Category: Arts & Features

Cherry Blossom Festival

By Rebecca Dow

The Japanese American Society of Maine performing traditional Japanese music in celebration of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Photo by Rebecca Dow.

On Friday, May 4, The Japanese American Society of Maine (JASM) celebrated the annual Cherry Blossom Festival with the city of Portland. Located directly in front of Portland’s City Hall, there was not only a food truck (courtesy of Mami, a Portland-based restaurant and Japanese street food service), but also live entertainment. My roommate and good friend, Emi Yokoyama, is a transfer student from Japan; she has had the wonderful opportunity to perform in association with drummers from the JASM.

The group present for the festival event were drummers playing some traditional Japanese music. As for Yokoyama, her performance consisted of a solo on her koto, a traditional Japanese instrument — one of those most widely known to Americans.

As for the drummers, they each wore headbands and kept perfect time with each other.
Some of the songs had a story or idea behind them, even though there were few if any lyrics spoken — for example, one was a song about luck. JASM and the food truck were both in association with ISF Trading, a seafood trading company distributing mainly sea urchin and sea cucumbers.

Emi Yokoyama playing her Koto in front of Portland’s City Hall. Photo by Rebecca Dow.

For those of you unaware about the history surrounding the Cherry Blossom Festival in America and Japan, here is a summary of the significance it holds to our society. In 1912, a gift of 3,000 cherry trees were given to America by Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. The celebration of this giving between nations is annual, and persists as a testament to maintaining good relations between Japanese and American peoples.

In 1910, a first batch of 2,000 trees were given; however, they were diseased. So, with the help of renowned Japanese chemist Dr. Jokichi Takamine, Dr. David Fairchild of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and Eliza Scidmore, the first female board member of the National Geographic Society, the 3,000 trees sent in 1912 arrived disease free.

The first ladies of our country have always had a role in the celebration of the Cherry Blossom Festival, beginning with Helen Herron Taft, who, with Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador at the time, planted the first two Japanese Cherry trees on American soil.

The remembrance of this act of giving is important to us all, as it is important for us to remember our ties with others across the globe. Cultural differences and past regrets may still exist as a stain on our memories; however, when we as two nations come together in celebration of the spirit of friendship and giving, don’t the tears of our past seem a bit more dried?


Poetic License

Music Helps
By Eliezer Morse

The music helps,
My mind picks the notes like grapes
And i feel the juice sweeten the bitters in my stomach,
Make me wine drunk
With lead-y bass
And tickling synth
And cozy samples.

Music gets me out of my head,
Makes the air a roller rink
Where i can skate around
Noticing beauty
That was obscured by my cobwebbed head.

Dead spiders crunch to the floor as my body moves,
Shaking off the weight of death and dust
No cloak of grim reaper today,
Just spandex and sparkles,
A rave out of darkness.

A Stronger Bloom

By Jessica Rose

It’s kind of like, an illness:
This gnawing, gut feeling.
My stomach becomes tight.
My vision, less focused.
My head, hidden behind a
Mist of confusion.

Lust, ties my flesh to a
Short-lived romance;
Breaks the defences of my
Fast fleeing heart.
With every longing desire, acted upon,
I awaken regret.

My petals seem so fragrant,
So tangible –
Until they’re plucked, swept up with the
Primal Act.
I am left feeling
Scattered and withered in the
Soft caress;
Hungry lips of promise.

So often have I
Savored the subtle pain,
Of my pieces given,
In every season.
I am weak, and
In my weakness,

I must:
Become a healthy bramble.

Summer Fun

By Jessica Rose

So, you’re wrapping up for the winter, enjoying the spring blooms of cherry, tulip and magnolia scattered amidst the sprouting greenery, and preparing for the busy (or not so busy) summer ahead of you. While many of you will be focused on “raking in the dough” with the influx of tourists this summer, one must remember the importance of self-care and the value of taking time to decompress, to relax and to have fun. Below I’ve listed eight ideas on engaging activities to consider, if you’ve ever got time and drive to get a little creative this summer season


Scan 41. Make Some Tie-Dye!
– Rubber bands.
– White fabric or clothing (T-shirts are great!).
– A water bucket or container for each color used.
– A water bucket or container without dye added.
– Different colored tie-dye pigments (try looking in your local art supply store or fabric shop).
– Plastic trash bags.
– A sink.
– (Optional) Little cups or Empty ketchup bottles.

