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Saturday April 29, 2006

Everyday I'm hustlin'

“The bridge separates South Beach from my Miami. The real Miami.”

Rick Ross: representin’ Dade County, Carol City, BMW 745’s, and a very prominently product-placed Treo 650.

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The Miami Beach Earth Expo takes place tomorrow (Sunday) from noon to 6 pm. It’ll have environmentally-friendly exhibitions and workshops, live music, and an electronics recycling center (good time to get rid of old computers, cell phones, etc.)

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YOU get over law

Hey, I have an idea! Why doesn’t the state pass a useless (and possibly dangerous) new law that requires drivers to do something they’ve never had to do before, and then keep ticketing every single person who “breaks” it, until they learn. Oh, nevermind: they already thought of that.

Here’s the deal: if any police, fire, ambulance, tow truck, etc. has it’s emergency lights on and is standing by the side of the road, you have to get out of the MBPD logo lane adjacent to the stopped vehicle, or slow down to 20 mph under the speed limit.

So, picture a routine traffic stop on, say I-95. Say, on the left shoulder. Suddenly, everyone in the fast/carpool lane has to merge with the next lane or slow down to 35 mph. Am I the only one to whom this sounds like a recipe for a massive pile up? If the previous situation was dangerous for police officers, how is this not going to be 10 (100? . . . 1000?) times as dangerous for the regular drivers driving by?

Well, that would only happen if drivers actually followed the law (I find it extremely difficult to remember, even though I’ve known about it for months). And as they begin to, things are going to get dicey, and probably the law will be revoked. But not before police departments get some serious play out of all the tickets they were writing. I passed by that “operation” on MacArthur friday (by the sheer will of God I wasn’t in the right lane, otherwise this would be a much crabbier piece), and there must have been 30 cops on motorcycles there, just pulling over one mark after another.

If police want to be safe during traffic stops without causing mayhem, why not use those PA systems they have in their cars and instruct the poor sap to pull all the way off the highway before stopping? (via Miami Transit)

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Some clarification on the Herald’s hiring of a PR consultant during the DeFede firing mess is up over on the Daily Pulp. It seems the truth is more complicated then originally thought, but only a little more: “But newspapers aren’t routine businesses — they work in the truth market, where P.R. firms are looked upon with a jaundiced eye. There’s a reason the Herald wasn’t forthcoming at the time about hiring Rubin. And the newspaper clearly should have disclosed in every article quoting Rubin on unrelated issues that he had a financial relationship with the newspaper.”

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Friday April 28, 2006

A nifty idea is to have your graduation show run concurrently with a show at an established gallery, which is what GisMo did. Kyle reviews the latter at ignore. A good job all around.

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A childrens' weekend

kid with horn

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Thursday April 27, 2006

Right back at ya, SunPost

sunpost cover Tiffany Rainey’s article on Miami blogging is out in this week’s Sun Post. A pretty great rundown of some of the more prominent local blogs, illustrated by the totally awesome Chris Meesey.

During the art blogging panel, and in a few other conversations I’ve had with journalists, the supposed merging of blogging and journalism comes up often. But the conversations I’ve had with Tiffany, and other journalists, lead me to believe that the opposite is true: what I do looks a little like journalism, but the process is almost the exact opposite. Journalists are usually assigned stories (maybe sometimes they suggest them, but still there is editorial input at every stage), do a whole bunch of research, place phone calls, gather facts, and present a balanced piece that conforms to a previously established format and length. I, on the other hand, write about whatever the hell I feel like, at whatever length I want, and my research, if any, consists of a google search. I could count on one hand the number of phone calls I’ve made to gather information for CM. More then that, though, there is a distinct lack of planning about the whole thing – the average length of time between an idea for a post and the “publication” is maybe an hour. My saving grace is being able to cast a wide net – everything from personal experiences to a long-ass list of RSS feeds (some of which are extremely secret) makes it relatively easy and fun keep finding stuff that’s interesting to me to write about.

Oh, but and so I wanted to talk about the SunPost… I first read the Post a few years ago, when it was sort of shit. It was around the same time CM started that I noticed it getting more fun to flip through, and my first post about it was back in June of last year. Since then much of the Post’s core reporting staff has turned over, and the new team, consisting of Tiffany, Omar Sommereyns, Rebecca Wakefield, and Alfredo Triff (the latter three are all, curiously, New Times transplants), along with a few others, are pushing the rag in a new direction, more community-oriented then the New Times, yet much hipper then ‘straight’ newspapers. The paper has also expanded it’s reach (previously, it was limited to only a few sections of Miami/Dade), and updated its look (some fancy design firm thing).

