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Humans prove to be the real animals in this dramatic war film

In 1939 Warsaw, the Zabinski family — Jan (Johan Heldenbergh: The Tunnel) and Antonina (Jessica Chastain: Miss Sloane) — run a popular zoo.
    Their world is destroyed by invading German tanks and planes. Carpet bombings of the city empty cages, loosing wild animals on the city to be shot down by the Nazis.
    Trying to salvage the remainders of their zoo, the Zabinskis recognize the greater atrocity around them. As Jews are ordered to move to the ghetto, Antonina and Jan put their empty zoo to good use, hiding Jews from the Nazis.
    It’s a dangerous gambit. The Nazis rule by day, transforming cages to storage. By night, the Zabinskis pack their basement and the animal tunnels with people, praying that they’ll be quiet enough to avoid detection.
    The plan works, and the zoo fills with endangered people.
    Still, stress tears the couple apart. Jan goes into the ghetto every day, pretending to collect trash to feed the pigs but instead smuggling out as many men, women and children as his truck will hold. He is haunted by the crimes he witnesses and the conditions people endure.
    Antonina, meanwhile, has caught the eye of Hitler’s head zoologist (Daniel Brühl: The Promise), who shows up at random in hopes of wooing the keeper’s wife. She endures his pawing, but Jan cannot.
    Can the Zabinskis keep their new charges safe?
    Based on the bestselling novel and true story, The Zookeeper’s Wife is a moving but flawed Holocaust drama. Performances are fantastic. But director Niki Caro (McFarland, USA) fails to knit a cohesive whole; time is especially jumbled.
    While Caro adapts Holocaust narrative clichés — children loaded onto trains, burning ghettos and violated women — he uses them effectively. With an extended sequence of Nazi killing of exotic animals, including a bald eagle, he breaks new ground in portraying Nazi evil.
    As the heart of the film, Chastain is a marvel. Strong, kind and willing to make dangerous decisions for the greater good, her Antonina is both an emotional support for traumatized people and their fierce protector. Antonina’s impossible position — beguiling a Nazi to protect her family and her charges — invokes a plot too charged for many movies to dare.
    See it for excellent performances and insight into the history of the resistance in Poland.

Good Drama • PG-13 • 124 mins.

Trophy season opens in just a week

The trophy rockfish season is fast upon us.
    These migratory trophy-sized fish are in spawning mode. First they move up the Bay to their natal headwaters. Then, having spawned, they move back down the Bay, returning to the Atlantic. They move in pods unpredictably. Thus fishing in a fixed spot or targeting a specific area is not the most productive strategy. Constantly moving and presenting baits continually over an area as large as possible is the better method. That’s trolling.
    For these big fish, you’ll be dragging a lure 12 or more inches long. Its size tends to discourage undersized rockfish, less than 35 inches, but it does not eliminate them, as even 16-inch fish will attack and get hooked.
    While the spawning rockfish are almost impossible to anticipate in their movements, some considerations can be helpful. Because of the Coriolis effect caused by the earth’s rotation, a stronger (and saltier) incoming tidal current occurs on the Eastern Shore of the Bay, with a correspondingly greater outgoing tide on the Western Shore. Thus stripers tend to ride the incoming flow up the Bay on the eastern side and leave on the Western Shore’s stronger ebb.
    The keyword is tend because there are other variables at work. The availability of forage fish is equally important as stripers feed throughout the spawn. If the baitfish are congregated on the Western Shore, the rockfish will soon be there as well. If the stripers’ natal water is a Western Shore river, that’s where they will eventually be.
    The migrating pods of striped bass will also transit along the deeper channels of the Bay because that’s where the tidal currents will be the strongest. The temperature comfort zones this time of year will be in the top 15 feet of the water column. That’s the depth where trophy-sized fish can usually be found — unless they are not.
    Boat noise will drive the fish deeper, and a lot of boat noise will put them right on the bottom.
    Feeding fish can also be found down deep unless they’ve keyed on schools of bait higher up in the column. Keeping an eye on the fish-finder will establish where most of the bigger fish are. Adjust your trolling weights and lure type accordingly to target those depths.
    Color also has a part to play in your trophy-fish solution. The traditional selections are chartreuse, white and yellow in fluorescent or standard colors or combinations. There are also days when purple, black, green or red are catching the fish. The only consistent color consideration when fishing the early season is that, inevitably and ironically, the biggest fish will want the color you don’t have. So be prepared and change colors frequently, especially if you are moving over fish that aren’t responding.
    To present your baits over as wide an area as possible, avoid traveling in a straight line, especially directly down or up current. Instead move diagonally, and change course frequently until you find some pattern to the presence of fish. They may be on the edges of deep channels, in the middle of the channel or over a specific depth.
    Finally, keep your boat’s speed on the slow side. Three to four knots is about right, but don’t hesitate to vary your speeds a little to find the speed at which the fish want the baits presented. Rockfish will often take bait moved very slowly, but they’ll rarely hit one being trolled faster than five knots.
    Have you got all that? Is your boat shipshape and your tackle set? Then you’ll be ready to go April 15.

