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What is the acceptable human cost for our security?

If you could kill a terrorist by drone strike, would you? If a child was in the kill zone, could you still launch the missile?
    Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren: Woman in Gold) has been obsessively tracking a terrorist. With his location finally pinpointed, she plans an elaborate capture, coordinating her British action with Kenyan and American forces.
    Complications force the capture mission to be abandoned. Powell wants to go for the kill with a drone strike. But it’s not her call.
    First, she must check with her general (Alan Rickman: A Little Chaos). He, in turn, must check with British ministers. They must check with the Americans. No one wants to be responsible for the strike, especially when a small girl enters the target area.
    As Powell argues for the strike, the British ministers, American drone pilots and Kenyan forces debate its morality.
    Is the possibility of saving many lives worth taking the life of an innocent? Can this group come to a consensus before the terrorists escape?
    An interesting morality puzzle holds together this suspenseful but hackneyed thriller. Director Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) builds tension as politicians bandy about responsibility for the strike. You feel how infuriating the authorizing process can be. Every time an answer is seemingly arrived upon, someone else brings up another issue — and the debate resumes.
    For Powell and her cohorts, the frustration is agonizing. For the politicians, escaping responsibility is agonizing.
    Hood makes a powerful statement on the priorities of government, seemingly more concerned with appearance than reality. It is not a unique statement. Weathered military officers are cold, American politicians are cavalier and young officers are emotional. None of these types breaks a mold, though they work fairly well here to move the story along.
    With a plot offering nothing new, the acting raises the movie above hackneyed territory. Mirren is masterful as Powell, a dogged soldier who’s bitterly frustrated. In one of the last roles before his death, Rickman is entertaining as a world-weary general who must hold the hands of dithering politicians.
    Credit for the most suspenseful performance belongs to Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), who plays a Kenyan operative sneaking into the terrorist compound. Far behind enemy lines, he’s operating a tiny drone in the midst of men with machine guns who would cut him down if they knew. Abdi’s struggle to survive an assignment tantamount to suicide is nerve-wracking.
    A fairly predictable film with some well-constructed tension, Eye in the Sky poses some interesting questions to viewers. What is the acceptable loss of life for a drone strike? Who has the right to choose who lives and who dies? If you’re looking for a film that challenges you to think and discuss, this movie is well worth the ticket.

Good Suspense • R • 102 mins.

Space America Museum director turns his focus to film thriller

A murder at a Department of Defense facility and the theft of top secret files leads to the discovery of a dangerous spy organization operating in our nation’s capitol.
    Such is the plot of Fatal Deception, The Archuleta Files, a film written by Alan Hayes, of Owings, who also heads the production company, Spaceman Productions LLC.
    Hayes is best known in Calvert County as the director of the Space America Museum in Prince Frederick.
    Most of the filming is being done locally, key scenes shot in Washington, D.C., as well. The company will be traveling to Los Angeles shortly for a few days of additional shooting, then back to Bay Country for the final scenes.
    Expect to see Fatal Deception, The Archuleta Files later this year or early next year, with the full-length sequel Fatal Deception arriving late next year or early 2018.

The fish are willing — but is the caster able?

I hung the first rockfish almost an hour into my early-morning effort. The strike wasn’t violent; more a sudden stop followed by a long struggle. I had to put my electric motor into reverse to separate the fish from the structure and bring it onto the side of my boat.
    That fight established the pattern of all the fish I was to catch that day. Each insisted on remaining in one area as opposed to running for deep water. They stayed as close to the bottom as they could. I lost only one, but all the battles were perilous.
    My catch-and-release outing turned into an extended casting effort. The fish on this heavily overcast day were scattered singly among bridge supports, over submerged structures and along docks and jetties in water less than 10 feet deep. It took almost four hours to hang five nice fish.
    If I allowed my skiff to drift in too close, the stripers would either leave or shut off. If I didn’t hold the boat well away from the structure, my chances of drawing a strike were about zero. I had to drop the lure close to whatever structure I was fishing, and I had very few strikes in open water.

