Monday, January 16, 2017

Giant gator goes for a stroll at a nature center in Polk County.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

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Thank you for your support and continued readership.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is preparing to run for Governor of Florida by reading a widely discredited book about the state that's full of myths and made up 'facts'

In 2013, during his first run for Miami Beach Mayor, Philip Levine promised in one of his campaign ads to "get the city's finances under control [and] end corruption." Levine won the election, and a second term in 2015.

But yesterday - less then a month after the city discovered that $3.6 million had mysteriously vanished from its bank accounts without anyone noticing - Levine announced that he will not seek a third two-year term.

Instead - in a video posted on YouTube - Levine strongly hinted that he'll run for governor in 2018.

Levine told the Miami Herald that "he plans to go around Florida on a listening and learning tour this spring before making a final decision."

On Twitter, Miami Beach-based filmmaker, and frequent Levine critic Billy Corben, reacted to the news of a potential Levine candidacy: "Florida man who can't handle Miami Beach budget thinks he can run the whole state."

Levine told the Herald “over the coming months, I plan to travel the state to listen, learn and “find Florida,” he said. “I am actually reading T.D. Allman’s book “Finding Florida.” I will make my decision in the spring.”

But before Levine "finds Florida," he might want to look around and find a better reference book on Florida.

At the Miami Book Fair last year, Levine met Allman, had his picture taken with him and called him a "fantastic author."

Levine apparently made that assessment without doing any research.  Allman's "Finding Florida" has been widely discredited by both critics and historians.

A photo posted by Mayor Philip Levine's (@mayorlevine) on

James Clark, a lecturer in the History Department at the University of Central Florida criticized "Finding Florida" for being "grindingly negative." In 2013 Clark wrote that if Allman had "been willing to do more research and provide a complete picture, this could have been an outstanding book."

When I told Tampa Bay Times writer Craig Pittman that Levine planned to read Allman's book, he chuckled.

Pittman, a Florida native who has covered Florida's environment for the Times since 1998, is arguably, an expert on all things Florida. (Pittman is the author of "OH, FLORIDA! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.")

In 2013 Pittman and colleague Jeff Klinkenberg read Allman's book and found it full of "forehead-slapping errors."

Here are just three:
• About the naming of the state: "It was not because of any profusion of flowers. Look into any Florida backyard; even today you'll see a somber palette of greens" (p. 7). The guidebook Florida Wild Flowers features 500 colorful entries such as scarlet morning glories, meadow beauty and purple passionflowers.

• "Palms ... are not native to Florida" (p. 119). The Florida silver palm, the Keys thatch palm and the sabal palm — the state tree — are natives.

• "Rita Mae Brown had become the most successful Florida-born author since Zora Neale Hurston ..." ( p. 443). A two-fer: Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Ala., and Rita Mae Brown in Pennsylvania.

On, Pittman posted a longer list of errors and omissions contained in Allman's book, including this: "The omission that truly amazed me was the life and death of Harry T. Moore, the first civil rights leader to be martyred to the cause. Moore's valiant life and death are covered ably by Gilbert King in the Pulitzer-winning Devil in the Grove, a far, far superior Florida history book than this one."

Today I asked Pittman if he had a list of books he'd recommend that Levine read.

Here's his emailed response:
"If you want to learn about Florida, here's a list of 10 books that would be better than that other one."
--"Seasons of Real Florida" by Jeff Klinkenberg
--"Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams" by Gary Mormino
--"Backroads of Paradise" by Cathy Salustri
--"Fringe Florida" by Lynn Waddell
--"Up for Grabs" by John Rothchild

--"The Man Who Invented Florida" by Randy Wayne White
--"Orange Crush" by Tim Dorsey
--"Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston
--"Hoot" by Carl Hiaasen
--"Condominium" by John D. MacDonald

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Audra Burch is leaving the Miami Herald for the New York Times

The bad news: the Miami Herald is losing Audra Burch, one of the paper's most talented journalists. 

