Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The way we were

Proof that Miami Beach was once a swamp.

The Fleetwood Hotel on West Avenue, Miami Beach advertised itself as "The Coolest Spot in Florida" and offered "Mosquito Proof" dining.

From the July 2, 1925 issue of the Miami Daily News.

View of the Fleetwood Hotel (left,) from Star Island. Image via University of Miami Digital Archive.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Corruption in Hialeah....50 years ago

Following up on yesterday's post that looked back at some old issues of the now-defunct Miami News, I decided to see what was going on in Miami 50 years ago, give or take week.

I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find that there was corruption taking place the unlikeliest of places, Hialeah.

The News had been tipped that customers at a certain Hialeah service station were having no trouble getting inspection stickers for their cars.

In the April 8, 1960 issue of the paper, reporter Barnard Collier writes that he drove an old clunker up to a County-run auto-inspection station in Hialeah.

As the Collier tells it, the car had no emergency brake, a faulty rear brake, no brake lights, and one of the tag lights was out.

The reporter got the inspection sticker for the car by handing the inspector a business card from the service station and some money folded inside of the inspection form.

How much did Collier pay to have his car passed? One dollar.

So, depending on one's perspective, things have changed a lot in Dade County in the intervening 50 years. Or not much has changed.

However, one thing is fairly certain. It might cost more than a buck to pay someone off in Hialeah these days!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Miami Crime Wave - June 3, 1950

Back before the Internet and 24 hour cable news, there were newspapers. Real newspapers.

In 1950 Miami had two daily newspapers, the Miami Herald and a competitor, the much smaller Miami News.

(Erik Maza at Miami New Times reminded us of just how different the Miami New was from the Herald.)

And the Miami of 60 years ago bore no resemblance to the Miami of today; it was a winter tourist destination but in the summer it was a humid, mosquito-infested, sleepy backwater.

However, if things got too boring or sweaty, you could always hop a sleek 4-engine DC-6 and head down to Havana which was just an hour away!

The Herald had a huge reporting staff. The News had to make do with a staff about half the size of the Herald's.

The Herald came out in the morning and the News was an afternoon paper. The News catered to a reader who had probably seen the Herald that morning. The paper had to have a different look and editorial approach which it delivered that in more ways than one.


The feisty and scrappy News grabbed the attention of its readers in ways the stodgy and staid Herald couldn't. The front page of the News used headlines that were bold and splashy.

And it printed crime stories. Lots of crime stories.

Consider the front page of the June 3, 1950 edition of the News.

There was the main story about a couple of teenage "boy bandits" who made their getaway on a "high-powered motorcycle."

Then there was the story about an off-duty cop who was attacked by three boys. The cop shot all three in a "gun-battle" that killed one of the boys, a 15 year-old Booker T. Washington high school student.

And if that wasn't enough crime to satisfy you, there was the story headlined: "His Wife Plotted To Murder Him, Ex-Beach Patrolman Wells Testifies."

The News finally folded in 1989, no longer able to compete with the Herald.

But the paper still lives on Google!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Late night comedy...Bill Cosby makes chocolate cake for breakfast

A classic!

Lincoln Road Antique Market this Sunday

Check out the Antique Market on Lincoln Road this Sunday, March 28.

Weather should be spectacular!

After this Sunday, there are only three more Antique Markets until next season.

K-9's vs Kops...Friday edition

Yesterday in New York City, police corralled a wily coyote that was running wild in the city's TriBeCa neighborhood.

The New York Post reported:
[T]he wild chase began with just six officers in three vehicles "officially" radioing in that they were in hot pursuit, but witnesses said it quickly grew to an armada of 30 cops and an air unit giving chase.

It was such a flood of men and women in blue that the manager of the Erik Parking facility feared that the world was coming to an end.

"I thought maybe there was something in the car, like a bomb or something," said Eklas Chowdhury, 43. "I was shocked when they were looking under the car. There were at least 30 police.
And today, you've no doubt seen this video of a dog using a police car as a chew toy in Tennessee about two weeks ago...and how could you have missed it? The video, made available today, has been running on cable news channels about every 10 minutes non-stop.

