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Friday July 1, 2005

The Critical Miami Guide to Sharks

[contributed by Camilo Santana]

Sharks are nearly blind, but they can make out shapes. When they look up and see a surfer with their appendages hanging out over the sides, it looks just like a seal, their favourite food. So they attack by mistake — literally.

The only real danger is that a shark can enter into a frenzy — they go berserk and eat anything, including other sharks, even their own tails. The way to trigger a frenzy? With blood. A shark can smell a single drop of blood a quarter mile away. So you never wanna be in the water with a chick who doesn’t know her period is on – ahem, 14-yr old girl.

(It’s an ugly probability but one that can’t be ruled out simply because we like to avoid that topic of conversation. Lets see FOX handle that angle.)

Oh, and about the second attack? Knee deep in a sandbar 200 yards out. Umm . . . he was fishing (sounds of distressed fish flapping in the water), and I’d gather them fish bleed when hooked and they weren’t using live bait . . . or perhaps they were LOL?

If I go out into the Cali mountains (they’re five miles to the East here) and start dragging a whimpering rabbit behind me while crouched with fish oil smeared all over my skin I think the chances of me falling prey to a vicious mountain lion attack are pretty high. These people need to practice basic safety.

And for the record, I’ve been in the waters of South Beach (back in ’87 or so) within 10 yards of two rather large sharks. I removed myself from the ocean as fast as I could without splashing. It wasn’t that big of a deal. You do get plenty of warning with sharks.

[Previously: Easy there, Little Shark]

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Thursday June 30, 2005

Miami Circle

View of Biscayne Bay, Miami Circle in foreground

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been seven long years since Miami Circle was uncovered. Coinciding with the original boom of the internet, the controversy around the site was something old experienced in a new way. Everybody got to freak out when a reputable archeologist dared to point out that there was a possibility that the site was a septic tank. The BBC made a documentary.

And then . . . nothing. Here we are, years later, and the site is just as it was then. What has Miami Circle done for us lately? Granted, it is a nice green patch of primo turf that the developers can’t touch; something tasty about that. But it sits there, behind two layers of chain-link, very very innanimate. Apparently there is no way to open it to the public — we would destroy the treasure.

Well, ok, one nice thing happened — the Circle’s influence is spreading. In addition to making its own site undevelopable, it is now effecting development on adjacent sites:

Circle acolytes are . . . pressing its developer, the Related Group of Florida, to make design changes to lessen the project’s impact on the 2,000-year-old circle, including moving a proposed 50-story waterfront tower that would loom over the site and partially block views of Biscayne Bay. Archaeologists believe the water views were important to the site’s builders, the extinct Tequesta Indians.

Miami Cricle shrine, today For now, the developers are at least paying lip service to said “acolytes,” but the real issue is the ultimate fate of the Circle. There are vague plans to open the site to the public, but if it hasn’t happened in all this time, when will it happen? We’re voting for never. For Bicentennial Park to sit useless and empty for decades was a tragedy; it’s a huge site with huge potential. Here’s a little site, with serious historical import. Maybe it deserves to sit in limbo, a monument to bureaucracy’s inability to confront its own past injustices.

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Miami Police vs. US Department of Justice

Impressive gear for dealing with unarmed protesters This article in the New Times is a must-read. It concerns a struggle between the City of Miami and the Civilian Investigative Panel. Now, the CIP was created in 2001, when the Miami police were running amok, shooting people and planting guns on them, and whatnot. Well, we all remember the crap that went down during the FTAA meetings in 2003. So naturally the CIP is investigating. In order, we suppose, to determine where the blame for the horrible handling of the protests belongs, the CIP requested the police plan for dealing with the protests, which the City promptly refused to let them see. The CIP sued for it, and won. That’s where the New Times story picks up:

After losing to the CIP in state court, Miami officials contacted various federal agencies and “stated the order might implicate federal documents,” without mentioning which ones, according to the federal motion. Federal officials had to investigate for themselves which documents the police were referring to. And that’s when they learned a seven-page U.S. Coast Guard memo was included in the operational plan. The Coast Guard was responsible for securing the Port of Miami during the FTAA. The memo detailed where personnel would be deployed and what specific tasks they would perform.

Turns out, the CIP isn’t interested in that memo. Oh, ok…

But Miami city attorney Jorge Fernandez decided to play hardball.

“Despite the clear statement from the Panel that it is not seeking access to the Coast Guard memorandum, and although federal law prohibits disclosure of that document, the city nonetheless informed us through its counsel that it will release the memorandum (along with the rest of the Operational Plan), unless a State appellate court reverses the trial court’s disclosure order,” the motion states. “Because of the city’s position, the United States can protect this federal sensitive security information only by intervening in this appeal.”

Hey, that’s great! The City Attorney is bullying the Department of Justice, and toying with our national security, to protect it’s brutal police department.

Fernandez’s tactic of strong-arming the feds into helping him by threatening to reveal sensitive information is hardly improving his popularity. In fact the feds have in essence declared him a potential lawbreaker. After all, when the feds claim in their motion that the U.S. Government has to insert itself into this matter “to prevent the unlawful disclosure of a federal document,” it is Fernandez they are talking about.

I guess you have to admire his chutzpah. CM can’t wait to see how this one turns out.

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Wednesday June 29, 2005

Smitty's Diner Update

[Contributed by Ed Bell]

Smitty's, interior

Latest news has it that Smitty’s will NOT be open on Saturday, July 2nd, as previously reported. Their last day of operation will be this Friday, July 1st, ‘til 3 pm. Damn, I was hoping to order my “breakfast of death” (two eggs over medium on top of a slab of crunchy, corned beef hash, side of flapjacks oozing butter and way too much fake maple syrup, side of crispy bacon, maybe a side order of grits, large cafe con leche, large iced tea, four tablets of Alka Seltzer, a small glass of cold tap water and then someplace to stretch out and take a nap).

