Friday, February 23, 2024

Andy Young: Celebrating bissextiles

By Andy Young

Fans of team sports endlessly argue about which athlete is the greatest “winner” of all time. Bill Russell, an integral part of 11 Boston Celtics National Basketball Association championship teams during his 13-year playing career, is a perennial candidate for that designation. So is Michael Jordan, who led six different Chicago Bulls quintets to NBA titles during a later era, when the path to the winner’s circle was far more arduous.

Rapper Ja Rule, left, and Montreal Canadiens hockey legend
Henri Richard share the same Leap Year birthday, Feb. 29.
COURTESY PHOTO
Baseball mavens point to Yogi Berra, the Hall of Fame catcher who played on 10 World Series-winning teams, or his fellow Italian-American New York Yankee icon Joe DiMaggio, who played on nine, but did so in four fewer seasons. Football fans, particularly those in these parts, are partial to Tom Brady, who quarterbacked seven different teams, six of which were New England Patriot squads, to Super Bowl victories.

But forget about Brady, Yogi, and any basketball player(s) you can name. None of them can hold a candle to the greatest winner to ever play a major league team sport in North America. Sadly, the unquestioned holder of that distinction died just six days after his 21st birthday, but not before earning his way into his sport’s Hall of Fame as a member of 11 Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Montreal Canadiens.

Go ahead. Read the last line of the previous paragraph again. It’s not a misprint.

Henri Richard, who died on March 6, 2020, really did play on 11 National Hockey League championship teams. That’s a remarkable feat for anybody, let alone someone whose life concluded just six days after his 21st birthday.

There’s an explanation, of course. Richard was born on Feb. 29, 1936. Because of that he had to savor each precious birthday four times as much as non-bissextile people get to enjoy theirs. The rest of us get to celebrate (or ignore, as the case may be) the anniversary of our birth annually, but bissextile folks only get to do so every 1,461st day.

Bissextile (that’s not a misprint either) is an adjective that describes anything pertaining to the extra day of a leap year. It’s also a word that should be pronounced both carefully and precisely (it’s by-SEX-till) by its speaker, since one tiny mistake by the pronouncer could result in an embarrassing misunderstanding by not just the person(s) being spoken to, but also any and all eavesdropping bystanders in the immediate area.

What’s the chance of being born on February 29? Well, it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that it’s roughly one in 1,461. (It might take a mathematician to figure out what one-1461st is in decimal form, though; it’s .06844626967.)

But even that’s not quite exact, since every fourth year is bissextile, except when that year is evenly divisible by 100, but not by 400. Come 2096 bissextile people had better party like it’s 1999 on their birthday, because they’re going to have to wait eight years for their next one. There isn’t going to be a Feb. 29, 2100.

Henri Richard is hardly the only renowned person who was born on February 29. Pope Paul III (1468), Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers (1736), and journalist and women’s rights advocate Emmeline B. Wells (1828) were all born on bissextile days. The 20th century is fraught with notable bissextile children, including astronaut Jack Lousma (1936), rapper Ja Rule (1976), Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Lydia Jacoby (2004), and 97 others listed on Wikipedia’s February 29th page.

But be advised, fans of bissextile Thursdays: you had better enjoy this one to the fullest, because the next Thursday, February 29 won’t arrive until 2052. <

Insight: Reel thoughts and special memories

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


My love of movies and visual storytelling began somewhat auspiciously at the age of 7 in 1961 when I was in second grade and it’s a passion that’s stayed with me for my lifetime.

I had been hospitalized to have my tonsils removed and when I was to go home, my mother picked me up and we rode the bus home. When she wanted to get off at a stop that I was unfamiliar with, I knew she didn’t plan to go home immediately. Instead, we walked to the Loew’s Theater, and she paid for tickets for us to see “Gorgo,” about a sea monster that attacks London after its baby is caught and taken there.

The experience of going to watch a movie in a theater was amazing. I was impressed by the size of the screen, the wall d├ęcor, the smell of popcorn, the array of candy, and the movie posters in the lobby.

