Moses Hubbard

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Free Slurpees and Hopefully No Mobs, Baltimore

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“Slurpees, Slurpees, Slurpees…”

I’m sure the owners of the Light/Pratt Street 7-11 woke up today with a quaky feeling in their stomachs. It’s the company’s 85th Anniversary, and they’re celebrating with yeah, you guessed it, a free Slurpee giveaway. While supplies last, stores will be handing out free 7.11-ounce frozen drinks.

I’ve always looked forward to “slurpFREE” day, even though it’s got nothing on Dunkin’ Doughnuts Iced CofFREE. But the last time 7-11 handed out Slurpee’s, they did more damage than brain-freeze – the store’s May giveaway caused a small riot, with 20 -30 school kids stealing, damaging the store, and even physically attacking its owner. It’s a brave man that dons a 7-11 cap on Light Street today.

A Baltimore Guide to Not Getting Broken Into

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My house got broken into the other day. We lost a laptop, desktop, a couple of Mac chargers and an amp. That was Saturday. Monday, we got broken into again, and they took another laptop, a bike, more chargers, our TV, a bunch of guitars — basically everything of value. One of my housemates said he felt like a Who after the Grinch came, but minus the Christmas cheer. And, you know, if it happened twice. Anyway, getting broken into is no fun, and it happens a lot in Baltimore, so I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve learned about how to not get all your stuff jacked.

Fences are good, walls are not. 

The first time whoever it was broke in, they came through an open door. That was a stupid mistake on our part, but afterwards we kept everything locked up. The second time, we got our dining-room window busted open. The thieves felt safe enough to do this, the security people explained, because we’ve got an eight-foot brick wall around our back yard. Eight feet is as high as city regulation will allow, but still low enough that anyone over 5’8″ can pretty easily climb over. And once they’re over a wall, they’re hidden from view.  So make sure your robbers-to-be don’t have any good spots to hide.

Window bars are awesome.

If your windows and doors are barred, you’ve probably deterred 95 percent of people wanting to steal your things. We didn’t do this until after the second time we were broken into, but we haven’t had any trouble since then. (Though I’m not sure if it’s the window bars or just that we don’t have anything left to steal.)

Baltimore Temperatures Drop From 100’s

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Big news everyone: we can all stop praying to the sun gods for forgiveness. After 11 straight days of 100-degree temperatures it looks like the heat is finally settling down to the comparatively cool 90’s. It’s about time, too – I was almost running out of red heifers and sackcloth.

This temperature drop comes with news of the 13th Marylander dying from our recent heat wave. I’m not always one for numerology but hey, lucky number thirteen anybody?

I guess the 90’s aren’t usually what you’d think of as “gentle” but they’ll sure feel good after the last week and a half. I noticed the streets began to do that thing where they rippled when you see down them too far in the distance, the way things usually only look on the other side of a fire.

 

 

Dan Deacon on Carly Rae Jepsen

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We’ve still got a couple months until Dan Deacon’s album America drops, but for those of you who can’t wait till September for some more Deacon ear candy, he’s just released a new track – a remix of “Call Me Maybe” layered over itself 147 times.

He does this magical job of turning an overplayed pop song into something really enjoyable. The first few seconds are just the same bubbly notes we’ve all listened to way too many times in the past month or so, but then the next layer comes in, and then the next, and the next. By number nine a whole different melody begins to emerge, and by 100 it’s this almost mystical, rolling technobabble, with Jepsen’s lyrics only popping out in millisecond shards. I don’t think Dan intended it to be a commentary on playing a song too many times, but I couldn’t help but find it ironic how much I loved listening to what you can basically chalk up to the ultimate over-play.

The track, “Call Me Maybe Acapella 147 Times Exponentially Layered,” won’t be on America – it’s actually part of a remix album pulled together by Mabson Enterprises. The album consists of 43 (that’s right, 43) remixes and covers of Carly Rae Jepsen’s painfully catchy song. EAR PWR, Phil Blankenship, and many others have all contributed tracks.

Check it out / download it for FREE right here.

I See You, Maryland Live! Casino

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I know I had some doubts about the recently opened Maryland Live! Casino, but after the results from its earnings this month, I may need to take my criticisms back.

A statement from the Maryland Lottery came out today that the casino, which opened June 6 at Arundel Mills Mall, pulled $28.5 million in its first 25 days. That’s more than twice what Maryland’s two other casinos took in – 8 million from Hollywood Casino Perryville and $4.4 million from Ocean Downs, on the Eastern shore.

Even though you have to consider that this was the casino’s opening month, that’s still a ton of money. And two-thirds of it goes to the state in taxes, most of which is supposed to be put into the state’s education trust fund. That’s a great deal for pretty much everyone – the casino’s investors, the people it created jobs for, the players, and the kids in Maryland schools.

The real question we have to think about now is what to do about the other casinos that are hoping to start up in Maryland. Is demand strong enough to justify building one or two more, or would that spread the casino clientele too thin? At least for the other two Maryland casinos the Maryland Live! opening doesn’t seem to have changed too much – Hollywood dipped 9.8 percent and Ocean Downs went up 16 percent.

At the Safeway, Post-Derecho

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I work at the Safeway on North Charles, and when I walked into the store yesterday I felt like I was stepping onto the set of Zombieland. Remember the part where they’re in the grocery store? It was like that but minus the zombies – the lights were flickering, the shelves eerily empty, people wandered around in dazed confusion, there was a faint dead smell in the air. It turns out we’d been hit by the second-best thing to a zombie apocalypse – a total power outage.

