HFStival rises from the deadNow that we’ve entered our third decade, the culture lords of my generation have gotten nostalgic for the good old days. We worshiped Kurt Cobain, entered radio contests on WHFS 94.7 and made wicked cassette mix tapes. I remember a time when we taped the radio — BT on Transmissions, anyone? We loved the Nineties. I mean, we totally loathed the nineties, but in an ironic way we relished those days, cognizant of the dissonance… Ahem.

It seems others are feeling similarly wistful for the Clinton years when we unknowingly trashed the planet and beat icebergs back driving SUVs and rocking out to alternative schlock like Live.  Here, just 5 signs we are totally in charge of the culture ship and steering it back into time.

5. The artistic directors of Urban Outfitters has outfitted the Millennials in grunge-era plaid, imitation thrift store t-shirts and Rolling Stones-inspired t-shirts because we still haven’t gotten over seeing Mick Jagger sing Brown Sugar at RFK in 1994. Actually, no one has gotten over seeing Mick Jagger sing Brown Sugar, and that’s how they are selling a Super Deluxe edition of Exile on Main Street for upwards of $100. Continue Reading »


Matt Roth for The New York TimesThe Baltimore Chop reported this morning that the New York Times “dump[ed]” on Baltimore yet again. The Gray Lady had the audacity to point out that adding a third arts district in the boarded-up Howard Street corridor is fiscally risky and may not yield immediate results–measurable by, at the very least, fewer vacant buildings.

We perked up (being a bit foggy-brained this Friday morning) at this bit of the Chop’s post:

… the New York Times is looking down its nose at us again. They seem to see Baltimore as little more than a source for so-so regional cuisine, a great inspiration for campy Broadway musicals, and a crummy baseball team for the sweeping.

This time around they’re making us out to be a bungling, artless money-pit who is stuck in the Schmoke era and wants to copy Manhattan. We really, really wish the Times would mind their own fucking business a little more, and publish these cheap, quickie drive-by stories about Baltimore a little less.

And they include links to said (sad) articles which do tend to be reported via a helicopter ride in and out of Baltimore (would a Times reporter deign to take Bolt?). However, I would argue that the Times review of that Eastern Shore-inspired Greenwich village restaurant made it sounds pretentious, bland and overpriced, which is reason for a poor review: Maryland, especially in context of Manhattan’s West Village, is none of those things. Continue Reading »

Cheesy and Delightful

Grilled Cheese & Co.At a meeting earlier this week I found myself staring enviously at my coworker’s American grilled cheese sandwich. There is something about the way yolk-orange cheese glooms between toast that brings to mind ski trips and happiness. It may be 86 degrees outside this afternoon, but I bet Grilled Cheese & Company in Catonsville is doing a brisk business. In fact, I believe I heard that Brian’s cousin is celebrating his anniversary there. Will he go for a Crabby Melt with Old Bay, or an upscale BLT with aged cheddar and diced tomatoes? Will she try a pressed sandwich with Whole Milk Mozzarella with hand pinched Italian sausage and marinara sauce?

Who, bar a lactose phobe, could shun a mascarpone  cheese and chocolate chip sweet?

Creative Screen Tour

Painted Screen SocietyHow do we love the Creative Alliance of Baltimore. Where else could we catch a bluegrass band called Smooth Grass, a burlesque show called Hell Cats, and a Painted Screen tour in one week? How would we even know there is a Painted Screen Society of Baltimore? The CA site describes the screen tour like this:

Be the first to take the “Painted Screens Pilgrimage” to see Southeast Baltimore’s authentic treasures up close. Elaine Eff, folklorist and painted screens’ authority, gives a personalized guide on a tour bus with stops from Little Bohemia to Fells Point. Start off with breakfast and screening of The Screen Painter to see how it all began. Tour begins and ends at The Patterson.

Elizabeth Suman from the Baltimore Brew notes that the screens are beautiful but serve another purpose, especially in hot, sticky Bawlmer summers: “The screens allowed people to see out, but not in, granting homes a measure of privacy from passersby on the street.” She notes that a Czech grocer invented screen painting in 1913 to advertise his wares, while letting the harbor breeze flow in to prevent said produce from rotting.

For members this tour is $30, for non-members it is $35.

Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor / May 10, 2010Well, yesterday was a good news and bad news day.

We are now running a $500,000 ad campaign that implores tourists to come, “Find Your Happy Place in Baltimore.” It features a logo design that only a 5th grade teacher just discovering clip art could love. And within 24 hours, Happy has become synonymous with “trigger-happy” or high-as-a-kite-happy–as in just the place for a “thrill-seeking junkie,” as one person posted on the Baltimore Sun web site. The crime columnist Peter Hermann gathered a slew of spot-on comments about the new slogan, including from the former police commander Buz Busnuk:

[Buz] mentioned… The drug dealer named Don Papa who boasted three years ago that he made $180,000 in one night selling drugs on Pennsylvania Avenue. He called the street “a freaking gold mine,” and according to a transcript in a federal court file, told detectives: “This is the heroin capital of America, ain’t no more dope sold nowhere than right there on Pennsylvania Avenue.”

“He thought this place was Nirvana,” Busnuk said. “Wasn’t he in a happy place?” Continue Reading »

Festival Frenzy Weekend

We didn’t get in to Putty Hill, but we did stalk director Matt Porterfield from Friday night openings at the Charles, to Saturday’s Creative Alliance kegger in the Film Fest parking lot/green room, and up to the Beach House orgy of skinny pants and character spectacles (figuratively, and the coke bottle kind) in Charles Village. It was not that we intentionally shadowed the chronicler of North East Baltimore (naturally, he was clad in uber-tight jeans and philosophic glasses). It was that we were obsessed this weekend with scouring the streets of Baltimore for festivals, filmic and verdant alike. Continue Reading »

Last night we screened seven shorts at MICA’s Brown Center as the kickoff for the Maryland Film Festival.  Brian loved The Late Mr. Mokun Williams, inspired by the ubiquitous-to-Junk-mail query, I am a Nigerian prince, would you let me deposit 4 million dollars in your bank account?  Director Kenneth Price is also responsible for Bust Out! (think Andy Samberg and friends before Lonely Island hit SNL, jumping out of couches).

Loop Loop and Voice on the Line were my two favorites. Voice on the Line was a collage of 1950 clips of telephone operators set to a charming narrative about a Communist-era spy game by Kelly Sears. Loop Loop was a mind-bending collage of 1000 film images shot on trains and buses in Vietnam. The clips were arranged in film-reel like vertical lines one on top of the other, and they swayed back and forth, getting larger or smaller. The director would light on one image, like a woman carrying a ceremonial flame or a group of bicycles at a traffic light. Then the reel would slide backwards as if you were sucked back in time. The program informed us that it was meant to recall the fleeting and unsorted nature of memory. Anyway, it was fascinating. I told the director, a tall Montreal resident named Patrick Bergeron, that he should consider shooting on the Indian railways next.

Tonight we are headed to view the Maryland premiere of Putty Hill, a film set in North East Baltimore neighborhood known to many here but few in Copenhagen, Buenos Aires, Berlin or Lisbon, all places the film has screened prior to arriving on a screen in Charm City. The buzz is feverish, and we are worried about getting a ticket, especially after the goofy morning show coverage of Matt Porterfield’s film.

PUTTY HILL TRAILER (FINAL UP-REZ) from Matt Porterfield on Vimeo.