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Wednesday November 30, 2005

More Basel, more problems

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Tuesday November 29, 2005

Whither the weather?

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

Epsilon hasn’t a clue. The 26th named storm of the record 2005 season doesn’t realize that she (he? it??) is doomed to oblivion; a death sentence to be carried out on Thursday 12/1 at 12:01 am. When the dawn breaks, there will be no sign of the straggling storm. As everybody knows, Hurricane Season runs from June 1 through Nov 30. There are no exceptions. Rules are rules, and as Masters of the Universe, we need to enforce the rules we create.

As sure as there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; as certain as from her deathbed Terry Schiavo asked to live; as absolutely Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman, this hurricane season will abruptly cease at midnight. These are the fundamental building blocks on which we Americans build our beliefs. The check is in the mail, I won’t cum in your mouth, and I’m from the government here to help you.

If there’s one lesson we South Floridians should learn from this season, it’s that when it comes to hurricanes, nobody out there has any idea what’s going on, what to do, or what to advise, not that it silences a single soul. Chief among the ignoramuses is FPL, of course, but only because of its rancid prominence and far-reaching capacity for ruin. We haven’t even started on FEMA. And those pathetic faux prophets at the Hurricane Center might as well be witches ‘round a bubbling cauldron. Category One my hairy yellow ass.

So we welcome the end of the season, whenever it arrives. But we’re keeping the candles and the cans of Dinty Moore Stew for a little while longer. You never know.

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The obligatory Art Basel guide

First of all, this pdf at the Basel site, which lists all the official and semi-official happenings, might be everything that you need. Still, we have some observations:

Mo’ updates:

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Sunday November 27, 2005

Hey hey we’re the monkeys!

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

Deep down, in your heart of hearts, haven’t you been puzzled, even disappointed, that the Darwinist/Evolution vs Creationism/Intelligent Design debate has sidestepped the state of Flori-duh? I mean, don’t we have right here in the nation’s dicktip the perfect combination of drooling Christian gooberism and secular, urban contempt?

My friends, your prayers are answered. Dig:

Personally, I don’t understand how evolution works. I don’t understand how you went from one cell and then all of a sudden you get man…..I think [the evolution theory] makes as much sense as saying God created man.

You’ll find this gem in today’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel because its source is Stephanie Kraft, Esq. a member of the Broward County School Board, 6th largest in the nation.

There’s nothing new to add to the debate, which was settled over a century ago. You need credentials as a card-carrying Shithead—which I assume Ms. Kraft (Esq.) could produce on demand—to posit otherwise. If you want the reason that Flori-duh ranks 50th among the states in high school graduation rates, you need look no further: here’s your school board, charged with devising, implementing, and overseeing the education of our young, admitting—proclaiming!— that she “doesn’t understand how evolution works.” Would you want high school graduates to make that claim on Commencement Day? Do you think the world’s top corporations, the nation’s finest universities, etc., would welcome such ignoramuses into their fold?

Why is this stuttering dunce allowed to get near innocent children, let alone play a significant role in their education?

Stay tuned. This is the next Terri Schiavo story.

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Saturday November 26, 2005

SoFla blog scene picks up steam

Sorry to bug you with a nother post about Miami blogs, but there’s lots going on. We’re going to sail through it, and then lay off the blogs for awhile; fair enough? (BTW, we’re much more interested in blogs about Miami, not just bloggers who happen to be in Miami).

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What's up with the dean of UM?

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

Personally I don’t give a rat’s ass about college football, and in fact my observation is that in general, schools that take their sports programs seriously take their academics lightly, and attract both a student body and faculty of decidedly less ambition and achievement. Say, like, University of Miami.

The recent campus incident involving sophomore Kyle Munzenreider, who published a link on his blog (Miamity) to the football players’ 2-year old thugaphonic stab at art, is a perfect example of everything wrong with a school that prizes football over all else. It needs to be thoroughly researched and written up as a textbook case of what a serious Academy should not do. Ever.

The kid is on his way out the door—ultimately this may turn out in his favor, as he’s obviously too bright, too motivated, and too advanced in his development for the Coral Gables Temple of Basketweaving—for the High Crime and Cardinal Sin of embarrassing the football program. Disregarding the obvious point that the players themselves, the ones who actually recorded the dick-waving song, are the genuine culprits in the embarrassment category, exactly what did the blogger do that was wrong, let alone illegal? How do you defenestrate a student for “embarrassing” the football program? Isn’t that action in itself rather embarrassing to the whole university?

If the cover story of Thursday’s Miami Hurled is accurate, the real embarrassment here is the conduct of the Dean. (College deans are almost universally reviled by faculties and students alike. For the most part, they are failed academics—glorified bureaucrats whose lack of people-skills made them ineffective teachers, and whose intellectual shortcomings ensured their career status as mediocre academicians. They end up—where else?—in management). This poor deluded dunce calls the cops (“Arrest that kid! He embarrassed the football program!”) and has the kid delivered to his office on the pretense his “suicide note” posted on Miamity was genuine. This keen Dean still wonders why Curly doesn’t bleed when Moe smacks him with a hammer.

