September 1st, 2017

In contrast to Stonington, Westerly hasn’t had too many problems with rats – The Westerly Sun

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WESTERLY Westerly is just across the Pawcatuck River Bridge, but it appears the town is having fewer problems with rats than Pawcatuck.

Westerly has had a small number of rat complaints to investigate since April, said James Broccoli, minimum housing officer for Westerly, Wednesday. There has not been a major outcry for rat problems in Westerly.

Its about six or seven complaints, he said. I think people are worried about it because of articles in The Sun. He said he has cited two properties, but one was for a mice infestation. He said some unfounded calls also came in but he found no signs of rats in those instances.

In comparison, as of August 23, Pawcatuck has received about 25 to 30 complaints and issued five orders, some related to rats, some related to trash, according to Ryan McCammon, Supervisor of Environmental Health for Ledge Light Health District, which is Stoningtons health department.

The numbers are surprising since both towns are adjacent to the Pawcatuck River, which rat expert Robert Corrigan identified as a habitat for rats in a recent Sun article. Corrigan, of Briarcliff Manor, New York, runs RmC Pest Management in Richmond, Indiana, was a principal lecturer at the Rodent Control Academy, and has authored a book about rodent control for pest management professionals,

It isnt clear why Westerly has had fewer rat complaints, but residents and business owners have been cooperative if rats or signs of rats were found on a property, said Broccoli, who started in his position in April.

Where I do see it, everyones been on board, he said. The people from the town have been great about getting treatment and exterminators and doing what they need to do as property owners.

Do the basics first

Working with neighbors on preventive measures is the best way to stop the problem, he said.

What is important for everyone to remember are the basics to prevent [the rats] from coming to your house and neighborhood, he wrote in an email. Work with everyone in your house/apartment and together with your neighbors to prevent rodents. Do not provide rodents with the food and shelter they seek.

Broccoli said it was important to block rats food supplies with practical methods, like using a trash can with a lid.

Cut off the food supply

Feeding animals and birds outside, including dogs and cats, provides a food source for rats, Broccoli said.

Bird feeders and squirrel feeders are also a problem, he said. Again, youre putting a food source out there for rodents to come and eat.

Because they provide a food source, chicken coops are a problem, he said.

Call an exterminator

Broccoli said he encourages people to hire an exterminator rather than try to solve the problem themselves.

I recommend people get an exterminator I tell them to pick who they want, theres a good amount of them on the internet, pick a local company, he said.

He said that owners of rental properties were required also to hire an exterminator by law.

Be neighborly

To prevent rat infestations, everyone must participate and remind one another what needs to be done, he said.

People from a community aspect, neighbors should be neighborly, he said. You could say, hey why dont you clean that up over there, or dont stack that material over there, or dont leave your dog food out.

He also said that upholstered furniture, cushions and mattresses should not be left outside because they provide nesting areas for rats.

The more people know about the problem, the more theyll take preventive measures, he said.

Better safe than sorry

Westerly Minimum Housing Officer James Broccolis list of precautions that residents and property owners are responsible for, adapted from Westerlys Ordinances and the Rhode Island Property Maintenance Codes.

Exterior property/premises must be maintained in a clean, safe and sanitary condition.

Premises/exterior property must be maintained free of weeds or tall grass in excess of 6 inches.

All exterior property and premises, and the interior of every structure, shall be free from any accumulation of rubbish or garbage.

Every occupant of a structure shall dispose of all rubbish in a clean and sanitary manner by placing such rubbish in approved containers with lids.

Every window intended to be used for ventilation, and every other opening located at or near ground level which might provide an entry for rodents, must be supplied with adequate screens or other devices that will effectively prevent their entrance.

All doors, including swinging, sliding and folding types, must be constructed so that the space between the lower edge of the door and the threshold and the space between sections of folding and sliding doors when closed does not exceed three-eighths inch (3/8).

Basement floors and/or the floors and areas in contact with the soil, and located at a maximum depth of four feet (4) or less from the grade line, must be paved with concrete or other rat impervious material. Skirting, lattice, or other non-rat-proofed enclosures displaying evidence of rat harborage under a porch or any portions of a building must be rat-proofed at all locations where evidence of burrowing or gnawing was found.

Structures/exterior property must be kept free from rodent harborage and infestation. Where rodents are found, they shall be promptly exterminated by approved processes not be injurious to human health. After extermination, proper precautions shall be taken to eliminate rodent harborage and prevent reinfestation. Mattresses, cushions, old chairs, couches, along with any other materials that may be used for harborage must be removed.

No inoperative or unlicensed motor vehicle shall be parked, kept or stored on any premises, and no vehicle shall at any time be in a state of major disassembly, disrepair, or in the process of being stripped or dismantled. Old cars make an excellent habitat for all types of rodents.

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In contrast to Stonington, Westerly hasn’t had too many problems with rats – The Westerly Sun

August 30th, 2017

Film Shorts – Fort Worth Weekly (satire) (press release) (registration) (blog)

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Baadshaho (NR) This Indian period heist film is about an arrogant cop (Ajay Devgn) transporting a shipment of seized gold from Jaipur to Delhi. Also with Ileana DCruz, Emraan Hashmi, Esha Gupta, Vidyut Jammwal, Sanjay Mishra, and Sunny Leone. (Opens Friday)

A Boy Called Po (PG) Christopher Gorham stars in this drama as a newly widowed father having to take care of an autistic son (Julian Feder). Also with Kaitlin Doubleday, Andrew Bowen, Bryan Batt, Fay Masterson, Caitlin Carmichael, and Sean Gunn. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Crown Heights (R) Matt Ruskins well-intentioned drama tells the real-life story of Colin Warner (LaKeith Stanfield), the Trinidadian immigrant who spent 21 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of a murder he had no part in. Stanfield is really good as usual, but his performance is wasted amid some slipshod filmmaking by the writer-director. The time period is covered in fits and starts, the dialogue is clumsy, and the characters of Colin and his tireless friend on the outside (played by former NFL star Nnamdi Asomugha) who fights to overturn his conviction are developed in the most cursory fashion. At a certain point, you start to crave the formulaic plot construction of a Law & Order episode. Also with Natalie Paul, Luke Forbes, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Zach Grenier, Josh Pais, Skylan Brooks, Nestor Carbonell, Gbenga Akinnagbe, and Bill Camp.

Do It Like an Hombre (R) This Spanish-language comedy stars Alfonso Dosal as a Chilean man who upsets his friends by coming out as gay. Also with Aislinn Derbez, Mauricio Ochmann, Humberto Busto, Ignacio Allemand, and Ariel Levy. (Opens Friday at Amrica Cinemas Fort Worth)

Goon: Last of the Enforcers (R) Jay Baruchel takes over the writing and direction in this sequel to Kevin Smiths comedy about a hockey enforcer (Seann William Scott) facing the end of his career. Also with Elisha Cuthbert, Alison Pill, Wyatt Russell, Liev Schreiber, Callum Keith Rennie, Kim Coates, and T.J. Miller. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

I Do Until I Dont (R) Lake Bell writes, directs, and stars in her own comedy about a documentary filmmaker (Dolly Wells) who charts the relationships between three different couples to prove that love is unsustainable. Also with Ed Helms, Paul Reiser, Mary Steenburgen, Amber Heard, Wyatt Cenac, and Chace Crawford. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Jackals (NR) This horror film is about a family whose attempts to take their teenage son back from a religious cult results in them being besieged in their house by the cult members. Starring Deborah Kara Unger, Stephen Dorff, Johnathon Schaech, Nick Roux, Chelsea Ricketts, and Jason Scott Jenkins. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

The Layover (R) This comedy by William H. Macy stars Alexandra Daddario and Kate Upton as two best friends whose friendship dissolves when they fight over the same guy (Matt Barr). Also with Kal Penn, Rob Corddry, Matt Jones, and Molly Shannon. (Opens Friday)

Menashe (PG) This Yiddish-language drama stars Menashe Lustig as an Orthodox Jewish widower in New York trying to regain custody of his son. Also with Yoel Falkowitz, Ruben Niborski, Meyer Schwartz, and Yoel Weisshaus. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Served Like a Girl (NR) Lysa Heslovs documentary profiles five female war veterans who now run their own organization to help homeless female veterans. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Temple (NR) This horror film is about three American tourists (Logan Huffman, Brandon Sklenar, and Natalia Warner) who become lost in the jungles of Japan while searching for an ancient temple. Also with Naoto Takenaka and Asahi Uchida. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Tulip Fever (R) Dane DeHaan stars in this drama as a 17th-century Dutch painter who falls for a married woman (Alicia Vikander) during the countrys mania for tulips. Also with Jack OConnell, Holliday Grainger, Tom Holland, Matthew Morrison, Kevin McKidd, Douglas Hodge, Cara Delevingne, Zach Galifianakis, Judi Dench, and Christoph Waltz. (Opens Friday)