Yikes! In view of the confirmation of the U.S.’s second report of Mad Cow Disease, I guess I better heed my wife’s suggestion that I become a vegetarian (TVP will never cut it in my book). DAMN, no more breakfasts of death. No more Smitty’s – what’s this life coming to?

Anyway, rumors abound that the restaurant will be taken over by the proprietors of a Peruvian restaurant on Biscayne Blvd. Anybody for cerviche with your flapjacks?

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Wreckreational Dive Capital

The Mandalay, part of an underwater inventory of shipwrecks off South Florida, was a double-masted sailboat that ran aground on New Year's Eve 1966 at the end of a 10-day cruise. The old statistic is that 1% of Americans are divers. Well, Critical Miami falls into the other 99%, but articles like this one make us wish different. We’ve gotten a taste with the ‘ol snorkel, but going deep and forgetting about having to breathe sounds about as good as going into outer space.

Plus, we apparently live in one of the best plces in the world to do it. The above article came to us through Divester, who’s enthusiasm doesn’t need to be bumptious. We have all these “parks” that are underwater, accessible only to the self-chosen few. Parks with trails and whatnot. Dang; somebody buy us scuba lessons.

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What happened to the Florida Medical Marijuana Referendum?

[Contributed by Glenn Allen]

As you may know, ten states have passed voter referendums to allow the usage of medical marijuana. California’s voters passed proposition 215 in 1996. And even though the Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the Federal Government making it illegal under federal law, it has been a reality in California for almost ten years. Thousands of seriously ill patients have been able to alleviate their suffering using marijuana that was prescribed by a licensed physician.

As Associate Director of the Coalition Advocating Medical Marijuana (CAMM), I saw first hand the plight of patients who had to obtain their medicine illegally. We’re talking about sick and sometimes dying patients fighting for their lives. It’s not a pretty sight. But can we look the other way when so many are needlessly suffering over a simple health care issue? What is the basis for all this hysteria surrounding marijuana? If it wasn’t safe and effective medicine would doctors in 10 states, 25% of our nation, not to mention other counteries, including Canada, routinely prescribe it?

In 1997 a Political Action Committee was formed and legally binding Florida Medical Marijuana voter petition was filed in Tallahassee. CAMM initiated a statewide campaign to gather signatures. 150,000 signatures of registered FL voters were needed to get the initiative on the FL ballot. I personally travelled across the state with fellow CAMM board members, Kevin Aplin and federal medical marijuana patient Elvy Mussika. Elvy is one of seven federal patients left under the Compassionate Use Act. She suffers from glaucoma and the University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute was instrumental in the her winning her case. She receives her medicine monthly from the federal government in the form of big tin full of 300 (yes, 300) rolled marijuana cigarettes or “joints.” Why 300 you ask? The federal marijuana that is grown at University of Mississippi in Biloxi and is very low in THC. It includes seeds and stems. That’s why she has to smoke 10 joints a day. If she had high grade, potent marijuana she would only have to take a few puffs every hour or so.

This is the our government’s Compassionate Use Act at work, a program that was ended under the Bush Sr. administration. While new patients applying for the program were denied, the ones already in it we’re grandfathered in. Only 7 people in the entire U.S. remain who are allowed to use marijuana medicinally under federal law.

Now can you picture me driving to every county in Florida in my beat up car with Elvy, a nearly blind woman, with her tin of 300 joints, collecting signatures and signing people up to collect signatures at every stop along the way? Every day, five days a week we would hold a press conference at a different county seat announcing the FL Medical Marijuana Referendum. All the local media, the newspapers and tv, would be there as well as patients, activists and vocal opponents. Elvy would smoke a joint on the courthouse steps and pandemonium would ensue. Thank God, Elvy was only arrested once and that was in Dixie County by some local cops who had to call D.C. to find out she really was legally prescribed to use marijuana. But that was not the case with hundreds of patients we came in contact with. Their stories would break your heart. A Multiple Sclerosis patient who was severely debilitated, routinely harrassed and arrested by the police. Withering away AIDS patients not able to afford buying their medicine on the streets but not being able to keep food down without it. A seriously ill woman who’s husband was arrested for growing a few plants for her on their land in rural Fountain, FL hung herself after he went jail and there was no there one to care for her. And then they tried to seize their land!

Regardless of your stand on the illegal use of drugs, sick and suffering patients should be able to obtain their medicine legally by prescription from their doctor. The American Medical Association itself is in favor of medical marijuana. The test have been done! Numerous clinical trials have shown proof again and again that marijuana is a safe and effective medicine.

Not every state constitution allows for voter referendums and FL is one of the only southern states that does. That why it is up to us to exercise our rights as voters to have our voice heard. So what happened to FL Medical Marijuana Referendum? The number of signatures needed to get it on the ballot was not met and eventually the referendum was rescinded. The doctors and lawyers on the board of CAMM who always complained there wasn’t enough funding to get the job done always seemed to favor flying themselves out to conferences and the like then just mobilizing volunteers to hit the streets and get signatures! I personally got thousands and it was never hard to do. The Miami Herald did a poll that stated 63% of all Florida voters we’re in favor of medical marijuana. This was in the late 90’s and many, many more have been educated on the issue since that time. Of course educating the public of the facts is the key and the long term goal.

Can we the people of Florida come together on this issue and show a message of solidarity with those other ten states that have asserted their right to treat people with compassion?

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Monday June 27, 2005

The Latest Buzz

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

What does it say about the mentality of South Florida that there’s more hand-wringing over mosquitoes than terrorists?

As the rains have soaked us silly—June is one of the wettest months of the year, and rainfall so far is double the average; over 15 inches so far—the mosquito population has flourished. There are over 3,000 species of the little biting bastards in the world, 72 of which live in Florida. They carry encephalitis, dengue fever, malaria, and more, but even if all they did was swarm and bite you bloody, you’d have every reason to despise their asses.

