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Wednesday February 28, 2007

Everybody knows that building baseball stadium with public funds is a terrible idea. Currently a proposal for a Marlins baseball stadium (total cost: $450 million; Marlins ownership contribution: $45 million; public contribution (city, county, and state): $405 million) is being seriously considered. Miami Vision tries in vain to justify the concept with some interesting ideas. “A few million here, a few million there, it all adds up.”

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Jackie Gomez took photos at the International Noise Confrence. Hey, I met Jackie at the Joan LaBarbara concert last night!

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Subtropics: Helena Bugallo and Amy Williams, and Joan LaBarbara

Subtropics: Helena Bugallo and Amy Williams

I didn’t quite know what to make of these two during the group pieces the other night. Their contribution was wispy and ethereal, and most difficult to register of the group. But when Helena Bugallo and Amy Williams took the stage, it was obvious from the first notes that they are a powerhouse. They opened with a set of pieces by Conlon Nancarrow written for the player piano. That’s right — they performed music written to be played by a machine. These pieces often involve simultaneous lines at different speeds, notes played together very close to each other on the keyboard, and a general cacophony of piano. Imagine the trip from Keith Jarrett to Cecil Taylor, and then go again as far in the same direction, or imagine ten schoolchildren hitting keys at random on a single keyboard, but then imagine that notated note for note . . . well, it sounds unplayable because it is unplayable, and if I hadn’t seen Bugallo and Williams do it I’d not believe that it was possible.

They actually somehow made it look effortless, too. Working almost as a single being at one piano (the picture above was taken during a later piece by a different composer), their hands frequently crossing and overlapped in bizarre configurations (sometimes all four hands in the space of one keyboard octave), taking turns turning the pages of the score, and hitting each jarring note exactly dead on. It was simply breathtaking.

Bugallo and Williams took a break from Nancarrow to perform three longer compositions by other composers, most notably the Sonata for Two Pianos by Salvatore Sciarrino. From the Subtropics site:

The two performers must simultaneously operate in two mindsets: one characterized by a great deal of indeterminacy (no precise rhythms, pitches, dynamics, or tempi are specified) and the other dominated by extremely precise ornamentation (black and/or white note glissandi of varying lengths, no less than fourteen different types of trills, and a wide range of clusters). The gesture of ornamentation is brought to the forefront.

They’re not kidding. The performance was a romp through ultra-fast repeating patterns on the upper range of the pianos, full of the aforementioned glissandi and trills, and it was positively dazzling. I think iSAW has been recording the whole festival, and this piece belongs on any collection of highlights.

Subtropics: Joan LaBarbara

What’s surprising about the work of Joan LaBarbara is actually how unique it is. Voice is such a primal component of the human experience, yet we spend so little time considering its possibilities beyond utilitarian speech and a still relatively conservative approach to “singing.” LaBarbara has been exploring the other possibilities of vocal performance in the 1970s, and remains one of the very few artists working in this mode. Trained as a classical singer, LaBarbara began toward the end of her training to gravitate towards the extended vocal techniques and an experimental approach out of a desire to work with living (read: avant-garde) composers, and hasn’t looked back since. I cherish my copy of Voice is the Original Instrument, and I was blown away by seeing her live.

She performed an all-Cage concert, suitable to the theme of the festival but highlighting her (considerable) talents as a traditional singer more so then her “extended technique.” But the material was impeccably chosen, and we did get a taste — a piece where LaBarbara dueted with a pre-recorded version of herself (synchronized with a stopwatch — see the photo!), hissing, yelping, and . . . actually nevermind, verbal descriptions will never do this music justice. Suffice it to say that it’s transportative in a way that nothing else is. She also performed a piece with short phrases interspersed with long silences (Cage trademark), which was the height of drama (at least until someone’s cell phone went off).

I could go on and on about Joan LaBarbara, but suffice it to say that she’s a legend, and it was a privilege to see her perform.

Tonight: The Subtropics Marathon! (7 pm, $10)

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Tuesday February 27, 2007

Subtropics: Graphic Music

Subtropics: Graphic Music

Last night, a group performance by some of the biggest names in contemporary avant-garde music, in town for Subtropics. From left: Christian Wolff behind the upright piano, Joan LaBarbara on the microphone, Helena Bugallo and Amy Williams on the grand piano, Gustavo Matamoros on saw, Jan Williams on percussion and Robert Black on bass.

They performed two stunning pieces as a group which were synchronized to preset points by the powerbook in the foreground, as well as a few pieces in smaller groups and solo. LaBarbara was fantastic. Black did a great little silent pantomime performance on the bass. But probably the best moment was a Wolff composition, performed with Black and Williams, a long weaving melody traded between the instruments, each note played by a different player at a different articulation. After the show I bumped to Wolff waiting for the bus (me, not him), so at least I got a chance to thank him for coming to Miami, ‘cause the attendance was not in line with the excellence of the performance (then again, 2 to 3 concerts a day for 9 days in a row is tough for anyone).

Tonight: Solo performances by Joan LaBarbara at 7 pm and Helena Bugallo and Amy Williams (performing the player piano pieces of Conlon Nancarrow) at 9:30 pm.

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City of Miami police beat up photographers

Miami Police

OK, first of all photographers have the right to take photos anytime they are on public property. Andrew Kantor lays out the law pretty well, and links to some great resources, including the photographer’s pocket guide. Unless you’re photographing a military installation, or using a zoom lens to get at someone where they have an expectation of privacy, you can do whatever you want. This applies in particular to photographing the police, who are granted extraordinary power by the public — they are supposed to serve us, but we know that they have a tendency to abuse their rights. Photographing the police isn’t just a right — it’s an important check on their power, and lets them know they can’t get away with doing whatever they want (at least not in public).

