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Changes at Baltimore Fishbowl

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About nine months ago, we launched BFB, armed with little more than an abundance of enthusiasm and ideas, a good writing staff and some seed money. Now, we have a loyal audience and our growth exceeds our expectations.

Because you have responded every step of the way (btw, we’re just a hair away from reaching our year-one traffic goal of 60,000 hits a month — and it’s only been 36 weeks!) we’re assessing and rerouting our course.

On Monday, you’ll notice some exciting changes at Baltimore Fishbowl.

All our columns — Bohemian Rhapsody, Hot House, Sartorial Baltimoreal and more — will be accessible from the homepage. We want to share your comments as they happen so they will land on the homepage, too. Our events calendar becomes more visible, too.

We’ve been pleased and surprised at the interest in real estate — so we’ll be adding products to enhance house hunting on our site. We’re also bringing on an ad sales force to meet the demand for more and better ad space.

In the near future, look for even more content on the site — plus, we will continue to increase content in the months ahead.

We love what we’re doing — mixing the serious news and the silly, trying to see the humor in life and figuring things out along the way — but please keep telling us what you’d like to read more of, and where we can improve. We are here to build an engaging, entertaining online community with you and for you — and for ourselves! We can’t promise we’ll take all of your suggestions, but we can promise we’ll take them all seriously — unless, of course, you ask for gratuitous swear words and gross scatological humor, that’s just not our style. We will however aim to post more photos of Lindsay Lohan’s worst plastic surgery decisions, if at all possible. Much love, the Eds.

"Fifty Shades of Grey" Has Suburban Moms Rapt

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Okay, so have you heard about Fifty Shades of  Grey, the erotic new novel written by 40-something British TV-producer-turned-novelist E.L. James that’s been called controversial and troubling on “Today”? And if so, could we borrow your copy in near future?  It’s all the rage in New York and L.A., and our friends there report it’s especially big in the suburban mom crowd. So we ask, “Is it taking hold in Baltimore?”

Obviously, we haven’t yet read the novel…but obviously we’re kind of keen to try it after hearing from, not only “Today” and The Huffington Post on the matter, but from our most glamorous hairdresser friend, too. (She liked it.) The “story” of Anastasia Steele (what a name!), a virginal young woman who gets involved in a relationship with a slightly older entrepreneur named — wait for it — Christian Grey, has got Dr. Drew scratching his head on “Today” — he hasn’t read it either, by the way — asking America, “What does this say about our society?” Meanwhile sex educator Logan Levkoff — who did read the book — replies that sometimes fantasies are just fantasies. (She loved it, fyi.)

Levkoff considers the book a healthful approach to erotic imagining, and she’s pleased to hear that many women readers in long-term marriages have reported that the novel has ignited their sex lives anew because it has reminded them of the power of sexual-storytelling.

Anyway, if you don’t have a copy we can borrow later today — we’d read it fast and give it right back — we’d like to know: Is this the kind of book you’d be perfectly comfortable purchasing at, say, The Ivy Bookshop, in the light of day? Is it wrong to read this kind of writing because perhaps it contains anti-feminist messaging? Do you agree with Levkoff that sometimes we fantasize rather automatically, separate from want, separate from intellectual control? In other words, is a fantasy ever just a fantasy? Please let us hear! And we’ll happily loan you our now-on-the-way-from-Amazon copy whenever you’re ready.

Comments Get Serious

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Last week, readers brought plenty more positive reinforcement our way — thanks, guys — but didn’t pull any punches either.

In response to Rachel Monroe’s “Ten Years Post Wire: David Simon Looks Back” report, written shortly after seeing Simon live at MICA — in which Monroe described Simon’s comparing his series to Melville’s most respected novel — a reader going by the tag “Actually” wrote, “Simon resisted any qualitative comparison between ‘The Wire’ and Moby Dick. He said specifically, ‘Understand, I am not saying ‘The Wire’ is anywhere near as good as this book,’ but instead cited Moby Dick at random because it was a long, famous novel that he thought everyone in the audience would know and most would have read. And then he proceeded to describe the first chapters of Melville’s novel and point out that at no point do you meet the whale, or Ahab or even go aboard the Pequod. He then argued that ‘The Wire’ was structured in the same way, but whereas people do not feel pressed to acquire immediate and dramatic plot developments when they pick up a long novel, they expect such when they watch television. And he argued that ‘The Wire’s’ pacing was more consistent with prose narrative than with television drama. No doubt someone is running around right now pointing to the above account and declaring that Simon thinks ‘The Wire’ is the new Moby Dick. He was making a point about structure only.”

