Eohippus, the miniature five-toed ancestor of the modern horse, bounded through the rainforests of South America dodging dire wolves and munching lush vegetation. As primitive ponies emerged from the forest to gallop across plains and continents, another eohippus descendant, the tapir, remained in the jungles along the Amazon River.
Tapirs are an animal of fascination for Colombian artist Nadin Ospina, whose installation devoted to the creatures, titled Los Estrategas (The Strategists) is featured through September at Etra Fine Arts at 56 NE 40th St. in the Design District.
The three species of tapir native to South America -- the mountain, Baird's, and Brazilian -- are endangered.
The fragility of the Amazonian rainforest, symbolized by the tapir, is a recurrent theme in Ospina's work. "The Bass Museum, for instance, has a piece that, although different from this one, also depicts a tapir as the main subject," explains the gallery's Ana Maria Quiñones, who curated the show at Etra.
No Gossip Too Tenuous
Evelyn Greer and Michael Kosnitzky, two candidates for the Miami-Dade County School Board (respectively, in Districts 9 and 3) are both clever, reasonably straightforward individuals who always return The Bitch's phone calls, even if they're wary of a little nip. Yet somehow, in the incestuous cauldron of Miami-Dade politics, these two smart people have become linked in a far-fetched but juicy conspiracy theory.
Greer is mayor of the wealthy village of Pinecrest. Kosnitzky is a tax lawyer, bank owner, and accountant who made headlines last year demanding accountability at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Each of them hired political consultant Steve Marin to handle direct-mail campaigns. Marin, however, is also a lobbyist who has two current clients doing business with the school district: Pirtle Construction and Zyscovich Architects. Marin also has ties to scheming state representative Ralph Arza, no stranger himself to making the most of district political business. Arza used to be Marin's football coach at Miami High School. Some Grassy Knollers maintain that Miami City Manager Joe Arriola, the school district's former business honcho (briefly) and sometime blowhard, is exacting his revenge on the system, though in a convoluted manner: Arriola hated Kosnitzky when the latter served on the Public Health Trust, at one point calling him a "cancer" on the organization. Arriola did extend an offer of up to $25,000 to Arza, though, for his supposed educational expertise, which savvy types saw as a thinly disguised payoff for favorable Tallahassee legislation.
Both Greer and Kosnitzky say Marin is good at what he does, which is why each independently hired him. "I don't collude with [Kosnitzky]," Greer asserts. "I haven't spoken to Arriola or Arza or any of the öconspirators.' People in my district don't know who they are, and barely know who Merrett Stierheim is." (Truly, The Bitch notes, Stierheim's name has been airbrushed from the public consciousness like an apparatchik following a Stalinist purge.)
Greer says she met Marin when he worked on the campaign of her friend, Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson, noting. "He's doing my printing. He doesn't do anything else for me. I run my own operation." Greer says she knows about Marin's lobbying clients and, if elected, "would go out of [her] way to make sure I'm not involved in anything to do with them."
For his part, Kosnitzky says he also won't vote on matters where there might be a perceived conflict. He says he also returned contributions from both of Marin's clients. "It's a fair question," he acknowledges. "Yes, I was blindsided by this a few weeks ago, but I'm not going to change horses in midstream. Jackson Memorial was an open cookie jar and I closed it. If anybody in this town has taken whacks for being independent, it's me."
Rage Against Scott Stapp: One Man's Story
Nickelback fans who have been rejoicing over the Orlando band's ascendance to "most suckingest rock band in existence today" following the repeatedly announced breakup of Creed -- whoa, not so fast.
It's not Maroon 5 or Hoobastank sneaking up on the outside, either. The band that performed so crappily at a Chicago arena that ticketholders filed a class-action lawsuit against the group, is not, according to Prednisone-munching frontman Scott Stapp, quite kaput. (This despite increasingly desperate announcements from former Creedites Mark Tremonti and Scott Phillips to the contrary.)
Further, the extremely frequent Miami Beach visitor and performer of a recent solo acoustic set for unhappily surprised Rumi patrons is releasing his first one-man single this week. It's a song called "Relearn Love" from the forthcoming soundtrack to an album of music "inspired by Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ."
Of The Passion, Stapp, who also is often attached to the word "scourge," says, "Gibson took on a very controversial historical event ... All of us who have different faiths could use some tolerance for one another."
Michael Nuckols, an activist for environmental groups who comes to Miami for appearances at events such as the Ultra Music Festival when he's not dabbling informally in MDMA chemistry and pursuing a successful career as an electrical engineer, has a story about the too-frequently-tank-topped Stapp in which the singer exhibited a less than tolerant, forgiving demeanor during a charity ball game. Here is Mike the Man's story:
"I played softball at the same complex as Scott and the guitarist. He made some crack about our team sucking and I gave him back a little taste of his own medicine, something like öyou taught us how.' I guess since he was playing in his [South Florida] hometown and surrounded by friends and groupies, he was very surprised anybody would dare to say something to him.
"He flew off the handle, jumped in my face, and blah-blah-blah. I took the bait and enjoyed the guilty typical macho-man pleasure of escalating things by responding to his every comment with another cut-down. I kept pushing his buttons, hoping he would swing. I didn't care if we fought or not as long as I had a witness saying I didn't start it. It ended with me saying, öShut up and sit down Napoleon.' His friends eventually dragged him away.
"For the next several weeks, Scott, the guitar player, and their drones would all walk by and make throat-slashing gestures and say stuff about how I had better have a good dentist. Lots of threats and dirty looks. People going out of their way to let me know öit's on.'