And apparently during the interrogation the Dean had a staff shrink stowed away in the next room (what, spying? It’s not clear, which is why before it goes into the textbooks, further research is needed) who pops in and advises the kid to go home (based on what? Eavesdropping?), and he gets bounced from the dorm. How does this work? If the suicide note is genuine, he’s tossed into the street unsupervised, out of care and custody. Very responsible. If it isn’t genuine, why evict him?

These are not first-raters we’re dealing with here, but as noted above, this is the dismal mediocrity generated by a university that prizes its football program above all else. If I’m on the Board of Trustees, I’m outraged and want an accounting directly from the Dean, who BTW anounced his retirement last September and ain’t talkin’ now. Perhaps he’s arrived at the conclusion that it’s better to clam up and be thought a fool than to open his pie hole and remove all doubt.

Update: Deadspin agrees, and provides an e-mail address for those who want to share their disgust with his decision.

Update (Nov. 28): The school responds.

Update (Nov. 28): Kyle responds to the school’s response.

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Thursday November 24, 2005

Should newspapers be publicly traded?

Drawing of the proposed Watson Island Shangri-La, criticized by the Herald

Happy turkey-day, folks. This morning, we’re looking at an essay by our man Michael Lewis, “Just when we thought we’d outgrown childish name-calling …,” written in response to this article in the Herald. The whole thing is worth reading, but his basic point is that the Herald is taking three people’s unsubstantiated accusations and giving them inappropriate legitimacy.

What’s not proper is a headline that states that the hotel has communist ties – because that’s what “Hotel plan bashed for communist ties” says. It doesn’t say “alleged communist ties” – it assumes that if “activist and radio personality Ninoska Perez-Castellon” and city commissioner and radio commentator Tomas Regalado bash it, it’s got communist ties. That’s worse than allowing name-calling in print – it’s not only dignifying the ridiculous in a major newspaper, it’s accepting the name-calling as fact.

Michael ends with a riff about how we live in a free country, people are free to say what they want, newspapers are free to print whatever they want, he’s free to respond anyway he wants, and “[y]ou can decide which media sources you also want to skip.” And that is precisely where we have to disagree.

Now, Miami Today does some wonderful reporting (mostly on business), as does the New Times, the Sun Post, and other local weeklies. But Miami remains a one-paper town. For whatever its flaws, the Herald gets a lot of reporting done that nobody else is in a position to do. The people who criticize it the most are also the people who care the most about newspaper reporting, and so the people most likely to read it. This very blog relies on the Herald for some of its content.

The Herald has bigger issues, though (in fact, the entire newspaper industry does). Knight Ridder, the company that owns the Herald, is up for sale. Why? ‘Cause of the shareholders. It turns out, though, that the company is not loosing money. In fact,

Despite the gloom about the business on Wall Street, Knight Ridder and other newspaper companies remain profitable. In the third quarter of 2005, Knight Ridder reported operating income of $96.3 million, down from $126.5 million for the same period last year. Revenue for the quarter grew to $723.8 million from $708 million a year earlier.

Doesn’t sound so bad, right? The problem is that the company is publicly traded, and stockholders don’t care about a newspaper’s level of service to its community, or even, amazingly, about profits — they care about their stock prices. When the stock prices go up, they’re happy. When they go down, they demand changes, even if those changes are bad for the company in the long run (in fact, shareholder demands sometimes lead to the dissolution of companies).

There’s nothing wrong with newspapers being for-profit organizations, but when that for-profit status hurts their long-term success, maybe a transition to non-profit status is the answer. Think about it — the newspaper could continue to operate as it has, collecting ad revenue and subscription fees (in fact, it could solicit philanthropic contributions), but it’s board of directors would be replaced with a board of trustees, who’d have the community’s best interests in mind, along with the organization’s (those interests seem pretty compatible for a newspaper). We’ve heard of non-profit newspapers starting from scratch, but never of such a transition. In fact while the internet is full of stories about non-profits becoming for-profits, the only instance we could find of the reverse was a little software firm. Is it a good idea? Is it even possible? We welcome our readers’ input: the comment boards are open.

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Wednesday November 23, 2005

Terrorist suspect exonerated

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

Basuyouy Mamdouh Ebaid is back from prison. Arrested for allegedly selling liquor to minors, and already bearing a police record for possession of less than 20 grams of smoke, the real problem for the Hollywood restaurateur was the effrontery of committing CBWS (Conducting Business While Swarthy): Mr. Ebaid is Egyptian. This poor choice of ethnic selection prompted officials to compare his name to a terrorist watch list, where lo and behold, they found a match. Nine months and two prisons later, later his record has been cleaned out, just like his business, which of course went to hell in his absence. Is this a great country or what?

‘’What the American justice system has done for me is making me love the country more,’’ Ebaid told the Associated Press. The man is no fool: he’s applying for citizenship based in part on his marriage to an American and his reluctance to be deported to Egypt where authorities noted he might be subject to detention and torture.

Authorities vehemently denied rumors that Mr. Ebaid’s release had anything to do with a plan to link the arrival of the King Tut exhibition in south Florida with high-profile actions to generate good will in the huge Egyptian-American community.

