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Monday April 30, 2007

Manola’s street is under attack!



Anti-Bush rally in Miami.



“Miami-Dade County health officials said they have received numerous complaints about the dead birds from visitors of the beach, but there is nothing that can be done because the religious practice is protected by the U.S. Constitution.” Bullcrap — there’s nothing in Santeria that requires leaving a mess (right!?). Kudos to Channel 10 for providing a link to more information about Santeria, but UM’s page is pretty lame. Try Wikipedia next time.


Saturday April 28, 2007

Blasé Saturday



Friday April 27, 2007

Silver Goose

The Silver Goose. Parked between Palm Island and the MacArthur for the last four days.



Slow Weekend



Thursday April 26, 2007

Tommy Vision

tommy vision's silver babies

Tommy Vision is an artist I met at work yesterday, and we spent a while talking. He rode up on an orange bycicle with baskets in the front and back loaded up with stuff and wearing an orange safety vest and a bycicle helmet with a baseball cap visor taped to it. He says people call him “TV”.

Check out his website, which someone in his building made for him in exchange for using his parking space. Try the “lastest work” section and be amazed. His work is very much in tradition of blurring the line between painting and sculpture — it’s flat, but he often attaches objects to the surface, which is shiny and highly textured. Most of the reproductions are not great, so it’s difficult to tell exactly what’s going on in them.

There’s an opening on Sunday in Hallandale that Tommy has some pieces in at the Renaissance Design Center, and he also supposedly has work more regularly at someplace called the Art Project Gallery (in the same neighborhood), but I don’t have that exact address.

Tommy gave me a photo of one of his pieces with his information taped to the back. The painting isn’t on his website, but it’s titled “Trapped.” It shows a white elephant being chased up a tree by two huge white rats. Small blue leaves are falling gently from the tree. The picture has a border of real moustraps, each of which has a red silouette of a mouse on it.


Wednesday April 25, 2007

The Basel tractor beam: Art Miami changes from early-January to early-December.



Friends With You written up in Wired magazine this month.



Cocaine Cowboys the movie

cocaine cowboys screenshot

Cocaine Cowboys is a documentary about the drug trade in Miami in the late 1970s and early 80s. Built around absorbing interviews with Jon Roberts, Mickey Munday, and Jorge “Rivi” Ayala, it’s intercut with occasionally cheesy reenactments and some fascinating stock footage.

In the first part, Roberts and Munday tell their stories. Small-time crooks who happened to be in the right place at the right time, they become two of the biggest importers of cocaine from Colombia to Miami. They share lots and lots of interesting stories about the technicalities of how they did it (many more are on the DVD’s great deleted scenes section), how much money they made, and all the cool shit they got to buy. There’s stories of destroying the private room at the Forge and just paying to have it restored, smashing cars as a form of tension-relief, and transporting coke in the trunk of a car on a flatbed truck. There are great stories about dropping loads with homing signals in the ocean, evading the Coast Guard boats at Haulover Park inlet, and flying around the West side of Cuba.

The focus shifts to the violence that came with the business in the middle section. From prison, Ayala tells the story of his quick rise through the ranks to become the main assassin for Griselda Blanco (“La Madrina”), and then the story pretty much stick with her. She’s painted as the leader of one side in the early 80s cocaine war, having guys killed along with their wives and children, laying waste to anyone who rubs her the wrong way, and generally being all capital-R ruthless. Ayala is the star of the movie, sympathetic and serious, even as he describes systematically tracking down and killing a dude who slighted Blaco’s son outside a police station.

In the third act the movie makes the case that the cocaine trade is singularly responsible for Miami’s current financial clout. We see the sleepy resort/retirement community of the 1970s, the building boom that came in the 80s, and the economic contraction that came when Regan cracked down on the drug trade in the mid-80s. At the time, 90% of the cocaine imported into the US came through Miami. There are enough quotes from experts that connect the dots between the drugs and the financial status of the whole city (why are there so many banks in Brickell, anyway?) that make the argument seem quite plausible. When the big bust came (Roberts and Munday both spent time in prison, as did Blanco), the city had supposedly been given enough of a push that the economy flew on its own.

