What the saints and sinners were doing over the weekend; the Beach Trolley might continue to roll; the Warped Tour still has some fringe cred; and a cowardly racist smears a conservative activist.
Indie Film Feast
On Aug. 3, local independent moviemaking outfit Renegade Films held its first Saints and Sinners Film Festival at St. Petersburg's State Theatre.
The Saturday event was a resounding success. A line formed around the block before the 4 p.m. starting time, and the soiree remained busy through eight hours of independently produced films, shorts and trailers. Insiders, actors, aficionados and hangers-on (yes, its true; if you're in the movie business on any level, you can get yourself some hangers-on) mingled in the lobby, smoked upstairs and filled the theatre proper. Renegade Vice President and host/MC Porl Denicolo looked resplendent in a black suit, fangs and creepy-ass contact lenses. As the cumulative alcohol intake rose, the lobby chatter often reached disruptive levels. But overall, the correct decorum for an indie festival full of psyched scenesters and torrents of fake onscreen blood was observed.
Quality of the screened works varied wildly, but all were lauded for their efforts. Highlights included the hilarious Rosemary's Baby-influenced short Child of the Apocalypse; the obtuse but endearing Wool; the blackly comic, zombie-infested After Life; the obvious standout comedy Looking In The Fishbowl; the Kevin Smithian satire Clarks; and a trailer for Renegade's own, horrific The Pledge, featuring 97X morning crew Fisher and Napoleon as over-amped cops.
The show culminated in several technical prizes, and overall-excellence awards in the categories of Saints (the aforementioned Fishbowl) and Sinners (Bleed).
Nearly everyone involved was pleasantly surprised by the turnout, and plans are in the works to boost the profile of the Bay area filmmaking scene by making the festival a quarterly event.
Two feisty beach communities may force the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) to bend the rules.
St. Pete Beach City Manager Mike Bonfield expects to receive a letter from Pinellas County Commissioner Calvin Harris, chair of the PSTA board of directors, detailing the cost of providing bus service to the city. If St. Pete Beach agrees to cover 100 percent of the costs, Bonfield believes, PSTA will allow the city to remain part of the transit system.
"They have backed off the demand that we join PSTA," said Bonfield, who believes Pinellas beach communities put more money into PSTA than they receive.
As reported in Weekly Planet (See "Get Off the Bus," at www.weeklyplanet.com/ 2002-06-05/news_feature.html), St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island, which currently receive PSTA bus service through a federal grant subsidy, wrote letters to the agency's board of directors, informing them that the cities refuse to become full PSTA members when the grant money runs out at the end of 2003.
If St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island join PSTA, a special taxing district created by the Florida Legislature, their property taxes would increase substantially. St. Pete Beach would pay $900,000 annually and Treasure Island $600,000 — together filling one-tenth of PSTA's trough.
Retaining St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island is in PSTA's interest. Their absence would disrupt one of the most visible and popular routes, the Beach Trolley.
While PSTA Director Roger Sweeney confirmed Harris' intent to provide figures to Bonfield and Treasure Island City Manager Chuck Coward, he noted that any proposal requires approval by the board of directors.
"But I think there's room for open and frank discussion," Sweeney said. "And who knows where it will lead?"
Jim Lawrence, an Indian Shores City Council member who also represents the beach communities on the PSTA board of directors, isn't sure he'd be willing to allow St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island to receive services without joining the mass-transit system.
"I still feel they should be members of the authority, just like every other town on the beach," he said. "All those other citizens are supporting the system with their tax dollars."
The current debate comes at a precarious time for PSTA. Rumblings from County Administrator Steve Spratt's office suggest he is interested in folding PSTA into a countywide transit authority also responsible for the proposed light-rail system.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization is conducting a feasibility study. Creating a county transit authority would require a referendum, and acquiring PSTA would require approval from Tallahassee.
Warped In the Sun
The erosion of American arts and culture is a popular subject among barstool sociologists and philosophical hipsters everywhere — the homogenization of iconoclastic creative ideas, the descent from art form into advertisement. And the Vans Warped Tour, by nurturing the ad-man's ties between punk rock's once-underground sound and such esoterica as extreme sports, energy drinks and wireless communications, has become a favorite example, a notable symptom of the disease.
Cynics paint the 8-year-old festival as breeding an army of media-damaged kids about as imaginative and individual as the extras in a Mountain Dew Code Red commercial.