Fine-tuning the Caster
    I had rigged up a pair each of casting and spin rigs and armed them with variations of my basic lure, a Bass Assassin on half-ounce jigheads: five-inch Saltwater Shads in four colors, Opening Night, Albino Ghost, Ripper and basic white. Ripper had a strong edge in seducing the bites, though I had a hit or two on just about all the colors.
    I had lost accuracy with winter’s inactivity. Initially my casts tended off target: too short, too long, to one side or the other.
    My effectiveness varied with my equipment.
    With spinning equipment, once I released the throw the cast was done. I was either on or off target.
    With revolving-spool casting rigs, on the other hand, I could make in-flight adjustments by thumbing the spool and changing the trajectory of the bait accordingly, shortening the cast when desired and to a lesser degree moving the lure’s impact right or left. The ability to make those adjustments also depended on quickly shifting my focus from the target to the lure as it flew through its arc. Otherwise, I could never react quickly enough to make the necessary correction.
    About halfway through the morning, I realized that it was the casting I was enjoying. It was satisfying to eventually place the baits just where I wanted them, at long distance and often inches from a concrete pier or just off of a large bolder — particularly with the casting outfits.
    The whirr of the spools was mesmerizing, while comparing casting to spinning made for a more interesting trip. The spin outfits excelled at quick casts to medium distances where pinpoint accuracy was not particularly necessary. The casting outfits were perfect for the more demanding presentations.

Look who’s inviting your community to play(s)

Masterpiece Theater doesn’t tempt me with its behind-the-scenes insights into actors assuming character. I want my characters in character, just as I met them, preserving their fictional illusion.
    Community theater is a different story, with a local angle.
    Show after show, familiar faces transform like Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces. (Don’t know Hugo? You have a gap in your childhood.) One of those faces may belong to your office mate.
    As you read, local theaters are imagining, mounting and striking another play — and another.
    Consider four we work with routinely.
    Twin Beach Players is making its home-stretch push toward Thursday April 7, opening night for The Miser. A 350-year-old French comedy is a leap for a grassroots, bootstraps local theater.
    “We’re strong enough to be judged on how well we do,” says Sid Curl, company president and theater pro.
    The 17-year-old company loves literary masters, which saves money, as it pays no royalties on plays aged out of literary protection.
    Twin Beach Players’ work with children in productions and in the annual Kids Playwriting Festival make it, Curl says, “the largest children’s organization in Calvert County with the exception of the public schools.”
    This year’s 11th Annual Kids Playwriting Festival is the other project keeping the company buzzing. Step one, again this year, is recruiting the playwrights.
    In Annapolis The Colonial Players opens Friday, April 8, with the musical The Secret Garden. Meanwhile, actors are just stepping into character for Colonial’s June production, Good People.
    At 67, The Colonial Players stands on the strength of heritage. A membership of some 100 theater supporters — dues are only $10 — gives the company plenty of energy, with new people stepping forward as others retreat. “We’ve got books and books of bylaws and procedures distilled from experience,” says Darice Cleewell, an actor, director and, by day, trainer who is completing her year-long term as Colonial’s president.
    Colonial’s standing shows in other ways. It already has its own home, its theater in the round in downtown Annapolis, plus a second property for sets, costumes and rehearsal. The company also has a reliable audience whose subscriptions guarantee revenue. “We’re able to take more risks than other companies, and we take that responsibility seriously,” says Clewell.
    2nd Star Productions is readying Guys and Dolls for a June 9 debut at Bowie Playhouse. Musicals are this all-volunteer company’s specialty, so even an ambitious play like this is not too big a stretch. It’s also likely to be a money-maker, which means surviving for another play, another season. Mounting a play, especially a musical, costs as much as $70,000, says company treasurer Gene Valendo.
    The actors who’ll play Guys and Dolls’ gamblers and molls work throughout the region. The board is small, dedicated and looking to expand. You don’t have to act to help.
    “I have no desire to be on stage,” says Jane Wingard, company president and award-winning set designer. A Prince George’s County drama teacher, she was an empty-nester when challenged to form the company.
    Part of that fun will be bringing to life next February’s much-anticipated Peter and the Starcatcher.
    “It’s the first Peter Pan play,” Wingard explains, “for a company that takes its name from Peter Pan’s second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.”
    April isn’t too soon for Annapolis Summer Garden Theater to get is 50th anniversary season started. The Wedding Singer opens May 26. This Saturday, April 9, is spring cleanup with volunteers needed to ready the lobby, garden, backstage and everywhere else. Show up at 10am at the theater, 143 Compromise St., Annapolis: ­volunteer@summergarden.com.
    That’s one of many ways to join your neighbors in play.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Right now it’s catch and release; Trophy season opens April 16

