Sunday, May 31, 2009

See You on the Ground, Downtown

New Baltimore City Slogan?

People always seemed surprised that a Man About Town like myself lives in the unhip suburbs instead of "happening" hoods like Hampden, Mt. Vernon, Bolton Hill, or the Station North Arts District. To which I can reply: read Justin Fenton's Assaults Assaults on rise in downtown and Peter Hermann's Downtown gets riskier after dark articles today's Baltimore Sun.

You see, I don't like violence, crime and confrontation. Given that my only self-defense skills were learned from the Roadrunner School of Meep Meep Runaway Evasion, I like safety. I know the suburbs have crime as well because crime today is global. Still, I've seen enough random acts of violence and provocation working downtown the last eight years to last me a lifetime.

See, I'm scared of aimless youths with nothing better to do than hassle people. Especially the girls. I've seen teenage and younger girls come into my workplace and harass people just because they look "soft" or wear glasses or talk funny or look different from them. One teenage girl actually told a friend of mine, "I could have you killed." Whether this was true or merely a statement intended to impress her friends, the ramifications are frightening. Funny, but if someone accidentally "disses" them - by an act as small as asking them to lower their voice in the library or stop running around like they're at a track meet - in their minds speaking back to them is grounds for a beat-down, if not justifiable homicide.

I used to be a sociable creature. Unfortunately, I've learned to tone it down and not look or speak to most people I see on the street. Someone somewhere will take offense just by me noticing their existance. Or ask me for money. Mr. Nice Guy has become Mr. Leave Me Alone and Mr. I Don't Wanna Be Involved. I just keep my pace brisk, my head down, and my nose out of trouble - as much I realistically can.

I came across an interactive local crimebeat website where people responded to the recent spate of downtown violence and found the following guy's post to be spot-on:

I just graduated from UB and have lived in Mt Vernon (and now Bolton Hill) for 10 years. This is a beautiful area and a great place to live. It is one of the few areas in Baltimore where you really don't need a car. That said, you will not feel safe at all times in Baltimore and if you do, it is an illusion. The best thing you can do is be aware of your surroundings and body language so you do not look like a victim. That is cost of living of living here I am afraid. That will be true even once this current increase in violence in gone. In the 90s we had to be careful of transvestite prostitutes... last year rapists on the balconies.... now young thugs. Welcome.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Do Not Cock Block

You Will Be Beaten

Spotted this subversive urban graffiti scrawled across a doorway on the corner of Monument and Eutaw on my way into work today.

Fellows, you've been warned. Proceed only with caution.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Best Worst Library Book Titles

One man's sirloin steak may be another's Hamburger Helper, but for me these have to be some of the best "worst" titles in the Enoch Pratt Central Library's collection. Hopefully some will be weeded and I can purchase them at the end of year book sale.

From the Business, Science & Technology Department:

Creative Recreation for the Mentally Retarded
Issam B. Amary, M.S.E.
Charles C. Thomas (1974)

Despite the politically insensitive title, this '70s guide has tons of great suggestions. I mean, who doesn't enjoy activities like the "Tennis Ball Bounce"? I suspect the cover is drawn by one of its target audience. Thanks to "Mr. Ray" for pointing this one out to me.

Coping with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Diane Stoler
Avery Pub. Group (1998)

I love the oxymoronic concept of something being "mildly traumatic." It's like something being "moderately severe." (Incidentally that last reference is to a song by Baltimore rock band Food For Worms, written by Mark O'Connor, who was inspired by the actual Social Security disability status "moderately severe." Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.)

How To Shit in the Woods:
An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art

Kathleen Meyer
Ten Speed Press (1994)

Everything you need to known about outdoor defecation, urination and menstruation. (Just tell me wiping doesn't involve pine cones - eee-ouch!) Actually, this best-seller with the eyebrow-raising title is considered the "backpacker's Bible."

What's Your Poo Telling You?
Josh Richman and Anish Sheth
Chronicle Books (2007)

Poo that talks back is worse than poo that splashs back. This perfect bathroom reader is filled with "loads of facts."

