Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Advent, Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year

Maine usually has "winter" by now, but here we are in the last throes of December, but here we are in Scarborough with no snow; green grass, and bare roads. Of course, it's not the first time, but it's not the norm.

ADVENT, the days leading up to Christmas can be anywhere from 22 to 28 days depending on the calendar. I have an Advent Calendar which has only 24 places to count down the days. Someone didn't do their homework. Advent is the preparation for Christ's birth. Variously a time of fasting, penance, self-reflection, and for churches to baptize and welcome members into the church.

It begins on the Sunday nearest November 30, which is the Feast of St. Andrew, and of course, the eve of Christ's birthday ends the period. Our churches in Maine honor the Advent Season with special services and musical presentations.
The Portland Symphony does a wonderful Pre-Christmas Concert - "The Magic of Christmas" - featuring Handel's Halleluia Chorus and many other traditional and lesser known pieces.

WINTER SOLSTICE is the shortest day and longest night of the year. To me it is an astronomical event which heralds the lengthening of daylight. It is the day that the sun is the nearest in it's orbit to earth, and actual "solstice" lasts only a moment in time. To some cultures, such as Wiccans, it is a significant day in their religion. It is not recognized as a "holy day" or holiday in this country.

As I write this, Christmas has already come and gone. But Christmas is universally accepted as the time of Christ's birth and whether you are Christian by faith or not, I think you would have to agree, Christ was the most influential being ever to walk the earth. I heard an atheist speak today who would disagree that the influence was all good, but I believe in Christ's goodness and beneficience. Christmas is a joyous and beautiful Holy Day.

NEW YEAR - YES, January 1, 2012 begins a new year. We all know what has gone in 2011, but we don't know what is in store for 2012. SO what can I write? I can refer you to my other blog, MUSICLIFE, which is about Auld Lang Syne and New Years celebrations. I can tell you I wish you a very happy, healthy and peaceful year, which is traditional. I can also wish you great prosperity. Not in the financial sense, although that would be good, too, but in the literal definition, which is to bloom, grow, luxuriate; to flourish and become successful. I guess that is the best I can do regarding 2012. So from Maine -


Friday, November 25, 2011

An American Holiday

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day, a uniquely American Holiday.
In grade school we learned that the Pilgrims and Indians joined together at a feast, and were shown illlustrations which would forever be imprinted on our brains. Well, nice story, folks, but the Indians and Pilgrims did not join in giving thanks in 1621. Oh, they did gather, but to celebrate a good harvest. It wasn't until Colonial Governor Belcher proclaimed a day in November should be set aside as a day of giving thanks in 1730.

During George Washington's presidency, in 1789, he declared Thursday, November 26 the first officical "A Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer." If that had stuck, tomorrow would be the big day. (Thomas Jefferson opposed the idea of a Day of Thanksgiving). And then, along came Mrs. Sarah Josepha (Buell) Hale, editor of the first women's magazine, Ladies Magazine. She was an advocate of a Day of Thanksgiving to start in 1827. She lobbied (!) several presidents to accomplish her goal, and accomplish it she did. In 1863 Abe Lincoln made it a national holiday, and proclaimed it should be the last Thursday in November. So much for that.

Along came New Dealer, Franklin Roosevelt, who at the urging (lobbying!) of retailers, moved the celebration back a week. But along came John Q. Public, who outraged at the manipulation of a national holiday, succeeded in getting Congress to rule the fourth Thursday in November a national holiday.

So, yesterday, being the fourth Thursday in November 2011, was Thanksgiving Day number 2, 181 by my rough calculation. Turkey is still the bird of choice by tradition, and root vegetables and bread stuffin', pumpkin, apple and mince pies are still the desserts to fill the last vacant nook in the tummy.

I had a delightful day with some of my extended family who were kind enough to put a seat at the table for me. Some of my children are in the south for the holiday. I had other invitations, (nice to be popular and have choices) but there were other "grannies" at this home that I had not seen in awhile.

Scarborough, Maine did not get snow when some of Maine did earleir in the week. Scarborough about nine miles from the home in Falmouth, Maine where I was headed, via the instructions of my Nuvi friend. She directed me to #295, and then north on Bucknam Road. At the next corner, SNOW EVERYWHERE! I mean, hanging on trees, piled up beside the road, covering the open fields. I could not believe my eyes. I looked at the thermometer in my car and it said 42, but nothing was melting. I realized as I made the final couple of turns to reach my destination that, while I did not have to go "Over The River and Through The Woods" I could have come, part way, at least, by sleigh.

Winter in Maine has changed. And yes, it may be due to global warming, which I believe is a reality, but not a catastrophe. I do remember remarking to a friend as recently as 1965 when she was shopping for November birthday gifts, that if the kids didn't skate before Christmas, they wouldn't skate at all because the snow would be on the little pond and everyone would be on skis, toboggans and sleds at the nearest golf course. There is no skatable outdoor ice this year. But the skiers are revelling on the slopes.