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Tuesday November 22, 2005

Bobbin’ (and weavin’) Graham

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

Packing former Senator Bob Graham away to Harvard hasn’t eliminated him from the local scene. So long as there’s a Miami Hurled, there’s one media outlet still interested in what the poor dullard has to say.

In today’s paper, Bobby Applecheeks once again reiterates his defense of his colleagues’ ill-advised vote to authorize President Monkey Boy’s Excellent Adventure in Iraq, despite the warning signs that he alone—Bobby Applecheeks—claims he had access to, but the significance of which he couldn’t quite convince even members of his own party.

In his career at a US Senator, Bob Graham raised the bar for future loiterers to new achievement levels. Toiling in sensitive Senate committees such as Armed Forces, Intelligence (another oxymoron), the aristocratic son of privilege never found a military appropriation he didn’t like, never rocked the boat, never created a whisper of discontent in all his years that maybe something was amiss. So docile, so low-key, so ethereal was his presence in dog-eat-dog DC that in 2003, when he underwent heart surgery, it was rumored that the transplanted valve from a Holstein cow he received replaced one from the lamb he’d been born with.

He was right to vote No on the resolution authorizing war. He was damn near alone in so doing. But where was he the entire time—with his doubts, his suspicions, his insider information about the way intelligence was being manipulated at the highest levels—in the years leading up to that vote? He says he was tipped off by General Tommy “Doesn’t Know What Day It Is” Franks a full year in advance that the Neo-ConArtists and Chicken Hawks were plotting a war in Iraq. He was right there at ringside and never rang the bell. He was too busy being Little Bobby Applecheeks, writing about his blue shorts and pink ears in his little personal color-coded notebooks. He was late to the game, and when he finally clambered up on his hind legs to howl at the moon, it was too little, too late.

Only in Florid-duh could a good ole goober like this achieve such renown. In 2004, with the Democrats already in disarray and scratching for a victory, the national party rejected him as their candidate for Vice President (which he was dying to accept), even with the knowledge that he would deliver the crucial Florida vote. “He’d probably win Florida, alright, but when the rest of the country gets a gander at him, he’d lose every voter with an IQ over room temperature,” one commentator cracked. “Next to Kerry he’d look like Deppity Dawg. Shit—he’d even make George W. Bush look bright— that’s Dan Quayle turf!”

Bobby Applecheeks won’t go quietly; he’s justifiably worried about his legacy. He was replaced by a Republican—another indication of his own shaky influence—and is headed for oblivion. We wish him godspeed and a speedy voyage.

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Tuesday linkup

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Monday November 21, 2005

How long can we hold the line?

This struggle is as basic as the one between man and beast. In fact, it sort of is the struggle between man and beast. Every single day, 800 people move to Florida. Some of them want to live in a 1920’s house east of Biscayne. Some want to live in one of the snazzy new downtown condos. Some want to live in an appartment that’s affordable, and close to their job. But the overwhelming majority want a nice, brand new house, with a two-car garage, a big lawn, and a swimming pool. And they’re willing to commit well over a quarter million dollars to get one. That, my friends, will buy a lot of political pressure.

So maybe our friends at Hold the Line are fighting the rivers of time. The only thing they have on their side is a good argument, which goes something like this: unchecked development will run roughshod (will? ney- it has!) over the everglades, gradually destroying the natural ecosystem, all the while contributing to our unhealthy urban-sprawl city unplanning. A low-density city, they claim, is bad for the enviroment, bad for our social lives, and bad for numerous other reasons. Well, putting reasoning and studies by some of the most respected organizations in our country against well-paid lobbyists is just not a fair fight.

Why? Well, lobbyists won’t argue for urban sprawl as a desirable goal; they argue for the one particular development that they’re representing at any given point. And, taken individually, we suppose any development might sound good. Well, folks, nine developments go befor the County Commission today, asking to have the Urban Development Boundary expanded—just a little, you understand?

The Sunday Herald ran two articles about this, one a basic summary of the situation, the other an editorial by Carl Hiaasen. Carl is great – he’s not afraid to say that the developers are out for themselves, and we, the people, need to stick up for ourselves. On this, the Hold the Line folks agree – anyone who can make it to the meeting this Monday morning should get down there. Just putting in an appearance will make a difference, but by all means register to make a public comment. The meeting will be held at the County Chambers, on the second floor of 111 NW 1st Street. More information, along with instructions for e-mailing your commissioner if you can’t attend, here. Hold that line, y’all. And in the meantime, support your existing infastructure and city history by living as far east as you can.

Update: This morning, the Herald added a more official editorial aimed at the commissioners themselves:

Developers eager go outside the UDB say that it is the only place with land affordable enough to build reasonably priced homes. But the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning says there is enough land to continue building homes within the UDB until 2018. More important, adding to Miami-Dade’s sprawl will increase costs for all taxpayers. The reasons are well documented in studies and books.

Fair enough, but Hiaasen’s please are more relevant to the reader – they are about what we can do: show up at the meeting and tell our commissioners what we want.

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Downtown Sheraton blown up

The Sheraton on the river in downtown was blown up yesterday. Here’s a link to the video (requires IE, or some crappy pluggin), here is a link to some more information. It looks like the best place to watch from would have been private property, or from a boat. We visited this place between the time it was slated for destruction and when it actually closed to the public. A strange place, with lots of eerie personality.