Our family didn’t go to the movies often, so for a few years the best way for me to watch movies was on television and I took advantage of that every time I could. Some of what I consider classics that I watched were Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” with Farley Granger and Robert Walker, “A Place in the Sun” with Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters, and “Portrait of Jennie” with Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones.

By the time I was in high school, I found movies to be a great way to spend a few hours away from home, see things from another viewpoint, or ride a roller coaster of emotions. I cried when Dorothy said goodbye to the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” and laughed at the antics of the chimpanzee Cheetah in the “Tarzan” film series. No matter how many times I see “Lassie Come Home,” I always have tears streaming down my face when the collie completes her journey and makes it back to young Roddy McDowall and his family.

When I was in college in the early 1970s, the theater in town became a place of refuge for me. It was inexpensive and some nights would have a “double feature” of two movies shown back-to-back for the price of one. I can recall paying $2 to see a double feature of “Patton” and “M*A*S*H.” It was a nearly five-hour marathon of film watching, but I still remember it vividly.

Through the years, I have accumulated many incredible memories from going out to the movies. That includes attending a midnight screening of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” and standing in a line during freezing temperatures for more than two hours to watch “The Exorcist” in January 1974.

Imagine how delighted I was when I was asked to write about a movie being filmed nearby in New Mexico in 1975. It was just my third professional assignment as a reporter. The film was called “The Man Who Fell To Earth,” and it was directed by Nicholas Roeg, who had been a cinematographer on “Lawrence of Arabia.” I visited the movie set during the summer when temperatures were near 100 degrees and interviewed the director and the cast, which included Rip Torn, Buck Henry, Candy Clark, and some English musician and actor I had never heard of before by the name of David Bowie.

More than 21 years later, in 1996, I was living on the Space Coast of Florida and wrote a story for the newspaper about a talent agency that was recruiting locals to serve as extras on movies being filmed in Central Florida. Because of my interest in movies, I filled out an application and submitted my photograph to work as an extra, never dreaming that someday I would get that opportunity.

In January 1997, I received a phone call to serve as an extra on the film “Contact” which was filming at the Kennedy Space Center. I discovered that being an extra requires long hours and extraordinary wait times. We had to be there at 4 a.m. for wardrobe fitting, and then boarded a bus to the filming location. In the four days I worked as an extra, we worked past 9 p.m. every day, making it more than a 17-hour day.

If you look closely, you can find me in four scenes at Kennedy Space Center appearing as a cameraman. I also was thrilled to meet actors Tom Skerritt and Jodie Foster, who showed her kindness by purchasing breakfast one morning for the entire group of 250 extras working on the film.

I still am fascinated by movies both old and new. The last film that my wife and I watched in a theater was “Elvis” with Austin Butler and Tom Hanks in 2022. Last Saturday night, we watched “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” from 1961 on television. I still cry each time Audrey Hepburn throws her cat into an alley in the pouring rain, drives away, and then returns trying to find it.

I have watched more movies than I can recall, some good and some bad. We all probably have one film that stands out above all the rest though. What’s yours?

Friday, February 16, 2024

Barbara Bagshaw: Address existing needs instead of creating new ones

By State Rep. Barbara Bagshaw

Almost midway through the legislative session it appears that little will be done to address rising prices, lower our electric bills or allow workers to keep more of what they earn. What’s more, Democrat leadership has refused to even consider bills that would stop the move toward “California Rules” that will eliminate gas-powered vehicles.

State Rep. Barbara Bagshaw
I believe that we need to take care of our own citizens, veterans, and seniors first. Millions is being spent to accommodate the first of 75,000 asylum seekers that Governor Mills has pledged to attract to Maine. I can’t begin to tell you how many people are upset that asylum seekers are being put up in rent-free luxury apartments in Brunswick while tent cities are spreading throughout Maine.

