Wednesday, December 30, 2009

50 ways to leave 2009: Get your New Year's Eve down to an Auld Lang science

Published in the Portland Phoenix
Your usual lackadaisical approach to New Year's Eve — just see what happens and go with the flow — is not going to cut it this year. Sure, the end of this decade may not have the same kind of new-millennium pressure as the last one, a year that sent you scurrying to your basement Y2K bunker or out on a Strange Days-like celebration of impending global collapse. But the plunge into 2010 is a milestone nonetheless. So to help you make this one count, we sent a team of future-thinking Predator drones all across the state of Maine, and a little ways down into Seacoast New Hampshire to sniff out any NYE happenings. We threw the results in our data centrifuge to spin out the good from the lame. And from that, we've distilled the 50 best goings-on, broken down by distance from Portland, from barely-off-the-couch to the Maine mountains, all the way to interstellar travel (we're not kidding!).
If you really can't be bothered to move for New Year's, stick tight to your computer and visit to see LIVE WEBCAM FEEDS of what everyone else is doing. Use that, and the party footage on, as motivation to get your butt in motion.
Don't get distracted by all the MUSICAL ACTS on TV: JLo and the Black Eyed Peas on ABC, Rihanna, Jay-Z, and Green Day on NBC, and American Idol-ists on FOX. Seriously, head out of your living room and see the world as a new decade begins.

Close by
For an early start without leaving the peninsula, stop by the PHYZGIG show at the Portland Performing Arts Center. Starting at 2 pm (there's another show at 7), clowns, jugglers, slapstick, music, and a general variety show will take over the stage. $18, $16 students & seniors, $14 under 13 | 25A Forest Ave, Portland | | 207.854.0065
If you're anticipating more silliness later in the night and want to start with sweet, swing in to Aucocisco for one of the two FOFER SHOWS (at 3 and 7 pm), featuring artist, musician, and storyteller Shana Barry and her creations, the Maine-island-dwelling furball Fofers. 89 Exchange St, Portland |

Fuel stop
It's going to be a long night, so take a break for sustenance (and be sure to call for reservations anywhere you go!). At PEPPERCLUB, there are two seatings (5:30 and 8:30 pm) with five courses of their scrumptious vegan/vegetarian/omnivore cooking for $35 (plus drinks). 78 Middle St, Portland | 207.772.0531
Just up the block at HUGO'S is a five-course meal of Chef Rob Evans's locavore-based cuisine for $75. 88 Middle St, Portland | 207.774.8538
VIGNOLA has a $48 prix-fixe upscale Italian menu with free prosecco at midnight. 10 Dana St, Portland | 207.772.1330
Portland's newest classy restaurant, GRACE, has a 6 pm seating for $70 per person for a five-course meal from their excellent menu. There's also an 8:30 pm seating but to that one you can add (for $20 per person) an after-dinner-party, complete with housemade chocolates, a champagne toast at midnight, and even a balloon drop! (Or get into the 10:30 "just the party" for $25.) 15 Chestnut St, Portland | 207.828.4422
Warm-up huts
Get the blood flowing with an Old Orchard BEACH BONFIRE and FIREWORKS DISPLAY, starting at 4:30 pm (fireworks at 5:30), and visit other local shops and restaurants, which will be open to try to convince you that OOB doesn't totally die in the winter. 207.653.8479
If you're less into gunpowder, maybe stop by the NEW YEAR'S EVE PEACE VIGIL with Seacoast Peace Response down in Portsmouth from 6 to 7 pm. Market Square, Portsmouth, NH | 603.664.2796
Portland's MUSEUM OF AFRICAN CULTURE will wake you up another way at 6:30 pm with a traditional ETHIOPIAN COFFEE CEREMONY, with stories and history to boot from the cradle of caffeination. 13 Brown St, Portland | $10 | 207.871.7188
If you want to try to double-up on the champagne toasts, start at the Stone Mountain Arts Center, where STEVE RILEY AND THE MAMOU PLAYBOYS will blast out some Cajun spice to keep things warm starting at 8:30. Get there for the 6:30 dinner (extra cost); everybody gets champagne at intermission, and you're still out in time to come back to town for more. 695 Dug Way, Brownfield | $39-99 | 866.227.6523