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Saturday November 19, 2005

The 'don’t let your ho go to the 7th floor' wrap-up

By now, the whole goddamned world has heard of the troubles Kyle has seen (the story was mentioned on Channel-7 morning news on Friday) since his original post about “Don’t Let Your Ho Go to The 7th Floor,” a song recorded by members of the Miami Hurricanes a couple of years ago. We mentioned it the other day, but a lot has happened since then, and we have a few observations to make:

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Friday November 18, 2005

Nervous City Orchestra

A funny exchange overheard at the show last night: “I wonder if they’re going to come out wearing matching outfits or anything.” “What, you mean like tuxedos?” “Yeah.” “Um, it’s not that kind of show.” “Yeah, but that’s what would make it cool – it would be the unexpected thing.” “I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be that kind of ‘unexpected.’”

You can imagine what kind of jerk that guy (the same guy writing this, by the way) felt like when the Nervous City Orchestra took the stage in only slightly mismatched tuxes. Sharp as they looked, though, the music was sharper. Anyone expecting a loose jam session was in for a surprise – this was music that, for all its spontaneous open-endedness, was decidedly composed. Often whimsical, it was deceptively lean – the musical ideas came one after another, each given just enough time to make itself felt. William Keddell was there, as was Jim DeFede (nodding approvingly from the front row). A little girl next to us danced for half the show, then settled into a nap for one of the quieter moments.

Let’s be clear – this was some weird stuff, with bizarre elements and unexpected juxtapositions at almost every turn. Yet it never lost its groove; it was like equal parts Maria Bauza and John Zorn. Yet it never became difficult. In a sense, it was perfectly balanced music, serving the body, the mind, and the soul in equal portions. Employing rhythms from all over the world (often at once), bizarre call-and-response (drum solo vs. flute?), and shifts in timbre and dynamics, and the occasional visual gag, it left no stones unturned.

Best of all, Nervous City is a pure Miami thing. The music was composed and directed by Brazilian composer Livio Tragtenberg (who also played some bass clarinet), but the orchestra was assembled from South Florida’s local musical community: 15 of our best musicians, representing all the different musical styles found in our community (some quite unexpected), including South American, Caribbean, folk, jazz, classical, and avant-garde. There were no solos per se, yet amazingly, every one of them got a chance to shine. Read all about them on the Tigertail page. If you’re like us, you’re going to spend the next few months trying to catch them with their own regular bands. In the meantime, though, if you care about creative music, don’t let yourself miss this performance.

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Basel weekend countdown: 2

Critical Miami likes to get ready for Art Basel by getting some performing art under our belts. This happens to be a good weekend to do just that:

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Thursday November 17, 2005

Pressure systems

Cold
Good news for those of us who secretly hate South Florida weather: the first sweater-able temperatures are coming, in the form of a cold front that will sweep through sometime between Sunday and Monday. If the meteorologists are right (and really, when are they ever not), we should have highs in the mid to low 70’s most of next week.

Something about your Ho . . .
The shit hit the fan over at Miamity yesterday, over a post about a song a few members of the Miami Heat Hurricanes recorded a few years ago. It did that internet wildfire thing, and the site, which had been receiving maybe 300 hits per day, was up to 5,000 hits in the space of a few hours after the whole sports world, including espn.com, linked to it. Racist comments and threatening e-mails ensued, and the post was yanked from the site. For the interested, here is a link to the Google cache version of the page.

Pre-Basel Tension
Can you feel it in the air? With Art Basel just two weeks away, Miami galleries are spit-shining their floors, breaking out the blockbusters, and printing their foil-embossed-best invitations of the year. Over on Artblog, Franklin quotes a glossy magazine quoting Franklin about the effects of the fair, and hilarity ensues in the comments. Meanwhile, The Next Few Hours has its own doubts, as does Onajídé at MAEx.

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Wednesday November 16, 2005

How not to win friends and influence people

Considering that Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Art’s regular admission of $12 is being more then doubled (to $25) for the King Tut exhibition, we were exited to see this envelope appear in our mailbox. That’s right folks – two free tickets to the King Tut exhibition the whole world is talking about. The exitement took a turn towards irritationville, though, when we opened the envelope and learned that the pair of tickets is “free” after you purchase a $150 membership. Oops!

Now, whoever thinks this sort of marketing approach is a good idea (high-speed internet providers are notorious for this sort of thing), listen here: YOU ARE FUCKING WITH OUR HEADS. This is your audience talking, and we do not appreciate it. Our chances of ponying up to see Tutankhamun just took a dip toward the chilly.

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Maybe this would be a good time to get the trucks off the beach

This is an ATV. They’re really great for getting around off-road (say, on the beach), they allow the driver excellent visibility, and their fat tires exert very low per-square inch pressure downward. All of this makes it much more difficult to kill someone by running them over with one, then if you’re driving, say, a one and a half ton Ford Explorer. Yet that’s what City of Miami Beach employees continue to drive on the beach. After one person was killed and another injured in 2003 (the European tourists, remember?), the city changed the rules, so these trucks can only operate west of the garbage cans. But people keep getting run over: this time, a 19 year old girl who, thankfully, survived.