The State of Maine has been the recipient of billions of dollars in federal money and over-collected tax revenues from Maine taxpayers. Despite this wealth transfer from Maine families to government, programs that serve Maine citizens are experiencing shortfalls in unexpected places.

As a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Education, I recently raised the issue of the delays that special purpose, private schools have been experiencing in receiving funding for special needs children. Delays adversely affect children’s learning which can cause them to regress and have to start over again.

In response to my questions about how we can do better to assure that these funds could be expedited and delivered in a more-timely fashion, Education Commissioner Makin said that she would look into it and stated a commitment to ensuring that they receive the funds.

Another shortfall that needs to be addressed is full funding for the tax stabilization for seniors this past year. You may recall that the Legislature created the law to help seniors remain in their homes by freezing property taxes. This past session the law was repealed in the partisan budget passed by Democrats.

I felt the law should be kept in place to help seniors with the rising cost of living but modified to address concerns. Now there is an estimated $15 million shortfall. I have been in touch with Windham town officials and am hopeful that Democrats and Republicans can work together to pass a legislation that ensures towns like Windham do not experience a shortfall for the one year the program was in existence.

Update on “California Rule” that mandates sale of electric vehicles:

In case you haven’t heard, environmental extremists used an obscure provision in state law to collect 150 signatures that triggered a Rule 127-A petition that required the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) to consider adoption of the “California Rule,” which mandates the sale of electric vehicles. Right now, 1 percent of Maine sales are electric vehicles (EVs).

A public hearing last August drew testimony from hundreds of people. For many reasons, 81 percent of the testimony was against adopting the “California Rule.” The lack of enthusiasm for EVs can be attributed to a number of factors including cost, limited charging stations, unsuitability for cold climate, limited range, negligible effect on climate change, and many others raised at the public hearing.

In December, unelected BEP bureaucrats were on the verge of passing the “California Rules” and moving toward the goal of eliminating gas engines. A widespread power outage stopped the board from voting and caused them to extend the public comment period until Feb. 5.

The modified mandate would require that 51 percent of new car sales in Maine be comprised of EVs by model year 2028 and 82 percent by model year 2032. Citizens again expressed their displeasure with the proposed rule, with 1,700 people submitting comments. The BEP will vote on the matter at their March 21 meeting.

I am not against electric vehicles, it should be a consumer choice, not a government mandate. Following California is not a good idea. As a follow up to their EV mandate, California moved to outlaw small gas-powered vehicles in 2021. Imagine if Maine experienced a storm without gas-powered chainsaws, pumps and generators.

It is an honor to represent part of Windham in the Legislature. If there is any way that I can be of assistance, please contact me at barbara.bagshaw@legislature.maine.gov .My office phone number is 207-287-1440. You can find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BagshawForMaine. To receive regular updates, sign up for my e-newsletter at https://mainehousegop.org/ <

Insight: A whisk I’m not willing to take

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


I must confess that I have never tasted or eaten a corn dog and at this point in my life, I probably never will. And while we’re at it, it’s safe to say that seaweed salad, hummus, crab rangoon, sushi, sheep brains, and silkworm larvae will never appear on my dinner plate either.

I’m rather traditional when it comes to eating and even though I’m trying to eat healthier these days, my apprehension for experiencing new foods remains constant. So far this year my wife and I have made several different meals for dinner that we haven’t cooked before and for the most part, we have enjoyed them, but there are some recipes we’ve tried that didn’t cut the mustard.

Not being very adventurous when it comes to food, I recently found it fascinating to watch others trying new foods and new tastes on YouTube. There are a series of videos uploaded to YouTube of high school students and their headmaster in England trying popular American foods for the first time and their immediate reaction to what they just sampled.

The first video I watched was of British boys in prep school wearing suits and ties tasting flavors of American soft drinks not sold in the United Kingdom. They tried Grape Crush, Big Red, Mountain Dew, Arizona Iced Tea, Fanta Berry, Clamato, and Warheads Sour Blueberry Soda.