SO, GEORGE (WASINGTON, THAT IS) AND I WILL BE CELBRATING and wishing you a HAPPY THANKSGIVING ON SATURDAY NOVEMBER 26, the day which he proclaimed it to be.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Today is Hallowe'en, the last day of October, and good riddance.
Saturday brought a storm into the northeast which downed branches still loaded with leaves, which broght down wires and shut off electricity in many communities. Communication systems were interrupted and traffic slowed to a crawl, even for the few people who were brave (or stupid) enough to venture forth.

I live in a small condo community where there is only one child, because he goes out of town to school and has two working parents, seldom is in the neighborhood. We don't get many "trick-or-treaters" from the neighboring family homes. Maybe they go to parties, or maybe they don't think we want them. I want them. I love to see them, and having lived in an area where they came by the dozens, I miss them. I buy juice boxes for them because if no one comes, I can always use them myself. The kids seem to like them, and the parents love them.

So, Maine today, cloaked in white still because it hasn't warmed up much today, is like a "tween". No longer fall (except by the calendar) and not yet winter. Not enough snow go sledding, but enough to make it tricky under foot. I will fill the bird feeder and hang it; shut off the hoses and put away the nozzles. Last year I didn't put the nozzles away and had to buy new ones. LIve and learn.

Button up your overcoat, put on your gloves and scarves and get a breath of cold fresh air.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

October - a short month

Well, not short of days by the calendar, but the time goes quickly from the end of September to the beginning of November because there is much to take care of. Cutting back shrubs, cleaning out gardens, putting away summer furniture and decoratoins. We chance the weather will be good as long as we dare, and then scurry to see that it all gets done before the first snow. Of course, the movable objects have to be brought inside before Hallowe'en because there will always be a prankster or two out to relocate them if you don't.

On a drive just north a bit recently, through my favorite rock-lined mile or two of highway, I noticed the rocks have darkened with the colder rainier climate. Most of the striation is muted, proof in my estimation, that rocks reflect seasons almost as clearly as trees. Not long from now cold nights will coat them with frost, which when it melts as the day goes on, will cause tears to flow in stremlets.

The cattails and loosestrife and milkweed have ripened and burst to produce more of the their likeness in the spring. All of the evergreens have darkened and the cones, opened and dry, have mostly fallen to the ground. I saw several cones totally chewed to bits; some squirrel or chipmunk must have had an old fashioned picnic, much as we have corn roasts or clam bakes.
I hope he felt sated and pleased with himself, as I do after a favorite feast.

Of course, the apples have been picked and those that did not sell at the orchard are now in storage, in cool dry sheds where they will keep nicely for people who still rely on them until early spring. I make apple sauce with Macs and am grateful to be able to get good ones all winter. My friend makes apple pies. At $8 for a bag that might have as much as 3/4 of a bushel by my estimation, it's a great treat all winter. Apples grown in Maine are better by far than those grown in other areas. Trust me.

My neighbor has just been volunteering at a co-op kind of farm. I am not sure how it works, but he pays a fee once a year, I guess, and then he helps with the harvest, and all summer he and his wife pick up the "crop of the week" . Anyway, Ralph likes to garden and yesterday he spent a good part of the day harvesting. I asked him what? and he said, "leeks, cabbage, broccoli, something which looked like carrots but was much larger (?), and some herbs. " I asked why beets are so expensive and he explained that it takes one seed for each beet and the soil has to be compatible. Who would have guessed they'd be that fussy. After all that work, good man that he is, he helped me get rid of some annuals that had been in the cemetery, and planted a perennial that had been sitting in a pot all summer.

This is the thing about Maine: People are industrious and alway ready to help one another. I hope not too many people come "from away" and change that. It's a genuinly successful survival system.

from Maine -

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

October has arrived with rain. We like a bit of rain this time of year to keep the woods and fields wet. But when there are several days in any one week we get a bit soggy. Not like the unfortunate people who have suffered flooding this year in many parts of the country, but uncomfortably wet underfoot and the bones begin to rebel. I don't really think rain is the issue with bones, but I am a believer that changes in atmospheric pressure does cause stress.

Time to trim the flowering shrubs and bring in the potted plants and the patio furniture. Fortunately, we did not have a bad hurricane in this area so we were able to leave everything out over the nice September days. Now, before the ghouls and goblins start doing their Hallowee'n pranks, we must secure everything.

A few years ago someone(s) took the rather sizable and hefty sign at the entrance to our community. It's a big sign, nice gold lettering, bolted in place. We were shocked to see, as we drove out of the drive that there stook two stark posts - like goal posts - with nothing hanging frolm them. The men muttered and sputtered and conjectured on how many young men it would take to steal it; the women tsked and shook their heads over the very nerve of them!
The president called the police who took note. The next day, as we drove out through the entrance we were all amazed to see the sign, not hung - too much trouble and probably would risk being seen doing it - standing against the post. The police did not have an answer. But I think some parent got went into her/his garage and saw the sign leaning against the back wall and said, "I don't care who dared you to do it - take it back immediate!" I would be nice to think conscienced alone urged the return, but I think that's a bit of a stretch.

