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Big Fish Q&A with Greater Baltimore Tech Council Exec Director Jason Hardebeck

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In a tech-world version of the cheekily amusing 1959 British film The Mouse That Roared — wherein the teeny-weeny fictitious Duchy of Grand Fenwick declares war on the U.S. with the intention of losing and then receiving a massive infusion of foreign aid from the victor, just as America sent gobs of cash to Germany as part of the Marshall Plan after World War II 

— Jason Hardebeck’s two-person, Baltimore-based social-networking software-application development company WhoGlue sued online behemoth Facebook in 2009 for “patent infringement,” settled amicably in 2010, and, finally, in a brilliant denouement, sold itself in November to the social-networking powerhouse.

Hardebeck did not pause to gloat. A week after announcing the WhoGlue deal, he accepted the post of executive director of the Greater Baltimore Technology Council, fairy godmother to the local tech community. Hardebeck declared upon his appointment that “the GBTC has tremendous potential to develop into a leading organization to help entrepreneurs and local companies accelerate the commercialization of their products and ideas.”  

Born in Great Falls, Montana, and raised in that town and Hawthorne, Nevada, Hardebeck graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1987 with a degree in mechanical engineering, and then served as a surface warfare officer and nuclear engineer until 1992. Discharged from the Navy, he earned his master’s in business from Johns Hopkins University in 1996.

Since then, Hardebeck has worked in product marketing, business development, and plant management for a handful of firms, notably Black & Decker and renewable energy company Ze-Gen. He launched WhoGlue in April 2000. Additionally, he spent a year as entrepreneur-in-residence at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (2005 to 2006), and, as executive director, guided the Maryland Business Council from 2006 to 2009. 

Married for 21 years to Karen, his college sweetheart, Hardebeck, 46, lives with her and their two kids, 15-year-old Nick and 13-year-old Ally, in Phoenix — the one in Baltimore County, not the capital of Arizona.

Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.      

Don’t be afraid of death, but be terrified of not living.

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?

That is a work in progress and depends on the context. Right now, my primary goal is to make sure that my kids are prepared to create a career that allows them to pursue their passion, and not just get a job that pays the bills. It also means that they understand how they create value and generate income sufficient to support the life they choose to live. That may very well mean that they will found their own startup, so I figure I have eight years, max, to do whatever I can to help make Baltimore the best place in the world to start and grow a business. My kids are Baltimore Salmon, which means that they were born here, and even if they leave for college or a career, inevitably they will return someday. When they do, we need to be ready for them.

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed?

This is going to sound bad, but nothing comes to mind. However, I’ve gotten loads of great advice that I haven’t followed and wished I had.

The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it?

Nothing specific, other than the theme of “don’t rock the boat” or “conform.” Typically I don’t follow that kind of advice, with mixed results.

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime?

1. Actions always trump beliefs.

2. Mistakes are responsible for all progress.

3. Persistence makes up for a lot of deficiencies

What is the best moment of the day?

There are lots of bests; if I had to pick one, it would be when I see my kids first thing in the morning.

What is on your bedside table?

A clock radio and Kleenex. Oh, and the latest intellectually stimulating tome from what’s-their-name about that incredibly interesting concept that everyone will be talking about someday soon.

What is your favorite local charity?

Baltimore Station. I’m a fan of our military and our veterans, and organizations that provide a path for someone to get better and build a new life for themselves.

What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing?

Don’t ever let not knowing how to do something stop you from trying, and make sure that you truly believe in what you do. Sometimes that is the only thing that will keep you going. Learn how to ask really good questions, and, more important, listen to the answer.

Why are you successful?

I don’t think of myself as successful yet, because I’m not done yet. There are some signs that I’m part of something successful — mainly, when you meet my kids. (I can only take partial credit for that — something less than 49 percent.) I do think I have some qualities that contribute to successful efforts I have been a part of: divergent thinking, innate curiosity, persistence, and a willingness to speak my mind.

Cite the most critical issue facing the GBTC. How do you plan to solve that problem?

The biggest issue facing GBTC is an apparent disconnect between the value of the product we offer and the cost. We are fundamentally rethinking how we create and deliver that value to better support the needs of the tech ecosystem in the Baltimore region.

You graduated from the Naval Academy and subsequently served as a naval officer. What valuable life lesson did that experience teach you?

There are too many to list, but one that resonates with me is the fact that if you don’t believe in the mission, you will ultimately fail.

In the occasional moments when you disconnect from your computer, your mobile device, and all of the various social media, which non-IT activity gives you the greatest satisfaction? Why? 

In the summer, it’s gardening and yard work; in the winter, it’s woodworking and home-improvement projects. Both activities are tied to nature and working with my hands, and both give me a sense of accomplishment that I can achieve through my own efforts and in a finite timespan. We don’t always get to experience that in our day-to-day work environment with so many factors beyond our control.

Big Fish Q&A with Enoch Pratt Free Library CEO Carla Hayden

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During his tenure as President George W. Bush’s relentlessly overzealous first-term Attorney General, John Ashcroft once engaged in a contentious public exchange with Enoch Pratt Free Library CEO Carla Hayden, at the time also president of the American Library Association. Their overtly polite, if covertly testy, 2003 back-and-forth concerned a provision of 2001’s post-9/11 Patriot Act — a section that gave the FBI unfettered access to citizens’ records, including the borrowing habits of library patrons. When Ashcroft’s attempts to mollify Hayden’s objections to what amounts to government-sanctioned spying failed, she led a coalition that petitioned Congress to pass legislation annulling the act’s snooping component, an effort that ultimately fizzled. The provision remains in effect — and remains just as controversial — today. 

Removed from the national — forgive the phrase — fishbowl, Hayden has applied her formidable energy to transforming the Pratt during her 18 years as its director: overseeing a desperately needed expansion of the Central Branch by adding an expansive annex; shepherding the opening of Highlandtown’s impressive Southeast Anchor; outfitting virtually every branch with free Internet access; and, earlier this year, rolling out a program allowing patrons to borrow e-readers pre-loaded with 22 popular titles. Throughout, she has maintained the mantra “equity of access.”

