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Monday September 1, 2008

Hey, after more then a month off, I made a post at the new place, about the Hurricanes and whatnot. Just letting you know. Been a long time, and I have some aspirations of beginning to do stuff over there on the regular.

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Thursday July 24, 2008

Dino Felipe reviewed on Pitchfork. 7.2: not bad.

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Monday July 21, 2008

A front page article in today’s Sun Sentinel pities the poor weather reporters at local TV stations, who have to decide whether to interrupt your programming with hurricane updates or wait for the commercial. Poor babies. You know what? Wait for the frigging commercial. I don’t care how close the storm is to Bermuda. All I care about is is we are actually in a hurricane watch. It’s just not that hard.

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Sunday July 20, 2008

Coast Guard target practice

Coast Guard target practice boat. The drawbridges on the Venetian Causeway instantly go up for the Coast Guard boats that cruise the neighborhood regularly, but this was my first time seeing this boat, presumably used for deep-sea target practice.

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Saturday July 12, 2008

Wow: the mayor of Miami met with the participants of Critical Mass today. (via SFDB)

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Friday July 11, 2008

What's up with Norman Braman's lawsuit?

Quick recap: Norman Braman is suing the city of Miami to try to stop the “megaplan,” which includes the port tunnel, museum park, marlins stadium, and a couple of other multimillion projects. Most recently, a judge ordered the parties to try to work out their differences out of court.

Braman’s argument, that some of the money the city is planning to use for the plan is intended to fight “slum and blight,” is not without merit. But honestly, why does he care so much? Does anybody else suspect that maybe he’s doing this as a publicity stunt? Here’s a guy who’s name is very closely associated with his business — every time he gets it out in the news, it helps his bottom line. And to the extent that at least one element of the city’s plan is seen as wasteful/unnecessary/stupid by almost everyone, he’s ostensibly fighting a pretty popular fight. How does the cost of his legal fees compare to the cost of running a series of those tv ads? Is this a win for Braman regardless of which way the court case goes?

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Friday July 4, 2008

This is the old blog. Go read the new blog, Buildings and Food.

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Monday June 23, 2008

That's all folks

I guess this is as good a time as any to make it official: I’m putting this ‘ere website on the bloggy mothballs. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, but the truth is that the decision isn’t an intellectual one — I’m sort of just over it. With the pink accents, the paisley background, the local news: it’s all gotten a little restrictive. The truth is that I started this site because I thought there was a need for it, and today the need is well covered by dozens of excellent sites, from Covert Overt to Miami Art to TM and EoM, and they’re all held together by Rick’s daily grind. I just don’t have desire to keep up with it all anymore.

SO. Thanks to everyone who’s been checking in regularly over these three years. It’s been a ton of fun, and the support has been really really overwhelming.

Where we’re at as of now is this: I have a new thing, More Blog about Buildings and Food, that I’m putting together. It hopefully will be more open-ended, less locally-obsessed, and more infrequently updated then CM, but will hopefully also dovetail pretty well. I still owe you a slideshow of FOOD from the Georgia/Florida trip, and that’s going to pop up there in the next day or two. I also have a Twitter lest you forget, and you should totally subscribe to my updates. Further, friends and people that I actually know should get their own Twitter accounts post-haste. (No eye-rolling. You’ll thank me later. And btw, I’m reforming myself and will be regularly checking voicemail and e-mail from now on.)

My goal is to keep Critical Miami up in perpetuity. I’ll probably make some final adjustments to the linkroll, and some other tweaks becoming of a defunct blog (ie archives easier to access, etc.). That’s about all, folks. Hope to see you at the new place.

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Amid news of Carlos Miller being found guilty of resisting arrest in his police-photographing case, we have this: Artist Momoko Sudo harassed and intimidated by Coral Gables police for looking funny and photographing their motorcycle. (via Artblog)

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Wednesday June 11, 2008

An illustrated demonstration of the new optical voting machines and accompanying article. It’s like taking a test in college, with multiple-choice bubbles you fill in with a #2 pencil. But so then why do the scanners need to be at the polling stations? Why not a big fast scanner at election headquarters?

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Somebody heard my bitching and the Herald has a re-spiffed Twitter feed. If you’re still listening, what we’d like is a feed that updates 2 or three times per day with the cream of the local news.

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Friday June 6, 2008

Old school weekend

turntable

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Thursday June 5, 2008

Lookie here, the Herald has a few Twitter feeds: main, Cuba, weather, and Dolphins.

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Wednesday June 4, 2008

Georgia and Florida, manmade

CHURCH

More photos from the trip, this time hopefully in contrast to the previous “nature” shots. To answer some of the practical questions I’ve been getting: I took the train up to Savannah last Friday. Upon getting to the train station at 8 pm (just as the sun was setting) I had to put my bike back together (it was boxed for the trip) and search for a camping spot for the night. I began pedaling the next morning, and arrived back in Miami the next Sunday. That’s nine days on the bike, including three night stays in motels and five nights of camping. My speedometer was once again on the fritz during this trip, but my daily mileage averaged over 80 miles, with at least a couple of 100 mile days. Other then an almost-constant headwind, the weather was cooperative, with no rain to speak of, and comfortable days and cool nights (at least until the last few days in South Florida, where the sun laughed at my SPF 30 and cooked me to a crisp).

As a bicycle tourist, I was able to tap into an abundance of goodwill from motorists, truckers, pedestrians, convenience store clerks, waitresses, other cyclists, bike shop workers, park rangers, law enforcement officials, and just plain everyone I ran across. There is a whole taxonomy of friendly waves that I discovered which unfortunately I cannot express in a text format (but ask me if you run into me).

One story I can share is the thing about the dogs. Folks in rural Georgia sometimes have loose dogs hanging around outside their homes, and a cyclists is exactly what these dogs love to chase. In fact, for the first few days of the trip, I’d be chased by dogs several times a day. Usually, a little adrenaline would kick in and I’d hustle a bit and soon pass out of the dogs’ territory, at which point they quickly give up chase. Two occasions stand out. Once, two dogs ran after me and straight into the path of an oncoming minivan, which came to a screeching (and honking) halt, within a hair’s breath of death. The other time, two good sized dogs saw me coming, and ran out to meet me, barking, growling, and blocking my path of escape. I got off the bike and tried to use it as a shield between myself and the animals, but they wisely spilt, each circling me from one side. I fended them off for a bit by yelling and squirting my water bottle in a wide arc, and walked down the left side of the road, my bike a sort of shield. They escorted me, and whenever they got too close I again squirted water and yelled at them (my yelling got gradually friendlier as the threat seemed to subside). Once I was passed their territory I was allowed to get back on my bike and ride on.

So. Anyway, here’s the slideshow of photos of man-made stuff from the trip.

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Tuesday June 3, 2008

Scenic Georgia, Florida

Northern Florida mudflat

In Miami, a dense urban and suburban strip of communities borders the Everglades on the west and the Atlantic on the east. So it’s easy to forget that most of the rest of the country is rural — a web of roads connecting scattered homes, farms, and the occasional small town. This is commingled with lots and lots of largely raw nature, with forests, prairies, rivers, and lakes, many of which look exactly as they have for thousands of years.

