Design of the times in Ybor

Developers we expect this from. Even a community college.

But what is it about historic districts such as Ybor City that even architects don’t get? There is a reason, seemingly obvious, that such districts are so designated.

C’mon, Penet Land Corp. and Ken Kroger. Design your night club-restaurant as if Ybor wasn’t Miami Beach. And don’t cry creative restraint when it’s architectural ego that is the deal-breaker.

Gary Condit’s prime time

So, after more than 100 days of saying nothing in public about his relationship with Chandra Levy, Gary Condit goes on ABC’s Prime Time with Connie Chung and proceeds to continue to say nothing. It was the verbal equivalent of silence, accompanied by a rhetorical nose thumbing to Ms. Levy, her family, the police, Condit’s constituents and anyone within earshot.

If the Modesto voters, out of stupidity or amorality, re-elect Condit after that performance, they deserve him. Moreover, they might then consider a vote on secession. He taints all of us.

He not only denied that he lied to Mrs. Levy over the nature of his relationship with her daughter, he attributed such an impression to her misunderstanding of what he told her. He even had the effrontery to use the Levy family as a shield to ward off Chung’s questions about his relationship with Ms. Levy by saying he was honoring their “specific request” that he spare everyone the truth.

For good measure, he labeled Anne Marie Smith, who says she is a former paramour, an opportunist looking for her “15 minutes of fame.”

As for that affidavit sent her requesting her written denial of a sexual relationship between them, that was not a suborning of anything — merely a bunch of lawyer-to-lawyer yada yada.

To this day, asserted Condit, he remains “puzzled” at how so many folks — from the Levys and Chandra’s Aunt Linda Zamsky to Smith and former aide Joleen McKay to the D.C. police — can get so many details wrong about how he has comported himself and what he has said.

It was an hour-long exercise in giving scoundrel a bad name. And for the first time in memory, it was the media who we were empathizing with — even in the person of someone married to Maury Povich.

As a public relations ploy, the interview was a disaster. Condit apologized for nothing, merely acknowledging that he was not exempt from the human condition, for he too had made “mistakes,” albeit unnamed, in his life.


It was quintessentially Clintonesque, chapter and verse. Remember Bill Clinton admitting to “60 Minutes” in 1992 that he surely had “caused pain” in his marriage. That was his “answer” to a question about his involvement with Gennifer Flowers.

Enough to make us all nostalgic for the credibility and candor of Ted Kennedy’s moving mea culpa over Chappaquiddick.

The letter(s) of the law in Tampa

So now the court, or at least the one where Hillsborough County Judge Elvin Martinez holds forth, has thrown out Tampa’s lap-dance law as unconstitutional. Too broad. Public health or safety, said Martinez, are not at risk from lap dancing. Some marriages, perhaps, but that’s outside the ambit of the law.

For those scoring at home, that’s one out of four, because the other three county judges hearing lap-dance cases — which are alphabetically assigned — have ruled otherwise. Ultimately, of course, this unappealing issue is headed for appellate court.

For now, however, it means arrested patrons with last names beginning with the letters C, I, K, R and T, will be brought before Judge Martinez. Talk about the letter of the law.

Tampa Theatre gets twisted

Perhaps it’s generational, because I don’t get it. The way I didn’t get “The Blair Witch Project” or the way I don’t get Derek Washington’s art. Maybe I’m missing the “edgy” gene. But hopefully taste and standards are valid factors.

Anyway, I’m now talking about the recent, week-long “Spike and Mike’s Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation” over at Tampa Theater.

Summarized St. Petersburg Times film critic (and “Blair Witch” apologist) Steve Persall: “Nothing is out of bounds, from physical deformities and child abuse to religious icons and unnatural sex. Graphic drawings of genitalia and body wastes and fluids are common threads

G-8 protestors should start rethinking strategy

Now that this year’s G-8 Summit is history — and the host city trashed — the usual postmortems have been rendered.

Lawlessness has been deplored, globalization has been defended and the plight of the world’s have nots has been denoted in the final communiqué. More Third World debt relief, for example, may be on the way — but it’s probably presumptuous to attribute that to the leverage of riotous behavior.

As for the 100,000 or so anarchists, idealists, union surrogates and unchaperoned, parentally subsidized Marxists, it’s time for them to collectively rethink strategies, priorities and summer vacations. Demonstrations of nastiness and naivete don’t win converts to a cause, unless the cause is chaos.

Getting some public relations help, although unconscionably bourgeoisie, would probably be worthwhile.

What do you do when you have a global forum? If you act like your city just won an NBA championship, who will that impress? The deportment department matters. The medium is still the message.

Bad messengers ill serve any cause, including a dissonant, anarchical one.

Here’s a better idea: Skip next year’s G-8 Summit in Canada. Pick another target, one that’s less amorphous than globalization, one where the moral high ground is yours to lose.

