Month: June 2010

Life in Baltimore

I was going to do a post moping about how much I disliked it so far in Baltimore.

I really like my job at NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The city just wasn’t cutting it for me.

But today, for once, it was a cool 85 degrees. (Thank you Baltimore, for making  85 degrees cool.) And you know what, now that I think of it, it’s not so bad. Sure, Baltimore’s proclamations of it being “The Best City on the World” on its bus benches is wholly inaccurate, but maybe this summer’s not gonna be a failure.

For certain, the city still looks like a terrestrial deadzone. Trash, occasionally human, mostly inanimate , is everywhere. I’ve yet to see a pretty building. Place smells bad too, like a high-school locker room. There’s no fresh air to breath here.

Oh yeah, and I think you’ve heard this one before, a lot of people get shot here. HBO popularized that pretty well with The Wire. So many murders occur here that Baltimore’s City Paper has a feature called “Murder Ink.” that compiles every reported homicide. The typical victim is an African-American man in his 30s, found in some asphalt corner riddled with bullet holes.

But as bad as it is, the homicide rate is still not good enough for first place among American cities (come on Baltimore!). And that has been good enough for me. While jogging yesterday, I ran through a neighborhood singing along to Major Lazer’s “Keep it Goin’ Louder” at a criminal volume and wasn’t shot, which bodes for my survival this summer.

So I’ve slowly started liking  Baltimore more, rhyming couplet not intended. Maybe it’s a variation of the Stockholm syndrome or something, the fact that the city hasn’t claimed my insignificant life yet has made me appreciate it more.

More honestly, I love people-watching here. Absurdly interesting. Despite the generally degenerate, dichromal tan and gray look of the city, the people here seem so colorful and alive. Actually, alive isn’t really the right word. People here just seem to be filled with a greater sense of struggle. There’s a edge of disillusionment and hostility in their eyes that I don’t see in Evanston, Illinois. Folks keep to themselves and don’t quite take to spontaneous social interaction with strangers. Ha, it took me a while to notice that I was among the few people  here who eagerly greet the bus drivers when embarking on public transportation. (Then again, maybe it’s less people being guarded, and more me being overly and inappropriately perky and friendly for my environment.)

But when the people do talk, do interact, they’re very passionate about what they say and what they do, be they record store owners, hot Asian nurses, or pickup basketball players. I watched some guys playing today on this rundown court, and damn, they were hustling. Guys were falling all over the asphalt, slamming into fences and poles to fight for loose balls. Most baskets scored were And-1s. Heated face-to-face arguments occurred every time scores were tabulated. Every fucking point was earned. Frankly, instead of merely just observing, I intended on playing today, but was forced off the court every time because I wasn’t aggressive or assertive enough. Lesson learned. However, I’m slightly glad I didn’t play today. Without any preparation, I, having become accustomed to shiny indoor hardwood courts where every slight slap is called as a foul, would’ve been eaten alive.

The courts are a microcosm of the city.

I have to learn the Baltimore-style game, toughen up to hang with these gritty motherfuckers.

Maybe that’ll be my real education for the summer.

The Coolest Thing Ever

First off, props to my dear friend Kat Wong, of Kat Doodles, for pointing me to this fantastically sick find.

“The Music Scene” from Anthony Francisco Schepperd on Vimeo.

Greatness is apparent when someone does something so good or is so good at something that it makes you want to take up what he or she does. It’s a weak attempt to emulate him or her in coolness.

For me, this jealous desire to mimic pops up every so often. I hear an awesome hip-hop concert, and I’ll wish I was an emcee. Hear an awesome rock concert, and I’ll wanna become a frontman. I’ll dream of becoming a scientist after reading an awesome research paper. I’ll embarrassingly flop around on the ground after seeing a dance video in the hopes that B-Boy talent will magically infuse into my body.  An experience with an awesome program will make me regret no becoming a C++ whiz. Hell, a great novel typically inspires me to write a page before I give up. You get the point.

