|Reaching Out in Friendship
Samuel Johnson loves to look at himself in the mirror and hold soft squishy toys. The 19-month old spent the first 16 months of his life lying on his back. But things are changing for this little boy, thanks to the enterprise of some very special friends.
Samuel's life has been a challenge. Born with osteogenesis imperfecta - a disease so rare that only 30,000 people in the United States are known to have it - he has suffered numerous broken bones and fractures. The bones of those with brittle bone disease, as osteogenesis imperfecta is also known, are often only as strong as a piece of chalk and break just as easily. For Samuel, the simple act of having a diaper changed can break a bone. Due to his fragile rib cage, he has also been afflicted with respiratory problems such as pneumonia and lung failure.
Last October, Samuel began to receive pamibronate treatment to strengthen his bones and reduce respiratory complications. This controversial treatment is not approved for use in the United States, so Samuel must travel to Shriners Hospital in Montreal.
Samuel's story inspired Gloria Little, who works with the baby's father. Little brought the sad tale to the youth group at Carter's United Methodist Church in Friendship, where she is choir director.
"After learning of Samuel's life-threatening condition and financial need, we decided it was important for us to reach out and help," said Kinsey Harvey, a sophomore at Southern High School, who has sung with the choir for seven years.
Young Voices United, Carter Methodist's youth choir, settled on a talent show, Harvey said, to "let the community have some fun while making a difference for this baby."
Now Harvey and fellow choir members Andrew and Ray Mackall, Cristian Rice, Kenneth Coleman, Ramera Nero and Lakia and Taneika Parker are working hard to organize the show. The teens have written to other youth groups asking for their help. Already booked are a variety of musical performers, a step team, storytellers and a puppet show.
But the talent search is still wide open. From singers to poetry readers, all are welcome. "We want kids to know that no matter how young you are, there is always something you can do to help," Little says. "In the spirit of Valentine's Day, it's the perfect opportunity to open our hearts for this baby."
With the talent show just a week away, things are looking up for Samuel and his family. After two rounds of treatment, he is now able to turn over by himself for the first time. This is a huge step for Samuel and a great thrill for his parents. To sit up for the first time in his life, Samuel is strapped into a special chair made by Shriners Hospital.
The stage at Carter's United Methodist Church comes alive on Friday, February 16 at 7pm.
Information? To participate in or enjoy the talent show or to make a donation, call Linda Parker: 301/568-5597.
On Brittle Bone Disease and its treatment: www.oif.org or www.shriners.com.
An Opera Star Is Born
photo by Jennifer A. Dawicki
Tian-xu Zhou, center, sung Onegins Aria, from Tchaikovskys Eugene Onegin, to win Annapolis Operas 13th Annual Vocal Competition. Beside him are the first-place prize donors, William Ellery Clark and sister Grace Victoria Clark Waidner. The $1,500 first-prize was named The Grace Gelinas Clark Memorial Award in honor of their mother, Grace Clark.
On stage, arias soared. But in the seats of the packed auditorium at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, silence was so rapt that you could have heard a pin drop as the nine gifted contestants sang their hearts out in the hope of winning the Grand Prize in the Annapolis Opera's 13th Annual Vocal Competition Finals Concert.
Opera singers use the oldest musical instrument, the voice, to captivate their audience and suspend them in a musical world. It may look effortless, but opera singing takes years of hard work and training. For these five women and four men, dedication had paid off. They had reached the finals of a prestigious competition.
Accompanied by pianist JoAnn Kulesza, each competitor sang two selections with feeling and drama, drawing their listeners into their characters. Black ties and evening gowns were the crowning touches of elegance. So choosing a winner was no easy task for the distinguished judges.
The silence deepened, taking on an anxious edge, as the crowd waited to learn the winners. The Grand Prize all had sung for, honor and $1,500, went to baritone Tian-xu Zhou of Winchester, Va. He had sung "Onegin's Aria" from Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky.
Mezzo-soprano Lori Hultgren, of Baltimore, won the $900 second prize singing "In quelle trine morbide" from Manon Lescaut by Puccini. Third place honors were taken by Kirsten Gunlogson, a mezzo-soprano from Pittsburgh, with "Parto! Parto, ma tu ben mio" from La Clemenza di Tito by Mozart.
