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9/10/2009

Columns > Happytown

Happytown

 

By now you’re familiar with the meme of unexpected choreography in public spaces: a lunchtime crowd milling around a mall or museum or tourist trap seems to be going about its merry way until, out of nowhere, one person throws an arm up, makes a face and starts channeling Barbra Streisand or Judy Garland while those around her (or him!) fall into some old studio-musical jazz-hand routine to the delight and astonishment of the Diet Coke-sippers in their midst. Everybody applauds and it’s on YouTube in a minute for the gays to Google. It is all very exciting.

Well, that’s not exactly what happened at lunchtime on Sept. 3 at the Lake Eola amphitheater, but that’s what was supposed to happen. A group of teachers and people who love teachers gathered for something billed as “Improv to Improve the Community” (see what they did there?): “Dancing to the beat of their own drum, or in this case MP3 players, 20-plus individuals will ambush downtown Orlando to put the ‘fun’ back into FUNDraising,” the presser went on. The idea – so loaded with catchphrases that we’re making ourselves ill just writing about it – was for “movers” and “shakers” to silently and in a silly manner raise awareness and funds for A Gift for Teaching, a source of school supplies for teachers and impoverished students in the Orange County public school system.

So about 20 folks showed up at the old bandshell with their headphones on, and just after noon they started doing ridiculous things that only they knew about, because they were wearing headphones that told them what to do. They danced, they jumped up and down, they bellowed with laughter, they fell to the ground and snored fake sleep. Why? Well, we can’t be sure. There wasn’t really anybody there to witness it but us – plus one TV news cameraman – and they weren’t particularly skilled in physical movement (white men churning butter, fits of Molly Ringwalding). Think The Wiggles on mute.

But then news happened. Lake Eola staffers tried to approach the temporarily deafened performance artists, as they were in fact trespassing at the amphitheater, but the kids kept on dancing and laughing right in the face of authority. Lake Eola Park manager Leo Falcon was none too pleased, initially threatening all of the participants with “jail”! Bike cops were called over, and eventually Falcon decided to have the event’s main organizer charged with trespass and banned from the park for a year. He told us he would rescind the charge if said offender called his office; obviously he was making a point, but Jane Thompson, AGFT president, “took the charge,” according to the group.

One of the organizers, Audrey Perrott, explained to us why it is that a group of educators would consider such a stunt without a permit. “We were wondering, ‘Do we get a permit?’” she said. “Would that really be improv?” Wow.

From the Interesting Fine Print desk: Two weeks ago we reported that all of that Gibson GuitarTown hooey – wherein giant painted guitars populated the downtown corridor for no reason at all -– had actually made good in the final auction of rockin’ artwork (Council Watch, Aug. 27). A giant cardboard check for $182,371.87 was ceremoniously presented in council chambers to four local charities who would divide it equally. Righteous. We were a little skeptical about the amorphous Downtown Arts District being one of the four charities, mostly because it had actually organized the event and doesn’t really operate like a standard charity, but whatever, right? Charity is charity.

Turns out we had every reason to be concerned. The other three charities – the Urban Think Foundation, the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness and the Orlando Community and Youth Trust (a front for Parramore Kidz Zone) – were each involved in a “memorandum of understanding” with the city in June that sees them kicking back 5 percent of their proceeds to the Downtown Arts District for all of that organizing group’s hard work, meaning they will each get 20 percent of the money (or $36,474) while DAD will reel in 40 percent ($72,948). Rock & roll is not fair!

If you know Jim Greer, would you mind asking him to give us a ring? Your Happytown™ correspondents are just dying to know where he gets his dope. Thanks.

Last week, the Florida GOP chairman hopped the train to Crazytown with a Glenn Beck–inspired, almost inexplicably hate-filled rant against President Obama for having the temerity to suggest that children should stay in school and study. We know Southern Republicans aren’t always fond of book-learnin’, but damn. This was a truly impressive bit of tea-bagging from an ostensibly respectable political figure.

On Aug. 26, the Obama administration announced that the prez would give a televised address to schoolchildren across the nation Sept. 8 (which is after this column is written, but before you read it), in which he would “challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.”

Big deal, right? Well, yes. In fact, to Greer, this was the first sign of the Apocalypse. His e-mail blast response is reprinted below, unedited. Draw your own conclusions about the state of his mental health.

“As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power.

“While I support educating our children to respect both the office of the American President and the value of community service, I do not support using our children as tools to spread liberal propaganda. The address scheduled for September 8, 2009, does not allow for healthy debate on the President’s agenda, but rather obligates the youngest children in our public school system to agree with our President’s initiatives or be ostracized by their teachers and classmates.

“Public schools can’t teach children to speak out in support of the sanctity of human life or traditional marriage. President Obama and the Democrats wouldn’t dream of allowing prayer in school. Christmas Parties are now Holiday Parties. But, the Democrats have no problem going against the majority of American people and usurping the rights of parents by sending Pied Piper Obama into the American classroom.

“The Democrats have clearly lost the battle to maintain control of the message this summer, so now that school is back in session, President Obama has turned to American’s children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American’s youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves.”

Obama says “work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility.” Greer hears “usurping the rights of parents by sending Pied Piper Obama into the American classroom.” We’re supposed to take this guy seriously?

Oh, and about those drugs? We weren’t kidding.

happytown@orlandoweekly.com
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