By now you’re read everything you want to about mosquitoes; how one little bite sets off a histamine frenzy and gives your entire body the sensation of jock itch, how the only sure preventative is to smear your skin with a paste of swamp mud, Clorox, and swine saliva, etc.,—so let’s have a look at some lesser known details:

Origins It probably won’t surprise you to learn that mosquitoes, like mules, are actually man-made. In the 8th century, seeking a poisonous weapon to protect their citizens from invading Scandinavian marauders who had just plundered the Abbey at Lindisfarne, a collection of monks accidentally created mosquito larvae when they blended fecal matter, maggots, a vat of rancid red wine, and the spoor of a venomous blood-drinking bat (now extinct). What they got was a large stinking vat of wrigglers, which they allowed to develop into adult skeeters, which in turn promptly swarmed. The only good news out of this unsavory story is, (1) the infections resulting from the bites inflicted by these mosquitoid ancestral forefathers killed their inadvertent inventors, (2) all of whom were French.

Nutrition Speaking of the French, you don’t need to be a frog or a dragonfly to enjoy the taste of skeeters. Back in the early days up in Minnesota, where during the 6 days of summer mosquito swarms can block out the sun, Norwegian settlers hung bloody animal parts covered in tree sap to attract and trap “buzzers,” which they harvested, pickled in vinegar and anise seed for a few weeks, and served with mayonnaise or melted cheese. That’s fucking disgusting. That makes the frogs sound discriminating. Then again, ever been to northern Minnesota?

Worship A unique characteristic of humankind is its idiotic tendency to worship; to elevate to divine status virtually anything for no reason at all. Whether it’s a blind dwarf, animal waste, assorted genitalia, trees, orbiting chunks of rock, cats, (cats? people actually worship cats!), cults extolling their mysterious powers over the universe abound. I attended a mosquito worshiping ceremony just last week—the first day of summer—called Fete de La Mosquit. At sundown, worshipers clad in needle-nose masks flap their arms and prance around a pool of stagnant water while chanting (actually “whining”) prayers. Human blood is consumed. “This may look silly to you,” one Southern Buzztist told me, “but at least we don’t waste our time sitting around spinning dradels.”

And now you’ve heard the buzz.

[See all Articles by Steve]

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Easy there, Little Shark

bull shark

The whole world is talking about the girl killed by a shark off the coast of Florida Saturday. Great. Nobody’s going in the water for the next three months for fear of death. As a public service, we would like to remind you that hearing these reports creates a disproportionate perception of danger. The fact is that shark attacks are super-rare. More people are killed every year by pigs than by sharks. But what the hell. Stay away from the water if you must. More surfing room for us.

update: Camilo Santana chimes in with the numbers. (Thanks Camilo!) Kitties are oddly absent from the list; Sophie has already killed a few unsuspecting visitors.

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Irreducible

Sum-Mei Tse, Echo [detail], 2003 Tomorrow evening (Tuesday), the new exhibition at MAC opens. The MAC’s exhibitions have been consistently great, so even though we need another video show like we need a hole in the head, this is worth checking out. How you look at video art with a crowd of people is an open question. MAC’s staff has had mixed results throwing events, but as we recall the food was good.

7 – 10 pm
Miami Art Central
5960 SW 57th Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
305. 455. 3333

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Hello Snotty Art Kids!

Critical Miami participated in a improv dance/music performance at New World last night, which was very interesting and great, and if you missed it, don’t say we didn’t tell you. But so we also got to paper the school campus with CM flyers, so naturally all these arty kids are eyeballing our nice little blog right now. We feel a little dirty, actually.

To them and other new readers we say welcome, poke around, read some of Steve’s rants, go to Jimbo’s (which, by the way, we totally told New Times Best Of about), and while you’re thinking about it, write something. Or at least keep us in the loop if things are going on. Is that so much to ask? Gosh!

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Freedom for my People, part 2

Freedom Tower

The whole fiasco around Freedom Tower has been postponed. Meanwhile, our elected officials have wishy-washy compromises in mind. Blah.

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Saturday June 25, 2005

CondoFlip.com

Is the real-estate market in Miami a bubble? Maybe not in South Florida—an increasingly hedonistic population will continue to find most of the US too cold, and there’s only so many places they can move to. Some argue that renting is a better deal right now, but in the long term this is bound to be untrue for people who buy houses fair and square.

Interest-only mortgages, however, are becoming more and more popular. They are great if you’re planning on flipping the property in about five years, and if property values keep rising as they have, and if too many people don’t buy property with them at the same time.

Now, say all the condos being built right now are finished in a year or two and sell out just barely, saturating the market. A couple of years later, all these zero-interesters try to sell their property (and they need to, because their mortgage payments are about to rise drastically). Suddenly it’s a buyers market, and these people get screwed. Maybe.

The best sign that the housing boom is about to change in some very real way, though, is CondoFlip. Here is a guy who wants to get rich not by buying and selling real-estate, but off the people doing the buying and selling, often sight unseen. That, friends, is proof positive that a lot of clueless people are in the market, ripe for the pickin’.

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Friday June 24, 2005

Crabs

[Contributed by Potato Head]

Here is a sweet little post from Sunshine State. About crabs. Trust me, it’s great. And worth a read. Discovered because, god bless her, she links to right here. If anyone knows this kid please tell her to e-mail us so we can beg her to write more.

update: Yes, we did end up hearing from Frances Nash. She likes us. She hates our commenters, though. Her home page says, “Some magazine wrote about my blog. And they called it dumb.”

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Alanis Morissette Delocator

Alanis Morissette is playing tonight at the Jackie Gleason theater. Please don’t go. Morissette used to be cool, but recently she’s totally sold out, releasing an acoustic version of Jagged Little Pill. As if to make it clear that she wanted the last shreds of her credibility converted to cold hard cash, the album is available exclusively through Starbucks for the first six weeks of its release.

Now that you’re thoroughly disgusted, we give you the Stay Free Alanis Morissette Delocator. The idea behind the original Starbucks Delocator was to help people find non-Starbucks coffee shops. Same idea here.

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Yawn

Getting up early and going to the beach before work is one of the great things about this godforsakenhellhole of a town.

