Today is a New Holiday. Here’s How/Where to Celebrate

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The only thing better than a holiday is a new holiday, so let’s all take a moment and bask in the glow of Food Day. Yes, Food Day is a holiday, and it’s a holiday about food, and it’s happening today (Monday, October 24, that is). And in its honor, let’s all eat food, appreciate farmers, eat more food, and stay home from work (so we can eat more food).

Okay, so it’s not a national holiday (yet), so you probably still have to show up for work. Still, it’s a good cause, and there’s plenty of celebration going on all over Baltimore (and across the U.S.). A few ways to celebrate around town:

  • Johns Hopkins is hosting a 100-mile meal, meaning that everything you’ll be served will be seriously local. (Note that while this IS a Food Day event, it’s not actually happening on Food Day. It’s on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 5 PM — but make sure to register ASAP. More details here). Along with a $5 dinner (!), you’ll get to hear some of the most excited and engaged local minds discuss food and sustainability issues in a panel on “Real Food:  From Cafeterias to Communities.”

 

 

  • The Vegetarian Resource Group hosts a Food Day dinner at beloved local favorite Mr. Chan’s. Registration required, $20.

 

  • John Eager Howard’s Food Day Celebration:  “The event will include a mock farmers market to raise awareness of Maryland produce with produce sampling, a pumpkin museum/contest, face painting, harvest hat decorating, a physical activity, and gardening activities.” Intriguing.

But if you’re not up for an event, you can still celebrate. Spokesman Michael Jacobson suggests that you “celebrate Food Day with an especially healthy and delicious meal they serve at home…and have some of the conversation be about the food issues that concerns them.” Sounds like a reason to celebrate.

100 Survivors: Breast Cancer Boldly Self-Documented

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Interdisciplinary artist Julia Kim Smith struck up a fast friendship with fellow artist Francesca Danieli, a celebrated collage-maker in 2002, when the women, who both had pre-first-grade daughters at Bryn Mawr, met at their girls’ soccer game and realized they were both professional creatives building life and work in Baltimore. They began attending each other’s shows. In 2004, Julia, a Baltimore Fishbowl resident artist, invited Francesca, and writer David Beaudouin, to collaborate on a video called “One Nice Thing,” shot at that year’s Democratic National Convention — Julia says it posed the plucky question, “Can one party say one nice thing about the opposition and really mean it?” The film screened at White Box in New York as part of the “Six Feet Under: Make Nice” exhibition.

That same year Francesca’s breast cancer returned for the third time. Two years later, she died at 52. Though their close friendship was tragically short-lived, Franscesca and Julia’s most emotionally daring collaboration endures today. An evolution of Francesca’s photography exhibition—displayed at MICA and the Creative Alliance, and posthumously at Centerstage—which documented 10 women with metastatic breast cancer, 100 Survivors invites women with breast cancer to photograph and write about themselves according to an itemized list of “tags”–starting with a close photo of the face–in an empowering and expressive gesture that speaks less of happy endings than complex and truthful present-tense resolve. (Please scroll down to see the photos.)

We talked to Julia about the conceptual series that lives on.

Tell me what moves you most about 100 Survivors — and how did the idea emerge/expand out of your two-person collaboration?

Francesca and I hoped the project would give her and all the women in the project some power and control over what was going on… Many of the photos appear mundane on the surface but function on a deeper, metaphoric or symbolic level when paired with the writing. I think that’s what makes the work powerful and moving.

Are the women who submit photos non-artist civilians for the most part — where the creative project is concerned, what tends to be the most significant challenge for them?

A few of the women are artists (Francesca, Carole Jean, Ilene, Charlotte) but most aren’t. The biggest challenge, for the non-artist, is to not obsess over creating “Art” with a capital “A” and to simply document their own lives at time when they are vulnerable. Photograph and write about what they know.

What did you and Francesca expect would be the most important outcome (or emotional payoff) of each woman’s self-portrait shoot?

The first tag, 1. my face (daily), is probably the hardest to shoot and the one most women flinch at.  Facing one’s own face, literally facing one’s own face, is just hard!  Women tend to be critical of their own faces and bodies.  We hoped the tag would lead women to really look at themselves with an unflinching gaze and accept.  Many did.

You currently have 31 photographer participants, correct? When you reach 100 will you begin again?

It’s 30 — we are checking on one woman’s release form.  I can’t even contemplate reaching 100 women. Francesca and I almost randomly came up with a title for the project, 100 Survivors.  It doesn’t matter if we get there.  What matters is the women and what they choose to document.  Hope that makes sense.  I work with all the women — I can’t think of them as numbers.

