The Truth In This Art with Max Weiss of Baltimore Magazine
S9:E52

The Truth In This Art with Max Weiss of Baltimore Magazine

Rob Lee:

And welcome back to The Truth in His Art. Today, I am super excited to welcome my next guest, the editor in chief of Baltimore Magazine. Please welcome Max Weis. Welcome to the podcast.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Hi. Thank you for having me.

Rob Lee:

Well, it's really more like welcome back to the podcast, actually.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Right. Right. Was I 1 of your first guests? Because I'm under the impression I was 1 of your first guests.

Rob Lee:

You're 1 of the earlier guests, in this sort of arc. We're coming up, as we're recording now, we're coming up on 800 interviews in

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

That is wild.

Rob Lee:

5 years somehow. And, so so thank you for coming back. And, it's gonna be a cool conversation. And before we get into, like, the deeper part, you know, I always like to give folks the the opportunity to to introduce themselves. I think a lot of times we get sort of the cut and paste thing, like if someone gets my thing, right, if I'm going on a show or an interview or something, it was like, who's Rob Lee?

Rob Lee:

I'll just say, you know, I'm a guy that talks, which it might be different than someone saying podcast wizard or something like that. So I wanna give you the space to introduce yourself. And, I have a sub point in there, but I at least wanna start there.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Well, I am the editor in chief of Baltimore Magazine, and I've been at the magazine for 30 years. I started as a child reporter, but, you know, I just moved my way up the masthead. Like I started, I was a staff writer, then I was an associate editor, then I was a senior editor, then I was managing editor. Now I'm editor in chief. So if you stick around long enough, they will eventually make you the boss.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So that's my primary job, and then, I am a pop culture and film critic, which I've been doing forever. I started at the Citi paper doing it. Then I was doing it on radio. I used to, go on WBAL radio. People older older listeners will remember Dave Durian, Alan Prell.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Those are my guys. And, and then but, you know, radio is a very it's sort of a dying art form because podcasts are where it's at right now. So that kind of ended, but I've, I've continued to, I did, movie reviews on TV, WBAL Television, and now I primarily do them in print and online. And, I don't review as much as I used to, but it's really important for me because first of all, I love film. I love analytical writing, sort of essay style, review style writing, because I get to sort of use all the muscles, the writing muscles, the analytical muscle, hopefully the sort of voicey humorous style that I'm hopefully known for, and you can sort of put it all together.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So, yeah, I still love to write, but when you're an editor, you don't write as much as you used to. I mean, I try to write a few stories a year, probably about, you know, 8 8 or so stories, but, mostly I'm just putting the magazine together. And then, the only other thing that people need to know about me is that I play cello very seriously. I'm a serious amateur cellist. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll see my noodlings, and, I play with the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra.

Rob Lee:

That's that's great. And I do follow and I do read. And, yeah, like, you know, I look at, you know, Baltimore Magazine. I even, you know, with with your writing and the sort of, like, the pop culture side of things as well. It's it's a reference point for me.

Rob Lee:

I'm like, okay, that's that's an interesting take. It's it's trust and it's value in it. And, you know, as I've, I think, shared with you outside of, like, this podcast, obviously, that I get sort of my my food knowledge in in other areas, but definitely, I look at, you know, BMAG as 1 of my sort of, like, alright, where's the food places, what are we doing? So, you know, I use that as a source. So for you growing up, you said you were, you know, child reporter back in the day and all that, which is which is great.

Rob Lee:

We all have our sources. So growing up for you, what was a, like, primary source for, like, arts and culture news, and what about those sources made it stand out? Was it the writing? Was it the layout? Speak on that a bit.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Well, I grew up, in New York, not not Baltimore. And so, primarily my parents subscribed to The New Yorker, and they subscribed to New York Magazine. And I read all of my cultural reporting in those publications. And Pauline Kael, the great film critic, I read her when I was a child. And, of course, on television, I loved Sisko and Ebert.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

I was like very into Sisko and Ebert. I almost feel like maybe even more than Pauline Kael, who is such a brilliant writer, you almost feel like I can't do what she does, but with Sysco and Eborn, I was like, Hey, I wanna do that. I love what they did. But then my parents, were very encouraging of my sort of, all of my artistic and creative endeavors, right? So, when I was a kid, of course I wrote, I was a creative writer.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

I once had a teacher who said to me, Everybody who writes thinks they're a fiction writer, and then eventually they kind of figure out what kind of writer they really are. I'm not a great fiction writer, but that was how I got into it. And I also, I did painting and drawing, and of course, cello playing. And I went to a music and arts camp called Usdan in in New York. And so I was always I always feel like I'm so lucky and blessed because my parents really nurtured that creative side of me.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

And when people just can find the art on their own without having that kind of support system, you know, I was in an environment where my parents were listening to classical music all the time. If you can find your way to that on your own, I have such admiration for you because it was kind of spoon fed to me in a way.