The AP is reporting that the dog - whose name is Winston - must attend anger management classes!

Here's a view of the attack from another police car.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

We have a new name!

I've changed the name of this blog. Actually, I've just shortened it a bit.

Chuck Strouse at Miami New Times asked me the other day why I continued calling my blog "Random Pixels and Loose Talk from Miami Beach" when I no longer lived on Miami Beach.

Thinking about it today, I realized he had a point and so from this point forward this blog will be known as "Random Pixels and Loose Talk."

It's an opportune time for the change.

Coincidentally, it was exactly two years ago today that I made my first post here.

862 posts later, I'm still going strong.

Thanks to all who have stuck with me this far.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gloria Estefan's 'rare personal move'

When reading stories in Miami's number one information source, I have to constantly remind myself that the stuff that's omitted from a story is sometimes more important than what makes it in the paper.

Consider today's story in the Miami Herald on Gloria Estefan's announcement that she'll lead a march this Thursday on Calle Ocho "to express exile solidarity with Havana's Ladies in White."

The story was first posted on the Herald's Website Tuesday.

Written by long-time Herald staffer Alfonso Chardy, it contained this over-the-top lede: "It's not often that a world-class celebrity like singer Gloria Estefan talks about Cuba and the situation there or calls for a protest march in support of people who oppose the regime in Havana."

By the time the story appeared in Wednesday's paper, Gloria had been transformed, either by Chardy or a Herald editor, from a "world-class celebrity" to just a garden variety "musical icon."
In a rare personal move, Miami musical icon Gloria Estefan stepped into the international political spotlight Tuesday to say she was organizing a Little Havana march in support of Las Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), the wives and mothers of imprisoned Cuban opponents of the Raúl Castro regime.

Dressed in white at a news conference, the Cuba-born singer and songwriter passionately urged Cuban exiles and others to join her in the march as an expression of solidarity with the Cuban women who last week were violently harassed during a street march to mark the anniversary of the 2003 jailing of 75 dissidents. The Miami march is being held on Calle Ocho, beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The Herald's Chardy tells his readers that Gloria's plans to march are a "rare personal move." Apparently that justified the placement of this story on the Herald's front page.

The irony here is that Gloria's support for the people of Cuba, is indeed, rare.

A check of the Herald's archives dating back to 1982 reveals that the paper has printed hundreds of stories and hundreds of thousands of words - in the process killing untold numbers of trees - idolizing the Herald's Miami's sweetheart.

But in almost none of those stories does Gloria speak out with any real conviction against the Castro regime.

In 1982, Gloria's name appeared in just one story:
A lot of people have yet to discover that one of the hottest groups in Latin America is the Miami Sound Machine, a 10-member collection of locals who will be featured Sunday as part of the All-America Weekend on Miami Beach.

They will appear at 7 p.m. Sunday at 79th Street and Collins Avenue.

The group consists of singers Gloria Estefan and Mercy Murciano backed by eight musicians: Emilio Estefan , Raul Murciano, Kiki Garcia, Marcos Avila, Wesley Wright, Luis Perez, Victor Lopez and Ray Fischer.

Their album, Otra Vez, is No. 3 on Latin charts, and they may break into the English-speaking market soon.
That soon changed as the Herald transformed itself into an unoffical arm of Gloria's PR department. Ten years later "Gloria Fever" had infected the Herald newsroom. In 1992 Gloria's name made it into 199 stories!

But, when one types in the key words "Gloria Estefan" along with "Fidel Castro", it's virtually impossible to find any instance of Gloria speaking out against the the Castro government.

That's not to say that Gloria doesn't support causes dear to Cuban exiles.

In January of 2000, the name of Elian Gonzalez was on the minds of most Miami Cubans, including Gloria, who issued this forceful statement at the American Music Awards in support of the little tyke: ``All I do is pray for that boy and his family. Every time I see his little face, I feel he's in a tough spot. . . . I don't think anybody wins in this issue.''

