“Drugs, Inc.” looks at Baltimore in “The High Wire”

National Geographic looks at heroin trade in Baltimore

National Geographic looks at heroin trade in Baltimore

By Tom Warner (Baltimore Or Less, August 29, 2014)

This week, National Geographic Channel‘s Drugs, Inc. television series aired its Baltimore episode, “The High Wire.” The show characterized Baltimore as the heroin capital of America, with its ever-growing drug problems expanding from the familiar corners of the inner city – with Lexington Market and Pennsylvania Avenue getting specials shout-outs as “the heart of Baltimore’s drug trade” – into the formerly safe confines of the suburbs.

“Baltimore, a once prosperous city, lost many of its jobs along with its steel mills. In return, the city developed one of the biggest heroin problems in the country. For many of those that remain amid the poverty and abandoned homes, the “Heroin Hustle” is the way of life. One strip of Pennsylvania Avenue alone is estimated to take in $10 million a year from heroin sales. With the business booming, the heroin market is expanding outward to the suburbs, and the authorities are struggling to cope.”
(“The High Wire” episode description)

Needless to say, the episode sparked a lot of commentary on social media and in the local press.

“The one-hour report is sure to re-open old wounds at City Hall, if nowhere else, about Baltimore’s national and international media image as a drug-infested wasteland of vacant rowhouses, lost lives and dead bodies,” David Zurawik wrote in his Baltimore Sun review (“National Geographic depicts Baltimore as ‘heroin capital of America“). “The hour is filled with unnamed men in masks sitting behind bags full of dope and tables filled with guns, pills and money saying things like, ‘Life is definitely cheap in Baltimore … somebody kill you for free.’”


“Life is definitely cheap in Baltimore … somebody kill you for free.”

Comparing National Geographic’s report with previous unflattering depictions of the city’s drug problems on The Wire and the Al Jazeera English Channel’s 2012 Fault Lines documentary “Baltimore: Anatomy of an American City,” Zurawik questioned whether “out-of-town documentary filmmakers – often working out of Washington bureaus – come to Baltimore looking for the powerful images and compelling characters they saw in The Wire and seek to reproduce them through their photography and reporting…If so, the images of Baltimore as a Mid-Atlantic version of Detroit are compounding, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who recently re-launched her public access TV channel as a repository of positive civic images, is fighting a truly hopeless battle.”

But not all of the publicity was bad; down at the Enoch Pratt Central Library, I can personally attest that copies of HBO’s critically acclaimed TV series The Wire were flying off the shelf! (Our addiction DVDs have high circulation numbers, as well.) Unfortunately, the library got some negative brand recognition as well, as a scene showed drug dealers cutting their product with a Pratt library card.


Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card!

Baltimore, the “cutting edge” city that reads! Perhaps heroin hustlers, like PBS Kids star Arthur the aardvark, realize that “Having Fun Isn’t Hard When You’ve Got a Library Card.”

Arthur knows the library is a gateway card!

Arthur knows the library is a gateway card!

In case you missed it, National Geographic will re-run “The High Wire” next Wednesday, September 3, at 8 p.m.

Related Links:

Video clip from “Drugs, Inc.: The High Wire” (Z On TV, Baltimore Sun blog)

Here’s how National Geographic sees Baltimore [Pictures]” (Z On TV, Baltimore Sun blog)

Drugs, Inc.: Eyes Are Always Watching” (National Geographic)

‘Heroin capital’ claim based on old, bad number” (Dan Rodericks, Baltimore Sun)

National Geographic depicts Baltimore as ‘heroin capital of America’” (David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun)

That Guy’s On Heroin (Daily photo updates of city residents)

Visit us at Baltimoreorless.com

Tags: baltimore

The Comical Cal Ripken Bio-Comic

In honor of Cal Ripkin’s 54th birthday this past August 24, Dan Glickman posted highlights from Baseball Superstars Comics’s 1992 bio-comic on Junior to his web site The Baseball Continuum (baseballcontinuum.com).