The misnamed Jerusalem artichoke supplies both

The Jerusalem artichoke is a sunflower cousin that gives both flowers and food. In late August and into September, bright yellow flowers cover its tall stems. Below ground, it is growing tuber-like structures on its roots that resemble pachymorphs of the bearded iris. The tubers are edible.
    This North America native is invasive and must be grown in an aboveground container to prevent it from spreading. I grow my Jerusalem artichokes in a plastic half-barrel with the base partially buried to prevent it from tipping over. They like a rich organic soil that is well drained.
    Plant the tubers in spring. Once started, you will never have to replant — unless you harvest 100 percent of the tubers, which is nearly impossible. Abundant lumpy yellowish-white tubers grow from near the base of the stem to as deep as 18 inches below the surface of the soil. The tubers may be individual or clustered.
    Harvest the tubers in the fall after the stems have died back, using a digging fork so as to not damage them. Start digging from the inside walls of the barrel toward the center. The tubers will be scattered at varying depths. Remove as many as you can find.
    After you have finished digging them up, blend two parts by volume existing soil with one part compost and refill the planter. Plant four to six of the smallest tubers about two inches deep for next season’s crop. Many stems will emerge in the spring.
    Eat the tubers raw or cooked. First scrub them thoroughly with a stiff vegetable brush. Then, working underwater, scrape the corners with a sharp knife to remove the brown areas and soil. The tubers do not have to be peeled. They can be steamed or boiled and mashed like potatoes. Or they can be eaten raw like a radish or shredded and added to salads.
    Go slow at first. Although the tuber is mostly starch, Jerusalem artichokes contain a natural compound called inulin that is not absorbed by the digestive system. It acts like a mild laxative to some people. Before substituting them for mashed potatoes, start with a small sample both raw and cooked.


Spot-Planting Grass

Q    I need to plant grass in bare spots. What is the best procedure?

–Paul Lefavre

A    Use a steel rake or potato digger to loosen the top two inches of soil. Rake an inch-thick layer of compost into the soil and smooth the surface. Sprinkle grass seed into the top layer of soil-compost blend. Water using a fine mist. Sprinkle a thin layer of straw or shredded paper over the seeded area to create about 30 percent shade, then mist again. Mist daily until the seed germinates, reducing to one misting every two days for the first week, then twice weekly until the new grass seedlings develop their dark green color.


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

You’re looking at one of them

Mary Davis makes quite the Bay Weekly cover girl.
    In one way, you may find her appearance surprising. Yet she’s just Bay Weekly’s kind of story.
    We’re inspired by people who have figured out what matters to them. Swan calling or oyster gardening, community organizing or organic farming, bee keeping or ballroom dancing, body building or poetry proselytizing, opening a new restaurant or keeping up a family gallery, somebody is sure to do it.
    As curiosity is the force that drives journalism, we want to know who and why.
    Diversity is a virtue we admire in human endeavor as much as we do in animal specialization, where it gives us a world big enough to hold giraffes, Luna moths and cow-nosed rays (just put under state protection by the General Assembly). Obviously, specialization may verge into the odd, at least by some reckonings. But who’s to judge?
    “There’s no accounting for taste,” my grandmother taught me. “That’s what the lady said when she kissed the cow.”
    Cows may not be your kissing partners, but somebody loves them. Grace Cavalieri for one, who put them to work in a poem you’ll read in Giving Poetry a Voice, which we run this week in honor of National Poetry Month.
    Don’t Undersell Yourself
Consider the brown cow
Eating green grass
Giving white milk

    Typically, we channel our curiosity to the Annapolis Capital Region of Chesapeake Country, broadly Anne Arundel and Calvert counties between the Bay and the Patuxent River. That’s where Bay Weekly is distributed and where most of our advertisers do business. Much as we love the rest — and tempted as I am to extend my curiosity to the new white rhino, Jaharo, who’s just moved into the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore — we’d be spreading ourselves too thin to try to cover much more.
    Theme as well as geography keeps us focused. We’re a quality-of-life paper, focused on culture, lore, good times and our relationship to the Chesapeake, the great Bay that gives our region its identity and obligations. Put all that in a word, and you have sustainability: using all the resources we inherit in the best way we can for today and a long tomorrow.
    Sustain can be a demanding verb; making it into the noun sustainability takes dedication. People like Davis and Cavalieri show that dedication. It wouldn’t be going to far to say that Davis embodies it.
    We’re awed by the lengths to which inspiration drives people. Week by week, we see the truth of the 10,000-hour rule described by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: Mastery takes about that much “deliberate practice.”
    Put it into your body, as Davis is doing, and you’ve got a masterpiece worth looking it.

