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An absurdist retelling of a surreal moment in American history

A man shows up at the White House and asks to see the president. The request gives pause to the secret service, as the man is Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).
    The whole situation is bizarre. One day in 1970, Elvis flew to Washington, D. C., to meet President Nixon and ask him for a badge making him an undercover federal officer at large. The King, apparently, had decided he was the best way to combat the threat of communism. His plan was to go to communist meetings and parties where drugs were sold, collect information on the key players and convince kids to forswear drugs while embracing patriotism.
    It sounds crazy, but friends are used to The King’s whims.
    The president, on the other hand, thinks this plan sounds as screwy as Elvis himself. Staunch conservative Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey: House of Cards) sneers at popular culture. He has no interest in Elvis, despite his staff’s pleas that a meeting might win the youth vote. Only when his daughter demands an autograph does Nixon agree to the meeting.
    When The King meets The President, what happens?
    A funny fictionalization of the infamous meeting, Elvis & Nixon offers insight into both characters. Director Liza Johnson (Hateship Loveship) wisely chose to let the actors carry the movie. There’s little fancy camera work. Except for a few inspired montages of period-accurate footage, it’s all about Shannon and Spacey. Rather than mimic their famous counterparts with silly impressions, the actors offer genuine performances.
    As Richard Nixon, Spacey shines. He creates a grumbling president more interested in taking a nap than winning over American youth. Blustering through hackneyed dialog and ensemble scenes, Spacey continues his run of magnificent jerks.
    Shannon has the harder task of capturing the essence of Elvis. He succeeds by imbuing the King with the childlike simplicity of a man who can’t comprehend a world that does not bow to his whims.
    The two finally meet in a classic comedy of errors. Both believe they’re in charge, and both have a reason to assume so. Spacey and Shannon dance around each other in a delightful ballet of ticks and quirks as they goad each other to new and greater heights.
    It’s worth the ticket price to see this entertaining riff on an odd footnote in history on the big screen as two acting greats battle it out.

Good Comedy • R • 86 mins.

Managed right, planer boards are great for catching trophy rockfish

Fish on! Fish on!     
    The call rang out from the bridge, and we rushed out from the cabin to the stern to determine which of the 18 rods had hooked a trophy rockfish. Seizing a stout trolling outfit that was bent down by an obviously big striper, my friend Mike began to fight the fish to the boat.
    Managing to avoid any disastrous tangles, my buddy finally got the fat and healthy 37-incher on deck. It was the first of a number of catches made possible by planer boards.

Increasing the Odds
    The thrill of trophy rockfish season is getting control of a big ocean-running fish. Trolling many rods at once increases the odds of success. The challenge is avoiding tangling the active line with the many others still in the water. Because of the other rigs, the boat cannot stop lest there be even more disastrous tangles. So the victor has to overcome not only the rockfish’s strength but also the boat’s continued speed.
    A set of connected angled boards towed to either side of a craft as far back as 150 feet, planer boards let you tow multiple lines at various distances and depths without getting them tangled. The result has been an exponential increase in big fish caught, particularly during the trophy season when trolling is by far the most effective technique.

Between Ocean and Bay
    Most of the big striped bass that cruise the Atlantic Coast from Maine to South Carolina are born in our Chesapeake Bay (where we call them rockfish). They only live in the Bay for four or five years, then migrate to live in the Atlantic.
    The vast baitfish schools of the ocean feed our stripers to substantial size, often over 50 pounds and sometimes over 100 pounds. These migratory giants return to the Chesapeake once a year, during the early spring, to seek out their natal waters and reproduce. After they’ve spawned, they return to the ocean.
    Stripers begin spawning as early as February and, depending on water temperatures, can continue into May. But most are done by the third Saturday in April, when the trophy season is scheduled by Maryland law to open. Thus the season is scheduled to target fish that have already strewn their eggs.

On the Downside
    Planer-board fishing does have its downside. To rig and stream out so many outfits is a complicated affair requiring good teamwork and plenty of planning and preparation.
    Maneuvering a craft with a 300-foot-wide trolling footprint can be a big challenge. Despite the usual brightly colored flags marking a ­planer board setup, they can be hard for other boats to see, especially in choppy waters. Pleasure boaters not familiar with the fishing practice may not notice the devices in the water. The consequences of a collision with one of these towed arrays — even of an abruptly forced course change — can be costly in both time and money.
    Each individual trolling lure can include expensive, multi-lure umbrella and chandelier rigs. Multiply the individual lure cost by a dozen or more, and there is a significant investment in fishing gear. Plus a large mixup can take hours to untangle and re-deploy.
    Keep them out of trouble, though, and planer boards catch big fish.