Rob Lee:

Yeah. And and, thank you for mentioning it. Definitely, Seskoln Ebert sticks out. I'm literally about 10 hours removed from being in Chicago. So and, like, kind of floating around.

Rob Lee:

I was like, oh, I see that. Oh, I see that. I remember the show, and my partner and I were talking about it. She was like, remember this growing up? I was like, I I remember the back end of it.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Yeah. It it it went downhill. Unfortunately, Gene Siskel died of a brain tumor, and then they tried to find a bunch of other replacements for him, but you could not replace the magic because Sisko and Ebert were very different kinds of critics. Ebert was more populist. Sisko was a little more high brow.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

And they had, they were frenemies, you know? They had genuine affection for each other, but there was also, like, real animosity there that you would sort of pick up on when you listen to them. And, and they were both so bright and so articulate. And when they and they argued well. You know, not everybody can argue well, but but they were both able to make their points.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

But every once in a while, some absolute contempt, you know, was an seeding between them. But, you know, ultimately, they they did love each other. And, so it was a fascinating relationship to watch and the way they talked about film, and they introduced me to so many films. And I remember very specifically Hoop Dreams, the documentary about basketball, was a film that they really, really championed. And I watched that and just thought it was amazing.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

And I'm sure there were many other films, but that 1 sticks out. Like, yeah, they really introduced me to a whole bunch of different films. And then for me as a kid, so I lived on Long Island, which is a suburb of New York City, and I would go into New York to, for cello lessons, and I played with the, Youth Symphony Orchestra of New York, but I would also go to the museums, of course. I would go to the Met. I would go to MoMA.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

And I would also go to these old film houses, these sort of palaces of independent film, and there was nothing like that on Long Island. And I just remember being mesmerized by just the experience of seeing art films and these sort of rarefied spaces, and that was part of my love affair with, with film as well.

Rob Lee:

Thank you. That's that's great. You definitely I feel like we could do a whole side podcast purely on film and film criticism.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Anytime, buddy.

Rob Lee:

So I wanna move into a little bit about sort of the the magazine component as we dive in, and you you touched on, you know, a bit earlier, sort of 30 years, so it's a lot to talk about there. But just sort of macroly speaking, the process of creating and putting together a magazine, you know, such as Baltimore Magazine, is is huge. You know, it's a huge task, huge undertaking. Could you walk us through, like, how you, your team, like, kinda put together, let's say, the most recent issue, coming up for for July and, know, sort of any sort of behind the scenes moments that, like, you know, what will happen can happen is kind of what I think about, but talk a bit about that.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Well, you know, first of all, Baltimore Magazine has been around since 1907. So, you know, we're just the caretakers of this on the 1 hand it starts with a completely blank slate, which is sort of scary, but it doesn't really. I mean, if you're familiar with any magazine, including ours, you'll see that there's recurring sections. There's always going to be the letters, and the publisher's note, and the table of contents, And then we have the metro, which is the sort of smaller stories at the front of the book, we call it a book. And then the, the calendar of events, departments, features, and then food, our food coverage, which is our bread and butter as I always joke.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So we have something called a story Thank you. We have something called a storyboard, and back in the day, like, it was a physical thing. Like, I had in my office, I had a big calendar with these little magnets, and we would put the the names of the stories or the ideas for the stories on little slips of paper and put them on the magnets and sort of move them around. And I, you know, I felt like a mad scientist moving around my board. Eventually, we stepped into the 21st century, and now we do that all digitally.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

But, you know, we kind of map out our stories far in advance. It helps us to, you know, write them in a timely fashion. It helps the sales department sell them in a timely fashion. And also it's not just us, right? There's there's marketing, there's sales, there's the events, you know, so sometimes they'll tie in an event with 1 of our stories.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So they have to know in advance. And then, you know, we'll just sort of break it down. We'll have what we call storyboard meetings, which are basically brainstorming sessions, and we'll throw out ideas, and we just always have to be mindful of it has to be very, very local. It has to be a story that if other publications have written about it, what's going to be our unique spin on it? Like a lot of times people will pitch a story to me and they'll say, oh, you know, I was just featured in the Baltimore sun or the Baltimore banner, And that's not always a selling point for me.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

It doesn't mean I'm necessarily not going to take that story. But to me, my question is, how can we make this a Baltimore Magazine story? And what we try to do is go behind the headlines, give

Rob Lee:

daily, which just has to sort of crank it out.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

And believe me, I'm a as opposed to a daily, which just has to sort of crank it out. And believe me, I'm extremely impressed with the work that, you know, they do at daily publications. But we're able to do deeper dives and have more interesting artwork. And hopefully we can be a little more thoughtful, do a little more research, because we have the luxury of time. So, you know, I have a relatively small staff, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and we just have these brainstorming sessions, and we put it all on what now, you know, a Google Doc.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Oh, how I miss my magnet I was the master of my domain, but it's on a Google Doc now. And, yeah. And then, you know, we we have editorial meetings every Monday where the staff gets together and we talk about the progress for the issue. Look ahead to see that we're doing okay for the for the upcoming issue, and, that's that's what we do.

