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Wants You to Know

Summer Concert Season Not Over Yet

A concert at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. Photo by: KJ Mushung

KJ Mushung

By KJ MUSHUNG

It may be August but the summer concert season has shows well into September within easy driving distance and for a lot less than you might expect. But first, you’ll have to head south.

Fredericksburg
Celebrate Virginia Live
Celebrate Virginia Live has brought a wide variety of great performers to an area that didn’t used to host big name concerts. Residents of Fredericksburg are grateful not to have to drive to Richmond or D.C. for their entertainment. The good thing is neither do you.

Country music singer Trace Adkins plays tonight. Rocker Bret Michaels will perform Aug. 23. Tickets for that show start at just $18.50 for general admission but go up to $100 for platinum, ear-bleeding seats.

Richmond
There are multiple options for concerts in the Richmond vicinity. Two of the best are Innsbrook After Hours at the Snagajob Pavilion and the Groovin in the Garden series held at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

Innsbrook After Hours
The Band Perry is slated to perform Aug. 21 with tickets going from $30 to $60. Classic rocker and former Richmonder Pat Benatar (with Neil Giraldo) will kick it in gear Aug. 28 for $20 to $40 per ticket.

In September, country music fills the bill with Darius Rucker on Sept. 5 and Montgomery Gentry on Sept. 19. Tickets for those shows start at approximately $20 and run up to $60 and can be purchased at TicketsToBuy.com, which is a reputable locally-owned ticket-selling company.

Groovin in the Garden
This concert series is unique in that it takes place at a pavilion on the grounds of the botanical gardens. Although you must bring your own chair or blanket (unless you purchased Gold Circle seating), there are some benches just out of sight but within full hearing range of the pavilion. As with Innsbrook After Hours, there are food and t-shirt vendors set up. But really, you get to watch great performers create music in one of the most beautiful settings. And if the weather’s great that night, bonus!

One caveat, all these shows for all the venues listed here are outdoors and held rain or shine.

Fortunately, the weather held up nicely for this week’s performance. Virginia native Bruce Hornsby performed in the beautiful setting of the gardens Tuesday night. Railroad Earth opened. The show included surprises such as a rap by Hornsby’s son, Russell, a jam with opening band Railroad Earth and a version of Mandolin Rain not heard before the tour.

The event was a Music For Massey benefit concert.

The series’ next show will be Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn on Sept. 25. Tickets cost from $28 to $50 for that show and can be purchased at TicketsToBuy.com.

Bring a lawn chair or blanket (maybe an umbrella) and enjoy some superb music by some great performers.

Easy drives, low ticket prices, a chance to get friends together and go out before the summer’s gone. What’s stopping you?

Virginia native Bruce Hornsby jams with opening band Railroad Earth in the beautiful setting of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens on Aug. 6, 2013, in Richmond as part of the Groovin in the Garden series. (KJ Mushung/PotomacLocalNews.com)

Virginia native Bruce Hornsby jams with opening band Railroad Earth in the beautiful setting of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens on Aug. 6, 2013, in Richmond as part of the Groovin in the Garden series. (KJ Mushung/PotomacLocalNews.com)

Hendrick Honda Starts Backpack Drive

Volunteer Opportunities Across the Area

Good morning – Congratulations and thank you to all the volunteers who joined us last week at the 30th Annual Community Volunteer Recognition event. It was a great day and we are most appreciative to Congressman Gerry Connolly for taking the time to enter the names of over 1,900 local volunteers into the Congressional Record of the 113th Congress. Many thanks and Cheers to all!

· Hendrick Honda in Woodbridge has started their Annual Fill A Backpack program to help kids at Potomac View Elementary start the new school year with all supplies necessary to be successful in school. You can drop off backpacks with age appropriate supplies such as wipes, glue sticks, crayons, pencils, notebooks and other fun things at Hendrick Honda and they will give you a voucher for a $19.95 oil change. It’s a win-win for all. Please check out their website at: hendrickauto.com for more info.

· Northern Virginia Family Service is looking for volunteers to provide short-term foster care for children. The next foster parent training begins July 13th from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The training will provide you all the necessary tools to give a child warmth and security for this short period. Foster parents must be at least 21-years-old and complete a home study. To learn more and register for the training please call Ginny at (571) 748-2557 or via email at: gsnaider@nvfs.org.

· SERVE is still looking for a few volunteers to work the front desk in all 3 buildings weekdays with either the 9am-1pm shift or the 1-5 p.m. shift. Come be the welcome face to greet visitors, field phone inquiries and process clients for assistance. Please email Jan at:jhawkins@nvfs.org to learn more.

· Literacy Volunteers of America is gearing up for their next volunteer training on July 13th. No experience needed as you will learn all the skill needed at the trainings and ongoing support. Be a tutor and mentor to another adult in their journey to gain more reading skills. Please call them today at (703) 670-5702 to learn more.

· Independence Empowerment Center is hosting its annual ADA Fair on Saturday, July 13 at the Harris Pavilion from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Come out and celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act and learn about assistive technology, service animals, and more. There is still room for vendors. Contact Amanda at 703-257-5400.

· Brain Injury Services is looking for a friendly visitor for a young lady in Manassas. She loves to do crafts and scrapbooking with her aide. This is a wonderful opportunity for a scout troop to do several times or weekly. Please call Michelle at (703) 451-8881 ext. 232 to learn more.

· The ACTS Employment Program is currently accepting applications for their Free Nurse Aide Training Class. You must live in PW County, have a high school diploma or GED, be low income- 30% of AMI and pass drug screen, TB test and background check. Classes start July 25th with evening and Saturday classes and are truly the step up for so many citizens. Please call Rachel at (703) 441-8606 ext. 208 to learn more.

· House of Mercy in Manassas needs Korean translators. One could work offsite translating text for flyers and pamphlets. The second position is to assist on site as interviewer and establishing relationships with elderly immigrants. Please email Ann at:help@houseofmercyva.org for more info

· Birmingham Green Nursing Home in Manassas needs a Korean speaking gentleman to be a friendly visitor to a resident who only speaks Korean. Come by for an hour or so each week to brighten this gentleman’s day. Please Call Zach at (703) 257-6252 to learn more.

· New Creatures in Christ Ministries Food Pantry in Woodbridge needs volunteers to help Tuesday evenings 5-7 p.m. and Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10am-2pm. Teen volunteers are very welcome as they are gearing up for a busy summer supporting families from 2 elementary schools so the kids continue with healthy meals for the summer. Please call Josephine at (703) 409-3022 for more info.

· The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) needs senior volunteers age 55 and older to provide transportation for a veteran to get to their local doctor’s appt. All vets are referred to us by Aging and you’ll have lots of advance notice for their appts. It’s also not too early to sign up to tutor kids in grades K-3 in reading and math next school year. Please call Coleen at (703) 369-5292 ext. 207 for more info.

