view counter

Articles by All

Bold choices — for these homesteaders and Bowie Community Theatre

Since the mid-1960s, Bowie Community Theatre’s bread and butter has been mysteries, comedies and classics. Still, it has never shied away from taking on lesser-known material with depth and message. It has found such a gem in Pearl Cleage’s 1995 production Flyin’ West. This is a beautifully written piece that brings to life the oft-ignored story of how former slaves in 1898 moved west — Kansas, in this case — toward a life of self-dependence.
    A small story with a big impact, Flyin’ West demands actors who can plow the depths of their characters’ pasts to bring us dual realities. On the one hand, that’s what they lived as slaves. On the other, it’s the hope they feel as they simultaneously work to make their town of Nicodemus an enduring success and ward off speculators who see dollar signs across the acres.    
    Director Estelle Miller has assembled a cast that makes us feel the warmth and love they have for each other, their determination to create a town that will prosper and the indignities of having darker skin at a time when whites had no legal barrier preventing them from committing all sorts of abuse.
    More specifically, this is a story of four very strong African American women, with a cast doing justice to each. It all takes place at the home of Sophie Washington and Fannie Dove, 30-something homesteaders who have opened their home to Leah, their 70-something neighbor whom they do not want to be alone during the oncoming winter.
    As Leah, Sandra Cox True gives us the past: several very touching monologues about what it was like being a female slave who had another slave forced on her to bring healthy male children to the plantation. Her story about that first time, at age 13 — and subsequent stories about the babies being taken away — are heartbreakingly real. Yet True also gives us some wonderfully funny and dry responses in her back-and-forth with the other characters … including the story of how she learned to bake an especially tart apple pie.
    As Fannie, Lolita Marie gives us the present. She bickers with Sophie, flirts with neighbor Wil Parish and seems to have aspirations of ensuring that the hardscrabble homesteader’s life doesn’t preclude having some of the finer things; she made sure their fine china went with them from Memphis to Nicodemus. Marie’s Fannie is gentle and perceptive.
    As Sophie, Kecia Campbell gives us a taste of the future as the strong-willed visionary whose singular purpose in life is to leave behind the past and forge ahead by doing all she can to ensure that Nicodemus remains in the hands of her people. She plans the layout of the town just as she plans her own future, and Campbell’s characterization is spot on. She has no intention of playing second fiddle to anyone, whether a slave overseer or the male-dominated society she faces.
    Brawnlyn Blueitt plays younger sister Minnie with appropriate innocence and tentativeness, growing stronger as she and her baby survive the abuses of her husband. Hard to believe this is Blueitt’s stage debut.
    Neighbor Wil is the good guy neighbor who would do anything to help the women, especially Fannie. Darius McCall is quite appealing; his Wil is a touch dimmer than the others, but his loyalty and strength manifest when the time comes for him to be the protector.
    Frank is Minnie’s husband. A mulatto born of a white man and a slave mother, Ben Harris walks a bit of an acting tightrope as Frank. The character as written threatens to fall into cliché: frustrated self-hating drunk gambler who hits his wife and wants to sell their land. But Cleage doesn’t quite allow Frank to cross that line, and Harris’s performance, while potent, is subtle enough to make us believe Frank’s self-loathing and explosiveness.
    It all takes place on a beautifully realized set of a see-through house by set designer Dan Lavagan, lit nicely by Bowie Playhouse veteran pro Garrett Hyde. The pace on opening night was occasionally tentative, both with the actors’ lines and long scene changes, all of which are sure to tighten up as the run progresses.
    One can hope: the show started at 8pm. Act I ran 1.5 hours, and it all ended about 10:50. Nearly three hours is long even for a musical, much less a straight play. But that’s a minor caveat considering the importance of this story.
    This brilliant script brought to life by riveting performances adds another chapter to how the West was won.


Playing thru April 25: FSa 8pm; 2pm Sa April 18 and Su April 19: Bowie Community Theatre, White Marsh Park, Bowie; $20 w/discounts; rsvp: 301-805-0219;  bctheatre.com.