Once again, I heard a story I couldn’t pass up: a concentration of rockfish up to 33 inches. It was my dream setup and perhaps a chance to catch (and release) my first rockfish of the season.
    I was sure of only one thing. I had not dressed warmly enough for the morning. My teeth were chattering and fingers shaking from the chill as well as the anticipation when I threaded the soft plastic tail onto a half-ounce jig head.
    Selecting a five-inch saltwater Bass Assassin that had been productive at the end of last year, I tied it on my fluoro leader and began to explore, fan casting, drifting and hard-twitching the lure just over the bottom.
    A half dozen casts was all it took.
    I was tight to a good fish taking drag and shaking its head while it ran all around my skiff. I had squashed the hook barb flat — per DNR requirements for this time of year — so had to be extra careful not to allow the least bit of slack lest the fish throw my hook. After an extended struggle I finally eased the brawny rascal to the side of my skiff and into the net. Sweet victory.
    Leaving the still-struggling 25-inch striper entrapped in the mesh, I hurried to ready my camera and get a quick picture. Catch and release this time of year rarely causes mortality or even injury to the fish. Still, as soon as I could I slipped it over the side and back into the cold, clear water of the Bay. The fish jetted away, leaving a small cloud of milt in its wake.
    I couldn’t believe my luck. Then four or five casts later I was hooked up again, then again and a few minutes later yet again. Though the bite slacked off within the hour, I managed to scratch out a total of seven excellent fish by 11am, altogether a fantastic day for my maiden rockfish trip.
    On the way back to the ramp I reminded myself that the best fish of the day (the 25-incher) was still 10 inches under the minimum for the coming trophy season. Today, that ­didn’t matter a whit to me. The scrappers that were feeding that morning allegedly had some bigger cousins nearby. If they continue to hold and feed in that general area, I may have an excellent chance to score a trophy rock come opening day on April 16.