The City of Miami police ought to know this, but they repeatedly ignore it, regularly harassing photographers on the street (I’ve been the subject of such harassment), and sometimes meeting having these rights pointed out to them with brutal beat-downs.

OK, so a photographer who was in town photographing the Anna Nicole Smith mess decided to come down to Miami to photograph the transition along Biscayne Blvd. He came upon five City of Miami cops who were apparently questioning someone. He began photographing them, and, well, here’s his account:

One of the cops told me to keep walking because this was a “private matter”.

I said that I will not keep walking because this is a “public street”.

Within seconds, the five officer left the first man alone and came after me. One cop escorted me across the road. As I stood on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road, the cops began surrounding me, which was when I shot several more shots.

That was when they slammed me against the pavement even though I offered no resistance, causing a deep abrasion on my right knee. One officer grabbed me by the back of the head and repeatedly bashed my forehead against the sidewalk, causing abrasions and swelling to the right side of my forehead.

Another officer grabbed my right hand and bent it backwards in a 90 degree angle, causing me to scream out in pain and continuing to do so even after the handcuffs were placed on me. As I verbally protested, one officer threatened me with a taser gun if I did not stop talking.

The officers charged me with five counts of disobeying a police, one count of obstructing justice, one count of obstructing traffic, one count of disorderly conduct and one count of resisting arrest without violence.

On the arrest affidavit, the officers lied several times in order to justify their arrest. They accused me of photographing them without identifying myself, which is not true (and not even against the law as far as I know). As soon as one of the officers questioned me about taking photos, I immediately identified myself by name and profession.

There is an interesting debate going on on the photo’s flickr page, but one thing is for sure: this is not an isolated incident.

Recently a lawsuit was reported against the Miami Police for actions during the 2003 World Trade Organization protest. Seems they had trouble with what this young lady was doing. Rather then beat her up (how macho would that be?) they destroyed her belongings, including her car (!), detained her for extensive questioning, and then left her stranded in downtown Miami.

Are we surprised? Um, no. Our police officers doing whatever they want is par for the course. What is surprising is how well tolerated this stuff is. The debate linked above is full of “he should have done what the police told him to do” type of comments. This is another indication of how we’re willing to let the government do whatever it deems fit post — 9-11, and not question our “betters,” and it’s disturbing, not just from a civil libertarian perspective, but also from a “we’re giving the terrorists what they want when we sacrifice our freedoms for a false sense of security” perspective.

What we should be doing is holding demonstrations in front of police headquarters over incidents like this, and asking our elected officials to send a message to the police that this stuff will not stand.

Update: The photographer is Carlos Miller, and he was on assignment for Category 305. Read Rebecca Wakefield’s article about the incident, which includes a more detailed description of the incident and comments from Miller.

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Monday February 26, 2007

“Republican leaders in the new Legislature have enthusiastically exhumed the oft-snuffed plan to throw away $60 million of public funds on a Major League Baseball park in South Florida.” Hiaasen lets us know how he feels about it.

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Miami panorama link

A spectacular Miami panorama. Click, then scroll to the right. Wow, eh? Photo by Mark Diamond.

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Mark Bittman stopped by a few Miami restaurants and wrote a NYTimes piece full of mixed reviews. In C305, Pamela Robin Brandt was not amused, and basically handed Bittman his ass.

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Lincoln Road "Green Market"

"Green" as in "Market"

The Lincoln Road Green Market doesn’t call itself a farmer’s market, and rightly so. A huge majority of the booths sell oft-dubious antiques, chotchkes, clothing, and other junk. The sign weasels right out of this, declaring the market to only be from Meridian to Washington. Whatever.

Pseudo-victorian tea service

Most of this stuff is not my cup of tea (ha!), though there were some cool things scattered around. Not at this booth, but there were some fakes so obvious that I could spot them while skipping by. Watch out (or maybe you don’t care, in which case you shouldn’t be paying the prices these people charge).

Retrospecs

Tip: if you can find a nice pair, you might be able to get your optometrist to turn them into regular glasses. She Kills He did that with fantastic success.

Mid-century

Mid-century shoutout.

Foreign mangos

Here we go. The mangoes on the right are from Peru. The mangos on the left are from Haiti. Which is all fine, so long as you don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re at a farmer’s market — with the exception of some citrus and strawberries, nothing here is locally grown, and nothing is sold by a farmer, or anyone working for a farmer. “They’re good mangoes,” the guy told me as he rushed past, and I’m sure they are, but I can get good mangoes at Publix, too.

"Bonsai"

In addition to a tent selling “Bonsai,” there are orchids, smoothies, and cut flowers to be purchased.

Foreign fruit

Total number of stands selling straight-up fruit: three. And of those only one had any vegetables. And it was all pretty expensive. I’m not sure where the apples above were grown, but the stickers say “Del Monte.” Bummer.

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Sunday February 25, 2007

Subtropics day 1: Takehisa Kosugi and Christian Wolff

Takehisa Kosugi at Subtropics

Takehisa Kosugi at Subtropics

Takehisa Kosugi at Subtropics

Takehisa Kosugi at Subtropics

Subtropics kicked off last night with concerts by two masters. Takehisa Kosugi went first, opening with a piece that used his own breath as a sound source. Two tubes with attached transducers fed into a tangled web of signal processors, including guitar pedals, a motion sensor, and several custom built boxes (here is the rig). The sound was distorted and pitch shifted, mostly loosing its connection to human breathing — and, occasionally, hints of singing — but retaining its organic musical quality. Probably most surprising about this piece was how naturally it moved from delicate quiet moments to dense, swirling rushes of sound.

