The Sun

Florida is a land of paradoxes.

For instance: One of the biggest upsides to living in Florida is the sun.  One of the biggest downsides to living in Florida is the sun.

The latter is especially true if you happen to be fair-skinned (guilty) and/or ginger (double guilty). While the near constant presence of the Giant Yellow Orb is a blessing in the winter when it is 70 degrees out in January, it is a terrible curse during the summer months when the whole state can feel like a giant greenhouse.  While this situation is great if you rely on chlorophyll, it is less than desirable if you simply want to walk to the corner store without your shoes mating with the asphalt.

This unfortunate solar dominance would be tolerable, OK even, if not for one thing: YOU CAN NOT ESCAPE IT.  Oh sure, there may seem to be ways to avoid it, but those are just lies we tell ourselves so we believe we can exist here.  Even if you put on tons of sunscreen, you will sweat it off.  Wear long sleeves or a hat? You will feel like you are melting.  Work indoors with air conditioning?  Great – enjoy coming out to the car that you left roasting outside all day.  Wait to go out at night like some sort of ginger zombie?  The leftover heat continues to rise from the pavement until midnight.  Plus, because the sun is an early riser, the sun will even beat you in the morning (my car temperature gauge read 85 degrees at 8:30 this morning).

Since Florida was not designed for human habitation, we have had to come up with a variety of ways to deal with this heat, the most important being air conditioning.  Walk around during the summer and you will be treated to a chorus of humming and chirping.  The humming is from the omnipresent AC units, while the chirping is from the omnipresent bugs who are also complaining about the heat.  (Side note: Prior to the invention and implementation of air conditioning,  Florida’s population did not really spread into the peninsula, staying in the panhandle.  This is why Tallahassee in the northern region of Florida is the state capital, even though it is only the seventh most populous city  in the state.  The more you know!).

However, for all the good that AC brings, it comes at a hefty price, and energy bills spike in the summer months.  However, since the only other options are to stay in the water with the alligators (or sharks depending on where you are.  Did you know an east coast town called New Smyrna Beach is the Shark Bite Capital of the world.  Again, the more you know!) or to just die a slow dehydrated death, I’d say just pay the man.  Besides, alligators don’t send you past-due notices, they are pretty much instant collectors.

After AC, there are a wide variety of tools and methods available for use in fighting the solar tyrant.  These are mostly hit or miss, even though people will swear by them.  For instance, even though people will tell you otherwise, those cardboard windshield things don’t seem to do much, except provide a great way to smack your passenger in the face every time you park your car and struggle to put them up.  Other people stand by farmers’ hats, which are a great way to look like Doug from The Hangover AND sweat out half your body weight.  Another strategy is to carry an umbrella, but come on, let’s be real here, nobody wants to look like they just stepped out of an impressionist painting.

In summary, pretty much the only way to avoid the Florida heat is to avoid Florida altogether.  Or to buy a vacation house in North Carolina.

Zombies!

Ok, let’s do it.  Let’s get it all out on the table.  Let’s talk about the zombie story.

This past weekend, the nation was rocked by a story out of Miami involving a nude, crazed man killed by police after eating another man’s face for breakfast alongside the freeway.

This is one of those stories where I say “please don’t be Florida, please don’t be Florida” in my head as I click the link, all the while knowing that this could only happen here.

Apparently the aggressor (“zombie,” in court parlance), Rudy Eugene, was suffering from “cocaine psychosis” when he attacked 65-year-old Ronald Poppo, devouring most of his face and leaving only his “goatee and little else.”  Chilling.  After some googling, I found that cocaine psychosis is “a drug-induced craze that bakes the body internally and often leads those it affects to strip naked to try to cool off.”  I had always thought that cocaine psychosis is when you won’t shut up at a party because you think that everything you have to say is the most interesting idea in the world.  And if the guy at the keg would just shut up and stop talking about the GD Miami Dolphins for a minute, you could tell everyone your awesome idea for condoms made from recycled tires.  Then you grind your teeth some more.*

Although details are still murky, the attack was witnessed by a AAA Road Ranger who used the loudspeaker in his truck to tell the naked man to stop eating the other guy, which would have to be the most ridiculous statement to ever come out of a loudspeaker.  And yes, I would pay money for the audio recording.  When cops arrived, Eugene was still treating Poppo’s face like a chalupa and refused officers’ commands to stop eating the victim.  He was then shot several times and killed, thus ending the saddest chapter in American history.