It was hilarious to see their facial expressions after swallowing some of those drinks. One student said Grape Crush tasted like a mixture of candy and medicine, while another remarked that the Arizona Iced Tea plastic jug and the liquid inside resembled a can of petrol. The headmaster said Clamato was perhaps the worst thing that he’d ever tasted in his life.

Another video featured some of the same British prep school students trying Wendy’s “Baconator” hamburgers for the first time. They were more approving this time around, saying they were impressed and that the burgers were juicy and very filling. They also wondered why Wendy’s burgers were square, yet the hamburger buns were round.

The next video I watched was of British prep school students trying Taco Bell menu items for the first time. They sampled crunchy and Supreme Tacos, Crunchwrap Supremes, Gorditas, Chalupa Supremes, and Baja Blast drinks. One student said the Crunchwrap Supreme was like eating a fat pancake, another mentioned that nearly every single item he sampled tasted the same as the previous item. The headmaster said he felt that tacos were a great way to get young people to eat salads as half of his Supreme Taco was lettuce and sliced tomatoes.

There was another video of British students sampling a traditional American Thanksgiving meal for the first time. They tasted roasted turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie. None of these students could say when Thanksgiving is celebrated in America, guessing July 4 or May 30. Of all the Thanksgiving dishes they tried, they praised the unique tastes of cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie but said they enjoyed sweet potatoes topped with melted marshmallow the most.

The video of British students tasting American breakfast cereals was eye-opening. They sampled Trix, Cap’n Crunch, Froot Loops, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Reeses. The students found it odd that Trix turned milk in the cereal bowl into a rainbow of colors. And they found it amazing that little squares could taste like cinnamon toast. Several students said that the best cereal was Cap’n Crunch because it had a unique taste that did not overpower them and they liked the amount of crunch the cereal possessed, even when in milk.

There are other YouTube videos of British students sampling Popeyes fried chicken, cajun crawfish, and American barbecue, but I passed on those.

To see if there was a significant difference across the pond, I also watched a YouTube video of American high school students trying British comfort foods for the first time. This video showed U.S. students eating beans on toast, melted cheese on bread topped with Branston pickle sauce, and bread slices with butter topped with Marmite yeast extract. Of all of these, the Americans students preferred the Branston pickle sauce, which is sort of like a relish. It was pointed out to the students that British pickles are called “gherkins” and Branston pickle sauce is really a ground-up spicy vegetable condiment blend.

One American student said that beans on toast didn’t look appetizing to him but once he had tasted it, he thought that it grew on him after a while. Another American student asked if he could take home the jar of Branston pickle sauce when the filming was completed for the day. All eight of the American students said they hoped to never eat Marmite again.

In looking back, some of my own food apprehension stems from a Christmas party that my family attended in the 1960s. The host insisted that I try some of what looked like chow mein noodles. I ate it but was freaked out to discover it was crispy fried octopus and my stomach immediately soured. From then on, I made it a point to know what I was eating before chewing. <

Jane Pringle: Supporting our veterans amid Maine’s housing crisis

By State Rep. Jane Pringle

Recently, Maine has made national headlines for our housing initiatives, with much being said about what has and has not been done to alleviate the availability and affordability crises. From a shortage in housing stock to a construction workforce deficit, the problem is multifaceted and has impacted every corner of our state.

As a physician, I see the connection between an individual's housing status and their physical and mental health. Housing is a human right, and Maine’s shortage of available housing is a public health concern.

State Rep. Jane Pringle
I have heard from several constituents who were particularly concerned about how the housing initiatives passed last session will benefit our unhoused veterans, so I want to briefly detail a couple of measures we enacted to help support access to housing for those who have served our country.

