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A little girl learns the importance of friendship and family in this charming tale

Orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill: The 4 O’clock Club) leads a lonely life in London. Already very grown up and smarter than her peers, she follows the matron to ensure that bills are filed and snipes at the drunks who wake the other orphans. Her only friend is an orange tabby cat. Sophie’s busy life also means she doesn’t have time for frivolities, like sleeping. She’d much rather stay up and read.
    Late one night, Sophie spies something peculiar out her window. Lurking in the alley is a very tall man — some 30 feet tall. Terrified, Sophie does what any child would do: She hides under the covers. Her strategy doesn’t work, for she is scooped out of her bed and taken to Giant Land.
    There, she learns her captor is the BFG, short for Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance: Bridge of Spies). He is the only non-cannibal giant in all the land. That’s good news for Sophie, but she’s still captive, and the BFG refuses to take her home now that she’s seen him.
    As Sophie and the BFG bond, the other giants catch a whiff of the child. Hulking brutes that dwarf the BFG and feast on the bones of children, the giants want Sophie.
    Can the BFG keep Sophie safe? Will she ever return to England?
    Based on the beloved children’s book by Roald Dahl, The BFG is a sweet, silly film that should appeal to older children and Dahl fans. Director Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies) makes a story that is both delightful and visually stunning. He carefully crafts a distinctive London and Giant Land with storybook appeal.
    As the Friendly Giant, Rylance is a wonderful fusion of technology and performance. Created through motion capture and technological rendering, Rylance’s giant is wonderfully detailed; you can even see his pores. But all the fancy computer graphics in the world can’t guarantee a good performance. Here Rylance delivers, filling the BFG with such warmth and kindness that you find yourself charmed.
    In her big-screen debut, Barnhill is also charming, equally at home bossing the BFG around and helping him catch dreams. She’s a good actress who doesn’t push her childlike enthusiasm too hard.
    Still, this is not a film to see if you have a low tolerance for whimsy and quirk. The BFG speaks in a language of Seussian terms and malapropisms.
    Dahl fans and families with children about six or over should delight in this tale of two lonely people creating their own dreams.

Good Children’s Film • PG • 117 mins.


Chesapeake Bay gets a summer show

Go out on the Bay this summer and you’re likely to see dolphins. Not just two or three but huge pods of the big aquatic mammals, arcing out of the roiled water.
    Dolphins are familiar sights on ocean horizons. Not so much in the Chesapeake, though they are seasonal visitors.
    “Dolphins migrate every summer and are often seen throughout midsummer,” says Amanda Weschler, Department of Natural Resources marine mammal and sea turtle stranding coordinator. Rising water temperatures bring more frequent sightings as dolphins come farther up the Bay, often following fishing boats.
    This year they’ve come early.
    In late May, pods off Herring Bay startled Bay Weekly cofounder Bill Lambrecht.
    “Off Herring Bay in about 35 feet of water, I saw groupings that ranged from several to a dozen, spread out in an area approximately 100 yards wide, perhaps 100 or more dolphins altogether,” he reports.
    Dolphins can grow up to 12 feet long and weigh almost 400 pounds. They’re also speedy, swimming over 18 miles per hour. They form large groups because they’re protective of their own kind, and they won’t leave a member of the family behind. They communicate through a complex system of clicks and whistles, making up to 1,000 sounds per minute. If you’re lucky enough to be swimming near dolphins, dunking underwater will give a firsthand experience of their sounds.
    Sightings continued through this month — and thoughout the Bay.
    Fisherman Bryan Garner of Deale saw a field of them at the mouth of the West River “doing dolphin stuff.”
    On a Schooner Woodwind sunset cruise near the Bay Bridge, crew-woman Charlotte Faraci captured them on video:
    Weschler also warns us that bottle­nose dolphins are protected by law:     “Enjoy the dolphins from afar, but be sure not to touch or feed them because it is considered abuse.”