Seeing as how this horrific episode may be America’s first true zombie incident,  I would think that Florida is now in first place for the Mayan Doomsday Sweepstakes 2012 (Can you feel the excitement?!?!).  And while many residents are choosing to focus on the negative and preparing for the imminent zombie invasion, there is some silver lining in that this absolutely insane act has led to calls for officials to change the state’s slogan from “The Sunshine State” to “First in Fright”  (Take that, North Carolina).

*”Cocaine psychosis” is also known as “Drugs Gone Wild Syndrome,” which is the last step before you suffer a Charlie Sheen Embolism.

Slow Day Friday

Since nothing particular is catching my attention today (at least not yet), I thought it might be good to just take a cruise around this fine state and find some of the stranger/more obnoxious stories developing.

And.here.we.go:

Let’s start things off with this item (which has made list only because of the extreme journalism skills being employed in the headline): Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral Could Ignite Florida’s Commercial Space Industry.  Did you see what they did there?  If not, go back and read it again.  It was so clever that you may have missed it.  Anyways, since the US government has apparently decided to just concede the moon to the Chinese by cutting funding for NASA, people on the Space Coast (Yes, that’s what it’s called here.  With straight faces) have been freaking out.

However, it is looking like the private space industry could really take off (See?  I can do it too) and provide employment for the thousands of engineers and contractors who have been employed by NASA and other entities for the last forty years.  Plus, since these are private companies, we can finally get away from all of the safety “regulations” that were holding us back.  Flying cars, here we come!

And now from the “No-Shit-Sherlock” file: FLDOE Changes FCAT Scale After Poor Scores.  To summarize, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (or FCAT) is the standardized tests that all Florida students must take (and pass) to proceed to the next grade level.  For the past few years, people have been complaining that the tests were too easy.  This led to the state changing the grading criteria, which in turn resulted in a decrease of the number of students that passed this year.

To be exact, results show only 27% of fourth graders received a passing score of 4 or better, compared to 81% last year.  And now, of course, everyone is freaking out about the whole thing, as if no one realized that making the test harder would result in fewer kids passing.  It’s like the blind leading the blind here sometimes.  Anyways, they are now revising the grading scale AGAIN and will apply a special one-year exception to get the numbers up.  These kids are getting a head start here; I don’t think I learned about statistical manipulation until junior year of college.

By the way, is it time to leave ALL the kids behind yet?

From the same file, but on a national scale: Postal Service To Begin Closing Plants This Summer.  After posting somewhere around 20 consecutive quarters in the RED, SOMEONE finally has realized that the postal system might not be the most relevant/efficient system anymore.  That’s probably due to the fact that NO ONE MAILS SHIT ANYMORE.  This is because going to be post office is a pain in the neck and postage rates are plain larceny.  I bought a book of stamps a few years ago and I just now paid it off.  Oh, also the Internet may be contributing to this.  But I think that’s just a fad.  As soon as the commercial space industry takes flight (layup joke), we’ll probably all be teleporting our fan mail to the Chinese moonbase.

As a side note, this post is so technologically advanced that your primitive human spellcheck does not recognize the words “teleporting” or “moonbase.”  Pitiful humans.

Speaking of our top-notch Postal Squad: Ex-Postal Worker Says She’s Too Injured to Work, Discovered Running Boston Marathon.  Read the article, it’s basically the script for Rookie of the Year 2: Special Delivery.

This one is just sad, but it goes back to my previous post about people running churches out of houses.  FBI: Central Florida Evangelist Molested Girls.  I won’t get into the specifics, but I will say that if you don’t think that “En Fuego for Jesus” (On Fire for Jesus) is the greatest slogan ever, you need to get out less.

I also like the end of the video when the reporter asks the pastor’s wife what her husband is like and she replies that the reporter wouldn’t understand because he doesn’t have “the discernment from the Lord, and [he] need[s] to get [his] life right.”  In light of the charges facing him, as well as his haircut, I can’t really help but feel that her husband might have been a little low on discernment himself.  The video also features footage from some sort of dubstep concert they put on.  Wait for the beat to drop.

And finally, also cringeworthy: Flesh-Eating Bacteria Consumed Man’s Penis, Says Lawsuit.  I blame poor scheduling, since everyone knows that 2012 is the Year of the Flesh Eating Bacteria according to the Mayan Zodiac.  No word yet on when to expect the Year of Successful Penile Implants.

Let’s get the weekend going!

