Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Proposed Downtown Miami Baseball Stadium

As much as we like our own proposed stadium site which doesn't sacrifice public land allocated for a future Children's Courthouse and a College of Policing and law enforcement themed specialized high school--MVB's stadium sits on an existing elevated transit station and connects to the Miami Arena and a hotel/convention center in a combined public/private venture to save both money-- MVB is here to encourage any venture that will bring a baseball stadium to downtown Miami-- as long as funding doesn't rob from the poor which this new proposal can't be accused of doing.

According to the Miami Herald today, the retractable roof stadium will cost $450 million with $45 million coming up front from the Florida Marlins and another $162 million coming from bonds issued by the county to be repaid through gate receipts. Miami-Dade County will cough up $145 million from tourist taxes and the City of Miami will throw in $108 million from another tax on tourists. That still leaves a funding shortfall of $30 million which all parties hope to get from the state in the form of a $2 million annual tax break. Although our new governor Charlie Crist is for helping fund the project, the Florida legislature could nix it.

Perhaps the state and notable critics like Carl Hiaasen might be more inclined to back this project if the $70 million Children's Courthouse and College of Policing (cost unknown) could be combined with the stadium. With a little ingenuity (aka vision) the 24 to 28 courtrooms and unknown number of classrooms could be built under the rising stadium seating. This solution would save millions in construction costs and works because games would be scheduled after normal working hours which improves entrance and egress from the stadium for two different groups of people with entirely different agendas.

Photos are of Seoul Stadium designed by Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners. They can be found on the Sports Venue Technology site. Who knows, maybe the firm would cut us a deal to save us even more money by allowing us to photocopy the plans to reproduce the stadium in Miami. A few million here, a few million there, it all adds up.

"Grand Central Station of the American Pastime:" MVB's proposed site links to mass transportation.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Architecture God Has Spoken: Terra Beachside Villas Makes It Okay To Play In The Middle Of The Street!

Let It Be Known: A.G. The Architecture God Favors Architects Who Break The Rules!

Your mother told you not to play in the street. I'm telling you it's okay-- if you look like this: Terra Beachside Villas. Designed by Miami's bad boys of architecture Sieger Suarez, Terra Beach Villas can be found at 6000 Collins Ave, smack dab in the middle of the street just east of Indian Creek and west of the Atlantic Ocean on Miami Beach.

What I like about Terra Beachside Villas:
  • The 3-story cone. It's the fitness center. A swimming pool curves through the building.
  • The 400' translucent arched roof atrium that protects a "Zen-inspired" garden with reflecting fountains.
  • Themes. The 2 and 3-story units, starting at $610,000, are divided into the four elements of Earth (private yards), Wind (roof terraces), Fire and Water (balconies with views facing east and west).
  • The parking garage is hidden (it's subterranean).
  • Access to the beach through its sister properties Cabana, located across the street on the ocean side, and a private marina on the other side of the street at 6000 Indian Creek.
Rejoice, my children! Be thankful that you are living in a part of the world that will soon become known for more than its climate.

Other Pronouncements by A.G., The Architecture God: Touzet is FUN!, COR is Cute!, Gehry's Design for Miami Beach's New World Symphony Sucks Big Time!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Girl From Calle Ocho

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It's MVB's contention that had Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes (who wrote the original Portuguese lyrics to "The Girl From Ipanema") been sitting at a sidewalk cafe along Miami's Calle Ocho instead of one along the Copacabana in Rio, the song might have been a little different.

Mea Culpa: Yes, this posting and the previous one are sophomoric and show arrested development on the part of the men behind MVB and we apologize for our shortcomings. We could tell you that they are merely exercises in creativity but that would probably be a lie. We know we are shallow men who need counseling, our ex-wives and girlfriends have told us so, so don't bother posting a comment to tell us something we already know. Or to make us feel bad about ourselves. We already do. Self-loathing runs amok at MVB.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Please Help MVB Find This Woman

MVB needs your help finding this woman:

Seen last night outside the MVB Lounge on Calle Ocho, we believe she is soley responsible for the MVB Lounge New Year's Eve Incident where the MVB Stand-Up Comic's act was cut short because of an extreme heiney, precipitating an enraged torch bearing mob to destroy the lounge and send our Comic to the hospital. As you can see, she is armed and dangerous. We believe she may be stalking the lounge for another attack.


Instead, please contact MVB publisher Verticus S. Erectus who is a trained and certified member of the International Gluteus Maximus Society (I.G.M.S.) where our prime directive is the tracking, capture, study, tagging and release of the aforementioned appendage. Once tagged, the information is made available free online making it so much easier in attaching an Extreme Buttocks (EB) to a face and a region (names, addresses and phone numbers are available for a nominal fee to offset the Society's expenses). Now EB watchers will be able to print out suspected sightings in their area in advance, take the Butt Shot with them and lie in wait behind a bush or at a nice sidewalk cafe knowing in advance that their chances of spotting the elusive and often rare EB have risen dramatically. Because the I.G.M.S knows the danger an untamed EB can have on a community, certification classes are taught for a nominal fee by members throughout the world to turn others into licensed Extreme Buttocks Wranglers (EBW). As one of those EBWs, you can rest assured that this little miss thang will have her heiney measured, probed, spanked and photographed in accordance with guidelines established by the I.G.M.S.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The French Finally Get It Right About Americans (and not the hyphenated kind so prevalent in Miami)

Not since Alexis de Tocqueville's 1835 tome Democracy in America have the French got it right about Americans. Until this week when French President (aka "The Highmaster") Jacques Chirac inducted Clint Eastwood into the Legion of Honor.