· Fancy Cats Rescue Team needs volunteers for many positions as it is the kitten time of year. These include; adoption coordinators, caregivers, admin help, drivers, event planners and youth volunteers are very welcome. Please call (703) 961-1056 for more information or via email at: volunteer@fancycats.org

· BEACON Adult Literacy Program needs volunteers in the Manassas area to teach ESL, adult basic Ed, citizenship and conversation. Prior experience is not needed as the free training will give you all the skills needed to be successful. Volunteers may teach either mornings or evenings once or twice a week. Enjoy your summer and start in the fall. Please call Caroline at (703) 368-7491 to learn more.

· If you are looking for other opportunities, please don’t forget to call my wonderful team at Volunteer Prince William. Coleen can help you with the Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSVP) opportunities at (703) 369-5292 ext. 207, Shelley can help with any individual or group project and send you weekly updates if you’d like. Shelley is at (703) 369-5292 ext. 201, and Bonnie can help you with opportunities available in Disaster Preparedness at (703) 369-5292 ext. 202. Please visit our newly re-vamped website at  volunteerprincewilliam.org. Thanks so much for all you do in our community.

Davidson: Sophie Howls When Windows Open

My beloved dog Sophi couldn’t be a better pet, except when I open the kitchen windows.

Then and only then does she start barking uncontrollably. I have not figured out why she does this, but I have found a cure. If I am cooking something that usually causes my stove to smoke and I need to air out the kitchen, (it happens more often than I care to say) Sophi alerts the whole neighborhood.

The other morning, the weather was so nice I thought I’d try to let some fresh cool air in, so I opened the kitchen windows. Sure enough, she started howling and barking loud enough to wake the neighbors.

After unsuccessfully asking her to please shush, I remembered one very unique thing about my Chocolate Lab — she hates water.This is unusual for the breed, but worked out splendidly in this case.

A quick spray from the sink sprayer and not another peep!

A note to anyone that thinks that is a cruel and unusual punishment: Every dog should get a bath.

Alborn: Option to Expand Chinn Center Remains, Why the Discussion about a Swimming Pool in a High School?

Explain this to me. As a Prince William County taxpayer, I just don’t get it.

In 2006, Prince William County Government requested that its residents support a significant bond issue to fund road improvements, park improvements, and new libraries. A well executed public relations program was conducted by the county to educate the public, and ask for their support on a referendum.

You may read the details in an excellent Prince William County Newsletter Special Edition: Information on the 2006 Bond Referendum Questions.

I’m interested in the Parks Bond Referendum at the moment (although I have asked Prince William County for information on the status on all three Bond Referendums that were approved in 2006: road improvements, park improvements, and new libraries.)

If you dig a bit deeper, you will find the excellent staff presentation given on June 20, 2006 at the meeting of the Board of County Supervisors where the proposed bonds were discussed. I invite your attention to the 2006 Bond Referendum for Parks, Item 6-W – Work session for the Library, Park, and Road Bond Referendum.

To summarize the presentation given to the Board, work begun on the Bond Referendum for Parks in 2002 when the then Prince William County Park Authority Board commissioned a Citizen Recreational Demand Survey. In 2003, the Board of County Supervisors adopted a Comprehensive Plan which set goals on how parks and open space would be used in Prince William.

2004 – 2006 Studies: We need more swim facilities 

In 2004, citizen focus groups were convened to identify recreation issues and concerns, resulting in a Strategic Issue Analysis. Also that year, the County Capital Improvement Plan was updated to include projected future park bonds in six year intervals. In 2005-2006, the Park Authority convened meetings with user groups to refine and update the recreational needs analysis.

MORE to the STORY: See seven-year-old documents detailing a planned expansion of the Chinn Park Aquatics and Fitness Center

The end result was “Prince William County needs to expand indoor Recreation Facilities.” It proposed to do this by adding on or renovating existing facilities where possible, and elected leaders were briefed with a design concept and plans to expand the Chinn Center Aquatics and Fitness Center in Lake Ridge.

The processes in developing the 2006 Bond Referendum was incredibly well done. It stands as an example of transparent budget.

The $27 million park improvement package was approved with nearly 76 percent of the vote. So, why do I suddenly care about the 2006 Bond Referendum for Parks?

Chinn Center Expansion Forgotten? 

I would like to know what happened to the proposed expansion of the Chinn Center? Why exactly are we talking about floating a new bond, or adding value to a proposed bond, to build a pool in the county’s 12th high school when we have authority to take on debt and expand an existing facility?

Why exactly are we ignoring the will of the public, and perhaps using this as a path to put the entire pool in a school conversation to rest?

The bond has been approved, and according to Prince William County spokesman Jason Grant, “A voter bond referenda allows the Board to elect to issue debt for up to 10 years from the time it is approved by the voters. So, all three of the 2006 bond referenda will expire in 2016.”

I’m sorry; however, the rhetoric I read regarding funding pools in schools from some of our elected officials and Prince William County employees reminds me of the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight.” People are lobbying for a new pool in a school when Prince William County already has the authority and the support of the community to raise money through a bond to expand an existing pool.

Why exactly does the Prince William County School Board want to get into the pool business when Prince William County Parks Department has the experience, the facilities, and the authority to raise money to expand?

2006 Bond an example of good public relations 

The 2006 public relations campaign to educate the public on Prince William County’s desire to raise money through bonds is a textbook example of good governance and citizen involvement. The 2013 discussion to build a pool in a school is perhaps, well, not so much.

As a taxpayer, I strongly suggest Prince William County Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart and Prince William County School Board Chairman Milt Johns to take a breath, take a look at not only the authority they already have to finance additional swimming facilities,but also the process used to gain that authority. The public voted (literally), and they want the Chinn Center Aquatics and Fitness Center swimming facility expanded.

Perhaps its time to give the public what it wants, and what it voted for in 2006. Stewart and Johns should also perhaps examine the process used to educate the public, gain its support for the 2006 Bond referendums, and eventually gain voter approval.

If the School Board plans to press on with plans for a pool in a school, perhaps there’s some lessons to be learned. Should the School Board decide to press on with plans for putting a pool in a school, I suggest that the public debate over the issue strongly suggests that the public should weigh in using the referendum process.

Explain this to me. Please.

Volunteer Opportunities Across the Area

Good morning – Keep Prince William Beautiful needs 5 volunteers on Tuesday June 25 from 9 a.m.- noon to perform the annual litter survey. It’s a fun learning experience. Please call Anna at (571) 285-3772 to learn more.