On April 22, 2000, the day Elian was seized from the home of his Miami relatives, she issued this statement: ``Today is a very sad day for the United States and the world; when once again we show our children that conflicts are resolved using guns, violence and terror instead of communication and peaceful negotiation. I hope that as a community we can study this complex situation and learn how to go forward with renewed hope and optimism." That's telling 'em Gloria!

But little more than a month later, on June 3 the Herald reported that Estefan said on NBC's "Today Show" that ``As a mother, a woman and a Cuban American, I guess it's time for Elian to go back - I have a feeling,''

But, as with many of the Herald's online stories, the things that readers say are sometimes, extremely telling.

Seizing perhaps, on Gloria's comment yesterday that, ''The moment has arrived for us, the Cubans who live in freedom, and all those who wish to join, to offer absolute support and encouragement to the ladies and the people of Cuba,'' someone calling himself "abuelo" wrote:
Whoa!!!! after 50 years the EstefanS are doing something for the people in CUBA
Maybe "abuleo" is right.

Or maybe Gloria just wanted to see her name in the paper again.

George Bush uses 'smear' tactics on Haitian visit!

"During their first joint visit to Haiti this week, George W. Bush appears to have wiped his hand on Bill Clinton's shirt after shaking hands with a crowd of Haitians," says the Huffington Post.

Video here.

Best Blog Post Headline of the Year!

It's only March, but we believe we've found the best blog post headline of the year.

It's from - where else? - the Riptide blog at Miami New Times.

Click here to find out what has me ROTFLMAO!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A headline we'd like to see!

Vice president Joe Biden just couldn't help himself.

As everyone knows by now, the veep dropped a big "F" bomb Tuesday as he introduced President Obama during the health care bill signing ceremony, apparently forgetting the old adage: "Treat every microphone like it's open."

Well, of course it was open; he just got finished speaking into it!

And tomorrow, newspaper headline writers across the country will have a field day with Joe's gaffe. Everything from, "Say It Ain't So Joe" to "Loose Lips" and on and on.

But you don't have to wait until tomorrow. Here's how I'd handle it!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Life in Flori-DUH!

Who needs Carl Hiaasen with stuff like this in the news?

IMMOKALEE — A 27-year-old Immokalee man has been charged with breaking into a woman’s home, throwing a $20 bill at her and demanding sex.

TAMPA — A Polk County woman who died during a religious fast was dead "several days" when her family found her, according to a 911 call received by the Polk County Sheriff's Office on March 5.

In a recording of the 911 call released Monday, a woman tearfully tells an emergency operator that Evelyn Boyd, 55, had planned 21 days of fasting and prayer.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Local blogger sucks up to the Herald

Some guy named Tom Falco runs a blog called the Coconut Grove Grapevine.

It wasn't that long ago that Falco was accusing the Miami Herald of plagiarism.

He was so pissed at the Herald for "stealing" his stories that sicced his "lawyer" on them! At least that's what he says.
I chased the local daily newspaper off. Notice they no longer steal my stories and reprint them in their newspaper a few days later? This was going on for a long time and some stories were practically word-for-word, taken from here. My plagiarism lawyer is on top of that.

The next stolen story that appears may have me and the blog in the spotlight, since we will take it to court and the offending writer will probably not have a career in journalism ever again. Since I read them the riot act, the local daily has had no Grove human interest stories since they don't have the brains to go out and get their own and they are forbidden from stealing mine any more.
All this coming from a guy who peed his pants when Commissioner Mark Sarnoff's lawyer sent him a nasty letter a while back.

But that was then and this is now.

Today Falco breathlessly informed his readers that,
"Our stories will be appearing in The Miami Herald. Not all of them and not everywhere. As part of their Community News program, they run stories, with permission, from various news sources, mostly blogs. For instance their Key Biscayne news comes from the Key Biscayne Times as part of the partnership program.

We were approached to do the same thing. We will send them only what we would like them to publish and they have the right of refusal, but basically, they won't publish everything you see here in the Grapevine, just what we choose to send them. The stories will appear in the online edition of the Herald and possibly later on in print editions. The Herald is the number one newspaper website with one million hits a day. We will be right there on their home page next to the main news under "Community News." You can see how they do it here."
Congratulations Tom! But I'm not sure how to take this. Is your blog getting that much better; or has the Herald finally hit rock bottom?

