Despite diverging storylines, ‘Stranger Things’ cast found ways to bond in Season 2

Caution: This story contains some spoilers about “Stranger Things” Season 2.

It doesn’t take long for Season 2 of “Stranger Things” to solve the mystery of Eleven’s whereabouts. In the season premiere, which picks up the story about a year after the events of the first season, viewers learn that Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has been living off the grid with Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour), safe from anyone who might want to harm her and even those who don’t, including her friends.

Eleven’s isolation is for her own safety, she’s told. But that doesn’t mean it sits well with her. She misses the outside world and especially Mike (Finn Wolfhard).

The first episode leaves it unclear exactly when Eleven will reunite face-to-face with her male friends.

Anyone who’s at least half way through binge watching the second season knows it takes more than just a few episodes.

Eleven goes on a journey of self-discovery in the fifth episode of the season that includes a few revelations about her backstory and, eventually, a brief flirtation with life as a law-breaking punk. (Sheriff’s Hopper’s reaction to that is something to behold.)

Meanwhile, back in Hawkins, the boys are dealing with a lot. A dark force gets its grip on one of the members of the gang and a new female friend named Max (Sadie Sink) that causes a bit of tension among the group.

Mike does make a few attempts to reach Eleven in unconventional ways. Largely, however, the diverging storylines leave little room for intersection on screen.

Behind the scenes, though, the cast found ways to spent time together, thanks to math.

“We all do school together so we all got to see [Brown] just as much,” Gates Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, told CNN at a “Stranger Things” premiere event on Thursday.

Brown concurred, saying she saw her cast mates “every single day.”

“We did pre-algebra all together, so I think it was fine,” she said. “I love working with them.”

On screen, Matarazzo admitted Eleven’s absence gave the show some time to highlight Mike’s bond with his friends.

“Filming, [Eleven’s absence] changed it a lot, especially for Finn because he had such a close connection with Eleven and that was where most of his interaction and emotion came from [in Season 1],” he said. “So it was a really cool twist to see him…interacting with us, with the boys a little bit more.”

“Stranger Things” Season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.

‘Thor: Ragnarok’ flexes its comedy muscles

Marking an ambitious detour into comedy, “Thor: Ragnarok” conjures sparks but doesn’t quite catch lightning in a bottle. Sporadically fun and visually impressive, this third film works a bit too hard at flexing its laugh muscles, while bogging down in a midsection built around the enticing prospect of Thor versus the Hulk.

Part of the problem, frankly, is that Marvel has done perhaps too good a job marketing the movie, to the extent most of the best lines and moments (like Thor seeing the Hulk and enthusiastically shouting, “He’s a friend from work!”) have played repeatedly in the trailer. Even Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” makes a slightly incongruous appearance.

To its credit, the movie makes the most out of an inordinately strong ensemble, surrounding Chris Hemsworth with reliable scene-stealer Tom Hiddleston as his brother Loki, Cate Blanchett as the villainous Hela and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, a fearsome warrior. Throw in a cameo by Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange and a meatier role for Idris Elba as the stoic sentry Heimdall, and there’s a lot of power on screen even before the CGI pyrotechnics kick in.

It all starts promisingly enough, with Thor — after what amounts to a James Bond-like pre-title sequence — returning home to Asgard, where a newly freed Hela, the Goddess of Death, is on her way to lay siege.

Failing to stop her, Thor is inadvertently cast onto a dystopian planet Sakaar, presided over by Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, in fully manic mode), who forces his prisoners to engage in gladiatorial combat. Determined to win his freedom and face Hela, Thor is pleasantly surprised to discover that the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) has landed there as well — at least, until the first punch lands.

Marvel has handed the keys to the kingdom to New Zealand director Taika Waititi, who with his trio of writers unearths plenty of amusing character riffs, capitalizing especially on Thor and Loki’s squabbling fraternal ties.

Still, there’s a serious threat that must be addressed, eventually, as Thor spends ample time seeking to extricate himself from bondage and assemble the support he’ll need to have a shot at defeating Hela.