Unlocked (R) Noomi Rapace stars in this action thriller as a CIA interrogator drawn into a trap that puts London in threat of a biological attack. Also with Orlando Bloom, Toni Collette, Akshay Kumar, Adelayo Adedayo, John Malkovich, and Michael Douglas. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Valley of Bones (R) This drama stars Autumn Reeser as a disgraced paleontologist who teams up with a meth addict (Steven Molony) who may have found a rare fossil. Also with Rhys Coiro, Mason Mahay, Bill Smitrovich, and Mark Margolis. (Opens Friday)

The Vault (NR) Taryn Manning and Francesca Eastwood star in this supernatural thriller as two sisters who get more than they bargained for when they try to rob a bank. Also with James Franco, Scott Haze, Clifton Collins Jr., Jeff Gum, and Qorianka Kilcher. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

All Saints (PG) John Corbett stars as Rev. Michael Spurlock, the real-life Anglican minister in Tennessee who saved his financially failing church by taking in a few hundred Karen refugees from civil war-torn Myanmar. Perhaps this film glosses over the racial difficulties involved here, but it does show the pressures that a church takes on providing for immigrants who have lost everything, as well as a grasp of the ethical pitfalls its an old white guy (Barry Corbin) who accuses the preacher of wanting to run a plantation. A nicely understated and conflicted turn by Corbett does much to keep this from lapsing into sanctimony. Heres another one to show people who think Christian movies are always bad. Also with Cara Buono, Nelson Lee, Myles Moore, David Keith, Patrick Johnson, and Gregory Alan Williams.

Annabelle: Creation (R) Director David Sandbergs disappointing follow-up to Lights Out is this horror prequel showing how a bereaved couple (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) created the evil doll to deal with their grief, then opened up an orphanage for young girls, unwittingly giving the doll what it wants. Whatever creep factor the doll had in the first movie, its lost it by now, and Sandbergs go-slow approach doesnt pay off here like it has done for others. This movie makes me yearn for the charisma of Chucky. Also with Stephanie Sigman, Lulu Wilson, Talitha Bateman, Grace Fulton, Kerry OMalley, Philippa Coulthard, and Alicia Vela-Bailey.

Atomic Blonde (R) A deadly stylish showcase for Charlize Theron. She plays an undercover MI6 agent who is sent into Berlin just before the end of the Cold War to retrieve a list of British agents and operations. As a spy thriller, this is riddled with holes and inconsistencies, as director David Leitch can evoke neither the atmosphere of 1980s Germany nor the paranoid sense of the best spy movies, and the final revelation makes no sense at all. Fortunately, Theron is in top form as this bisexual operative wholl happily seduce women for the mission. The action sequences are stellar, and the brutal fight against a KGB sniper team on the stairs of an East Berlin apartment is destined to become a classic. Also with James McAvoy, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella, Eddie Marsan, Bill Skarsgrd, Roland Mller, Til Schweiger, Jhannes Haukur Jhannesson, James Faulkner, Sam Hargrave, Barbara Sukowa, and John Goodman.

Baby Driver (R) A car-chase movie thats also a musical. Ansel Elgort plays a youthful-looking getaway driver with a passion for music who works off a debt to an Atlanta crime boss (Kevin Spacey) by driving armed robbers away from the police. In his first American movie, writer-director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz) uses his trademark repeated lines and skillfully set-up gags, but also stages car stunts that are all the sicker because you know theyre being performed for real. The supporting cast is terrific, but Elgort owns the show completely as he rocks out behind the wheel to Jon Spencer Blues Explosions Bellbottoms and dances to Bob & Earls Harlem Shuffle. The movies match of music, editing, and performances makes for a delirious experience. Also with Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzlez, Jon Bernthal, CJ Jones, Flea, Big Boi, Killer Mike, and Paul Williams.

The Big Sick (R) The romantic comedy of the summer is this one based on the autobiography of Kumail Nanjiani, the Pakistani-American stand-up comic and actor who fell for a white American woman and was wondering how to tell his parents when she became desperately ill and was placed in a coma. The film bolts out of the gate thanks to a script by Nanjiani and his real-life wife Emily Gordon, with jokes coming from all directions, including Emilys fictional alter ego (Zoe Kazan), the Chicago stand-up scene where this is set, and Kumails Muslim family. The movie loses some of its surefootedness in the second half, as the filmmakers have trouble keeping the laughs going while Emily continues to lie in a hospital. Still, this is likely the first comedy from a Muslim perspective that most Americans have seen, and the more charming because of its real-life story. Also, Kumails joke about 9/11 is the most outrageous one Ive heard all year. Also with Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Zenobia Shroff, Adeel Akhtar, Aidy Bryant, Bo Burnham, Kurt Braunohler, Vella Lovell, David Alan Grier, Linda Emond, and Anupam Kher.

Birth of the Dragon (PG-13) This formulaic but watchable martial-arts film is set in San Francisco in the 1960s and dramatizes the real-life fight between a young Bruce Lee (Philip Ng) and a Chinese kung fu master (Xia Yu) who disapproves of the way Lee is propagating kung fu in America. The romantic subplot between an angry American student of Lees (Billy Magnussen) and a Chinese girl (Qu Jingjing) whose fate is owned by the triads is a losing gambit, but the film does reasonably well at portraying Lee as a brilliant, arrogant jerk in need of a lesson in the humility and discipline at the heart of kung fu. The martial-arts sequences by longtime Hong Kong fight director Cory Yuen make the whole thing worthwhile. Also with Simon Yin, Jin Xing, Terry Chen, Wu Yue, Vanness Wu, Vincent Cheng, Yee Jee Tso, Ron Yuan, and Simon Chin.

Cars 3 (PG) Basically, this is like Creed with talking cars. In this latest Pixar installment, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) faces his sporting mortality after a bad run of results and makes drastic changes to his training regimen thanks to a new billionaire sponsor (voiced by Nathan Fillion) whos so nice that he cant possibly be a good guy. Once Lightnings new young trainer (voiced by Cristela Alonzo) is shown topping out over 200 on a racing simulator, we know where this is going. Even so, the base material has a power of its own as the old veteran finds he has to dig into a bag of tricks to stay competitive with the younger racers, and Pixars customary in-jokes and throwaway gags help it all go down easy. Check for F1 champion Lewis Hamilton as an electronic assistant named Hamilton. Additional voices by Larry the Cable Guy, Chris Cooper, Bonnie Hunt, Armie Hammer, Tony Shalhoub, Lea DeLaria, Margo Martindale, Kerry Washington, Bob Costas, Darrell Waltrip, Richard Petty, Kyle Petty, Cheech Marin, John Ratzenberger, and the late Paul Newman.

The Dark Tower (PG-13) Like a fever dream an exceptionally boring fever dream. Tom Taylor stars in this Stephen King adaptation as a New York boy whose nightmares about a gunslinger (Idris Elba) battling a Satanic overlord (Matthew McConaughey) in a barren wasteland turn out to be real. The plot is squashed down from various books in Kings epic series, which is probably why events unfold with no discernible logic or cause. Everything looks gray because director Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) cant think of another way to portray dystopia, and the actors are restricted to a single note for their characters. This isnt as bad a King adaptation as Dreamcatcher, but its not far off. Also with Jackie Earle Haley, Claudia Kim, Abbey Lee, Katheryn Winnick, Fran Kranz, Jos Ziga, and Dennis Haysbert.

Despicable Me 3 (PG) There are all sorts of things going on in this third installment, what with Gru meeting his long-lost twin brother (both voiced by Steve Carell), Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig) learning to be a mom, the minions (voiced by Pierre Coffin) exiled to their own subplot doing God knows what, and a 1980s kid actor-turned-supervillain (voiced by Trey Parker) trying to destroy Hollywood. All of it fails because the filmmakers behind this seem to have run out of ideas sometime during the last movie. Its time for Gru to retire and spend more time with his family, away from our screens. Additional voices by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Steve Coogan, Jenny Slate, and Julie Andrews.

Detroit (R) Flawed and powerful. Kathryn Bigelow does this dramatization of the 1967 Detroit race riots and the resulting police brutality incident at the Algiers Motel that year, when city cops tortured guests and eventually murdered three while searching for a gun that they never found. As usual, Bigelow excels at depicting the chaos in the streets and evoking slowly unfolding dread, and while the first half of the movie depicting the riots unbalances the film, it also provides valuable context. However, while her approach has value, it also has limitations. All the suffering she depicts here requires an equally great catharsis, and the bit with the soul singer (Algee Smith) leaving his band and joining a church choir isnt enough of a counterweight to all the white mendacity here. The film will still be timely as long as white cops kill unarmed black men and get away with it. Also with John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jacob Latimore, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever, Ben OToole, Jack Reynor, Nathan Davis Jr., Malcolm David Kelley, Jeremy Strong, Samira Wiley, Laz Alonso, Anthony Mackie, and John Krasinski.

