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In Makerspaces workshops, you can make most anything

     My latest project is building a steam engine for a model railroad. 
     For project-hounds like me, each new ambition means new tools, which are fun but pricey. That’s a big commitment for a beginner. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to try a project, get some guidance and use some tools and supplies before having to buy your own? 
     Now there is.
 
Makerspaces? Places to Make 
     “A Makerspace is a shared workshop where members work on projects, collaborate with others and learn skills,” explained Russ Miller of the new Annapolis Makerspace. “Think of it as a gym where members pay a monthly fee, but instead of weight machines, members have access to many types of tools and equipment.”
     You might first take a Makerspace class to learn basic skills and safe operation of the tools and machines. Likely you’ll find other people with similar interests.
     Each Makerspace has its own facility, organization, specialty and funding, with monthly memberships discounted for students and seniors. All are reasonably priced considering what you get.
 
The Annapolis Makerspace
     “Everyone has their own interest, and they are varied,” said Jack Warpinski, president of the group of electronics hobbyists, programmers, 3D printer enthusiasts and woodworkers who merged their skills as the nonprofit Annapolis Makerspace. They rented a space off West Street by the National Guard Armory, donated or loaned tools, built workbenches and, by early August, were up and running. 
     “Right now we’re in startup mode,” Warpinski told me.
     Facilities include a computer lab with CAD software, an electronics station with test equipment, 3D printers and a wood shop with a CNC (computer-numeric-controlled) router. Membership is by the month, and classes are offered.
     “The Annapolis area is large enough to support a more substantial organization,” said Warpinski, “so I see us growing in members, square footage, tools, equipment and programs.”
     Microcontroller open houses Thursdays at 7pm, general meetings fourth Tuesday each month at 7pm: 42 Hudson St., Annapolis: www.makeannapolis.org. 
 
Chesapeake Arts Center Makerspace
     The Chesapeake Arts Center, housed in the old Brooklyn Park High School, since 2001 has been northern Anne Arundel County’s Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Now it’s broadened its plan to include technical arts.
     “It meshed with our community’s blue-collar roots in manufacturing and ship building,” headwoman Belinda Fraley Huesman told me. “There were a lot of things made in this area. We wanted to embrace who we were, who we are and lift up the neighborhood.”
     The new Makerspace has its grand opening Saturday September 30. It offers instruction and tools in wood shop, metal fabrication and welding, screen printing and textiles and electronics. There is also a computer lab, laser cutter, a CNC router and 3D printers.
     Mollie McElwain, the center’s education director, is in the thick of preparing for operations.
     “The curriculum for all the safety training is designed,” McElwain said. “We’re now looking for instructors with the specific skills and putting out a call for proposed classes.”
     Anne Arundel County and the state made grants of $90,000 for design and renovation of the space plus $100,000 for fit-up. Annual operating costs will be supported by Makerspace memberships and the Arts Center’s operating budget.
     Open house Saturday Sept. 30, 10am-5pm; open weekdays 10am-6pm, Saturdays 10am-noon. 194 Hammonds Ln., Brooklyn Park: www.chesapeakearts.org/makerspace.
 
Unallocated
     Unallocated is what Annapolis Makerspace could be seven years hence. In 2010, eight people with a shared interest in information security met in a local bar. Today Unallocated is a non-profit, membership cooperative with a facility in Severn and an extensive calendar of talks, seminars, classes and interest-group meetings, many open to the public.
     Stocked with some of the same tools common to other Makerspaces, like woodworking and 3-D printers, Unallocated focuses on all things computer: hardware, software and security, microprocessors and gaming, to mention just a few. There is a large server farm and many computers where members can tinker with both hardware and software. Unique offerings include ham radio and analog — traditional board — games. Most supplies were donated or loaned by members. Various levels of membership available, providing different levels of access
     Open houses Wednesdays at 7pm; check website for additional openings: 512 Shaw Court, Severn; ­www.unallocatedspace.org/uas.
 
The Foundery
     The Taj Mahal of local Makerspaces, The Foundery is a flourishing private enterprise. The facility is huge and very well equipped for a wide variety of hard and soft projects. The wood shop is extensive, and the metal shop well equipped with both machine tools and fabricating tools. Also on-site are a finishing shop with paint and powder coating booths, a blacksmithy, 3D printing, laser engravers and textile working, with embroidery and sewing machines and dress forms.
     The Foundery has recently switched from monthly memberships to pay-as-you-go. With discounts, a day pass can cost as little as $5. 
     The Port Covington area of southern Baltimore, where The Foundery is located, is an easy drive up Rt. 97, only a half hour from the Annapolis area.
     Bi-monthly open houses; open weekdays 9am-10pm, weekends 10am-5pm: 101 W. Dickman St., Baltimore: http://foundery.com.
 

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Those school supplies last a lifetime

     Once the ritual of going back to school is no longer yours, it falls into the realm of nostalgia.
     Most bad memories fade, courtesy of pain’s blessed inability to be recalled in its actual intensity. The third-grade bully, the looming memory test on the mathematics tables and the hours of confinement are more likely to stay in the past as facts than to haunt the present.
     The good memories, however, awaken with each new school year. 
     That’s at least how it is with me.
     I can’t say I want to trade places with grandson Jack, a junior at Broadneck High School; granddaughter Elsa, a sophomore in Annapolis High’s International Baccalaureate program; or granddaughter Ada, a seventh-grader in the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves. Still, I miss the formal beginning each new school year brings.
     You enter a new grade, perhaps a new school, with new challenges, new things to learn. You’re equipped for the job with new tools: fresh pencils with sharpened points and erasers, crayons standing at attention in bright-colored rows, binders that expand to hold an encyclopedia of knowledge.
     Of course you and I know it’s not so simple. School children do not live in Eden. Bullies persist, even in modern school environments that try to combat them. We don’t all learn the same way, and none of us learn everything easily and happily. The problems of our homes, communities and world follow us to school.
     And for many students, this new school year brings a new level of insecurity. 
     If you doubt any of this, just read the headlines in your morning newspaper or turn on the TV news. That will sober you up.
     Which is my point. It’s good to know the reality of our world, for how else can we improve it. It’s just as good to keep that sense of possibility we hope inspires each child going back to school.
     Bay Weekly’s newspapering mission is to inspire you to improve your world through hope. 
     So this week, when Maryland’s children go back to school, we bring you an issue heavy on stories of people whose schooling has inspired them to improve the world.
     You’ll read about DaJuan Gay, the 20-year-old Annapolitan community activist running for a seat on the City Council — while commuting to college at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. We are not supporting him as a candidate over opponent Shaneka Henson, who has the endorsement of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. But we are impressed by the way he’s putting ideas into action.
     At the other end of the age spectrum is 88-year-old philosopher Eva Brann, who begins her 60th year as a tutor at St. John’s College with the same enthusiasm that inspired her in 1957.
     You’ll also find stories of schools and school buses working for the good of our Bay and planet while educating our children for a world that needs the best help it can get.