Mastering your electronics will increase your catch

I’ve had a great past two weeks fishing the Chesapeake. Nice rockfish to 34 inches were in multiple small mobs, hanging in 20 to 30 feet of water. When I located one on the finder, they promptly attacked any jigs or baits we dropped on them. A number of friends had the same experience.
    Yet later this week, I heard from anglers who had cruised the same waters and hadn’t been able to catch anything. What’s more, they told me, they generally had trouble catching rockfish, despite serious effort.
    Digging deeper I ferreted out a common denominator. All had electronic fish finders on their craft but weren’t up to speed on using them. Depth was about all they understood.
    It’s a dictum of fishing the salt that 90 percent of the task is locating the fish. The single most effective tool in finding fish on large bodies of water, like the Chesapeake, is the electronic fish finder.
    Locating fish with the finder does not guarantee that you will catch them. But it is impossible to catch fish that aren’t there, no matter how hard you try.
    Today’s fish finders are able instruments with multiple options to tailor them to your unique marine environment and detect just about anything underwater you’d care to find. Based to a certain extent on anti-submarine technology, these babies are so technically sophisticated that they remain illegal for export to foreign countries.
    But a few days ago I was reminded of just how daunting dealing with these instruments can be. My unit hiccupped during booting and failed to load. When I turned it off and back on again to reboot, I saw that most of my settings had been lost and the unit’s displays were unrecognizable.
    It had been years since I set the machine up and fine-tuned it, so I had no memory of how I did it. With multiple screen menus each with many options, I had to go back to the manual and start over.
    Turning on my unit with my boat on its trailer beside my house, I had no distractions. With the manual in my lap, I went through the setup again. A basic menu option on any recently manufactured unit is a reset to original manufacturer defaults. That’s where I started.
    If you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with electronics, I recommend you begin there as well. There is little intuitive about setting up a fish finder, but most manuals are fairly helpful.
    If the original manual for your machine cannot be located, most manufacturers offer them on their websites. As a last resort, you can call the manufacturer and order a copy.
    Do not attempt to set up or review your settings while fishing; There are just too many distractions.
    Once you’ve entered your initial settings, take a short cruise (with the manual and without your tackle) to fine-tune them.
    Repeat, trying different options and watching your screen to observe the effects. If your choices end in confusion, reset to the default settings and start over.
    A well-tuned instrument will become a customized tool that meets your requirements, eye and angling techniques. The reward will come in terms of more fish in the boat and more confidence in your approach.

Chesapeake Curiosities

Founding father John Adams wanted to celebrate Independence Day July second rather than the fourth, but he was the visionary in celebrating with fireworks. The Adams family hosted huge Independence Day celebrations for generations.
    In a letter to his wife, Abagail Adams, on July 3, 1776, he wrote:
The Second Day of July 1776, will … be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.
    Fourth of July fireworks displays became the standard in the 1880s.
    The first fireworks are believed to have been made in China around 2,000 years ago, when gunpowder stuffed into bamboo was detonated. Ever since, people have been fascinated by their magic. Fireworks were especially popular in Renaissance Europe, when royalty set them off to punctuate celebrations.
    In 1608 Captain John Smith set off the first fireworks display on Chesapeake Bay to impress Native Americans.
    Today’s fireworks are complicated affairs with each color created by a mix of chemicals. Copper burns blue. Strontium salts and lithium salts burn red. Sodium burns yellow. Calcium burns orange. Barium burns green. Charcoal and lampblack burn gold. Magnesium, aluminum and titanium burn white or silver.
    Setup for large fireworks displays like the ones in Annapolis, Chesapeake Beach or Solomons can take days. Each display is carefully choreographed and timed. It takes years to master the skills to pull off a dazzling show. Fireworks can also be extremely dangerous, so leave it to the pros to handle the light show this year.
    See page 12 for a listing of this year’s local fireworks, with some falling before July 4, which would please John Adams.

Has a sight stymied you? Does an oddity bewilder? Your curiosity may be featured in an upcoming column. Send your questions to