· SERVE is still looking for a few volunteers to work the front desk in all three buildings weekdays with either the 9 a.m.-1 p.m. shift or the 1-5 p.m. shift. Come be the welcome face to greet visitors, field phone inquiries and process clients for assistance. Please email Jan at: jhawkins@nvfs.org to learn more.

· Literacy Volunteers of America is gearing up for their next volunteer training on July 13. No experience needed as you will learn all the skill needed at the trainings and ongoing support. Be a tutor and mentor to another adult in their journey to gain more reading skills. Please call them today at (703) 670-5702 to learn more.

· Independence Empowerment Center is hosting its annual ADA Fair on Saturday, July 13 at the Harris Pavilion from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Come out and celebrate the a.m.ericans with Disabilities Act and learn about assistive technology, service animals, and more. There is still room for vendors. Contact Amanda at 703-257-5400.

· Brain Injury Services is looking for a friendly visitor for a young lady in Manassas. She loves to do crafts and scrapbooking with her aide. This is a wonderful opportunity for a scout troop to do several times or weekly. Please call Michelle at (703) 451-8881 ext. 232 to learn more.

· The ACTS Employment Program is currently accepting applications for their Free Nurse Aide Training Class. You must live in Prince William County, have a high school diploma or GED, be low income, and pass drug screen, TB test and background check. Classes start July 25 with evening and Saturday classes and are truly the step up for so many citizens. Please call Rachel at (703) 441-8606 ext. 208 to learn more.

· House of Mercy in Manassas needs Korean translators. One could work offsite translating text for flyers and pamphlets. The second position is to assist on site as interviewer and establishing relationships with elderly immigrants. Please email Ann at: help@houseofmercyva.org for more info

· Birmingham Green Nursing Home in Manassas needs a Korean speaking gentleman to be a friendly visitor to a resident who only speaks Korean. Come by for an hour or so each week to brighten this gentleman’s day. Please Call Zach at (703) 257-6252 to learn more.

· New Creatures in Christ Ministries Food Pantry in Woodbridge needs volunteers to help Tuesday evenings 5-7 p.m. and Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Teen volunteers are very welcome as they are gearing up for a busy summer supporting families from two elementary schools so the kids continue with healthy meals for the summer. Please call Josephine at (703) 409-3022 for more info.

· The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) needs senior volunteers age 55 and older to provide transportation for a veteran to get to their local doctor’s appt. All vets are referred to us by Aging and you’ll have lots of advance notice for their appts. Please call Coleen at (703) 369-5292 ext. 207 for more info.

· Fancy Cats Rescue Team needs volunteers for many positions as it is the kitten time of year. These include; adoption coordinators, caregivers, admin help, drivers, event planners and youth volunteers are very welcome. Please call (703) 961-1056 for more information or via email at: volunteer@fancycats.org

· BEACON Adult Literacy Program needs volunteers in the Manassas area to teach ESL, adult basic Ed, citizenship and conversation. Prior experience is not needed as the free training will give you all the skills needed to be successful. Volunteers may teach either mornings or evenings once or twice a week. Enjoy your summer and start in the fall. Please call Caroline at (703) 368-7491 to learn more.

· If you are looking for other opportunities, please don’t forget to call my wonderful team at Volunteer Prince William. Coleen can help you with the Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSVP) opportunities at (703) 369-5292 ext. 207, Shelley can help with any individual or group project and send you weekly updates if you’d like. Shelley is at (703) 369-5292 ext. 201, and Bonnie can help you with opportunities available in Disaster Preparedness at (703) 369-5292 ext. 202. Please visit our newly re-vamped website at volunteerprincewilliam.org. Thanks so much for all you do in our community.

Mary Foley is the Director of Volunteer Prince William.

A Little Practice Allows for Cooking Outside the Lines

A Fresh Focus

I was sitting in the airport a few weeks ago during a long layover when I was lured into one of those stores that has everything from tacky souvenirs to gum and magazines. Since it had been a long day of travel, I decided to treat myself to a magazine for the plane.  Struck by the delicious looking pesto pasta on the cover, I decided to spring for Bon Appétit.

Flipping through Bon Appetit...

Flipping through Bon Appetit…

I flipped through the pages of food stories and recipes like a newly engaged woman would flip through a bridal magazine.  The vibrant colors of well-prepared veggies, desserts, and meats made me giddy. I felt compelled to start writing a grocery list immediately. Not to mention the kitchen tools I’d yet to acquire—yes, I have a food processor, but I’m still missing so many cooking necessities, like a mortar and pestle and a mandoline.

While I love food blogs, cookbooks, and magazines, I have long been afraid of branching out on my own to paint outside the lines of the given instructions and ingredients. I am so impressed by people who are able to do this, putting spices and flavors together in a way that tastes incredible.  I have visions of serving up a dish that I’d conceptualized and created entirely on my own, inspired by what I picked up at that weeks Farmer’s Market and any leftover ingredients sitting in my fridge. 

It wasn’t until I started cooking with friends that I learned that I could bravely change things up a bit.  Don’t have the cheese the recipe calls for? Well, use whatever cheese you have and see how it goes!  Think the batter looks a little thick? Add an extra splash of milk!  Worst case scenario of culinary creativity is an inedible product.  But most of the time, little changes to a recipe won’t make it so different that it turns out terrible.

Join us at the City of Manassas Farmers Market Thursdays at the Harris Pavilion and Saturdays in Parking Lot B (corner of West and Prince William Streets) from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

In the past, I had a Monday tradition of baking bread. Homemade bread is so delicious and definitely superior to the bread you can find at the store, which is typically loaded with preservatives.

After you practice doing anything enough, you start to understand subtle differences between when it’s going to turn out well and when it will be a little lackluster.  This applies to both bread, and cooking in general. When you better understand the subtleties of the produce, meat and flavors, you can easily get a little spontaneous with a good end product.  

So this is my goal for the year: Become so familiar with my favorite foods and flavors that I can cook outside the lines a little. I want to look at magazines like Bon Appétit for inspiration on how to make my own creation and only follow directions when something really grabs me. Wish me luck; I’m sure I’ll need it starting out, but the reality is, this is how amazing food is created.  I encourage you to take this journey with me and explore the Farmer’s Market for inspiration.  Ask our friendly vendors for help or suggestions and then create your own master pieces for you and your family to enjoy.

At the market the other day, someone asked me “Are you a chef? I see you here every week taking notes and buying things.” I laughed out loud, but was secretly flattered.  Perhaps this mistake is sending me some good culinary juju.  If you’re mistaken for a chef, maybe it’s just a matter of time before you become one…at least this is my hope.

Kotlus: College Funding Worries Prince William Graduates

Schools Blog

Finding funds to pay for college is no easy task, whether you have a college savings plan or if a student works through college and takes advantage of options at one of Virginia’s community colleges.