Ballots collected during judging gave the people's choice award to Amy Lauritzen, a soprano from Beltsville.
Tian-Xu Zhou and his fellow contestants can look forward to earning more than cash prizes. Angela Fout, the first prize winner in 2000, will sing the lead role of Fiordiligi in Annapolis Opera's Cosi fan tutte this spring.
Sitting quietly, enveloped by the magnificent strains, I was thankful that, in a world of computer-generated entertainment, the beauty and drama of opera lives on.
Up next for the Annapolis Opera: In March, Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, fully staged in Italian with English surtitles: 410/267-8135 for tickets.
The Great Backyard Bird Count Needs You
For weeks, even months, your bird feeders go unused. They hang in the yard, full of seed and empty of birds. Despite the cold weather, there is no frenzy of calorie-seeking birds. Why? Could there be a sharp-shinned hawk preying on small birds in the neighborhood?
Maybe you're used to seeing woodpeckers or gold finches at your feeding station, but not this year. How come?
Perhaps, on the other hand, there's a new kind of bird you've not seen before: Could it be a red-breasted nuthatch? Is it rare?
Does the bird activity - or inactivity - at your house fit into a larger pattern? Or is your situation unusual?
You might get answers to questions like these - while helping ornithologists gather data about winter bird populations - by joining in the Great Backyard Bird Count February 16 to 19.
Over 100,000 people of all birding skill levels have helped over the past four years in the project, which is sponsored by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.
This year, even more people are welcome. "We're asking everyone everywhere in North America to take a few minutes to tell us what birds they see on any or all of the count days," says John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Counters can choose just about any territory they want, such as their own back yards or a local park. Your count will record the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time. For example, if you see 12 white-throated sparrows at 9am, then see 14 of the same species an hour later, your count will be 14.
If you plan on participating, you might want to check your supply of bird food to draw the birds as well as find the binoculars and bird identification guide. Beyond that, you'll find detailed instructions on the web - www.birdsource.org - including charts, maps and guidance.
You'll also make your report on the Internet at home or at your local library, helping fill out hourly updates on bird counts over the entire country. By checking the count updates, you can compare your local observations to a larger area, perhaps answering your questions.
You'll also be helping in a bigger purpose. "By tracking changes in bird distribution and abundance over time, such a vast database can serve as the S.O.S. signal for species that may be in trouble," Fitzpatrick says.
Troubled species include northern flicker, red-headed woodpecker and northern bobwhite quail. Quail have suffered severe declines due to habitat loss and, in some areas, predation by domestic cats.
Scientists need evidence in the form of data that counts can provide in order to make a strong case for conservation action.
Individual counters sign up on the web and fill out a survey that makes you eligible to win some valuable prizes. Scout troops, clubs, schools and other organizations call the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: 800/843-2473.
photo courtesy of the Walters Art Museum
Manet painted this plate of Oysters in 1862 as his first still life. The painting usually hangs in the National Gallery in Washington.
We've got oysters on the half shell and oysters Rockefeller, and now we've got oysters Manet. But don't go looking for this new dish at any old oyster house in Chesapeake Country. It's a tasty exclusive you'll find only in Baltimore, where - through April 22 - it's the house special of a joint called Walters.
The Walters Art Museum, that is.
Here - among 55 paintings, etchings and illustrated personal letters that make up the visiting exhibition "Manet: The Still-Life Paintings" - you'll find oysters served up three ways. On the half shell, there's the 1862 Oysters lent by the National Gallery in Washington. For Fish and Oysters, there's the larger 1866 choice lent by the Art Institute of Chicago. And for very elegant oysters, there's the 1876-77 Oysters and Champagne Bucket, lent by a private collection.
All are oil paintings on canvas roped off and watched by sentries, so you'll have to taste oysters Manet with only your eyes.
Which for art and oyster lovers ought to be enough.
For this Manet is Edouard, the 19th century French painter - he lived from 1832 to 1883, when at the age of 51, he was struck down by venereal disease - credited with opening the path for the Impressionists.
"Manet is the greatest artist I have ever seen," Walters directory Gary Vikan told opening night visitors. "And I've spent my life looking at art."
