Wednesday, December 19, 2007

MVB's Final Post


Most of our hopes and dreams bit the dust with the county's ratification of the "Global Agreement." We feel like that fallen warrior from ancient Greece. We didn't put that smile on his face, but I'm sure he would have appreciated what we did to his middle finger. This is our last gesture to local politics and our first step in acknowledging what unchecked hubris can bring: lots of sound and fury signifying nothing. It's a bittersweet ending for us but we exit the blogosphere with a song.* Good luck to us all.

UpDate (12/23/2010): Something we advocated 4 years ago (2006 post) is finally coming around: using the rail connection between the Port of Miami and the Hialeah rail yards as the link was designed to be used when the Port was opened in 1963. Look to 2013 for this embrace of common sense.
UpDate (12/25/08): We're still over and out but we couldn't let this pass. Our favorite police spokesperson of all time, Lt. Bill Schwartz of the Miami police department was kind enough to bestow upon all of us a Christmas gift-- after a long absence-- of his criminally inspired bon mots. His latest can be found here with a WSVN-Fox video link.

UpDate (9/26/09): Friends of the Marine Stadium get Jimmy Buffett to endorse their (and our) cause:

UpDate (1/12/08): Before we threw in the towel, Verticus wrote an article regarding the fate of the Miami Marine Stadium for Propeller magazine, the official publication of the 5,000 member American Power Boat Association. It's in the January issue and urges its readers to petition Miami Mayor Manny Diaz to fulfill his unmet 6-year-old promise of saving the venerable, architectural wonder. If you feel the same way we do, you can contact him at: 305-250-5300, or Fax: 305-854-4001, or mannydiaz@ci.miami.fl.us.

UpDate (10/7/08): The City of Miami historic preservation board finally saw the light: by a vote of 8-0, it agreed to designate the Miami Marine Stadium worthy of preservation as an historic site. Let's see the visionless try to knock it down now!

UpDate (4/27/09): The Miami Marine Stadium becomes one of eleven buildings on the National Trust for Historic Preservation thanks in part to the efforts of Miami architect Jorge Hernandez and Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium. Let's see our visionless bureaucrats try to touch the old lady now.

UpDate (3/24): Today Philip Levine, a wealthy Democrat , announced he's scoping out the scene for a potential run against County Mayor Carlos Alvarez. According to experts in the Miami Herald story, he doesn't stand a chance because he isn't Hispanic. We say he does. We believe there are enough people out there from both sides of the language camp who will vote for him simply because they're fed up with local government's big spending and its disconnect from the effects of the rising cost of living on their lives. Earlier, we contacted Tomas Regalado in hopes that he would run against Alvarez but he declined because he couldn't mount a war chest large enough to take on the mayor's well-funded campaign (estimated by Michael Putney to be around $2 million). Perhaps Levine will do it on his own, as the newspaper article implied, Bloomberg style. What with the county commission's last ray of hope, Katy Sorenson, moving to the Dark Side with her vote for the "Global Agreement," we can only hope. As we continue to do that Norman Braman's legal action against the "Global Agreement" will bear fruit. Even if Braman is successful, we hope Levine will enter the race. As we have suggested to Regalado and Levine, we would be happy to offer our support, including re-starting this sad little blog. In that regard, we offer up this campaign slogan for the cause: "Stop the Madness!" (UpDate 6/17): Philip Levine gets cold feet. Only one person will oppose Alvarez for county mayor-- Helen B. Williams, a retired school teacher with probably the world's smallest campaign fund.

UpDate (3/29): Hope springs eternal. Buried in the back of the Miami Herald, it was reassuring to read that "Government lawyers failed to strike down significant parts of auto dealer Norman Braman's legal challenge to the $3 billion megaplan." This ruling by Miami-Dade Judge Pedro Echarte Jr. is a legal blessing on the merits of Braman's case and strengthens his legal challenge for the May hearing. Way to go, Norman!

UpDate (4/1): Tomas Regalado announces his run for Mayor of Miami. That's a good thing. Another sign that things might be looking up: A recent poll shows Miami-Dade county voters are basically fed up with county Mayor Alvarez's "global agreement" by a whopping 59%. Now if only someone will step up to the plate with enough bucks to kick him and his insane plan out of office.

UpDate (5/8): Although Circuit Judge Pedro Echarte did not find government leaders "illegally secretive" when they came up with the "global agreement," he allowed Braman's lawsuit to proceed. We think a more correct term for what the visionless did down at city hall would have been "excessively secretive." Of course, we do have a state law called "government in the sunshine," and we expect it may come into play later on irregardless of the abuse of the public trust Braman's team uses to win its case.