The topic on the minds of some of those who spoke at the Prince William County School Board meeting Wednesday night was financial literacy. As many in the U.S. struggle with credit card debt and mortgages, student loan debt also lands graduates, who’ve just turned their tassles, on a road to financial instability despite doing “the right thing” by going to school.

In fact, on Wednesdsay night, some students came to talk about just that topic. One recent graduate urged the school board to provide more money for scholarships because “Students shouldn’t have to worry about anything but grades.” Another noted her dreams of going to school in New York City encouraged her to look for others to help fund her college dreams because “loans can be a hassle”.

By the time students head off to college many should worry about a lot of things, including making responsible, adult decisions, that will pay off in the long run. For example, those who seek schools of choice just because its in a particular city may not be the best choice for students, according to a list recently released by Forbes.

The financial magazine recently ranked colleges with the best return on investment, noting that families need to approach higher education the same way they’d approach any major financial decision, with planning, logic, and an eye on overall value.

Potomac Local Launches Pets Page

As a child, I grew up living with dogs and cats in my house. In fact, there were so many German Shepherd dogs in many home I sometimes wondered if I was living in their house.

As pet owners, animals have found a special place in our hearts. We play with them, care for them, shop for them, and in turn, they help comfort and bring us joy.

But many animals in our community don’t have a place to call home. They don’t have a place to play, and most importantly, they have no one to love.

With the help of Steve’s Auto Repair in Woodbridge – an organization I have truly found to be “community minded” through our work with the Prince William County Boys and Girls Club, we’re proud to launch our Potomac Local Pets Page — a comprehensive guide to lost and found pets in our area, and pets up for adoption who need a good home.

Starting with the Stafford County SPCA, we plan to work with as many interested shelters, veterinary offices, and our readers to bring post as much information as we can about local pets deserving of a good home. I hope you check back often, and tell a friend about this new community resource.

Despite Special FX, Sci-Fi, ‘Man of Steel’ Comes Down to Fist Fights

“Man of Steel” has arrived, and trust me on this, he is one of the good guys.

We didn’t need another Superman. We have the comic books and I was raised on the 50’s TV show starring George Reeves. There were more TV shows and two separate movie re-boots. So it’s impossible to approach this movie without pre-conceived notions. I decided to just sit back and watch director Zack Snyder’s (Watchmen) version in the spirit of truth, justice and the American way.

It starts on the familiar pins of the Krypton destruction with baby Kal-El jettisoned toward earth. The foundation of hope is laid here in Krypton, just as it is on earth.

We give birth to a child and then send them out into the universe. As his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe of Gladiator) says, “My hopes and dreams travel with you.” Unfortunately, General Zod (Michael Shannon of Mud) and his henchmen are soon to follow.

Putting on the cape this time is Henry Cavill (The Cold Light of Day) as Kal-El/ Clark Kent/Superman. From this point on the audience, like Clark Kent, is on a new path. Gone are the cheeky cliché’s and winks at the past.

This is a story about family and a guy (I know, an alien, but stick with me) who is different. A guy who is not from here, who has to find his place and his purpose. He takes a big step when he meets Lois Lane (Amy Adams from Enchanted), a nosy reporter who will not let his story go. 

Everything would have been great if that General Zod had not shown up and claimed the earth. Sure, the movie sets Superman up as a Christ-like figure. And then he saves us, but that does not make him “the” savior. He’s just a guy that grew up here, and now belongs here, and does the right thing for what has become his home.

I am not qualified to critique the legend and lore that has been 75 years of Superman. But I do know a good movie when I see one. With themes of family and duty and life decisions, this movie has lots of sci-fi and special effects. It still bothers me that it comes down to fist fights. From John Wayne, to Star Trek to Superman, we have not moved past the guy with the best right cross wins.

In the end, this movie shows us what a guy can do with good parents and a girl that believes in him. I have been lucky that way myself. I give this movie 4 stars out of 5. If you can watch this movie and not be moved, then I think you may be made of steel.

Tom Basham is a Virginia filmmaker and writes BashMovies.

Class of 2017 T-Shirt, College Lunch Tickets on Mom’s Must-Have List

Mom on the Run

I have moved the postcard probably 100 times. It normally lies on the kitchen table, but because we’ve had company over recently – high school graduation brings out friends and family – it’s been moved around to make room for visitors and food. I’ve brought it back to the kitchen table, though, front and center, because it’s important, and has a deadline, and I didn’t want to find it too late.

021113-freedom-mom-tagNow, finally, graduation has come and gone, and it’s time to focus on college. I have memorized my son’s move-in date: August 23. That seems far in the future, but I know how quickly the summer will go. As it’s my second child leaving for college, I also know that there are lots of things due to the school between now and then. I haven’t been paying much attention, I wanted to get through graduation first, but there’s no more avoiding it.

First up, this postcard. I know it well, from all that moving around: “Limited Edition Class of 2017 Gear. Available for a very limited time. For students, for families, for anyone who has school pride!”

“Available for a very limited time” got my attention, of course. And “school pride.” Yes! Of course my son wants Limited Edition Class of 2017 Gear! Of course I want to get it for him! So I’ve saved the postcard. Carefully.

The first item offered: “Class of 2017 t-shirt. Every year a custom t-shirt is designed especially for the entering class of new students. This t-shirt is only available through this offer, don’t miss out!” Oh, a class t-shirt is definitely a must-have. And only available through this offer! I’m on it!

Next up: “Class of 2017 baseball cap. Weathered-look cap with embroidered logo on the front and ‘Class of 2017’ on back.” My son wears baseball caps. Often. And this is a limited edition too. Yup, another must-have.

Then, “Class of 2017 laundry bag. Durable black nylon mesh bag with drawstring. Logo screenprinted in white.” Oh, no, thank you. School pride? On a bag of dirty clothes? Nah.

Finally, “Parent and family lunch ticket. Parents and family members are encouraged to join their student for lunch on the first day of orientation.” Well, that seems like a requirement, right? Lunch with my kid? The last meal, before leaving him at school and going home to – choke – an empty nest?

Really, my decisions were made the first time I saw this postcard. There’s only one question: Do I need three lunch tickets, or four? Will my college-senior daughter be joining us at drop-off day? And that little question has stopped me from placing this order, and finally sending this postcard to its final recycling bin resting place.

So. Today. We’re all together, eating lunch, all four of us, holy cow, and for whatever reason I remember the postcard, and, “Oh!” I look at my daughter: “When are you going back to school?” “I don’t know.” “OK, when do classes start?” I get a shrug in response. “Right around September 1, right?” She shrugs again, this time with a little nod. “Are you going to come with us to drop your brother off at school? On August 23rd?”