In a formal ceremony at the presidential Elysee Palace, Chirac's eloquence is worth repeating here:
  • "You show the complexity of America, in all its grandeur and fragility, with its enthusiastic dreams and its worried questioning. On this side of the Atlantic, dear Clint Eastwood, you incarnate the best of Hollywood."

76-year-old Eastwood accepted the award for being an "exceptional ambassador" for American culture around the world and certain parts of the universe.

Napoleon Beldar Bonaparte created the Legion d'Honneur in 1802. It recognizes military, cultural, scientific or social contributions to France, including by people who are not coneheads (aka French citizens).

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Heil Hernandez! Keeping America Safe One Book At A Time

It began as a grass roots effort on the part of a few concerned Cuban-American* parents living in Miami-Dade County Florida. To keep their children safe from lies about Cuba, the parents either got their kids to check out what they perceived as offending books, or they checked them out themselves from school libraries and...refused to return them.

As reported in The Miami Herald, Dalila Rodriguez, who is a member of the Concerned Cuban Parents Committee (CCPC), said, "If you take it out and don't return it, no kid can read it. It's not censoring; it's protecting our children from lies."

The book that made her hit list: Discovering Cultures, Cuba. It joins Vamos a Cuba, the elementary school book that started it all way back in August of 2006, the same book that got our MVB Stand-up Comic beat-up and hospitalized by an enraged, torch-bearing mob. As reported in the Miami Herald, "Of the 48 copies of Vamos a Cuba in Miami-Dade school libraries, 17 are reportedly overdue or lost."

Rodriguez added (MVB is not making this up), "We're going to take the books and lock them in a box."

"At least that's an improvement over book burning," Alfredo Hernandez sniffed during a huge rally outside a library. He's the self-elected hard-ass-hard-liner librarian inspired by CCPC to run a campaign on Cuban radio to ban all books-- just in case any of them says Cuba is anything but a hell hole run by Godless communists. He began his crusade in Hialeah, a sprawling working class city in northwestern Dade County hi-jacked by Cubans ready to fight-- short of a bad bruising-- for their right to conduct government business in Spanish.

"We've come a long way since World War II," he said. "In fact, we rule!"

"You know," someone said, "despite the panama hat and the Wayfarers and the accent, you look vaguely familiar. Are you--"

"¡Heil Hernandez!" rose from the crowd with hundreds of stiff arms jabbing the air adding counterpoint to the equally loud sound of Cuban heels clicking together in unison echoing across the land.

*Disclaimer: We realize all Cuban-Americans don't behave like this just like all Muslims don't want to blow themselves up and take you with them on a fast-track to heaven to get at those seventy virgins. At least that's what we keep telling ourselves every night before we go to sleep. Sounding a little like the Cowardly Lion's mantra from the Wizard of Oz, it goes like this: "We do wanna believe they're not like that. We do wanna believe they're not like that. We do wanna believe they're not like that." Maybe if one of them spoke up against the crazies in their bunch it would be easier to believe.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Verticus Confessicus: I Watch "Gilmore Girls"

Tonight I was reminded why I fell in love with "Gilmore Girls": "Molotov mocktail." Two words that flew out of Lorelai's mouth as quickly as the wheels spin behind those gorgeous eyes. I hope Luke and her get back together.

Vote For Shawn!

Today the Miami Herald was throwing around one of our favorite words: vision. They used it more than once to describe the theme to Dade County Mayor Carlos Alverez' "State of the County" speech he will be delivering today. And, although we may disagree with some aspects of his vision-- he wants to dig the billion dollar plus tunnel at the Port of Miami, we don't-- it's always good to see an elected official having a modicum of vision.

The other gentleman quoted as using the word "vision" is our own favorite teacher, Shawn Beightol. He's the chemistry teacher that caught our eye several months ago for getting the shaft from the bureaucrats that run the Dade County Schools. Because he had the temerity to use the school-wide email system to get word out to teachers about his ideas, he was summarily removed from his teaching position at Krop High and assigned to the bus maintenance depot. Talk about a heavy handed abuse of power. In any event, Mr. Beightol is running for president of the United Teacher's of Dade, the union that represents teachers. The election is tomorrow and we hope any teacher reading this posting will not only vote for Beightol, but encourage others to do the same. He's up against the current president, Karen Aronowitz, who, in our opinion, hasn't shown enough vision or exhibited enough cojones to get the county to cough up more money for teacher salaries, better working conditions, and benefits. We believe Beightol has what it takes to get this job done.

UpDate (2/22): The inevitable has been postponed. Mr. Beightol lost to Ms. Aronowitz who retained her position with 55% of the vote. We believe most teachers feared where Mr. Beightol might have taken them: to the picket line. That means trying to pay bills without an income and that is a sobering thought for anyone. The truth is that teachers will only be seen as "second class professionals" until they are paid the money they deserve. As for the looming teacher crisis in Florida, it's still coming and this vote will have no effect in stopping it. Florida needs 20,000 teachers a year for the next decade. How will they recruit them if they can't pay them enough to make a profit on the cost of living? In Miami the average cost of a home is around $300,000. How can a new teacher making less than $40,000 afford to live here? Will teachers opt to spend the rest of their working lives as part of the rat race commute from Broward county, getting up before the crack of dawn, driving an hour to and from work everyday just to barely make ends meet? We don't think so. We think new college graduates will opt for less expensive parts of Florida and the U.S. to start their teaching careers. Unless Governor Crist and the Legislature enact true cost of living raises across the board, something has got to give and we predict it will happen in Dade County first because it is a microcosm of all things bad in this country regarding overcrowded schools and underpaid teachers.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Other "Big Daddy" God

Click Pictures to Enlarge.