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

With astronauts this dumb, it’s hard not to root for the alien

The astronauts aboard the International Space Station expect to make history. Hurtling toward them is a probe that has collected what may be proof of life on Mars.
    Station biologist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare: Rogue One) finds a long-dormant single-cell organism among the dust samples. After cursory study, he tries to do the impossible: Resurrect a creature that has been dead for millennia. After a few tweaks to the shuttle’s environment and some nourishment, the cell, named Calvin, comes to life.
    Derry is thrilled, seeing Calvin as key to unlocking medical secrets. Earth is cheering the momentous discovery and lauding the astronauts as heroes. But as Calvin evolves day by day into a more complex organism, the other astronauts worry.
    Eventually, Calvin escapes the lab, as all horrific alien beings must. The critter then begins hunting down veteran astronaut David (Jake Gyllenhaal: Nocturnal Animals), safety specialist Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson: The Girl on the Train), mechanic Rory (Ryan Reynolds: Criminal), navigator Sho (Hiroyuki Sanada: The Last Ship) and captain Kat (Olga Dihovichnaya: House of Others).
    Can the crew stay alive? More importantly: Can they keep Calvin from finding a way to Earth?
    A movie so predictable you’ll swear you’ve already seen it, Life ruins the inherent tension of a horror movie set in a confined space with poor character development, hackneyed dialog and stale plot. Director Daniel Espinosa (Child 44) unsuccessfully tries to build tension using every horror cliché in movie history.
    Pursuit by an alien that disintegrates a body in minutes leaves little room for nuance. Characters reduced to stereotypes — from the serious doctor with a secret to the wise-cracking mechanic — might as well be picked off by an angry alien.
    Nor are any of them capable of doing a job in a rational way. Biologists stick their fingers within striking range of alien species, astronauts panic and no one thinks about escape pods until it’s far too late. Espinosa works so hard to keep the astronauts from escaping their predicament that the creature and its abilities become mythic.
    In fact, there’s an argument to be made that Calvin is the hero of this film. It is smarter, stronger and more interesting than any of the bipeds. Tumbling through space without needing much oxygen, it figures out every trap the astronauts plant and eventually learns how to navigate a space ship. Calvin is not only proof of life on other planets but also proof that human beings are the dullards of the universe.

Poor Sci-Fi Horror • R • 103 mins

Bay Weekly’s All-Age Guide to Finding the Help You Need

In this issue, we haven’t told you quite everything you need to know to spring into your homestead’s seasonal renewal. For that inadequacy, you will be glad. Anymore than we’re offering would make you wish for assisted living before your time.
    Why, come to think of it, should assisted living be reserved for the very old and infirm? Most of us need assisted living nowadays, when our work for our livings is so often demanding plus far from home. At the Martin-Lambrecht household, for example, we fit in time for chores or projects — seldom both. So there’s always far more that needs to get done than does get done.
    Is it any different at your house? I bet not, unless you’re like my efficient neighbor whose telecommuting schedule lets him do his paid job and manage all sorts of masterful home-improvement projects. Of course you need skill as well as time to be so self-sufficient.
    For the rest of us, assisted living is a generous concept affording permission to hire out chores and projects, inside and out, that can be better done by experts than ourselves.
    So in this week’s paper, you’ll find not only problems but also solutions.
    The Bay Gardener gives us three full months of advice for planting, pruning and lawn care. I promise you, there are a lot of projects in his generous offering. Read him to know what to do, when and how. Then you’ll have the knowledge to do your favorite projects yourself, and you’ll know what questions to ask and parameters to set for the projects you hire out. In this very same Bay Weekly, you’ll find experts to hire.
    Home is just as demanding as garden competing for your precious time. On these scores, too, we’ve called in the experts with assistance on chores and projects from house cleaning to window washing, air cooling and cleaning, plumbing and water purification, painting and roofing, furnishing and accessorizing, selling your old home and buying a new one.
    Their expert assistance gives you more time for living.