And on a related note...from the Social Science & History Department:

Fart Proudly:
Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School

Benjamin Franklin, ed. by Carl Japikse
Enthea Press (1990)

Believe me I do. That's why I live alone.

Of course, down in the Children's Department, younger readers may avail themselves of this Barf-O-Rama series title:

Juraissic Fart
Pat Pollari
Bantam (1997)

Now we really know why the dinosaurs died. Asphyxiation.

Continuing back to the Social Science & History Department...

Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir
Shalom Auslander
Riverdrome (2007)

The first cut is the deepest.

Castration: An Abbreviated History of Manhood
Gary Taylor
Routledge (2000)

I'm looking for a remaindered copy.

And up in the Humanities Department...

You Are Worthless:
Depressing Nuggets of Wisdom Sure To Ruin Your Day

Oswald T. Pratt
Andrew McNeel Pub. (1999)

And on that note...I bid you adieu!

See also:
Awful Library Books

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bladerunner Tees

From the Silver Screen to the Silk Screen

My girlfriend turned me on to Last Exit To Nowhere, a website that sells movie-themed t-shirts, but only cool ones - not the obvious kind of movie memorabilia product you see elsewhere. Case in point, three very cool tees from my fave movie Bladerunner (1982):

Off World Colonies

A new life awaits you in the off world colonies!

“This announcement is brought to you by the Shimata Dominguez Corporation – helping America into the New World.”


Programmed for Combat, Colonization, and Defense!

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attacked ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

Genetic Replicants

More human than human!

“If we gift them with a past, we create a cushion or a pillow for their emotions, and consequently, we can control them better.”

Honorable mention goes to the "Baltimore State Hospital" tee from The Silence of the Lambs...

...which looks kinda ordinary until you read the small print underneath: "Baltimore State Hospital for the criminally insane."

I Know What Is Best for Everyone

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sensitive and Caring Men

Do You Know Any?

My favorite postcard of all time.


Zoa Notes

Anybody remember this "underground music and poetry" publication? More found documents from the '90s...This one has reviews of Liquor Bike and Buttsteak and an interview with Joe Goldsborough of Reptile House and the Merkin Records label.

Zoa Notes front

Zoa Notes page 2

Zoa Notes page 3

Zoa Notes back page

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Chris Ware gets it exactly right about the Cell Phone Age in his New Yorker comic strip. Guess I'm disconnected, because I hate cell phones.

Naughty Bits

I recently cleaned off some of the crap hanging on my refrigerator...much of it was nasty.

Carousel Coupling at the City Fair

Anybody remember this infamous incident in the annals of Baltimore Babylon? I must have xeroxed a copy of the newspaper ad...

The infamous 1987 City Fair cartoon, fullsize

Close-up of coupling carousel couple

The only Internet mention is the one below by Sun columnist Dan Rodericks:
"In 1987, promoters of the Baltimore City Fair published in The Sun and Evening Sun an amusing advertisement that included a Where's Waldo kind of cartoon showing the crowd at the fair, and a couple coupling on a carousel. Yeah, the last part was a little joke by the art director, whose agency apologized and reimbursed the fair for the ads."

The Bad Taste of Mr. Goodbar

Am I the only kid who remembers this naughty candy tale?

The Penis Tree

Pee-pee Tree puts the schwing into Spring

Credit where credit is due: It was Senator Theatre Manager Gayle Grove who first alerted me to this topiary curio on nearby Woodburne Avenue. She had seen it while walking with her Mom, but knew that I would appreciate more than her mother, who looked away in disgust. I did, so much so that I went back with her one day to document this risque topiary creation for Atomic TV (check it out on the "You ASked For It" episode).

When we approached the house, a little kid came running out saying, "You wanna see the Pee-Pee Tree?"

"Sure," I said. "Did you do that?"

"No," the kid said, "but my brother did. You wanna look at it?"

