Miami Kid Makes Good

Ratner, schmatner, the kid lives in Ingrid Bergman's old joint! So here's Brett Ratner sitting next to his mom in a clean suit and a white-boy haircut at Miami Beach Senior High's Hall of Fame alumni lunch at the Radisson Deauville. He's kvelling. He doesn't have an Oscar yet, but it's never too soon to practice. He's thanking his mom, he's telling the crowd "even though I wasn't the brightest and best-looking kid in school, I believed her [Mom -- that he was great], and it gave me confidence ..." Then he thanks his drama teacher Jay Jensen. The local boy made 100 music videos for Russell Simmons's Def Jam when that was HBO's hippest moment; he did Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger" and P. Diddy's latest; Spielberg loves him, and the NAACP voted him a Best Director award for all those cool vids....

Then he went on to the Big Screen: Money Talks, The Family Man, Rush Hour, Rush Hour II ... Could popular horror be far behind? Ratner is skedded (as they say) to start shooting The Red Dragon, the "prequel" (as they say) to Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs, in Key West, among other locations, produced by Dino de Laurentiis, yet. This is actually a second shot at the project for Dino, who made a movie from the same material in 1986 with Michael Mann (Miami Vice), the godfather of the entire Miami Weltanschauung, but foolishly underbudgeted and undermarketed it, and insisted on calling that film Manhunter -- a title as resonant as, oh, "Edsel." Maybe this time, with our 31-year-old sportler Ratner (who really does live in Bergman's former $3.5 million mansion in Beverly Hills) directing, The Red Dragon will take wing?

Incidentally, author Harris lives on MIAB, and William Petersen, who starred in Manhunter, has recycled that role and thereby made himself a TV star in CBS's hit Thursday series CSI, about a forensic (burp) detective.

Megabyte terror bites FIU: "We've observed a lot of cyberterrorism, but it hasn't necessarily been done by sworn enemies of the U.S.," Naphtal Rishe told Riptide. Rishe, professor and director of Florida International University's Computer Science High Performance Database Research Center (whew!), added that they don't always know where the cyberterror comes from but that it's extremely tough economically on all top systems. "All the high-tech enterprises are spending enormous [amounts] to fix their computers," on a more or less regular basis. Locally both FIU and South Florida federal courts have been attacked by a version of the Nimda computer worm in recent months but tried to keep the news quiet. FIU was actually hit before Sept. 11. Although he admitted that some units at FIU lost power and all data, Rishe wouldn't elaborate.Nimda is a sophisticated virus that spreads through Websites, e-mail, and personal computers like the flu though a sealed-window office. It combines features of some of its predecessors -- Code Red, Kournikova, ILOVEYOU, and Melissa -- and exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft's Internet Information Server Web software, running on Windows NT or Windows 2000 computers. Servers can protect their systems by uploading Windows patch software or using a more secure server program. Personal computer users should regularly update anti-virus software and use it to screen e-mail. Rishe warns that e-mails with certain suffixes are more prone to infection than others. For that reason, he says, he won't even open files ending in, PIF, and BAT. But files ending in GIF, BIF, TXT, and TIF are safe, because they can't physically contain a virus, Rishe insists.

Money doesn't talk, it screams: It takes an outsider to tell the truth sometimes. At the Tuesday Nov. 20 county commission meeting, Miami-Dade aviation director Angela Gittens, not quite a year out of Atlanta airport -- where she rescued that giant complex from the grip of the kinds of lobbyists who gave the Reconstruction its carpetbagger rep -- had the courage (and the kind of contract) to allow her to state the obvious: The chamber is infested with lobbyists who seem to play commissioners like puppets on a string, she allowed (not a direct quote).

Hours earlier, Redland activists, fed up with the corruption downtown, concerned that their farmlands are being sacrificed to big checkbook developers, and all too aware of how the system works, tried to break free from the county's grip and form their own city. Unfortunately they have to go through the very same county commission just to be allowed to take a community vote on incorporation. All residents had was the majority. Their opponents had bags full of cash, which they spent on a crack team of lobbyists, like Miguel DeGrandy and Dusty Melton, buses to bring people to the chambers; and T-shirts in three different colors. The onslaught convinced a majority of the commissioners, and incorporation went down: "It goes to show, all you need is money in this town, and you can buy anything," says Charlie McGarey, a Redland activist.

My dinner with Salif: Riptide was sitting at its fave table at the News, on the veranda by 8th Street, when a Moroccan gentleman leaned over and inquired: "EX-cuse me, sirrah! Is it true you are the New Times publication?" I said yes, and Salif al-Hajemi introduced himself as a businessman from Cincinnati; then he got down to what sounded like an old silent majority critique: "You know, in my country, you could not say the terrible, undermining things you say in the New Times!"

"What “undermining things'?" Riptide asked.

"About the cheapness of the flag issue, the way those black firemen dishonor the flag! About the TV networks repeating what the president wants them to say! Is not true!"

"You feel the networks did a lot of independent analysis before labeling their coverage 'America at War,' and all?" I asked.

"Is not the point! You mustn't mock your national heroes in trouble times! In WWII, it would not have been tolerated!!" Riptide pointed out that in WWII, TV wouldn't have been tolerated, and that in any case, there weren't any TVs; also, that Roosevelt and Truman might have seen "controlling the message" as intolerable "freedom of the press" propaganda. "Your paper should be closed!" Salif hollered, snapping his fingers for his check. "You don't hefen understand what means “press freedom'! I, an Arab, know better than you!" Our waiter shook his head in silent solidarity.

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New Times staff