Maryland Coalition Strives to Increase African-American Support Statewide for Gay Marriage


Required reading in Wednesday’s New York Times reported on a coalition working to bring more black voters in Maryland to a pro-gay-marriage mindset — the Human Rights Campaign and the Service Employees International Union trains focus on African American Democrats, whose high-population support is essential for the passage of a bill to legalize gay marriage, now headed to the state legislature.  

“The campaign includes videos of well-known African-American Marylanders, including Michael Kenneth Williams, an actor from the television series ‘The Wire,’ and Mo’nique, a Baltimore-born actress; an editorial in The Afro; and conversations in churches and union halls, where most members are black,” reports Sabrina Tavernise in her thorough NYTimes piece.

Tavernise recounts a Washington Post poll from last month which reported that 71 percent of white Maryland Democrats support gay marriage, which only 41 percent of black Maryland Democrats are pro-same-sex union. (Shocking, no?)

The coalition may or may not succeed in shifting the bias of a certain slice of the black community historically opposed to homosexuality, usually on religious grounds. Last year, several black churches joined forces to launch the Maryland Marriage Alliance, their own coalition to fight the gay marriage bill — the massive Maryland Catholic Conference is on board, too.

So, it’s really uplifting to read in this article about activists like the Rev. Larry Brumfield, an African-American pastor in Baltimore, who speaks out regularly on his radio program about gay rights, aiming to be “extra vocal” to change people’s minds and help change the law.

“It really bothers me how black people can be so insensitive to oppression,” he said in the NYTimes story. “They use the same arguments that were used against us by the segregationists in the 1950s.”

It bothers us, too — in fact, the situation outright confounds us. In our view, homophobia is absolutely identical to racism and sexism. Haven’t we all learned anything from the civil rights movement? Why doesn’t a larger portion of the Democratic African American community feel compelled to empathize with a minority making brave strides in the name of basic equality? And if the Human Rights Campaign fails to sway enough black voters, will Obama feel comfortable supporting gay marriage with maximum courage? What are your thoughts on the issue, readers?

Inside Creepy Mansion "Mensana"


Earlier this week I heard about an estate sale that’s happening over the weekend, and since I don’t work on Fridays, I decided to drive north of Baltimore to find the house.I always find it incredibly sad to see a place that had at one time been glorious, filled with parties and laughter, now so run down and pitiful. This is the case in this house. You can read a little bit about the house, and see some images of its former life here .

The house sits high on a hill overlooking the lush and serene Green Spring Valley, just north of Baltimore. As you drive up a winding drive to get to the house, you get a good idea of how massive and well-built the place is.The overcast and gloomy weather did nothing for either the interior or the exterior, and everything was just flat and grey. In fact, some of my shots looked like I’d used a black and white filter to take them.When I entered the house, there were flashes of the place it used to be. Beautiful wood and plasterwork, elegant fireplaces…It’s solid as a rock, and many of the architectural details remain. In a nutshell, the house was built in 1900 by one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, and most recently, it was owned by a rather nefarious doctor who used it as a “pain” clinic, and was later stripped of his medical license.I wasn’t certain whether these walls were papered or painted, but the transition between scenery and paint was badly handled.Even in the overcast, the rooms were bright, and their proportions were good.The details were beautiful.As I went up the sweeping staircase, I was struck by the solidness of the bannisters and railing and the good condition of the hardwood steps.The bedrooms, and there are six of them, all en suite, were used as patient rooms, and there are pieces here and there that remind you that it was a “medical” facility.

But there are also details that remind you of the former good life that the house lived.  The marble fireplace surround,and the sweet sconce, one of only a few that weren’t ripped out.The en suite bathrooms still had their “non-mixer” sinks and tile walls and floors. And having grown up with sinks like these, where the hot and cold water taps don’t mix, let me just tell you that it’s a complete and utter pain!When I walked around the house, I was gutted about how the property had just gone to seed. The beautiful old boxwood were full of dead branches and had become overgrown. Boxwood need air to circulate between their branches or they become diseased. I walked around and pulled handfuls of boxwood branches (with permission) to try and thin them a bit.One of the most melancholy things I saw was an old wicker chair, slowly rotting on the formerly gracious front terrace.To me, the little chair epitomized what the house had become… a slight shadow of its former self.

Oh, what did I get, you ask? Only two books.

1716-18 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, MD  21153 
In between Greenspring Avenue and Stevenson Road on Greenspring Valley. 
Look for two white brick entrance gates and veer to the LEFT when coming up the driveway. 
You can TEXT 443-865-4813 for more info…

Anne Arundel Councilman Uses "Technical" Term, Elicits Gasps


At a council meeting on Thursday, Anne Arundel County Councilman Dick Ladd, 71, casually used the word “gook” in an aside describing his military service in Vietnam. After the utterance sent a shockwave of gasps around the council chambers, Ladd explained that the word is the “technical term for North Koreans” and left it at that. I guess they gasped because he was speaking over their heads?

