Kristin Hughes


Jessup Prisoners’ LOL Comedy Show


In the wise words of comic Marc Unger (as told to City Paper), “Comedy is about rebellion. This is your opportunity to say what you wanna say.”

Unger, along with Lucy Bucknell, a senior lecturer in the Film and Media Studies Program at Johns Hopkins, came together to teach a comedy workshop at the Brockbridge Correctional Facility in Jessup recently. The workshop was four weeks long, once a week for a couple hours — an extension of Bucknell’s writing workshops held at Brockbridge since 2009.

“I think the comedy workshop really formed naturally out of…the performance style of some of the [writing workshop] readers,” Bucknell told City Paper.

Seems to me, after reading about the workshop, being behind bars really reduces your inhibitions, making it easier to joke about being a gangster, being fat, or even being kind of an asshole. What do you have to lose in that setting? Especially if you’re among prisoners you hang with and trust. You can say what you want, about whomever you want. Honestly the inmates’ show sounded like it was hilarious. Funny fact: Jokes about the correctional officers appeared to be the most popular.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services granted permission for the comedy show to happen. Mark Vernarelli, DPSCS spokesman told CP, “A comedy workshop creates a forum for socialization, education, opportunity for rehabilitation, and an activity for reduce idleness within the facility.”

Comedy performance definitely seems to play a sort of therapeutic role for the prisoners, a hope-generating one. After the show, inmates agreed their biggest lesson was not how to get laughs but how to summon confidence on the stage.

Inmate Melvin Ingram told CP, “If you just think about being confident and then talk about your life and then depict from that thought the funny things out of that, then you’ll be funny.” One of the other inmates, Chris Harmon, even admitted to the reporter that comedy is something he’d like to try professionally once his sentence is up, in an attempt to keep himself out of trouble. Harmon, in fact, strutted onto the stage wearing nothing but jeans and work boots and made the crowd roar with jokes about how being in prison sucks, but being fat and in prison sucks more!

Prison comedy shows should be televised. I don’t know about you, but I’d watch it for a good, freeing belly laugh any night of the week.

Ecoball 2012: Gourmet Cuisine Meets Green Sustainability


Get ready Top Chef fans and Food Network fanatics. On March 16th Baltimore Green Works will be hosting its fourth annual EcoBall, a culinary competition between the Stratford University Culinary students (formerly Baltimore International College). As we speak — or read — students are perfecting their cuisine to present at the Frederick Douglas-Isaac Meyers Maritime Park & Museum. At $75 for admission, you are pretty much guaranteed delicious and highly creative plates of food, plus a chance to vote for your favorite team of cooks. It’s all very Top Chef-esque. If you haven’t seen the television show, I highly recommend it. EcoBall sounds like the next best thing for us “regular” folks.

Each team usually consists of an upperclassman paired with a freshman. Each team is then assigned a category: soups and appetizers, salads, entrees, or desserts. The competing students will use locally grown ingredients and seasonal spices to construct their unique dishes. It’s Green Works’ way of trying to get more people interested in sustainability and supporting our local farms.

Does the rule of waiting 30 minutes after eating before swimming apply to waiting before dancing, too? Because there will be live music at the event. Donations go to the “Sustainability Speaker Series,” which helps Baltimore Green Works fund more eco-friendly events. I hope to finagle a ticket to EcoBall from a family member, with the excuse that “It’s my birthday,” as my post-college finances are not at all “sustainable.”

Last year’s EcoBall judges included Hugh Sisson from the Clipper City Brewing Company, Michael Fiore of Fiore Winery, Sascha Wolhandler of Sascha’s Restaurant, former BIC student Kevin Miller, and Mix 106.5’s Reagan. No word yet on this year’s judges. According to a CityPaper reporter last year, the sample dish presented to him in practice before the actual event was negatively critiqued by an attending professor for using powdered rather than fresh ginger and having too-plump phyllo dough. The taste was amazing, though. Another bonus — reserve tickets before Valentine’s Day, it’s two for the price of one.

"Gaga" for Stevie Boi? Local Eyeglass Designer the Focus of Celebs


If you happen to live near Lexington Market down in Baltimore City, you may be a neighbor to rockstar eyewear designer Stevie Boi. Born Steven Strawder, this hometown boy designs radically artsy eyeglasses for high-end fashion designers and celebrities. Only 22, he created that famous pair of frames for everywhere-celeb, Lady Gaga, which you can see here. His pieces usually sell for $50 to $500, but he has been known to sell pricier designs, like a pure gold pair in Japanese Vogue for $55,000 — as reported in City Paper.

I have to be honest…I’d never heard of this guy before till recently. After reading about his rise to fame, I’m inspired. He’s my age and has already reached monumental success — makes me think, “Yeah, Kristin, you can do it.” Not sure what “it” is yet, but once I achieve it, I’m going to buy a pair of Boi shades.