Here’s an idea: how about removing all the trucks from the beach? This was a life guard on his way somewhere. Would a mountain bike not have worked? Or one of those ATV’s? Let’s make a compromise: let the guys who make one run down the beach pick up the trash in the mornings use a truck. After that, keep the trucks in the street.

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The line gets held - sort of?

The news is in:

The Miami-Dade Planning Advisory Board is recommending that the County Commission reject five of nine applications filed by developers to move the Urban Development Boundary . . . approve three applications and decided to take no position on another.

Huh? So we’re moving the line only three times, and that’s a victory? Hold the line . . . we’re going to look into this a little and get right back to you…

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Tuesday November 15, 2005

Tuesday morning clickiage

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Monday November 14, 2005

Coconut Grove Playhouse historical designation

The New Times accouses the Coconut Grove Playhouse board of hypocrisy. To encapsulate: the board of the Playhouse will appeal a decision declaring the building historical, even though they’ve played up its historical nature in the past, when it was to their advantage. The issue here is whether the whole building gets preserved, or just the facade, allowing the interior to be rebuilt, to accommodate a broader range of plays.

Sorry, but that is not hypocrisy – it’s business. Running an old theater takes lots of money, and if government grants are available to cover some of those expenses, an organization should use whatever reasonable argument it can to go after that money. Does that lock them into that line of reasoning for evermore? Hardly. The organization needs to do what they can to serve their community, and here, both solutions (preserve the exterior/rebuild the interior vs. preserve everything) have their obvious advantages. The Playhouse has the option to go back to the preservation board with a new plan, or appeal the decision to the city commission. When decisions this important need to be made, a long and bureaucratic process may just be the best way. (For more information, see the Grove First archive on the subject.)

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Thursday November 10, 2005

Out on the weekend

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Haunted Miami

Our pal Patrick Ryel sent this along from his new digs in Ohio: a list of haunted places in Florida, with a very prominent Miami section. For example, this is about Miami River Inn (pictured):

This is a beautiful hotel on the edge of Miami River in the oldest part of town. Henry Flagler and many U.S. Presidents stayed there during their visits to the city. It has been around since the early 1900’s and has been restored a few times. In one of the cabins, there are many noises heard by the concierge and security guards. Many guests who check into the cabin complain about the noises and request a room change the next day. The noises that are heard are part of a series, almost like a night repeating itself at 11 PM every day. If you stay in the first front room, you can hear a door opening and shutting very loudly, feet wiping on the welcome matt and then a brief silence followed by running towards your room and a fierce shaking of the door knob, which you can even see move. The shaking gives up and is followed by the crashing and breaking of antique ornaments right outside of your room, then running up the front stairs followed by the opening of a door in the room above yours. The worst is what commences after a minute of silence in the room upstairs. For an hour, furniture can be heard moving, scraping and the room can be felt vibrating. Finally, the sound ceases and there is silence once again, try going to sleep after that.

Spooky! We always heard the Biltmore Hotel was hanuted, but apparently not. Maybe the ghosts went away?

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Wednesday November 9, 2005

Strike thrower / strike breaker / flame thrower

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

Former Florida Marlins relief pitcher Ugueth Urtain Urbina has traded his seat in the bullpen for a small jail cell in his native Venezuela, where he and his family own large tracts of land. Five agricultural workers claim Urbina tied them up, beat them with a machete and set fire to one of them after dousing him with gasoline.

It’s not the first example of employee/employer strife between the Urbinas and their labor force. Last year the pitcher’s aged mother was abducted and held for ransom by (allegedly) kidnappers hired by labor unionists. However, as the kidnappers themselves, since arrested, were not dues-paying members of the nation’s Kidnapping Union, ulterior motives are suggested. Like money.

The Urbina family, including brothers Umbilical, Unctious, Usufruct, and Unguantine have denied the allegations, and counter-filed papers allegedly criminal misconduct against the agricultural union represented on the family’s vast holdings. “If Ugueth had really used a machete on those bastards, they’d be sliced chorizo by now,” sneered Usury Urbina, a family cousin and their legal counsel. “Not whining about a few slashes and burn scars.”

The pitcher was instrumental in carrying the Marlins to their World Series championship in 2003, serving as the team’s closer. In 2005 he split his season between the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He was known for a blazing fastball and cutting slider—ironic, considering the current charges of burning and slashing.

Labor relations in oil-producing Venezuela generally have been particularly stormy as world prices have fluctuated wildly, and markets are perceived as wide open. Unions clamor for a greater share of record profits, while ownership claims widespread sabotage and looting of facilities. Gunfire through the night and burning buildings are commonplace, and local media, infamous for sensationalist reporting, feature daily stories with lurid photos detailing police beatings, muggings, vandalism, and murder. “It’s one reason why Ugie felt so comfortable in Miami, Detroit, and Philadelphia,” commented Uric Utensil Urbina, the pitcher’s uncle. “It was so much like home.”

The Philadelphia Phillies have already noted that Urbina’s future with them is doubtful. “However, we could have used him here last week during the transit strike,” grumbled one frustrated commuter.