I'll put out a pumpkin or two to encourage the Great Pumpkin to visit. After the Hallowed NIght, I will put it on the edge of the woods and the local chipmunks and squirrels will take care of them. Maybe if we're lucky, some of the seeds will take root next spring and we'll have our own crop come next October.

Speaking of the resident chipmunks, cute as they are they are dangerously eager to get inside the house. My neighbor has concocted a solution, in both definitions: the solution -some sort of oil, some pungent herbs including garlic, sprayed around the holes seem to be the solution to the problem of them taking up residence in the flower garden. Then another neighbor puts out peanuts and seeds especially to encourage them. Better in her sphere than mine. I love to watch them - at a distance. I once had one who had found access to my kitchen and it sampled each of six tomatoes on my counter, and stuffed my dog's kibbles in a box of Swiffer cloths under the sink.

The rocks are weeping; their faces are shiney. Their black bodies are blacker and their light strias, almost white in August, are gray and yellow, depending on the minerals within. the "cat-o-nine-tails" have burst long ago and are mere stalks standing in the ditches. The milk weed pods have also burst,and the leaves have dropped off. We once found a caterpillar in a milk weed leaf in the process of cocooning. I took it home and put it a jar with enough leaves and twig to cmplete it's process. In the spring a really huge moth emerged. The jar was clearly not going to be big enough to hold it, so I got a big bowl. I rushed it to the nearby four room school where two of my children were in classes. After showing it to the students, we took it to the field whence it came; it flew away. I was told it had no mouth and its sole purpose was to find a mate and breed. After which it would die. So what was it's purpose? Only God knows.
I was tempted to go into the nearby field of milk weed to see if I could find another but at my age it seemed a bit whimsical.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Changing Seasons

Couldn't resist talking about Maine in September. As we approach the actual beginning of Autumn on the 23rd of September I must say Mother Nature was eager to birth her child. We already are having 40 degree nights and dry mid 60 days, the leaves are beginning to turn, and the apples have aged to a healthy red blush over the earlier green of summer. They are still tart and less juicy than I like them for eating, but they make a nice sauce or pie. Pumpkins are orange and ready for gathering (I heard there is a scarcity of them this year, but not in Maine as I can see fields of them outside of the city). I love pumpkin pie but I only eat the filling. Yes, I buy a pie and scoop out the filling, give a bit of the crust to Nick my faithful Wheaten Terrier, but throw out the rest. Once I put the crust out in my back yard for the birds, but to the consternation of my neighbors it drew a dozen or more sea gulls, so I won't do that again.

Anyway, Fall in Maine is a beautiful time of year and if it lasts into November we are fortunate. We have been so very blessed this year with reasonbly comfortable days and nights, enough rain to keep the grass green and the gardens growing, and the hurricanes, fires and floods which have devastated so much of the country, has passed us by - so far. If the woods stay wet during the next two months and the "el nino" behaves himself, this will be a good year for us weather-wise. Otherwise, of course, Maine like everywhere else has suffered from the economic troubles of our whole country.

Much of Maine's economy depends on the tourists who love our wide white ocean beaches, and our sandy lake side areas. I grew up going to the ocean; to me beaches means ocean front areas. Most lakefronts have coarse sand and rocky edges left by the great glacier ages ago. In my mind you can go to the beach, or you can go to the lake. They are not the same. Tourists love both, and our parks and seaside communities love the tourists - after they've gone and left their dollars behind. Portland, Maine's largest city, has a newly developed pier to accommodate larger ships. Passengers disembark into the "Old Port" or go on busses to Kennebunkport for a bit of shopping and a ride around Walker's Point which is where the Bush summer home is, or to Freeport the home of L.L.Bean. So, summer has come and is nearly over but Maine, if you have the urge to travel, will welcome you into it's Autumn season with joy. Colorful trees, not quite so crowded beach and lake areas (where the water will be cold, but the experience still invigorating), the shops will be ready to bargain and the highways will be less crowded.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Bye

Checking the STATS for this blog indicates it gets no real interest. that's o.k. I don't read many other blogs myself. But this is my last post.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Apirl in Scarborugh

Last week's storm was a "significant" one, and thankfully it melted almost as quickly as it accumulated. I heard it was going to be a "nor'easter" and then I heard the wind was coming from the northwest. I didn't much care where it came from as I watched the top-heavy pines out back sway in winds that reportedly gusted up to 30 miles per hour.

NOw this past week has been more like Spring. It is cold at night and warms up in the daytime. And the grass is greening. The crocuses are up and the other bulbs are sending forth shoots. IF Mother Nature behaves we should be enjoying this kind of weather for awhile.