UpDate (8/27/08): Carlos Alvarez and all incumbents on the Miami-Dade County commission are re-elected. How embarrassing.

More embarrassment: The "experts," AKA city planners/consultants, came back with the latest designs for Virginia Key. Despite an earlier charette where the public overwhelmingly agreed that the Marine Stadium should be saved, it is glaringly absent from this latest iteration. In its place: Two 5-story parking garages, a "dry-stack" boat storage for 700 boats, 41,000sf of "small scale retail," and Olympic-sized swimming pools among other sundry items. The city and its experts have effectively destroyed one of the few things that makes Miami unique in the world and replaced it with the pedestrian. The Marine Stadium was the only one of its kind on the planet. Now, because it might be "cost prohibitive" to fix-up, we have become a lesser city, less unique, and a people less worthy of being taken seriously, at being looked upon by others as blessed, lucky, special and cool.

UpDate (9/11/08): Braman loses on lawsuit. Judge says what the county put together "serves the public good." Braman says he will appeal.

UpDate (9/19/08): Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium pulled off a major coup: they got the World Monuments Fund to endorse saving the Marine Stadium. This couldn't have happened at a better time because The City of Miami Historic and Environmental Preservation Board will discuss and possibly make a determination of the final historic designation of the Miami Marine Stadium at their meeting on Tuesday, October 7, at 3:00 PM, City of Miami Commission Chambers. Failure to do so should make them look like idiots-- or at least suspiciously on the take. If you got the time, try to stop by to make your voice heard.

UpDate (2/27/09): We predict the Miami Herald will join other major dailies such as the San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle P-I, Rocky Mountain News, Baltimore Examiner, Cincinnati Post, Minneapolis Star Tribune and Journal Register who have or will go out of business or, at best, file for bankruptcy by the end of 2009. The fact that it has hung on as long as it has in this market is amazing. What with more than half of the population speaking Spanish as its first language, its downward spiral of subscriptions has pretty much been going on for the good part of the last decade. Only recently has it accelerated its demise due in part to a younger demographic not accustomed to getting its news "off the sidewalk"-- as Veronica Mars describes that archaic practice-- significant lost advertising revenue-- a phenomena felt by dailies across the country-- and the most recent last ditch attempt to increase profits by hiking subscription prices by 40%. We predict McClatchy will sell the building on the bay and become a digital purveyor of the goods-- for a price. No more stinkin' free websites for you! Which makes sense. It'll be cheaper in the long run and much more ecological-- think of the trees that will be saved! Hopefully the company will retain its investigative reporters. Without them, Miami-- and all US cities-- are up for grabs with the most corrupt and sociopathic elected officials getting carte blanche at the feeding trough of taxpayer dollars. Subscribing to that business model becomes a patriotic duty. If it instead emerges on the Net as a dumbed-down version of its former self-- like it's already doing with added focus on youth, media personalities, and a decidedly less than AP style to writing that emphasizes the vernacular and, at times, callous rudeness, we'll pass.

You can keep track of the death throes of the American newspaper at www.newspaperdeathwatch.com/. For those who wonder what it will be like to start their day without getting up and going through the morning ritual of picking up the news "off the sidewalk," MVB will be sponsoring a 12-Step Program for those addicted to newspapers. The first affirmation is this: I WANT to get up in the morning even if the newspaper is no longer there.

UpDate (3/17/09): The Seattle Post-Intilligencer, once one of America's oldest newspapers, publishes its last newsprint edition before becoming the first major US daily to go digital.

UpDate (10/16/10): Because of our utter frustration with the way things went south politically here, we haven't updated in a while. Since our final post in December 2007, the tunnel not only got approved but construction has begun on widening the causeway to accommodate the tunnel lanes. Still, we find it interesting to report today that according to the Miami Herald, the Port of Miami received $22M from the U.S. DOT to upgrade the port's existing rail line that connects it to the western Miami rail yards, something we have been advocating (as an alternative to digging a truck tunnel) since this blog was founded in 2006 (http://miamivisionblogarama.blogspot.com/2006/07/miamis-big-dig-manny-carlos-say-it.html). Now, instead of reading the official port stance that the rail line wasn't necessary (http://miamivisionblogarama.blogspot.com/2007/10/miami-today-newspaper-jumps-on-our.html), it's now something to make port director Bill Johnson "super excited" because it will lead to "more international trade and more jobs."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Architecture God Has Spoken: Publix on the Bay Makes My Chosen Building List!