What’s missing is a modern web site. I’ve railed on about the lack of proper permlinks on numerous past occasions, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg – the Post’s site insists on attempting to duplicate the feel of reading the “real” paper, sacrificing the benefits of the web. And no RSS feed? Give me a break: the Herald has close to 200 different feeds. But whatever; they’ll figure it out, and the SunPost will continue to be an asset to the community.

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Kiss my ass

How’s that for a catchy headline??

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FIU BFA Spring Exhibition 2006

Ross Harris,  pumpkins, oil on canvas, 5x8 in., 2005 (from ongoing series)

This Friday is the reception for FIU’s latest batch of art majors. You might think that the school would publish a little brochure, maybe with an image of each of their work, or at least do up a little web site, but you’d be wrong.

Well, my pals Ross Harris, GisMo, and Silvia Llopis are in the show, as are Lisa Ashinoff, Kathleen Bulger, Reneé Cagnina, Gary Fonseca, Javier Gonzalez, Andrew C. Horton, Efren Izquierdo, Kelly Kuylen, Luisa Maria Mesa, Adam Pedrone, Laura Ploude, Danielle Rottler, Nicole Soden, Donna Lee Steffens, and David Tamargo.

FIU runs a decent art program, and the show will be worth checking out (even if it sounds like a lot of work to cram into the Frost’s space). By the way, please let me know if there is an applicable web link for any of these artists that I missed.

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The New Miamian suggests moving closer to where you work, possibly offsetting increased rent with decreased transportation cost. “We sold one car which means less one car payment, insurance and gas for that car every month. I estimate that we probably save about $470 a month.”

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Portuguese Man o' War

man 'o war

I haven’t seen these guys on the beach lately, but Some cranky guy did. My advice is to stay the hell out of the water when they’re around (usually on and after a windy day), because they sting like a mother. More on Wikipedia, including the tidbit that hot water is the best treatment for the pain.

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Wednesday April 26, 2006

A memo from Tom Fielder to all Herald Staff:

No more will some people be strictly newspaper staff and
others will be strictly on-line or multi-media staff. If
you produce news, you’ll be expected to produce it as
effectively for the electronic reader or listener as you
would for the newspaper reader. If you edit or design for
the newspaper, you’ll learn to edit and design for the web
site.

There should be nothing too surprising about this, and it’s not really a sea change—it’s part of a necessary evolution that has been underway for years, which gives me hope, actually. My advice to the Herald: get into using hyperlinks in your articles, anywhere you possibly can. By linking to resources outside yourself, you allow yourself to be perceived as part of the net, not just a newspaper that exists within it. (via SotP)

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After a show in West Palm, David Copperfield and two women he was with were robbed. “Copperfield . . . pulled out all of his pockets for [the robber] to see he had nothing, even though he had a cellphone, passport and wallet stuffed in them.” Then he got their license plate number, and the cops busted them. Nice job. (via kottke)

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Lucky Oriental Mart

Lucky oriental market

Ever since Maggie’s, I’ve been wanting to get down to Lucky’s (as everyone seems to call it). Tucked in a humdrum South Miami strip mall, it looks like nothing special from the outside.

Lucky oriental market

Right by the entrance, a big refrigerator of Chinese bottled iced tea (this ain’t Arizona, kid), soft drinks, and beer. Refreshing.

Lucky oriental market

A row of mysterious oriental snacks is obligatory. We bought some cola-flavored gum, black sessame seed crackers, and “cakes of green peas” (the later unopened so far).

Lucky oriental market

On another asile, variety of freeze-dried and canned fish and seafood.

Lucky oriental market

The promised land: a generous produce section. Everything looked fresh and delicious. Bought some bok choy.

Lucky oriental market

Durian, the king of fruit.

Lucky oriental market

Rootin’ for roots . . .

Lucky oriental market

Quail eggs and, yes, “Coconut Jell.”

Lucky oriental market

A wall of soy. There’s also a butcher (my photo was out of focus) with all the requisite squid and other stuff, and a section of oriental cookware and serving dishes.

Lucky oriental market

By the entrance, another display of toys, trinkets, aromatherapy oils, a tennis-racket style mosquito killer, bonsai, swords, and doggie folding stools. Irresistible.

Lucky Oriental Mart
8356 SW 40 Street #D-I
Miami, FL 33155

Update: See also Maggie’s Oriental Mart.

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Tuesday April 25, 2006

It’s not news that moving companies can rip you off. Good reason to own a hatchback and move everything yourself. Or at least check out whomever you deal with. (Kudos to New Times for beginning to integrate links into their articles.)