Rob Lee:

Thank you. I mean, you know, I and maybe before I move into this next question, that's kind of nice follow-up to it. But, you know, I really like hearing about that. It 1, it gives me context for what I do to kinda maybe tighten up certain processes here and there and, you know, small team of yeah. Mostly 1.

Rob Lee:

And, you know, sort of thinking

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

The smallest of teams.

Rob Lee:

Literally. But but thinking through, like, you know, the the notion of when someone reaches out with a pitch, I'm I'm taking pitches now versus and and having some sort of sense of exclusivity and, you know, not just, well, you you got a thing. That's that's great. Does it fit into maybe a theme that I'm looking at doing this month, or does it fit into the larger scope of what I'm doing? Because I get a lot of pitches, you know, you have sort of a giant billboard go up and I'm like, Oh, that was that was 1 effect, but also it's a little more different than I was expecting.

Rob Lee:

So having those check ins, having those meetings, and being able to talk with folks such yourselves just such as yourself on how you go about things and how your team goes about things, I can apply sort of that small thing to how I go about what I

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

do. Yeah. I mean, it's great to have a plan because for me, it takes away that anxiety of the empty magazine that we face every month. But you have to have a little bit of wiggle room within that structure. You know, perfect example, when COVID happened, we did an entire COVID issue that was not on the on the storyboard, but we, you know, the word pivoted.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

We pivoted to that because we felt like that was the biggest story. Similarly, George Floyd, when when the sort of Black Lives Matter movement really took off after that. We did a sort of a George Floyd based, you know, feature story about black life in Baltimore, again, we felt like there was this national conversation that was relevant to Baltimore City in particular. We felt like it was important for us to be part of that conversation. And that story actually won us a City Regional Magazine Award.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So, you know, the idea is you have that structure, and that is your foundation, and you can sort of lean on it, and it's great that it's there and you have to do a lot of work in advance to get to that point where you have it but then once you do you're so glad that you did all that early you know work But then within that structure, you can't be so married to it that you can't be flexible flexible because sometimes a bigger story comes along and you just have to tackle that.

Rob Lee:

100%. You know, I'll I'll look at this, and I plan out, like, you know, I have great conversations and and things of the sword, and, you know, know, folks wanna see, like, so what are you doing for the year? How many episodes are you coming out with and and so on? And, you know, I'm I always kinda over deliver versus under deliver. That's sort of my hallmark.

Rob Lee:

And, you know, at times, I'll have people reach out, and it's just like, oh, I already did the 4 for this month, but I was like, this is a really good conversation. And I start going through sort of my internal checklist. Okay. Is it Baltimore? Check.

Rob Lee:

Is it interesting to me? Check. And, you know, I kind of do that. I'm like, I'll figure it out. But to your point, having the strategy and having sort of that way to have wiggle room, almost look at it like a diet.

Rob Lee:

As long as you're within your macros, it's like, look. I'm a have that cheesecake. That's that's gonna be great. I'm a work this cheesecake into this week's food to get out. So let's let's talk a bit about role, as in, you know, editor in chief, and sort of as you you've talked about climbing the ladder, you know, going further up, you know,

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

from a

Rob Lee:

podcast, you just fall downward. You just do less. You know?

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

What

Rob Lee:

is your favorite thing about the role?

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

It's gonna sound corny, but it's working with all these talented people at the magazine. I mean, I'm just really inspired by how great they are, how dedicated they are to the magazine. We're all a little obsessed with the magazine, and you sort of have to be that way, I think. Like, literally calling each other at, you know, 11 PM to change a single word, that sort of thing. But, yeah, I mean, I love the team that I work with.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

They're wonderful collaborators. They're wonderful people. And you know, we have fun. We work hard, but we also have fun, and we try to go out together as a group, and we recently went bowling. We have karaoke coming up in the future.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

It's particularly important because, you know, we work remotely now. We do have a shared office space that we come together for meetings and some people use it to work in. But for the most part, we're a little siloed, so it's really important for us to come together. And we've got a lot of Zoom meetings. You know, Zoom was a lifesaver.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

But, yeah, it's it's I clearly could not do it myself, and I'm just so happy that I have the staff that I have because they're just amazing writers, amazing editors, amazing thinkers, and they care so much about the magazine.

Rob Lee:

Yeah.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So that's the number 1 thing, for sure.