Then take on some causes that will earn you global respect from those that, well, matter most: the industrialized democracies. Instead of, say, WTO or G-8 road trips to Seattle or Genoa to decry sweatshops, how about sorties to Beijing, Khartoum, Freetown, Kabul or Pyongyang?

Rather than protesting globalization and thus incurring the very real risk of seeming clueless and chaotic again, why not start with human rights abuses by the world’s biggest bully? A Falun Gong Showing will play well in the West. And how about this year’s running total of 1,800 executions, many for political crimes and thievery? And don’t forget those summarily harvested organs of the executed. Meaty stuff. Great banners. Slogans to die for.

The only problem: Actually standing up to a police state, as opposed to a permissive democracy. The Chinese mean business and are more like the Red Brigades than the Genoan police.

In fact, word is that they are still pushing for the dissident toss as a demonstration sport in the 2008 Olympics. Protesting in Beijing for unequivocally noble causes that don’t require a modicum of economic sophistication should be a no brainer. Unfortunately it would mandate guts.

But it’s not as if Beijing is the only alternative. Credibility can also be built by disciplined protests in Sudan, where there’s a viable slave trade; Sierra Leone, where genocide is now a cultural more; Afghanistan, where the Taliban want to repeal civilization; and North Korea, where the government thinks starvation is an acceptable tradeoff for expensive weaponry.

Or perhaps the movement needs to think smaller — and for Americans, closer to home –before tackling any of the above, admittedly formidable, challenges.

It would, again, take some guts, but how about taking to the streets of Miami or Cincinnati? A principled protest against the Cuban embargo down Calle Ocho in Little Havana would earn widespread plaudits, as might a bold denunciation of the urban plague that is black-on-black crime in the city now ominously synonymous with “de-policing.”

There’s obviously no lack of critical issues and legitimate causes that need the world’s — and this country’s — immediate attention.

Summer in Canada on daddy’s credit card, however, will likely carry the day.

Oddfest at the Trop: thanks for sharing

Cultural kudos to both the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times for their in-depth coverage of the recent Ozzfest concert at Tropicana Field.

The Times, in particular, should be commended for devoting the lion’s share of a Monday Floridian section to a photo spread of the “ordinary people” behind the piercings and tattoos.

My personal favorite was the Melbourne mom-to-be who compared the “once in a lifetime” experiences of seeing Black Sabbath and having a baby. In that order.

Lucky kid-to-be.

Thanks again for sharing.

Wilson Alvarez: Rays’ retiring sort
At least it was a diversion from the hapless handling of the Fred McGriff soap opera. Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ officials were reportedly taken aback by some comments by Wilson Alvarez, the sore-armed, multi-millionaire pitcher on perpetual rehab assignment. Seems that Alvarez indicated that he just might walk away from his (otherwise) guaranteed $8-million 2002 salary and retire.

One question: If Alvarez were to retire, how could we tell?

Reno rally: run, Janet, run

Could it be any more obvious? Harbor no more doubts about the gubernatorial intentions of Janet Reno. Two Saturdays ago, the erstwhile attorney general attended the bat mitzvah of a girl who had written her a letter of support for her handling of the Elian Gonzalez case. Even had to go to Albuquerque, NM, for the occasion.

The pandering season is upon us.

Meanwhile, it’s still anybody’s guess as to who would be most pleased by a Reno run:

–The Democrats, who see widespread name recognition and fund-raising clout

–The Republicans, who see Waco, Elian, special prosecutorial favors and health questions or

–Will Ferrell, who foresees a reprise of “Janet Reno’s Dance Party” on Saturday Night Live.

Overkill on McVeigh execution
Most days during the drought the sign above Garland’s Garden on Bay-to-Bay Boulevard in Tampa touts the merits of mulch and soaker hoses. Last Monday, however, it wasn’t your garden-variety signage. It said: “System 1, McVeigh O, VE Day.” It was the day of Timothy McVeigh’s execution.

I was taken aback. Media overkill is part of the culture, but not when I’m retreating to a plant nursery to window shop orchids and buy more liriope and hibiscus.

There’s no escaping it. I felt like I was being implored to join the celebration of a mass murderer’s execution. If anyone deserved execution — and probably less benignly than lethal injection — it was McVeigh. But I don’t celebrate executions, even McVeigh’s.

Anyhow, I asked Dan Bagley, an advertising professor at the University of South Florida, about the merits of using your advertising forum for a political message. The net result, said Bagley, is probably a wash.

“On politically laden issues, such as gun control, right to life and capital punishment, you probably have an equal chance of alienating those who disagree and appealing to those who agree,” said Bagley. “These commonly are just statements to the world; they’re not done for advertising purposes.”

So what says Garland’s Garden co-owner, Earl Garland?

“This is the first I heard of it,” said Garland. “I was off that day. But we’ve never put up political signs, and we’ve been doing business at this location since 1939. I better ask my sister, Sharon. She was here that day.”