Told he probably wouldn’t be in a Phillies uniform next season, Urbina replied, “Uniform? Is she one of my cousins, too?”

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You can learn to drive: part 4 (post-Wilma edition)

“Treat intersections without signals as 4-way stops,” is great advice for a day or two after an emergency, when people are happy just to be alive and able to spend 6 hours in line for a free bag of ice. Here we are on day 16 (right?), and in some areas lots and lots of intersections are still out, including some pretty big ones. The novelty of 4-way stopin’ (8-way when you count turning lanes) grows ever the more thin. We have some advice for police, and some advice for drivers.

Police
First, thank you for pulling 12-hour shifts directing traffic. It doesn’t look like much fun, but it helps, and we appreciate it. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to see you when we’re approaching, which causes us to slow down even when we don’t need to. Maybe something to indicate an officer is signaling at an intersection. And those temporary stop signs in the middle of the road? As long as you’re there signaling, maybe could we cover them with a garbage bag or something, ‘cause they’re contributing to the confusion.

Drivers
OK, let’s talk here for a minute. You’re frustrated and angry, and you’re late for work. Follow these simple rules, but please do calm down – stress on the road is dangerous. About those 4-way stops:

  1. We don’t understand why a blinking red/yellow light is a 4-way stop, but so long as everyone else is treating it that way, we will, too.
  2. If you’re at a busy 4-way stop intersection (meaning there’s enough traffic that everyone has to stop anyway), your job is to try to get through it as fast as possible but without cheating.
  3. That means not waiting to make sure everyone else is standing completely still before you go. If it’s your turn, go already! Just go carefully, and be prepared to stop if someone else has a difference of opinion about who’s turn it was.
  4. If you’re on a street with 2 or three lanes going in each direction, and the guy next to you is starting across the intersection, go with him even if it’s not your turn.
  5. If people are going in the opposite direction, and there’s no one waiting to turn who would impact your lane, go!
  6. If you’re coming up on an empty intersection, and you have a blinking yellow light, do not stop ( [sigh] unless there’s a stop sign, we guess). As we see it, at that point the pre-hurricane laws are in effect, the guy with the blinking red has to stop, and you can drive right through that intersection, just slow down and be careful.
  7. If you’re on a major boulevard, and coming up on an intersection where nobody else going in your direction is stopping, slow down and proceed with caution, but do not stop. Chances are there’s a good reason they’re not stopping.
  8. Conversely, if you’re on a side street and getting onto (or crossing) a major intersection, be careful and treat it as a regular (not 4-way) stop, because there is a very good chance people on the bigger street will not be stopping.

Far and above the best thing you can do, though, if you work 9 – 5, is to ask your employer to let you do alternative hours: say, 10 – 6. Traffic is much much better an hour later. Also, check out Miami Traffic.

[Previously: Part 3]

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Critical Miami in the news

This is all stuff we meant to tell you about yesterday, but plumb forgot. Critical has gotten mention at the Blog Herald for making fun of Miamist, and at Bloggers Blog for our crack post-hurricane coverage. The graph above shows search terms on the blog for yesterday. Finally got up a new about page (the old one is here). And, oh yeah, our shit is now validating (still working on the CSS though). Also, since your humble author is starting work at MPAC Monday, we’re yanking their picture off the masthead (yeah, yeah, it’s not really a masthead, whatever). One of these days that picture is going to rotate . . .

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Monday November 7, 2005

Upside down tuesday linkiage

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Aaaarrrgh!

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

“A cruise ship owned by a Miami-based Carnival subsidiary was attacked by pirates off the coast of Africa.” Miami Herald, Sunday

No, they didn’t have scabbards, parrots, and peg legs, although they might as well have. This was not your father’s pirate ship. They had machine guns and rocket-grenades, and they actually tried to board the luxury liner from a pair of 25-foot inflatable rafts, but that wasn’t enough. A spokesman for the company pointed out that crew members are trained to “stop intruders” from gaining access to ships.

“After all,” she noted, “many of our ships originate in the Port of Miami, where some of the rudest, most aggressive passengers in the world swarm like fruit flies. If our crews keep those people in line—what’s the big deal about armed, murderous pirates?”

The identity of the pirates has not been established. One crew member, pointing out that the attack came before dawn, suggested they might have been Japanese, but this nauseating racist speculation could not be confirmed.

The battle lasted about 10 minutes. Passengers, mostly Americans and many from Miami, were relocated to a central ballroom, away from danger. Nobody was injured, but Morris Greenstein, 112, from Miami Shores, complained loudly about missing his breakfast seating. “Pirates, Shmirates!! I take these cruises for the food, like everybody else,” he said, angrily. “Why the hell else would you get on a ship like this? They couldn’t spare a cook and a baker and setup the buffet line? Miserable bastard sonsofbitches! Where’s my food? I want my food! Where the hell’s my goddam food?”

Out of danger, the ship’s captain ordered complimentary Captain Morgan’s Rum for everybody interested, but at 7 am, only the crew indulged. The current location of the ship is not available.

[See all Articles by Steve]

Update: Holy smokes! Some news outlets are now reporting that a weird sonic weapon was used by the ship to fight off the pirates.