A look at who we are through what we do in snapshots of Chesapeake Country ­working people aged 17 to 89.

Summer officially ends with Labor Day, aptly the day America sets aside to celebrate the people who made and make the nation.
      The holiday began as part of working people’s campaign to claim the benefits of their labor. Much has changed since the determined, often life-and-death labor struggles of the late 19th century. Industries have flourished and fallen. We do different jobs, contributing to a far different give-and-take than New York City’s 1892 Labor Day paraders. 
      Again as summer ends and Labor Day approaches, Bay Weekly looks at who we are through what we do in this parade of random snapshots of Chesapeake Country working people aged 17 to 89. Here, too, we do lots of different jobs. What we all have in common is the pride we take in our work.
–Sandra Olivetti Martin
Morgan McLendon
17, Pasadena: Nordstrom Saleswoman and Annapolis High School senior
     My first job was as a bagger and cashier at the Giant in Pasadena. I was 14 at the time and really didn’t like anything about it.
     Now, I’m a salesperson in the Nordstrom TOPSHOP brand department and absolutely love it! I’ve always enjoyed fashion and find it rewarding to help others find clothing that works best for their size and shape. It never feels like actual work.
     My position with Nordstrom has been my favorite job, and I will continue to work part-time when I return to school in September. I’ll actually have two part-time jobs, since I’ll also be working in a dental office.
–interviewed by Debra Driscoll
Megan D’Apice
19, Odenton: Summer lifeguard
     This summer, I’ve been a lifeguard at the Hillsmere pool in Annapolis. Before that, I worked at the Crofton Village pool for three summers. What I like best about the job is playing with the little kids at the pool.
–interviewed by Jackie Graves
Hanah Izzi
25, Prince Frederick and Federalsburg: Ravens cheerleader and dolphin helper 
     My first real job was at a Hair ­Cuttery. I have my cosmetology license, and I still cut hair on the side. I’m also a licensed insurance producer at an Allstate company
     Plus I have two other jobs.
      I work for the Ravens part-time as a cheerleader. We have three-hour practices Tuesday and Thursday nights and appearances throughout the community we sign up for. For games, we’re there five hours beforehand and practice on the field for a few hours. We go around the stadium before the game starts and engage with the fans. Then we run out the tunnel before the players and are on the sidelines the entire time. It’s really hard work. We’re nonstop dancing almost three and a half hours. 
      I’ve danced since I was two years old, first at Julie Rogers Studio, then on the Calvert High dance team, and at Towson University I was on that dance team.
      But what I actually want to do is marine biology. I work at the National Aquarium in Baltimore with the dolphins. I volunteer Tuesday and Thursdays, when I have cheerleading practice in Baltimore. I do fish prep for dolphins and help the trainers throughout the day.
–interviewed by Sandra Olivetti Martin
Renée Bennett
27, Prince Frederick … El Paso … Fort Meade: Soon to be Six String Soldier
     I’m a musician, a singer and violinist. My first job was a gig, playing with my dad and my sister Hanah Izzi on piano.
     I’ve been freelancing in El Paso, where my husband is in the Army Band. A month ago, my husband I got hired by the Six String Soldiers, part of the United States Army Field Band at Fort Meade. So we’ll be playing and traveling together.
      I’ve been in a couple of country bands, in rock bands, but so far I really like playing classic rock with an orchestra best of all.
–interviewed by Sandra Olivetti Martin
Tony Lewis
28, Annapolis: Owner, Tony J Photography 
      If I could shoot every day, that would be a dream come true.
      My favorite part is working with people and connecting with people. I was a super shy kid; I stuttered a lot. I had a Fisher-Price camera and I remember running around the house saying, Say cheese! I realized the camera allowed me to be in places I ­wouldn’t be in or wouldn’t feel comfortable being in.
      When I was 17 I toured the country with a company that did government contracting. Every other day I went to a different part of the country and photographed employees. When I got back from that trip I thought, I’m going to be a photographer for the rest of my life. 
       People ask me what my favorite shot is. I haven’t taken it yet. The artist in me is always trying to do better. I don’t think I’ll ever have that moment … and I don’t want that moment.
–interviewed by Emily Shaughnessy
Jennifer Carr
31, Severna Park: Restoration Program Manager, South River Federation
     I’ve always been very passionate about international issues, especially international conservation. After graduating college I was waiting for a job in the environmental field to open up, and I worked for an AmeriCorps education nonprofit and for the International Refugee Committee in Baltimore. There are refugee families I picked up seven or eight years ago at the airport that I still keep in touch with today. I run clothing donations to Burmese refugee communities in Baltimore about 10 times a year.
     I started as a volunteer intern with the South River Federation. Now I manage the restoration program: everything from writing grants to coordinating with landowners to overseeing construction. Having grown up in Pennsylvania I’ve always been more drawn to the land side, but that’s a huge part of restoring the Bay: you cannot restore the Bay without addressing the stormwater coming off the land. 
–interviewed by Emily Shaughnessy
Lt. Scott Clark
34, Annapolis: USNA Conduct Officer
      My first job was at 13 or 14 as a swim instructor at our local pool in Simi Valley, California.
     After years of flight school in Pensacola, I went to San Diego, flying MH-60S Knight Hawks, then was deployed to Bahrain, Dubai, Jordan, Israel and Singapore. Now I’m back at the Naval Academy, working as a Conduct Officer, which boils down to being a disciplinarian. It’s difficult because I enjoy working with the midshipmen, and the ones I interact with on a daily basis are not there for happy reasons. It’s always a difficult conversation.
     My favorite job was as Company Officer, overseeing and advising the close to 150 midshipmen in each of 30 companies at the Academy, where I graduated in the class of 2009. I find it extremely rewarding to mentor, lead and teach the young Mids. It’s important for me to have them learn from the mistakes I made while in their position. Pay it forward, if you will.
–interviewed by Debra Driscoll
Sherry Kuiper
37, Edgewater: Public Relations Officer at Fort George G. Meade
      Working in public relations, I get to help tell the Fort Meade story every day through television, radio stations and newspapers.
     My first real job was working at McDonald’s. I worked at the McDonald’s Bill Elliott NASCAR Museum in Muncy, Pennsylvania. It was pretty cool because the car he wrecked in Talladega hanged in the restaurant. One of his other cars served as our drive-thru window
     My best job was working as a production assistant at Community Access Television in Erie, Pennsylvania. I interned there in college and was eventually hired. I got to do everything. I took care of the programming, made videos for political candidates and taught people how to shoot and edit video. It was my first job in my career. While I was sad to leave, it launched my 12-year career as a TV news producer.
–interviewed by Alka Bromiley
Marcus Hayes
38, Annapolis: Sound studio engineer and Uber driver 
     At 14, when we were living at Incirlik Air Force Base in southern Turkey, I had a clerical job with my step-mom. It made me understand what working at an office was like; it was cool. I learned how to be responsible at a young age, how waking up early to get to work was important and how to earn my own money.
      Then for almost 10 years, I was working in the optical business, and I liked that the most. I cut prescriptions and helped people choose frames, find the right look for them. I left to pursue my ambition, a career in the music industry.
      Now I do a hybrid of things. I am self-employed. My schedule is flexible, so I am an Uber driver. I help people get around. It’s not a 9-to-5 job; some people say it’s not a real job, but I treat it like one. I am also a sound studio engineer working on live performances. The genre is a mixture of soulful R&B and hip-hop, I like to call it soul hop, it’s the music I help to create.
–interviewed by Alka Bromiley
Bill Jiang
40, Gambrills, via China: Sushi chef
     Starting as a grocery clerk, I learned my art 14 years ago from a ­Japanese master who was my smoking buddy and a very demanding master. I have worked at the Fuji Lounge in Gambrills for the past five years. I like my job because it makes me feel like a surgeon: wearing gloves, holding the knife and preparing the fish very carefully. Chinese New Year is my favorite event when I prepare artistically themed creations for over 120 people, and they are so very appreciative.
–interviewed by Jane Elkin
Veronica Contreras
45, Annapolis: Owner, Vero’s Housekeeping
     I was born in Mexico and grew up in California. My first job, at the age of 13, was as a cashier at a taco stand in Canoga Park, California.
     Currently, I am the owner of Vero’s Cleaning. I started it around six years ago, as the major breadwinner in the family (I have three boys). It can be hard work sometimes, but I’m so lucky to have very nice clients who appreciate our effort. 
      My favorite job was as a cashier, no matter where. The most difficult part was standing all day. But I always enjoyed talking with the customers. It made the day go by quickly, too.
–interviewed by Debra Driscoll
Scheri Goff
47, Annapolis: Yoga teacher
      My first job was working with severely emotionally disturbed boys aged 10 to 14 in a group home setting. Most had no parents or little parental interaction. The majority were wards of the State of California, where I lived at the time. I believe that the resilient spirit of these young men taught me the meaning of compassion, love and pain. 