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Florida Dance Festival

Oh crap, we were supposed to tell you about this earlier. Oh well. The Florida Dance Festival for some reason always happens in the summer, and it’s going on right now. For example, tonight the super-groovy Moving Current Dance Collective will be performing. The festival runs through next Friday.

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Thursday June 23, 2005

Cop Cars Torched

In an obviously GTA-VC inspired incident, some kids (?) threw a Molotov cocktail into a police parking lot in Miami Shores, blowing a few of them (the cars) up. Now, we’re all for authority-directed victimless violence (especially when it involves blowing shit up), but there’s something sad about this. ‘Cause we have a pretty good idea of what happened. In fact, Miami Shores is famous for this shit:

We’re guessing we have here a fairly wealthy two-parent family, where both adults work their butts off in jobs they love (say, a mom lawyer and a dad doctor), put in crazy overtime, and compensate for not being around for their kids with money. You end up with spoiled brats. Get a few of these brats together, and shit tends to escalate. Next thing you know, they’re booty-bumping crank, and competing to see who can do the best rampage. Dang. You need a license to own a dog, right?

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Public Broadcasting Funding Bill in Congress

Critical Miami is not about telling you people what to do, and we don’t care what you think about public television and radio. But when Congress was getting ready to yank most Corporation for Public Broadcasting money, it raised interesting debate. Well, now they’re thinking about restoring the funding. We only bring this up because if you have an opinion about this, letting them know would be a good idea.

update: It passed, no thanks to Florida.

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Smitty's is Closing!

We were just about to write a glowing review of Smitty’s Diner, when word comes down that it’s CLOSING.

Argh! Just the place with the best damned biscuits ‘n gravy, most comfortable booths, and a few short minutes’ drive north of downtown. We’re guessing some greedy-ass developers made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Ed Bell says:

Myra and Ted Tampouris have owned Miami’s famous diner, Smitty’s, for the past eleven years. Nourishing South Floridians in more ways than one, since 1941, Smitty’s has been a meeting place to dine and conduct business for the local media (WPLG-Channel 10, WSVN-Channel 7, The Miami Herald, Miami New Times, WLRN-Channel 17 and WLRN Radio), Miami-Dade School administrators, teachers and employees and Miami-Dade governmental employees among others. The diner’s walls attest to the celebrities that have supped there over the years with dozens of autographed pictures.

The diner will close its doors for the last time on Saturday, July 2nd. Longtime patrons and well-wishers will fill the restaurant to say goodbye to Myra, Ted, Ray, Emmy, Raquel, Josh and staff and to thank them for their years of service to South Floridians providing them with tasty, fresh food and a wonderful, warm and inviting environment in which to commune.

Please tune in to WLRN’s (91.3 Fm) South Florida Arts Beat (SFAB) tomorrow (Friday), June 24th at 1:00pm (actual broadcast of the Smitty’s segment at about 1:48pm) to hear a loving tribute to the diner and its staff by SFAB contributor Chris DeAngelis.

Hope to see you at Smitty’s on Saturday, July 2nd as we say goodbye to a grand old Mom & Pop eatery near and dear to our hearts.

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Larry Lebowitz on TC

Speaking of traffic issues, this past Monday on Topical Currents, Joseph Cooper had Larry Lebowitz, the Miami Herald’s traffic columnist. The conversation managed to hit a lot of the things that Critical Miami regularly gets pissed off about, including the on/off HOV expansion (and the political manipulations that killed it), the dangers of cell phones, people who drive slow in the left lane, and traffic lawyers who can fix a ticked for a hundred bucks.

It’s a really interesting conversation, and a treat for connoisseur of the blasé npr voice. As of right now, the show is archived on TC site (here is a direct link to the mp3), but get to it quick; it might be gone by tomorrow.

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Wednesday June 22, 2005

Vice Closes I-95

People are all freaked out because filming of the Miami Vice movie will cause I-95 road closures. We’re thinking back to the supposedly horrible Bad Boys II related MacArthur closing a few years ago, but not only is this closing much easier to deal with (I-95 will only be closed at night, and only in one direction), but we’re thinking that getting to see the city in (admittedly crappy) movies is worth a little inconvenience. We took the Julia Tuttle to get home those four days back in 2002, and it was no big deal. Let’s all just get over it.

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Miami Bad Boys: Ralph Middleton Monroe

Ralph Middleton Monroe moved to South Florida in 1886, when the only way to get here was by boat. That’s decades before Carl Fisher, George Merrick, and all those guys. His interests were boat building and photography (this was in the days when rich guys had “interests” instead of jobs), and he took some of the earliest photogarphs of the Miami area.

His house, the Barnacle, is the oldest home that has remained in its original location in Miami-Dade County. His life revolved around boats—he made his living as one of the first non-pirate wreckers, and was president of the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club for the first 22 years of its existence.

Naturally, he is mostly remembered today for his photographs. A book of them was recently published, and Arva Moore Parks, who wrote the text for the book, will be speaking at Books & Books tonight about the man, the pictures, and some cutthroat miami history.

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Tuesday June 21, 2005

Fête de la Musique

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

Fête de la Musique – the global music party held each year on June 21 to welcome the summer – will be celebrated in Miami with a free concert at Mary Brickell Village from 5 to 10 pm [update: due to fears of rain, it has been moved to the Gusman].

On this day, from sunset till sunrise, musicians take over the streets and play to their heart’s content from sunset till sunrise. Musicians of all genres, be they amateurs or professionals, are invited to perform voluntarily. Musicians do not pay to take part, nor is the public expected to pay to watch. Launched in France in 1982, Fête is celebrated in more than 110 countries today, where thousands of musicians perform for millions of people throughout—

Hold it right there. The French are behind this?

Look, it’s not only easy to pile on the French, it’s a lot of fun, too. And everybody does it! Le Monde, France’s leading newspaper, reported the results of a recent survey that revealed that only 31% of the French “had sympathy” for Americans, and only 35% of Americans admitted to liking the French. (I’m surprised it’s so many—is John Kerry’s family that large?) Imagine how the poll questions were phrased: “Raise your right hand if you like the French….Raise both hands if you are French.”