In spring, feed your soil — not your grass

Warm-season grasses, including Zoysia and Bermuda grass, should be banned from Chesapeake lawns. They cause nothing but problems. Lawns planted with these grasses have to be fed monthly May through August with high-nitrogen fertilizers. They must be sprayed yearly with restricted-use pesticides to control billbugs and other insects. They must be mowed close to the ground, so they often become infested with weeds, which requires the frequent use of herbicides. The clippings must be collected and the lawn dethatched.
    Warm-season grasses are green during the summer months and yellowish-brown in fall and winter. Some homeowners go so far as to spray them with Greenzite in late fall to make them more attractive.
    For the best Chesapeake country lawns, plant bluegrass and fescue.
    Bay soil is better suited for growing cranberries and blueberries than for grass. If you want a lush weed-free lawn next year, late April and early May is when to take action.
    If you haven’t had your soil tested in the past five years, it is likely that you will have to lime your soil. Soil in the Bay area tends to be very acidic. When you apply lawn fertilizers on acid soils, the chances are great that much of the nutrients from the fertilizers will either be washed into the Bay or into the groundwater. If you want your lawn to be dark green and dense, this is the time to apply limestone — not fertilizer.
    Lawn grasses grow best on soils that are only moderately acid. It is not uncommon to find soils in the Bay area having a pH of 4.2 to 4.5. Since a pH of 7 is neutral, this means that such soils are very acid and would be ideal for growing cranberries and blueberries — if we had the proper climatic conditions.
    By applying limestone now, you’ll neutralize your soil, bringing it closer to the ideal pH for growing lawns, between 6.0 and 6.5. In this pH range, all of the nutrients essential for good plant growth are available to the roots of the grasses. In turn, fertilizers you may apply in fall — which is the best time to fertilize bluegrass and fescue lawns — will be effectively utilized by the grasses.
    Soil testing is the only sure way to determine the amount and kind of limestone to apply. If you don’t want to take the time to have your soil tested, then apply between 50 and 80 pounds of dolomitic limestone per 1,000 square feet. Do not use hydrated or high-calcium limestone, since most of our soils are deficient in magnesium, and dolomitic limestone contains magnesium.
    If you live near the Bay, you should not be using weed killers. Matter of fact, weed killers for lawns should be outlawed. Not only are they unnecessary and expensive, they contribute to the pollution of the Bay.
    Working with herbicides almost continuously since 1958, I have respect for them and their responsible use. But the application of weed-and-feed fertilizers is an irresponsible use of both herbicides and fertilizers.
    The time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to control crabgrass, dandelions and other broadleaf weeds is within two to three weeks following petal drop of forsythia: no later than early May in the Bay area. Applying weed-and-feed fertilizer earlier means that by the time the crabgrass starts to germinate, the pre-emergent herbicide will have become ineffective.
    Applying fertilizer to a bluegrass or fescue lawn late in the spring means that you will be promoting soft, succulent growth that will be susceptible to disease. Then you will have to purchase a fungicide to control the diseases you caused by applying the fertilizer too late in the spring.
    If only a few weeds are growing in your lawn, why apply a weed-and-feed fertilizer over the entire lawn? I have yet to see a decent lawn that needs a weed-and-feed fertilizer treatment.
    If the lawn is nothing but weeds, it is time to start over in August or September. No amount of weed-and-feed fertilizer can reclaim a neglected lawn.

To Test Your Soil
    Send soil samples for testing to Waypoint Analytical (formerly A&L) in Richmond. Full instructions for testing are online: www.soilandplantlaboratory.com/services/soilsampling.aspx.
    If your soil is a sandy loam or loamy sand, have it tested for all trace elements, especially boron (B). However, if your soil is a loam, silt or clay loam, the general soil test will suffice.
    If you have been growing multiple crops each year, you most likely will need to apply limestone. If you want me to make recommendations, don’t specify a crop (a savings of $3 to $5) and include my email so I’ll get your results: dr.frgouin@gmail.com.


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

Three-dozen helpers in keeping up with Mother Nature

Such energy is all around us! The miracle of humus, light, water and sap that brings Earth back to life each spring Mother Nature achieves apparently effortlessly.  She’s so good at her job that our own inspiration rises in wonder at her seasonal restoration. With Earth looking so good, I find myself saying, what about my own home and garden?
    Whether we live on green acres or way up in a high rise, whether our space is sprawling or tiny, we can follow Nature’s lead. For the size and scope of our spring projects matter less than the energy they release in our human beings. As Mother Nature’s children, we’re driven like all the rest of Earth’s creatures to renewal.
    Spring renewal brought crisp white linen slipcovers to the overstuffed chairs and couches of the most welcoming home I’ve ever visited, the Lewis family home in the haphazard village of Gillespie, Illinois. Florence, who ran the home, had an eye for perfection. Each object, each seasonal change, was a comforting act of invisible artistry. Those slipcovers, for example, were sewn by Florence and her mother-in-law, who had owned the house before her. Years later, they still stand as my talisman of domestic comfort. I’ve never dared such an invitation to soils and spills, though over time it’s occurred to me that the parlor they adorned was less used than the family room-library.
    My indoors ritual of spring renewal is to attack the windows. Washing, opening and hanging light curtains changes the home season. It’s my symbolic first step into spring, and I feel obliged to start with the equinox. Thereafter everything else, indoor and out, unfolds slowly as I find time, energy and money.
    The physical acts of remaking our home and garden is part of the reward — until it becomes a burden. So this Home & Garden Guide helps me scale my plans to my abilities and discover to whom to turn to carry out the dreams I can’t manage.
    I hope it will do the same for you, becoming your directory to the greater Chesapeake Country village where you do your spring renewal shopping.
    All the businesses you’ll read about here are advertisers who pay for the paper in your hand. Their investment in Bay Weekly, ours in you and yours in them: That partnership keeps us all in business. That continuity keeps our community culturally and economically strong. A strong community enriches our personal lives and supports our choices. That’s true all the way into our homes and gardens.
    This year’s Home and Garden Guide introduces three-dozen businesses to help you keep up with Mother Nature.
    From a bank, Realtor and insurer to support your biggest decisions … to who can build the projects you imagine … to call to tune up your heating and cooling system … to who’ll wash even your highest windows … to where to find art to open your horizons: You’ll find all these and more home improvers in these pages.
    Outdoors, we take you from nurseries to landscapers to lawn services to experts in outdoors living who can dig you a pool, keep your pool fresh and healthy and equip you well, from extravagant grills to outdoor kitchens.
    For what to prepare in those kitchens we take you to farms, farm markets and orchards where you can have a good time with the free time you’ve saved as well as find bounty to bring home.
    In our pages, you’ll read what each says they do best. When one strikes a chord, you can turn from our pages to that website to continue your research. After that, you might find that the project you dream of is only a phone call or visit away.
    We see great returns from this issue.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