Or rather, on some level we’re aware of it. You can’t leave the state via I-95 without driving through stretches of forest, but it’s always seemed like an abstraction to me that way. And of course the best thing about riding a bike, even around the block, is for the slow way you experience your surroundings. Here then, the first of a few slide shows from the trip. I edited out anything with overt traces of humanity, trying to convey the varied and primal nature that’s still out there.

The route I followed started in Savannah and followed Section 6 and Section 7 of the Adventure Cycling Association’s Atlantic Coast series of maps. Through Georgia the rout heads about 60 miles inland from Savannah and meanders through the interior of the state, then follows the coast for most of Florida. Here’s the slideshow.

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Sunday June 1, 2008

Home safe & sound. Thanks to all for the good wishes, and for keeping tuned. Blogging resumes tomorrow, with all the trip show and tell and whatnot. Meanwhile, welcome back our weather map, in honor of the first day of hurricane season, and see the twitter updates resume their modest old spot on the sidebar. Unless they keep slowing down the site, in which case maybe gone for good. Also, bear with me while my handlebar-numbed hands reaccustom themselves to a keyboard. It’s been a long ten days.

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Friday May 23, 2008

& i'm out (again)

Well, folks, I’m off on the trip originally mentioned here. The route is different: I’m catching Amtrak to Savannah GA first thing in the morning, and pedaling back according to routes suggested by the ACA, via maps that finally arrived Wednesday.

My only contact with this site will be by cell phone, which is why the twitter updates have once again taken prominence. Should be back in 1 week and some change, barring unforeseen circumstances, in which case all bets are off. Stay tuned for updates from the road.

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Wednesday May 21, 2008

Manola gets hassled and bullied at the Raleigh hotel. Idiots.

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Tuesday May 20, 2008

“Timberlake turns to us and introduces himself and then, out of nowhere, pulls the girl over and says to her, ‘meet my friend Josh.’” — Stories of folks’ run-ins with celebs at miami.com

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Exactly wrong: Miami Dade commissioners are considering raising public transportation rates. Just as they’re cutting routes. And just they should be doing the exact opposite. Also: cut property taxes and raise transit fees = more taxes for the poor, fewer for the rich. Nice work, folks. Update: The Herald agrees.

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bbq eel

Scenes from Lung Gong BBQ eel center, house dumplings bottom right, spicy pickled turnips (if everyone tells you to try them you probably should) center right.

beef tongue heart and intestine

Beef tongue, heart, and intestine. I’m not kidding, and it was great (although it did not a tripe convert make of me; if you don’t like chewy meats, stay away from the white bits). Again, order from the traditional menu and the dry-erase boards posted in the restaurant. You may also to check out LG’s website, charmingly devoid of a menu or any other useful information, or any actual photos of any actual dishes served at the restaurant.

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Monday May 19, 2008

Haha — Rick Ross’ new album gets a 2.4 on Pitchfork. Update: Ross’ fried seafood joint, Hip Hop Grub Spot, was highly praised in the New Times’ best-of. It’s on 441, a couple of blocks north of Ives Dairy Road. (thanks, CB)

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Google map with all the fires currently burning in Florida. From this page on the Dept. of Forestry website. I don’t need to tell you people that the Southwestern winds are bringing the smoke right over us.

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New Times Best of Miami 2008, diversions

best of

By the time I went to grab a copy of the New Times this weekend, someone’d pulled out all the ‘Best Of’ inserts (couldn’t help but notice that the design of the interior had been nicely re-vamped), so we’re stuck doing the slog on the internet. Here we are: New Times best-of, Diversions (more over the next coupla days, if I have the energy):

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Friday May 16, 2008

First of the year ultra-muggy weekend

k It’s going to be in the 90’s all weekend, with the humidity to match. You’ll want to get out there and enjoy it, but unfortunately there’s not much going on.

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Thursday May 15, 2008

Map magazine

Finally, a local magazine that does it right. This is the 4th (quarterly) issue of Map magazine, and the quality has been consistently great, so I’m finally letting myself get attached. Splitting the difference between local and non-local content — this issue’s cover, of the Ravonettes, is the first non-local — the magazine focuses on art, music, and culture.

This issue opens with a story on downtown club promoters, follows with a great interview with artist Aramis Gutierrez, and along the way features Del the Funky Homosapien, Luis Gispert, Dino Felipe, Gustavo Matamoros, the Postmarks, Jaco Pastorius, Paul Auster, and Rachel Goodrich. That, my friends, is a damned good list. Oh, and …

right smack in the middle, an article on Sweat Records. Perfect.

Editor Omar Sommereyns is a longtime Miami journalist, having most recently kicked ass at the Sun Post and Flavorpill. You couldn’t have picked a better guy to head up a magazine, as evidenced by the results.

For the gallery walk this month, Map threw a party next to Snitzer gallery, with a coffee bar, funky user-configurable seating, and a rock concert. They gave away the magazines, and distributed a card that guided folks through a carefully-picked group of the best galleries on the circuit, with step-by-step instructions. A nice touch.

Oh, one other thing I need to gush about — it’s beautiful. Map lets its graphic designers toss visual caution to the wind with each new spread, and you get stuff like the pages above — eye-popping but smart, and complimenting their topic. A series of grayscaled upside-down photos over a color gradient on one page, multi-colored plaid graph paper at 45-degrees on the next. It’s held together by a tight grid for the copy (set in a nice san-serif) and printed on lavish matte paper.

You can pick up Map free at lots of places around town, but why not spring for a subscription — your $25 is well worth it and supports what will hopefully be a long-running institution. Oh, and you can also flip through the magazine on their website and download a high-res PDFs of any of the 4 issues. Go read!

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Wednesday May 14, 2008

May gallery walk

May gallery hop

You missed Christina Lei Rodriguez’s show at Perrotin, right? Shame, because it’s gorgeous. By dropping the overt references to natural forms, the new work achieves a sort of post-apocalyptic disco grandeur.

May gallery hop

Detail.

May gallery hop

Take an exterior wall, paint it flat black, and write something on it in block letters. It’s pretty hard to miss, as Locust has been demonstrating for the last few months.

May gallery hop

Amber Hawk Swanson’s sex-doll twin shows off her business end. As you lean in to look, a camera’s watching you, with a live feed showing on a screen on the other side of the wall.

May gallery hop

Photos of the doll making friends accompany the installation. These leave something to be desired, actually.

May gallery hop

Map Magazine’s coffee lounge. Cold espresso in little cans distributed.

May gallery hop

In a trailer at the back of the lounge, Snitzer’s trailer hold’s COOPER’s latest work, ass-kicking as usual.

May gallery hop

Gavin Perry demonstrates what happens to artists when their work appears on the cover of a book: you’re issued dress shirts and cigars, and required to sport them when in public.

May gallery hop

Robin Griffiths’ sculpture at Dorsch, replete with WWII-era shaving kit and multiple whiskey bottles.

May gallery hop

Spinning lanterns by N. Sean Glover at Diet.

May gallery hop

At Castillo, Frances Trombly’s latest work, including woven cardboard boxes with embroidered labels.

