Everybody loves a good hidden-camera bust. Sometimes it's dirty dining. Sometimes, as during November sweeps on CBS 4, it's dirty politicians — who just happen to be dining, and wining, on the taxpayer dime only moments before showing up at a City Commission meeting! These Cooper City commissioners were so drunk with power (if not with wine) that on one occasion, they had the audacity to vote to double their own pay! Are you furious yet? And if not, are you at least entertained? Whatever the case, this is TV-news "gotcha " journalism at its very best, and considering what a den of iniquity South Florida politics is, we oughta have a lot more of that. Just don't bring that hidden camera into the sauna with Hollywood Mayor Mara Giulianti. There are some things we don't want to know.
We're yawning over Mara Giulianti's obfuscations. We're asleep before somebody can finish the name Ken Jenne. And while we're still cackling over Mitch Ceasar's abomination of a standup routine, we can't bear to repeat lines so unfunny. So this year, we're ignoring all the corrupt, lying, and downright stupid politicians and keeping it simple. We've selected a quote from a widely known man with a clear, concise message. We're talking about former Heat superstar Tim "I Hate Gay People" Hardaway, who apparently didn't get the memo: Gay-hating means you're gay, dude. Didn't you see American Beauty? For those of you who managed to miss this gem, it went down in February, just after former NBA player John Amaechi became the first former pro basketball player to come out. It was Dan Le Batard of 790 the Ticket who solicited Hardaway's feelings on the matter. "First of all, I wouldn't want him on my team," Hardaway said of a hypothetical gay player. "Second of all, if he was on my team, I would really distance myself from him because I don't think that's right and I don't think he should be in the locker room when we're in the locker room... I'm homophobic. It shouldn't be in the world, in the United States. I don't like it." We don't like much about you either, Tim — except, of course, that you made the Heat P.R. shit their pants.
As the name suggests, this is a Miami-centric blog. But the duo behind it veers into lots of other South Florida territory, only getting caught in the Castrophobic sludge once or twice a day. Among its most redeeming qualities is a knack for picking up interesting — and abundant — local news about life in stucco-filled, traffic-jammed, sometimes sunny South Florida. And it's mondo-user-friendly. Alex and Rick — first names are enough disclosure in this realm — artfully snip down news highlights so that they're palatable while weaving in select quotes from the actual articles. Keywords link to source material for those wanting to know more. The duo's comments are typically pithy and witty, so it doesn't feel like they're preaching from the pulpit. Bonus points: Each blog entry is spruced up with some sort of art, be it a photo or a graphic, giving tired and overexposed eyes a break.
It's surprisingly easy to beat the biggest daily in Broward into the ground on a big story. Let's face it: At least 80 percent of the Sentinel's reporters aren't exactly newshounds. They're more like harmless yuppie puppies. But no one relishes going against the Boston-bred Holland. When he gets his nose into the news, he's relentless — a veritable robo-reporter. He's shown that during the past year in his coverage of Hollywood corruption (though it was New Times that broke the story that led to the Keith Wasserstrom indictment that started it all) and his reporting on the Seminole Tribe. Now teamed with Sentinel Investigative Editor Joe Demma, Holland is more dangerous than ever. And, believe it or not, we're grateful for his game.
Here's the problem with a lot of big daily newspapers: Their top executives are part of the same Chamber of Commerce clique they should be ripping apart in their pages. The Sun-Sentinel is a shining example of this, with V.P. and General Manager Howard Greenberg chumming it up with the political leaders and the Broward Alliance at every turn. All that access leads to a soft editorial product that often acts as a booster for special interests. Not so the Palm Beach Post. This is a newspaper that hasn't lost its cojones, and if there's one reporter who needs a wheelbarrow to carry his own around, it's Dubocq. He's been busting big investigative pieces about local politicians, knocking over the apple carts, and being a general pain in the ass to the powers that be. In other words, he's doing good. His biggest story has involved lifting the veil on then-Palm Beach County Chairman Tony Masillotti's connection to dirty land deals, leading to federal charges and the politician's exit from public office. More recently, he's made similar findings about PBC Commissioner Warren Newell, whose projected political lifespan has been dramatically reduced as a result. When he's not nailing corrupt officials to the wall, colleagues like Thomas R. Collins, Tony Doris, and Hector Florin are. (Hear the ones about West Palm Beach commissioners Jim Exline and Ray Liberti?) Together, they all show what a good newspaper can do when it's not schmoozing with the same people it should be investigating.
