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9/11/2008

Columns > Happytown

HAPPYTOWN

 

You know what happens when knights get angry? They don body armor, jump on a horse, grab some kind of sharp instrument and gallop toward one another trying to poke the other guy’s guts out. Or at least they used to do that.

Nowadays they organize via electronic message boards and concoct publicity stunts meant to shame their opponents.

A group of jockish University of Central Florida Knights fans have recently taken offense to the city’s paper of record, the Orlando Sentinel, with regard to its handling of the death of wide receiver Ereck Plancher. You may recall the paper’s “coach won’t talk to us!” martyrdom and laugh a little.

According to Robert Aronoff, a UCF graduate from 1992 who spends time on the UCFSports.com message board, “the Dungeon,” this little tiff between the paper and the coach is hurting more than just the UCF glee club. “It is simultaneously damaging personal and institutional reputations, and journalistic standards and ethics,” he writes in an e-mail presser.

To get their point heard – or rather, seen – “hundreds” of Dungeon Knights went all PayPal and rented a small aircraft (at a cost of $500) to carry a message over the stadium during the UCF-USF game Sept. 6 reading “BOYCOTT THE SENTINEL. GO UCF!” You won’t see it during the ESPN broadcast of the game, because flyovers are forbidden. Odds are, you won’t read about it in the Sentinel, either. But now you know.

Hey, guess what! The Orlando Downtown Ambassadors have survived eight months of two-wheeled ambassading and nobody’s died yet! The Segway sweethearts are thriving, at least according to them.

During their time swerving among us, they’ve responded to 812 safety and security requests (so, like, three a day), 28,275 general information requests (120 a day) and conducted outreach – you know, like waving – to 523 business establishments (or two a day). We’re certain that none of those numbers have been padded to include sideways glances or heckling: “My tax dollars at work!” But we’d also bet that if you added up the number of times the person next to you asked you what time it was, you too could be considered a successful resource for the city. If you wore a helmet.

Despite our initial suspicions, it appears that not all house-like structures with toilets in them are feeling the heavy hand of foreclosure after all.

The folks at Habitat for Humanity Orlando – purveyors of our favorite term ever, “sweat equity,” meaning the amount of perspiration applicants must expend before being considered for an affordable house – balked at our suggestion that, hey, in other markets Habitat is actually taking over foreclosed houses (good!) and foreclosing on delinquent clients (bad!). Not here, they say.

Instead, Habitat Orlando is actually breaking new ground and erecting its first “townhome” community. It’s called Staghorn Villas (the image boggles the mind), and it’s scheduled to cost about $6 million; they’ve already secured $750,000 in corporate donations (each paying $250,000) from Hannover Life Reassurance Company of America, CHEP and HD Supply. Habitat Orlando itself netted about $2.7 million in the last fiscal year, so they’re serious. Staghorn serious.

With schools back in session, the big top cruelty argument starts anew. The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida is encouraging Orange County parents to complain to the school district about potential field trips to the circus and free or discounted tickets handed out to kids, because the circus is no fun for the animals. (See our Sept. 4 cover story, “Dirty secrets under the big top.”)

ARFF says sending kids to the circus sends a bad message and suggests that animals should be treated as property to be abused at whim. They say there’s no such thing as an educational circus field trip.

Says one parent in the ARFF presser: “In my opinion, animal circuses are an extension of the slave trade. Not that long ago African-Americans were believed to hold less value and importance than whites, and it is this same notion of superiority that permits humans to enslave and torture animals for the sake of a dollar. Slavery is slavery, no matter how you dress it up.”

Does that apply to the clowns squeezing into the little car too? Because we love that.

In our Best of Orlando issue [July 17], we dubbed The People Power Hour With George Crossley “the best radio program you don’t listen to.” One reason you didn’t listen was because Crossley – the fiery former preacher turned felon turned local ACLU head honcho and progressive activist – only aired on WAMT-AM (1190) Saturday mornings, and you had to trim the hedges or something. That excuse is gone, because Crossley and company are taking their outrage to weeknights – every weeknight, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., beginning Sept. 15.

“Now I can really do some damage, for good or ill,” says Crossley, who in recent shows has taken on topics including misconduct at the Orlando Police Department, the city’s crackdown on feeding the homeless and the ever-shrinking Orlando Sentinel. He promises future topics will be just as provocative.

Because we like to keep you apprised when Orlando residents get their 15 minutes of fame, or infamy, we note that America’s Most Wanted will feature a segment 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, on Fox 35 about Javier Trevino, a then–22-year-old who got sloshed at a party in Orlando in July 2006 and struck 20-year-old Heather Mobley with his Hummer, killing her. He didn’t show up for a court appearance last year and is believed to be in Texas or Mexico. Way to make Orlando proud, Trevino.

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