Dunkirk (PG-13) Not a masterpiece, but it gets the job done. Christopher Nolans World War II epic tells the story of British civilians rescuing more than 300,000 soldiers from the French beach where they were trapped by the Nazis. Nolan tells the story in three overlapping timelines, from the viewpoints of an RAF pilot (Tom Hardy), a private (Fionn Whitehead), a boat owner (Mark Rylance), and others. Nolan probably should have gone with a more straightforward approach; the temporal dislocation doesnt increase the chaos of the battle or the storys forward drive. Luckily, this movie does much better at the small-picture level, conveying the analog nature of aerial combat back then and the privates series of brushes with death as he tries to flee. This movie may not have the emotional impact that its looking for, but it succeeds thanks to Nolans assiduous application of his craft. Also with Cillian Murphy, Jack Lowden, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keoghan, Tom Nolan, Harry Styles, and Kenneth Branagh.

The Emoji Movie (PG) Crying face emoji. Angry face emoji. Poop emoji. Nauseated face emoji. Skull and crossbones emoji. Bomb emoji. Wastebasket emoji. Dagger emoji. Anger symbol emoji. Radioactive sign emoji. Biohazard emoji. Thumbs-down emoji. Exclamation question mark emoji. Stop button emoji. Voices by T.J. Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris, Maya Rudolph, Jennifer Coolidge, Christina Aguilera, Sofia Vergara, Sean Hayes, Rachael Ray, Patrick Stewart, and Steven Wright.

47 Meters Down (PG-13) Since The Shallows became a hit last summer, everybody else has to have a shark flick. This one cant hold a candle or even a shaky flashlight to that film. Mandy Moore and Claire Holt star as sisters who are trapped in a shark cage that comes loose from the boat and hits the ocean floor. English director Johannes Roberts (The Other Side of the Door) cant think of anything inventive to do with the situation or with the open ocean and limited visibility that the setting offers. The acting from the two actresses is undistinguished at best as well. Look elsewhere for your B-grade thrills. Also with Matthew Modine, Yani Gellman, Chris Johnson, and Santiago Segura.

A Gentleman (NR) Sidharth Malhotra stars in this Indian comedy as a boring American-based realtor and a dashing Mumbai undercover agent who happen to look exactly alike. Also with Jacqueline Fernandez, Sunil Shetty, Darshan Kumar, and Zachary Coffin.

Girls Trip (R) In the raunchy summer female comedy tournament, this one defeats Snatched and Rough Night. Regina Hall stars as an Oprah Winfrey-like lifestyle guru who invites her college friends (Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish) for a weekend of partying at the Essence Festival in New Orleans. The raunchy summer female comedies tend to be for the white women, so its gratifying to see the black women get in on the action, and do it to hilarious effect. Some of the subplots play out predictably, but who cares when youve got set pieces like a zipline ride across Bourbon Street that goes wrong? Haddish winds up upstaging her more famous co-stars repeatedly, especially during a sex demonstration with a grapefruit and a banana. Also with Larenz Tate, Mike Colter, Mike Epps, Lara Grice, and Kate Walsh.

The Glass Castle (PG-13) Woody Harrelson steals the show in this film adaptation of Jeannette Walls memoir as the authors damaged, drunken, abusive dad whos always planning to build his children a glass house when hes not picking up the family and running from the law. Walls life story is packed with incredible incidents, so much that the movie even leaves out the one where she was thrown from her parents moving car and her parents didnt notice, but director/co-writer Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12) has trouble wrangling all of it into proper shape. Brie Larson does all right by the lead role, but its Harrelson, brimming with shame, regret, and an anger that hes powerless to control, that youll remember more than anything. Also with Naomi Watts, Ella Anderson, Chandler Head, Max Greenfield, Josh Caras, Sarah Snook, and Robin Bartlett.

Good Time (R) Robert Pattinson has never been more convincing than in this hellish, grimy thriller about a small-time thug from Queens who spends a frantic night and day trying to bail his mentally handicapped brother (Benny Safdie) out of prison. Safdie is also one of the directors here along with his brother Josh, and they have a feel for New Yorks seedy underbelly and its tendency to mix with the citys richer side at unexpected times. They build up a sense of remorseless momentum and take in all the collateral damage that the protagonist inflicts on everyone he meets in his single-minded determination to help his brother and his own incessant hustling. Watching this guy destroy himself is undeniably riveting in these filmmakers hands. Also with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Taliah Lennice Webster, Buddy Duress, Necro, Peter Verby, and Barkhad Abdi.

The Hitmans Bodyguard (R) Theoretically, this is a comic thriller. In practice, this is really just Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson sitting in cars for long periods, being snarky, and hoping that something funny will happen. Jackson plays a contract killer about to turn states evidence against an Eastern European dictator (Gary Oldman) when his security is compromised and hes forced to turn to a disgraced former bodyguard (Reynolds) with whom he has an unfriendly past. The action sequences make no sense, the stars have no chemistry, and theres no comic material for them to work with anyway. Also with Elodie Yung, Richard E. Grant, Rod Hallett, Sam Hazeldine, Joaquim de Almeida, and Salma Hayek.

Ingrid Goes West (R) This enjoyable comedy is the first one to satirize social media influencers, now that thats a thing, and gets a fair chunk of the target. Aubrey Plaza stars as a crazed stalker who moves to L.A. to go all Single White Female on her favorite Instagram blogger (Elizabeth Olsen) because shes gullible enough to mistake peoples flawless internet facades for reality. Director/co-writer Matt Spicer never quite works out how far gone Ingrids mind is, and Plaza doesnt project the characters unease at interacting with the real world or her capacity for violence. Still, she balances physical comedy with more nuanced bits where she turns passive-aggressive in the presence of any threats to her relationship with her new bestie, and her climactic monologue into her phone is well done. We have yet to see the first great comedy about how far our perfect social-media selves from us, but we will. Also with OShea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Pom Klementieff, and Billy Magnussen.

Kidnap (R) Laughably bad. Halle Berry stars in this thriller as a single mother whose 9-year-old son (Sage Correa) is forcibly kidnapped from the park, and who chases after the kidnapper in her car after she loses her phone. Nothing that happens here is remotely believable, not the police ignoring the high-speed chase through the city, not the mechanics of the chase itself, not the way the kidnappers work, and certainly not the mothers lengthy monologues to herself while shes driving. This is so actively terrible, youll wonder how it got into the movie theaters at all. Also with Chris McGinn, Lew Temple, Dana Gourrier, and Jason George.

Leap! (PG) This wildly misconceived animated film is supposed to take place in 19th-century France, but the characters wisecrack like contemporary American kids. Elle Fanning is the voice of an orphaned girl from Brittany who escapes from her orphanage with a friend (voiced by Nat Wolff), and they make their way to Paris, where she cottons on at a prestigious ballet school and fulfills her dream of becoming a dancer. This film was originally done in French, and maybe it was better in that language, but the American dub is so lame that you wont be curious to find out. Additional voices by Kate McKinnon, Carly Rae Jepsen, Maddie Ziegler, and Mel Brooks.

Logan Lucky (PG-13) Steven Soderbergh returns to filmmaking and reminds us what a nifty flair he has for light entertainment. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver star as two brothers in West Virginia whove fallen on hard times and decide to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the running of the Coca-Cola 600. Soderbergh delights in these uneducated folks ingenuity when it comes to pulling off a big heist on a limited budget, using Gummi Bears and cockroaches painted with nail polish as part of their intricate plan. Yet the most fun comes from his offbeat casting, including Seth MacFarlane as a boorish British racing sponsor and Daniel Craig giving his funniest ever performance as a platinum-haired safecracker, delivering his lines in a high-pitched redneck twang. Its good to have this filmmaker back. Also with Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Farrah Mackenzie, David Denman, Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, Dwight Yoakam, Jon Eyez, Macon Blair, and Hilary Swank.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature (PG) Less interesting than the original, maybe because it has the same plot. Will Arnett reprises his role as the antisocial squirrel named Surly who has to learn once again to work with the other animals in order to survive after a greedy mayor (voiced by Bobby Moynihan) decides to pave over the city park where they all live. The whole enterprise seems to lack inventiveness and even energy. Additional voices by Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph, Peter Stormare, Bobby Cannavale, Isabela Moner, Jeff Dunham, Gabriel Iglesias, and Jackie Chan.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (PG-13) The best high-school movie so far this year. After a bunch of angst-ridden Spider-Men, Tom Holland headlines this relatively and invigoratingly carefree outing. Director/co-writer Jon Watts (Cop Car) keeps the whole thing from Peter Parkers teenage perspective, where participating in the academic decathlon looms as large as battling the villain (Michael Keaton), a screwed-over salvage worker now making weapons for the supervillain. The supporting cast is subtly loaded, but the best parts go to Peters school friends, and the most rewarding scenes are him interacting with his Star Wars geek pal (Jacob Batalon), the pretty girl he wants to ask out (Laura Harrier), the cool loser chick (Zendaya), and the nerd bully (Tony Revolori). A predictable third-act twist notwithstanding, the web-slingers latest reboot is well worthy of him. Also with Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Donald Glover, Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green, Martin Starr, Hannibal Buress, Kenneth Choi, Garcelle Beauvais, Michael Chernus, Selenis Leyva, Abraham Attah, Angourie Rice, Tyne Daly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Evans, and Jennifer Connelly.