Following high-level meetings about European unity—an oxymoron of destiny—England’s Tony Blair and France’s Jacques Chirac have brought the two nations to their lowest mutual affection level since DeGaul pissed on the Union Jack, much to the delight of the British public whose shit-kicking of Blair in the last election over his support for Bush and Iraq is only a few months old. Wanna pick up points? Put down the French!

It’s not difficult to work up a bellyful of bile for a nation with the mantra, If You Don’t Speak French, You’re Not a Human Being. Sixty years after the fact their surrender
to the Germans remains their defining stereotypical characteristic. They are reviled as cowardly, effeminate, infuriatingly snotty, and utterly untrustworthy. You know, “Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion” and all that. Pinky-lifting snail suckers sipping sparkling wine and chewing cheese that smells like ass.

Great stuff, n’est-ce pas? Well, that aside, Fête de la Musique is a terrific concept, and a tribute to civilization. It actually hurts that the French cooked up something good, but they did, so get over it. It’s not like they’re loosing legions of Gaulois-stained accordion players on the world: the alleys are open to every musician, professional and amateur, local to the audience and completely free of charge. The first day of summer and music is everywhere. I’ll be on Brickell, wearing my Kiss a Frog Today pin. Not.

[See all Articles by Steve]

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Monday June 20, 2005

Traditional Wetland Culture

[Contributed by Tyler Emerson]

When we needed a place to show some German friends the best Florida had to offer, we headed west on 41 (Tamiami Trail) past FIU to Coopertown. There we took an airboat tour given by a 30-year veteran of the Everglades. Since we arrived between rainstorms, the light and breeze were perfect. In between speed sessions (airboats can travel wonderfully fast) our guide told us about swamp lilies, banana trees, egrets and cranes, and, of course, alligators.

This week the University of Miami hosted the Traditional Wetland Cultures in Transition Conference about the Everglades restoration project and the task of saving wetlands all around the world, including the Iraqi marshlands. The Topical Currents program on Tuesday June 14th [unfortounately, TC programs not archived] interviewed Fernando Fernandez Wilhelm of the University of Miami and Baroness Emma Nicholson, leading advocates for the plight of Iraq’s marshlands. After the Kuwait war, Saddam Hussein systematically destroyed the marshlands of Southern Iraq, an ancient area known as Mesopotamia – the Tigress and Euphrates River Valley, in order to eliminate the source of sustenance for the marshland group of Southern Shiite Muslims. This destruction was in effect a form of genocide – the Iraqi marshlands are saltwater, so when you drain it, you find slaty earth beneath it, completely unfit for fishing and farming.

The draining of the Everglades near Broward, while it did not have a malign intent, also had disastrous results. By draining too much of the wetlands, the flat Florida land’s only way of retaining a water supply, you lose the water supply for the growing population in the newly developed land.

At UM’s conference this week, the eye is on the Everglades restoration project as a way to build knowledge about the issues related to the careful balancing act of allowing wetlands to change healthily – sustainable development- along with the needs of its population.

A vital and often elusive component of saving these precious natural resources is awareness and proactive action of local government. When hearing the discussion about this conference it is important to remember that natural treasures is something that links us all. Go and see the Everglades at Coopertown to see why we should save them. Listen to the Topical Currents program to hear about the complexity of the issue.

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Sunday June 19, 2005

P.S. on T.S.

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

Years from now, if you remember nothing else about the sordid and singularly Florida saga of Terri Schiavo, remember these words:

Terri Schiavo is not brain dead; she talks and she laughs, and she expresses happiness and discomfort. Terri Schiavo is not on life support.

Those preposterous conclusions were pronounced on March 20 by Texas Tom DeLay, a powerful and influential member of the U.S. Congress. Following the autopsy report’s release, which described a shriveled, severely damaged brain where vision and consciousness were absent, and affirming the diagnosis of a persistent vegetative state, Rep. DeLay grudgingly admitted that yes, she is probably dead now. But there’s always tomorrow, and we’re always about hope, and even today she would be welcome in the Republican party and his Christian evangelical congregation in which similarly situated souls vote, flourish, and even achieve a measure of power.

photo credit: ChristianWireService.com What more can be said about this miserable business? For a short time there, lots of people simply went batshit without inhibition, revealing themselves as the dangerous idiots we suspected they always were. Congressional leaders, church elders, the entire Florida legislature and Governor corralled their formidable institutional power to launch a misbegotten mission that can only be described as insane and loathsome. And significantly, not only haven’t they apologized, they haven’t even admitted to completely fucking up. Governor Bucktooth is still at it.

Was a time when a circumstance of such elevated lunacy could only take place in California, the country’s acknowledged Cereal Capital (fruits, nuts, and flakes). It seems that the title has traveled east, gaining intensity, and developing some truly sinister aspects. Want a recipe for Crackpot Cake? Mix a few dozen foaming religious fundamentalists, a hundred power-hungry politicos, thousands of garden variety redneck morons, and a spineless opposition with a healthy does of ambitious media, then bake under the Florida sun for a few weeks. Watch it rise and poison everything in sight. The 2000 election fiasco, Alien Elian, the Virgin Mary cheese sandwich – pretty soon you just shrug it off as part of the turf, like gators in canals, rafters on the beach, and hurricanes ripping the environment a shiny new asshole.

A little eccentricity now and then is refreshing, even instructive; Critical Miami celebrates its arrival. The Schiavo case ain’t that at all, uh-uh. This was Evil Incarnate; a vicious, teeth-baring, Kill-Them-All-and-Let-God-Sort-Them-Out horrorshow in our own back yard, with promise of more to come. We’re captured the crown: now it sits proudly on the head of the nation’s dicktip. Might as well grab a beer and enjoy the show. But keep your powder dry.

