Thursday, March 28, 2013

The sound of humanity scraping bottom

Roman Thomas and Shanteria Sanders
Photos: Miami-Dade Corrections
(Click here to enlarge.)

I've covered some horrific stories in my 30 plus years as a photojournalist in Miami, but I don't believe I've ever covered one as depraved and sickening - even by Miami standards - as this story uncovered by the Miami Herald's David Ovalle.
Miami pimp forced teen to tattoo his name on her eyelids


When a 13-year-old runaway threatened to leave a Miami pimp, police say, he forced her to a Liberty City flea market tattoo shop to ink his street name, “Suave,” on her eyelids.

The vicious twist to a human trafficking case surfaced this month when Miami police arrested Roman Thomas III, 26, who already on probation after serving four years in state prison for having sex with a minor.

Thomas was wearing a state corrections GPS monitor when Miami police arrested him on March 18

The girl, dubbed “Sparkle,” was pimped through the classified advertising website, police say. Thomas and a woman plied the girl with liquor, marijuana and the drug Molly as she had sex with men at the Miami Shores Motel.
Thomas will be formally charged in the new case on April 13. Another woman, Shanteria Sanders, 23, who also has “Suave” tattooed across her chest, also was charged in the case. Both Thomas and Sanders face charges of human trafficking, false imprisonment, lewd and lascivious exhibition and delivery of a controlled substance to a child.

Thomas, 26, has a long criminal history. In 2008, he was charged with attempted murder and other felonies. He wound up pleading guilty to the felony battery and four counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a child between the ages of 12 and 16.

After his four-year prison sentence was done, Thomas was released in September, and placed on five years probation with the ankle monitor.

Click here to read Ovalle's entire story.

The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach writes (another) obituary for newspapers

Miami News, Dec. 31, 1988.
The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach posted some thoughts today on his blog about that "17-year-old kid who sold a $30 million [news] app, called Summly, to Yahoo."

"The app," Achenbach writes, "boils down news stories to 400-character summaries."

Achenbach began his post by talking about why he prefers print over "news apps."

I like the bandwidth of print, and the way a broadsheet paper can organize the world into manageable sections. When I scan the front page I download, instantly, and not entirely consciously, the collective judgment of the editors at the A1 meeting, and although some fundamentalists may object to the notion of filtered information I consider the filtering to be an added value. I don’t want raw data. I don’t want transcripts. I want information that’s already made it through some winnowing processes. I want a veteran reporter’s judgment to shape the story I read about the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on gay marriage, for example. Later, in theory, I could go online to C-Span and hear the event unedited — if I had time. Another thing I like about a newspaper is how easy it is to dig quickly and deeply into the weather report or the sports scores, without having to wait for the page to “load.” Print just feels faster to me.

Achenbach - a former Miami Herald staffer - ended his post with this: "It’s important to remember that revolutionary changes in the news business have been going on for a long time. Yesterday I looked at a story I did in January 1989 for Tropic magazine (Miami Herald) about the closing of the Miami News. That was before the Internet. The closing of a paper is a terrible thing. Who keeps the archives, I wonder, of the News, Miami’s oldest paper? Did any of those old articles ever migrate to the Internet in some fashion?"

I like newspapers when they tell me things I don't know. But when I can tell a newspaper reporter something he - or she - doesn't know, then that's good, too. We both win.

So when Achenbach asked, "Who keeps the archives, I wonder, of the News, Miami’s oldest paper?" And, "Did any of those old articles ever migrate to the Internet in some fashion?", I was more than happy to point out in the comments section of his post that the Miami News archives do indeed, still exist on the Internet.

Achenbach wrapped things up by posting six paragraphs from his 1989 Tropic piece. Achenbach writes that "It was quite an ordeal to get it in [Tropic], as the executives upstairs at Knight Ridder were not happy with our decision to write about their closing of the News. But of course that was 24 years ago. So, you know, who cares?"

I remember reading his piece when it was published. I was curious to see how it would read almost a quarter-century later, so I looked it up.