Bizarre Baseball Culture: A Cal Ripkin Bio-Comic

By Dan Glickman (The Baseball Continuum, August 24, 2014)

Baseball Superstars Comics‘ 1992 bio-comic on Cal Ripken, Jr.

Baseball Superstars Comics‘ 1992 bio-comic on Cal Ripken, Jr.

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

There is a special type of baseball culture that I haven’t really covered yet… the baseball biography comic. Whether authorized or unauthorized, the baseball bio-comic is it’s own small subgenre of weird.

Take Baseball Superstars Comics‘ bio-comic on Cal Ripken, Jr. from 1992. A black-and-white comic from the now long-defunct “Revolutionary Comics” and seventh in a series of baseball bio-comics, it’s like a fever-dream of a look into the life and times of the Orioles great up through the 1991 season. The art is disturbing, the writing wooden, and the facts sometimes feel wrong.

That said, it’s not all bad. It’s got a so-bad-it’s-good quality at times, and any comic that features two pages devoted to the longest game ever is going to get my attention.

So, on his 54th birthday, here’s a look at the Baseball Superstars comic on Cal Ripken Jr.

Continue reading “Bizarre Baseball Culture: Cal Ripkin Bio-Comic” at Baseballcontinuum.com.

*** The BALTIMORE OR LESS Highlights Reel: ***

OK, like Cal himself, the “Baseball Superstars” comic is pretty dull. It’s hard to get excited over lines like “Ever mindful of the heroic figure he presents to children and adults alike, Cal is careful to provide a healthy, fit, drug-free example…” and the Ironbird’s championing of milk:

Cal asks: Got Milk?"

Cal: “The nutrition that milk provides does great things for your body!”

So the comic attempts to sex up the storyline (and no doubt stir the loins of its male adolescent audience) with some rather tame – but well-rounded – visual T&A, as in the following panels, which remain our faves.


Though he’s “popular with the ladies” Cal is known for “treating women with respect.”

Of course, the sexiest panel is reserved for Cal’s close encounter at home plate on May 2, 1988 with “Morganna the Kissing Bandit” (a baseball groupie who knew a thing or two about the benefits of milk glands herself!). To quote Cubbies fan Cameron from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”: “Hey batta batta batta, hey batta batta batta, SCHWING batta!


Following are additional images of the real-life encounter.

Morganna Rose Roberts, also known as "the kissing bandit," is shown kissing Cal Ripkin, Jr. at home plate in 1988 (Gene SWeeney, Jr. Baltimore

Morganna Rose Roberts, also known as “the kissing bandit,” is shown kissing Cal Ripkin, Jr. at home plate in 1988 (Gene Sweeney, Jr., Baltimore Sun)

Watch Cal Ripkin, Jr. Kissed by Morganna the Kissing Bandit.

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Tags: baltimore

Baltimore Man Attacked with Medieval Weapon in Patterson Park


Man in Patterson Park attacked with medieval weapon

By Justin Fenton (Baltimore Sun, 8/4/2014)

A 41-year-old man told Baltimore Police he was attacked in a robbery try by a group of teenagers – one who was wielding a medieval weapon.

According to a police report, the man said he was sitting in the grass in Patterson Park next to the baseball field on Thursday night at about 8 p.m. when four juveniles, about 14 to 16 years old, came up to him.

One of them was wielding a “ball and chain,” and struck him in the face as the others stood by, the report says.

Read more: http://ift.tt/1ozb7wJ

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Remembering the Baltimore Film Festival

The Indie Film Progenitor of the Maryland Film Festival

BFF 5 Program Spread

1974 Baltimore Film Festival poster.

In celebration of this year’s 16th annual Maryland Film Festival, Siobhan Hagan of the Maryland Moving Image Archive (MarMIA) compiled a history of Baltimore film festivals  and posted the results this past May on the MarMIA web site (marmia.org).

According to Hagan, the first-ever Baltimore-based film festival took place in February and March of 1967. It too was called the “Maryland Film Festival” and was organized by Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) students and faculty in conjunction with WBAL-TV (later joined also by Johns Hopkins University and Goucher College) and  lasted until 1969. Next came 1970′s Baltimore Film Festival, which became the Baltimore International Film Festival in 1978 and lasted up until 1994. After a five-year lull, Jed Dietz then launched his “Maryland Film Festival” in 1999.

