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"There's no place in America like Miami!" So said the famous filmmaker and activist Michael Moore on a recent visit to Florida's most vibrant city. "For years I've always wanted to make a film about Florida." While praising the Miami lifestyle, Moore made the sobering observations that only 3% of the population can afford the "Miami lifestyle."

He noted that "100 million Amiercans live in poverty or just above poverty. They live with a sense of fear: how am I going to pay the rent this month?"

While political activism is a way to combat the current situation, Moore said it is not easy for this great mass of people to be heard. "The way to keep people from being potentially active is to make their lives as miserable as possible."Read MoreRead More; background-position: 50% 50%; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">

Speaking about the current Wall Street movement, which has seen protests against the establishment all across the country, Moore spoke about the new generation. "The young people know they've been screwed. The baby boom generation had a better life than their parents, but the young generation is not getting a better life than we had. Any movement begins with those willing to take risks- somebody had to burn the first draft card.

Gravely warning that "we are hanging on to our democracy by just a few threads," Moore decried the "horrible, tragic inequity 
that exists in our country now."

To help put things right, Moore outlined 4 objectives that he believes are achievable.

1. Put regulations back on Wall Street.

2. Take money out of politics

3. Remove the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

4. Save social security by instituing a flat tax.

Railing against the Republicans, Moore said they have "passed laws to suppress the vote." In a clarion call for action Moore 
said "We have the power. Claim the country that is yours!"

Photo of Michael Moore at the Miami Book Fair by Cliff Cunningham, Sun News

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"It is a cool planet with a hot atmosphere," said Dr. Pete Mouginis-Mark. He was speaking of Venus, the second planet from the Sun, during a recent seminar at the University of Hawaii. Even though it is a cool place to visit, albeit very hot with a surface temperature of 470 C, it has not fared well in the high-stakes game of planetary exploration. "Venus was targeted by one-quarter of the 28 proposals in NASA's latest Discovery competition. None were finalists," said Mouginis-Mark, Director of the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology.

"The last mission to Venus from the United States was 1994, and there is one orbiter from Europe there now. One from Japan might orbit in 2015." Despite the fact that a few Russian craft touched down on the surface and took a few pictures before burning up, "we know very little about the surface of Venus at the present time. Is there any current geological activity? Quakes or surface flows, for example. The hot environment gives us interesting new geology," said Mouginis-Mark.

There is lots to explore- since it is devoid of water, Venus has three times the land area of Earth. "The scales on Venus are huge compared to what we are used to on Earth." Mouginis-Mark is keen on getting another American spacecraft to the planet, but admits 2018 would be the earliest possible return date. With the  Obama Administration cut to the planetary exploration budget announced in February 2012, even that date is highly unlikely.

One of the objectives often touted for a return to Venus is what its runaway greenhouse effect might tell us about the fate of Earth's environment. Mouginis-Mark discounts this as a "nonsensical objective because the planets are so different."  It may very well be this factor that has directed NASA's budget to concentrate on other solar system objects such as Mars and the asteroids. The high heat and pressure at the surface of Venus means humans will almost certainly never be able to land there, whereas Mars presents a relatively favorable environment.

Whatever the reasons, it seems certain that the heavy clouds that forever obscure Venus from prying eyes will keep its secrets locked away for a very long time.

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The 350th anniversary of The Book of Common Prayer is being celebrated this summer in London with a fascinating exhibit in the Great Hall in Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. In the foreword to the exhibit catalog, Dr. Williams says the Book "embodies a variety of ancient and medieval traditions of public prayer, from Christian East and Christian West alike."

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Great collections are not formed by timid men, and never was that more true than in the case of William L. Clements (1861-1934), founder of the Clements Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The associate director of the library, Brian Dunningan, recently gave a presentation about Clements and the libary holdings to an audience at Miami International Map Fair.

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A Pulitzer-prize winning writer captivated an audience with provocative tales of past presidential elections at the Boca Raton Festival of the Arts on March 18.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose most famous book is Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, talked about the great changes that have taken place since Lincoln was first elected.

Lincoln sent surrogates out to do most of his campaigning for him- it was not until 1896 that McKinley inaugurated the Front Porch campaign at his own house. It became so popular that people took pieces of his porch with them as souvenirs, and the porch collapsed! Teddy Roosevelt used the train, and stopped to speak to people along the way.