Tales of an Immoral Couple (R) This Mexican comedy stars Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Cecilia Surez as two high-school sweethearts who reunite 25 years after their breakup and set off a chain of chaotic events. Also with Paz Vega, Natasha Dupeyrn, Juan Pablo Medina, Mariana Trevio, and Andrs Almeida.

A Taxi Driver (NR) A Korean history lesson told with enough skill to make it go down easy. Jang Huns thriller tells the true story of a West German journalist (Thomas Kretschmann) and a Seoul taxi driver (Song Kang-ho) who risked their lives to document the 1980 Gwangju Massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators by South Koreas new military dictatorship. The movie delicately balances the grim historical situation with the comedy of the early going between a cabbie with little English and a reporter with no Korean. Some of the action is historical liberty; its not true that the journalist got out thanks to a fleet of Gwangju cabdrivers who covered their escape. Still, the whole thing is anchored by the great Song, who couldnt be a better choice to play an ordinary man who becomes a hero. Also with Ryu Jun-yeol, Yoo Hae-jin, Park Hyuk-kwon, Um Tae-goo, Yoo Eun-mi, Ko Chang-seok, Jeon Hye-jin, and Daniel Albright.

War for the Planet of the Apes (PG-13) These movies continue to wash over me without making much of an impact. Andy Serkis reprises his role as Caesar in this third installment thats also a retelling of the Book of Exodus, as Caesar has to lead his apes from their jungle home to a new place in the desert when they start being terrorized by a ruthless military colonel (Woody Harrelson). The biblical parallels are pretty exact we get a mountain avalanche instead of a parting of the Red Sea and theyre filled out with Holocaust parallels, as the colonel winds up imprisoning the apes in a concentration camp. The CGI effects are done well enough, but they cant quite cover up how run-of-the-mill this story is. Also with Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Karin Konoval, Michael Adamthwaite, Gabriel Chavarria, Terry Notary, Toby Kebbell, Judy Greer, and Ty Olsson.

Wind River (R) Screenwriter and Fort Worth product Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water) shows some promise in his directing debut. Jeremy Renner stars as a U.S. Fish & Wildlife ranger who finds a teenage girls frozen body on an Indian reservation and has to assist the FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) in charge of the murder case. Sheridans particularly strong on the scripts procedural elements, depicting the logistical challenges of investigating in such a remote and inhospitable place, and the performances are hard to fault. This movie could have been shorter, and the extended flashback placed just before the climax is a regrettably clumsy misstep. Still, this is a solid Western. Also with Gil Birmingham, Kelsey Asbille, Julia Jones, Teo Briones, Martin Sensmeier, Tantoo Cardinal, Apesanahkwat, and Graham Greene.

Wonder Woman (PG-13) Not all that good, but still yards better than the other DC Comics movies. Gal Gadot plays the warrior princess who gives up her birthright and leaves her island to help an American spy (Chris Pine) bring a successful end to World War I. The origin story means that the other superheroes dont get awkwardly shoehorned in for cameos, Wonder Woman has a character arc (wobbly though it is) thats more satisfying than any of those superheroes have had, and the film owes a great deal to Pine and his comic instincts to keep the story grounded. The movie does leave all sorts of things on the table and doesnt appear to leave the heroine with much place to go as a character, but the good outweighs the bad, on balance. Never send a Man of Steel to do a Wonder Womans job. Also with Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, Sad Taghmaoui, and Danny Huston.

Bushwick (NR) This thriller is about Texan secessionists seizing New York City by force, with Dave Bautista and Brittany Snow as two New Yorkers trying to survive. Also with Christian Navarro, Arturo Castro, Jeremie Harris, Angelic Zambrana, and Leo Minaya.

Legend of the Naga Pearls (NR) This Chinese fantasy-adventure film stars Darren Wang as a thief whos hunted down after he takes a set of pearls belonging to an ancient tribe of flying people. Also with Zhang Tianai, Sheng Guansen, Wang Xun, He Sui, Yu Xing, and Simon Yam.

Lemon (NR) Brett Gelman stars in this comedy as a middle-aged man whose life unravels after his longtime girlfriend (Judy Greer) leaves him. Also with Michael Cera, Gillian Jacobs, Jeff Garlin, Shiri Appleby, Megan Mullally, Nia Long, Rhea Perlman, Fred Melamed, Martin Starr, Rex Lee, and David Paymer.

Marjorie Prime (NR) Lois Smith stars in this science-fiction film as an 86-year-old woman whose companion is a holographic re-creation of her dead husbands younger self (Jon Hamm). Also with Geena Davis, Stephanie Andujar, Hannah Gross, and Tim Robbins.

Patti Cake$ (R) This low-budget comedy stars Danielle Macdonald as a fat working-class white girl from New Jersey who dreams of being a rapper. Also with Siddharth Dhananjay, Bridget Everett, Mamoudou Athie, McCaul Lombardi, Kirk Knight, MC Lyte, and Cathy Moriarty.

Shot Caller (R) Nikolaj Coster-Waldau stars in this thriller as a recently released ex-con who must work with a rival gang to pull off a major crime in Los Angeles. Also with Lake Bell, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Donovan, Omari Hardwick, Holt McCallany, Emory Cohen, and Benjamin Bratt.

The Trip to Spain (NR) This third film in the series reunites director Michael Winterbottom with stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, as they do celebrity impressions and tour the countrys finest restaurants. Also with Claire Keelan and Marta Barrio.

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Film Shorts – Fort Worth Weekly (satire) (press release) (registration) (blog)

August 26th, 2017

Sheridan Nurseries Stops Selling Rodent Glue Traps After PETA Appeal – PETA (press release)

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Garden Supply Company Nabs Mouse-Shaped Vegan Chocolates for Showing a Big Heart to Small Animals

For Immediate Release:August 24, 2017

Contact:Brooke Rossi 202-483-7382

Toronto After learning from PETA that small animals may struggle for days when caught in glue traps adhesivetearing flesh, breaking bones, and becoming increasingly entangledSheridan Nurseries agreed to stop selling all glue traps for rodent control.

In thanks, PETAwhose motto reads, in part, that animals are not ours to abuse in any wayhas sent the garden supply company a box of delicious vegan mouse-shaped chocolates.

Rodent glue traps can torment small, sensitive animalsfrom mice to birds to squirrels, says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. Sheridan Nurseries was quick to agree with PETA that these vile devices dont belong on its shelves.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against using glue traps, because animals who are caught in them lose control of their bodily functions as they struggle to escape. Some chew off their own limbs in an attempt to free themselves. It can take days for trapped animals to die from exhaustion, injury, shock, dehydration, asphyxiation, or blood loss. Glue traps also fail to address the source of the problem: More rodents simply move in to take the place of those whove been killed.

Dozens of retailersincluding CVS, Dollar Tree, Rite Aid, and Walgreenshave banned the sale of glue traps, and more than 200 other well-known entities have banned their use, including the New York City Police Department; six of the top 10 self-storage companies, including Public Storage and U-Haul; dozens of top banks and financial institutions, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs; and more than 70 airports.

PETA has humane solutions to every pest problem, from rats to raccoons. For more information, please visit

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Sheridan Nurseries Stops Selling Rodent Glue Traps After PETA Appeal – PETA (press release)

August 26th, 2017

VH1 Announces Scared Famous Starring Tiffany Pollard, Erica Mena, Drita D’Avanzo, Alaska Thunderfk, and More! – (blog)

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by Damian Bellino 8/24/2017

You ready to get scared, yall!? VH1 has announced a new competition series featuring some of your very favorite reality TV stars called Scared Famous. The new spine-chilling show will premiere Monday, October 23rd at 9/8c with rap legend Redman serving as master of scare-a-monies.

