Iraqi Bacon

Just an oinkling of the high cost of war
Colby Katz

That was Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, who Tailpipe spied in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday. No little white hat and scoops of Cherry Garcia or Heath Bar Crunch to give him away, but a familiar Woodstockian message. Cohen was in town to install electric signage on a massive, rabble-rousing, three-pig protestmobile. Say what? That's right, three rolling Pepto-Bismol-pink pigs that have been passed around the country -- 60,000 miles in two years -- with the help of members of Cohen's political organization, True Majority, which was founded on the idea that defense spending starves social programs.

The trio of piggy-bank porkers is slated to root around Broward and Miami-Dade counties until July 5. The first pig, which represents the $200 billion that Americans have spent razing and rebuilding Iraq, is a Chevy van armored with fleshy pink jowls, ears, and snout. Its clear sides are stuffed with fake cash. Behind it rolls a trailer carrying a smaller, $34 billion pig representing K-12 education spending, and a wee "World Hunger and Poverty" pig worth just $10 billion.

"People can't conceive of $200 billion," Cohen said as he took a break under a tree near Oakland Park Boulevard and NW 21st Avenue. He had just installed a pair of electric signs that he planned to program from Vermont. He looked trim for an ice cream man, with grizzly white stubble, rose-tinted sunglasses, and a T-shirt that read, "Bush is over."

When the pigs' current hostess, an event planner named Hope Gold, returned home, she learned a neighbor had sicced code enforcement on her. A "courtesy notice" on her door ordered her to remove the commercial vehicles from in front of the house.

"It's not a commercial," Cohen protested. "It's the truth."

Gold, who had piloted the pigs around town the previous weekend, recalled her trip to the Sawgrass Hills Mall. "One guy called me a pinko commie, which I thought was perfect," she said.

The next day, she handed the pigs' keys off to Angel Terrell, an affable legal secretary from Miami Beach, who cruised downtown Fort Lauderdale on her way home and invited Tailpipe along for the ride. With loudspeakers blaring piggy sound effects, the effect was cartoonish: Three pigs prowled Las Olas Boulevard, squealing like a barnyard orgy.

Terrell came to a stop on the east side of the canal, where workmen were carving a crater in the street. One man approached the pigs and smiled, displaying bright white, crooked teeth.

"Nice buggy," the workman said.

"Are you registered to vote?" Terrell replied as she handed him a flyer.

"Yeah. Democrat," the man said. "Get that dickhead out."

The middle finger count, in an hour of cruising downtown Fort Lauderdale: a surprising zero. One man in the median of Las Olas hollered: "Vote for Bush!" That was it. The only thing more astonishing than the widespread civility was the number of people who ignored the spectacle altogether, even as it rumbled past, oinking at full volume.

"If you can't notice three giant pigs rolling down the street," Terrell said, "how are you going to notice what's going on?"

The Xerox Man

Octavio Roca's credentials are stunning. The one-time chief dance critic for the San Francisco Chronicle also critiqued theater and music for the for the Washington Post and the Washington Times. He has co-authored at least one book, about opera great Renata Scotto, translated several plays, and even collaborated on a cantata.

So it seemed logical when Enrique Fernandez, Miami Herald features editor, hired him on September 4, 2003 as the paper's arts and culture critic.

But Roca left the paper this week. His description disappared from the Herald website and his byline was no more to be seen in its pages.

The apparent reason: plagiarism.

Check out this piece of a story on Mikhail Baryshnikov that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 23, 2003: "He did not disappoint his fans. It was even endearing to see how the evening's sole double pirouettes -- dazzlingly youthful, incidentally in the middle of Cesc Gelabert's 2003 dance 'In a Landscape' -- brought out the biggest applause up to that point."

Then this from a piece by Roca in the Herald this past February 27: "He does not disappoint his fans. It is even endearing to see how the program's sole double pirouettes -- dazzlingly youthful, incidentally in the middle of Cesc Gelabert's 2003 dance 'In a Landscape' -- can bring out the biggest applause..."