Following is Siobhan Hagan’s “Baltimore Film Fetes” blog posting. – Tom Warner (BOL)



By Siobhan Hagan (May 7, 2014, www.marmia.org)

Tonight is the opening night of the Maryland Film Festival–a personal highlight of the year for me. It is especially sweet this year as I now live and work in Baltimore! Strangely enough, it seems that I had more time to blog about Maryland moving images when I lived in California. Now that the overlap between work and hobby is even more closely intertwined I find myself really slacking on MarMIA. A recent blog post that I wrote for work got me curious about previous Baltimore-area film festivals and figured it would be a great topic to FINALLY write about here.

Baltimore is obsessed with movies–the intense support, demographically dispersed audience, and high attendance of the Maryland Film Festival (MFF) further proves this. On their website MFF quotes David Simon describing the festival to be “an essential stop in the festival circuit”, and perhaps I am biased, but I think it has put Baltimore on the independent cinema map with growing real estate every year. Why is this small American port city so in love with watching and making moving images, both blockbusters and non-commercial indies? There are probably many layers of answers to that question, but one avenue I want to focus on is who and what helped us get here.

Moving images really blew up in the late 1890s, so they are a young medium. The rise of film studies as an area of academic higher learning started to gain traction in the 1960s, and then with the introduction of Super 8mm film and the Portapak video system, filmmaking began to be even more accessible to individuals–it was cheaper, easier to haul equipment around, and less technically challenging (NB I use the term “filmmaking” here to refer to shooting on videotape as well as film). With this context, it make sense that the first “Maryland Film Festival” occurred in February and March of 1967. It was put on by MICA and WBAL-TV and held in the Mount Royal Station Building. It was initially started by MICA students and professors, and one person in particular, Jerry (Jaromir) Stephany, a still and motion picture photography professor. Paul Sharits was also a teacher at MICA at this time, and The Baltimore Sun wrote the following approximate quote of Mr. Sharits: “He said that Baltimore ‘had great possibilities’ as a center for filmmaking”. In 1968 and 1969, the festival became a joint effort between MICA, JHU and Goucher, with such notables as Jonas Mekas and Stan Vanderbeek signing up as judges.

It seems like things were going really well, but for some reason 1969 was the last year of the Maryland Film Festival (until the name was unearthed 30 years later). I can’t seem to find out why, but it was replaced by “The Baltimore Film Festival” which was run by an English professor at the University of Baltimore named Harvey Alexander, with the films screening in the Langsdale Library Auditorium. Full disclosure: I work for Langsdale Library! This is where I initially came into the story while looking for the history of our auditorium. And like many things in life, it is all coming full circle as the Langsdale Auditorium is one of the major venues for the MFF this year. From 1970 through 1972, the Baltimore Film Festival was put on by the University of Baltimore and the American Film Institute (AFI).

Then in 1973 it started to be held at Towson State College (now Towson University), still under the direction of Harvey Alexander. Starting in 1973, the Baltimore Film Festival worked on bringing underground motion pictures to Baltimore year-round, not just for a few days in the spring. “The Baltimore Film Forum” phrase started popping up in newspapers in November of 1976 as the organizational arm of the festival, and by 1977 Harvey Alexander stepped down and/or was ousted as the director of the festival. Mr. Alexander was not happy about this turn of events and apparently even took the Baltimore Film Forum to court–however he did not win that battle. Starting in 1978, “The Baltimore International Film Festival” was held in the spring by the Baltimore Film Forum. This was the status quo and main film festival in Baltimore until 1994; that April is the last mention of the Baltimore International Film Festival that I could find in local newspapers. Then the Baltimore Film Forum ceased operations in January of 1996. The current successful iteration of the Maryland Film Festival was founded by Jed Dietz in 1999, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Please let me know if I have written anything in error as my research was relatively limited as everyone is getting ready to put this year’s festival on. I conducted most of my research from historical newspaper databases and from two scrapbooks lent to me by former member of the Baltimore Film Forum, Marc Sober. These scrapbooks were created and originally owned by Helen Cyr, the chief of the Audio-Visual Department of the Enoch Pratt Free Library from 1972 until 1988, a founding member of the Baltimore Film Forum  and the president of the Forum from 1983 through 1988 and then again from 1991 until her death in 1993.