Rob Lee:

Oh, yeah. So in sort of similar, but slightly slightly different territory, what is a particular aspect of the job and of sort of, you know, Baltimore Magazine that you find particularly rewarding? Perhaps there's a memorable memorable experience in the last year or so that that sticks out. Like, yeah, that was that was a good 1. That was a good that was a good point there.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Well, you know, we love Baltimore. Right? We really, really do. But I think that what we're good at is celebrating Baltimore, which we absolutely do, and we really try to point out the highest quality of living in Baltimore. Like these are the coolest restaurants.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

These are the coolest arts venues. These are the coolest bars, these are the coolest neighborhoods, all that stuff. But we're also not burying our head in the sand when it comes to Baltimore's problems. Although, a lot of times when we do journalism about the problems of Baltimore, we're kind of solutions oriented. So, you know, it's like if we're writing a story about, corruption in the city, it's like, here are some strategies for cleaning that up.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

If we're writing a story about, like, what's going on with the harbor place, here's some of our ideas for what could make the harbor place thrive. So but but I like that we don't shy away from the problems of the city, while simultaneously I mean, my number 1 thing I like I want people to feel when they read Baltimore Magazine is, oh, Baltimore is a cool place. It's vibrant. I want the magazine to capture the sort of pulse of Baltimore. You know, I love Baltimore.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

And, you know, it's an underdog city. I would say less so. I think more and more creative hub and an amazing place to visit and to live. But, you know, we just Our thing is Baltimore is a great city. It deserves a great city magazine, And that's that's what we try to do.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

We try to have a magazine that is worthy of this amazing city.

Rob Lee:

That's that's great. That's, just just wonderful. I think when you have these things that you know, when I when I when I when I do this, and I've done done a lot in a short period of time and even thinking about when, you know, sort of it blew up, you know, and it was probably 2020 people at home. So I think, you know, there's sort of 2 sides to that or my sort of reasoning for starting it. It was, you know, sort of a slap in the face when folks were dissing Baltimore, the Trump of it all or even, you know, you know, I want to, you know, Morgan State University and some, you know, people from different parts of the region have some New York or just in D.

Rob Lee:

C, you know, Baltimore is whack. I'm like, you are going to school here. What are you saying? And, you know, and being definitely having that sort of rally cry and, you know, really being activated. And that's 1 of the things that, you know, I really dig about, you know, Baltimore Magazine, sort of like being able to speak on, okay, this place is cool.

Rob Lee:

I like it from this this sort of perspective and and covering things that really align with what my values are, but also being real about it versus just this is just a straight advertisement of how great everything is, and we're only looking at this. I know there's a cloud behind us, but only the sun. It's just like, no, let's let's cover it in a sort of a real way. And I think for the the sort of like Baltimore audience, for sake of argument, we're very much into that, you know, whereas if it's just 1 side, 1 perspective, it falls short. It's like it's not telling the whole story.

Rob Lee:

And as a place, as you you touched on the underdog thing, and I think often it's a sort of we don't get the full story sort of thing when it comes to it. It's just like, hey. Cover these aspects, and we're trying to get as much Baltimore concentrated in 15 minutes, you know, for whatever that time might look like, that when those lapses and those things are missed, you know, it really feels kinda stark because they're so few and far between, like, opportunities for it to be out there.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

It's such a balance. Right? Because you really wanna celebrate the city. You wanna say to all the haters, this is 1 of the greatest cities in America. And we do that.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

But at the same time, you don't wanna be Pollyanna ish. You don't wanna be naive because if if you do that, you're just not keeping it real. And I think that you you nailed it. People in Baltimore, they know when you're BS ing them. They know when you're not coming from a sincere place.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So, you know and they also understand if the criticism is constructive and comes from a place of love, as opposed to if the criticism is judgmental, has a certain political ideology that is not pro Baltimore, pro urban life. I think you kind of know what I'm getting at with this. I'm not gonna actually name names, but, you know, it's like, Ron Cassie, who's our great senior editor who writes a lot of our deep dives. I think you've had him as a guest, and we'll undoubtedly have him again soon, but he wrote this book called, If You Love Baltimore, It Will Love You Back. Yeah.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

And you know, that to me, that just really sums it up, and and that's sort of the ethos that we try to bring to the magazine.

Rob Lee:

Yeah. And and I've heard that sort of, like, arc through several folks or what have you. And in in this in this time of, you know, being at the magazine, you know, 30 years, did you get bored? You know, like, talk about that.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

No. It's really interesting you say that. Because even though it's been 1 job, it feels like many different jobs. The reason being the staff has turned over so much. You know, actually, right now, we're in a pretty steady pace.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

We've had a lot of the same people for a while. But, you know, when I started, it was like a whole different crew of people. And we were in different offices, then we moved to another office in Harbor East. We were there for a while. And every 5 or so years it does feel like a whole new job, right?

