All About the Benjamins
Cuba's musicians are anxious to cash in on the overseas market. But in the process they could sell out their sound.
By Celeste Fraser Delgado
Wanted Dead or Alive for Musical Murder
Brainless American mass culture and the Cubans who worship it: Of course Cuban music is not what it used to be (All About the Benjamins, July 20). Today it is what Fidel calls musiquita when he has to dash off to the toilet halfway through one of his endless sermons. He tells the TV crews to put on some musiquita as intermission -- some little bitty music, or as Celeste Fraser Delgado wrote, salsa lite.
What happened? For one thing American culture has influenced popular music around the globe. The poetic, the romantic, the fervent rhythms, the congenial melodies -- are all being subsumed by American blandness, mindless pounding and whining, simian blabbering, and the rage of the untalented masses.
But Cubans themselves killed their popular music. On the revolutionary side you can blame socialist realism of Pablo Milanes's nueva trova -- which ideological functionaries believe is edifying. On the reactionary side by the petite bourgeoisie gloriaestefanism -- an embarrassing parody of Batista-era country club insiders.
Editor's note: Owing to an editing error, All About the Benjamins incorrectly stated the estimated income of an ordinary Cuban citizen. The correct figure is $1540 per year. (This error has been corrected online.)
A Sign of Victory
New Times' jihad to scrub the skyline rolls onward
By Kirk Nielsen
The End of Visual Blight
It begins close to home, dear friends: As Kirk Nielsen requested in his article A Sign of Victory (July 20), I did my small part to conserve and protect scenic beauty in Florida by calling four of the five billboard advertisers listed in his story and requesting that they find another, less offensive way to advertise.
Then I went outside and picked up some of the thousands of pages from discarded free newspapers that litter Miami Beach's sands, sidewalks, and streets. What can Kirk -- or any New Times writer -- do to reduce this other pollution problem?
Your honor, I object on behalf of all officers of the court: I sent out e-mails to all the billboard advertisers listed in A Sign of Victory. I'm glad New Times is pointing out yet another area of corruption in our county. But I also was wondering if anyone was amused by the attorney billboard advertising 1-800-CRIMINAL.
As an attorney I find it appalling that the Florida Bar approved ad copy such as: If you need an attorney, call 1-800-CRIMINAL. Hello? Is this some kind of admission by the Florida Bar? How about 1-800-SCUMBAG? Or 1-800-SHYSTER?
Kirk Nielsen should contact the Florida Bar and asked them about their tough advertising standards.
via the Internet
Covert Motive Drives Anti-billboard Crusade
Semi-communist free weekly seeks to advance hidden capitalist agenda, destroy competitors: At first I thought A Sign of Victory was written by Ralph Nader or some other semi-communist twit. I am amazed by the balls of an alternative-in-name-only rag attacking the private property rights that built this country and the rest of the civilized world.
I shall try to define the reasoning behind Kirk Nielsen's venomous attack on the owners and lessees of billboards: It's ugly so let's ban it. The supposed reason for the outlawing of excessive public advertising is the sullying of one of the Magic City's most valuable tourist attractions, which turns out to be its view. Funny, I figured it was the substance of the city itself that brought people here. A view is nothing. It is not tangible and cannot be owned or protected or otherwise legislated upon without abrogating the rights of others who own and use the surrounding land that comprises the view.
Now, I know the established lefties who control the major media outlets in this nation have never been a fan of private-property rights (unless it involves their own), but this really is a ridiculous vendetta. From the first sentence, Nielsen bows down to the all-knowing, benevolent government, rejoicing in its protection of your peepers. I'm so glad that the purpose of government has been reconfigured to include keeping stuff pretty. Beauty enforced at gunpoint.
A question comes to mind: Why would you people at New Times wage such a jihad (your term) on billboard advertising? You wouldn't have any interest in restricting the choices of companies trying to get attention for their product, would you? Of course you would. It's a time-honored tradition in this country to use the government, for the alleged utopian common good, to get more loot for oneself. New Times is a huge advertising medium in this town. You might as well get more of the pie if you can, and not actually have to compete for it.