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Get stuff

We’ve mentioned previously that FEMA is dying to give some money away. They’re classifying what they cover under Housing Needs and Other Needs. That latter list is pretty interesting:

Do you notice that third item? Pretty broad, eh? This might not be a bad time to mention that fraud is frowned upon. On the other hand, it’s not that often that your government offers you help. It’s only logical to accept the help you’re being offered (especially since you’re paying for it, right). Click here to go the Assistance Page on the FEMA site and see what you can score.

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State of the blog update

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Sunday November 6, 2005

Jim DeFede's back

Here we see Jim DeFede on CSPAN, but he’s actually been on Channel 4 lately, as a commentator. He appeared on Thursday and Friday, on the evening (6 pm) newscasts, and will be on again Monday, talking about FPL!

More: Here are some of DeFede’s feelings about his firing, from a UM panel. And here is an interesting discussion, which points out that the Herald used information from the illegal tape in their own reporting.

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Saturday November 5, 2005

Dania Beach rocks

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

Earlier this week, angry residents in Dania Beach hurled bottles, eggs, and rocks at crews repairing downed power lines. An FPL Field Apologist called to the scene remarked, “Seems an odd way to expedite repair service. These people just went bat shit. Maybe we should let ‘em sit in their caves like the Australopithians they are.”

One resident, asked why he was stoning repair crews, reportedly said, “Can’t reach Juno Beach from here;” apparently a reference to FPL’s corporate offices.

Yesterday, City Manager Ivan Pato said he would withhold Dania Beach’s payment of close to $50,000 to FPL as a symbolic gesture. “Forty percent of this city is still without power,” he fumed. And all through south Florida, stories about poor repairs, unanswered requests for inspections, and complete disregard for customer concerns by FPL are piling up.

This would be a wonderful stick for a political candidate to use to beat the drum of his own campaign. FPL has been buttfucking Florida customers for years, protected by a paid-off legislature and a nauseatingly greedy board of directors, hiding behind fabricated press releases making excuses (Avian obesity? Pole Canker?); writing lines, not repairing them.

Contact your congresscritter and demand action.

[See all Articles by Steve]

Update: FPL is going to try to charge us for power we didn’t get.

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Friday November 4, 2005

Weekend digestion

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Lyric Theater renovation

The Biscayne Boulevard Times has a great article about the renovation of the Lyric Theater in Overtown.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, N.W. 2nd Avenue from 6th to 10th Street, the main strip of a vibrant and pioneering black community called Colored Town, was better known as “Little Broadway.” (…) Today, all that remains of Little Broadway are miscellaneous press clippings, billboards donated by Clyde Killens (the era’s entertainment king) and the Lyric Theater, which, according to material provided by The Black Archives, has been described as “the most beautiful and costly playhouse owned by Colored people in all the Southland.”

There is something very exiting about this. All the development to the north of downtown is going to spread to Overtown sooner or later. This project is funded by government money, so it’s not necessarily an early sign of the trend, but eventual gentrification is inevitable. The exact nature of that gentrification is still up for grabs, though, and this would be another opportunity for Miami to do something right. This project, by preserving the history of the community, is a step in the right direction.

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Broken

Throughout Miami-Dade and Broward, Wilma did serious, widespread, and mostly cosmetic damage. Fallen trees and damaged signs, even broken traffic signals, are upsetting but not really devestating. This is masking the significant minority of people who have suffered very serious damage. Apartment buildings have been condemned, forcing thousands of people to look for new homes. Equally serious are homeowners who’s houses probably would be condemned but for lack of inspectors. Thousands of leaky roofs are scattered around the county, many of them very very seriously leaky. Meanwhile, roofing companies are giving estimates of three-month waits just to get an estimate. One woman we heard on WLRN was told she would have to pay $10,000 for a temporary roof, then several times that amount in a few months for a new permanent roof. There’s even a two-month wait for those FEMA blue roof tarps. Meawhile, the Red Cross, Salvation army, local government, and FEMA are running out ways to help.

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Thursday November 3, 2005

Port of Miami tunnel

The problem: Trucks coming from the Port of Miami need to drive through downtown to get to I-395, causing traffic congestion and problems regular drivers.

The solution: A $3.1 billion (we were tempted to round off the .1, until we realized it represents 100 million dollars) tunnel to connect the port directly to 395, bypassing surface streets.

The scoop: Actually, it’s not exactly like that. As this video [35meg .avi] explains, the tunnel actually connects the port to Watson Island (beautifully shown with all planned improvements in place), from where the bridge (widened by a lane in each direction) takes you to 395. The image above is from the video; the image is the tunnel openings, with Parrot Jungle on the left, the MacArthur causeway in the distance, and said development on the right.

We got exited when we saw this article, which says the tunnel may soon be a reality. But then we noticed this other article (same publication), from 2002, which also says the tunnel may soon be a reality. Turns out the tunnel has been “about to happen” since the 80’s. Larry Lebowitz pointed out that the construction in downtown is really going to make this a necessity (although . . . um, did the budget double since his column came out in July?), although Mr. Tunnel remains skeptical. On the other hand, FDOT seems very optimistic: they have a whole web site devoted to the project, including some very detailed plans.