This comedy is a love letter and a plea to Chicago

Calvin (Ice Cube: Ride Along 2) is a second-generation barber on the south side of Chicago. The shop is now co-ed with a new business partner (Regina Hall: Black-ish).
    Calvin is proud of his neighborhood, but it’s changing. He barely recognizes the street where he’s spent his whole life. Robberies and shootings make the barbers fearful of working after dark. As son Jaylen (Michael Rainey Jr.: Power) considers joining a gang, Calvin makes the barbershop a safe space in hopes of encouraging his community to embrace non-violence.
    If the gambit fails, Calvin plans to move his family and business to Chicago’s safer north side.
    Barbershop: The Next Cut strikes a surprising balance between commentary and comedy. Past installments have been far broader comedies, featuring slapstick humor, silly jokes and good music.
    This film, the third in the series, seeks to provoke change as well as laughter.
    Director Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man Holiday) balances humor with drama so that neither overwhelms. Best of all are the performances. Ice Cube is a charismatic performer skilled as both a dramatic actor and straight man to the shenanigans in the shop. Cedric the Entertainer (The Soul Man) remains the perfect clown, spouting ridiculous one-liners and riling up the rest of the cast.
    As for a solution to stop the violence in Chicago, you’ll find opinions on what shouldn’t be done but few realistic solutions beyond don’t give up.

Good Dramedy • PG-13 • 112 mins.

Grow a patch of rhubarb

My old friend Bill Burton and I once discussed eating freshly harvested rhubarb as kids during hot summer days in New England, where every home had a rhubarb patch in the backyard. Bill raved about his mother’s rhubarb-custard pie, while I raved about my mother’s strawberry-rhubarb pie. I can still picture myself sitting on the back stairs of our home with a fist full of sugar in my left hand and a freshly harvested stalk of rhubarb in my right. Before each bite, I would dredge the base of the rhubarb stem in the sugar.
    Those were the days.
    Rhubarb is a vegetable, not a fruit, although we tend to limit its use to making desserts. One of the great features of rhubarb is that it can be blended with other fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, apples, pears and apricots as the rhubarb absorbs the taste of the fruit. In other words, you can make a tasty blueberry pie using only one cup of blueberries and two cups of chopped rhubarb.
    Rhubarb grows best in well-drained soil in full sun. It can tolerate partial shade, but it will produce spindly stems. Since you consume only the stem, the fleshier the stem the better. Never eat the leaves because they contain oxalic acid, which will cause swelling of the tongue.
    I have seldom seen rhubarb sold in a garden center, though it is commonly listed in seed catalogs. If you order rhubarb for your garden, you will receive in the mail what appears to be a dried-up brown stub. For best results, place it in a cup of water for five days before planting.
    There are various clones of rhubarb with stems ranging from green to various shades of green to red and red only. There is even a clone labeled Strawberry-rhubarb. I can assure you that it does not have a strawberry flavor.
    Rhubarb likes mildly acid soil with a moderate amount of organic matter. When planting rhubarb, I dig a hole the size of a half-bushel basket and add two to three shovels-full of compost and a handful of agricultural limestone, then mix thoroughly.
    Allow the rhubarb to grow without harvesting for at least two years before pulling your first stems. During your first harvest on the third year of growth, remove no more than half of the stems at any one time and allow one month between harvests.
    If you see a flower head develop in the center of the clump, remove it with a sharp knife two to three inches from the ground. Allowing the plant to produce seeds during the first three years of growth will weaken the clump.
    Never try growing rhubarb in a large container or in a raised bed. The roots are sensitive to high temperatures, which will cause the plant to die in mid-summer as rooting media rises in above-ground containers or beds.


