Category Archives: Books and Literature

SnoBaltimore Zine Release @ Atomic Books Tonight

No lie Baltimore, we’ve been craving a snowball lately. Like bad. Like a real one, that stains your teeth and tongue and comes in a giant styrofoam cup- none of that fake-ass Rita’s junk. We’ve yet to find one either. It’s still only May. Schools have been in and it’s just now Memorial Day weekend, so what snowball stands we have chanced to come across have been closed. After this weekend though, it’s officially snowball season.

Atomic Books hosts a release party for two local publications tonight. 7 pm.

Most snowball stands have something less than what you’d call a comprehensive internet presence. Many of them are such small small businesses you won’t even find them in the yellow pages. This was the necessity that mothered the invention of the Baltimore Snoball Collective, and the publication of the first edition of their SnoBaltimore Zine, which along with the Baltimore Time Travel Anthology will be the subject of a release party at Atomic Books in Hampden tonight.

Since the Chop has already time-traveled in Hampden once this week, we’re going to focus on snowballs. More specifically, grownup snowballs. As we said recently, Tequila and Key Lime is a winning combination, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

We can’t have our readers just will-nilly mixing liquors and snowball flavors! That would just end in toothaches, stomachaches, and heartache for everyone involved. It’s with this sentiment in mind, and in honor of tonight’s event that we’re proud to release our Guide to Snoball Flavors and Liquor. There are thousands of workable combinations, and many of them really are very good, but if you’re new to the idea of mixing a childhood favorite with a staple of adulthood, this is a good starting point:

The Baltimore Chop Guide to Snoball Flavors and Liquor

Tequila… Key Lime, Kiwi Lime, Papaya

Brandy… Blackberry, Black Cherry, Black Raspberry

Bourbon… Peach, Butter Pecan, Lemonade

Light Rum… Cherry Limeade, Strawberry Mango, Mai Tai

Dark Rum… Pina Colada, Guava, Banana Daquiri

Gin… Sky Blue, Watermelon, Pink Lemonade

Orange Liqueur… Tutti Frutti, Dreamsicle, Egg Custard

Vodka… Anything. You can’t go wrong with vodka.

(All flavors chosen from the 2011 Southern Snow list of flavors.)

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Pratt Contemporaries Happy Hour @ Central Library Branch Tonight

Remember the first time you saw Ghostbusters? If you’re like us you were about 5 or 6 and you were riveted to the screen right from the opening credits. You could not wait for them to catch a ghost. And the first legitimate ghost hunt they went on in that movie was at the main branch of the New York Public Library.

Little five year old Chop was standing on the couch at that point, action figures in hand and yelling “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.” And when they made their way down into the depths of the basement and all those stacks where nobody ever gets to go- where the whole of human wisdom is collected and gathering dust, we just kept thinking: Damn that’s cool.

You never know what you might find in the sealed off parts of a library.

Ever since then we’ve been waiting for our chance to poke around in the cavernous recesses of a giant municipal library. Tonight, that chance has arrived. The Pratt’s Central Branch is hosting a happy hour and tour this evening from 6-8 pm.

We’ve always been of the opinion that pound-for-pound, Baltimore stacks up quite favorably to NYC. That’s true of central library branches as well. There are hours upon hours of exploration at the Cathedral Street branch as just an ordinary visitor. Tonight’s tour will be guided by the people who know the Pratt best- its librarians, and represents a chance for a rare behind-the-scenes look at some of the most interesting and historic materials in their collection.

Plus, there’s FREE BEER. They don’t call it happy hour for nothing, and beer and wine will be made available to visitors during the tour. Perhaps as rare as some of the materials on view is the chance to talk in a library, and there will be some of that too. A great chance to mix and mingle with fellow readers, tonight’s event is courtesy of the Pratt Contemporaries. Not your grandma’s library boosters, the Pratt Contemps are the same group of book lovers who’ve brought you events like the Black and White Ball and Brunch with Ira Glass. You can even follow them on Twitter.

Of course, if you want to take it a step further you can join for yourself, too.

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Oranges Band Anniversary, Under the Strobe Light Preview Party Tonight in Baltimore

It’s a big old Saturday night in Baltimore, and the Chop in on the scene-uh, like a sex machine-uh. Much as we regret it, we can’t make it down to the Roller Derby tonight, but instead we’re going to stay uptown and make appearances at two other events.

Under the Strobe Light is released at Bijon tonight, 8:30 pm.

First we’re going down to check out Josh Sisk’s preview party for his new book Under the Strobe Light: Club Photos 2005-2010 at Bijon. Although the Chop’s not big on clubbing, we got a chuckle recently when the man himself posted the following over at Unicorn Meat:

“I don’t think I have any/many Baltimore followers anymore but.. you never know.”