The blocks around Safeway lost power after the hurricane-esque blast of weather we got Friday night, which left hundreds of thousands of Marylanders in the dark and heat. I was stupid enough to be on a bike around 10:30 that night and narrowly missed getting hit by about four branches. There was some extensive property damage, but the biggest concern for many of us has been the lack of power. I was just talking to a woman who lives in a nursing home who told me they lost a woman who had been on an oxygen pump when her building lost power.

I usually work behind a table with the computers, but I spent my day wandering through Safeway’s back rooms with a flashlight and trash bag, throwing away anything that needed temperature control: milk, juice, eggs, the entire deli, the whole produce section, tons of ice cream cakes and frozen pizza. My manager told me we lost well over $100,000 from the storm, and we’ll keep losing money until power comes back. BGE is saying that should happen by Thursday or Friday, but the damage was so extensive and unexpected it could well take longer.

It was sort of a frightening experience, seeing how totally useless people are without electricity, how subject to nature. I’m just hoping the A.C.’s back on when I get in today.

 

Taking the ZigZag Path to Druid Hill Park

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Most people who’ve been to Druid Hill Park don’t actually know it. They go down to the Maryland Zoo (which is right in the middle of Druid Hill) and leave without ever noticing anything else the park has to offer. They don’t see the baseball diamonds, or the historic, famously desegregated tennis courts, or the for-whatever-reason very Asian looking pavilions. They miss the small, historic cemetery, the arboretum, and the surprisingly pristine blue shock of Druid Hill Lake.

The Tax Foul-Ups Could Fill Baltimore’s Historic Buildings

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The most recent expose in The Baltimore Sun’s series about taxes admonishes the city for tax-break errors that have lost millions of dollars in potential revenue. Here’s what’s going on:

Baltimore is full of historic architecture – there are 55,000 properties, almost one in four buildings in the city that qualify as part of a historic district or landmark. The city has a number of programs in place to make sure these spaces are properly preserved, one of which offers tax breaks for owners of historic properties. Basically it guarantees these owners a decade of tax breaks for restorations and rehabs. If, say, your restorations raise a building’s value from $150,000 to $225,000 the city will keep taxing you only $150,000 for the next 10 years.

Theses preservation programs themselves aren’t the problem. They make sense, because they encourage investment in and renovation of properties that otherwise might be destroyed – just think of all the trendy former-warehouse lofts you see on sale for $700,000 or $800,000.

But whoever has been calculating the tax breaks has really messed up. Errors left and right abound: Many people have been receiving tax breaks for longer than 10 years, or more of a tax break than they were entitled to. And the breaks have allowed some owners to dodge taxes on market gains that have nothing to do with rehabilitation. These “clerical errors” have cost the city more than 2 million bucks in lost taxes since 2009. That’s money we just can’t afford to lose.

Little Rascal/Baltimore Native “Chubsy-Ubsy” Finally Gets a Headstone

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Norman Chaney, child star of “Our Gang” and Baltimore native, is finally receiving some long-deserved recognition. The actor lay in very literal obscurity for 76 years – he passed away in 1936 and until very recently has been buried in an unmarked grave.

Chaney played the part of Chubby from 1929 to 1931, when he returned to public school in Baltimore. His health quickly deteriorated and it was discovered that Chaney had glandular issues. He died at the age of 21, just five years after his last appearance in the television short Fly My Kite.

Recently a group of fans put together a collection to get Chaney a headstone that would recognize the actor who had given so many people so many laughs. They fell short of their goal – $8,000 to get headstones for Chaney and his mother – but Heather Simons of Hubbard Funeral Home was able to pull some strings and get their order through.

The black granite headstones will be 28 by 16 inches. Chaney’s will feature an etching of his face and his nickname, “Chubsy-Ubsy.”

The Coiffure Project

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The photograph can be one of the key crystallizers of a movement. You’ve got Jim Marshall’s images of Dylan and Hendrix, Allan Ginsberg’s Beat Memories, Bill Cunningham’s Manhattan runway shots. Having a series of pictures “about” a thing does something to officiate it, to root it more deeply in the public consciousness, especially when those photographs are particularly elegant and striking.

The growing natural hair movement (hey look, a pun!) has found its photographer in Baltimore’s own Glenford Nunez, the 25-year-old founder of TYP Photography Studio. Natural hair is basically a trend among black women favoring styles and cuts not designed around using chemical straighteners or relaxers on their hair. And it’s becoming popular fast – between 2010 and 2011 the number of black women not using products to chemically relax or straighten their hair jumped from 26 to 36 percent.

The politics of this are pretty nuanced and not really my place as a white dude to get into, but it’s cool to see some fluctuation in a fashion sense with beginnings as dubious as Afro-American hair straightening.

Nunez is working on what he calls “The Coiffure Project,” a collection of shots featuring black women in all their natural-curly-coiffed-haired beauty. He said he stumbled on the trend accidentally, but his pictures seemed to strike a chord so he ran with the idea. Thus far Nunez has photographed 10 women, and says he’s looking for more natural-haired subjects. So hey, if you’re in Baltimore and rocking some natural hair, maybe stroll by their Howard street offices.

 

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