Born in Tallahassee and raised in Chicago, Carla Hayden earned her undergraduate degree from Roosevelt University in 1973, moving on to obtain both a master’s and a PhD in library sciences from the University of Chicago in 1977 and 1987, respectively. She joined the Chicago Public Library in 1973, working there until 1983, when she accepted a post at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, followed by a stint as an educator at the University of Pittsburgh from 1987 to 1991. Returning to the Chicago Public Library, she served as its first deputy commissioner and chief librarian, until the Pratt recruited her as its CEO in 1993.

Now 59, Hayden lives in Homeland in a house awash in books.

 

Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.      


Life gets better.

 

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?

 

When I decided to go into the librarianship profession. I proceeded to get a masters in Library Science and then a PhD.

 

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed?

 

From John H. Johnson, CEO of Johnson Publishing: “Sometimes you have to move to get better.” And that’s why I moved to Baltimore.

 

The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it?

 

A hairstylist told me to go blond. I did not follow her advice.

 

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime?

 

1) Time does heal all wounds.

2) Living well is the best revenge.

3) Slow and steady wins the race.

 

What is the best moment of the day?

 

Each day when I see people from all walks of life lined up outside the library who are eager to enter use all of its services. 

 

What is on your bedside table?

 

Countless books. Not only on my bedside table but also in baskets and on other nearby tables. It’s a garden of books.

 

What is your favorite local charity?

 

The Pratt Library, of course, and Mercy Medical Center.

 

What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing?

 

Try not to be discouraged or fear success.

 

Why are you successful?

 

I had a lot of help along the way from great people like my mother and wonderful mentors in the profession and in the community (from Chicago to Baltimore).

 

Which three books–one that you read as a child, one while in college or as a young adult, one recently–have most impressed upon you the power of the written word? Why have these three books affected you so strongly?

 

Bright April by Marguerite de Angeli.  As a child, the beautiful pictures captivated me. It’s the story of a young black girl with pigtails who was a Brownie. I related to her and strived as a child to be like her. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin. It was about young African-American teens trying to succeed in a harsh world. It was a well-written and strong story that did not stereotype minorities. It impressed upon me the power of literature. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. It is so inspiring, because he was extraordinary but very ordinary.

 

What is the most current pressing issue confronting major metropolitan public libraries (in general) and the Pratt (in particular)? How do we solve this problem?

 

Budget constraints facing all public libraries. This is happening at a time when more people are using libraries and are in need of the free services libraries offer. At the Pratt Library, for example, our visitors have skyrocketed in the past several years to nearly two million annually. That is more than all the people who attend all the home Ravens games in a season. We have to impress upon policymakers the importance of libraries and to provide more evidence of the impact of libraries in people’s lives (such as in early literacy and economic development).

 

Share with us your favorite local escape spot (cafe, coffee shop, park, museum, Pratt nook, wherever) to relax and/or read. What makes this place so special? 

 

Bookstores, especially the Ivy Bookshop. It’s a treasure chest of ideas and stories. As Walt Disney said, “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”

 

 

 

Baltimore’s Most Endangered Species: Republicans

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In the extremely likely event that it has escaped your notice, the City of Baltimore holds an election tomorrow to select a mayor, a comptroller, a City Council President, and representatives to the council from 14 districts.

Really. Doubters take note: Public schools have closed to mark the day. In the minds of most Baltimoreans, of course, the real election occurred nearly two months ago, when both Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young trounced a handful of challengers in the Democratic Party primary, 12 of 14 incumbent council members retained their seats, and a City Hall-supported candidate won the 2nd District’s open spot on the council. (Democratic voters ixnayed only one incumbent: the 7th District’s residentially confused Belinda Conaway, choosing, instead, a Rawlings-Blake-endorsed candidate.)

Virtually undetected and certainly underreported, that same day, September 13, Republicans also chose candidates in their primary.     

Tomorrow, in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than nine to one — 292,000 to 32,000 — the two parties face off in a general election that has elicited yawning indifference. The city’s Board of Elections predicts a paltry 12 percent voter participation, only slightly more than half the 23 percent who cast ballots in the historically low turnout in the recent primary.

Inevitably, no Republican candidate — for mayor, for City Council president, for eight council seats, for dog catcher — will win, continuing a nearly half-century-long exercise of GOP electoral futility. Consider these sobering statistics. In the primary, approximately 1800 Republicans voted, with Alfred V. Griffin III defeating Vicki Harding by a scant 26 votes — 908 to 882 — to snag the GOP mayoral nomination. Meanwhile, Rawlings-Blake racked up 38,000 votes. Looked at another way, the combined Republican vote for mayor fell short of the number received by hopelessly outdistanced fifth-place Democratic mayoral candidate Frank Conaway.

In tomorrow’s election, no Republican is considered a contender, serious or otherwise. Only two races (the 13th and the 7th councilmanic districts) have generated any heat — Democrat-versus-Democrat contests in which write-in candidates have mounted longshot challenges to primary winners. In the 13th, incumbent Warren Branch again squares off against Shannon Sneed, whom he eked by with a 43-vote margin in September. Somewhat more interestingly, in the 7th, an unblushing and unironic Belinda Conaway conducts an outsider’s fight-the-power write-in campaign against Nick Mosby.

All of which makes Victor Clark Jr., a 25-year veteran of the city’s Republican Central Committee — in essence, the GOP politburo — feel, in a word, “challenged.” According to the 66-year-old Clark, a small business program manager for the state, only a contorted harmonic convergence will allow a Republican to even enter into the electoral equation tomorrow. “In the districts with a Democrat, a write-in candidate, and a third-party candidate [Green Party, for example], the possibility is there with a low-voter turnout for the Republican,” he explains.