Maine celebrated Maple Sugar Sunday a couple of weeks ago. The farms which specialize in maple syrup and related products got the steam up for the "boil down" process, made up batches of maple goodies, served ice cream with maple syrup over it and opened their doors to the public. It's an annual event that becomes a family tradition as kids love the sweet treats and everyone enjoys the "sap to syrup" process. All maple trees, I am told, run sap which can be made into syrup, but only the "sugar maple" yields enough sap to product the quality and quantity worth commercial processing. It takes a lot of sap to get a gallon of syrup. I'm not good at figures so I won't quote the number.

Portland Harbor is beginning to become dotted with little and large sail boats. The Marinas are holding open houses and the boat shows are being held in various public places. I am not a boater but several of my grandchildren are so I like knowing what is being touted as "safe boating" improvements. GPS, signaling, lifesaver suits, inflatables are all good things, but I prefer not to know when my kids are on the ocean.

In the back yard the turkeys are strutting, picking here and there for whatever it is they find. I threw out some flax seed (I don't have a grinder and got seeds by mistake) and was hoping maybe they would pick it up. IF they don't I may have a yard full of flax this summer. I know they eat ticks and other bugs. I saw them eating something off the top of the snow after the last storm. My neighbor says it was something which blew from the pines. Another neighbor took a picture recently of two raccoons by his back door. He said there was another but he couldn't get it in the picture. We have seen two foxes crossing by the woods, and there was a pheasant recently. He doesn't stand much of a chance with the foxes on the hunt. Maine's wildlife is stirring so Spring must be here.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011


It's been awhile since I posted. I have had a left knee replacement which has occupied me mentally as well as physically. A couple weeks away from home and a little time to recoup finds me now thinking of where to take this blog. Since I get no wide responses I am thinking of shutting it down. Maine is an interesting state but there are many blogs being done on the state's politics (which are quite fascinating at this time and too convoluted for me to write about) and the culture which is so diverse it boggles the mind. One thing that comes to mind today is that in my yard here in Scarborough you might be interested to know there are still many sizable lumps of snow where the plow crew had to pile it in a snow removal process. It is dirty and rotting, but hanging on tenaciously. And lo, we are predicted to have a Nor'easter this weekend (April Fool's Day to be exact) which could dump a foot on us. Of course, that is Maine's quirky weather pattern and not all that unusual. We have been known to have snow in May (on my daughter's First Communion Sunday some years ago) and even according to records, in July some many years ago. The nice thing is, it is spring, the sun is getting higher and warming the earth more and the snow will melt and fill the streams and wells and pot holes. Yes, pot holes, another annual Maine event. The crews will be out shoveling a little cold patch into them and the next rain will wash it out. Then a crew will return to put a little hot top into it, and perhaps it will last until next winter when the ritual will begin again. Keeping ahead of the pot holes is next to impossible. You may lose a tire (and rim) if you hit a big one, but most of them are just bone shakers which will make you say things you would have had your mouth washed out for if your Mom was around.

So, this is Maine just before April Fool's Day, 2011. Don't get out your shorts and sandals just yet. Rather keep you shovel and sand handy. No joke, we are going to get snow - again.

janicemajor, scarborough, maine

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

transition time

St. Francis has emerged from the snow at last. OF course, his bird bath is still a small rink, but just seeing the whole of him is encouraging. I know we cannot count on not having a spring storm or two, but March is days away, and that means spring officially will arrive. I have mounds of snow in my yard which is the repository when we have to have a "snow removal" to keep the Creek open.

I will be going to have a knee replacement next week, thus this is my last "Mainely" blog for awhile. Things yet to be done in the next few days - laundry, cleaning out fridge, putting tax papers in the mail, assembling things to "take" and things to leave. A few letters to write and calls to make. Today I go for a "cardiac release" for surgery. I am nearly recovered from a virus and a UTI for which I was prescribed a dreadful sulfur drug that made me sicker than the illness itself. But with a few days left to complete the recovery, I should be in and out of surgery by early afternoon on March 4.

Nick, the Wild Wheaten is going to the vet/kennel for the duration.

Meanwhile, Maine is transitioning from deep winter to early spring with temperatures in the singles at night, and the "above freezings" during the day. The sun is warm(er) and the snow on the roof next door is melting off. The sky lights are fully visible, but I would not dare open mine just in case they are too cold to operate both ways. too much snow to be seeing crocuses yet. But the pine trees are beginning to look brighter.

So - HERE'S TO SPRING - bring it on.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday 2/13/11

Some days would be better if started later. Like seven p.m. instead of seven a.m. I stayed in bed this morning after taking my early a.m. thyroid pill, which says in tiny little print on a yellow label, that I must not eat for 30 minutes. I got out my cross-word puzzle book and settled in to get my brain in gear. I glanced out to see several turkey hens marching through my yard. My kind neighbor shovels my patio off and makes a path from his patio to mine, which also gives the turkeys a nice easy crossing trail. Two of the usual birds were missing. We do have two young foxes who appear in the same trail, so perhaps they have each had a turkey dinner or two. Anyway, I thought it would be a good day. I thought.

