And now it's time for another edition of What's Up With Alan?™, our attempt to keep you up to date on the comings and goings of Orlando's favorite congressman, Alan Grayson!

This week's installment finds Alan violating the first rule of freshman legislating — shut up, keep your head down, do your constituency casework and get re-elected — and getting noticed by the national press. Our Alan's going to be a star … if voters don't toss him out on his bum next November.

On March 6, Politico ran a profile of Grayson, who it said "won't hold his tongue." Grayson's been flapping his jaws lately, calling Rush Limbaugh "a sorry excuse for a human being" who "was more lucid when he was a drug addict." Ha!

He's also used committee hearings to tongue-lash Wall Street types, then uploaded his bitch sessions to YouTube so those of us who don't watch C-SPAN can see him in action. Also of note: Grayson hired liberal blogger Matt Stoller, who has led efforts to replace moderate Dems with more liberal ones, as his senior policy advisor. In other words, Grayson has become exactly the congressman we expected he'd be: brash, loud and egomaniacal, but on the right side of issues.

The rest of the Politico piece discussed whether or not he'd get re-elected and quoted some Republican mouthpiece saying, predictably enough, that he won't, especially if Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty runs against him. Perhaps. But we can say without equivocation that Grayson is more entertaining than Crotty.

And in the meantime, what do we say? Thanks, Alan, for keeping it real!

On March 3, the National Endowment for the Arts laid down its guidelines for claiming the magical stimulus funds that will save our nation. A paltry $50 million out of the countless gazillions is available for the next "Piss Christ" and fat people singing, because no one cares about art, apparently.

But the problem with the money that is available, says United Arts of Central Florida CEO and president Margot Knight, is that it's not being fairly distributed. In order for local arts organizations to access the federal funding — which is where the big bucks are — they have to have applied for and received an NEA grant within the past four years. United Arts did apply as an umbrella organization for the region's smaller arts groups in 2005, receiving just $30,000 of the $160,000 it asked for. (They also applied in 2007, but received no money.)

But somehow, they've just missed the cut-off. What that means, according to Knight, is that the whole intention of the stimulus package — to pull up the small groups in dire need of funding — is being sabotaged by an unfair guideline. If said guideline isn't changed, the only groups likely to benefit from the influx of cash will be the big arts groups — Orlando Opera, for example — while the others are left to fail.

Knight hopes to light a fire under the NEA via local and national arts groups to get the rule changed before the April 2 application deadline.

In a related development, Orange County mayor Rich Crotty raised a stink this week when he shot out a letter March 3 to Orange County Library System's board of trustees president. In that pleasant memo, Crotty railed against the board's awarding a $9,000 pay raise to its library director, Mary Anne Hodel. "At this particular moment," wrote Crotty, "awarding a $9,000 salary increase to the director, on top of her already high salary, defies logic and show`s` a callous disregard of this community's financial situation." That, and "I am dismayed."

Poo-poo, Mr. Crotty! The move led the Sentinel's David Damron to survey the salaries of other county-funded agencies, including United Arts (although they didn't make the story) and prompted a feeling of witch-hunting among the area's gala elite. Knight even blasted an e-mail out to city and county officials — including the dismayed Crotty — pre-empting any questions on her organization by breaking down all the numbers for them.

It was all smoke and no fire. Perhaps that's because of a little grand-jury, toll-road something-something that also came to light March 3, tossing Crotty and his frugal pragmatism into the pit. Thanks, Allan Keen!

Speaking of grand juries, Allan Keen and the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, we'd like to remind everyone — especially our friends at the Orlando Sentinel, who have just now realized that this agency is a den of scumbags cutting checks to their political cronies — that we called it two years ago `see "Kill the beast," Dec. 28, 2006`. As we said back then, "Let's get to the real reason that it's time to rise up and kill the expressway authority: It exists only to collect your money, so it can grow, so it can collect more of your money."

Now that we've seen the grand jury report detailing the extent of the authority's malfeasance, we're more convinced than ever that this bureaucratic cancer needs to be cut from our midst. According to the report, Keen leaned heavily on the authority's vendors to raise money for the political candidates he supported, including ex-congressmen Ric Keller and Tom Feeney, and Orange County Mayor (and OOCEA board member) Rich Crotty. Crotty, it should be noted, has since taken over as OOCEA chairman and claims to have already cleaned up the whole enterprise. Nonetheless, the OOCEA is jacking up toll fees.

See, the OOCEA's existence is predicated on building new roads. If it didn't do that, it could pay off its existing bonds and quietly shut down. Instead, the authority would like all of us to pay more, so it can keep building into perpetuity. It's quite the racket, actually.

And it still needs to die.

This week in the gay, justice was served.

When we last visited the brutal murder of 25-year-old Polk County resident Ryan Skipper ("What's hate got to do with it?," May 31, 2007), it was at a memorial protest one month after his March 15, 2007, death. There were white balloons and tear-stained eulogies, the mourning parents and the pain, all clouded by an overwhelming sense of doubt as to whether anything would be done about the small-town gay boy stabbed 19 times.

Well, even as the battle to legislate tougher punishments for hate crimes rages on, a small victory for Skipper's legacy came to light Feb. 27. One of the two accused killers, Joseph Bearden, was found guilty of second-degree murder and robbery — this after a witness testified that Bearden said just after the murder that "he felt that he was doing the world a favor by getting rid of one more faggot."

Allow us to return the favor, Joe.

Got milk? Orlando does. We now have several square miles of it in the freshly dubbed Milk District, south of the T.G. Lee Dairy behind Colonial Plaza.

Tommy Mot of Covert Skate Shop and Katie Reynolds of Etoile Boutique are just two of the business owners eager to squeeze out some public recognition for the entrepreneurial pocket in and around Bumby Avenue. The recent opening of Vinyl Richie's Wiggly World of Records makes for three music shops, along with the Drop Shop and Retro Records. Then there are the bars, like Sportstown Billiards and the Bull & Bush, and restaurants like Drunken Monkey, El Coqui and Pom Pom's Sandwicheria.

There's nothing official about the Milk District tag, but that won't keep it from catching on with locals just like the ViMi did. There are no city records citing that designation, which is a contraction of Virginia and Mills and where gay businesses and small design firms took a stand.

To start things with a splash, Mot is throwing the Milk Shake! on March 22 in the parking lot behind Covert, with DJs, bands (DiVinci, Beef Wellington and Madd Illz hosting an MC battle) and a hot dog—eating contest. Wholesome.

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