The all star and hilarious cast includes: Alaska Thunderfk (RuPauls Drag Race), Don Benjamin (Americas Next Top Model), Drita DAvanzo (Mob Wives), Erica Mena (Love & Hip Hop), Eva Marcille (Americas Next Top Model), Miss Nikki Baby (Love & Hip Hop Hollywood), Safaree Samuels (Love & Hip Hop Hollywood), Sky (Black Ink Crew), Tiffany New York Pollard (Brunch with Tiffany), and Yung Joc (Love & Hip Hop Atlanta).

The ten famous contestants will face off in a series of gruesome challenges that will pay homage to modern scary movies. According to the official press release, these celebrities will move into an eerie estate in Savannah, Georgia, one of Americas most haunted cities, and test their limits for a chance to donate $100,000 to his or her favorite charity.

Alliances will be formed! Bonds will be broken! And strategy is necessary to stay in the competition!

Wondering how these celebrity contestants will do when put in scary and haunted situations? Take a look at some of their finest moments surviving their own spooky circumstances.

Drita loves getting her Halloween on, living life like a life-size Bratz doll.

Alaska Thunderfk is the mother of the creepy Lil Pound Cake.

A self-proclaimed alien from the planet Glamtron, Alaska was the creator of the doll Lil Poundcake on season five of RuPauls Drag Race. Much like Chucky (or cult-fave Dolly Dearest), Lil Poundcake is a mean lil sicko with a big attitude who looks like the lovechild of Jonbenet Ramsey and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Will Alaska (the winner of Drag Race All Stars) be able to channel her inner Lil Poundcake to come out of Scared Famous victorious?

Erica Mena is terrified ofDOLLS!

Erica you cant handle my mouth, motherfker Mena never let anyone get in the way of her and her hopes and dreams. The one thing that might scare the Love & Hip Hop alum? DollzzzzZZZzzz (Hi, Lil Poundcake! ). Erica always had a fear of dolls and their weird little eyes and in this amazing throwback video, she describes a doll her aunt gifted her knocking from inside of her closet. Nothankyou. No one believed Erica but after she threw away the creepy little bugger, the knocking stopped. Girl. You ready for Scared Famous?!

Yung Joc can handle whips and chains (they even excite him, like Britney and Rihanna).

Yung Joc is Love & Hip Hop Atlantas resident funny man but when he went and done betrayed his ex Khadiyah she had to put him into his place. KD, feeling wronged by seeing seeing footage of Joc sucking his twins mother Sinas toes (!), took matters into her own hands when she tied the rapper up then whooped him nice and good with a belt. Joc can handle the kinky and the dark, so you think he can handle being Scared Famous?!

Eva Marcilles got a bad case of arachnophobia.

Eva gets those heebie jeebies when it comes to spiders so when she was paired up with a supermodel that had eight legs (it was a particularly fierce tarantula) for a photo shoot during her cycle of Americas Next Top Model she had to really pull it together. Eva, of course, went on to win ANTM so perhaps shell be able to face her fears and outlast the rest of her reality TV peeps on Scared Famous.

Tiffany New York Pollard also doesnt like vermin (but her reaction is even more dramatic than Evas, duh).

Tiffany Pollard did the tough work on New York Goes To Work but when Pest Control was the name of the game it was a no for her. Well, lets just keep our fingers crossed that Tiff has to deal with some snakes, mice, roaches, rats, squirrels, pigeons, spiders, scorpions, squid, etc. Her reactions keep us young like vampires. Can she keep it together for Scared Famous?

Safaree Samuels was legit scared of Lyrica G and Pams beef (but not of the ribs at this BBQ)

Safaree made a splash on his first season of Love & Hip Hop Hollywood but when he got caught in the middle of a family feud at A1 and Lyricas he was scurred but he was able to keep his composure enough to finish his plate. With all the drama queens around him, hopefully his cool-as-a-cucumber attitude will keep him rockin til the end of Scared Famous.

Don Benjamin can handle being manhandled by the Tyra Banks.

The ANTM alum had has back waxed on the show and when he encountered a bit of a breakout, Tyra Banks came to the rescue as his own personal Dr. Pimple Popper. Don wasnt scared of getting his back waxed, wasnt scared of a supermodel extracting a few zits, so whats he have to lose on Scared Famous?

Sky scared the hair right off Rah Ali.

You know when you get so spooked, your hair stands up straight? Well, you know Sky is trained-to-go and when she and LHH alum Rah got into an argument about an eyelash company (or something), she literally scared that hair right awf of Rashidah. Bloop. Hopefully Sky can stay focused and keep her head in the Scared Famous game.

Miss Nikki Baby made a woman blow chunks during a fight.

It was not entirely clear why Nas had beef with Miss Nikki Baby but when Nikki showed up to Nass event, Nas literally puked. Nas said it was because of all of Nikkis plastic surgery but Nikki just kept it pushing. She can handle someone vomitting at her feet and still look amazing. So, we cant wait to see Nikki in her Fashion Nova fit running through a cemetery gettin all Scared Famous.

Who are you rooting for? Scared Famous will premiere on Monday, October 23rd at 9/8c.

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VH1 Announces Scared Famous Starring Tiffany Pollard, Erica Mena, Drita D’Avanzo, Alaska Thunderfk, and More! – (blog)

August 25th, 2017

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Jurassic Jumble – Marvel (press release) (registration) (blog)

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Back in the 1980s, Alex, Julie, Jack, and Katie fought aliens, befriended mutants, and discovered how to be heroes as one of Marvels first ever preteen superhero crews, POWER PACK. After 62 issues, the series came to a conclusion in 1991, though the characters would go on to appear in titles such as AVENGERS ACADEMY and FANTASTIC FOUR AND POWER PACK.

On November 1, Marvel Legacy heralds the super siblings return in a special one-shot POWER PACK #63 by writer Devin Grayson and artist Marika Cresta!

Devin filled us in on what we can expect from the return of the Pack. What attracted you to working on POWER PACK? Were you a fan of the original run?

Devin Grayson: A colleague introduced me to Power Pack in 2000, after my book about a young super hero team, Relative Heroes, came out. I was thrilled to discover another family teamnot to mention a title created by [series writer] Louise Simonson, who I greatly admire. I immediately fell in love with June Brigmans expressive art and the authenticity Louise brought to the young characters. Each of the four kids is really unique, and, once youve met them, its impossible not to start caring about their story. When does POWER PACK #63 take place?

Devin Grayson: My story is actually set a few months after The Return of Power Pack, the short story by [writer] John Allison and [artist] Rosi Kmpe that was featured in CIVIL WAR II: CHOOSING SIDES last year. So we can call that present dayas long as we acknowledge how aging works in comics (very slowly). 30 of our years have ended up being about six of theirs, meaning that Julies in college at Empire State University and Katie and Jack are still living at home. Alexs whereabouts are, of course, something of a mystery, and thats an issue my story takes on thematically. Any confusion you may feel about where he is pales in comparison to his own familys concern.

I also make use of flashbacks in the story, though, so new readers will be able to see the team in all of its original gloryand long-time readers will hopefully experience a nostalgic thrill. I know that many of us, myself included, are excited to see how these kids will age, but thats the kind of thing I think we would need to see develop on stage in a series. In a one-shot like this, though theres a temptation to jump ahead, I think it works best to underscore and explore the status quo. What are the Powers up to in your new story? Who might they be facing off against?

Devin Grayson: This story focuses on Katie, who is facing the ultimate nemesis of American 11-year-olds: school work. Though shes technically too old now to be afraid of the proverbial bogeyman, Katie Power has direct experience with another Bogeymansome of us might remember him as her dads old boss, Mr. Carmody. There are a few elements that made the original series so uniquetheir family dynamic, the Kymellian and the Snarks.

Devin Grayson: We dont actually see the Kymellians or the Snarks in this issue, though there are a few Easter Eggs for attentive fans.

The story, though, is very much about familial relationships, which shouldnt surprise anyone with even a passing familiarity with my work. I dont think I could have avoided that theme if I tried. Whats it like working with Marika Cresta on this one-shot?

Devin Grayson: I feel so lucky to have Marika on board for this! Shes incredibly excited to be doing her first work for Marvel. For those of you unfamiliar with her, Marika studied with Sara Pichelli and was discovered by one of Marvels talent scouts in Italy during a portfolio review at Lucca Comics & Gamesa comic book and gaming convention in Tuscanyin 2016.

Shes a phenomenal new talent, and although Im sure theres nothing she cant do, she has a particular gift for capturing the energy and sensitivity of younger characters. Shes also incredible with body language and beautiful, detailed backgrounds. I cant wait to see the story come to life in her hands! Finally, of the four siblings, did any end up being your favorite to write? Who was the most challenging to create?

Devin Grayson: Personally, I relate most strongly to Julieher academic leanings, her sexuality, and her status as an elder sibling all make her extremely accessible to me. But this story is really about Katie and Alextheir relationship.