Here's a bit more of Achenbach's 1989 Tropic story:
The final day should have been a time to stand back and recount the lore of Miami's oldest newspaper, the sediment of 92 years of journalism and five Pulitzer Prizes. It was an institution that covered, created and preserved the local history, having predated by two months the official founding of Miami. This was the paper that in the '30s tried to run Al Capone out of town, that in the '40s helped shut down the S&G crime syndicate, that in the '50s pushed early for civil rights and exposed migrant labor horrors, that in the '60s broke the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis and criticized the Vietnam War at a time when few others dared speak so harshly. It was once known as the best second paper in the country, a writer's paper that threw the Five W's out the window and tried to be fun and smart. It was one of the few liberal papers in the South, with nothing to be ashamed of except perhaps a brief stretch in the '70s when the screaming street edition ran headlines like How I Met My Animal Lover and Starving Mothers Eat Babies and Pope: I Am Not Gay.

A few times in recent weeks Kleinberg and Keasler and Don Wright, the editorial cartoonist who started as a copy boy in the early 1950s, paused to pitch a little lore. Keasler arrived at The News 30 years ago on a Monday. That Wednesday, there was a rumor that the paper would fold. "Sure enough, 30 years later, it did," Keasler says.

Back then there was a poker game every day in the photography lab, lasting hours into the night. You could also gamble at darts, or play chess. No one wore a tie and the copy editors had green eyeshades. When The News staffers moved to the Herald building in 1966 they thought it hysterical that The Herald employed security guards. How pompous. There were always pranks: One time the sports editor came back from vacation and found his office filled with an inflated 12-foot weather balloon; Kleinberg had a portable outhouse delivered and placed on the publisher's manicured lawn; on Kleinberg's 25th anniversary the staff put out the edition a little early and fled, so that when Kleinberg came back from lunch the newsroom was utterly vacant. He said he thought he had died and gone to hell.

-Joel Achenbach on the death of the Miami News - Tropic Magazine, Jan. 29, 1989.

Your lunch hour time waster

Cute dog photobombs its owner's Craigslist ad.

Click images to enlarge.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Finally, an honest headline from the Miami Herald

To say they have major staffing problems at the Miami Herald is like saying Miami gets warm in the summer.

In the past 6 months or so, at least 4 experienced reporters have quit.

In addition to those, Investigations Editor Michael Sallah left to join the Washington Post. A veteran reporter and a veteran photographer retired after 42 years and 40 years of service respectively.

Just last week, business writer Elaine Walker announced she was leaving the paper to go to work for a law firm. A handful of other staffers have hinted at retirement plans.

And, according to Frank Alvarado at Miami New Times, "Scott Hiaasen, genius reporter and son of famed columnist Carl Hiaasen, is off to clerk for a judge. 'I haven't gotten a raise in ten years,' he says."

The common thread that connects all the recent departures is that none of the people who've left have been replaced. None. Zero.

Instead, Herald honchos have resorted to playing newsroom musical chairs and whack-a-mole to fill key assignments.

When education reporter Laura Isensee left last year to join a public radio station in Texas, David Smiley who had been covering Miami Beach, was moved to the education beat.

Several years ago, David Ovalle, who had been covering the police beat, was reassigned to cover courts. That left the newspaper that won its first Pulitzer in 1951 for crime coverage, without a full-time reporter covering the crime and cops beat.

To fill that gap, the Herald now copies and pastes crime stories from TV station websites...or, on some days, it just ignores crime stories altogether.

But, there is one bright spot.

If you're among the four or five people in Miami who believe it's never too soon for another page one story from the island nation of Haiti, there's reason to rejoice.

While the Herald skimps on crime coverage at a time when many of Miami's poor and not-so-poor neighborhoods have turned into outdoor shooting galleries; the paper always manages to find the resources to cover Haiti.

But, at least now they're being honest with readers about where their priorities lie. Take a look at this morning's front page.

Click here to enlarge.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Miami-Dade Police looking for a serial thief who targets unsuspecting women at Falls Shopping Center

From the Random Pixels Crime Desk...

Miami-Dade Police are looking for a particularly brazen female serial thief who has stolen purses from unsuspecting women at several restaurants at the Falls Shopping Center. They believe the woman is responsible for thefts dating as far back as Aug. 2011.

Now, there's a clear video of the subject and cops are hoping someone recognizes her and gives them a call.

Friday, August 19, 2011, at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, September 30, 2011, at 9:05 p.m.

Friday, January 13, 2012, at 8:15 p.m.

Monday, March, 12, 2012, at 8:20 p.m.