The previous post about Hialeah's penchant for producing religious cults and the "Big Daddy" God got me to thinking about the first "Big Daddy" God I ever heard of. And it wasn't from reading any religious text either-- unless, of course, you consider Car Craft magazine, the bible for car crazed American boys in the sixties, a religious text.

Although it was created in 1960, I probably was 12 or 13 when I first saw the "Beatnik Bandit." It blew me away and still does. In fact, I consider it to be one of the most beautiful cars ever made. That was probably around 1963, months before Camelot's king was assasinated and a year before the Beatles hit America. A simpler, more innocent time when gas cost about 35 cents a gallon and a supercharged dual carb gas guzzling engine wouldn't put a dent in your wallet. When Revell brought it out as a model car, I bought one and probably was the happiest kid on the block for a real long time. I still can remember the aesthetic visceral sensation I had applying and looking at the decals on the car. The "scalloped" paint job was so right for that car. So was the bubble top and the single post steering stick which also controlled the gas and shifting of the gears. The original "bubble top" was made by softening a sheet of plastic in a large pizza oven and then molding it over a form. Somewhere along the line, the model car I labored over got lost in growing up. Thirty years later the company re-introduced the car and I bought two, one to make and one to keep forever sealed.

The guy that built the "Beatnik Bandit" died in 2001 at the age of 70. When word got out about his passing, it touched off an unprecedented outpouring of grief and sympathy for the man and his family from thousands of men now in their fifties and sixties who shared a common touchstone with a wonderful past, where life was easier and they had not yet lost their innocence. The Viet Nam War was just on the horizon. None of us saw it coming. We were too busy building model cars and drawing cartoons of monsters driving hotrods with impossibly long gearshifts. We were all into Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, a car customizer out of California who was thinking way outside the box and that somehow made the future seem exciting, something we couldn't wait to get to.

In the beginning when he was struggling to make it while raising a family, Big Daddy sold monster t-shirt designs through car magazines and airbrushed them at auto shows to get money to finance his passion in a new medium called Fiberglas. Big Daddy was an artist in the truest sense, a sculptor who created his shapes out of plaster thrown on top of a wood form right on the car's frame. He then would spend countless hours sanding and cutting and smoothing away the plaster until he got what he wanted. He molded Fiberglas directly over the plaster and when it had hardened, either broke the plaster away or popped off the new Fiberglas skin. After awhile, the Revell plastic model kit company struck a deal with him to reproduce his wild designs for baby boomers who couldn't get enough of his stuff. At one point, Big Daddy had fallen behind schedule in building the "Mysterion" (see picture) and Revell engineers were coming over to measure the car to make the factory molds. Knowing there was no way he could finish the car in time, Big Daddy painted over the plaster and the Revell engineers seemed none the wiser. By the way, the deal Ed "Big Daddy" Roth struck with Revell in 1963 gave him one penny for every model sold. In that year, Big Daddy made $32,000.

I, like many people, think Big Daddy's work is worthy of display in art museums. Tom Wolfe, one of America's greatest living writers, describes Big Daddy as the "Salvador Dali of the (custom car) movement," that his designs are "utterly baroque" in his first book, "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby." Listen how this master of the English language describes the Beatnik Bandit: "...his Beatnik Bandit is one of the great objets of customizing. It's a very Rabelaisian tour de force-- a twenty-first century version of a '32 Ford hot-rod roadster." He goes on as only Wolfe can including why teenagers considered Big Daddy a rebel and looked up to him. To get a sense about how much time has changed since 1963, this rebel leader's most shocking statement emblazoned across cartoon monster t-shirts was "Born to Lose."

Wolfe joins a host of other pop culture cognoscenti such as Jay Leno, Matt Groenig, and Billy Gibbons from Z-Z Top for commentary on a new DVD about Big Daddy called "Tales of the Rat Fink," the name of Big Daddy's most successful monster creation (the link will take you to a cool movie trailer). Finally, click here for a great link to his biography and a chance to see him working at his studio-- as he described his work place.

Had cable TV been around back then, I'm sure Ed "Big Daddy" Roth would have had the most successful reality show of all time. Unfortunately, times changed and boys grew up and got separated by war, politics, and girls from their interests in model cars and monsters with googly eyes and smoking slicks and their way cool creator Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. Until he died. And then those great memories came rushing back of a time when everything we cared about was possible and we could run with the best of them and hope was in the air.

A retrospective of his work that includes the actual "Beatnik Bandit" will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA until June 3, 2007.

Another Cult Religion founded in Hialeah, Florida! Yee-Haw and Hallelujah!

Following the recent publicity (see comments) concerning the "Growing In Grace Church" whose leader, José Luis De Jesús Miranda, proclaims that he is Jesus Christ and started a movement among his worldwide congregation to tattoo themselves with the "sign of the Antichrist," i.e., the numbers 666, a spin-off cult calling themselves "Church of the Groovy Dude," held their first public worship service last night beneath a "Big Daddy's Liquors" sign at 1550 W. 84th Street in Hialeah.