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So that's part of what has kept me energized all these years. It really does not feel like I've had the same job for 30 years, but but then also, you know, the beauty of a magazine and the beauty of being a journalist is that you're learning new things every single day. And if you have a curious mind, there is no better job to have than being a journalist. So, every issue is a new adventure, every story I'm learning something whether I'm reading it or writing it. Now, you know, with Baltimore Magazine, as I'm sure you know and the the readers know, we do have certain stories that we do every single year.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

We always do best of Baltimore, which we're putting the finishing touches on right now. We always do best restaurants, which is 1 of our best selling issues. We do top docs every year. I think those are like the main ones that we do every single year. So within those stories, sometimes the key is finding a fresh approach or a fresh way to make it.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Because you definitely don't want to be like, Oh, God. Here I go. I'm doing my 30th festival Baltimore. You know, you just you have to find ways to sort of energize yourself, but when it comes to the rest of the stories, we get really geeked about it, you know, like we, for example, the current cover story, which is the some crab classics, okay, now we cover crabs every single year, obviously. It's 1 of our mainstays.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

The readers love to read about crabs. We love to write about crabs, but how are we going to approach the crab issue? Like last year we did something called a crab crawl, which was like in different neighborhoods and where you should go for your crab appetizer, your crab entree, your crab related beverage. And and then this year, Crab Classics, which was done by senior editor Lydia Willover, it's about those truly authentic crab houses, the ones that just, you know, time has forgotten, and you sort of walk in, and the nostalgia factor is part of the love of it because I think most people do have like a huge nostalgia factor when it comes to crabs and crab houses. So when you go into a place and you're just like, yeah, this is this is the place.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

They've been doing it like this for 50 years. They know exactly what they're doing. It's some family recipe that's been passed down from generation to generation, and you just know that you've come to the right spot. So that's what we did this year for the crab, and you know, next year, who knows? We've done best crab cakes, we've done all different kinds of things.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So that's the fun in a way, you know, reinventing the wheel. But those are the stories that we always do. But then there's just so many exciting people and things to write about every single issue. So on top of, you know, my staff that I love to work with, and the entire staff of the magazine, it's it's just 6 you know, Baltimore is never boring. Ergo working for Baltimore Magazine is never boring.

Rob Lee:

Exactly. Exactly. It's, part of it is this idea when you have these these standards that it's just like, we know we're gonna cover sort of this. We have this, you know, these topics, sort of this issue is gonna be here. And it's this idea I've been playing with.

Rob Lee:

I'm trying to apply it to what I do, but it's literally I'm playing with understand is design philosophy of most advanced yet acceptable. It's sort of that. It's just like, yeah, we're doing something, but it's familiar enough that we're taking a different take on it. It's a different spin, so Crab Classics has touched on. It's just like, oh, we're going to get a story around crafts?

Rob Lee:

Yeah, we're taking a different approach towards it, but it's still territory that our crab lovers, our crab enthusiasts, our enthusiasts around, sort of what Baltimore Magazine is known for, are gonna be like, oh, this is extending this. This is opening this up a bit further, and that's really good.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Yeah. And, you know, I have this incredible institutional memory, as you can imagine, having worked at the magazine for so long. But sometimes, I will say, Oh, you know, we just wrote about that, and it was 8 years ago, you know. So, you have to also remember that, that the audience recycles, and, you know, just because maybe you are really familiar with something, that doesn't mean that the audience is. And, you know, there's always things are going to always evolve.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

There's always going to be a fresh take that you can do on something. And and that is 1 of the things that we have to always do at the magazine. Like, remember that we have new readers, people who are new to Baltimore. Not everybody knows Baltimore the way that we do. So part of what we're doing is reminding people about this cool stuff and reintroducing places and people.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So, that's part of it. Again, it's another thing you have to balance because you want a lot of new stuff, but sometimes the classic places deserve, you know, a chance to be recognized again. So, you get an issue like Crab House Classic.

Rob Lee:

Oh, yeah. Love it. So I got 2 well, 3. 3 more real questions, and I definitely got rapid fire questions for you. I've been typing away as we've been talking.

Rob Lee:

So I wanna talk a little bit because we we've teased we've teased the the the July issue a bit, but I wanna talk about the June issue a little bit. So, you know, it's a story on contra points, so I wanna talk about that, Natalie Wynn. Right?