City residents have not elected a Republican mayor since 1963, when the enormously popular Theodore R. McKeldin returned to City Hall for one four-year term. Earlier, he’d served as Baltimore mayor from 1944 to 1948, followed by two terms as Maryland governor. A mere three Republicans preceded him as mayor, beginning with Alcaeus Hooper in 1895.

Since the 1950s, the city’s demographics have changed dramatically, with blacks, who traditionally vote for Democrats, now composing 64 percent of the population. In effect, Baltimore operates as a mono-party entity, resulting in what Clark terms “one-sided views with no alternative responses that capture African-American voters’ attention.” That accounts, in part, for Republicans’ habitually dismal showings. But he also faults his own party for repeatedly fielding “dull, inexperienced, and unimaginative candidates.” Add to that the GOP’s lack of “political club development (farm team) and, first and foremost, [African Americans’] sour taste toward the national leadership and politics in general.”

Some pundits have suggested that city Republicans might benefit from aligning municipal elections to coincide with those conducted statewide. Historically, the latter produce a more robust voter turnout, and, perhaps even more critically, such an arrangement would force city politicians to relinquish their current offices in order to seek a statewide post, a risk they are now not required to take.

Clark, however, pooh-poohs that notion. “If the registration numbers stay lopsided and ideas are stale,” he contends, “when the election occurs does not matter.”

For Baltimore City’s Republican Party to rise from its deathbed, Clark offers a more varied political-cocktail prescription: “Constantly present new ideas for the existing problems — persuade the electorate to your side with logical approaches. Concentrate on specific areas and marshal all available resources in that direction. One win is better than none.”

 

   

Twilight Zone: The Patricia Modell You Never Knew

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Not surprisingly, local obits/tributes for exquisitely coiffed philanthropist and socialite Patricia Modell, who died October 12 at age 80, emphasized her significant charitable giving to a host of Baltimore educational, health, and cultural organizations during the 16 years that she lived here with her husband, Art Modell, whose Cleveland Browns morphed into the Baltimore Ravens after moving here in 1995. 

Those same accounts also traipsed through her pre-Mrs. Modell life as modestly successful 1950s/1960s TV actress Patricia Breslin: a recurring role on pioneering nighttime soap “Peyton Place”; another on stalwart daytime soap “General Hospital”; and guest-star parts on a peck of other shows, everything from “Perry Mason” to “Maverick” to “Dr. Kildare” to “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” to “Thriller,” among many others. Not forgetting her continuing role on the curious 1950s sitcom “The People’s Choice,” in which she played the wife of the show’s star, Jackie Cooper, a city councilman whose basset hound, Cleo, got all the best lines (a voiceover, naturally). 

Despite this plethora of TV appearances, Breslin’s acting career, in truth, barely registered on Hollywood’s Richter scale. And yet before she chucked showbiz in 1969 after marrying Modell, she featured prominently in a pair of productions cherished by the pop-culture illuminati: a 1960 “Twilight Zone” episode opposite a buff William Shatner, and director William Castle’s fascinatingly lurid 1961 suspense/exploitation film Homicidal.

In “Nick of Time,” a taut drama written by frequent “Twilight Zone” contributor Richard Matheson, Breslin plays newlywed Pat Carter to Shatner’s hubby Don, the honeymooning couple waylaid in a small Ohio town after their car breaks down. Killing time in a local café, Don, already revealed as superstitious, becomes obsessed with a penny-a-play devil’s-bobblehead fortune-telling machine/napkin holder called the Mystic Seer. Responding to yes-or-no questions, it dispenses eerily “correct” answers to Don’s queries — at least from his perspective.      

Convinced that the machine can predict the future, Don grows increasingly agitated, relinquishing all reason/free will while feeding the Mystic Seer penny after penny. His desperate behavior alarms Pat, who, sensing marital discord, confronts Don in an attempt to reel him back, declaring in the episode’s climatic moment, “I don’t want to know what’s going to happen. I want us to make it happen together.”

Persuasively, Breslin transforms her character from buoyant recent bride into iron-willed wife, earning Matheson’s praise. “I thought the two performances were marvelous,” he tells Marc Scott Zicree in the book The Twilight Zone Companion. “They played together so well.”  (Watch the uninterrupted episode here.)

Exploitation kingpin William Castle’s Homicidal imposed fewer nuanced demands on Breslin. She dutifully plays florist-shop-owning good girl Miriam to Jean Arless’ (actress Joan Marshall appearing under a fake name) knife-wielding caregiver bad girl Emily in what a New York Times reviewer dismissed as “a dismal imitation of Psycho.” Sure, Homicidal rips off the essential conceit of Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho, but it hardly qualifies as dismal. 

By the time of the movie’s mid-1961 release, producer/director Castle had established himself as the undisputed grand poobah of American “gimmick” filmmakers. In his book Crackpot, John Waters calls Castle “the greatest showman of our time. King of the Gimmicks, William Castle was my idol. His films made me want to make films. I’m even jealous of his work. In fact, I wish I were William Castle.”

Starting with 1958’s Macabre (a blatant copy of the 1955 French thriller Diabolique), Castle rolled out a series of ingenious marketing ploys to fill theaters. For Macabre, he bought insurance policies that would pay $1,000 to anyone who died of fright while watching the film. For 1959’s House on Haunted Hill, he unleashed “Emergo,” a 12-foot plastic illuminated skeleton that popped out of a box and flew over moviegoers at a key moment. That same year’s The Tingler featured “Percepto,” motorized theater seats that delivered a slight buzz to patrons when, on screen, the title “monster” (the embodiment of human fear) slithered into a fictional moviehouse; at that point, the screen went blank and a voice announced, “Attention! The Tingler is loose in this theater. Please scream for your life.” For 1960’s 13 Ghosts, Castle devised “Illusion-O,” duo-colored 3D-like cards that enabled viewers to see the film’s ghosts (through the red portion) or not see them (through the blue portion).