Musical interlude
Okay, so here's the run-down on live music, real quick-like:
At Blue is the Mark Tipton-Chris Sprague-Gary Gemmiti JAZZ TRIO from 7 to 8:30 pm. 650A Congress St, Portland | 207.774.4111
They wrap up there and move over to the Apohadion to take part in an 8-to-11-pm variety show including saw-fiddler Tim Findlan and OVER A CARDBOARD SEA, the Portland Saw Orchestra, ID M THEFT ABLE, and the Dolly Wagglers (an amazingly named puppet-show group from Vermont). Also, juggling, we're told? 107 Hanover St, Portland | $5 donation suggested | 207.450.8187
Andy's Old Port Pub will have letter-quality notes from THE A BAND. 94 Commercial St, Portland | 207.874.2639
Go to Bray's Brewpub to hear guitar-rocker PETE FINKLE. 678 Roosevelt Trail, Naples | 207.693.6806
Buck's Naked BBQ will play host to original-and-cover rock band GIRAFFE ATTACK. 568 Route 1, Freeport | 207.865.0600
Bull Feeney's has a double-bill: reggae from EAST WAVE RADIO upstairs and folk from DAVE ROWE downstairs. 375 Fore St, Portland | 207.773.7210
The Big Easy is home to a 9:30 pm SIDECAR RADIO show (with a live-concert DVD being filmed!), accompanied by Sandbag and Stationeightyfive. 55 Market St, Portland | $10 | 207.775.2266
Guess who shows up at Geno's? You got it: COVERED IN BEES arrive at 10 pm, well equipped with Designer Drugs, Murder Weapon, and Ghosthunter. 625 Congress St, Portland | $8 | 207.221.2382
And the mellow-pop stylings of RACHEL EFRON will be at Slainte at 9 pm. 24 Preble St, Portland | 207.828.0900
If it's some corny Maine laughs you're after, there's always BOB MARLEY, who does a pair of early shows (6:30 and 9 pm) at the Merrill Auditorium. 20 Myrtle St, Portland | $44 | 207.842.0800
He moves to the Comedy Connection for an 11 pm show ($35). Or you can check out his protégé, GEORGE HAMM, there at 8:30 pm for $20. 16 Custom House Wharf, Portland | 207.774.5554
  On the town
And now we're ready for the big-time parties. The top ten are these. Options include downscale, upscale, and outright ridiculous — but we'll let you figure out which is which by taking them in order of proximity to downtown Portland.
51 WHARF starts with a $15 two-dance-floor, two-DJ extravaganza offering champagne-bottle specials (no complimentary toast at midnight, though). Be warned: there will be a house photographer getting evidence (or alibis) to be posted online afterward. But they really they set the bar high with a $600 (well, $500 plus an 18-percent mandatory gratuity) VIP package, with "expedited VIP entrance," 10 tickets and passes to a Red Bull "VIP party," a private table in the middle of the dance floor on a raised platform(!), private security(!), "velvet rope service" (whatever that is), and a "private hostess," which we'll hope means just a dedicated waitress and not anything more... 51 Wharf St, Portland | 207.774.1151
Over at the OLD PORT TAVERN, there's a DJ dance party with drink specials and a champagne toast. Or go next door to the Mariner's Church for a $10 live rock show with Modus, with party favors and complimentary snacks and champagne. 11 Moulton St, Portland | 207.774.0444