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Natalie Wynn, yes. So, if people don't know who Natalie Wynn is, she is a YouTuber. She has a page where she calls herself ContraPoints, and she is this amazing talker. She takes on social issues, LGBTQ plus issues. She's a trans woman.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

But really just cultural issues and talks about them in the most wildly entertaining, trenchant, humorous, incisive way. So I call her the transmillennial Fran Lebowitz in the story. And, first of all, I didn't know she was from Baltimore. And then when I found out, I was like, Oh, man, I've got to write about her. So I ended up, meeting her in her brownstone, and she has this amazing, very sort of ornate, gothic, I think I called it a cross between a Victorian mansion and a brothel in the story.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

And we sat down and talked and, you know, sometimes when you meet people you admire, it's like a little disappointing, you know, they're like, they don't live up to the expectations. Well, she did. She exceeded my expectations. She was so quick, so funny, so, open. So I was really happy to to write that story about her, and hopefully, you know, she's got millions of fans, but I'm not sure that they're Baltimore based fans, you know, it's sort of international.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So I think that I was showing people in Baltimore, hey, this really cool person lives in Baltimore. And, I don't know if you ever get a chance to interview her for for this podcast, but I recommend it highly. I think she's a little private in a way. She's she she talks about that, how she can be so open on a YouTube channel and speak to literally millions of people, but she's actually shy. You know?

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

That there is something about the intimacy of you got this camera on you when you're talking, and you feel like you're talking to 1 person, and the abstraction of it's actually literally millions of people, you don't think about that. So she can really open up to on a 1 on 1 interview or open up when she's alone creating these elaborate backdrops and sets for her YouTube videos. You really have to check them out. Oh, the other thing about her videos is that they're incredibly long. She breaks all the rules of what we've learned about podcasts and YouTube, which is like, keep it pithy, people don't have all day, people have short attention spans, you know, her videos will be like 2 hours long, and people are just like, you know, give me more, feed me more.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So, yeah, I was very that's the June issue. I also did a, interview with Ego Nwodim from Saturday Night Live.

Rob Lee:

Wow. Really?

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

That issue. She's also from Baltimore. And very, very cool lady. She's bringing improv to Baltimore City Schools. Like, she thinks that improv is this amazing skill set for young people, teaches them, active listening, teaches them to to to be creative.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

It it's community building. She said improv changed her life, So she wants to bring improv to Baltimore City School. So that's sort of how she gives back to the town she grew up in. And, Ego Nordem, she's amazing. You made people know her from SNL.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

She's so funny, so smart, so cute, so talented. I mean, she is just a superstar.

Rob Lee:

That is great. I'm gonna be putting my pitches out there because, look, I like to I like to make those those connections when it's just like sometimes we'll have folks that have connection here who are even living in here, in in in Baltimore, and it's just like, oh, do they? It's like, yes. I ran across. I passed them at Whole Foods or I passed them at, you know, a crab place or, you know, we were at 1 of these crab houses, what have you, and yeah, it's it's cool to, be able to know about, you know, folks that are doing stuff and have it, you know, covered in, in Baltimore Magazine and in your words, you know, with your your way of writing, so, you know, as far as those, interviews go.

Rob Lee:

So as we kinda got a little bit of the June issue, we should talk about the current, you know, upcoming, the July issue.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

July issue on newsstands now. Right?

Rob Lee:

Yeah.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So, we have the Crop House classics, which I mentioned.

Rob Lee:

-Yes.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

-Uh, we also have Ron Cassie's hilarious story, Unbarry Glaser. -Please. -B of don't urinate on my leg and tell me it's raining, babe. And the thing about Barry Glaser is what you see is what you get with the guy. He really is this incredibly colorful, larger than life.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

He really is fighting for the little guy. Comes from an honest place. He loves celebrity. Like, you know, he really, really wants to be famous. And of course, we liken him to Saul from Better Call Saul.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

The store is called Better Call Barry, and Ron Cassie just hangs out with him. We get to go inside his very weird and kind of wonderful profane, world, and you really It's a bit of a jaw dropper with this guy because he just lets it all hang out, and, he is he's a extremely colorful character. You know, as Ron pointed out in the story, almost every town has their famous, goofy, over the top television lawyer.

Rob Lee:

Yep.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

But I doubt there are as many quite as wild as Barry Glaser. So, that's another great story to to to read in the, July issue on newsstands now.

Rob Lee:

That's great. That's great. So I got I got 1 last real question, and then the rapid fire ones.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

And are we gonna talk about our partnership?

Rob Lee:

Oh, yes. Let's let's talk about it. Yes.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Right. So, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt, but but yeah, so Baltimore Magazine is going to be partnering with The Truth in This Art. Basically, we love the podcast. We thought it really intersected very well with what we do at the magazine.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So what you should look for going forward is more interviews with Baltimore Magazine editors, more interviews with Baltimore Magazine writers, and then also with subjects. And you know, you'll just be seeing a little more Baltimore Magazine related content, but it's not going to change what Rob does, right? Rob is going to be conducting interesting interviews with interesting people, and, you know, it's just we're gonna find where his interest and our interests align and create this partnership, and this is just the first step. I mean, we're gonna see where it grows from here, but we're very pleased and proud to be partnering up with your great podcast. So

Rob Lee:

Well, thank you. That's that's, I I'm super excited, super happy as well. This is definitely in alignment. It makes sense. It's I think it's gonna be great.