Manet painted people, including critic Emil Zola, in this exhibit, and the scandal-rousing Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, which you won't see in this exhibit but may remember as causing a fuss not for their nudity but for brazenness. But he loved paint most of all, so for his purposes the objects of daily life sufficed. "A painter can say all he wants to with fruit or flowers, or even clouds," Manet wrote.
So within the hard edge of shell, the oyster flesh shimmers - inviting you to fathom the possibilities of light, color and artistry.
Said artist Henri Matisse, a ground-breaker in his own right, in 1932: "Manet was the first painter to translate his sensations immediately, thus freeing his instinct. A great painter is one who creates personal and enduring signs plastically to express the object of his vision. This Manet did."
Still, each of us sees with our own eyes. In his Fish and Oysters in particular, you might believe Manet painted in Chesapeake Country, not on the English Channel town of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Here with the oysters so like our own is an eel, another of our bounties though one less publicized. With them are a nice scaly carp, a lovely little red fish, some mussels, a lemon, a knife and a copper pot. I'm not alone - hereabouts or thereabouts - in knowing what to do with all of that.
Oysters and all, The Still-Life Paintings is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Besides the Walters, the exhibit's only other stop is the Musée d'Orsay, in Paris, which brought it together.
Reserve your timed tickets ($10 w/discounts) at 866/go-manet or online at www.museumtix.com. The museum is open till 5pm most days but is closed on Mondays.
For London Town - and Owners - Antiques Earn Thousands
With nearly $20,000 earning interest in its bank account, historic London Town and Gardens won't miss payday when its new director of education is hired. Or duck for cover at the delivery of the lumber ordered by housewright Russ Steele to build the historic site's first replica of early Marylanders' dwellings. "Cramped buildings that swayed and shook during the harsh winter nights," London Town director Greg Stiverson calls them. But in our day, nothing from the 18th century comes cheap.
Old stuff's high value is why the Annapolis Heritage Antiques Show annually swells London Town's account with 20 big ones.
The staple of the three-day event is a giant antique show, filling the Annapolis Armory with 33 sellers and, this year, some 2,300 browsers and buyers of old stuff. A percentage of their $7 admission goes to London Town. A preview party for early viewing added about $4,000 to the take, and a silent auction of goods and services brought in about the same. Businesses advertising in the show's program added close to $10,000 to the total.
The lure of old stuff revealed as treasure added another $3,000. Close to 300 people squeezed in where 200 were expected for expert appraisals of all sorts of stuff, bringing London town a return of over $3,000.
An even bigger winner was the lucky woman who carried in an old lamp in a laundry basket and walked out the proud owner of a Tiffany original. A ball-playing accident a quarter century ago reduced its value by about $25,000. Even so, the lamp was appraised at $50,000.
Way Downstream ...
In Virginia, the Marine Resources Commission announced that it will impose a five percent cut in blue crab harvests this year, part of a three-year plan to reduce the take by 15 percent ...
In Union County, N.C., folks could be in for another "Alice's Restaurant" - Arlo Guthrie's song in which a dumper is tracked down through his trash. The county has set up an environmental patrol office and appointed a litter czar. The plan calls for public education, but the litter police also will be dispatched ...
In North Carolina, Catawba College's new $4 million Center for the Environment is practicing what it teaches. The building has old newspapers as insulation and the tabletops are made of crushed sunflower seed hulls. Those pretty bathroom tiles? They're made from recycled glass ...
In Tacoma, Wash., construction crews found something curious while digging sewers last week: an ancient forest buried 1,100 years ago by a Mount Rainier mud flow. Many of the cedars still were standing and in fine shape, the Tacoma News-Tribune reported ...
In Germany, it was disclosed that the former East Germany had a way of keeping track of radicals: They'd sneakily apply them with radioactive chemicals so that STASI, their equivalent of the KGB, could keep track of them with Geiger counters, New Scientist magazine reported last week ...
Our Creature Feature comes to us from Delaware Bay, the location of one of the most far-reaching plans yet to preserve the oldest creature hereabouts, the horseshoe crab. The Commerce Department has finished a plan to establish a sanctuary that will prohibit harvests of the 350-million-year-old walking pith helmets from waters south of Atlantic City to just north of Ocean City.
Starting March 7, commercial fishermen must go elsewhere if they insist on catching the prehistoric horseshoes for bait and medical research.