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PCR #145  (Vol. 4, No. 1)  This edition is for the week of January 1--5, 2003.
La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
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Book Review-- "Paradise Screwed"
selected columns of Carl Hiaasen edited by Diane Stevenson.
418 pp. Putnam's Son's, New York, N.Y. 2001

Paradise Screwed It should be no mystery to the readers of "La Floridiana" that Carl Hiaasen is one of my absolute favorite authors and Florida Folk Heroes. But for the uninitiated, it should be stated here and now that Carl Hiaasen is not only the author of some of the finest Florida fiction books written, but is also a hard-hitting columnist for Miami's premiere newspaper, the Miami Herald (http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/columnists/).

Along with other heavy hitter Herald columnists such as Dave Barry, Leonard Pitts Jr., Georgia Tasker and Beth Dunlop, Hiaasen writes the majority of his columns on Florida's sad state of corrupt politics and the unabated degradation of the Sunshine State's natural environment and quality of life.

The selected columns that Hiaasen's produced from 1985 to 2000 showcases Hiaasen's incredible wit, stinging commentaries and profound insights between man and the natural environment of this wonderfully unique state. The book is broken into four parts and each part has several sub categories.

Part One features the sub categories "Welcome to Florida", "Built Up, washed Away", "The Last Days of Florida Bay" and "The Bearded One". Part Two features "Tax Dollars at Work", "What Are Friends (and relatives) For?", "Lucky You", "No Conflicts Here!", "Sick Puppies", "Zoned Out", "What Have They Been Smoking?" and "Bang For The Buck". Part Three features "Deep Pockets", "Politics As Usual", "Deals on Wheels", "Elections, Florida Style" and "Good Sport". Part Four closes with "Justice For All", "School Days", "Holier Than You", "Hit The Road" and "The Story of Florida".

While reading this book, you will run the emotional gamut from laughing out loud at his incredible sarcasm ("Snakes alive? You Better Call reptile Rescue", "Dade Day: Power Tools on Parade", "At Courthouse, Even Chickens Need Bodyguards", "Mickey and Minnie Need Some Fire Ants" and "Where Monkeys Can Fly: Destructive Critters Have Worn Out Welcome" come to mind), to having to put the book down in disgust out of how our politicians and developers have raped the land and the taxpayer ("U.S. Points Out The Bright Side of Oil Spills", "Naturally the Governor is All Wet", "Netters, Panel sabotage Will of Voters", "The Case of the Missing Mangroves", "The Florida Keys: Something Precious Is Falling Apart" are amongst but a few of such stories).

This book should be required reading for every Floridian in order to showcase the scams daily that go on around us that are never adequately questioned or stopped. Maybe if more people recognized the gravity of these problems (which have grown exponentially since Governor Jeb Bush has been pushing his Big Business, Anti Environment and Pro Disregard for State Law agendas) and actually spoke up in loud numbers, we could all reclaim a little bit of that paradise that was once Florida.

Otherwise if the status quo remains, we are indeed a "Paradise Screwed". The story below provides yet another recent example.

The "Tragic Kingdom" Strikes Again
Florida's largest attraction and corporate bully is at it again.

The State plans to build a bullet train from the Tampa Bay area to Orlando as mandated by a constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters in 2000. Dream Big, Money Poor Florida voters obviously did not consider the enormous cost such a system would require. Fact is, the bullet train needs riders and money, and construction is required to start this upcoming November.

It has been estimated that 2.2 million people travel annually between the Disney resorts and Orlando International Airport (which pro-Disney forces say equates into $25 million additional dollars in revenue) and the high-speed bullet train could sure use tapping in to such a lucrative resource. Disney is willing to put all of those people on the high-speed train-as long as it makes no other stops in the Orange County area other than the Disney resorts and Orlando International Airport. Rule out the Orange County Convention Center, attractions along International Drive and those pesky competitors, Universal Studios and Sea World.

High Speed Rail Authority board member and consultant William Dunn of Miami said "They (Disney) don't want people from their park to get on the train and go to other attractions, and the way they're going to do that is make sure that the train doesn't go to the other attractions. I think they're going to succeed. I don't see anyone who's going to stop them."-great. What absolute jack-asses! Here's a news flash for these pin striped thugs with mouse ears-that train is being paid for in part by public funds-as many attractions as reasonable should be served by this quasi-public transit-this is called fair trade, equality, and responsible government, something Disney obviously has no regard for in this situation.

Christine Kefauver , Orange County's Director of Transportation rightfully stated that "You should connect the public airport to a public convention center and not bypass a public facility for the benefit of a private organization." (Looks to me like we have a courageous civil servant who isn't easily brow-beaten by the Mouse That Whines --want Cheese with that whine Mickey?).

