Monday, December 31, 2012

Art Reigns Supreme: Miami's Best of 2012

  1. Pulse Art Fair, Miami Project, Art Asia during Art Basel
  2. Critical Mass Bicycle Rides (on the last Friday of every month)
  3. Miami Heat becoming NBA Champs and Lebron doing his magnificent dance
  4. The Artist being held over for several weeks at the Coral Gables Art Cinema 
  5. Marley, 144 minutes of reggae rapture and respect screened at the O Cinema 
  6. Black Violin laying low at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center
  7. Miami Book Fair International: Miami Dade College keeping it literary for 29 years
  8. Zak the Baker, Panther Coffee, Lagniappe: art, craft, eating, and drinking
  9. ULTRA musicfestival: massive electronic music bacchanal in Bayfront Park
  10. Miami Made Festival at the Arsht: free, local, and creative

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Binders Full of Women

I think Sarah Silverman said it something like this: Mitt Romney is one of the most progressive thinkers of 1950.

No matter where you sit, it is rather true. Looking at his beautiful family -- I mean through black and white television lenses, the Romney's are the classic throwbacks. They look like tee off time at the country club. They need argyles. Tennis whites. Big bowls of Wheaties at the kitchen table. Ann is Mrs. Cleaver. Father Knows Best. Walter Cronkite on the 6:00 news. Baseball games played in the afternoon. Notre Dame, or should I say Brigham Young on the field.

And so at the second debate, when Mitt Romney uses an expression about "binders full of women", it evokes something oddly and otherworldly time-warped, before Richie Cunningham, before Dallas, before Dynasty. Straight outta middle America, Governor Romney is indeed the man who can take 10% of Americans back to 1950, right back to sandwiches on tiered platters with the edges of the white bread snipped off so that Mr. Romney's five toothy sons don't have to suffer with the crust.

This is Mitt Romney's hope for the future.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Compassion, Lies, and Imbecility

I remember when President Bush brought up compassionate conservatism; I was offended. President Bush had this effect on people. However, thinking back, I think I may have misjudged him. Now, I suspect he may have meant it in some peculiar, alternative universe way. In any case, times have changed. Compassion is no longer beautiful, especially on the right side of our politics.
Working with young people reveals a lot about their parents. Frankly, there is little compassion for the poor. Many of my "religious" students say things that stun me. These may be sporadic occasions, but nonetheless a few times a week. It is a sort of mantra they have to hear at home: poor people are lazy. It is stated dispassionately. It is said without thought -- as a matter of fact. It is though -- a sort of fictional fact. And it suits a demented, new American, Republican narrative quite too well.
Make no mistake about it, it is a wealthy Republican narrative. Then again, it didn't use to be the way they talked. My parents were Republicans. They never spoke this way. Not surprisingly, we were not rich. Yet things change, and as the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer, the message has become far less merciful, more unreasonable, intemperate, out of balance, and irrational.
I know poor people well -- years on the playground and concrete have shown me how most poor people get up and go to work every day with little to show for it. Yes, there may be an occasional hustle (and this is also hard work), but the majority of the poor do not float the hackneyed, welfare Cadillac. There may be moments of crooked shadiness, but it is the inverse of the corrupt deceptions practiced and refined by the rich. I know rich people too  -- I work for the extraordinarily privileged. They are typically kind and generous, but they are divorced from reality, living as they do in mansions and behind gates, chilling in massive Range Rovers and sequestered in steakhouses. It is their entitlement, the province of privilege.

Though many people may know both groups, more often, we have become segregated beyond repair. The poor imagine the rich. The rich imagine the poor. And while the poor idealize the rich, these days, the rich chastise the poor, a consequence being GOP policies which terrorize the poor. The ties no longer bind. It is often cold-blooded, and increasingly Machiavellian. The perpetrators victimize real victims by suggesting the rich have been victimized. As Governor Romney did, they distinguish the 47% who "take" from the 53% who "make". The 47% "freeload" from the 53% who "work". The 47% spoil the country. The 53% are here to revive it. It is a fairy tale.The defense of it is a fabrication. It takes misrepresentation to defend it. The deceit is indefensible, and those who spin these lies carelessly invent them. They need not even be precise; the fiction has rooted itself. Imagine, there is an industry designed to craft distortions which defend themselves against the very distortions they craft. The only truth reality may be that they believe the swindle itself. It is a sick sort of matrix they have created.
We may be over the edge. In order to respond to the fallacies, another deep-pocketed industry must face up to them. It is depressing. I grew up thinking that one day, we might see reason rule. Desperately, I hang on to hope by a thread. Perhaps the poor are somehow uncontainable and I have missed this, but I doubt it. It is the opposite, and it is obvious. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries

Despite all of life's difficulties, when I can remember to think philosophically, it is a bowl of cherries. Today is 9/11. When this dreadful tragedy occurred, like billions of others, I was NOT on the scene. When the first plane hit one of the towers, nobody really knew what was going on. In my workplace, the word spread that something had occurred in Manhattan. As a result, I turned on my office TV just in time to see another plane hit another tower. Then we figured it out.