     It is not really accurate to call my life’s purpose a job. I love what I do as simply and fully as anyone who has found their path to show others how to live well. Through yoga, we can learn so much about ourselves and in turn share that peace with the world. 
      Best job? Being a mother, friend, wife, yoga teacher and lover of life, I feel I have been given a gift to make a difference in the world. I teach what my teachers have taught me, passing it down with personal experiences. Through positive thinking, healthy eating, proper exercise, proper breathing and plenty of rest, I believe we may all live fully and well. 
–interviewed by Alka Bromiley
Ray Alves
54, Mechanicsville: Cartographer, Calvert County Department of Planning
      I draw maps for Calvert County. Anything to do with planning and zoning. My most recent job, with lots of people working on it, was a redo of Calvert’s Critical Areas map.
     No, they aren’t as pretty as Captain John Smith’s maps. I like the old maps and style of the calligraphy. I always liked to draw, and everyplace I went, I did more and more. I used to draw maps by hand on a drafting table. Now I do them by computer.
     I’ve worked in mapping for three counties, St. Mary’s, Anne Arundel and Calvert. I like it when I can accomplish stuff and get things done for people. I like to see their faces when I’m done.
–interviewed by Sandra Olivetti Martin
Claire Cawood Parker
54, Annapolis: Maryland State Archery champion
      My first job was a counter clerk and cashier at a Burger King in Nashville, where I was born. I then attended the University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins universities to become a mental health counselor. I worked in private practice in the Annapolis area, administering to children and adults. Over the years this profession turned out to be my favorite and most worthwhile occupation for the positive effect it had on the many patients I served.
      Retired, I’m now working part-time as the manager of the Archery and Firearms Department of Angler’s Sport Center as well as continuing as a Maryland State Archery champion. I’m an outdoorswoman, and I find working and interacting with like-minded people a great deal of fun.
–interviewed by Dennis Doyle
Celia Molofsky
North Beach: Owner of The Wheel  
     My first job was the Army. I enlisted right out of high school. I retired as a sergeant major. My biggest accomplishment was moving the National Guard from a traditional force to an active force after 9/11. 
     The Army was my best job. I believed in what we were doing, the philosophy of fight and defend.
     Now, I’m owner of The Wheel LLC in North Beach. We’re an art gallery with 45 artists, a trendy gift shop and a tavern with fine wines and Ship Oat spirits — plus selling sophisticated clothing for men and women.
–interviewed by Tracy Contrino
Dan Starsoneck
60, Newly arrived in Annapolis: Global fire detection manager
      When Dan meets new people and they ask about his life, he jokes that he spent 26 years in prison — prison security that is, as a technician installing security systems for Johnson Controls at such notorious penitentiaries as Rikers Island. After 40 years in the business, he was recently promoted to sales manager for the northeast North Atlantic division.
      His first and worst job was baling hay, “exhausting and nasty work,” he says.
–interviewed by Jane Elkin
Mitzi Bernard
60, Friendship: Director, Bay Community Support Services
     After high school I worked at the ABC Wildlife Preserve where Six Flags Amusement Park now sits. The land was broken up and enclosed in sections each representing a major continent. We would ride horseback to round up the animals from each continent: cows and buffalo for North America, wild boar and ostriches for another and so on. It was the coolest job because we rode horses.
     I made my career in not-for-profits, working mostly for people with disabilities as I have for over 25 years as director of Bay Community Support Services for disabled individuals. This is my best job ever because we make a real difference in people’s lives. I call this a giving-back-to-the-community kind of job. We provide residential support in agency group homes as well as privately owned homes, employment services, day community activity programs, life-skills training, transportation and more to over 250 clients with all levels of disabilities.
–interviewed by Mick Blackistone
Greg Bowen
63, Prince Frederick: Executive director, ­American Chestnut Land Trust
      Right out of college I was a farmer. I farmed for a couple of years on the family farm in Prince Frederick.
      At American Chestnut Land Trust, I get to help preserve lands and be a good steward to that land. I get to go out on the trails and work with hundreds of volunteers who love the land as well. We have a little farm, so we are raising food and donating that to those in need.
      One of the most exciting things we started this year is doing science in the watershed, trying to set baselines for all the critters — all the flora and fauna — and then monitor trends to see how they are impacted by development, climate change and by invasive species.
     This is my best job. The camaraderie, the kindness that you see every day and the commitment to the environment is just incredible. I’ve had good jobs, don’t get me wrong. I loved being a planner for Calvert County, and I got to see so many good things happen over that time. But now I get to focus on the land and land preservation. What a life!
–interviewed by Sandra Olivetti Martin
Bill Driscoll
Annapolis: Hotel manager
     My first job was with the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Parks and Recreation, where I was a recreation leader. At 16, I had a pretty cushy way to spend the summer and make money. My responsibility was distributing equipment for sporting events and games for kids. 
      A 48-year-old veteran of the hospitality industry, I graduated from Penn State University in 1968 with a degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management. I’m currently area general manager for the Westin and Sheraton BWI hotels. I’m the official GM of the Westin and also oversee the GM of the Sheraton. The responsibility for everything related to the profitability of both hotels is mine. My wife always has a large cocktail ready for me when I get home.
     My best job was vice president of development in the mid ’90s. I was able to use my hotel operations background when assessing new hotels for the company to buy. It was exciting growing the group one hotel at a time.
–interviewed by Debra Driscoll
Gale Gillespie
Severna Park: President, Anne Arundel Community Concert Association
     My first job was also my favorite job. Summers during college I worked keeping the books in my grandfather’s building material business in Norfolk. The office area conjoined the sales floor; there was constant interaction between the office staff and the customers. In those days Norfolk still had a small-town feel, and my grandfather knew all the customers by name. I very much enjoyed the friendly banter over those summers.
     My job as president of the concert association also lets me interact with many people and gives me the satisfaction of making this a better place to live. This is the start of our busiest time of year. We have sent out the mailings for our patrons to get their season tickets; shortly we will be processing them. We are also planning the hosting of our out-of-town artists and confirming the logistics with our venue, Severna Park High School.
     For our planning for the 2018-2019 season, I attended a showcase in Nashville where 24 artists auditioned. Now we need to sort through those and pick the four or five we want to make part of our season.
–interviewed by Bob Melamud
Linda Bouchat-Smith
Pasadena: Aquatic and land instructor
     Thanks to Miss James, my beloved kindergarten teacher, all I ever wanted to do was teach kindergarten. While in college, I worked my first job at EJ Korvettes in Glen Burnie.
     After college I found kindergarten jobs hard to come by. I taught second grade for four years. Finally, I found my dream job at Riviera Beach Elementary in Pasadena. There I spent 36 years teaching kindergarten and loved every minute of it.
     Water aerobics has always been my exercise of choice. After my retirement from the school system, I became certified through the Arthritis Foundation to teach both aquatic and land exercise classes. The classes I teach at Severna Park Community Center, Pasadena YMCA and Anne Arundel Community College promote flexibility and range of motion for persons struggling with arthritis and chronic pain. I also teach seniors how to do chair exercises through the Department of Aging. I’ve even had the privilege of teaching aquatics to my former kindergarten teacher, Miss James.
     I like to tell folks that by starting out with kindergarteners and working my way up to seniors, I’m trying to get to heaven. 
–interviewed by Diana Dinsick
Catherine Thames
89, Fairhaven: North Beach Bayside Historical Museum aide
      Right now I’m working part-time as an assistant at the North Beach Bayside Historical Museum. It is a great little gem.
     My first job was assistant playground director in Washington, D.C., during high school. I was also a Red Cross-certified swimming instructor at different D.C. community pools.
     Best or most interesting job? Well, teaching at Tracey’s Elementary for 12 years was a good one. But probably I would have to say being an elevator operator in the Longworth House Office Building, from 1964 to 1971. I got to know all the congressmen, and I could listen to their conversations about issues, the White House and so on. I would sit in the elevator, and when they heard the bell in their offices they had 20 minutes to get to the floor of the Capital to vote. When they were voting or in session I would go to the gallery and listen. When it was over I had to get back fast and have the elevator ready to take them back to Longworth. 
–interviewed by Mick Blackistone