Proquest Historical Newspapers Database References (Chronologically organized)

“Maryland Film Show Scheduled”, The Sun (1837-1988) [Baltimore, Md] 26 Feb 1967: FE6.

“March Film Festival”, The Sun (1837-1988) [Baltimore, Md] 04 Feb 1968: D10.

“Maryland Film Festival Another Art Form”, Arnett, Earl. The Sun (1837-1988) [Baltimore, Md] 23 Feb 1968: B3.

“Maryland Film Festival”, Gardner, R H. The Sun (1837-1988) [Baltimore, Md] 02 Mar 1969: D9.

“Theater Notes Film Festival To Include Two Shows”, The Sun (1837-1988) [Baltimore, Md]; Apr 1, 1970: B4.

“Film festival: night of the long knife?” Banisky, Sandy. The Sun (1837-1988) [Baltimore, Md] 07 Mar 1977: B1.

“Helen Cyr, Film Forum president and cultural force in Baltimore”, Bliss, DeWitt. The Sun [Baltimore, Md] 20 July 1993: 5B.

Related Links:

Baltimore Film Forum 1973-1980 (Flickr set)

1974 Baltimore Film Festival (Flickr set)

Maryland Moving Image Archive (marmia.org)

Maryland Moving Image Archive (Facebook)

Visit us at Baltimoreorless.com

Tags: baltimore

Kix Prop Mallet Stolen in Southern Maryland, Reward Offered


REWARD OFFERED: Have you Seen a Giant Mallet in Southern Maryland?

(Southern Maryland News Net, 8/4/2014)

Kix came to Southern Maryland over the weekend and performed at the Southern Maryland Brew & BBQ Festival at the St. Mary’s County Fair Grounds on Saturday night.

After the show, the large mallet that had been used on stage during their performance was stolen.



Southern Maryland News Net is offering a “no questions asked” reward of $100 for the safe return of the “misplaced” prop.

CALL 301-200-1812 or email us at news@smnewsnet.com if you have the mallet and can get it to us..

We would like to get it back to them before their next show in Greencastle, Pennsylvania on Saturday, August 16.

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Tags: baltimore

Woman Charged After Car Rams Into Drumcastle Center

What is it that compels people in Towson to crash their vehicles into buildings? This past May, Vladimir Mehul Baptistea 28-year-old mentally disturbed Parkville man who called himself “God” – drove a stolen landscaping truck into the lobby of WMAR-TV’s ABC2 news station in Towson and then barricaded himself inside for several hours of social media tweeting before surrendering to authorities. A few years ago, I recall someone crashed their car halfway through the Towson Town Center parking garage, the dangling vehicle startling shoppers across the lot at Trader Joe’s. And now today, a 48-year-old woman crashed her car into the Drumcastle Center, a Baltimore County social services facility that sits directly across the street from the WMAR-TV/ABC2 News station on York Road. Following is the Police report from the Baltimore County government’s web site. – Tom Warner (BOL)

BACO Public Safety News (July 31, 2014)

Drumcastle crash 7-31-14

A 48-year-old woman was charged this morning with failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision after she drove her SUV into the Baltimore County Drumcastle Center in Precinct 6/Towson.

The crash occurred around 7:40 a.m. An investigation by the Towson precinct shows that the driver of the Toyota RAV4, Hiwot Arbi, of the 900 block of Gladway Road, 21220, was driving through the Drumcastle parking lot at a high rate of speed, preparing to park, when she struck an unoccupied parked vehicle — a gold Chevrolet Blazer. The Blazer rotated and struck another unoccupied parked vehicle. The Toyota continued at an apparent high rate of speed, struck the curb and became airborne before crashing through the building.

Arbi and a female passenger suffered minor injuries but refused transport to local hospitals.