It's a freaking supermarket for crying out loud! Can you imagine? Reminds me of the work of the architects from the planet with all of those flying saucers. I absolutely love it and wonder why I don't see more of this kind of stuff on Earth. Carlos Zapata is the architect. Works out of New York City. Owned by Publix Super Markets, Publix on the Bay opened in 1998 and is located in South Miami Beach at 20th Street and West Ave. This freestanding 47,000 square foot store has two levels of parking (220 spaces) on top of the building. It has a state-of-the-art "people mover" to take customers and their loaded baskets on a sloping treadmill from the ground level to the parking levels. The store also has an elevator for access to the parking areas. The overall building appearance, particularly the unusual facade, has made the store the architectural landmark of South Florida.

And it's a freaking supermarket for cying out loud!

I love it. If I had to shop, I'd do it here everyday. And ol' Carlos, if he keeps this up, he's got a seat right next to Me in Heaven. Well, actually next to my Son and Gehry-- if he rethinks that "accident" on Lincoln Road.

Monday, December 17, 2007

To HeadBlade or Not to HeadBlade or What Would John Wayne Do?

That is the question. Growing up with the Duke as a role model, that's always been the question. Whenever in doubt, I finger my elastic dayglo bracelet with the inscription: What Would John Wayne Do? The answer has never let me down. From bar room fights to dealing with the Indians (that Nokosee can be quite a handful now that he's teamed up with that crazy park ranger's daughter), I've either come up on top or walked away bruised and injured but with head held high knowing I approached the situation bravely. Now, as I enter my twilight years my family's genetic code has finally caught up with me: I'm losing my hair.

One of my greatest fears growing up was that I'd end up looking like one of those less than heroic poor slobs who are always running the dry goods store instead of the guys with the low slung holsters (and a full head of hair) who aren't afraid of whipping out their guns and pulling the trigger. You know the kind of loser I'm talking about, the ones who are bald on the top with vestigial hair growth around the ears and back of the head.

Living in trendy SoBe where looking good and young is embraced with a passion, young guys going bald have opted not to go the route of my hero. Instead of wearing a toupee, or undergoing hair transplants, or slapping chemical concoctions on top of their fading domes, they're choosing another route: they're shaving everything off the top. In fact, it's getting to the point that nearly every man you see around here (and an occasional woman) looks like Yul Brenner's love child. A lot of these dudes are pumped up to the max and I gotta suspect maybe their hair loss has something to do with steroids. But, in any event, it's nearly impossible not to trip over one of them while walking around town because they're so goddamn plentiful.

And then one day while shopping for razor blades at Publix, something caught my eye. There, hanging on a hook in its blister packaging was the... HeadBlade. Being a sucker for gizmos, I had to check it out. The HeadBlade is the crotch rocket of razors because it, well, looks like one. It has two wheels, a flashy paint job, and a cool "headlight." I had to pause and look around.

"I can't have anyone seeing me looking at this. They'd know I'm thinking about...shaving my head! How vainglorious. What would John Wayne Do?" I asked myself.

"He'd buy a toupee," I responded.

"Hell, I tried that and no matter how much you pay for one and no matter how many times you lie to yourself that it looks natural, it doesn't. They always look fake."

But the "coolness" of the product kept calling me back.

"How clever," I thought. "Hell, it might actually work."

So, with another furtive look around, I tossed it into my shopping cart. When it came time to check out, I pretended I didn't see it when the cashier picked it up and looked at me. I felt like a kid trying to buy condoms for the first time.

When I got home I gave it a try and was surprised that it actually worked (most of the clever gadgets I've bought over the years have always let me down). I soon found myself making engine sounds as the little HeadBlade roared across my somewhat bumpy noggin.

And then I discovered what I always suspected: I'm really from another planet.

I put on the brakes and came to a screeching halt. There, once hidden by hair and just above the nape of my neck was the distinct skin pattern of space aliens from the planet Tencton. Yes, I'm really a Tenctonite. You remember them don't you, they made a TV series about them. Called it "Alien Nation."

"I can't let anyone see me like that!"

What to do? I can't go out half-shaved. So I decided to even it up a bit. By the time I was done I looked like Travis Bickle's old man. Trouble is I could hear the Duke doing DeNiro.
"You talking to me, pilgrim?"