With Homicidal, Castle concocted the Fright Break, wherein, two minutes before the movie’s conclusion, the film stopped, the screen went white, a heartbeat pumped through the theater’s sound system, and Castle’s prerecorded voice intoned, “This is the Fright Break. You hear that sound? The sound of a heartbeat. Is it beating faster than your heart? Or slower? This heart is going to beat for another 65 seconds to allow anyone to leave this theater who is too frightened to see the end of the picture, and get your full admission refunded.”

Audiences at the initial opening in Youngstown, Ohio, outfoxed Castle, though, staying through one showing of Homicidal, and then leaving during the Fright Break of the next performance, thus seeing the entire film and having their admission refunded. Castle retaliated immediately with color-coded tickets for each separate screening, and then, later, to eliminate the few people who still wanted to split during the Fright Break, he introduced the Coward’s Corner. This gimmick required exiting patrons to follow a path of yellow footprints while a recording taunted, “These cowards are too frightened to see the end of Homicidal. Watch them shiver in the Coward’s Corner” (the theater’s box office). The gambit worked; almost no one submitted to such public humiliation.

Amid all this marketing malarkey, Breslin acquitted herself admirably, with Variety reporting that she “delivers nicely as the half-sister, caught in a web which nearly destroys her.” (Video Americain offers Homicidal for rental. This homemade YouTube trailer provides a foretaste.)

Castle brought back Breslin for her final film role in his 1965 I Saw What You Did, after which she spent the remainder of the 1960s on “General Hospital” before bidding ta-ta to acting entirely, telling The Baltimore Sun in 2001, “It’s a part of a life I don’t even think about.”

   

 

 

  

 

 

   

 

 

 

  

 

 

   

The Strawberry Alarm Clock Tolls for Baltimore

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For an extended lysergic blink in the late 1960s, Top 40 radio turned day-glo, suffused by the sounds of psychedelic pop, which achieved its apocalyptic apogee in November 1967 when the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints” ascended to #1 on the Billboard singles chart. A psych-pop masterpiece — all buzzing guitar, churchy organ, an aggressively earnest lead vocal, and delightfully tongue-twisting trippy lyrics (“Good sense, innocence, cripplin’ mankind/Dead kings, many things I can’t define/Occasions, persuasions, clutter your mind/Incense and peppermints, the color of time”) — the song crystallizes the moment when pure counterculture psychedelia transmuted into mainstream masses’ manna.

As ephemeral as any pop music genre, psychedelic pop quickly morphed, fractured, and, by 1970, disappeared entirely from the public consciousness. Ditto the Los Angeles-based Strawberry Alarm Clock — guitarists Ed King and Lee Freeman, keyboardist Mark Weitz, bassists George Bunnell and Gary Lovetro, drummer Randy Seol – although the band cranked out some memorable material in the immediate aftermath of “Incense and Peppermints,” notably the breezy “Tomorrow,” the hallucinogenic “Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow,” and, incongruously for an L.A. band, the jaunty “Barefoot in Baltimore.”             

Released as the first single from the group’s third album, 1968’s The World in a Sea Shell, “Barefoot in Baltimore” saunters along agreeably, its soft-rock melody buoyed by Association-style vocals, chirpy xylophone, and chattering percussion. However, the song suffers from excruciatingly anemic lyrics, imagery seemingly gleaned from a cheery Chamber of Commerce brochure: “Laugh at sizzling sidewalks/Don’t step on the cracks/Old folks try to catch their breath/As children catch their jacks” and “Melted tar in crosswalks/Crab shells in the park/Pavement frying our poor toes/Until long after dark.”

“[The] soundtrack was great — the lyrics were horrible,” Mark Weitz, who wrote the song’s music with Ed King, explains in the liner notes to the re-released CD version of The World in a Sea Shell. “They were ‘sissy’ lyrics to us — ‘heel and toe with you’? We were pretty embarrassed to play that song on stage.”

Blame those tepid lyrics on non-band member Roy Freeman. George Bunnell, who, along with Weitz and Randy Seol, remains active in a recombinant Strawberry Alarm Clock, reports via e-mail that Freeman “was a comedy writer for [comedian/actor] Joey Bishop. No relation to Lee Freeman. He also penned the lyrics to [SAC’s] ‘Sit with the Guru’ and ‘Eulogy.’ Lee Freeman and Ed King wrote a song called ‘They Saw the Fat One Coming,’ which was in reference to Roy. He was actually a nice guy, but was forced upon us by the powers that be” (aka, the band’s record company).

“Barefoot in Baltimore” briefly dented the Billboard Top 100 in 1968, eventually stalling at #67 before evaporating altogether, although the song, not surprisingly, enjoyed considerable airplay in this area at the time. These days, it seldom, if ever, surfaces on radio – conventional, satellite, or Internet — but, via the miracle of YouTube, you can still experience the goofy charm of “Barefoot in Baltimore.” 

Each month, “Baltimore Unearthed” will disinter and illuminate a semi-great city-related cultural curiosity from the past.     

Baltimore Media Insurgents

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Late last month, Timothy E. Ryan, president, publisher, and CEO of The Baltimore Sun Media Group (BSMG), dropped a bomblet by announcing that, beginning October 10, the company would sell “subscriptions” to its flagship newspaper’s website. Adopting a paywall model similar, if slightly less generous, to the one established by The New York Times Co. for use of its newspaper’s website earlier this year, baltimoresun.com readers now pay $2.50 per week or $50 for six months for unlimited access to what Ryan unblushingly — and, apparently, without irony — terms the site’s “unique, in-depth local news and information.” All of which prompted a Baltimore Fishbowl colleague to deadpan “lots of luck.”

“Unique”? Well, no. “In-depth”? Well, occasionally. The sustained viability of even a free online omnibus content provider such as baltimoresun.com seems somewhat dubious; one that charges viewers seems somewhat fanciful. 