A young woman aspires to rhyme her way out of her dying town

      Patti Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald: The Rachels) spends her waking hours serving drunks in a dim bar in the bowels of New Jersey. When she’s not being harassed by customers, Patti must wrangle her mother, a hopeless alcoholic who uses the karaoke nights at Patti’s bar to relive her dreams of singing professionally. In her free time, Patti is the primary caregiver for her grandmother, who has accrued enough medical bills to keep Patti and her mother in debt for life.
     Though things look bleak, Patti has a dream: She wants to be a rapper. She spends her free time writing rhymes and practicing her flow. She shows promise, but Patti struggles to find support from fellow rappers, who dismiss her as a pathetic, fat white girl. 
     The game changes when Patti meets a mysterious man who plays subversive Goth death metal. Patti forms a ragtag crew that includes her grandmother, and the group cobbles together a few tracks for a CD, hoping to find fame and fortune. 
     Director Geremy Jasper makes his feature debut with a film that doesn’t push many cinematic barriers. The plot is predictable, you’ll know exactly where it’s going almost the moment the film begins. Jasper does manage to make the small Jersey town its own character, its tagged edifices and grimy interiors offering insight into Patti’s desperate need to get out. 
     Jasper stretches a little bit during Patti’s fantasy sequences, toying with light and effects to display the vivid interior of Patti’s mind. It’s a great contrast to the drab exterior world that she’s stuck in. 
     Patti Cake$ surpasses a hackneyed story thanks to the strength of its leads. As Patti, Macdonald is a revelation. She manages to make Patti’s dogged quest for recognition both relatable and sweet. She spits rhymes well and offers enough quiet desperation that the audience really roots for her to find her dream.
     As Patti’s alcoholic mother Barb, Bridget Everett (Saving a Legend) is brilliant. She is a sad shell of a woman, who bounces from bad choice to bad choice. She’s content to let Patti take care of her and her mother, but viciously lashes out whenever Patti tries to curb her destructive behavior. Still, when she performs, there are glimpses of the woman she was. Her powerful voice and magnetic performing style help explain why Patti loves a woman who clearly wasn’t a nurturing force in her life. 
     Patti Cake$ has a ton of heart and a cast that offers wonderful performances. If you’ve ever felt stuck in your life, or have a love for quirky tales of underdogs, this movie will be well worth the trip. 
Good Dramedy • R • 108 mins.
 
New this Week
 
Tulip Fever
     In the 17th century, Eurpoe was enthralled by a flower. The tulip had taken the world by storm, and Amsterdam built a lucrative industry around the culturing of the bulbs and blooms. 
     Merchant Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz) has made his fortune on the tulip trade and uses his prosperity to buy a pretty, young orphan bride. Sophia (Alicia Vikander) is little more than a bauble to her much older spouse and is prepared to live a life of opulent misery. That all changes when Cornelis hires a painter to capture his prized possessions — his wife and his tulips. 
      Sophia and the painter begin a torrid affair. He promises to steal her away, but Sophia knows her husband will spend all his money to track her down. Can the lovers come up with a plan to evade Cornelis?
     Based on the bestselling book, Tulip Fever is an historical romance with a pedigree. Legendary playwright Tom Stoppard penned the screenplay, which means the dialogue and character work should be beautifully detailed.
Prospects: Bright • R • 107 mins. 
 