Stevie Boi launched his career by first making grime music (a mix of punk, garage, and hip hop), and soon mobs of people noticed him on Myspace. From there, he made contacts at MTV and his popularity grew and grew. As he attempted to break into clothing design, Boi found himself interested in accessories and started constructing wacky glasses riddled with rhinestones and spikes…even syringes! Once a design has been finalized by hand, in the depths of his black-walled Baltimore studio, he sends away to get the glasses manufactured in New York and China.

City Paper found Boi at a Denny’s in Bel Air on Christmas Eve. Boi said his mother moved the family to Bel Air when he was 16. He also told the weekly that he plans on getting an apartment in New York this year, but will never give up his place in Baltimore. It’ll be a fun-filled back-and-forth, I’m sure. Here, again, according to CP, he loves the comfort of driving his own car through familiar streets; in NYC, he says he breaks out his platform shoes without a single reservation.

Bennett’s Curse: A Haunted House Review


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


Top Halloween Costumes 2011


After scoping online, visiting Spirit Halloween and Party City, and asking around, I’ve come up with a few costumes that I predict will be the top trends this October 31st. It’s only natural to feel the urge to dress up as Casey Anthony or Amy Winehouse. Don’t feel terrible if you think you’d enjoy walking around as the deceased singer with a scary syringe (fake of course!) hanging out of your arm and bottle of whiskey (perhaps a real one) in your hand. If you’re in the mood to act like a train wreck at least one day this year, nor can you go wrong with a “Jersey Shore” get-up.

Comic book characters always seem to be a hit as well, of course only when they come out as a movie. There’s bound to be a dozen dudes dressed as Green Lanterns, only wishing they had Ryan Reynold’s body. It will be the same story for Captain America (body by Chris Evans). Of course there are the classic mens’ costumes like Batman, the Joker, Han Solo, and Freddy Krueger. But they’ll be beat out by characters from this year’s hit movies like Harry Potter, the Green Hornet, Red Riding Hood, and Babydoll from Sucker Punch.

Never will you fail with vampires and werewolves, whether you dress up as a bad-ass from “True Blood” or a…questionable…one from The Twilight Saga (my guilty pleasure, okay?). Only when creativity fails, and time’s short: Remember the provocative (read sexy/tacky/revealing) route is paved in gold-glitter eye shadow. Any Halloween store or Party City’s going to be littered with a “Dirty” Cop, French Maid, or a Medieval Mistress. And I’d wager you’ll get more cheers than jeers.

Oh, wait, in closing, the persona that gets my top nod for a funny/timely look for women and men alike? Be Charlie Sheen this 2011 Halloween!

Baltimore Maternity Wards: Living Larger


For me, at 23, having a kid is a distant (and somewhat daunting) prospect, so maybe I’m in the minority when I say it seems strange how some expectant moms are now shopping around for a fancy hospital room like other people shop fine cars. I guess when you’ve been carrying a parasitic joy bundle for nine months, you’re swollen, nauseated, and moody; you want to experience the utmost comfort possible while squeezing a watermelon out of something the size of…a lemon? In fact, when I stop to think of it in these (no doubt slightly inaccurate) terms, the cushy quarters sound downright essential.

If you’re expecting, by all means, expect a little more: several Baltimore-area hospitals are competing to provide maximum comfort for nearly-there moms.

The Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson sports flat screen televisions, hardwood floors, lighting and wallpaper that scream serenity. You can read Julie McAllister’s Baltimore Sun testimony on GBMC here. GBMC also offers private rooms and sleep sofas for any spouse wanting to spend the night, as does Sinai Hospital. Sinai also offers wireless Internet for those new dads who need to Google how to change a diaper. Mercy Medical has tubs for women craving a relaxing bubble bath water birth.

Saint Joseph’s Medical Center updated its maternity ward six months ago with freshly painted walls, rocking chairs, sleep sofas, and nourishing steak dinners, yum! In April, Johns Hopkins’ maternity area will move to the new Sheikh Zayed Tower, complete with 10 new rooms, room service, and interactive televisions. Karin J. Blakemore, Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Hopkins, told the Sun that they basically treat new moms like “goddesses on a pedestal.”

Now that I know my luxury options, I’m no closer to being ready for pregnancy. But for any of you moms-to-be, I say shop around. There are clearly some amazing accommodations at these hospitals and they’re making these improvements for hard-working you. So get your money’s worth, because soon you’ll have a watermelon in your arms most every waking hour, one that howls at the moon, from what I understand, and requires lots of feeding and changing, not that that isn’t a beautiful thing.


Uncool Cat Hoarding in Anne Arundel County


Some girls grow up striving not to become the cat lady, old and alone with dozens of felines filling the void caused by the absence of a partner — maybe if we love pets, we see how easy the evolution could happen. Maybe guys feel the same. Who knows if that’s the case for the Anne Arundel resident in Severna Park whose house was raided at the end of September, and found to contain 70 hoarded cats. All that is known is that Anne Arundel Animal Control, county police, and the Humane Society pulled 67 kitties from the so-called Cool Cats Rescue Center. Anonymous callers voiced concerns for the health of the pets because of apparently shabby conditions. Two cats were found dead during the rescue. The lucky cats that survived have since taken up residence at the Animal Control Facility in Millersville, going through behavioral and health assessments to be put up for adoption.

