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Saturday December 31, 2005

Critical Miami year-end chin stroking

Ordinarily, this space would be reserved for a review of the events of the last year. I’m not going to do one, though, partly because there are already lots of reviews out there (for example, you can read this one by our pal Rebecca Wakefield) and partly because I’m half a world away, and now the DSL went out and I’m stuck on European dial-up, and I just can’t be bothered.

What I can be bothered with, though, is a wrap up of how Critical Miami has done this past year. Web usage statistics are a pretty tough nut to crack, but you can see from my graph that page views are up (the specific numbers are probably exaggerated, but the trend ain’t bad). Since we obviously have a lot of new readers (and I can’t blame anyone for not digging through the archives), here are some of the more interesting things Steve and I have written:










Happy new year, kids!


Friday December 30, 2005

Gotcha last!

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

In what may be Broward’s first incident of Florida’s new Stand Your Ground and Shoot to Kill ordinance, a Pompano Beach man was shot and killed (how about that?) following an argument with neighbors. All three parties to the shooting sport hefty criminal records including gun possession, and the neighborhood itself is considered violent. Reportedly this was the terminal chapter in a long-lasting family feud. You can read the gory details here and here so I don’t need to restate them.

Besides, they’re likely wrong.

“You media assholes are gonna turn this into a big fart-stink about my neighborhood,” one angry resident told us. “Y’all gonna start makin’ noises soundin’ like this street ain’t safe for families.”

What—a fatal gun battle on the front lawn? What could be bad for kids about that?

“Wasn’t no shoot-out. Was a rehearsal.”

A rehearsal for what? Bringing back Gunsmoke episodes?

“New Year’s Eve, is what! They was just firing into the air like you do on New Year’s Eve, and, well, one of ‘em missed.”

Actually, one of them didn’t miss.

“Whatever. But that’s all it was, people havin’ fun and an unfortunate accident. So get off our ass.”

End of interview. Gotta love this job.

Shooting firearms into the air at midnight on New Year’s Eve is high up on the Intelligent Cultural Practice List, right behind female circumcision and taking your own daughter’s virginity. I prefer to think that this was an all-out planned homicide, or at least a genuine argument ending is bloodshed. That’s the American Effin’ Way, dammit, and this is Effin’ America. Happy New Year, citizens!


Thursday December 29, 2005

Let's expand Metrorail

Ronald Reagan criticized Metrorail when it was finished in 1985, saying “It would have been cheaper to buy everyone a limousine.” These days, Metrorail serves 48,000 people a day so that (racist?) remark has been sufficiently refuted. It’s still a pretty low number, though, and the reason is obvious: Metrorail doesn’t go any-particular-where.

Now, there are lots of proposals around for expanding public transportation – everything from water-taxis to streetcars to a second Tri-Rail. There is even a super-ambitious plan for expanding Metro-rail floating around, but I’m not going to support anything quite so pie-in-the-sky as that.

I’m thinking of a second Metrorail line, which would run east-west, down to South Beach at one end, meet up with the current line at Government Center, and proceed west to the airport (or further, if possible, maybe to FIU). This would solve the problem of Metrorail not going to the airport, incorporate the free-floating BayLink idea (good grief: “To be evaluated for funding in 2016”), and generally make the rest of Metrorail make sense, by giving the system more destinations.

There are three principal arguments against this: (1) Miami isn’t suited to a large public-transportation system; (2) it’ll cost too much money; and (3) we don’t want more people going to the Beach; they’ll ruin it. To which I answer:

Maybe not (1), but tell that to the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the system every day. The more people who use public transportation, the better off we are as a city and as a civilization, and the more places there are that can be conveniently reached by public transportation, the more people will use it (Metrorail is more convenient, less intimidating, and faster then regular busses, so much more likely to be used by people who have a choice).

(2) This’d less then double the size of the system, and it would leverage the usefulness of the existing stops; it’s throwing good money after (arguably) bad. Plus, what with all these condos going up in Miami, we’re in for a big tax-boom over the next few years. If we put this plan in gear, we’ll be spending the money just as it rolls in.

As for (3), people living on the Beach (of which I’m one) being afraid of their neighborhood being overrun by tourists is like being afraid of Iraq becoming a center for terrorism: it’s already done happened! Making the Beach more convenient might make it a more popular destination, but it also makes life easier for residents.

There’s all this talk of Miami being the city of the future and whatnot, and our public transportation system is lagging. It’s been over 20 years since Metrorail (line 1!) was built, and it’s high time to expand. We have the need, we have the money, and we have the momentum; let’s do it.


Tuesday December 27, 2005

Cold Pussy

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

The next person who tells me how refreshing this weather is gets a punch in the mouth. Here’s a friendly, seasonal suggestion: If you like it cold as a witch’s tit in a brass bra, get the hell back to Canada. I-95 is a 2-way street. Take this icy bitter shit with you and drop it in some ‘Nuck’s Christmas stocking.