Monday, April 23, 2012, at 4:30 p.m.

Friday, December 14, 2012, at 8:15 p.m.

ADDRESS OF OCCURRENCE: Several restaurants (P.F. Chang's, Outback Steakhouse and B.J.'s Restaurant & Brewhouse) located in/near the Falls Shopping Center located at 8888 S.W 136th Street.

VICTIM(S): Not Available



SUBJECT(S): Unknown female

NAME: Unknown



The Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) is investigating a subject that is responsible for the theft of at least 6 purses between August 19, 2011, and December 14, 2012. In each case, the modus operandi remains consistent.

The subject enters a restaurant and targets an unsuspecting female victim who has placed her purse on the back of her chair or underneath the bar. Once the victim is distracted, the subject steals the victim’s purse and quickly exits the restaurant. The subject has stolen thousands of dollars from the victims and is known to use their credit cards for purchases in the area.

MDPD has obtained surveillance video that captures the image of the subject. Investigators are seeking the assistance of the community in identifying and/or locating this individual.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact CrimeStoppers

(305) 471-TIPS (8477) or (866) 471-8477

Visit and select “Give a Tip”

Send a text message to 274637. Enter CSMD followed by the tip information and press send.

Your mid-afternoon time waster

CAUTION: Images in the following video may be disturbing to some viewers. You've been warned.
LeBron James Photobombs Ray Allen During Interview.

Miami Herald prepares to write the next chapter (cont.)

As the Miami Herald gets ready to move into a new building in Doral, Random Pixels looks back at some key dates and events in the paper's history.

1949 - Oct 1: Fire sweeps through Miami Herald newsprint warehouse causing an estimated $600,000 in damage. 

1951 - May 8: Herald wins first Pulitzer Prize for crime reporting.

1954 - Dec. 30: Miami Herald Publishing Company buys the Charlotte Observer for $7 million.

1958 - June 3: Herald announces plans for $20 million building on Biscayne Bay.

1959 - Dec. 22: Herald reporter Jim Buchanan is released after 14 days in a Cuban prison.

Undated photo of John S. Knight "pouring" concrete for
new Miami Herald building.

1962 - Feb. 18: A right-wing city of Miami water meter reader bombs the home of Miami Herald editor Don Shoemaker.

1963 - March 23: Herald moves into new building on Biscayne Bay.

May 31: Herald dedicates new Broward bureau on Sunrise Boulevard.

1965 - May 6: Herald Latin American editor Al Burt and photographer Doug Kennedy are shot by Marines in Dominican Republic as they cover the revolution.

1966 - July 30: Herald and Miami News begin joint operation.

Miami News, July 30, 1966.

Source: Miami Herald, Sept. 15, 2002.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Random Pixels feel-good video of the day

Tessa, the blind dog that couldn't walk.

The way we were...Miami Beach Police Department's 'Silent Service' fights crime in 1957

Fifty-five years ago, the Miami Beach Police Department went high-tech in the war against crime; equipping some of its officers with state-of-the-art Schwinn bicycles and walkie-talkies!

Miami News, Dec. 13, 1957.
Click here
to enlarge.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

New York Times travel writer searches for 'classic, uncool' Miami

Liesel Schillinger.
Back in  February, the New York Times sent a writer named Liesel Schillinger to Miami to write a 2900 word travel piece....or as she calls it, "My love song to the uncool but classic Miami."

Schillinger says she's been coming to Miami since 1991 and that she's "returned a dozen times over the past two decades."
For 22 years, I’ve been trying to get Miami right. It’s my personal “Groundhog Day”; the place where, with each successive trip, I try to fix something that went south on a previous visit or add a new element to my Florida rotation.
Schillinger's strategy to "fix" whatever had gone wrong on previous visits included a plan to immerse herself in “classic, uncool” Miami. "It’s the uncool stuff that’s cool about Miami," writes Schillinger.

A friend who alerted me to Schillinger's piece, added this note:
The NYT goes to Miami to find the real Miami…and discovers Joe's Stone Crabs, Puerto Sagua AND EVERGLADES ALLIGATORS!!!!!


The writer also ducked in to Club Deuce AND spent $80 on "two drinks and eight marshallow-size [sic] lumps of raw fish" at Juvia.