The excited youngster led us into the back yard where he regaled us with his brother's garden art. When we asked him why his brother did it, he shrugged his shoulders. "I dunno, guess he just like pee-pees."

He seemed elated when we suggested setting up a hose or sprinkler at the tree's base so that water would shoot out of the top. "Yeah," he screamed, "so the Pee-Pee Tree can pee itself!"

Then a neighboring kid came over to play army and the little brother and the kid with the guns ran around the Pee-Pee Tree like some modern Pagan reenactment of a scene from The Wicker Man.

Only in Baltimore!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Ego Knows No Bounds

Looking at myself through the mirror of cyberspace

My past is history, my future a mystery...OK, so here's some history, as I continue to delve through the detritus of my post-Spring Cleaning gleanings to live in hindsight's golden vision...

Old "Found Fotos" of Tommy Gunn

Katatonix drummer "Tommy Gunn"

Geezus, lookit that hair! That's me as Thee Katatonix drummer "Tommy Gunn" (yes, I took my nom de stage from the Clash song - not the poet Thom Gunn) playing at some God-awful shithole in the God-awful Shithole Days. What a scrappy looking kit, too; I think my floor tom is literally sitting on the floor! I bought that kit for a song from a law student who needed to buy new textbooks.

A more respectable, cleaned-up Tommy Gunn

Well, at least the hair's shorter. Must be from our April 1979 debut at Towson's Oddfellow's Hall. I was still wearing my college uniform of button-down blue shirt and cordoroy pants. For some strange reason, I never wore jeans during my college career; either I was subconsciously rebelling against Hippie fashion or my years in a preppy high school ingrained in me the vanilla-blandness of the WASP Dress Code. Full disclosure: I even wore a Kelly green cable-knit sweater to band practice!

Longshot of Tommy manning his Gunns

Above is my fave pic from this era as, from a distance I kinda resemble Paul Weller playing drums. (Though a co-worker thought I looked more like a blonde Beatle - would that make me "Blingo Starr"?) Note the cinder block in front of the open face bass drum. My kit used to move around stage. Sometimes I had bassist Katie Katatonic stand in front of it, but she was a lightweight and her lithe frame was easily tossed aside like a leaf-blowin'-in-the-wind by the savage force of my off-beat pounding.

Speaking of savage poundings, my Big Beat became so legendary that cartoonist (and punk rock enthusiast) Ned Riddle asked me to pose for one of his "Mr. Tweedy" strips, as shown below:

Ha! Tweedy, pure hi-larity!

And speaking of 'toons, no one made the Kats look better than George Wilcox (or was it Dave?) in his "The Band That Adds Assault To Insult" flyer:

Being a Towson State University guy, I used to hang out a lot at Oddfellows Hall, which was just up the street from the university (or "Towson You-Adversity" as we called it affectionately) across from what is now the Recher Theatre (then the Towson Theatre), where there was also head shop, a Little Tavern and an Old Man's Bar called The Kent Lounge (a personal fave dive, as Sourcis attracted high school kids with fake IDs and The Crease was a lacrosse/preppy hangout). As the name implies, it attracted a "Beautiful Weirdo" demographic of punks, hippies, druggies, rock musicians, and other social misfits. Below I can be seen cavorting with TSU Class Clown Marty Benson (aka Dimi Petrol and Dr. Bongo) in my Clockwork Orange Droogie ensemble. I remember Marty always called me "Von Tom." Oh, this was Halloween, hence the festive garb.

Clowning around at Oddfellows Hall, Halloween 1979

Funny thing is, I did used to wear that getup - the bowler derby hat, long black overcoat (I called it my "deathcoat" - this was years before the dour, dark "Columbine Look"), dark sunglasses and cords - around campus on occasion.

Though sometimes I let my guard - and pants - down. (I was single, after all!)