We’ve seen this kind of thing before. Remember when Michael Richards got “technical” about African-Americans at the Laugh Factory in 2006? Or when Tracy Morgan recently got very “technical” discussing homosexuality? For some reason people were outraged. These guys even had to go on the apology circuit regretting their use of “specialized jargon.”

A warning to Councilman Ladd: it’s unfortunate, but there are plenty of people who just aren’t going to understand you if you get too “technical.” And for some reason (who knows why!) they might even get offended.

This Week in Research: Your Cell Phone is Making You Selfish


One upside of the technology boom is that it enables us to stay in touch, connect with others, and otherwise be more social animals… right? Maybe, but not necessarily in a good way, according to a study by University of Maryland marketing professors. After talking on a cell phone for a short time, research subjects were less likely to volunteer for a community service activity than those who hadn’t been chatting on a phone. The researchers posit that a cell phone conversation gives the user a feeling of connectivity and belonging. Once that itch is scratched, there’s less of a need to engage in empathic or prosocial behavior. Even more scary, this decreased focus on others held true when participants were asked to draw a picture of their cell phones and think about using them, without even making a phone call.

And — sorry for more bad news! — patients who recover from potentially deadly diseases are hardly brimming with joy and gratitude, according to research by Johns Hopkins psychiatrists and doctors. Instead, these patients often suffer from depression… which can lead to new physical problems. (Yes, that’s right — the depression comes before the new physical impairments.) The study looked at survivors of acute lung injuries in Baltimore hospitals, and found that 40 percent suffered depressive symptoms in the two years following their discharge. Two-thirds had new physical problems that made it difficult to perform the tasks of daily life, such as using the phone and shopping for food. This is despite the fact that the average age of the patients was 49. “Patients are burdened for a very long time after their hospital stays,” says Dale Needham, a Hopkins doc who was the study’s principal investigator. “We need to figure out what we can do to help these previously productive people get back their lives.” The study posits that it’s not just the illnesses that make patients have a hard time recovering, but also the standard ICU procedures of deep sedation and bed rest.

Baltimore County Students Beat State and National AP Averages


With schools strongly encouraging more and more students to sit for the Advanced Placement tests, you’d expect pass rates to drop from the less prepared or less motivated students not scoring as high. Well that’s not what happened in Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), exactly.

On February 14, BCPS released their good news that 63.8 percent of their AP test takers scored the passing 3 or higher. This is significantly better than both state (59.0 percent) and national (55.8 percent) averages.

Compared to the 2010 results, the percentage of BCPS students who received a 3 or above decreased from 66.4 percent to 63.8 percent in 2011. However, the percentage of graduating seniors who took at least one exam rose from 35 percent in 2010 to 36.6 percent in 2011. While the overall pass rate dipped, BCPS still outperformed and outnumbered the nation. Only 30.2 percent of students across the country took an AP exam last year.

Judging from the College Board of Advanced Placement’s “8th Annual AP Report to the Nation,” the class of 2011 deserves a pat on the back. More that 18 percent of the nation’s class of 2011 scored a 3 or higher on an AP test during their high school career.


Baltimore’s Los Signs to Diddy’s Bad Boy Label


Baltimore’s own Los — at 30 and with no official albums — has already experienced a rollercoaster of a rap career, and much of it has had to do with Diddy. He was part of the hip hop mogul’s competitive reality show Making the Band in 2002, making it all the way to the end only to opt out of actually joining the group at the last moment. He signed to Bad Boy in 2006 only to leave two years later without having released anything on the label.

In the meantime, Los has garnered a reputation as a strong freestyler and released several mixtapes (underground releases that are typically less hook-heavy and radio-oriented than albums), the latest of which, The Crown Ain’t Safe, is a good showcase of the Liberty Heights native’s stylistic range. The songs are packed with all the standard swagger and profanity, but lurking behind the old tropes is a flow with more character and nuance than you’d expect. Los keeps his delivery laid-back and warm, even as he jockeys between fast and slow rapping and sudden, syncopated rests, here and there playfully lingering on a line’s last syllable, and even as he delivers relentlessly self-aggrandizing lyrics. The free-to-download mixtape is also a good introduction to Baltimore’s brand of hip hop: included are several tracks with a strong Baltimore club influence — the song “2 vs. 1” being the clearest example.

Now Los has been welcomed back into the Bad Boy fold as part of Diddy’s “rebuilding” of the label. The 42-year-old CEO says he expects Los (and fellow recent signees Machine Gun Kelly, Red Cafe, and French Montana) to help Bad Boy regain some “youthful energy.” Los is certainly optimistic about his future with Bad Boy. He recently told that he’s “a young billionaire in training.” Well, if he can stick with Diddy long enough this time to actually put a record out, there’s no reason Los shouldn’t blow up. But first up is a mixtape for his new, old label. No release date has been set.