Unlocked
      CIA interrogator Alice Racine (Noomi Rapace) is the only thing standing between the city of London and a biological terror attack. She can’t trust anyone as she attempts to neutralize the threat, including her own government. Her only hope is an unorthodox MI:6 agent (Orlando Bloom) who may be the key to stopping the attack. 
      Think of this film as a season of 24 condensed into two hours. Rapace is an excellent actress, but there’s only so much she can do to make such unoriginal plot points interesting. It is nice to see a woman fitted into the typical male savior role, but without anything new or interesting to say, this film feels like a rehash. 
Prospects: Dim • R • 98 mins. 

The Brothers Osborne on Nashville, Merle Haggard and growing up in South County

     Once upon a time, when the Brothers Osborne were just kids in Deale playing with their dad, you didn’t have to go farther than your local watering hole to hear them. Now they’re big time, chronicled in Rolling Stone and celebrated as Country Music Association’s Vocal Duo of the Year. Last year’s Dirt Rich tour sold out across America and Canada. 
     But their roots remain deep in Chesapeake Country. Their breakout hit, Mix It with Rum, was filmed with a local crowd at Happy Harbor and Skippers Pier in Deale. Their fans love them for their hometown pride.
     This summer, the brothers come home, playing Friday, August 25 at Calvert Marine Museum. Bay Weekly staffers and South County residents Audrey Broomfield and Kathy Knotts had hoped for a true interview with the country duo, but due to a tight touring schedule they had to settle for a phone call. This is an edited text of that conversation.
 
Bay Weekly Your long and successful music career started when you were kids backing up your father in a band that played local restaurants and taverns. When did you begin to see your music as a career?
John Osborne You have to commit to something like that at a very young age and just be really stubborn and strong-headed about doing it. It takes years and years of sacrifice and questioning whether you are on the right path or not. There really isn’t one specific moment but more like hundreds of small moments that remind you that that’s where you want to be.
 
Bay Weekly Where do you see yourself more at home, Deale or Nashville?
John Osborne Nashville now. It’s amazing in Nashville. I love it and call myself a Nashvillian. I feel like I’m such a part of the city. I’ve watched it grow over the last 10 years to blossom into an amazing town. The people are so warm and welcoming. It’s the best of living in a big city but with a small-town vibe.
TJ Osborne I love it here [Nashville]. I moved right after high school. All I had known was little ol’ Deale. I was used to waving at everyone and knowing everyone in school and growing up with them. Moving to a city: Nashville might as well have been NYC at the time. But now it feels smaller to me, and I know so many people here now. 
 
Bay Weekly Do people recognize you when you’re out and about?
John Osborne I see it more at home; it definitely happens, it’s hard for me to hide from people. I have long hair, a big beard and I’m six-foot-four. So I can’t really hide from anyone recognizing me. But I don’t mind if people want to come up and say hi and take a picture with me. It definitely happens a lot in town and more in Maryland. If you’re from Deale everybody already knows who you are anyway. I like it. I don’t mind the attention.
 
Bay Weekly Who or what was the biggest influence on your musical career?
John Osborne Our parents were our biggest influences. They both went to Nashville when we were younger. They write songs and record. They paved the way for us to become musicians. They are our biggest inspiration.
TJ Osborne Good songwriting really inspires me. I’ve always liked the crafting of a song. It was always something that stuck with me and gave me drive. Eventually alongside my brother, that turned into a career. Ultimately, you’ve got to have good songs. It just comes down to that. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t have catchy lyrics you won’t be successful. Taylor Swift is a prime example. She is not really known for being this great singer, but her songs are what got her to what she is now.
 
Bay Weekly Out of all the venues you have played, do you have a favorite?
John Osborne My favorite venue is the Ryman Auditorium (in Nashville) where we recently played with Little Big Town. It was so much fun. There was great energy in that room.
TJ Osborne Ryman Auditorium in Nashville is a hard room to beat. It’s magical there. There’s history. The acoustics are second to none. You have this theater that feels so intimate. It’s a special experience every time.
 
Bay Weekly Since making it, you’ve played with quite a few big names. Who is your favorite star to play with?
TJ Osborne Little Big Town has been the most fun and supportive. They’re people who I am definitely proud to call my friends, and that has more to do with how cool and great they are as people and not just the success they’ve achieved. They are really, really talented on top of that. Sharing a stage with them is great. Some people’s lives are more crazy; some artists you don’t get to hang with as much. They’ve all been really great, good experiences.
John Osborne Little Big Town is one of our favorite groups, not only as a band but also as people. We’ve been very lucky to play with some really cool artists, from Chris Stapleton to Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker, Eric Church. We are big fans of all the people we get to play with.
 
Bay Weekly What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
John Osborne The best piece of advice I’ve ever heard is to work hard and be nice to people. Those two things can go a long, long way. You have to have some ability and talent, but if you don’t work hard and you’re not nice to people, your talent will go nowhere.
TJ Osborne Treat people with respect, be nice to people. If you have talent and you work hard and you’re nice to people and make friends, life will be good for you. From our parents we learned a strong work ethic, which kept us going. 
 
Bay Weekly How about memorable experiences with crazy fans?
John Osborne One girl, we signed her arm and she went and got it ­tattooed. 
 
Bay Weekly What is your favorite song to perform on stage?
John Osborne It Ain’t My Fault, our current single. It’s a fun, rocking tune and everyone sings along, and there’s a big guitar solo in the middle that I get to play. I love stretching it out and doing my own thing.
 
 
 
Bay Weekly What do you miss most about Deale and Maryland?
John Osborne Besides our family, I miss the people and the Bay. Deale has some of the most real people on the planet — straight shooters and hard workers — and I miss that the most. But equally I miss the Bay — and damn good crab cakes. We always eat crab cakes when we go home. People try to offer us crab cakes everywhere we go because we are from Maryland, and we just turn them down.
TJ Osborne Growing up in Deale was an immense influence. A lot of people don’t realize how country and rural Maryland really is. They can’t believe a country artist came out of there. 
I think as far as our music, I knew that if I ever sold out, everyone in my hometown would kick my ass. So I had to stay true to my roots.
The camaraderie you have with your friends and neighbors in a small community, that’s hard to get somewhere else.
I really miss being able to just go home and go fishing and walk out my door and do that.
 
 
Bay Weekly If you could play with any one person dead or alive who would it be?
John Osborne I would love to play with the Allman Brothers. Unfortunately Gregg Allman passed away recently, but I’d love to go back in time and play with the young Allman Brothers.
TJ Osborne I would love to play with Hank [Williams] Sr. No, Merle Haggard, that’s who. Hank Sr. was before my time, as were a lot of Merle’s songs, but I got to see Merle play live, he was just one of those guys.
 