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

Miami Commissioner Tomas Regalado: He gets our "Yes" vote for the only "No" vote against special interests and the Port of Miami tunnel

Miami's Manny Diaz is one tricky guy. Yesterday he got everything he wanted-- at the people's expense. Instead of putting the issue of diverting needed tax dollars from Miami's slums to building a new baseball stadium, tunnel, and propping up the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, he worked behind the scenes with Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess to come up with the billion-dollar-plus "Global Agreement" that should have gone before the people and not five commissioners. Miami City Commissioner Tomas Regalado was the only one who didn't succumb to "deadline" pressures from lobbyists, standing against it for all the right reasons: the city should be using that money as it was meant to be used-- for capital improvements downtown in its blighted areas.

"The city should not be in the business of paying for the tunnel," he said. "That's a regional issue. It's a state issue. It's a federal issue."

Unfortunately, none of his fellow commissioners were listening. It was disappointing to see commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones flip-flopping this time around-- though not surprising since she once served as an aide to Manny and has said more than once she considers him her mentor. After all, as proposed under these new rules, the expansion of the Community Redevelopment Agency means taxes once earmarked for rebuilding the blighted parts of town-- where most of her fellow African-Americans live-- will be siphoned off to partially finance the $1.3 billion Port of Miami tunnel ($50 million will go toward building the tunnel which is now listed by the Miami Herald at $914 million-- as if that will make its cost more palatable since they have come out in favor of building it), the Florida Marlins baseball stadium ($500 million), Carnival Center ($500 million to pay down its debt), a streetcar to MidTown ($200 million), and more. We can only hope that the "Global Agreement" makers don't have any legal grounds for re-writing how the CRA's funds are used and that the Florida Marlins can't come up with their $155 million share for the stadium. Although this comes up before the Miami-Dade Commission Monday, we only see them rubber stamping this race to build a tunnel to special interests and to choose the lesser of visions.

For Commissioner Regalado's ballsy vote, we dedicate this song to him with hopes he will adopt it from Billy Jack as a theme song for a future run for the City of Miami's Mayor's office. Right now, Commissioner Regalado, you're our Billy Jack!


UpDate (2/16): The Miami Herald reports today that the FDOT officially awarded the contract to build the tunnel to Bouygues Travaux Publics. We find it interesting with each new story how cheaper the tunnel gets. Today the estimated cost to build it is $914 million. Could it be the paper is distorting its actual cost for reasons unknown to the public? And if so, why?

UpDate (12/13): Christmas comes early with the announcement that the tunnel project succumbs to a well-deserved death when the state and Bouygues Travaux Publics can't agree on terms. Hurray!

UpDate (4/1/2008): Regalado announces his run for Mayor of Miami. You can learn more about what he stands for and help his noble cause by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Florida Marlins Baseball Stadium: You can build it, but Miami won't come if it's in a cornfield


Today's Miami Herald reports the county is ratcheting up the pressure on the Florida Marlins and MLB to accept their offer to build a new stadium on the old Orange Bowl site. According to team president David Sampson, the next 10 days are "critical." If a deal can be brokered, he says, for the first time, that the team will play at the Orange Bowl site.

How disappointing to hear. That site sucks big time. In our continuing quest to push for the better site, we took it upon ourselves to email Irwin Raij, an MLB attorney the following:

  • Dear Mr. Raij,

    Please pass on the Orange Bowl site. MLB can do better. It's a terrible location in a rundown part of town with no easy access to the Interstate which will hamper any ticket sales. Instead, push the county and the city for this location: Grand Central Station of the American Pastime. It envisions the stadium built over three forms of mass transit (two are already existing-- the third is a proposed BayLink from Miami to Miami Beach). It's called the "Grand Central Station of the American Pastime." It's here where the Marlins will find its fan base-- through the thousands of people moving into the new condos opening in the central business district (over 40,000 units planned or being built). It's also where fans from as far away as Palm Beach will come because it will be so easy. All they have to do is hop on an FEC train and ride it to the stadium. With the stadium attached to the existing Miami Arena, both should be able to benefit from the other. Don't settle for less because it's one thing to build it, but if you want them to come in Miami, cornfields won't cut it.
    Thank you,
    The Boys at MVB

It was the least we could do for this community we love so much. Hopefully you'll do the same.