“Ragnarok” (the title refers to the prophesied destruction of Asgard) is definitely a step up in class from earlier sequel “The Dark World.” For better and worse, even these individual adventures have now been sucked into the maelstrom of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where promiscuous cross-pollination among heroes has become the norm.

Bulked up for the occasion, Hemsworth remains an enormously appealing lead, capable of pulling off funny lines and slapstick silliness while still inducing swoons when his shirt comes off. He is, in many respects, the most special effect “Thor” has to offer, setting aside the inevitable free-for-all that, it should be noted, inflicts a higher quotient of carnage than parents tempted to bring younger kids might deem appropriate.

In a sense, a movie like “Thor: Ragnarok” represents the apex of Marvel’s strategy — a giant spectacle that in many respects plays like a comic book come to life, while being liberated enough to experiment with light-hearted quirks and idiosyncrasies.

At a fundamental level, Marvel jams enough high-spirited entertainment into the movie to ensure that it’s worthy of the price of admission. It’s just that armed with such a potent and promising arsenal, “Thor: Ragnarok” manages to feel less mighty than the sum of its parts.

“Thor: Ragnarok” opens Nov. 3 in the U.S. It’s rated PG-13.

‘This Is Us’ star Justin Hartley marries Chrishell Stause

Justin Hartley is officially off the market.

Hartley, who plays Kevin Pearson on the hit NBC show, “This Is Us,” married his longtime girlfriend, Chrishell Stause on Saturday.

Stause, now Mrs. Hartley, shared an intimate photo from the big day on her Instagram.

Hartley’s on screen family members were reportedly in attendance, including Mandy Moore, Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown, Milo Ventimiglia, Susan Watkins and Chris Sullivan.

Stause and Hartley began dating in 2014 and announced their engagement last year.

Hartley was previously married to his “Passions” co-star Lindsay Korman for eight years and together they have a 13-year-old daughter.

AACPS Continues to Expand Offerings for Students Thanks to Robot Sponsorship by BGE

— Students who can’t attend class due to illness or injury can still keep up on material, but they often lose the feel of the classroom and contact with their classmates as they do so.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ efforts to bridge that divide got another boost today with the sponsorship of a robot by BGE that will allow students to attend class virtually while they recover. The robot, operated from a home computer, uses video conferencing technology to allow a student to travel through the hallways, sit at the lunch table with friends, participate in group assignments, and ask questions to teachers in real time. BGE’s sponsorship, facilitated through AACPS’ 21st Century Education Foundation, brings to 13 the total number of robots available to students across the school system. Four of those have been purchased through donations like the one being made by BGE.

“At BGE, one of our primary educational focus areas is innovative technology education and this distance learning robot affords remote students the opportunity to remain connected to their classmates,” said Valencia McClure, vice president of governmental and external affairs and corporate relations for BGE. “We are certainly pleased to be able to foster those connections through our partnership with Anne Arundel County Public Schools and the sponsorship of this robot.”

Dr. Arlotto and BGE officials got a firsthand look at the robot during a visit to Meade High School. The robot is developed by Double Robotics, which teams with AACPS’ Office of Instructional Technology to train parents, students, teachers, and administrators to use the devices.

“Our quest to Elevate All Students and Eliminate All Gaps is only possible through initiatives such as these,” Superintendent George Arlotto said. “We are indebted to BGE for helping us to expand the avenues for all of our students to succeed.”

A bright light in the Black Press dims: Bernal Smith dies at 45

The National Newspaper Publishers Association has lost one of our own this week.

Bernal E. Smith II, president and publisher of the Tri-State Defender and a well-known civic leader in Memphis, Tennessee, died Sunday, October 22, 2017. He was 45.

The newspaper, among the longest running African-American newspapers in the country and among the 211 black-owned publications in the United States noted on its website that Smith was with his family when he was found on Sunday.

“The New Tri-State Defender and its management board is devastated. We learned that Mr. Smith had passed,” associate publisher Karanja Ajanaku said in a statement along with Calvin Anderson, the president of Best Media Properties, the Defender’s parent company.

Smith’s death, caught many of his colleagues off-guard, all of whom expressed shock and sympathy for his family.