Psst: she mentioned this cool place on Ocean Drive called The News Café. Maybe the next time I come to Miami we can meet up there, but I don't know if I'll be able to find it.

I guess that's why they're the gold standard of American Journalism: always finding those out of the way, unusual things to write about.
And while Schillinger's story will appear on the front page of the Times' Sunday travel section, it's not really a travel piece about Miami.

It's all about her.

Here's how a journalist friend summed up the piece:
Oh, yawn. This is what I call a "watch-me-write" piece. All about me, me, me and my attempts at clever turns of phrase. Too much travel writing is exactly that. I don't care about your K-Mart sandals and sweeping generalizations. Really, I don't. There is precisely no useful information here.
So, if you're reading this, Liesel, here's a little advice based on more than a half century of living in South Florida:
  • Stay away from the Espanola Way restaurants/tourist traps and airboat rides at Everglades "alligator farms."

  • Forget about the "outrageously expensive new restaurant or louche dive bar ... being buzzed about by your Northern foodie" friends.
  • Instead, before your next visit, do some actual research that doesn't involve getting recommendations from your hipster friends.

    A good place to start would be picking up and reading anything by Jeff Klinkenberg of the Tampa Bay Times. (His latest book is the surprisingly charming, "Alligators in B-Flat: Improbable Tales From the Files of Real Florida.")

    Another good source for finding things that aren't "touristic" is the Miami New Times Best of Miami issue.

    And, next time you come down, if you want to see alligators and snakes, avoid the cheesy airboat tours and snake farms. Those places are strictly for tourists. Instead, shoot me an email and I'll hook you up with South Florida's most knowledgeable wildlife biologist, Joe Wasilewski.

    And, who knows, you might actually turn in a travel piece that doesn't mention the News Café or read and sound like every other travel piece the New York Times has published in the last 20 years.

    Friday, March 22, 2013

    'We didn’t know how good we had it'

    Photograph by Hannah Sampson

    I was at the paper from 1982 to 1990, and made it downtown in 1984 after stints in various bureaus. I can’t imagine that any newspaper in the country had a better view out the windows. We gazed upon the bay neighborhoods of the Venetian Isles, and Hibiscus and Palm and Star islands; the seaplanes taking off for Bimini and the Bahamas; cruise ships coming in and out of Government Cut; the distant hotels of Miami Beach; the spoil islands in the bay that the artist Christo surrounded with pink plastic, turning them into giant flowers. Birds. Sailboats. Helicopters. Water everywhere. Blue skies.

    We didn’t know how good we had it.

    One Herald Plaza: Notes from an Irish wake, by Joel Achenbach


    Thursday, March 21, 2013

    Opa Locka: same sh*t, different day

    The tiny, crime and corruption-plagued city of Opa-Locka got a new police chief Wednesday.

    At an outdoor press conference at city hall, outgoing police chief Cheryl Cason introduced her successor, former North Miami police commander Jeffrey Key.

    Key is the city's 13th police chief in 20 years.

    Key wasted no time in announcing that his top priority was to "reduce crime" in the 4.1 square-mile municipality.

    But as he spoke those words, according to the Miami Herald's Julie Brown, "thieves were smashing car windows about half a football field away, directly in front of city hall. No one, including the chief, noticed the crime as it was taking place. Two Miami Herald reporters discovered the break-ins to their cars after the news conference had ended."

    Brand-new Opa-Locka Police Chief Jeffrey Key has some advice
    for anyone visiting City Hall.
    (Click here to enlarge.)

    It's an understatement to say that Opa-Locka is in deep doo-doo.

    From the Herald:
    Key replaces Cheryl Cason, who recently retired. Cason, her arms locked with Key during the public announcement, said she was proud to pass her baton to Key, whom she encouraged to go into law enforcement more than 20 years ago.

    Cason, hired in 1984, has had her tenure with the force marred by two failed drug tests and more than 22 disciplinary charges before she was named chief.

    Key thanked the mayor, city commissioners and city manager, saying that he was honored to walk in Cason’s footsteps....

    Put another way, Opa-Locka's new police chief told the media and his bosses that he's "honored to walk in the footsteps" of one of the most corrupt and inept police chiefs to ever serve in South Florida.

    Something tells me that Jeff Key's administration probably won't be all that different from that of Cheryl Cason's.

    Stay tuned. 