ASYLUM has super-popular '80s cover band The Awesome upstairs at 9 pm, with a light show and a midnight champagne toast. 121 Center St, Portland | $20 | 207.772.8274
PORT CITY MUSIC HALL hosts a pop-rock night for the ages with perennial local faves Rustic Overtones as headliners, backed by Headstart, Gypsy Tailwind, and Gavin Castleton, with projections by VJ Foo. It's $25 at the door and $50 for a VIP ticket (which gets you reserved seating and access to another bar). 504 Congress St, Portland | 207.899.4990
Moving up the road a short piece, we arrive at SPACE GALLERY, whose $50 Icing party features another pop-rock, multi-media, DJ-folk-funk fest with Spencer and the School Spirit Mafia, Matt Rock and Kate Cox, Olas, Frank Turek, Bam Bam, and Pine Haven Collective — plus photos by Jonathan Donnell and videos by David Meiklejohn and David Camlin. 538 Congress St, Portland | 207.828.5600
Down at the EMPIRE DINE AND DANCE, Zach Jones and Kyle Gervais lead the ultimate Clash of the Titans — music of the '80s versus music of the '90s — at 9 pm. 575 Congress St, Portland | $12.50 | 207.879.8988
At BUBBA'S SULKY LOUNGE, DJ Jon hosts an ultra-'80s dance party, starting at 9 pm, complete with 99 Luftballons dropping at midnight, plus a champagne toast and party favors. 92 Portland St, Portland | $10 | 207.828.0549
Now, leaving town and heading a bit north, VENUE will host an 8 pm-to-midnight classic-rock show with Misspent Youth, with champagne and hors d'oeuvres included in the $25 cover ($40 for a couple). 5 Depot St, Freeport | 207.865.1780
South of town, the LANDING AT PINE POINT will have a world-cuisine party (Thai, French, and Caribbean tastes are on offer) with music from owner Jim Ciampi's band and — the main reason to stop by — a heated cigar tent! Starting at 8, apps, dinner, dessert, and champagne at midnight are all included in the $75 charge (or pay an extra $25 for a VIP private-dining experience). 353 Pine Point Rd, Scarborough | 207.774.4527
MAINESTREET cuts loose with a White-Out Party, at which all guests (preferably wearing black-and-white outfits) will get white LED lights upon entry, and every so often the house lights will go out! DJ Ken will spin, with free copies of his "Hits of the Decade" disc to early arrivals. And everyone gets a champagne toast. Doors are at 8 pm. 195 Main St, Ogunquit | $10 | 207.646.5101
Down the coast
If you're closer to Portsmouth, head down to First Night Portsmouth, where for $20 you can get into all kinds of venues and misadventures. There's a STREET DANCE running from 5 pm to midnight, with a Market Square countdown. Among the highlights are FIREWORKS at 7:30 pm at the South Mill Pond; WEST AFRICAN DRUMMING at the Connie Bean Center; DANCERS performing parts of The Nutcracker at the Great Bay Academy of Dance; the GENERIC THEATER'S READING of Thornton Wilder's one-act The Long Christmas Dinner at the Players' Ring; a BEATLES TRIBUTE BAND at Temple Israel; CHRISTMAS 1910, a Pontine Theatre performance based on South Berwick woman's memoir of a childhood Christmas in Portsmouth; and a THEATRICAL CELEBRATION OF THE NEW YEAR at the West End Studio Theatre. $20 includes all events |