“I am personally saddened by the death of our comrade and publisher Bernal Smith,” said Dorothy Leavell, the publisher of the Crusader newspapers in Chicago and the national chairman of the NNPA. “He was just elected vice chairman in June and we were looking forward to working closely with him to find solutions to our beloved Black Press.”

Smith was a serious and dedicated member of the fourth estate, Leavell added. “We shall miss him so much,” she said.

The entire NNPA family of African-American publishers across the nation deeply mourn the passing of Smith, added Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, the president and CEO of the NNPA.

“As publisher of the New Tri-State Defender in Memphis, Smith represented the journalistic genius of a freedom-fighting publisher who was dedicated to the empowerment of Black America,” Chavis said. “Long live the spirit of Bernal Smith!”

Joy Bramble, publisher of the Baltimore Times, says she was simply shocked by the news of Smith’s death. “I was just working with him on some things, I just can’t believe it,” Bramble said.

Rosetta Perry, the publisher of the Tennessee Tribune, called Smith a true friend and a bright light.

“He was a person that when I met him, we just clicked and I was comfortable with him, like I had known him my whole life, and I didn’t have to pretend to be anyone or anything,” Perry said. “That voice that we loved to hear at our meetings and training sessions is now still. Bernal’s place at the Board of Directors meeting will now be vacant but he will live forever in our hearts.”

Because of Smith’s vision and talents, Karen Carter Richards says she asked him to run for 2nd vice chair of the NNPA this year.

Richards, publisher of the Houston Forward Times, said she wasn’t surprised when he won election to the post because of his infectious personality and great abilities.

“I am devastated, Bernal was my friend and he was a visionary who was smart, energetic, kind and definitely the future of NNPA,” Richards said. “His innovative ideas made us click. At the request of Bernal, I flew to Memphis last year to attend his Best in Black Awards show. He wanted me to recreate the show in Houston and we were going to partner and bring his great awards show to the city of Houston.”

Broadcast executive and Wave newspaper Publisher Pluria Marshall said Smith was one of NNPA’s up and coming publishers.

“He was about business. He added value when he spoke on issues relating to NNPA and his recent election to the executive team was a clear sign of his rising star,” Marshall said. “He will be sorely missed.”

Hiram Jackson of Real Times Media, who sold Smith the New Tri-State

Defender, called Smith’s passing a sad day for the future of the Black Press.

“Bernal Smith represented the future of our industry and he was one of the most innovative publishes I knew and I recognized his gifts immediately,” Jackson said.

“I will miss his friendship and his contagious enthusiasm about black people.”

A graduate of Rhodes College who also earned a master’s of business administration from Union University, Smith fronted a local group that purchased the Tri-State Defender from Real Times Media in 2013.

Smith mentored inner-city youth and once served as president of the 100 Black Men of Memphis.

“Bernal Smith has been an integral force in the city of Memphis as the publisher of the Tri-State Defender where he made issues of economic parity, social justice and the support and encouragement of the black community his primary concerns,” Denise Rolark Barnes and D. Kevin McNeir, the publisher and the editor of the Washington Informer, said in a joint statement. “Even more, as one of the younger publishers of the NNPA, his enthusiasm and dedication were essential to our overall growth and continued existence.

“His death leaves a void that will be difficult, if not impossible to fill. But his spirit will live on as will our memories of him— a proud, talented black man who loved his people and his community and who diligently gave his all each and every day on behalf of the Black Press.”


(Family Features)

Spooky, silly or symbolic, carved pumpkins are an essential ingredient to any Halloween celebration. This year, scare up some special fun for your party with a wicked watermelon carving, instead – but don’t stop there.

After crafting your watermelon into an artful mummy, take advantage of the healthy, immune-system supporting qualities of the lycopene leader among fresh produce. At 92 percent water, as well as an excellent source of vitamins A and C, watermelon is a hydrating post-art snack.

Carving a creative design into a watermelon is a simple way to kick off the festivities and requires only a handful of common tools. Add a twinkling candle to make a fantastically frightful centerpiece. Or fill it with a fresh fruit salad or salsas for a more functional, practical approach.

