Letters to the Editor
Those Crazy Artists
Phenomenological multimedia blitz flummoxes critic: Alfredo Triff's piece about art events "The House at MoCA" and "The Sears Building" ("In the House," August 30) was at once supportive, instructional, and full of hope. He used his position as a critic to inform the community about aspects of the Miami art scene and its diverse interconnections. Triff's insight and general enthusiasm for young artists in this town is commendable.
An exhibition like "The Sears Building" was characterized by a kind of chaotic pleasure, a Fluxus happening, one might say, where the beginning of one experience and the end another was not always concretely defined. In that light one can understand how Mr. Triff could have mistakenly attributed the works of one group of artists to another when he wrote, "Projection-installations by Adler Guerrier accompanied the crossbred sounds of DJ Le Spam, Rene Barge, and Rat Bastard on the roof of the adjacent building that produced Mahler's Fifth, funk, free jazz, and twittering musique concrete."
In fact the projection was the work of Kevin Arrow, accompanied by a sound piece recorded by DJ Le Spam. Rene Barge and Rat Bastard's exciting performance was a distinct phenomenological object unto itself.
The dive-boat operators become the chum: Growing up in Sydney, Australia, surrounded by magnificent beaches, I quickly learned to swim in netted and guarded areas because the South Pacific Ocean is infested with sharks, the natural habitat and breeding ground for 165 of the world's 270 species, including the enormous great white.
Although as a child I was fearful of these "monsters" owing to several terrifying and highly publicized attacks -- sharks chomping through a surfboard and devouring a man's belly, cutting a woman in half and swallowing her lower torso, violently killing a teenage girl in three feet of water while her boyfriend desperately tried to punch it away -- I gained some insight into their seemingly unpredictable behavior through the enlightened research of Ron and Valerie Taylor.
Working mostly from inside cages or wearing body armor, the Taylors showed us that these beautiful beasts are an important part of our environment. So one gradually gained respect and understanding while also knowing that the awesome strength and agility of these primordial predators is impressive and should not be underestimated. In other words love 'em and leave 'em alone.
But not content with continually corrupting the Earth's natural oceanic evolution, as man has (including killing up to 200 million sharks annually worldwide), a few enterprising and money-hungry hustlers with no marine- or wildlife-research training have decided to wreck yet another ecosystem by bringing "food" to these creatures, destroying their natural predilection to hunt and conditioning them to associate humans with dinner. When the tides and currents wash these bloody, oily chum slicks onto Miami beaches, it will create a shark-feeding highway that will be an obvious scenario for disaster, not to mention a frightening prospect to any regular ocean swimmer or scuba diver, myself included.
No, the real sharks in Juan Carlos Rodriguez's story "Swimming with the Sharks" (August 16) are the greedy dive-boat operators who endanger the lives of naive and unsuspecting nonprofessional recreational swimmers in favor of reeling in the glorious greenbacks, the main motivation behind much of this planet's eco-desolation.
Just the Facts, Ma'am -- All of Them
Into every life a little excessive force must fall: Ashley Fantz's story about Miami-Dade Police Ofcr. Ralph Wilson ("Serpico Negro," August 16) was so lopsided. She was quick to point out that Ofcr. Brian Mustacci's internal-affairs profile revealed he was cited for "discourtesy" and for using excessive force seven times. She also noted that Ofcr. Alfredo Palacio had six similar citations.
"Citations" for excessive force do not exist in the Miami-Dade Police Department. The correct term is "Supervisory Report of Use of Force to Control" (not as eye-popping as "excessive force citation"). Anytime a subject resists arrest, is injured, or claims injury, a "Use of Force Report" is written. Excessive use of force is a crime. It's called battery.
I'm curious about something. Ms. Fantz mentioned that Officer Wilson had numerous commendations, but she failed to mention if he had any "excessive force" citations. That must have been an oversight on her part. Did any of the other officers involved have any commendations in their personnel files, or was that an oversight also?
I guess if she had told the story accurately, it wouldn't have made Officer Wilson look like such a victim.
Name Withheld by Request
Ashley Fantz replies: According to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, "excessive use of force" is an informal term and not the legal equivalent of "battery," which is a crime defined by Florida statutes. Ralph Wilson's personnel file contains seven complaints for "excessive use of force." The Miami-Dade Police Department determined that none of them warranted discipline. Both Brian Mustacci and Alfredo Palacio have received commendations in the course of their employment with Miami-Dade County, but the excessive-force complaints filed against them were relevant to my story.
Prescription for the Commonweal
A civic enema, though unpleasant, will get the job done: My cousin, a writer and sheep farmer who lives with his wife and their son in the far northeast corner of Vermont, told me recently of a problem he had with this past spring's crop of lambs. After several years of good health, his herd showed unmistakable signs of a fresh outbreak of ass maggots. He'd already lost one lamb and was afraid others would soon succumb. This sounded bad to me, though I admit I am no farmer. Combining the word ass with the word maggots conjures up a whole host of unpleasant images, some of them actively nauseating.
It seems that flies sometimes lay their eggs on dingleberries that festoon the rear ends of lambs, and the eggs hatch into maggots that squirm their way inside the little critters and begin eating. If not caught in time and destroyed with a kind of creosote enema, ass maggots inevitably kill the lambs.
That Vermont infestation is, I think, a useful metaphor for what has happened to government in Miami-Dade County. We have a bad case of the ass maggots. New Times does a good job of informing us, regularly, of the many ways in which elected or appointed officials here abuse the public's trust, performing their work on the body politic like an army of intestinal maggots. But what is less understood is the deadly psychological impact of all that corruption, of living in a place where the ass maggot is king (or mayor or manager or commissioner or inspector -- you get my point).
Those lambs on my cousin's farm just lay down and wait to die. We, on the other hand, mostly just shrug our shoulders and pretend it doesn't really matter. But it does matter, of course. Which is why New Times's investigative pieces are so important, though not always pleasant, to read.
Incidentally, my cousin saved his herd. We can certainly do the same for Miami-Dade, but the cure is unpleasant and involves a lot of assholes.
Errata Owing to a reporting error in Lissette Corsa's article "The Cuban Coach" (August 30), baseball player Andy Morales was incorrectly described as having been a team member of the New York Yankees. Morales actually played for a Yankees farm team. Also in "The Cuban Coach," the date American baseball pulled out of Cuba was stated incorrectly. American teams played there until mid-1960.
A reporting error in Kevin McLaughlin's article "Strange Bedfellows" (August 30) led to an erroneous description of Miami's annual White Party. A fundraising event, the White Party is produced and organized by Care Resource, a major South Florida nonprofit AIDS service organization.
New Times regrets the errors.
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