    Dec. 2011: Sarasota Herald Tribune finds the state's dirtiest cop right here in South Florida

    Wednesday, March 20, 2013

    Miami Marlins reward longtime season ticket holders with threat of a lawsuit

    From Tim Elfrink at Miami New Times:
    First the Marlins alienated every taxpayer in Miami with their stadium deal. Then they pissed off every casual fan with a mass offseason firesale. Now the team is burning bridges with the only true-blue Fish fanatics left -- longtime season-ticket holders.

    That's how Jan and Bill Leon are feeling, at least. The couple has paid tens of thousands [of dollars] for front-row season tickets since 1998. But last year, after the team installed an obtrusive billboard that blocks their view and dangerously obscures ground balls, the Leons asked to move into a different section. Their reward? A lawsuit threat.

    Read the complete story by clicking here.

    Monday, March 18, 2013

    Miami Herald prepares to write the next chapter (cont.)

    As the Miami Herald gets ready to move into a new building in Doral, Random Pixels looks back at some key dates and events in the paper's history.

    1944 - Nov 18: Dade Circuit judges cite Herald for contempt for publishing two editorials and a cartoon criticizing the court.

    1945 - July 24: Florida Supreme Court upholds contempt conviction.

    1946 - June 3: U.S. Supreme Court overturns contempt conviction.

    1947 - Jan. 7: Herald founder Frank Shutts dies.

    1948 - Dec. 23: Members of Typographical Union local go on strike at Herald.

    1949 - May 31: Miami Herald reporter Steve Trumbull slugged by a state senator in Tallahassee.

    Source: Miami Herald, Sept. 15, 2002.

    Friday, March 15, 2013

    Carnival Cruise Lines revamps its website

    News item:
    Mechanical woes hit two more Carnival cruise ships

    Carnival Cruise Lines says two more of its ships had mechanical problems Thursday. One cruise was cut short and the second had one land stop canceled.

    This, after an engine fire last month crippled the Carnival Triumph, leaving 4,200 people stranded for five days without working toilets or power.

    In a statement late Thursday, the world's largest cruise line said the Carnival Legend was experiencing a technical issue with one of the ship's Azipod units, which affects the vessel's sailing speed.

    I feel for the passengers on the stricken ships, but shouldn't they have sensed something wasn't quite right after visiting Carnival's website?

    I mean, c'mon people!

    Click here to enlarge.

    Thursday, March 14, 2013

    Who says they don't have a sense of humor at the Miami Herald?

    Who says the Miami Herald editors don't have a sense of humor? Or, for that matter, the Catholic cardinals who selected the new Pope.

    In 1980, the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami complained to the FCC about "offensive, abusive and crude" comments talk show host Neil Rogers made about the Pope on his radio show.

    And now, this happens.....

    Click here to enlarge.

    Photo combo by Alfred Spellman.

    Tuesday, March 12, 2013

    South Florida blogger and FAA employee gets his wings clipped, goes down in flames

    South Florida blogger "Rick" shut down his blog over the weekend.

    A legend in his own mind, "Rick" - a long-time Federal Aviation Administration employee - decided that after close to a decade of blogging on the dime of the U.S. taxpayer, it was time to take a break.

    "Call it burnout, call it frustration, call it a desire to regain some of the health that I've lost somewhere along the way as I've spent countless hours hunched over a keyboard...," he told his readers.

    Here at Random Pixels, we know better.

    In the past few months we'd noticed that "Rick" was becoming more and more unglued with each passing day.

    He reached his tipping point about a month ago when he attacked Miami Herald political writer Marc Caputo, calling him a "Republican hack."

    On good days "Rick" was a precise and entertaining writer.

    (He always struck us as the kind of guy whose skivvies are monogrammed with the days of the week and who spends hours on the weekend ironing his socks.)

    But on his bad days - when he went off his meds - "Rick's" screeds began to sound a lot like the ravings of that unfortunate homeless soul you occasionally encounter in downtown Miami who asks you for ten bucks so he can have surgery to remove the microchip the CIA implanted in his head in the 70s.

    However, on most days his writings simply resembled those of the people he railed against.

    Some of "Rick's" devoted fans were devastated upon learning that he was closing up shop. 

    But not everyone who followed his blog was a fan.

