Chop Style: Turtleneck Sweaters

If you’ve got a turtleneck in your closet, Autumn is certainly the perfect time of year to break it out. Cool enough for a chill to be in the air, but not quite cold enough for coats and mittens, a turtleneck is practical if nothing else.

There may be no single item of clothing in menswear that is more illustrative of the fashion cycle. Unseen anywhere for years or even a decade at a time, every once in a while some would-be brilliant designer decides to run one down the catwalk in the fall, and it’s been worn so many wrong ways by the first snow that it goes back into hibernation for several more years. It doesn’t have to be this way though. You can look good in a turtleneck no matter how far out of fashion they fall. All you’ve got to do is follow the rules.

Robert Redford

Paul Newman

Miles Davis

Rule #1: Don’t accessorize. A turtleneck is something of a statement piece. Let it speak for itself. Once you start adding in jackets, scarves, hats or anything else the whole thing begins to look clumsy very quickly.

Rule #2: Stay in shape. Just because you’re spending more time indoors and looking forward to holiday parties doesn’t mean a turtleneck is the right answer for covering up any extra winter weight. Whether your sweater is a giant fluffy chunky thing or a slim-fitting cashmere item; if you’re pear shaped, it will be pear shaped too.

Rule #3: Your sweater should be darker than your pants. While the opposite is usually true, somehow a “negative image” works best for turtlenecks. Buy a darker shade and pair it with off-white jeans, faded khakis or something similar.

Rule #4: Wear a good pair of boots. A turtleneck sweater is a pretty substantial thing, so you’re going to need some substatial footwear to match it. You should have a decent pair of boots in the closet, but if you don’t make sure you’re at least wearing leather shoes. You just can’t pull this off in a pair of Vans.

Rule #5: No mock necks! If you’re going to do it, do it right. Get a full fold-down neck. There’s probably not anyone on earth that can pull off a mock turtleneck.

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Why Won’t Baltimore Food Trucks Operate at Night?

Well Baltimore, the heat has finally broken. The cold has snapped. The mercury is beginning to drop. Very soon the trees will be bare of leaves, the woodland creatures will burrow in, and birds will fly south for the winter. There’s also another species whose ranks are about to be thinned out a bit… namely Baltimore food trucks.

Food trucks have been multiplying faster than mosquitoes all Summer long. After the great city hall food truck crisis of May 2011, trucks were given their own zones, as well as carte blanche to operate anywhere in the city. A new truck seemed to hit the streets almost once a week.

Believe it or not, people get hungry at night too.

That was Summer though, and this is Fall. While there is certainly no shortage on the supply side, demand for street food is sure to wane as the weather grows colder. Curbside Cafe has already served its last burrito for one reason or another, and we’d be willing to bet that at least a few of its competitors will end up on the scrap heap.

The food trucks that survive the long, cold winter won’t necessarily be the ones with the best food or the most advantageous lunchtime parking spot, but the ones that are willing to work the hardest and put in the longest hours. Up until now, gourmet chuckwagons have catered almost exclusively to the downtown lunch crowd. A few of them will gear up for a Saturday event now and then, but by and large their operators have treated their enterprises mostly like a nine to five job.

Not only does this limited-to-lunchtime business plan completely ignore an entire segment of the local market, it runs counter to the whole purpose of selling food from a truck in the first place. Historically, food trucks have catered to blue collar workers at places like construction sites and steel mills, or any other remote location where people may be hungry. Baltimore’s fleet of trucks has for some reason chosen to operate only in areas that are already glutted with restaurants, and to compete with them directly from 11 to 3.

But what about the other 11-3? The one after dinner and before breakfast? The one where all the restaurants are closed but people are still out and hungry? The trucks that fill this niche are the ones that will survive the winter.