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

Goshen Farm, powered by grassroots

“The grassroots is the source of power. With it you can do anything,” wrote Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson of the wattage behind his bright idea.
    Is it shining still?
    Take an Earth Day No. 47 visit to Goshen Farm, and you’ll see the light.
    From the grassroots, a community rose to save the last Colonial-era farm on the Broadneck Peninsula. Its work has created a hidden oasis of 22 undeveloped acres, surrounded by Cape St. Claire and Walnut Ridge on the Broadneck Peninsula.
    “I became slightly obsessed,” Barbara Morgan, told Bay Weekly of her discovery that a ramshackle neighborhood property was settled in the mid-17th century.
    From Morgan’s obsession, the Goshen Farm Preservation Society rose to save the old house from demolition by the Anne Arundel County School Board, which owns the property.
    It took four years, from 2006 to 2010, for the Society to gain its renewable lease. Then came a Sharing Garden, the offshoot of Nicole Neboshynsky’s dream. Like the Goshen Farm Preservation Society, the garden found many hands.
    More dreams and more hands followed. Volunteers and visitors range from neighbors to school children to scientists to Midshipmen.
    “We’re integrating the concept of environmental awareness into their daily life,” says Society president Lou Biondi. “It’s not just something they learn, it’s something they do.”
    Visit to see for yourself three gardens, a tunnel greenhouse, an orchard and apiary, all producing food for the Sharing Garden’s 60 families plus local food banks and Goshen Farm festivities. The Colonial Kitchen Garden and the Henson-Hall Slave Garden honors 12 slaves known to have lived and labored on the farm; namesakes, Jack Henson and Nace Hall, are recorded by surname in the Maryland State Archives.
    Four more preservation sites feature tobacco, cotton and a grove of white oaks, Maryland’s state tree. The oddest, the Goshen Farm Soil Health Pit, was dug by the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen Action Group as a classroom on sustainable soil.

A Chesapeake original, hand-crafted by artisans each week

Bay Weekly turns 23 this week.
    That’s old enough to have graduated college and be looking for a job.
    By my 23rd birthday, I was a wife and mother of a three-month-old baby, working my way through grad school by teaching freshman composition and English as a Second Language at St. Louis University. I thought I was smart, though I’ve since proven myself largely wrong.
    Now I’m old enough — and smart enough — to believe that every stage of life has its unique wisdom. So I don’t feel so dumb — or arrogant — when I say Bay Weekly was born smart.
    We sure thought so, the three founders of this enterprise born as New Bay Times back on Earth Day 1993. Of course every proud parent believes its offspring is special. Mine was proving me right, for that baby, John Alexander Knoll, had grown up to partner with me and his stepfather Bill Lambrecht in making a newspaper from no more than our wits, will and experience — with our silent partner, Apple’s wonderchild Macintosh.
    “We want to create something new,” cofounder Bill Lambrecht wrote in our first editorial, Hello Baysiders. “In these pages, starting today, New Bay Times will explore how we of the Chesapeake Bay can live as best we can in a smart and sustainable way.”
    We imagined ourselves peaking the wave of change — as well as immersed in Chesapeake Country.
    That first issue lived up to our boast with stories on issues still hot nearly a quarter-century later.
    Look back on New Bay Times Vol. 1 No. 1, and you’ll see stories on Bay pollution, the plight of blue crabs and crabbers and kayaking. (Find Vol. 1 No. 1 at
http://bayweekly.com/old-site/1993/93v01.html).
    The 2016 crabbing season begins with crabs in abundance — up 35 percent from last year in the Winter Dredge Survey — and crabbers lobbying to increase their catch. Pollution has proved more complex than simple trash, but trash has grown into a still-bigger problem. And yes, kayaking has become a favorite sport on the Bay.
    Complementing those issue stories was a profile of Miss Ethel Andrews of Shady Side, then approaching her 105th birthday.
    How many more such stories have followed in 1,167 issues! I can’t count them, but many of them I can remember.
    A favorite from that first year on a topic just as urgent now: Toilet Training: The Least You Should Know about Your Closest Link to Nature (Vol. 1 No. 12.)
    That story was written by Carolyn Martin, a journalism pro we titled New Bay Times Special Environmental Correspondent. Photos were shot by David Hawxhurst, who has since shot for National Geographic.
    So many talented people helped us keep our promise that first year. Fairhaven neighbor Sonia Linebaugh came in to help out and stayed four years. Bill Burton, who stands tall among America’s great outdoors writers, drove down to Deale one June day to offer himself to us as he’d retired from the Evening Sun long before he’d run out of stories. He gave us weekly columns for 16 years, retiring again only weeks before he died.
    Each of these 23 years has brought its own share of talent, and I could name writers and their stories by the dozens if my son — the final editor we call Chainsaw — would give me enough room. Since our last birthday, we’ve gained Kathy Knotts as our staff writer, Karen Holmes as a dedicated new contributor and more than a dozen prospects coming May 5 to a workshop for new writers.
    In all of the countless stories we’ve assigned, shepherded, edited and published in 23 years, writers have given their best. Almost every story has been a one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted original, special to these pages.
    With this issue we proudly celebrate 23 years of local stories hand-crafted by artisans, written for you and about this estuarine region that is our shared home.