The Canvas Bags Are Particularly Symbolic

When I first moved to Florida a few years ago, canvas shopping bags were completely unheard of.  Well not conceptually, but using them.

I knew that stores in large cities like New York and DC were pushing for customers to bring their own bags to take home their purchased goods from their stores as a means of cutting down on non-biodegradable plastic bags (as a side note, more customers doing this would also save the retailer some money as well).  However, this trend had not yet taken hold here in Florida.

Sure, the bags were available for purchase, but nobody really seemed too keen on using them.  This was probably because doing so would be a sign that you were some dirty long-haired tree freak who was too busy believing the global warming agenda to support our troops.  Mentioning the fact that Europe has been using them for years with great success would probably be met with a real original (and mature) zinger like, “well, if you think Europe is so great, why don’t you just move there?”  It was better to let sleeping bags lie.

And so the bags sat on the shelves until something changed a few years ago: logos.

College logos to be specific.  That’s right, once the bags were blessed with University of Florida Gator heads and Florida State University Seminoles branding, they suddenly became a much more common sight at the grocery stores and in the parking lots.  With the additional branding, the bags went from being a socialist symbol to conversation piece (the conversation: “I-am-an-FSU-fan-and-screw-whatever-team-you like-because-the-Noles-are-the-single-greatest-program-of-all-time-AND-Jimbo-Fisher-is-the-second-coming-also-please-hurry-up-and-order-at-the-deli-I-am-in-a-hurry-thank-you.”).

If there’s one thing the canvas bags have taught us, it is that adding college logos can help you sell fucking ANYTHING in this state.  Seriously, take a spin through FSU’s online bookstore, where you can view all 45 GD (goddamn) pages.

Why is it possible to get a UF toothbrush?  So you can fight plaque “the Gator way.”

I feel like these gloves would be great attire for a frosty afternoon watching a football game at a stadium nicknamed “The Swamp.”  Yup, they seem very practical.

Also, who the hell thought these were a good idea?  (Haha, jorts!)

I am waiting for the guy that opens the first branded gas station here.   “Fill up like a Bull Gator today!  Come inside for a limited edition Tebow Virginal Foot Long (Now with extra Cheez!)”

Maybe I should design something actually useful, like a University of Miami-branded cyanide dispenser.

The Holy Land Experience

Let’s get something straight.  People in Florida love them some churchin’.

Whether it’s a completely rational, respected pastor threatening to burn religious texts like this guy, or some insane street preacher on a street corner in Orlando, people here just can’t get enough of that sweet, sweet salvation.

In fact, they love it so much that they are more than happy to help you have some too, whether you want it or not.  Drive around any town and you will see churches representing every denomination you can think of, and you will probably also see some that you had never thought of.  In fact, it’s not uncommon to see churches in residential neighborhoods being hosted in someone’s house.  Visions of the church scene from “Coming to America” spring to mind.

In addition to churchin’, Floridians love tourist dollars. So when the opportunity came along to combine the two, how could they possibly resist?

Enter, The Holy Land Experience.

Originally founded by Marvin Rosenthal, a Jewish-born New Yorker who would later become a Baptist minister*, in the late 90’s, The Holy Land Experience is a Biblical-themed amusement park designed “to replicate the architecture and themes of 1st century Israel.”  Women, get those veils ready!

However, after a few years of poor ticket sales, the park was sold in 2007 to Trinity Broadcasting Network, an evangelical Christian television group run by the Crouch family, who also has offices located near the park.  TBN is the “third largest over-the-air television station group in the country, besting the station groups of CBS, FOX, and NBC, but behind Ion and Univision.”  No, you didn’t read that wrong.  TBN covers more ground (air?) than CBS, Fox, and NBC.  Who knew there were that many aerial antennas still in operation? What a country.

Almost immediately after purchasing the park, and in an act right out of the Old Testament, the Crouch’s restructured the board of directors, removing anyone without the last name “Crouch.”  Their next step was to lay off an estimated 100 employees.  Watch out, Herod, there’s a new sheriff in town!

It’s also probably worth mentioning at this point that their logo looks like an Ed Hardy print, because I feel like that’s somehow relevant.  Douchebags.

Also keep in mind that they preach the “Prosperity gospel” which is basically an updated version of the Indulgence system used by the Catholic church which eventually led to the Protestant Reformation.  Same shit, different name.  Douchebags, again.