OK, Cenziper has one of those cushy, glory-filled journalism jobs where you spend a year investigating something and then bust out with a report that's sure to win awards. Investigative reporters like her often have years-long lulls where they don't do anything all that special. But Cenziper has proven she's right where she belongs. Last year, her report on hurricane tracking was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It was a very good series, to be sure, but nothing to make one's heart go aflutter. This year, though, Cenziper really outdid herself. The nicely titled "House of Lies," her series on scandals plaguing affordable housing in Miami-Dade County, absolutely rocked. It led to reforms of the system, firings of lax housing officials, and the arrest of a developer. The series has already won the prestigious George Polk Award and has been named a Pulitzer finalist. The question hanging in the air: What will Cenziper come up with this year?
Few things are more depressing than the steady deterioration of the sportswriting craft. The best writers in the business used to congregate on the sports page, where the lighter subject matter allowed for a bit more creativity and whimsy than, say, business coverage. But those days are gone. Now you have sportswriters who treat the games as if they're city commission meetings, who write about X's and O's with little passion or wit, who treat the blessed calling of sports coverage as if it were insurance sales. Not Capozzi. His work might not quite hark back to Ring Lardner or Red Smith, but you can count on the guy to make it worth your while. On the Marlins beat, he's true as Miguel Cabrera's swing. Want to know something about new manager Fredi Gonzalez? Read Capozzi's piece on the "Bagel Boys," a "southern-fried fraternity" of Gonzalez buds that meets at an Einstein's bagel shop to "solve the world's problems." He conjures Fellini in a retrospective piece on Mark McGwire. When the slugger arrived at the ballpark, Capozzi writes that "morning calm gave way to desperate chaos" with " faces pressed against the black gate — kids, mothers, grandfathers, all reaching between the bars for an autograph from the man..." Takes you back, doesn't it?
It seems that actors spend a lifetime trying to become famous only to resent fame the moment they achieve it. Not Eddie Barbanell. The Coral Springs resident became a celebrity after he starred alongside Johnny Knoxville in The Ringer, and he hasn't stopped enjoying it since. Knoxville plays a reprobate who pretends to have a disability so he can compete in a Special Olympics decathlon his uncle is wagering on. Barbanell, who in real life has Down syndrome, plays Knoxville's roommate and steals every scene he has, racking up quotable catch phrases at a rate Will Ferrell would admire. "Oh Mylanta! You are my woman," gasps Barbanell's character at the hair-netted lunch lady he adores. At actual Special Olympics events in South Florida, Barbanell is a hero to fellow athletes and instantly recognizable to the mostly adolescent volunteers who have seen the movie. Barbanell signs autographs and poses for pictures, plus he never turns down a request to deliver one of his famous lines from the film, like, "You scratched my CD, you know!" He's not one of those movie stars who feigns modesty. Barbanell, in fact, has a habit of declaring to a group of strangers, "I'm a celebrity!" Just don't ask Barbanell for the cell phone numbers of Knoxville and fellow co-star Katherine Heigl (of Grey's Anatomy fame). They're friends, and friends don't give your digits away to complete strangers.
For an infant child abandoned in a public restroom, dropped in a Dumpster, or thrown from a car along the freeway, there's no such thing as a soft landing. But Kids in Distress is a South Florida nonprofit agency that cushions the blow. The main campus near Wilton Drive and Dixie Highway stays open 24 hours to receive abused children. Since those under the age of 5 are most often the victims of abuse, Kids in Distress is equipped with the necessities of child care: pampers, Baby Wipes, formula, etc. Kids have a place to sleep, and the staff does its best to captivate children with games and toys. The agency recruits foster parents and adoptive parents while also offering a range of preventive services, from parenting classes to therapeutic preschools for 270 children who are victims of abuse or at risk of being so.
There's not enough room on a church signpost to print the Sermon on the Mount, so a pastor must beckon passersby with a punchy phrase, chock full of thought-provoking biblical wisdom. The kind of message that knocks around one's brain for a few days. That's the effect of the marquee in front of the First United Methodist Church, just south of Young Circle in Hollywood. "If you're beside yourself, now you can pray twice as hard." Get it? "God is like bleach," another sign said. "He gets out stains no one else can." Amen! And the devil, then, is like a red sock that lurks in a pile of whites, plotting to put his imprint on the purest white fabrics.

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