This New England transplant finds our warm summers and mild winters great for growing a wide variety of plants

From where I come from, I wonder if you properly appreciate all of your Maryland gardening advantages. I lived and gardened in central New Hampshire, where summer includes the last two weeks in July and the first two weeks in August, and where winter temperatures can drop to 30. So I know that gardening in middle and southern Maryland is heavenly.
    The long colorful springs months, warm summers, long falls and relatively mild winters all are conducive to growing a wide variety of plant species. Our winters are cold enough to allow us to grow a large number of northern species yet mild enough to grow many southern species. Plus, we get a long vegetable gardening season.

    New Hampshire, the granite state, is true to name. The soil is mostly acid and stony. Piles of stones are common near many home gardens. The large stones were used to build stone walls, while the small stones filled the voids between the large ones.
    We were grateful for paper-white birch, balsam fir, red, white and black spruce and especially sugar maples. My brother and I made maple syrup from the sap of sugar maple trees growing in nearby woods and along country roads.
    For shrubs, we had witchhazel, hills of snow and PeeGee hydrangea — plus mountain laurel in very sheltered areas. Only the branches of forsythia that were covered by snow for most of the winter could flower. But every home had a lilac.
    Of beautiful crape myrtle, colorful hydrangea, camellias, pyracantha, photinia, nandina or Japanese, Chinese and English hollies, we were deprived. We never had dogwoods or purple-flowering redbuds growing wild in the woodlands. I managed to grow a star magnolia in a very sheltered area but it seldom flowered.
    On the other hand, the cold climate was conducive to growing many cultivars of apples and pears, high- and low-bush blueberries, cranberries and many different cultivars of raspberries. Every home had a rhubarb patch. But it was impossible to grow figs or peaches.
    We did not dare to plant the vegetable garden until late May except for peas and potatoes. Asparagus were not ready to harvest until early June.
    We could grow cold-loving crops — broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celeriac, kohlrabi, parsnips, rutabaga and turnips — all summer long. But I could never grow okra, peppers or large watermelons.
    Tomatoes could not be transplanted into the garden until early June, and by early September they had to be harvested for either ripening behind the kitchen stove or for making pickle-lily. All my fall crops had to be harvested by late September.
    March and April were known as the mud months because the snow melted dirty brown and left mud puddles along roads and sidewalks.

    Turn to Maryland and spring is a continuous blast of color starting with serviceberry, dogwood, redbud, spice bush and mountain laurel. In home landscapes, camellia, flowering quince, cornelian cherry, forsythia, flowering dogwood, Korean dogwood, rhododendrons, azaleas, Andromeda, mountain laurel, cherry laurel, leucothoe and skimia all flower in succession.
    In Deale, which I consider Southern Maryland, I  enjoy gardening from early March until just before Christmas. The first crop to be harvested in the spring is sweet and delicious parsnips.
    As soon as the soil can be tilled, in late March, while soil temperatures are below 60 degrees, I start planting potatoes, bulbing onions and peas. By mid-April, the asparagus is producing shoots that are harvested two to three times each week.
    Seeds of carrots, beets, radishes and parsnips can be sown in cool soils as well. So can broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, kohlrabi, lettuce and spinach plants that have been properly conditioned in early April.
    As soon as soil temperatures rise above 60 degrees in early to mid-May, seeds of sweet corn and snap beans can be sown. Thus, we can eat freshly harvested sweet corn on the Fourth of July.
    By late May to early June, seeds of melons, squash and cucumbers will sprout within days of being planted. Soon after night temperatures stop dropping below 50 degrees, tomato and pepper plants can be transplanted and seeds of okra can be sown. 
    In late July or early August, the cold-loving crops of the cabbage family can be planted for harvesting from mid-October until Christmas. Nothing like eating freshly picked Brussels sprouts at Thanksgiving dinner and at the Christmas banquet.
    Peas also do best planted in early August, giving me seven or eight harvests before a hard freeze kills the plants. However, spring-planted peas in Maryland can be harvested only twice before the weather becomes too warm for the plants to continue flowering.
    Short-day onions can even be grown in a cold frame or tunnel during winter.
    I still miss the fun of ice fishing, snowshoeing and skating in New Hampshire. But the joy of being able to grow a wide variety of flowering plant species and harvest from my garden eight months each year makes it all worthwhile.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