UpDate (7/27/08): Glenn Straub, owner of the Miami Arena, announces he will tear it down to build a baseball stadium-- if he can strike a deal with the City of Miami and the Florida Marlins. Part of the deal he wants is to gain title to the Orange Bowl site (now torn down) to build affordable housing. Initial reaction from the Marlins and the city: not interested. Typical. And surprising since at one time the Marlins insisted on a downtown site.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

One more time: No! to the Port of Miami Tunnel

We'd like to think the graphics beat Chavez, that the iconic comic bubble caught enough people's attention down there in Venezuela to turn the tide on madness. Perhaps it will work here with the City of Miami Commission. For MVB, it's all we got because we've outlined our reasons more than once on this humble blog to the point of embarrassment.

This Thursday the City of Miami commission votes on whether or not to contribute $50 million to the construction of a truck tunnel between the port and Watson Island. Without that contribution, the tunnel idea becomes the best bad memory all of us living here could have because public dollars allocated toward the project are removed and placed elsewhere and the project for all intents and purposes dies.

As far as we're concerned, that's the best thing that could happen because many experts predict a tunnel won't save the money generator port shipping has become. In fact, they predict that the cost of doing business at the port will inevitably rise because of the tunnel's cost ($1.3 billion at the last count) which will be passed on to the shipping companies in the forms of fees and tolls. Once it becomes too expensive to ship in and out, shipping companies will jump ship for cheaper and more accessible Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale leaving Miami and the County with the biggest money pit since Boston's Big Dig.

Perhaps we should start thinking about letting Port Everglades assume its natural roll as a container shipper and re-focusing the Port of Miami toward building on its position as the largest passenger cruise port in the world. We do not advocate removing the shipping industry from the port. On the contrary, we have been suggesting that perhaps it might be better and way cheaper to re-activate use of the existing railroad tracks attaching the port to the mainland with the idea that hundreds of shipping containers would be loaded onto railroad cars and hauled in and out in the wee hours of the morning so as not to disturb the growing number of people taking up abode downtown. It seems to make more sense. Unfortunately, the Miami commissioners are getting a lot of pressure from special interest groups to vote for the tunnel. The question is, which of the commissioners who voted against the tunnel will now vote for it? Here's hoping they don't flip-flop. That would be as embarrassing as yet another post from MVB on this subject.

Besides, if Miami has a $50 million hole burning in its pocket, we can think of a better place to spend it. Instead of throwing it at special interests-- shipping and trucking-- we'd like to see it spent where it will help the most people: here.

UpDate (2/16): The Miami Herald reports today that the FDOT officially awarded the contract to build the tunnel to Bouygues Travaux Publics. We find it interesting with each new story how cheaper the tunnel gets. Today the estimated cost to build it is $914 million. Could it be the paper is distorting its actual cost for reasons unknown to the public? And if so, why?

UpDate (12/13): Christmas comes early with the announcement that the tunnel project succumbs to a well-deserved death when the state and Bouygues Travaux Publics can't agree on terms. Hurray!

UpDate (10/16/10): Because of our utter frustration with the way things went south politically here, we haven't updated in a while. Since our final post in December 2007, the tunnel not only got approved but construction has begun on widening the causeway to accommodate the tunnel lanes. Still, we find it interesting to report today that according to the Miami Herald, the Port of Miami received $22M from the U.S. DOT to upgrade the port's existing rail line that connects it to the western Miami rail yards, something we have been advocating (as an alternative to digging a truck tunnel) since this blog was founded in 2006 (http://miamivisionblogarama.blogspot.com/2006/07/miamis-big-dig-manny-carlos-say-it.html). Now, instead of reading the official port stance that the rail line wasn't necessary (http://miamivisionblogarama.blogspot.com/2007/10/miami-today-newspaper-jumps-on-our.html), it's now something to make port director Bill Johnson "super excited" because it will lead to "more international trade and more jobs."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Foreign Devils: How a South Florida filmmaker made a movie in China without them knowing about it

If you want to find the pulse of a city's creativity, check out its blogs. There you'll find its most creative. If they ever get together in one place like they did last night at a party hosted by Miami Beach 411 at Tuscan Steak, it's quite possible you'll meet this century's best poet whose alter ego writes a blog called Sex and the Beach. Or a rising guerrilla-style filmmaker named Avery Pack. Although not a blogger, he was the arm candy of a fellow blogger, the lovely Sara of All Purpose Dark. And he had an intriguing story to tell over a table of some of the best food ever served in oh-so-hip SoBe.