Both Katie and Jack, as athletic younger siblings who tend be more impulsive than their older brother and sister, were more challenging for me. They both have such distinct voices though, they dont end up being difficult to write; theyre the kind of characters that huff at you in frustration if you get them wrong and dont stop pestering you until you fix whatever displeased them.

These characters that Louise created are so individuated and so aliveI cant imagine new readers not being excited to meet them. And I hope their existing fans enjoy spending time with them again as much as I did!

Devin Grayson and artist Marika Crestas POWER PACK #63 awakens on November 1!

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Jurassic Jumble – Marvel (press release) (registration) (blog)

August 15th, 2017

Mark Blazis: Save the garden, then dine well – Worcester Telegram

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Mark Blazis

I had an unforgettable wild game dinner this week. While it didnt approach the perfection of the rare Arctic char or buttery Ora king salmon I recently reveled in at the Sole Proprietor, the pan-fried woodchuck was profoundly satisfying.

Woodchuck, despite being the very favorite food of our local coyotes, is probably not on your menu. But trust me, any animal that eats down to the ground all of your wifes garden lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, beans, peas and squash has to be nutritious, tender, sweet, juicy and deserving to die.

Yes, for the second year in a row, my wifes garden was a woodchucks dining room. I shared her frustrated emotions because I had helped plant that garden and was looking forward to many special meals from our mutual effort.

Woodchucks are problems everywhere in Massachusetts except on Marthas Vineyard or Nantucket. Since these big rodents are poor swimmers, they never colonized those fortunate islands. But everywhere else, they can be a pest, and sometimes a nightmare.

The havoc they inflict on property can be extensive, too. Woodchuck tunnels are normally deep just below frost line and about 40 feet long, complexly dug with several amenities: chambers analogous to a baby room, a bathroom and a bedroom. They even build an observation mound at their entry hole. With several escape holes, their home is difficult to eliminate.

If you can find and block all exit holes but one and put carbon dioxide in that remaining hole, you might be able to kill them all inside. Remember its illegal to use any poisons on wildlife. Unintentional secondary killings can result. Predators like foxes, coyotes, and owls that pick up poisoned rodents can later die as a result.

Trapping them can be a problem, too. If you live-trap them, as I did, remember its illegal to transfer wild animals from one area to another. That can spread diseases, like rabies. Sometimes youre just transferring your problem to someone else. Killing them is often the only reasonable alternative unless you can effectively fence your garden.

I needed a sure, simple, quick resolution and revenge. So, I immediately set out a live-capture cage trap baited with the woodchucks favorite food. These insatiable vegetarians cant resist the aroma and flavor of broccoli and cantaloupe.

I put a well-broken and highly fragrant head of it in the rear end of the trap and little fragments to linearly set a trail right into it. I finished the fatal attraction by smearing the cage with the juicy melon and putting a mashed, fragrant chunk of it at the far end of the trap, too.

I took note of our prevailing westerly winds and placed the trap where its alluring scent would carry a long distance over the stone wall and into my neighbors field from which it would surely come.

The next morning, I found the fat robber in my trap and felt the primitive joy of sweet revenge. I quickly dispatched it but couldnt bring myself to just waste it. I then went forth with the spirit, if not the skill of Julia Child, to prepare a gourmet delicacy out of a woodchuck.

I field-dressed it immediately to insure freshness. During the skinning, I made sure to remove the copious rump and thigh fat, and the seven scent glands on its back and front arms. I then proceeded to store it in my cellar refrigerator for four days to let it age and tenderize. Listening to advice that was then coming from all culinary directions, I soaked the meat one night more in a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar with a sliced onion, then drained and parboiled it in fresh water for an hour.

While most woodchuck chefs advise cutting up the meat into chunks for a slow-cook, low-heat, crock-pot stew, I wanted to experience the real, unembellished flavor of the meat. Since there was no significant back-strap, I coated just the hindquarters with egg, then Panko, pan frying them on low heat in coconut oil about 5 minutes on each side. Panko burns too quickly in hot oil.

I wanted to celebrate both the saving of our garden and the deliciousness of the animal, serving it with an appropriately elegant presentation reflecting all the complexities of bringing it to the table. I asked my much more qualified wife to arrange the presentation. Having a profoundly comedic sense of humor, she even designed a Woodchuck Wine label to place on our preferred Riesling and set our table in view of the garden from which our dinner had been richly nourished.

Our verdict was mixed. While the woodchuck was sweet, mild, and surprisingly tasty on its own without any sauces, its dark leg meat was just a bit stringy, much as what one might expect from any squirrel species.

If a second woodchuck raids our garden again, I plan to make a stew, creating a bed of onions, carrots, celery and green peppers in a crock pot, cooking it on low for about 10 hours. I would expect its sweet, tender meat to flake off the bones and take on the added flavor of herbs and spices.

Its a shame woodchucks are so destructive because otherwise theyre quite charming and even comically entertaining. Incidentally, woodchucks dont chuck any wood. Their name is a corruption of the Cree Indian word wuchak, meaning big squirrel. They are in fact our biggest squirrel and like their arboreal cousins can readily climb trees and short fences but with much less quickness and style.

Woodchucks definitely arent all bad, even though theyre costly to farmers, and occasionally their burrows result in leg injuries to cows and horses. They surprisingly can help agriculture, too. New York biologists estimate that these compulsive diggers annually aerate and excavate 1.5 million tons of subsoil, which they bring up to the surface and convert into valuable topsoil.

But you can be sure that if woodchucks move into my neighborhood again next year, Ill put out a live trap before we plant our garden and have another woodchuck recipe ready to try.

(Those who choose to shoot woodchucks must follow all hunting laws. You must be licensed and refrain from shooting without permission within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling or within 150 feet of a road.)

Contact Mark Blazis at

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Mark Blazis: Save the garden, then dine well – Worcester Telegram

August 15th, 2017

Coyote ugly – Clarencebee

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Concern grows toward aggressive coyote behavior

Chuck Anderson has lived on Tonawanda Creek Road for 18 years. In April, he had his closest-ever encounter with the coyotes that he hears howling on a nightly basis.

(See editorial on page four)

Anderson routinely lets his dogs out at 10:30 p.m., and they often find creatures to bark at and run after within his fenced-in yard. On that April night, Anderson remembers them barking particularly loudly as they spotted something just beyond the fence.

When Anderson looked up, he saw a coyote approaching the fence line. When one of his dogs stuck his nose through the fence, the coyote bit him underneath the right eye.

Anderson quickly collected his dogs while attempting to scare the coyote back into the wilderness.

Ive never seen one that was that confrontational and didnt care that I was standing there screaming at it from a foot away, he said.

Anderson, who worked for more than 30 years for the Erie County Sheriffs Office, says hes now armed when he accompanies his dogs outside.

Its far more prevalent now than ever, he said. On my street alone, theres been five or six dogs killed, plus a pony.

Hes not the only one ringing the alarm. The town has fielded an unusually high number of reports regarding coyote sightings this summer. So much so that it felt compelled to issue a notice to the residents of the Stonebriar neighborhood last week after a coyote attacked a small dog while its owner was outside and nearby.

Valerie Acee, a resident of Clarence Center Road, said she was sitting in her living room with her husband in broad daylight when they saw a coyote walk across their yard, only to see another one just hours later.

Ive been here since 1998. Weve never had a coyote in our yard before, she said.

Jim Braun, who lives within a cul-de-sac that backs up to Ransom Creek, has also called Clarence home since 98. Until recently, he, too, had not seen coyotes so close to his property during the day. In speaking by phone with The Clarence Bee, Braun said the sightings do seem to be occurring with greater frequency.

Its all woods behind us there he goes again! Braun interjected while describing the layout of his property, noting that theres a coyote that appears to be frequenting the woods behind his home.

He hasnt threatened anything as of yet, Braun said. Hes staying way at the back of the property, and hes not coming in close to the house.

The state Department of Environmental Conservations Region 9 office, which handles environmental concerns related to Western New York, states that while there are factors that could cause coyotes to become bolder during this time of year, the office has not seen an increase in reported coyote activity or attacks.

Kristen Davidson, a public affairs representative for Region 9, told The Clarence Bee that the office received two calls about a coyote in Clarence Center last week, and both were from neighbors who had only heard about the problem.

Coyotes are an integral part of New Yorks natural ecosystem, but can also come into conflict with people if they become habituated to humans and food sources, Davidson wrote in an email. With the onset of warmer weather, many of New Yorks coyotes will set up dens for pups that arrive in the spring. Coyotes are well-adapted to suburban and even urban environments, but for the most part will avoid contact with people.

