The Ballad of the Oppressed Is Not Sung to the Rhythm of the Oppressor
Judy Cantor's article "Isla de la Musica" (May 28) is both misleading and myopic. It subtly attempts to obscure the fact that the isla is grossly deficient in basic civil liberties owing to the rule of a ruthless regime that now caters to unscrupulous foreign business investors.
She cites the Cuban government as granting musicians "free agent" status, thereby allowing them to keep the fees they earn while performing abroad and being subject only to an "income tax." To any novice on the Cuban issue, that could be appallingly misleading. The regime's laws and system impose the subordination of the musician to the state, and that includes the remuneration aspect. Castro's version of an income tax is only a semantic alteration of the previous policy. The state continues in practice to retain the bulk of the fees received.
Ethical priorities are profoundly misplaced when the greatest sense of loss the article implies is that of the Americans missing out on Cuban music and financial opportunities. In Cuba, musicians (as well as the rest of the population) are not free to speak or sing their minds. Ideological adherence is required. Possible deviators from the revolution's drumbeat are not allowed to leave the island. Any minute toleration is targeted and calculatedly permitted. This selective forbearance is limited and makes a mockery of the notion of free expression. It is Madison Avenue a la Castro.
The sounds that come loudest from Cuba are those of the repression the people on the isla (including musicians) are suffering. It is their agony I hear. Cuba's divorce from modernity, her isolation, is the result of the quarantine imposed on the Cuban people by a 39-year communist tyranny. No matter how loud Castro turns up the music, Cuba's pain and plight will not be silenced. It is a shame when one hears only the rhythm of the oppressor and not the ballad of the oppressed.
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Step Right Up for Bruno's Political Circus!
The headline for Jim DeFede's story about the county's District 5 election ("Prestige Politics," May 28) unfortunately has become an oxymoron in our society, not a reference to any of the candidates' mental capacities. Having been an extremely long-shot candidate (million-to-one odds would have been an understatement) for the District 5 seat in 1993, and having held the highly coveted Republican Party's District 19 committeeman seat, I have on many occasions dealt with this cadre of Machiavellian clowns.
What choices: Janitza Kaplan, whose husband we all know so much about; and Bruno Barreiro, Jr., the nicest guy in politics with the intellectual capacity of a lemming. (That's a compliment, Bruno.) As a matter of fact, these individuals are worthy of pity, for they will give up anything (including their dignity) to join the other clowns and puppets who inhabit the circuses called county hall, city hall, the state capitol, or Washington, D.C.
The truly sad part of all this is that these circuses and their clowns have the power to drain our wallets, so much so that even a thousand-dollar ticket to Ringling Brothers would seem like a bargain.
Hey Bruno, Wanna Go Fishin'?
Is it just me or does Bruno Barreiro remind you of Fredo in The Godfather, Part II: "I'm smart, Mikey. I'm smart!"
And May Your Rent Never Rise
I am writing in response to Ted B. Kissell's article about Anton Philipp ("From Bad to Wurst," May 21). I have been a tenant of Mr. Philipp for two years, and my experience with him has been in no way similar to what was mentioned in that article.
In the time I have lived in his building, Mr. Philipp has continually improved it. He was always show a willingness to work with me in arranging financial details and fixing/ replacing things in the apartment. I am very pleased with him as a landlord and a person. It also gratifies me to be able to say this about a gentleman from Germany, which is proof that the healing between our people has truly begun.
Rabbi Bradley Dick
I Lost It at Blue Lagoon
Regarding Blue Lagoon Lake receiving Best Place to Jet Ski in your "Best of Miami" issue (May 14) and the letter you published that condemned the award, I have been on Blue Lagoon almost every day since 1988. As president of Fun Watersports of Miami, Inc., a water-ski and Jet Ski rental operation located since 1989 at the Miami Airport Hilton Hotel (and recommended in a past "Best of Miami"), and as a water-sports safety consultant and concerned citizen, I would like to say the following:
I was the person who, in 1997, found what appeared to be a small sick manatee in Blue Lagoon. I called the proper authorities. We were not using that part of the lake, nor did we see anyone come in contact with the manatee. Using our ski boat and my staff, we took the animal to a truck, which I was told would take it to the rescue facility at Miami Seaquarium. I was told it later died, but I did not attend its autopsy.
Letter-writer Lynda Green claims the manatee died from a Jet Ski collision in Blue Lagoon. The animal could have drifted into the lagoon from a number of places, and its injuries could have been the result of something other than a personal watercraft. Days later Ms. Green apparently began writing letters to officials, pressuring them to do something about this. Well, things did happen.