It was ‘way too cold for Guido last night, so she off she goes to bed early to huddle under the cranked-to-the-max electric blanket, covered by a thick comforter. Her evil pride of felines sprawl majestically over her, hogging the heat; one up on her head, one between her knees, a particularly foul critter reclined on my side of the bed. The beast glares at me venomously, daring me to uproot its furry ass. Ha! I subtly distract it with a well-aimed kick to the anus, and he’s airborne, howling like hell’s harpies. He’s back in minutes to climb on my chest, a ploy to make me think he’s forgiving and affectionate when in fact, at 17 pounds, he’s trying to suffocate me.

This kind of crap doesn’t go on when the nighttime temperature in my house stays up in the 90s where it belongs. Without air
conditioning, you can’t buy a glimpse of a cat in the bedroom:
they’re hugging the terrazzo floor, sucking for oxygen like de-bowled guppies. Good kitty! Lie down! Roll over! Gasp for breath!

And I’m babysitting blogmeister Alesh’s kitten, too, while our hero gallivants around Prague. So far Sophie has destroyed 2
lampshades, 3 plants rooting in tall wine bottles, and the dog’s starboard nostril. Cold weather energizes animals, the poor dumb brutes. That’s why humans are on top of the food chain. We’re smarter . . .

. . . except for all you short-pantsed and sandaled smile buttons
with your insipid, “Dontcha just love this break in the weather hyuk-hyuk-urk-urk-ooga-ooga?” small talk. No, fuckweed, I don’t. I may be a bloody orchid, but I’m more evolved than you, alright? Give me heat, give me humidity, give me sunshine that melts asphalt. That’s what south Florida is for, dammit. I sure didn’t move here for the culture, educational opportunities, or friendly people. Or the hyperactive cats.


Thursday December 22, 2005

Prune Juice

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

Speaking of phony science and cornholing the citizenry, how’s that war against citrus canker going? Are we consumers, now paying a buck a grapefruit, still taking the weight to keep Florida agribusiness profitable?

Stop the presses! A commercial grower has filed suit to stop tree removal? The Haines city grower’s lawyer filed papers yesterday, noting that the canker eradication law, ‘’no longer bears a reasonable and substantial relationship to the preservation of the Florida citrus industry, but simply constitutes a taking without a public purpose and without compensation.”

The reason for this Pauline conversion: the grower in question now faces losing his own trees. Blaming Wilma for blowing canker spores all over the state, including into his own groves, his own uninfected-but-within-1900-feet-of-infected trees are slated for destruction. And with his own ass in the hot seat, he’s had a change of heart.

“It was one thing to have everybody else’s trees torn out,” observed an industry spokesman. “Particularly when it was mostly those Dade County immigrant bastards. But when it’s our people, our trees, well, it’s a different ball game, now!”

It was never about canker per se. From the get-go it was all about money, specifically powerful upstate Republican money, not to mention Asplundh tree service and Walmart, who got the corporate welfare cash for handling the voucher program (which collapsed, by the way).

Yeah, it sucks and yes it’s corrupt but: that’s Florida. Hold your nose and wish this lawyer well, because this action might stop the arboreal assassins’ chainsaws once and for all.

[Previously: Fruit loops]


Wednesday December 21, 2005

It's Tuesday somewhere

reynaldo elias rapalo


Monday December 19, 2005

Joy To the Hurled

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

How’d we miss out on this all these years? Seems there’s a world-wide movement launched by the Cacophony Society to trash Christmas. Loosely organized (if that), Santarchy features Santa-clad hooligans committing public acts of intoxicated chaos. Most recently, the Auckland (New Zealand) chapter gathered some media coverage when about 40 Kringloids vandalized a department store, peed on pedestrians off an overpass, and assaulted security guards, all in the name of the Christmas spirit.

Not all chapters approach their mission identically. A review of individual Santarchists’ websites reveals seasonal amusements like hanging Santa Claus from a street lamp in San Franciso to innocent dressing as Santa for a little pub-crawling in Pittsburgh. Perhaps the Aucklanders carried it a bit far—or maybe this is the movement evolving into soccer-hooliganism-style celebration.

In any event, it’s quite timely. The tired concept of an aged, bearded, avoirdupoisdically-challenged white man dressing up in black boots and a red suit to invite little children to sit on his lap, well, you see the problem. Are we really comfortable converting every department store, including the storied Great Hall at Macy’s New York, into a pedophiliac boot camp, or a Brokeback Mountain? Who denies any more that this whole gift-giving thing stinks of greed, consumerism run amok. And the perfect symbol of it all is Santa F. Claus himself, presiding over a WalMartian offshore non-union workshop, populated by midgets. How un-pc can you get?

It’s disturbing that Miami hasn’t been a leader in this movement: there is no American city evidencing less Christmas spirit than this one, as any unfortunate driver or shopper can attest. And the natural linkages between Santarchy and Santeria suggest a viable constituency. I challenge the community to incorporate a chapter pronto. The natural choice for a spiritual leader would be a clergyman, journalist, or other moral giant. .


Sunday December 18, 2005

Critical Miami hits 'snooze'

If you’re a sharp observer, you noticed that Steve’s King Tut article had his own name in the Posted field at the bottom. Steve has begun to post his own articles, and the occasion is my trip to Prague, which goes for the next three weeks. Posting here will be light (at least for my part) during this time. (I don’t want to hear any kvetching on this point – my all-time favorite blog, Laughing Boy, hasn’t been updated since November 23, 2003!)