I think everyone already knows that this is a fascinating film, but I’m throwing in my “me too” anyway. If there’s a complaint to be made, it’s how much it relies on straight interviews. Besides the three main guys, we get lots of police, experts, and a few smaller criminals. The filmmakers don’t help themselves by trying weird montage effects and transitions between the interviews and other bits. And there’s lots of use of photographs, sometimes manipulated for graphic effect. Maybe this is all done about as well as it could have been, but the fact is that the old-Miami footage is the only thing actually worth watching, and Cocaine Cowboys would probably work just as well with the picture turned off. But that’s not so bad — the three main subjects are intriguing, and the pacing of the narrative is perfect.

One other thing: it’s graphic. They went and got crime-scene pictures of all the shootings, and they sprinkled them throughout the movie at the appropriate points. No half-assing it here.


Tuesday April 24, 2007

“The big mama who takes your order is a bit sassy and doesn’t know the meaning of multi-tasking but what can you say, it’s Biscayne blvd, what do you expect!? In the future I’ll order it to go!”



MyBikeLane tracks cars that block bike lanes. With photos and license plate numbers. (via Spokes ‘n’ Folks, a blog about cycling in Miami(!))



Gabriel takes a trip around Miami and doesn’t like much of what he sees. At every turn, the needs of pedestrians and public-transportation users are put behind those of drivers, and the design of new buildings indicates that this will not change much in the near future.



The Diet Newsletter is a monthly online newsletter about art in South Florida. The first issue has an interview with Felice Grodin, a couple of reviews, and an essay by Claire Breukel. Not uninteresting, but unfortunately it’s presented in a flash format that’s about as easy to figure out as one of the puzzles in Myst. For the record, you click one of the little pills, then scroll the horizontal box to the right, then click the title.


Monday April 23, 2007

I hate you, library lady

Bah! Screw you, library people. I went to the downtown library yesterday (Sunday), returned a book I’d not finished reading because I decided to buy it instead, and spent the better part of an hour sorting through a list of things I was interested in, picking out probably 10 books and CD’s. I also wanted some writings of George Bernard Shaw (GBS was at a dinner party, and prostitution was being discussed. He turned to the lady next to him and asked her if she’d sleep with him for $10,000. “Well, of course,” she replied. “Would you sleep with me for $10?” he asked. “God no,” she replied, “what kind of a lady do you think I am?” GBS said, “madam, we’ve already established what kind of a lady you are — now we’re just haggling over price!”), but the initial call #‘s I’d written down all referred to critics writing about his work. I went back to the card catalog computers (which are terrible, btw), got the correct numbers, and ran back upstairs just as the lights started to go off and the librarians began to bark “we’re closing” at people. 4:50. I waved my finger at a couple of these women and told them “I just need to grab one thing.”

I actually had two different numbers, and, figuring I had a few minutes, I compared a couple of different books. But of course I don’t know squat about Shaw, so I picked one more or less randomly, ran down the stairs and to the checkout desk, driver’s license in hand (I lost my library card months ago). “I’m sorry, we’re closed — the computers shut down at 5 pm,” the nice lady told me. I was speechless, and I slapped my shit (50 minutes+ invested in finding it) down and walked out. But now I’m sorry I didn’t tell her “first of all, it’s not 5 — it’s 4:59 — my cell phone gets its time from the international atomic clock [I’m not sure this is precisely true, but my cell gets its time from somewhere other then me, and I at least hope it’s a reliable source], and second, computers don’t shut themselves off — people shut them off — and you very well could check out my stuff if you wanted to.”

Like I said: “bah!” Next time I’ll get to the desk sooner. But the library lady could have been nice and cut me some slack.


Saturday April 21, 2007

Around the world Saturday

the flying dutchman 


Friday April 20, 2007

420 Weekend

smoking airplane

Courtesy of MLP, this traffic update for the weekend around Carnival Center: “Northbound Biscayne Blvd. will be closed from 11:00 pm Friday through 6:00 am Monday. Southbound Biscayne traffic will be open throughout the weekend, but at times may be reduced to a single lane. This closure is due to the Biscayne Blvd. reconstruction project.”