 
Catch the Brothers Osborne on stage at Calvert Marine Museum, Friday, August 25. Tickets are still available, but hurry: www.calvertmarinemuseum.com.

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Where’s there’s music and wine, there will be dancing

     “I woke up and said, I can do this,” Onyx Linthicum reports of the morning he conceived the Southern Maryland Wine, Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and Funk Festival.
     The D.C. native and self-help writer imagined a country event where folks could get their groove on while diverse local and national artists brought cool music to offset the August heat.
      Back in 2015, Linthicum was ambitious, he admits. Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and Funk covers a lot of musical ground. Could he pull in all that music? Would the fans come? Would the weather hold?
     Drawing in local vineyards and food purveyors added another challenge.
      But this was a labor of love. Linthicum grew up in the church, where the sounds of gospel music were his inspiration. In college, he promoted comedy and jazz shows while working as a technician for musicians making original recordings. He found inspiration, too, in the death of a close friend who wrote hip-hop they recorded together. Later he became associated with the Capitol Jazz event and worked on their events at Merriweather Post Pavilion. 
      Linthicum was right. He could. In its third year, the festival coming this weekend to the Calvert County Fairgrounds attracts 4,000 music lovers, up from 1,000 the first year. 
 
The Lineup 
      This year’s lineup features a lot of really good talent. I found myself listening to it over and over. My top two favorites are, like me, guitar players.
      Plus, who wouldn’t want to hear a guy named Chooky? Especially as he reminds me of the late Wayman Tisdale, a favorite of ours at home. 
     Chooky, aka GZAM recording artist Antone Caldwell, is a D.C. neighbor from a large and influential musical family who’s had a bass guitar in his hands since the age of five. A multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, he has played with a Who’s Who of musicians from Snoop Dog to Mariah Carey. 
     Drew Davidsen is a virtuoso guitarist selected by Guitar Player Magazine as one of the 10 hot players to watch. His latest album, A Good Life, was released in May to critical acclaim; even George Benson has endorsed him. Davidsen donates part of his recording profits to support the Ghanaian Mothers Hope, a charity in Ghana, West Africa, that builds schools, playgrounds and medical clinics. 
      There are women in this mix, too. Framewerk is a dynamic six-piece fronted by lovely SonJa, who looks like she knows how to take care of business. Get ready to move your feet as they take the stage.
     Back in the day, I wore the grooves out of my Tower of Power’s records. Fans like me will love the Will Power Band, hailing from the soul music-Jersey side of Philly. With a plethora of funk and R&B, this 11-piece band will get your groove on in a hurry.
     With 15 acts, the list just keeps going. 
     Bassist Christian de Mesones brings his Big New York & the Smooth Jazz All-Stars, featuring multiple Billboard-charting artists heard all over the airwaves of XM radio. De Mesones is also known for fronting the Groove Skool Band.
     Writer, producer and bandleader Rick White fronts guiltypleasures, which, as you might imagine, adds sensual soul music to the festival. 
     Another D.C. Metro area band, eight-piece Jazzy Blu, combines funk, jazz, R&B and alternative, keeping up with Linthicum’s vision. “No matter who you are, where you come from or what you request, Jazzy Blu has something special in store for you,” they say.
     Coloradan Tony Exum Jr. is a saxophonist extraordinaire who’s played since the age of 11 when his uncle gave him his first sax. He’s played with War and The Four Tops.
     Trumpeter Willie Bradley has performed worldwide, sharing the stage with many notable artists as well as maintaining a solo career.
      As their name implies, Unit 3 Deep is comprised of three talented musicians, Patrick Cooper on keys, David Dyson on bass and Duane Thomas on drums.
     D.C.’s The X Factor brings an eclectic mix of funk, R&B, rock and jazz. From sultry ballads to funky dance tunes, their two vocalists front an all-star four-piece band that will keep you moving on your feet.
      Sax man Marcus Mitchell fronts a smooth jazz quartet with infectious grooves and mellow melodic temperaments. A native of Temple Hills, he is also a businessman whose company, 24th Music, promotes other musicians. 
     When you hear trumpeter Rob Zinn, with The Rob Zinn Group, you’ll hear the influences of the masters blended into his music. 
     Keyboardist Marcus Young played with D.C. Legend Chuck Brown, the father of go-go music. His Groove Jazz mixes swing, fusion and Latin jazz. Young has toured with the Armed Forces Entertainment in the Mideast as well as playing throughout the States. He still finds time to lead the music ministry at the Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton.
     Guitarist and bassist Kevin Jackson, who hails from Baltimore, weaves a sensual stream of sonic magic from his smooth voice and phrasings on his Paul Reed Smith Guitar.
     It will take you two days to hear all that music.
 
Even More to Love
     You’ll have even more to love with 15 local vineyards — as many as bands — bringing wines from all over a state now garnering accolades. You’ll eat well, too, and you can even paint as you listen. Leave the kids at home for this adult festival.
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August 19 & 20, 10am-9pm with music nearly nonstop and DJ’s filling in the breaks. Calvert County Fairgrounds, Barstow, $30-$125 VIP: www.vendor-nation.com.

Of Fenders and Gibsons, GE Smith and Eric Clapton

     American music grew up on American guitars.
     Mississippi Delta blues rose from the spirituals of African Americans but found a voice on National Resonator guitars built in California. Jazz and swing evolved from Big Bands on Gibson Archtops made in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The lonesome hillbilly folk we know as bluegrass was played on Martin guitars from Nazareth, Pennsylvania. When blues and jazz had a baby, they called it rock and roll and played it on Leo Fender’s Telecaster.
     In modern times, guitars that were once simply tools are hard-to-find classics. I’ve made it my business to find the coolest pieces I can for customers both in the States and abroad. 
 
Buying in Crisfield
     Back in the early 1990s, I got a phone call about a couple of old guitars down in Crisfield. About the guitars, all I knew was that one was a Fender and the other a Gibson. But I did know that the old fellow who had owned them had bought both in the ’50s.
     With an address and the old man’s name, I gassed up my van, headed across the Bay Bridge and down Route 50 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
     Usually, my blood pressure drops as I cross over the Bay as the pastoral landscape and salty air are a potion to my soul. This day was different. I was on pins and needles with anticipation.
     No one was home, so I went into Crisfield to poke around. At a small shack with a hand-painted sign offering crabs and beer, I wolfed down an immense crab cake and washed it back with a sudsy Natty Boh. Then I asked around for the old fellow.
     It didn’t take long to learn he worked up the street as a mechanic. Luck was with me, for I found him, and we headed back to his house.
     When the old fellow pulled out a brown Fender case and a black Gibson case, it was hard to maintain my poker face. First, I opened the tight latches of the Gibson case to reveal a beautiful 1956 Gibson Les Paul Custom.
      1956 was a year of experimentation for Gibson. The pickups they used were a combination of the tried-and-true P-90 single coil and the Alnico magnet version of the same design. This guitar was in original condition, having never been altered in any way. And it had that smell that only an old Gibson has. It had a lovely patina, and, though it had the typical crazing lines in the finish, it was in splendid shape.
     The Fender had the so-called Thermometer case, named for the bulbous shape at the top and its curvaceous lines, covered in a brown fabric. A spider jumped out as I pulled the Broadcaster from its case. This guitar carried the signs of use.
      Fender, like many companies back then, named its instruments after popular themes. The Broadcaster was named for the radio and television icons of the day. That name got Fender in a pickle because the Fred Gretsch Company had trademarked Broadcaster for its line of drums. For a few months in 1951, the model was simply a Fender. Later that same year, it was re-named the Telecaster, a name in continuous use ever since.
     We agreed on a fair price.
 