Everyone reacted differently. Some immediately panicked; others took it in stride.Some worried; others regarded it randomly. Some felt an instant patriotism that lasted for a time; some still feel it. Others just felt sick. Inside President Bush's government, a small group exploited it and led us on an expensive wild goose chase that we still suffer from and that the perpetrators distance themselves from. Essentially, they hijacked the hijacking. Meanwhile, frankly, it has been President Obama who has straightened out Al-Qaeda.

Random acts of violence are horrific, happen too frequently, and cannot be avoided. Once upon a time, when something bad happened, we used a peculiar old-fashioned word to describe it: an accident. 9/11, with all its planning, all its miraculously lucky fiendishness, all our faulty intelligence, and all the time to examine it from afar, was an extraordinary accident. 

Lives were altered; this is an understatement. However, we are just bugs in the grand scheme -- wasps. And life is a bowl of cherries.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote a lot of beautiful music. Mr. David passed away Saturday in LA. Having written nearly 700 songs, Mr. David is way beyond legend.

Here is a partial list:

24 Hours from Tulsa
A House is Not a Home
America Is
American Beauty Rose
Anyone Who Had a Heart
Blue on Blue
Close to You
Do You Know the Way to San Jose
Don't Make Me Over
I Say a Little Prayer
It Was Almost Like a Song
Johnny Get Angry
Magic Moments
Make It Easy on Yourself
Message to Michael
My Heart is an Open Book
One Less Bell to Answer
Open Your Arms to the World
Promises, Promises
Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head
Reach Out for Me
The April Fools
The Look of Love
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
There's Always Something There
to Remind Me
This Guy's in Love With You
To All the Girls I've Loved Before
Trains and Boats and Planes
Walk on By
What the World Needs Now is Love
What's New Pussycat?
Wishin' and Hopin'
Wives and Lovers
You'll Never Get to Heaven
(If you Break My Heart)

Here's an article about Mr. David.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fashion Week: Bread & Butter

Putting my swag to work, my press credentials and I entered Tempelhof Flughafen, transformed into Bread & Butter, Berlin Fashion Week's massive exhibition space on the site of the defunct, Albert Speer designed 1934 airport terminal. There, beautiful people like me were buying, selling, photographing, observing, and enjoying all that the fashion world has to share. No one left the scene without an imprinted cloth bag filled with catalogs, business cards, or stickers emblazoned with evidence like "Officially Stylish."

This is Berlin's Art Basel, and in some ways, it is grander. Comparing one place to another is always silly, but both provide the raison d'être for a number of people inside the fashion and art galaxies. While both provide ample opportunity for both cognescenti and vagabond, Berlin's shabby chic flows throughout the festivities. There is always a bit of pretense at these gatherings; still this is more down to earth than a fox hunt, golf tournament, or country club wedding. On the other hand, there was a polo match going on while I was checking out the Converse high-tops.

The fashion included the accessable things -- boots, jeans, jackets, and belts -- that everyone will buy. At Art Basel, nobody who would be caught hanging out with me will ever buy anything they see there. At Art Basel, there's nothing good to eat. At Bread & Butter, I scarfed down an organic currywurst. I left with a tie-dyed shirt, a Desigual sack, and a frog keychain.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2012

Once again, it is Fashion Week in Berlin and Mercedes-Benz is the primary supporter of the catwalk. I'm no expert on fashion, but I know the difference between fashionable and Façonnable. And so, if you are a commoner, you know that Hugo Boss will be present, as will 100 other designers that you have never heard about.

Fashion, being competitive, depends upon creative re-interpretations of creative interpretations;in other words, last year's 14 centimeter collar must inevitable yield to this years 11 centimeter collar. Cobalt must step aside as pomegranite did in order for havarti to overwhelm us in a jumpsuit. Hunkemöller will reveal its new Dutch influenced lingerie as the clean cuts of Burce Bekrek display the latest ideas from Turkey.

I first attended Fashion Week about 6 years ago, and I've been festering over the indignity caused by being moved from my first row seat to row three. Despite this humiliation -- in front of all my fellow journalists -- not to rub it in, but I could still see better, or should I say be seen better, than 90% of the others in the room.

Despite my sarcasm, as the grandson of two tailors from depression era New York, I grew up working a bit in my Uncle's tailor shop, and it was important that I looked presentable, that my colors matched, and that there was no soap behind my ears. My country has strayed a bit from this, and when I am forced to endure punishment at a shopping mall, I see these values distorted like a contortionist at Cirque du Soleil. In my Miami, this translates into garnet and gold Florida State University baseball cap, the orange and green t-shirt of the beloved U, and the orange and blue gym shorts paraded about by the devotees of the Gators. (Of course, the color palette should be used whenever possible according to the PR department.)