Pour your dye colors into their respective dye buckets, then add as much water as directed on your dye bottle, or to your own preference.

Take your piece of cloth or clothing and saturate it in the dye-less water bucket. Wring it out and lay it down on a flat surface.

Scrunch and wad the cloth in creative ways, then hold it in place with rubber bands. (There are many ways to scrunch the cloth; specific techniques can easily be found online.)

Take your empty ketchup bottles or little cups, fill them with dye-tinted water and begin dunking, pouring or covering the wadded-up cloth into and over the dye buckets.

Once you’re satisfied with the amount of color on your cloth or clothing, place the wad into a trash bag. Let it sit for 24 hours, then rinse it out in a sink until the colors no longer run. Wring it out and dry. You now have a tie-dye something!

Scan 72. Go To The Beach!
This is probably the quintessential summer activity. Just as much fun to do alone as with a large group of friends, there is no doubt that going to the beach offers a sense of freedom and relaxation for all involved.

Scan 93. Camp In The Woods!
What could be better than using your weekend off to reconnect with nature? Grab the tent, multipurpose tool, some food supplies and brave the woods for a night. Of course, camping at designated sites can be fun too!

Scan 84. Go Fishing!
Grab your tackle boxes, lines and bait. There are so many places in Maine to go fishing, just make sure you’ve got a valid fishing license!


Scan 35. Have A Barbeque!
Call all your friends for a cookout, be it microwaved hot dogs and beef patties, or fresh off the grill steaks. Just cooking and eating summer food with friends outdoors can loosen the nerves and make for a wonderful time!

Scan 26. Go On A Picnic!
Make some lunch and find a comfortable patch of earth to lay your blanket upon and spend some time enjoying the day.

Scan 17. Get Out The Bicycle!
Go for a leisurely stroll around town. Or perhaps a speedy workout is more your style!

Scan8. Make Some Ice Cream
– 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
– 1 Cup Half & Half Cream – OR – Milk
– 1/4 Cup White Sugar
– 1/2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
– (Optional) Chocolate Chips – OR – Other Goodies: To Taste
Coarse/Rock Salt
– 1 Large Bag
– 1 Smaller Bag
– Ice (Preferably Crushed)

Take the cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract and mix them all in the smaller bag.

Fill the larger bag halfway with ice and salt. Place the closed, smaller bag containing the ice cream mixture within the larger bag.

Close the larger bag and agitate the mixture for around 15 minutes, OR until the ice cream mixture becomes thick.

Remove the smaller bag and wipe the excess salt and ice off. Empty your now frozen ice cream mixture into a bowl and add in your chocolate chips or goodies of choice.

You now have simple homemade ice cream!

A Food Journey

By Sheri Bell

lobsterOn Saturday, April 26, 2018 my husband and I went to the Lobster Shack restaurant in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. We arrived at 6:15 p.m. and found the line out the door and spilling on to the walkway. It was a quick 15-minute wait to get to the front, where we could order our seafood.

The Lobster Shack is a rare breed in a restaurant. You are allowed to bring your own adult beverages. They cannot be already opened, but if you care to have your favorite wine, beer, hard cider or wine cooler with your meal, then this is the place for you.

The Lobster Shack is located at 225 Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth. It is nested right by the Two Lights lighthouse overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It has picnic tables outside, as well as tables inside for your dining pleasure. Perched above the rocks, this lobster-and-fried-seafood spot has beautiful ocean and lighthouse views. The Lobster Shack is operational from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., daily. It opened for the season on March 31, and will close its doors on October 25. If you want a lobster dinner, please schedule your visit before 7 p.m.