One woman who was inside the building at the time of the crash — a 45-year-old county Social Services worker — suffered non life-threatening injuries and was transported by ground to Sinai Hospital.

County building engineers who responded to inspect the Drumcastle Center, 6401 York Road, found the damage superficial.

About 860 state and county employees work at the Drumcastle Center, but only a fraction of these employees had arrived at work when the crash occurred. The building was evacuated immediately following the crash. Employees and visitors were allowed to return to the building as soon as the Toyota was removed from the building and the building deemed safe by inspectors. The section of the building in the immediate vicinity of the hole caused by the crash remains off limits, pending the repair.

Related Cars-Crashing-Into-Towson-Buildings Links:

Vlad the Dumptuck Impaler (Baltimore Or Less)

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Still of the Night

A Photo Essay by Patrick Joust
(Baltimore Magazine, July 2014)

Patrick Joust is a librarian I work with at the Enoch Pratt Central Library. Whenever he’s not helping the good citizens of Baltimore with their queries, tech-savvy Patrick can be spotted around town with his collection of cameras, his discerning eye capturing the broken-down beauty of landscapes most Baltimoreans turn a blind eye to during daylight. – Tom Warner (BoL)

A freight train passes by row homes on the edge of Cherry Hill while the headlights of waiting cars shine through. –Photography by Patrick Joust

A freight train passes by row homes on the edge of Cherry Hill while the headlights of waiting cars shine through. –Photography by Patrick Joust

What is it about the night that intrigues us so? The darkness, the stillness, the glimpses of interior lives seen through illuminated windows: It all seems so pregnant with possibility compared to the flat brightness of day.

Baltimore photographer Patrick Joust excels at capturing the romance and danger of the Baltimore night with an unflinching gaze and elegant use of chiaroscuro reminiscent of painters like Edward Hopper.

Like stills from a modern film noir, his shots hint at something ominous lurking just out of frame, as if the heavy calm is about to be broken, but by what is left up to the viewer’s imagination. – Introduction by Amy Mulvihill

Continue reading the “Still of the Night” photo essay at Baltimoremagazine.net.

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Dead Deer Gets Tagged with Graffiti on Baltimore Highway


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Westminster, MD “NO ILLEAGLES” graffiti makes Anderson Cooper’s “Ridiculist”


Bad spelling or a shout-out to an Eagles cover band: you decide. (Photo by Christian Alexandersen from the Carroll County Times and Baltimore Sun Media Group)

July 17, 2014 – Misspelled graffiti on a a former Army Reserve Center building proposed as housing for immigrant children in Westminster, Md., made national news last night when Anderson Cooper featured the story in his “Ridiculist” segment. The spray-painted graffiti – “NO ILLEAGLES HERE NO UNDOCUMENTED DEMOCRATS” – is being investigated as a hate crime (a misdemeanor punishable by up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine) by Maryland State Police. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initially considered using the center for children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, but have now dropped the idea.

Eagles cover band "The Ill-Eagles."

Eagles cover band “The Ill-Eagles.”

The host of Anderson Cooper 360 facetiously suggested that the graffiti could be a reference to a real Eagles tribute band called The Ill-Eagles. Like most of his “Ridiculist” segments, Cooper’s attempt at humor fell flatter than Kansas.

Anderson Cooper's "Ridiculist"

Anderson Cooper’s “Ridiculist”

The segment did, however, bring attention to two unfortunate realities: 1) some people in Westminster are prejudiced illiterates, and 2) there is an Eagles cover band (isn’t one Eagles group bad enough?)

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Eddie Munster Visits Essex, Maryland

It was a hot August day when Butch Patrick, better known as Eddie Munster, traveled from his home in Florida to help celebrate Chuck’s Comics 25th anniversary in Essex, Maryland.




Camera phones were a-flashing as Patrick hawked his 8×10 glossies, which he would sign for an additional $10 as well as pose for a photo.


Krudz bass player Tim Finnerty (right) poses for a fan photo with his son and Eddie Munster.


As Eddie Munster, Patrick tried to increase his street cred by parading his flowing beard in the hipster haven of Hampden.

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