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The Herald hired a PR firm to manage public opinion after firing Jim DeFede. “Am I alone in thinking this is an unseemly violation of the trust newspapers have with their readers? The press, after all, is charged with the task of getting past the cover stories of P.R. firms to get to the truth about government, business, etc. If readers can’t get the unvarnished truth from the newspaper — free from the influence of hired obfuscators — then where can they ever expect to get it?”

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The fucking SUV drivers, I tell ya. My driving habits toward SUV’s have changed drastically ever since I learned that you can annoy SUV drivers into giving up their vehicles.

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What's up with the Sunguide ads?

sunguide sign over I-95

These Sunguide marquees (that’s Dynamic Message Signs to you) sprung up all over over South Florida about 10 years ago. They give road condition info, issue Amber Alerts, and now, apparently, advertise how great the Sunguide “Intelligent Transportation System” is. This is just so wrong. How? Let me count the ways.

  1. It’s a distraction. The big ones are bad enough, and the smaller ones flash back and forth between two parts of this message. Every second I spend looking at your sign is a second when I’m not looking at the road.
  2. Every silly, useless message they put up on these boards will make drivers pay less attention to them in the future (when there might be something important on them).
  3. Waste of money (sure the signs are already there, but how much does it cost to light and program them1).
  4. The Road Rangers are great (they gave me free gas one time when I ran out on the highway — not my proudest moment), but they’ve been around for years; nothing new.
  5. Except in a few rare instances, government agencies have no business spending our money to advertise how great they.

[1] You’d laugh, if you didn’t remember that some of these signs were up for years, blinking away with nothing at all, before the system was debugged.

Update: Unless you drive around SoFla yourself, this will probably make more sense if you’re aware of how prevelant this is: therese signs are now everywhere on and off the highways, and they’ve all had this same message on them for over a week.

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Monday April 24, 2006

Let’s talk about panty-dropping.” I agree that Carlos Suarez De Jesus’s ‘panty’ comment was pretty gratuitous. More importantly, KH is at her best when riled, and her deconstruction here is a great read.

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Miami gridlock is a map of poor leadership, plans. Larry Lebowitz reflects on the recent shutdown on Biscayne, and what will happen after the various road re-re-reconstruction projects are complete. “What you won’t find is a lot of extra roadway capacity. Now imagine those same roads supporting traffic from 70,000 new condominium units, a Performing Arts Center, two new museums in Bicentennial Park, 600,000 square feet of stores at Midtown Miami, and another 10-story mall across from the PAC called City Square.”

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What is a renewable energy source?

wind power

This is a bit off-topic, but ever since our energy conversation, I’ve been thinking about how the whole notion of “renewable energy” might be a little short-sighted and skewed. We have a “non-renewable=bad, renewable=good” mentality, which partly rests on the understanding that non-renewable energy (i.e. coal) is bad for the environment, while renewable energy (i.e. wind) causes no harm.

Well: the world currently consumes about 450 quadrillion btu’s of energy per year. The burning of fossil fuels accounts for about 85 percent of that energy, and while wind still accounts for less then one percent, it makes for a valuable example, since it is growing rapidly [MS Excel link from this page 1].

Consider the causal chain by which fossil fuels harm the environment: the burning process produces compounds which interact with 02 molecules in our atmosphere (the ozone layer), defeating their solar-power deflecting properties, causing global warning. Note that the harm to the environment happens through changing the weather.

Now think about wind energy. What would happen if our use of that resource were to increase substantially? A causal relationship to weather change seems much easier to imagine then with fossils: when tens of quadrillions of btu of energy is harvested from winds, contrary to conventional notions of ‘renewable energy’, those btu’s will not be transparently replaced by anything: the only possible result is less wind.

This may sound far-fetched, but the laws of thermodynamics dictate that if energy is generated by a turbine, the wind must move more slowly after it passes over that turbine. The effect on winds may be immeasurable or irrelevant at today’s levels of wind energy harvesting, but there is no reason for assuming that it will remain so at higher levels of harvesting. One might even argue that messing with the winds could have much more dramatic effects on weather then global warming ever will. Analogous cases could be made for solar power, tide power, geothermal power, and any other energy source you’d care to name, in proportion to that source’s potential to provide a significant source of energy.

And while creating balance is a worthwhile goal, it won’t be a solution, since any renewable energy source that begins to contribute a significant proportion to the world’s energy reveals its downside; just look at the problems the Chinese are creating by attempting to harness hydro power.

So what’s the solution? Well, I don’t know, and I’m certainly not suggesting we abandon wind power (or any other alternative), just that our thinking might be a little short-sighted. I suspect that nuclear energy should be revisited, especially fusion. And I suspect that we need to really look at everything: conservation, increased efficiency, energy alternatives, and yes: drilling the damned gulf.