There is only one morally correct way to rid your view of unsightly billboard advertising. You can call the companies that appear on the billboards and let them know you will not patronize them unless they remove their ads and stop paying for the owner of the sign to block your view. Companies listen to consumer complaints. This was proposed by Nielsen and is the only part of his article with which I agree.
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Tracking down some long-gone local rockers
By Nina Korman
It's the Effort That Counts
Even if the actual music sucks: So I'm reading last week's music section (which admittedly I've not done much since Brett Sokol is no longer music editor) and Nina Korman has a where-are-they-now article about local bands from the Eighties (Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, July 20). There were many parts of it that annoyed me, but what was most annoying was the fact that she incompletely chronicled Forget the Name's career, and went on to point out that its former lead vocalist, Rene Alvarez, is now writing for the Miami Herald's rip-off of New Times, Street magazine.
So what have I learned by reading this? First that Nina doesn't like Street. I have also learned that maybe her whole article was a little biting and sarcastic, with no reverence for Miami bands that have made a go at it.
Most of the music in Miami is a rip-off of whatever is the flavor of the month on The Box Music Network. But hey, people try and you can't blame 'em for that. I'm figuring that, with a few exceptions, this town is devoid of good original bands anyway, so why would Nina do such a story? To all the bands she berated I say, Thumbs up and congratulations for even trying. To all the bands currently giving it a go, remember that there is always a stadium full of detractors waiting to write about you. So hey, keep at it.
Does Nina have any interest at all in music or is she just filling space?
via the Internet
A Fine Mess
Miami-Dade's election workers are overworked, underpaid, and years behind
By Jacob Bernstein and Robbie Guerra
School Board Member Excuse #32:
My dog licked off the postmark, honest! I would like to clarify Jacob Bernstein and Robbie Guerra's article concerning election fines (A Fine Mess, July 13). On July 14, 1999, my report was not yet delivered to the county elections department. Ms. Maria Acosta called me and asked me about it. I told her I didn't think it was due for three days. She corrected me and urged me to mail it as soon as possible, because if it was not received the next day, the fine would increase from $50 per day to $500 per day. She added that it could be mailed any time before midnight.
I mailed it at 5:55 p.m. from the General Mail Facility. It was on Ms. Acosta's desk the next day -- without a postmark. Consequently she had to count the report four days late, $150 plus $500. At this time she advised me to contest the fine. I am not contesting the $150, only the one day at $500. One cannot pay a partial fine or I would have paid the $150 immediately. I also want to make it clear that elected officials pay these fines with their private funds, not with campaign funds.
The Miami-Dade County Elections Department was prompt and courteous. I have always found it to be so. Supervisor David Leahy and assistant supervisor Gisela Salas are consummate professionals, as is Ms. Acosta.
Betsy H. Kaplan
A Life in Transit
It's not easy driving a jitney in Miami. If the county regulators don't get you, the freeloaders will.
By Lissette Corsa
He's My Passenger
No he's not, he's mine: In reference to Lissette Corsa's article A Life in Transit (June 8), I say good riddance to bad transport. One intelligent thing county officials could do is to ban those Miami Mini Buses. Not only are they deathtraps for passengers, they also are dangerous to other drivers, especially when they are competing for passengers.
via the Internet
Jason Takes No Prisoners
In Miami's post-Elian blame game, everybody takes a hit: Reading letters to New Times from people like Jacky Miqueo, Jorge Dominguez, and Stephen Hanas makes me sick (Letters, July 13). Everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else. Nothing but blame, blame, blame. Miami seems like one big kindergarten classroom full of demented brats. Well, I'm here to sort out everything and expose the truth about the main characters in this soap opera: the Cuban Americans, Afro-Americans, and Anglo Americans.