[See all Articles by Steve]

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Saturday June 18, 2005

Cockfighting Arena Closed

Speaking of roosters, police busted a cockfighting arena in northwest Dade yesterday. Not a sting operation or anything, they just sort of stumbled on it. And it’s not what you think; this place was very fancy: “about 50 caged cocks, wooden bleachers, a practice ring, numbered chairs and a VIP room.” We bet they had some primo hooch on hand, too. Ammeneties like that make one wonder how many cockfighting rings must operate down here.

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Friday June 17, 2005

Juices

[Contributed by Veronica Fernandes]

Biking to Calle Ocho, what my ears expected was to hear Cuban music from the heart of the most Cuban place outside of Cuba.
“You will be surprised, everybody down there loves Buena Vista Social Club.” And I thought I could accept its naïve stereotype for a little while.

I kept biking, and I couldn’t hear more than “psst-psst” from cars and trucks. Suddenly, in the middle of the street, a huge red-and-brown rooster trying to look all friendly smiling with his beak told me, “Welcome to Little Havana (for tourists use and abuse).” Not used to these straight endless American streets, I was still distrustful, and decided to look for the real (whatever that means) Little Havana somewhere else; in little abandoned-looking backyards and narrow lanes behind stores, where it seemed I was not allowed. How has this place been described?

Description A: yellow and red streets, friendly people welcoming you, rum and coke flavor, animal sacrifices in every corner of the street. Wrong.

Description B: nobody cares of people strolling around, its easy to walk alone. Wrong. “Psst-psst.” Wrong.

Description C: unsafe – there are no attractions worth that name.
To check.

After a lot of “psst-psst” and undressing looking, I stopped at a green corner, which ended up being a dusty-and-green combination juice bar and a grocery store. The sign was orange chalk on a school-size blackboard: “Juices.”

Everything was white and orange, plastic stained and burnt table cloths, straws, plastic flowers, and the frame of a big dog picture. Some good old well-known regulars (unlike me) were sitting on a bench, analyzing the situation outside, without talking. Still and bitter atmosphere. The whole place looked like a doll house – children’s drawings hanging on the wall, an elephant-shaped teapot, nail polish bottles, Miami postcards, and plastic grapes. And, right in front of that, a quite young man washing coffee cups, laughing at the guy behind a castle of watermelons and bananas.
The main attraction: a big steel juicer shining under the sun outside.

A short Cuban lady –the owner- looked at me with a who-are-you-and-what-the-hell-is-that-camera expression. To make sure I got the message she asked, “what do you want?”
Unimpeachable customer care.

“Can I have a strawberry juice?”

“We don’t have.”

“Cantaloupe?”

“We don’t have.”

“Watermelon?”

“Do you want a carrot-orange-lemon juice?”

Quiet, she started making my juice and three or four carrots drowned in that juice maker. Noisy. There was something very attractive about it. “Why don’t you take a picture of me?” I did, and she immediately stopped being interested in my camera.

After that, Little Havana became a dreamy view through plastic cups filled up of that juice. A stroke of still-life in my sight-seeing mood. To know more of this small world drowned in itself, apparently, I need I guide. (Like Dante, mpf)

A fat Argentinean guy showed a statue of Holy Mary holding a beheaded Holy Child. (Luckily, a fervid Christian put a plastic pink gardenia as substitutive head and gained his way to Heaven)

Second guide, Lorenzo. 70-year old Cuban man with light blue eyes. “My wife is in Cuba,” he said. “I left Cuba more than 30 years ago, because I hated it. I hate Miami, too. But I play domino.” In few minutes he introduced me the whole domino club –Little Havana’s throbbing heart- and forced me to drink 5 coladas in two minutes, with his sweet toothless smile. Around the tables, smell of cigars and sweat, and words coming from their mouths like snakes, lisping.

“Cuba is my heart.”

“Cuba is connected to Sicilian mafia, do you know that Italian girl?”

“I wanna be buried in Cuba.”

“Cuba was wealthy and happy, once upon a time.”

No present, only past and future, memories and hopes. “I buy gold in Colombia,” says Lorenzo, “to sell it here. I make good money, I have never been a Communist. Cuba is Communist. People die in Cuba, they don’t have enough food and children don’t have milk. And if they have some, they grow, but they are not happy. You are very lucky, you know? Why don’t you write something about that?” Well, I tried.

(Can I leave a sentimental note? I miss you a lot, all of you. Oofa.)

[Previously by Veronica: Miami is A Rebours ]

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New Staff

cat kills mouse Critical Miami welcomes Sophie, the latest addition to our staff. Sophie will head up the copy editing and fact checking departments, so look for improvements in those areas in the near future.

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Take this Carpool and Shove It

HOV lane 6 am - 10 am, 3 pm - 7 pm The shit was supposed to hit the fan with extended “High Occupancy Vehicle Only” lanes on July 1st, but now the whole thing is postponed until further notice. Someone at FDOT maybe had the thought that _“If a program is failing, why not expand it”_ was not the best policy. Weird, eh? We will be calling our man Ali K on Monday to get to the bottom of this.

Meanwhile, the FDOT’s whole stupid website seems to be built from PDF’s. When will the madness end??

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Thursday June 16, 2005

Art Collector Factions

The Miami Art Museum has started up something called the Collectors Council. Collectors pony up $5,000 per year to be a part of the group; the money gets spent on collections. Debra and Dennis Scholl are in (the launch party was at their house). Marty Margulies, we assume, is not. For him and others who are pissed about the MAM moving into Bicentennial Park, may we suggest writing a check to these people.

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Wednesday June 15, 2005

Ceviche Curious

A friend of ours was talking about ceviche this weekend, and we were intrigued. In a nutshell, it’s seafood that is prepared by marinating in lime or lemon juice, which apparently does something very similar to cooking it. So whether the fish is cooked or raw starts to become a semantic issue. Our kind of food.