Many of the effects in that first piece were simple distortion and delay, but Kosugi put to rest the impression that his electronics arsenal was primitive with his second, all electronics-based piece. Nice, but it lacked the visceral impact of the breathing music. Then he moved to an extended piece for the violin, which fed into a multi-pitched ring modulator.

That all would have been enough, but Kosugi had one more trick up his sleeve. He dramatically unrolled a large piece of paper that had stood behind him throughout the performance and walked to a previously unused floor microphone. He caressed the mic with the paper, then slowly and deliberately crumpled the sheet into a ball around it (this all sounded exactly like you’d think, except much lower in pitch (perhaps because the paper was unusually thin?)). Then proceeded a long solo performance by the paper ball, producing an unlikely symphony of low-pitched thuds and pops as the crumples settled themselves.

During this Kosugi sat at his table, still and contemplative, while the light gradually crossfaded from his table to the microphone. When the paper was finished, so was the concert. Spectacular.

Christian Wolff at Subtropics

Takehisa Kosugi’s performance was all body, instinct, and drama, and Christian Wolff is in some ways the the polar opposite, his manner much more casual and his music much more cerebral. He opened with a perfect little piece for prepared piano, all quirky phrases with lots of space in between. The photo above is of him “un-preparing” the piano afterwards (incompletely as it turned out — in the second half of his set he suddenly stopped in the middle of a piece, bent over the piano, and found one last little object he’d missed before!). He played a collection of short pieces for the piano, with a little set of melodica pieces in the middle.

Wolff’s music is at its best when it’s at its most angular, so it works great on the piano. All of his music has an internal logic, but it takes lots of concentration to get into that logic for each piece. When the listener’s concentration fails, the music can come across as meandering, and it’s open to debate whether the composer should share in the blame for this. As is the case with this sort of music, there was no big finale — Wolff simply announced he was about to perform his last piece, and proceeded, with whatever the antithesis of bombast is, to delicately tear the roof off the place.

A killer start to Subtropics, which goes almost every day until March 4th. Bring your ears.

A note about the photos: I’m trying to minimize the annoyance to my fellow audience members with my clacking shutter. Kosugi’s performance had plenty of loud moments where I could safely snap away, but it simply wasn’t worth disturbing Wolff’s piano pieces. Plus, the piano manipulation is the better image anyway (though I wish I’d framed it better).

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Saturday February 24, 2007

A summary of what happened at BarCamp, and an article in the Herald.

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Friday February 23, 2007

Trouble for the Miami Intermodal Center?

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Metropolis weekend

metropolis the movie

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Thursday February 22, 2007

MDHA is not your friend

MDHA is Not Your Friend

NicFitKid says: “A plywood wall listing the missing residents of the demolished Scott-Carver housing project. The county came in the next night and fenced off the whole property. Unsafe structure, and, oh yeah, political embarrassment (can’t be having any of those, it’s against code).” More here and here.

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Another day, another article about the rising costs of the Carnival Center. This time it’s an adjustment to the actual construction costs, up $12.5 million to a total of $472.97 million.

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Trilingual traffic school alterations notary public clothing store

Trilingual traffic school alterations notary public clothing store.

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Dalila Rodriguez found a book in a school library she didn’t like, so she decided to steal it. “It’s not censoring; it’s protecting our children from lies.” Um, sorry lady, but censoring is exactly what it is. I say we order a copy of each of these “offensive” books for every library and put them on a special table right in front, where the librarians can keep an eye on them.

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Alex Villalobos kills the “get out of the left lane you slow-ass” bill in the State Senate Committee on Transportation. I second his damning. And in fact, here’s his web page — whereon an e-mail address and a map of his district can be found. Maybe let him know how we feel?

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Wednesday February 21, 2007

Franklin goes to the College Art Association conference, and finds it, um, wanting. I don’t know shit from looking for a college teaching job, but F is at his best when he’s pissed off, and stuff like this makes for a great read. And as much as I sometimes disagree with him, I’ve no doubt he’s right about the CAA.

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Miamians in Beijing

new years celebration

My friends Ross, Silvia, and Saul have just moved to Bejing for “indeterminate amount of time” to live and teach English, and Ross started a blog to document their experiences. The other day he got a phone:

Then you pick your number, which vary tremendously based on what numbers are present. (eg. Fours are very unlucky since the sound for four is the same sound for death, so numbers with many fours are cheapest.) Needless to say, I have several fours in my number. Then you get your sim card and buy a phone, which you must haggle like mad for. The whole process takes several hours.

Oh, and of course they were there for the Chinese new year. Here’s a video of the fireworks. It all looks pretty amazing, and I’m totally jealous. I traveled around China with Ross and other friends a couple of years ago, and Beijing definitely seems a place worth settling down for a while. It’s like five cities in one, and it’s changing so fast right now, with historical hutongs being torn down and glass towers going up.

Actually, the Beijing building boom makes Miami look small-time. We would be driving in a cab for a few minutes, and pass three or four construction areas that each looked like downtown Miami. In fact, China construction is the major reason the price of construction materials has been inflated and we’ve had all these over-budget projects.

But I digress. Ross is in for quite the adventure; drop by and check on him.