Any advice to breast cancer survivors who want to participate but feel timid?

Most of the women who start the project begin by announcing they aren’t very good at photography. I encourage them to shoot a lot and edit later — digital cameras, cell phone cameras have made photography more accessible.

What has feedback been like from women with cancer?

We’ve heard from women who either have been to the exhibitions or visited the website that 100 Survivors fills a void; it is what they need to get through the night.

Have you seen other artists work in response to illness, in ways that inspire you?

Writers inspire me: Barbara Ehrenreich and Peggy Orenstein. In Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, Ehrenreich recounts her own experience with breast cancer. “Breast cancer, I can now report, did not make me prettier or stronger, more feminine or spiritual,” writes Ehrenreich. “What it gave me, if you want to call this a ‘gift,’ was a very personal, agonizing encounter with an ideological force in American culture that I had not been aware of before — one that encourages us to deny reality, submit cheerfully to misfortune, and blame only ourselves for our fate.” Orenstein, the author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, today writes about body image issues — in one piece, she critiques and questions the sexualization of breast cancer awareness movements. In the late 90s, she published in The New York Times a straightforward journal detailing her experience dealing with breast cancer at 35.”

Did You Know Elmo is Voiced By a Baltimore Native? Award-Winning Documentary Tells the Story

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Baltimore native Kevin Clash, who voices the Sesame Street character Elmo, is the subject of Being Elmo, a documentary that opens today in New York.  See the trailer for the film — which won a Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival — on our video landing on the homepage.

 

Rapture Officially Delayed: The End Isn’t Here!

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If you’re reading this, you are alive, and therefore, the Rapture has probably been delayed (again). Another close call for Maryland, and the entire planet. Let’s take a moment to breathe a collective sigh of relief. (Hope you didn’t quit your job.) Let’s also take a moment to vent in the name of poor life-or-death planning!

As you’re no doubt aware, professional rapture-revelator Harold Camping (who looks like a patriarchal granddaddy character on “Big Love,” with ears bigger than Harry Dean Stanton’s), after mistakenly announcing that the world would end last May 21st, revised his prediction date to October 21st, which happens to be today. Camping, 90, who now resides in a nursing home, is the host of Family Radio, a Bible-centered podcast.  On a show earlier this month he noted, “I do believe we’re getting very near the very end. Oct. 21, that’s coming very shortly, that looks like it will be, at this point, it will be the final end of everything.”

Camping added that this very end’s going to come very, very quietly, by the way, with Gawker winking that the prophet seemed to be hedging his bets — maybe the Rapture’s curtain will fall so silently, we won’t even notice he got it right this time!

Interesting to note that, in 1992, Camping warned that the world would for sure end in 1994.

We do wish the aged sage would make up his mind once and for all. If God’s listening to Camping’s podcast, maybe he’ll coordinate his closeout plans accordingly. Last May, many frightened families said goodbye to their homes and took to the streets to warn citizens of the 5/21 finale. They’ve had about five months to regroup and plan for the 10/21 departure, and we’re betting they’re pretty steamed right about now.

On the bright, we’re-still-alive side, now that you’ve got some days to kill, what do you plan to do with your precious extra time on the planet? Please let us know below!

Business Insider’s Complicated Stance Re "Occupy" Movement

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In 2003, Henry Blodget was permanently barred from the securities industry by the SEC and required to pay four million dollars for securities fraud—publishing reports on companies that inflated their value or stability, and that contradicted his private, negative opinion of them. He’s now CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Business Insider, a blog reporting business trends and research. By all rights, he should be the last guy to publicly declare his sympathy for the gripes of the “Occupy” protesters.

But a quick search of Business Insider’s website yields article after article by Blodget, in which he outlines his general agreement with their complaints and qualified support for their aims. He calls “the juxtaposition of 1) extreme inequality, 2) super-high unemployment, and 3) record high corporate profits” a “serious problem” and even agrees with some of Occupy Wall Street’s recent demands.

But behind some of his seemingly even-handed statements lies poor reasoning. “The entire country bears responsibility for our massive debt build-up and financial crisis, from Wall Street to Main Street to K Street to the Federal Reserve to the White House to Capitol Hill,” he states in a recent article. But the implication that “Main Street” shares an equal (or nearly equal) amount of blame as Wall Street and Capitol Hill? Outrageous. An unequal distribution of power (which Blodget has the charts to demonstrate) excludes an equal distribution of responsibility.