"José Luis De Jesús Miranda is not "Big Daddy," a follower explained while genuflecting towards the electric sign high above MVB's resident archaeologist Bobby Bermudez. Bobby happens to live in Hialeah and, because he was making a "rum run" to his local liquor store to mix up a batch of mojitos, inadvertently became the first reporter to score an interview with members of the latest cult religion to spring out of Hialeah, once a redneck haven of country music lovers, now a predominantly Spanish speaking population of south and central American immigrants and Cuban exiles on the far flung northwest border of Miami. "Joe 'Big Daddy' Flanigan is," the worshiper continued.

"Yeah, like everyone knows that," Bobby responded with a roll of his eyes. Flanigan's restaurants and its Big Daddy's Liquors have been part of the south Florida landscape since the late 1950's.

"No, man, this guy Miranda can't make up his mind who he is. At one time he was telling everybody he's the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul. Then he was 'The Other,' a spiritual superbeing who would pave the way for Christ's Second Coming. Three years ago he proclaimed he was Jesus Christ Himself! This year he's the Antichrist. That's why he's got everybody tattooing themselves with the numbers 666."

"That don't make any sense. That's supposed to be the last thing a true Christian wants branded on him."

"Not if you're a member of the "Growing In Grace Church." According to Miranda, Christ's death on the cross killed Satan and sin and God's chosen have already been saved. True believers are lining up on 5th Street in SoBe right now getting tattooed to show their loyalty to Miranda-- oh, excuse me, the Antichrist."

"Don't you mean 'Big Daddy'!" someone shouted.

"'Big Daddy'?" Bobby asked.

"Yeah, his followers are calling him Big Daddy! There's only one 'Big Daddy' and that's Joe Flanigan!"

"At least Joe Flanigan was consistent," a Groovy Dude interjected.

"What do you mean?" Bobby asked.

"No matter what Flanigan's you go to, the baby back's are the best in the universe. If that ain't a sign that he was God on Earth, I don't know what is."

"Hallelujah!" the group shouted.

"To show our contempt of Miranda's contempt of Christianity and our new religion 'Groovy Dudeism,' we appropriated his lame 666 BS and flipped it on its head," the Groovy Dudeist grinned.

"What are you talkin' about?" Bobby asked.

The guy rolled up the sleeve on his right arm and showed Bobby a fresh tattoo. "It's our very own sacred symbol."

"But it doesn't look any different than Miranda's 666 nonsense," Bobby replied.

"Not if you look at it like this!" the man said as he turned his arm slowly around.

With the accompanying sounds of heavenly harps there, before Bobby's eyes, appeared on the man's arm a sparkling, shimmering, arcing neon light outlining Flanigan's famous early bird dinner price: $9.99 complete with dollar sign and decimal point.

"Hell," the Groovy Dudeite rejoiced, "that even trumps turning water into wine!"

It was an epiphany for Bobby and he couldn't agree more. That night he became a member of "The Church of the Groovy Dude" and, after inviting its members over to his house for some mojitos, was baptized into the new faith not by water but with Bacardi's best.

UpDate (6/27/07): A Miami-Dade circuit judge flags José Luis De Jesús Miranda for using charitable donations to his ministry for personal expenses -- paying $144,000 a year in alimony to his first wife and buying property in his and his relatives' names.

UpDate (8/23/08): What a God! Or AntiChrist. It appears De Jesús Miranda is, as the Miami Herald reports today, "on the lam," a no-show at his divorce proceedings where soon-to-be-ex-wife Josefina de Jesus Torres alleges abuse, abandonment and infidelity. God/AntiChrist De Jesús Miranda, the leader of some 300 churches in 30 countries, calls in once in a while to his "Entreprenuer of Entreprenuers," Alvaro Albarracin, a true believer who gave the church $1.2 million. According to Albarracin, Heaven-- or wherever De Jesús Miranda is calling from-- is listed as an "unknown number" on his cell phone. We'd be much more impressed if "God's" great booming disembodied voice showed up in court to defend Himself.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

An MVB Exclusive: "Lost: Miami" is in the pipeline as a new TV series!

MVB, through its secret agents scattered across the world, was able to obtain an exclusive look at a new spin-off TV series tentatively titled “Lost: Miami.” Although this is only a first draft of the teleplay, our readers will be able to get a sneak preview of what appears to be another sure-fire hit for ABC.

"Lost: Miami" Pilot Synopsis:

First off, it seems that this program takes place in a “parallel universe” because characters appear with the same names and, with few exceptions, the same back story as those on the original series.

Instead of an airplane crashing onto a remote island, “Lost: Miami” begins with what is basically an ordinary daily occurrence in Miami: a public bus crashes into a building. All of the original characters are on board. When they stumble out, bloody, bruised, and confused, they quickly learn that the bus brake lines have been cut.

In a flashback, we learn that Jack, reeling from another unpleasant episode with his father, had just stepped out of a bar on Calle Ocho. Tipsy and disheveled, he discovers he can’t find his car keys and flags down a bus (driven by Michael) to get back to work at the hospital (this time he’s a plastic surgeon and the car keys were swiped by his dad at the bar).

Locke is carried out of the bus by Hurley which takes up about ten minutes of the show because Hurley, due to his size and the fact that he is carrying Locke, can't squeeze through the doors. This adds tension as people scream and pile up behind them. Pregnant Claire becomes hysterical. When Hurley finally gets out, he props Locke up against the bus tire (apparently Locke does not regain use of his legs in this series). Locke urges Hurley to go back into the burning bus to find his wheelchair. While waiting, he happens to notice the serial number on the side of the tire and, for some reason, becomes alarmed.

