view counter

All (All)

An arms deal goes hilariously wrong in this spirited spoof

In the 1970s, the IRA needs weapons to fight the English. Chris (Cillian Murphy: Anthropoid) and Frank (Michael Smiley: Rogue One) are charged with procuring machine guns. Gun broker Justine (Brie Larson: Kong: Skull Island) makes arrangements with fellow broker Ord (Armie Hammer: Nocturnal Animals) to meet with notoriously odd gun dealer Vernon (Sharlto Copley: Powers).
    The Irish are willing to overlook Vernon’s quirks until one of his henchmen starts a fight. First fists and then bullets fly. Trapped in a warehouse where everyone is armed and hoping to be the last one standing, each criminal decides how to survive.
    As the hours tick by, loyalties change, wounds increase and ways out diminish.
    Free Fire is a gore-filled, funny shoot ’em up reminiscent of early Tarantino. It combines gleeful, violent slapstick, snappy performances and clever writing with substance. In this old-fashioned gunfight, you care who lives to tell the tale.
    Director/co-writer Ben Wheatley (High Rise) makes the best of his small budget. Confining the action to one open space raises the tension while inviting you to explore. Each wide shot has several things going on, so you’ll have to choose where to focus your attention.
    The best part of the film, however, is Wheatley’s peculiar sense of humor. It’s rare to laugh so much in a film that features so many gunshot wounds. The zany incompetence of criminals is mined for all it’s worth by Wheatley, who shows that owning a gun doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good shot. As these excitable yahoos shoot at each other, winging some and missing others, fans will be reminded of over-the-top comedy in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. Wheatley also has a great sense of timing. The film clocks in at a swift 90 minutes, meaning that plot and character are developed quickly and sparingly.
    Wheatley also made the excellent decision to pack his film with excellent character actors. Copley is the clear standout as a boisterous, moronic and arrogant gun dealer hilariously incompetent at just about everything. Hammer is also impressive, delivering deadpan lines as bullets zing by him with so much charm you almost forget he’s trying to kill people.
    In spite of its charms, Free Fire isn’t a bullseye. Some characters could have been cut or refined to streamline the storytelling a bit. Wheatley is also a little too pleased with his quick cut style, which can sometimes confuse the action. But in spite of a few dramatic snags, this film kept the audience at my screening in stitches as the bullets flew.

Good Action • R • 90 mins.

Catching this rockfish was one great feeling

I hadn’t been set up long. Fishing big chunks of cut fresh alewife on the bottom in 40 feet of water, I saw the rod in its starboard holder quiver, then dip. I reached over and slid the reel’s clicker off so there would be no resistance on the line. The spool started up, then stopped, then started up again … ever so slowly.
    Picking up the bait-casting rig and thumbing the spool lightly just to be sure the movement wasn’t due to tidal current, I was rewarded by the feel of a fish moving off. I allowed a bit more time for my quarry to get the piece of alewife back in its jaws. Then I put the reel in gear and began to take up slack. Nothing.
    The fish had dropped my bait. Disappointed, I continued retrieving line until I realized it was moving back toward the boat faster than I was cranking. The rascal was still on. Lowering my rod tip, I gathered slack with the reel until the line was almost straight down at my skiff’s stern. Then it came tight. I lifted the rod firmly and felt good resistance. Then I lifted harder.
    This time it came really tight and a fish began to shake its head and move off deliberately. My drag, which was firmly set for the 20-pound mono, hissed as the fish ran about 100 feet, then stopped. More head shaking. I had fished the day before and got a couple of heavy throwbacks. This one felt larger, but I wasn’t sure it was going to be legal sized, over 35 inches.
    Having learned the hard way never to prejudge an unseen fish, I kept the pressure on, lifting and gaining line only to lose it as the fish bulldozed away. As I was alone and had three more rigs in the water, I didn’t put a lot of extra rod strain onto this guy as long as it stayed off to the side and away from the other rigs. The surest way to lose a good fish is getting lines crossed.
    At something past the 10-minute mark, I decided to challenge the fish with some significant effort. With my thumb locking the spool, I lifted until the rod was bent over, almost to the corks, trying to force it to the surface.
    The fish shook its head and ­headed out and away, again with no hesitation, pulling line steadily until my thumb was scorched. At this point, I decided that it was quite likely a keeper — if I could get it to the boat.
    Another long 10 minutes of tense back-and-forth action finally brought the fish near the surface and provided a first glimpse of my adversary. The size limit was definitely not going to be a problem.
    Grabbing the net, I watched the beast make another determined run. I bided my time and let it have its head. A patient fight has one definite advantage in the last moment of the battle. Though the longer the struggle the greater the chance of losing, at the moment of truth when the net is in the water, the fish is usually so exhausted that there is no last-minute explosion.
    Such was the case this time as I brought the brute to the surface again. Managing it into my skiff at last, I had quite a handsome trophy rockfish, my first of the season.