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A rundown of the upcoming Subtropics festival, including an interview with Subtropics’ founder, Gustavo Matamoros. “Miami has been a big failure at trying to be like New York. This is because to be like New York one must start with the subway.”

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Tuesday February 20, 2007

Miami 21

Here’s an article I wrote for Damn Magazine back in June of 2006. It was published in October, but has never made it online before. I took the photos back then for the article, though in the magazine it ran with Julian Martin’s much better pictures.

Miami, June 2006

 
A New Miami?

I’m sitting in a shabby banquet room in the Eugenio Maria De Hostos Neighborhood Service Center in Wynwood, surrounded by huge pieces of foamboard covered with maps, diagrams, charts, and computer renderings of buildings and streets. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk is just wrapping up her presentation — one she’s given four times in the last week — and opens the floor up to comments. The low-level grumbling that had accompanied her talk resolves itself into a succession of complaints, many followed by applause from a healthy proportion of the 100 or so assembled. Plater-Zyberk takes all this in stride, answering each person without a shred of disagreement. Yes – the plan needs work. Yes – they would revisit that aspect to see if it could be improved. Yes, yes, yes.

We’re talking about Miami 21, the state-of-the-art master plan that’s been Manny Dias’s dream ever since he was elected mayor of Miami in 2001. It took years of preparation, but finally a firm was hired, and today we have a proposed plan. Now comes the hardest part: getting the public to agree to it.

Miami 21 is an effort to marry the best ideas from the last thirty years of urban planning to the weird realities of Miami’s existing cityscape. It focuses on what types of buildings should go where, in an effort to create a city that is convenient and pleasant for drivers as well as pedestrians. It’s not as impossible as it sounds: groupings of medium and high-density buildings with storefronts and plazas along the ground floor, plenty of trees, and nice wide sidewalks, and who wouldn’t walk a couple of blocks to run an errand? And the organization and higher density makes public transportation start to look like a viable option. Beyond that, the plan incorporates historical preservation, emphasizes open green space, hearts art and culture, encourages mixed-income development, and generally hits all the feel-good talking points that wide-eyed urban planners love.

Key to all this is something called the transect. It refers to the gradual transition from nature to the urban core through distinct zones: rural, suburban, medium-density, urban. The transect calls for throwing out old, complicated zoning codes in favor of these zones, which encourage building along old-fashioned models: suburbs, for example, begin to look more like small town under this system, with centers of common public space, shops, and parks. The transect system also eliminates the variance system, under which politically connected developers were able to have the rules changed on case-by-case basis to squeeze more profit out of their land at the expense of community coherence.

Edgewater, June 2006 Which brings us back to the meeting, and yes: the complaints. For the most part, the meeting is attended by developers, realtors, and big-time land owners, all of whom have the most to loose from certain aspects of the plan. In the effort to normalize building densities through the city and apply some control to the growth, sweeping changes have to be made to the zoning codes, and these changes have winners and losers. The landowners and developers whose ability to build gigantic concrete’n‘glass condos has been circumcised are pitching a fit. You can’t blame them, but neither should you really accommodate them, right? It’s our damned city, and we should be able to put our needs above those of developers who want to cash in and move on. This is about the vast majority of the people . . . those who actually live and work here. Obviously and unfortunately, those people are scarce in the process that goes into these sorts of plans, and while the planners try to do what they believe we want, their ability to push back against the big money interests in hindered by a lack of voice from the other side.

But actually, the problem is worse than that. Not only are many people not aware of the process, but if they were aware, they would be quite skeptical of designing a city with a big fancy plan.

While our responsibility for the natural environment has enjoyed a surge of popular support over the last several decades, the same can’t be said for the urban environment. Some cities are loved and others hated, but we don’t really think about how we can shape and influence our cities through concentrated action. This is exactly what urban planners do, though, and it’s what they’re doing with Miami21. Too bad the timing stinks. Everyone knows that we’re coming off a major building rush right now. Hundreds of building and renovation projects of all shapes and sizes are taking place all over town, and while many more are in the planning stages, conventional wisdom has it that anyone who hasn’t broken ground already is going to find it increasingly difficult to do so. As the housing supply expands and prices (especially for condos) begin to level off, the increases in building materials are going to make all sorts of numbers just not add up. So great; if we can expect a major building boom once every 20 to 30 years, and we just wrapped one up, what are we doing; planning for a rush of building in 2030?

There is good news, though. For one thing, many of the buildings now going up adhere to some of design rules of new urban thinking. There are shops along the first floor, the parking garages are hidden from the street, and the buildings are set back at the fifth or sixth floors, giving them a sense of scale from the sidewalk.

This is particularly noticeable in Edgewater, the area east of Biscayne Boulevard between the Omni and I-195. Few places have seen as rapid a transformation over the last few years as Edgewater, where single-family homes and small apartment buildings (some dating back to the original Miami construction boom in the 1920s) mingle with empty lots, construction sites, and gleaming new towers. Throw in a few corner markets, and when all the dust settles we may just have a real walkable community on our hands. It’ll get another boost when the streetcar system which is planned for the area comes online in 2010.

So there’s the city of the future for you: it intelligently mixes high, medium, and low density buildings with nice sidewalks, public spaces, and practical public transportation. Actually, it looks suspiciously the way cities all over Europe have looked for an awfully long time. And the plan? Well, Plater-Zyberk will have her hands full between now and September, when the city commission votes on the final plan. Only time will tell how much effect the plan will have, though.