Even if you’re planning on a hollowed-out carving, keep the sweet juicy fruit and make it a healthy addition to your Halloween party menu with a recipe that puts to use all your carving leftovers.

Find more recipes, carving patterns and inspiration at

Mummy Supplies and Tools:

Oval or round seedless watermelon

Cutting board

Kitchen knife

Small bowl

Dry erase marker

Paring knife

Melon baller, fluted or regular


Assorted peelers


Straight pin

Battery-operated candle or light

Candy eyeballs or blueberries

Wash watermelon under cool running water and pat dry.

On cutting board, place watermelon on its side and use kitchen knife to cut off 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch from bottom (end opposite stem), being careful not to cut too deep into white part of rind.

Cut 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch from stem end to create opening large enough to fit small bowl. Using dry erase marker, draw eyes, nose and mouth, along with wavy slits around carving to let more light flow through. Use paring knife to cut out design, being sure to cut through to red fruit.

Use fluted or regular melon baller to hollow out inside of watermelon. Use scoop to remove excess watermelon.

Peel green rind off outside of watermelon. (Tip: Different peelers work well for different parts of the watermelon, depending on how flat or round the melon is.)

Wrap thin strips of cheesecloth around mummy carving and secure with straight pin, if needed.

Put battery-operated candle or light into carving. Fit small bowl into top of carving and trim away excess rind to make bowl fit securely. Fill bowl with melon balls and attach candy or blueberries to make eyes.

Epsilon Omega Chapter of AKA School Supplies Efforts Continue

Back-To-School is generally a time when school supplies are collected and ultimately distributed during community fairs and other events. However, the need for backpacks, notebooks, pens and other supplies continues well after the school year has started.

The Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority has continued its efforts to meet this year-round need by continuing to collect and distribute school supplies. The effort is part of the AKA One Million Backpacks Project, a component of the Educational Enrichment: Target I of the 2014-18 Launching New Dimensions of ServiceSM International Program.

Courtesy Photo

The project focuses on the sorority’s ability to support education with resources in the form of backpacks loaded with school supplies for students.

“For 95 years, Epsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. has served the Greater Baltimore Community and has lived out our mission of ‘Service to All Mankind,’” said Tonja Ringgold, Epsilon Omega Chapter President.

In August, the Epsilon Omega Foundation, Inc. prepared and distributed over 800 backpacks filled with school supplies to area students and their families as part of the Back-to-School Community Fair held at the Ivy Family Support Center at 3515 Dolfield Avenue in Baltimore.

The Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, March Funeral Homes and ShopRite Stores donated over 45,000 rulers, glue sticks, folders, loose leaf paper, and other school supplies to ensure that students were “Packed, Polished, and Prepared” for the start of school.

This was the third year of the event, which also included lunch and games. Epsilon Omega Chapter and Foundation members along with volunteers distributed the supplies to students and their families. Co-chaired by Sharon Smith, Community Fair attendees also received information from various City agencies and non-profit community resources such as Enoch Pratt Free Library.

The Epsilon Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Education Enrichment program is chaired by Frances Parks and co-chaired by Jean Owens. The Backpack Project is chaired by Claudette Edgerton-Swain who says the goal is to ensure that students are always “Packed, Polished, and Prepared” for school.

“We understood as parents, as well as educators how difficult it was to purchase supplies for families with multiple children,” she said. “Our main concern was for our students to be equipped and to be academically prepared for a successful school year. We are still receiving calls at the Ivy Center requesting back packs, so our work continues.”

She also noted the distribution of library cards.

“We were very excited that Enoch Pratt Library attended the event as part of their early literacy program,” said the retired Baltimore City Public School teacher. “Several children received their first library card. It’s important to put books in the hands of children at an early age.”

Epsilon Omega Chapter is the first graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., in the North Atlantic

Region. The effort is among the many aimed at helping the community and beyond.

Last year, the group participated in “The Sewing Circle,” which creates dresses from pillowcases in support of Little Dresses for Africa. They took their creations to the AKA’s 67th Boule held in Atlanta, Georgia, July 9 -16, 2016.

“We took an oath, and are mandated to provide service to all mankind,” said Egerton-Swain.

