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December 2013

How Walt Disney won over Mary Poppins

After Mary Poppins became a literary phenomenon in 1934, Walt Disney (Tom Hanks: Captain Phillips) promised his daughters he would make their favorite book into a movie. A lucrative film adaptation is a dream offer for many, but Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson: Love Punch) didn’t share the Disney vision. Horrified by all things animated and kitschy, Travers fought for 20 years to keep her beloved book out of the hands of “the Man Behind the Mouse.”

Local and regional authors help you — and your gift list — read into a good new year

    For Bay Lovers … Chesapeake Views: Catching the Light by Wilson Wyatt Jr.      Almost four hundred years ago, one of the first European visitors to the New World, Captain John Smith, extolled the Chesapeake: “Heaven and earth never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation.”

Snowy Owls popping up all over

Is it a bird? A plane? A creature flown out of Harry Potter? Or a white paper bag frozen in a field?     This year, it may be a snowy owl.     The white bird with bright, yellow eyes, huge talons and a five-foot wingspan is usually a rare sight in Chesapeake Country. So rare that the first-ever snowy owl sighting and photo was recorded in Calvert County this week.     The big bird was perched on a Ford tractor in Prince Frederick.

A tottering old soul

King Coal’s crown seems to be teetering.     The second fuel of America’s prosperity may be losing the race to the future, just as wood did before it. Scarcity is not the problem; many of America’s coalfields continue producing high yields. At issue are the consequences of the fossil fuel’s combustion: carbon pollution clogging air and lungs.

Gardening tools you can grow with

Fellow gardeners often ask me which gardening tools are my favorites. In case you’re shopping for one of those gardeners, here’s my list. I don’t stint on price because I want quality tools that last.     The Weed Bandit hoe is my favorite because of its long rake handle and stainless steel head with a corrugated blade that stays sharp. I like the small Weed Bandit for hoeing onions and closely spaced plants, and the medium blade Weed Bandit for all other weeding work.

Stuff their stocking with a good book or video

The dedicated outdoorsman or woman is, by definition, equipped. The few things such a person might lack are likely so specialized as to be a mystery to outdoors outsiders.     Books and movies, however, fall into a safe-gift zone. If you’re intent on pleasantly surprising an outdoors lover with your gift, the following suggestions might help.     Kayak Fishing (Sportsman’s Best www.Florida

Can the Geminids outshine December’s full moon?

The moon lights up the night this week, starting as a waxing gibbous, reaching full moon Tuesday and waxing slowly through the middle of the week. Look for the near-full moon beside the Pleiades star cluster Saturday.

Grunge, hip-hop and Gen Y angst color this whimsical romance where mortals meet magic

The Annapolis Shakespeare Company has shaken up the Bard to magical effect with a 1990s’ setting of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that is da bomb! Grunge, hip hop and Gen Y angst color this whimsical story of romance, mischief and enchantment in Fairyland, where mortals meet magic and are none the wiser for it.

Here be dragons

If Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen: The Wolverine) weren’t a wizard, he would have been an excellent travel agent. He seems to live for organizing meandering trips through Middle-earth, acting as activities director for a ragtag group of his choosing.

While never the comet of the century, it piqued our curiosity

It’s official: comet ISON is no more. NASA confirmed Tuesday that after its first-ever venture from the outer limits of the solar system to the sun, the comet did not survive the onslaught of solar radiation. Born 4.5 billion years ago during the formation of the solar system, ISON had resided in the so-called Oort Cloud a full light-year away. Roughly a million years ago, perhaps after a cometary collision, ISON began its journey toward the sun.