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Monday February 19, 2007

FPL is planning twin coal-burning power plants uncomfortably close to the Everglades. We need more power, and the only debate seems to be between “ultra-supercritical pulverized coal” and “coal gasification” (which, come to think of it, sound like much the same thing). Hiaasen’s for the gasification. Where’s nuclear in all this?

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Sunday February 18, 2007

Great Cormorant

A Great Cormorant. Obviously not a very shy one.

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Friday February 16, 2007

Weekend

Deerhoof, Saturday!

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Nighttime sports, Flamingo park

Night baseball

Nighttime baseball, Flamingo park. See also nighttime soccer, right next door. There’s a fence along the infield edge, but the improvised soccer field extended past it a little, and at one point the the soccer ball got kicked deep into the baseball game. This resulted in a fun interaction, with joking from the second base ref and maybe slight defensiveness from the soccer player who retrieved the ball. Flamingo park was humming, with another baseball game and another soccer game going on other fields, each of which was a notch more “serious” then these.

These baseball teams had uniform t-shirts and mismatched pants. The players were men and women of all different ages. The serves were underhand, and there were two referees. The soccer players were at least as good, but there was no way to tell who was on what team, so less interesting to watch. The teams included some teenagers, and the goals, fairly hardcore at maybe five feet wide, were marked by piled-up jackets.

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Thursday February 15, 2007

How to eat on South Beach For $10 a day. A hilarious and surprisingly comprehensive guide by Matt Meltzer on Miami Beach 411.

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Tonight's events for equstrians, urbanites, historians, and artists

William Keddell says:

Events for Equestrians, Urbanites, Historians, and Artists, this Thursday:

  1. Start your evening 5pm in downtown’s Lummus Park were you can visit the City of Miami’s newly completed Police Horse Stables. Enjoy refreshments from TROY Community Academy’s Teen Cuisine and attend a short presentation- see attachment
  2. 5.40pm The King’s Edict – the latest publication and exhibit from Troys Community Academy’s “Hidden Histories” Project
  3. 6.10pm. Join Dr. Paul George for a short walking tour of Lummus Park Historic District
  4. 7.00pm. Go to opening at Historical Museum of Southern Florida’s latest show “Port Royal, Jamaica”
  5. Then go Jam @ MAM. Its Samba Night at the Miami Art Museum MAM see “The Machine, The Body and The City –Gifts from the Charles Cowles Collection” plus “No Man is an Island” video work from Dutch Artist -Jesper Just.

This is all very well, but I call for a ballot initiative that anytime our government has an event for the public, they be required to put up a permalinked, standards-compliant web page about it.

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More strong-mayor fallout in Miami Today: “[C]ommission chairman Bruno A. Barreiro revealed that he’s pushing a plan to gut the county’s budget department and bring key financial analysts directly under commission control — despite County Attorney Murray A. Greenberg’s opinion that the move violates the county charter.” Also, the charter review looks like it’s going forward.

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Sunset rays
A crazy sunset photo I took Tuesday.

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Ana Menendez’ tear-jerking ode to her father’s 14 citrus trees, cut down in 1997. “Dad stood by helplessly as Asplundh workers chopped down every one of his precious trees: the sour oranges, the lemons, the key limes, the tangelos — 14 trees in all, some of them 30 feet high. Just before the big orange tree was taken down, my father carted away four wheelbarrows full of oranges it had produced. By the end of the day, more than 10 years of patient care had been reduced to yard trash.”

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Wednesday February 14, 2007

Recycling triple cans

triple compartment trashcan Rebecca hung out on South Beach over Superbowl weekend, and was appalled by the trash:

Several companies were giving out free drinks on Ocean Drive – bottles of water, energy drinks, etc. . . . But come on – not enough trash cans and no recycling? If you allow these companies to set up on the street and hand out products, require them to have recycling bins and a plan to get them recycled!

It’s a great point. But there’s another question worth asking: why aren’t recycling cans ubiquitous here? Look at that can above. It’s like a regular garbage can from the side, but inside it’s divided up into three compartments, each with its own bag: paper, plastic, and everything else. Cans like this are all over Europe, and they work.

We’ve gotten pretty lax about recycling in general, eh? I mean, the county is planning to get rid of curbside recycling. On the other hand, there’s a sea change happening in the country about global warming, and maybe there’ll be some spillover effect and our fair leaders will reawaken to the benefits of recycling. I say let’s get the triple cans in high-traffic pedestrian zones like South Beach, and incorporate it into Miami 21.

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Was this photo stolen for a sleazy web developer’s ad? Sure looks like it. Compare the original.

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Tuesday February 13, 2007

Michael Putney did the recitation for Copland’s Lincoln Portrait during the Miami Symphony Orchestra’s performance at Carnival Center on Sunday. In the Herald, Alan Becker was not too impressed.

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Lung Gong

Lung Gong

You’ve heard about the “secret menu” that some Chinese restaurants have, with real Chinese food that most Americans wouldn’t even dream of ordering? Welcome to Long Gong, a cozy little place tucked into a strip mall on Tamiami Trail just west of FIU. The staff is absurdly friendly, and the authentic menu isn’t that intimidating: it’s in English, and includes a mix of the comforting and intimidating. Go with a big group, order some of both, and prepare to be amazed.

food crop.JPG

It’s difficult to get a good picture of the food, because we ordered probably about a dozen different things, and they bring out each dish as it’s prepared, just like in China, so that the meal becomes this very time-based experience of overlapping courses. Here we have (counterclockwise from left) chicken with chestnuts, broccoli, a spicy fish stew, duck (head chopped in half for easy brain consumption), more broccoli, and some soup. We also had steamed dumplings, fried whole little octopi, garlic cucumber, and a couple of fried-dough based things, both sweet and savory. Copious quantities of beer and sake were also consumed.