Into the distance
For the multiculturalists, visit our neighbors to the north (and east!). Celebrate with Canadians by taking a ROAD TRIP TO EASTPORT for their cross-border party. Just make sure you don't get there late — local restaurants, shops, and galleries are open during the day and early evening. And even if you miss dinner in town, make sure you get there before 11. The locals drop both a large maple leaf and a sardine (in locally flavored tributes to the ball in Times Square), but the maple leaf goes at 11 pm for us here in Eastern Time, in deference to the Canucks, who are one hour ahead, on Atlantic Time. With a soundtrack provided by a brass quartet, the event is sure to freeze and please. | 207.853.4047
Perhaps that's bit far. If you'd rather walk to your party than drive, head up to Carrabassett Valley and meander into the hills, to VISIT THE POPLAR STREAM FALLS HUT, run by Maine Huts and Trails. Beer and wine will be available on New Year's Eve, and with groomed trails for skiing and snowshoeing, home-cooked meals, and staff to wash your dishes, it's hard to imagine a Mainer New Year. $93 per person, dinner + breakfast included | | 877.634.8824

Had enough of this year, and need to get away? See stuff that you can't see anywhere else at the Southworth Planetarium. INTERSTELLAR TRAVEL begins at 7 pm with "Black Holes," followed at 8 by "Extreme Planets" (looking for planets orbiting other stars), at 9 by "Eight Planets and Counting" (exploring our solar system), at 10:30 by "Ring World" (with close-up views of Saturn and its moons from the Cassini-Huygens robot mission), and end the night with the 11:15 showing of "Cosmic Collisions" (showing what happens when asteroids, comets, and even galaxies collide). A single admission gets you in to any and all of those shows. $6 | 96 Falmouth St, Portland | 207.780.4249

The aftermath
Still haven't had enough? Start the recovery at YOUR FAVORITE BRUNCH place. Lots of them are open their Sunday-brunch hours on New Year's Day, even though it's a Friday — your best bet is to call your top spot and see what they have to say.
And lest any of us forget, January 1 is also the first Friday of the month, which means the FIRST FRIDAY ART WALK will kick off at 5 pm. Make sure you've had a nap so you don't stagger into the exhibits. all over downtown Portland |
And finally, head to Slainte for the HANGOVER BALL with indie-folker Sarah Wallis and Dover, New Hampshire-based soul family Moon Minion, starting at 9 pm. 24 Preble St, Portland | 207.828.0900
Now go home and sleep it off. You've got Saturday and Sunday still on the way!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Music Seen: Out on the town

Published in the Portland Phoenix

It was an impressive year in live music in Portland and Southern Maine in general. The party began with the Kino Proby homecoming show at the Big Easy, where Russian-speaking fans rocked out with folks who just loved a great time. There was February's 48-Hour Music Festival at SPACE Gallery, with impromptu bands showing off the amount of creativity Portland's musicians keep in reserve. Anthony's Idol at Anthony's Italian Kitchen highlighted Broadway talent, and Clashes of the Titans kept mixing up live and tribute performances,

Our writers covered karaoke with big talent (Christopher Gray wrote of DJ Annie's at Bentley's Saloon in Arundel, "many of the singers were fantastic. If you were outside . . . you'd swear you were listening to the radio"), with a live band (Kill The Karaoke at the Empire), and for the holidays (Christmas caroling at a Franciscan monastery in Kennebunkport).

We saw hip-hop legends (El-P, Brother Ali), hard-rockers (Ogre, Man-Witch), indie-folk (Christopher Teret, Neko Case), and many more.

Among the high points were Wilco on the Maine State Pier (which Chad Chamberlain said showed a model for Portland's up-and-coming bands to make it without losing their edge), Sufjan Stevens at Port City Music Hall, and a way to enjoy Portland's live-music scene on those evenings when you just can't make it out of your apartment (Sonya Tomlinson said the videos made by Nick Poulin and Krister Rollins at [dog] and [pony] — viewable at — look deeper into the music than many get a chance to).

But let it be said that if watching videos online is how you experience Portland's music scene, you're missing out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Press Releases: Crossing the line

Published in the Portland Phoenix

When an increasingly conservative newspaper company fires an already publicly conservative employee for apparently offending a liberal interest group, it leaves some people scratching their heads.

Larry Grard, a self-described Christian who told Fox News last week that he was "the lone conservative wolf" in the Morning Sentinel newsroom, was fired November 10 after 18 years at the paper.

Grard, amplified by coverage from Fox News and various Christian-right bloggers, is claiming he was fired for his conservative views opposing same-sex marriage, which in turn are based on his religious beliefs.

His paper and its sisters, the Portland Press Herald and the Kennebec Journal, editorialized in favor of same-sex marriage in November's election, with owner Richard Connor's support. But Connor's viewpoints are generally conservative: He endorsed John McCain in the November 2008 presidential election, and has opposed the public option as an obstacle to progress in the healthcare reform debate.

But Grard's offense was not that he upset the political apple cart. He himself says he was openly conservative in the newsroom for years. And his name is also listed on the Maine Marriage Alliance Web site as part of a group "coming together to amend the Maine Constitution to define marriage as the union of one woman and one man."

Rather, Grard knowingly crossed an ethical line, and is now upset at the consequences.

The morning of November 4, the day after Maine's same-sex marriage law was repealed, Grard arrived at work and found an e-mail message from the DC-based pro-gay Human Rights Campaign, quoting HRC president Joe Solmonese as saying "Although we lost our battle in Maine, we will not allow the lies and hate — the foundation on which our opponents built their campaign — to break our spirits."

