To: National Geographic From: Your former friends at Happytown™

Dear Sirs:

After reading your "article" on the City Beautiful in the March issue, we hereby — immediately and irrevocably (unless you start running pictures of naked indigenous peoples again, like in the old days) — cancel our subscription. Your "reporter," whom we've never even met or heard of, by the way (are you sure Mr. Allman wasn't really in Vegas doing blow and cavorting with strippers and just phoning this one in?) is clearly biased against strip malls, Disney and God. Why would you send someone who hates the Big Three to write a story about Orlando? How about some positive news about strip malls, Disney and God? Like what, you ask?

Like that strip malls … often have good bars in them, and that they have plenty of free parking; like that Disney is a great place to work if you secretly hate kids and want to pummel the little sperm vermin with the tail of your Tigger costume; and like that God is really totally awesome and can kick the crap out of any other God around. If that weren't the case we'd have microchurches instead of megachurches. Duh.

In the future, please just report the news and keep your opinions to yourself. Even though you are 100 percent correct about how our city is the harbinger of all that is wrong in America, the Brits haven't caught on yet and we still need to fleece them for every pound they've got, so don't friggin' spoil it for us unless you want all 2 million of us on welfare, OK?

If you read The New York Times Feb. 25, you know there's a minor flap in the art world regarding a long-dead woman named Clara Driscoll, who worked for Tiffany Studios for more than 20 years. It seems it was she, and not Louis Tiffany, who designed some of the most iconic examples of the studio's work: Tiffany lamps.

And that got us thinking about the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, the world's most "comprehensive" collection of the work Louis Comfort Tiffany. Is the whole premise of the place a sham? Would they have to close their doors in light of the news? Would they at least have to do a little quick relabeling to give credit where it's due?

Nah. Turns out that the folks at the Morse already knew of Driscoll, and even have some items designed by her.

"It's not surprising," says Jennifer Thalheimer, the museum's collection manager. "We knew he had a lot of people working for him, and had a lot of designers working for him."

Thalheimer compares the Tiffany Studio of yesterday to the one-man art factory that is Dale Chihuly today. "Chihuly doesn't do any of his own art work," she notes. "He is mostly the inspiration for it."

Driscoll's work is the basis of a show called A New Light on Tiffany at the New-York Historical Society. But it would be cheaper just to go to the Morse and check out her work.

We donned our gay apparel and headed down to Buddy Dyer's State of the City Address Feb. 28 because we thought it might be fun, or perhaps newsworthy.

"What's the state of the city?"


Oh, how we laughed.

That is, until we got there and found that when you cram all of Orlando's boosters and bureaucrats into the cozy confines of the council chambers, the hot air can really bring out the booze sweats. How embarrassing!

Anyway, things kicked off with a movie that first introduced us to the city's new sloganeering. What is Orlando about? Pride, progress and partnerships. Yes sir. Pride? Sailboats, kids, black people, waterskiing and fireworks. Progress? The community venues, creative village, random tree plantings and Parramore's Heritage Park. Partnerships? Lake Eola's amphitheater and a Van Helsing movie poster (what?). We waited for Dyer to be lowered hydraulically (like Cher!) from a ceiling circle above the podium that we never noticed before. That would have been cool, but it didn't happen.

A more dramatic entrance might have at least woken us up. After all, we were going to have to sit there — stand there, actually — and listen to Dyer ramble for 45 minutes about the paradise on Earth he has created. The least he could have done was add a light show.

Oh yeah, the speech. Content-wise, pretty darn impressive, we have to say. Getting Magic Johnson to step in and save Parramore with a $70 million investment was a nice touch. And, as the mayor noted ad nauseam, there's a lot of construction downtown.

But enough of the substance. The speech is a week old already and has been thoroughly chewed by the media. And let's be honest: a lot of the "vision" he outlined is never going to happen anyway — cough … creative village … cough — so why bother dissecting it here?

Instead, allow us to revisit a hypothesis we posited in this very column in October 2006: Whoever writes Dyer's speeches has to go. Upon further reflection, we've come to realize that we were wrong. Perhaps it's not the speechwriting, which is lame, but not that lame. It's the delivery. Buddy Dyer is a horrible public speaker. He plods along in a non-rhythmic monotone, punctuated only by awkward applause-cue lines, which usually result in a few seconds of dead air until one of his aides starts clapping.

Anyway, Mr. Mayor, here's our new advice: Keep the speechwriter. Hire a speech coach. We're only trying to help.

No solutions to offer? Just baffle 'em with bullshit. A federal court is still waiting to hear how the Orange County School District will dazzle it with a plan to comply with a required desegregation order. Unfortunately, the school district is puzzled. Superintendent Ronald Blocker called an earth-shattering press conference Monday where he proudly announced the district wouldn't get to unitary status by consolidating up to 21 urban schools as previously discussed. How are they going to do it? "I have no idea," says Blocker. Nothing like a solid plan for the future.

Remember last week when we promised that anyone who got us liquored up would be mentioned in this here column? Yeah, it's kind of hazy for us too, but Orlando beer distributor Tom Moench of Unique Beers was paying attention. He dropped off some Orange Blossom Pilsner, along with a note that his beer picked up the People's Choice award at the Florida Brewers Guild Beer Festival in Tampa Feb. 24. Congrats.

Speaking of awards, Orlando Brewing Partners picked up a gold and three silver medals at the Best Beer in Florida competition Feb. 24. They won a gold for their Double Imperial IPA and silvers for their Blonde Ale, Blackwater Ale and Olde Pelican.

Perhaps Orlando doesn't suck as much as National Geographic says it does after all.

This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Billy Manes, Deanna Sheffield and Bob Whitby.

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