Chasing Stories

My last article for the Portland Phoenix looked at the governor’s firing of MTI’s Bob Martin. Apparently the Portland Press Herald is doing some follow-up on the firing and what might be behind it. Of course, this type of “fact-checking” reminds me of the recent post by journalism professor and press critic, Jay Rosen, what he referred to as “he said, she said” journalism. I hope there’s more to come on this from Whit Richardson.

I was able to locate the smoke, but as a freelancer, I don’t have the resources and time due to the need to chase a new story and another deadline, to find the fire. I wish I could dig deeper, as this governor’s inability to tolerate other viewpoints is quite obvious to me. I’m also pretty sure that most of what the governor is saying about MTI and what’s behind the firing is BS.

Today, I’m  off in pursuit of two deadlines for two different editors, plus working on other feature articles highlighting nonprofits. One of my stories is about economic development, the city of Portland, and why traditional ED models no longer work. Don’t tell that to Paul LePage, or his economic lackeys, all economic development dinosaurs.

All you really need to know about the governor’s grasp of local growth economics and the economy of the state he was voted in to support and grow is illustrated in his veto of LD 1431 back in April. This bill would have provided support to local food hubs where the principal economic benefits flow back to participating farmers, and due to the multiplier effect, substantially enhance local economies.

Gubernatorial candidate, Mike Michaud, recognizes that local Ag matter in Maine’s economic mix.

Off to the trenches—the work of a freelance writer is never done.

Put It in the Books

I have continued setting goals that stretch, and force me outside of my comfort zone. This is all part of continuing down the road that runs through reinvention and beyond. Some of these recent goals have really pushed me physically. Others involve continuing growing as a writer, another goal I set for myself a decade ago.

On Sunday, I completed my first Olympic triathlon. That’s something I had planned to accomplish last year, but a bike accident in early August derailed my plans. My wife, Mary, was even more amazing—she rocked her first half Rev—doubling my distances on the bike and in the run, and going .3 miles further on the swim.

The number tattoos have been applied--Rev3 2014.

The number tattoos have been applied–Rev3 2014.

Training began for me back in February. I remember my first tentative run at the Bath Y. I was happy that I ran 21 minutes on the indoor track without pain, as I was trying to push beyond a time in the fall when I couldn’t run at all due to excruciating left hip pain. Continue reading

You’re Not in Kansas Anymore

All of us crave order. We want B to follow after A, and when we end up somewhere else, it throws things totally out of whack for us.

In case you haven’t noticed—our world has descended into chaos—terrorist cells, heavily armed and fueled by rage and ideology are visiting death upon American journalists and pain and loss on those who don’t share their twisted view of the world. People of color daring to push back against racist police in an American city are met with a militarized response and tone-deafness from the white power structure and law enforcement that no longer seems interested in safeguarding the people they are pledged to serve, or the property that we know that they exist to protect. It’s brute force with a 21st century military twist. Continue reading

Posting Time Again

It just occurred to me that it’s Tuesday and I’m supposed to have a post up—well, in a technical sense, I still have slightly less than six hours to get it up before Tuesday’s done gone.

In some ways, Sunday’s food review/post about Slab was really my Tuesday post, two days early. But, just in case somebody’s keeping score, I’m staying true to my Tuesday/Friday posting schedule.

I’ve actually been chasing a story since late last week that’s due to hit the streets on Friday. It’s got some investigative elements, and it’s one I’m feeling really good about, getting it sourced and written, and turned in on a tight deadline. I also appreciate a new editor who took a chance that I could deliver it. More details to follow on that one. Continue reading

Slab

[I’m a big fan of Yelp, one of the apps I never leave home without. I check it whenever I’m looking to try a new restaurant, or some other hotspot. I am also a Yelper, meaning I write reviews of new places that I try, offering my own thoughts and opinions via the site. Oh, and it also helps satisfy my inner food critic when it needs expression.—jb]

Slab-Portland, Maine

There’s a history behind Stephen Lanzalotta’s migration from India Street (and Sophia’s, prior), where he was selling a famous style of pizza out of the back of a well-known Italian bakery, to Portland’s Public Market, on the corner of Cumberland and Preble. If you don’t know about it, then either you don’t follow Portland’s food scene closely, or more likely, couldn’t care less about history of any kind. Actually, there’s a great two-part interview with Lanzalotta at Eater Maine that you should check out from December, 2013, if you’d like more on this.