For those interested in following along on my trip, I’ve set up a space for some trip-blogging. I’m not making any promises about frequency of posts there, though.

The good news is that when Critical Miami returns to full-strenght (mid-January), it’s going to be hitting on all 6 cylinders like never before – with a new South Beach headquarters, digital photography aparatus, and unprescedented new respece. Get ready.


Saturday December 17, 2005

What is a Cuban cigar problem?

Dade county police arrested a Cuban cigar forging ring. Essentially, they’d take cheap cigars, put bands on them to make them look like Cubans, and resell them. As someone who knows very little about cigars, or the relationship of the embargo to cigars, I have some observations (do correct me if I’m wrong). This news story seems to presuppose the following:

  1. Cuban cigars are fairly widely available – otherwise customers would have been immediately suspicious of the counterfeits
  2. Cuban cigars are considered the best; better then, say cigars made in the Dominican Republic from Cuban seeds – yet they apparently are not – otherwise the fakes would have been found out
  3. Our government considers customers getting what they’re expecting more important then the embargo. Otherwise, why not let them keep selling the fakes?

“The sale of Cuban cigars is prohibited in the United States, police said.” But they wern’t Cuban cigars . . . this sounds more like breaking the code of honor among thieves then breaking the law. “Police seized more than $100,000 worth of counterfeit Cuban cigars . . . ” Um . . . is that $100,000 the actual value, or what they would have been able to sell them for? You see my point . . . $100,000 of cocaine is one thing, but if something is fake, then it matters whether you’re discussing its value-if-sold-as-real, or its actual value. The AP report doesn’t specify.

My favorite line, though, comes from the AHN article:

Investigators estimate the counterfeiting operation cost the legitimate cigar industry millions per year in losses.

Huh? What industry are we talking about here?? Either they’re expressing concern for the smuggler’s profits, or they’re deluding themselves into thinking that the potential “victims” of this scam were now going to buy legal cigars. See #1 above: they’re going to buy the real Cubans now.


Friday December 16, 2005

Crocodile tears

Some idiots tied a crocodile to their pickup and dragged it around until it died. Three of them got away from the authorities, and one was arrested at the scene, on December 3rd. That’s right – he’s resisted ratting out his buddies for two weeks.

I don’t care if a crocodile has a brain the size of a pea – these guys are fucking assholes. If they thought they could get away with it, they’d be doing this to people who’re a different from them. It makes me sick that assholes like this are walking around.

Speaking of assholes, Carnival reported a 4th quarter earnings jump.

“It is a testament to the resilience of our cruise business . . . [blah, blah, blah] . . . record fourth quarter results,” said Micky Arison, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

Micky Arison . . . where do I remember that name from? Ah, of course! This might be a better explanation of why Carnival is doing so fucking good. Same dude I quoted from “a statement” there. Next to this guy, the crocodile torturers look like wayward youth with an anger management problem who just need a saturday morning treatment program.



Quick and easy weekend

Quick and easy weekend, my ass: the Saturday before Christmas is the biggest shopping day of the year (contrary to popular belief), and that, my friends, is tomorrow. The smart money is sitting at home, maybe doing some last minute 2-day shipping from Amazon. For those who are impervious to traffic and craving culture, we this a limited offering:


Thursday December 15, 2005

Mummy Dearest

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

Along with every other warm body in the tri-county area who owns a necktie and a pair of shoes, I attended the King Tut opening reception Wednesday evening. All in all, it was overblown, underwhelming, off-putting, and disingenuous.

To the extent that one can draw a line between “art” and “entertainment”—it’s blurry if existent at all, movable, and subjective—we’re talking entertainment here. Start with the 2-minute orientation film narrated by notable archaeological scholar Omar “4 No Trump” Shariff. The presentation, featuring darkened rooms and recorded ethnic-appropriate music, reinforces the atmosphere of prowling through the pre-raided pyramidal crypt itself. Even setting aside the impact on ambiance of hundreds of over-perfumed, tipsy gawkers, the impression was corny—less Indiana Jones than King Rootin’ Tootin’ the Third.

There are no actual remains of the exhibition’s namesake, but there are genuine artifacts from the tomb mixed in with the reproductions. Historically, these are rather captivating, particularly on those where dramatic expression on the countenances of sculpted and painted items are preserved. Otherwise, it’s pretty standard archaeological museum fare, the likes of which one can see on permanent display in many venues around the country. E.g., I’ve been visiting mummified sarcophagi (other than family) since age 8 at the University of Pennsylvania museum. For a while we were on a first-name basis.

The question to which one keeps returning remains (pun intended), “Why the hell is this ‘art’?” What is it doing in an art museum, when at best it might be considered of historical or archaeological interest, the stuff of a science museum display? At worst, this is a circus sideshow, appropriate for a big tent in a racetrack parking lot or abandoned pasture somewhere, sharing space with prize hogs, a sword swallower, and bottles of deformed animal fetuses floating in formaldehyde. But then, this is the Ft Lauderdale Museum of Art, proud providers of hospitality to the bridal dress and crotchless underwear of a dead British princess. Visit the gift shop for your scratch-and-sniff postcards, authenticated by leering Buckingham Palace guards.