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

Spring’s sirens are sounding

The chirping call of spring peepers, Pseudacris crucifer, is my favorite sound of spring. Perhaps it was my upbringing in swampy Louisiana that draws me to frog songs. I often find myself rolling down the windows as I drive home along Muddy Creek Road in southern Anne Arundel County to catch a wave of springtime from the marshes and wetlands along the road.
    The chorus of these tiny frogs is one of our first harbingers of warmer temperatures and longer days. You’ll hear them long before spring’s official arrival.
    “It’s that time of the year, getting a little warmer,” says DNR’s Glenn Therres. “We heard them a couple of weeks ago. Then the cold front quieted them down. Now they’re itching to jump out and start singing.”
    Peepers spend the winter in hibernation, to the point of being frozen alive. Surprisingly, they can survive up to a week after being frozen. Their blood contains a biological antifreeze that prevents immediate death. Peepers emerge from hibernation once temperatures being their annual rise.
    The song we hear is the males’ inflating their vocal sacs to attract the ladies. Biologists think the females prefer the loudest singers. Their calls have been compared to a refrain of sleigh bells, and that’s music to my ears.
    While they are easy to hear, I can’t recall seeing a spring peeper. Trying to sneak up on one is near impossible as this species is primed to jump for its life.
    These high-pitched amphibians are tiny brownish-yellow, olive or gray frogs with a dark X on their back. They are also small; one can fit on a fingertip.
    “Listen and look for them in shallow-water ponds without fish; otherwise tadpoles become fish bait,” Therres advises. “They show up in wet depressions in woods and fields, sediment ponds, in almost any shallow body of water that persists for a couple of months.”
    After Romeo has wooed his Juliet, tadpoles emerge in two to three weeks, meaning more peepers to sing us into next spring.
    They are probably Maryland’s most common frog species, Therres says, “and definitely the most vocal.”

This remake is doomed by its very concept; transforming the characters from cartoons into actual people kills the magic


The original it isn’t

Belle (Emma Watson: Regression) is stifled in her provincial French town. She’s smart, progressive and inventive. The village is repressive, and the villagers mock her. Only the town meathead Gaston (Luke Evans: The Girl on the Train) seems to appreciate Belle, though she repeatedly rejects his offers of marriage.
    Belle tries to lose herself in books. But when her father Maurice (Kevin Kline: Bob’s Burgers) is kidnapped by a horrible Beast (Dan Stevens: Legion), Belle volunteers to take his place.
    Instead of life in captivity in a drafty dungeon, Belle is received into a lavish castle and treated as a cherished guest. The Beast and castle staff are former humans cursed by an enchantress angered at the Beast’s cruelty. To break the spell, he must earn the love of a woman. Belle is their hope, but she isn’t enamored with the loud and angry Beast who holds her prisoner.
    Can the Beast learn to look past his ego? Can Belle learn to look beneath the surface? Why would Disney remake its best film?
    The answer to the last question is profit. Disney will make a bundle of money on this remake of the 1991 classic, the first animated movie to earn a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. In adapting the film to live action, director Bill Condon (Mr. Holmes) loses much of the charm that made the original wonderful.
    The remake is doomed by its very concept. Transforming the characters from cartoons into actual people removes the fantasy, and some of the silliness, so that the brutal fight between Beast and Gaston takes a much darker, scarier tone. The cartoon didn’t reference death by plague (or show its welts), and it certainly didn’t hint that villainous Gaston was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to his time in the war.
    Belle adds another problem. Watson is certainly a beauty, and looks lovely spinning in her outfits, but as Belle she’s woefully miscast. She’s a poor singer whose voice is clearly autotuned to the right notes. Her performance, too, is surprisingly one-note. Belle is full of bluster rather than wonder and curiosity. Nor does she make a convincing connection with the Beast.
    The hero who saves every scene he’s in is Gaston. As the villain jock who hounds Belle for a date, Evans seems to be the only actor who understands the tone of the tale. His Gaston is hilariously vain and frighteningly violent, making him the most compelling and complex character in the movie. He can also sing.
    Many small viewers cried several times, so make sure your child is prepared for scary creatures, loud fights and violence before you buy a ticket.

Poor Musical • PG • 129 mins.