Cubans are exposed for expecting everyone to aid in their problems when they turn their back on everyone else's and for being one of the most racist groups in Miami. I can't tell you how many times I've overheard Cuban Americans refer to blacks as those freakin' niggers. Especially Cuban cops! It's really scary. As a minority group that cries racism and Cuban bashing, you should practice peace instead of hate.
Also you purposely segregate yourselves by claiming you're not ordinary immigrants but temporary exiles. Let me guess: Like the Jews in Egypt? Give me a break! You're not going anywhere. You seem too comfortable with your beepers, cell phones, and Gables homes to go back to some wasteland that was pretty 50 years ago. I also love the way you claim sole responsibility for making Miami such a great place. Well I've got news for you: It's not. Miami has become a wasteland: extrawide roads that don't help the ridiculous traffic problems, no sidewalks for pedestrians, abandoned shopping centers, no natural recreation except for pathetic manmade parks. So if you want responsibility for creating this, then go ahead. But I think you've had a lot of help.
Afro-Americans are exposed for working so hard for everything they have and now disgracing themselves with their conduct during the Elian saga.
Do you realize how incredibly stupid you appeared at protest rallies waving the American flag right next to someone waving the Confederate flag? I don't get it. That's the same flag you wanted taken down from the South Carolina capitol. Do you think that those Cuban-hating Anglos actually like you? Perhaps you do agree with Janet Reno (though if Elian were Haitian, I'm sure it would be a different story), but do you agree with that disgusting flag? You've worked so hard against America to gain respect and now you're just doing the same thing that was done to you. All of a sudden you've been overcome with American pride. Give me a break.
Anglo Americans are exposed for hypocrisy and selfishness, especially you upper-class intellectuals who were holding up signs with great messages such as Go home and One down, 800,000 to go. Think about your own history. Places like Africa, India, and the Americas all have been fortunate enough to experience your plagues, greed, and genocide. But that's not enough. You want everyone to appreciate it. You expect that when a minority is wronged (more than likely by you) they should keep quiet and be grateful that you allow them to live here. I guess only you deserve wealth and fair treatment by the law.
The whole point of America is that everyone gets the opportunity to excel and be happy. If Afro-Americans had stayed quiet, they would still be lynched during your after-church picnics. Unfortunately here in America one has to yell in order to be heard. Respect must be demanded because it is not given as it should be. And in case you haven't noticed, minorities are excelling in business, politics, and are even marrying into your families. Pretty soon we'll all be of mixed race. The thought tickles me. I hope it does the same for you.
Here's something that confuses me. You claim to be so much more American than everyone else, yet the Confederate flag is most un-American. Those flags battled each other during the Civil War. It makes no sense. So I guess you're the ones who are anti-American. In that case why do you pout when you see someone waving the Cuban flag? Hypocritical, don't you think? And that lame excuse that the flag symbolizes your heritage? Give me a break! The only heritage that flag represents is slavery. You only parade it around to offend others.
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Another thing that gets me is that you expect immigrants to drop their cultures and act like Anglos, or real Americans. You expect them to assimilate to your lifestyle and your way of thinking, though of course you would much rather have this place to yourselves. Believe me, even if they did everything your way, you would still find something to bitch about. You're just going to have to either pack your bags or learn to embrace the new cultures and new ideas. It's never again going to be like the good old days. But you have nothing to complain about. You're just reaping what you've sown.
The purpose of this letter is to show that we all carry blame and have no right to point fingers, because when we do, we'll have three pointing right back at us. We should see ourselves as humans first and not define or label ourselves by our race or ethnicity. Just because we are of a certain background doesn't mean we have to follow some doctrine. We should be seen as individuals and not be categorized by where we come from or by the color of our skin. The whole reason why this Elian thing is such a mess is because we've managed to turn a custody battle into a racial war.
Owing to a reporting error in Jacob Bernstein's article Donkey Demise (July 20), William Lehman was misidentified as the late William Lehman. The 86-year-old retired U.S. congressman is very much alive. New Times regrets the error.