Completing two crossword puzzles, I got up, put the pup out, and went to the kitchen to see what was on hand for Sunday breakfast. I had picked up two day-old muffins at Mr. Bagel on Friday when I went to Portland. I put one in the microwave, and began the coffee making ritual. Everything was going well.

Thinking ahead, I thought while in the kitchen I might as well decide what to prepare for lunch. I really don' t like to cook.
I had a package of lean hamburg purchased at the local supermarket thawing in the bottom of the fridge, lots of vegetables in the drawer. Pick up hamburg, it's leaked all over the bottom of the fridge. Try to get it to sink without dripping. Not successful. I know you are not supposed to put tomatoes in the fridge, but I had a little box of those fancy back yard babies - in the bottom of the fridge. Sitting in the blood. I put the tomatoes on the counter but missed a bit and they ended up on the floor. Grabbed a bunch of paper towels and my "Gloves Off" spray and liberally sprayed inside the fridge. And the floor. Got that mess cleaned up, stepped back, one of the tomatoes had fallen out of the box - put my heel firmly on it and Squished it flat. NOw a small tomato should only have a few seeds, but this one had an over load and they were from here to --------here. Along with slippery stuff encasing them. Then of course, I had "squish" on my heel. SO, I managed to get things cleaned up. I took the veggies out of the drawer, and Mrs. Meyer's green bag had failed to keep things as advertised. The red and green peppers had turned to mush. Well, I have put the hamburg in the pan, chopped up an onion and some celery and dumped Paul Newman's Sweet Onion and Garlic red sauce over it and later I will eat it over a piece of 12-grain bread. NOt gourmet, but it will have to do. Yesterday I had a two meal salad from Texas Road House so if I don't get a green veg today, I will live. Oh, and the muffin? I have no idea. It had some really strange grain and a few raising and nuts. I'm pretty sure it wasn't bran. I know bran. It could have been carrot cake. The coffee was delicious with maple syrup for sweetener.

Now about Maine. Our governor, bless him, is proposing some very stringent new rules about welfare and has the liberals up in arms. The oil company that went out of business all in a day leaving people without money or fuel is staying out of the press as much as possible. Why they aren't liquidating rapidly and refunding is my question. We have had three or maybe four snow-free days, YAHOO! and the temperatures are rising slightly with only a little snow predicted in the near days. The real estate section is small, the help wanted is smaller and the articles for sale grows longer with every edition. A sign of the times. Don't try to sell you grandmother's antiques for cash. You won't get what you were told they are worth. Not that I am trying, or that I even have any of Grammie's antiques, but I watch the market.

Check out for the interesting story about a man for whom a day of passion should have been named.

scarborough, maine

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like -----

Yes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - except it's February 2, Ground Hog Day. I have had the television on today and haven't heard a word about poor Puxatawney Phil. My guess is he won't see his shadow, or anything else. I doubt if he will even come out of his hole. but one way or the other there will be only six more weeks of winter - if we are lucky.

My neighbor told me she has seen two foxes in the rear of our condos. They have always lived in this area. We feed them well with a sizable flock of turkeys. Yesterday as I drove home in the first of our two snow storms, there were turkeys in the road and I and another car had to stop and wait for them to decide where they were going. Every road is a "fork in the road" for turkeys. They never know which way the will go until they get into the middle, and then you cannot rush them. Eventually, both flew in their straight up flight to the tall pines. I put out a lot of flax seed to see if they or the birds would eat it. It is well covered now with the new snow, of which we are getting an abundance.

Maine should be able to handle any amount of snow. We have gotten spoiled by milder winters and manageable snow storms. This is the kind of winter you tell your grandkids about. Only you can't say you walked three miles to school - uphill both ways - in a blizzard. The kids around here sit in their mothers' cars until the bus arrives to take them to school. And that's as it should be since they would have to cross U.S.Route 1. Of course, there was a nice red brick neighborhood school they could easily walk to until it was closed and converted to senior housing. Most schools that close end up that way. I wonder if they ever get the smell of the school out of the building. You know - the smell of oiled wood floors, chalk dust, lockers full of gym clothes and old apples. I went back to my old school once and after all those years, I could still smell Mrs. Witham's cologne in Room 6.

Well, Maine roads like those all across the northern states affected by this latest storm, are a bit slick and considerably narrower with high snow banks on both sides. I am saving gas by staying home, and saving money by not getting out to shop. I have enough food to last a long time. Not gourmet stuff, but healthy and smple. SO, pull up a chair and have a plate of beans with me. Soldier Beans cooked and canned in Northern Maine are exceptionally good. Brown bread and a glass of milk. A little apple sauce on the side. Who care if it's snowing and blowing? We Mainers know enough to stock up - just in case.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Giant Strides in reverse -

Bing Crosby said, "I think popular music in this country is on of the few things in the 20th Century that has made giant strides in reverse."

I haven't heard of any recently written "pretty" music, but I have heard several younger singers doing the pretty songs of earlier years. Perhaps because I tend to enjoy male voices more than female, I chose the following vocalists to write about.