Meanwhile, over the past several years, a handful of local news-and-information websites have established distinct online presences and gained burgeoning individual viewerships by concentrating on discrete niches: business, culture, investigative reporting, neighborhood doings, and lowbrow lore. For free. Most have been founded by restive innovators who ascertained an online vacuum for the very “unique, in-depth local news and information” claimed by BSMG boss Ryan.

The following local media insurgents already have demonstrated their sites’ utility, worthiness, and, perhaps, indispensability.    

 

Edwin Warfield (57), CEO and founder, Citybizlist (citybizlist.com)

Edwin Warfield understood early on – perhaps too early on – the advantages of dispensing local business news via the Internet. In 1994, the publisher of the venerable Baltimore-based weekday legal/business newspaper The Daily Record and slick monthly business features magazine Warfield’s sold those ventures, pulled up stakes in the city, and relocated to Fort Lauderdale, where he launched the Web-only ReviewNet.com. Re-branded the Local Business Network in 2000, the site never flourished to Warfield’s satisfaction, and, in 2002, he sold controlling interest in the company and hightailed it back to Baltimore.

Rebooting on familiar territory, in 2006 he launched citybizlist.com, offering local business news and financial information. This time: pay dirt. “The local part of the Internet has only started in the last five years,” Warfield contends. Published weekdays, “Citybizlist is distinguished by its SEC [Security and Exchange Commission] focus, real-time news operation, 18-hours-a-day news cycle, and user-generated content,” Warfield explains, pointing out that “71 percent of our readership is C-level executives [chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, et al.], entrepreneurs, and professionals.”

To date, Citybizlist has enjoyed a handful of editorial coups, notably beating all other Baltimore media in breaking stories about the corporate marriages between Constellation Energy and Exelon, and M&T and Provident banks. Additionally, its success has spawned Citybizlist affiliates in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, New York City, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Houston, South Florida, Charlotte/Raleigh, and Washington, D.C., with content delivered on local websites, mobile applications, and the usual social network suspects (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).

Expanding its non-editorial scope, the Baltimore edition recently unveiled Citybizlist Rewards, a glammy analogue to Groupon and Social Living. “We are offering a limited number of advertisers the chance to put their business in front of our very high profile audience,” Warfield notes. “Our philosophy is ‘you’ve worked hard, you’ve earned it; now enjoy yourself.’” 

Fern Shen (55), editor and publisher, Baltimore Brew (baltimorebrew.com)

The post-Watergate halo effect that accrued to daily newspaper journalism (embodied by the book/film All the President’s Men) had already begun to dim when Fern Shen joined the profession’s ranks in the early 1980s. A 1978 graduate of Harvard University, Shen worked as a staffer at major and minor dailies in Oregon and Connecticut, freelanced for The New York Times, and, after a stint at the now-defunct Evening Sun here in Baltimore, put in 17 years at The Washington Post, principally as a reporter on its Metro desk, a beat that included covering Maryland’s Statehouse. Over the course of 25-plus years, from inside the bubble, Shen witnessed daily newspapers close foreign bureaus, slash staffs, and wave bye-bye to readers and advertisers decamping to the Internet.

Eventually, she joined the exodus, and in 2009 launched the fiercely local, unself-consciously crusading, weekday-only Baltimore Brew. “Baltimore has a proud history and a great heart, but terrible problems,” she explains. “It deserves a smart, funny, inclusive, hard-hitting news website, and that’s what we’re trying hard to make here.”

For resources, Shen tapped into the burgeoning pool of writers who’d either fled or been shed by The Baltimore Sun to produce what she terms “solidly sourced, original reporting,” covering city politics (the site’s strength), education, development, neighborhood issues, and culture/arts. She is particularly proud of Brew staffer (and ex-Sun reporter) Mark Reutter’s on-the-cusp-of-the-primary-election expose concerning the more than $130,000 that developers and others conducting commerce with the city showered on Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s mayoral campaign.

Earnest and adamant without being dour, Shen says, “We absolutely need a Fourth Estate to hold government accountable and give people a way to share ideas on how to improve and enjoy the place where they live.”      

 

Doug Donovan (40), regional editor, Patch (patch.com)

Media leviathan AOL foresaw the potential of Web-based locavore-ization when it inaugurated its Patch franchise in February 2009, and has since rolled out approximately 1,000 hyperlocal news-and-info sites nationwide: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Virginia, et al. Patch landed in the Baltimore area in August 2010, spawning PerryHallPatch and Lutherville-TimoniumPatch. 

Metastasizing, Patch has now invaded 48 Maryland communities — Catonsville, North Baltimore, College Park, Westminster, Havre de Grace, and Glen Burnie, among others — reporting on community politics, sports, culture, events, meetings, and lifestyle. Each site employs one full-time editor/writer, augmented by freelancers. (Given this rabbit-like reproduction rate, can we eventually expect microlocal editions such as AlonzovillePatch, ultimately leading to extreme-local manifestations: YourBlockPatch, and, inevitably, YourHousePatch?)        

Riding herd on this unwieldy flash mob: five regional editors, including, in the Baltimore area, career journalist Doug Donovan, who spent 2003 to 2008 as a staff writer at The Baltimore Sun. “I believe Patch’s model not only provides news and information — original and aggregated content about our towns — but also works hard to try to engage the people in our communities,” explains Donovan. “I wanted a model that would empower people to participate in coverage of their neighborhoods, so that we were fostering a conversation, spurring a dialogue or debate, and not simply engaging in a one-way traditional method of delivering news.” 

Patch’s intensely locally focused editorial microscope has resulted in scoops about a Baltimore County Council candidate who failed to pay his federal and state taxes; a Bel Air town commissioner charged with theft of $5,000; and the dubious ties between a grassroots Facebook advocacy group favoring expansion of speed cameras in Baltimore County school zones and the company hired by the county to oversee its speed-camera initiative. 

“We are so locally oriented,” notes Donovan, “that the news related to neighborhoods doesn’t get buried or lost in the crush of regional, state, and national content.”

