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Global Warming Is So a Debate

Posted 7/19/2006

I was at the Villa Julie College global warming conference ("Three Feet Higher and Rising," July 12). The question is not weather the earth is getting warmer--it is--the question is why? I believe the earth naturally goes through warming and cooling cycles. It could very well be that it's colder in five years. We just don't know. Anyone remember the Time magazine cover stories back in the 1970s about us going into a "mini ice age?" We would like to invite Ralph Brave or anyone else at City Paper on to our radio show any Sunday afternoon to discuss global warming. The show is called Weather Talk and it airs from 3:05 to 4 p.m. on WCBM (680 AM).

Tony Pann
Meteorologist, WUSA TV-9

Baltimore: Get the Trash Out of It

In Gadi Dechter's article on the success of a city's branding effort ("Buying in on It," Mobtown Beat, July 12), state tourism director Dennis Castleman says, "When it comes time to focus on the Inner Harbor...we will certainly use [Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association's] branded slogan, no doubt about it." As a 14-year resident of Baltimore who works in the hospitality industry, I must say I would set my focus on the Inner Harbor itself. I love this city, and I doubt I would ever move; however, imagine this: I had my cousin visiting from out of town on Father's Day. I wanted her to see Fort McHenry, as she had never seen it before. I suggested we use Ed Kane's Water Taxi (I love this company, by the way). While waiting on board one of the water taxis, this is what we observed: Many homeless people, a lot of them looking emotionally disturbed, digging though trash cans, harassing pedestrians walking along the promenade, talking out loud to themselves, taking up most of the benches in front of the Pratt and Light Street Harborplace pavilions, and kicking or punching imaginary people.

I also saw trash all over the promenade. I watched as visitors just randomly dropped cups and trash. There was absolutely no police or Downtown Partnership presence. I did not see one employee cleaning up the promenade. If I was a first-time visitor to this city, I can honestly say that the Inner Harbor would be the last place I went back to visit. I understand the "rights" of homeless people and the fact that people have no common sense when it comes to littering, however, when I see that we are trying to get visitors to this city, especially to the Inner Harbor, you would think that an effort would be made to at least give them a pleasant experience like the one being portrayed in the new ad campaign.

I can only offer my observances and hope that I am not the only one that sees this as an issue and that something can be done about it as my, as well as thousands of other people in this industry's, livelihood depends on tourism.

Mark Vitelli

Parade Pronouncement

Whereas: Baltimore City is the undisputed art car capital of the East Coast. And previous art car parades have consisted of for the most part street-legal vehicles proceeding at legal speeds through public streets, I Daniel Van Allen, community organizer and art car designer, do hereby proclaim Saturday, July 22, 2006, and every other Saturday coinciding with Artscape in perpetuity, to be the Unofficial Art Car Parade Day ("Car Wars," The Mail, July 12; "Carless Culture," Mobtown Beat, July 5).

Art cars will meet at 2 p.m. at the American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway, and proceed to the Load of Fun Studios at aLtsKape, 120 W. North Ave., or other suitable locations near or at Artscape.

The Art Car Procession will be open to any vehicle the owner or operator decides to enter and deems to be art.

Daniel Van Allen

The writer is an occasional City Paper contributor.

Who's a Fascist?

This is my answer to your letter writer Linda Segal ("Not the Nazis Again," The Mail, July 12). Ms. Segal is entitled to her beliefs, feelings, and opinions--just as are we all, under the Constitution of the United States. Inasmuch as I fought for the right of free speech under enemy fire in South Vietnam during 1966-'67 against those lovable li'l Commie Viet Cong bastards--those great humanitarians who killed women and children, and cut off the hands of barbers so that they couldn't ply their trade--I shall continue to quote whom I please. When this country renounces its right to free speech--under whatever guise, and from whatever source--then I shall take to the hills, gun in hand. I was a soldier once, and I haven't forgotten how to be one again, if necessary.

My name isn't Douglas Duncan, and I haven't the slightest intention of slinking off somewhere with my tail between my legs, no matter whose ox is gored. I am Blaine Taylor, and I'm not running away. Now, since Ms. Segal has raised the issue of fascism, let's travel down that road here a minute. At this moment in history, she might look away from me--a chronicler of Nazism and fascism, no less--and cast her glance instead at where true American neocon fascism is resident at this very millisecond: in the White House in Washington, D.C., and in the statehouse in Annapolis. 

Blaine Taylor
Democratic Candidate for U.S. Senate 

Senatorial Campaign

Bravo to City Paper for enlightening your readers about film "clearance" and why some art/specialty films come (or don't come) to a theater near you ("Coming Soon," July 5).