Michael Buble' is a very talented performer born in the '70's who does not really have a style of his own, but sings the old numbers like "Call Me Irresponsible" and "For Once In My Lifetime" the way someone my age likes to hear them. If you watch him (lucky you, if it's in person) you will see he has a little attitude, call it swagger maybe, that you might not "hear" on a CD. However, I think his charm and musicality come through in pieces like "Save the Last Dance For Me" he has a little different sound. It's a country song, but he makes it his own with a little different leaning toward a Latin blend.

Michael Feinstein is a little older than Buble'. Born in the late 50's he had an opportunity to be influenced by working as Ira Gershwin's assistant. Feinstein is an accomplished pianist in his own right, and a lot of his work is "cabaret style" with himself as accompanist. His specialty is romantic songs, and probably the fastest among his performances would be "Something's Gotta Give." He has made many albums and worked with many groups. One important work he has done was with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in early 2001 in which he performed "Laura", "Stormy Weather" and other standards. All works were by Jewish American composers including Gershwin, Berln, and Herman's "I Wont Send Roses." Unlike Buble', Feinstein has developed a style of his own, a confidence and maturity that, if you have the opportunity to compare old work with new, will be discernable. Michael Feinstein's mother was a tap dancer of little fame and his father was salesman, who also was an amateur vocalist.

Harry Connick, Jr. is the third performer I enjoy. He was born in the late 60's; younger than Feinstein, but older than Buble', he has written songs, put together his own bands, and most definitely developing his own style. While he has made a career of singing the Great American Songbook pieces, he didn't try to copy the old performers. He admitted he did not have the vocal strength to sound like Sinatra or others, although he was being touted as the "Chairman nouveau" by some promoters. He played young Lt. Cable in the 2001 version of So. Pacific; and in Pajama Game he was the piano-playing Sorokin. My impression of Harry Connick, Jr's career is that he has had lot of fun. He was worked hard and used his talent to the highest scale.His is the voice in the movie "Sleepless in Seattle" singing his own "Wink and a Smile". His father was a district attorney in New Orleans who also played piano and sang as a hobby in local night clubs.

To be fair, Diana Kral is a very credible young woman, born in 1964, who sings jazz and swing with the best. She came to the US from BC, Canada. Her father played stride piano and he exposed her to all the greatest musicians such as Thelonious Monk, Claude Thornhill and Paul Whiteman ( the latter previously profiled in a blog). Her style is not a copy of any other performer. She has toured with Tony Bennett. She has sung blues, jazz and traditional music (the latter a Christmas album) and is right at home with swing. It is said her only mistake so far has not taking Bennett up on the offer to make an album with him. That's o.k., Diana, you're doing just fine.

Another female performer that I admit to really liking among the younger set is k.d. lang.
No, I didn't leave off the capitals. She doesn't use them. I have seen videos of her and like her unselfconscious style. She is who she is and sings with confidence but not brass. She professes to be attracted to both women and men - but not equally. She DID do an album with Bennett. It is one of my favorite "put on some music and go to sleep" albums. She is an activist for many causes such as animal rights, gay rights, and human rights. She also came from Canada and puts a nice mark of her own on country. I am not a fan of country, but she makes it very listenable. Some of her songs have a heavy guitar (she might be playing it it is so in tune with her) but the lyrics come over it very well. She is considered a rock and roll artist. I have not heard any of that music.

Just thinking about the variety of styles each performer uses, I recommend not giving up on someone just because you have heard them one piece you don't care for. In my circle of very talented senior organ players (senior as in age, not necessarily accomplishment) I notice that each really does well with one or two rhythms and tempos, but it doesn't stop them, nor should it, from playing every other one. A gal who plays fast Latin because she loves Ethel Smith's rendition of TicoTico doesn't necessarily play it like Ethel, but isn't she just having a ball doing it? And the person who loves Hank Williams might attempt to play a country piece with a twangy guitar which would "twang" my ears uncomfortably, but if he loves what he does, that's what hobby music is all about. If any of us plays comfortably enough to share our music at a senior center, nursing home or community event, that's hobby organ's purpose. I can't sing, but I do enjoy all of the performers I have written about today. And I don't think we have taken strides in reverse. I think somewhere out there are composers writing good music we have yet to hear. We just need to make the need for it known.

Bob Hope once said of Phyllis Diller, "When she started to play, Steinway himself came down personally and rubbed his name off the piano."

As long as Mr. Lowrey doesn't appear to remove his name from your instrument --

Keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Hey, Gov -

Hey, Governor LePage -

Listen up. The country is trying to become more civil and courteous and you're not hearing the message.

Yes, Maine's governor LePage made a serious gaff again last week when instead of making his polite excuses for not being available for this week's MLK events, he made a rude remark telling the NAACP what they could do. It would have been nice if he had remembered to write the MLK date on his calendar and set it aside as he made plans for his first year in office. And couldn't he have squeezed out an hour to sit in on one of the several events? Of course, he could have but he didn't. Too bad but not a disastrous.

