Friday, November 28, 2014

Selling (other people's) books with some great Maine authors, Portland, Nov. 29

I hope the Americans among you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday. Our part of Maine was stricken with widespread power outages, but prior investment in a generator saved Thanksgiving dinner for twenty-some-odd at our house. It's still running out there, 36 hours after we lost power, noisily keeping the 19th century at bay.

For those with power or without who are looking for a more soulful way to participate in our country's crazed celebration of retail purchasing this weekend, Longfellow Books in Portland is hosting a genuinely fun event as part of the "buy local" effort in our region.

It all takes place tomorrow, Saturday Nov. 29. First, children's author-illustrators Chris Van Dusen and Scott Nash will be competing in a "draw off" against one another from 11 am to 1. This, I expect, will be quite amusing.

Then, from 1 to 3pm, authors Richard Russo, Monica Wood, Brock Clark, Genevieve Morgan and myself will each have some of our own handpicked titles of other people's works, and try to outsell one another in singing the praises of said titles.

Come on by; it should be a lot of fun.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Shedding light on New Brunswick's powerful, secretive Irving family

In today's Maine Sunday Telegram I write about New Brunswick's Irving family, who over four generations have built a powerful vertically-integrated conglomerate that controls much of that province's economic and informational life, including Irving Oil and forestry entity J.D. Irving (Maine's largest private landholder and the 10th largest on the planet, excluding monarchs), all of the province's English-language dailies, most of its weeklies, railroads, shipyards, oil tankers, hardware store chains, bus companies, paper mills, a refinery and an LNG terminal.

It's also an enormously secretive clan whose company spokespeople rarely respond to media requests and whose own control of the provincial media market ensures little scrutiny at home. But a new book by New Brunswick author and journalist Jacques Poitras -- Irving vs Irving -- has pulled the curtain back a bit. I talk to him about the book, the Irvings, and their sway over that province.

I last wrote about the Irvings for the Christian Science Monitor in 2008; nobody outside its newspaper division would return calls. Ditto for this 2011 Monitor story on tidal energy, which the Irvings had just pulled away from. They didn't respond to inquiries for this story either.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Talking Blackbeard on Smithsonian Channel's "Secrets", Nov. 17

The next episode of the Smithsonian Channel history documentary series "Secrets" features Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge and, yes, yours truly as an on-air source.

The show, produced by the Toronto-based Pier 21 Films, also airs as "Treasures Decoded" on History Television (in Canada), Channel 4 (UK), France 5, and Australia's SBS.

You can get a taste of the show from these online clips over at Smithsonian Channel's website. The full story of Blackbeard and the golden age pirates is told in my work of history, The Republic of Pirates, a New York Times bestseller which is available in local editions all the aforementioned markets save France. It was also the inspiration for the NBC drama "Crossbones" and helped inform the making of Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Speaking on Blackbeard and the Bahamas Pirates, Portland, Maine, Nov. 13

For those of you in southern Maine, I'll be speaking about Blackbeard and the great Caribbean pirate gang in Portland on November 13 at 6:30 pm.

The event -- keyed off my history, The Republic of Pirates, which was made into an NBC series starring John Malkovich -- is at Letterpress Books at the Northgate shopping plaza and is free and open to the public. A signing will follow.

Here's a preview of the talk -- and an interview with me -- from The Portland Daily Sun.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Talking American Nations with Iowa Public Radio

Let the 2016 presidential speculation begin: I'm speaking on American Nations in Iowa tonight. The event -- part of Des Moines' World of Words Festival and the Iowa History Center's speaking series -- kicks off at 7pm at Simpson College in Indianola. It's free and open to the public.

For those who can't make it: in anticipation of the talk, I had this enjoyable and extended conversation with Iowa Public Radio's "River to River" program yesterday. The Des Moines Register's emeritus editorial page editor, Richard Doak, joined the conversation in the second half.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Remembering the Fall of the Wall, 25 Years Ago

I was living in Eastern Europe in 1989, and was in Berlin during the crazy week after the Berlin Wall came down, symbolically the Cold War.  Hard to believe it was 25 years ago.

Five years ago -- on the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet empire -- I wrote a series of posts here at World Wide Woodard on my experiences that breathtaking fall and early winter. Here, on the anniversary of the Wall's opening, is the piece I wrote about Berlin.

The full 1989-2009 series, for those interested, can be read here (start from the bottom and work your way to the top to read them in order.)

A quarter century later, it looks as if the Post-Cold War Era has ended, with an autocratic Russia again scratching menacingly at the eastern marches of Europe. Hopefully the world -- and the Russian people -- have the will and good sense to prevent a return to that bleak Cold War world.

Photos (c) Colin Woodard. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Maine: How did Paul LePage get reelected?

Last night, Gov. Paul LePage  -- whose approval rating has often been stuck in the thirties -- defied national experts and dozens of polls to win reelection by a comfortable margin and around 48 percent of the vote. How did it do it?

Between two and four this morning, I had the unenviable task of writing this early analysis for Politico Magazine. As most observers must be aware by now, it was more than a vote split, or bear baiting, or the great Republican wave, or his rival's loss of support in the congressional district that elected him six times, but rather a combination of all of the above.

But read for yourself.

My last two pieces for Politico Magazine were also about LePage -- a campaign primer in January and an update on his controversial and sustained contacts with a radical fringe group.

 Also on election day I was pleased that Conor Friedersdorf over at The Atlantic included my most recent book, American Nations, in his round-up of suggested reading for the day. Thanks, sir.

[Update 11/6/14: Also pleased that the Washington Post recommended the Politico piece as one of the "8 things you should have read" the day after the election. And the Boston Globe's "Political Happy Hour" too.]

Monday, November 3, 2014

Talking "American Nations" in Des Moines, November 11

For those of you in Greater Des Moines, Iowa, I'll be presenting on American Nations at Simpson College in Indianola on November 11.

The talk, which is also part of the Wonder of Words Festival that kicked off today, starts at 7pm at Hubbell Hall in the Kent Campus Center. It's presented by Simpson's Iowa History Center, who I thank for their interest in the book. It's free and open to the public, and I understand I'll be signing all of my books after the event.

For those interested in the Iowa angle, Richard Doak -- retired Opinion pages editor of the Des Moines Register -- wrote this column on American Nations and Iowa last year.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Don Gellers, 1936-2014

I've been remiss in posting here this full-length obituary of the Rabbi Tuvia Ben Shmuel Yosef, better known to Mainers as Donald Cotesworth Gellers, who died last month at age 78.

The obituary, which appeared in last week's Maine Sunday Telegram, provides some additional details on Gellers, who was a central figure in the 29-part Press Herald series, "Unsettled," and paid a stiff price for helping Maine's much-oppressed Passamaquoddy tribe in the mid-1960s.

Gellers passed away before he could see his name formally rehabilitated in Maine; a posthumous pardon effort is still underway to clear the former attorney, who was the victim of a state-sponsored conspiracy orchestrated by the state Attorney General's office and involving the police and possibly the courts.

[Update, 1/10/20: Governor Janet Mills, a former Attorney General and career prosecutor, granted Gellers a full pardon and admonished the state's handling of the case.]