Reel Work in Baltimore


Yet another Baltimore boy is wearing his heart on his sleeves, then rolling them up to make a film set in his hometown. The Tradesmen: Making an Art of Work (trailer now showing on our home page) a new documentary by  26 year-old Parkville-native-turned-LA-filmster Richard Yeagley explores the modern role of working professionals –hard working professionals: plumbers, painters,  stone masons, carpenters, auto mechanics, and numerous other craftsmen. Filmed entirely on location in Baltimore, The Tradesmen opens a powerful discussion about the meaning and definition of work.

The doc features another Baltimorean, star and creator of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe, who had to miss the Baltimore premier on May 12, at the Charles Theater, because he was testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation about many of the exact issues that are raised in Yeagley’s film. From Rowe’s testimony:

“Right now, American manufacturing is struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions. There are 450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities. The skills gap is real, and it’s getting wider. In Alabama, a third of all skilled tradesmen are over 55. They’re retiring fast, and no one is there to replace them…

In a hundred different ways, we have slowly marginalized an entire category of critical professions, reshaping our expectations of a ‘good job’ into something that no longer looks like work. A few years from now, an hour with a good plumberif you can find one—is going to cost more than an hour with a good psychiatrist. At which point we’ll all be in need of both.”

Johns Hopkins Office of Cultural Affairs
will present one more public—and FREE!—screening on June 2 at 7:15p.m. in the Mountcastle Auditorium (725 N. Wolfe Street). Yeagley and several of the film subjects will be in attendance for a discussion after the film.

Mid-Century Modern’s Moment

Mid-century modern is having a moment. “Mid-century modern” means everything decorative from the mid-20th century, including furniture, decorative objects, fabric and even interior designers from that period. (Think Billy Baldwin, Dorothy Draper, Sister Parrish, David Hicks, Tony Duquette.) You know those guys were good when you see spaces they did in 1962, and you have trouble deciphering whether it’s David Hicks or David Easton. Their impact is unmatched in interior design.
Mid-century is an obsession we’ve had for the past five years, even before the “Mad Men” hysteria. But Don Draper has gotten under our skin and obsession has been upgraded to addiction. We scour the market for anything that looks like it belongs to Betty. When we decorate a room, we find it looks naked without at least a 1950’s Murano glass lamp or a black lacquered Paul McCobb chest of drawers. We spend hours on 1st Dibs salivating over Paul Laszlo light fixtures that resemble those in Roger Sterling’s office, or geometric screens that look hauntingly like the one in Pete Campbell’s apartment.
The allure and glamour of Betty and Don has re-ignited the mid-century modern movement, but many are still shy about incorporating the retro look into their home. We suggest starting small, maybe a lamp or small Danish chair. But beware! Once you add one piece, you WILL want more…and then you will discover 1st Dibs and Center 44, both amazing online sources for mid-century everything. Then you’ll watch “Mad Men” with a whole new perspective. It’s really just a weekly fix for those of us with the shameful addiction.  

The SEED of Greatness


The SEED School of Maryland, a statewide, college-prep, public boarding school, welcomed its first students, 80 enthusiastic sixth graders, in 2008. Today, the lauded tuition-free school, aiming to serve the “underserved,” which combines rigorous academics with ultra-supportive and attentive boarding-school-style socialization, educates 240 kids, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. (SEED stands for School for Educational Evolution and Development.)

Two key donors were honored this month, former Ravens owner Arthur Modell and his wife Patricia, and the Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

“I am so proud to stand with The SEED School of Maryland, Art and Patricia Modell, and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, as we nurture the next generation of leaders by investing in their future,” said Judge Katie O’Malley. “It is the power of partnership that will help give our children the tools they need to succeed and build a brighter tomorrow.”

The Modells donated five million dollars to SEED in 2007, in crucial days, just before launch, the Weinberg Foundation two million. Since the school’s ambitious opening, the institution has raised 30 million dollars in private donations, which has made possible the construction of two dormitories and an academic building. In the works now: A pool, auditorium, atrium, and additional dormitory. Soon, the student body will grow to 400. Last year, they had an impressive 100 percent re-enrollment rate.