It’s been a long roller coaster ride for conservation

We have experienced a wild conservation roller coaster ride during the 22 years since Bay Weekly newspaper first burst upon the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Our enormous watershed, once considered an inexhaustible source of seafood and wildlife, has discovered itself not so limitless after all.
    Maryland’s rockfish, rescued from the edge of collapse by a complete federal and state moratorium on their harvest in 1985, had been lifted for only two years when Bay Weekly began publication as New Bay Times. That extreme protection effort was an unqualified victory, with fish stocks rebounding to an abundance not seen on the Chesapeake for some time.
    Following that success, however, we soon fell into our old habits of harvesting as many fish as we felt sustainable. It turned out that over the last decade — in part because of commercial poaching — we found ourselves in trouble once again.
    Rockfish numbers have fallen by over 30 percent ocean-wide. Last year, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission lowered catch limits and increased legal fish sizes for the foreseeable future. Once again, the hope is that our favorite fish to catch and to eat will bounce back.
    Bay oysters are another story. Close to extinction for more than two decades, oysters continue to struggle from commercial over-harvest, poaching, disease and pollution caused by agricultural and population expansion.
    It would take almost all of the 22 years from the birth of this newspaper to see the kind of effort and regulation from the state that could result in a chance for that keystone resource’s recovery. Today, with commercial excess possibly reigned in by new and more stringent regulations and the expenditure of funds increased to the levels necessary to provide a chance of success, the first signs of an oyster stock recovery are beginning to show. Lets hope the trend continues.
    The blue crab continues on a roller coaster ride. At times we have had good numbers for this species, celebrated on the table and in print as wildly as the rockfish. But we have also had almost regular population crises.
    The key, it seems, has been the number of females surviving winter and escaping relentless commercial harvest. Maryland Department of Natural Resources has put female crab harvest off limits for recreational crabbers but not for watermen.
    Commercial limits continue to be set optimistically high for female harvest, and the crab population is once again headed back toward the danger zone. Perhaps Maryland officials will wake up.
    The Canada goose, which fills our autumn skies with sound as skeins of these far-traveling waterfowl come our way, has also experienced its ups and downs. Pressured by hunting to the point of collapse by 1991, it too went through a long moratorium, finally lifted in 2001. With more sensible regulations, the species seems to be holding its numbers.
    Chesapeake Bay itself has had its own travails, principally from pollution, but here too is much hope for the future. The necessary laws and regulations to protect the Bay from two major sources of degradation, agricultural and stormwater runoff, are finally being put in place.
    Population growth continues, but that is not entirely bad. Many of the people coming here are drawn by the beauty and the recreation provided by the Bay and its tributaries. These are fresh eyes and fresh expectations that the care and nurturing of the environment and all of its wild creatures should have very high priorities in the coming years. I am all for that.

‡   ‡   ‡

Fishing College

    Learn to fish with light tackle on May 9 (filling fast) or June 5, when I teach Chesapeake Bay fishing (AHC 362) at Anne Arundel Community College: www.aacc.edu/noncredit; 410-777-2222.