It wouldn’t be a complete review with mention of the crowd. While it would be unfair to characterize everybody in attendance as a culture-proof hind, there is no question that for the vast majority, this visit to the museum counted as their sole acknowledgment that something more profound than fishing, football, and the annual boat parade are worth venturing out for. They thrill of rubbing elbows with local celebrities (“OMG—Is that Jeb Bush? Fidel’s right: he’s gotten real chunky!”) consumed their interest to a far greater degree than ancient Egyptian artifacts, and they departed the exhibition faster than you can say “King Tut’s pud.” I dunno—was there a ball game on?

The back story on the exhibit concerns the Museum of Art’s bottom-line desperation, and the remarkable financial windfall they’ve reaped since adopting the Sideshow Bob approach to exhibitions. So long as this community continues to shortchange its commitment to culture, institutions will be forced to resort to displays like this. What’s next—an exhibit on baseball, with the mummified remains of Florida Marlins’ All-Stars, fondly reminiscing about the sport’s departure from these swampy greens?

Note: CriticalMiami is NOT an official sponsor of the King Tut exhibit. You’re thinking of the Miami Herald.


Wednesday December 14, 2005

Public transportation as recreation

As someone who’s frequently taken the bus from South Beach to Downtown when it would have been a lot faster to drive, I can appreciate the entertainment value of our public transportation. You’re sitting higher then in a car, and spared having to pay attention to the road, you can really enjoy the scenery – it’s a surprising interesting way to see the town; MacArthur Causeway is particularly spectacular this way. There’s your fellow passengers: the potential to engage in or overhear interesting conversation is pretty well assured. On the end, being dropped at a somewhat arbitrary spot, rather then the parking lot of wherever you’re going, leads to at least a little bit of walking, which is always nice. Of course, the sightseeing potential is even greater with metrorail, and don’t get me started on the metro-mover, which seems like a tourist sightseeing device first and foremost.

Now we get Metrocrusade, wherein a couple of UM students take Metro Transit to a random stop and explore everything they find, providing 5-point ratings. In their first post, the reviews include I-Hop, which gets the only perfect score (?!), and . . .

It was a Middle Eastern market called the Middle East Market. Definitely a cool place. They had lots of fresh Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, packaged stuff, and even pretty inexpensive hookahs! They also served food, so we might go back for lunch some time. We bought stuffed grape leaves, hummus, and gyro bread, and we were very pleased with our purchases. The store was very vegetarian-friendly, so veg heads, check it out! We give it 4.5 out of 5 Metro Coins.

. . . that’s right: it’s a 5-point scale of metro coins. It’s hard to do dry wit on the internet, but these kids obviously are up to it. Let’s just hope they stick with the program. [Via Miamity. The photo is from the northern end of the metromover, facing downtown]


Tuesday December 13, 2005

Let's do it in the afternoon

It’s Tuesday . . . here we go:



Miami Performing Arts Center says NO

Miami Performing Arts Center construction

A lot of you have heard bits and pieces of this story, and I finally decided to type it all out, for the record. It’s the story of how this very blog cost me a job at the Miami Performing Arts Center.

At the beginning of September, I was alerted to an opening at the Miami Performing Arts Center for a Graphic Design Coordinator. The job description seemed to match up with my qualifications pretty well, and it sounded like a dream job – I’m obviously interested in the performing arts, and this is to be the biggest, shiniest spot in a town I care very much about. Still, I figured they must be getting in thousands of applications for a job like this (graphic designers are a dime a dozen), and I figured my chances were slim, so I sent in my resume and pretty much forgot about it.

A few weeks went by, and I got a phone call: they were interested enough to want to meet with me. My first interview, in early October, was with Gail Eaton, Marketing Director, and it seemed to go pretty well: I have print as well as web design experience, a simple, clean style, and experience working for a non-profit in the performing arts, which seemed to be the exact combination they were looking for. I was called in for a couple of more interviews. In fact, I ended up meeting with seven different people from Miami Performing Art Center (some of these were group interviews), plus a representative of a design firm they employ.

To make a long story short, I was hired, and we agreed on a start date of November 14, 2005. I gave my notice at my job on October 31 – exactly two weeks (less then I would like to have given, but that’s the way it worked out – there was a hurricane in there, remember?). I got my hire letter [link to a jpeg scan], and I couldn’t wait to start – I was thrilled.

On Wednesday, November 9, I got a call from the Center. Seems there is a blog called ‘Critical Miami,’ of which they had been unaware, which has some negative, and factually inaccurate, material about Miami Performing Arts Center, and the knowledge had caught them off guard.

Now, I should point out that Critical Miami is listed on my resume [pdf link; highlight added], although it’s true that I didn’t bring it up during the interviews. Anyway, it sounded like it was a serious problem for them, so I asked if I could send an e-mail to put my posts on the blog, as well as why I hadn’t brought it up during the interviews, into perspective. I sent the e-mail the next morning. In addition to the one post they’d mentioned, I pointed out two others. Here, here, and here are the three posts the e-mail references.