The bus blows up and Locke is hurled across Calle Ocho, slamming his head against the street. As blood rolls out of his ear, there is a cut to another flashback and we learn that Locke was once a male stripper at Chippendales up on Sunny Isles Boulevard, which probably explains the smile on his face as blood rolls across it and drips onto the sewer lid. Following the flashback, Locke regains consciousness and tries to focus on the sewer lid. He can’t believe what he sees: the lid has the same numbers etched around its rim as those found on the side of the bus tire. Hurley’s fate is unknown.

Charlie runs up to Locke to help him out and, in a fleeting glimpse of the sewer lid, we see the Dharma Project BS etched on its surface.

Jack stumbles into a man watching the bus burn from across the street. It’s Henry Gale and he has a sick little smile on a face this time suffering the battle scars of a severe case of teenage acne. Jack asks for help but Henry pretends he doesn’t know any English. Jack pushes him aside and looks for somebody who can speak English. He can’t find anyone as Kate and Sawyer join him. He tells them he is going to find someone who speaks English and they tell him it’s too dangerous and a waste of time. But he insists and Kate convinces a reluctant Sawyer to go with her to help Jack out.

As they stumble through a large hibiscus hedge into someone’s backyard, Kate sees an inflatable swimming pool and unexpectedly decides to strip down to her underwear and go for a swim (someone, possibly the producer, circled the scene with a pencil and scribbled in "gratuitous sex-- keep it up!). This pisses the guys off until they see her in the pool. Before they can join her, they hear voices speaking in Spanish coming from the house. Suddenly, a pit bull races out of the back door toward Kate. Jack, ever the quick thinker, picks up a coconut lying on the ground and throws it at the dog. The dog falls in a bloody heap into the pool next to a cowering Kate. Jack grabs her hand, throws her over his shoulder and races across the yard as Sawyer covers their backs before disappearing behind the hibiscus hedge. When the homeowner throws open the back door and raises a shotgun to fire a load of buckshot at them, we see it’s Ana-Lucia, her detective badge hanging from her Brazilian cut jeans.

Meanwhile, the other survivors have managed to get down to the Miami River where they have constructed a raft made from left over public art projects. The pilot ends as they launch the raft into the river. Michael, Walt, and Sayid are on board while Jack, Kate, and Sawyer are struggling to cut a path through Miami backyards in search of someone who can speak English.

Hand written notes on a proposed next episode should the series get picked up reveals that, what may or may not be a Coast Guard cutter, stops the raft off of Miami Beach on a moonless night. This time everyone is taken on board and the raft is shot out of the water. The notes allude that Michael and Sayid may have been thrown into the Krome Detention Center. Walt's fate is unsure.

UpDate (5/24/07): "Lost: Miami" was inspired by true events-- which keep repeating themselves. The Miami Dade transit bus crash that inspired this post took place on February 10th. The bus driver said his brakes failed. A second one occured February 16th (with a van), and the most recent one happened on May 23rd with a church. The collision with the church leads us to believe that the bus fleet may be possessed and we urge you to seek safety when you see one coming. The reference to left over public art objects can find its origins here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

And the Bob Enzyte Big Idea Award Goes To The Carlisle Development Group and Carrfour Supportive Housing!

Click the button for Enzyte theme music.

Last night the Carlisle Development Group and Carrfour Supportive Housing received MVB's most prestigious award for their innovative solutions to building and managing affordable housing. Its most recent endeavor will create lodging for the homeless and bring affordable housing to downtown Miami. The groups will transform the 80-year-old Royalton Hotel at 131 SE First Street into 100 apartments for people making less than $22,740 a year. 80 apartments will be reserved for those who were homeless. The groups bought the hotel for $3.5 million and the county and state arranged $15.8 million in financing. The fact that they even bothered to attempt to wade through the county and state's bureaucratic maze is worth an award in itself. That they have been successfully doing this for years is amazing. So, it's with a great big "Tip of Our Backward Wearing Kangols" that we happily salute them with a wish that there were more companies like them.

As an aside for those two readers wondering about Bob's attempt to stop self-medicating well, we are happy to report that during last night's award ceremony at Churchill's Pub in Little Haiti, Bob was able to keep his pants on throughout the entire affair. Things seem to be looking up for him...well, maybe not everything is looking up like it use to, but at least Bobby is keeping his pants on and for all of us here at MVB, that's something to be thankful for.

Previous MVB Big Idea Awards: Shaya Boymelgreen, Jorge Perez, Bob Rubin.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Miami Dade County Commission: Whittling away your rights one vote at a time

Today the Miami Dade County Commission raised its middle finger to the common man when it voted 5 to 1 to make it more difficult for them to petition their government-- especially if the petition is trying to remove a commissioner from office. Sponsored by commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, it will require:
  1. The circulator to be a registered voter in MDC,
  2. An individual who knowingly signs more than 1 petition or attempts to sign another name or fictitious name, shall be deemed to have violated F.S. 104.185 and shall be guilty of a misdemeanor in the 2nd degree)
  3. Petition form must have title and text in English, Spanish and Creole

The onus now is put squarely on the shoulders of the private citizen. Their options in choosing a professional company to run a petition campaign have been taken away. There will be no more hiring professional companies outside of the county to run a petition campaign. Although there is nothing wrong with cracking down on those who intentionally sign a petition more than once, it adds a layer of bureaucracy that could drag an unsuspecting well-intentioned citizen into a court room (what's wrong with just throwing multiple signatures out and giving the benefit of the doubt to the lowly citizen? Wouldn't that be much more cost effective than dragging the poor bastard into court?) Finally, the three language requirement is BS. Less is always more when it comes to government-- especially this government.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Endangered Species: Teachers & Polar Bears. Who Will Disappear First?