Ravens and Orioles watch out; Maryland’s going wild over peregrines

Fifty years ago, peregrine falcons were nearly eradicated from the Eastern United States due to the pesticide DDT. Today, they are riding high — literally — on the 33rd story of the TransAmerica building in Baltimore.
    In 1977 a falcon was released at the Edgewood Arsenal as part of the Peregrine Fund’s captive breeding effort. Scarlett, as she was named, made her home at the then-United States Fidelity and Guaranty building at 100 Light Street in downtown Baltimore.
    In 1984, Scarlett successfully mated with a wild peregrine, Beauregard. This love story resulted in the first natural-born peregrines bred in decades in an urban environment on the East Coast.
    The Baltimore skyline has been the backdrop for a peregrine family ever since.
     Visitors to the Inner Harbor may not be aware that peregrines soar above their heads. But now, anyone can watch the birds in their roost, thanks to the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Peregrine Falcon Cam: www.chesapeakeconservancy.org/
peregrine-falcon-webcam.
    Peregrines live for about 17 years, so the pair on the camera are not the original residents. Already looked in on by folks in 100 countries, Barb and her mate Boh have become overnight sensations since the cam went live March 10.
    “Peregrine falcons are one of the nation’s great conservation success stories. In naming the female, we thought no one reflects dedication to the environment and conservation better than Maryland’s own Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski,” said Joel Dunn, executive director of the Chesapeake Conservancy.
    Peregrines are fierce hunters, reaching speeds up to 240 mph in pursuit of prey, mainly other birds. As testimony to their success, the ledge Barb and Boh live on is littered with remnants of meals past.
    You’ll notice that they have not built a nest. Peregrines don’t collect sticks for a roost; they create a depression in sand or in this case gravel. Soon red-brown eggs will fill that depression. For the first time, the world can watch the next generation of peregrines hatch at 100 Light Street.


The Chesapeake Conservancy, an Annapolis-based non-profit, works to strengthen the connection between people and the watershed, conserve the Chesapeake’s landscapes and special places and encourage the exploration and celebration of the Chesapeake. The Peregrine Falcon Cam is supported by Skyline Technology Solutions, Cogent Communications, Shared Earth Foundation, the City of Baltimore, Transamerica and 100 Light Street.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

To make a film in the Fast & Furious franchise you need three things: Flashy cars, hulking biceps lathered in baby oil and heart-pounding action sequences. What you don’t need are actors or plot.
    Furious 7 keeps this tradition alive with a film so filled with screeching tires, machismo and surprising sentiment it almost distracts you from the abysmal performance of the lead and ridiculous plot.
    In a London hospital, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham: The Expendables 3) stands over the broken body of his baby brother Owen (the baddie from Fast and Furious 6). Swearing vengeance on Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel: Guardians of the Galaxy) and his crew of racers, Deckard hunts them down one by one.
    He kills one and hobbles Hobbs (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: Hercules), Toretto’s law enforcement ally, before finding Dominic. Toretto goes on the offensive, reuniting his team for one last ride — just as in the past three movies.
    Dominic’s brother-in-law and partner in crime Brian (Paul Walker: Brick Mansions) is facing his own crisis. Now a father and husband, he’s chaffing at driving a minivan instead of a muscle car. He tells his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster: Dallas) he misses the bullets, and she worries that he’s unhappy with family life.
    Can Brian settle into domesticity? Can Toretto and his gang defeat Deckard? Who is buying these idiots million dollar cars to destroy?
    Director James Wan (Insidious: Chapter 2) continues a brainless and still popular formula as old as Sylvester Stallone.
    The problem with Wan’s brand of mindless action is that it’s toothless. To earn the lucrative PG-13 rating, he must make a hardcore action film that’s kid-friendly. As a result, bullets and fists fly, but it’s a bloodless affair with seemingly few consequences. Women are dressed as sex objects, but to ensure parents bring their teens, there is no actual nudity — just plenty of up-skirt shots.
    Wan does surprisingly well within the restrictions on violence and nudity. Two of the hand-to-hand combat scenes are brilliantly choreographed and paced. The fight between Johnson and Statham is a brutal highpoint with both actors throwing everything they have at each other. But the real star of these movies has always been the cars. When we’re watching preposterous physics-defying car chases, it’s a fantastic spectacle that perfectly complements a fistful of popcorn.
    Impressively, Wan manages to inject a little sentiment into this ode to macho posturing. His tribute to Walker, who died while making the film, is both touching and fitting to the franchise. Wan and the editors should be credited for cobbling together Walker’s final performance using doubles, digital editing and the few scenes filmed before his demise.
    What Wan and his team of talented editors couldn’t fix, however, was Diesel’s performance. Blank, meaty and potato-like in both expression and demeanor, Diesel is an abysmal actor. His lack of a human personality was less noticeable in the first films; here, with the addition of exemplary supporting actors, you notice. Both Statham and Johnson crackle with charisma, and international action superstar Tony Jaa commands the screen in a nearly wordless performance.
    In spite of the wealth of action talent, Wan chooses to subject us to Diesel’s lumbering attempts at acting for seemingly endless stretches of film. Pairing him with Johnson and Statham seems like a cruel joke.
    With fantastic action and a bit of heart, Furious 7 isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been — if you can ignore Diesel.