Baltimore has a serious deficit of late night dining options. There’s the Sip and Bite and Captain James’ Carryout, which despite all their charm are frankly pretty crummy restaurants. The Papermoon Diner is still crucial, although they’re no longer 24 hours, and often feature a post-last-call rush and lengthy wait times on weekends. There are a few traditional diners as well, though these are mostly on the outskirts of the city and can be inconvenient for those of us living downtown. We’re sure we don’t speak only for ourselves when we say that after a long night of Chopping it up at the bars, we’d much rather sample some delectable mobile fare than coming home and eating drunkfood like a fatty.

We’re out of luck though, because even though every weekend there are plenty of starving students at Power Plant, Hungry hungry hipsters in Station North, and famished folks in Fell’s the city’s food trucks refuse to claim their rightful place in its nightlife scene. Food truck owners: You are literally leaving piles of money sitting on the corner. All you’ve got to do to double your profits is just show up.

It’s not just insatiate imbibers who would be well served by food trucks hitting the streets at night. There are also plenty of cops, EMT’s, doctors and nurses and other public servants in the downtown sphere who don’t keep regular hours, but enjoy a mid-shift lunch nonetheless. They deserve better than what’s left on the shelf at 7-11 or a sack lunch brought from home. Serving up hot food on cold nights would not only boost a truck’s profits, it would bring the concept full circle, serving hard-working people who can’t get a restaurant meal.

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Hipster Parking Lot: Parking Info for Station North and Downtown Clubs

It’s kind of ironic that we’re writing a post about parking now that we’ve resolved to give up our car, but there are two changes in parking at places we go regularly that are worth noting for the rest of you who still have cars.

The first change we noticed was in Station North, at the lot on the corner of 20th and Howard Street. This lot is kind of a minor urban miracle in that it functions as a free community lot where people can park day or night without fear of being towed. A lot of people are quick to denigrate the presence of parking lots, but when they’re free and open to all they’re very much a valuable community resource.

Now, we’ve been parking in this lot for years, and we’ve always kind of wondered who owns it and why they allow free parking, but we never thought it wise to look the free-parking gift horse in the mouth since we’ve never been ticketed, towed, or broken into there.

In this diagram, south is up.

The only difference now is that when we went to Joe Squared last week there was a large poster board with the above graphic lashed to the fence next to the patio. We can only take this to mean that parking in this lot is pretty legit for patrons of all Station North businesses. Who says there’s no such thing as free parking? Now all we gotta do is pass Go and get our $200.

The other parking change is much more substantial and will be of interest to anyone attending shows at Sonar or other clubs near the foot of the JFX.

We’ve always just parked on the street when going to Sonar, Sidebar, etc, since there’s generally not any shortage of street parking near City Hall at night. Going to the Shellac show though, the weather was rainy and since our driver’s side window has been reduced to a pile of Baltimore Diamonds we were looking for sheltered parking.

As it turned out, we were in luck. We’d noticed on Sonar’s website that this show’s listing said parking would be available in the garage above the club for $2. We had always know that there was a garage on top, but had no idea that it was available for show-goers. Not only that, but when we pulled in, there was no one there to take our money. The parking was free.

When we asked the club staff about it at the door, they advised us that nighttime parking in the Farmers’ Market lot under the JFX now costs seven dollars ($7!). They also said that from now on, Sonar patrons can park above the club either for free, or for some rate which will be less than $7.00 depending on the show.

If you zoom in on the embedded map, Sonar itself looks like a parking lot. There are 2 levels of parking on the building, a covered garage, and the exposed rooftop. you can access both levels from Gay Street, passing the church and making a hard left right behind the billboards.

Have any downtown parking tips of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments.

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Tomorrow: Baker Artist Awards Closing, Pissed Jeans

One of the best things about living in Baltimore, and perhaps the major reason we love it so dearly, is the ability to go from something very highbrow and sophisticated to something decidedly lowbrow with absolutely no transition in between.

That’s exactly how our night looks to be shaping up tomorrow, when we’ll be going directly from one of the BMA’s “late night” parties over to the Golden West for an actual late night party. There’s 2 to 1 odds that the phrase “Oh you think you fancy, huh?” will come into play at some point tomorrow.