Researchers at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry estimate that there are roughly 30,000 coyotes in New York. Due to the time of year, says the DEC, coyotes can become more territorial and more active during the daytime during pup-rearing season.

Making matters worse, coyotes can come to associate people with food when homeowners leave scraps outside. This is a dangerous game, the DEC notes, because the coyotes can lose their natural fear of humans, and the potential for close encounters or conflicts increases.

While the diet of coyotes naturally includes squirrels, rabbits, turkeys, mice and deer fawns, coyotes are more than willing to feast on any food that people throw away.

I think one of the main problems is the food source. People could be feeding birds, feeding their own pets out on the back porch, and coyotes are out there during the day getting dinner, said Town Supervisor Patrick Casilio. If they know theres an easy food source, theyll be out there. People also take out table scraps and dump them in the woods for the animals. All of that is going to draw the coyotes closer to homes.

Casilio said that at his house he had seen two different coyotes walk through his yard on consecutive days last week. He stated that he is planning to petition the state for a longer hunting season and is trying to amend the towns deer abatement program to include coyotes.

In the fall, trappers can get permits to trap coyotes and other small game. Hunters can shoot coyotes but not within 500 feet of a private dwelling. Casilio believes that while these options should be considered, ridding the coyotes of easy food sources needs to remain a common-sense initiative.

I think it would make it far safer for the public if we can eliminate food sources, he said. That would be more effective than any abatement program or extension of a hunting season.

The town has removed dams from the Ransom Creek area in an effort to mitigate potential coyote dens. Casilio added that the town is set on hosting an information forum for residents that will include animal advocacy groups such as the Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Environment, though a date has not been set.

He also pointed out that private homeowners have more power than the town does when dealing with coyotes encroaching onto property.

We cannot enter private property and take a coyote, he said. The homeowner is allowed to defend their property if they feel there is a threat there.

While it remains unclear what might cause coyotes to display more aggression than usual during a particular season, the DEC notes that coyotes breeding with wolves in the eastern part of the United States and Canada could cause abnormal behavior, though the best way of minimizing conflicts between coyotes and people is to maintain the animals fear of humans.

The DEC advises residents not to feed pets outside, make garbage inaccessible to animals, eliminate the availability of birdseed and be aggressive when coming into contact with a coyote.

Stand tall and hold arms out to look large. If a coyote lingers for too long, make loud noises, wave your arms, or throw sticks and stones, Davidson wrote via email.

Like Anderson, Braun now accompanies his dog outside every night, and while hes not sure that eradicating the coyote population would be the most effective solution to the growing problem, hes no longer taking chances.

We never thought twice about letting him go out at any time in the day or night, but thats all changed now, Braun said. Were not going to take a chance on him being attacked.

Coyote ugly – Clarencebee

August 15th, 2017

A Brief History of Traveling With Cats | Travel | Smithsonian – Smithsonian

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My three-year-old cat spends most of her time lounging by the window. It faces the high branches of the tree outside our apartment, and she stares intently out at the rusty-red wood thrushes and brown house sparrows that perch there; her eyes dilating when the occasional squirrel rustles the branches.

Shes a seventh-floor housecat who longs for the outdoors. But even if there was a feasible way of letting her go outside, I wouldnt let her loose on native wildlife on her own (if youre not familiar with the war being waged between cats and birds, my colleague Rachel Gross has chronicled it in all its gory detail here).

So, as a compromise, last year I bought her a leash. After some initial hiccups, we have settled into a rhythm where I buckle her into her harness, scoop her up and carry her down to the soft grass adjacent to a nearby duck pond. There, I let her down, and her whims dictate our path.

Often, people stare. Sometimes, theyre walking their dogs: big ones, small ones. They squint at my cat, trying to decipher if perhaps she, too, is just a poorly shaped one of them.

Shes not. Shes a cat on a leash, and shes not alone.

Earlier this summer, Laura Moss, a human at the center of a community helping introduce housecats to the outdoor world, published a book, Adventure Cats, bringing awareness to some remarkable cats who are out there hiking, campingeven surfing.

Moss, who also runs a website by the same name (, explains that this kind of cat is far from a new phenomenon. People have been doing this withtheir cats long before social media existed, she tells But in recent years, the community has received new recognition, she says, in large part thanks to people sharing photos and videosof their furry friends on various media accounts.

Its not exactly surprising that it took the internet (which, undeniably, has done much for cats) to bring new awareness to this kind of anti-Garfield feline.While cats have been arguably unfairly stereotypedas anti-social, afraid of water, lazyhistory contradicts that narrative.

From their beginnings in Egypt, the Middle East, and Europe, domestic cats have accompanied people to almost every corner of the globe, write Mel Sunquist and Fiona Sunquist in Wild Cats of the World. Wherever people have traveled, they have taken their cats with them. Geographic features such as major rivers and oceans that are barriers to most animals have the opposite effect on cats. Almost as soon as people began to move goods around on ships, cats joined ships’ crews. These cats traveled the globe, joining and leaving ships at ports along the way.

While evidence of domestication dates back at least9,500 years (originatingfrom the wild catFelis silvestris lybica), it wasn’t until the Egyptians got their hands on the felines that they became intensely documented.As early as 2000 B.C., Egyptian-made images of catsofferevidence that some of the earliest domestic cats were put on leashes. (Ancient Egyptians used cats to control their vermin population, and likely, these leashes were used so thattheir valuable pest control solutions wouldn’t escape.)

Cats proved so apt at their duties that the Egyptians linked the ratters to their religious deities. By 525 B.C., cats were so revered that legend has it the Persians were able to invade Egypt in part by having soldiers bring cats to the battlefield. TheEgyptians, the story goes, chose to flee rather than harm the animals.

Though it was illegal in ancient Egypt to export domesticated cats, people snuck a few out, andcats began to spread throughout world, with the earliest record of a domestic cat in Greece coming from a 500 B.C. marble carving of a leashed cat challenging a dog.

But the rise of Christianity signaled a sharp change in the way cats were perceived. To counter their Egyptian associations with divinity, in1233 A.D., Pope Gregory IX issued the bull Vox in Rama, which linked catsespecially black catswith Satan, writesJohn Bradshaw inCat Sense.For the next four centuries, cats faced gruesome deaths in Europe due to superstitious associations with witchcraft and bad luck. Still, despite the cat’s poor reputation, itsability to keep rodent populations at bay on ships meant that even during this turbulent time, more and moredomesticated cats were undertaking what Gloria StephensinLegacy of the Catcalls a widespread migration to seaports of the world.”

These adventurous cats didn’t just keep cargo rodent-free, they also provided companionship to sailors and explorers, the U.S. Naval Institute notes.Mrs. Chippy, a tiger-stripedtabby, for instance, witnessedErnest Shackleton’sill-fated expedition to theAntarctic in 1914. The cat belonged toHarry “Chippy” McNeish, the carpenteron board theEndurance.As the crew soon found out, Mrs. Chippy was actually a Mr., but hisname stuckandhis personality soon endeared him to the crew.Unfortunately,Mrs. Chippy met a sad end. After the Endurancewas caught in ice, Shakelton ordered that the crew reduce down to its essentialsandhadthe menshoot Mrs. Chippy. Today, a bronze monument to the cat stands inWellington, New Zealand, by McNeish’s grave.

Other ship cat stories abound. Viking sailors took cats with them on long journeys, and ifNorse mythology is any indication, Vikings enjoyed a healthy respect for their cat companions. (Freja, considered the greatest of all goddesses, employs two cats, Bygul and Trjegul,to pull her chariot. In her honor, it even becametradition among Vikings to gift a new bride with cats.)

Later, when the First World War broke out, cats found favor amongsoldiers who kept them for pest control,as well as company,on thebattlefield. An estimated 500,000 cats served on warships and in the trenches.Mark Strauss details the “brave and fluffy cats who served” over atGizmodo, highlighting felines like”Tabby,”who became the mascot for a Canadian unit.

During the Second World War, one of many cat tales involved Winston Churchill, who famouslytooka shine to Blackie, theship cat aboard HMSPrince of Wales. The large black cat with white marks, who was later renamed Churchill,kept the prime minister company across the Atlantic on his way to meet with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Newfoundland in 1941. (Controversially, some cat fans took issue with a shot snapped of the two, however, where the prime minister is pictured patting Blackie on his head:[Churchill] should have conformed to the etiquette demanded by the occasion, offering his hand and then awaiting a sign of approval before taking liberties, opined onecritic.)

Even today, thetradition of the ship’scat sails onthe Russian Navy sentits first caton a long-range voyageto the Syrian coast just this May. In modern times, though, ship cats are no longer are allowed towander off seaports uncheckeda situation that once proveddevastatingtoclosed ecosystems.