On the Fourth of July, we celebrate reason and high ideals

There are places that seem to be magic. Who knows what forces might be at work? Perhaps magnetic fields? Certainly I’m not claiming any science here. Yet over history, places like England’s Stonehenge have drawn human creatures ­hither, often for sacred rites.
    Another of those forces seems to me to rise along the Mississippi River between Fort de Chartres and Fort Kaskaskia, the first capital of Illinois. Nearby in the cliffs of the river, humans sheltered as long ago as 10,000 years at the Modoc Rock Shelter.
    You can feel the vibrations there. At least I did when I visited with Irwin Peithmann, the local archaeologist who discovered those long-ago people’s telltale leavings.
    Places on the calendar can have that same kind of resonance. Right now, we’re in one of those times: the solstice days leading up to the Fourth of July.
    Can you feel the magic of the solstice? Indoor lives buffer us from the sense of the sun, but it still pulls on us. That force is one of the reasons people choose to spend their lives out of doors, often, here in Chesapeake Country, on the water.
    Our calendars, including Stonehenge, mark the solstice as the first day of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. Chesapeake Country artist and naturalist John Taylor goes contrary to tradition, calling the summer solstice the first day of Chesapeake autumn, as it’s the pivot point for shortening daylight hours.
    As you’ll read in The Bay Gardener this week, plants grow by the length of daylight hours, and knowledge of their affinity for light helps gardeners to success.
    Solstice is universal language that we’ve Americanized in very special ways.
    I’m not thinking just of fiscal years, which as in Maryland often end on June 30.
    Our magic day of the season is the Fourth of July. Though we could be celebrating the Second of July, when the Continental Congress voted for independence, as you’ll read in Chesapeake Curiosities this week.
    What we’re celebrating — with fireworks, parades, concerts, picnics, barbecues and naturalization ceremonies — is our Declaration of Independence. Written over June of 1776 by five authors —Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, John Adams and Robert R. Livingston — it was presented to the Continental Congress on July 1, debated, revised and adopted July 4.
    War had already broken out, and George Washington had been commissioned commander in chief of the armies fighting for independence from Great Britain. So fervor was high.  
    Consider America’s political passions this summer 240 years later, and you’ll get a sense of those roiling times. Back then, however, the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, including four Marylanders, were deadly serious, were willing to kill and to be killed, for their cause.
    One of the wonders of that time is that these men and their compatriots could summon the cool force of reason to think — newly for their age — in terms of moral ideals. They could not only think great thoughts but also express their claim in words that set the standard for political wisdom.
    That’s a feat worth celebrating. Worth emulating in these unsettled times of ours.
    If you’re feeling that reason and higher ideals are scarce in today’s political debate, you might need a reminder of what they sound like.
    How long has it been since you’ve read the Declaration of Independence?
    Refresh your memory (below) and enjoy your Fourth!

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

Fireworks Guide

Where and when to go to catch summer's favorite holiday

Friday July 1

Herrington Harbour Fireworks

Fireworks set off from a barge illuminate Herring Bay. Marina grounds are reserved for members. But the view is great from boats, private docks, lawns and beaches. About 9:15pm, Herrington Harbour South, Rose Haven: ­

Chesapeake Beach Fireworks

Chesapeake Beach fireworks go up from a barge anchored off shore at Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa. View on grounds, from the tiki bar or air-conditioned restaurant (tables reserved), where Split Second Band plays (5-9pm). For water fun with your fireworks, view from Chesapeake Beach Water Park or the beach at neighboring North Beach. For free views, come early to claim your space at Chesapeake Beach or North Beach boardwalk. Or watch by boat:

Historic St. Mary’s Fireworks

Pyrotechnics follow Brass and Blues with the Chesapeake Orchestra playing Sousa, Filmore, Clarke, Anderson, Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, Prince and James Brown plus Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Music at 7pm: Townhouse Green, St. Mary’s College, St. Mary’s City: ­


Sunday July 3

Sherwood Forest Fireworks

See this private community show from the Severn River — your boat or the Harbor Queen, with light snacks and cash bar. 7:30-10:30pm, Annapolis City Dock, $48 w/discounts, rsvp:


Monday, July 4

Annapolis Fireworks

Fireworks rise from a barge anchored in Spa Creek, illuminating Annapolis Harbor, after a United States Naval Academy concert at City Dock (8pm). Town and water views including from the Harbor Queen (7:30-10:30pm, City Dock, $53 w/discounts includes snacks and a cash bar, rsvp: FireworksCruise): Annapolis, free:

Baysox Fireworks

Fireworks with an extended finale follow the Baysox Minor League baseball game with the Trenton Thunder; rsvp for picnic with all-you-can-eat buffet ($31 w/discounts). Picnic 5:30pm, game 6:35pm, Baysox Stadium, Bowie, rsvp:

Baltimore Fireworks

Greater Baltimore’s Fourth of July fireworks illuminate the Inner Harbor, where the fun starts early when the U.S. Navy Band Cruisers play at the amphitheater (7pm). Come early to find your spot on land or water; for a heightened view, watch from the Top of the World observation floor, World Trade Center ($50 w/discounts), rsvp: 410-837-8439;  ­

Solomons Fireworks

Fireworks shoot from a barge anchored in the Patuxent River, giving the entire island — plus boaters — front row seats. Arrive early for a parade of decorated boats showing their patriotic colors (noon); stay to stroll the Riverwalk and see the town. rsvp (ages 7+) by July 1 to watch aboard the Wm. B. Tennison; bring picnics and beverages (8pm, Calvert Marine Museum, Solomons, $30: 410-326-2042 x41;