For more information, or to make a donation to the AKA One Million Backpacks Project, email Egerton-Swain at:

Forever Stamp honoring National Museum of African American History and Culture on sale

— The Celebrating African American History and Culture Forever stamp is now available for sale. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is located at 1400 Constitution Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C.

Black history is inseparable from American history, and the black experience represents a profound and unique strand of the American story. This stamp issuance recognizes the richness of that experience by celebrating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The stamp art is based on a photograph of the museum showing a view of the northwest corner of the building. Text in the upper-left corner of the stamp reads “National Museum of African American History and Culture.”

Opened on September 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is the 19th Smithsonian museum and the only national museum devoted exclusively to African American life, art, history and culture. The museum’s collections, which include art, artifacts, photographs, films, documents, data, books, manuscripts and audio recordings, represent all regions of the United States and acknowledge the cultural links of African Americans to the black experience around the world as well. The museum provides opportunities for the public to explore and enjoy African American history while demonstrating the centrality of that history to our nation’s past, present and future.

Iris Leigh Barnes appointed to Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture

— Governor Larry Hogan has appointed Iris Leigh Barnes of Havre de Grace to the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture. She was sworn in as a commissioner for a four-year term on Friday, October 20, 2017.

The Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture is committed to discovering, documenting, preserving, collecting and promoting Maryland’s African American heritage. The Commission also provides technical assistance to institutions and groups with similar objectives.

The goal of the commission— part of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives— is to educate residents and visitors about the significance and impact of the African American experience in Maryland.

“It is an honor and a pleasure to work with the historical and cultural institutions in Maryland to help them advance their missions to preserve the rich history of our state,” Barnes said. “Much of what happened in Maryland, and particularly in Harford County, reverberated across the country and had an impact on regional and national events.

“African American history provides incredible stories that illustrate the tenacity and power of the human spirit, and that history is important for everyone to know in order to truly understand our country and its culture. That’s what makes this work on the commission important, and I am so honored to be a part of it.”

Barnes is the executive director of Hosanna School Museum in Darlington, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Hosanna School Museum is a restored Freedmen’s Bureau School, the first public school for African Americans in Harford County.

She is also the curator of the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum in Baltimore, owned by Morgan State University. The museum tells the story of many Marylanders including Thurgood Marshall, Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., Juanita Jackson Mitchell and Margaret Carey and their work to eliminate racial inequality.

Barnes is the recipient of several national and local awards including being named an inaugural Interpretation Fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Association of Interpreters; a two-time Diversity Fellow for the National Trust for Historical Preservation; and a Wing Research Fellow at the Maryland Historical Society.

In addition, she was a lead member of the Hays-Heighe House and Hosanna School Museum teams that sponsored the “Faces of Freedom: The Upper Chesapeake, Maryland, and Beyond” initiative, which was awarded a Maryland Preservation Award by the Maryland Historical Trust.

Library of Congress Announces Librarians-in-Residence Pilot Program

— The Library of Congress is launching a Librarians-in-Residence pilot program to offer early career librarians the opportunity to develop their expertise and contribute to building, stewarding and sharing the institution’s vast collections. The application period is November 1 to November 30, 2017.

The Library will select up to four applicants for a six-month residency beginning in June 2018. The program is open to students who will complete their master’s degrees in an American Library Association-accredited library/information science program no later than June 2018 or who completed such a degree no earlier than December 2016.

“I am so excited to invite early career librarians to bring their intellectual engagement, technological prowess

and theoretical concepts of library and information science to bear on practical challenges here at the world’s largest library,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “The Library of Congress will benefit from their energy and creative thinking, and they will benefit from the hands-on experience of working with the scale and variety of the national collections, side-by-side with top innovators on the Library’s staff.”

The program gives early career librarians the opportunity to receive on-the-job training and undertake assignments that contribute to the ongoing mission and work of the Library of Congress in at least one of the following tracks: Acquisitions and collection development; Cataloging and metadata; Collection preservation; Reference and instruction; and Systems and standards. The program will offer compensation at the GS-9 pay level.

For more information, visit: