Tag Archives: Portland

MODNIGHT at SPACE Gallery

MODNIGHT was a night of firsts, marking my introductory foray into SPACE Gallery parties, and my first feeble humble at flash/event photography.

The night was a riot. Everyone was having a great time (except for the girl I overheard crying outside, whose ex-boyfriend had apparently spilled beer on her hair and slashed her tires. She wasn’t having a good time; he probably was, because he was clearly a jerk). I hope I was able to capture how much fun everyone was having, except for the beer-sodden ride-less gal, who I don’t think is in any of these photos anyway.

Kudos to SPACE Gallery for hosting such an great event. My fingers are crossed for this becoming a regular thing, like ’80s night at Asylum, but better.

Comment with any thoughts/ideas/suggestions/compliments(?), especially if you’ve got any tips on flash. Hope you like it.

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Live from Coyle Street

Raccoon Raccoon from Minneapolis, Minn.

Last night was a show at Coyle Street, Portland’s punk house institution since before I can remember. If you’ve never been to Coyle Street, picture it this way: A three-story house in Oakdale full of bike parts, dirty dishes, art, music, skateboards, zines and a certain kind of tough-as-nails love that just can’t be faked. It smells vaguely of vegan caserole, chain lubricant and b.o.

The guestbook is a hand-bound cardboard tome filled with adoring praise for Coyle Street and the kids who have lived there from every busker, vagrant, crustpunk, anarchist, traveler, circus performer, or band worth their salt that’s come through Portland and stayed on the floors and couches of this bohemian treasure by the Back Cove. Shows like the ones at Coyle Street are enough to make me love Portland again when I start to think I might hate it.

The venue is the basement. It can comfortably accommodate about 20 people, but Coyle Street isn’t really about being comfortable.  It’s about cramming in as many people in the tight space as possible. It’s about standing shoulder-to-shoulder and nodding your head emphatically while a band that could fill the stage at Genos, or SPACE or anywhere else stuffs themselves into a roughly 10-feet by 6-feet space at the head of the crowd.

Like all the best things, it’s about being close. It’s about sweat.

Three bands played but the hands-down standout were Raccoon Raccoon, pictured above, all the way from Minneapolis. When they took the “stage,” most of the kids in attendance sat down, a quick departure from the atmosphere created by the previous band, Hey Pauly Shore, who played that early-aughts brand of hardcore that when played honestly appealed to scenester-teens and die-hard punks alike.

Raccoon Raccoon were different: a cello and guitar/uke  duo who played a kind of haunting, beautiful fugues that left at least this reviewer in a trance, staring as the bow slid over the cello’s strings and fingers plucked. The pair had that kind of musical and lyrical sincerity that differentiates the best bands in the world from the worst even if they play the same songs. They played maybe eight songs, one of which I recorded and you can listen to here.

From what I can tell, Raccoon Raccoon — like most underground bands — online existence is limited to their myspace page. Buy their stuff. I did. You won’t regret it.

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No Comment? Not for long

PORTLAND — If anyone tried to sum up the last few days in Maine media-watching, they’d have a hard time doing it better than Kara Matuszewski, who said this morning on Twitter:

“Well if nothing else @PressHerald publisher Richard [Connor] knows how to get attention.”

In case you don’t follow Maine media goings-on, MaineToday Media — owner of the Maine newspapers Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel and their websites — shut down online comments sometime Tuesday evening. (Connor is MaineToday Media’s top dog.) The explanation for which, now removed, explained the rationale behind this decisions:

“While it may be an unpopular decision with some, we made it because what once served as a platform for civil civic discourse and reader interaction has increasingly become a forum for vile,crude,insensitive, and vicious postings. No story subject seems safe from hurtful and vulgar comments.”

MaineToday also said they would “consider reopening our commenting section in the future by making contributors accountable in some way for what they say.”

This point seemed to have been largely overlooked by the swift response from a slew of readers who pounced on the Press Herald (which served as a proxy target for praise and criticism alike) for everything from “closing community” to giving in to choosing to kill dialogue rather than finding a solution. MPBN and the Portland Daily Sun both ran stories about the comment shutdown.

The swift response made sense at the time (as I argued yesterday, a newspaper acting this way is news and deserves comment), but seems a little premature today, as the newspaper chain launches a new comments system powered by Intense Debate.  Damien Kiesow pointed out at Poynter sums up the change:

“Intense Debate appears to meet many of the criteria for increased accountability Connor laid out in his original memo. For readers, the system allows a variety of different log-in options, including Facebook and Twitter. For news staffers, the system includes advanced moderation tools, such as filtering, blocking or deleting of comments by keyword, e-mail address or IP address.