You never know indeed. We remember Josh from when he was living in the DC area and putting out great records from bands like Flowers in the Attic, Medic, and the New Flesh on his McCarthyism label. Once he moved to Baltimore he went all clubby and we haven’t seen him in a few good years and in fact, that McCarthyism website is like a time portal to 2004. But you know what? Josh Sisk is a stand-up guy, the photos look great, and we wish him all the best with the new book.

Oranges Band celebrate ten years at the Ottobar tonight. 9 pm doors.

After we sip some free champagne courtesy of Mr. Sisk, we’re heading up to the Ottobar to check out the Oranges Band’s 10th anniversary show with Slow Jets, Highrise and Doug Gillard Electric.

We could sit here for an hour and tell you all about the Oranges Band, but you know what? It’s nice out and we want to go down to the Hopkins Spring Fair and see if they have any fried dough. Instead, we recommend you check out the excellent write-ups over at Aural States and the Midnight Sun Blog while we sit around the beer garden and watch the co-eds be all, um, collegial.

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Bijon is located at 226 W. Monument Street (corner of Howard St.) in Mount Vernon.

The Ottobar is at 2549 North Howard Street. 410-662-0069

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I thought My Eyes They Would Be Dry…

But now I see and know what is going on tonight. We’re keeping it low-key and heading up to Atomic Books for a reading of one of our old favorites, Dance of Days by Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkins. The Chop can clearly remember when the first edition was published by Soft Skull Press back in 2001, and our first introduction to the book was Andersen reading from it and making a very touching, personal speech about what DC punk has meant to him, and what it can mean to all of us. The tone was even more bittersweet, coming as it did during the last show at the Wilson Center.

Mark Andersen and Sab Grey read at Atomic Books tonight, 7pm.

Since then, Andersen has become the DC scene’s pre-eminent self-appointed historian, continuing to document the scene’s happenings and researching and cataloging the ‘salad days’, continuing to update the book with a Whitman-esque passion, in addition to his work writing for the Washington Post and Time Out New York, among others. He’s also a founding organizer of Positive Force DC and is the director of the We Are Family Group, which does settlement work in DC. Our hat is certainly off to anyone who can keep himself that busy, and effect so much positive change in his own community.

The new third edition of Dance of Days includes a new introduction and a whole new chapter, as well as other updates on DC bands such as Crispus Attucks, Scene Creamers, and the permanent hiatus of Fugazi.

Andersen will be reading from the book and signing copies alongside Baltimore’s own Sab Grey, frontman of the seminal skinhead band Iron Cross, and author of two novels, including Hated and Proud, from which he’ll be reading tonight.

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Round II: Book Signing, Then Back To The Sidebar.

Now, we know we said the Chop would be heading down to Howard County to see Valentino Deng, but those were plans, and plans change, you know?

While we still recommend What is the What, its the book we haven’t read which is catching our attention tonight, namely, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys.

Meet the Authors at Atomic books tonight. 7pm.

Yep. The Chop is headed back to Atomic Books for another reading, and hopefully this one will go a little more smoothly than the last one. This being Baltimore though, people do love their whores, so there may just be a good crowd on hand.

The Chop is especially interested to see Shawna Kenney, who we had a chance to see when she sat in on the panel discussion recently at 2640, and who is fascinating not only because she was a teenage dominatrix, but also because reading her work or listening to her is kind of like discussing sex with your sister. You can talk about the kinkiest stuff in the world, but none of it is going to be a turn-on.

Which is just as well, because the Chop actually bumped into our little cousin at the feminist sex discussion, who was there with some guy. It wasn’t as awkward as you might think though, and on the whole the discussion would have made for a better sex ed curriculum than most schools are currently teaching.

But what really changed our minds for tonight was the ability to jump right on 83 afterwards and get down to the Sidebar for Baltimore’s own Deep Sleep. Granted they would have been an even better fit on last night’s bill, but Deep Sleep is certainly good enough to stand alone.

Remember when we told you Tony Pence was great? Here's more proof.

Twin Killing. 2 new Deep Sleep records out soon! (Photo: ChestyXBond)

Hell, it being the Sidebar, we might even drink enough cheap beer to close our eyes and half-believe that it actually is Los Angeles in 1984.

Its pretty unusual for the Chop to make such frequent trips down there. Over the years we’ve grown accustomed to the Sidebar hosting a lot of bands we just weren’t that into like Thee Lexington Arrows. So with the Talking Head closing up shop, we’d really like to see Sidebar continue in this direction. Hell, Landspeedrecord! even played there again 2 Saturdays ago.

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This Friday: Find Out What The What Is.

The Chop knows that you’re all dying to hear about Halloween with Louisville Slugger and the Roommate, and all the Sunday doings and advice, but we digress a moment.

Instead we want to tell you where you need to be this Friday, November 6 from 8-10 pm; namely Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church in Highland, MD (Just outside of Columbia).
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Friday night the church is going to present “An Evening With Valentino Achak Deng.” (PDF) Deng is of course the subject of Dave Eggers’ 2006 Book What is the What, which chronicles Achak’s experiences as a boy-refugee from the oppressive Sudanese government and tribal warlords during the Second Sudanese Civil War.