May gallery hop

Meanwhile, palmetto bugs the size of a child’s hand prowled the streets, attacking stray cats and the occasional art collector. Must be summer kicking in.

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Tuesday May 13, 2008

Sassy photos from Miami (NSFW). Chinese food in the belly button: do not try this at home.

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Leyden Rodriguez has a twitter. Update: Indirectly via whom, my favorite new twitter acct: Oblique_Chirps.

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An interesting article on the discussion about which schools to close due to budget cuts. Sounds to me like low enrollment + crappy school (C, D, or F school) = a good one to close. Of course it gets more complicated, because there have to be nearby schools to absorb those kids. But the worst thing you can do is to have the professional staff figure it all out, and then close all the schools they recommend except the ones where there’s the most complaining. The solution? I dunno, maybe make Rudy Crew school Dictator For Life — did you see yesterday’s post? The school board is nothing but a thorn in his side anyway.

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Bulldozed.

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The Bas Fisher Invitational just had its last show ever and is closed.

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“Here, the Mayor [of Miami, Manny Diaz] engaged in ex parte communications with Respondent during the ten day veto period following the Commission’s adoption of the Orders. Petitioners emphasize that to the extent the Mayor believed that there were adverse effects resulting from the grant of rezoning and MUSP that required mitigation through the imposition of additional conditions, the matter should have been discussed within the scope of the public quasi-judicial process and required public hearing and notice. We find that the Mayor’s communications all took place after the hearings had concluded, away from public earshot, and therefore violated Petitioner’s due process rights under the Jennings criteria.” — Good stuff, from the court documents [PDF] pertaining to the torpedoing of the Mercy development. (btw, my version of the PDF has selectable text, unlike the herald’s. It’s all in the details.)

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Monday May 12, 2008

How do you increase public transportation use? Well, you wait for the cost of gasoline to go up, and when it does you introduce new routes and lower rates to attract drivers that were on the fence. And since gas prices have just risen, it makes sense that Miami-Dade is cutting 600 bus routes and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority is considering dropping from 50 to 20 Tri-Rail trains per day. Update: A number of commenters have pointed out that the “600” figure is yet another example of the Sun-Post playing fast and loose with numbers.

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“I do not believe that the effort required of my staff to gather and organize the information regarding job descriptions and cost of all board office renovations … is an effective use of their time.” — School Superintendent Rudy Crew, responding to a request for information from the School Board. From Michael Lewis’ column on how the School Board operates, which is a must-read. (Among info Crew is not interested in providing: where the overtime is going.)

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Saturday May 10, 2008

Gallery walk tonight

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Friday May 9, 2008

Do-it-yerself weekend

bear

Sorry, rough night last night. If you know of something good, hit the comments. I’ll try to put together an itinerary for the gallery walk by noon tomorrow. Meanwhile:

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Thursday May 8, 2008

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

morikami museum and japanese gardens

Most people have heard of the Morikami but haven’t been there, because it seems so far away. Actually, it’s less then an hour from Miami, and totally worth the trip. Hours are from 10 am to 5 pm, and I’d recommend getting there on the early side, as the highly rated restaurant inside the museum closes at 3 pm. Click the photo above to see a slideshow of what it’s like.

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Wednesday May 7, 2008

The results are in from the Broward citrus canker class-action lawsuit: $11.5 million to be split between several tens of thousand residents. It’s not clear how much each person/tree will get, because some have already gotten money, yadda yadda, but sounds like upper three digits to me. Good news for former citrus tree owners in other counties, where similar lawsuits are ongoing; bad news for the State (uhh, that would be us). Someone should start talking settlement, no?

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Shark Valley

Shark Valley

23 miles west of the Turnpike on Tamiami Trail (click the map above for Google directions), in the heart of the northern Everglades, sits something rather remarkable — an all-access, super-easy nature trail known as Shark Valley. The trail is paved, and accessible by foot, bicycle (bring your own or rent), or tram tour. By bike, it’s just the right length that just about anyone can sit on a bike and finish it at a leisurely pace. The trail is a loop, so at the end you end up back at the visitor center, but at the far end you’re deep into the Everglades, far from civilization, with the birds and the alligators. It’s sort of a must-do for anyone who lives anywhere in South Florida.

This is what it’s really like in the Everglades. Peaceful, and stretching on into forever with grass, occasional patches of solid ground and a few trees, and swamp (note the water visible at the bottom of this photo.

Bleh, I don’t have a photo of the gators you see hanging out just off the path, but they’re there. (No worries, they’ll leave you alone.) Did get this little guy sunning himself, though.

Mostly what you get is lots and lots of birds, in all different shapes and sizes. Not sure what this fellah was hunting in the muck. Something delicious probably. Previously, we met this guy.

At the farthest end of the loop, you come to a rather improbably lookout tower. The views are fantastic, but again, it’s more about the vastness, not something you can reproduce in a photo. Go check it out for yourself.

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Tuesday May 6, 2008

John Spain explains how to pimp your booze.

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Alton Road bike lanes? Weather we like it or not, Alton Road is soon to be torn up. So, Miami Beach commissioners had a choice to make. Look at the two proposals below, and see if you can guess which they chose to recommend to FDoT.

alton road proposed reconstruction
 

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oh NOSE!!: There are people panhandling in the Grove!!. Read the comments for some stories of lives devastated by this menace.

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Pepe's

Pepe's

So, as I was pulling into Key West a few weeks ago, I called up our friend, and Key West authority, Squathole to figure out where to have a big post-100-mile dinner. “Pepe’s,” he says, “hold on, let me see if their address is printed on the bottle of hot sauce I bought there.” Well, it was, but whether through my bad hearing or S’s bad vision, I ended up with the wrong address: 506 Caroline, right off Duval. After looking for it, giving up, looking for someplace else to eat, not finding anything promising, I ended up finding Pepe’s up the street at 806 Caroline.

From first glance you can tell it’s going to be perfect: Pepe’s opened in 1909 and looks it. It looks a little shacky from the outside, but inside is surprisingly cozy, blending indoor and outdoor spaces with equal parts Key West shamble and fine dining. It looks empty from the outside but is actually packed — mostly with locals as it turns out, this being one of the places on the island they cherish.

Pepe's

The parrot guy holds court, and expounds on the joy and life-long commitment that is parrot ownership (tip: never buy a parrot at a pet store). The parrot doesn’t talk, but instead likes to imitate other animals. He does a pretty good pig. I made pals with seasoned locals Ollie, his wife, and the parrot guy, who could totally get babes if he tried.

So the food. Well, first beer: there is exactly one beer on tap. It’s Yuengling, and it’s $1 per glass, and it tastes absolutely perfect when it’s on tap and you’ve got no choice. (I strongly advocate the 1-beer concept to other restaurants, btw. It’s got charm, and so long as it’s a half-way decent beer it will make people happy.) I think I drank about 6 over the next couple of hours. The food is surprisingly gourmet. Pepe’s style fish comes with melted cheese, but I opted for the blackened. It came prefectly cooked, generously portioned, and with fancy presentation, vegetable, and mashed potato. The rule of thumb in the Keys seems to be that the seafood is fresher and better, but not really any cheaper, than Miami, and so it was. Apparently Pepe’s has a master pie baker, so leaving without pie is considered self-in-foot-shooting. There’s a daily pie special(!), Ollie ordered a slice to go, and I followed suit, which meant killer macadamia nut and chocolate chip pie for breakfast next morning. Need I say more?