“It is not clear if the paper plans to enforce a ‘real name’ policy, as nicknames are still currently being allowed. However, Intense Debate can be configured to allow users with Facebook accounts, but not Twitter, for example, to log-in and comment. That would significantly increase the percentage of users commenting on the site using verified identities.

Intense Debate is also used by the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the flagship newspaper in a chain of publications Connor owns in Pennsylvania”

The move to this sort of comment moderation is not without precedent in Maine. This summer, the Bangor Daily News opted to use Disquss, which operates similarly to Intense Debate. Both services offer a feature that moves comments that receive good feedback to the fore, though it’s not clear whether MaineToday has chosen to enable this feature.

I’m sure Tony Ronzio, editor at the Kennebec Journal, wasn’t alone in saying he’d “thought about newspapers, the web and reader involvement more during the past 5 days than in months.” Twirps were a-tweeting during the last few days about the role of reader comments on newspapers’ websites and how best to encourage dialogue without sinking into the muck. Hopefully MaineToday’s new system accomplishes this. I’m sure all the publicity didn’t hurt, either.

(Disclosure: I spend my working life these days editing copy, laying out pages and waxing philosophical with Tony Ronzio at the Kennebec Journal in Augusta. By extension, I also work for the KJ’s sister paper, The Morning Sentinel in Waterville.)

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Filed under Journalator, Media, Portland

Downeaster

So.

Im currently en route from Portland to Boston on the Amtrak Downeaster. Maybe for you city folk, this isn’t noteworthy, but it’s my first time (ever) riding a train. Impressions so far:

– It’s a lot more comfortable, fun and spacious than a bus.
– Food car? Where I can buy not only admittedly bad coffee but also a Charlie Card with two pre-paid fares? Awesome.

The 2.5 hour ride is also giving me an excuse to finally try posting from WordPress’s iPhone app. Handy in a pinch, but my troglodyte fingers aren’t quite as nimble on this touchscreen as I might like.

In keeping with all the writing I’ve been doing since I moved, both digital and analog, I should mention Portland. Here it’s easy: The city gets big points for being the first place I’ve lived with truly convenient connections to the outside world. $45 gets me to Boston and back? Sold.

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A city of bricks and spectacle

PORTLAND — The first thing that always strikes me about downtown Portland is the bricks. It probably shouldn’t even register, especially because New England is the brick-and-mortar capital of the U.S. But I’m still always struck by how rusty-red everything is. From the sidewalks to street-facing facades to the ceiling in the public market house; Everything is brick.

Grafitti, Congress Street, Portland, Maine.

The second thing that struck me about downtown Portland since I moved here a week ago is the abundance of a really public kind of craziness and the way it helps people meet each other. It seems that if you want to not only see new faces but talk to new people, the best thing to do is sit outside and wait for a happening. (I should mention here that normally I wouldn’t even bother to comment on how there are crazies in this or any city. But I have on good information from a native Manhattanite living in Portland that the ratio of Crazy:Not Crazy is much higher here than in The City. He assured me it deserves comment. I trust him.)

Every time a very well-dressed but very self-righteous zealot starts waving around a bible, or an indignant shop owner leaves his post to tell the dirty kids to stop wrestling because it’s scaring away business, or the police peel onto the sidewalks to delicately lead away a man who too quickly turned from a talking-to-himself harmless guy to a screaming-and-cursing-at-passersby scary guy, strangers pop out of the woodwork to watch.

Doors swing open as patrons, workers, hipsters and transients leave their laptops, cash registers, books and conversations to stand outside, smoke cigarettes and watch the happening unfold. I count six new acquaintances from observing the angry preacher mentioned above.

I’m sure there’s some sort of critical, probably Marxist, social theory dedicated to screaming down this kind of voyeurism. But that probably legitimate criticism doesn’t take away from the apparently very real ability spectacle has to bring new people together.

So if you, like me, are new to town and hoping to meet new people, just sit back and wait. Inevitably, someone will appear with a loud, maybe even scary mission to give you and a total stranger something to talk about.

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Good stuff

Last few days have been great, professionally speaking. I’m working on two freelance stories, both of which have been at least initially accepted for print at different papers. I met with Dan MacLeod and Matt Dodge (an awesome guy whom I had not previously met) in Portland after working on one of said stories.

We talked at length about the differences between The Maine Campus and The Free Press. It was great to hear how other college papers differ from UMaine’s. It was also nice to talk about reporting styles. It made me realize how many different ways there are to report a story, from what details you note (or don’t note) to at what level a reporter must get tough with a source. I’m still not sure where I stand on that last one.

In other news, it looks like MaineToday Media is going to bring down the hatchet on some employees. That’s the Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram, Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal.

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