Thursday April 19, 2007

Admired Desired Required Acquired

At Aventura Mall. It’s like they held a meeting to see what they could do to make the mall more subtly irritating. The other side has the same message in Spanish.



Most of Broward county has been swallowed up in a smoky haze as a huge fire burns in the Everglades. Alligator Alley is closed.



What's up with property taxes?


Thank you to Jim DeFede for saying what I’m been thinking: property taxes are a good thing. First of all, exchanging property taxes for a increase in sales tax is a horrible shift of the tax burden from the rich to the poor. “Under Rubio’s plan, you might save a couple of thousand dollars, but Rush Limbaugh for instance, will save almost a half million in taxes every year on his Palm Beach home.” That’s a half a million that either gets cut from city budgets (and “disproportionately” is the key word there), or gets paid by people buying diapers.

You know how you did your taxes on Tuesday evening (oh wait, that was me)? Well, remember when you got done with the federal income taxes and you went on to do your state income tax? No: you don’t. That’s because Florida is one of the seven (count ‘em) states without an income tax. “Thank you, Walt Disney World,” my old boss used to say. Thank you Limbaugh, too. Thanks to the homeowners. And don’t worry — us renters have seen our rates go up plenty over the last few years, so it’s not like we’re not paying our share.

You’re squeezed between rising insurance rates and increasing property taxes? Oh, I’m sorry (the latter is because the value of your property has skyrocketed over the last five years, by the way). It turns out that you live in a tropical paradise, to which 400,000 new people move every year. Oh, and we have hurricanes that come and wipe out a neighborhood or two every couple of years. That makes it expensive. You can’t stand the heat? Well, you should have sold your house at the beginning of last year like Critical Miami told you to do, and you’d be sitting on a big pile of cash right now waiting to buy again when prices bottom out (or maybe moving to a nice quiet little town in Colorado).

Or you can trade down from the huge house you can’t afford to a smaller one you can. Then the overall housing prices won’t effect you as much. Look: governments do things. They mostly do things that everyone benefits from, but which individuals would not independently want to spend money on (like educating our kids, for which Florida spends less per child then any other state). We can talk about re-calibrating the rates, but until everyone suddenly decides they want to live in a truly limited-government, libertarian society, I don’t want to hear any more whining. Get out there and mow your lawn.


Wednesday April 18, 2007

The stolen Chihuly pieces were found, but broken. That sucks. BTW, when they stole the pieces they replaced them with PVC pipe painted red.



“If you have been to Miami Beach, maybe you have noticed a thin string, strung out from poles along the beach. It’s the eruv (eruv chatzeirot), a symbolic enclosure required by Judaism in order to allow certain activities, most notably carrying, that can only be done inside a shared enclosed space during Sabbath.” — Alex



“Debbie Cenziper of the Miami Herald captured the local reporting [Pulitzer Prize] for exposing the waste of millions of dollars for projects that were never built, which led to prosecutions and firings. She will join The [Washington] Post this summer.” (via Pulp)



Greener Miami written up in the Herald. Congrats, Rebecca!



Redlands real-estate album

where the ultra-rich now live
Click image for slide-show.

These images were made for an e-bay auction of some property down in the Redlands part of Homestead, and they show how quickly that area is being transformed from agricultural to suburban use. In fact, Gabriel, who discovered the set, bemoans the transformation. I’m mainly appreciating them for their inherent beauty, and so they’re presented here in a full-resolution slideshow.

They’re a sort of weird Dan Graham and Barbara Kruger. Apparently photographed with a disposable film camera, they were lovingly scanned and overlaid with magenta all-caps boldface text. One of them even has a line connecting the text to a spot in the picture.

The photographs depict McMansions, both cookie-cutter and outrageous, being constructed, as well as some photos of the surrounding streets and farms. We get a real sense of being between two places, for example in the 4th image, where a dirt country road and a wrecked fence suddenly find themselves juxtaposed with a house that will soon be occupied by an upper-middle-class family. Occasionally we get a glimpse of a slice of the realtor’s car, and in one picture a man spreads his arms invitingly, standing on farmland that will no doubt not exist in another few years.