Avery just finished a no-budget picture shot in China called Foreign Devils. Using the simplest yet most sophisticated of technology to fool the Commies (the CIA could take note), Avery and his band of bros and a few gos (?) shot a feature film off-the-cuff and on-the-run right under the noses of the anal, freedom-hating bureaucrats running China. Posing as tourists (whom the Sino-feds won't touch), the group used off-the-shelf Hi-Def video cameras and wireless mikes to tell the story of friends spending their last days together in China. The recently completed film was edited back here in South Florida and its trailer teases you with scenes that promise to deliver way more than circumstance allowed. We love the filmmaker's audaciousness and admire his creativity and talent. We find the story behind the movie may prove to be a movie in itself someday. Perhaps it will after Foreign Devils wins the Best Picture Award for No Budget Movies at the 25th Miami International Film Festival where it will debut sometime during the Festival's February 28th to March 9th run.

Tuscan Steak: Sensual Dining in Sobe


Tuscan Steak may not look like it has a pedigree from its less than ostentatious facade at 433 Washington Ave in SoBe, but it's part of China Grill Management which is known for its world-wide far flung empire of restaurants serving up great food and style in equal portions. Basically it's exactly what it's PR machine says it is, a "sophisticated, family-style Florentine grill" specializing in Northern Italian cooking smack dab in the middle of the world's playground. Once you get past what seems to be de rigeur for upscale dining here what with the impossibly tall blonde with the perfect tan and a body that brings tears to your eyes who greets you at the door and makes you choke and stumble across the threshold, you'll find yourself escorted into a different world of friendly waitstaff, warm woods, and a laid back vibe. How refreshing.

It only gets better. The food will make an athiest cry and thank God for the opportunity to eat such food as this. For us, this ephiphany begins with the Tuscan salad which includes salami and pepperoni followed by the gnocchi with gorgonzola cream sauce. Then comes the three mushroom risotto (yes, we're gluttons and it will only get worse). It's finished with white truffle oil and shaved parmesan reggiano and it's like having sex in public without getting arrested. A side order of amaretto infused sweet potato mash will make you moan out loud and grab your partner and demand he or she fuck you right then and there.

But you don't because if you do, you'll miss the main entree. The grilled florentine t-bone comes to your table reminding you why it's called a t-bone steak: the bone is standing proudly on its plate, reigning over the sweet, succulent meat beneath. By this time, your senses are so sexed up you'll think the dish has a hard-on. You and your partner start making unseemly piggish sounds as you devour the meat. But you don't care because those around you are doing the same. It's getting hot. Clothes come off. A woman slips off the booth and disappears behind the table. Her partner soon follows. It's "Harry Met Sally" déjà vu du jour but in Italian.

By this time, you're spent. You're looking for that cigarette but you can't smoke inside the restaurant. Instead, the sick unrelenting, unrepentant fucks in the back tease you with a lasciviously decadent selection of desserts. You choose the chocolate mousse cake and a Tiramisu to die for. They remind you of what you found and now miss in the once equally sensuous but more theatrical Ola restaurant up on Biscayne Blvd in the MiMo district. Douglas Rodriguez' bold experiment in Latino cooking with its second floor overlook is but a wet dream now, a place that insured guys like us would not only get a great meal, we'd get lucky too.

Tuscan Steak is one of those kinds of restaurants. Although it can be expensive, we highly recommend it for all the wrong and right reasons.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

MiamiSpeak: "Media Up!"

As a public service to our readers, we are happy to offer "MiamiSpeak©." These are words and phrases used by Miamians and may come in handy for tourists or those just passing through this sun kissed burg.

Today's offering is "Media Up!" "Media Up!" is a great way to keep the police from busting your head in. It's best used just before an arrest, especially if you've led them on a wild police chase. Once cops think news helicopters got them in their sights, your arrest should be much less painful.

Here is an example of someone who didn't know the correct lingo following an arrest. Don't let this happen to you. For your own safety, learn MiamiSpeak© now!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hope Springs Eternal: Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez vetoes UDB Extension

We were wondering what if anything Miami-Dade County's mayor had done recently since winning the right from the people to be a "strong mayor." For those who backed his proposal as we were proud to do, we are given hope by today's news that he vetoed extending the sacrosanct (at least to a few county commissioners) UDB. Hopefully Alvarez will become more pro-active on equally important issues such a transportation and housing.

UpDate (4/25/08): The Miami-Dade County Commission votes 9-4 to move the UDB to allow a Lowes Home Improvement store. Even if Alvarez vetoes the vote, the commission has enough votes to override it. Next step: litigation. The state will oppose and we predict the county will lose. Right now, the people have lost thanks to these short-sighted, visionless, usual suspects: Bruno Barreiro, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan, Martinez, Dorrin Rolle, Natacha Seijas, Rebeca Sosa and Javier Souto.