The e-mail wasn’t good enough. I got a call on Thursday, asking if I could come in Friday and discuss the situation. I pointed out that that was my last day at my old job, but they were pretty insistent, so I agreed. At this point I was pretty worried. I wanted to be ready for the meeting, and I spent a lot of time thinking what I was going to say, and how I’d respond to hypothetical questions. I also prepared a selection of printouts to have ready for questions: about a dozen printouts of grateful, positive e-mails from readers of the blog (including a couple from local journalists), another copy of my resume, and site stats.

The meeting was with Gail Eaton, as well as a couple of others from the organization. I was supposed to explain how I could work for the Miami Performing Arts Center when I’d written “so negatively” about it in the past. One of the things that they kept coming back to was that the fact that I hadn’t “disclosed” the blog was the real problem; yet they also spent lots of time incredulously quoting the posts, suggesting that the content was the problem. I mostly just tried to expand on the content of my e-mail. I pointed out that someone who takes an interest in the community might be just the sort of employee they want, but it was no use. In the end, I didn’t say whatever it was they needed to hear, and I was sent on my way, in the unfortunate position of having to ask my old employer for my job back (which worked out, luckily).

It’s difficult to say whether I had any chance of affecting anything in that meeting. I’m no lawyer, but I think I laid out a reasonably good case. At some points it felt like they’d made up their minds on Wednesday, and just decided to call me in for a little rebuke; other times it seemed like particular things I said were definitely working against me, and I should have had a set of talking points and just repeated them. Who knows? (I might point out that they never did point out anything in the posts that was factually inaccurate.)

The Miami Performing Arts Center is going to be just fine without me, and I’ll be just fine without them, so all this is really no big deal. I guess it’s just a little disappointing that such an important organization is being run this way.

Update: Blogs linking to this entry: Artblog, KH at Metroblogging and The Next Few Hours, Bark Bark Woof Woof, Hidden City, Flablog, Conservative Trail Head, Harlan Erskine, Dig, Sunshine State, 26th Parallel, Miamista, Infomaniac, babalú. Thank you everyone! (Technorati is not doing so great tracking all these.)


Monday December 12, 2005

Gulfstream horse track revamp

The old grandstand was cool, but we’re enjoying how the new Gulfstream Park building, on Biscayne Blvd at the northern edge of the county, is shaping up. No doubt they’re going to ruin it with McMansion flourishes before all is said and done. Why do they always have to do that?



Wilma aftermath on Boing Boing

This is pissing me off the more I think about it. Boingboing, a site I normally love, ran a very long account of hurricane Wilma and aftermath by one Ralph T. Castle, who was living in north Broward when the hurricane struck. The pervasive theme of the (fucking long) piece is his contempt for his neighbors; Castle had been living in South Florida just a little over a year when Wilma hit, and it’s pretty clear how much better then everybody else he thinks he is. For example, he derides folks for their attempts to seek gasoline in the aftermath of the hurricane:

But then I realized: The people in this gas line couldn’t do what I had done. They had already used so much of their gas, they were now trapped in the disaster area, and—better still—the $20 refuelling [sic] limit guaranteed that they would remain here. This knowledge made me happy. If I did decide to make a run north, the highways should be relatively empty.

This is a guy who drove several hours north of town with six gas cans, keeping his truck and his generator topped off throughout the week he describes. He keeps the generator running 24 hours a day, running two refrigerators and a freezer. When others run their generators?

Some of my neighbors were running generators, presumably to keep their kids pacified with DVDs and satellite TV. The night was noisy with the droning of small gasoline engines, and I wondered how long that would last.

Great. The sense of superiority and fear (he says things like “I imagined the entire southern end of Florida sliding into a state of anarchy, like a giant version of the New Orleans Superdome.”) runs through the whole thing, as well:

Add it all up, and I see some folks getting hungry a couple of days from now. They may not deal with this in a very mature manner. Floridians tend to assume that in their feelgood semitropical paradise, they are exempt from adversity.

And this one:

Indeed, some food distribution centers have started giving away military rations, but these centers are widely scattered, and my neighbors may run out of gasoline to visit them, because people have been cruising around, admiring the hurricane damage as if they’re on vacation.

Of course, Castle himself decides to go through a drive in the middle of the hurricane, again immediately afterward, and then (in search of gasoline) every day thereafter. It’s some downright unpleasant reading, and one wonders why the usually great Mark Frauenfelder decided to post it on BoingBoing itself (normally they link to interesting things posted elsewhere).


Sunday December 11, 2005

Chihuly at Fairchild

Chihuly at Fairchild tropical gardens

Just what we needed – the natural beauty of South Floridia, “improved,” by a grotesque and cartoonish caricature of same, coutesy of Dale Chiuly. The glass-blowing fella has graced our natural scenery with several thousand pieces, melded into our own habitat. Or has he? It would seem that the same set of pieces also fit pretty well into Atlanta’s gardens, as well as numerous others.

Yes, yes – it’s beautiful. The most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. It’s fucking uncanny. Wanna see more pictures? (We dropped in this weekend, and paid the $20 admission (in retrospect, it seemed like it’d have been easy to sneak in).) You can’t see mine – check out Marc’s.