Originally Incan, this idea has had time to develop variations specific to most South American countries, which, in turn, makes it ripe for adoption by US fooderati. This guy writes very passionately about ceviche and a restaurant in North Miami called Mi Peru, which makes the best stuff in town according to him. We’ve been to Mi Peru, and can vouch for its hidden-sercretness. But we’ve never had ceviche – yet. Stay tuned…

Now, this would all be sort of disgusting if we hadn’t all been eating raw fish for years. As it stands, it’s merely interesting. Gothamist came up with this variation, involving tuna that touches lemon for “only the minutes it takes to go from kitchen to mouth.” The smart person will move now to figure out a safe way to serve beef tartar.

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Bow Down to the Master Meter

Master meters have pushed out old-school parking meters pretty much everywhere now. Critics point out that they’re unfair because it’s impossible to add money to a parked car without loosing an existing balance. We actually prefer them, (setting aside our belief that the US Constitution grants us the right to park free anywhere we go,) because we need to save our quarters for laundry.

Coral Gables has launched a new system where you pay your parking meter by cell phone. Why it’s cool is that you pay for exactly the time you use, and you don’t have to scrounge around for money; you call a number when you park, punch in the number of the spot you’re at, and then call back when you leave, and it charges you for the exact time. Why it bites is that you have to register for it, and you’re still paying for something that ought to be free. Don’t bother checking Coral Gables’ parking web site, because it provides on information on the program.

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Tuesday June 14, 2005

Go See Art

Our man of the pallet-knife has emerged from weeks of squinting into a tiny powerbook, and launched Go See Art. Anyone not feeling optimistic and grateful about this is free to tell us how they find out what’s opening when in the gallery world (our solution thus far has been to go to as many things as possible and geekily pick up every single flyer and card laying around). Ever since The Street died, there has been no central clearinghouse for this information. Franklin expects to make money with this site which, um, more power to him if he does.

It’s always fun to link to all of Franklin’s sites: if the web were a monopoly board, he’d be pulling in major rent money (sadly, the formerly glorious pink www.thesunburn.com now forwards to Go See Art).

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$1.50 ?!?

Over at City Debate, North Beach William breaks down the recent Metro-Dade bus rate hike. We agree that this is pretty straightforward price-gouging (the agency’s site, by the way, is unapologetic), but we disagree about the state of the public transit system. Considering how sprawled-out Miami is, the fact that any viable bus service is possible is impressive. And we love when they drive fast – there’s nothing like zipping through traffic, knowing that the 5-ton vehicle you’re in can hit a Hummer and win.

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Sunday June 12, 2005

Freedom for My People

Freedom tower proposal The latest in crazy downtown buildup seems to be that developers now have their eye on the freedom tower property.

Well, nevermind “have their eye on.” Actually, they’ve bought the damned thing, and are on the cusp of getting the city commission to approve a plan to tear off the large building that surrounds the tower, and build a huge condo with a little sliver cut out of it for the tower to sit in. If you squint at the picture you’ll see the little tower, with the building looming over and around it. CM is a little apprehensive about the massive buildup of Miami, but this really does seem to be going too far. The Freedom Tower is one of the few actual historical landmarks this city has.

The Miami Planning Advisory Board will be getting together at 6 pm Wednesday at Miami City Hall (3500 Pan American Dr.), to consider the Freedom Tower condo proposal, among other projects. They’ll be taking public comments, so if you’re in the neighborhood you just might want to stop by and share your thoughts on this project.

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Friday June 10, 2005

Express Yourself

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

They call themselves Lactivists,
and their thing is, they claim a right to breast-feed in public. Recently they captured some spotlight when talking head Baba Wawa commented how sitting aside a breast-feeder on an airplane ride “made her uncomfortable.” As a result, ordes of milking mothers marched in protest on the streets outside ABC studios in Noo Yawk.

(It probably made the nursing baby a bit queasy, too: Baba Wawa’s face and voice have been known to curdle dairy products at 50 paces.)

It is almost unanimously agreed that in terms of babies’ health, breast-feeding is a good idea. The American Academy of Pediatrics bestows considerable praise on the practice and offers nifty tips on how-to and how often, and even how to prevent “spillage.” Impassioned websites affirm a god-given right to suckle and feed, citing constitutional authority and references in the hallowed Federalist Papers. And Lactivists liken the discomfort experienced by spectators to that of observers unnerved by the sight of mixed-race couples years ago. “Breast feeding is the most natural act on earth,” sniffed one irked Feedist, “and these vicious ignorant attacks against nursing are blind, stupid prejudice.”

With all due respect, mom, shitting is a natural act, too, but I doubt the world would be better off if people resumed its practice “on the sides of roads / as in days of old / ’for toilets were invented.” Picking your nose at the dinner table is pretty natural, too: will its execution by your partner enhance your dining experience? And what about exuberant expressions of love and affection? Wanna turn around on the bus and see grandpa teabagging grandma? It’s only natural.

It’s real simple. Even if the right to breast-feed existed (and it doesn’t), and even if it’s good for the little toothless product of your loins (ok, it is) it still doesn’t mean the rest of the world wants to see it, or needs to. Babies are sufficiently ghastly creatures even when they’re not gnawing on tits, drooling lactose, and yakking up furballs. At long last, have some fucking decency. Most of us find breast-feeding an appalling, nauseating spectacle akin to farting in a crowded elevator and about that sexy – another natural act; a perfectly normal scatological function – but nothing anybody else wants any part of no matter how great if makes you feel, and how good it is for your digestion.

Of course, I’d feel entirely different about this if instead of milk, young mothers’ breasts were filled with ice cold beer available on draft directly from the glorious moist red nipple or conveniently expressed into frozen mugs. (Naturally, the drinking age would remain at 21.)
You’d find me out there sweating on the protest line with the other Maltivists, thirsty for jusice and fore, er, fair play.

[See all Articles by Steve]

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Thursday June 9, 2005

Flight, Tonight

TM '05 The Miami Light Project somehow manages to make everything they do feel special. Now we have them venturing into visual art; tonight (Thursday) is the opening of Flight, an exhibition of video, drawing, photography, and mixed media pieces, in their “Light Box” performance space.