Pissed Jeans plays the Golden West tomorrow.

If you haven’t been to one of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s late night events yet, you’re absolutely missing out on one of the best things in all of Baltimore. The museum has been throwing Saturday night parties at the close of each of its special exhibitions recently, and each one has been bigger and more fun than the last with food, music, cash bar, and free or very cheap admission. Tomorrow’s event is free, and will have a distinctly Baltimorean feel to it as it marks the closing of the Baker Artist Awards exhibit.

This year’s winners were, of course, Gary Kachadourian, Audrey Chen, and Shodekeh, who will be joined by several more familiar names including Ellen Cherry, Justin Sirois, and the Copycat Theater.

But we can only pretend to be rich and classy and sophisticated for so long. By the time this party is over we’ll be more than ready to hie to the Golden West for Sub Pop’s Pissed Jeans. What’s Pissed Jeans? It’s a big dirty dick that fucks you in the ear. It’s the kind of band that makes beer drip from the ceiling and nice things get broken. It’s the sound of America falling apart at the seams.

It’s also Dana’s birthday. Happy birthday, Dana.

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Strike Anywhere, Copyrights, Younger Years @ Ottobar Tonight

So we’re going to see Strike Anywhere at the Ottobar tonight. Sounds pretty normal, except that we’re not actually going to see Strike Anywhere. Oh we’ll stand there and watch them. We’ll probably even sing along a little. What we mean to say is that even though they’re at the top of the bill, somehow they’re not the draw. If they were playing with different openers, we’d probably sit this one out.

No mistake… Strike Anywhere is still among our favorites, and their place as one of the better punk rock bands of all time is quite secure. It’s just that, well, it’s not 1999 anymore. The last time we saw the band (with Bane in College Park, May ’09) provided a very stark contrast to the shows of 10 years ago. The energy and urgency were very much lacking, not just in their set but up and down the bill. It was one of those shows that reminds you that even the best bands can’t keep getting better, and there’s no shame in moving on.

Yeah. We wish it was 2001 again too.

So we’re actually going to see the opening acts tonight. Specifically the Copyrights and local act Younger Years.

The Copyrights are very very possibly the best pop punk band in the world right now. Think of the Bouncing Souls, Screeching Weasel, and Face to Face all rolled into one. That said, being the best pop punk band in the world in 2011 is kind of like being the world’s best ska band in 2001. It’s not that hard to do because pop punk just isn’t cool anymore and high school kids are all pretentious little fucks these days. We still like pop punk. Some of the ambient dream pop cum shoegaze cum experimental fusion cum fake-ass world music acts that pass for indie rock today could stand to learn something from bands like the Copyrights.

We’re pretty stoked to finally catch Younger Years as well. They’re not exactly a new band anymore, but somehow we’ve managed to miss all of their shows so far. We’ve been hearing good things though, and really how can you say bad things about a band that, when you hear them for the first time you say “Oh, this is a band that sounds like Kid Dynamite and None More Black.” It’s about time somebody picked up that ball and ran with it.

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Ottobar is at 2549 N Howard Street in Charles Village. Tonight’s show is 7 pm doors, all ages. A Wilhelm Scream also plays.

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Shellac @ Sonar Tonight

You gotta go see Shellac tonight.

Among the many reasons why you gotta go see Shellac tonight is because you’ve probably never seen them before, and the smart money says you’ll probably never see them again. After all, even though they’ve been around forever, they’re not exactly banging down the door for the title of ‘hardest working band in show business.’ The bio on the Touch & Go website pretty much sums it up:

Band information:
“While there is no specific coordination between Shellac’s record releases and touring schedules, you can expect the band to tour at its usual sporadic and relaxed pace.”

Current:
“Shellac will have a new LP anytime between now and the future.”

A visual approximation of the flying fuck Shellac doesn't give about you.