Selling in New York
      Back at my shop, I restrung both guitars and called G.E. Smith, then music director and guitarist on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
      He agreed without hesitation to buy the Broadcaster and said that I could see the show if I brought it up on Saturday.
      On Saturday afternoon, I boarded the train for New York City’s Penn Station.
      Arriving at Radio City Music Hall carrying a guitar case and wearing my Wayfarer sunglasses, I was mistaken for the evening’s musical guest, Eric Clapton (I was much slimmer in 1992). Clapton is one of my musical heroes.
      Hearing Eric Clapton and the SNL band play was magical. He played through G.E.’s old Fender Tweed Twin amplifier, and the tone was inspirational.
      At the cast party in the wee hours of the next morning, I timidly went up to Clapton as he sat in a booth with friends and that evening’s show host, Debra Winger. I mumbled something about him being an inspiration and yada yada, and he asked what was in the book I was holding. It was a photo album of all the guitars I had for sale.
      Eric Clapton slid over and told me to sit down so he could see for himself. Like the couple of guitar nerds that we are, we spoke for some time about guitars — plus fishing and shooting pool.
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Rick Hogue, the owner of Garrett Park Guitars in Annapolis, loves music, guitars, travel and good food too. He considers himself luck in finding a job wherein he can combine these passions. Check out his songs at reverbnation.com/rickhogue

For their dogs, Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland will do just about anything 

         The conundrum of beagle love: bright loving eyes, silky tri-color fur, endless cuddling and a white-tipped, eternally wagging tail — all wrapped up with a deafening howl, the search for mischief and stubborn independence.

         When the beagle’s nose is engaged, the dog will track a scent unabashedly. Beagles are notorious for leaving the hunting pack, or digging under a standard fence, or breaking through an electric fence if they find something interesting and worth pursuing.

         Yes, the traits that make a beagle adorable often fail to outweigh the qualities that land dogs in a shelter. Without angels of rescue, a beagle in a shelter has a grim plight.

         The Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland exists to save beagles in need of a get-out-of-jail-free card. Mara Melton founded the non-profit in 2001, selling her house to help fund it.

         The first call to Melton’s shelter alerted her of eight beagles scheduled for euthanization. Melton wasn’t ready for business; she had no website and no advertising. Yet she came home with all eight dogs, one pregnant, which gave birth that evening, nearly doubling her pack of rescues from eight to 14 and jumpstarting Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland. Sixteen years later, Mara’s nonprofit is going strong.

 

Fostering the Pack

         “We learn about the dogs, love the dogs and ensure they’ll go to good homes,” said Patti Jakusz, fosterer and board member. “Some fosterers also train the dogs and help them get adjusted.”

         Many of the rescued dogs need training for domestic life. About half were hunting dogs, with little experience of a home shared by humans and pets. Others were surrendered by owners, while still others came into shelter by accident, perhaps led astray by an over-eager nose. “A beagle will follow its nose if owners don’t secure the yard well enough,” Jakusz warned.

         Regardless of the dog, open admissions is the policy at Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland.

         “We also take sick and older dogs that other rescues may pass over,” Jakusz said. Young, cute dogs are easier to rehome. But if an adopter is willing to take a dog that needs medications or treatments to stay healthy, Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland will help with expenses.

 

A Clean Bill of Health

         Getting each dog from rescued to rehomed is a feat achieved step by laborious step. Each rescue team is responsible for picking up and transporting the beagles from a shelter, then getting each dog to its foster home. Fosterers work with local veterinarians to ensure the beagles are healthy and up to date on their vaccinations, too.

         Most of these volunteers have other jobs. Yet they make the dog their first priority.

         “Often,” Jakusz said, “fosters pay for vet bills and other needed items out of pocket.”

         Young or old, every adopted dog is in peak shape before Beagle Rescue puts it up for adoption. Healthy dogs come relatively cheap to their new homes. But getting a dog healthy is anything but cheap.

         “Any dog heartworm positive is going to cost $800 to $1,000,” Jakusz explained. “Many of the older hunting dogs need dental cleaning and extractions, procedures that can cost from $200 to $1,000. Even a perfectly healthy young dog can produce vet bills beyond the $300 we request as an adoption donation.”

         Rescue organizations must also advertise the dogs up for adoption, keep up their websites, answer hundreds of emails and phone calls and ensure that adopters meet qualifications.

 

Fostering the Cause

         Rescue organizations always need more fosterers and more donations.

         It doesn’t take much beyond heart to be a qualified foster, according to Jakusz. If you have a good fence and other pets who are up to date on shots and heartworm prevention, you are well on the way to being accepted.

         Rebecca Crumlish has fostered eight beagles.

         “I had a beagle, and it passed away,” she explained, adding that her first foster was a “failed foster, meaning I fell in love and kept him.”

         She continued fostering. “It’s wonderful when the dogs find new homes.”

         That experience is part of the reason why most of Beagle Rescue’s 35 active foster homes have at least one dog, some several.

         Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland raises money by hosting adoption events and other dog-friendly activities, Jakusz said. “But our donations are primarily from people.”

 

Learn more at http://beaglemaryland.org/. Or see for yourself Sunday, September 17 at the 11th Annual ­Beagle Bash, 11am-3pm at Countryside Kennel, Owings: 301-855-8303.


Rescued by a Rescue

         Almost 1,800 beagles have been successfully rehomed through the work of this all-volunteer organization. Here’s how one of those rescues worked out.

         Six years ago, I was searching, writes Lia Keston. I knew something was missing from my life, but I never would have guessed that the missing piece was a little beagle.

         Jake was a stray rescued by ­Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland. Our connection was immediate, and we took him home.

         One night last September, Jake woke me around 1am. He pawed me, then stood on my chest and whined until I finally got up. Only then did I see that my cell phone was vibrating, notifying us that a tornado was headed directly for our home.

         We grabbed the dogs and ran to an inside room. Moments later, our house was torn to pieces. We were all unharmed. Jake saved our lives that night.