I should say that I went in really wanting to like this, but at every step I was underwhelmed by the glass. In fact, my enjoyment of the “real” stuff was hampered by the expectation of something “more” from the glass. The real problem turns out to be an artistic one – art is best viewed when it is seen in contrast to its surroundings: paintings look good in a white-box gallery, and Chihuly sculptures look good in urban settings, in museums, in Jerusalem . . . anywhere but in nature.

Whatever. Never been to Farichilld before? Give it six months or so to recover from our unnaturally rough hurricane season (even the Chihuli stuff will be up untill mid-2006), and drop by for sure; just don’t expect some blown glass to enhance your enjoyment of our natural plant life.


Friday December 9, 2005

Punk - the DEA's got money-stacks bigger than you

A. Congratulations go out tonight to our friends at the DEA, who busted some drug-dealin’ bad guys and confiscated their loot.

B. The government today arrested 18 businessmen, confiscated their money and products, valued at over $10 million, and tossed them in jail.

Choose your version – we’ve covered both sides (oops . . . not really) of the drug legalization debate. But let’s be serious – the DEA is pathetic. This is the first announcement out of them that’s been made the news in as long as we can remember.

Congrats, guys. Please ignore any sense of scale or perspective when considering how important this bust is. Oh, wait – they already did that. “To date, DEA’s ‘Money Trail Initiative’ has resulted in the seizure of $43.6 million US dollars,” gloats their press release. Let’s see… the global drug trade is estimated at $321 billion. That means that “Money Trail Initiative” has been quite successful at getting a little over one-tenth of one-tenth of one percent (.01358%) of drug deals. Just don’t ask them how much they’ve spent in the effort – you might get upset.


Thursday December 8, 2005


[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

The passenger’s name was Rigoberto Alpizar, and reportedly the last thing he did was reach towards the backpack he claimed contained a bomb. Air Marshals shot him dead: the very first fatal shooting by an Air Marshal.

“We’re very proud of our trained agents,” stated “Smitty” Wesson, spokesman for the Federal Air Marshal Program in Washington, D.C. “And of course, we’re simply thrilled that this historic event occurred in Miami International. What better venue could there be?

“Air Marshals are on the front line of the War on Terrorism,” he continued. “This action demonstrates that our agents are prepared to protect the American people and visitors to our shores from the bad guys out there who plot to take us down.”

Reporters pointed out that not only hadn’t a bomb been discovered, but the perpetrator’s behavior was attributed to his unmedicated bipolar condition.

“Irrelevant,” responded Wesson, tersely. “Besides, he won’t be needing his medication any longer now that we gave him his shots.”

But he wasn’t a terrorist. He was delusional. He needed a butterfly net, not 5 slugs in his ribcage. Marshals may have acted properly, but what you have here is a tragedy, not a cause for celebration.

“That’s pussy talk,” snapped Wesson. “If you act like a terrorist, and talk like a terrorist, have a funny accent, and look even vaguely swarthy and/or hairy, you’re a terrorist. That’s how we train our agents, and goddam if they didn’t come through this time. Ask the people on that flight and in that terminal if they think this guy wasn’t a terrorist. Damn betcha they’re happy the sonofabitch is carpet-crumple.”

The agents were not identified, of course, but Marshal Wesson noted that commendations would be placed in their files. “And we’re drafting a formal proclamation expressing acknowledgments to Miami International Airport for hosting this historic occasion,” he announced. “Another first! Miami should be very proud of itself. The whole world was watching, and once more the city’s reputation is the talk of nations.”

Update: Some alternative accounts of the whole thing, plus this fragment.


Wednesday December 7, 2005

Santa baby, hurry down

By the time you read this, the noosed and blindfolded Santa might have come down. Some unnamed guy hung him up in front of his house (not his primary residence) on the beach at 50th street. Residents complained (surprise), and the guy cried freedom of speech but promised to take Santa down by tonight. By the time we heard about it, it was too late to rush down there to check it out, so we’re relying on TV coverage, w/r/t which, isn’t it impressive how little it takes to get TV coverage?

Whatever. Get down with our bad self, dude. I’m glad I don’t live next to you, but do what you gotta do, I guess. See you ‘round Easter.


Tuesday December 6, 2005

Ad-hoc radio guide

The problem with the WRLN pledge drive is that even after you give them money, it doesn’t stop. So we present some radio listening tips from your FM dial:

  1. 90.5 when south of downtown, of course. Gimme gimme indie radio.
  2. 92.3 is still a favorite.
  3. 102.7 pop music from the third quarter of the 20th century. It’s important to get your fill of this station now, because their audience isn’t getting any younger, and it’ll probably be gone within a few years.
  4. 103.5 for surprisingly great hip-hop, often with the dirty words left in.
  5. 103.9 plays amazing reggae up in Broward. This morning, they played a new Patra track, then two guys with thick accents and signal-processed voices discussed it. At length. This station is so good it would be worth driving to broward to listen to it.
  6. 105.1 does great tracks about 1:1 with bland MOR-R&B ballads, which can be an effective mix. Plus, don’t they blues every Sunday afternoon?
  7. 105.9 can be fun in small doses. Turn it off after a couple of songs or you’ll become an old white guy with a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off and a gold chain.