Teachers like polar bears are an endangered species. Despite warnings as early as 1967 when 30,000 Florida teachers gathered on one hot August day in Orlando's Tangerine Bowl to protest lousy pay and crappy working conditions, nothing really was done. So in January 1968, Florida teachers went on the first statewide strike. Nearly 40 % of the teachers walked out. Unfortunately, living from paycheck to paycheck, the strike came to an end within weeks. However, during the strike teachers learned a very important lesson that they have carried with them to this day, passing it down to each new generation of educators: we are like those obscure frogs disappearing in the remote Amazon rain forests due to climate change. Not many people care. If they had, they would have supported us during the strike. According to Jane Arnold, the FEA president at that time, most teachers thought that "the public would be with us. We thought the strike would unite the community and the teachers. It did a little bit of the opposite...A lot of teachers lost their innocence. They thought the community liked them." Instead, taking their cues from the public, the Florida legislature got tough and would not vote teachers a pay increase. Teachers discovered they were on their own.

Much like polar bears today.

Actually, polar bears are getting more attention for their plight than teachers. The media is tripping and sliding across what ice is still left to get to them to tell their story. And why shouldn't they, you may ask. Didn't teachers in the Dade county schools recently agree on a new contract? That's true, but many teachers are not happy with the new deal and here's why:
  1. The Miami Education Review reports that the contract delivers approximately a 4.2% increase for the average educator, while the cost of living in Miami is given as 5.1%, leaving the average teacher $450 MORE behind at the end of the year. Shawn Beightol, who is running for president of the local teacher's union, reminds teachers that "this annual failure" to keep pace with the cost of living over the last decade has "resulted in a net loss of $7500 annually PER EMPLOYEE from what they were making in 1995. You are being driven to poverty by anemic bargaining."
  2. The Miami Herald reported that the new funding for Miami-Dade from the state is about $40 million below what it needed to be to deliver the $40k conditionally offered salary to new teachers in the new contract.

Something's got to give. If teachers can't make more money, they can't live and work here. Then what? Since it's illegal for public employees to strike, they probably will have to quit. Then who will teach the nearly 400,000 kids in the Dade County schools? Those that have been in the system for years will hang on until retirement. Who will replace them when the average cost of a house in Dade county is around $300,000?

MVB thinks this is a crisis as big as the one facing the polar bears. Maybe bigger because its impact will be immediate and not 30 or 50 years down the road. Because not much has changed in the way teachers are perceived by society, we think teachers may be forced to strike for a living wage to get the legislature and the public's attention. We think this will happen long before polar bears lose their ice.

And if teachers don't get what they want? Then the polar bears win. For now.

If you would like to help teachers in their effort to fight becoming extinct, please look here.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hey, Mickey! Miami has a deal for you!

Disney announced yesterday that it is considering creating smaller theme parks and stand-alone hotels, retail, dining and entertainment centers. Well, does MVB have a deal for you! In exchange for sharing the cost of building, running, and maintaining a Disney-style monorail connecting Miami with Miami Beach, the county will be happy to lease you public land in both cities to build two hotels, one at both ends of the run.

Plus, the Miami site will allow you exclusive rights to dock your cruise ships. With Miami becoming a port of call, you will be able to offer your passengers a day on trendy SoBe and a night at the opera, the ballet, or a symphony at our new half-billion-dollar performing arts center-- with an ease of transit between everything just like it is at Disney World.

Your proven monorail system will run at grade along MacArthur Causeway saving millions of dollars in construction costs. Rising on both ends, it will run along 5th Street and head north along the beach. On the Miami side, it will loop around the new Carnival Center for the Performing Arts and connect to MetroRail and the MetroMover.

Who knows, by then we may even have a downtown baseball stadium where Disney guests from the hotels or the cruise ship can opt to take in a baseball game-- as well as catch a Miami Heat game or a concert at the American Airlines Arena. Miami is the only city serving cruise ship passengers that can offer these many choices.

So, little mouse dude, is this a great idea or what?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

MVB Introduces the Mojito Margarita Mobile Designated Delivery System!

Click picture to enlarge.

In a follow-up story in the Miami Herald yesterday regarding the economic effect the Super Bowl had on the local Miami Beach economy, it mentioned that local retail and especially restaurants took a hit because their loyal clientele were afraid of venturing onto the island because of increased traffic. However, the thing that caught our eye was a restauranteur recalling a phone call from a distressed regular who asked if they could deliver a mojito. They couldn't but that got us to thinking...

