November 1, 2013

A few thoughts on homelessness here in Central Florida

I originally submitted this as a comment to another blog, but it wasn't posted. So today, when the temporary expansion of SNAP benefits have been left to expire, I think it's important to remember just who the food stamps benefit: 

Homelessness is on the rise in the Orlando area too with a 50% increase over the last five years. (PDF Study: ) Here it is a byproduct of our low-wage tourism driven economy and an attractive weather pattern where its freezing less than two weeks a year. Families live paycheck to paycheck always in crisis mode where one trip to the ER, or even a car repair, can cause them to lose all their savings, or worse, their job. You don't see the homeless in central Florida either. Here they fill up the hotels and motels that were otherwise emptied during the economic downslide that started in 2001 paying weekly rates with one family per room. Some of these hotels are so full of homeless families that it takes multiple buses to pick up the children for school in the morning.

Homelessness is a complicated issue where solutions are often stymied by history of bankruptcy, poor mass transit systems (Orlando needs a lot of help here in terms of frequency and breadth of bus availability), inability to even open a bank account, and the huge number of predatory paycheck loan businesses in town.

While SNAP is important, where are the national programs designed to lift these families out of poverty while accomplishing a public good (such as parks, bridges, clean water ways, etc)? We seem to have given up completely on doing anything to end the problem of homelessness.

October 25, 2013

Orlando Welcomes The Barber of Seville, Plus Ticket Giveaway

Orlando, it's time to fall in love with Opera all over again. Stop thinking of it as something only snooty people do. Think of it as a well crafted performance where the talents of dozens of tremendous artists all work together to tell a story in one of the most beautiful formats ever invented. If that doesn't work, think of it as the original soap opera.

To make it even easier to fall in love, the Orlando Philharmonic have been choosing fun, accessible Operas that reward the audience with humor, intrigue, romance, and cumuppence. All the things you know you love. The Barber of Seville, which will have two shows this weekend (tonight at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm) has all the above and more.

The music of Rossini's The Barber of Seville will be very familiar to audience members. So much has found its way into movies, TV, commercials, not to mention a couple classic episodes of Bugs Bunny Looney Toons. You don't even have to know latin as the words are projected above the stage.

You can't have a performance of The Barber of Seville without a great Figaro. Edward Parks came out of the Met Opera's young artist development program and has a rich background to go with his terrific voice. This is his first time playing the barber Figaro and he delivers a delicious humor filled performance. I was in the process of looking up where he had performed the role before when I was informed of his rookie status.

As with previous Orlando Philharmonic Opera productions, they bring the whole community in. While headliners are often well known in the wider Opera community, much of the other talent is drawn from Orlando's rich pool. One of those talents, graphic designer Lisa Buck, was key to maintaining an atmosphere of opulence you would associate with Seville, but via digital backdrops.

The makeup design, also locally done, significantly aided in helping the often pained, passionate, or astonished expressions carry from the stage into the audience. Nicole Dupre of Empress Makeup (warning auto play music) gets the credit there.

The Barber of Seville only has two showings tonight at 8PM and Sunday at 2PM. You can buy tickets online or at the box office. I have been given two tickets to give away. The winner will be selected from everyone who follows @OrlandoNext and tweets the following message

Fun accessible Opera in Orlando? You Bet! @OrlandoPhilOrch The Barber of Seville tonight & Sunday (via @OrlandoNext )

Or use click-to-tweet to auto-fill your tweet.

Due to the tight deadline, I'm drawing a winner at 3pm today! Winner must respond within 1 hour or another winner will be drawn. Thank you.

October 22, 2013

Orlando Rising Trailer

The trailer for Orlando Rising just hit the interwebz. I firmly believe that Orlando, and with it the rest of Central Florida, is poised to become a livable city full of digital innovention. The unique history of Orlando (including but not limited to defense contractors, aerospace, entertainment, and creative spirits) makes a perfect petri-dish for creative and digital leadership. But it takes people to get the work done. The Orlando Rising documentary will introduce us to the thought leaders and entrepreneurs who are out there doing the work that is getting Orlando noticed.

Love the trailer, it's right on track with the direction I want to take this blog. There is is incredible potential in Orlando. If the film lives up to the trailer, it could be a catalyst to see even more of that potential realized.

October 21, 2013

Hunter's Creek Farmers Market, Please Send Help

The Hunter's Creek Farmers Market has never really been able to sustain the thriving energetic atmosphere a community can be proud of. To be fair the people of Hunter's Creek have never really adopted it like they have the more recent Food Truck Bazaar.

After losing its place in The Village at Hunter's Creek parking lot near JYP, the market has decamped to the Peace Methodist Church. It's just a few hundred feet away, but it might as well be on the other side of the planet for the lack of visibility.

No doubt the folks organizing the market have faced many adverse factors, but let's not focus on the past when we should be looking forward.

On Saturday I stopped by the market just to see if any thing was going on. Although this is no fault of the participants, what I found was pathetic. I've been to garage sales with more energy and public interest.

When I pulled up I was the only customer. There were 4 flea market booths, 2 food vendors, 2 food booths (a popcorn and hotdog stand) and the mobile fruit and vegetable stand (below)
The one fruit and vegetable stand sells what appears to be your typical grocery store produce with very few organic offerings (and their prices are no different than the Publix just down the street).
I did break down and buy a small Pecan Pie for $5, but I just as easily could have left without spending a dime. 

The Hunters Creek Farmers Market has always been more flea market than food. But I know there are more than two food vendors in Central Florida. If you know someone with a booth have them reach out to the market organizer (contact information on this Craigslist post).

The folks of Hunter's Creek can also offer some support through publicity in the magazine and website. A more visible location would be excellent too (although a thriving Farmers Market could make this location work).

We owe our community the chance to develop the amenities that make Hunter's Creek a great place to live. If you have other ideas on how to enhance the existing Farmers Market, post them below.  

October 18, 2013

Director Jeffrey Buchman Goes Behind The Scenes of The Barber of Seville

I'm very much looking forward to the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra's October 2013 production of The Barber of Seville. They've just released this behind the scenes footage featuring Stage Director Jeffrey Buchman. In it, Buchman gives a glimpse of the rehearsals going on this week.

Performances are October 25 and 27 at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre. Get your tickets from

Previously: The Barber of Seville at Orlando Philharmonic.