In the same piece, he lists what he judges legitimate frustrations of Wall Streeters. Wall Street is frustrated “that its success, which the country needs much more of, is being vilified.” But is that claim, that the country needs “much more” success from Wall Street, justified? Doesn’t record high unemployment paired with record high corporate profits cast doubt on the assumption that success on Wall Street brings some automatic benefit to the country as a whole? In fact, isn’t this the whole point — that large corporations and the financial sector have increased their wealth at the expense of the vast majority of Americans?

Still, Blodget’s sympathy with the grievances of the Occupy movement (which includes an ongoing “Occupy Baltimore” protest) ought to be heartening. Perhaps more of the “one-percent” will realize how much they depend on the other ninety-nine and earnestly work to rectify the situation.

12 Ways to Be a Bad Parent

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The Atlantic surveyed a host of child development experts to figure out the best ways to screw up a child. It’s easier than you’d think! A few of their ultimate no-nos below:

  • Don’t threaten to leave your kids behind at the park when they refuse to get off the slide. Even as a joke. “For a child, the thought that you could leave them alone in a strange place is both terribly frightening and can begin to erode their attachment to you as the secure base from which they can encounter the world,” authors note. So don’t freak your kid out.
  • Don’t lie about sending Barkley to “a beautiful dog farm in Florida” (ahem, mom) when you actually put him down. Or bend the truth in other ways. Even if your intentions are good, you’re distorting reality for your kid. And that can make the world a difficult and potentially damaging place.
  • When your kid yells and throws things, don’t yell at her. “Expressing his or her anger by hitting or throwing things is a perfectly natural behavior for a child. It’s a way for kids with their limited language and immature cognitive (mental) abilities to express emotion,” authors note. You don’t want to teach your kid that emotions are a bad thing, do you?! What, are you repressed or something?
  • Don’t freak out when your kid breaks a rule. According to parenting experts, context is what really matters. In other words, if your home is loving and supportive, it doesn’t really matter if your kid isn’t doing what he’s supposed to. “Parents letting kids play video games with violent content and parents spanking provide examples [of this],” says child development doc George Scarlett. “If you just look at the correlations, you might conclude these two are bad ideas, but look closer, and it seems these two are fine for most when embedded in good contexts and caring parenting.”

There are eight more ways you can mess things up here. But maybe parents should take that last point to heart for themselves, too — if it’s not the end of the world when your kid breaks a rule, you should probably be a little more lenient with yourself as well.

Bennett’s Curse: A Haunted House Review

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Driving down Max Blob’s Park Road on the way to Bennett’s Curse, “Maryland and D.C.‘s Best Haunted House,” horror movie scenes raced through my head. I imagined a crazed chainsaw-wielding lunatic jumping onto our car from the branches above. I imagined getting hacked to bits, meeting the same end as those poor fools in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There we were, two innocent kids snaking down an unpaved road, surrounded by ominous foliage. The ride seemed it might never end. We drove slowly, not knowing an army of undead lay in wait to ambush us at the moment of least expectance! Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what happened upon arrival to Bennett’s Curse, but what awaited us is something I’ll never forget.

We followed the gravel road to a parking lot at Blob’s Park, where a nameless man touted the exquisite quality of the attraction, claiming, “If you don’t like this, you don’t like haunted houses.”

Having been to many haunted houses (so many I’ve lost count), I started the night a tad skeptical. I was hoping for terror, but naturally part of me expected to see the same old props from every amateur haunted attraction — rubbery masks on unenthusiastic actors, ghosts made of sheets with eyes artistically cut out.

After the ticket booth stood the concession stand that offered frightfully delicious treats and hot cider. Luckily we got there about half an hour before the house opened at 7:00 pm, so there was almost no line. But it quickly filled up. I recommend getting a Speed Pass (only $10 more than general admission).

As we stood in dreary fog outside the castle doors and listened to the sounds of tortured souls behind the wall, I found myself right back in the Halloween spirit. The legend of Bennett’s Curse, which you can read about here, is brought to life in three areas inside: The House of Vampires, Zombie Kingdom in 3D, and The Sanctuary of Insanity.

Finally the curtain opened and we were herded through the castle in small groups. Ready, set, go: All hell broke loose. The tour kicked off with a giant demon pulling a man in half. But what really spooked me was when Mr. Demon jumped off the table and lunged himself at us. The makeup and props are so awesome it was sometimes impossible to tell who was real and who was rubber.

Next, we walked a hallway constructed of skulls, leading us to rooms of vampires, cannibals, and the generally deranged. Ghouls lurched from the walls as we walked by. Some hid in black corners and chased us. Lucky for me (she said sarcastically), I ended up as the caboose, which made me an easy target for Curse crazies creeping up and whimpering into my ear. My weird complex of getting scared by the sound of people running up behind me made that aspect even more disturbing.