A significant success from last session was the creation of a statewide Housing First Program. Modeled after the Preble Street service of the same name, this statewide initiative will provide shelter and on-site services to those experiencing chronic homelessness. It is guided by the ethos that individuals need a safe place to live before they can begin to search for a job or attend to their health issues. This model is revolutionary because it does not require participants to graduate through a series of classes or programs prior to starting to receive housing assistance.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has marked the Housing First model as pivotal in helping veterans find and secure stable housing. It is a low-barrier approach that can provide veterans struggling with destabilizing conditions the assistance they need as quickly as possible. Housing First has been shown to have significant economic benefits to communities as well. With an increase in secure housing for folks experiencing homelessness, there is a decrease in public costs associated with crisis centers and hospital stays. Studies have shown that the model has effectively shortened stays in hospitals, nursing homes and prisons, resulting in overall societal cost savings.

Another bill that was enacted last session provides a one-time investment of $2.6 million to support veterans’ homes throughout Maine. The measure had significant bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. By investing in these facilities across the state, our servicemembers will be more able to receive the critical support they deserve.

On the local level, we are fortunate to have the Windham Veterans Center, a community center in town that offers classes and assists veterans with filing and appealing their insurance claims. In collaboration with national organizations like Disabled American Veterans, this local center prioritizes supporting our veterans in need.

While the measures enacted last year represent strong legislative steps to end veteran homelessness and bolster funding for veterans’ homes, there is still much work to be done. The road ahead requires sustained commitment and additional measures. I look forward to continuing to support housing initiatives, so that all Mainers – and especially those who have so selflessly served our country – can find a safe, secure place to call home.

Rep. Jane Pringle is serving her second non-consecutive term in the Maine House of Representatives, having previously served from 2012-2014. She is currently a member of the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee in the 131st Maine Legislature.

Andy Young: Selflessly protecting centenarians-to-be

By Andy Young

Smart people learn from their mistakes. I sure hope that I have, too.

Former U.S. President
Jimmy Carter turns
100 years old in 2024. 
For the past several months I’ve been haunted by remorse because of a column I wrote which appeared in this very newspaper a year ago.

My intentions were pure when I authored an upbeat little essay about people who were turning 100 years old last year. It seemed like a good idea, since even given all of modern medicine’s advances, achieving centenarian status is still relatively unusual. But everyone knows where roads paved with good intentions lead, which is why I’m trying to atone for my well-intended but tragic misjudgment before the time comes when I myself could be eternally consigned there.

The article in question highlighted a quartet of accomplished individuals: former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former United States senator James Buckley, Dr. Frank Field, New York City’s pioneer in broadcast meteorology, and longtime television game show host Bob Barker, whose Oscar-worthy portrayal of himself in the epic 1996 drama Happy Gilmore proved he was a skilled actor as well. All four were born in 1923, and thus due to observe their 100th birthdays last year.

What could go wrong with celebrating the ongoing lives of some skillful, talented, and generous human beings?

Only that within six months of my story being published, all four men were dead. And adding salt to the wound was the fact that Mr. Barker, a selfless and passionate advocate for animal rights, didn’t even make it to 100, expiring three-plus months before his would-have-been birthday.

I should have known better. Just two years earlier, some genius at People Magazine decided to put Betty White on the cover of their Jan. 10, 2022 issue, anticipating her 100th birthday, which was a week after the date on the magazine’s cover. Unfortunately, shortly after the edition hit the newsstands in mid-December, Ms. White expired, and never did get to celebrate her personal centennial. In the aftermath the folks at People absorbed significant criticism, which couldn't have been pleasant, even considering that the sources of the vitriol were generally tin foil hat wearers, conspiracy theorists, and the other usual rationality-challenged suspects (like subscribers to People Magazine).

Okay. I was one of the criticizers. But I don’t consider myself rationality challenged. And for the record, I do not even own a tin foil hat. I can’t undo the past, but I can learn from it. That’s why this year I’m not mentioning any names of living people, famous or otherwise, who were born in the year 1924, even though there’s a former president, an Academy-Award-winning actress, and the current president of the Mormon Church among them.

