Sing Karaoke? You Could Be the Next Hampden Idol!


In addition to hot fried foods and home-grown indie music, now there’s one more fun reason to be psyched for September’s Hampdenfest: Hampden Idol 2011. It’s just like “American Idol,” except everyone’s local–and fantastically imaginative rather than ruthlessly ambitious–and no one wins a recording contract. Returning after three years’ heart-breaking absence, the hokey hood-festival phenomenon is hosted and organized/curated by musician Kevin Hoffman, known to locals as Keyboard Man, and co-produced by Atomic Books. Contest stages past have included rousing performances by Spidey, a grown man dressed as Spiderman, singing “Spill the Wine” by War (quite well, I might add), hearty interpretations of Chicago ballads, and way more wackiness.

To get in the game, here are rules as stated at the official website: YOU MUST–
    * Be able to attend Hampdenfest in Baltimore, Maryland on September 10.
    * Be 18 years or older.
    * Be able to bring an amazing karaoke act (lyrics provided) to the stage in front of an adoring crowd. You don’t have to sing well, but you do have to entertain! The more unique the better.
    * Sign up via website, and then solicit votes via internet campaigning to earn a spot in the competition. Tweeting, getting people to Like you, etc. Stuff you do in real life already. We will take up to 10 contestants via this website, based on the number of votes…
    * At Hampdenfest, we’ll hold auditions and let a limited number of festival attendees sign up for a spot (first come, first served). We will take up to 10 contestants on the day of the competition, based on their audition.

So, put your personality-packed act together, snap on your tights, and act fast. So far, only a handful of people have signed up. You really could be the next Hampden Idol. We Like that.

Yoga in the Park: A Pro/Con Meditation



1. Getting a tan while in lying in corpse position
2. Don’t have to leave the dog at home
3. Using the butt crack of a statue as your Drishti
4. Feeling super healthy compared to junkies nodding out on the bench
5. Easy to sneak in if you arrive late
6. Easy to sneak away if you’ve had enough
7. In Tree position, you can actually hold on to a tree.
8. In Pigeon, you can actually watch the pigeons.


1. Stepping on dog poop
2. Cool hipsters gazing at you with contempt
3. Losing your glasses in the grass
4. Getting ogled by old men
5. Dogs licking your feet in corpse position
6. Ants in your shorts
7. Possibly stepping on a needle
8. Worrying somebody might steal your shoes

This summer, I’ve been excited to take part in the free yoga class that takes place every Saturday morning, 8.30-9.30am, in West Mount Vernon park. The class is sponsored by Merritt Athletic Club, and the instructor, Jude, is super-friendly and non-intimidating. Participants are all ages and levels, and there are four more classes left. Just bring your own mat and water bottle.

Snipe Hunting


Snipe Hunting

My uncle handed me a sack
and sent me to the yard:
“Just hold it wide; they’ll fall inside—
this hunting isn’t hard!”

What did I know? A girl of six
believes what she is told.
That August night in ‘68
I really thought I’d hold

a snipe before the stars appeared.
Instead, my uncle laughed
as I became mosquito bait
with rustling paper kraft.

It’s either faith or foolishness
that keeps me at this call.
The bag is now a flattened sheet:
I wait for words to fall.


Baltimore-area native Ann Eichler Kolakowski is pursuing a master’s degree in poetry at Johns Hopkins University. Her recent work also appears in Little Patuxent Review and Blast Furnace. She is completing a book-length manuscript of poems that chronicle the lost mill town of Warren, Maryland, which was destroyed and flooded in 1922 to expand the Loch Raven Reservoir, the primary source of Baltimore’s municipal water supply.

Martin Luther King, Jr Takes His Place Among Founding Fathers and Presidents


The northwest shore of Washington, DC’s Tidal Basin is the site of the city’s newest monument: a thirty-foot memorial statue of Martin Luther King, Jr set among Japanese cherry trees.

The memorial employs visual metaphors lifted from his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech—visitors to the site enter between two rough hewn boulders representing the “Mountain of Despair,” while Dr. King’s likeness abuts the “Stone of Hope”—but the fourteen quotations engraved along the outer wall are culled from lesser known addresses and writings.

Recently, King’s name has been invoked in association with such politically divergent personalities as Barack Obama (mostly by his supporters) and Glenn Beck (mostly by himself). Ironically, travesties like these can be blamed on the wider acceptance of much of King’s message. In today’s mainstream, King is an almost universally beloved historical figure, and that kind of popular adoration begets politically convenient revisionism.

In his own day, King and the movement he represented were seen by many as dangerous to the status quo, even seditious. (Remember, he was assassinated!) In the decades since his death, King’s legacy has been by turns reduced to polite buzzwords like “peace” and “equality” or truncated to include only his part in the black civil rights struggle, ignoring both his uncompromising condemnation of the war in Vietnam and his efforts to mobilize the nation’s poor, a move which took the civil rights movement beyond issues of race.