Anyway, the music video for Blockhead’s song, “The Music Scene,” directed and animated by Anthony Francisco Schepperd makes me wish that I was an animator. As good of a compliment as I can give Mr. Schepperd.

Play the tapes, play the tapes

Ex-governor Rod Blagojevich came to Northwestern to speak last quarter to an audience of college kids wondering why some of the most famous alumni of their school included the likes of Blago and Jerry Springer (who has awesome business acumen, by the way).  He was actually a scary good orator, and if I didn’t know better, I may have actually sympathized with him. I admit, I was slightly swayed by his words. True, he was a douchebag, but a charismatic and funny one at that, with some spiffy hair. Anyhow, throughout his appeal for justice, Rod kept on spouting, “play the tapes, play the damn tapes,” claiming that there were some tapes exonerating him that his FBI investigators had put on lockdown and were afraid to play, for fear that it would jeopardize their case.

Well, according to an article in the New York Times today, “Blagojevich Tapes Show Tactical Maneuvering and Wishful Thinking,” it turns out that they did finally play the tapes. And Rod J. Blagojevich, whose name once annoyingly graced every tollway sign in Illinois, is still a freaking liar.

Things to do in Baltimore during the summer (particularly for college interns who are musically and basketball-inclined and living next to Hopkins)

Over the course of last week, I’ve finally been able to painstakingly assemble a list of things of a musical slant that a newbie like me should explore in Baltimore.

Whew, maybe there is hope for this city after all?

Concert venues:

Merriweather Post Pavilion highlights: Spoon/Arcade Fire (Fri 08/06), Summer Spirit Festival featuring The Roots, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Common, B.o.B (Sat 08/07)

The Sonar Baltimore highlights: We Were Promised Jetpacks (Tue 07/06)

The Paradox

Rams Head Live highlights: Interpol (Sun 07/25), La Roux (Wed 07/28)

The Sidebar

The Ottobar highlights: Sleigh Bells (Thur 07/01), Woven Bones (Sat 07/03), The Heartless Bastards (Tue 07/13), Mates of State/Free Energy (Wed 07/14), Rogue Wave (Thur 07/29)

The Metro Gallery (Metro Gallery is 21+) highlights: Chairlift (Thur 07/29)

Floristree (no upcoming shows :(…)

The Hexagon

The Windup Space

The Golden West

Joe Squared

Awesome bookstores:


Red Emma’s

Atomic Books

Red Canoe

The Book Thing (everything in this store is FREE!)

Awesome Record Stores

The True Vine

The Sound Garden

Own Guru

Celebrated Summer

Dimensions In Music

El Suprimo! Records

Summer festivals

Artscape (07/16 – 07/18) highlights: Cold War Kids (Sat 07/17), Wale (Sun 07/18)

Whartscape (07/22 – 07/25) highlights: Dan Deacon ensemble, Health, Javelin, No Age, Lil’ B, Xiu Xiu

Indie-ish movie theater(s)

The Charles

Outdoor Basketball Courts in Charles Village

26th and St. Paul Elementary School basketball court (only halfcourt)

Bluetop on Remington Ave

Druid Hill Park

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is enjoyable badassery

Raw, gritty, bleak film. Noomi Rapace is freaking awesome.

I did find the mystery and thriller-ness of the story to be a bit contrived and underwhelming (seems like too many fiction mysteries these days are solved by people’s trivial gazes in photographs (I’m also looking at you El Secreto en sus Ojos) and random allusions to the Bible), but there is no denying that Noomi Rapace’s visceral, kick-ass performance as Lisbeth Salander more than makes up for the shortcomings in plot.

If you want a jolt into your day, by all means, see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

And also listen to this:

Rage Against the Machine – Renegades Of Funk

And this:

Rage Against the Machine – Killing In The Name Of

Yeah, I think I want to fight somebody now.