Light-Tackle Fishing
    I’ll be teaching a course on Chesapeake Bay Light-Tackle Fishing at Anne Arundel Community College Saturday, May 6, 9am-2:30pm (course AHC 36): 410-777-2222.

Fish in the Classroom goes to college

Whoever heard of taking fish back to the water?
    Trout Unlimited did, and that’s why my Anne Arundel Community College environmental studies class of 25 students is carrying buckets of trout to the Little Paxtuxent River near Savage Mill.
    Trout Unlimited believes that the best way to conserve and create more coldwater fisheries is to partner with local hatcheries and release trout into local rivers. The fingerlings we release are Kamloops rainbow trout, grown from some 9,000 embryos supplied by the Albert Powell State Hatchery to be raised in classrooms across the state.
    In the national Fish in the Classroom program, trout are raised in low-income schools by kids who might not have another opportunity to understand water ecology and stream preservation. Teachers can ask to have their classes included in the free program.
    Rainbow trout are not Maryland natives, but they do provide good fishing and eating. Maryland’s native brook trout, a key indicator species, are greatly reduced because of urbanization and rising temperatures.

Others need warm soil to germinate

It just takes a few warm days for some gardeners to decide it’s time to plant the garden. Depending on what you plant, you may suffer for your haste.
    Some seeds will germinate in cool soils, but others will only germinate after the soil warms to 70 degrees. When those seeds are planted in cool soils, the seeds will often rot before they get the warmth they crave. Read seed packets for suggested germinating temperatures.
    Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, parsnips, peas, radishes, rutabaga spinach and turnips can germinate in temperature as low as 55 degrees. However, beans, corn, okra, peppers, and tomatoes require soil temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees to assure uniform germination.
    To get an early start on warmth-loving seeds, some commercial producers pre-germinate the seed, priming them in a warm water bath of 80 degrees with air bubbles flowing through the water. As soon as the first root, called a radical, emerges from the seed, starch is added and the seeds sowed in soil. Once germination begins, growth continues. Growth is slow at first, but as the soil warms, the well-established plants have a jump start on seedlings that emerged from seeds sown after the soil warmed.
    You can prime your seeds in an open container with an inch or so of water. Place the container on top of the refrigerator, where the heat from the compressor will keep it warm, or on top of the hot water heater. Shake the container of water and seeds at least twice daily to add oxygen. When nearly all of the seeds have a small white root protruding through the seed coat, drain the water and place the seeds on a moist paper towel. Using a pair of tweezers, carefully transfer the germinated seeds into the prepared garden soil. Plant the seeds very shallow and only lightly cover them with soil. Do not allow the soil covering the seeds to dry. Keep the soil moist until the seedlings emerge.
    By pre-germinating seeds, you can gain at least two weeks in harvesting that first snap bean or ear of corn.
    Another method of obtaining an early ear of sweet corn is to sow the seeds in plug trays using a commercial potting mix. Many seed catalogs offer plug trays containing 60 to 100 cells. Each cell has a capacity of one-eighth to one-fourth cup of rooting medium. After filling the cells, press a single corn seed into each. Moisten the rooting media well and place the tray in a warm room or greenhouse. As soon as the seeds germinate, place the tray in full sun. The seedlings are ready to transplant into the garden when the plants are six to eight inches tall. Gently remove the seedling from the tray and transplant.
    Don’t try this with beans, as their roots cannot be disturbed once they are established.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