Fair Action • PG-13 • 137 mins.

With white and yellow perch running, you want a rig that works

Casting my rig up underneath the big tree leaning out from the opposite bank of the river, I paused to give my lures time to settle near the bottom. I then began a slow retrieve, starting with a small twitch. Detecting a sudden resistance, I set the hook, and my rod tip surged down. Fish on!
    Actually there were two fish on. The occasion marked my discovery of a new springtime yellow perch hangout, one that would deliver big fish reliably over the next several seasons.
    We were using a two-lure, tandem rig with a yellow-feathered gold Tony Accetta spoon in size 12 on the long leg and a one-eighth-ounce shad dart in chartreuse on the short one. A small three-way swivel joined everything together. Adding a lip-hooked minnow to the spoon and a grass shrimp to the shad dart gave the lures the added scent that pretty much ensured their success, assuming fish were present.
    This rig is the one we use when exploring new water or starting the day from our skiff. Navigating quietly along a shoreline, one of us casts while the other steers to likely looking laydowns and brushy edges. When a fish strikes, we anchor and work the area thoroughly, since perch are a schooling fish.
    The setup also fished well from shore, especially with the addition of a small bobber to keep the lures from fouling the bottom. The only downside  was that the rig is tedious to replace if lost in a snag. But it is so productive that we usually spend the time to retie it.
    The Tony with the minnow moved through the water with a pronounced flashing, undulating action that really drew the strikes. It was the lure the big fish usually hit. The shad dart with the grass shrimp on the shorter section had multiple aspects. If the water was deeper than we anticipated or the current stiffer, we could substitute a heavier dart to get the rig nearer the bottom where the perch always were. Besides being activated by the action of the spoon, the brightly colored lure proved irresistible to any fish drawn to the struggle of a perch hooked on the spoon, resulting in a double hookup. It also worked for those days when the perch (white or yellow) would eat nothing but grass shrimp.
    White perch tend to cruise the shallow river or stream edges during high tide and when they are spawning. Yellow perch seek out flooded shoreline brush or downed tree limbs to hang their accordion-like tubes of roe.
    During low tide, perch tend to hold in the deeper holes or travel the channels. Then, too, the setup works. We simply anchor up in the center of the cuts or up-current of large pools. The current alone induces the spoon’s serpentine action, so we can often set our rods down and wait for strikes.
    The next most productive setup for fishing shallows less than five feet of water is simply one-eighth ounce shad dart under a small weighted bobber rigged so the dart is suspended just off of the bottom. The rig can be retrieved or still-fished. This is one of the most commonly used perch rigs along the Chesapeake and for good reason: It works.
    When a lot of fish are present and competing for food, the setup can be used with just the shad dart. But when prospecting or if the perch are reticent to bite, adding a grass shrimp, a piece of worm or a small minnow can make it instantly more attractive.
    When searching for fish, work your casts out in a fan pattern to explore all around your position. After throwing the rig, let it sit until the water calms. Then twitch it back methodically. Vary the count that you let the lure sit between movements until you find the rhythm that draws the most bites.