[1] Very typical government move: they don’t use HTML tables for displaying data, which is what they’re intended for (they I suppose they expect readers to open every one of those dozens of Excel links), but they have no problem using them for the page layout (for which they’re not supposed to be used).

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Sunday April 23, 2006

All the f-bombs in Scarface

Classic, quintessential Miami, right?

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Saturday April 22, 2006

Blue screen of death at MIA?

blue screen of death on CBS4

According to this report here (on UPN33 and/or CBS4), flights all over MIA were delayed because of a Win98-style blue-screen-of-death crash yesterday.

ORLY?! Uh, no, actually: the Sabre computer system has nothing to do with Windows – it runs on a mainframe computer, so the “blue screen” you see above is just some overzealous TV editor’s desperate attempt to show some sort of graphic representation of their idea of what a computer crash looks like.

I suppose next time they’re talking about a mugger they have no picture of, they can just use a sketch of the Unabomber or something, right? Or just do a search for “mugging” on YouTube. Good grief!

(btw, you do occasionally see windows errors on Airport displays, and it’s completely related to what happened here – one or two displays may be down, but with no effect on the actual flights. It’s a separate system.)

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Friday April 21, 2006

Why not: I’ll just feed you these Jim DeFede comentaries as they come in, they’re that good. This one’s on the mess Joe Martinez has gotten himself into.

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Rebecca’s got some stuff to do for Earth-Day, which is tomorrow.

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Flew Friday

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Why Coral Gables Sucks. TJE obviously doesn’t work in downtown, otherwise “getting there during rush hour” would have made the list. Otherwise, I dig, and yes: let’s have some posts detailing some of these (the parking situation, for example, which I didn’t fully understand).

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You may not even need to click the link, but yes, a man was caught coming into MIA with a suitcase of dead birds. The suitcase was confiscated, and the man was allowed to go on his way. Good times.

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Thursday April 20, 2006

rendering

Rendering of the University of Miami medical-practice building, to be completed in 2009, downtown. (via Miami Transit)

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The Miami Vice Movie has just spawned a video game. Both will be released July 28th. Will the game be better then GTAVC? Methinks not. Update: More screenshots and info.

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Faith Farm

Faith Farm is some sort of religious rehabilitation center (for recovering substance abusers?) in Ft. Lauderdale. It also happens to be a great thrift store, in particular, maybe the best place for used furniture in driving distance. Two buildings and a large outdoor area hold crazy amounts of furniture (and lots of other stuff), and there’s more coming in all the time. As with any thrift, the best time to go is in the morning.

Sofas under an overhang. Upstairs, there’s a whole huge room full of sofas; this is just the overflow.

Cabinets, bookshelves, and dressers as far as the eye can see (a wide-angle lens would have shown a lot more).

Another covered area outside with dining room tables, bed frames, and coffee tables. It’s particularly easy to find a good dining room sets here.

There’s a huge patio outside with all kinds of stuff too various to describe. It’s well organized, too: here, a conglomeration of crutches. There’s also a whole separate building with new furniture downstairs and a regular thrift store section, with clothes, lamps, electronics, and whatnot.

Organization!

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Wednesday April 19, 2006

Broward home price medians still rising. (Allegedly,) after a dip post-Wilma, housing prices are back on the rise. Yeah, right; I’m thinking this is a slight uptick on the way down. Witness: (1) ”[t]he number of homes sold during March continued to decline, though, to 649 homes from 958 single-family homes sold for the same month the year before,” (2) the source is realtors who have much to gain from everyone thinking everything’s hunky-dory, and (3) no data given for Miami-Dade. I’m sticking with my predictions.

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This is it, folks: looks like the UDB decisions are being made tomorrow. Slap on a green shirt, call in sick, and join Rebecca down there.

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Billboard fever

Jack Daniels' Billboard

We accept billboards as part of our natural landscape, right? But think about it – these objects serve no purpose other then to block whatever’s behind them in the service of whatever crass message the marketers want you to see. This is not about being anti-advertising, much advertising contributes positively to our society. Magazines would be impossible with ads, and much of the internet would be behind various paywalls. Billboards are different, though, because they occupy real space: the space we all have to share, and they divide it up in a way that is unfair to real stuff. This goes even if what’s behind the billboard is an ugly building, or nothing but sky.

Now, nobody’s advocating getting rid of all the billboards overnight; heck, that might be impossible. But we as a community should be thinking about billboard reduction. (Years ago, I read a great essay that lays out all these arguments I haven’t been able to find it on the internet, but if I do, I’ll add the link here.) Update, March, 2009: How to look at billboards.

