However you may have arrived here, this is the old Not Not Silly Newsroom.

It's a long story -- hardly worth going into here -- but after this place was declared a Brownfield Site, we abandoned it for the NEW! IMPROVED!! Not Now Silly Newsroom.

Feel free to stay and read what you came here to read, but when it's time to leave go to the new place by clicking HERE.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Popeye The Sailor ► Saturday Morning Cartoons

An early Thimble Theatre starring an early Popeye
Popeye the Sailor Man is, according to the Wiki, a "cartoon fictional character," in case any of you were confused.

He began his fictional life in the comic strips, which were a very big thing in the early years of the last century. Elzie Crisler Segar was the cartoonist who midwifed Popeye, adding him to his Thimble Theatre strip in 1929, 10 years after he began drawing it for King Features Syndicate.

Right from the start the strip featured the adventures of Olive Oyl, her older and shorter brother Castor Oyl, and her fiancé Harold Hamgravy. Ten years into the strip Ham Gravy (his name got shortened) hired a new character named Popeye to captain his treasure hunting ship. Little did he know that Popeye would become so popular that he'd become a regular and would eventually push him aside in Olive's heart.

However, it was not love at first sight.
Olive and Popeye actually hated each other when they first met (her first words to him were "Take your hooks offa me or I'll lay ya in a scupper"); they fought bitterly—and hilariously—for weeks until finally realizing that they had feelings for each other.

Popeye didn't become animated until 1933, when Max Fleischer obtained the rights to make the original cartoons for Paramount Pictures. In his cinematic debut (above), Popeye appeared under the rubric of a Betty Boop cartoon, which the Fleischers were already producing, the only time that would happen.

The WikiWackyWoo picks up the story:
In every Popeye cartoon, the sailor is invariably put into what seems like a hopeless situation, upon which (usually after a beating), a can of spinach which he apparently regularly carries with him falls out from inside his shirt. Popeye immediately pops the can open and gulps the entire contents of it into his mouth, or sometimes sucks in the spinach through his corncob pipe. Upon swallowing the spinach, Popeye's physical strength immediately becomes superhuman, and he is easily able to save the day (and very often rescue Olive Oyl from a dire situation). It did not stop there, as spinach could also give Popeye the skills and powers he needed, as in The Man on the Flying Trapeze, where it gave him acrobatic skills. (When the antagonist is the Sea Hag, it is Olive who eats the spinach; Popeye can't hit a lady.)

In 1941 Paramount took over control of Fleischer Studios and they fired Dave and Max Fleischer, renaming the company Famous Studios. The quality of the Popeye cartoons began going downhill until the '60s, when 220 cartoons were produced exclusively for television. These are the worst of the lot.

In 1980 Robert Altman directed a Popeye live-action musical comedy starring Robin Williams as Popeye and Shelly Duvall as Olive Oyl, with songs written by Harry Nilsson, except this one, of course:

The movie bombed at the box office, but has become a cult classic. Robin Williams was not a fan. He said that if you play it backwards, there's a plot.

"Some people say" Nilsson's songs were the best part of the movie. In fact, Harry recorded each of the songs as demos to be given to the actors, so they could earn the tunes. Luckily for Nilsson fans, some of these demos have escaped from the recording studio. What's impressive about these songs is how they do not need the actor's voice to stand up on their own. Each tune embodies the character within the music and lyrics. Listen:

However, the classic Popeyes are the original Fleischer cartoons. There are 109 of them. Here are just 10 for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Grand Avenue 2002 Vision Plan ► Unpacking Grand Avenue

This 1885 watercolour by Winslow Homer is called "A
Garden in Nassau". Ironically it was used 14 years ago for
this Grand Avenue Vision Plan. Read more about it below.
This is the start of an extensive series on Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove. 

There is a humanitarian crisis currently happening on Grand Avenue. 

Yesterday a number of residents in a blighted building along Grand received eviction notices. The biggest problem they have is that there is no place to go. One couple I've spoken to, with several children, has been looking for a new place for months in order to escape their moldy and bug infested apartment. There is absolutely nothing available in their budget and they feel as if they are being gentrified out of the neighbourhood.