Pizza is a food that’s ubiquitous and can be found in all manner of styles and varieties in Maine and elsewhere, most not terribly cutting-edge or awe-inspiring. It’s also one of those foods that when I read people raving about others making it, I’m generally nonplussed (kind of like I am with barbecue). I find that with both of these foods, people like what they like, and often, their affections don’t mirror mine. Continue reading

Trains on Time

Being able to make the trains run on time was laudable for any 20th century Fascist leader, Indian viceroy, tribal lord, or any other governmental figurehead. Given our current 21st century challenges, and chaos looming around every corner, merely being able to coordinate the logistics of trains would be a welcome respite.

What time is your train?

What time is your train?

Things continue unspooling in the American empire. The bigger question might be—moving beyond the parochial—were things ever that simple in global flashpoints like Iraq, Gaza, Liberia, or places in our own country like Ferguson, Missouri (or Birmingham, Alabama)? Being white affords privileges that are hard to trivialize. Continue reading

When Famous People Die

When a well-known person, especially someone who acquires a considerable measure of fame dies suddenly, media (and now, social media) lights up with first the news, and then, reflections on the famous person’s life. The apparent suicide of actor, Robin Williams, is another case in point. Prior to Williams, you had the unexpected death of another actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, to a drug overdose.

My introduction to Robin Williams.

My introduction to Robin Williams.

People in the spotlight—actors, musicians, athletes, politicians—have their personalities and public personas broadcast into our living rooms, and their actions are splashed across the pages of newspapers, magazines, and tabloids, as well as the phenomenon of their “trending” status via a platform like Twitter. Continue reading

Tilting at Windmills (and texting)

On Tuesday, Maine officials, including the governor, rolled out a brand new initiative aimed at preventing drivers from texting on their phones while driving. Teaming up with three trucking firms, Maine is placing messages on 16 commercial vehicles traveling the state’s roadways, warning drivers of the dangers of texting while driving. They’ll be sporting messages like, “one text or call could wreck it all.”

Truck drivers in Maine are helping to spread the word that distracted driving can be deadly.

Truck drivers in Maine are helping to spread the word that distracted driving can be deadly.

I’ll give Mr. LePage the benefit of the doubt that this isn’t just a cheap election year gimmick that signifies very little. According to one of the reports I read, LePage, who hasn’t had to drive since being sworn in as Maine’s 74th governor in 2011, has been sitting back and observing all manner of behaviors among fellow Mainers while traveling up and down the state’s highways and byways. Continue reading

Endorsements

An endorsement carries with it a certain amount of weight and prestige. In publishing, a common practice involves having other writers write a blurb for a book jacket that tells readers how stellar an author’s latest book really is. These are solicited and there is an implied quid pro quo arrangement.

If you’ve reached a certain status as a writer, and you’re still being published by a traditional publisher, then book jackets and filler pages are likely to be crammed with these, along with positive reviews of the book. The bigger the name, the more reviews accompany their books. Amazon is also chock full of reviews for top echelon writers and their books. Continue reading

Explore! Turner—Bonus Material

It’s likely that you are reading my blog for the first time, sent here from the Sun-Journal’s website, or the print version of today’s Explore! feature I wrote on the town of Turner. These monthly features are fun to do—they allow me to scout around a town for an afternoon, talk to locals, and uncover a bit of the local history, along with some color and flavor.

I often have “left-over” material, and in this case, it relates to some writing and research I did on Turner a decade ago. The subject was baseball.

Back in 2004, when compiling information, box scores, and research on town team baseball in Maine for my first book, I spoke to a number of former players, some of them former members of the Turner Townies, or chief rivals of the talented local baseball team that drew fans out on many a summer night to watch them play. Back in the 1960s, they played their games at the field that was located in front of Leavitt Institute—what is now the village green, where the gazebo is. Continue reading