‡   ‡   ‡

Conservation Alert: Blue Crab Management Strategy

    The blue crab population has been in a nosedive the last few years with numbers indicating another crisis may be at hand. Add your voice to Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Blue Crab Management Strategy Plan: http://tinyurl.com/ntebjb3.
    DNR has set female crab harvest limits for the commercial sector this season at about the same as last year except there will be no season closures. Harvesting female crabs remains illegal for recreational fishermen. Read more at dnr2.maryland.gov/Fisheries/Pages/notices.aspx.

Make a bed or make way for stalks now pushing up

Time to turn your attention to asparagus. One of spring’s earliest crops, asparagus is typically ready for cutting in Maryland between April 25 and June 15.
    If your bed is already planted, it needs prepping. Winter weeds have most likely covered the beds, and the old asparagus stems are still sticking above ground. While the soil is still cool, asparagus roots are not yet energized. As soon as the soil dries sufficiently so it will not clump on the hoe or tiller, adjust the cultivator or tiller so that the blades will not penetrate the soil more that two inches. Cultivate or till weeds and those old asparagus stems into the soil. Allow the soil to dry for at least a week, then repeat. Cultivating the soil will hasten its warming, which will hasten the sprouting of asparagus stems.
    If you wish to delay the emergence of asparagus spears, cover the cultivated beds with four to six inches of straw. The straw mulch will shade the soil, retarding warming.
    Under normal conditions, asparagus beds should not be fertilized or mulched with compost until after harvesting. But they should be kept weed-free. Hand weed with a hoe immediately after making a harvest of spears.
    If you’re starting a new asparagus bed, now is the time. Choose a full-sun spot with well-drained soil. Dig a trench 10 to 12 inches wide and eight to 10 inches deep. Place one to two inches of compost in the bottom of the trench, and spade the compost into the soil to a depth of four inches.
    Place the asparagus crowns over the spaded soil at eight-inch intervals, spreading the roots uniformly flat. Cover with about two inches of soil amended 1-to-1 with compost. As the asparagus spears begin to grow, continue adding amended soil to the trench until it is full.
    Do not harvest any asparagus spears for at least two years. Allow the foliage to grow to its maximum height, cutting the stems to the ground in late fall when they have completely turned golden-brown. By delaying cutting, you allow residual nutrients in the stems and leaves to return to the roots.
    After you have cut the asparagus back to the ground in the fall, mulch the bed with a two-inch-thick layer of compost. This not only helps to insulate the bed, it also supplies all the nutrients for next year.
    In the third year, you may start harvesting asparagus spears in the spring. During the first year of harvesting, you should limit your harvests to two. For maximum recovery, cut the asparagus spears just below the surface of the soil using a sharp knife.
    If you prefer eating French-style asparagus, white spears, build a low frame, 10 inches to a foot high above a section of your asparagus bed and cover it with black plastic. The same wire hoops used for building small tunnels can be used to support the black plastic. To prevent heat build-up, leave both ends of the tunnel partially open. Asparagus that develops in total darkness will be white and tends to be tenderer than green asparagus.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Let us count the ways