This was a grand feast celebrating a couple of friends’ departure to China to teach English for a year+. Here is a photostitch of everyone at the table, with the secret menu at far right. (Please to note the Miami Chinese restaurant roundup in c305, which also features Kon Chau.)

Lung Gong
11929 SW 8th Street
305-553-4644

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Miami Photo Resources. Color House rocks!

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The Miami-Dade Commission debates sticking it in the voters’ eye with a bill to give themselves more power over the budget. Winning friends and influencing people.

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Monday February 12, 2007

Another Miami Pitchfork review: The Postmarks.

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“We want to ensure that MAC’s legacy is not only maintained, but strengthened with the combined resources of both MAC and MAM.” Terry Riley issues a non-response to the Save MAC open letter. (via a new javascripted-out TnfH) Update: The Herald had better luck getting a reaction out of Riley then Tyler Green: “When I read [the letter], I thought about it, and if I had received it I would have signed it.” The gist is, they don’t know yet exactly what the end result of the merger will be.

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Charlie Crist wants to get rid of all the electronic voting machines in Florida. I say great. But just before we do, I want someone to add up exactly how much they all cost (in equipment, training time, and fixing time, putting aside the priceless lost votes), and I want to sock someone in the jaw. Seriously. Find me the idiot who actually made the decision to spend that money and let me hit them just once.

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What's up with a trans-fat ban?

idiotic anti-trans-fat icon I can’t possibly begin to explain how much this crap bugs me. For those not following along, there’s been a wave of anti-trans-fat legislation sweeping the nation. It started when New York City banned it in December, and now Miami-Dade is getting in on the act.

Trans fat (aka Trans fatty acids) is some nasty stuff. (The 2¢ version of the science is that hydrogen atoms are added to existing fats, changing their molecular structure. Hey look, now they’re partially hydrogenated.) Restaurants and especially fast-food joints love the stuff, because it lasts forever without going rancid like other oils, and because it makes stuff taste deeee-licious. The bad news is that it’s a completely artificial food-like substance, and it will hasten the death of you. Trans fats pretty much stick around in your arteries forever, causing coronary heart disease and probably contributing to cancer and diabetes. Plus, ingested regularly, it will make you fat beyond your wildest dreams.

So, let’s get rid of it, right? We’ll save millions on public health costs, and all the kids complaining about slightly-less-delicious fries will thank us later. We’ve banned smoking and heroin, and those were way more fun then stupid artificial fats.

Not so fast. Trans fats are different. I would personally love to ban them from my diet, but passing a law against them crosses a creepy line. There is a very reasonable argument that smoking hurts people standing around the smoker. Even when you’re outside and it sounds silly, at least there a theoretical possibility of second hand smoke. No such luck with trans fats — you can stuff your face with them in my immediate presence and my exposure risk is nil. So this is strictly about looking out for our fellow humans, and the aforementioned public health bill.

But the public health argument doesn’t lead to a slippery slope — it falls off the edge of a cliff. We’re well into the territory of telling you what you can and can’t eat if we go for this ban. This opens so many doors that our self-appointed protectors won’t know where to turn next. How about how much sugar is in certain foods? How about things that pretend to be vegetables and aren’t? How about that other artificially-created horrible-for-you food-like substance, high fructose corn syrup? But you know, it’s not any one food you eat in isolation, it’s really the sum total of you diet that is or isn’t healthy. So really we should be keeping up with everyone’s whole diet.

The other reason this ban is an idiotic idea is that there is an equally effective and much less intrusive alternative: mandatory labeling. It’s the American way! As of January, Food sold in stores must list trans fats content (reports have food makers reformulating foods like Oreos to replace the dreaded stuff). Let’s just require restaurants to indicated which foods contain trans fats. Say, with a skull and crossbones icon.

Consider that an outright ban is a ban on certain types of food. Have we come so far in this country since September 11 that we’re ready to try to protect ourselves by banning food? And don’t kid yourself, only in a post-9-11 world America this be thinkable. We’ve gotten so used to the government taking things away “for our safety” and without any logical justification that this actually doesn’t sound unreasonable. “Sorry comrade, but you can’t take that water bottle on the plane.” What?! New York City should be ashamed of itself, and nobody who cares about freedom should emulate their example.

Update: In the New Times, Tamara Lush surveys locals about trans fats. The overwhelming majority miss the point and say shit like “well if they’re bad, then ban ‘em!”

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Friday February 9, 2007

The currently favored plan has the Metrorail extended to the Miami Intermodal Center, with a people mover covering the last stretch to the airport. MAP (the yellow thing is the MIC).

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rule of thirds
Rule of thirds on Collins Ave. Photo by Miami Fever.

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In SunPost, Erik Bojnansky quotes my snippiness regarding the South Florida Art Center’s SuperStore. He also quotes Wormhole and a couple of SFAC artists, who express unhappiness all around. Vague light is shed on the center’s financial situation, but no numbers.

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“According to a credible source, an employee of Anna Nicole Smith found her in her room in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The employee pulled back a sheet and discovered that she appeared to have choked on her own vomit.”

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Culture weekend

civ4

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Thursday February 8, 2007

Weed and Seed Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force bus.