Washington, D.C. Fireworks

Celebrate America with high drama, music and special effects as the United States Army Presidential Salute Battery blasts cannons with smoke and thunder as fireworks burst over the capital. Tens of thousands of celebrants gather early on the National Mall for the National Symphony Orchestra’s annual concert. The nation’s capital begins the day at 11:45am with the Independence Day parade down Constitution Ave. and Seventh St., traveling toward the Lincoln Memorial. Prime views thruout the city, including the Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial and Ellipse:

A great comic team in search of a worthy project

Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart: Ride Along 2) peaked in high school. A star athlete, top student and class president, Calvin had it all. He was the prom king and married the prom queen. Everyone knew he’d be the big success in his class.
    Too bad.
    Calvin grows up to be a boring accountant resentful of the rut his life has become. He balks at his wife’s suggestion they go to their high school reunion, fearing that his old friends will mock him.
    Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson: Ballers) has the opposite trajectory. A friendless nerd in school, he was tossed naked into a school assembly by bullies. As Bob stood, the target of laughter, Calvin gave him his jacket to cover himself.
    After high school, Bob changed his name, dropped a ton of weight, picked up a ton of muscle and joined the CIA. At least that’s what he tells Calvin when the two reconnect via Facebook.
    Calvin is pleased to reconnect — until bullets start flying. Is Bob CIA or a rogue agent hunted by the agency?
    Silly and unimaginative but with a stellar cast, Central Intelligence is a rare film where flaws are overcome by the chemistry of the lead actors. Johnson’s natural charm allows him to sell even the most ridiculous lines, and it’s a treat to see him as the wacky one instead of the buff action guy.
    The usual source of buffoonery, Hart is also playing against type. As the straight man to Johnson’s loony Bob, he shows a great aptitude for reacting to chaos instead of creating it, proving himself a more nuanced actor.
    The chemistry of its leads is about this movie’s only virtue. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber (We’re The Millers) is so ham-fisted that every plot twist is easy to guess and tension is absent. Celebrity cameos are a distraction, but not a very good one.
    Johnson and Hart make a great comic team in search of a project worthy of their talents.

Fair Comedy • PG-13 • 114 mins.

Chesapeake Curiosities

At the corner of routes 468 and 255 in Galesville, a lovely, tree-filled cemetery reminds us that one of the first Quaker communities was in Chesapeake Country. George Fox, the father of the Religious Society of Friends — the proper name for the Quakers — opened the meeting house in Galesville in 1672, uniting various Quaker groups in Maryland into the first organized West River Yearly Meeting of Friends.
    Fox advocated nonviolence, equality, obedience to God, simplicity and conviction of the Divine Presence within every individual. He promoted his cause in his native England, throughout Europe, then in the colonies.
    “Quakers first arrived in Maryland in the 1650s after being expelled from Virginia,” wrote Quaker historian Peter Rabenold in History of Quakers in Southern Maryland.
    Maryland was more tolerant of religions than other colonies. For nearly a century, the Quaker community thrived, with hundreds of Quaker families establishing themselves throughout the area. Galesville gets its name from the Gales, a prominent Quaker family, according to the Galesville Historical Society.
    The religion declined in the mid to late 1700s. Some families moved when residents were asked to swear allegiance to Lord Baltimore as Quakers don’t swear oaths. Additional decline was due to the Maryland chapter of the religion outlawing slavery in 1777.
    “Friends who did not wish to give up their slaves became Episcopalians. Those who gave up their slaves moved out of the area, since they could not grow tobacco economically without slaves,” Rabenold wrote.
    By the 1800s the meeting house in Galesville had largely been abandoned. Today, a historical marker is the only evidence that the meeting house existed.
    The cemetery is distinctive because Quakers mostly do not mark their graves with headstones, following the Quaker principle that all people are equal and headstones differentiate and elevate one over another. Thus Quaker graves at the Galesville burial ground are unmarked.