A couple of tried, true and trite figures of speech can help you understand the week’s layered news on the health of the Bay.
    Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? Practicing that feat of coordination will prepare you to understand the new Chesapeake Bay Program take on how we’re doing in cleaning up the Bay we all say we love.
    The good news is the Bay diet is working.
    We’re actually cutting back the fast-food diet of nutrients and sediment streaming into our Bay.
    Except for a two percent rise in nitrogen and sediments between 2013 and 2014.
    Got that?
    In 2009, the EPA set the equivalent of a strict calorie limit on how much nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment the Bay could swallow. By 2014, nitrogen loads dropped six percent (15.83 million pounds). Phosphorus dropped 18 percent (3.40 million pounds). Sediment dropped four percent (327 million pounds).
    All this is happening because of pollution controls put in place over the last five years by Maryland, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District.
    But our poor Bay’s calorie intake is enormous: 282 million pounds of nitrogen a year; 19 million pounds of phosphorus; almost nine billion pounds of sediment a year.
    So you won’t be surprised that there’s still a long way to go before the Bay gets to its ideal nutritional balance by 2025. For nitrogen that’s 217 million pounds, 14 million pounds of phosphorus and seven billion pounds of sediment.
    Just what is the Bay’s junk food? Agricultural runoff is tops, followed by wastewater and sewer overflow, fallout of airborne pollutants, urban runoff and septic systems (for nitrogen).
    A walk in the park, understanding that, isn’t it? Now let’s add chewing gum.
    How does that two percent rise in nitrogen and sediment fit into those millions of lost pounds?
    The “slight increase,” the Bay Program report notes, “is due in part to a short-term shift in agricultural commodities.” Higher prices for corn spurred in large measure by ethanol meant more corn was planted. Corn craves “nitrogen-rich fertilizer that can leach off the ground and into local waterways.”
    Find the full report — including methodology — at chesapeakebay.net/presscenter/release/22587.
    If you’ve managed to walk while chewing gum, you’ll have figured out that you’ve got a part to play in reducing the Bay’s junk food diet.
    Hence our next truism: Put your money where your mouth is.
    To get the Bay to it best nutritional balance, that’s what we’ve all got to do. The Flush Tax is reducing nitrogen from our plumbing in water purification plants and septic systems. But given the resistance to controlling our stormwater runoff — with its junk-food load of nitrogen and sediment — you’d think robbers were knocking at the door.
    That paranoia helped elect Gov. Larry Hogan and Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh. Now it’s feeding revision of laws already passed in the General Assembly and in the Anne Arundel County Council. On April 6, the council upheld the fee (lacking a better alternative) and principle of putting our money where our protestations are.
    Calvert citizens, you can keep your money. This fee is special to your 10 biggest neighbors. (On the other hand, they’ve got curbside county pickup of trash and recycling.)
    At the same time, newly agreed on Phosphorus Management Tools and timelines will help cut down on animal manure reaching the Bay from farm fields.
    We lawn growers — turf grass is the largest crop in the Chesapeake watershed — can mind our own fertilizer Ps and Qs. Learn the full story at www.mda.maryland/fertilizer. Consider hiring a pro like Blades of Green (who described the right way in last week’s Home and Garden Guide) to do a lawn-friendly and Bay-saving job.

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

Truth doesn’t matter if you yell loud enough

Who do you trust? When experts debate on television an issue like climate change, do you believe that both are qualified?
    Most often, the debaters are experts in speaking, not science.
    It turns out that the news is just another TV show. Lively debate, doubt and fear-mongering make for great ratings. There is little incentive to seek out facts when bread and circuses bring in money and viewers.
    In 2004, science historian Naomi Oreskes became interested in a phrase common in the Global Warming debate: “No consensus has been reached among scientists on the matter of climate change.” Oreskes read through every scientific paper on climate change published in journals from 1993 to 2003. Out of 928 articles, she found none that refuted climate change.
    If there was no disagreement in the scientific community, where did this dissent come from?
    Hint: It’s not science.
    Pundits are hired by think tanks and corporations to argue their case, not sift through the facts or do independent research. To that end, they manipulate data, suggest that scientists have a hidden agenda and lie. These experts also become the faces for volunteer groups backed by major corporations that depend on the status quo for their profits.
    Based on a book by Oreskes and Erik Conway, Merchants of Doubt is a documentary that takes a troubling look at how easy it is to lead people away from the facts. Using the tobacco industry and the climate-change debate as his two main topics, director Robert Kenner (Food Inc.) examines how corporations manipulate citizens, government and the law to further their interests.
    Kenner interviews scientists who have been battered by the press and professional spin-doctors. Ill prepared by a life of research to deal with slick PR men, many of these researchers look befuddled when confronted by misinformation. James Hansen, one of the fathers of the climate change movement, admits that he wasn’t prepared to become the face of global warming. Nor was he prepared for the backlash. Death threats, smear campaigns and aggressive politicking.
    Those on the other side seem to enjoy being contrarians. All pundits readily admit to Kenner that they don’t conduct research; they merely interpret. Marc Morano, founder of Climate Depot, seems to revel in the fight if not the facts. He enjoys going after scientists who question his view that global warming is a liberal hoax, often publishing their personal email addresses and encouraging his followers to send hate mail.
    Kenner’s only misstep is his over-reliance on metaphor. To liken pundits to magicians performing card tricks, he uses a repeating motif of shuffling decks and sleight of hand. The framing device seems silly compared to the seriousness of the issues.
    Like most documentaries that take a bold stand, Merchants of Doubt will likely make you angry. Whether you’re furious at the pundits or Kenner’s take on climate change largely depends on what side of the debate you fall.