Van Smith's probing article helped reveal the industry's dirty little secret, a practice that has shuttered thousands of independent Main Street movie houses nationwide. It can be economically devastating, as the many years of various chain clearances have been to the Senator Theatre's operation and other endangered theaters that remain.

Smith accurately depicts clearance as "when a theater is prevented from showing a film that's playing at another theater in the same market. The Charles 'clears' the Senator and the Rotunda, so they can't show films already booked at the Charles, but the Senator and Rotunda don't clear the Charles."

Not revealed in the article is the vigilance and clout required to exert and maintain the Charles' clearance over the Senator. That power is wielded by its long-term booker, who has done so in part by controlling the art/specialty distributors' access to the Charles' screens and high-grossing screens in other markets.

When the Charles' co-owner Buzz Cusack was asked about the clearance he replied that he's not sure what it is. "Believe me," Cusack contends in the article, "it's not up to me what plays at the Senator. It's up to the distributor. It's not because of some power that we have, it's because of a relationship that we have with them."

A disingenuous response that Cusack knows is not accurate. They actively exert clearance, and the Charles' slate of exclusive art/specialty runs at Station North couldn't have been maintained in collusion with scores of art/specialty distributors for over a 15-year period without the central enforcement clout of his booker. It's the totality of a film clearance like this one that reveals its source.

Co-owner John Standiford was direct and didn't deny that the Charles exerts clearance over the Senator and Rotunda. In fact, he confirmed and defended its existence. "Clearance is an arrow in our quiver that's really important, because for some of the films we screen, the distributors actually would probably like to have it on two screens, including at the Senator," Standiford stated. "Us dropping clearance would be a clear advantage to him." He acknowledges that without it the distributors would otherwise choose to expand their more popular films to screens in demographically lucrative North Baltimore.

The contradictory co-owner statements were further muddied last week by Cusack's letter to the editor ("Charles Not in Charge," The Mail, July 12) that read, "the Charles Theatre was portrayed as having unfair booking practices causing the Senator Theatre to suffer financially. The Charles Theatre has no exclusive arrangement with any distributor to show its movies." Yeah, right.

Perhaps John and Buzz should sit down and revisit some noir caper classics to serve as reminders regarding denials, obfuscations, and contradictory clarifications on the record.

To put it simply, before engaging in patterns of behavior that result in public scrutiny it's imperative to take a moment, confer in private, and get your stories straight.

Tom Kiefaber
Owner, the Senator Theatre and Rotunda Cinematheque

Movie Deals

The one fact that didn't get mentioned in the article on film clearance ("Coming Soon," July 5) is this: The film studio that releases a movie gets a large percentage of each ticket the first week--70-80 percent, according to Steven Krams, president of International Cinema Equipment Co. By the fifth or sixth week, the percentage the studio takes will likely shrink to about 35 percent.

The Charles Theatre is able to be profitable because it has the flexibility of moving popular films between its five screens, extending the run of those films. The Senator Theatre makes room for its newest showing by often moving films to the Rotunda Cinematheque.

If you want to support the Senator (or any movie theater, really), don't see a film there its first week. If you do go there the first weekend, buy some popcorn and a drink. Yes, it's expensive, but now you know why: They need to make as much nonticket income as possible during those first weeks.

Also, I'm not saying everything movie-related in this city should be run by Tom Kiefaber, John Standiford, or Buzz Cusack, but couldn't the Baltimore Development Corp. have gotten the Senator and Charles owners' opinions or concerns before allowing the Landmark chain into the city? Mr. Kiefaber's issue with clearance is two years old and was covered by the some media outlets.

Finally, the Landmark theaters in Harbor East will do well with the residents of that neighborhood, Fells Point, Canton, etc., but clearance issues or not, it is unlikely I will go with regularity. I don't find the area very welcoming.

Paul Ryan

I wish to respond to the news of another theater opening in Baltimore City that will screen independent/art/foreign films with the following word: Huzzah! The issue of clearance may very well be put to rest somewhat with the arrival of the Landmark cinema complex. More importantly, I feel that those of us who do our best to stay in the know about film will be served better than we ever have been.

I have been frustrated by my inability see movies that I have been waiting months to see, only to have them never come to the Charles or Rotunda. Or these films will play at these venues for so brief a period that anyone who is remotely busy has a hell of a time trying see them.

I can recall two films that I'm pretty darn certain played at the Charles, but I was unable to see them due to their brief stay, 21 Grams and End of the Century. I actually drove to the Ballston Commons cinema in Arlington, Va., to see 21 Grams. As for End of the Century, hell, I just waited till it was released on DVD. That is an unfortunate occurrence, and it occurs too much.