The incorporation of literal quotations from a variety of speeches ought to help present an authentic picture of the man and his message, something that’s sorely needed amid all the opportunistic MLK-hijacking.

The dedication ceremony for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial will commence at 11 am August 28 on the National Mall in DC. For more information, visit



It’s been all anyone can talk about online, on the phone, in person. Earthquake 2011: 5.8 magnitude! Jokes aplenty have kept us texting, and laughing. Check out buzzfeed’s funny photos of “damage.” And Gawker’s deliriously detailed, Obama-centered earthquake meditation. Love the photo we re-posted from of one plastic lawn chair…knocked down. (Go there to see/hear Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move.”) To calm your mildly rattled nerves the Windup Space recommends the Earthquake Cocktail:

1 oz gin
1 oz bourbon whiskey
3/4 oz absinthe

We even heard of one 20-percent-off earthquake sale.’s coupon code? 20 shakes.

But the most entertaining quake conversation remains: Where were you when it hit, and what were you thinking? Baltimore Fishbowl writers weighed in. Please do the same below and be sure to see the videos on our video landing from Baltimore Quake 2011!

“Standing in Matava shoe store at Bellevedere Square–shoes were falling off the shelves and we ran outside because I refuse to be found dead in a shoe store!” –Cynthia McIntyre

“In the dining room cleaning up the Goldfish [crackers] bag that my dog chewed up. I first thought the rumble was my bad dog running around.” –Krista Smith

“I was at the office…with my dog. My dog is awesomely welcomed at my office–he had been sleeping on my desk before he was startled by the rumbling, and immediately barked his displeasure that the room was moving. My first instinct was to pick him up and stand, ready for action. But then I just stood there, staring at my swaying iMac silently. Then one of the engineers, who were all in the next room having a meeting, yelled over the partition, ‘Sara have you been jumping up and down again over there?’ To which I replied, ‘Hey! That’s SO not nice!’ And he said ‘I SO didn’t mean it that way!’ Most fun office ever, even during an earthquake.” –Sara Lynn Michener

“I was driving around Litchfield County in Connecticut when the earthquake happened. Surprisingly the radio said it actually reached Litchfield County all the way up from VA and DC. I only found out about it when my friend called from Baltimore right after it happened. I was shocked, but relieved when he said nothing got destroyed and no one was hurt.” –Kristin Hughes

“I was doing my piano practice. My first thought was, ‘Are the chandeliers going to fall?’” –Mikita Brottman

“Sitting by the Gunpowder River, eating home-made cookies, laughing. The group of moms I was with all looked around, and said ‘Did you feel that?’ We counted heads of children, and reached for cell phones. Verizon network totally failed me, and it took 20 minutes to find out the rest of the family was okay. We stayed in our seats for a couple more hours.” –Elizabeth Frederick

“I got calls from friends and family in New York, California and Spain asking if we were okay.  You could hear the disappointment in their silence when I told them we were not in Baltimore today and missed the earthquake.” –Susan Dunn

“Alas, I am in Cape Cod, so I heard about it through text message and was jealous that I missed all the fun!” –Rachel Monroe

“I was home editing copy when the house began to vibrate. First brilliant thought: ‘Those are some big squirrels running the roof!’” –Betsy Boyd

“I was at my computer on the second floor of my apartment, when the construction team that has been working on the neighboring row house began operating a monstrously heavy piece of machinery. It was in fact so large and powerful that my walls were beginning to shake. I was going to have to go over there and tell them that they better turn off that impossibly thunderous watchamacallit right now; I mean it’s just unbelievable. It’s like a damn earthquake. Wait a second…” –Bob O’Brien

We’re Number 33!


Gawker, the New York-based online newsmagazine, has named Maryland the 33rd worst state in the U.S. Overall, the state is praised for it’s beauty, but Baltimore is singled out for derision.

“They like made a whole television series about what a scary and miserable place it is!” the website reads, adding, “Other than Baltimore, Maryland is basically just the Mid-Atlantic’s Connecticut — all suburby sprawl dotted with occasional crumbling cities.”

Last week, the website began it’s “Worst 50 States in America” series, naming eight new states each day.  Gawker staff members were asked to rate the states on a scale from 1-10. The averaged scores provides the rankings.

Expect a Stylish Arrival


Ericka Wilson

Ericka, spotted at Cross Street Market, gets our respect and admiration not just for looking great in the latest styles–long, strapless dress, dangly earrings, bejeweled sandals–but because she does it all while extremely pregnant.  It’s tough enough to look good on a sweltering day without baby on board. She looks cool, calm, collected and chic. Bodes well for baby.


You look so great. How far along are you?

Eight months. The due date is August 31st. It’s a girl.

Do you have a name picked out? 