In any case, our great state legislators are taking the opposite view — not that billboards should be taken down so we can see the trees, but that trees should be cut down so we can see the billboards! Is it just me, or is it more obvious every single day that political contributions run the government, rather then a commitment to constituents? Can we please get some campaign contribution reform going, to at least cool some of this crap off? (See also Free Culture, and the harm caused to our culture by endless copyright extensions which benefit 2% of copyright holders at the expense of a potential blossoming of new creativity.)

In other news, the legislature is pushing no less then 26 bills that would curb the rights of sex offenders. Now, I’m no champion of child molesters, but there is quite a bit of evidence that most of these laws would do no good, and cause burdens on those who would have to try to enfoce them. It’s time to re-examine some of the arguments we looked at before. Is our state legislature doing anything particularly worthwhile? Maybe it’s time for them to come home.

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Miami Transit and Overtown USA with some first-hand reporting and reflection on the traffic mess created during the recent closure of Biscayne Blvd. Herald on same, with a little more about the crane accident, which left one man dead and another injured (they were father and son, by the way). Update: Steve Klotz with a related traffic situation…

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Tuesday April 18, 2006

Oh, look, our ‘one year ago today’ button (in the left column) has I-95 On-Ramp Traffic Signals, w/r/t which nothing has porgressed one iota this past year. They’re still there, sadly waiting to be turned on.

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battlebots

BattleBots IQ is coming to Coral Gables Coconut Grove.

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MPAC announces more shows, including Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band and the Classical Theater of Harlem. A press release for the opening weekend.

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Monday April 17, 2006

A tale of two t-shirts

Right off, you’re probably wondering, ‘who IS that good looking fella?’ Nevermind for a minute though, I’ll get to that. I have a story to tell first.

I was born in what is now the Czech Republic, and immigrated to Miami in 1980. Lived here ever since. Even though I was a little kid at the time, I’m a bona fide first-generation immigrant from a communist country. Look: I get to refer to fidel castro without capitalising his name! Seriously, though, my parents take this stuff very seriously, and do not appreciate anything with a taint of pro-communism, however tongue-in-cheek. When I came back from a trip to New Orleans (half a decade ago) with a Che Guevera shirt (can you read it? it says “art critic”), I got an earful about it.

Some research revealed the truth. The Communist revolutionaries, in the Americas as in the rest of the world, may have started out meaning well, but they soon allowed their ideas to overtake their humanity. Any system, if it is to be truly strong, must allow itself to be criticized from within. Che and Fidel are two in a very long, and very global, line of leaders who’s good intentions will forever be overshadowed by their ultimate inhumanity. Many people suffered and died, and many continue to suffer and die, and that’s why wearing shirts with Che is not cool.

OK, but so anyway, since I’ve been doing CM, I’ve been on pretty good terms with the local Cuban-American bloggers. I exchanged a couple of e-mails with Henry, of Cuban-American Pundits and Trenblindado, told him a version of this story, and he declared me an ‘honorary member’ of the Miami Mafia and sent me the other groovy shirt (the only one I wear out anymore), which, by the way, thanks, Henry (it’s a nice shirt – you can get yourself one (and catch up on some truth) at the Trenblindado site). By the way, “Miami Mafia” is a disparaging term used toward the Miami Cuban exhile community by the Castro regime. Communist leaders are known for their lack of irony.

So, all this happened a couple of months ago, and I should have probably posted about it at the time, to save this from being a hideously long post. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, what with the immigration protests all over the country, and especially the mention of some protesters wearing Che shirts. Now, I’m on record as being of the opinion that anyone who wants to live in the US should be allowed to, regardless of where they’re from. I have no issue with those who live in the country and want to criticize some of its policies. But I, like many others, was initially surprised that the protests in Miami were so much smaller than in other cities.

On reflection, I think the Herald article comes closest to the truth. While conditions in Haiti, and even much of Mexico, are more than any human should have to tolerate, there really is a difference between these countries and Cuba. Taking nothing from the other immigrants living in the US, but their experience of America and their relationship to their home land is something quite different. Fair or crooked, these countries have at the very least had elections, and had a chance for improvement. Meanwhile, Cuba has been in the control of a Communist dictator for close to 50 years, and that really is something qualitatively different. It’s a very profound type of exile; one which I personally experienced from 1980 to 1989.

To my Cuban friends, I can say that there is a better future, but they already know that. My parents are today living back in the Czech Republic, and just as that country struggled loose from Communism, so shall Cuba. One day, I’d like to visit Cuba, but unlike some Americans, I won’t consider it until it’s libre.

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Some news on parking for the Miami Performing Arts Center.