“We’ve come a long way since we broke ground at The SEED School of Maryland’s campus in 2008,” observed John H. Laporte, Chair of the Board of Trustees of The SEED School of Maryland, at the awards ceremony. “The campus is expanding, the student body is growing, and we are about to start our high school program. In just a few short years, we will be sending our first graduates to college. This is an exciting time at The SEED School, and there are so many more good things to come.”

There is one SEED school in Maryland, one in D.C., at present, the latter with a 95 percent rate of college attendance upon graduation.

Beyond Red and Blue: Do You Still Party?


Have the tough economy and controversial military operations overseas made you more or less sure who you are politically? Without question, the political climate has encouraged red-and-blue polarization, to an extent, but according to new findings from the Pew Research Center’s 2011 Typology study, “A growing number of Americans are choosing not to identify with either political party, and the center of the political spectrum is increasingly diverse.” So, where precisely do you fit?

If you’re ready to know, Pew has published their Political Typology quiz to help you pinpoint your Party Animal DNA more intricately.

You’ll answer quick questions, like, “Does the growing number of newcomers from other countries threaten American customs and values or strengthen American society? Should the country do whatever it takes to help the environment, or have we gone too far? Hard work and determination basically guarantee you’ll get ahead, yes or no? Homosexuality should be accepted or discouraged by society?”

According to Pew, you could be a Staunch Conservative, a Main Street Republican, a Libertarian, a Disaffected, a Postmodern, a New Coalition Democrat, a Hard Pressed Democrat, a Solid Liberal or a Bystander.

Intriguingly, study shows: To the right, the classic divide between pro-biz conservatives and social conservatives has now gone fuzzy. To the left, the study identified a “New Coalition” of working-class voters who are white, Latino and African American, in near equal numbers.

Listed beside each Core Group Type in the online glossary, you can read a capsule of detailed, newsy information, under the headings, “What They Believe,” and “Who They Are.” (Did you know, for example, that 39% of Libertarians earn $75,000 or more? Or that 71% of Disaffecteds have experienced unemployment in their households in the last year? We did not.)

Seeing red and blue at once? Don’t have a poli-identity crisis. The quiz takes about a minute to complete–soon you’ll know yourself a little better, and how hard you still want to party.

Couple Love: Art Imitates Marriage


For Allan Comport and Sally Wern, the married founders of design firm, Art at Large, success, excitement, and partnership balance out the scary uncertainty of the commercial illustration industry.

“Sally and I lived and breathed the world of illustration and commercial applied imagery, she as a successful illustrator, and me as an artists’ representative,” Allan explains. “Our business morphed many times over 25 plus years to experience success in editorial, advertising, institutional and publishing work.”

The two met while working at a summer camp in Ohio when Sally was in tenth grade, and Allan was a sophomore in college. Between her sophomore and junior years at Columbus College of Art and Design, they wed. Sally had worked in the illustration industry since before they met, and Allan became passionately interested in the field.

“The idea of using my knowledge of relationships and communications seemed a natural fit to begin handling the sales, marketing and account representative work of the studio,” he says.

Soon, the two started working together, Sally doing freelance, Allan taking care of the business side of things. Over some years, they expanded their studio to include several other illustrators and seven photographers and eventually merged their small company with Shannon Associates in New York, one of the premiere artist agencies in the world. Sally illustrated while Allan represented numerous artists.

In 2005, they split up–professionally, that is. Sally continues to design for and run Art at Large, doing large-scale environmental graphic design. As a full-time MICA prof, Allan is one of the favorites among the illustration seniors who turn to him with their paralyzing fears of jumping out of the nest and plummeting into the real world of illustration. (I just graduated from MICA, with a concentration in illustration.)

“It was great to work closely for many years. We are both still completely committed to art and commerce, and support each other’s creative initiatives every day,” says Sally. Allan says he is proud of the direction his wife’s work is moving in. Each truly has admiration for the other that is almost tangible. They have two children and live in Annapolis.

