Friday, June 15, 2018

Insight: Voice of the familiar by Lorraine Glowczak

"Does my voice sound too twangy?” That’s the question I asked fellow writers last week in a writer’s group I attend monthly. As an author, I am always concerned about my writer’s voice, but this time - it was my actual speaking voice that had me apprehensive.

Two weeks ago, I attended a creative, non-fiction essay workshop in Belfast and someone from that group invited me to publish my work on a community radio station in the Downeast and Midcoast areas. I accepted the invitation but admitted to my new friend that I still speak with a Kansas inflection and may not be able to pull off that “NPR” tone. She assured me that all would be fine. “The way you speak is what will add to the depth of your stories,” she said.

My writing group friends echoed her sentiment. Despite their encouragement, I was still not convinced. To help soothe my concerns, the group recorded me as I read one of my essays. Their feedback? I didn’t sound anything like myself. “You start out in your natural speaking voice but then changed to a softer, less impassioned version of you.” I was instructed to go home and listen to the recording.

I did as they recommended and was surprised to discover that what they believed wasn’t my voice, I believed was and it is exactly how I hear myself. As a result of this discovery, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about individuality; the way we express our unique style and how we play that out within our communities.

 Most of us wish to be liberated individuals, not succumbing to the “sheeple” way of life. However, we also don’t want to disassociate ourselves completely from the family and friends that complete us and are a part of something greater than ourselves.

I think the same is true of language and the way we speak. For example, for me to be a part of something greater, I spoke with an intonation and dialect as others around me. Not only did I speak that way to be a part of a whole, but as I learned during my days of linguistic study - I did that to be understood in an agreed upon language. This is true for everyone, not only for me.

So, in a sense - our voices and our language belong to everyone. It’s not just ours alone and it offers a bit of the familiar. This familiarity provides the springboard into our individuality - our unique voice.

The same can be said of my “NPR” radio voice, or the lack there of. The listeners of that community radio station turn on that program to hear the familiar. That doesn’t mean I should change my speaking voice but I might be careful to speak so I can be understood. I should do my best to refrain from speaking “tin” when I mean “ten” or “buuuuuk” when I mean “book”.

So, if you happen to ever be in a quandary over your individual voice (written, spoken or otherwise), I hope my little predicament and my little discovery helps you in some way.

Editorial Essay by Maddie Hancock

Teens versus pop culture
An argument essay written by seventh grader, Maddie Hancock of the Windham Middle School

For the past several years, teenagers and adults have been facing a problem: The content of three entertainment related subjects - music, movies, and television. These three categories each reference substances such as drugs and alcohol. In music, movies and television, substances are often associated with luxurious lifestyles and wealth which results in the glorifications of substance use.

Each year the number of references in each branch of media increases. In teenage and young adult years the brain is very vulnerable and susceptible to new ideas, but if those new ideas are harmful, that means trouble for the party involved. Often the representation of substance use without consequence leads to real life substances use. After all, exposing someone to a dangerous substance without also exposing them to the consequences is like giving a child a lollipop, but expecting them not to eat it. Nonetheless, many people choose to ignore the effects that references could have on people and choose to believe that substance use is solely the users choice, not at all influenced by any exposure. However, if drugs, alcohol, and opioids were not heavily represented in pop culture and the media, many teens and adults would not turn to those harmful substances.

Music is something that many people turn to influence the emotions, however, music happens to showcase an abundant amount of substance references. Depending on the genre of music, the percentage of references varies. For example, twenty-nine percent of all teens listen to pop music. Usually that would not seem like a problem, until you consider that about fifty percent of all pop music mentions some sort of substance, such as drugs or alcohol.

About twenty percent of teens listen to rap music which has an approximate thirty percent substance reference rate. About sixteen percent of teens listen to country music and country music has about a fifty percent reference rate - the primary substance mentioned is alcohol.

About eighteen percent of teens listen to Broadway music with about a zero percent reference rate. Finally, rock music is listened to by about seventeen percent of all teenagers and has about a thirty percent reference rate. Despite the fact that there are excessive mentions to substances within song lyrics, there are also many musicians who have or are currently using drugs or alcohol.

Many of the musicians who use substances credit them for the creativity of their lyrics. Since many people look up to artists, the substances use of the artist may be ignored or looked past. A Living Pianos writer contributed to the discussion, “The downside to drug use is very well documented in the music world. While it might allow certain musicians to be more ‘creative’ it does have its share of negative effects,” (Lenin, David). 

Artists who have openly admitted to substance use include the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Britney Spears, and Snoop Dogg; all who are closely followed and looked up to by their large fanbases. To summarize, drugs and alcohol are heavily appropriated in music because of the seemingly endless references in most genres, along with the fact that many substance-using musicians are still popular, and because of that many teens may see substances as a positive item instead of a dangerous one. While it may seem like there are a plentiful amount of substance references in music, substance references in movies occur at an even higher rate.