    And while "Rick's" departure from the blogosphere was - to put it mildly - "melodramatic," we like to think there were more reasons for his sudden exit than just "frustration" or a simple case of "burnout."

    Maybe there was something more sinister involved.

    After all, the Herald's Marc Caputo does have friends in high places.....

    Click here to enlarge.

    Your lunch hour time waster

    From Jimmy Kimmel... Confusing Question of the Day: What do you think of Obama pardoning the sequester and sending it to Portugal?

    Miami Herald prepares to write the next chapter (cont.)

    As the Miami Herald gets ready to move into a new building in Doral, Random Pixels looks back at some key dates and events in the paper's history.

    Miami Daily News, Oct. 16, 1937.

    1937 - Oct. 15: James and John Knight purchase the Herald.

    [1940 - May 1: John Knight buys Detroit Free Press.]

    1941 - Feb. 1: Frank Stoneman dies.

    Nov. 16: Herald dedicates new building at 200 S. Miami Ave.

    Source for unbracketed dates: Miami Herald, Sept. 15, 2002.

    Miami Herald ownership transfers from Frank Shutts, (left)
    to John S. Knight, Oct. 15, 1937.
    (Photo via Florida Memory)

    Sunday, March 10, 2013

    Miami Herald prepares to write the next chapter

     The Miami Herald is in the midst of moving out of the building at One Herald Plaza - its home for half a century - and into a new building in Doral.

    I'm told the move will happen over three weekends -- with various departments moving starting mid- to late-April and ending in early May. Logistics are still in the works.

    In the coming weeks, I'll attempt to highlight  key dates and events in the paper's history.

    1903 - Sept. 15: Frank Stoneman publishes first edition of Miami Evening Record.

    1907 - July 31: Last edition of Miami Evening Record (merged with Miami Morning News).

    Dec. 2: First issue of Miami Morning News Record.

    1910 - Aug. 22: Frank Shutts takes over failing Record.

    Nov. 30: Last edition of Morning News Record.

    Dec. 1: First edition of The Miami Herald, published by Shutts with financial backing of Henry Flagler; Frank Stoneman, editor.

    Source: Miami Herald, Sept. 15, 2002.

    The Daily Metropolis, Dec. 1, 1910.

    Friday, March 08, 2013

    Friday night blues

    Junker's Blues with King Curtis & Champion Jack Dupree.

    Live from Montreux June 17th 1971 with Cornell Dupree on guitar, Jerry Jemmott on bass and Oliver Jackson on drums. Filmed two months before King Curtis' tragic death.

    Thursday, March 07, 2013

    Miami-Dade Metrorail security guard throws Grandma from the train [UPDATED x1]

    UPDATED at 5:50pm, March 7, 2013: I just received this statement from the Office of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez: 

    (MIAMI, March 7, 2013) – "We are sorry that this incident occurred and apologize to Mrs. Anderson. The situation should have been handled with more care and common sense. We have made it clear to all County employees and contractors that our patrons must be treated with dignity and respect. We are in the process of reviewing our policies and procedures to ensure special consideration is taken when dealing with the elderly and people with special needs."


    There's been another incident involving a Metrorail security guard and a passenger that has me wondering, once again, who in the hell is in charge at Miami-Dade Transit?

    Last January, Miami blogger and First Amendment activist Carlos Miller was accosted, handcuffed and dragged down an escalator by 50 State security guards at the Government Center Metrorail station.

    Shortly after the incident, I wrote a post asking, "Who's in charge at Miami-Dade Transit?"

    The latest incident involving a 50 States security guard and a passenger bears a few similarities to Miller's experience, but with one glaring difference.

    Miller is a burly man is his 40s who gives as good as he gets.

    But, in a confrontation last February, a frail,  82-year-old woman named Emma Anderson was dragged off the train by a security guard for singing Gospel hymns.

    Another passenger captured the incident with his cell phone camera. In the video, Thompson can be seen falling down on the train platform after being dragged off the train by the security guard.

    But what's almost as shocking as the incident itself, is a statement on the incident from Miami-Dade Transit spokesperson Karla Damian. In it, Damian tacitly condones the guard's thug-like behavior:
    Miami-Dade Transit has a responsibility to all its passengers to provide a safe and comfortable travel experience. The elderly passenger, Ms. Anderson, who was escorted from a Metrorail train, was initially asked by a security guard to refrain from singing loudly and playing an instrument while on the train.