UpDate (4/30): Alvarez vetoes the vote. Whoop-te-doo.

UpDate (5/7): The county commission overrides Alvarez's veto 8 to 4. Those who voted against this asinine proposal and who should be lauded are: Commissioners Carlos Gimenez, Dennis Moss, Katy Sorenson and Sally Heyman. Now it goes to the state. Expect another court fight.

UpDate (7/18): The State overrides the county stating "the city and the county skirted their own growth-management rules." The State believes "there is still enough land inside the development boundary for commercial growth." According to Mike McDaniel, chief of comprehensive planning, "There is no need for additional commercial land." Lowes vows to fight on.

While the nation's largest school districts scramble for teachers, it's 4th largest (Miami) locks up it best and brightest

Besides the economic crisis bubbling just below the surface of our sunbaked landscape where more than 71,000 residential property owners in Miami-Dade and Broward failed to pay property taxes for 2006, there is another one ready to burst forth in education. As we reported earlier:
  • Florida "will need 12,000 more teachers per year than are projected to be supplied (italics included)."
  • Increasing numbers of teachers are entering retirement,
  • Pre-retirement-- 9% of new teachers quit in their first year while 1-out-5 quit within the first 3 years,
  • Reasons for teachers leaving:
    Low salaries are at the top of the list,
    Lack of support from the administration,
    Student discipline issues,
    Lack of input and decision making powers.

You would think that any school district would want to do everything in its power to hold on to its best and brightest teachers.

Not here where there is a penchant for disciplining activist teachers by removing them from the classroom. Here they punish them for doing their job. Beloved Spanish teacher Patrick "Taz" Williams has been out of the classroom for six weeks now, removed because he had the temerity to question his principal. He works with kids most teachers would have given up on. And they love him. So do their parents. What a loss.

And while Williams sits in a "very cold" room in a building far away from his students, Rudy Crew, the $350,000 a year Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Schools, entrenches deeper in his downtown 9th floor office, spending thousands of dollars on new security measures to keep, along with those who have threatened his life, critics and the public at bay.

UpDate (5/15/08): 6,400 south Florida high school kids (that's 1 in 5 Dade seniors) won't graduate this spring because they couldn't pass FCAT. Considering what it takes to pass-- students don't even have to show they are working at a 10th-grade level (passing scores are lower than that)-- it's worse than you can imagine.

UpDate (9/11/08): After months of heated acrimony between Crew and some members of the board, he resigns under pressure with the board buying out his contract for $368,000.

UpDate (9/12): Alberto Carvalho, a former teacher in the Dade County schools, accepts the board's offer to become its next superintendent.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Backseat Theatre

Although MVB's main focus is Miami and the Beaches, some things demand posting no matter how far they stray from our narrow focus. In this case, we find ourselves getting excited about a new series of plays in Los Angeles. All of them take place in cars with the audience in the backseat. Cool. Real cool.

This is how Gary Garrison, editor of The Loop newsletter for playwrights, sums up his take on the experience:

"When the going got rough for a group of artists, the artists got to thinking instead of bemoaning their poor existence. When Moving Arts couldn’t find an appropriate performance venue to offer their playwrights an outlet for bringing their work to a public audience, Artistic Producer Paul Stein didn’t fold up and go home. He thought about his world, his writers, his day-to-day life and tried to make sense of it all. From that was born The Car Plays. This is from their p.r.:

The Car Plays examines what transpires in vehicles and gives theatre patrons a voyeuristic view inside many of these moments and lives. In Los Angeles, we constantly break up in cars, make up in cars, live, die and laugh in cars. Fifteen 10-minute pieces, all commissioned by Moving Arts, will be presented in cars. Carhops will escort audience to the parked vehicles.