Granted, there were plenty of those kids at the Aug. 4 Tampa stop, thoughtfully erected on the sea of molten, heat-magnet asphalt that is USF's Sun Dome parking lot. Kids in the latest skate Ts, Vans shoes and visors; kids who are too young to get into an R-rated movie sport tattoos, unbelievably expensive Oakley shades and digital phones.
But they made up less than half of the event's 10,000-plus throng, an amazingly disparate crowd that included everyone from bikers, hippies and menacing old-school human canvasses to soccer moms and the pre-adolescent mall gangsters who depend on them.
The tour's ADD-friendly midway vibe offered plenty to do and gawk at. One could witness skateboard, BMX, mountain bike and motocross demos. One could throw down a beat at the "World's Fastest Drummer" competition. One could make a free phone call at the Motorola trailer. One could chill out in the "mist tent," or, if one couldn't make it, one could simply pass out from heat exhaustion and be carried to the infirmary.
While most attendees availed themselves of some diversion or other over the course of the day, nothing in the Warped Tour's cavalcade of youth-marketing spectacle stands to overshadow its consistently high-caliber roster of participating fringe bands anytime soon.
Favorites like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, NOFX and Alkaline Trio shared space with newer underground heroes Thursday, radio hit-makers Something Corporate, and eclectic acts such as Celt-punks Flogging Molly and feminist hip-hop conglomerate Cultifadaz. Innumerable lesser-known hopefuls whose talents or connections landed them slots on a portion of the tour populated at least three side stages, and even unsigned Bay area bands HCA, Sage and Pig Pen (among others) scored a set.
The high quality and integrity quotients of Warped Tour lineups — this year, politically-charged acts Bad Religion, Anti-Flag and the aforementioned NOFX were prominently featured — is a strong argument in favor of the tour's credibility. That such bands would participate indicates an ongoing commitment to the punk community, and to putting the music first. Booths promoting activist groups such as PETA reinforce that sense of responsibility.
"When we were younger, there were punk bands and rock bands, and there was a huge gap between them," says Joe Kiser, a punk-scene veteran and member of Tampa band Closure. "It's kind of cool that (younger kids) don't see the gap, but to us jaded old fucks ... I kind of miss seeing my favorite bands in a small club."
The overwhelming feeling one gets from the Warped Tour is that, basically, it's this generation's Lollapalooza.
For every overheard conversation carping about punk's mingling with the mainstream, there are dozens of excited exchanges about who's coming on next. It's how popular culture moves, from glam rock and fingerless gloves, to grunge and Doc Martens, to punk and star tattoos (sure, you've had yours for years). At the end of the day, is Bad Religion a less talented band because they played for 10,000 people you don't know while a guy on a motorcycle did no-footers 100 yards away?
Whatever Valrico businessman Sam Rashid is doing, it has struck a nerve somewhere in the deep end of Hillsborough County's political cesspool.
For at least the second time since the Sept. 11 attacks, an anonymous smear attack has been launched against Rashid, a Pakistani-born Republican activist.
A flier landed in mailboxes around Tampa on Aug. 1 that compared "Samad Sultan Rashid" with Osama bin Laden. Whoever sent the document didn't feel a need to put a return address on it.
After noting with an air of disapproval that Rashid is a "professed staunch Republican conservative (but donates to Democrats as well)," the author asked "... what do you really know of this relative newcomer to our country"?
The flier's author then proceeded to empty onto the page the contents of a personal dossier that has been assembled on Rashid. The information included social security numbers, physical addresses as well as the names of family members and the automobiles they drive.
Rashid comes by his political philosophy from life experience. His family's business holdings were seized by a left-wing government during his youth in what is now Bangladesh. As an adult in this country, Rashid plays politics to win. His determined style has rubbed many in Tampa the wrong way.
Lately, Rashid has been dealing with a backlash from the local print media focus on his influence over certain politicians. Both Rashid and some of his charges in elected office have attempted unconvincingly in public to distance themselves from each other in this election year.
As rough as Rashid plays, he's never stooped as low as the flier writer. Rashid feels a passion for public affairs that isn't shared by enough of his fellow Americans. If only a few more complacent natives displayed a fraction of this immigrant's intense concern for the future of our community.
—Francis X. Gilpin