I look forward to the creation of a veritable smorgasbord of interesting cinema, a smorgasbord that will also allow the owners of the Senator and the Charles to feast, compete, and thrive, ensuring that Baltimore will forever be a first-class city for cinema and cinemaphiles.

Scott M. Carberry

Lost in Translation

Maryland's motto is not sexist, but some of its interpreters sure are, and I'm afraid Brian Morton is the worst of the bunch (Political Animal, July 5).

"Fatti maschii, parole femine" means "manly deeds, womanly words." Even as a schoolchild I got it: An effective government--or person, for that matter--needs not only the strength to get things done, but also the gentle arts of diplomacy and persuasion. If we remove gender politics from the equation, the motto says pretty much the same thing Teddy Roosevelt did: "Speak softly, and carry a big stick."

While one might quibble about the inherent sexism of assigning gender roles to human traits, there is nothing here to suggest, as Morton does, that "womanly" equals "worthless." Traditionally masculine and feminine qualities are given equal weight in our elegant motto--if not, unfortunately, in our real-life politics.

Lynn W. Jensen

Brian Morton responds: When it was coined by the first Baron Baltimore, the motto's meaning was translated from the Italian as "deeds are manly, words females are," as written by John Davies in 1610. It meant, literally, that "women talk, while men do." Which is exactly why, according to language etymologist and former New York Times columnist William Safire, the state "retranslated it" in 1993 to mean, "strong deeds, gentle words."

Sass Back

I am not a writer of letters to newspapers, but I've got to say it--Vincent Williams' "The Price of Sass" (Social Studies, July 5) was a waste of column space.

I'm a 51-year-old black woman, and I listen to hip-hop. I swear, it's true. I don't care for 50 Cent, but I like Luda's videos and I like Luda. Absolutely, don't speak in absolutes, Vincent. Who the hell are you to tell me or Oprah Winfrey or anyone else to "stay in your lane" musically? If Vincent Williams wasn't about the business of avoiding the city/inner city (i.e., his family's ridiculous search for a black Santa Claus), he'd be aware that there are plenty of middle-agers at the festivals featuring hip-hop artists. Or maybe he just doesn't recognize a 50-year-old woman when he sees one, since he views women over 50 as "desexualized."

Give that column space to Mr. Wrong. Please.

Kathy Elliott

We Need Mfume

After reading "Show Time" by Brian Morton (Political Animal, June 28), I shook my head to keep it from exploding. I thought to myself: "Here's another white folk who is taking black folks for granted if Brian Morton believes black folks are not going to vote for U.S. Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume."

As an Afrocentric feminist, I am going to vote for Mfume because we need a black U.S. senator in the state of Maryland. Mr. Mfume knows the "troublesome" issues facing poor and working families in Maryland. If elected, Mfume must work to pass the minimum-wage act in this country for the poor of all racial groups. Poverty will destroy the foundation of democracy because of the errors of men who will not take care of each other's humanity.

In his 1971 essay "Is America Falling Apart?" Anthony Burgess wrote: "American politics, at both the state and federal levels, is too much concerned with the protection of large fortunes, America being the only example in history of a genuine timocracy. The wealth qualification for the aspiring politician is taken for granted; a governmental system dedicated to the promotion of personal wealth in a few selected areas will never act for the public good."

I do not believe the election will go to U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin in a walk. There are members in the Bush White House who are very close to Ben Cardin and, if he is elected, they will see Cardin as another "hidden" Republican--mind, body, and soul for the conservatives in the Republican Party.

As I see it, black folks in Maryland should vote for Kweisi Mfume because it will be a long time before the Democratic Party allows another black male or female to run for any statewide office again.

I don't want Mfume to be another Illinois black senator who is secretly glad that he is biracial and is totally concerned about himself. We must not be fooled again. Smart and smooth-talking educated "negroes" are not concerned about poor people. We need "common sense" people in Congress.

It might be "party time" in this political campaign for white folks and some "moneyed" black folks. It certainly is a hard time for poor folks of all kinds.

Frederick Douglass once said, "I feel as if an ass had kicked, but had hit nobody." I am going to vote in September, and many years to come.

Larnell Custis Butler

Editor Lee Gardner responds: For the record, Brian Morton is black.

Correction: Artscape takes place this weekend (July 21-23), not in August, as our recent story on Baltimore's new tourism slogan ("Buying in on It," Mobtown Beat, July 12) mistakenly alluded.

Editor's note: Uncap your pens and warm up your browsers: The ballot for our annual Best of Baltimore readers' poll starts running next week.

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