Rachel wrote back swiftly to clarify, “That’s what I said, or was trying to say — that the Moby Dick/‘Wire’ comparison was structural, in that they’re both ‘slow starters’ (Simon’s words) — you have to take your time to get into them, and then are rewarded with a fully-realized world. I have plenty of respect for the man and am in no way trying to start internet rumors about him being grandiose. If anything, he actually seems relentlessly self-effacing, to me.”

Meanwhile, “TAM” read Robert O’Brien’s post about a playful pilot’s irresponsible “Mom on board” announcement, and weighed in both emphatically and empathetically: “As a nervous flyer, I am able to see how one would react adversely to the ‘fun announcement.’ I have no interest in anything other than pertinent details of the actual flight (e.g.: weather conditions, crash or terror probability, etc.). It’s the out of context stuff that pushes nervous people over the edge. Better the airline people should stick strictly to their jobs, they have enough to do without doing inflight ‘shout outs.’” Agreed, TAM — keep your seat belt fastened.

MICA prof Mikita Brottman’s essay, “Crazy as a Bedbug,” cataloging historic suicides at the beautiful Belvedere Hotel, caught “CJS” by surprise — he/she wrote, “Right in the bathroom of his suite — that’s gotta hurt! Looking forward to the next installment.”

Leslie F. Miller wasn’t surprised at all to learn — in “The Day Davy Jones Did Baltimore” — that contributor Michael Yockel had met and interviewed dearly departed Monkee Davy Jones in Baltimore during the ‘80s. “Love it. Of course you did,” Leslie said.

But as usual, readers seemed to have the most to say about columnist Marion Winik’s memoir-esque observations. This week, in “The Hepatitis Chronicles Part II: Showtime!” Marion  detailed her recent hospital stay, the good, the bad, the miraculous and the hilarious.

Ross Sauce wrote, “Wow. That’s an inspiring story. I hope you do get well soon and stay that way for another few decades, dear Marion. We all benefit from your smarts and courage.”

Lisa Simeone said, “Marion, darlin’, I’m sorry, I had no idea you were so ailing. But your poetic rendering of your travails puts the petty troubles of the rest of us in perspective. Miracle Mary? Miracle Marion. Maybe we should wear that medal around our necks.”

Martha Frankel added, “Only you could make people jealous as all get-out with a story of a hospital stay. Come to Woodstock so I can spoil you.”

Naomi Nye wrote sweetly, “You are spectacular, babydoll! I love everything you’ve written for the last 32 (?) years and this one could be the best yet! Is it its own kind of miracle to be able to make grim/rough/nasty things hilariously funny? For sure and you’re the master. We all love you — Get well forever!” Touching stuff. See the site for heaps more heartfelt reactions.

Do keep reading in good health — and let us know what you’re thinking!

Cheers from Baltimore Fishbowl!

GQ Features Spike Gjerde

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Baltimore chef Spike Gjerde, of Woodberry Kitchen fame, is the subject of Short Order, a feature on GQ’s website.  In the piece, Gjerde reveals some of his favorite Baltimore hot spots, among them, Belvedere Market, Wit and Wisdom and Hampden coffee shop, Spro.  (Have you ever heard of a “spikiatto”?  You can get one at Spro.) And did you know our celebrated chef (he was just nominated for a James Beard) got his start at French bakery Patisserie Poupon?

See for yourself at The Short Order: Spike Gjerde’s Guide to Baltimore.

More History to GSV Estate Mensana

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We received last week the following email regarding Mensana, the fallen Green Spring Valley estate that we and our friend Pigtown Design blogger Meg Fielding have written about. The writer, Serena Black Martin, is the great grand daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Richard Jackson, who owned the estate for over 40 years.  With Serena’s permission, we are sharing the email and a small sample of her lovely photographs of the house in its glory days.  Serena has agreed to write a history of the house for the Baltimore Fishbowl. Look for it in the coming weeks!

 

I have noticed over the last few months that you have had articles regarding Mensana.  The latest today, titled, “Inside Creepy Mansion Mensana.”

This house has a very special meaning to me because it was the home my great grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Jackson, for over forty years.  It was known as Venture then and the 300 plus acre property spanned either side of Greenspring Valley Road.  There were beautiful barns, tenant houses, ice ponds, and endless riding trails.

 

In 1932, the Jacksons bought the home directly next to them and gave it to my grandmother, Catherine Jackson and my grandfather, Gary Black, as their wedding present.  It was named Adventure, and they added it to the estate.  I now live in Adventure and so I am very concerned what will become of Venture.  

I have wonderful photographs of parties etc. that show the splendor of the home and its true beauty.  Maybe people can look past the creepiness of it today and see that it could be spectacular once again.
Regards,
Serena Black Martin
Venture

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