    She refused to comply. County rules associated with transit use prohibit anyone from singing, dancing or playing a musical instrument unless a commercial permit is issued by MDT. Further, Ms. Anderson’s singing was causing a disturbance to other passengers and impeding important train announcements from being heard.

    We regret that Ms. Anderson had to eventually be escorted out, but regardless of age, all passengers need to abide by the rules associated with using transit.

    But thankfully, not all county employees are as clueless or insensitive as Karla Damian.

    In an email sent this morning, Suzy Trutie, Assistant Director of Communications for Miami-Dade County, tells me, "This morning, Transit staff is meeting with the security company to discuss the incident, the guard’s actions and all policies. We expect all of our employees and vendors to treat all customers with dignity and respect."

    Hopefully, the continued unprofessional behavior by Miami-Dade Transit's security "vendor" will be addressed in the strongest possible terms with 50 States executives.

    But, until that happens, I've taken the liberty of revamping the Miami-Dade Transit homepage with a design that more closely reflects the agency's image. You're welcome!

    Click here to enlarge.

    Today's classic Don Wright cartoon

    November,1981...TIME Magazine's unflattering portrait of South Florida hits the newsstands. 

    Chamber of commerce and tourism official were sent into a state of shock after reading quotes like this in the magazine:  “I see people walking down the streets openly carrying guns, some in their hands, others in their holsters. You don’t dare honk your horn at anybody; you could end up dead.” 

    Miami News cartoonist Don Wright responded to the hysteria with this classic cartoon.

    Miami News, Nov. 17, 1981.
    (Click to enlarge.)

    Wednesday, March 06, 2013

    Alvin Lee, 1944-2013

    British blues rock great Alvin Lee, a guitarist and singer whose scorching performance at Woodstock propelled his band Ten Years After to wide fame, died on Wednesday of "unforeseen complications" from a routine surgery, family members announced on his website. He was 68.

    Your pre-rush hour time waster

    A classic Saturday Night Live bit from 1975....which, for some unknown reason, just popped into my head last night.

    Saturday night live, franco still dead, chevy chase, generalissimo francisco franco still dead

    Monday, March 04, 2013

    Your lunch hour time waster

    Via earthtouch:

    Nature photographer has a close encounter with a lioness in Botswana.

    Very close.

    Sunday, March 03, 2013

    The Grand Bay Hotel in Coconut Grove...Going, going, almost gone...

    The Grand Bay, then....

    Miami News, May 31, 1983.
    (Click here to enlarge.)



    Miami Herald
    Sunday, December 4, 1983

    It is billed as a hotel for executives, which sounds like gray-suited pipe smokers sitting next to big spitoons, clearing their throats and checking stock tickers.

    So how come this place called the Grand Bay Hotel rises above Coconut Grove like a giant Mayan wedge, with bougainvillea dripping from terraced balconies?

    And how come the rooms are filled with baby grand pianos, spiral stairways, canopied beds and bathtubs as big as volcanic craters?

    And why has the hotel 's grand opening cocktail party for 1,200 next Friday become, as the Grand Bay 's sales director puts it, "the most coveted invitation of the social season?"
    A room at the Grand Bay isn't cheap. To get a two-level suite with a spiral stairway and a baby grand piano you must have a baby grand expense account. Those top-of-the-line suites go for $375 a night. (Only two of them come with pianos).

    A special corporate rate for single or double rooms, sans piano, is all the way down there at $90 a night, and still includes a pretty big bathtub.

    That rate, along with the hotel 's style and list of amenities, has inspired nearly 100 corporations to open accounts with the Grand Bay.

    Doormen at Grand Bay Hotel, Jan. 9, 1986.
    Photo - Al Diaz/Miami Herald.

    Limo driver in front of the Grand Bay in Coconut Grove, Jan. 19, 1989.
    Photo - Mary Lou Foy/Miami Herald.


    There was a time when Miami tourists couldn't do better than stay at the Grand Bay Hotel. Now homeless people sleep in the lobby.

    Miami Herald
    April 3, 2010

    Pigeons live in the barren penthouse nightclub of the former Grand Bay, South Florida's last five-star hotel.