Does democracy suck, or what? In China, they’d have built a dozen tunnels by now, while here in Miami, supposed crossroads of the world, hands are wrung over a single one (and only a mile long).

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Wednesday November 2, 2005

Some penises I have known

Kate Kretz is a wonderful local artist and art teacher, who’s work occasionally deals with, uh, gender roles and relationships. “(Some) Penises I Have Known,” is a sculpture she made in 2000 and has kept in her studio since, refusing offers on it. But now that she’s getting married (congrats, Kate!), she has decided she needs to get it out of her studio. The best part is that she’s selling it on e-bay.

[The sculpture] is hand-whittled and painted wood, depicting the specific characteristics and idiosyncrasies of her former lovers. A signed narrative and description of each object’s symbolism accompanies the piece. (. . .) The artist states, “All of my work is about vulnerability, about showing one’s self…and this is an attempt to embody some of my bad decisions and infuse the embodiment with a sense of humor.”

The auction ends next Friday, at 3 am. Click the link and check it out – the piece is touching and hilarious, but it’s also beautifully executed, with very detailed painting. Someone very lucky is going to end up with this, because we have a feeling the bidding is going to go way out of our price range.

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Empowered

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

My contact Boob from FPL (Florida Plunder and Loot) has been vacationing, so I was put through to Olga Crone, District Senior Apologist, when I called. She was pleased to hear that my power had been restored after only 9 days, well short of the 4 weeks FPL originally projected (read: “threatened”) for my part of the grid.

“Well, that whole projection is a worst-case scenario anyway,” she confessed. “We found out that people react better when we shoot wide of the mark, then reduce it, as opposed to stringing ‘em along saying ‘any day now, any day now.’ And of course, we don’t want to be bothered with nuisance calls from hospitals and senior centers asking when their life-support systems will come back on-line. We have work to do, you know.”

Pretty damn good work, too, Olga—97% of the two most populous counties in the state knocked out by a Category 1 or 2. All but two of your own Broward substations off-line for days, and thousands of poles felled by winds weaker than the 119 mph they’re supposed to withstand. You had more broken poles scattered on the ground than there were after the Battle of Warsaw. Terrific service!

“You can always patronize our competition,” she sneered. “And we’re working on finding out why our substations failed so dramatically. Because these are our own protected facilities, our usual excuses—customer abuse, trees, avian obesity impacting wires, etc.—won’t work this time, obviously. Our current theory is: invasive pythons corrupted the system’s integrity.”

Why not just blame mold? Or FEMA? Or killer rabbits?

“As for the poles, we figure the National Hurricane Center is wrong about wind strength. We sure can’t be wrong. And of course, while we don’t actually have any records for the last 4 years—got ourselves an inspection exemption from the state ha ha!—we strongly suspect Pole Canker.”

Pole Canker! Of course. Infects the cement ones, too.

“It’s just a working theory. But we like it because it exonerates us of all responsibility, and actually sets the stage for passing on additional costs to consumers, preserving corporate profits. So we’re empanelling Pole Canker crews to conduct inspections throughout the area. Any poles discovered with the disease will be removed at once, as will any pole within 1,650 feet of an infected pole, and. . .”

Wait a minute. That would mean shutting down power again, and possibly removing and replacing every pole in both counties.

“Sorry, but our concern is for public safety, as always. What, you suppose, we’re trying to drum up revenue for the state’s lumber industry, negatively impacted by all the storms over the last two years? What’s the alternative?

I dunno Olga. Maybe take gas?

[See all Articles by Steve]

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Tuesday November 1, 2005

Post-Wilma traffic bites

Cable is still out at the Critical Miami bunker, but we really don’t miss it. Everything else is coming back; heck, even gas is pretty easy to get now. Shockingly annoying, though, is traffic on the ride home. Surface street intersections are a grab-bag of regular traffic lights, dark traffic lights, blinking yellow/red lights (which people insists on treating as 4-way stops, in violation of the law), blocked roads, and intersection with police signalers.

The only thing more annoying then a huge busy intersection acting as a 4-way stops (with turning lanes this becomes an 8-way stop) is a dozen or so of them in a row. It’s a recipe for gridlock of a sort that can scarcely be imagined by drivers in ordinary circumstances. It really started yesterday, when most of the unwashed masses returned to work; any non-interstate commute suddenly quadrupled in lenght and annoyingness. We’re talking about bumper-to-bumper cars, inching up foot by foot, hour after hour, mile after mile.

There’s nobody to blame. People are actually being relatively polite, even efficient, and the cops are doing their best (not much, but it’s something) to help matters. We’re just being made painfully aware of how dependent we are on our traffic-control system; as broken and frustrating as it seems normally, it’s suprising to learn how bad things get without it. Nothing to do but grin and bear it, and hope that FPL gets power back, and FDOT (or the police, or whoever is in charge of intersections) gets the signals working soon.

Update: It turns out that the problems are much worse in Broward then Dade, and much worse along I-595 and nearby alternates (in particular Hollywood, Sheridan, and Stirling going west from I-95). All this is making our temporary exhile in Broward feel more like purgatory.

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