Gabriel is right — there is a real melancholy to these images. But this is the reality that has always been Miami — people are moving here all the time, and large-parceled suburbs have been swallowing farms since the 1920’s. The transformation in downtown is a part of this too, and while I wish more people liked living in urban high-rises, the truth is that owning a big fat house is a pretty standard human desire. As went Miami, Coral Gables, and Aventura (they didn’t name it “Ives Dairy Road” out of whimsy), so go the Redlands.


Tuesday April 17, 2007

Stoneage Antiques looks interesting.



More criticism of Carnival Center, from Michael Putney and Genious of Despair.



Rick Ross updates

Rick Ross, BMI's President & CEO Del Bryant, BMI's Vice President Catherine Brewton Three things going on with Rick Ross:

  1. He’s working on his second album.
  2. He’s being sued by his former manager, Kevon Glickman, who claims Ross intimidated him into releasing their contract.
  3. He’s moved to Pembroke Pines.

The management disputes I could understand — there’s a history of that stuff in hip-hop that goes back to Suge Knight. But what’s up with the move to west Broward? First Trick Daddy (currently residing in a McMansion somewhere in centralish Florida) and now this. I mean, I can dig wanting to buy a house in a posh neighborhood, but what’s wrong with Coral Gables?

Image: Rick Ross, BMI’s President & CEO Del Bryant, BMI’s Vice President Catherine Brewton. Click for larger.



My Name Is Rachel Corrie, the controversial play about a young American activist who died after she was run over by an Israeli-operated bulldozer in the Gaza Strip, has been pulled from the lineup at Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre after protests from some of the theater’s subscribers and outside individuals.” That’s what Christine Dolen says in the Herald. But see also Bob Norman’s reaction.


Monday April 16, 2007

A commenter suggested this.

Any takers?



“These Haitians left their homeland in a desperate attempt to escape the horrendous political, social and economic conditions in Haiti.” — a letter sent by South Florida’s three Cuban-American members of Congress regarding the 101 refugees being held at the Broward Transitional Center. Also: Day 12 of the hunger strike. Information on how to help at FANM. BTW, the cost of applying for a green card is about to go up from $325 to $905. Rick pretty well lays out how messed up that is.



These glass reeds are supposedly worth tens of thousands of dollars each. A bit of pre-insurance claim hyperbole, perhaps?



Manola runs down healthy food spots on the Beach.



DeFede on Rudy Crew, Miami-Dade’s Superintendent of Schools.



alton and 5th

Transit Miami has pictures of, and praise for, the upcoming retail complex at 5th Street and Alton Rd. There has beem some controversy about this project because the parking garage is in part publicly funded, yet the developer is sidestepping Art in Public Places rules by including a massive Britto sculpture. Update: In this discussion, Jack points to an old NewTimes article about the project, and controversy about the Britto.



Florida toll roads are gradually being converted to Open Road Tolling. Basically, the system makes it even less convenient to pay cash, while keeping SunPass and “video toll” drivers from having to slow down for tolls. (Video toll means you drive through the lane and the system records your license plate, and you pay the toll later at a kiosk.) The system will eventually charge for exactly the distance traveled, (civil libertarian alert:) which will essentially require MDX to track each driver’s day-to-day movement.



This is rich: Carl Hiaasen serves up a stale summary of the Don Imus story, taking time out to call Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson “hypocrites and phonies.”


Sunday April 15, 2007

Twitter (in the side bar). Don’t expect this to last.


Friday April 13, 2007

Back to Fridays



Thursday April 12, 2007

What’s the Miami connection with the Don Imus flap? Bob Norman lays it out, along with an analysis of why the Miami Herald failed to report the story. (Thanks, Steve)


Wednesday April 11, 2007

University of Miami Complaints. I think a video-blog of walking around and asking people what’s annoying them is an idea that needs to be extended outside the UM campus, where the best that rich kids can come up with is that parking is a hassle. Still sort of funny, though. (via ignore)



A poorly written update on the County Charter review from which I can’t figure out what’s going on.