Now, maybe you’ve never even heard of Shellac. Don’t worry, that is a minor detail and it doesn’t matter in the least. You will still need to go see them though, whether you’ve heard of them or not. In fact, if you’re unfamiliar with the name of Shellac or its frontman Steve Albini, it’s probably because Albini doesn’t give a flying fuck whether you’ve ever heard of him or not. This is punk rock. Steve Albini doesn’t have to fucking impress you.

That said, Albini is actually pretty impressive. He first made a splash along with Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezzati in the early 80’s when they formed Big Black, which sounded like nothing that had been heard before and like very little that’s been heard since. Although they only put out 2 records and aren’t well-remembered today, Big Black was a band’s band, and went on to be hugely influential to other bands that were hugely influential like Helmet, Clockcleaner, and Baltimore’s own Lungfish.

Although in a lot of ways Shellac is an encore, or a second act, they’ve also been fairly influential in their own right. Their musical DNA can be traced out to acts as disparate as the Dismemberment Plan, Double Dagger, and Sweep the Leg Johnny. It’s almost as if the band’s mission statement was “Hey, we’re not doing this for our fucking health… we’re doing it to show you what music can sound like if you cut the shit. Turns out that when you cut the shit, music sounds pretty good. This is another reason you need to go see Shellac tonight.

But the last and perhaps most important reason you will go see shellac tonight is because Steve Albini is a genius. Now, we don’t throw that word around lightly, and calling anyone a genius is debatable, but Albini probably is. Odds are, he’s produced your favorite record, having done recording work for acts like the Pixies, Nirvana, the Jesus Lizard, Superchunk, Helmet, PJ Harvey, Jawbreaker, Guided By Voices, Godspeed You Black Emperor, and about a thousand others. You can hear him profess musical philosophy here, here, and all over Youtube.

Even if he’s not a genius (and we don’t concede that he’s not) he sure acts like one. Which we mean to say… he’s kind of a dick. You have to be kind of a dick to name one of your bands Rapeman, call one of your records Songs About Fucking or to have a Facebook page called Steve Albini Being A Jerk. But you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re kind of a dick too, after all.

It says a lot about the state of music and especially the state of the internet that Albini is the first person we’ve ever heard say anything negative about Odd Future. Even NPR is happy to heap praise on them but you know what? Odd Future is terrible and their fans are stupid.

That’s why you’re going to come see Steve Albini and Shellac tonight. Because they’re one of the last real remaining punk bands in America. Because they’ve never been afraid to say what needs to be said and to take the path of most resistance. Because they don’t give a fuck if you come see them or not.

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Sonar is at 407 E Saratoga Street downtown. Tonight’s show is $13 on the main stage, 8 pm doors. Helen Money also plays.

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Bi-Weekly Political Roundup: Iraq and the Arab Spring Edition

As you know, we usually only talk politics every second and fourth Wednesday, in conjunction with the regular meetings of Baltimore Drinking Liberally. Drinking Liberally will happen as scheduled tomorrow (Joe Squared, 7pm), but we’ve got something else cooked up for then, so we’re waxing political today.

There’s definitely no shortage of topics to cover at the moment. The GOP seems to be having debates about once a week, and each one is more disgraceful than the last. Today though, we’re going to focus on one single idea.

Baltimore's Drinking Liberally chapter will meet tomorrow at Joe Squared. 7 pm.

It may not be a wholly original idea, but it did occur to us quite on its own and we haven’t been able to shake it since. At any rate, it’s not a very popular idea- as we’ve never seen or heard it discussed anywhere in the media- and after we put it forth on our humble little blog here it probably won’t get much more traction because it’s frankly a very uncomfortable idea to accept.

Saddam Hussein never would have survived the Arab Spring.

On the face of it it’s a pretty simple thing, and most people might even shrug it off and say “Hm. Yeah, I guess so. Whatever…” But the more you think of it the more disturbing it becomes. It implies that the entire Iraq war effort was completely unnecessary. They likely would have come to the same result on their own.