A Food Journey: Empire Chinese Kitchen

By Sheri Bell

On Friday, April 13, I had the pleasure of dining at Empire Chinese Kitchen. I was a bit put off at first by the menu, as I can be a very fussy eater. I rarely ever eat vegetables unless they’re in a salad, and my favorite Chinese dish is General Tso’s chicken — or beef, which I usually eat with pork fried rice and a side order of teriyaki beef. Coming to Empire Chinese Kitchen was a bit risky for me, what with the upscale atmosphere. We arrived for an early dinner before our trip to the Portland Museum of Art where we listened to poetry readings done by local writers, inspired by the beautiful works of art displayed in the museum.

We were told the wait would be only a few minutes, and were asked if we would like to order a drink at the bar. My dinner companion for this evening was my husband of 27 years. We decided to wait to be seated before ordering our adult beverages. A few moments passed, and we were escorted to our table. After being seated, our server, Tess, arrived and filled our water glasses. We ordered drinks after she shared with us that night’s specials. After leaving us to look over the menu, she went to place our order.

My companion and I had a few questions about some of the menu options and what came with each item. The menu itself was divided into six categories so it was very easy to follow; the prices were clearly marked. It was about six to eight minutes before Tess returned with our drinks and asked if we had any questions. We proceeded to ask about the specials. Once we had our answers, she asked if we needed more time to decide and we replied that we were ready to order.

As always, I ordered first. I had decided on Chinatown Roast Pork, which was boneless  and barbecued. This item was listed under the “small plates” section of the menu and it came with a side of white rice — bacon-fried rice, which was under the Rice & Noodles section of the menu. Additionally, I ordered the Lobster Longevity Noodle, which was located under the Large Plates section of the menu. Tess, in response to the order stated that she did not know if the Lobster Longevity Noodle was available and so she left to check.

She returned in less than a minute to tell us that indeed, it was not available. Tess explained that the chef was willing to give me two other similar options. I eventually settled on the Lobster Lo-Mein. My dining companion ordered Beef Boas, also on the “small plates” specials list, and the Beef & Broad Noodles which was in the Rice & Noodles section.

The Empire restaurant was packed and beginning to fill; there was a line at the door. I noticed a great deal of take-out being ordered, so I asked Tess when she returned with our dinner if the full menu was available for take-out. She replied that it was.

The Chinatown Roast Pork was deliciously sweet; small shaved slices of roast pork with a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. The Bacon fried rice consisted of a large portion, and tasted heaven- sent. Bacon always makes things better. My Lobster Lo-Mein was plated beautifully, and tasted as good as it looked. My companion’s Beef Boas looked interesting and tasted great. He stated that the Beef & Broad noodles were delightfully pleasant; he offered me a taste and I agreed with his verdict.

As usual when eating Chinese food, we ordered way too much food and had to ask for a doggie bag. Going to The Empire Chinese Kitchen was a wonderful experience, and our server Tess was attentive, accommodating and very knowledgeable about the menu. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was inviting. The wait time for being seated was extremely short — only a matter of minutes. The wait time for food after ordering was short as well, and the overall flow of the dining experience was excellent. We will certainly be returning to the Empire Chinese Kitchen.

Dancers of Diligence

By Rebecca Dow

Come one, come all — enjoy the show as Jessamyn Schmidt’s Dance Performance class expresses a combination of art through movement, consisting of techniques and ideas explored and refined over a semester of collaborative dance. Their performance will take place in Jewett Hall Auditorium on the South Portland Campus on Friday, May 11, beginning at 2 p.m.

According to Schmidt, her students’ performance “will be a woven tapestry of some of the movement ideas [that] the dancers found interesting and wanted to pursue.” The group will consist of six women, many of whom have never performed a choreographed dance in front of an audience before. Since this is the first year SMCC has held a Dance Performance class, we will all surely be in for a treat.

Jessamyn Schmidt’s Dance Performance class practices a sequence. Photo by Jessamyn Schmidt.