Michael Hardy's Herald essay about the Carnival Center


Michael Hardy’s Herald essay about the Carnival Center. I suspected that not pointing out he was the center’s director was a part of the Herald’s head-up-ass approach to their website, and that he was so identified in the print edition, as Henry confirms. The essay goes point by point through some of the complaints the Center has received, most of them just routine first-year pains.

I agree that it’s a little disingenuous of Hardy to imply that the tax money that has gone into the center is “not taxpayer money,” and he’s been taken to task. But the bed-tax aspect is worth remembering, and looking at this from the perspective of decades, it’s very possible that the center will pay for itself with the economic revitalization it has very obviously begun to bring (contrast that with the three or four stadiums we’ve built so far with the bed tax).

But I think part of the reason there is so much
hostility is that several completely different things are being conflated when we talk about the “Carnival Center.” Primarily, there is the lingering pain of a construction project run several hundred million dollars over budget at the taxpayers’ (sorry) expense. But of course the organization of which Michael Hardy is director had nothing to do with that. There is the building, and there is the organization that currently manages the building. There are plenty to be blamed for the botched construction project — the county government, the architect, the general contractor, etc., but obviously the arts administrators running the facility didn’t have anything to do with that. (And let’s remember that a not insignificant portion of the expanding construction costs was due to increases in building materials that effected construction worldwide.)

Same goes for the current parking fiasco, which should have been addressed at the earliest stages of planning by the visionaries (I almost used that word in quotes, but let’s do give them some credit) who were pushing for this project for decades.

Another source of frustration is traffic around the center. Let me tell you that the Heat fans going to the American Airlines Arena certainly do share some of that frustration. From what I’ve seen walking around the area on a couple of super-busy nights, the police do a piss-poor job of managing the traffic, but it’s worth remembering that Biscayne Boulevard is undergoing major roadwork in that area.

What I think is that the Center’s programming is spot-on. It’s diverse, with plenty of broad appealing programs (musicals and Broadway were always part of the plan) as well as lots of high-art and esoteric things. The problems are on the marketing/outreach side, and while Hardy is correct that word-of-mouth and time are the two most important factors in increasing attendance, there are some obvious things the Center should be looking at (fix the !@#$% website), and some not-so-obvious solutions it should be looking for. Maybe re-thing the print-ad blitz and bring in some fresh ideas for marketing. The center is doing lots of public outreach, but I suspect that’s the area that needs to be beefed up. Maybe some of that radical transparency would help (Hardy’s essay is a good first step).

I like the fact that the Herald can run a ‘things are pretty bad’ article alongside the essay. But I think of it this way — the Carnival’s start has been messy, and if anything there still isn’t enough blame falling on the people who screwed things up. But I think a rocky start is part of the beginning of anything really great. We could have built a smaller, cheaper, less ambitious performing arts center (almost everyone agrees that something along these lines needed to be built), but is that really what Miami deserved?



Charlie Crist is considering pardoning Jim Morrison for indecent exposure in Coconut Grove in 1969.


Tuesday April 10, 2007

The Miami Dade College chess team has been scoring among the nation’s best for years.



Miami-Dade commissioners are cooking up a plan for Carnival Center parking. I don’t understand why it’s this difficult to figure out parking for a building that’s essentially surrounded on all four sides by parking lots ready to be built up into garages. Also, examination of the report (.pdf) reveals what a very paper-based and old-school administrative system is our county government.



Miami blogger receives bizarre letter from lawyer of Miami Herald columnist

Here’s something! Last November Henry Gomez did a post about Marifeli Pérez-Stable, an FIU professor and Miami Herald columnist. The post links to a report and quotes an e-mail by an Indiana University professor that makes some pretty serious accusations against Pérez-Stable:

In 1993, I wrote an academic study entitled “Academic Espionage: U.S. Taxpayer Funding of a Pro Castro Study“ for the Institute for U.S. Cuba Relations in Washington, D.C. The report was translated into Spanish and published in Miami’s “Diario las Américas” newspaper. I used only one quote from the Pérez Méndez debriefing, which indicated that one of the participants of that project, Professor Marifeli Pérez-Stable, “was a DGI agent who responded to Cuban intelligence officials Isidro Gómez and Jesús Arboleya Cervera. Pérez-Stable, who had organized another DGI front group called the Cuban Culture Circle, was receiving $100 for every person that traveled to Cuba through that organization. According to Pérez-Méndez, Pérez-Stable replaced DGI agent Lourdes Casal after her death in Havana, and the DGI and ICAP prepared the yearly plans for Pérez-Stable.”