C.C. "Doc" (not Sneezy or Grumpy, but Doc) Dockery, the millionaire Lakeland businessman who sunk 2.7 million dead presidents of his own to hoodwink uninformed voters to approve the high speed rail (naturally he's also a member of the rail authority board) said the route decision will be up to the vendor chosen to build, maintain and operate the system, and he expects the vendor to go with Disney's plan-to quote Austin Power's Dr. Evil character-"..Right.." Dockery went on to say that "Whoever it is will have to make a go of things without state subsidies"--- "...Right.."

Don't you find the primary route selected, well, interesting? Why Tampa Bay to Orlando? Why not to Miami, or Jacksonville, or Tallahassee as well? Is it simply a coincidence that Mr. Dockery's Lakeland lies smack dab in the middle of these two cities? Also, what assurance is there that all 2.2 million people traveling between the Disney resorts and Orlando International Airport will only be using the bullet train ("Gee honey, I'd have rented a car so we can see other sights around Central Florida, but this brochure I've just been handed at our arrival gate says we can only take the bullet train to our resort!")?

Tom Lewis, Disney Vice President for Transportation Planning accused Mister Dunn (who seems to be quickly wising up to Disney's overboard and out of line paranoia and greed) of "trying to grind some ax into Disney" and "taking shots at Disney" as he believes that Dunn is trying to do what's best for the statewide high-speed rail and is not being concerned for what is best for the "community" (a.k.a. Disney). He went on to babble "Let's be honest here, the issue is not about a convention center. That's just the patriotic symbol being used." What unmitigated arrogance! But heroically, Dunn fired back "You are correct sir. My focus is on what's best for a statewide system.I have no ax to grind with Disney nor anyone else, but you will find that I am very resistive to manipulation by self-serving special interests.If anyone has an ax to grind and a self-serving agenda, it's Disney."

Bravo and well said Mister Dunn.

It's on issues like this where Disney, which has brought so much happiness to so many people, denigrates itself from being a Magic Kingdom to a Tragic Kingdom.

New Tim Dorsey Book Due Out
Florida Folk Hero and author Tim Dorsey will have a new book out slated for public distribution on February 3, 2003. The new book is titled "Stingray Shuffle" and features Dorsey's recurring anti-hero Serge A. Storms. To read more about this new book, log on to http://www.timdorsey.com/

No Fiasco Here
In the Grand Old Party's latest faux pas, Hillsborough County Republican Committee member Joe Fiasco Jr. (I'm not making this name up) left the following message on the voice mail of Eric Brown, President of the Tampa Bay Black Republican Club-- "I called to tell you that your conduct last night was very unbecoming. It was discussed by the senior members of the committee and we have decided that your manners were that of a field hand. We will oppose you and everything you do from now on." My, my, my, my, my, no racism here, huh? Needless to say, Mr. Brown was not amused, especially in light of the gaffe recently created by former House Speaker Trent Lott. Much like Lott, Fiasco tried to play down in an unrepentant manner his obvious slur. He said his use of "field hand" meant someone uneducated and uncivilized-- to again quote Dr. Evil-- "rrrriiiiigggght." Further succumbing to foot in mouth disease, Fiasco went on to say, "Look it up in the dictionary. There's nothing racist about it. He doesn't even speak the English language. He's just trying to make a big thing out of nothing. There's nothing wrong with what was said." So what you're telling us Joe is that the President of Hillsborough County Republican Committee doesn't even know how to speak English? When later told that Webster's New World College Dictionary defines "field hand" as "A plantation slave who worked in the fields", Fiasco further stumbled and bumbled along uttering that he uses an older dictionary that doesn't contain that definition-- so Joe consulted with an outdated dictionary before he chose to sling these two words at Mr. Brown? ....rrrrrriiiiiggghhht...... Republican Chairwoman Margie Kincaid, who still ain't gettin' it, said "I was a farm hand during the Depression. I didn't think it was a racial slur. I think they ought to just let it go." I don't think so, Margie-- what about all of the migrants and native born citizens tending to our strawberry fields and orange groves today-- are they all "uneducated and uncivilized?" Would this include the majority of my wife's kin who tended cotton fields as white sharecroppers in Tennessee years ago? More importantly, is this how the GOP intends to be a more inclusive political party espousing compassionate conservatism. This seems to be a party in much need of a serious soul searching-- and I say this not as a Democrat, but as an Independent who has historically slightly favored the Republican party when I have voted.
Florida's Old Faithful
Okay, okay, so it ain't old and it ain't faithful, but it looks like Florida has a geyser of its own. Florida's geyser recently roared to life along the western shore of Lake Warren in southern Orlando. Spouting off mud and water up to 60' above the surface of the lake, Florida's Old Faithful wannabe is the result of an old uncapped drainage well running deep into the Floridan Aquifer. During heavy rains it sucks down so much water and trapped air that every few minutes the aquifer barfs up some of this bad plumbing. The sound can be heard throughout the Crescent Park neighborhood and into the nearby town of Belle Isle. So if you'd like to see a home grown geyser without having to go all the way out to Yellowstone, check out the geyser over in Orlando.

"La Floridiana" is ©2003 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.