A sequel without a lot to say

Paris Portokalos (Elena Kampouris: American Odyssey) longs to escape her family. Her mother, Toula (Nia Vardalos: Star vs. The Forces of Evil), is clingy and desperate, her grandfather pressures her to get married and make babies at 17 and the rest of them are loud and obnoxious. Paris hopes to flee to college far, far away. Her mother counters by pressuring her daughter to stay close to home.
    Toula smothers her daughter because that’s how she’s learned to act by the family she never escaped. Though she married an outsider, Ian (John Corbett: Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll), Toula is deeply ensconced in Portokalos life. She is a caregiver for her aging father, a stalker of her daughter and the family fixer of problems. It’s a great arrangement for the family, but Toula is exhausted and neglectful of her husband.
    When grandparents Gus and Maria (Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan) discover that, due to a technicality, they were never married, the family assumes the duo will head down the aisle to rectify the error. Gus is willing, but after 50 years of subservience to the domineering Portokalos patriarch, Maria isn’t so sure.
    The family tells Toula to fix it.
    A sequel to the family-friendly original, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a meander with sparse laughs and a thin plot. Vardalos, who wrote the original and the sequel, draws on her family experiences. For this installment, she brings back all the old jokes, from the patriarch’s obsession with Windex to the white neighbors who think the Greeks are creepy and weird.
    Disaster is averted by winning performances. Andrea Martin (Difficult People) and Kazan both know how to sell hokey humor. They make a running gag about neck pulling workable and manage to make their overbearing personalities endearing.
    Vardalos doesn’t fare so well. The point of the first film was Toula’s finding her voice and asserting herself. She hasn’t.
    And this sequel isn’t My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Fair Comedy • PG-13 • 94 mins.