Mr. LePage is not a racist. He has included a Jamaican boy in his family, in fact, speaks of him as his son. Although the young man apparently has a father in Jamaica and is not an American citizen, and, according to what I have read, he has not been adopted by the LePages. Apparently Raymond (the young man's name) has told his peers he is in this country to get a better education. He has confided he hopes to be a golf pro. His father was a caddy for PLP when he was in Jamaica at some point.

Now the NAACP is understandably offended that 1) Mr. LePage did not make time for the MLK events, and more rightfully 2) that he made a crudely dismissive remark when questioned about the lapse. They made their ire public - very public - which doesn't help the help matters. And exacerbating the situation, Mr. Nemitz, in the Maine Sunday Telegram wrote a scathing criticism.

The young collegians in Maine are up in arms because one of the Governor's first acts was to nullify the previous governor's decision to make asking for a detainee's proof of citizenship unlawful. They think that indicates exclusion perhaps racism.
I believe in seeking proof of citizenship when someone has broken the law; have no problem with it if I get caught speeding, which would probably be the most likely reason I would be detained. The older I get the more I believe in an I.D. Card for everyone, picture and a lot of information all encoded which would apply only to the card holder. What's wrong with that? It sure would simplify things for the police, the airlines, hospitals, banks, etc.

Back to the Governor - I am sure handsight will serve him a hefty dish of "wouldda,couldda, shouldda." Next time maybe he will at least send a person close to him - his daughter who works in his office, his Jamaican son, his personal assistant. No one is infallible, not even the President of the Maine NAACP, so I hope they all learn to get along forgive one another their "trespasses."

janice major

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January 11, 2011

Interesting date, 1/11/11.

Maine has a lot of statues and public art pieces. I am sort of fascinated by them and once thought I would like to take pictures of as many as I could find, and perhaps publish it. But Maine Arts Commission printed a little booklet and I thought I could not compete with them. I bought a few and sent them to out-of-staters I thought might be interested.

I am not very fond of "modern art" where statues are concerned. They are supposed to have meanings, which I don't always get, and often I don't find them very artistic at all. There was a statue in a small park by Portland's Baxter Boulevard (the Baxters were very benevolent citizens who donated lots of land for public use, and Percival Baxter was one of our governors. Anyway, back to the statue I really liked by the boulevard --
I could relate to it: It was a tall stalk with a burst open pod at the top. It looked like a milkweed pod and the star-shaped seeds bursting forth seemed to me to speak of a hopeful future, regeneration; even a giving of onesself. It had developed a nice coppery patina which made it even more attractive, in my untutored eye. Alas, that lovely piece of art has been replaced by what I think is a rather cold and ugly steel structure which I get no message from. It is cold and steely stark. If any who happens to read this blog knows the meaning of that piece, I would welcome enlightenment.

A few years ago an artist from out of state was commissioned to create something to put in the Old Port area of Portland. She devised a series of curving steel blades which were supposed to resemble the ripples of the Fore River, and between the blades the city was to, and did, plant some grasses which would sway with the wind, making the visual more realistic. The grass did not do well in our Maine atmosphere, and the steel blades looked like a couple of scrapped guillotines. The city spent hours and dollars trying to keep the weeds down and the grasses up to no avail. The piece will be removed, hopefully placed somewhere out of the way where no one has to look at it. There are rules about what the city can do with a piece of art once it accepts it, and the artist has a good deal of say in the matter. The artist who created that monstrosity made several trips to Portland to argue her case for keeping it, but the citizenry prevailed. Now the "arts commission" for the city will have to spend a few more of our treasure to find something else to fill the spot. I would suggest the simply plant appropriate flowers as they do in some other areas.

Burr Miller, a sculptor of some renown was a resident of Kennebunk Beach when I was young. His wife was a Russian artist or vocalist - I can't remember which. What I remember was that someone said to me, "Burr Miller's wife is a "White Russian." I had no idea what that meant, but I suppose that meant she was not of Oriental persuasion. Anyway, she was a very aristocratic appearing woman, and he was a somewhat older looking man suffering, I think, from MS. They had two children, who never attended local schools to my knowledge. Perhaps they were home schooled, which would have been quite unusual in the early fifties.Burr Miller sculpted a statue of Thomas Brackett Reed which stands on the Western Promenade in Portland. It is a very stately statue of a Maine Representative who became the 38th speaker of the United States House under Grover Cleveland.

Some of my favorite statues are two children sitting on a bench reading, which is by the door of the Kennebunk Library; the dolphins playing in a circle in the Old Port of Portland; the well known lobsterman, also in Portland in the Old Port. Now I have a question about that statue because I found an article that said it is situated at the tip of Bailey Island. Perhaps there are two versions. I will have to drive over the old cribstone bridge to the island and see if in fact there is one there. And is it the same one? There is a darling little "water girl" holding a leaking water bowl in Portland. It has been in several different places, and I am not sure where it stands at this writing. The last time I saw her she was in front of the public library,and her bowl was empty. In Longfellow Square in Portland there is a large statue of Henry sitting in his chair. It has been carefully restored in recent years and somewhat recently he was turned to face in a different direction, to what purpose I do not know. The restoration which included a good cleaning off of the friendly pigeon droppings, was accomplished by a fund raising done by school children, in large part encouraged by Evelyn Densmore, their teacher.