Curated by Nikki Beem, the show includes work by Meg Pukel, José Pacheco Silva, Maria José Arjona (who’s been busy lately), and CM pals the TM Sisters. We recognize that putting together a show with a theme like “flight and transcendence” is not an easy proposition, but we’re betting this one is going to be worth a trip. No regularly scheduled gallery hours, so you may as well come to the opening:

The Light Box, 7 – 10 pm
3000 Biscayne Blvd. (Suite 100)
305. 576. 4350

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Wednesday June 8, 2005

Taxi Boat

By now, everyone’s heard about the Cuban refugees on the taxi-cab converted to a boat. Here’s the picture nobody else seems to have. These guys are, like, super-jealous.

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Tuesday June 7, 2005

David Sedaris

OK you NPR-loving pinheads, here’s a test of your devotion. The good news is that David Sedaris is going to be speaking at Books & Books, and the event is limited to a nice intimate 150 people. The bad news is that to get your hands on one of those tickets, you need to buy two books: his two latest collection, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim plus Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, short stories by others which he edited, and request your ticket at the same time. The two books together come to over thirty bucks – small price to pay to hang with the guy who is, like, totally your hero. (June 23, but hurry up, the space is going to fill fast.)

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Monday June 6, 2005

iVotronic Disenfranchisement Machines

Anybody who knows anything about computers knew that computerized voting machines were a bad idea, even before the systems Florida is using started to show their numerous problems. Ridiculously expensive, difficult to use, and inacurate (choice detail: the machines take so long to boot up that voting officials have been turning them on the evening before elections, then guarding them overnight).

There have been reports of the machines loosing votes, and at least one instance of vote manufacturing. And even with all that money already spent, future elections using the contraptions will cost $4 million each (punch-ballot elections used to cost $1 million). What with all of that, it’s no surprise that ditching them is starting to sound like a viable option. What’s so great about this is that, for example, Brazil has had a reliable, high-tech system in place for years.

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Sunday June 5, 2005

Wing Babes

Critical Miami was lounging around the house this afternoon, sipping a mediocre single-malt, listening to a CD picked up at Dorsch’s garage sale, and idly flipping through the New Times best-of Miami issue (which usually lingers, unread, for a couple of months every year). The actual listings are boring and predictable. But.

We actually noticed an ad. It’s for something called wingbabes. Check this shit out:

A WingBabe is your personal wingman for the night whose only goal is to make you look good and help you meet other women. An effective WingBabe can have an amazing difference on your night – from meeting other women to simply making it easier to get into the clubs. And if you don’t know Miami – there is no better way to learn about the night life.

Of course we saw this on CSI:Miami awhile back, but it somehow registered as a fictional, or semi-fictional thing. Dang; it’s for real. We’re sitting here trying to picture a person who’s too meek to ask a woman out himself, but assertive enough to get help from a service . . . a corporation actually. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. Just seems so utterly bizarre and post-everything.

[Note: Internet connection problems persist at CM headquarters (in fact, we’re writing this from Kafka’s). Blogging will return to full-strenghth within a few days.]

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Saturday June 4, 2005

Sun Post

Critical Miami takes an interest in local publications. The Sun Post is one that has been plesantly suprising us lately. We’ve passed their metal distribution boxes next to the New Times’ for years without so much as a second glance. But having picked up copies now and again lately, and occasionally stopping by their web site, we find something impressive about this publication. With all the talk about the imminent death of newspapers, here is a serious, readable, and informative free weekly (?) newspaper. Suprise. Omar Sommereyns, formerly of The Street, was apparently picked up by them after that mostly-useless City-Link wannabee folded. His heart may be elsewhere, but he turns in solid, professional work here. In fact, two the current issue’s three cover stories are by him (one about a Miami Beach Commission election, one about cat calls during memorial weekend).

The issue’s fifty or so pages have a high ratio of relevant, local content. How does a free publication do it? A pull-out “advetroial” section reveals: big fat residential development marketing bucks. But so what? This kind of money funds plenty of crap. At least here it’s fundint a decent publication, and one which seems like it might have the editorial integrity to question those rich patrons should a story call for it. Do they? Our impression is yes, but we’ll keep an eye on them out of curiosity.

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Friday June 3, 2005

There Goes the Neighborhood

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

The re-examination of Miami-Dade’s urban limits begins in April of every odd year, when the Planning & Zoning Department accepts applications.Miami Herald

Must be another odd year—but aren’t they all?

Ten, count-em, ten separate applications have been filed in Miami-Dade County to extend the Urban Development Boundary farther west The only real question is, how far west will it go?

I don’t understand why we’re nickel and diming this issue, moving the boundary a couple miles at a time every decade. Let’s just move it out to the Collier County line. In fact, why stop there? Let’s go to the Gulf. I’m sure we can buy an intelligence report and a Federal agency that support a case for Naples and Ft. Myers possessing weapons of mass destruction—Miami-Dade County troops, led by Police Czar Timoney on his militarily-modified swamp hopper bicycle, could launch a shock-and-awe type of strike and claim both cities.

Evidently, we won’t stop until every toad, bird, and palm tree is deader than King Tut, and every drop of water is three parts petroleum by-product. At this writing, 700,000 residential units are planned or under construction in Miami-Dade County alone but that’s not enough—Go West, Young Builder, and plunder the Earth. Who gives a shit about the environment anyway? We have air conditioning.

There’s even a surefire positive way to spin it: It’s to Protect Our Children! With the cities falling over one another in a frenzy to pass ordinances prohibiting convicted sex offenders from living in the same time zone as a school or playground, let’s clear a space out in the swamp where they all can legally relocate. Call it the Evergropes. Jerk Circle West. Hey, great exposure! (Jackson’s Hole has already been claimed, right?)

And hell, with the cost of South Florida housing where it is, only the finer class of pants-dropping, sneak-in-the-night pervert would find it a feasible move Snakes and skeeters would leave on their own, clearing the way for new, non-native vermin. Say—that rather describes what’s happening anyway.

Build Baby Build.

[See all Articles by Steve]

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