MVB will soon launch our Mojito Margarita Mobile Designated Delivery System for people stuck at home or short on time, skill, and the ingredients needed to make Hemingway's and MVB's favorite drink plus a wide selection of frozen Margaritas. Currently our '50 Merc lead sled is being retrofitted for a blender and bar in the back seat. The vintage rotating Police beacon is proving to be a little harder to come by, but we shall persevere for this great cause. Drinks will be delivered by teams of two Mojito Margarita girls who will share mixing and driving skills. Employment interviews are scheduled in the near future. MVB is looking for outgoing women who can sing the following ditty to the music (press button below for music) of the Chiquita Banana song while mixing a damn good mojito:

  • Hello, Amigos, I'm Mojito Margarita and I've come to say
  • Mojitos and Margaritas are a phone call away
  • 24/7 at 1-800-M-O-J-I-T-O-S
  • We're radio dispatched to your address
  • So you never have to make a mess!
  • We'll drive so you can drink and drink!
  • The cops can't throw you in the clink-a
  • When you've got Mojito Margarita
  • Now here's your mojito (margarita) and it's time to pay
  • For a nice tip I'll shimmy and shout, "¡Oye!
  • Muchas gracias, now I'm on my way-ya!"

Monday, February 05, 2007

Icons, Irony, and Giant Freaking Johnsons!

The Miami Herald reports today that we are not the only people with a set of commissioners that give politics a bad name. Seems the Key West commission has turned down $750,000 worth of J. Seward Johnson art because (I'm not making this up) it would take up too much souvenir selling space on the sidewalk.

Maybe for some of those Key West commissioners there's just too many Johnsons being exposed in public. Even though this particular donation is life-sized, family friendly and politically correct (it's called New Friends and depicts five adults and two kids of different ethnicity), the town already has a 22-foot Johnson on display at the Custom House entrance.

The 76-year-old Johnson has sold over $30 million worth of his sculptures all over the world. Museums, cities, and private collectors love and respect his work but he can't give it away to his adopted city for reasons we thought were something only our elected officials could come up with. Described as "feisty", the heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune, is my kind kind of guy. After getting canned by an uncle at the family business, Johnson started sculpting. My favorite is called "Unconditional Surrender." At 26-feet, that painted bronze baby would look good on Biscayne Boulevard, maybe at the entrance to the Port of Miami. You can learn more about it through an earlier post found here. And, unlike art critics who may consider his works "hokey," he's no snob when it comes to art. He embraces sculptors across a broad spectrum of style and has established the critically acclaimed Grounds for Sculpture, a museum and sculpture garden that once was part of the New Jersey State Faigrounds, to display their works.

Besides his realist approach, I particularly like his monumental works, a scale I'd like to see brought to Miami. Except for the Botero at One Miami, our city has a dearth of monumental human form public sculpture. I believe that such art acts as subtle reminders of our devine design and that we are worthy of big dreams, as big as the heroic representations of ourselves scattered about our best urban core landscapes. I like to think of them as "Super Sized Fast Food for the Soul." And, although Johnson is a realist scuptor, there's plenty of room in my world for the super sized abstract works of William King and others.

Mr. Johnson has a giant "Icon" series that I'd like to see scattered around downtown. His "Forever Marilyn" is sensual and full of life and would look great straddling Biscayne Boulevard and welcoming drivers to Miami and the Carnival Center. For something a little less expensive, how 'bout a giant Elvis on the Miami Dade County Government Center building facing I-95?

We believe a delegation from the city and the county ought to get down there and suck up to Johnson big time to rescue "New Friends" for ourselves before those Key West commissioners come to their senses. Hell, the man has enough money he could buy our new Bicentennial Park art museum and establish a sculpture garden that breaks out of the museum landscape and runs roughshod through downtown. Of course, that means the art snobs on the museum board would have to come around to considering him worthy. But I'm sure if Terence Riley says it's okay to like the guy, his sychophantic board of directors will too.

In the Herald article, Johnson doesn't let it bother him too much that the city has rejected his free gift and is quoted as saying that part of the reason he moved to Key West was because he loves the city's "dysfunctionality."

Well, hell, Mr. Johnson, if you want "dysfunctionality," you picked the wrong city. We got the Conch Republic beat by a country mile. In fact, we have twice as much dysfunctionality going for us what with two commissions "representing" the county and the city. Of course, we can't guarantee you won't get the same kind of cool reception for your art-- unless, of course one of the "New Friends" happens to be Cuban. Oh, wait a minute. You gotta have at least one black in the group. And God forbid you failed to include a woman. It would help too if at least one of the figures appears to be gay hopefully without resorting to any cliched stereotypes. If you failed in one or more of the above there's still a chance in getting your art accepted: Are any of the "New Friends" handicapped? If so, you've got it made in the shade. Disabilities trump everything. Even the most callous commissioner knows better than to throw a roadblock in front of a wheelchair.

Lincoln Basel
MVB Art Critic

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Architecture God Has Spoken: Touzet is FUN!!

Enhance your blogging pleasure: Push the button.*

Like Eastwood's iconic nameless cowboy, there is a Miami building on the drawing boards with no name too. Equally enigmatic and dangerously charismatic, it's the product of another Miami architectural firm that shoots from the hip disrupting the status quo with dead eye accuracy on art's primo credo: Don't bore me, show me something new, make me see something in a whole new way. Few artists can pull that off. Most are imitative. Few are worthy. The Touzet Studio is one of the worthiest. Designed by the husband and wife team of Jacqueline Gonzalez-Touzet and Carlos Prio-Touzet, the building, located at 111 N.E. 11th Street just south of I-395 and behind the 67-story Marquis now under construction, will have twin towers rising 42 and 38-stories over ground floor retail. Although it may fall in the morning shadows of the giants rising a block east on Biscayne Boulevard, it will never be overshadowed by them because of its whimsical shapes, brave use of color, and daring use of space.