    A vagrant recently went to the bathroom in the vacant lobby, where black graffiti colors the walls. The dining room hints of smoke, the remnant of a campfire built on the polished cherry floors.

    No local hotel has suffered as steep a fall as Coconut Grove's Grand Bay, which closed two years ago for a $20 million renovation and never reopened.

    Now the subject of a protracted foreclosure fight, the boarded-up hotel offers no hint -- inside or out -- that it once epitomized the lavish and libertine Miami of the 1980s.

    "It was hot. It was the place," said David Feder, general manager of the Turnberry Isle resort in Aventura and a long-time hotelier in South Florida.

    '"If you were thinking luxury in Miami, you thought the Grand Bay Hotel."

    Michael Jackson and his entourage occupied two floors during their stay in 1984 before the late singer's Orange Bowl concert. Liberace requested a Baby Grand piano for his suite.

    On the ground floor sat the Grand Cafe, where the French chef served Everglades frog legs with sheep's cheese polenta. Waiters offered guests white gloves with newspapers to prevent soiled fingers.

    Abandoned Grand Bay Hotel, April 1, 2010.
    Photo - Al Diaz/Miami Herald.


    ...and now.

    "Demolition is almost completed and the pilings and site construction
    [on Grove at Grand Bay] will commence between March 15 – April 1.
    The vertical upward movement ofconstruction will commence
    between mid April and the first part of May."
    -via Cervera Real Estate.


    Video by Bill Brothers

    Saturday, March 02, 2013

    'The Incredible Shrinking Herald' ... 2.0

    From Miami New Times, June 8, 1995.


    "People are fleeing in record numbers and not being replaced. Morale has hit bottom. News coverage has been severely curtailed. Money is scarce. And the corporate big shots love it." -"The Incredible Shrinking Herald," by Jim DeFede. Miami New Times, June 8, 1995

    The Miami Herald held its "annual meeting" at Jungle Island on Thursday.

    The purpose of these yearly affairs is to get Herald staffers together in one room and bring them up to speed on what's going on at the paper.  And to remind them that they're supposed to be "excited" about working at Miami's "24/7 Information Source."

    Think Amway convention meets North Korean pep rally

    Meeting organizers got the troops in the spirit of things by handing out miniature tambourines emblazoned with the Herald logo. They were also given the chance to take home a piece of the soon-to-be-demolished Herald building: swag bags with chunks of marble from the lobby were handed out.

    At the meeting, much of the talk centered around the paper's upcoming move to its new building in Doral.

    The affair was catered by Doral-area restaurants which staffers will presumably be patronizing since the new building doesn't have a cafeteria.

    There were some light-hearted moments also: A video was screened that showed Herald publisher David Landsberg preparing for the move to the new building by being bound and trussed in bubble-wrap.

    Staffers, I'm told, left the meeting with a renewed sense of purpose and a clear vision of their goal in life: Producing South Florida's best newspaper.

    And that was in evidence the very next day.

    Splashed across Friday's front page was an example of good, old-fashioned American journalism - a hard-hitting, no-punches-pulled, page-one piece on .... Early Child Development.

    (Dave Lawrence may have retired as publisher in 1999, but he still knows how to pitch a story.)

    "The Herald has developed a great sensitivity, even a skittishness, about offending local leaders. It's hard to even find a news picture on the front of the local page any more. There is just this steady stream of pictures of kids smiling or Smurfs on parade or something else like it." -Kevin Hall, former Tropic magazine editor, quoted in Miami New Times, June 8, 1995.

    What wasn't brought up at the Jungle Island pep rally, was any talk of recent departures of key Herald staffers including, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and editor Michael Sallah, education reporter Laura Isensee, Caribbean and Latin America reporter Frances Robles, photographer Tim Chapman and healthcare issues reporter John Dorschner....staffers who apparently won't be replaced in the forseeable future. The Herald hasn't made a new hire in years.

    Miami Herald employees pose in front of building, circa 2003.

    But if you're a Herald reader, there's still reason to be hopeful. 

    Sure, the paper's coverage of local stories that actually impact readers' lives is a spotty and haphazard.

    But, its coverage of the failed nation of Haiti is second to none. And, if you're like me, you just can't wait to read another page one story about Haiti...after all the important local stories have been covered.

    And, the paper still has a dance critic.

    Friday, March 01, 2013