Scott Huffines (48) and Tom Warner (54), founders and editors, Baltimore or Less

(baltimoreorless.com)

Scott Huffines and Tom Warner operate decidedly outside the mainstream media, cheekily celebrating the outré, the odd, the outlandish, and the odoriferous about their native city. While a handful of local feature-oriented websites labor predictably to establish some manner of misguided hipster cred, Baltimore or Less, launched in mid-2010, instead effortlessly plucks and then posts what Warner, a librarian in the Enoch Pratt Central Branch’s Sights and Sounds Department, terms “the unknown or unusual or serendipitous charms of Charm City.”

Recent original items include Warner’s waggish essay on the relentless misspelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s middle name as “Allen,” notably by the should-know-better MPT. The site also judiciously aggregates media stories — local and national, past and present — that probe Baltimore’s sometimes dogged, sometimes hangdog sensibility. “We pre-digest weird Baltimore-related news that most people aren’t interested in, and regurgitate it like mama birds feeding their young,” explains Huffines, a Web development specialist for the Johns Hopkins Hospital Department of Anesthesia.

Click on “Baltimorons” or “Pranks,” for instance, from the site’s extensive archives, and discover what Huffines calls “insane tidbits,” such as “Iggy Pop recorded a live album on Pulaski Highway; Babe Ruth got sick injecting a serum made from sheep’s testicles; and a  stunt balloonist drank six beers, and then fell a half-mile to his death in Highlandtown.”

Not everything comes across as Baltimore Babylon, though. BMoL plays nice, too. One example: Jackie Nickel’s (Huffines late newspaperwoman mother) endearing story about Essex-based, crab-eating social group the Ancient and Honorable Nobles of the Hardshells. 

Bonus: The site brims with pertinent videos and audio components, including a “Baltimore Soundtrack” that features jaunty, decades-old Natty Boh jingles and the long-gone Baltimore Clippers minor league hockey team’s rah-rah theme song.

“Scott and I are archivists of sorts,” says Warner, “and we’re interested in what makes Baltimore such a unique place, its balance between the profane and the mundane, the highbrow and lowbrow — particularly the lowbrow.”

 

 

 

Len Lazarick (63), editor and publisher, Maryland Reporter (MarylandReporter.com)

When his job as State House bureau chief for Baltimore Examiner disappeared in early 2009 with the demise of that relatively short-lived daily newspaper, Len Lazarick detected an acute disturbance in the journalistic force, as coverage of state government and politics, both in Maryland and nationwide, continued to erode. Five months later, he discovered a potential angel to help fill the gradually expanding void: the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which funds nonprofit websites that provide online news and information about the wonky world of state government. After securing a grant from the Franklin Center, Lazarick incorporated MarylandReporter.com as a nonprofit in September 2009, and then launched the site that November.

Led by Lazarick, who has covered Maryland’s state government since the 1980s (Patuxent Publishing, MPT), each weekday Maryland Reporter’s staff blankets Annapolis’ myriad commissions, agencies, and departments – plus the General Assembly and the governor’s office – to offer consistently thoughtful, incisive, and clearly written articles that probe an often murky realm. “Our experienced journalists produce original stories about how state government spends taxpayer dollars,” Lazarick explains. Additionally, Maryland Reporter “scours over 50 websites every day to give our readers a daily roundup of state government news from newspapers, broadcast stations, and bloggers.”

This past March, Associate Editor Megan Poinski’s story about state employees who rake in $100,000-plus salaries — she found 5,139 such anointed worker bees – created a minor tsunami, given the context of Maryland’s straitened financial circumstances. Also, Maryland Reporter broke the curious tale of Baltimore City Democratic Delegate Curt Anderson’s brief flirtation with the legislature’s Tea Party Caucus. More recently, the site has adroitly sifted through the impenetrable arcana of the Congressional redistricting process, including Lazarick’s hint-of-snark piece about the serpentine nature of the proposed new 3rd district.
 

Big Fish Q&A with First Lady of Maryland Katie O’Malley

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Katie O’Malley can legitimately claim to be a former real housewife of Beverly Hills, just not that Beverly Hills. In January 2007, with a heartfelt sniff-sniff, she swapped the four bedroom/two and one-half bath Tudor home in Northeast Baltimore’s Beverly Hills neighborhood that she shared with her husband, Martin — freshly minted Maryland’s governor — and their four children for a 54-room Annapolis mansion known as Government House. The family was not so much trading up as assenting to tradition and to the dictates of Maryland’s Constitution, which notes that the governor must live in the state capital. Since then, Katie O’Malley has commuted from Annapolis to her Baltimore job as a District Court associate judge. The governor has it easier: He works where he lives. 

Katie O’Malley also can legitimately claim deep Baltimore bona fides. Born Catherine Curran into an established Baltimore political family — her father, J. Joseph Curran Jr., served as the state’s longtime attorney general, as well as its lieutenant governor and as a delegate and state senator in the General Assembly; her Uncle Martin “Mike” Curran was a member of the Baltimore City Council, while her Uncle Robert Curran now sits on that same council – she grew up in Homeland, graduated from Notre Dame Prep, then earned an undergrad degree in international studies at Towson University in 1985 and a law degree from the University of Baltimore in 1991. She married Martin O’Malley in 1990.

After passing the bar exam, Katie O’Malley worked as an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore County from 1991 to 2001, prosecuting child abuse, domestic violence, homicide, and white-collar/economic crimes, among other cases. In August 2001, Governor Parris Glendening appointed her an associate judge in Maryland’s First District Court, a post she stills holds.   

As Maryland’s First Lady and First Mom, O’Malley, now 49, has taken on two notable child-related hobbyhorses, advocating vigorously to increase reading and to decrease bullying. The O’Malleys’ two daughters, Grace and Tara, attend college – the former is a junior, the latter a sophomore — while their sons, William and Jack, live at home with their parents. Momentarily casting aside her judicial impartiality, Katie O’Malley describes all four kids as being “beautiful, kind, and smart.”

Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.  

Surround yourself with kind people and ignore mean people.

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?

Having children was the most defining moment of my life. My singular goal as a mother is to make sure I raise them with love and support, unconditionally.

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed?

The best advice I got was when I was 16 years old from a longtime family friend; she told me that when you have children, love and support them unconditionally.
 
The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it?

I’m sure somewhere along my life I’ve received bad advice, but I’m quite sure I ignored it.

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime?

1) Children grow up so quickly.
2) My parents are right about everything.
3) Sometimes people don’t tell the truth.

What is the best moment of the day? 

Mornings at the beach.
 
What is on your bedside table?

Right now, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian [by Sherman Alexie], a wonderful novel that deals with poverty, dysfunction, and childhood trauma, while at the same time is hysterically funny.

What is your favorite local charity?

The House of Ruth.

What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing?

I would tell anyone who aspires to be a judge to be empathetic. So many of the people we see every day have tremendous obstacles that they are trying to overcome. To be a good judge requires a certain degree of empathy.

Why are you successful?

That’s sort of hard to answer. I guess it depends on one’s definition of success. My definition of success is ongoing. To me, success has to do with how happy and content my family is.

In your years on the bench, which case has been the most difficult to adjudicate? Why? And what did you learn from that experience?

I can’t say it is any one case that has been the most difficult. I would say it is difficult whenever I have to impose a jail sentence. I’m very much aware of how painful a jail sentence is — the impact it can have on a family, particularly if children are involved. At the same time, I am also aware of how the public’s safety may be impacted if I don’t impose jail. So it is the balancing of these two objectives that is the most difficult for me.

What do you miss the most about living in Baltimore? What do you miss the least?

I’m in Baltimore every day for my job, so I feel very connected to the city. I do miss my old neighborhood and running at Lake Montebello. Baltimore will always be home to me. It is where I was born and raised, where I went to law school, and where I decided to get married and start a family. There really isn’t anything I miss the least. Baltimore is a great city. I think it’s the “Greatest City in America” …. not sure who I heard that from (ha-ha).
 
At this point, are you accustomed to having your family, especially your children, live in the public eye, or is that something to which one never grows accustomed? 

No, I’m not comfortable with the children living in the public eye. We really don’t expose them to the public aspects of our jobs very often. They are wonderful people who are proud of their father, but at the same time just want to be like everyone else.

Baltimore Unearthed: Shirley Temple Was Here (Sort of)

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Only the fetid mind of a Hollywood producer could conceive of casting the perpetually perky Shirley Temple in the role of a proto-feminist. In the 1949 dramedy Adventure in Baltimore, a twilight-of-her-film-career 20-year-old Shirley, a decade and a half removed from her dimply child-star apogee in The Little Colonel and Curly Top, appears as determined, free-thinking artist Dinah Sheldon, whose notions of modernity scandalize proper society in 1905 Baltimore.

Her crime: painting a portrait of buff boyfriend Tom Wade (played by Temple’s real-life husband, John Agar) in leopard-skinned caveman attire, a metaphor, she explains, for the oppressed working man. Widespread shock ensues: from Dinah’s knickers-in-a-twist art instructor, from huffy middle-aged Mobtown matrons in ornate hats. All of which makes life sticky for her level-headed pastor dad (Robert Young, already honing his relentlessly sensible paterfamilias role for the 1950s/1960s TV series “Father Knows Best”).

Somewhat surprisingly, Christopher Isherwood (his book The Berlin Stories morphed, in part, into the 1972 film Cabaret; more recently, his homocentric novel A Single Man was adapted for the screen) co-wrote the original story for this froth fest. “Let’s allow that the authors, Lesser Samuels and Christopher Isherwood, did not drain themselves of wit and wisdom in turning out the script,” the New York Times review sniffed at the time of the film’s release. “It sounds as though they were commissioned to write a ‘Life With Daughter’ in one day and scribbled it down on paper napkins while having tea and crumpets that afternoon. A chuckle or two over teacups is the brand of its merriment.”

“I don’t think it’s especially memorable,” concurs Marc Sober, media research specialist in the Humanities Department of the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the longtime host of the Pratt central branch’s monthly Saturday-morning Film Talk series. “When they come to Baltimore at the beginning, you see a still photo of Mt. Vernon Place – that way you know that it’s set here. All you see of Baltimore is that one shot.”

Remove that establishing frame, and you’re in Anywhere, USA. Presumably, RKO Radio Pictures shot the entire movie on its back lot in Hollywood, which accounts for the fact that this fictional Baltimore looks remarkably rustic – and completely un-scorched — one year after the Great Fire of 1904 vaporized downtown.

Good luck seeking out Adventure in Baltimore. You can’t rent it from Netflix or Video Americain. You can’t borrow it from the Pratt. No clips on YouTube. You can’t even buy it from Amazon. Turner Classic Movies broadcast the film in April 2010 as part of a Shirley Temple marathon, so, perhaps, a plaintive e-mail plea to TCM might engender a return engagement. A look-before-you-leap caveat: Glimpse the trailer first.

Each month, “Baltimore Unearthed” will illuminate a semi-great cultural curiosity from the
city’s past.

Big Fish Q&A with Baltimore Novelist Laura Lippman

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Laura Lippman knows “The Streets of Baltimore,” to cop the title of the mournful 1960s country song. She knows them from growing up/attending grade school here, from reporting about them at The Sun, and from walking/driving/shopping them as a longtime resident.