Not until themid-18th century,though, did the cat start clawing its way back to good graces in Europe. Bradshawnotes that Frances Queen Maria made the cat more fashionable in Parisian society, while in England, poets spoke highly of the felines, elevating their status. Then, during the late 19th century, cats found a champion: writer and cat lover Harrison Weir. Weir, considered the original Cat Fancier, created the first contemporary cat show in 1871 in England. (Its considered the first contemporary show because technicallythe very first-known cat show was held at the St. Giles Fair almost 300 years earlier, but those cats were judged solely on their mousing abilities.)

He had been distressed by the long ages of neglect, ill-treatment and absolute cruelty towards domestic cats had suffered, and his main objective in organizing the first show was promoting their welfare rather than providing an arena for competitive cat owners, writesSarah Hartwell in a Brief History of Cat Shows. One of the cats entered in the showwas his own, a 14-year-old tabby named The Old Lady. The show brought cats back into the spotlight, celebrating them and raising their status as domesticated pets.

But just because cats were put on leash in these early exhibitions, that didn’t mean they were also promenading around London.

I wouldnt say that putting cats on leashes was a particular fashionat least, not one Ive come across in my own research, Mimi Matthews, historian and author of the upcoming book The Pug Who Bit Napoleon, tells in an email. For cat shows, it was simply a practical way to restrain a cat when it was out of its cage.

Still, thanks to the success of the cat show, the first cat associationthe National Cat Club of Great Britainwas formed in 1887 (followed shortly by a national mouse club in 1895). It was around this time that the first “viral” images of cats circulated: AnEnglish photographer named Harry Pointer had graduated from shooting images of cats in natural settings to placing his”Brighton Cats” in amusing situations where the cats appeared to be riding a bicycle or drinking tea from a cup. His Victorian-era pet portraits reinforced the ideathat cats could be seen as more than just pest control.

Thetransition from ratter topampered housecat had a ways to go, though. As Abigail Tucker writes inThe Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World, until the mid-20th century, cats were still mostly used to eradicate rodents, something a journalist for theNew York Timesillustrates whilechronicling his observations on daily life abroad in Moscow in 1921.

“The queerest thing I have yet met in this land where everything is so different and topsy-turvy is cats on leashes like dogs in the streets,”he writes. That wasn’t because Russians viewed the house pets similarly. Instead, as the reporterexplains, the reason came down to rats:”There are so many rats nowadays, and cats are relatively so scarce, that they are too valuable to be allowed outside alone, so their owners give a good ratter an airing on a leash.”

For the domestic cat to become the family pet, technology had to advance. The advent of cat litter in 1947 proved crucial, as did moreeffective pest-control methods that while not retiring cats from their centuries-old job, certainly made it less pressing. Of this shift frompest control to household companion, Tucker writes, perhaps our firesides were as good a place to retire to as any.”

But why were cats treated so differently than dogs when they took on their new role as companions?

It’s true that dogs are much easier to take out for a walk. Domesticated roughly13,000 to 30,000 years ago, they have been selectively bred for companionship. Domesticated cats came on the scene relatively recently by comparison, and as a cat genome sequencing projectpublished in 2014shows, moderncats remain only semi-domesticated, and because of that, training a cat to walk outdoors isn’t as simple as snapping on a leash, somethingJim Davis’ Garfield comic strips pokes endless fun at. When Garfield’sowner,Jon,tries to take the famed feline for a walk, Garfieldrepeatedly resists his efforts, until John comes to theconclusion in 1981 that leashes just arent right for cats.

Gender stereotypes might also play a role in why more haven’t tried, though. Cats have historically read as female. In a study of greeting cards,Katharine M. Rogerslinks”[s]weet, pretty, passive kittens” with how girls and women were pressured to beinThe Cat and the Human Imagination.

“They attend on little girls on birthday cards, and they fill in the image of home, whether they sit by the rocking chairs of nineteenth-century style mothers doing embroidery (1978) or perch on a pile of laundry that Mother should leave undone on Mother’s Day (1968),” Rogers writes. Promisingly, however, she observes that contemporary cards have started to reflect a larger imagination for its subjects(“as women appear in nontraditional roles, cats are shown with men”), which could help fight the idea that the housecat’s place is only in the home.

Of course, not all cats are made to roam the great outdoors. AsMoss observes, cats are like humans. Some housecats are more than happy to spend their days relaxing by the couch, and indeedhave no desire to venture outside.

But they’re not the only cats out there.

The “adventure cats” that shechronicles, likea black-and-white feline named Vladimir, who is on his way to traveling to all 59 U.S. national parksor a polydactyl Maine Coon named Strauss von Skattebol of Rebelpaws(Skatty for short), who is sailing the Southern Atlantic ocean, show another kind of cat onethatnods back to the fierce felines of history who sailed the world, survived Europe’s crusade against themand made it all the way to Memedom.

Unlike outdoor cats and feral cats, who pose a danger to local species populations in the wild, these cats are safely exploring the world. Their stories, which today are enthusiastically shared and liked on social media verticals, break open the role of the house catand show off acommunity of cats that have long been takingthe world by the paw.

Enjoying the breeze!

A post shared by Strauss von Skattebol (Skatty) (@straussvonskattebol) on Mar 7, 2017 at 11:34am PST

Originally posted here:
A Brief History of Traveling With Cats | Travel | Smithsonian – Smithsonian

August 14th, 2017

GAM Exterminating – Pest & Termite Control

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GAM Exterminating – Pest & Termite Control

August 14th, 2017

CINNAMON JANZER: Dogs have better manners than some children – Apalachicola Times

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Cinnamon Janzer | The Washington Post

In her 2014 New Yorker essay “Pets Allowed,” author Patricia Marx explored the proliferation of fraudulent emotional support animals (ESAs). Marx began by asking why so many pets are allowed in places they “shouldn’t be,” followed by an image of the author in a drugstore with an alpaca at her side. By telling a therapist a made-up story about her childhood, Marx obtained ESA credentials to tote “five un-cuddly, non-nurturing animals” around New York City. She took a turtle into an art museum, a pig into an airport and a snake into a fancy boutique.

Marx smartly and humorously illustrated how easy it is to game the system, blaming the phenomenon on a lack of understanding and regulation around ESA laws combined with animal lovers who have no problem bypassing their own doctors and going online to buy ESA credentials, likening transgressors to able-bodied adults whose vehicles sport handicapped license plates. Marx isn’t alone in her displeasure with pets being where they “shouldn’t be” others have railed against dogs in stores, dogs in restaurants and dogs who have a high spot on their owners’ priority lists.

I have experienced anxiety and depression for years, and I’m one of the pet owners Marx’s piece and those who share her sentiments take aim at: I’m an unmarried, childless millennial whose dog is at the center of her universe.

A 2015 study in the journal Science found that when gazing into each other’s eyes, dogs and humans bond the same way humans do with each other. The connection was evinced in dogs by increased oxytocin levels after gazing and increased gazing after sniffing oxytocin. The BBC explains that this chemically fueled bonding is the same process that creates a connection between mothers and babies.

In other words, the bonds between people and animals, especially dogs, can be just as significant and in fact very similar to those that we share with our own human family members.

Thanks to a likely combination of delayed parenthood, empty nesters and more-flexible-than-ever work arrangements, “pets are becoming a replacement for children,” San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge told The Post.

But would a decent parent consider flying with their child caged in the cargo hold? Of course not. Yet buying seats for pets isn’t allowed, and in any number of public places where one might happily take a child, pets are banned except where ESA credentials are available. If people especially young people are increasingly relying on pets to serve as family members, it’s time to rethink how we integrate animals into our daily lives, especially considering current research on pet allergies suggests pet hair and dander are unavoidable thanks to transfer via clothing.

While having control of our pets and training them to be well behaved is essential, there are a variety of places that ban pets but allow children regardless of their behavior, which can border on tyrannical (think of a toddler running and screaming through a restaurant). While Cadillac strollers the size of a small car are allowed on public transportation, dogs larger than purse-size usually are not. In bars and other places where pets don’t pose hazards to food safety, people should be able to spend time with their pets but often aren’t permitted to.

Renting should also be a more pet friendly experience refundable deposits are reasonable, but if landlords don’t charge toddlers rent, it seems unfair to charge pet rent, especially since toddlers and well-behaved pets pose similar risks to walls and floors. Likewise, the lack of pet-friendly hotels are also an issue, something that once drove the cost of a move across the country up by hundreds of dollars for me a cost that no parent would or should ever incur.

As Peter Singer explains in his book “Animal Liberation,” the rights of women was a notion so laughable in the 1700s that it was satirically likened to the equally audacious idea of animal rights. We now understand the former to be a gross misinterpretation of reality. What should the future hold for the latter?

Janzer is a writer and editor living in Minneapolis whose work stems from the intersection of travel, culture and social justice.

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