Reversing a statement by Carol Knox, of Dade's Department of Environmental Resources Management, who had informed me several years earlier that a speed-limit restriction affecting Blue Lagoon was not enforceable, a letter was sent to the Hilton manager telling him that a speed limit would soon be enforced. Shortly after that, we were asked to cease all operations.
I do not know how much time Ms. Green has spent on Blue Lagoon, but I must say it is in no way a manatee heaven. But it has been one of the few and best-suited water-sports places in Miami for decades. I would think that if a manatee ever ends up in Blue Lagoon, it more than likely got lost and would be grateful for directions to another place.
Having been very close to that lake for the past ten years (I worked for the previous concession as well), I can say that manatee sightings are very rare. In 1995 a manatee appeared dead in the lake on the north side of SR 836. This death was also quickly blamed on Jet Skis. I flew to St. Petersburg, where manatee autopsies are performed, and asked for permission to witness this manatee's autopsy. It was determined that this particular animal had died of a "ruptured artery not caused by human activity." To this day, however, manatee advocacy groups conveniently mention and use this death in an effort to restrict speed on Blue Lagoon, and for all practical purposes to eliminate personal watercraft, water-skiing, and boating.
I consider myself a responsible citizen. As a father of two, I do care about the environment and the kind of world my children will inherit. I have recently paid a very high price in the name of these issues, which I would have accepted without complaint had they been based on well-informed facts.
As far as Blue Lagoon goes, I strongly believe the speed regulations make no sense. Personal watercraft still ride at any speed most the time, as enforcement takes place only at certain times on certain days. Police and wildlife officers in charge of enforcing those regulations have acknowledged to me that they do not have the resources to enforce them full-time.
Having lost a business I started from scratch, which provided first-rate service to locals and tourists alike, and which fed my family and many others for almost ten years, I ask myself if this letter brought about anything other than putting me out of business.
Andy Langesfeld, president
Fun Watersports of Miami, Inc.
You Want East Village? Lisa's Got Your East Village Right Here
If you read through Robin Dougherty's laboriously formulaic critique of the Tony Award-winning musical Rent ("Notice of Eviction," May 7), you might wonder why we needed a review of a show that had already closed. You might also have asked yourself why Dougherty is so mesmerized by "mega-publicity hype." Can't we, once and for all, leave the media out of this and simply rate the merits of the product? Aren't we smart enough by now to realize that advertising is a brilliant game, and that using a certain brand of mayonnaise won't enable us to paint the next critical masterpiece?
When Jonathan Larson was pouring his soul into the score of his modern-day La Boheme, I don't think he set out to "revolutionize theater," but he did change the face of Broadway (at least for now, if not forever) when his East Village musical Rent moved uptown to the Nederlander Theater. That was a significant (if not revolutionary) turn from watching people in cat costumes, and ghosts in revivals of revivals.
For the life of me I can't understand why the fact that most of Rent's characters have grown up in middle-class households is a "problem." I grew up just a handful of blocks from New York's East Village and spent most of my teen and adult life in the neighborhood, and guess who I met there: People from middle-class households. Everywhere, USA.
Poverty isn't exclusive to urban teen mothers on welfare and families with food stamps, fat from diets of rice and beans and potatoes. "Poseurs"? "Poverty as posturing"? Come on, Robin. It's 1998, let's get our priorities straight. What White Plains squatter wouldn't be just a little neurotic "when you're living in America at the end of the millennium"?
The answering machine, as the last connection these suburban kids have to their "well-heeled" parents, lends itself to some comic sequences, yes, but stands as a poignant metaphor for the lack of communication and understanding in an era when half-grown adults are either dying or growing up too fast.
It seems as though Robin Dougherty knows nothing of the real-life East Village, only some imagined, politically correct dream of Bohemia and the people who reserve the right to live there. Used to be that all it took to qualify as bohemian were artistic and intellectual aspirations and a taste for the unconventional. Now we have to be dared to prove that Larson's characters are "possessed of inimitable genius" and that his selection of musical styles represents unconventionality. Just who should these people be, anyway? And what type of music would symbolize a generation that's been exposed to so many discordant notes and disavowing parents?
Needless to say, I enjoyed this touring production and its exuberant cast almost as much as I loved it on Broadway, only days after it relocated from its original roots in the heart of New York's East Village. Bravo, Jonathan Larson. Viva la vie boheme.
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