That municipal intimacy flows through Lippman’s 11 best-selling Tess Monaghan mystery novels, as her fictional detective makes pit stops at Jimmy’s and Bertha’s (Fell’s Point), the Helmand and Penn Station (midtown), the Domino Sugar sign and Cross St. Market (South Baltimore), and Video Americain and Eddie’s (Roland Park), among dozens and dozens of other local name-checks. The city also plays a role in some of her six non-Tess crime fiction novels, particularly the just published The Most Dangerous Thing, set in Dickeyville, Lippman’s girlhood West Baltimore neighborhood — not forgetting her 2009 short-story collection Hardly Knew Her and 2006’s Baltimore Noir, a collection by local authors, including Lippman, which she edited. That output has resulted in Lippman winning the Edgar, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, the Gumshoe, and the Barry writing awards, which, collectively, sound like the crime fiction prize equivalent of the Seven Dwarves.

Lippman’s DNA brims with books and journalism: Her mother, Madeline, worked as a city school librarian, while her father, Theo Jr., made his rep as a respected Sun editorial writer. After graduating from Columbia’s Wilde Lake High School, Lippman earned a journalism degree from Northwestern University in 1981, and then wrote for newspapers in Waco and San Antonio before joining The Sun in 1989. Starting with Baltimore Blues in 1997, she knocked out seven Tess Monaghan novels while working full-time at the newspaper, which she left in 2001 to concentrate on fiction.

Now 52, she lives in South Federal Hill with her husband, David Simon – a former Sun reporter, author (Homicide, The Corner), and creator of TV’s “Homicide,” “The Wire,” and “Treme” – and their toddler daughter.

One last thing: Don’t conflate Lippman with Monaghan, even though both are ex-newspaperwomen. “The relationship is more like Patty and Cathy on the old ‘Patty Duke Show,’” Lippman explains on her website. “I’m Cathy, the cultured one who has traveled widely, while Tess has only seen the sights a girl can see from O’Donnell Heights.”

Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.

Maybe I should really stop brooding so much.

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?

Goals are a work in progress. Fifteen years ago, I wanted to be a full-time novelist. Ten years ago, I wanted to be a New York Times bestseller. Now, I want to be a really good parent — who still works full-time as a novelist.

 

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed?
 
Start your second book now. (This was from my mentor, Michele Slung, who had read a manuscript of my first novel. The result was that I had almost finished my second novel by the time I sold the first.)

 

The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it?
 
I never ask for advice unless I really want it, in which case I find it’s almost always valuable, even if I decide not to follow it. So the worst advice had to be unsolicited, which means I tuned it out.

 

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime?

1) Nobody really notices or cares what I wear.

2) You can’t expect anyone else to value your time.

3) Almost no one has a good memory, and the people who are insistent that they have great memories probably have the worst memories of all.

What is the best moment of the day? 

Morning. The first part, which I have all to myself, but also the ensuing hour in which everyone else in the house begins waking up.

What is on your bedside table?

I don’t really have one, so there’s a pile of books on the floor. For a while, my bedside table was a pile of art books.

 

What is your favorite local charity?

Four-way tie: Viva House, Health Care for the Homeless, Greyhound Pets of America-MD chapter, and the Enoch Pratt.

 

What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing?

Focus on writing, not publishing.

 

Why are you successful?

I never claim to be, but to the extent that I am, it’s because I’m enormously lucky. But also because I did the work. Because all the luck in the world won’t help you if you haven’t done anything. Nobody knocks on your door and says, “Hey, I’m from the sweepstakes that wants to publish the novel you’ve yet to write.”
 
Of which of your books are you most proud? Why? And why do you think that some literary fiction readers — and writers — cop a condescending attitude toward the mystery genre?

I’m proud of every book I’ve written, although the reasons vary. I’m proud I managed to write the first one, win a big prize for the second one, that I tackled the issue of race in the third one — so on and so forth. Mainly, I’m proud that I’ve written almost two million words of fiction in less than two decades.

As for the condescending attitude — it just comes from unfamiliarity, as does much bigotry.
 
You grew up in Dickeyville, live in South Federal Hill, reported on Baltimore for The Sun, and have written about the city repeatedly as a novelist. By now, you must possess a strong sense of the citizenry’s psyche and idiosyncrasies. Cite Baltimoreans’ most endearing general characteristic — and their most unappealing one.

I love the fact that true Baltimoreans don’t look outside the city for validation — don’t care how it’s done/said/worn in New York or D.C.

I worry that our nostalgia allows us not to confront some of the ugliness in our past and that we can be incurious about newcomers.  
 
Are you aware of the fact that your name qualifies you to be an officially sanctioned Superman love interest, as in Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Luma Lynai, et al.? How does this make you feel?

Very aware! And very proud. I used to play at being Lois Lane when I was very small. Then one day it occurred to me that she spent a lot of time bound and gagged, waiting for Superman, and I decided I’d rather be Supergirl.

Can You Say President O’Malley?

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While the Democratic Party devotes its immediate attention to re-electing President Barack Obama in 2012, the Dems also are engaged in long-term strategizing regarding potential presidential candidates for the 2016 race. How else to explain the marquee positioning (see photo) of a beaming Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley during Obama’s recent $447 billion jobs initiative speech before a joint session of Congress. You can bet that MOM’s spotlighted placement directly behind First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden did not occur randomly.

Even before the 2010 midterm election that heralded the wholesale repudiation of Democrats in Congress, governors’ mansions, and state legislatures nationwide, Dem Party apparatchiks openly bandied around O’Malley’s name as a post-Obama presidential possibility. That election merely served to burnish his golden-boy status. Not only did O’Malley emerge as one of the Democrats’ few 2010 winners, he trounced his Republican opponent, former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, by 14 percentage points.

Young (now 48), conventionally handsome, and just a hair left-of-center politically, with an attractive wife and a brood of wholesome-looking kids, O’Malley possesses a peck of the attributes that Democrats cherish in a White House hopeful. Already, he commanded national media coverage and party prestige as chair of the Democratic Governors Association – his ascent to that post seemed carefully choreographed – and now comes his gilded televised moment within hugging distance of Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden. Expect continued high-visibility sightings in the ensuing years leading up to the 2016 campaign. Could MOM be Dems’ anointed one?

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