         The phrase Who rescued who? has taken on a whole new meaning for us. I am ­eternally grateful to Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland for saving Jake and for bringing him into our lives. We couldn’t know it at the time, but Jake’s actions set off a chain of events that saved another very special soul.

         Jake also brings joy and laughter and boundless love to our home. Not a day goes by when he doesn’t make us laugh, and that alone is a blessing.

Atomic Blonde

Charlize Theron beats her way through Berlin in this fantastic spy thriller

Ten days before the Berlin Wall falls, the KGB kills MI-6’s best agent. The list he acquired of all the operatives working on both sides of the Iron Curtain is in the wind. The list also identifies Satchel, a notorious double agent who plagues the British government.
    MI-6 sends their best agent, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron: The Fate of the Furious), to straighten out the mess. Her contact is David Percival (James McAvoy: Split), an agent who’s found the sex, drugs and punk attitude of Berlin more appealing than conventional spy work.
    To save her fellow agents, Lorraine must fight her way back to London and expose Satchel. Along the way, she cuts a bloody swath across both sides of the Berlin Wall.
    A stylish spy thriller with marvelous action, Atomic Blonde is a blast from start to finish. Think of it as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold for the John Wick generation. Director David Leitch, a former stuntman making his feature directorial debut, creates a fast-paced thriller with visceral action. Leitch has a talent for capturing the flow of a fight, with sequences that are brutal but peppered with humor.
    Leitch embraces the pop-punk aesthetics of 1989 Berlin, using spray paint title cards and muted tones with bright pops of color. An 80s’ synth-pop soundtrack gives the plot and action a frenetic quality that intensifies as Lorraine becomes more frantic.
    Theron offers a brilliant performance as Lorraine, whose ferocious physicality paired with her cool, collected demeanor make her a formidable character. Adding authenticity, she does most of her own fighting and stunts.
    As a corrupt MI-6 agent who may or may not still be working for the crown, McAvoy is a delight. He is a snarling, posturing mess of a man, who is far shrewder than he lets on. His dynamic with the more restrained Theron is both hilarious and fascinating.
    Wildly entertaining, action-packed and utterly watchable, Atomic Blonde is the popcorn flick of the summer.

Great Action • R • 115 mins.

Osprey chick population at a record low

May on the Patuxent River — Weeks of harsh weather and rain hammer a lonely tower, resolute like a final soldier in battle. A mother osprey braces in her nest, doing everything she can to protect her offspring. Little does she know, it is too late. No chicks will hatch in her nest this year, and she and her mate will have a ­lonely summer on the river.

This season has not been kind to osprey, but at first glance, you wouldn’t know it.

v  v  v

When I accompanied Greg Kearns on an osprey-tagging trip, nothing about the sunny July day seemed amiss.

Jetting about the Patuxent River in a motorboat with a makeshift osprey research sign duct-taped to the side, I joined a team of eight researchers, checking every osprey tower within a 10-mile radius of Brooms Island.

From our boat, it was difficult to see the near full-grown osprey chicks, flat in their nests above the water. Harder still, as we’d come to find, because nest after nest was empty.

“This is unusual,” said Kearns, naturalist and environmental educator at Patuxent River Park. “Normally we’re tagging dozens of chicks in a day.”

That day, after eight hours on the river, we checked more than 100 nests — and tagged only 18 chicks.

Tagging the birds was surprisingly easy. Armed with a ladder, tagging equipment and an eager crew, we approached the nests over the water. Kearns steered the boat as close as he could, and using a line, we tied the boat to the posts.

One of the researchers climbed the ladder, reached into the tire-sized nest and grabbed the chicks by the talons. With careful hands, he passed them down to us for tagging and weighing.

It was a windy day, and at times the boat rocked perilously side to side. But we couldn’t wait for better weather to tag these birds. As Kearns explains, osprey follow a seasonal pattern that makes timing crucial.

Parents lay their eggs in the early spring. Hatching begins around May. Newly hatched chicks fit easily in the palm of your hand. At six weeks, they are big fluffy birds almost the size of their parents. At eight weeks, they can fly.

Kearns tags the chicks just before they are mature enough to fly away. That way, the tags, like metal bracelets, fit easily around the birds’ feet without sliding over the claws. Go out too early, and the tags won’t fit. Wait too long, and the birds will fly away.

At six weeks, the unfledged chicks lay flat in their nest, playing dead as we advanced. Ferocious as they look head-on, here they are helpless. Despite their deadly talons, they will not attack.

Protecting the Species

Folks on the river get defensive about osprey. More than once, residents approached us from their docks to watch. Some were hostile, but their attitudes changed when they saw what we were doing.

Mostly, people wanted to know why Kearns tags the birds.

“I’m leaving behind a very detailed collection of data showing a long-term print — more than 40 years,” he said.

Kearns has been in charge of the project for most of those 40 years, having taken over after the founder, Steve Cardano, retired.

“Tagging birds is going to leave behind a legacy of information for researchers,” Kearns says. “Ten years from now, if the population keeps going down, they’ll be able to look back and see when it began.”

But Kearns hopes the population will rebound. There’s no telling whether this year will be an outlier or the start of a devastating trend.

Kearns is not even sure what caused so many nests to fail, but he has a hunch.

 

“My belief is that it coincides with the weather,” he says. “In May, during critical hatch time, we had a long period of cold and rainy weather. If a mother gets agitated and gets off her nest, her eggs are ruined.”

Other possibilities are predation, disease and declining food supply. While the nests, in towers over the water, are safe from raccoons and other land predators, they still must contend with aerial foes.

Great horned owls pose the biggest threat to osprey, plucking chicks from their nests like apples from a barrel. Kearns says between 10 and 15 percent of chicks fall prey to owls each year.

Kearns speculates that increased boat traffic might also have been a factor in the ospreys’ poor luck. Any disturbance might cause a mother to temporarily flee her nest, leaving the eggs exposed.

Interestingly, the osprey fared worst in the more open parts of the river. In Jug Bay and other narrow parks downstream, the birds’ success rates were higher.

Still, when Kearns is used to seeing 75 percent or more of nests with healthy chicks in the summer, the 50 percent success rate of Jug Bay seems like failure.

In total, 107 chicks have been accounted for this year. In previous years, that number exceeded 200.

Time will tell if the numbers will rise again. Next year, you can join the osprey saga. Every June and July, Kearns takes up to 450 citizens out on the water to see the beloved birds up close.

“I try to accommodate everyone,” he says. “It’s important to get people excited about nature. When they’re out there getting their hands on a bird, it’s a totally unique experience.”

v  v  v

Throughout August, the newly fledged chicks will soar over the waters of the Chesapeake and its rivers, practicing independence. Some time during these weeks, their parents will wean them. After six weeks or so flying and fishing, their migratory clocks will go off, urging them on an overland and water-journey of thousands of miles. These chicks are the hope of the species.