The Baltimore Chop was pleased to have the chance to read about the What last year in advance of our first trip to Africa, and we highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who will listen. We’re also a fan of his earlier novels ‘You Shall Know Our Velocity!‘ and ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius‘. Eggers is also the man behind McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and has enjoyed recent acclaim for his adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are for the big screen.

In all of Eggers’ various projects though, What is the What will remain as his most unique and most important work well into the future. Billed as a novel, What was actually written by Eggers in close collaboration with the real life Achak Deng, and hews as closely as possible to Deng’s own experiences. As he explains it in the preface:

“It should be known to readers that I was very young when some of the events in the book took place, and as a result, we simply had to pronounce What is the What a novel. I could not, for example, recount some conversations that took place seventeen years ago. However, it should be noted that all of the major events in the book are true. The book is historically accurate, and the world I have known is not different from the one depicted within these pages.We live in a time where even the most horrific events in this book could occur, and in most cases, did occur.”

And make no mistake, Gentle Reader this book describes in detail some of the most horrifying human rights abuses, cruelties, injustices, and atrocities that one can imagine. As a small orphaned boy, Achak witnessed firsthand unspeakable acts like murder, pillage, rape, child slavery, starvation, drownings, and children being eaten alive by lions, and that was before spending 12 years in a Kenyan refugee camp.

Throughout everything though, Achak emerges as one of the kindest, gentlest, and most sympathetic characters in recent literature. His Faith in both the Lord and humanity remained unshaken even in the face of Job-like challenges. Make no mistake, the Achak Deng that Eggers presents is a truly exceptional man, and will make the reader seriously reevaluate his own ego and place in the world.

And judging by the real life Achak Deng’s ceaseless and tireless work in founding and promoting the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation the Chop expects the real life Achak to entirely live up to his literary persona. The VADF was begun with the proceeds from sales of What is the What, and works year round toward building community development in Southern Sudan, assisting Sudanese refugees here in the United States, and advocating on Sudanese policy issues. The foundation also recently completed construction of the Marial Bai secondary school in Southern Sudan.

what 2

According to the Church’s Announcement, Friday night’s program includes a lecture, Q & A session, and a reception and book signing. (The Chop will be bringing our copy from home, but we assume there will be copies available for purchase, which we strongly recommend.)

It is also to be noted that the church asks for a very humble $25 (minimum) donation per person to benefit the foundation, and that 100% of monies raised will go toward the foundation’s work.

The Chop doesn’t mind saying either that this is our favorite kind of philanthropy… the kind where the donation is quite reasonable and the donor enjoys immediate gratification in the form of an interesting evening out. Plus its always nice to look certain hipsters in the eye and ask:

What have you done for the Sudan lately? Eh?

Google Maps & driving directions to Saint mark’s Episcopal from downtown.

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This Post Brought to You by the Letter D.

If you want to find the Chop on the town tonight, then get thee down to Falvey Hall in MICA’s Brown center at 6:30 for the launch party of Lettering and Type, the new book on typographic design by Baltimore’s own Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals. the event kicks off with a reception (Free Booze) at six thirty, which will be followed by a presentation called Fan Letter, in which 26 artists and designers give presentations on their favorite typographic character.

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Lettering and Type by Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals

Some of you out there in town may already know Bruce and Nolen not as book authors but in their other incarnations both as Post Typography and as two thirds of Baltimore powerhouse Double Dagger, which has received much, and much deserved acclaim in its own right. But whether you’re familiar with these two or not, you may be asking yourself “Why should I make a point of going to the art school for some boring-ass lecture on typewriters? I saw ten minutes of Helvetica once and that shit put me straight to sleep.”

Well, aside from the free booze, here’s why you need to be there: this is a historic event, both for the world of design and for the city of Baltimore. The book making its debut here is absolutely going to become the new standard text in this field. Years from now your kids are going to be made to buy this as a textbook when they get into college. And many, many years hence when Nolen and Bruce are a-moulderin’ in their graves, the New York Times is going to publish their obits, with this as one of their signal accomplishments.

(Incidentally, if you want to know what typeface is carved into headstones, you can probably find it in the book.)

Its long been a dilemma that all this city is known for is Hons and Murder and John Waters. Well, these guys are to their field what John Waters is to film, and something else they have in common with Uncle John is that Nolen and Bruce both realize what a good thing they’ve got going in Baltimore. They deserve the admiration of all of us, because here are two people not chasing some flight of fancy to NYC or LA, but making their dreams a reality right here in Baltimore. This book will help to put Balto on the map, not only as a place where fonts are designed, but as a place where passionate people can follow their ambitions and make their dreams a reality.

See you there.

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