Movies are a very prominent part of our society, but they are also a piece of the puzzle when it comes to substance references. They are constantly advertised on billboards, television and sometimes social media platforms. Unsurprisingly, many references to substances are made in movies whether it be for comedic effect or to add suspense to the plot. Since movies are most commonly two to three hours long the consequences to using substances are rarely presented in a realistic way if they are even touched upon.

This can be interpreted by teens and adults to mean that the consequences of using drugs and alcohol are not extreme or that they simply do not exist. Those thoughts can sometimes lead to drug use and possibly addiction. While some may argue that representation of drugs and alcohol do not force others to actively use the drugs, it can be interpreted by some to make use seem okay to participate in usage. A journalist from New York Film Academy wrote,“. . . there has been a surge of drug films and drugs appearing much more often in movies, at a rate that is more than triple of that just twenty years ago. While drug use is on the rise in the U.S., on film, it’s an outright epidemic,” (Robins, Lincoln).

With substances abuse on the rise, many people are speculating that increased references are to blame; taking into consideration that substance references in movies have tripled. As children grow to teenagers and adults the content gets more explicit, which may not always be the best situation for easily influenced people. Movies makers may be able to provide excuses for the lack of consequences shown due to time limitations, but television shows cannot provide the same argument.

Television shows can run for various lengths depending on popularity, which is usually based off the plot, which may not realistically represent drug use. Some of the most popular television shows that have ever aired for a long span of time with a high viewer rate involve some sort of substance use at one time or another. For example, “Cheers” a television show popular in the eighties and nineties, was based off a bar, which brings about the obvious references to alcohol. There were rarely any consequences shown, but the characters were often put in to laughable situations because of alcohol usage.

Another popular show, “Friends” that may teenagers and adult watch, has a recurring plot of Chandler, a main character trying to quit smoking, which some of the negative repercussions are presented.

However, there are also many references to alcohol, which is used to numb pain or forget about pain in this show. Occasionally there are some consequences, but they are either minor or nonexistent. Most crime shows mention some sort of substance to enhance the plot because of the criminal aspect of using drugs or alcohol. Since many people watch television programs as a pastime, they are undoubtedly influenced by the plots, whether it deters them from usage, or if it is the more likely influence that drugs and alcohol do not have serious effects and that little harm will come to any user, possibly leading to actual substance use.

Another thing to take into consideration would be the medication advertisements. These are showcased as miracle workers and solutions to problems, but the side effects are only briefly touched upon. This can have dangerous outcomes. For example, a writer from wrote about drug advertisements on television: “Television advertising of over-the-counter drugs has been suspected of being a contributing factor in drug abuse among youth,” (LeBlanc, Jason). Television is not just light-hearted programming, it is something that contains hidden dangers for many people.

In conclusion, there is a plentiful supply of references to substances in popular culture. This heavy representation exposes people to these substances, most commonly without showing the negative consequences. When people are frequently exposed to negative things without being shown the repercussions, it can encourage them to partake in usage without considering what could go wrong. If these types of substances were either represented less frequently or not at all, many teenager and young adults would be deterred from substance usage. To start a movement for change, consider what you are watching or listening to, evaluate the dangers of the content you are exposing yourself to, and figure out how you can protect yourself and possibly others from turning to substances in times of strife.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Insight: Little life lessons nature can offer by Lorraine Glowczak

I wanted to offer something in this week’s editorial for the 2018 graduates. I thought and I thought and couldn’t come up with an inkling of wisdom that I could offer the students as they begin their new journeys.

Until that is, I was writing the article about videographer, Bill Blood who combines his love of videography and science education by travelling to Hawaii to capture and teach about geological formations. While writing it, I was inspired to research what the Hawaiian culture might perceive about the current erupting Kilauea volcano and the lessons some people in Hawaii might take from it. Perhaps in understanding how they learn from nature, I could reach my goal of offering something to the graduates.

In my research, I found a travel blog writer, Avia Venefica, who stated that volcanoes offer a few
lessons that most Hawaiians take seriously. “Volcanoes represent the upward challenge our lives sometimes present and they remind us of the goals we aspire to reach, the journey to get there, and the value of the climb to the top.”

In Maine, we typically align ourselves with monotheistic views, but we often also learn the values and lesson that nature provides us. Many people experience a transcendent connection in Maine’s natural environment, learning something personally and profoundly while participating in a favorite activity, be it hiking, kayaking or snowshoeing.

The following are a few life lessons that the natural beauty of Maine can potentially offer, not only for the 2018 graduates, but for all of us:

In addition to the “upward challenge” analogy Venefica offers, a hike up a Maine mountain can reflect the reality of peaks and valleys. Life is exciting and frustrating. There are always going to be good days and bad days, but it helps to know that everything is temporary. So, during the valley moments – just keep chugging away as the peak moments will be arriving soon. Of course, the opposite is also true. This keeps us humble.