I’ve also been scanning the AM dial looking for a talk-radio alternative, but have come up with nothing listenable. It’s interesting to note that, yes, liberal radio can be every bit as irritating as Rush. Good work, guys.



Back to regular Tuesday links



Sunday December 4, 2005


Apologies are now overdue to the 90% of our readers who don’t give a rat’s ass about art fairs. Nonetheless, this weekend Critical Miami hit the Basel satellite fairs, and discovered the predictable: a few more gems surrounded by clouds of undifferentiated contemporary art. You can only take in so much in one long weekend, and our aesthetic sensibilities got worn out sometime on Friday. Nonetheless, we have some highlights from the other fairs. Some people will say things like “Nada was much better then Basel,” or “Pulse was the best of the alt-fairs.”

Don’t believe the hype – any gallery that can get into Basel will, so the highest concentration of good shit will always be highest there, with the other fairs each taking their equal share of the rejects, and scoring a share of treasures. A sampling:

At Pulse, Marc Wagner’s collages created entirely from American currency. Note that it is against the law to destroy bills this way, but when the effect is this amazing the feds must be willing to cut slack.

A detail. I might mention that a cup of coffee cost $2 at Pulse, after the relatively gougy $10 entry fee (waived), and that the half and half was all gone. Also, the plywood floors were not funny.

Constance DeJong plays with light. A curved piece of metal reflects light onto a flat surface.

Bernhard Härtter’s paint shelves… you’d think Franklin would enjoy this.

Paul De Guzman meticulously carves up books, then collects the result in acrylic cases which can always be opened back up. Stunning work.

“Miami Loaf,” by A.A. Rucci and Maria Malo-Molina.

A group of unlikely photos of rooms from above by Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga just about stole the show.

Then I got the hell out of there, and proceeded to NADA. This scorched wood carving greeted me. Fancy!

This, the most inventive thing out of the whole weekend (a reprise from last year’s Nada), is somewhat difficult to explain. A tiny model of a bedroom filled with debris is attached to a rotating arm, which moves it in real time, with two mini-cameras pointing through the model’s ‘windows.’ that’s what you see on the right in the above picture. The two monitors, then, show a live feed from the two cameras. This piece is almost impossible to “get” without seeing it, and even then it’s tricky. But amazing. A perfectly suitable launching board for anyone who wants to dabble in new media or robotics art.

Yuken Teruya. He carves retail bags so that they look like this from the top . . .

. . . and like this from the inside. Most people end up stunned. Whatever. Nada also made me realize that Thurston Moore is a great guitar player but he should keep his nose out of trying to make art, and that free beer should maybe be a sentiment, or a way of life, but never, ever, an art piece. I’d rather drink prison wine.

No images from Aqua or Scope, who’s hotel settings make them claustrophobic and awkward to visit, and even more so to photograph.


Friday December 2, 2005

What's up with a Marlins stadium?

[Contributed by Steve Klotz]

While Miami hosts Art Basel, playing host to arts aficionados from around the world, what’s happening in the entwined worlds of local sports and politics? Specifically, how’s that baseball stadium deal coming along?

According to news reports in the Miami Hurled, the deal is as dead as Ugueth Urbina’s pitching career. Referencing Marlin’s president David Samson, Miami city manager Joe Arriola commented, “As long as we have a little boy doing a man’s job, the stadium is not going to happen in this city.”

Eager to confirm the City Manager’s assessment, Samson reportedly replied, “It is very sad to me that an appointed city official finds it necessary to continue to comment on my physical attributes.’’

You can’t make up shit this good. The irony here is sweeter and thicker than stone crab mustard. Over on the Beach we have a zillion prancing poofsters flitting around from exhibition to exhibition, oohing and aahing with pinkies raised, conducting themselves like citizens of the world while an admiring world looks on. Meanwhile, downtown the great big hairy-chested sportsholes and cigar-chawing power pricks conduct a pissing contest in the headlines. Who’s your Daddy, little bitches?

In fact, the Marlins president does come off as the playground patsy, the spoiled little dork whom the big boys pick on (while giggling girls watch), whose lunch they eat and who limps on home all whiny and wedgisized. Listening to him on the radio does nothing to change this impression. And if it looks like dogshit, and it smells like dogshit??

But the City Manager is out of bounds. And both sides illustrate what a rube-filled backwater Miami can be. A civilized, sophisticated, and most of all competent coalition of private industry (including the Marlins) and government could take this opportunity to assemble a deal that yields a stadium, an enterprise zone, transportation, and a revitalized neighborhood, but this pack of hooting gibbons can’t even keep grunt in harmony.

Fortunately, with Art Basel dominating the news, Miami escapes the embarrassment of showcasing the willy-waving weenies that pass for civic leaders around here.



Art loves Basel . . . or something

Critical Miami is taking the day off from the fairs, but the world does not hold still for us, my friends. To wit:

Alesh, the good thing and the bad thing about a show like this is the utter randomness imposed on the viewer by the extremes of quality, the “static” of the crowd (which I thought looked pretty ratty this year, oddly enough) and the peculiar maze one has to walk through. it is good because it is like a jungle, setting up a pure, anti-museum chaos that puts the entire of burden on your eye. It is bad because of the sheer size and complexity and the inevitability that you will miss things. But when there is this much gold scattered in the dross it is as much fun as any hunting expedition.