Pepe’s Cafe
806 Caroline Street, Key West, Fl.
(305) 294-7192

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Sweat Records buys Rag Trade. “We’ll be keeping the clothing exchange aspect and expanding the boutique to include more local designers, a section for all the awesome local band shirts we’re seeing (that we don’t really have the space for at Sweat), as well as carrying some cutting-edge new clothing lines from around the world. Not only that, but we’re going to continue to throw the awesome and extremely well-received Kraftworks craft fairs every month or so[.]”

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Monday May 5, 2008

Crabby Jack's

Crabby Jack's

Hey kids, it’s non-Dade week here at CM, bringing you a random sampler of attractions from “the greater South Florida area.” You know, I’ve always had a feeling about the expression “South Florida” — it’s an expression that you hear in Broward much more often than in Dade. It’s the Miami Herald, but the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and I’ve always had the impression that it was an expression used by people who don’t live in Miami to make it sound like there’s no real distinction.

Anyway, on to Crabby Jack’s. Let me make clear that this is not a place to make a trip from Miami to visit. BUT should you find yourself hungry and driving down US-1 in the northernmost reaches of Broward County, I’d implore you to stop in for one of their Dolphin sandwiches.

CJ’s oozes old-Florida charm. The building looks like it was designed by the owner on the back of a napkin and build by his college buddies over spring break many decades ago. Exposed beams, brightly painted, hold the roof on, and big home made skylight let dramatic pools of light into the cavern-like room. Slats outside the winddows that circle the building let in a little more, but the feeling is not unlike a fort. “Stuff” covers the walls, but not in that charming-but-clean TGIFriday’s kind of way — this stuff is decades old. The menus stick together. Buckets on the tables hold flyers advertising 3-for-1 beers and bingo night. Most of the people in here on an early afternoon are sitting at the bar. A sign proclaims that smoking is permitted after 10 pm, and I think that’s an essential aspect of the atmosphere; it doesn’t reek of cigarettes during the day, but it has that “people smoke here at night” vibe. The waitresses wear tiny shorts and stockings, just one step above Hooter’s uniforms (one of them spent a good solid 10 minutes adjusting her boobs in her tank top in plain view of me, not that I’m complaining or anything).

But oh, that fish sandwich. Unbelievably moist, tasty, and generously sized. It comes plain or blackened, big slice of lemon, tomato and lettuce on a good roll, with near-perfect fries and that tartar sauce that makes you realize what tartar sauce is supposed to be — more creamy than mayonnaisy. Perfecto.

Crabby Jack’s
1015 S. Federal Highway
Deerfield Beach, FL 33441
954.429.3770

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Saturday May 3, 2008

Stale links Saturday

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Friday May 2, 2008

MiMo weekend

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Thursday May 1, 2008

County commission sells out Everglades

Last week, the Miami-Dade commission approved several developments beyond the UDB, and while the developments are still up in the air pending a mayoral veto, this spells trouble. A Time Magazine article very nicely lays out the compromised integrity of various members of the commission (“One of the Lowe’s project’s biggest backers on the commission is Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who is under federal investigation for allegedly receiving gifts from developers whose plans he’d voted for.”), but it also points out a larger point.

Nominally underway is a $10 billion Everglades restoration project funded by the federal government. In actuality, the whole effort is troubled and behind schedule. How, the Time article asks, can South Florida expect such a huge national investment in the ‘glades when we can’t resist paving more and more of it over? (via TM)

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Wednesday April 30, 2008

Blah, now I feel like throwing up: Studio A is closing. Why?? If a sharp and trendy live-music venue in a low-rent part of downtown can’t make it, what hope is there for this god-forsaken hell-hole of a town? (Translation: Now you have to go to Revolution in the-fort-that-dare-not-speak-its-name to see new national acts.) BLAH! Isn’t there a petition we can sign or something?

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New designs for Miami Art Exchange and Transit Miami, both modern and very nice. Congratulations, gentlemen.

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Bob Norman has a great rant about the newspaper industry, esp. as it pertains to Miami. “Look at the Miami Herald. It’s been hit by an 11 percent decline in the six-month period ending at the end of March. It’s down to 240,000. … And what do we get? Same shit, only softer.”

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A Miami-Dade school principal offered to do his job for $1 per year plus benefits, and the school board turned him down, essentially saying he can have the job for $120,000 a year or not at all. The reason is some budgeting BS. Meanwhile, the State is cutting $60.5 million in funding to Miami-Dade schools (and, if you want extra anger with your lunchtime burger, “Meantime, there’s enough money to keep giving the owners of 20 sports stadiums and arenas — including the ones used by the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Heat and the Florida Panthers — tax subsidies as high as $2 million each.”)

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Tuesday April 29, 2008

Hmm.. Daniel Brody’s cat PJ has a blog called Meow.

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Your State government watch: mandating ultrasound scans for women before they can get an abortion in the Senate, undermining evolution in the House. (Neither bill is a law yet.) Attention Republicans: how do you sleep?

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Monday April 28, 2008

A writeup on my friend Kaí Nakpangi Green, manager of the Joseph Caleb Auditorium, in the Herald last week. (Thanks, Obalesque)

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Let them believe

I believe Florida license plate

Ahh, Florida legislature, how we love thee. Just in the last year you’ve screwed us out of having our votes counted, debated what can hang from the back of a truck, and now this: the good folks in Tallahassee are considering the ‘I Believe’ license plate.

Now, this is an easy opportunity to engage in a little open Christian-bashing — and believe me, I’ll get into that in a second — but let’s consider the central argument against the plate. Sayeth Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida,
“[it] sends a message that Florida is essentially a Christian state” and, second, gives the “appearance that the state is endorsing a particular religious preference.”

Well no, it doesn’t do that. Florida has some 200 different specialty tags. Does anyone think the state legislature in any meaningful way “endorses” the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Florida Memorial University, or NASCAR? Of course not. What we have here is the highly dubious enterprise of the state raising revenue through its vehicle licensing arm. You can question the whole enterprise, but letting it go for the last 200 plates and then suddenly deciding that this one is somehow extra-contemptible is absurd. Of course there is no shortage of folks ready to do just that. But sorry, the state isn’t forcing anyone to get this plate or making it the default choice. And a quick glance at the list of current specialty tags makes it clear that yes, this plate will soon be followed by plates for a plethora of other religions, and maybe even one for us atheists (several folks have suggested a Flying Spaghetti Monster plate). The state’s policy has been clear: it’ll print a plate if it thinks more then a couple of dozen people are interested. No sane person would infer any sort of approval.

There are certain areas where the state should draw the line. I’m personally still horrified every time I see the “Choose Life” plate. Does one of the most agonizingly troubled moral debates of our time need to be reduced to a license plate? Should the Florida Transportation department be used as a revenue collection agency for assholes who harass pregnant women? Don’t I have a right not to be reminded of abortions of all things, when I drive down the road? By any reasonable, objective, standard this plate is a universe more offensive then some silly deceleration of faith.

