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Off Key

off key news

By Bob Frederickson

From Very Small Spaces to Very Big Numbers

‘Tiny Home’ Concept Coming (back) to SW Florida?

   You’re probably aware of the ‘tiny home’ trend that has caught on in some parts of the country, mostly in places like San Francisco, Seattle and other communities where housing costs have soared beyond the means of modest wage earners lacking trust funds or degrees in software engineering or database analytics. There are even shows featuring the phenomenon on cable TV, including Tiny House, Big Living on the Home & Garden channel and Tiny House Hunting on FYI.

   But so far the trend has failed to gain much traction here in SW Florida, where conspicuous consumption has been cultivated as an art form, where bigger is almost universally seen as better, where modest, functional/practical homes have been torn down by new owners in some of our more affluent neighborhoods and replaced with towering ‘mega-mansions’ that cast enormous shadows (both literally and figuratively) over their formerly well-proportioned neighborhoods. Just take a drive through Country Club Shores on Longboat Key if you need to see for yourself.

   So I was surprised to read about a recently approved development called Hunters Point planned for just under 19 acres north of Cortez Road adjacent to the northern reaches of Sarasota Bay in Manatee County. According to the Herald Tribune, the project will feature 86 solar equipped ‘cracker’ style cottages boasting 484 square feet of interior space…Really? 484 square feet? Why, that would barely qualify as a reasonably sized kitchen in some parts of town.

   The irony here is that the concept of small living spaces has already come and gone in these parts, with the many beach cottages built on Siesta Key back in the late 40s and throughout the ‘50s as part of the genesis of what would come to be known as the Sarasota School of Architecture pioneered by Paul Rudolph who later went on to become dean of Yale University’s School of Architecture.

   Those early designs featured simple, open floor plans and exterior walls that merged exterior and interior spaces with such innovations as the now ubiquitous sliding glass door, which originated right here in Sarasota. Early examples were small and open to the outdoors allowing breezes and filtered light to stream in…They were perfect as beach getaways; but alas, success led to ever larger, grander examples like the Umbrella House on Lido Shores in a trend reminiscent to my mind of the svelte, classic 1955 Thunderbird morphing into the giant, gas guzzling monstrosity it became throughout the 60s and 70s.

   So good luck to Hunters Point developer Marshall Gobuty and his plan to return to a simpler time when less was seen as more. But I just wonder if his vision can survive the inevitable crush of potential buyers asking his sales associates to ‘super size’ their orders.

Returning Merchandise Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry…

   Have you ever felt guilty about returning merchandise that maybe you used once or twice, then wrapped back up as best you could in the original packaging and brought back to the store for a full refund? Well, apparently there was no such anxiety for a Costco shopper who purchased a ‘live’ Christmas tree before the holidays and then returned it a week after Christmas, wanting a full refund because…(wait for it)…the tree died!

   No, you can’t make this stuff up. But perhaps the most ridiculous part of this story? Costco gave the woman her money back!

Squeezing in an Appointment at the Dentist’s Office

   Authorities are still trying to figure out how a driver was able to crash his car into the second story of a medical office building in Santa Anna California last week, though speed, just the right angle of impact with a median…and yes, alcohol and/or drugs, are all suspected in this improbable traffic mishap that left the driver and his vehicle wedged in the window of a dentist’s office, 10 feet off the ground.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

   Mardi Gras is just around the corner and if you want to partake in the festivities but don’t have the boundless time and energy that propelled you on road trips to New Orleans during your misspent youth, well, perhaps you should consider getting your ticket punched for Goodwill Manasota’s 13th annual Mardi Gras Gala on February 8th, 6-9 pm at Michael’s on East in Sarasota.

   There will be Cajun music, shrimp étouféé, crab cakes, jambalaya. Guests are encouraged to dress in masks and beads and all manner of ridiculous costumes; an open bar will serve hurricanes and other adult beverages.

   And in the spirit of Lent, your ticket proceeds will contribute to the community by actually helping Goodwill Manasota help folks get the type of training and experience needed to land and keep a job, a refreshing and vastly more successful ‘hand-up’ approach to helping turn lives around than the ‘handout’ approach that has contributed to the growing, self-perpetuating problem of homelessness in the area over the past several years.

   While the intoxicating element of risk that accompanied those long ago trips to the Big Easy may be missing, at least you shouldn’t have to worry about waking up face down in the street in an unfamiliar part of town outside the French Quarter, where if you’re lucky, all that’s missing is your wallet.

   For information and tickets, call 941-355-2721, ext. 104. But get a move on, this event usually sells out quickly.

Run Oprah, Run!

   Yet more evidence of the truth behind Paul Simon’s observation in the song “The Boxer” that “…a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest…”

   It comes in the aftermath of Oprah’s dramatic and moving speech delivered at the Golden Globe Awards in which she addressed recent revelations of entrenched sexual harassment throughout Hollywood and other corridors of power.

   The resulting swoon by the media suddenly had Oprah running for President in 2020. But the narrative initially got started due to a misunderstanding on the part of her longtime companion Stedman Graham of a reporter’s backstage question.

    Asked if Oprah would make a run for president, Stedman replied “Absolutely!” But amid the noise, he had misheard the question. What he thought he was being asked was whether Oprah would make a good president.

    Most everyone heard his answer in the context of the question the reporter had actually asked; few heard the later explanation of his answer in terms of what he thought her question had been, proving yet again the power of fake news, intentional or not: that a good story can circle the globe before the truth can get its shoes on.

Amazing Numbers for Amazon

   If this was a youth baseball game it would have been called after the first inning with Amazon ahead a gazillion to nothing and the competition – even Wal-Mart –thoroughly demoralized.

   According to Bloomberg News, Amazon accounted for 89% of online spending from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Talk about covering it all from A-to-Z as the company’s smiley face logo suggests, Amazon’s dominance in online retail would make the robber barons of the gilded age blush. But few politicians or writers today seem to notice or care the way the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Sinclair Lewis did early on in the last century. Remember how fearful everyone was over Wal-Mart’s supposed dominance of retail not that long ago? Even at its zenith, it was nothing like Amazon’s online dominance today.

   And on a related item:

  Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is now not only the richest person alive; he is the richest person to have ever lived, with a reported wealth of $105 billion.

Parting Thought

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.