Some days, it isn’t the fish that count

Sometimes nothing goes right, and it just doesn’t seem to matter. The original plan was to start out at tide fall. According to the charts, that meant about 11am at the mouth of the Magothy. But of course it was closer to one o’clock when Mike, Dale and I finally launched my skiff.
    The high tide, we noticed, was stalled, but perhaps ready to fall as we stowed our gear and motored out into the river channel. Intending to methodically work every area where we had ever found fish on the Magothy, we started right there. Marking small schools holding on the bottom, we presented minnows and bloodworms for almost an hour. No takers.
    This was the first trip of the season for Dale, though Mike and I had been out. We all knew that the likelihood of finding fish was questionable. It was a bit late for yellow perch and early for the whites.
    Soldiering on, we fished up the river in familiar-looking locales. At first we blamed our lack of success on the absence of tidal current, then the lack of grass shrimp (we only had bloodworms, minnows and butter worms), followed by the fickleness of spawning perch and the time of day (mid-day is the least productive period).
    Since denigrating each other is an alternative sport when things aren’t going right, we eventually speculated on the presence of a Jonah. Named after the Biblical Jonah, swallowed by the whale, and ever since identified with bad luck on the water.
    Moving upriver, we fished all the way to Beachwood Park, where it was obvious from the many listless anglers along the shoreline that no one was catching fish. Our luck remained stalled — as did, incidentally, the tidal current.
    Dale and I were about to bestow the Jonah on Mike when he hooked up with a fat and feisty yellow perch, which he battled to the side of the boat. Consumed by envy, Dale and I were relieved when the ned spit the hook as Mike tried to derrick it into the boat.
    He explained that he had purposely freed the perch out of concern for our self-esteem. We loudly protested that preposterous claim. Then Mike went on to hook a small sunfish, then a pickerel — at which point his luck and his boasting grew unbearable.
    Dale and I were conferring aloud on the best way to heave him overboard when I happened to glance at my watch. Already it was 5pm, and Mike had promised his wife that he would meet her for dinner at that hour.
    We persuaded all of our spouses, who had been patiently waiting for our return, to join us at a waterfront restaurant halfway down the Magothy River on Mill Creek. It would take them, we hoped, as long to get there as it would our skiff.
    Dinner was delicious and the adult beverages especially welcome and warming after the chill of the late-afternoon run. Mike, Dale and I entertained our dinner companions by trying to convince them just how one lost yellow perch, a tiny sunfish and a barely legal pickerel constituted a fantastic fishing trip. They believed us. It was obvious we’d had a great day on the water.

Great for tight spaces or poor soil

A couple of years ago, I initiated a demonstration on growing vegetables in bales of straw using organic fertilizer and chemical. My test consisted of preparing the bales in two ways. On one, I applied three pounds of 4-3-4 Holy Tone Organic. On another, 2.5 cups of 10-10-10 fertilizer. I kept both bales wet until their internal temperatures were equal to those of ambient air.
    Temperatures in the bales treated with 4-3-4 organic fertilizer reached 120 degrees within days. Temperatures in the bales treated with 10-10-10 fertilizer required at least a week before reaching 110 degrees. All of the bales appeared to show signs of decay, with and inky cap and shaggy mushrooms growing on all.
    After the temperatures within the bales dropped to ambient air temperatures, I seeded the bales with kale, as I conducted my test in autumn. All of the bales produced an abundance of kale; there did not appear to be any differences with regards to yield. However, the kale growing in the bales of straw were not as vigorous as those growing in the nearby garden.
    Soon after minimum temperatures dropped to below 28 degrees. All of the plants growing in straw died. Those growing in the garden continued to produce eddible leaves of kale, which we continued to harvest most of the winter. Come spring of 2015, the kale in the garden resumed growth while the kale grown in the bales of straw was dead.
    Last June, I amended the straw bales treated with Holytone organic 4-3-4 with another pound and a half. I amended each straw bale, initially treated with 10-10-10, with another 1.75 cups. After watering the fertilizers thoroughly, I transplanted one Roma tomato and one Accent Sweet pepper into each bale. The plants were irrigated daily until they appeared to be well established as evident by the rapid growth. From that point on the plants were irrigated twice weekly in the absence of rain.
    The tomato plants quickly outgrew the pepper plants, resulting in only one pepper plant surviving. It did not produce any peppers. The Roma tomato plants produced an abundance of tomatoes in all straw bales regardless of the fertilizer treatment. The editor of Bay Weekly will verify the results because she was invited to harvest the tomatoes for canning.
    By September, all of the bales had shrunk to only a few inches thick with many of the roots of the tomato plants penetrating the landscape fabric placed beneath them at the beginning of the demonstration. The remaining residues of straw went to the compost pile.
    Yes, you can grow tomatoes and peppers as well as kale in bales of straw — providing you plant only one species per bale and not try to grow a variety of plants in such a confined space. The most vigorous species will dominate and crowd out the less vigorous species. Each bale will give you two crops.


Grass and Clover

Q    I have a raised vegetable garden I made last year. Over the winter some grass and clover blew in and is growing pretty good. Would it be better to spade or plow the weeds in the soil, or should I pull them out completely before I plant this summer’s crop?

–Dean Castle, via email

A    Pull out the clover and spade under the grass.

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