The truth of the matter is they are.

At one time the western end of Grand Avenue was the bustling Black business district of West Grove. Today it is one of the worst slums in Miami. The reason West Grove remained a cohesive Black neighbourhood has to do with the efforts of one man who made a difference: E.W.F. Stirrup. And, just like the Stirrup House, which anchors the opposite end of the historic Black neighbourhood, it has undergone a campaign of Demolition by Neglect. [Read: Who Is To Blame For the Destruction of the E.W.F. Stirrup House?]

Ironically, the west end of Grand, blighted as it is, has become some of the most valuable real estate in Miami, having been bought and flipped so many times over the last few decades by speculators looking to gentrify an entrenched Black neighbourhood. Now nothing less than a concrete canyon from Margaret Street west will allow the land to pay for itself. Furthermore, due to Demolition by Neglect, there's almost nothing left along that stretch worth renovating and saving.

Click to enlarge
This map demonstrates how close Grand Avenue is to
the E.W.F. Stirrup House. Identified on this map are
many stories covered in the Not Now Silly Newsroom.


MacFarlane Homestead Subdivision Historical District
Armbrister Field
Coconut Grove Playhouse
The Colour Line
Coral Gables
A quick Grand Ave history lesson: The street always suffered from institutional racism, because that's what always happened in this country. However, it started its slide into irrelevance after segregation was outlawed. Once the folk in West Grove could shop anywhere, the businesses along Grand Avenue no longer had a captive clientele.

Over the next several decades systemic racism kept this end of Coconut Grove in near poverty, even as the other end -- the White end -- of the 33133 zip code became one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in the entire country.

Last month the rapacious developers, hoping to gentrify these people out of existence could hide their slum no longer. Local NBC 6 did an exposé, and interviewed District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell in the process. [Read Residents of Derelict Coconut Grove Building Facing Homelessness. I was unable to embed the video, but it's not for the squeamish.] The issue of Grand Avenue was suddenly in the news, especially after Miami Sues Coconut Grove Landlords for Renting Moldy, Sewage-Filled Apartments, Jessica Lipscomb writes:
Parts of the roof have caved in, creating a breeding ground for mold. Raw sewage, including pieces of toilet paper and human waste, sometimes flow in front of the tenants' front doors. Recently, the landlord cut the power to the outdoor lights, cloaking the building in dangerous darkness after sunset.

But rent is only $400 a month, an almost unheard-of bargain in Miami, where residents in nearly every stretch of the city are being squeezed by rising housing costs. It's about all Coats, who is unemployed, can afford to pay each month. "The rent is just getting ridiculous," she says.

Now the City of Miami is taking legal action against the owners, who — under five corporation names — have 12 properties in Coconut Grove, all of which, the city says, are in various states of disrepair and code violation. The city is fighting to force the owners to pay to relocate all of the tenants to clean and safe apartments they can afford — and many fear they could become homeless if no alternative is provided.
There was a stay of execution on last month's evictions after Commissioner Russell filed his lawsuit. Until yesterday, that is. Many have already left, but the remaining residents have all been told they have to be out by November.

LET'S BE CLEAR: While these rich, White, deveopers have been buying and selling these properties -- and now suing each other -- the pawns that have been allowed to live in their fiefdom are suffering. Little money, if any, has been spent on these buildings. Or, on this entire stretch of Grand Avenue, for that matter. This is another clear case of Demolition by Neglect. Unlike the Stirrup House, which was empty, real people are being affected by these deplorable conditions.

Read more in A History of West Coconut Grove from 1925: Slum Clearance, Concrete Monsters, and the Dicotomy of East and West Coconut Grove, by Alex Plasencia, for their Clemson University thesis.