Things I like about it:
  • The glass nose cone at the top of the taller building. Very Jetsons. If I were a loser mortal, that'd be my pad.
  • The angled five-story pock-marked wall painted with huge leopard spots. Oh, how I love leopard prints and neon (hope it's got that too!) This is a fitting gesture toward its location: Miami's designated nightclub district.
  • Huge columns thrown helter-skelter about the base as if by a giant playing with his pick-up sticks-- something I can relate to.
  • A sundeck perched precariously over the street that serves as a grotto to collect the waterfall from the infinity pool above.
  • Use of materials that will change color and give the building the appearance of motion to those driving by.

Word on the street is that it may even be affordable. Only time will tell. Ah, just thinking about it brings a smile to my face.

*Any excuse to listen to some Morricone is a good enough reason to push the button.

Other posts by A.G.:
It's Okay to Play In The Street,
COR is CUTE!, Gehry Sucks Big Time.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Take The Initiative. Save the Planet Yourself.

UpDate (2/4): MVB is disappointed that the U.S. yesterday refused to join most of the world in becoming a member of a new world-wide environmental watchdog. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that this idea came from France's President Jacques Chirac. In any event, we chose to align ourselves with China and India who may voice their concern over global warming in public but in reality are more concerned with their country's bottom line. As proud Americans, we find this embarrassing-- especially when we are reminded that our country produces about 1/4 of the world's greenhouse gases. As Miamians, we find it dangerous and reckless behavior on the part of our government. If the planet continues to grow hotter, Miami will be one of the first cities to face a catastrophic rise in ocean levels within 50-years. That prediction of a rise of 2 to 3 feet of sea level will basically inundate south Florida. The U.S. is already a decade behind the rest of the world when it refused to sign the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that acknowledged greenhouse gases were harmful to the environment and set targets to reduce those emissions. We pride ourselves for being a leader among countries-- especially when it comes to forcing democracy down the throats of people who don't have a clue what to do with it. But when it comes to thinking about the "bigger picture," we become myopic and selfish. Then the double-edged sword of irony steps in with a cosmic bitch swipe. Despite all the signs beginning in the seventies, Detroit continued to make behemoth gas guzzlers. Now it can't give them away. Ford is in deep shit with inventory up the yin yang. Of course, part of the problem is us. We need that big motherfuckin' Lincoln Navigator. The negative assumptions of conspicuous consumption are lost on us. Now we've got it and can't afford to drive it because of the long south Florida commutes we make to and from work every day don't sit well with the rising costs of gasoline. The sad part is that as south Floridians we probably are no more or less typical earthlings caught up in a rat race with a predatory nature for "things" and, by God, we're going to have them no matter what it costs the planet. Unfortunately, because of where we live, we may be the first in line to pay for our sins against Mother Nature. Maybe in the end, we deserve to have the Atlantic in our living rooms.

One Stop Miami Dade County Affordable Housing Locator

Dade County has added a new website to help those wanting to buy or rent an affordable home. It conveniently provides a one stop source for affordable:
  • Properties for sale
  • Properties for rent
  • Section 8 openings
  • A portal to add your own home or apartment
  • Information and opportunities for affordable housing builders
  • Available bridges to live under.*

We highly recommend it to anyone looking for an affordable place to live in Dade County.

*Not true, although it does seem like a practical addition to services provided.

UpDate (4/13/07): According to news reports, housing under the Julia Tuttle Causeway bridge (36th Street) is taken by sex offenders who have been ordered by their state case workers to live there because they can't find anyplace else to live due to laws that restrict their occupation of addresses near schools, etc.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Miami Dade College Confessional

Verticus S. Erectus (VSE): Forgive me father, for I have sinned.
Padre Padron(PP): Who hasn't?
VSE: What?
PP: Call me Padre. Continue, my son.
VSE: Well, I have unclean thoughts about you.
PP (choking): What?
VSE: I think you're obscenely over paid as the president of Miami Dade College. You make almost $900,000.00 a year and--
PP: And I earn every penny of it.
VSE: That procedural retirement BS you pulled last year to take an additional $900,000 from taxpayers only to be rehired by the college is embarrassing.
PP: Hey, it's perfectly legal. Get over it.
VSE: I wish I could, padre, but I attended an open house last night on your venerable North Campus, of which I proudly proclaim to be an alumnus, and saw first hand how overworked and underpaid staffers are busting their asses while you throw outrageously expensive parties at taxpayers expense--
PP: Hey, it's called "fundraising."
VSE: You've got catering bills chronicling 8-hours of revelry.
PP: I like to party.
VSE: You drive around in a Porsche Boxster paid for by the people of Florida.
PP: Ain't life grand? You're not envious are you? You know that's one of the seven deadly sins or something.
VSE: Last night, I sat in on a FAQ for incoming international students. They got more hoops to jump through than a Muslim at an airport checkpoint. Although the staff was accommodating and professional, there are not enough to handle the job. Phone calls and emails are rarely returned. If they had a few extra hands, maybe that department might become more efficient.
PP: Look, could ya speed it up? I got a party to catch at Mansion.
VSE: Maybe you could see fit to give up some of your salary to fund some extra help in that department.
VSE: Padre Padron?
(VSE is greeted with the well-tuned legendary sound of the Boxster as it revs up before slip-sliding across the hard-packed beach sand. VSE hears PP shouting back)
PP: Say five "Hail Marys" and kiss my ass!