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Taxpayer-funded rides of the Miami-Dade Commission.

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Here’s a better picture of the banner on the SunTrust building at the west end of Lincoln Road. This is somehow related to the coming Herzog & de Meuron project next door. It actually looks perfectly like two buildings from one vantage point as you drive by, but I couldn’t get to it without getting run over. For those who’ve been sleeping, H&dM are also doing the MAM building.

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Via the radio yesterday, one of the main complaints that out-of-towners had about Miami during Superbowl weekend was the overzealous and unreasonable measures taken by the Miami police. They specifically quoted someone with ESPN, though I’m not sure if he was specifically referring to Miami PD or the County department. Sort of related: Miami’s Operation Tornado results in 101 arrests.

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Citizens Property Insurance is being class-action sued because supposedly they are required to replace hurricane-damaged windows with high-impact glass. Here’s an anti-Citizens homeowners’ group.

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Wednesday February 7, 2007

Frank Gehry proposed New World Symphony building

Frank Gehry's New World Symphony building

The crappy scan of the Frank Gehry building got some attention, so I e-mailed NWS for a digital copy, and here it is (click it for a screen-filling full sized version). It’s obvious now what’s going on — the rendering isn’t true to color, and the newspaper reproduction obscured the building’s most interesting features: an internal atrium that allows those inside and out to see the performance spaces and rehersal rooms (according to the Bloomberg article).

I recently attended a Musicians Forum that included a recording of an internet feed from video confrencing between some NWS musicians and a Chicago-based contemporary composer. The new building will be wired to make those sorts of interactions an everyday thing.

I had major trouble figuring out where exactly this building will sit, and how the picture above orients to the world. After a phone call to NWS and some quiet time clicking back and forth between the photo and the map, I think I’ve got it. Picture yourself standing in front of the current Lincoln Theater. Now walk down Drexel avenue, around the side of the theater, and behind. Keep going about halfway down the block. Now turn back around the way you came, and you’re just about at the vantage point of the rendering. The glass facade of the building faces east, and the viewer is facing Northwest. The building sits on what is currently a big parking lot, and which will, when it’s all finished, contain a garage, this building, and a new park. What I can’t seem to figure out is why 100% of the cars in the rendering are German.

Anyway, viewed in this light, and with a bit of imagination and optimism, I think this building is going to be suitably spectacular.

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Bronze bandit

Stolen plaque

Here’s the shocking video of the bronze bandit. Except that I don’t see him stealing anything… looks like he tries to open a door, then makes a cell phone call. Still great, though — some guy wandering around the city stealing (fairly worthless) bronze plaques and lettering. Maybe it’s all for an art project?

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The bad news: the Carnival Center miscounted attendances at three Concert Association shows. The good news: this means the Concert Association actually owes Carnival money. But my favorite quote from the article, from CC director Michael Hardy, concerns the previous firing of two previous box office managers, and gives some great euphemism: “we were experiencing some customer-service issues in the box office and some reporting issues that were software-related, and we decided to make a change to get after that and correct that.”

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Fallout from the strong mayor vote in last week’s Miami Today: Michael Lewis discusses the charter review (which will go forward despite the vote) and Dan Dolan gets into a couple of measures the commission is passing to restore some balance to the government (in other words, I guess, to undermine the voter’s decision).

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From the people who brought you a guy dancing with construction equipment comes Red Hot State: readings of ‘political erotica’, on the day between President’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

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Tuesday February 6, 2007

Over at Fast Company, the business of hosting the Super Bowl. A sober analysis finds the official figure of a $350 to $400 million impact on South Florida’s economy is probably overstated by $260 to $370 million. Oops!

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The legal limit for donations is $500. However, if you are a person with 50 or 100 corporations, you could legally . . . give $50,000 or more to one Commission campaign.”

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An open letter to Miami Art Museum

Here’s an apparently anonymous campaign that’s circulating on email. It raises the Miami Art Museum and Miami Art Central partnership, specifically with concerns about MAC’s identity. They ask that you add your name to the bottom of the letter and e-mail it to them at keepMACalive@yahoo.com. They’ll be forwarding the letter with all the names they receive the MAM’s board and Terence Riley. They want them all back by 8 pm tonight (sorry, I just got it myself).

While I agree with the general sentiment of the letter regarding MAC’s excellence and the need to preserve its vision and artistic staff, and I will be adding my name to the list, I’m not sure the level of concern is warranted; Riley has shown himself to be a very effective leader, and I think keeping the hardcore art people (clearly represented by this letter) happy. Nonetheless, the tone is positive, and I hope they get lots of support for this.

An Open Letter to MIAMI Art Museum

February 5, 2007

To: Board of Trustees 2005-2006, Miami Art Museum (MAM)
c/o Terence Riley, Director, Miami Art Museum (MAM)


We, the undersigned, having been made aware through recent news reports of the merger of Miami Art Museum (MAM) and Miami Art Central (MAC), would like to bring to the attention of MAM’s Trustees the level of appreciation we share for the outstanding quality and scope of MAC’s achievements and contributions to our community since its founding in 2003.

At the same time, we would like to express our deep concern over the prospect that the internationally distinguished exhibitions and programs developed at MAC may be compromised as a result of the merger of the two institutions. Our community has benefited enormously from the scope and quality of MAC’s acclaimed exhibitions and educational programs, the product of the creativity and hard work of its Executive Director and Chief Curator Rina Carvajal and her talented staff, with the generosity of MAC’s founder, Ella Fontanals Cisneros.