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Declaring that "Steve Jobs was not a saint," his biographer Walter Isaacson gave an audience at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art a lot to ponder when trying to assess him as a man and great inventor. 

"He was a totally transforming figure," said Isaacson, a former editor of Time magazine and author of a best-selling biography of Einstein. "He transformed seven industries including music, digital animation, telephone, publishing and computers."

Placing Jobs "at the intersection of the humanities and the sciences," Isaacson admitted that Jobs had no interest in philanthropy. This was very unlike his long-time friend and rival Bill Gates, head of Microsoft, who has given away a substantial sum to philanthropic causes. Isaacson summed up their personal relationship as "strange." Even so, it endured, and they had a 3 and half hour conversation at Job's home shortly before he died.; background-position: 50% 50%; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">

Unlike most writers who choose their subject, it was Jobs who chose Isaacson to write his biography. They met in 1984 when Jobs showed off the Mac computer at the offices of Time Magazine. "I was totally mesmerised by him."

Isaacson identified several key characteristics that made Jobs different, if not unique. First was a "passion for the product." He showed that "you can put profit ahead of a making a product. It's a subtle difference but it determines everything- where you put your resources."

Jobs also seemed to be able to create a "Star-Trek-like reality distortion field. It might drive people to destruction but it drove them to do the impossible." His favorite phrase when faced with someone who said the task was impossible: "don't be afraid, you can do it." Jobs was perhaps the ultimate "control freak."

A key to the look of Apple products was simplicity. Jobs believed "simplicity was the ultimate sophistication. He loved the no-manual interfaces."

Jobs was often led by his intuition. Through his Buddhist training, "he learned the limits of Western rational thought."

What did Jobs think of the biography as it, and his life, neared completion? "Nobody's ever going to read your damn book," he told Isaacson, who admitted Jobs "was a really tough customer to deal with."

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Dave Barry & Alan ZweibelFamed Humourists Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel breezed into Fort Lauderdale on January 14, 2012 for a hilarious one-hour conversation with themselves and the audience at the Museum of Art.

They were here to promote and autograph their new novel Lunatics. Barry (winner of the Pulitzer Prize) and Zweibel (winner of the Thurber Prize) ranged far and wide in their conversation.

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Two Florida artists are currently having a major showing of their works in New Orleans, at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Mark Messersmith, a Professor of Art at Florida State University, dominates several rooms with his large, brightly-painted canvasses inspired by the wetlands south of Tallahassee.

Drawing on inspirations ranging from the pre-Raphaelites, Southern folk art and medieval art, his paintings are dense, radiant and sculptural depictions of the flora and fauna of northern Florida struggling to survive against human encroachment.

Another Tallahassee artist, Alexa Klimbaud, has filled a room with her stunning depictions of medicinal plants in full bloom. Sculptural portraits of these plants, like the marshmallow plant shown here, surround lush landscapes of their native environments. Each is seemingly balanced on a gestural root system that quite literally adds a unique twist to each artwork.

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The World Erotic Art Museum in South Beach, Miami, is currently showing an exhibit of Tom of Finland. "The opening reception on April 14 drew 120 people," said museum owner Naomi Wilzig.

The show includes 17 original drawings and in various display cases 20 vintage magazine that were illustrated by Tom, whose real name was Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991).

Five decades of this prolific artist's work is represented and shows in chronological order (from Finnish Tango, 1947) the development of his techniques and the breadth of his subject matter, which has resulted in his art being accepted in the permanent collections of major museums (Museum of Modern Art in NY, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago). Curator Volker Morlock brings together original artwork: seven pieces from the Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles, one from the the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York, and his own private collection.

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christopher apostleWhat would you do with $76 million? Buying a painting may not be the first thought that comes to mind, but for those who adore the works of the Old Masters it really is the first choice.

The allure of the finest works of art in the world was the subject of a seminar at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art by Christopher Apostle, director of Old Master paintings at the famous auction house Sotheby's. He opened his talk with an look at "one of the most important and beautiful paintings to have come on the market in years." This was a portrait of Juan de Pareja by Velasquez, done by him in 1650 while in Rome.

Apostle described the painting  as "nothing less than one of the most humane and noble portraits ever painted." This is even more mremarkable since the sitter was not a grand person, but merely his studio assistant. It created a sensation at the time it was first exhibited, and when it came up for auction at Christie's on November 27, 1970, "it created a sensation again."

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