Don't say anything; I already know the answer!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Crumple zone

We've all experienced this at one time or another.

You're walking down a street with friends when a beautiful classic car in mint condition passes by.

As you watch the '57 Chevy Bel Air or the '56 Ford Fairlane drive away, someone in the group says wistfully, "Boy, they sure don't build them like that any more."

They don't! And that's a good thing.

Look what happened when the folks at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety got together last September and conducted a crash test between a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air and a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu.

Nope! They don't build them like they used to!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Attn.: Drivers on Broad Causeway

If you use the Broad Causeway in Bay Harbor Islands or know someone who does, listen up!

Apparently the Bay Harbor Islands police department has eliminated all crime within the city limits.

Because I've noticed in the past few days at peak travel hours they have a police officer stationed at the toll booths watching as drivers pull up to pay the toll.

They are handing out $129.00 tickets to drivers who aren't buckled up. This may be just a short term push according to this press release.

A friend of mine knows someone who got a ticket there when he unbuckled his seat belt so he could get money out of his pocket to pay the toll.

You've been warned.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Former Miami Herald editor Tom Fiedler doesn't read the National Enquirer

"The past is never dead, it is not even past."~William Faulkner

Former Miami Herald editor Tom Fiedler emerged briefly today from his ivory tower at Boston University, where he's the Dean of the College of Communication, to update the canons of journalism.

The National Enquirer is being considered for a Pulitzer Prize for "being the first and, largely, the only publication pursuing the [former presidential candidate John] Edwards story through his denials of the affair and of fathering a child out of wedlock."

Fiedler and other high-and-mighty types in journalism are aghast that the Enquirer is even being considered. They point to the fact that the tabloid pays its sources. They believe that paying a source taints the veracity of the information. Of course they ignore the fact that the Enquirer never pays until it thoroughly vets its sources and information.

But their reluctance to recognize and accept the Enquirer into their little club reminds me of the Augusta National's opposition to accepting women as members.

What Fiedler - and others - are really afraid of is that they no longer call all the shots in the new information age.

(It was Fiedler, by the way, who broke one of the biggest tabloid stories of the last century: The Gary Hart scandal. And it was the same Tom Fiedler who orchestrated the unwarranted firing of Herald columnist Jim DeFede.)

Fiedler, it seems, is not against "tabloid journalism" when he does it. He's just against "checkbook tabloid journalism."

And although Fiedler's Gary Hart story is a distant memory, his former employer, the Miami Herald, is not above a little "tabloid journalism" from time to time.

In an interview posted on the website of BU's campus newspaper today, Fiedler defines journalism:
Now there’s no question, the National Enquirer did a gotcha. They got John Edwards doing what he was doing. But the end doesn’t justify the means. We have to be able to say that we attained the information by upholding all the ethical standards that journalists believe in. Otherwise it’s not journalism.
The very pompous Fiedler then goes on to say that he read all about the Edwards affair; but he didn't read it in the Enquirer!
I read it only after it had been picked up and attributed to the Enquirer and run through filters. It took the mainstream news organizations a good while, because they needed to try to verify that there was some credibility to it.
Thank God for those mainstream media filters!

Fiedler's imperious attitude speaks volumes about the mindset of people who run newspapers today. And it's a mindset that's destroying newspapers. For too long it's been, "We Write, You Read."

Granted, the National Enquirer isn't everyone's cup of tea. But it still gets respect in some circles; regularly scooping other news outlets on national stories.

The media landscape is changing and the people who put out newspapers are scared. And occasionally they lash out out at anyone who dares to challenge or question the little authority or credibility they have left.

There may be a case to be made against the National Enquirer's brand of journalism. But surely there's someone a little less uptight than Tom Fiedler to argue it.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Return with us now to the glory days of journalism!

They ran "All the President's Men" on cable few nights ago.

For all of you kids out there, the 1976 movie is the story of how two reporters brought down a crooked president.