Her father picked out Amirah. It is a Muslim name.

Is your dress a maternity dress?

No it is just a regular dress.

Where are you from?

I am from Baltimore.

"Will You Marry Me?" in a Baltimore Bookstore


Last Sunday, a handsome bearded young man strode inside Charlotte Hays Murray’s Bookstore Next Door in Hampden, and explained to the owner that he hoped to propose to his girlfriend in the next few minutes, inside Hays Murray’s shop. She was all for it. The young man carried with him an old book on Baltimore, inside which he tucked a tiny note popping the life-altering question. Hays Murray and her parents looked on–they were excited but tried to act nonchalant, so as not give away the surprise.

“We decided to set the book in a prominent place in the center of the bookstore on a rustic federal slant-front standing desk, so it was visible as they walked in,” Hays Murray says. “[The young man] chatted and fussed a bit. My dad offered some sage advise from a man who has been married to the same woman for over 40 years to a man about to embark on this new adventure. Dad said, ‘You know if you do this you might be stuck with her for 40 years,’ and the guy said, ‘Oh, I hope so.’ My mom laughed.”

The Bookstore Next Door is a rare and unique books shop, new to the area, attached to Hays Murray’s seven-year-standing Charlotte Elliott antiques and vintage clothing store.

The cute bearded man, whose name Hays Murray did not catch, explained that he and his fiance (she said yes) were originally drawn to her shop by the family atmosphere, the comfortable and happy vibe. The bookstore is one of his future bride’s favorite places.

“When they were here during the Christmas parade, we apparently offered them food and warmth, and let them use the restroom (which no one else would do),” Hays Murray says.

Maybe indie bookstores are quietly becoming the trendy new place for thoughtful people to plot lifelong-narrative bliss.

A few years ago, Rachel Whang and Benn Ray, who own Atomic Books–and who happen to be engaged to each other–helped orchestrate a carefully staged marriage proposal in their shop.

A local comic artist Michael Bracco planted an engagement ring inside the pages of his own specially designed graphic book–by end of story, his gal Shawna Pincus was in tears. She said she would.

More recently, a newly betrothed couple asked to visit Atomic for an engagement photo shoot.

Why are some couples-in-big-love drawn to the aisles of bookstores rather than the candlelit restaurant corner?

“Because it’s a good place to find sex guides,” Ray says. “Because proposing while surrounded by Kindles is just sad. Bookstores are about community. Weddings are a community’s celebration of love between two (at least currently) people. So it makes sense. Books offer promise. Knowledge. Escape. Journey. They transcend time. We connect to them. We love writers. We love stories. We love books. We love each other. So why not take the first step of a life’s journey while surrounded by things that mean all that.”

Adds Hays Murray, “It does make me wonder if I should keep a bottle of champagne on hand just in case this happens again.”

Current Gallery Commodifies Fine Art


Eighty plus artists (mostly from Baltimore) are showing their work as part of CART at the Current Gallery. CART is a novel gallery show that recreates the atmosphere of a mini-mart. Shelves and magazine stands are filled with affordably priced works that parody items found at a grocery store.

The show’s curators sought to explore the effect of taking something typically seen as an unnecessary luxury (fine art) and selling as if it is a weekly staple. At CART you will find neatly packaged bread tags, fake pies and plastic wrapped “Bob Ross style” paintings among other items. If something catches your eye, it’s likely very affordable. If not, it’s worth the experience of browsing around a bizarro fine art supermarket.

CART is running until Sept 4 at the Current Gallery and can be viewed on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4.

Snoop From the Wire Tied Up in Real-Life Wiretap Case


In a case of life imitating art (that had previously imitated life), Felicia Pearson — best known for playing Snoop on HBO’s The Wire — pled guilty to a heroin charge, after getting caught in a joint federal-state operation that used (you guessed it) a wiretap to gather evidence.

Though Snoop (it’s her real-life nickname, too) is definitely getting the most attention of any of the 63 people charged in the wide-reaching East Baltimore drug/violence/conspiracy case after a March 10 raid, police say she played a relatively minor role. That — plus her guilty plea the day before her trial was scheduled to start — is one reason why her seven-year sentence was suspended with credit for time served. The judge also ordered three years of supervised probation.

Pearson hasn’t had an easy life — far from it, actually. According to the New York Times, “Ms. Pearson was previously convicted of second-degree murder in a slaying committed when she was 14. She served five years of an eight-year sentence and was released in 2000. She was arrested on a drug charge in 2008 when police went to her home to pick her up for refusing to cooperate as a witness in a murder trial. She was found not guilty.”

According to Pearson’s Twitter feed (BmoreSnoop), she had a meeting with BET earlier in the week; then, four days later, tweeted “I’m FREE” after her sentencing. Seems like things are looking up. We wish her the best!

Drawing by Blake Hicks