The Basel brothels were breaktaking and broadening in a befittingly beastly kind of way.



Positions + more Basel

Far and away the most impressive thing at Positions, the Spencer Brownstone trailer (check the Crooklyn address, yo) featured the work of Ian Burns almost exclusively. Consisting of crudely built motor-driven image-creating devices, this mini-exhibition must be seen to be believed (suffice it to say that it ends in a ride.)

Elsewhere, a series of lightbox via. Adobe Illustrator “remixes” of famous photographs by Kota Ezawa include this one of Nan Goldin.

Hand-blown glass hourglass “clocks,” by Suchan Kinoshita. They’re exceptionally beautiful, and surprisingly functional. Wow.

Someone was nice enough to crush a container flat rather then show any work inside one. Who’d complain; Franklin was impressed enough to dig up the name of the artist (btw, follow that link for many more images from Basel).

Making a return to Basel-proper, we were again impressed by this piece, by MP & MP Rosado, which is another combination of photograph and painting, this time reverse of what we saw yesterday – the photograph taken first, then combined with paint to create the final image.

A beautiful little drawing by Agnes Martin, who goes shockingly underrepresented, when you consider the attention lavished upon Ed Ruscha and others.

Wanna see a bad Picasso? Here’s one. (There were lots of good ones, too, of course.) Now let’s visit a couple of spots in the Design District, where everybody will be on Saturday.

“Off the Map,” at 130 NE 40th Street, featured the work of FIU graduate students and faculty. Above, painted house sculptures by Harumi Abe. Very sweet!

A detail.

An installation depicting a Polish mine by Jacek Kolasinski. The images above are from video footage of striking miners. Lots of other great pieces, including isabel’s plant room, proved unphotographable.

An unidentified object at the Mosaic building.

The Chinese Art Stars show next door proved to be a disappointment (this is some of the better stuff).

The Deitch Projects installation at the Newton building not so much, though. A sloopy and spooky good time, reminiscent of the Airplane Show.

Rene Barge’s installation at Boomerang – worth a sit. Erica Morales’ playground/theremin piece – worth a climb (but it also resisted being photographed).

Hang in there, hardworking Miamians; a few more hours of work and you can hit the art.


Thursday December 1, 2005

Baselation updates



Glimpse of Basel

Too much of this sort of thing gave Basel a bad name in years past; but this was one of only a very few silly installations around the perimeter of the show. “Daddy, what are those two papier-mâché men doing?” As with every Basel, there is lots of crap, lots and lots of indifferent stuff, some great work, and one or two knockout pieces. Maybe a smaller percentage of great stuff, but lots to see. Some samples:

It’s always nice to see a couple of new Gurskys (he only makes but two pictures a year or so). Here are some computer enhanced cow pastures (you can tell which Gurskys have gone through the computer by getting really really close – the pixels are visible), probably to make the distribution of cows more even.

A detail (not close enough to see pixels, of course).

A great, big Candida Höfer photograph; sorry about the glare in all these photos – they’re under glass, dang it!

A nice painting on a sofa cushion(?) by Lutz Braun.

This oil on panel painting, by Victoria Gitman, was a stunner. It’s just over a square foot, and has just exactly as much detail as it needs to achieve the proper poignancy.

A detail. See?

This piece was the real stunner in the show. We have three tinted acrylic rings (seen on the left part of the image), hung from a device on the ceiling that slowly rotates each one at a different rate/direction. A tightly focused beam of light (from a very complicated light, not pictured) shines through them and projects the ever-changing image onto the wall (right part of the image). The lines projecting vertically from the center were much brighter in reall life, and the motion is really what makes it. The effect is like a million dollar kaleidoscope (it probably is a million bucks . . .) for adults. Not sure who the artist is (best guess: Olafour Eliasson); neugerriemschneider gallery, which also had some other great stuff.

Basel always brings a few great abstract expressionists. Here’s a spiffy little Motherwell. A photo of a spectacular Helen Frankenthaler piece was ruined by poor autofocus.

This is from a group of three photos of people standing in front of mural-sized paintings. They look like paintings at first glance, then like photos. Interestingly, they would be effective pictures even if they weren’t media-mashing.

Way too much Ed Ruscha. Somebody get this crap away from me (and paint the library).

A surprising little Andy Warhol screenprint of a ferry ticket. (With more bad glare plus lens distortion.)

This Mark Ryden painting will steal the show for a certain contingent. Nice, especially the frame, which often gets cropped from reproductions.

Video/computer work didn’t get as much representation as in past years (fine with me). This is one of three computer-animation pieces by Gary Hill, each of which shows two objects moving together, yet not interacting, in the same virtual space. Simple and effective.

A cute elevator installation, just about the right size for GI-Joe. This one was fully functional, with lights changing and doors opening/closing.

A Bevis ‘n Butthead sculpture at Ambrosino. Yes, the t-shirt says “FART IN AMERICA.” Guess what the other one says…

A great (and very painterly, somehow) photograph by Mauricio Alejo at Galeria Ramis Barquet. Eloquent, smart, and very, very beautiful.

More later!