Jenna Bush’s House Sits on the Market


Remember when newlyweds Jenna Bush Hager and husband Henry lived here for ten minutes? Well, Baltimore has been left with a token of its brush with presidential fame. The couple’s cast-off Federal Hill home has been sitting on the market for six months. There is something comforting in the knowledge that being the daughter of the most powerful man in the world does not shield you from the doldrums of a weak housing market. 

The three bedroom townhouse is lovely: all charming parts exposed and all yuck parts redone. (Great master bath!) It seems ideally poised to attract Federal Hill seekers: young, upwardly-mobile and…oh, for God sakes, you know who I mean! The real bonuses here might be the “sea-grass rugs and decorative touches.” With Jenna’s resources, they are sure to be the best. One could also assume the security system is top notch. Check out her multi-culti artwork, fabrics and accents. (Click here for pics.) No doubt an aesthetic garnered during her African travels. These worldly touches are well mixed with a fresh decor that speaks to Jenna’s spunky, southern, sorority girl persona (notice the gaggle of requisite “school days” photos). Picture her, a little tipsy, adorably burning the chicken at her first “grown-up” dinner party. You know it happened. 

The home at 1345 Charles Street was purchased by the Hagers for $440,000 and is now selling for $449,000. Why the move? Well, the Wall Street Journal reported that perhaps, it was because their bikes were stolen. Um, really? If folks were so easily run out of their homes, no one would live below Lake Avenue. More plausible is the rumor that the couple found Baltimore, shall we say, underwhelming. (I hear she hated it.) That, combined with Jenna’s new Today Show gig made New York a more suitable choice. Luckily, Henry’s job presented no obstacle. He was able to secure a lickety-split transfer to New York with his employer, Constellation Energy. Funny how that works when you are him. Let’s hope that the Hagers are happy in the Big Apple and let’s hope that their former love nest makes a nice home for a new pair of yuppies for a couple of years…until they have a kid and move to Homeland.

Summer Road Trip: College Visits


My husband and daughter took a road-trip last August. She was a rising junior, and we wanted to get a jump on college touring. She is our oldest child, and naturally, we are very excited to engage in this process with her. College is such an important step in a young person’s maturation that we are genuinely ecstatic for the opportunities that lie ahead. So, off to New England they went.  

We thought we were being a little precocious, a little ahead of the crowd, taking a trip BEFORE junior year. Alas, we were wrong. Many girls had been looking for months—checking out college campuses to “get a feel” for a place, or “see what a college campus looks like.” These are half-truths, spoken by parents and the children they love. The whole truth is that it is a dead heat to the finish line in the college admissions race. Some parents will tell you that they have taken a look around, and others will not, fearing that they will forfeit an advantage for their child. This is a marathon, and many parents set their pace miles ago, when we didn’t even know the race was on!

So, the thought for the day is, “Wise up, parents.” No one is going to spell it out for you.  The college counselors can answer questions, but they are not going to tell you what to do. And they are not going to counsel you in the things you don’t dare admit you want to know. These things are revealed in the trenches. So ask your friends with older children what they did, keep your eyes open, and don’t wait for the memo. 

Your Comments


Yes, we should be working, but it’s much more fun to read your comments. Some of our favorites from last week…

Our May 12 post asked for your worst prom stories as part of our contest. Mrs. Batworth replied:

“It was 1977 and my then-best friend had a boyfriend, so she was hell-bent on going to the prom, and wanted me to go with her. I couldn’t find a date, so she told her little brother he had to escort me. I was mortified. Then-best friend wore red, slinky satin; I wore a recycled, very prim Gunne Sax dress in pale green. She and her boyfriend spent the whole evening making out while I tried to make conversation with my 15 year-old date. We danced to “Fooled Around and Fell In Love.” He was a very nice kid and surprisingly gracious, and I’ve always had the sense that he grew up to be a great human being.” 