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

Celebrate Calvert Marine Museum’s favorite mammal

A trip to the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons is only complete once you have visited the resident river otter, Squeak.
    Squeak plays in an 8,000-gallon freshwater tank that features windows both indoors and outdoors. Since the death of his companion Bubbles, Squeak has been the only otter at the Marsh Walk exhibit. That’s about to change.
    Chessie Grace (top) has long whiskers, silky gray fur and chirps like a bird. The 10-week-old female river otter was abandoned by her mother in Ohio but now lives the good life in Solomons, bottle-fed every four hours and going home with her foster family at night.
    Gracie, as she is known to the aquarists behind the scenes, makes a public appearance next week but does not join the otter habitat until after the exhibit renovations are complete in May.
    To catch an early glimpse of Gracie, whose stage name is Bubbles per museum tradition, visit the museum for OtterMania.
    Museum-goers revel in all things otter during this annual event. Children can dance the Swim with otter mascots, discover where otters live throughout the world and learn what makes the species special.
    Visitors pretend to be biologists and learn what otters like to eat by examining stomach contents, then get tips on how to capture a photo of Squeak in action.
    Feel otter fur, discover why swimming outside all year is great for these water weasels and hear fascinating tails of otter adventures.
    Otters, like children, love to frolic and play with their favorite toys. The mammals are well suited for life in and around the Chesapeake Bay.
    Otter lovers are invited to use the hashtag #ISpyOtters to share ­wherever you find these elusive ­creatures in the wild.


OtterMania: Tues., Apil 26, 10am-4pm, Calvert Marine Museum, Solomons, $9, www.calvertmarinemuseum.com.

Their clock is set to the dogwoods

My first cast met with instant success and, as my slim rod bent down, a flashing, silver missile erupted vertically in the middle of the stream, arced over, splashed down and then grayhounded across the roiling current. Hickory shad had returned.
    I knew it was time earlier that morning when I saw the first signs of dogwood blooms in my front yard. With their emergence the hickories had to be on their way.
    Collecting some shad darts in bright colors and some small three-way swivels as well as a couple of bobbers, I chose my two favorite five-foot spin rods and a pair of warm neoprene boots and set off for the upper Choptank on the Eastern Shore.
    Hickory shad arrive each spring to spawn throughout the Bay’s tributaries, with some returning multiple times in their 10-year lifespan. The harvest of all shad and river herring (a close cousin) has been prohibited in Maryland since 1981, as their population has declined due to unwise agricultural practices, urban development and damming. Catch and release, however, is allowed, as cool water temperatures keep the mortality rates low.
    About an hour later I was rewarded by another good fish, and soon another. As the sun warmed the waters, the bite improved. By mid-afternoon I had notched a rewarding number. The best one, an estimated 20-incher, gave me six nice jumps before it came unbuttoned. Hickory shad is one of the more sporting fish that visits the Chesapeake.

Catching Them
    My technique of fishing a pair of shad darts linked by a three-way swivel 18 inches below my bobber is a site-specific rig, chosen to keep the darts just off of the rocky, shallow river bottom and to hold the lures free from snags. Generally it is best to fish the darts — two always seem to draw strikes much better than one — bobber free so you’re able to explore the deeper waters where these fish also lurk. The hook wire on the shad darts is pliable enough to bend back to the proper shape, so be sure you do, otherwise you’ll not be able to keep a fish on your line for more than a second or so.
    I prefer one-sixteenth- to one-eighth-ounce black-tipped orange or chartreuse shad darts, dressed with yellow or white calf tail. But a one-eighth-ounce curly tail jig in bright green is also popular on the Choptank.
    An 18-inch hickory shad is a big one. Four-pound test line is plenty, but six-pound allows the additional luxury of prying a rock-fouled dart off by pulling hard enough to bend the hook.
Spring Fishing Extra
    This time of year you may also encounter late-run white perch and early-run rockfish. The stripers must be released in all rivers, no matter what their size, until June 1. White perch, however, can be kept for the table and are absolutely delicious, with no minimum size or catch limit.

