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City Paper coverAfter much ado, Baltimore’s fat, lazy summer sun seems to have settled in. Glimmering with the new heat we hoist fat white thighs into summer shorts. Iced coffee displaces hot joe as the morning caffeine kick of choice. Foxy’s tongue lols out and her fur appears in clumps around the house. But things beyond the mercury level are looking up.

Brian returned from adventuring in SA, pale-skinned since it was getting to be winter there–just in time for northern hemisphere hot season.

And low and beyond, City Paper has published the gift of its plump Sizzlin’ Summer issue, gushing local, low-priced thrills.

Top Summer Finds of the CP

  1. Exploring deserted forts, parks and overgrown gun batteries. “Know Your City,” implores writer Michael Byrne, and he means it:  Byrne’s fascinating finds include tweaker hang-outs, graffitied bunkers, cast-aside Polish chapels, dilapidated highways, post-apocalyptic freight tracks, and a lone striped lighthouse guarding Baltimore’s harbor entrance.
  2. Share in the creation of the nation’s most popular snack food. At my former work place I was dubbed Pretzel due to my fixation with Snyder’s (more…)

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Arabbers per Maryland Historical Society

Arabbers per Maryland Historical Society

The sun may emerge Thursday, so the weatherman says. The new issue of Urbanite offers  a few reasons he should show up for the weekend(s):

1. Sundays 9am-3pm, Arabbers sell produce from local farms in Legends Park at Fremont Avenue and Laurens Street. These wooden wagon-toting sellers are an endangered species.

2. Live Baltimore’s Buying into Baltimore event, May 9, 9am-2pm: take a tour through west Baltimore, tour homes and get a $3000 down payment grant if you buy. Taser not included.

3. Frosted Crab soup at the Hopkins Club or Maryland Club. In nice weather the crowd roars from the second floor’s open-air restaurant. We have no means of access, but this Old Bay-flavored cold tomato soup is insanely popular with those who know the secret handshake. (Reputedly, strawberry and cayenne-flavored squash soup is on offer at the posh Engineer’s Club, by the Mt. Vernon fountain)

4. Baltimore Herb Festival in Leakin Park on May 23. Ride a “wee steam train” and sample Bay Laurel, which sounds like a love child or a sturdy thoroughbred mare.

5. Free literary walking tour of Mt. Vernon including homes of Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tupac on May 9

6. Sidestep rat traps, sludge puddles and a rust-coated grill to plant herbs in moldy, cracking pots scattered about the Carriage House courtyard… Oh yeah, the Urbanite‘s Hidden City issue totally missed this gem of a weekend activity (ranked with cleaning the rain-splattered grime off our windows).

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The Baltimore Brew blog reports that the Baltimore Sun is now webcasting its daily 3pm front page meetings.

The idea is to open the door to reader participation so we can weigh in on the news of the day.

But apparently, the window into news-making is often ignored by people who maybe have stuff to do at 3 in the afternoon. Washington’s Spokesman-Review tried it recently and got little reader interest. According to the Brew,

“We never had any significant viewership at all,” [editor Gary] Graham said, in a phone interview. “Maybe five or six people on any given day.”

The experiment added a lot of extra time to meetings, which is not good news in a deadline-sensitive media environment. Also, reporters cursed less.

This news reminded me of a brief foray into reality TV that the now-defunct lifestyle magazine Budget Living tried in, what was it, 2003?

We had camera crews following us around all day while we–get this–sat and typed emails in our shoebox-sized offices near Grand Central Station. My desk was jammed into a hallway, half inside a computer closet next to the giant color printer, a prime spot to get woozy on ink fumes. A staff meeting usually held in late afternoon, when all the editors (ahem) had straggled into work, was moved up to noon. Someone brought a case of red wine and giant goblets. Usually the booze started flowing after 6, so the morning intoxication made the meeting less than productive. Lots of cursing issued forth, with nonsensical editorial planning underlined by large gesturing with goblets.  It seemed perfect for Bravo’s next reality TV endeavor, but no one bought the pilot, so our predictably chaotic office-life was famous only in our heads.

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800px-2008_05_07_-_baltimore_-_w_baltimore_st_at_hanover_st_-_newspaper_binsBaltimore street corners offer a bonanza of free publications, some better than others. There’s the wryly edited City Paper, in its trademark yellow bin, next to shock-orange containers housing B, a kind of downmarket pitch to young and supposedly vacuous 20-somethings, a 2008 brainstorm of the now-bankrupt Baltimore Sun publishers.