We’re all drawn into the Chesapeake’s force field

The Chesapeake runs through us. If we knew rivers better, how they twist and turn and emerge from many places, I could call the inundated bed of the Susquehanna what it is, our river of life. Easier to understand are trees, which stand in one place and let you see them in their enormity, from their great trunks to their spreading limbs branching irrepressibly into twigs and leaves. (Their roots, for the most part, you have to imagine.)
    The grandest of all trees, mythologically speaking, is Yggdrasil, the Norse tree of life. In centrality and vitality, that tree compares to our Chesapeake.
    For Chesapeake Bay is much more than a nice expanse of water. A medium rich as earth in spawning and sheltering life, it’s a living force whose branches, twigs and leaves run all among us. Get close enough, and you’re in its force field.
    That premise — come close and it has you — brings school children from throughout the watershed to the Bay and its tributary limbs to feel the water and plant oysters, fish fingerlings and grasses they’ve grown in their classrooms. You’ll read about a couple such groups in this week’s Creature Feature by Bay Weekly staffer Audrey Broomfield, who is one of the (adult) students. You’ll also read about a teen whose enchantment with the Chesapeake has earned him recognition as an expert on an epoch that’s history to him (though perhaps still vivid in your memory, as in mine), the rockfish moratorium of 1985 to 1990. Staff writer Kathy Knotts tells his story.
    The kids feel the pull, and so do we.
    You’re reading this paper, which makes it very likely that force has drawn you to Chesapeake Country, as it has so many of us. Since 1950 — the old days — our watershed population has grown from 8.4 million people to 18.1 million. Many of us have entwined our lives with these waters, enjoying them, making a living from them, protecting them. For the many among us who come to the water in pleasure — anglers, cruisers, paddlers, sailors — this is the season of return. That excitement we’re feeling is proof of the power Chesapeake Bay has over us.
    Back to the water is our theme this issue. So we’re giving you information to help you know the Bay better in mind and in person — plus telling you stories of the different ways people relate to the pull of the Chesapeake.
    One is Norman Gross, who makes model boats to record the people of his life and the boats that took them to the water. New to Chesapeake Country and Bay Weekly, writer Jackie Graves got to know where she’s landed better by telling his story.
    Upcoming is one of those weekends when there’s so much to do in Chesapeake Country that you’ll wish you could divide yourself into enough pieces to do it all. If we both manage that division, I’ll see you at the 39th annual Celtic Festival and Highland Games … Craft Beer Festival … Huntingtown Volunteer Fire Department parade … Muddy Creek Artist Guild’s spring show and sale … Pigs and Pearls … South River on the Half Shell … SPCA Walk for the Animals … Speaking of Love — and more than one plant sale. Find directions to all that and more in 8 Days a Week.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher
email editor@bayweekly.com, www.sandraolivettimartin.com

Competitors in the Highland Games put brawn in their brag

You can wear a kilt, dance a jig or play a bagpipe to show the Celt in you. Or you can throw a tree, caber in Celtic parlance. You simply pick it up by the small end and run with it, then flip it end over end.
    You’ll see all those gradations and more this Saturday at the 39th Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Highland Games.
    “There is too much to see in one day because with all the 23 event stations there is always something going on,” says organizer Mary Beth Dent. “Our goal is to entice folks to come again so they can see more.”
    Over athletic expressions of Celtic spirit, near-octogenarian Malcolm Doying rules. Doying’s enduring love for Celtic Highland Games has made him a fixture of Celtic communities near and far.
    “At almost 80 he is still training younger people coming up, encouraging them and helping perpetuate the traditions of the Highland Games and passing it down to the next generation,” Dent says.
    Tossing and throwing are key skills in the traditional heptathalon of feats of strength called Highland Games. The things you toss are weighty, and you must toss them all.
    “A caber weighs between 80 and 140 pounds,” Doying says.
    Stones used in Throwing the Stone, an early form of shot put, weigh only 16 to 22 pounds. The stone increases to 42 to 56 pounds with an overhead pole for brawny athletes Throwing the Weight — using only one hand.
    Tossing the Sheaf places the stone within a twine-stuffed bag weighing 16 pounds.
    “Competitors are Tossing the Sheaf close to 30 feet over the pole,” Doying says.
    Tossing the Hammer, Doying’s favorite sport, demands swinging a 16- to 22-pound hammer three times overhead before throwing.
    Throwing all these mighty weights, Doying traveled up and down the East Coast and all the way to Scotland.
    “The biggest and best competition was in Scotland,” said Doying. “The World’s Master’s Championship Competition for 40 and older was like the Olympics with a parade of guys from all over the world.”
    To fit into her husband’s competitive schedule, wife Patricia Shema adopted his passion. Shema started competing in her 50s, promoting a women’s class in the games. Between them, the couple has earned five world championships.
    “It’s so much fun,” Doying says.
    Want to step up?
    Start by watching the events to see how they’re done.
    “If you’re a reasonable athlete you can do it,” Doying says — next year with training.
    Forty-five athletes compete in three flights in the first games of the Mid-Atlantic season, said to be the best on the East Coast. One man is flying in from Germany. Fifteen athletes are women.