Instead, I’ll list some celebrated 1924 natives who are no longer with us, like zany British comedian Benny Hill, baseball Hall of Famer Gil Hodges, actors Lauren Bacall and Marlon Brando, and George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States. Each would have celebrated their 100th birthday this year.

I’m almost certain the column I wrote last year had nothing to do with the subsequent passings of Henry Kissinger, James Buckley, Dr. Frank Field, or Bob Barker. But just in case, I’m not mentioning the name of anyone who’s scheduled to turn 100 this year, even though it’s ridiculous to think an essay in a weekly newspaper can alter anyone’s destiny.

However, I reserve the right to change my mind if, during this calendar year, someone spots Benny Hill, Lauren Bacall, or George H. W. Bush back among the living.

And if and when that happens, I’ll look forward to reading about it in People Magazine. <

Friday, February 9, 2024

Tim Nangle: Proud to sponsor a bill to protect our local waters, empower communities

By State Senator Tim Nangle

If you're like me, you live in this area because of its natural beauty and access to both summer and winter outdoor recreation activities. The communities in our region rely on water bodies for recreation and to bring visitors to enjoy what we have in our backyard daily.

State Senator Tim Nangle
With so many water bodies in our area, water protection has never been more important. However, there is one challenge that every town in the region and across the state has faced at one time or another: violations of Maine’s shoreland zoning laws. One of our communities is facing a rather significant and egregious violation. That is why I worked with Rep. Jessica Fay, D-Raymond, to introduce LD 2101, “An Act to Strengthen Shoreland Zoning Enforcement.”

For those who might not know, the state government creates rules on how the land near our lakes and rivers should be used to protect these areas, known as “shoreland zoning.” The state's involvement ends there. Once these rules are made, it’s up to each municipality to adopt local ordinances and enforce them. The state does not assist in enforcing shoreland zoning in any way. Instead, it’s up to the local communities to fight the battle, often with no other tools at their disposal than a lengthy and expensive court battle.

Many shoreland zoning violations are genuinely accidental, and the property owner works with the town to resolve the violation quickly and willingly. Unfortunately, there are other violations where a property owner with deep pockets considers the violation a “cost of doing business” and works to drag out a resolution in order to require the town to spend sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars to enforce the shoreland zoning ordinances.

This enforcement problem becomes particularly evident when towns attempt to uphold local- and state-mandated environmental standards. The current legal structure prevents towns from withholding permits for further development, even when property owners ignore these crucial regulations. This means an offending property owner can keep building and changing their property while ignoring the laws that protect our state's precious natural resources.

My bill, LD 2101, would allow a local municipality to restrict, suspend, or revoke any locally issued permit to the property and property owner where the violation has occurred. Notably, a town would not be required to impose these restrictions; it would be at the town's discretion. This would prevent the property owner from working to complete any renovations or continue work on the property until the violation has been resolved.

Typically, when the violation is resolved in the courts, the court assigns the cost of enforcing the violation and any applicable fines to the property owner. Then, in some cases, another fight ensues to collect those costs, which places another undue burden on taxpayers in the town. The second part of LD 2101 allows the city or town to place a lien on the property’s title to prevent the transfer of the property until the court-determined costs have been paid.

The public hearing on this bill has already happened in the State and Local Government Committee. However, you can still submit official testimony online until the work session, which has yet to be scheduled. More information on how to submit testimony can be found at mainelegislature.org/testimony. Additionally, you can email SLG@legislature.maine.gov expressing your support. Your email will be sent to all members of the committee.

As your Senator and Chair of the State and Local Government Committee, I am committed to equipping our towns with tools for effective self-governance. This initiative represents a crucial addition to our collective toolbox, further empowering our communities.

If you have questions about LD 2101 or need assistance submitting testimony, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My email is Timothy.Nangle@legislature.maine.gov, and the Senate office phone number is 207-287-1515. You can also find me on Facebook at facebook.com/SenatorTimNangle. To receive regular updates, sign up for my e-newsletter at mainesenate.org. <