Life is all about change, of course. And soon we found ourselves walking through a hallway of hanging heads. They hung low enough that I squeamishly had to nudge them out of my way. What was spectacularly nauseating was the corridor of dead bodies slung like cows in a butcher shop. Let me remind you, here, how realistic the props are — fleshy-looking bodies strung up and upside down, like cows waiting to be hacked into burgers!

Soon, we encountered more vampires dining (on you know what) and zombies chasing. A giant appeared to be trying to grab me from outside of the castle with a huge animatronic hand reaching and a giant eyeball peering through a window at me. Demon dragon creatures, bloody undead, statues, and skeletons were brought to life with electronics. An evil gargoyle jumped up and approached us, shocking me because I thought he was a prop!

In Zombie Kingdom, we put on 3D glasses and embarked on a psychedelic journey through blood, guts, and brains. Here’s where I identified the max-creepy element of Bennett’s Curse that sets it apart from other haunted attractions (other than the amazing effects): the pitch black hallway built of what I call “bubble walls.” I don’t know how else to describe them. There are few things creepier than wandering through a hallway of pure black. There was literally nothing visible. I’m a bit claustrophobic.

Okay, so, why do I call them bubble walls? Imagine walking through a hallway, only the walls are inflated so much that they are touching. They’re inflated like balloons. I had to squeeze myself through the crevice, blindly. It was very unsettling and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. But that was my own psyche (powered by my own extra-dark imagination) getting to me. Most people will conquer the “bubble walls,” avoiding a panic attack — they will be scared for a little while and in time scary impressed.

Finally, we weaved in and out of a maze of cages in the Sanctuary of Insanity, as mad patients crowded us, screaming gibberish at the top of their lungs.

As I’d daydreamed earlier, we did in fact get pursued by a chainsaw-wielding lunatic as we exited the haunted house. He chased us in the direction of our cars, but not before getting all up in our grills. (Had we stayed too long?) Truly Chainsaw Guy intimidated me, with his gruesome mask and real, not-a-prop chainsaw. I drove away peeking over my shoulder for any escaped zombies looking for a ride. My own neuroses aside, Bennett’s Curse is hands down the best haunted house I’ve been to. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something fun and terrifying to do this Halloween season.

024 Max Blobs Park Road
Jessup, MD 20794
(410) 538-6461
Hours: Sun, Thu 7–10pm; Mon-Wed Closed; Fri-Sat 7–11pm

 

Scenes from Occupy Baltimore

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We ventured downtown yesterday to ask Occupy Baltimore protestors how they’re faring three weeks in. At McKeldin Square, at Pratt and Light, we met plenty of nice, idealistic young people — camping temporarily on a concrete landscape dotted with colorful tents and food stations, the scene decked with makeshift signs. A band was setting up, too. It’s creative democracy at work.

Elise

Why have you come to Occupy Baltimore?

For our generation. For those of us who have graduated from college and can’t find a job. We can’t pay our student loans back. We live with our parents. My mom is living paycheck to paycheck. We just need a voice.

 Do you have a job?

I have been cut back to two days a week at an organic grocery store. So yes, sorta.

Do you sleep here? Is it safe at night?

You should come back tonight! That’s when all the people who make an honest living during the day show up. The teachers, coaches, bus drivers, taxi owners etc. who all work but can’t pay their bills. And it is safe. We have a buddy system.

Leo

Where do you work?

I write copy for websites.

What brings you to Occupy Baltimore?

A girl named Ashley and social injustice.

Are you accomplishing anything?

Well, this protest has brought people together who would otherwise be isolated. Together they are creating concrete forms of social change.

Such as?

The production and distribution of food. Food is being donated. People are learning how to cook here and feed people in an effective way. Basic needs are being met. Society induces people to compete and not cooperate with each other. We are trying to change that here. 

So it’s not all about finding jobs or making money but working together to make a difference in society?  Not the high unemployment rate or the imbalance of salaries in this country?

Wall Street is out of control. They are “gaming the system” of money and law to get more for themselves and corporations as opposed to using the system to benefit the needs of others and their community.

Will you go to New York?

Maybe on my way home to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving. I’d like to see it. But I really like it here in Baltimore.

In in email to BFB editors this morning, here’s what our talented photographer, Lee Kriel, had to add about Occupy Baltimore: “The people we met were inspiring and bright.  Elise was adorable and articulate.  Vulnerable and kind.  I worry about her.  She lives with her mom and her grandfather.  Her mom works full time for a company she has worked for for 20 years but she is in debt.  Her mother also cares for Elise’s grandfather.  Stuck in the middle.