And like all big stories, it had a Miami connection!

I've seen the movie a dozen times perhaps, but each time I view it is like the first time.

It still gives me goosebumps!

Robert Redford is impeccable as Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward hot on the trail of the Watergate conspirators.

Here's one of the great scenes in the movie where Woodward learns who Charles Colson is and where he also learns that one needs to have some knowledge of Spanish when calling the three-oh-five.

Oh, another note for all you kids out there. That thing that Woodward is talking into is called a dial telephone.

The Great Python Debate continues

Amidst a lot of fanfare, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission held a little photo op out on the edge of the Everglades last month and announced "a special hunting season targeting Burmese pythons on state lands in South Florida March 8 through April 17."

The story took up some space in newspapers and filled about 2 and a half minutes on evening news shows.

But most experts like Frank J. Mazzotti, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida, believe that, "eradication of Burmese pythons is no longer an achievable goal."

Mazzotti thinks population control of the invasive reptiles is a more realistic solution.

NYTimes.com has posted a debate between Mazzotti and two other reptile experts on "what should be done to control the pythons’ spread."

And there are a quite a few well-informed reader comments as well.

And a reminder that next Sunday, Animal Planet will air a documentary on Florida's python problem titled "Killer Aliens."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Miami Go Go!

Found this groovy 1960's ad for National Airlines that features shots of hip young things dancing their cares away on what looks to be an Ocean Drive balcony! There are also shots of the Fountainebleau and Eden Roc. It's nice to see that so little has changed since then! ;)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Rick Sanchez makes "The List U Don't Want 2 Be On"

CNN anchor Rick - "I needed a drink to steady my nerves" - Sanchez, has a little feature on his afternoon show called "The List U Don't Want 2 Be On".

I'm just guessing here, but I'd say if you want to be perceived as a serious and credible cable news anchor, then you'd probably want to avoid ending up on, not only a "list," but a cable comedy show that highlights your stupidity.

But that's exctly what happened Monday when Comedy Central's Jon Stewart analyzed Sanchez's weekend performance during CNN's coverage of the Chilean earthquake and the subsequent tsunami warnings.

As Stewart put it, Sanchez reported on the tsunami warning the way a coked-up guy at a party would explain the strength of ants.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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And for those of you who just can't get enough of Sanchez making a fool of himself, here's a classic clip of Ricky getting tasered for some unexplained reason.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Moment of Zen - Sanchez Taser
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Today's News of the Absurd...

....comes to us from California, a state that's about five minutes away from declaring bankruptcy.

A judge in Yolo County, Calif. has sentenced Robert Preston Ferguson to 7 years and 8 months in state prison for stealing a $3.99 bag of Tillamook shredded cheese.

Ferguson was a candidate for a life sentence under California's "three-strikes" law but the DA's office was only asking for 11 years.

In any event, Mr. Ferguson will be cooling his heels in stir for the next 8 years, - at a cost of about $32,000 a year to California taxpayers.

Last month the L.A. Times reported that, "U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy [in a speech to Los Angeles lawyers] criticized California sentencing policies and crowded prisons Wednesday night, calling the influence that unionized prison guards had in passing the three-strikes law "sick." Said Kennedy:
“California now has 185,000 people in prison at $32,500 a year each, ”he said. He then urged voters and officials to compare that expense to what taxpayers spend per pupil in elementary schools. “The three-strikes law sponsor is the correctional officers’ union and that is sick!” Kennedy said of the measure mandating life sentences for third-time criminal offenders.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Rick Sanchez struggles with the metric system

Rick Sanchez, former Channel 7 anchor and now CNN anchor/buffoon made a complete ass of himself this weekend during CNN's coverage of the Chilean earthquake. Actually, he makes an ass of himself everyday, but as Gawker notes, this weekend he was "more assy than usual."

At one point Sanchez interrupts Georgia Institute of Technology professor Kurt L. Frankel to ask, "Nine meters in English is what?"

That must have gone over real big with CNN's international audience since the metric system is the most widely used system of measurement in the world.