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Voters lose chance to elect property appraiser. Sounds dry, but it makes for an interesting read (even if, like me, you don’t understand all the intricacies). Note that the key “no” vote was Katy Sorenson, whom Jim DeFede said was “the one person who stands for honesty and integrity and [who] wants to protect the environment.”

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Sunday April 16, 2006

Miamista’s back with another sprawling post. Check him out on Arriola (#2) and the Coconut Grove Playhouse closing (#7).

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Saturday April 15, 2006

The New Times’ Bitch has heard rumor that the Virgin Megastore may be closing soon. Kind of a bummer, but it goes to show that you shouldn’t have to pay ($6!) to park when you’re going shopping.

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First teachers, and now doctors. If this keeps up, we won’t even be able to trust our lawyers.

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A greener Miami

a steenkin' pile of garbage One of the nice things about all the new blogs is that certain unpleasant tasks, like trying to keep up with the horrible UDB site, get taken off my hands. Not only does Rebecca do it better then I ever did, but she does what few bloggers do: she gets out there and does stuff in the real world.

There was the trash thing, the transportation challenge, and the liveblogging thing. It’s not in her nature to be preachy, which is quite unexpected for a hippie environmentalist blogger, right?

OK, so how about this: “I will pick up at least one piece of litter and place it in a trash can everyday for 1 month, but only if 20 other local people will, too.” You can get behind that, can’t you?

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Once again, it’s a disgrace how our government treats people from other countries.

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Friday April 14, 2006

This is just rich: Miami-Dade publishes its own manual on how to treat public officials. Perhaps a manual for public officials about how to treat their constituents would be more apt.

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[I]f ever there was a person who could use a good spanking, it’s Joe Arriola.” Wow. Please watch this video; I could just kiss Jim DeFede. (via SotP)

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Natalia Benedetti, Cristina Lei Rodriguez, Frances Trombly, and Wendy Wischer have a joint studio space in the Design District. Apparently they were planning an event which didn’t happen, but the location is secret unless you bought a ticket. Very undercover.

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Oh, look: the Miami Performing Arts Center just announced its opening weekend. It’s in October, not August.

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Precious little weekend

clubbin' as far as the eye can see

Not much going on this weekend that I can see. I guess it’s the

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The South Beach Fry-It Diet. Ouch!

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Thursday April 13, 2006

Coconut Grove Playhouse Clings To Life. It’s been a rough day for the playhouse. Unless a few more benefactors come forward, it’s going to be tough to keep going.

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Let’s test this out: Steve Klotz rolls his eyes at the latest name change of what I still call ‘Joe Robbie.’

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Uno

graph

Oh, by the way, today is the first aniversary of this’ere site. I started CM because at the time there was no Miamist, no Metroblogging Miami, and no other Miami based blogs of that sort. Today, there are dozens, and there’s a Miamist and MB-Miami (though they both blow), so technically, there’s no more need for Critical Miami. Nonetheless, though, I see no reason not to keep it up so long as it’s fun.

In honor of the anniversary, some changes are happening. Nothing drastic, but you may notice some things moving around over the next couple of weeks. To get you started, there’s a “one year ago today” feature in the left bar (thanks to Mary on the Textpattern forum for that one). The big thing will be that the Tuesday linkfest will be exploded and scattered throughout the week, ala kottke.org. There may be a slight design overhaul. The archives will be made easier. That sort of thing.

This would be a good time to kick in any suggestions, gripes, pet peeves, or advice you may be harboring. Thanks for reading.

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Tapas y Tintos

tintos party scene

Ok, I’ll be honest – I stumbled onto this place, which is a couple of blocks from my apartment, semi-randomly, not even really knowing what tapas were. So yes, tapas are a Spanish dining thing: imagine ordering a bunch of scrumptious appetizers for your table instead of regular dinner and you’ve sort of got it. It’s all about sharing, trying new tastes, and a more relaxed, social approach to eating. You can see why it’s big in Miami, yes?

So anyway, Tapas y Tintos [but don’t click – you’ll only cause yourself unneeded Flash-loading stress] has a reputation (I find out subsequent) as the best tapas joint in the county, so it’s no surprise I was impressed. We ordered a “Popeye y Olivia” (garbanzo beans + spinich), a shrimp thing in olive oil with prodigious amounts of garlic-clove-halves, and a goat cheese with marinara sauce, a great bottle of wine (all the bread you can eat is part of the deal) and paid about $75, even after bumping the obligatory 15% tip up a bit. The garbanzo beans were eh, the shrimp was tasty, the goat cheese was an unexpected star, and the wine made everything drift by slowly and with a relaxed ease.