The 39th Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Highland Games, Saturday, April 29, 10am-6pm. $20 admission includes heavyweight athletic events to testify to Celtic martial prowess and pride; music, dancing and instruction; living history to illuminate the culture, storytellers and genealogy seminars to strengthen cultural links — plus food and drink — all at Jefferson Patterson Park in St. Leonard: www.cssm.org.

Silly romance mars an important subject

In the mountain villages of Turkey, Mikael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac: X-Men: Apocalypse) is an apothecary with dreams of earning a medical degree. Financing his studies with the dowry from an arranged marriage, he promises to return to his fiancée in two years as a doctor.
    In Constantinople, he lives with his uncle, a wealthy merchant. The life of luxury and the family nanny, Ana (Charlotte Le Bon: Realive) distract him from his classes. Beautiful, free spirited and worldly, Ana is everything Mikael’s fiancée is not. He falls in love but keeps silent because he is honor-bound to marry another.
    Ana, meanwhile, is enjoying an affair with brash American A.P. reporter Chris Meyers (Christian Bale: The Big Short), who anticipates Turkish government will seek to rid the country of its Armenian population.
    As the nationalist movement takes root, Mikael is forced into a work camp where he is starved, beaten and stripped of hope.
    A movie about a genocide still unacknowledged by the Turkish government, The Promise had promise. Instead of exposing the consequences of xenophobia, Director Terry George (Standoff) settled for an Armenian retelling of Doctor Zhivago.
    Miscalculating the appeal of this tiresome romance, he treats us to shot after shot of pretty people pining for other pretty people.
    The male leads, both proven actors, are wasted. The movie soars when their characters discover what the Turks are doing. Devastated by what’s been done to his people, Isaac’s Boghosian plays for heart. Bale’s Meyers is the righteous crusader, fighting to find proof of the war crimes and alert the world.
    Unfortunately, the important story plays background to one of the more tedious romantic triangles in cinema history.

Fair Drama • PG-13 • 132 mins.

Atlantic ribbed and hooked mussels are Chesapeake’s Brita filter

Mussels are more than a seafood dish in buttery broth. Unlike those delectable mussels, our Chesapeake Bay mussels are small and tough. Our two native species, the Atlantic ribbed mussel and the hooked mussel, serve environment rather than appetite. Both are believed to be key indicator species of the health of the Bay.
    These filter feeders have a leg up on oysters. Due to their smaller size, they can catch the smaller plankton Picoplankton.
    In doing that job, mussels have been credited with filtering out twice as much plankton as do our oysters, Crassostrea virginica. That’s according to research conducted in 2015 by Smithsonian Environmental Research Center scientists Denise Breitburg and Keryn Gedan and Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Lisa Kellogg (www.vims.edu/newsandevents/topstories/mussels.php).
    “Hooked mussels were also twice as effective as oysters at filtering picoplankton,” says Breitburg. The tiny picoplankton are particularly abundant in the Bay in summer.
    Lifespans upward of 15 years mean our mussels have long careers. They do their work in the Bay’s most dynamic environments near the water’s edge, helping to reduce sediment. They are also part of the Bay food chain, feeding crabs, shorebirds and ducks.
    You might see these hard-working mussels on the roots of underwater grasses or on hard surfaces like oyster shells, pilings and boat bottoms.