Oh, about those Christians. Well, honestly: what can you say about folks who want to proclaim their religious belief through so tacky a means? Have you guys read the bible? You know it wants you to stone adulterers and gays to death, right? You’re cool with that. You know your precious pope is helping the cause of AIDS by opposing condom distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa, right? What, you don’t support those things? So, the bible is the word of God or is it not? Yeah… I believe there is a word for you: hypocrite. (That’d make a good license plate!)

As for the rest of us, let’s take a deep breath and go with it, as well as with the other religious plates that are sure to follow. The “endorsement” is non-existent, and remember that separation between church and state is a balance. It says that you trust in God on your money, after all.

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Friday April 25, 2008

Viennese weekend

vienna

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Thursday April 24, 2008

John Timoney update: still our police chief. Stunning. Latest development: the Florida Commission on Ethics has preliminarily found him to be guilty of violations of the State’s ethics laws. Comes next: a formal finding, and a recommendation as to punishment. What the hell is Pete Hernandez thinking?

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Goofy Sony foam commercial shot in downtown. (via Miami Nights/All Purpose Dark)

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Wednesday April 23, 2008

A little pussy chases a big cock. Ok ok let’s be nice — Miami, Bro has been rocking lately. Here’s two recent posts: Jimbo’s B-day bash, and Sneaking into clubs (easy, though it helps if you (1) have some gumption and/or (2) are a babe).

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An expansion at Coral Way Elementary requires cutting down 6 old Ficus trees, and local residents are protesting.

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OK, suppose you find an 8-foot alligator in your kitchen, between you and an open door. All you have is a broomstick. Can you prod the alligator out the door? (Bonus link: the temperature their eggs incubate at determines a gator’s gender.)

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Tuesday April 22, 2008

The Florida State Senate just passed an amendment to a transportation bill that bans Truck Nutz, the metal dangling testicles you’ve seen hanging from the hitches of classier pickups around town. The final vote is Thursday. For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my state. (via kottke)

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Michael Lewis unpacks some of the maneuvering behind the Global Agreement, the packaging of the port tunnel, performing arts center bailout, jungle island bailout, streetcar, Marlins stadium, and museum park, as one political package. The plan was approved because each piece had a few commissioners in support of it. Now, in large part because of economic troubles, the individual votes will be in serious trouble. Lewis argues that this is in fact a good thing.

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The new ginger-bread house bridge in Hollywood.

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Parabolic

Just passed the third anniversary of this’ere blog (that’s right — old enough to be your blog great-granddaddy), and so I was looking at some site stats, and the above graph struck me. We’re looking at page views per year, and while the numbers may be impressive, the trend is not. Extrapolating the numbers for 2008 out, we get 4,257,150. In other words, the difference between 07 and 08 is smaller then the difference between 06 and 07. That’s all kinds of bad — slowing growth, a gradual leveling off of readership.

On the other hand, this is all a bit of an oversimplification. Growth happens in fits and spurts and most of those come in the second half of the year, for whatever reason. And while my stats program doesn’t track unique IP stats (arguably a more accurate indication of readership), they have been growing more dramatically: 54,522 last May, 210,437 in March. Who knows what it all means.

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Monday April 21, 2008

joseph young house

The Joseph Young House, built by the founder of Hollywood as his residence, is up for sale. The house is from 1925, is a huge 7,200 square feet, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Asking price is “$2.39 — 2.79 million.”

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The Herald has noticed Miami mayor Manny Diaz’s silly blog.

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Friday April 18, 2008

420 weekend

420 weekend

Update: Oh right, there’s a big Porn Fest at the Convention Center. Also, cb says “Gospelfest is free and the Swamp Stomp is a separate event over at Jimbos.” I have no idea, read the comments and figure it out.

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Thursday April 17, 2008

In front of the building at Meridian and 13th, recently redone. Some sort of Philippe Stark meets the old west meets Japanese traditional thing going on here. I tend to frown on this sort of thing when done to multi-residence buildings.

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Alex was recently charged $6 for a bagel with lox at Mo’s. Is that excessive? What’s the going rate for a bagel with lox?

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Midtown indoor soccer

A fierce combination of soccer and hockey, indoor soccer is played on a small enclosed court with some thin astroturf. It’s much more frantic then regular soccer because of the enclosed space and no stopping (the ball’s stays in play if it hits the wall as long as it’s below the black line). Midtown Stadium Indoor Soccer [Flash site; will play Van Halen Jump really loud unless you mute your speakers before entering] in Wynwood (where the indoor skate park used to be), it’s free to watch or $120 per hour to rent the field, less during off-hours and weekends.

Two co-ed teams that played like nobody’s business, the spectators sitting just behind a flimsy net, flinching as the ball hurtles to within inches of their face. All set to club music. Apparently they’re booked through most evenings (open 24 hours!), so you can just swing by and watch some soccer when in the neighborhood. (Thanks Brook!)

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Wednesday April 16, 2008

Mo's Bagels and Deli

Mo's Bagels and Deli

So, we were just talking about the North Miami bagel/deli circuit, and I thought I’d mention my favorite. A little less cramped and hectic then the Bagel Cove and not overpriced like Sage Bagels, Mo’s has that old-school, family-run atmosphere you’re looking for. (There’s a new place up the street at Miami Gardens Drive and 18th Street that’s distinctly not what I’m talking about here.) The food is what you’d expect from a diner, but with massive portions and skewed towards your Kosher stuff. Delicious breakfast specials, massive sandwiches, homemade soup. You get the picture. By 10 am on weekends every table is full, and there’s a line out the door. Service is usually pretty good.

Mo's Bagels and Deli

Lox lox lox, and fish, smoked fish.

Mo's Bagels and Deli

So, does somebody really want to tell me this isn’t a “real” deli? True, it’s not from the 60s, but cut them some slack. Honestly, I don’t know what to do with any of this stuff. I sort of just admire it while waiting in the checkout line. Note the back of the take-out menu for a list of stuff available to go by the pound: 8 different types of smoked fish, 8 different soups, potato pancakes, knishes, and something called Israeli Health Salad. (Actually, the “Salads” section is a hoot, and features turkey, shrimp, and egg salad, in addition to the ominously titled “Vegetarian Chopped Liver.”)

Mo's Bagels and Deli

And of course pastries. And yes, you get a little plate of sweet nibblies when you sit down. Yum! Oh, thanks again to Susan for letting me use her camera!!

Mo’s Bagel & Deli
2780 N.E. 187th St
North Miami Beach, FL 33180 (they say they’re in Aventura, I say no)
305-936-8555

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Tuesday April 15, 2008

State shall pay for cut-down trees

The first of several huge class-action lawsuits against the state’s past Citrus Canker policy has come home to roost. The Miami Herald article deals primarily with the legal technicalities of the case, but here’s the point: The state based its decision to cut down healthy trees growing within 1,900 feet of infected trees on junk science, and didn’t sufficiently compensate owners. Well, now comes the penalty phase — we’re talking hundreds of thousands of trees, and the plaintiffs are talking as much as $5,000 per tree. Tim Farley, who’s quoted extensively in the article (and you can hear audio of him talking some more!) says the Florida citrus industry should pay, “but unfortunately that’s not how the system works.”