Our “On Culture” columnist Mikita Brottman wrote a short post May 12 about the desperate attempts of the BSO to gain audience, to which WhitherThouGoest replied: 

“I’m not sure I understand your point. Instead of trying to broaden its appeal with a more diverse range of programming, the BSO would be better off if it JUST DIDN’T EXIST ANYMORE? Perhaps the point isn’t to attract people who are already interested, but to inform people about music that is harder and harder connect with as the years pass and make it relevant for today. And in the case of the Decorators’ Show House, that is a major fundraiser for the BSO! So though it may have no appeal for you it clearly has appeal for many of the BSO’s patrons. But perhaps you’re right. Maybe the BSO should just quietly go about the business of classical music, dutifully kowtowing to the sticks-in-the-mud whose naysaying is probably responsible for the state of the genre today.”

And, our favorite, a funny reply from vascellaro to the May 11 post about bringing babies to bars:

“Madam, there’s no such thing as a tough child – if you parboil them first for seven hours, they always come out tender.~ W. C . Fields”

Thanks for writing.

Chow with Your Chow and Drink with Your Dachshund


First we find out you can bring your baby to a bar in Baltimore City, and soon you’ll be able to bring your dog, too! Before going out of session for the summer, Annapolis passed Dining Out Growth Act, which makes it legal to bring your dog to a restaurant or bar beginning July 1. As long as the establishment of your choice is onboard, you’ve got a new leash on life—your social life, that is. This is great news to folks who don’t have human children of their own, but have been blessed with canines. Who needs to get married when you can enjoy a thriving family life with your domestic partner and your dogs in a bar or restaurant this summer?(Contributor’s note: I don’t have a domestic partner. I do have two dogs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Gilman Film Fest Take One


More than one film festival screened in Baltimore last week. Synchronized with the celebrated Maryland Film Fest, Gilman School launched its first annual student film showcase, featuring shorts by Baltimore-area teens. Over 150 attendees made the scene.

Of the more than forty original film submissions received, nineteen were selected to screen, representing the best of the categories of short narrative, short documentary, music video, and short animation. Two PSA’s premiered as well. Jury panel was comprised of Gilman faculty, administrators and a few students from the Film Club. 

Iva Turner, Gilman’s Head of Upper School, first proposed the fest idea to junior Daniel Citron. (Daniel is my son.) Impressed with the widespread interest he’d achieved in launching and maintaining a school film club two years earlier, she saw an opportunity to expand Gilman’s emerging arts program into a new realm. Daniel, an avid filmmaker, brought the ambitious fest idea to life.

John Schmick, Gilman’s head of school said, “One of Gilman’s main objectives is to provide students the opportunity to shine in all different arenas. We recognize that creative arts unleash and enhance brainpower in significant ways for development. This particular program kicked off our Festival of Arts, which showcases the best of our visual and musical arts programs. The school play was the week prior to the festival. There’s so much fabulous energy here on campus right now.” 

Gilman seniors Daniel Hoffman and Nick Cortezi’s film “The Kid” was awarded both the Best Narrative and the Special Jury Prizes.

“We both have an interest in filmmaking and, when the festival was announced, it gave us the opportunity to explore what we could do,” said Hoffman. The boys set out to create interesting, unique characters viewers might not have before seen. They settled on the time-honored theme of an old fashioned Western, but decided to cast a 10-year-old as the unlikely star. 

“What we lacked in experience, we made up for in originality,” Hoffman said.

Film Festival winners received $500 scholarship awards contributed by New York Film Academy to their summer filmmaking program in Los Angeles.       

And the winners are: 

Grand Jury Prize and Best Narrative:  “The Kid” by Daniel Hoffman & Nick Cortezi, Gilman. Now Showing! On our Home page and at

Best Narrative Runner Up: “Oedipus” by John Chirikjian, Gilman.

Best Music Video: “Got2Go by Alex Elliott,” Broadneck High School, Annapolis.

Best Music Video Runner Up: “Acapella You Tube Melody” by Ryan Sevel, McDonogh.

3rd Place Best Music Video: “Simple Lyrics” by Grace Harrington, Bryn Mawr.