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Monday, May 18, 2009

The Great Ecstasy of the 16mm Film Series

The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner
Gravity Is My Enemy
Wednesday, May 20, 7 p.m.
The Hexagon, 1825 N. Charles St.,

Once again I applaud the film enthusiasts at The Hexagon for unearthing gems from the Enoch Pratt Central Library's 16mm film collection. This week's "FREE Wednesday 16mm Film Series" program looks at two unusual artists - one an athletic sculptor who as a skier defied gravity, the other a quadriplegic painter bound by it. Both push the limits of human spirit and expression.

The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner
(Werner Herzog, 1975, 45 minutes, in German with English subtitles.)

"Great Ecstacy" opening clip

This is German director (and ski enthusiast) Werner Herzog's documentary about Walter Steiner, a Swiss woodcarver who is considered the world's greatest ski jumper (here called "ski flyers"), who effortlessly broke all the sport's records. It was the first film Herzog tackled after the rigors of directing Klaus Kinksi in Aguirre: The Wrath of God. Following the skier's preparation for an event in Yugoslavia, Herzog uses ultra-slow-motion photography to capture the "ski flyer's ecstasy" as he is compelled to take his creative impulse to the absolute limit. The poetic images of beauty and danger are complimented by a dreamy guitar score by Krautrock band Popol Vuh.

Gravity Is My Enemy
(John C. Joseph, 1977, 26 minutes)
1978 Academy Award winner - Best Documentary Short Subject

"Gravity Is My Enemy" clip

This Academy Award-winning short profiles the life of Mark Hicks, who was paralyzed from the neck down at the age of 12 yet painted and drew by holding a brush, pencil, or ink pen between his teeth. It paints a palette similar to that of local artist Dan Keplinger, a Parkville High and Towson University grad with cerebal palsy who was the subject of Susan Hannah Hadary and William Whiteford's 1999 Oscar-winning documentary King Gimp.

I haven't gone to any Hexagon screenings yet but I sure plan to. I've only met one of their programmers, a young lady by the name of Lisa; the other programmer is local filmmaker Miguel Sabogal, who recently screened his Cube shorts trilogy (Dream's Structure, Escape, and Behind the Red Door) at the 2009 Maryland Film Festival.

They've brought renewed interest to 16mm film and I thank them for it.

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I Was a Captain Chesapeake Crewmember

My Most Treasured Membership Card

"A shipwrecked sailor found himself in a plight. Lost at sea he was really a sight. He swam and swam 'til he thought he'd die, when a wondrous sight appeared to his eye. A derelict boat that saved his life and put an end to his watery strife."

Hey, I recently posted some pix of some of my most treasured ID cards, but no one is closer to my heart than my Captain Chesapeake Crewmember card. Captain Chesapeake sailed the placid seas of Loch Raven Reservoir with his crew of Bruce the (invisible) Bird and Andrewclaws the Lion (who eventually ran away "Downy Ocean" - to Ocean City, MD) from 1971-1990 until passing away at the age of 74 in 2000 at his (landlocked) Timonium home. Captain C's afternnoon TV block on Baltimore station WBFF-TV (Channel 45) gave me my education in the history of low-brow populist entertainment. It was thanks to him that I got my daily fix of Batman, The Three Stooges, Crusader Rabbit, Cisco Kid, Our Gang/The Little Rascals, Felix the Cat, and all those Hanna-Barbara cartoons, especially my fave cat-and-dog-strange-alliance cartoon Ruff and Ready (featuring Professor Gizmo and with voices by Daws Butler and Don Messick!). Needless to say, in the pre-Internet, pre-cable, pre-On Demand Seventies, Captain Chesapeake was a Godsend to high school and college stoners everywhere; it was always "4:20" when you heard the Cap'n ring his bell!

And it was thanks to the nepotism of George Lewis, who portrayed Captain C (as well as Ghost Host and before that "Steamboat Bill" - a W. C. Fields reference, of course - when he was kiddie host in Huntington, West Virginia) that I first got exposed to his niece, future Maryland Lottery Ball Girl Katrina Owens. Unfortunately, appearing on "Captain Chesapeake" was probably the peak of her television career - I'll never forget the night the lottery ball machine malfunctioned and Katrina had to ad-lib live for 3 minutes, her smooth "That's the number 6, as printed on the ball" delivery interrupted by a sudden short-tempered aggravation fit; her "career" never recovered, even when she later started dating Orioles).