Upset, he wrote a reply from his personal e-mail account (though on a company computer): "Who are the hateful, venom-spewing ones? Hint: not the yes on 1 crowd. You hateful people have been spreading nothing but vitriol since this campaign began. Good riddance!" Grard signaled that he knew he was crossing a line, by trying to make his e-mail message anonymous, by not signing his name or identifying his employer. But he either didn't realize or simply forgot that the message would include his name as the sender.

Trevor Thomas, the Human Rights Campaign employee who received the note, Googled Grard's name and then sent the message to Morning Sentinel editor Bill Thompson with a complaint — though not a demand for his firing or any other discipline, according to both Thomas and Kathy Munroe, administrative officer for the Portland Newspaper Guild, which represents Grard and most of the other employees at the company's papers.

Thompson fired Grard for "a serious breach of the legitimate employee and journalistic expectations of Company management," according to a two-page company statement on the matter. (Read the full statement at Munroe, who says Grard had no history of disciplinary problems, says the Guild offered, on Grard's behalf, to accept without objection a lesser disciplinary action for a first offense, such as a reprimand or a suspension without pay, but got nowhere.

The Guild has filed a grievance objecting to the firing on procedural grounds, but distances itself from claims of viewpoint discrimination. "We're not seeing this as pro-gay-marriage or anti-gay-marriage," Munroe says. "This is an internal contractual dispute."

But Connor is caught in a deeply ironic trap. Either Grard stays fired and conservative Connor is labeled anti-conservative, or Grard is reinstated and Connor thereby suggests that Grard was fired for his views — not his poor judgment about when, how, and to whom he expressed them. Whatever the outcome, it won't be a banner day for freedom of speech.

Hat tip to Al Diamon.

GNU and the free-software movement: You may not know it, but the free-software movement has changed your life

Published at

You use Firefox for Web browsing. You know it's a free Web browser that's safe, quick, and has all kinds of add-on modules (there are thousands of these — for chatting, bookmark management, social networking, image-processing, and even federal court-file browsing — at It has frequent updates to fix bugs, and every new version seems to find a new cool way to make the Web easier.

Thank Richard Stallman and the GNU project for all of those things. Apart from their programming skills, the genius of all their work is really the GNU General Public License (GPL), the legalese rubber where the free-software movement hits the intellectual-property-law road.

The GPL is one of several "copyleft" efforts, in which creators assert their copyright to something, but only for the purpose of ensuring that it — and any future works based on it — can always be distributed for free. (People can, and do occasionally, charge for their adaptations, but there's a disincentive: anyone who pays for it can, under the license, turn around and give it away for free themselves.)

It is legally different from placing a work in the "public domain," from which any person can take, repackage, and sell freely (that's how book publishers can reprint Shakespeare's plays, for example, and charge for copies). The GPL is a license to a user from a copyright holder, granting permission to use the material, but only under certain conditions (namely, free distribution of anything made with the material).

For example, while Firefox development is not coordinated by the GNU group, it uses some basic code that was first created by them. Programmers don't often want to bother creating the nuts and bolts — they want to make the machine. So they reach for the nuts and bolts, locate GNU-created free code, and find themselves in GPL-land, where all code is free, but all modification or adaptation of that code is also free. They are effectively enlisted in the free-software movement, even if their users don't know it.

Not all programmers want to start with GNU-created code (or something built on its foundations). Some actually do start from scratch and write all their own stuff. But the GPL is available to them, too — they just have to declare that.

It is the GPL that allows all of this — it is the key to the success, expansion, and future growth of the free-software movement. Courts in the US, Germany, and France have upheld the license's terms, requiring people who were charging for the software to stop doing so, and enabling out-of-court negotiations with companies that have also succeeded in affirming the GPL.

Many programs — even those on Windows or Mac platforms (against which Stallman rails) — are GPL-covered. The GPL is not only more widespread than GNU/Linux machines, but has the power to invade and co-opt those private platforms, making them more open over time, and showing developers and users alike the possibilities of open and free software.

Go to for more information.