Finally, an answer she knows. “Yes,” and she nods. Firmly. One nod. That was my guess; I didn’t think she would miss the big day. “OK, then, I’ll get four tickets to the lunch.”

“Wait,” she says, putting her hand up for emphasis. “The lunch by the college? On move-in day?” “Yeah,” I reply casually. “We can buy the tickets now.”

“No,” she says, emphatically. “He’s going to be eating at that cafeteria every day for the rest of the year. We’ll go somewhere nice for lunch that day. Off campus.” And she looks meaningfully across the table at her brother. 

“Just looking out for you, bro,” she tells him.

“Thanks,” he says, nodding.

“Oh,” I say, surprised and deflated. And being wrong on the orientation lunch makes me wonder about the t-shirt, and the baseball cap, and … nah. I’m still pretty sure about the laundry bag.

Alborn: Residents Losing Faith in VDOT over Bi-County Parkway

Opinion

When I heard about Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton’s uttering those words, I couldn’t believe it. When I heard it from multiple sources, I was shocked. I lost faith in Transportation Planning in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“You guys would never make it on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors; we live for bushwhacking people,” Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton said, as quoted in GreaterGreater Washington.

Frankly, if the allegation that Connaughton actually made this statement in a public forum “for the record” (so to speak) is correct, I am surprised Governor Robert F. McDonnell didn’t fire Connaughton for making such a statement. It undermines residents’ trust in those appointed to be stewards of our lives and money, and discredits McDonnell’s entire administration.

Transportation planning is a math problem, and the math is complicated. The public must have full trust and confidence in the Virginia Department of Transportation before willingly giving up their lifestyle, their environment, and in some cases their homes, before signing up letting the bulldozers run a strip of asphalt through what used to be their home.

Right now, Prince William County residents don’t trust the math behind the proposed outer beltway project. That’s a problem.

For full disclosure, I was on the Prince William County 2013-2016 Strategic Planning Team. In the Strategic Plan we delivered, Transportation Strategy Number 5 was, “Take the leadership role to build the Va. 234 North Bypass (the “Road to Dulles”), a key connector road for the region, linking major economic development centers in Prince William County to Dulles International Airport.”

It was neither presented or discussed as a “cargo route to Dulles”. I believe that like the rest of the Planning Team (although I may only speak for myself), we considered the idea of a road that would help alleviate Northern Virginia’s traffic problem by giving commuters a new north-south route.

The assumption when agreeing to something like this is that the math will be honest, public input will be seriously considered, and community buy-in would be fundamental to moving forward to such a dramatic change to Prince William County, Virginia.

As a member of the Strategic Planning Team, I also stressed taking a systems view of Northern Virginia’s Transportation Problems. With today’s technology, Transportation Planning should include strategies to take people off the roads as part of the solution set.

Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-Fairfax, Prince William, and Frank Wolf, R-Loudoun, Prince William, led the successful passage of the President’s Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which mandates that Government Agencies extend telework to all qualifying employees.

Connolly, a leader in telework thought and legislation, is contemplating how to expand telework to the Government Contracting community. Connolly gets this “taking people off the roads” thing.

Back in the Strategic Plan, you will find telework in Transportation Strategies 7, which states we should “coordinate the county’s organizational initiatives on teleworking, flexible schedules, and other means of reducing commuter trips with the state legislative agenda.” Number eight states “support and endorse federal, state, regional and local telecommuting efforts.”

Our transportation planners continue to build roads because that’s what they do. They collaborate with the people who build those roads because those are the folks who are organized and equipped to lay the asphalt, and profit from it.

Perhaps its time to add some technology planners to the transportation planning mix, and redefine the problem we are trying to solve.

I would suggest that its time to stop thinking solely about moving people to the information that they need to do their job by laying more asphalt, and start incorporating strategies to move information to the people who need it wherever they may be.

This would mean bring a new set of technology players to the market. It would also mean new, high technology jobs, increased technology sales and services opportunity, and perhaps retrofitting Northern Virginia for the 21st Century instead of always defaulting to the way we use to do things.

Under the McDonnell Administration, trust and confidence in Northern Virginia transportation planning is gone. There have been too many mis-communications, mis-representations, questions, and confusing facts to allow this project to proceed in the current political and public climate. It’s locked into the “build more roads” mindset while dismissing technology opportunities to take people off the roads.

We need a reset. I strongly suggest McDonnell intercede quickly put a stop to any planning for the outer beltway under his administration. Anything that impacts Prince William County this much, literally changes its character and the lives of its residents forever, should seriously consider those in its path. By the way, everyone who ever uses or lives anywhere near Va. 234 between U.S. 1 and Dulles lives in its path.

We need a “different kind of” Secretary of Transportation, and a new way of defining just what problem we are trying to solve. It’s not about moving lots of folks around twice a day. It’s about connecting people with the information they need to do their job.

That doesn’t necessarily require a road, or a car, or the expenses associated with either. It does require a systems view of the problem, and a break from the “roads are always the answer” mindset.

Perhaps transportation Planning for major initiatives in Northern Virginia should simply be suspended until the next Governor is sworn in, and a new Virginia Secretary of Transportation is selected. Something that changes the lives of Prince William County residents so profoundly can wait a few months for a new set of eyes.

Vexed About Pool Parking

After a long, somewhat chilly spring it’s finally summer. But not just summer – it’s the start of Beach Week. And if you’re reading this, then you are probably stuck in weekend getaway traffic and so bored you’re surfing the web on your over-priced phone.

I don’t blame you.

Traffic’s a given. That’s why I don’t go out of town just after school lets out for the summer. But I do go to the pool, and that’s why I’m vexed.

Every year on the busiest days, from the moment the swimming pool opens, some inconsiderate people double park in the already crowded pool parking lot. Yeah, I’m talking to you in the silver sedan with the Department of Defense parking sticker.

Thanks to you, Mr. Doubleparker, I have to park down the hill on the street and carry my family’s pool equipment. But it’s not just towels, swimming noodles, sunscreen, floats, boogie boards and the like that I have to haul. I also must load a heavy baby in his heavy car seat on top of a heavier stroller, which I have to push with my elbow, while calling out to my other child and his friend to please help out. But they’ve already run ahead, canon-balling into the water while yelling “Marco” and “Polo.”

Therefore, I have no choice but to destroy you with laser beams that I imagine shooting out of my eyes as I finally make it up the hill and pass your smugly double-parked car. Please forgive me as I envision another car parking next to yours and dinging the door because you’re way over the white line. And don’t mind the flier I put under the windshield advertising parking lessons. I’m doing everyone a favor.

[Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

[Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

Potomac Local’s Mushung Wins 10 Virginia Press Women Awards

KJ Mushung, a reporter and copy editor for Potomac Local News, won 10 awards in the Virginia Press Women’s annual contest. Six of the awards were for her work at Northern Virginia Community College and four for work in Potomac Local News. One of the entries for NOVA went on to win a national award.

For Potomac Local News, Mushung placed first in both food writing and environmental writing, she placed second in online feature writing and in general news story online.

“I try to tell the most important aspects of a story without cluttering it. And if I can uncover some local color that adds depth, that’s an additional benefit. For my article on the waterweed Hydrilla clogging Quantico Bay, I researched and conveyed the history of the area because I felt it was important to know why the makeup of the waterway had changed so much,” said Mushung.

The VPW is a statewide organization of professional communicators, such as journalists and public relations specialists. It’s open to both women and men and promotes the highest ethical standards, fosters the exchange of journalistic ideas and serves the public’s right-to-know.

There is no separate division in the VPW for smaller newspapers. All entrants compete against each other no matter how small or large the media outlet, business or school.

Prior to winning these awards, Mushung placed first for pictorial photo in the Virginia Press Association’s annual contest in the online division for an image of the National Museum of the Marine Corps. She also placed first, along with Publisher Uriah Kiser, for feature series in the online division.

Some of the winning articles that Mushung wrote can be found here:

Chefs Prepare Foods Adored by George Washington

Invasive Plant Plagues Bay as Dumfries Faces Steep Dredge Costs

Woodbridge Little League Gets to Share Spotlight with President

4 Seriously Injured in Aquia Crash

Back in Manland, Fashion Advice Flows

Mom on the Run

I have already had this conversation with Carlos, so I’m all set when he walks up to greet Dave, as Dave and I stand and chat between sets. It’s a regular weekday afternoon, and Manland – the free weights room at the gym – is bustling.

“Hey, Dave, look, UnderArmour is going to have to start paying Carlos to wear his clothes, he makes them look so good.” I parrot back to Dave the compliment that Carlos gave himself just a little while ago.

021113-freedom-mom-tagCarlos, hearing, grins widely at my remark. “Hey, check it out, look at this,” and he walks up close to the seated row bench where I’ve been working out. Carlos raises his right foot to the bench, rests his elbow on his knee, and lifts his fist to beneath his chin. He adopts a serious half-smile and gazes ahead, striking his best male model pose.

“See,” I point out to Dave, grinning at Carlos’s hamming it up, “his shirt, it matches his pants!” It cracks me up when guys in Manland match their clothes; they are such girls in here! Luckily Carlos recognizes the humor in the situation, and doesn’t take offense at my laughing at him. His new shirt is bright royal blue, with black patterned sleeves and the same pattern on side panels.

The funny part is that they match the shorts – black, with the same black patterned side panels, designed to line up with his shirt. The ensemble looks like it came straight out of a catalog, or off a mannequin, and that just makes me laugh. Big brawny weightlifters, the most macho men imaginable, buying outfit sets? Spending time picking out flattering, trendy clothes? Ha ha ha!

Dave looks Carlos up and down. “Nice,” he says. But then he waves at Carlos’s feet: “What about your shoes, man?”

“I know!” I jump in, agreeing. “That’s the same thing I said!” Because Carlos is decked out in peacock blue and black, but his shoes are gray. Just blah gray. They don’t match at all. They’re so off that even Dave noticed!

“Yeah,” Carlos says, shaking his head sadly. “I should have gone with my yellow shoes. I thought these would match better, blue and gray, you know, but I guess not.” We all three stare down at Carlos’s shoes. I also shake my head sadly, tut-tutting.

“Well, now you know,” I offer. “Next time.” The gray sneakers are just too dull to be matched with the flashy shirt and pattern. Carlos’s regular shoes, bright yellow, his favorite color, would have been a better pairing.

“You got the socks, though,” eagle-eyed Dave offers, softening the blow of the sneaker criticism. I look, too: sure enough, just peeking above the shoes, on Carlos’s ankles, black UnderArmour socks. I nod, agreeing with Dave: the socks match! And then, kindest of all, Dave, looking back up, sweeping over the whole outfit, clinches it: “You look great. I wish I had your body.”

“Aw, really?” Carlos says. He smiles, and he brings up his right arm, flexes it, and we all look at his biceps. Then he brings both arms in, curves his hands in front of his stomach, and flexes his chest. Dave and I both watch.

Then, realizing his comment sounded strange, “Well, your biceps, anyway,” Dave amends, “definitely.” And I stand there, watching these two huge bulgy weightlifting men preen and compare and talk about clothes, and I bite my lip to keep from laughing about the crazy place that is Manland. Again.

Kiser: Lets Send Children to Camp This Summer

I think Prince William County / Manassas Boys and Girls Club Regional Director Glenn Vickers said it best at the Steak ‘N Stake awards dinner on Friday night – children in Prince William County and surrounding area will be out of school in in a week and they’re going to need a place to spend their summer.

As the weather gets hotter, for us reporters, that means covering more stories involving accidents, crime, and possibly even some unfortunate incidents involving children. But, as a product of the Boys and Girls Club, I know children who have their minds engaged, those who are involved, those who are active, and children who take an active role in their communities are more likely to have a more rewarding summer and are less likely to appear in unfortunate news stories. While there’s no scientific proof, its common knowledge children who are properly cared for do better.

We can help our children have a better summer this year, and you can help me “Send a Kid to Camp” by donating what you can – even a few dollars – to our online donation drive. We don’t ask for much here, and we certainly don’t charge you to read the news on our site, but we owe it to ourselves to help a children in our community have a better summer, learn a new craft or skill, set out on a field trip, meet new faces, and to have a positive place to learn and grow before school starts again in the fall.

The “Send a Kid to Camp” campaign is in its final seven days, so I’m asking you, our loyal readers, to do what you can to help because I know the value of what the Clubs can offer.

As a child, at the Boys and Girls I was able to use a computer, learn how they worked, and then learned how to use them to help me excel in school even when my family couldn’t afford one at home. Today, my knowledge of computers in the world of communication appears to have paid off. I’m certain that another child deserves the same opportunity.

 

With Potted Plants, Know More about Foods You Put into Your Body

A Fresh Focus

I have killed many plants in my day.  Once, I even killed a bamboo plant, which is actually quite difficult. Bamboo is probably the only plant that would survive the apocalypse.  My inability to keep plants of any variety alive concerns me, partly because I love homegrown produce and partly because this can’t bode well for motherhood (but that’s neither here nor there).

Since I now have great access to plants at the market, I thought I’d give gardening another try.  I imagine there would be a strong sense of accomplishment in cooking something that I grew myself. So I decided to start small — I picked up an eggplant in its infancy one week, and last week when herbs were on sale, I got a rosemary plant and a mint plant.  