Anyways, I drive by this awesome spectacle every day, and although I have not given in to the temptation to check it out myself  (Although at $40 for an adult day ticket, how much longer can I resist?).  The good news is that if I play my cards right, I won’t have to pay at all.  That’s because the park must offer free admission one day a year in order to maintain their tax-exempt status.  I’m not sure how that works, but that’s what I’ve always been told. They haven’t announced the day for 2012 yet, but I will keep my eyes open.

So speaking of taxes, TBN recently found themselves in a little bit of hot water locally when they attempted to file tax exempt status for two mansions they own in Windermere (Tiger Woods’ neighborhood) claiming the two residences as “parsonages,” or residences for religious ministers (in this case, members of the Crouch family who happen to be ministers).  However, because a parsonage must be the full-time residence for the pastor, and since the Crouch’s already own and reside in several homes in California (seen here, here, and here), their request was denied.

There is a God somewhere.

For additional reading on TBN, check out their Wikipedia page, which contains this gem: “TBN is not a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability or any official financial oversight group; Paul Crouch and his family—as members of TBN’s executive board—control the network’s finances.”  There are some other goodies in the “Controversy” section.

* Seriously.

Transplants

Florida is a weird place.  I think we have already established that, and one look at any local news website should confirm it.

Current examples of headlines: Officials Say White Supremacists Planned Race War and Swan Eggs Stolen From Two Central Florida Parks.

One of the main reasons that Florida is such a “colorful” place to live is the constant influx of new residents.  These transplants, composed of a wide variety of people ranging from retirees to fugitives, come to the Sunshine State for all sorts of different reasons.  Whether you are looking for warm weather, lax gun laws, or political asylum, Florida has something for everyone.

However, spend time with anyone who was born here or who grew up here long enough and you will eventually hear them complaining about all the non-natives who have moved to the state.  You get the sense that they are longing for the Good Ol’ Days (Like when? 1982 or when air conditioning didn’t exist?).

The ironic part is that this migration has been going on for decades, and it would be a safe bet that many of the people who dislike the non-natives are either transplants themselves, or natural-born Floridians have only been here for one generation.  Trying to explain the hypocrisy of this sentiment to one of these people is more difficult than keeping lovebugs from splattering all over your windshield and bumper during their summer mating season (We’ll discuss lovebugs in another post).

These sentiments have led to a number of fantastic pejorative terms for outsiders ranging from the vaguely clever (“snowbirds” for seasonal retirees) to the patently offensive (“Island Rats” for Puerto Rican and Caribbean immigrants) to the just plain lazy (“Yankees” for, well,  Yankees).  This aggressive attitude towards outsiders, while not widespread, is particularly puzzling for a state that derives a large part of its revenue from tourists.  It’s like they want you to visit, spend all your money, and then leave, which frankly sounds a bit like Las Vegas, but instead of strip clubs and depression, we have cartoon characters and depression.

Florida:  Come for the Sunshine, then Leave!

Boat Day and Parasites

This Sunday, several friends and I are renting some pontoon boats and will be spending a day on the water crushing beers and avoiding alligators. I mention the alligators since people know them and how dangerous they are. What most people don’t know is that there are plenty of other things in the water that can kill you, and I’m not just talking about the snakes, river monsters, and other drunken boaters.

I am talking about parasites.

Specifically, the amoeba Naegleria fowleri.  Any time the opening line of an article contains the phrase “also known as “the brain-eating amoeba,” you know you’re in for a treat.

This playful little guy lives in the silt at the bottom of lakes and rivers and can occasionally get kicked up towards the surface, where he then attempts to move into your nasal cavity before moving up Jeffersons-style to your brain. Once there he proceeds to treat your cerebrum like an Old Country Buffet.  Then you die like 10 days later, or something I-don’t-know because I had to stop reading the article.  (Seeing as how it moves from your nose to your brain before destroying your brain and ultimately killing you, wouldn’t “Cocaine Amoeba” be a better nickname?  I’ll run this past the guys in marketing.  Also, I think I just found the name for my fantasy football team).

Anyways, since you can’t shoot the damn things (The standard Floridian protection method), the only way to prevent infection is to stay out of the water altogether. However, since this will be a boat trip involving beer, idiots who drink beer, and a shitload of sunshine (Forecast: 94 degrees).  It is a safe bet to assume that people will be in the water. I will provide an update assuming I have not been infected by a microscopic invader who can control my brain and has decided that typing is no longer in the agenda.  YES MY LORD.

Happy boating!