Rob Lee:

And, you know, the other thing about it is just just definitely, it's it has to it has to make sense. It always has to make sense. And, you know, and this is kinda in the trajectory of the sort of the question I was gonna ask, there of sort of, you know, if there is 1 or or 2 2 items that always, like, this is a Baltimore Magazine story. This is absolutely something we have to cover. So, like, for instance, and I'm doing this, there are interviews that it's like, it's a good interview.

Rob Lee:

Don't know if it fits here. Don't know if it fits, like, overall. What what is sort of that criteria, you know, when especially in thinking of sort of the last 2 issues? And, obviously, you're gonna be working on an August 1 very soon, I would imagine, to be put together.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

We are in the thick of August right now. I mean, it's really it's always why this story and why now. Like, those are the sort of crucial questions. Every once in a while, somebody is so interesting that they don't really need to justify with the why now. We just think, well, our readers really need to know about this person, this is really cool.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

But, so why the story, why now? Then the other thing is, is there a good story here? Is there a story that we can tell? Because there are interesting people, but there may not be a narrative arc. So you kind of want to have a beginning and a middle and an end to any story.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

You know, think of it almost like a movie in that sense. So when we're writing particularly profiles and feature stories, we're just thinking like, is there an interesting narrative arc? Is there a hero's journey? Or whatever you want to call it. So, so really it comes down to sometimes somebody will pitch me something, and I'm like, you know, this is good.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

This is interesting, but it's not gonna make a good story. You know? We're not gonna make a good magazine story. Like, it maybe it can make a good daily newspaper story, but a magazine story, it really has to be engrossed. It has to be the kind of thing that you curl up with, you know, on your couch or wherever you are.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

And you really get involved in it in the way that you might get involved in a novel or something. So those are the key things. And obviously, just like you, has to be Baltimore. We really are pretty strict about that. Although, you know, we get into obviously Baltimore County, Howard County, even a a Randall, And and we do, you know, Eastern Shore a little bit too because our readers often vacation on the Eastern Shore.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

But ultimately, we're laser focused on Baltimore.

Rob Lee:

Yep. You know? And and and thank you because, you know, that's that's what it is what it is here. Like, you know, occasionally, I'm chasing what what is of interest to me, but always, it's a Baltimore perspective. It's a Baltimore sensibility.

Rob Lee:

As I said, you know, I was in Chicago. I went to a Cubs game. I had my flag flying high. I was just like, yo, we we're out here. It's Baltimore.

Rob Lee:

Right, guys? I

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

don't tell you. You were wearing your, Orioles gear?

Rob Lee:

I was wearing my custom, you know, Rob Lee wave daddy jersey. Orioles jersey custom done by, you know, R. V. Adams, what have you, customized it for me, had that on at the game, and, like, well, it's it's it's super hot. It was black jersey, so it may be mistakes, but still, I read Baltimore through the sweat.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Okay. So that explains it because sometimes when you and that actually when you go to a game and you see somebody wearing colors that are neither Orioles nor the other team on the field, and you're like, why are you wearing those colors? But now I get it. You're repping your hometown. That's what's happening.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Okay. Okay. I get that now.

Rob Lee:

Alrighty. So we got we got the real we got the real stuff. Got the real questions covered. Alright. Fair.

Rob Lee:

Couple we got a couple rapid fire questions.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Alright. Here we go.

Rob Lee:

So, here here's the first 1. What you you mentioned, you know, cello. So what is an additional skill that you you have? Like, something you were saying, well, you know what? I do this very well as in addition to sort of, like, magazine sort of writing, you know, criticism, cello.

Rob Lee:

It's a laundry list. It's I'm building it up. But what's another skill that you may not have mentioned that you do really well?

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Every day, I play spelling bee. And you know that, The New York Times, spelling bee. By the way, Sam Mazarski, the editor of that from Baltimore. I interviewed him. And I love it, and I'm really good at it, and I always get to Genius, and I try to get to Queen Bay, which is the highest level.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

So, yeah, very into word games, and spelling bee in particular, so that's I don't know if that counts, but that's another skill that I have.

Rob Lee:

It does? I mean Okay.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Oh, and I also I love I love Twitter. I used to love it more before, you know, Musk bought it. He kind of ruined it. I mean, it's like really been this like slow drip of Twitter being ruined. But, I also I if, you know, follow me at Max the girl on Twitter, and, you'll get a glimpse inside my glass brain.