"One of the umpires heard this stuff, told a beat cop who patrolled the park, and when asked about it I told her öYeah, they threatened me,' and she wrote up a report. I didn't think they were serious but it shut their damn mouths pretty quickly after the cop interviewed them about it. Should I sell my story to ET?"
Nuckols was hoping to catch a glimpse of Stapp amid the crowds on hand in Miami for the Video Music Awards events this week culminating in the awards show itself on Sunday. However, both men are too busy. Stapp wouldn't answer any more questions from The Bitch, sending word through his way-casual publicist Steve Karas that "Scott is in the studio so it [the interview] is not going to happen for next week."
So Stapp is just too busy being successful to hobnob with the minor superstars at the VMAs? "He [Stapp] has definitely checked out," Karas assures.
Nuckols, meanwhile, ever the volunteer, is getting power turned back on for Florida residents afflicted by Hurricane Charley.
"I'm stuck out here in dadgummed Sebring helping provide support and logistics to restore power to these crackers. It's like a vacation ... to a prison," says Nuckols, who clearly should submit regular items for this column.
The Perfect Song, a feature film by producer-director-actor-electric guitarist Billy Yeager -- the 48-year-old enfant terrible of South Florida cinema -- is reportedly due out soon. National critics ignored Yeager's "self-made" first film, the documentary Jimmy's Story, which was based on his own life and took 30 years to make. But now, according to promotional materials obtained by The Bitch, Yeager has "what he says is nothing less than the world's greatest film and wouldn't waste his time if he didn't."
Yeager not only produced and directed The Perfect Song (his aunt Bunny Yeager, the fabled Betty Page photographer, is co-producing), but also handled all the casting and scouted more than 60 locations, including the Coral Castle and the Everglades. But what really separates Yeager from other Florida directors (who, in the filmmaker's words, "should be fucked up the ass by a pig") "is that when it came time for someone to play the role of Lloyd, Billy decided that he would do it," the release reveals. Yeager "gained 25 pounds and shaved his head" to play Lloyd, "the mad genius composer" who is obsessed with writing the perfect song.
Here's a glimpse of the plot: "The music is so strong that Lloyd is composing that it makes its way into the nightclub and lures April into her car, driving, following the music in the wind to Lloyd, who is performing his music live at a Jerry Springer type of bar known as The Lizard Bar in Lake Worth. [In] their first encounter she walks up to tell Lloyd she likes the music, except Lloyd's back is turned and he is upset, cussing, and tells her to fuck off."
But in any Yeager project, the story behind the story is usually just as compelling as the story. In this regard, the promotional material speaks for itself: "At first he wanted the Renee Zellwegger-type (sic) potato girl from Iowa. But then he saw an Old French film in black and white with sexy looking models with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. He thought, öHey, I've never seen that. Sure, every director looks for that certain character [but] they never cast a model. I mean a real model. I couldn't think of one film with that, so that's what I did, I casted [sic] not just a model but I wanted a six-foot-tall runway model.' When Billy called all the major agencies in South Beach, their enthusiasm and cooperation was beyond his imagination. After all, how often would a director call for a runway model ... for a lead role in a film. Then Billy rewrote the script for the model.
"When he asked other actresses to do certain things in the film, like walk like a runway model down the street, some said they couldn't or wouldn't do it. öImagine, I am the director and they're telling me what they won't do! I was like fuck shit get out of my face, you're not an actress, you're a fucking whore. Go to a strip club where you belong. Florida is fucked, that's why we're not taken serious. If you were in New York you would get thousands of people willing to go out in the swamps and get raped in the rain at three fucking thirty in the morning. Fuck all you candy asses who say you are actors. Fuck you all. I shave off my head, put on 25 pounds and this bitch is telling me she won't walk down the street sexy without music."
Cantankerously driven? Perhaps. But Yeager insists that, just as Lloyd seeks the perfect song, he (Yeager) only wanted to make "the perfect film." "Fuck all these cheesy fuck butts who make this South Beach tits on rollerblades crap," Yeager submits.
A Waiter in the White House?
Frank Gonzalez is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives the hard -- and hard liquor -- way. The quixotic Libertarian Party candidate seems bent on personally meeting every single resident of Miami's District 21, and engaging them in one-on-one debates about why he should beat incumbent Lincoln Diaz-Balart (who has no opponent other than Gonzalez).
Gonzalez qualified for the ballot by collecting more than 3000 signatures, and the sometime waiter and former airline employee is now spending his evenings trying to woo South Florida's boozy nightclub denizens. Last week he showed up at Churchill's, arguing about the Constitution with drunk punks, and even taking the stage. His appeal to the audience, met with smatterings of applause and a few indecipherable bellows, was sandwiched between the Heatseekers and AC Cobra. "Everywhere there's Democrats, I'm there," Gonzalez says. "There's no Democrat opposing Diaz-Balart, so I'm like the surrogate."
The night after his Churchill's debut, Gonzalez put in an appearance at Coconut Grove's Oxygen. "It was gay night, and people were so friendly to me it was crazy. I'm not gay," assures the former flight attendant.
Gonzalez, despite having raised only about $6000, likes his chances of triumphing over the Diaz-Balart political machine. "First of all, I need to debunk the myth that this guy is unbeatable. I mean, all of the statistics are favorable for me."
Campaign contributions can be made via PayPal on www.electfrank.org, or in the form of extra-large tips at the Coconut Grove Chart House, where Gonzalez waits tables.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.