And Leo…such a bright young man.  Beautiful words flowed from his mouth.  Seriously. (He asked if the Fishbowl was hiring!)   I smiled at the end when we told Leo we were there for the SartorialBaltimorial.  He quickly took a look down at what he was wearing and smiled and said, “Really?” He had a great story about his coat.  A teacher who comes in the evening, offered to take all of Leo’s clothes home to wash and dry after the rain.  But Leo declined because he thought it was too much of an imposition.  So the teacher gave him the coat off his back.”

 

 

Which State Has the Most-Educated Lawmakers?

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As more and more jobs require bachelor’s or even master’s degrees, it’s comforting to know that there’s one place you can succeed without the benefit of a college education:  government.

According to an extensive survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the 7,400 people who make up our states’ legislatures have a varied set of educational credentials. Expectedly, the state legislators are a more diverse and populist bunch than their Congressional counterparts. About one in four lawmakers at the state level lack a college degree. When the Chronicle asked state legislators about their educational backgrounds, a few listed themselves as “self-educated,” or students of the “School of Life,” or — most frighteningly — “gun school.” For comparison, 75 percent of U.S. senators have advanced degrees; more than half of them are lawyers.

How does Maryland stack up? As you might’ve guessed, our state legislators are more educated than average. Fourteen percent have no/some college, a third have a bachelor’s, and 52 percent have an advanced degree — 11 percentage points more than the national average. (The national average for state lawmakers, that is; nationwide, 28 percent of adults have bachelor’s degrees.) In other words, 97.4 percent of lawmakers have at least some college in their background — the second highest rate in the country, in fact. (South Carolina beats us, barely, with 97.7 percent.) The most popular school in our state house is, unsurprisingly, the University of Maryland at College Park, where 31 of them got their degrees.

The states with the least-educated legislatures? New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware, New Mexico, and Arkansas. Hopefully they all went to the school of life instead.

A Place In History: Mansion on Mt. Vernon

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HOT HOUSE: 16 E. Mt. Vernon Place, Baltimore 21202

An original Mt. Vernon Place mansion, circa 1855. Historic property, 6,200 sq. ft., newly renovated, with adjoining carriage house: $2.45 million

What: Opportunity knocks. This is a chance to own one of Baltimore’s real historic gems. Built in 1855 for Charles Carroll of Doughregan, who was the grandson of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the famous Baltimorean who laid the cornerstone of the B&O Railroad. The house is also a former home of John Work Garrett, longtime president of the B&O and Baltimore philanthropist, who also owned the Evergreen House in North Baltimore. More recently, Baltimore philanthropist LeRoy Hoffberger lived here. Along the way, it housed the Mt. Vernon Institute for Young Ladies and Little Girls, a school for girls.  Beautifully renovated just two years ago, (the new owners divorced and left town) and restored from an apartment house to a single-family home, the house is now in mint condition. Music from the Peabody Institute across the street floats in the air, and creates a pleasant bustle of artistic endeavor in the neighborhood. The interior is grand in the manner of the Garrett-Jacobs mansion in the next block, but smaller and with more natural light. Carved moldings, hardwood floors, wood paneling and marble mantelpieces abound. Over four stories, there are six large bedrooms with lovely modern baths, an au-pair/staff/mother-in-law suite, a library and a master bedroom with two astounding dressing rooms.  Also, two kitchens, two laundry rooms, a cigar room  — specially ventilated so that no smoke leaks into the rest of the house — sauna, steam room and beautiful carved and working fireplaces. The main kitchen is a dream, with granite and marble countertops, custom cabinets, lighting and storage features as well as an adjoining butler’s pantry. Full, unfinished basement. Central air. The carriage house is accessed through a walled courtyard, and contains a garage with street access, as well as a fully equipped, good-sized flat that could be a separate rental unit.

Where: 16 E. Mt. Vernon Place is between St. Paul’s and Charles Street, before the church, almost directly across Mt. Vernon Place from the Peabody Institute, overlooking the trees and fountains of Mt. Vernon Place. Nearby, within and easy walk are Tio Pepe, Sotto Sopra, Helmand and lots of great hang outs – Maire Louise Bistro, Milk and Honey, Iggies and around the corner, the Maryland Club.

Why: Because you believe in Baltimore, and that eventually, you’ll be sitting on a goldmine.

Would Suit: Patron of the arts, city-dwellers-and-proud-of-it. Incoming downsizers from the Greenspring Valley. Might also appeal to the right corporate client. Agora publishing owns, and has beautifully restored, several properties on the square as offices.

NB: For such a large house, there is not much private outdoor space – a very small garden area in the courtyard. The guys who congregate on the benches in the park may not be your ideal neighbors.