Allen Delaney takes second place

This is our lucky week. Allen Delaney is back in fine form.
    If you’re a recent Bay Weekly reader, you may not know what you’ve been missing. Delaney’s recent contributions have been brief, semi-serious dispatches. But in his Bay Weekly heyday — 2002 to 2009 — he could make his readers fall from their chairs and burst into tears — all the results of the felonious assault of laughter.
    Delaney’s comic alter-ego was a heavy-handed fellow, bulling around in various china shops and always dipping at least one toe over the edge of propriety. This persona would be downright obnoxious in real life, but in print Delaney kept him at safe distance. He also sweetened him with irony, boomeranging the joke back on its teller. Maybe — or maybe not — he knew he’d been hit. Self-awareness wasn’t a big virtue with him.
    Every year for a while there, Allen Delaney, Block Party Chairman, would report on Another Holiday Block Party. Typically, in the form of public letters of apology, his dispatches began something like this:
    I would like to apologize to the Pine Lake community for the mishap that occurred during the annual block party. As you know, the Block Party Committee’s motto has always been Safety First, Hopefully, which is why we held the Fried Turkey Cook-off near the lakefront.
    Delaney was not the odd man out in his skewed version of life in Chesapeake Country and, occasionally, our nation’s capital.
    In Keep Your Shirt On [www.tinyurl.com/shirton] he advised fellow suburban fellows that topless mowing was a civic offense.
    In Confessions of a Duck Captain [www.tinyurl.com/duckcaptain], he commented on passengers as well as captain.
    Over the years in Bay Weekly, Allen Delaney has given me a boatload of belly laughs, from crab feast antics to domestic hi-jinks, wrote fan M.L. Faunce.
    But his voyage to become a captain of a D.C. Duck tops them all. This man is a sea-faring psychoanalyst of the first order. He may be a good captain, docking skills notwithstanding, but as a humorist and observer of human habits both on land and water, he is unexcelled. I can’t wait for his next career move, which I trust will have a sequel in Bay Weekly.
    Delaney’s multiple new maritime careers — from certified Coast Guard captain to swimming instructor — kept him busier than his old work, sitting at a computer in a converted women’s locker room. You couldn’t even pick up a radio station down there. It was time to get out, he wrote. Over nearly a decade in the same, windowless space, Delaney’s alter-ego had been the escape artist. Freeing the man put the comedian out of business — at least in print.
    Now disturbed Delaney is on the loose again.
    He returns to our pages this week, at the approach of April Fool’s Day, to instruct on practical jokes.
    In case you didn’t know, there are four rules for a funny practical joke. It must be funny to others, not necessarily the victim. (If the victim finds it funny, all the better.) It must be clever. It cannot harm anyone or anything. It does not involve explosives.
    Enjoy Delaney’s full exemplification of the practical joke in this week’s paper. But please do not try it at home.

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

Proper preparation prevents poor performance

You can never trust Maryland’s March weather. Another certainty is the march of time, which puts us only a couple of weeks from Trophy Rockfish Season, opening April 15. Cold or warm, snow, sleet, rain or sun, the striper season is fast arriving.
    So don’t make opening day your first day on the water. I take at least a week for a shakedown cruise or two plus scouting trips to get ready. That means now is the time to get going.
    My first act of preparation is to remove all my reels from their rods and examine them. Over a long winter, grease and oil can congeal, making the mechanical functioning of the reel stiff and uneven. This can also be true of drag operation. Check each reel and correct any problems.

The Scoop on Line
    Next I take all the reels spooled with mono to a sporting store and have the line replaced. The trophy season brings us into contact with the biggest rockfish of the year. Some of these guys will top 50 pounds. If this is my season to hook a fish of that size, I don’t intend to handicap myself with a line that may have been dragged across rough bridge piers, jetty rocks or pilings last year.
    I prefer to use fluoro-coated monofilament lines. There are all sorts of scientific explanations for fluoro’s superiority, from its invisibility to its superior hardness. I don’t believe any of them. If I can see the line in the water, it’s not invisible; nor will a harder finish keep a line from parting when a 30-pounder wraps you around a barnacle-encrusted piling and keeps on going.
    What I do believe is the test results of an old experiment. Berkeley Fishing Line Company strung a number of samples of mono- and fluoro- lines in a massive aquarium populated with large fish. The purpose: to count the number of times fish bumped into the mono lines vs. the flouro lines. The results counted twice as many collisions with fluoro as with mono.
    I’ve also found on my own when chumming that I can still catch fish with fluoro lines when the tidal current slows or stops. I rarely can get rockfish to bite in those situations with mono, and almost never with braid.

Tie a New Knot
    The next critical item on my opening day list is to cut off all knots in all lines and leaders and retie each one — carefully. If you wait till you’re on the water, the temptation to immediately begin fishing will be too great. Broken knots are the number one cause of losing big fish. A knot tied sometime last season is a prime candidate for failure.

Recharge Your Batteries
    You’ll also want to recharge all marine batteries. Then check them again the next day. Winter temperatures can be hard on battery cells. They may briefly charge to full capacity, but the faulty ones will lose that charge rapidly. Checking your batteries 24 hours after a full charge should identify the weak ones and save you from getting stranded out in the middle of the Bay.