. . . wherein DGI is the Cuban intelligence agency. Good, right? Well, I guess word was slow to get around, but two weeks ago Henry got a letter from Pérez-Stable’s lawyer basically claiming that posting the accusation consisted of slander, insisting that it be taken down, and making veiled references to monetary damages:

Please provide me within thirty days of receipt of this letter or April 28, 2007 the name of your insurance carrier with information of all available limits.

Oh, and the letter came headlined “Not for Publication.” Henry, to his credit, talked to a lawyer who assured him that not only did he not have to take down shit, he could go ahead and post the letter, because NfP requests are just that — requests, not legally binding.

Now, I have no idea whether Pérez-Stable is guilty of any of this — I rather doubt it. But I think baseless accusations are best answered with openness and information (possibly information along the lines of why your accuser might have other motives), not with legal threats. It sounds to me from reading the EFF FAQ on Online Defamation Law that Henry is very much within his rights here:

A public figure must show “actual malice” — that you published with either knowledge of falsity or in reckless disregard for the truth.

Obviously Henry made it clear that he was repeating the words of somebody else, and that individual would seem to have at least reasonable credibility. What’s this lawyer thinking, anyway?



5 Architectural firms have been asked to submit proposals for a new Miami Science Museum building to go next to the MAM building in Museum Park.



Manatees are about to be reclassified from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened’, but the change does not bring any changes in regulations such as boat speeds, so let’s not freak out. While populations in South-eastern Florida may be declining, the ‘endangered’ status is specifically supposed to mean that a species is on the verge of extinction. To avoid diluting the term we have to be willing to re-classify species when their situations improve.


Monday April 9, 2007

Miami New Times is “a heckuva lot more fun than that boring Herald” — you can be sure it’s true because it says so right on their home page.



Photos from Bogotá

Bogotá 2007

Photos from Bogotá. Bogotá is near the equator and almost 9,000 feet above sea level, so it gets a constant year-round temperature of around 66 degrees, a fact with very pervasive consequences: none of the buildings need heating or air conditioning, the distinction between being indoors and outdoors can be safely blurred. It reminded me a lot of Europe — the architecture, the weather, the people, etc., but maybe what I’m really saying is that it’s unlike the US in those respects.

As I said, my Nikon D80 got mugged off of me in downtown (where I’d been repeatedly warned not to bring it) along with 1,000 pictures from the first week of the trip. These photos are from my pocket camera, and shot, as you can imagine, with a certain amount of timidness. So they don’t quite do it justice, but it’s all I’ve got.

Also, I’m a little over flickr, and I’m trying to work out a decent way to show photo galleries on this site. It’s a little rough around the edges, but not bad I think.


Thursday April 5, 2007

MoCA will be trippling the size of its building by 2010. The article is worth a read, and reveals that MoCA is largely financed by the city of North Miami. (via TnfH)


Wednesday April 4, 2007

Blah: The internets were down at CM headquarters when I got back yesterday, and Atlantic Broadband can’t get anyone out until Saturday to look at it, so light posting continues. Their service is generally excellent, but it’s a bit irritating, since because they use independent contractors to do the installation, there was no problem setting that up for the weekday evening of my choice. (Site stats have been pretty strong the last couple of weeks — maybe sporadic posting is the way to go.)



google traffic

Bonus traffic links I discovered while working on the I-95 tolls article: Google Maps now has basic traffic information for Miami. has much better traffic information, though. A sort of crappy FDOT traffic counter page that gives live traffic flow for points around Florida (nothing for Miami/I-95, but there is one on the Turnpike). Finally, the Wikipedia traffic congestion article, with all sorts of interesting information.