I admit I lack empathy for lobsters. When it comes to considering their feelings, I tend to categorize the tasty crustaceans with crab grass, black flies, politicians and other lower life forms. I just don't care about their problems. As far as I'm concerned, the only difference between lobsters and the others is that I wouldn't eat a politician, even if I was really, really hungry.
I don't believe I'm the only Mainer with this attitude. Most of us couldn't be bothered listening to a lobster's sob story. So, maybe there's a real need for the latest proposal from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA wants to lease the old Somerset County jail
in Skowhegan for use as a first-of-its-kind "Lobster Empathy Center."
In a letter to county commissioners, the group proposed using the historic building for exhibits designed to teach us about "these interesting, sensitive animals while also commemorating the millions of lobsters who are ripped from their homes in the ocean off the coast of Maine each year before being boiled alive."
Visitors to the center would be able to experience what it's like to be trapped, after which they'd be confined in a "filth-strewn glass tank." Then, they'd be mixed with mayonnaise and made into tourist rolls. Just kidding about that last one. Most people prefer their tourists without mayo.
At last report, the commissioners weren't taking PETA's proposal all that seriously, perhaps because Skowhegan is a good 50 miles from the nearest spot one might reasonably expect to trap a lobster. If somebody wanted to tailor the concept to better reflect Somerset County, maybe they should consider creating the Maine Worker Empathy Center. There's pain we can all feel.
Speaking of tourists, the latest batch to invade the state is some two dozen people who paid up to $300 each to search for Bigfoot.The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization
, alleged to be a nationwide group, is running four-day tours of sites where the legendary beast has supposedly been spotted in Maine, several other states and Canada. The price doesn't include meals, lodging or psychiatric help.
I'm not sure if Vienna is on the Bigfoot itinerary, but if it is, give Joseph Lord's machine shop a wide berth. Lord recently lost a large quantity of scrap metal to thieves
, so he loaded up his shotgun and kept watch around the clock. When the perps returned for another load, Lord unloaded his buckshot into their pickup, disabling the vehicle and forcing them to flee on foot.
A check of the truck's registration gave the sheriff's office a pretty good idea who might be a suspect in the crime. But at last report, that person had proved to be more difficult to locate than Bigfoot and less inclined to be caught than a lobster.
The Merrill Marine Terminal on the western end of Portland's waterfront is a familiar sight to passersby on Veterans Bridge. Huge cranes load and unload piles of scrap metal (wait, does Joe Lord know about this?), tapioca and other bulk products from ships from all over the world. But the site might someday boast another eye-catching structure. A committee wants to erect a 60-foot tall sculpture of what looks like a bunch of cranes all jammed together at the top of a pole to honor the memory of the terminal's founder P.D. Merrill, who died last year.
Before the huge piece of art can be constructed, it needs an as-yet-unspecified amount of money to be donated, as well as approval by the city's sometimes prickly Public Art Committee.
Less controversial, but no less unusual is the sculpture recently erected in Littleton at the Southern Aroostook Agricultural Museum. It's the new model of Pluto
, which used to be a planet, but has now been downgraded to being a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union, a group that appears to lack empathy for little blobs of rock floating through outer space.Dwarf Pluto is the latest addition to the Northern Maine Museum of Science's Maine Solar System Model, which stretches over 80 miles of Route 1, all the way to Presque Isle. By the way, don't shed any tears of empathy for the old model of Pluto. It's still in place at the Houlton Information Center. Keeping both Plutos allows the model to reflect the body's odd orbit.
In the more ordinary news of the week:State Rep. Chris Barstow of Gorham is under investigation by police for allegedly misappropriating town money.
Barstow, who recently resigned as Gorham's recreation director, admitted using the municipal postage meter for personal mail and the town credit card for gassing up his car. He's also running for re-election.
Need money? You might want to check with the Harold Alfond Foundation, which will soon be Maine's biggest charitable organization
, with assets of $500 million or more. Once the late philanthropist's estate is settled, his foundation is expected to make donations to worthy causes (no, not lobster empathy) in the neighborhood of $25 to $30 million each year.
Alfond won't have any shortage of applicants. Maine's Gross State Product
, the value of goods and services produced here, grew just 1.3 percent in 2007 and isn't expected to increase much for several years.
Meanwhile, a new survey shows consumer confidence in Maine is lower than a lobster's belly. In 2007, 30 percent of respondents to the Market Decisions poll said they were worse off than a year ago.
In 2008, the number nearly doubled to 55 percent. Think that has anything to do with four-buck-a-gallon gas?
In sports news, the minor league Portland Pirates lost their affiliation with the National Hockey League's Anaheim Ducks
, but are expected to sign an agreement with the Buffalo Sabres to provide players next season.Ryan Flaherty of Portland was chosen 41st in Major League Baseball's
annual amateur draft on June 5. The ex-Deering High shortstop and Vanderbilt University junior became the highest-selected position player in Maine history when he got picked by the Chicago Cubs.
Weirdness is infecting the sports world, as well. The third season of Zombie Kickball
happens June 29 at 2 p.m. at Portland's Eastern Prom field. Dress like one of the undead - white makeup, fake blood, lots of mascara - and shuffle around.
Why? Same reason you should have empathy for lobsters. Or search for Bigfoot. Fun, I guess.Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org