Behind the News, Odds and Ends

Track St. Petersburg crime in your neighborhood

Hey, congrats to the St. Petersburg Police Department for making it to the 21st century!

Next month, Chief Chuck Harmon will officially unveil the SPPD’s participation in, a crime map tracking service for us common folk. For the very crime-conscious neighborhoods of St. Pete, this is fairly exciting. allows you to search your neighborhood for crimes, provides e-mail alerts and maps all the sexual predators throughout the city.

Best of all for reporters like me, this site can easily track crime trends  in certain neighborhoods. Hey look! A homicide on the north side. I don’t remember hearing about that!

If you want to hear the official ra-ra over the site, Chief Harmon is leading a presentation at the Sunshine Center on Oct. 6 around 7 p.m.

Odds and Ends

Buy Michael Jackson’s FBI file for $49

41Michael_jackson_bad_cd_cover_1987_cddaI love FBI files. I’m fascinated by the government’s insatiable voyeurism into our lives. Last year, I even sent a Freedom of Information Act request asking for a copy of my FBI file (I was pretty disappointed).

So I read with interest a recent L.A. Weekly story about a Los Angeles blogger who sent a FOIA request for the King of Pop’s FBI file. Blogger Michael Petrelis received a letter back last week informing him MJ’s file contained 591 pages and for $49.10 — 10 cents a page with the first 100 pages free — they’d promptly mail it out.

No word if Petrelis will pay for the file, but if you’re really curious, you can ask for it yourself.

Dispatches from the Sunshine State, Odds and Ends

Loren Cass, a St. Pete based film, finally receives theatrical release

Some good news on the home front, folks. Loren Cass, that beautifully produced film by local creative and first-time filmmaker Chris Fuller, is set to premiere at a New York City theater. The well-established distribution company Kino International bought the film earlier this month.

In case you haven’t seen it, Loren Cass is a dark portrait of St. Pete youth set in one of the city’s bleakest times, the period following the ’96 riots. Here’s a snippet from my 2006 profile of the movie:

A few major films — Ocean’s Eleven, Health — have used bits of St. Pete as a backdrop over the years, but Fuller’s movie goes beyond just a few shots of the Pier (although they are in there, too). It features the city itself as a crucial part of the story line.

“St. Pete is in my blood,” Fuller says. “There’s a lot of shit here. It’s got a rich history and an often disturbing one at that.”

The film chronicles the coming of age of three St. Pete adolescents, their lives tied to the cycle of violence, suicide and destruction that surround the city after the ’96 riots. Cale (Lewis Brogan) and Jason (Travis Maynard) drive the streets, drinking and brawling, while Nicole (Kayla Tabish) keeps falling for the wrong men. On a chance encounter, Cale meets Nicole at her job, starting a fruitless relationship, while Jason spirals more out of control.

FILMSTILL_070Although Fuller is an amateur (he has no formal training in filmmaking), Loren Cass is hardly sophomoric; it has the persuasive acting, stellar soundtrack and quality look of a studio production. Fuller started writing the script while still in Canterbury High School, and immediately after graduating spent almost four years shopping his project around to various private investors. He raised a viable amount of cash (he won’t divulge the actual amount but says it’s in the thousands). During the same period, he found the actors he wanted, including Tabish (Girl Next Door) and Jacob Reynolds (Gummo, Road to Wellville), a New York-based actor born in St. Petersburg.

“Everybody I’ve met has some connection to St. Pete,” Fuller points out. “It’s like that Kevin Bacon shit.”

FILMSTILL_180In fact, almost all aspects of the film, from the soundtrack to the actors, have ties to the city: Locally based boxer Ronald “Winky” Wright and Uhuru leader Omali Yeshitela contribute to voiceovers; ‘burg denizens like musician Matthew Bistok and street poet Mike Glausier make up part of the supporting cast; the soundtrack’s haunting trumpet is the work of St. Pete’s Jimmy Morey. Fuller reached across the bay and enlisted the help of strip club magnate Joe Redner, whose Production Services and Systems donated some of the equipment in exchange for “profit points.”

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is Fuller’s use of recognizable north side landmarks — like, for instance, the nondescript house on 10th Avenue N., where Beat legend Jack Kerouac lived out the last year of his life before dying of alcoholism. These touches, from shots of the old orange and white city buses to the alley behind the State Theatre, add a realistic local texture to the film, creating what Fuller calls a “St. Pete-based Catcher in the Rye.”

loren_cass_poster_11Hopefully, the movie will play in its hometown at the Muvico cinemas or at least Tampa Theater. When I contact Fuller about that possibility, he shared my enthusiasm, but he’s not yet sure. So far, Kino plans to hold screenings in L.A. and Chicago in addition to NYC. But even if we don’t see a screening locally, Kino will release Loren Cass on DVD by the end of the year.

If you want to read more about Loren Cass, check out the website here.

Odds and Ends

Boy Scouts turned Minutemen, er boys; FCC at your doorstep and the Fear and Loathing Board Game

Is it a full moon? I don’t know. It’s raining too much.

Anywho, I’ve come across some outrageous national articles lately I just had to share. I’m not sure if I missed all this stuff when I was working, or the world is just getting crazier. Probably both.

First, earlier this month, the New York Times reported on the less-publicized brother of the Boy Scouts of America: the Explorers!

Ten minutes into arrant mayhem in this town near the Mexican border, and the gunman, a disgruntled Iraq war veteran, has already taken out two people, one slumped in his desk, the other covered in blood on the floor.

The responding officers — eight teenage boys and girls, the youngest 14 — face tripwire, a thin cloud of poisonous gas and loud shots — BAM! BAM! — fired from behind a flimsy wall. They move quickly, pellet guns drawn and masks affixed.

“United States Border Patrol! Put your hands up!” screams one in a voice cracking with adolescent determination as the suspect is subdued.

It is all quite a step up from the square knot.

The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.

Explorer simulations, the article goes on to explain, include chasing illegal immigrants crossing the border and raiding marijuana farms. I bet the whole thing is pretty fun for the kids, except for the occassional sexual abuse.

Speaking of abuse, the FCC is on another one of their ego-trips about unlicensed radio stations. But a recent attempt to shut down Radio Free Boulder, Wired magazine reports, brought up some constitutional questions about how far the FCC can go in detecting interfering radio signals. Here’s a snippet:

You may not know it, but if you have a wireless router, a cordless phone, remote car-door opener, baby monitor or cellphone in your house, the FCC claims the right to enter your home without a warrant at any time of the day or night in order to inspect it.

That’s the upshot of the rules the agency has followed for years to monitor licensed television and radio stations, and to crack down on pirate radio broadcasters. And the commission maintains the same policy applies to any licensed or unlicensed radio-frequency device.

“Anything using RF energy — we have the right to inspect it to make sure it is not causing interference,” says FCC spokesman David Fiske. That includes devices like Wi-Fi routers that use unlicensed spectrum, Fiske says.

Quick, hide the baby monitor!

Finally, a 23-year-old designer in L.A. has conceived the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas board game. You knew it was coming, folks. I’d say this is weirder than a seven-legged cow, but hell, that’s not even weird these days.

Odds and Ends

Support WMNF

What’s the use of having a bully-pulpit like this one if you can’t pimp something worthwhile. So, I direct your eyes to WMNF, which is nearing the end of its spring fundraising marathon.

The community radio station is really a gem in the area and we’re lucky to have it. Out of all the music and public affairs programming, I’m sure there’s something you like.

By the way, I saw you give $5 to that homeless guy off of I-275. And stopping at McD’s afterwards. Surely, you could spare $10 or $20.

Give ’em a call or get all techy with it and donate here.