I was so psyched to see this, I can’t tell you. We showed up to the theatre (The Steve Allen Theatre) and saw three rows of five parked cars – end to end – roped off. All kinds of cars: SUVs, economy cars, station wagons and luxury cars – the whole automotive canvas. At curtain time, our car hop brought us to our row of cars. We were instructed to not open or close the doors of the car – they’d do that to signify the beginning or end of the play. Then, on cue, we were ushered to our first car, invited to the front or back passenger seat and . . . waited.
In my first car, two guys hurriedly ran for the car, dove into the front seat, slammed their doors and begin talking about a "deal," some job they had to do. In short order, you realized you were witnessing the conversation between two men about to take someone out – for good. One guy was nervous; the other confident. One guy was an American; the other a foreigner. There was lots of tension in the car, and I COULDN’T ESCAPE IT. Fuckin’ brilliant.
Next car: a middle-aged woman (front seat) argues with her mother (back seat, next to me) about their troubled relationship. What you think is fairly standard fare turns quickly into a look into cavernous loneliness, complex family relationships, death and depression.
Next car: A woman has picked up a hooker for her first lesbian affair – only to discover (in the car) she’s a he. And this guy was hot as a young woman. This guy made me want to jump to the other side with his short, plaid skirt, blonde wig, expert diva make-up, perfume, nails done to perfection. And I am literally inches from them as they sort through their very complicated feelings of attraction. I get to see the questions in their faces, watch their pupils dilate with surprise and passion and then watch them deaden with rejection.
I could go on. Really. Because it was just all so brilliant in concept. Okay, so you can argue about the writing of any one story or a performance here and there. But you’re in the car, it’s happening right in front of you, it all makes perfect dramatic sense, the characters are fascinating, the stories are interesting and it’s THEATRE on a dime, baby. It’s "fuck you, we’re going do it because we’ve got some thing to say and just because we don’t have a theatre is no reason not to say it and not be heard."
Right on. Bravo.
Here’s the best part: you can’t get a ticket! They sell out weeks before they perform. It’s a huge, huge critical success. And Moving Arts is thinking of ways of expanding the program to accommodate more audience, more stories. Can you imagine? When’s the last time you heard that happening?
We can't remember when. It's always a struggle for small theatres. Even more so here. Perhaps one of our favorites such as the Mad Cat Theatre company might want to give it a go. To cut costs even further, have the theatregoer provide the stage, i.e., the play takes place in their car in the theatre company's parking lot. Or guerrilla style at a place to be determined (you'd find out once you bought your ticket online).

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly


The Good: Venezuelans said "¡No!" to the Asshole of the Americas.

The Bad: Russians vote for the Asshole of Russia.

The Ugly: Both assholes will make the world an uglier place; one will try to reverse the election, the other will use it to steer his country further away from ally to foe by all means necessary. Both fuckers will affect where we live.

Where is Blondie when we need him?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Florida Governor Charlie Crist for MASS TRANSIT CZAR!

16 years. That's how long Florida and the Seminoles warred over casino gambling. And then along came Charlie Crist. Within months the newly elected governor hammered out an agreement between the Seminoles and the State that the Florida legislature couldn't do, a deal that would guarantee the state $375 million in the first three years and to share 10 to 25 percent of the gambling pot after that provided the state doesn't allow racetracks or other nontribal gambling operations to expand into table games. If the politicians don't fail at derailing this plan, it is estimated that as much as "$1 billion over the first five years and $500 million every year thereafter"* will be available for education.

We really like his take charge attitude and think it should be used to get stalled mass transit programs fast tracked. The two that come to mind are:

Negotiations are ongoing regarding using the FEC corridor. We think Charlie should step in and and make it happen sooner rather than later. Although voters want some form of a mass transit connection between Miami and Miami Beach (we advocate a monorail), ex-Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer put up such a fight against it, that the plan has been pushed "back to the future," i.e, probably not in our lifetimes. This is wrong. Very wrong. Thanks to Dermer, who forced a second election on the matter, the people had to vote for it twice. We need it now, not tomorrow. Hopefully our "Get 'r done" Governor will turn his attention to both transportation issues and make them a reality before he leaves office. This could be his version of Kennedy getting a man on the moon. It should be a lot easier, right?

The Architecture God Has Spoken: Miami's New Herzog & De Meuron Art Museum Looks Like An Auto Mall!


The Godless Chinese commies get a winning landmark design from Herzog & de Meuron for their Olympic stadium. What does my favorite city get from this firm for its new art museum? A freaking auto mall! Where's the awe inspiring architecture? Back in Beijing. Hell, those hanging vines will be ripped asunder with the first thunderstorm! Years from now, people will look back at this time and wonder what the hell was going on with those living there back then? What the hell were they thinking? Who sold them on this lousy excuse for a building? For answers to that and other questions, please go here.

UpDate (9/19/08): Here's an example of what you could have had instead of what you have now: nothing but another auto mall on a planet full of mundane buildings when you could have had something grand and visionary. It's the Gehry designed Guggenheim for Abu Dhabi. Click the image to make it larger.