Now, there were many, many people who said before the invasion that the war was wholly unnecessary. The Chop was among them, and we knew at the time that there were no WMD’s, that there was no collusion between Iraq and Al Qaida, and that Iraq presented absolutely no threat to the United States. But the point of this post is not to say we told you so. It’s to ask the question What if we’d known the Arab Spring was coming?

Of course, none of us has a crystal ball, and back in 2003 there wasn’t anyone anywhere who was predicting what’s going on now across the Arab world. Hindsight is 20/20 though, and it would be irresponsible of us as a nation not to examine our actions and motives in light of subsequent events. Saddam Hussein was not drastically different from any other Middle East dictator, and if anything the Iraqi Street was even more primed and ready for a revolution than most of the country’s neighbors.

A best-case scenario for Iraq would have been a revolution similar to that which occurred in Egypt. This is the type of regime change that was laid out by the Bush administration at the time; a quick bout of fighting with a minimal number of casualties followed by an orderly transition to democratic rule. Unfortunately, they couldn’t deliver on it. We actually passed through Egypt in July and the lower-level nonpolitical government officials we dealt with were not only still showing up for work and keeping things running smoothly, but there was actually less evidence of bribery and corruption about.

A more likely case for Iraq would have been what happened in Libya. The US already had a no-fly zone and a raft of sanctions in place in Iraq, and there’s little doubt that that the US, NATO or both would have been delighted to manage Libyan-style air strikes on Regime targets, even to the point of “shock and awe.” As soon as the first bomb fell the PKK would have seized complete control of the North, and the Shiite militias would likely have taken the south without much difficulty. The Republican Guard should have stayed loyal to Saddam, but regular Iraqi army units probably would have defected almost immediately, either remaining loyal to a cadre of generals or blending into militias.

Saddam himself would probably have done just what Gaddafi did, hiding out in or around Tikrit, or possibly attempting a run for the Syrian border. It’s entirely possible that his clown-show of a trial and his inhumane circus of a hanging would have happened exactly as they did, as there was little US or international involvement in either of those events. The “Sunni Awakening” might have been part an parcel of the larger Arab Spring, and in the end it’s easy to imagine that Iraq’s post-revolution government would be just as hapless and dysfunctional as its post-invasion government has been. The absolute worst case scenario would have been a bloody years-long nationwide civil war, but the Iraqis had that anyway, whether the neo-cons want to admit it or not. They could have just as well fought their civil war without us.

We have to mention too that Libya is a nuclear-armed country. That is to say, they have real, actual weapons of mass destruction. There are also large stores of chemical weapons there that were not used throughout the revolution by either side. The answer in Libya did not “come in the form of a mushroom cloud” so to speak.

But Libya isn’t even the worst-case scenario. We’ll grant that it is possible Iraq could have seen the horrific type of one-sided massacres that are still happening today in Syria. However, the situation in Syria is far from over. We don’t see any way that the Assad regime can come out of this in tact, especially given that he’s garnered the type of widespread international scorn and condemnation that Saddam never did.

Now, what about the countries that didn’t revolt? What about Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where blossoming discord was nipped in the bud?

The Saudis basically bought their way out of a revolution, giving everyone in the country a nice check and creating thousands of new jobs, primarily to be filled by men 18-25. It’s easy to fight on an empty stomach, and the Saudis are now making goddamn sure that every able-bodied fighting-age man has a bellyful of bread. Likewise, they’re exerting a lot of influence and pouring a lot of resources into their much smaller neighbor Bahrain. They even put Saudi troops on the ground there to keep the peace. After so many years of sanctions, Saddam simply didn’t have the money to buy his way out of a revolution, and no one else had nearly enough power and influence to offer protection to such a large country as Iraq.

So there we have it. Ten years on and the result in Iraq might have been exactly the same. Well, almost the same: without invading, we would have saved one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000.). We’d have saved the lives of over 4400 US service personnel and up to 100,000 Iraqi civilians. No Abu Ghraib. No Torture. No diversion of resources from Afghanistan. No war profiteering.

And George Bush says he has no regrets.

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