Actually, a tax on the citrus industry to pay compensatory damages in these cases would be just a wonderful idea. But they’re not the really really real guilty party here — industry looks after its interests, right? That’s what they do, that’s what they have lobbyists to do, that’s what we expect them to do. The real criminals here are the people that put the 1,900 foot rule into place — the government officials who failed to stand up to the industry, to stand up for residents with trees.

So, what do you do to ensure this doesn’t happen next time, with the next situation? Nothing. You take it, and the next time you take it again. There’s your moral. Now, get out there and plant some citrus trees — they only take a few years to get to fruit-bearing age.

Update: Clarifying the compensation per tree. First of all, that’s what the trial is going to determine. $5,000 is the pie-in-the-sky figure the plaintiffs are starting with, a number to be compromised from, and even then it’s intended to be the upper range. Actual amount would be determined by the size/age/value of the tree, with the majority in any case being under $1,000.

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Monday April 14, 2008

Lichtenstein at Fairchild

Lichtenstein at Farichild

My third trip to Fairchild was the most interesting yet, thanks in part to unwillingly (and groaningly) submitting to the tram tour. The garden has over 500 volunteers, and among other things they lead all these tours, which are — surprise — extremely interesting and helpful in making sense of what might otherwise seems a somewhat sprawling estate. Fairchild has four distinct plant habitats and … well, I’m not going to regurgitate everything, but trust me, it’s worth it.

Lichtenstein at Farichild

The public attraction aspect is almost secondary to Fairchild’s scientific function. A premiere collection of tropical wildlife, every plant on the property is a scientific specimen, and many are tagged for reference. Botanists come from all over the world to study this stuff.

Lichtenstein at Farichild

In the arid area, almost every different plant is a different species. Set atop a small hill, the area was excavated and filled with fast-draining sandy soil to simulate a desert environment.

Lichtenstein at Farichild

So, I guess we should talk about the Lichtenstein. There are only about 10 sculptures, but they’re pretty hard to miss of course. At their best (for example, this lamp light sculpture) they’re pretty darned good.

Lichtenstein at Farichild

Also the house sculpture, charming enough in a photo, but employing a perspective gimmick that makes it look like it’s moving as you walk past it. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of tired “brushstroke” pieces to be had, but the best of it was pretty good.

Lichtenstein at Farichild

Also, remnants of Chihuly abound. Here a lizard has gotten pretty comfortable with the red tubes. I sort of wish they’d get rid of the glass, because it’s pretty distracting. In the tropical rainforest all people were photographing were the sodding glass balls in the stream. (Tour tidbit: since Miami doesn’t get nearly as much rain as a rainforest needs, the area has a treetop-level sprinkler system — every layer of the rainforest needs water, not just the ground.)

Lichtenstein at Farichild

Orchid fever in the enclosed conservatory building. I took the orchid pictures, but Susan took most of the rest of them, because like a knucklehead I left my camera battery at home. More orchid pictures at flickr: 1, 2, 3. Oh, one last thing. Fairchild has a butterfly garden now. Did you know that if you plant the right plants, butterflies will just start hanging out? Well, they planted lots and lots of them in one little area and viola — a year-round swarm of butterflies. Good stuff.

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Friday April 11, 2008

Gurus weekend

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Thursday April 10, 2008

Yes, there are still Jewish delis in Miami.

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Do not adjust your monitor — the geniuses in Hallandale insisted that the little bike guy face right, even if that meant two overlapping opposite signs.

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Turmoil at the Herald, as the newspaper offers buyouts to selected employees, with a goal of a 2% reduction in staff. Sayeth the e-mail from the Herald’s executive editor to staff: “The buyouts will be available to three areas of the newsroom where the least attrition has come the past year or so. They include a portion of the photography staff, a group of veteran writers from several departments, and members of the administration staff, including news assistants, executive assistants and wire room staff.”

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Forecasters are predicting the next hurricane season: 15 tropical storms, 8 hurricanes, 4 intense hurricanes. They’re doing it very sheepishly, though, because they know their predictions have been worth squat for years. Meanwhile, other scientists “worry that errors in the long-term predictions will undermine faith in real-time forecasts of actual storms.”

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Wednesday April 9, 2008

Paul USA

Sometime in the distant foggy past (ok, 1889), Paul really was a single bakery in Croix, France. Over the last couple of decades, it’s expanded to a worldwide empire, with shops all over the world. Their foray into the US began in 2005, and currently consists of five shops all in our little neck of the woods. The North Miami Beach location is the center of the hub, where all the baking is done, and that’s where these pictures are taken.

Paul messes with my head a little bit. On the one hand it’s got a faux-rustic corporate sheen, with the fingerprints of expensive consultants visible everywhere (note, for example, the faux-mismatched chairs in the dining room). Walking in there feels more like walking into a theme-shifted Friday’s (or Starbucks, for that matter) then A La Folie. On the other hand, there’s the genuine French heritage, the decent food, and the wait staff with French accents. If you’ve ever been to Panera, it’s sort of like that, with maybe another notch up in quality and price, and the eurotrash theme.

So, the food. Above are my eggs benedict from a recent excursion. The goal was to spend as much as possible on brunch for two sans alcohol (and yes, you can get your brunch combo with Champagne or Mimosa), and mission accomplished at over $30 for what is, essentially, fast food. Mind you, the eggs benedict was delicious, as was every sandwich, pastry, and coffee I’ve tasted there. You line up, order your food, and they bring it to your table. All the bread is baked by Paul’s staff, as are the pastries (I believe?), and it’s served in that French style, where the portions are not overly large and everything has a small field-green salad on the side.

All the same, I’m inclined to give it the thumbs-down. The corporate stench that lingers in the air sort of ruins the experience for me. I can go to any diner and get food that’s almost as good and a lot more honest, and if I want faux-rustic corporate food I’ll go to Panera, Crackel Barrel, or some such, where it comes without the Epcot-planet overtones. Your mileage may vary.

Paul
14861 Biscayne Blvd. and other locations
N. Miami Beach, FL 33181

Update: In the comments, Kathie reports that Paul in Miami “doesn’t even compare” to Paul in Paris. Over at Flickr, BeanBlossom reports that service at Paul on Lincoln Road is terrible. (N. Miami Beach location always has gushingly good service. I sort of prefer medium snooty service with my French food, another reason I like Folie.)

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A few recent articles on Miami artists: Brett Sokol on William Cordova, Adler Guerrier, and Bert Rodriguez, who are currently in the Whitney Biennial, a report on Bert’s piece, in-gallery therapy sessions, by our pal C-Monster, Victor Barrenechea on Scott Murray of Twenty Twenty, and … grr — the maroons at the Herald have yanked down the Wendy Wischer profile, though the slideshow of her work remains. (via)

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Tuesday April 8, 2008

C.L. Jahn gives us a history of the last 2 years of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, and proclaims, “It’s time to admit it: the Coconut Grove Playhouse is dead.” But careful — what he means is the organization, not (necessarily) the idea of performances in that building (though that too seems unlikely for a long time, as the building is quite deteriorated). Bummer.