Sitting in a kayak, one can’t help but notice how adaptable the water is – how easily the water divides and wraps itself around the kayak as it moves forward. Water can easily skirt around any object and keep moving onward. It can teach us to persist without struggle.

Personally, I think snow can teach us a major life lesson about individuality. Whether you have snowshoed or cross country skied through a deep and fresh layer of snow, you will notice there is not a trail in front of you. You must create your own way, your own path. In life, it can be scary to blaze new horizons. But much like snowshoeing, you can look back from where you once stood and see how far you’ve come.

It is my hope that all graduates will one day look back and see how far they have travelled since 2018 – learning their own bits of wisdom along the way.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Whether you live in a large or smaller town in Maine, with our far-flung population it can be easy to feel isolated from the decision-making process in Washington and Augusta. However, the truth is that no matter how far away we may feel from the political debate, all our votes matter. 

As the mid-term election on June 12th approaches, in light of the current political climate in our nation and right here in our own state, no matter where we live each vote is critically important.
With this in mind, I am glad to hear about AARP’s “Be the Difference” campaign which encourages all of us older Mainers to get out and vote. The focus of “Be the Difference” is simple: Educating voters, getting out the vote and making sure more Mainers head to the polls on June 12; particularly those of us age fifty and older.

Although political campaigns sometimes overlook the issues that impact older voters, we have traditionally been a major force in Maine elections. Older voters are concerned about issues such as livable communities, financial security, Medicare, Social Security and caregiving, to name just a few. 
These are critical issues, but are they being discussed by the candidates? “Be The Difference” will offer multi-media information to Maine voters as to where candidates stand on these and other issues to help us hold politicians accountable for their positions this November.

Older voters vote in impressive numbers. It is a mistake for any candidate to assume otherwise. Let’s be the difference on June 12th.

Dr. Erica Magnus
AARP Maine Communications Volunteer

Friday, June 1, 2018

Insight: Persevering through banana peel realities by Lorraine Glowczak

Recently, while working at one of my side jobs, I overheard the term “banana peel reality.” I’m not quite sure what context that term was being used, but the instant I heard it I recalled something I learned over 25 years ago.

I have had many side jobs in my lifetime and one that I recall with fondness is my “jack of all trades” position working at a greenhouse and garden center in Topeka, KS. I remember the experience with fondness because my coworkers and I became family – not because it was an easy job filled with days of plant loving joy while experiencing the calming influence of the natural environment. That was far from the reality of working in a greenhouse.

Instead, the days were filled with back breaking work and all the employees would go home at the end of their shifts smelling like fungicide. On especially busy days, lunch breaks consisted of eating pizza with soiled and chemical laden hands while answering the phone or watering the plants, shrubs and trees under the hot Heartland sun.

I had always dreamed of working in a greenhouse, but it didn’t quite fit my vision of what it entailed – fun and delightful days among profusely blooming flowers. I still loved the job it was just that the realities of that life were a bit different than what I had imagined. This is where I learned about the so-called banana peel reality.

In the banana peel reality, it’s not that we slip and fall while reaching or living our dreams (although we often do) – it’s the fact that while we are living our dreams, the reality of it can slip us up sometimes, causing us to question our choices – even our goals. But this is where we must persevere during the unpleasant aspects and the uncertainties that come with the territory. (Of course, the opposite can also be true. You may discover that living your dream isn’t really your dream, after all. That’s another Insight topic.)

The banana peel reality happens almost everywhere – which leads me to a few articles for this week’s publication. I have witnessed in the past year the making of the farmers’ market that came into being this past Saturday. If you were able to visit last weekend, you would never had known all the hard work that occurred to make that successful day happen. But the dream of creating a successful farmers’ market by a few dedicated individuals made it through all those banana peel moments to the successful reality it became. The same can be said of the Summerfest that will occur on June 23rd.

So, if you find yourself having a banana peel reality kind of day, I encourage you to hang in there – at least for a while. You never know what success may be on the other side if you persevere.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

I attended the forum for the candidates for District of Attorney for Cumberland Country last week.
After listening to them I was most impressed with Windham resident Frayla Tarpinian.

Currently, she is an Assistant District Attorney in Kennebec County and Head of the Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse Unit. One priority of hers is to advocate aggressively on behalf of victims of violence, exploitation, and abuse; which is what she is currently doing in Kennebec County.

The candidates were asked about restorative justice, which according to is “a theory and method in criminal justice in which it is arranged that the victim and the community receive restitution from the offender.” This is another one of her priorities. She believes this model should be used in juvenile and adult prosecutions, where appropriate.

Her other priorities include emphasizing treatment and diversion through access to drug court and bringing a veterans’ court to Cumberland County.

In Windham, Frayla has been a member of both the Windham Comprehensive Plan Review Team and the Board of Appeals.

Please read more about her at and I hope you will support Frayla Tarpinian in the Democratic Primary on June 12, 2018.

Jennie Butler