Then, on really good corners, you’ve got Urbanite, a kind of lifestyle magazine for “curious” city dwellers. Urbanite publishes well-written pieces woven together in a self-consciously cerebral fashion that begs the question (as they write on their own bins) how can this be free? It’s the modern architecture of the Baltimore publishing scene: wildly esoteric, defiantly intellectual, articulated with delineated concepts not designed for mass consumption. This month’s edition offers thoughtful pieces on a Guantanamo Bay trial interpreter who lives in Roland Park, a Baltimore Cash Campaign for city dwellers with little access to “real banks,” and a calender of foodie events including an upcoming Absinthe tasting at Morton’s The Steakhouse.

Urbanite‘s Baltimore Observed column reports on Baltimore’s changing news landscape, online and in newsprint:

“Much has already been said about the Baltimore Sun which has been shedding jobs and pages as its corporate parent, the Chicago based Tribune Co., restructures in bankruptcy… But at least it won’t have a competitor: The Baltimore Examiner, launched as a free quick-read tabloid rival to the Sun in April 2006, rolled its last issue off the presses and into posterity on February 15.”

(Many won’t mourn the passing of the Examiner, especially because its presence likely pressured the Sun into launching Botoxed B, when the landmark paper’s prestige and staying power should rest on its stable of seasoned newsmen and venerable 172 year old reputation of responsible reporting.)

Anyway, Urbanite points to two stellar up-and-comers in the new media department. Ya-hoo!

Baltimore Brew adheres to what Urbanite describes as a “sassy” blog style with lots of photos. Posts are tagged by subject and neighborhood. Gerald Neily has some tips about how the Red Line project can undo the damage done by 1960s highway construction by eliminating the forbidding cement overpasses that divide and ruin neighborhoods.

Slightly “wonkish” Maryland Commons is also flying the smart growth flag, with Carrie Madren’s article on legislation that would set limits on sprawl, even cap per capita vehicle miles travelled. The weekly e-journal looks at criminal justice, health care and state government.

I discovered a most enjoyable rant at the bottom of the Baltimore Brew’s “About us” page:

“Think of us as your post-apocalyptic* source of information and insight on the city… Yes, as in, a world where somebody thought it was a great idea for The Baltimore Sun to create “b” … and to ditch the foreign bureaus and scores of experienced, professional journalists. Yeah, yeah, rise of the Internet and …blah blah …Craigslist and Facebook and Cars.com … blah blah… pompous mainstream media gatekeepers … insufferable bloggers in pajamas …¦scary media consolidation …and Sam Zell and Lee Abrams, for god’s sake …. Yeesh…Until the business model gets sorted out, we figured we’d make a place for Baltimore’s journalists, techies and news-starved readers to get together and do some good things. That’s the plan.”

Rock that plan! From rainbow-colored metal boxes to blogs boasting virtual coffee stains we have a media landscape in Charm City that is thriving despite the odds.

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Obama win in the news

On Wednesday, we scrounged every news vendor in Mount Vernon but to no avail–everyone wanted a copy of the day’s papers declaring the Obama victory. Even the free quasi-newspaper B was snatched up.

So I did the new school thing and saved home page screenshots from November 5. (this also prevents my apartment from becoming stacked with yellowed newspapers–I still have one from Clinton’s inauguration… why on earth would I not recycle this?). Here goes this week’s news.

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Here I am in my non-newspaper reading bubble (I thought Morning Edition kept me up to speed) while a furious internet debate rages over the Washington Post’s Sunday editorial on gender and politics.

“What is it about us women? Why do we always fall for the hysterical, the superficial and the gooily sentimental?” writes Charlotte Allen, in “We Scream, We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get?”

She writes, “Clinton [has a] nearly all-female staff, chosen for loyalty rather than, say, brains or political savvy. Clinton finally fired her daytime-soap-watching, self-styled “Latina queena” campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, known for burning through campaign money and for her open contempt for the “white boys” in the Clinton camp. But stupidly, she did it just in time to alienate the Hispanic voters she now desperately needs to win in Texas or Ohio to have any shot at the Democratic nomination.”
(more…)

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