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This shouldn’t be too surprising: guy/girl come down from New York, do all the stupid predictable shit, and write about it for the New York Times. (Aka a weekend in Miami for $500.)

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I picked up a copy of Biscayne Times the other day, and found a piece on Miami guerrilla gardening group Tree-0-5, which plants impromptu gardens in abandoned lots. Of course the group was started by Rag Trade’s Stephanie, so there’s another reason to be bummed out that she’s leaving town.

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Evening air.

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More thoughts on parking

Last week I wrote an article on what I perceive to be Transit Miami’s anti-car bias, and here is Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal’s thoughtful response. This is a response to the response.

First, let me say where I agree with Gabriel. We are both urbanists, and share the goal of making Miami less car-dependent, more transit and pedestrian centered. So-called “livable” cities everywhere in the world feature public spaces that put the focus on humans (as Gabriel so eloquently calls us), with public plazas, pleasant sidewalks, and convenient mass transit that makes getting around town without a car not just easy, but pleasurable. An important component of this is increased density, and we both support Miami 21, which would put higher density development where it can do the most good, and bring about other pro-pedestrian changes. We would like Miami to be more like that, and less of a car-dominated no-man’s land of suburban sprawl. Where we differ is on how that change ought to be brought about.

What happens when you can’t park?
Gabriel has clarified his position to be that the way to bring change about is to reduce parking on new developments. By decreasing the number of parking spaces, you reduce the number of drivers going there, therefore reducing the number of drivers on the road, therefore increasing the use of public transit. I don’t like this approach for two reasons — because I don’t think it’s very nice, and because I don’t think it will work. Thought-experiment with me here. Let’s say you’re going to the barbershop. You hop in your 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid and head over to Lou’s Barbershop, in their new location at Lopez-Bernal Centre.

But guess what? LBC has insufficient parking, and there’s no space for you. That sense of frustration you’ve got there — that, to me, is not a way to win converts to the public transportation cause. Moreover, under Gabriel’s logic, you react to this situation next time by either finding a bus route to Lou’s, riding your bike, or car-pooling with a friend. Sorry, but this just does not wash with the reality that I live in. When parking shortages make driving somewhere difficult, the most natural reaction is to drive somewhere else! Lou looses your business, and the environment is the worse off if your new barbershop is farther.

Extending this logic to residences is even easier: will you move somewhere if there’s no place for you to park? Of course not. Friends stop visiting because parking is impossible (we know something about this on South Beach)? Start looking for a place to move to.

Real solutions
I am on board with a lot of the rest of Transit Miami’s solutions to this problem, including increased and improved public transportation. A good example is the streetcar, which, serving a corridor of new high-density developments (US-1 between Downtown, Edgewater, and the Midtown), would be a very good step in the right direction. People in those developments will have a real alternative to driving their cars. But make no mistake — they’ll still need cars, and people from outside the area will need places to park when they come visit.

Cycling
South Beach is a very bikable city. The rest of the county is not. I don’t think the lack of a degree in urban planning makes me particularly unqualified to make those statements, but the use of Bogota as an example of rapid change is telling. Every Sunday in Bogota many roads are shut down, open only to pedestrians and cyclists. It’s quite something to see, but it does not represent a change in how that city goes about its business. Enrique Penalosa has made some improvements to the public transportation system (which most people there used before), but the urban bike lanes in downtown Bogota are empty.

Odds ‘n ends
For what it’s worth, I think that cycling and public transportation combined can be an effective way of getting around the city, and have said so and done so. I’ve disagreed with TM about the viability of a bike rental program. The very last comment at that link is from Gabriel, who said he was working on a map of how such a program would work in Miami-Dade. Well, there is no map, because outside of a very limited geographical area (say, that covered by MetroMover), the distances are just too great.

Oh, the thing about growing a mountain was a joke. But I don’t think it’s unfair to point out, when you’re talking about “experiences that both illuminate Montreal’s successes and Miami’s potential,” that a vast majority of your article has no relevance to Miami’s “potential” unless you intend to tear the whole city down and start from scratch.

Parking and the law
Technically, the article I was addressing had to do with a legislative issue — the reduction in legally-mandated parking spaces. As a matter of libertarian principle, I actually agree that the government should not be in the business of mandating parking in developments. I think adequate parking is in the interest of the developers and owners, and they ought to be the ones to determine the best definition of “adequate” (e.g. I don’t think Aventura Mall is being legally compelled to build those new garages). While this complicates the disagreement we’re talking about, I don’t think it significantly alters it.

The way forward
There is hope. A commenter on the previous post linked to a density index for various US cities. On a scale that assigns 6.22 to New York, 1.78 to Los Angeles, and 2.1 to San Diego, Miami earned a 1.55 (2000 figures, and note that this applies to the “Metro area,” e.g. for Miami it would include most of Dade and Broward). But as I stated above, parts of Miami are in fact increasing in density, and are good candidates for increased mass transit. As these lines are constructed, anyone who can will use them. The Coral Gables-Downtown commute is a good example, with some people taking the rail despite the fact that it’s more expensive then driving. If we want to change the city, the way to do it is to push for increased transit (which of course TM does) and pricing that makes public transportation an obvious bargain for everyone. Let’s build rail that goes to the airport, Little Havana, and for god’s sakes the Beach. And let’s not get distracted with trying to keep people from parking their cars.

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Friday April 4, 2008

Now entering Summer weekend

look up, it's summer

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Thursday April 3, 2008

Key Largo semi-secret camping spot

Here’s the spot in Key Largo where I camped out on my trip. I should say first that as far as I know it’s private property, and doing anything there is probably technically illegal. Nonetheless, I was informed by locals that this spot is frequently used by teenagers for parties, and it’s obviously used by outsiders as an impromptu campground at least occasionally. I was asked for directions to the spot, so here you go.

Take US-1 to the Overseas Highway, Key Largo. Here’s where it gets tricky, because I’m not so good at linking up Google Maps to reality, but refer to this map, and what you want, apprently, is to turn left at Ocean Bay Drive, very roughly around MM100. (Alternatively, turn left at Key Largo Fire Station No. 1, and follow that road to Ocean Bay Dr, then turn right.) Follow the road awhile, over a bridge, until it becomes a dirt road, at which point you’ll see the Key Largo Yacht Club on your left. Keep following the road (there may be a gate, which is easy to go around and/or just open) and make the first left turn. Viola, you’re at the site.

Amenities include a concrete waterfront patio with fire pit and the most spectacular sunrise view I’ve ever seen. No running water, no toilet, and no electric. Then again I was desperate, and just thankful not to be pitching a tent in the Arby’s parking lot or paying $160 for a room at the Day’s Inn (no shit, that was the lowest rate). Please report your experiences.

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Hallandale Beach has a blog. A deliciously snarky and weird one at that.

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More Yay!: Alex, formerly of Stuck to the Plametoo, finally has a spanky new blog: Miami & Beyond. Still chained to the bitch which is blogspot, with an almost criminally pretty header, but I’d forgive anything. This is one blog I have been waiting to read since gansibele began commenting around 2005. Congrats!

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YAY!: Article about the March gallery walk in OceanDrive by Brett Sokol with photos by me! No word on when my Bigshot Photojournalist certificate will be mailed.