Now, we’d gotten there early, but by the time we left it was obvious what a scene this place is. Outside, the seats are comfy wicker, suitable for relaxing and Española people-watching. Inside, the atmosphere is more intense, and a lot of the seating seemed to be stool-style around a coffee-table type thing – maybe fun, but maybe also less comfortable. Apparently Tapas y Tintos has live music, and is semi-clubby on weekend nights, so this is obviously all part of the fun.

More reading about tapas here, here, and here. Any other tapas places worth checking out?

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Wednesday April 12, 2006

Giant sloth found in Everglades

Come to daddy!

While digging around in the Everglades, working on a filter marsh, builders came across a 2-foot jaw bone.

The bone belonged to a Giant Sloth, the sort of which regularly roamed Florida about 12,000 years ago. Now, this may not be anything too far from the ordinary, but I’d say it’s pretty damn cool. This thing was the size of an elephant – the biggest mammal ever to have walked the earth. It was one of the animals that lived in North America when humans first spread across the continent, along with saber-tooth tigers, mastodons, and whatnot. Somehow, these bones survived in the everglades muck all these thousands of years.

Researchers from the University of Florida will poke around the site a little more before it gets covered with water for the filter marsh thing (part of the much delayed, $7.8 billion Everglades Restoration Project, natch). Whatever other animal parts there may be will stay there.

For extra credit, find the site on Google Maps. Keep in mind that the site is in the Southeastern part of Hendry County, and it’s 2,000 acres, probably accessible by a road of some sort . . . go to it!

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Tuesday April 11, 2006

Last Tuesday Ever*

miami beach city hall

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Monday April 10, 2006

New World Symphony does Reich

Cookin:' Part IV

The New World Symphony’s performnace of Steve Reich‘s Drumming on Saturday was pretty mind-bending. Exploring the same themes that occupied Reich’s entire career, the piece is built up from simple rhythmic motifs which grow increasingly complex through layering, variation, and “phasing.” The later technique is particularly key – it involves a repeating pattern played by two musicians, whom gradually fall out of sync with each other (one playing just slightly faster), then back into sync (when the “faster” variation gets a full eight-note ahead of the other). The effect is maddeningly complex when done by two musicians, let alone 13. Drumming opens up on four pairs of tuned bongos, moves to marimbas for the second section, to glockenspiels for the third, and finishes with all the instruments playing together. At various points, vocalists, a piccolo, and whistling augment the percussion. All of the action of the piece takes place in a very limited frequency range, and often with incredible density of notes, which result in overtones and perceived sounds that cannot be coming from the actual instruments. The piece also challenges you to “follow the pattern,” knowing full well that the variations will grown too complex by several orders of magnitude for that to be possible — at one particularly hot moment, there are nine musicians playing different patterns on the marimbas. Think of future robots playing patty-cake, fractal/chaos theory, and the game simon, but mostly nevermind: you just have to listen to it from beginning to end to get it.

What I’m trying to say is that this shit is weird. And that gets me to how cool the New World Symphony is for doing it (and doing it well: the performance was easily as good as the one one my box cd.) And getting people to come hear it: the 704-seat theater was maybe 90% full. I was skeptical of combining a show like this with a 90-minute cocktail reception (“Symphony with a Twist,” indeed), but the proof is in the pudding: no more then one person left during the performance, and most of the crowd cheered furiously at the end (from the balcony, I saw a few people sitting with arms folded across their chest throughout the standing ovation, but that’s less then I’d have expected). Before the show, Michael Linville came out and explained the basic concepts of the piece (with a quick demonstration by a couple of the musicians) to give the audience a little background, but mostly they were just thrown in the deep end. So we have another case of NWS doing uncompromising work, and getting people to hear it. Bravo!

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Friday April 7, 2006

Drumming Friday

Tuned bongos, y'all!

Anything else?

Update: Immigrant solidarity rallies (from the Herald):

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Artblogging panel

The panel was fun. There was a little of an information gap, but overall, my worst fears were not realized. To wit: I wondered, since the five of us are obviously articulate in writing and perfectly fine expressing whatever we need to on the blogs, whether there would be about this forum that would add to that. The answer turned out to be “yes.” And while I’m sure there were moments that were painfully dull for the audience, there was also some good back-and-forth. The library didn’t close promptly at 8 pm as was threatened, and so the conversation was allowed to run its course very naturally. One of the questions that came up afterwards was “so what do we do for part 2”? The answer seems clear to me now: different bloggers!