The good news: She will remain in Miami  where she will report for the New York Times.

Here's an email Herald bosses sent to the paper's staff:


Time to announce some bittersweet news that many of you probably have heard: Audra Burch, our extraordinarily talented enterprise reporter, has accepted a job with the New York Times, writing enterprise stories for the national desk.

Audra came to the Herald in the mid-1990s after stints at the Sun-Sentinel and the Gary Post-Tribune.

At the Herald, she has distinguished herself over and over, starting as a consumer reporter, shifting into features, where she developed a beat covering the American South, including the funeral of Coretta Scott King and the spate of church burnings in Alabama, before migrating to the Metro desk, where she continued to produce journalism of the highest quality, including a sub-beat on veterans.

Her narrative writing talents are legendary. A few highlights include her coverage of the killing of Sherdavia Jenkins, a 9-year-old girl struck by a stray bullet while playing on her doorstep, and a ticktock on the shooting death of NFL star Sean Taylor.

And then there is Innocents Lost. Audra and Carol Marbin Miller collaborated on the project that painstakingly examined 477 deaths of children who perished despite being under the protective umbrella of the Florida Department of Children & Families. The series led to an overhaul of DCF's leadership, new legislation, and won a boatload of prestigious awards, from Harvard's Goldsmith for investigative excellence to the University of California's Selden Ring to Neiman's Worth Bingham Award to the Online News Association's public service prize. The impact of the series is still reverberating.

The good news is that Audra will remain based in South Florida -- and she will be around for a couple more months working with Carol on another project that should be a fitting capstone to her career here.

Please join us in congratulating her.

Mindy, Rick and Casey

At his press conference today, Donald Trump gave us a preview of the next four years*

*If he lasts that long.

At today's press conference, Donald Trump refused to answer a question from CNN reporter Jim Acosta: "You are fake news"

Trump's press secretary then told Acosta he'd be thrown out if he tried to ask the question again.

“I am struck at how normal crazy looked to us today. I mean, this was just a crazy scene. This is the normal of Donald Trump.” —NBC's Chuck Todd

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Jerry Iannelli of Miami New Times has figured out why so much bizarre behavior originates in Florida

Jerry Iannelli of Miami New Times is the paper's "daily news reporter."

According to his bio he moved to South Florida in 2015.

But in that short time, he's managed to solve a mystery that has bewildered Sunshine State journalists for decades: Why does so much bizarre behavior seem to originate in Florida?

When two South Florida-related post-Christmas fight videos popped up on the Internet today, Iannelli immediately knew who to blame: "Harry the meth snake."
Most people don't know this, but Florida has its very own version of Santa. Some know him only by the choking, smog-like mist that shrouds him whenever he appears or by the warm scent of stale Coors Light that wafts through the air when he's especially close. Those who have seen the deity's physical form typically refer to him by one name: Harry the Meth Snake.

Unlike Santa, Harry the Meth Snake, who is made equally of meth and snake, works year-round. He does not deal in physical gifts — instead, Harry the Meth Snake flies from town to town, pumping Floridians full of coke, alcohol, and amphetamines and goading them into doing dumb shit in front of video cameras.

Harry does put in a bit of extra oomph around the holidays, perhaps in a goodnatured competition with Santa Claus. Take, for instance, this year: The Florida gift-giving gods have bestowed upon us not one, but two delicious Miami fistfight videos in a single December day.

It's almost impossible to decide which of these clips better represents the state of Florida.

The first, posted yesterday evening, depicts an employee at a Steve Madden store at Sawgrass Mills walloping a Swiss tourist who demanded to enter a closed store and then dumped a bottle of water on her. The Swiss woman, who quite clearly instigated the fight, then shouts, "I am going to sue youuu!" in an accent so comedically French she could pose as Inspector Clouseau's aunt in a Pink Panther reboot.

Great work, Jerry. Your parents must be very proud.