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Baltimore Pop Culture

If you want to know Baltimore, or if you just want to see what good TV really is, do yourself some good and buy all five seasons of “The Wire.” This HBO series, created by former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon and former Baltimore Police Department homicide detective and public school teacher Ed Burns, is not just a saga that examines Baltimore. It delves into the nature of the American city in all its drama and complexity. Just watch it. The genius Simon & Burns team also created the excellent miniseries “The Corner” (which was originally a book) and “Homicide: Life on the Streets,” two shows that share the same content, if not sweeping themes, as “The Wire.” If you can find the ‘90s series “Roc”, starring local boy Charles Dutton, it was an excellent sitcom based around a black Baltimore family. Baltimore has plenty of cinematic credits under its belt. In fact, many Washington, D.C., dramas are filmed here, seeing as Baltimore is a cheaper, easier city to shoot in than the capital, just 40 minutes down the road. The city’s most famous cinematic native sons are King of Weird, John Waters, and smiling Jewish grandfather, Barry Levinson. Waters has gone from transvestites in “Pink Flamingos,” a movie about two families competing to be the filthiest people in the world, to the tamer fare of “Hairspray” (note: the new version was filmed in Canada. Boooo!). Levinson shines in his Baltimore trilogy “Diner,” “Avalon” and “Liberty Heights,” all movies about coming of age in Charm City. There’s a growing African American indie movie scene in town, as well; for more background, go here. Literary lights include Laura Lippman, with works like “Charm City” that give a playful and appreciative peek into the underbelly of the city. Another writer is Anne Tyler, whose “The Accidental Tourist” is set in Baltimore and was a Pulitzer finalist. Then, of course, there’s Edgar Allen Poe, whose gothic scenes clearly draw a little from the city’s shadowy architecture. Baltimore has a thriving local music scene, and places like Ottobar and Joe Squared are excellent spots for seeing live up-and-comers. Try and listen to some Baltimore Club, also known as Club Music, while you’re in town; it’s an interesting blend of hip-hop and house music. It’s corny, but for songs about the city we like Ogun and Phathead’s intense “What You Know About Baltimore” and, on the total other end of the sonic spectrum, Adam Duritz’s somewhat over-the-top but still affecting “Raining in Baltimore.”

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