Tag: baltimore sun

Against Gay Marriage and Proud of It: Chick-fil-A “Guilty as Charged”

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I’ve always had a lot of respect for Chick-fil-A’s business practices – the books instead of plastic toys? Awesome. The guts to stay closed on Sunday? Awesome, even though that’s the only day I ever seem to be in the mood for waffle fries.

Baltimore Homeowners Forced to Reimburse the City for Tax Errors

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When parking enforcement puts a boot on your car, after you pay off  your tickets and get the key to remove it, it’s incumbent on you to return the boot within 24 hours or its considered theft. That’s always rankled me. If I were headed to return a boot and I saw a police car parked illegally, I’d be tempted to slap the boot on, flee to Canada, and change my name to Jean-Pierre O’Clanahan. (Now, to be clear, I would never actually do this — even though it would make a great episode of Parking Wars — if for no other reason than I’m sure I’d never figure how to get it on the wheel.)

The point is — even if it’s legally justified — when the city places a demand on you, especially one with a quick, uncompromising deadline, it’s easy to resent the feeling of coercion. That must be how a few Baltimore City homeowners are feeling right now. They’ve been unknowingly receiving erroneous tax credits from the city for several years, and are now being required to cough up the total or face stiff penalties and interest. And get this, the city wouldn’t even be aware of these errors were it not for an investigative piece in The Baltimore Sun.

The affected homeowners, who have received in error anywhere from $1,700 to $9,200 over the course of several years, are being told to pay it all back in 30 days, or else. C’mon, city! Is the fact that this was largely your error any kind of mitigating factor here? You act like they went and stole the total in cash off your coffee table. The money isn’t just sitting in their homes in large dollar-sign bags while they figure out how to launder it.

If you’re one of these people who’s about to settle up with the city with a big honking check, promise me you’ll write something really classy in the memo line.

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.

Don’t Mind the Haters, Terps – Your New Look is Great

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Today’s biggest fake scandal:  The University of Maryland Terps got new uniforms, and everyone who’s anyone thinks they’re a big fashion faux pas. Or something like that. Last I checked, no one actually was that upset — but the Baltimore Sun insists that the blogosphere was simply erupting with indignation over the University of Maryland’s new football uniforms. Which actually look pretty cute.

“For most of the game, on Facebook, on Twitter, on people’s blogs, folks went on and on and on about the uniforms and their instantaneous, visceral disgust for them,” the Sun frets. The uniforms in question incorporate the black and yellow checkerboard and the red and white cross of the Maryland state flag.

However:  No less a source than the State Flag Power Rankings blog (actually a real thing) finds the flag insidiously compelling (“more and more boss the more I think about it”); and here, another ranking awards it the top spot. In conclusion:  the Maryland flag looks cool, and these uniforms also look cool. Don’t mind the haters, Terps. You guys look great.

After Vozzella: Will Her Truth-Telling Voice Fade Away?

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Yesterday marked for The Baltimore Sun the first Thursday without Laura Vozzella’s witty, snarky, tell-it-like-is presence.

After 11 years as a Sun writer and almost six as columnist, the astute reporter (and sassy observer) has relocated to The Washington Post, which leaves us wondering who her replacement might be — who could fill her wise word-count, if indeed she’s being replaced at all? (No sign of a new columnist, and no gossip on the street, could very well mean the ever-shrinking paper considers the provocative city column category said and done.)

If so, it’s a shame. We’ve relished Vozzella’s insights. We loved these highlights from her farewell column last week, in which she thanked high-profiles locals who made her revealing columns hilariously readable and teachable: “Former Mayor Dixon, for your passion for furs, Jimmy Choos and a married man doing business with the city. Developers A, B and C, for all those gift cards you donated to Mayor Dixon’s favorite charity: Mayor Dixon. Olympian Michael Phelps, for taking that Vegas cocktail waitress home to meet mom one Thanksgiving…A convention of out-of-town bishops, for downing $55 bottles of wine at Cinghiale…A Catholic priest Who Shall Not Be Named, for denouncing me from the pulpit of my own church for writing about the aforementioned bishops…Molly Shattuck, the Grandma Moses of NFL cheerleading, for proving motherhood and ripped abs are not mutually exclusive….Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, for scolding a constituent who called you “Stephanie,” overcoming your Cleopatra-wig phase and managing to always look bored with the family business (politics), even when the job brings you within inches of Barack Obama.”

Just in case the brightest Sun powers that be are considering cocky columnist applicants, here are some candidate ideas from BFB:

Justin Fenton, Baltimore Sun reporter–has been named best reporter by City Paper and Baltimore Magazine. Pros: He’s a skilled and dogged crime reporter, a solid writer, and well-trained journalist. Cons: He’s likely a tad too serious to tackle the gig’s fun-poking requirements.

Max Weiss, editor of Baltimore Magazine
Pros: She’s funny, clever, and well-versed in pop culture and politics. Cons: She might love Baltimore a little too much to knock our heroes from their pedestals.

Marion Winik, nonfiction writer, poet, Baltimore Fishbowl columnist
Pros: She’s intelligent; knows what’s happening around town, around the world.
Cons: Her best, most heartfelt writing may be found in those small moments in which she takes ruthless aim at herself, rather than the jerks all around her.

Which local thinker/scribe would you nominate to be Vozzella’s replacement? Let us hear.

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