Hot off the news of the signing, Los stopped by the LA Leakers radio show to record a 10-minute freestyle. If you can handle the profanity, the YouTube video of the session offers a chance to check out a spontaneous freestyle by someone regarded as a master of the form. The DJs constantly switch beats on the MC (some of which are from Bad Boy tracks), and he is rarely caught off-guard, often using the title of the original song to propel his verse forward. 

The Mob Mentality of the Huguely Press Coverage


What makes the public take interest in a trial? Why do so few gain such attention?

The Washington Post wrote an interesting account of the intense coverage of the trial of former UVA lacrosse player George Huguely in the murder of Cockeysville-native Yeardley Love. In, “The Huguely Case: What Makes for a Media Mob” writer Paul Farhi notes that the city of Charlottesville received over 200 requests for press credentials and cites the trials of Amanda Knox, Casey Anthony and Conrad Murray as examples of cases that have garnered equal interest.  There is a formula, so it seems.

“Almost all of the great media spectacles surrounding crime and punishment in America over the past 30 years or so have involved one or more of the following: young white women, celebrities, or wealthy people,” the story asserts.

Yesterday, the trial was delayed because defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana was ill. The trial is expected to resume today, with the defense continuing to present its case. Over the next few days, lawyers for Huguely will call to the stand medical experts from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins, Huguely’s mother Marta Murphy, a UVA lacrosse teammate, and a student from Landon, the private school Huguely attended in Bethesda, according to the Baltimore Sun.

iPhones Meet Museum. Magic Results.


Not all museums are monuments to the past. In the internet age, even collections as venerable as those at the Walters Art Museum are getting an upgrade thanks to innovative use of technology, allowing museumgoers to have a whole new relationship with the art on the wall.

For the next month, visitors to the Walters can play around with Peer One, a video project organized by wi-fi artist Kari Altmann. Altmann turned to her online collective of video artists, designers, bloggers, and other digitally-minded creative types, asking them to create video responses to objects in the museum’s permanent collection. “Altmann… encouraged them to place the museum’s objects into a contemporary informational, commercial and cultural context,” the museum notes.

What this means for you is that you can download a 16-video tour of the collection on your favorite portable device. Then visit the corresponding 16 works of art, and watch the corresponding video. A pdf provides additional context about each work. Old media and new media getting friendly — this is definitely the museum of the future!

Cutie Kelly Looking for a Home


Looking for a more sophisticated pet to keep you company? Kelly, a fawn-colored boxer, could be a perfect match. 

Kelly is approximately eight years old — she has both a relaxed and energetic nature. The Maryland SPCA describes Kelly as “comfortable going on long walks or just lying around the house.”

Her nickname is “Swinging Tap Dancer.” Kelly could have earned that title with those white-furred boots on each paw or from performing that boxer shimmy when she’s happy. Either way, she’s ready to dance her way into someone’s home.

All of her vaccinations are current. She is also spayed and her worming is up to date. Be sure to contact the MD SPCA for the most recent information on pet adoption.

Recreational Residential Real Estalking


It’s the doldrums of February in the real estate market and this week yielded slim pickings in the open house department. Looking not to waste your time and gas, I only listed the two worth the drive. Happy looking.


4613 Roland Avenue

$ 789,000

6 br/3.5 ba

This victorian in Roland Park has a nostalgic “faded southern belle” vibe. Just check out the dining room. Can’t you picture the dinner party in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” taking place right there? Unfortunately, along her many charms (the curved leaded glass window, herringbone parquet floor, and original tiling in the baths to name a few) this lady is bound to be high maintenance. Be prepared for plenty of expensive upkeep. But don’t be too hard on the old gal, at over 100 years old, she’s earned a little pampering. Visualize: sipping sweet tea on the generous front porch.


801 Key Highway

$ 1,450,000

2 br/2.5 ba

Come on, aren’t you a little curious? Just what does a “Ritz Carlton Residence” look like? Well grab your chance to take a tour at the Inner Harbor location this weekend. The condominium style homes are lovely in photographs and their beauty appears to be more than skin deep. For example, kitchens are appointed with Viking appliances, custom European cabinetry and a dedicated service entrance though the pantry (creepy but cool?). Beyond the front door, the amenities of the development are endless: a marina, pool, fitness center, board room, lounge, private gardens, screening room, game room, concierge, doorman and valet parking. Kinda reads like a description of a five star hotel. Weird. On the negative side, all this luxury does not come cheap and depressing rumors of low occupancy were rife when the development opened a few years ago. I’m starting to hear, however, a buzz and that makes me think that now is the perfect time to take a peek. I’ll meet you there. Visualize: The doorman carrying in the groceries as you check on your Cinghiale reservation with the concierge.