That's why it's more than a little ironic that the 2002 Grand Avenue Vision Plan used "A Garden in Nassau" for its cover. The implication of using Homer's painting would have been crystal clear to those who chose it. The biography Winslow Homer, by Nicolai Cikovsky and Franklin Kelly, describes Homer's first time in the Bahamas, where he completed some 30 paintings:
Rest by Winslow Homer
Homer's purpose was clearly to gather as many pictures representative of the scenery of the island and the lives of its citizens as possible, for his watercolors embrace a wide variety of subjects. However, he seems to have been particularly interested in the day-to-day activities of the black inhabitants. There was a substantial African population on Nassau, because English planters had brought slaves to the island to work their plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1834, but the economic conditions of former slaves and their descendants remained extremely difficult. Several of Homer's watercolors, such as "Rest" and "A Garden in Nassau", hint at the lingering effects of slavery by showing black figures standing outside the coral limestone walls that typically surrounded white homes, suggesting that they were excluded from the world within.
Nothing depicts the dichotomy between East Grove and the historic Bahamian neighbourhood of West Grove more than the Nassau paintings by Winslow Homer. What the committee that chose his painting for the 2002 Vision Plan could not have known is how little would get done in the intervening 14 years. Presenting this optimistic plan to the City of Miami, there was no way they could have known that the metaphorical wall between the two ends of Coconut Grove would get ever higher.

I'll be sharing more of the 2002 Grand Avenue Vision Plan -- along with the very human stories of people living in this section of town -- in the coming weeks. However, I just wanted to provide some historical context before I get too deep into this series.

Here's some more context from 2009 by filmmaker Ellie Tinto-Poitier, narrated by Jeffrey Poitier:

If anyone knows where I can find a completed
version of this documentary, please contact me.


If you've liked anything you've read at the Not Now Silly Newsroom,  please consider donating to my Go Fund Me campaign to Support Investigative Journalism. My Freedom of Information requests from the City of Miami are beginning to add up, not to mention all the other costs of researching systemic racism and corruption in Coconut Grove.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hair ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Forty-nine years ago today Hair; The American Tribal Love Rock Musical debuted at the Shakespearean Festival in New York City and nothing was ever the same again.

Hair was the first Rock musical. I'll let the Official Hair website pick up the story:
HAIR's world debut was in New York City in October 1967, off-Broadway, on the heels of the Summer of Love. Jerry and I had written HAIR for the uptown big theatre audiences. It was designed to invade Broadway territory, but we couldn't get a tumble from any of the Broadway producers. "Not our cup of tea," they would say. We retreated from our firm intention, in response to an offer of a 6-week run for HAIR as the opening attraction at a new theater. The old Astor Library, gutted and under fresh construction, became The New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater, and the producer Joseph Papp chose HAIR to be the premiere presentation in his experimental space, the Anspacher Theater. (Papp had produced free Shakespeare in Central Park for years, but was now branching out, to embrace the excitement of the avant garde theater movement.) Quite a wonderful opportunity, we thought; if we couldn't get HAIR on-Broadway, at least we could jump-start it downtown in the Joseph Papp spotlight of a new New York theater, in the East Village at that, where the play itself was set. As directed by Gerald Freedman, with choreography by Anna Sokolow, the "Public" proved to be a perfect "out-of-town tryout."
Hair eventually moved to Broadway where it ran for over 1700 performances.

Many of the men of my generation were fighting the Hair Wars with our parents. Those who were just a few years older than me were already fighting in Vietnam, the draft being a subtext of the musical.

I didn't get to see the play until it opened as a quintessential 'Merkin movie musical directed by Czechoslovakia immigrant Miloš Forman a decade later. However, the soundtrack was everywhere by 1968 and I could sing this song by heart.

Several of the tunes in Hair later became hits for others, most notably the 5th Dimension:

Crank it up and LET THE SUNSHINE IN!!!


If you've liked anything you've read at the Not Now Silly Newsroom,  please consider donating to my Go Fund Me campaign to Support Investigative Journalism. My Freedom of Information requests from the City of Miami are beginning to add up, not to mention all the other costs of researching systemic racism and corruption in Coconut Grove.