Fortunately for all those attending Fashion Week, they will see designers whose models, despite the apparent brillo pad piled onto the head of an angular frame, would not be caught undignifying themselves with anything other than the latest designs -- or jeans.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Viva Mexico

They are all over the place, indestructible, and perfect for the laissez-faire gardener. The Mexican Petunia is a welcome immigrant, will not be stopped and frisked for no reason, and need not self-deport. It comes in two flavors, purple and pink, and in varied sizes. (Actually, it comes in more colors and sizes, but good luck.) It hugs any and all things in your garden, but is not unmanageable. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Love to Love You Baby

It's not often anyone thinks of defending disco, but Donna Summer just passed away, and I have this song in my head.

After Do the Hustle, after Saturday Night Fever, after the yards of polyester suiting needed to fill the triple pleats on those fat, cuffed trousers, the disco period was an embarrassment. I would say it was not America's most shining moment, but the photographs tell another story.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Let Us Eat Cake

I dream of having good taste, hoping, for better or worse, to have it. If there is no romance without finance, and one gets what one pays for, then only the rich can have good taste. The rest of us, I guess, can eat cake.

For me, the cupcake ship has left the port, and though they taste just fine, I crave more atmospheric confines with savory flavors. Kinda like the picture above.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Limo, Tux, and Corsage

It's a most wonderful time of the year for American teenagers. Soon, all will be embarking on one of those defining rituals -- in this case the prom. Businesses which sit dormant for most of the year like they have been hit by a late winter freeze suddenly blossom and grace our presence with articles too peculiar for everyday use.

In order to attend the prom, students must charter a hefty rolling rectangle transformed by a crack, industrial unit, perhaps granting vo-tech students with a few moments of wickedly unstylish payback.
They must also don a (polyeste)r monkey suit which actually fares better with Instagram than modern photo programs, the tux having changed quite little over the past 50 years. Last in the excessive trifecta is the corsage, a poor step-brother to the classy boutonnière worn cooly in the lapel buttonhole of a Frenchman.

It's prom time everybody -- a couple of days which forever leave an imprint but will mean absolutely nothing three days from now -- less memorable than the yearbook which we can at least put on a shelf and retrieve. Nevertheless, the season is upon us and we should stop and take a short look at the glory which we feel until someone asks us what it is all about. Then we mumble something stupid like because.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

NE 2nd Avenue Review

Maybe it’s all cosmically related. I’ve been reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the umpteenth time. Shortly after Martin Luther King Day and just on the crest of Black History Month, one of those magical moments occurred. In To Kill a Mockingbird, young Scout Finch thinks of her father and says, “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” Atticus suggests, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

For three nights, January 19, 20, and 21, Puerto Rican born, Miami bred Teo Castellanos celebrated the 10th anniversary of his stunning, prize-winning one-man show, NE 2nd Avenue. In it, he walks in the shoes of 8 characters – literally. Pumping Take It to the House and Trick Daddy, Castellanos dances, prances, and romances characters and audience alike, channeling characters embodying the jitney route from downtown through Little Haiti. He uncovers his city – our city – from inside the skin of 8 characters, changing shoes as he changes characters, coaxing tics and nuance throughout. It’s all quite uncanny. He spares no one linguistically – this is not a play for Rick Santorum. Yet it is fast, sweet, funny, sentimental, and brash at the same time – within the span of one character sometimes. It is also often moving. This is the Miami we live in – our reality – our characters.

One deals drugs in his namesake Wynwood and another is a kindly Jamaican. The jitney captain is a story telling Haitian; a hilarious African-American mother hangs laundry. The show is sealed with a riveting Jewish Cuban Israeli Lebanese story. Are these based on real people and their real Miami existence? Forget the portrayals for a second; Castellano attacks the writing like a drone.

In another life, Teo Castellanos must have been a bus driver. How else could someone so effectively observe, perceive, distinguish, differentiate, appreciate, and turn into such disparate characters found – well on this long stretch of street rarely populated by artists save for those devotees of what we call the four elements, rapping, spray-painting, breakdancing, and DJ ing. In The Music Man, it is said best about Harold Hill – you gotta know the territory.

I was in a seat at the Gables Stage a decade ago when Castellanos first performed it. I knew the streets, but not Miami’s streets. I know them much better now, in many ways, thanks to Castellano. (Disclosure time: he and I are good friends. I love the guy!) On Miami’s streets, he has been a younger teacher to me. In these ways, he has been a local treasure and mentor to many. Ask brilliant young Miami playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose electrifying The Brother’s Size cast Castellano, or DJ Spam, who dropped the soundtrack for Castellanos’ Fat Boy, or Matthew Hill, wicked drummer in Scratch & Burn.

In NE 2nd Avenue, Teo Castellanos reveals a beautiful mind, climbing in the skin of others, and walking in their shoes. We in the audience are along for the ride – in our city – Castellanos’ Miami.

Spring Fashion