“We’ve used a number of improvisational structures to explore, generate, inspire and discover movement ideas,” says Schmidt. “We’ve then taken ‘kernels’ and shaped them into a sequence that seems to have an organic flow.” For those of you unfamiliar with what a “kernel” is, they are “little glimmers or nuggets of ideas that seem to have potential, and reveal themselves during the improvisational exploration process. For example, a kernel could be a dynamic connection between two or more dancers in which case we may develop a duet or a trio,” according to Schmidt.

During the performance, dancers will think and act abstractly, exploring both indoors and outdoors of Jewett Hall; audience members will be expected to stand for the duration of the show, and follow the dancers as they express their acquired talents in ways that leave each viewer with a different perspective and unique experience. Dance Performance (THEA 156) will be offered at SMCC every spring semester from now onward for students already registered for, or who have already taken Modern Dance (THEA 155). All are welcome to attend, and witness SMCC’s first ever dance performance class show the world what they’ve learned.

Below is a statement from Emily Morrison, a student attending Schmidt’s class:

“I have really enjoyed the opportunity to be part of this amazing group,” said Emily, “It has been an amazing experience. We’ve all learned so much . . . through this process, and have been able to create something original and exciting. . . Collaborating as a group, we can create something that a single person couldn’t create on their own. Dancing gives me confidence in my ability to create and collaborate. She goes on to say that, “It can be a great form of expression, and a way to become comfortable with yourself. Through dance we find our challenges and push ourselves to overcome these objections and limitations. It creates a stronger sense of self and helps to show us our strengths and weaknesses and how to address them.” — Emily Morrison

Food & Movie Review

By Randall Delaware

Over the weekend I decided to take the bus from South Portland over the bridge to Portland, have lunch and see a movie. The following day I did the same and saw another movie.

I was walking down Fore Street when I saw the menu posted in the window. I read the word “PASTA” and knew this was the place for me. The restaurant’s name is Paciarino Alta Pastificeria. I sat down and was brought a menu and then a glass of water and bread and tomato sauce. When the waiter came back I ordered some house wine for $6 and Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese, or ribbon pasta with a beef and pork sauce. The sauce wasn’t stingy on meat and the pasta portion was just right — not too much, not too little. After the main course, I had tiramisu for dessert. The top layer was like custard with unsweetened chocolate powder on top. The bottom layer was soft and coffee flavored.

After the meal, I spoke with the waiter who turned out to be the owner. His name was Enrico Barbiero, who emigrated from Milan, Italy, after being attracted to Maine by an Italian television show exploring the Maine coast from Kittery to Bar Harbor. So interested by this, he and his wife visited Maine. So for the past nine years Enrico, his wife and daughter have enjoyed their life in America.

Then it was on to the movie. I chose “The Death of Stalin” because it fit into the time of my arrival after having lunch. The movie is a satire on the vicious reign of dictator Joseph Stalin. There was lots of swearing and killing. Parts of the movie were funny, but after a half an hour, I wasn’t sure it was worth sitting through the rest of it. The sequencing of scenes was very smooth and some of the sights spectacular, whether interior architecture or outside scenery.

The following day I went back to Portland for another movie. This time I chose “Chappaquiddick.” I enjoyed this movie a lot more. This is the movie of the last Camelot-era Kennedy brother whose presidential dreams were severely damaged. The movie shows Senator Ted Kennedy and his political team attempting to salvage his presidential hopes after a car accident in which he drove off a small bridge into a pond. This accident results in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, a woman who was previously on Robert Kennedy’s staff. This pretty much followed the course of events every Massachusetts state resident was presented with back in 1969. The acting was good, and the insight into this tragedy seemed realistic to me, a political outsider. Certainly, if one has a cynical view of politicians, this will “float your boat.” The one part that tainted the realistic impression of the movie was when the drowning victim was shown alive struggling inside the car — how can anyone know what her last words would be?

Well that’s the skinny on my visits to the big city. Your turn to “roll the dice” on your movie and restaurant choices.