Upon purchase of my herbs, I asked many questions to the vendor. What size pot do I put it in? How often do I water it? What are the chances that I can do this successfully? He laughed at me, and shamed me for being a “farmer’s market person” and knowing this little about how to garden.

My eggplant is growing bigger each day!

My eggplant is growing bigger each day!

My first few weeks as a plant owner started out slow.  I forgot to water my eggplant. Which, I would imagine is probably what kills plants.  Fortunately, my roommate also has a plant on our porch that she legitimately takes care of, so she gave my eggplant some water until I finally decided to get my act together. 

Join us at the City of Manassas Farmers Market Thursdays at the Harris Pavilion and Saturdays in Parking Lot B (corner of West and Prince William Streets) from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. 

When I realized that my plants were starting to wilt, I felt motivated to succeed. I stopped by the garden center, bought some terra cotta pots, some potting soil, fertilizer, and asked a lot basic questions about taking care of plants.

A little overwhelming, yes, but I think I can make it work this time. Now that I’ve put some real effort into it, I get home with an excitement to check on my plants. While I am not sure that I’ll become one of those people that names or sings to her plants, I feel confident that I keep these  alive long enough to utilize their fruits in my recipes.

Gardening (and farming) is particularly valuable to me, as I find that we are living in world where there is consistently less trust between producer and consumer.  We don’t often get to meet the producer of the items that we put in our bodies.  Instead, we scan ingredient lists on the sides of boxes, looking for something recognizable (Xantham gum? Soy lecithin? Yellow #5?).  Do we know what we’re eating anymore? Do we understand the impact these things have on our health?

I am excited to use an ingredient that I produced.  There’s confidence in that.  It’s also the beauty of the Farmer’s Market. I challenge you to take the opportunity to get to know the vendors you buy from. Ask them about their farming practices. Ask them about their irrigation practices and their use of pesticides.  Ask our meat vendors about their feed and their treatment of animals.  You have an opportunity to be an informed consumer and take charge of your health.

If you’re interested in starting your own garden, too, and know as little as I did, our market has “Master Gardeners” available to answer your questions every other Saturday. They will be out this Saturday.  Come out and see us! 

Alborn: Unlikely Duo Takes On County Executive over Logo

If you aren’t familiar with Prince William County Government’s logo selection issue, you might as well move on. The details have been well covered on this website.

I’m not going to rehash the details of “logo gate” other than to summarize that, in many people’s opinion, there were problems with the process from sole source selection of an out of state vendor that created the logo, the lack of citizen or elected officials involvement, disinformation about its intended use, money perhaps 051513-signs-01spent and wasted, and actual costs. I could go on.

Neabsco District Supervisor John Jenkins, the old dog, and Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland, the young pup, came well armed to Tuesday’s Prince William County Board of County Supervisor’s Meeting when the logo was discussed. They came prepared to deconstruct what many in Prince William County considered to be an egregious overreach of power by County Executive Melissa Peacor and her staff, and problems with the process used to create the proposed logo.

Jenkins took a page from General Colin Powell’s Overwhelming Force Doctrine. He came well armed.

Jenkins took staff down one notch at a time for a poor logo, poor vendor selection process, quibbling over the actual costs, and overstepping its authority, He went on to remind staff and the public just how hard the Board had worked on the last budget, bringing up its efforts to find $30,000 to pay for Bluebird bus tours.

After much discussion this spring during the annual county budget process, Jenkins pointed out that money for this logo project was nowhere to be found in that same budget.

You might think this battle would be over, but then Candland started laying down suppressive fire to make sure there were no survivors. He quite deliberately helped county staff build the rather sharp petard upon which he deftly hoisted them with facts to discredit the story he was told.

You may watch the show here. The silence among the rest of the board was deafening during this dialog. I believe the winner in this battle was never in question.

In case there were any survivors, Jenkins presented the results of a Washington Post on-line poll indicating 70% of the poll participants think Prince William County should start over.

Jenkins delivered the Coup de grâce when he changed the proposed motion to a directive for county staff to discontinue further expenditures on this logo, and requested that a work session be established to resolve the issue. I give Chairman Corey Stewart credit for quickly picking up on Jenkins’ theme, recognizing the need for a public process, and community input. The work session is scheduled for July 16.

Local small businesses should take Candland to lunch for exploring the issue of giving Prince William County businesses every opportunity to compete for government work.

I suspect Prince William County staff perhaps learned from this experience. There are only two counties in the Commonwealth with the County Executive form of Government. Exactly what that means, and just how powerful the County Executive and his or her staff is fuzzy line.

I think perhaps the most important outcome of this Board Meeting was to help define that line a bit more sharply. I suspect County Staff will endeavor to make sure there are no more “surprises” like this in the future.

The outcome was sheer poetry. Jenkins and Candland, unlikely allies poles apart on the political continuum, teamed up to bring accountability to Prince William County Government. The idea of the Senior, most liberal member of the Board teaming with the junior, most conservative member “shakes up” the status quo.

This kind of inquiry and questioning is what I expect of those who we elect to act as stewards of our tax dollars.

I hope this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

‘On the Road’ About Cross-Country Madness, Not a Road Trip

By TOM BASHAM

Yes, I read “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac (this year), and then I saw the movie. For some reason, I felt I could not see and review this movie without reading the book. Then I demanded to see it, on demand, because it did not come to a theater within 100 miles of me.

The plot of the movie is rather simple. Sal (Sam Riley of Brighton Rock) meets Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund of TRON: Legacy) and decides to go on the road with him. From the title and the narrative process of the scenes, most would say this is a road trip movie. I don’t think so.

They do have actual destinations and reasons for their cross-country madness, however this story is about taking to the road as a way of life. It’s about the experience of being on the road with strange people in strange places doing strange things at a strange time.

It’s about exploring the country and everything their parents ever told them to stay away from. That list is long, and includes wild women/men, drugs, sex, race, subversive literature and freethinking. All this without a dollar to their names. They know there are laws and rules, and that one day they may have to conform, but not as long as they stay on the road.

The acting talent is passible, and it may help that Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt were not cast. They may have been better, but you would be less likely to see the true characters.

Also, the movie is not ruined with Kristin Stewart (Twilight) as Marylou and Kirsten Dunst (Elizabethtown) as Camille, but there is a whole movie in each of those relationships. I demand to see that movie one day.

There is nothing technically wrong with the movie. They have taken numerous things from the book and done a decent job at giving us a peek at them. But it’s like going to a big church picnic and going down the five tables of food and putting a little bit of everything on your plate. You will be filled up after two hours, but you’ll wish you had just settled on three or four items and made a meal out that.