Capt. C. Intro, set to the Three Suns tune "Stumblin'"

Later in life I met Capt. C's sea monster "Mondy" (pronounced Moan-dee), who was sort of a Grade-Z Loch Ness Monster (or rather, a Loch Raven Reservior Monster), working as a cameraman for a local news station. When I told Mondy that I was a fan, he replied, "Oh God, that's a part of my life I was hoping to forget!"

Phooey, Mondy! As Capt. Willard said in Apocalypse Now, you're either on the boat or you're off the boat. So be proud and don't abandon ship!

So long crewmembers!

Captain C links:
Captain Chesapeake Intro (video)
A few minutes with Captain Chesapeake (video)
Capt. C Obit

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

ID Cards

These Are People I Have Been

Going through my clutter, I ran across some old ID cards that I thought'd I'd preserve on the Internets before they turned yellow and faded away...

Ah, the timeless classic from my single days when I went out and did things before becoming a Man About Townhouse recluse in the numbingly dull suburbs. I remember this guy Don liked my card so much, he used wite-out to cover up my name and number and replaced it with his. He gave me one at a City Paper "Best Of" party one year when he strolled in with a young nubile hottie on his arm. As Sinatra sang, "Nice work if you can get it..." Don sure got more play out my card than I ever did!

This is my University of Baltimore law school ID, from the short-lived period when I deluded myself that I could be a respectable member of society. (And when I still had some hair.) I was watching a lot of Honeymooners episodes on UPN Channel 24 back then, hence my sartorial homage to Ed Norton's "t-shirt-with-vest look. Note the baby fat in my cherubic cheeks (yes, I was still living at home and subject to Ma Warner's buffet-every-day feedings).

This is my Universal Life Church Minister's card, from when I was still aiming for respectability, albeit from an Internet ministry that sold ordainships for as little as a $5 "donation." Scott Huffines and I later got ordained as Parochial Educators in the belief that it would keep us from getting sued for any transgressions resulting from our public access show Atomic TV. Scott later got married by a Baltimore-based ULC minister named John Waters (perhaps you've heard of him?).

My "Jobless Reprobate" bum card listing my skill set ("Gambling, Boozing & Skirt-chasing"), back from when I was unemployed and spending way too much time at Pimlico Racetrack with other n'ere-do-wells. This card didn't go over too well at job fairs, needless to say. You can tell it's an old card - Juno was still around as an ISP (and no, the e-mail address is no longer valid!).

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

XS-ive Dissonance

Nothing to say, with every toy available to say it.

We live in the communications age, a time when technology offers us 24/7 access to news, instant messaging, and Twitter tweets to follow every thought or action people the world over have. And yet the newfound availability and access to communication tools has ironically made us unable to communicate with one another.

Case in point...last night I went to XS, a great restaurant across from the University of Baltimore to get some food after seeing a movie at the Charles Theatre and, unfortunately, it was Friday night techno DJ night. Amy and I couldn't find a table anywhere on any of XS' four levels except on the DJ level, right in the belly of the beat-thumping beast. So we had to shout to hear each other. That's cool, I thought, it's Friday night and young singles like to have loud music and big-screen TVs and lots of audio distractions to mask their lack of having anything to say when they are checking out the hotties of the opposite sex on offer. It's a basic rule of the Singles Meat Rack Scene (Look, Hook, and Book).

But right next to us was a young couple having dinner, obviously the hookup was a fait accompli of the past and they were "together" (at least physically). And for the entire duration of their meal they silently checked messages on their iPhones, oblivious to one another's presence. No eye contact, no conversation, no human factor whatsoever. It was like being at a Kraftwerk concert. Then the bill came, debit cards came out, and they got up, still fiddling with their iPhones.