Good Documentary • PG-13 • 96 mins.

Intimate setting, top-notch acting, taut direction and high production values bring this classic to life

For this classic, less is more.
     The Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s production of Jane Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, uses a script nicely streamlined and adapted to the stage by Jon Jory, whose versions of other classics like Pride and Prejudice the company has presented over its brief history. As impressive as the script’s fidelity to the novel is Annapolis Shakespeare’s confidence in its ability to tell a complex story with nary a set piece other than a few chairs and a trunk.
    After spending time at the Bowie Playhouse, Annapolis Shakespeare moved into its Chinquapin Round Road facility just a couple of years ago, and began doing its plays there even more recently. By using a less-is-more philosophy — and knowing that solid talent and direction are quite a bit more important to good storytelling than extensive sets and facilities — producing artistic director Sally Boyett nicely adapts to the company’s small, 70-seat space.
    In the case of Sense and Sensibility, Boyett gives us the classic story of two young sisters. Elinor is filled with sense and prudence, a level-head. Marianne is filled with sensibility — emotion, romance — and always speaks her mind. Though written in the late 1700s, Austen’s work remains loved, read and performed because she captured ideas and feelings that are essentially timeless.
    This story of love, laughter and heartache is brought to us by a cast of actors led by Laura Rocklyn as Marianne Dashwood and Rebecca Swislow as Elinor Dashwood. Rocklyn’s Marianne is a charmer, attracting us via her refusal to hold her tongue as well as the humor of what she says when she does speak. Rocklyn and Swislow work very well together; this is a pair that you can believe are sisters.
    They and their widowed mother, played nicely by Sue Struve, are forced to move into a small cottage after their half-brother (the elegant Brian Keith MacDonald) and his wife, played to the hilt of vanity by Renata Plecha, decide that they prefer to take the family estate and force the trio out.
    Evicted, they settle in a small cottage in Devonshire, near the home of her cousin John Middleton and his wife, who welcome the three openly, soon introducing them to local society. As Middleton, Richard Pilcher is gregarious and warm, quite the opposite of what they had experienced before being forced out.
    But Sense and Sensibility is not so much about society connections as it is about the two girls and the suitors who come calling: Edward Ferrars (Patrick Truhler), whose engagement to another is kept secret but who becomes attracted to Elinor; John Willoughby (James Carpenter), a charmer but a cheater whose engagement to Marianne is presumed by many but never official; and Colonel Brandon (Joel Ottenheimer), a tall, good guy who takes on the charge of the daughter of a woman he loved but was not allowed by family to marry, and who falls in love with Marianne.
    All three give us tightly drawn and distinctive characters, each bringing their unique backgrounds to bear on the present, and each revealing to us the chemistry that has formed their affections for the sisters.
    As always with Annapolis Shakespeare, costumes are expansive but true to the period, lighting of the small space is imaginative and evocative and Boyett’s choreography of scene changes keeps things moving apace, with each scene blending into the next clearly yet with nary a visual or verbal gap.
    In other words, less is more: an intimate setting, top-notch acting, taut direction and high production values are more than enough to bring this classic to life.


Production stage manager: Sara K. Smith. Lighting design: Colin Dieck. Costumes: Kat McKerrow. Dialect coach: Nancy Krebs

Playing thru May 3: FSa 8pm (and 2pm, Sa April 4); Su 3pm: Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s Studio 111, 111 Chinquapin Round Rd., Annapolis; $35 w/discounts; rsvp: 410-415-3513; www.annapolisshakespeare.org.