Friday, March 18, 2011

Heroes Welcomed Home from Afghanistan

On March 8, 173 members of the 1136th Transportation Company (SECFOR) of the Maine Army National Guard returned from Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom at the Augusta Armory. The 1136th Transportation Company had served a year in Afghanistan.
The soldiers deployed last March to Afghanistan, where they provided security for bases and convoys against Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces.
The 1136th Transportation Company is stationed in the Sanford, Bangor and Calais. In 2003, the unit deployed to Kuwait and Southern Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Photo captions: Bottom - Jason Pepin of North Berwick, greeted by his family and friends, along with National Recruiter Wayne Elkins VFW Post 1285 and seven members of VFW Post 5744 South Berwick. Top - Brian Dickerson of South Berwick, greeted at the Augusta Armory by his family, friends, and VFW members. (Photos by Robert Place)

Shipyard Continues to Affect Maine Economy

By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard continued to be a major contributor to the economies of southern Maine and southeastern New Hampshire in 2010 with indications of even further increases this year.
The Seacoast Shipyard Association recently released the Economic Impact Study for the calendar year 2010, showing growing employment, the purchase of goods and services, and contracted facility services.
Civilian employment at the Kittery facility has risen from 3,648 in 1998 to 5,168 last year with a corresponding increase in payroll. In 1998, workers earned $192,008,527, while last year’s payroll was set at $395,166,516.
The total civilian payroll for the shipyard is set at over $395 million, and $227,335,288 of that is to workers in the state of Maine. A total of 2,911 Mainers are employed there. New Hampshire’s 2,015 workers have a payroll of $149,514,994.
The military payroll also showed an increase over 2009. The 2010 figures included $24,961,035 for Navy personnel and $14,978,396 for the Coast Guard.
The shipyard purchased over $44 million in goods and services, $6.4 million from Maine and $4.3 million from New Hampshire providers. Over $20 million worth of goods and services were purchased in the six New England states.
Good news on the horizon for the shipyard came in a joint press release from Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, New Hampshire Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, announcing that the Navy proposes to invest approximately $100 million during Fiscal Year 2012 in facility upgrades and modernization.
The funding, provided through the Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization (SRM) budget, would be used for energy conservation and repairs to submarine enclosures, building renovations, repair to the waterfront support facility and structural repair and consolidation of the yard’s workshops.
“This announcement represents an important commitment by the Navy to the future of the Kittery-Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and I am pleased by this response to our efforts to encourage such investments in the long-term health of the Yard’s facilities,” Sen. Snowe said.
Sen. Susan Collins said, “This is wonderful news not only for the dedicated men and women who work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, and their families, but also for the economy of the greater York County region.”
“I am glad to see the Obama administration prioritize funding of these long overdue improvements at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard,” Sen. Shaheen said. “Investments in this facility are critical to our country’s national security. (This) announcement is encouraging news to the hardworking men and women who keep the shipyard up and running.”
“The workers at Portsmouth have a long history of executing high quality work, and this funding is a reflection of that stellar record,” Sen. Ayotte said. “As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I will continue the fight to ensure that Portsmouth receives the strong support it has earned.”
The funding is contingent on Congressional authorization and appropriation of the funds in the 2012 budget.

The Wild and Crazy Guy Gets Serious

By Chip Schrader
Book Reviewer
“An Object of Beauty” is actor Steve Martin’s latest novel featuring the cutthroat business behind art collecting. A follow up to the novella “Shop Girl,” which was adapted to the screen, Martin positions himself as a Renaissance Man with screenplays, stage plays, novels, albums featuring his banjo playing, and comedic writing all credited to his name.
“An Object of Beauty” is told from the perspective of Daniel Franks. While the reader might expect the novel to be the lamenting of his own life, Daniel’s focus is on the life and times of his muse, Lacey Yeager. Lacey is a street-wise, unattached, and ruthless self-promoter. Starting in the basement of Sotheby’s restoring and cataloging “dogs,” or lesser paintings, she climbs her way up to work for a private collector.
Martin’s descriptions of the paintings mentioned in the story please even readers who do not have an understanding of art and its collectability. The story uncovers why certain paintings become valuable, and how successful people become successful through cunning. Lacey’s beauty and cunning embody the art and the business of the art trade. As Martin describes the beauty of a painting, and the teetering values of these pieces, the reader quickly realizes, he is also describing his main character.
The intermittent first person insertions in the narration give this book a shade of the old hard-boiled detective fiction. While narrator Daniel admits some of the details of his subject are made up, the account of her life seems plausible. Furthermore, this admission by the narrator is a clever device that Martin uses to enable for a more complete depiction of the elusive Lacey that even her greatest admirer could not follow her enough to witness.
The sensuality, wit, and strength of Lacey are almost enough to forgive her predilection to use the people around her. She is nearly tragic as value has only a material context, and the story, without judgment takes us on her rise to Power. Among the most interesting incidents during her ascent is her trip to Russia where she is asked to trade paintings. It is here that she meets Patrice, a European with the eyes and hands of an artist. For the first time, Lacey finds interest in somebody for more than a one-time rendezvous.
Another touch this novel provides is full color reproductions of many of the paintings Martin references in the story. Martin never falls into the trap of using art world jargon, and he keeps his audience interested in his subject while retaining the integrity and intelligence in his storytelling.
While readers might expect a fluffy romp from the actor who made “The Jerk” a household classic, Steve Martin veers away from comedy avoiding high drama, and weaves a tale with a great deal of class and tact. His descriptions are light and read quickly, yet vivid enough to paint a thorough picture in the reader’s mind. “An Object of Beauty” belongs in the same category as the work of Peter Mayle and even Truman Capote.
Grand Central Publishing, November 2010, 292 Pages, $26.99.
Photo caption: (Courtesy book cover of “An Object of Beauty” by Steve Martin)