If that doesn't convince you, check out the lead of this story on choreographer great George Balanchine, which appeared in the Chronicle November 3, 1996: "Ballet is like a rose," George Balanchine once said. "It is beautiful and you admire it, but you don't ask what it means. In the colorful garden of 20th century dance, Balanchine cultivated the American rose: exuberant, bright, optimistic and triumphant."

You guessed it. Looks a lot like Roca's work in the Herald on December 7, 2003, only this time, the critic put it in the third paragraph: " 'Ballet is like a rose,' Balanchine once famously said. 'It is beautiful and you admire it, but you don't ask what it means. In the colorful garden of 20th century dance, Balanchine cultivated the American rose: exuberant, bright, optimistic, and triumphant."

So who did this genius rip off? Himself. Roca apparently tried to do a little bit of journalistic recycling, taking large chunks from his earlier work and trying to pass it off as new. And that's something that this sooty, smoky tailpipe can appreciate.

Neither Fernandez nor his boss, Managing Editor Judy Miller, returned calls seeking comment. Roca isn't listed in the Miami phonebook. Present and former Herald employees grumbled at the scandalette. "They should have done a better search, not just hired the first guy who came in the door," said one former Heraldite. Another scribe sent out the purloined stories with the following suggestion: "Feel free to forward this to anyone you want."

Word of Roca's departure spread quickly though Knight-Ridder's affiliates. The chain was already reeling from Tuesday's revelation that Macon Telegraph entertainment reporter Greg Fields had been caught lifting material from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus website. The Telegraph was also the scene this past March of one of KR's most humiliating scandals, in which Khalil Abdullah -- a reporter who had already been fired from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for plagiarism -- was found to have copied passages from numerous other publications.

Proudly Ungentrified

Art is a messy business, señor. Tucked among the Spanish-style homes south of downtown West Palm Beach sits what looks like a pair of giant rusting tin cans half buried in the sand. The owner of the big, bunker-like Quonset huts, Alan Patrusevich, rents them out to a dozen artists who use them as a makeshift studio. It's a sort of bohemian oasis in the historic neighborhood of Flamingo Park. Under the curved ceilings, Patrusevich's tenants have built treehouse-like lofts and rooms that are home to jam sessions -- an unruly artist's paradise.

The problem is the place looks like, well, it could collapse any minute -- and that doesn't make the recently gentrified neighbors happy. Ouch. Complaints to the city's Code Compliance Division about Patrusevich's unique complex, which has been the focus of West Palm Beach's avant-garde for a decade or so, has created quite a headache for the Vietnam vet. The city has slapped the long-suffering Patrusevich with a dozen code violations this year and, he believes, is bent on forcing him out. "The same inspector," Patrusevich says, "drives by every flippin' day to see if they can get me on something again."

The code compliance officer who makes the regular drive-bys, Michael Williams, declined to comment. Williams -- obviously an anal-compulsive among loosey-goosey brush-and-palette boys -- has issued Patrusevich violations for his unpaved parking area, trash in his overgrown yard, and failing to keep the buildings weather-tight. Picky picky.

Patrusevich, a furniture restorer who knows good studio space when he sees it, thinks he's won this round. He's dealt with all of the code enforcers' tickets, including the one that he says charged him with having insects in his building. A few lousy roaches? What's the big deal? "I want to see one home that doesn't have a cockroach every once in a while," Patrusevich moans.

But he may be fighting a losing battle. The city has already condemned one of his buildings, and Patrusevich was forced to tear it down last year. He's betting he can save the other two. Like a landslide survivor hanging by his fingernails, Patrusevich will try anything. "I even asked if they would declare these things historic, and they refused."

Tailpipe's not sure about "historic," but without the Quonset community, West Palm would be a lot less interesting.

-- As told to Edmund Newton

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