Rob Lee:

Right. And, you know, having that the the the sort of word and being good at word games, I would imagine that serves you really well as a writer.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Yeah. I love words. I really do love words. I also really love to write. I I'm reluctant to say this because I feel like I'm gonna jinx myself, but I almost never get writer's block.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

I just love to write. I get into the zone. I love to work with words and express myself. And I think 1 of the reasons why I rarely get writer's block is because, my writing is very conversational. And this is what I always tell young writers.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Like, you know, tell the story like you're sitting over dinner with a friend, you know, tell the story like you would tell it to another person. We're all storytellers. So, yeah, I love to write, so of course, yeah, I love word games.

Rob Lee:

I'm gonna try to apply that. I'm gonna I'm gonna try to apply that because I've been told I should write, I've been taught to do improvs, all these different things, but I already see. So it's gonna be a bunch of asides. I get a little too deep into the storytelling piece. It's gonna be all asides.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

I mean, asides are, they're part of writing, actually, and and that that's a whole style onto itself. If you wanna have, like, a sort of digressive style, that that's that's a thing. You know? So, but, yeah, and that's the other thing. Don't be intimidated by writing, you know, just tackle it and find your own voice and don't feel like it has to be a certain thing.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

It can be it can be looser and more creative than you think it can be. So that's either.

Rob Lee:

So here's here's the second question I got for you.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Okay.

Rob Lee:

You could probably see in this this this this is gonna be audio and some visual. But as, you know, you can see, I'm wearing gray. I love this color. It speaks in multiple ways. Neutrality is, like, always in the middle.

Rob Lee:

What is a color that you just like, this is what I wear, I'm I'm always in this somehow?

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Well, first of all, I really love fashion, although not everybody would know that about me because my fashion style is kind of laid back. It's sort of bohemian if you will, but you know I it's like I spend a lot of money to look like I don't spend a lot of money. But I'm wear I'm wearing the color. I'm blue. Blue is my color, particularly this kind of denim y blue.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Yeah. I love denim blue and, I I have tons of pairs of jeans, tons of denim jackets, and you know, shirts like this. So, so that's, I would say it goes beautifully with my blue eyes, except I don't have blue eyes. Wishful thinking. Wouldn't that be nice?

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

But, no, this Jewish girl has brown eyes. So, yeah. Blue blue is my gun.

Rob Lee:

It's good. Here's the last 1. Okay. You know, going back to sort of, pinning it together and pinning it together with our, with our partnership, our collaboration, Who's an up up and coming figure in Baltimore's arts and culture that, you know, you feel like you should you wanna shout out in these final moments here?

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

I would say Rob Lee is the up and coming person in Baltimore. No, I'm serious, you know. I think that you're very talented. I love that you're having these conversations. Honestly, when we looked to collaborate with somebody, you know, you were at the forefront of our mind, because we think that you're you're doing it right.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

And, so, you're the answer, but then the other answer I would maybe give is, Jonathan Hayward, who is the new Maestro of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. I did a profile of him. He is such a lovely man. You can you can find that profile online. He is so he loves music.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

He's so passionate about it, but he also gets it. He doesn't want classical music to be this stuffy thing. He wants to bring it to all. He wants to open up who listens to classical music and what classical music can be and what it can do. So, so Rob Lee, 1, and then 2, Jonathan Hayward.

Rob Lee:

That's great. That's great. Thank you. That's that's that's a really great answer, and, I love chatting with Jonathan as well. And, you know, chatting with myself.

Rob Lee:

I talk to myself all the time. Yeah. So that's pretty much it for the pod, for for today's conversation. So there's there's 2 things I wanna do to close out. 1, I wanna thank you for coming back on to the podcast and spending some time with me today, And, 2, I wanna invite and encourage you in the sort of shameless plugging of it all, social media, website, all that good stuff.

Rob Lee:

The floor is

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

yours. Okay. So baltimoremagazine.com, that's number 1. You can find all of our wonderful writing there. For me personally, you can find my movie reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

I am a top critic there. You can find me on Twitter, which I refuse to call X. You can find me on Instagram, Max the Girl. I'm Max the Girl everywhere. And, yeah, I think that I think that covers it.

Max Weiss (Baltimore Magazine):

Baltimoremagazine.com, baby.

Rob Lee:

Well, there you have it, folks. I wanna again thanks thank, Max Weisz for coming on to the podcast. And I'm Rob Lee saying that there's art, culture, and community in and around your neck of the woods. You've just gotta look for it.

Creators and Guests

Rob Lee
Host
Rob Lee
The Truth In This Art is an interview series featuring artists, entrepreneurs and tastemakers in & around Baltimore.
Max Weiss
Guest
Max Weiss
Editor-in-Chief, @baltimoremag; Film and media critic; Cellist; Can't believe I'm still here; She/Her; ALL OPINIONS MY OWN