There is a large collection of marble statuary and sculpture in the Portland Museum of Art, one very famous Pearl Diver. A sad piece for the diver has succumbed and is stretched out over a raised base.
Bernard Langlais was a wood sculptor. He would take a chunk of wood, almost any size including very large logs,and envision various people, animals, and objects. A man named Daniels who was a radio repairman, took some scrap and made a "road runner" out of it and before he could toss it into the scrap heap, someone bought it. From there a new career for Mr. Daniels, he made many metal sculptures including a brave St.George facing down a ferocious dragon. The man who created LO
VE named Robert Indiana was in Maine when he got that clever inspiration which became familiar everywhere. Nearly every town has a Civil War Memorial. They all look alike to me, but I am told they are not all of the same hero. I like art that looks like something so I barely give a second glance to a lot of modern pieces. I don't understand many of them. I like outdoor pieces. One of the newer pieces in Portland is just outside the baseball park. It is of a family, Mom, Dad and two little kids. It was very controversial because it is a generic American family. The minority community complained that it was not representative of them: not Hispanic, African-American or Asian. It was privately commissioned and the "arts committee" finally allowed it to be put in place. It's a nice work and a fitting depiction of the a family out for a good time. I guess it looks Caucasian, but it is after all bronze in color. To me it just looks like a really great family enjoying a day at the ball park.

I am fascinated that anyone can take a piece of wood, a chunk of marble or other stone, a lump of clay. or in Mr. Daniels' case, a heap of scrap metal, and see it's potential. I have often thought I would like to take a lump of clay and make a head just for the experience. I don't think it would become a museum piece but maybe someone some day would find it tucked away in the back of the garage and say, "I wonder what she was thinking when she did that?" I tried whittling once. It looks so easy and the block of wood was already marked off.
The poor little bird came out looking like a misformed embryo of a sea creature. I did gain even more admiration for clever people who take a pen knife and block of wood and turn out a credible bird or bunny.

Another nice thing about statues is you can stare at them and look at them from every angle and they don't get angry at your rudeness, or blush at your critical eye, or say "What are you lookin' at?" I like statues. I consider them nice assets of the community.


January 4

Maine is a winter state. By that I mean to convey that we have long winters that go very deep. But this has been a really agreeable one so far. Of course, it is less than one month old and has nearly three months to go. The sun still warms the earth and melts what snow there is, and the nights get cold which creates "black ice" in unexpected places. I went to put out my trash Monday morning and my driveway was slick with the treacherous glaze. I tossed a scattering of ice melt product ahead of myself, and it did it's job efficiently so I got the trash out. However, the sun does not get to the driveway until around noon, so before long the driveway was again frozen over, ice melt pebbles and all. After seven months of above freezing temps, we forget how to watch out for such things as "black ice" and sudden squalls. I was driving east one day recently and drove right into a driving, blinding snow storm which lasted about two miles. Then I drove right into a beautifully sunny landscape dusted with what looked like frosting sugar. I saw some drivers who seemed not to know what to do as they drove into the squall. Some even pulled off to the side hoping, I guess, that it would move on, which it did. Either that or it just spent itself out.

The papers are full of stories of descriptions of wonderful places to ski; the outdoor memorial family skating rink in Falmouth is open. The information is out about upcoming winter carnivals and "winterfests." All wonderful, winter-in-Maine traditions for the young, eager and able. Maine is also one huge art colony. From the renowned Portland Museum of Art, Barridoff Galleries, Jameson Art Group all in Portland to
such interesting galleries as Bayview Gallery in Camden and Brunswick, Carver Hill Gallery in Rockport, The Firehouse Gallery in Damariscotta, Home and Away in Kennebunkport, Turtle Gallery in Deer Isle, and the Kicking Bull in Wells. These are just a few, and of course, there is a lot of art in such places as the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk. And if art isn't your interest, there is music and theater from high schools to very professional productions in many community theaters.
While "summer theater" is widespread, local thespians strut their stuff all year round.

An award was given recently to an artist for his rather comic illustration of tennis lessons at the Kennebunk(port) River Club. It shows a crowded country club tennis court with dozens of people in various poses of lobbing, backhanding, stretching, underhanding, overhanding, hanging over the net, in and out of bounds, facing off, flopping down. It's one of those pieces of work you can look at over and over and always see something amusingly different. It caught my eye and I would like to see the original, but would settle for a nice reprint.

Maine in Winter. No need to get bored. The University has classes, the Community Colleges have classes, the local high school and senior services programs have much to do. Enjoy.