Over the past three years, the program at MAC has consistently been at the forefront of art museums in Miami and, with the end of exhibitions and related programming at MAC’s Red Road facilities scheduled for late-April, we foresee a serious vacuum that could undermine our city’s reputation as a burgeoning center for the visual arts.

Since it has now been made clear that “MAC is MAM,” we are directing ourselves to you as the custodians of MAC in the hope that you will act to ensure that MAC and its legacy are kept alive and that its world-class exhibition program be continued and fostered under the auspices of MAM, to the benefit of our community and the credit of your institution.

Signatures:

(to be affixed)

Update: A related, if not completely coherent, post on Eye on Miami.

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Monday February 5, 2007

Miami-Dade’s new housing locator appears to be pretty comprehensive, and lets you search by area, number of bedrooms, and price range. Even has Google maps integration. Too bad you can’t pull up a map with all the results and click from there. (via Miami Vision)

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Manola has a good writeup on the upcoming BarCamp over at MiamiBeach411.

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Fruit and Spice Park

Fruit and Spice Park, in the Homestead Redland, is part exotic plant sanctuary, part park, and part tourist attraction. $5 admission gets you an hour or two of wandering around, tasting strange fruits, and checking out a few little exhibit type things. Here’s a little collection of old farm equipment. No information or anything; they’re just sort of sitting around.

Tasting

Funky fruit tasting (click through to see what’s what). The gourd-like thing in the middle is Black Sapote, which tastes shockingly like melted chocolate. The little glass dish towards the back contains Miracle Fruit, little berries which have no flavor, but which will make your mouth impervious to bitter flavors for about a half an hour (try one of those grape-looking things, which are super bitter, then try the Miracle Fruit, and then eat another berry, and it won’t taste bitter anymore). The lady was super-nice and let us sort of pig out on everything. Then she sliced open that big gourd thing and let us try that.

Then they set you loose to wander around the park, or you can take a “guided tour,” which is on a horrible motorized trolley thing. This is one of many weird banana-like trees that dot the park.

The rule is that you’re not allowed to pick anything, but if it’s fallen to the ground you can eat it. Here’s a big Canistel that we found. It’s got a very strange consistency, sort of like dry dough, and a flavor a little like cooked squash. It’s such a bizarre bright shade of yellowish orange that my camera freaked out and made everything else dark trying to understand it.

Squash

The spice section in the middle of the park has raised planters with all sorts of little plants and spices. Here are some baby eggplants.

Catalina and Ross. This is the park’s only real concession to tourist trapyness.

Poisonous Plant Collection

The poisonous plant collection was a little disappointing. Hey, isn’t “poisonous” the botanical word for “hallucinogenic”? Just kidding — don’t eat that. (Actually, they tell you not to eat anything in the park unless you recognize it — apparently some of the plants in the regular area poisonous too.)

Greenhouse

The best thing about the greenhouse is that when you leave, going outside feels like walking into an air conditioned building. It’s hot in there.

Strangeberries

These are the bitter berries again, which grow, unbelievably, attached directly to the branches of this tree. Never seen anything like it.

Fruit and Spice Park on google maps, and here is the official web page.

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Sunday February 4, 2007

About the ads: I recently got an e-mail from Google nudging me to put one of these big ads on my site. “The medium rectangle is the most demanded size among our brand advertisers,” they say. So I’m trying it out. One silver lining out of this is that it forced me to clean up the CSS a little, and some of the mistakes that made the margins a little off in IE6 are now fixed. The bad news is that I had to widen the sidebar by about 50 pixels, and it looks a little out of balance now. Complaints? Update: The black BG will be up for exactly 24 hours unless there’s overwhelming support for making it permanent.

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Friday February 2, 2007

Trafficnightmare weekend

SBXLI

Superbowl. Yawn. Speaking of things that irritate me, I’ve decided that any titles I get in all-caps will be reduced to all lower case. Without anyfurther ado:

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Wayback Machine entry for Critical Miami, circa May 2005. Masthead and right sidebar appear broken, but everything else is where it should be. There are no links to other blogs because, with the exception of Babalu and Infomaniac (which I didn’t know about yet) and Artblog (linked) there were none.

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Thursday February 1, 2007

Why doesn’t the Grove just ditch Miami? I was intrigued by this when I saw the CGGV post, but I, too am feeling too lazy to look more into it. I’m sure it could happen, though: everybody else did it, why not them? Thanks to Alex for at least rounding up a few pertinent links.

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“A city-sponsored party at the Orange Bowl would annoy many Cubans on the island who once supported the Cuban dictatorship, and who — while critical of it now — have fears about their future. And a more subdued, official ‘‘public event’‘ without a clear focus would not be much better, since it would inevitably turn into a party. Instead, Cuban exiles should hold a prayer service for the victims of Castro’s military regime. In addition, they could use the occasion to expose Cuba’s disastrous economic policies by collecting food for the Cuban people, who — under their food rationing cards — do not have access to any red meat; only three quarters of a pound of soybean picadillo per person per month.” — Oppenheimer’s thoughts.

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Spotty food and spotty service at Sushi Siam. I agree, and the Miami location is pretty much the same deal: occasionally great, often frustrating. Update: That link sure did break quickly. Basically, an out-of-town guy gal had a just-so experience having lunch by himself herself at SS. His Her least favorite was the steak teriyaki. [forgive my latent chauvinism.]

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Miami Beach residents are hereby cautioned to avoid the MacArthur Friday and Saturday nights, and in general to do as little driving as possible, and to ready themselves for grief.

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