County Executive Leopold suggests in a statement published in The Sun that stories like this one should serve as a reminder how important it is to spay and neuter pets. If only we could spay and neuter people, right?! It is a good thing that some people have big hearts and want to rescue animals and give them a home, but we have to stay reasonable and not take on more than we can handle. Hasn’t anyone seen “Fatal Attractions” on Animal Planet? Nothing good can come from cat hoarding. Before you know it, they’re clawing you and dragging you into their cage as a midnight snack. Well, okay, I guess that doesn’t happen unless you’re keeping lions, tigers, or panthers, but you get what I’m saying.

Anne Arundel County Animal Control currently seeks adopters for these “cool” recovering cats, hoping they will find good homes, inside which they will recover faster than at the shelter. Potential pet parents can view the cats-for-adoption by visiting the shelter or viewing its Facebook page. For as little as $16, you can parent one of the rescued felines already spayed/neutered, Felv/FIV tested, dewormed, treated for mites and fleas, vaccinated for rabies and FRCO, and licensed. All you have to do is come pick one! It won’t make you a cat lady or gent.

MD Ranked #1 for Brain Health! (This Is Not a Dumb Joke.)


Who would have thought all those streamed crabs decked in Old Bay would give our Maryland brains super-strength? Well, maybe not super, and probably not thanks to shellfish, but Maryland recently ranked the number one state for brain health. The study was done by the National Center for Creative Aging. As a part of the Beautiful Minds: Finding Your Lifelong Potential, groups worked with the chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness, Dr. Majid Fotuhi. Out of the 21 factors considered in the study, a few of the most essential were physical health, social well-being, diet, and exercise. Fotuhi told The Sun that, “As the country experiences unprecedented increase in life-expectancy to 78 years – an increase of 30 percent over the past century – the knowledge that we can influence brain health and cognition throughout life is more important than ever.”

It’s no surprise the result showed we’ve consumed a considerable amount of DHA-rich fish (after all, what’s better than stuffing down fresh sushi or sucking out crab legs drenched in spices?), not to mention we have low incidences of Alzheimer’s. I’m proud to have recently turned into a Marylander, formerly from Connecticut — these new results give me high hopes that when I’m gray-haired and wrinkly my mind won’t be lost before my bod. So keep on eating those blue crabs and making an effort to exercise, even if your idea of exercise is jumping up and down in front of the tube while the Ravens play. And next time Baltimore ranks high on a countrywide fat sampler, remember Maryland residents are in good shape when it comes to their brain health.

Bring on the Ghosts Already!


Baltimore Ghost Tours (formerly Fells Point Ghost tours) In case you’re wondering how to seize the Halloween season, before or after sprawling on the floor, stuffing your mouth with candy, wrappers strewn all over the floor, brush your teeth, pull yourself together, and head down to Fells Point! There is a fun, busy bar scene on All Hallows Eve, but why not try something a little different. Baltimore Ghost Tours, which you may know as Fell’s Point Ghost Tours, takes you around historic homes, shops, and pubs along the romantic (if littered) cobblestone streets of Fell’s Point. There are plenty of tours, so pick one that suits you. I might try the Mount Vernon Ghost Walk this year. If you’re way into spooky spirits, join the Fells Point Haunted Pub Walk, on which you get to venture inside the eerie buildings. Down the line, there’s even a Holiday Haunted Pub Tour, in case your own dysfunctional family Christmas get-together isn’t scary enough. Whichever tour calls to you, in a high, haunting voice, you’re bound to have a scream (or a laugh-fest) while you’re lead around by the local actors who guide the groups. Prices are totally affordable; learn more at the Ghost Tour’s website, here.  Get your tickets online or on site. You can even bring your dog, if he’s not a chicken!

Monster-Mania Con: More Maniacs Wanted


I attempted to get myself in the Halloween spirit today by buying a pumpkin spice candle at Target. Then I heard about Monster-Mania Con coming to Hunt Valley this weekend — September 16, 17, and 18. If you’re as much of a fright fanatic as I am, don’t miss it. The biggest names in horror movies and television will do pop-ups at this horror convention, signing autographs and posing for your pictures. Don’t pass up a chance to meet John Carpenter, director of Halloween, Prince of Darkness, and Village of the Damned…to name a chilling few. Come get Kristin Bauer’s autograph! (In case you don’t know, she’s a bad-ass vamp from “True Blood.”) The Dead Zone’s Anthony Michael Hall set to show his quirky face, too, though you may know him better as nerdy Brian in The Breakfast Club. Also spooky-worthy: deceased cast members from The Walking Dead, serial killer Michael Meyers, and Winston from Ghostbusters. Check out the full guest list.

Events and movies run 8 pm to 2 am Friday night, 10 am to 2 am Saturday, and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. Haunted location: The Marriott Hunt Valley Inn. Only VIP tickets are available online, so get passes at the door if you’re trying to save some cash. Can I get a “Boo,” reader? Come on, show your devotion to blood, guts, and ghouls, and come hang out with me at Monster Mania!