Has a sight stymied you? Does an oddity bewilder? Your curiosity may be featured in an upcoming column. Send your questions to


The concept couldn’t be simpler or the results better

My life as a sportsman has undergone any number of wild, unorganized, swings of interest. Angling-wise, I have immersed myself for long periods of dedication to salt-water fly-fishing, freshwater bass and bluegill fishing, a few years of an offshore blue-water crusade and plenty of surf and inshore wade fishing. Only in the last three years have I become absorbed by bait fishing in the Chesapeake.
    Perhaps it is because I don’t quite have the excess energy so advantageous to wielding the long rod, plugging the shallows with a casting rod or thrashing the oceanside high surf with a big stick and heavy metal. Plus, rising well before dawn to get the jump on big fish in skinny water or staying up past midnight to work an opportune tide no longer have the old attraction.
    Bait fishing, I’ve found, is a more relaxed pastime. The open-water bite, particularly in the Bay, is just as good during the day as the night, so there is no reason to wreck sleep patterns or strain domestic relationships to enjoy a dance with our game fish.
    Its basic concept couldn’t be simpler: decide on a species; determine what they usually eat and present it to them where they are most apt to be found.
    On the Chesapeake, species selection is fairly straightforward. It’s rockfish and white perch for most of the year and croaker and spot during the hotter months. I’ve excluded bluefish, drum and Spanish mackerel because of their mostly tentative presence in the mid- and upper Bay over the last decade.
    Rockfish — striped bass — are the most sought-after species by area anglers and rightly so. A particularly handsome, silvery striped fish with excellent table qualities, rockfish is just selective enough in its eating habits to be a challenge to catch.
    It is also sufficiently numerous to provide fairly frequent limits of two fish to all but the most casual anglers. The fact that it can be encountered in the Bay in sizes from barely two pounds for a legal possession to in excess of 50 pounds adds drama to the pursuit.
    Presenting the freshest cut menhaden, crab or a big lively bloodworm as bait will result, as likely as not, in the relatively prompt attention of any nearby rockfish. Attention to your rod tip is mandatory, as on many days stripers will sip the bait off your hook with nary a twitch to betray it.
    Time your strike properly. Sometimes a quick pull on the rod is necessary, particularly with small, soft baits. Other times, and especially with larger baits, if you don’t give the fish time to get it well into its mouth, your strike will result in nothing but a water haul.
    Another challenging baiting technique is live-lining. Presenting a frisky baitfish such as a four- or five-inch white perch or Norfolk spot near structure where rockfish like to hang out can result in some electrifying moments. A 30-inch striper on a medium-weight spin or casting rod will make any outing memorable.
    White perch are often, and quite mistakenly, overlooked or regarded as undemanding. Nothing could be further from the truth. The smaller sizes of perch are so eager to bite that they can amount to a nuisance, while the larger, those 10 inches and over, can be challenging and should be regarded as a premium catch, especially for the table. They like bloodworms, grass shrimp, crab.
    Norfolk spot and croaker can also be taken on the same baits as perch and are often found in the same areas. They are also frequently in such numbers that it is an ideal fishery for youngsters just starting out.
    The saying All good things come to those who bait is often spoken as angler’s jest. But in my time on the water, I have found it has a solid ring of truth.

After rescue and recuperation, turtles released on World Sea ­Turtle Day

After seven months of swimming circles doing rehab in the pools at the National Aquarium, two juvenile green sea turtles have returned to the open wilds of the ocean, stronger and healthier.
    The duo swam into the waters off Assateague Island National Seashore on June 16. The date marked World Sea Turtle Day and coincided with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Turtle Week as well as the National Park Service’s centennial and the Aquarium’s Animal Care Center’s 25th anniversary.
    Hardhead and Beachcomber (all of the patients get nicknames) came to the center in November 2015. Hardhead was rescued on the coast of Delaware and transferred to the aquarium for long-term rehabilitation. He arrived with a low body temperature, broken ribs and a torn lung, which left him unable to swim.
    Beachcomber suffered a rare blood infection and kidney problems after being stranded along the coast of Cape Cod. Thanks to a round of antibiotics and assisted feeding, he has returned to eating on his own and is healthy enough to return to his natural habitat.
    “The triumph of returning a healthy animal to the wild is the reason we have such a devoted Animal Rescue team,” says Aquarium Rescue program manager Jennifer Dittmar. “The program is successful today with the help of our staff, volunteers and the good Samaritans who call in tips.”
    Ten rehabbed Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles from the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and National Marine Life Center animal rescue programs were also released. These turtles were among some 200 cold-stunned turtles that washed up on Cape Cod beaches this winter.
    Since 1991, the National Aquarium team has successfully rescued, treated and returned more than 160 animals to their natural habitats, primarily along the Maryland coastline.
    “Our sea turtle stranding and entanglement network partners improve the survival of not just these individual animals,” says NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Dave Gouveia. “They are making a big difference in the recovery of these threatened and endangered species as a whole, and to our understanding of the threats these species face.”