Bloom is the best thing to come out of D.C in a long time

The demand for organically grown food continues to increase. Because chemical fertilizers cannot be used in its production, growers must depend on natural sources for nutrients, such as animal manures, compost and green manure crops. The demand for compost is so great that it exceeds the supply.
    The problem may soon be solved by recent developments in processing biosolids.
    Biosolids are the solid materials derived from wastewater processing facilities, also known as sewage-treatment plants. Yes, you know what I’m taking about.
    Yet wastewater treatment has advanced so far that 85 percent of the biosolids in the U.S. satisfy EPA Class A standards. Class A biosolids can safely be use in the production of agricultural crops.
    The Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant in Washington, D.C., is the largest plant of its kind in the world. The biosolids generated there are rich in Capital Hill bull @#!$. Now plant engineers have perfected a method of converting biosolids into Bloom, an organic matter rich in nutrients.
    First the biosolids undergo anaerobic digestion. Then excess water is removed, and the biosolids are dumped into a giant pressure cooker that is heated to more than 200 degrees. The pressure is released instantly, causing the tissues in the biosolids to rupture, thus releasing their nutrients. Anaerobic digestion degrades all organic compounds, including toxins. The pressure cooker treatment renders Bloom sterile. After the processed biosolid is removed from the pressure cooker, it is dried. The finished product looks black and has an earthy odor.
    I dedicated over 20 years of my career to research on composting. I have studied its value in nutrition and in controlling soil-borne disease. I have used compost on a great variety of plants, from growing garden vegetables to growing forests in abandoned gravel mines to blending rooting media for growing plants in containers.
    Compost has solved many problems, promoted recycling and has created new industries. Yet I have never achieved with any compost the results I am getting from Bloom.
    My method is blending Bloom with compost to combine the superior qualities of both products. I use a rooting medium containing equal parts by volume of peat moss and compost (made at Upakrik Farm) with 25 percent by volume Bloom. Because it contains seven mmhos/cm of soluble salts, it must be applied sparingly. My tests indicate that the maximum is 25 percent in combination with regular potting medium.
    I am testing it in growing broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, peppers and spinach. I have also used it as mulch on half of the garlic plants growing in the garden. Garlic plants mulched with Bloom in late February are darker green and taller than garlic growing in the same bed without Bloom as mulch.

    Pictured above are cabbage and pepper plants growing for eight weeks with no additions but water as needed. The pepper plants that I have been growing are dark green while the cabbage and broccoli plants are a rich blue-green.
    We recently vertically mulched the large oak trees near my home by augering 320 six-diameter holes a foot deep, starting 10 inches from the trunk of each tree to the drip line of the branches. Each hole was filled with Bloom. Within two weeks, the grass surrounding each hole turned dark green and was growing rapidly. I can’t wait to see how the trees respond. I have vertically mulched these trees with compost every seven years with great results. I feel confident these mulching results will be even better.
        Bloom is not only producing excellent results but is also a consistent product day to day, month to month. What’s more, the Blue Plains process can be completed in days. In comparison, composting biosolids takes months from start to finished product.
        If every wastewater treatment plant that generates Class A biosolids were to include this new technology, growers would be better able to meet the demands for organically grown food. Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville is in the process of establishing facilities for drying and processing Bloom.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Leo James knows better than most what’s swimming down there

In gauging the chances of a successful fishing season, I have learned to distrust the forecasting of state and conservation officials as fraught with politics and self-interest. Worse, my own guesses have proven wrong so often that I’ve learned to stop making them. There has been, however, one source I rely on year after year.
    I’ve come to think of this fellow with his thick mane of white hair as the Oracle of Mill Creek.
    Leo James has again and again captured the essence of the unfolding seasons more accurately than I thought possible. Living on the same Mill Creek waterfront property that his family has held over the last 100 years or so, this mostly retired waterman still rises at 3am this time of year to set nets for fresh bait. He fishes, tends to his marina and shares his knowledge of the Chesapeake with anyone who doesn’t irritate him. Luckily, I sometimes fit that qualification.
    “More rockfish than I’ve seen on the Bay in a lot of years,” was his first take this year. “The fish were so thick out there in February and March that they ran all of the alewife up into the creeks. Then more rock showed up this month, lots of big ones, too.”
    His prediction: “We’re going to have a good many fish for the trophy season this year, even better than last. And the regular season should be just as good.”
    Being on the waters of the Bay almost every day over the last 70 years has given James a prescience that eclipses the attempts of many highly educated scientists. The strenuous life he’s led has also left its mark on him. To say he’s fit is an understatement.
    The daily schedule as he moves about on the water and in his marina would put most of his age group (myself included) in the hospital.
    “But I can’t work into the night then be back on the water by 3am any more,” he confessed recently. “Guess my years are catching up with me.”
    In our conversation, he also reminisced to back in the day when 50- and 60-pound rockfish chasing fleeing alewife would slam into his bait nets.
    “They’d rock the whole boat. You almost couldn’t stand up some days. A rock tail two feet across would come up out of the water so it took your breath away. I remember one fish so big that it just tore through the whole net, never even slowed down. On one or two days, we had to quit setting. The fish just ran us right off the water.”
    Hyperbole? I’m not so sure. I’ve read and heard similar stories and caught glimpses of too many really big fish moving through Bay waters to discount any of the Oracle’s recollections.
    Part of the beauty and mystery of the Chesapeake is that you never really know what’s beneath. Of course, Leo James has a pretty good idea.