The scene amazed me. It recalled that moment in Stanley Donen's 1967 film Two for the Road when Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney observe an elderly couple sitting in stony silence in a cafe and Audrey says, "How can two people sit across from one another and have nothing to say?" To which Finney responds, "They're married."

Today's tech-savvy youth seem to be married to their toys. And it's made them very dull company indeed.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Main Entry: gor·gasm
Pronunciation: \ˈgȯr-ˌga-zəm\
Function: noun
Etymology: New Latin linguistic blending of intransitive verb gorge - to eat greedily or to partake of something in large amounts <gorging on food> - and orgasmus, from Greek orgasmos, from organ to grow ripe, be lustful; probably akin to Sanskrit ūrjā sap, strength, date: circa 2009

1. intense or paroxysmal physical excitement and satisfaction derived from partaking of the delicious Chinese, Italian, American, Japanese, seafood, prime rib, sushi, ice cream, desserts, pastries, and hibachi-grilled food on offer at Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet; especially : an explosive feeling of fullness as the stomach expands to accomodate digestive overload, usually accompanied by sexually-charged moans of pleasure in both male and female eaters.

2. intense mental satisfaction derived from paying only $6.99 weekday/lunch and $9.49 weekend/dinner prices for food that is always fresh and constantly replenished.

Example: Tom and Amy had simultaneous gorgasms after feasting on pepper shrimp, fried bananas, butter-drenched cabbage and cheesecake at Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet.
gor·gas·mic \gȯr-ˈgaz-mik\ also gor·gas·tic \gor-ˈgas-tik\ adjective

SYNONYMS see Heaven on Earth; see also
Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet (2033 East Joppa Road, Parkville, MD 21234,410-882-8238)

Tom makes peace with the Terracotta Army greeters at Hibachi Grill

Amy illustrates her involuntary stomach expansion at the moment of gorgasm


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bill Ayers Protesters at Pratt Library

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Enoch Pratt Central Library, Baltimore

The Bill Ayers protesters looked like a bunch of old hippies

Bill Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn were at the Enoch Pratt Central Library last night to promote their book Race Course: Against White Supremacy, which deals with the endurance of bigotry our criminal justice system, election processes, war policy and education.

Racism is bad, so who can argue with a book condeming it, right? No, the controversy over Bill Ayers had to do with his past as a member of the radical Weather Underground group and with the Republican Neo-conservative Lunatic Fringe's attempts to christen him as Barack Obama's "buddy" simply because they both served on the board of an anti-poverty group, Woods Fund of Chicago, between 1999-2002.

The library anticipated a big protest, but all I saw was a handful of docile grayhairs holding up hand-made signs and one goofball wearing one of those Uncle Sam hats you can get at Party City.

Nice hat, Uncle Sam!

Curiously, the biggest protest was from some African-American woman who started shouting at the all-white graybeards about how they were racists who hated having a Black president and how they wouldn't be so brave holding those signs up in her 'hood. It was a curious argument, because the woman was ranting against people who were against a man who was against racism. I guess she was ironically buying into the Right Wing Neo-Con Nutjob contention that Ayers and President Obama were, in fact, friends and therefore a dis against Ayers was a dis against Obama. Huh?

Sometimes I think people just like to shout and fuss on the city streets. To see this woman and what I mean, see WBAL 11 News' video report: Bill Ayers Speaks at Event.

Anyway, I didn't stay for the talk. I took a few pictures of the protesters, who were flattered by the media coverage, even from a nobody like me with a cheap, low-pixel digital camera.

I was more excited at the prospect of meeting WBAL reporter Kim Dacey. She's so cute!

Kim Dacey is ready for my close-up

She seemed genuinely flattered when I told her I was a fan and asked to take a picture of her. I've followed her with interest ever since I saw her freezing in the snow during weather reports last Winter. Too bad I didn't have a Sharpie pen on me, or I would have gotten her autograph.

Kim Dacey doing what she does

Kim Dacey interviewing Pratt's Roswell Encina

Related Links:
Kim Dacey's WBAL report (video)
Controversial Author Bill Ayers Speaks At Event (WBAL article)

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