One of the points I found myself making was how different blogging is from journalism (this was particularly apparent during a great chat I had with Omar Sommereyns and Tiffany Rainey of SunPost at the post-panel chowdown at Parilla): a journalist starts a story with an idea, then goes to gather the facts through phone calls and research, then fits it into the space allocated, and into a fairly well defined “story arc.” As a blogger, my approach is almost the reverse of this – I start with experiences that I’ve had, and things that I’ve done or thought because of my personal interests, then fit them into posts; in a sense, the “idea” for the post comes last. I can write as much or as little as I want, and I can do it whenever I want. So, well, it’ll be interesting to see where this stuff is 10 years from now, when blogs and newspapers have gone through whatever integrating they’ll go through, and the percentage of human beings with blogs has plateaued, and this stuff’s place in society is established and not feared.

Oh right, the panel… Well, KH and Alfredo got into a little back-and-forth with Franklin, but there was too much love for real sparks to fly. Helen Kohen was a great moderator; she approached it with the freshness of an outsider (who, as a journalist, did her research!), and was very good about passing the [proverbial] mic around.

Oh, and so Rebecca Carter liveblogged the first hour of the talk (and summarized much of the rest) at Greener Miami, and I think caught much of the more interesting content (the photo above is also hers). Nice work, Rebecca! Meanwhile, over at this Artblog thread Jack gives his assessment at comment #18 (note to Jack: at the dinner after the panel, someone suggested checking Artblog to see what you’d said about it, so we all saw your comment moments after you posted it, about an hour after the end of the panel).

Update: KH has some reflections here and here.

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Thursday April 6, 2006

Yellow arrow

It’s taken a long-ass time, but Yellow Arrow [made me download a new version of Flash] finally has some traction in Miami, with 128 arrows (this one is on the sidewalk on Lenox Ave on the Beach). Yellow Arrow started in NYC years ago.

The basic idea is that you use the arrows to tag stuff in the real world (can’t be private property) with arrows you get from the site, and link the unique code on the arrow to your comment about the thing. Others who come across the arrow can get your comment by SMS from their cell. I can’t link to the specific pages on the site (drat that flash!) but poke around.

Tracking these down can’t possibly be worth the effort, but they’re definitely something to be on the lookout for. Better yet, plant some of your own – you order the arrows for 50 cents a piece, and you can do the whole thing from a cell, out in the real world.

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Wednesday April 5, 2006

What we've learned from the University of Miami Janitors' strike (updated)

About 900 service workers from the University of Miami went on strike March 1, demanding a living wage, health benefits, and union representation. Of course, that wasn’t the beginning; they had been making those demands for a long time, more recently assisted by the SEIO, who set up a fancy website and organized some community pressure on the school. In particular, the pressure focused on University of Miami President Donna Shalala (who, coincidentally, was director of the Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration), who established a group to conduct a review of compensation and benefits to contract employees on February 23 (source).

Huh? She wanted to know how much her janitors were making, so she “established a group” to “conduct a review?” What ever happened to “making a phone call” to “your human-resources department?” Oh, and how long were we expecting to wait to hear back from this group? The link above says “within a month.” We probably shouldn’t be too surprised, given how these beuracracies work.

Now, the university does not employ the service workers directly; it contracts with UNICCO, which promptly set up a couple of cynical websites, including plain vanilla and blog flavor to combat the bad PR coming out of all this (the fact is, though, that UNICCO doesn’t set the wages – the school does). The blog is particularly hilarious; for example, in responding to this document, “Why the Protest Continues: It’s All About Democracy” (a petition by the UM faculty and students in support of the strikers), it says “I would like to take the time to refute their points one at a time, but since their missive is four pages long and virtually each page has a factual inaccuracy, I’ll stick to the more salient points.” The “missive” takes three screens on my monitor, with a generously-sized font, but even if true, “virtually each page” means that the author found three factual inaccuracies and couldn’t be bothered to address them all.

Anyway, Donna Shalala seemed pretty cool under fire, considering she had no authority to do what was being asked of her; for that, the university’s Board of Trustees has to vote. That they did, exactly a month after the announcement about the study. In a funny coincidence, the decision came down on the same day that the strikers staged a protest at Gloria Estefan’s house (she’s a one of the Trustees). There’s a joke here about “if you want something done, go to Gloria,” but nevermind.

The strike continues; the issue now is how the unionization of the service workers will proceed. UM students have gotten in on the act with a small-scale sit-in. And workers at other universities are talking about similar actions.

It’s nice to see that collective bargaining is alive and well. This gets into a lot of issues, including the labor market vs. housing costs, illegal immigration, and the minimum wage. Market forces are great, but the collective bargaining power of employees is a market force that has to be reckoned with. The salaries we’re talking about here are roughly half of Miami’s $35,000 median income.

Update: A few more sources, which may round out my musings:

*“UNICCO’s response”:http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/03-21-2006/0004324517&EDATE to said allegations.

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Tuesday April 4, 2006

Second-to-last Tuesday

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