Of all the beats from the book in the movie, the one they fell short on was Moriarty. We see plenty of his manic drug-infused behavior, but very little of the all-night pseudo intellectual monologues. There was genius there. Why else would Sal follow him?

So how can a great story not be cinematic? Well, I’m no Kerouac, but let me put it this way: “I knew this guy. He was really something, and what we did this one time was – well, you had to be there.” If you read the book, you were as close to being there as you could be. If you see this movie, then it’s like you heard a guy at a bar tell you the story. You got the information, and you might appreciate it, but you won’t understand. For that, you and your crazy friend must go on the road.

I give this movie three stars for the effort. I mean somebody was going to climb Everest because, just like this literary treasure, it was there.

Tom Basham is a Virginia filmmaker and writes BashMovies.

Virginia’s Fire & Rescue Heroes Earned Our Respect

By DELEGATE RICH ANDERSON

In late May, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell proclaimed June 2-8 as the first-ever Fire and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Memorial Week in Virginia.

Just last week, our country and Commonwealth remembered on Memorial Day those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have given their lives in defense of the nation. It is fitting that we also honor

those who have given their lives as members of Virginia’s Fire and EMS community.

During this inaugural commemoration, Virginia will honor firefighters and EMS personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their neighbors, their communities, and their fellow citizens.

Additionally, it is an appropriate time to remember the more than 200 firefighters and EMS personnel who have been recognized by the Virginia Line of Duty Death Act since 1883.

Today, the work of these fallen heroes is carried on by more than 36,000 EMS providers and 125,171 career and volunteer firefighters throughout the Commonwealth. In 2012, these valiant Virginians responded to 79,000 fire calls and 1,217,791 EMS calls.

In our own region, we remember Paramedic Joshua Weissman of the Alexandria Fire Department, who gave his life on February 9, 2012. We also remember Technician Mark Baban of the Fairfax County Fire Department, who made the ultimate sacrifice on January 30, 2012.

In Prince William County, we are blessed by the splendid public service of our own Department of Fire and Rescue, consisting of more than 500 personnel led by an outstanding and dedicated public servant, Chief Kevin J. McGee.

During Fire and EMS Memorial Week, all citizens are encouraged to remember fire and emergency medical personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their community and to pay their respects to the survivors of our fallen heroes.

These heroes have earned our lasting respect. We should give no less.

Crime Thriller More of a Magic Show than Movie

060313-now-you-see-meBy TOM BASHAM

“Now You See Me” at the movie with the same name. This was my second magic movie of the year, but this one is not a comedy. It’s listed as a crime thriller, though it’s more of a “Who done it?”

Four different kinds of magicians are brought together by someone who provides them with a plan for some amazing tricks. Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg of The Social Network), Merritt (Woody Harrelson of Zombieland), Henley (Isla Fisher of Wedding Crashers) and Jack (Dave Franco of Superbad) take up the challenge partly because of their ego, but mostly as a gateway to true magic and to meet the man behind the curtain.

The trailer does a good job of setting up the first act, but as magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman from Driving Miss Daisy) says, “you have not seen anything yet.”

Thaddeus is impressed, but not fooled as he assists FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo of Rumor Has It) in tracking these four horsemen (their moniker, not mine) and bringing them to justice.

At least, Dylan is stuck with Interpol Detective Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent of Inglourious Basterds) so he has a pretty face with whom to complain. She is stunning, but her only purpose in this movie is to look pretty and to be a possible love interest for Dylan.

The three big tricks come one in each act. By the time we get to the third act we are curious, and like everyone else on screen, tired of being fooled.

There is a great premise here. However, we were all subjected to the misdirection of the magicians, and I came to see a movie and not a magic show.

The majority of the screen time was spent on the spectacle, with a few glimpses now and then of what was really going on. A little more story and character work with a little less hocus pocus would have helped my emotional connection to the ending.

The movie is entertaining and mostly original, although robbing a bank thousands of miles away using magic was first done by Johnny Carson in 1955. Director Louis Leterrier of the “Transporter” movies seems at home with the action scenes, but nothing else.

All we ever know about the Transporter guy is that he is a bad ass behind the wheel. In this magic movie, too much is hidden from the audience. Our magicians are smug, little smartasses that are never in real danger.

In the end, like with most magic tricks, we are left amazed and then empty, feeling like a sucker. I admit the magic was awesome, but the movie was just okay. I give it 3 out of 5 stars for making my nine bucks disappear.

Tom Basham is a Virginia filmmaker and writes BashMovies.

Best Kept Secrets in Prince William & Manassas: Hiking Hot Spots

Editor’s note: From exceptional museums and children’s programs to historic haunts and unique hikes, there are numerous hidden places waiting to be explored in Prince William & Manassas.

Through a monthly feature, Discover Prince William & Manassas will help residents and visitors alike discover some of the best kept attractions, activities and events the community has to offer.

Prince William & Manassas’ Best Kept — Hiking Hot Spots 

Spanning from the Bull Run Mountains to the shores of the Potomac and Occoquan Discover Prince William County and Manassasrivers, Prince William & Manassas are filled with hiking paths that the whole family can explore.

Although known for its excellent fishing opportunities, Leesylvania State Park is also home to various hiking trails that unite history and nature. Once home to legendary Revolutionary War hero Henry Lee III, father of Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the park now features a roughly 2-mile interpretive trail that takes visitors on a journey through history.

Strap on some hiking shoes and head through the woods to see the Lee family cemetery, homestead and gardens. Continue on the trail toward Free Stone Point and walk the ground once traversed by Gen. Lee as he ordered the blockade of the Potomac during the Civil War.

Or, test your physical capabilities at Leesylvania’s fitness trail, which is located along the 2-mile Bushey Point Trail. Thanks to a grant and volunteers from Dominion Power a few years ago, the trail now includes exercise stations that test visitors’ strength, flexibility and endurance.

While the Leesylvania trails will give visitors stunning views of the Potomac shoreline, the trails in Prince William’s western end will take hikers through the mountains.

The Bull Run Mountains Conservancy offers guided hikes the first Wednesday of every month. Discover beautiful flowers and local wildlife while meandering through the mountain countryside or, hit the trails alone.

The park is open from dawn to dusk and visitors can travel 8 miles of trails that lead to old mills, homesteads, Civil War sites and family graveyards. One of the most notable buildings to see along the hike is the Beverley Mill. Visible from Interstate 66, the mill ground cornmeal and flour for American troops during seven wars- The French and Indian war through World War II. Although burned by Confederate troops after the Battle of First Manassas, the Beverley family rebuilt it and operated it through 1951.

To learn more about these hikes or other Prince William and Manassas trails, visit DiscoverPWM.com

 

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