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Any way you slice it, graduation rates for Miami-Dade schools are pathetic. It is astounding to me that school boards are too logjammed and uncaring to get their shit together and fix this. I know the problems are difficult, but there are good solutions out there. Get the experts together, figure it out, and do it. I know it’s hard, but is it impossible? (Alternate link)

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Wednesday April 2, 2008

What do you mean “ironic”? Photo by Miami Nights.

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What's up Transit Miami?

miami from the air -- houses and water

Transit Miami is a great blog, it’s been around a long time and done lots of excellent work, but lately I’ve been troubled by the increasingly single-minded, almost militant, anti-car zeal coming from over there. Now look, I’m a big supporter of public transportation, so I agree with the direction that TM wants to see Miami move in. But I think that advocating change is more effective when one has a firm grip on reality, and — well, let’s take a look at a recent post, Gabriel and Ryan’s open letter to the Miami city commission.

An increase of net parking spaces – to one per unit, as the city commission proposed – will only worsen the traffic conditions along Biscayne Boulevard and the surrounding streets. The aim of the city administration and all downtown development should be to reduce automobile dependency, not enhance it, especially in one of the few areas well served by public rail transit. Any increases in available parking will only serve as a means with which our residents will continue to neglect and undermine the intended purpose of public transportation.

They go on to say that supporting both public transportation access and parking spaces is “contradictory – essentially taking one-step forward and one-step backward,” and conclude by quoting the notion that “in order for public transportation to be successful it [must] be at least equally attractive as the alternatives.”

I have to admit to being baffled by this. The way to encourage public transportation use is to make driving more unpleasant, parking more difficult? I have two suggestions here. First, that improving public transportation is a better strategy then worsening the experience of driving. Second, a realistic understanding of where Miami is, and how far and fast it can change, is beneficial when advising on public policy meant to hasten that change. Let’s consider.

When we talk about “public transportation in Miami,” we are of course referring to Miami-Dade County. The county runs the public transportation system, and the City of Miami accounts for a small fraction of the county’s population. It takes only a passing familiarity with Miami-Dade to see the difference between it and the cities with the great public transportation systems that TM so admires: most Miamians live in single-family houses with great big lawns, while the citizens of those cities live far more often in high-rises, mid-rises, townhouses, and rowhouses. In other words, the population density is higher. It’s a fact of life that the potential effectiveness of a public transportation system is proportional to density. Yes, increasing population density is a worthwhile goal. And yes, Miami 21 will move us in that direction. But these changes happen slowly, and in the meantime the simple fact is that the overwhelming majority of Miamians, whether they live in the great suburbs of Miami Gardens of one of the new towers in downtown, have a car, need a car, and use a car everyday to commute and run practically all of their errands.

But furthermore, as those errands and commutes become easier to do with public transportation, the way to nudge the nice folks is make that public transportation more pleasant. To try to get them to switch by making driving more difficult is suicide for elected officials and inhumane for public professionals. I’d think it’d also be inadvisable for bloggers who want to change public opinion.

Sure, it’s fine to look at other cities, but let’s be realistic about how much they can “illuminate … Miami’s potential.” Miami is not going to have the public transportation system of Montreal any more then it’s going to suddenly grow a mountain. And the same goes for cycling in the city — last year I challenged TM to show me how a bike-rental system like the one that works relatively well in other cities would look in Miami. Nothing came of that because it wouldn’t work here for the same population density reasons. (And trust me, I know a thing or two about cycling in Miami.)

These situations will improve, and we should certainly work towards improving them, but it helps to be realistic about the time frame we’re talking about: when this happens, it’s on the scale of generations, not years or even decades. In the meantime let’s do what we can to make public transportation — and driving — easier and more pleasant.

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Tuesday April 1, 2008

FIU MFA show

An MFA in art is serious business. Not only does it mean you’re serious about this stuff and you intend to spend your life making art (75% of fine art BFAs make no attempt to have a career as an artist*), but you should have your act together, and be making serious work that can be judged at the highest levels. Right? So. Here’s the latest crop out of FIU, one of Miami’s better art programs.

fiu mfa show 2008

Harumi Abe is a friend of mine, but I don’t think I’m being unfair to say that she stole the show. Her paintings popped off the wall, and they’re both hyper-real and completely mundane. You know that line Franklin used to kick around his footer, the one about the painting of a carrot starting a revolution? We’re getting close here.

fiu mfa show 2008

So, I’m given to understand that there’s some technical difference in Fred Karrensberg’s work that makes it incorrect to say that he’s the obvious protege of Bill Burke, but you could do worse then to be just that. These pieces are mysterious and rich, and one even managed to combine cast glass and video without being laughable. (But I wouldn’t recommend trying that again.)

fiu mfa show 2008

Dan Mintz has been working on this body of work, photos of his son, for years, and it’s come together spectacularly. Cheers, Dan (although might I suggest a middle initial or something, because there may be a google problem lurking). Photography always suffers in hastily-re-photographed reproduction, but I’ve managed to mangle this piece more then usual. Apologies; I assure you the original was crisp and masterfully printed.

fiu mfa show 2008

Angelica Clyman. Here’s where we start to get into trouble. I understand about the carrot and everything, and Clyman obviously has the light thing figured out, but her attempts to convey spirituality and deepness through images of a couple hanging out outdoors

fiu mfa show 2008

I also wasn’t completely convinced by the work of Chaitra Garrick. Based on stories told to her by her grandmother, they’re charmingly crude mixed-media drawings of people and animals in peculiar situations. The best of them exude a sort of iconic charm, and maybe Garrick will find a way to harness more of that in future work.

A video by Maria Lino was also in the show. The exhibition is up through April 12th, and I’d recommend making the trip to check it out. The university also published a very nice catalog.

I made this number up. But I’d batcha it’s close.

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After being unable to gain the necessary number of signatures to have the intersection in front of his house turned into a traffic circle, Marc Sarnoff got himself elected to the Miami city commission, had the rule waived, and the traffic circle got built. Good times.

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Key Deer

key deer

Someone asked awhile back what I thought of the Key Deer situation. The size of dogs, key deer have lived in the southern Keys since the whole area was attached to the mainland. They were hunted into near-extinction in the 1940s, and are today they’re on the endangered species list, and have a sanctuary in the southern keys, where development is highly limited, and fences block access to their habitat. That rubs some locals the wrong way, and some have taken it out on the defenseless animals killing them, often in grievous ways.

So, I’ll tell you: I think anyone who willfully harms one of these creatures should be sentenced to a slow and painful death. At the same time, if the government passed laws that infringe on property owner’s rights (and this applies to many more situations then just this one), I think they should be made whole — compensated for the difference between the land’s previous value and the land’s subsequent value. Bought your land after the laws were passed? Tough luck. But if you bought land, and subsequent laws make it impossible to do what you wanted to do with it? Well, that smells like a form of eminent domain to me, and I think the law should treat it as such.

BTW, I passed through the deer’s territory on the recent trip, but didn’t get a chance to hang out with them. Apparently they’re very friendly, and will come right up to you and eat out of your hand. Awwwww.

Image: Larry Korhnak/University of Florida.

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