A man cub learns the laws of the jungle in this winning family film

Fierce tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba: Zootopia), slaughters a man who sought shelter in a jungle cave. But escaping Khan’s deadly eye, a toddler survives. The panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley: The Walk) takes pity on the pathetic man cub.
    Seven years later, Mowgli (Neel Sethi in his feature debut) lives among a wolf pack while training with Bagheera in the ways of the jungle. He loves his family, but he is a failure as a wolf. He can’t run as fast or bite as hard. He can compete only when he uses “tricks,” such as fashioning crude tools. The pack insists he abandon his tricks for life as a wolf.
    Mowgli may need all the tricks in his bag when Shere Khan finds a man cub on his return to the wolf grounds. Shere Khan is determined to kill the boy and anyone who stands in his way.
    Hunted by the most powerful beast in the jungle, Mowgli returns to the human world. Can people protect him? Will he reintegrate into human society?
    The Jungle Book is a colorful, beautiful retelling of the classic tale for all ages. This adaptation owes less to Rudyard Kipling than to the 1967 Disney cartoon, for it features all the Disney songs, characters and plot. But director Jon Favreau (Chef) adds fresh visual styling.
    Best of all is the exemplary work by the all-star voice cast. As the film’s villain, Elba growls his way through a menacing performance. Scarlett Johansson (Hail, Caesar!) fills out the baddie side with her creepy characterization of a humongous boa constrictor that may or may not want to swallow Mowgli.
    To balance the menacing animals, Favreau has stacked the deck with some outstanding comedic voice acting. Kingsley plays straight man (make that panther) to the characters, while offering deadpan zingers that should keep parents entertained. As lazy bear Baloo, Bill Murray (Rock the Kasbah) is beguiling and cuddly. Murray’s voice does a lot to bring warmth and charm to this laid-back take on a favorite Disney character.
    The standout in this talented field is Christopher Walken (Eddie the Eagle), who uses his unique voice and cadence to make King Louie both silly and intimidating.
    The only weak link is Sethi, who can sound a bit forced. It’s not a big problem, as no one in the audience pays much attention to Mowgli with all the talking animals abounding.
    A bigger problem may be the more realistic nature of its animals and sets. Favreau has created a painstakingly accurate environment, so tiger attacks, lunging snakes and rampaging apes are a little more frightening than their cartoon counterparts. My young seatmate was terrified of Shere Khan, and having the tiger leap at the audience in glorious 3D did nothing to quell her fears. If you have a child under the age of seven, consider whether this film will ruin future trips to the zoo.
    All in all, The Jungle Book is family entertainment that should please several generations of viewers.

Good Family Film • PG • 105 mins.

A successful harvest depends on the right bulbs for our hours of light

Onions are good for your health, and generally they are easy to grow. Let me give you some advice on growing them successfully.
    Plant onion sets and you’ll harvest only green onions. Most sets you buy are short-day onions, which produce bulbs only when grown during the winter months with 10 daylight hours or less. Planted in the spring, as daylight hours grow longer, they produce only onion tails, your green onions.
    To grow onion bulbs, you must buy either long-day or intermediate, aka day-neutral, onions. They are shipped in bundles of 75 or more seedlings. Unless you are familiar with a particular variety, I suggest planting two or more varieties. Harvesting will be easier if you keep each separate in the garden, as they’ll mature at different times.
    Onions perform best in high organic soils with a nearly neutral pH.
    The spacing between onion plants is based on the mature bulb size. The most desirable bulb size for kitchen use is one and a half to two and a half inches. For those sizes, use a four-by-four-inch spacing. Bermuda and Walla Walla-size onions need more space; plant them in six-by-six-inch spacing. Those spacings allow room for the bulbs to grow and for you to cultivate between the plants without damaging the bulbs.
    Fertilize two to three weeks after planting and monthly thereafter. Don’t let the soil dry out; onions have a very limited root system, and there is a high population of plants in a limited area.
    Neck rot of onions can be a serious storage problem. Avoid it by knocking the foliage to the ground just as the bulbs begin to mature in late July and August, depending on the variety. Do so as soon as the color of the foliage begins to fade and the tops of the onion tails start turning brown. I use the back of a garden rake.
    Leeks want four-by-four-inch spacing as they do not produce bulbs but do produce thick stems. They have the same growing requirements as onions.
    Garlic planted last fall is now in need of fertilizer. Like onions, garlic plants have a limited root system and respond well to fertilizer and water. Remove the flower buds as they begin to form, mid- to late June, depending on variety. If the garlic plants flower and produce seeds, both bulb and cloves will be smaller. For large cloves of elephant garlic, early removal of the flower stem is doubly important.


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