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Piper Castillo, Times Staff Writer

Piper Castillo

Piper Castillo grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and received her English degree from Florida Atlantic University. As a community news reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, she covers north Pinellas County. She also writes the "Nightstand" column for the Sunday book pages and thinks the only thing better than a good read is a day in the sun with her family.

Phone: (727) 445-4163


  1. What's Brad Snyder reading?



    Brad Snyder

    In his newest book, The House of Truth: A Washington Political Salon and the Foundations of American Liberalism, Snyder, 44, gives readers a study of the history of liberalism by transporting them back to the early 20th century, to Washington, D.C., and into a Dupont Circle row house. It is a place where judges, lawyers, artists, writers and politicians would gather to dissect the issues of the day. Some of those who moved through the real-life House of Truth were Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter and Water Lippmann. A law professor at the University of Wisconsin, Snyder is a former reporter for the Baltimore Sun (as well as a former intern for the Tampa Bay Times). His other books include Beyond the Shadow of the Senators: The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball and A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports, the story of an all-star centerfielder whose suit against the Supreme Court paved the way for free agency in professional baseball. ...

    Brad Snyder’s newest book is “The House of Truth: A Washington Political Salon and the Foundations of American Liberalism.”
Courtesy of Oxford University Press
  2. Richard Wagner's 'Rienzi' will be presented by Tarpon Springs' New Century Opera

    Human Interest


    There is a populist leader. The disenfranchised are pitted against the wealthy. There is a church with strong political influence. No, it is not a story about life in 21st century America. It is the 19th century opera, Rienzi: The Last of the Tribunes composed by Richard Wagner and based on the story by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

    Tonight marks the New Century Opera's opening of the show, and the first time the opera is performed on a Florida stage, according to the opera company....

    Russell Andrade, in the title role of Cola di Rienzi, performs during the dress rehearsal. Andrade, a tenor, said the five-act opera requires stamina.
  3. Have you found a painted rock in Tampa Bay? It's part of this Facebook craze

    Human Interest

    Tara Brogan did not expect to make more new friends than she could count, or discover places she never knew existed in her hometown. But she did, and it's all because of a Facebook page and a few rocks.

    Brogan joined a Facebook group called Oldsmar Rocks, created for "rockers'' — artists of all sorts who create whimsical art on minicanvases otherwise worthy of a good toss or skim and then leave them anonymously for strangers to find....

    A rock, placed by Oldsmar Rocks member Tara Brogan, sits in a tree Feb. 28 on the Sheffield Park Trail in Oldsmar.
  4. What's John Oates reading?



    John Oates

    If you are of a certain age, he was part of the duo who made you swoon with Sara Smile, and a decade later, Oates, 68, and bandmate Daryl Hall served you a string of MTV-driven hits like Maneater and Private Eyes. Hall and Oates are now gearing up for a 29-city megatour (with stops in Miami and Orlando) with Tears for Fears, but before that Oates is publishing a memoir, Change of Seasons. The book came about after co-author Chris Epting urged him to team up to tell his story. Oates shared with Epting journals he had kept in the 1970s. "Chris would look at some of the pages and say things like 'Hey, this is interesting, in 1973, you were here.' And that would kick-start the (storytelling) process. I'd color in the details." We caught up with Oates by phone on March 8....

    Joan Oates is publishing a memoir, “Change of Seasons.” He’s also gearing up for a 29-city megatour with Daryl Hall.
  5. Oldsmar redevelopment may be moving forward again

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — The do-over is about to start.

    As an architect familiar with the city is putting his final touches on the approved concept plan for downtown, city staff is preparing to introduce a well-known building to a wrecking ball. All the while they are hoping investors will begin picking out spots for their new eateries and businesses on the 7-acre site along State Street.

    Last month, City Council members approved the plan put together by Tampa architect Francisco Semsch and Oldsmar developer John Bews. The plans include a boutique hotel, an office building, a standalone restaurant and a park. Plus there will be a mixed-use building on the site of the long-vacant Goodrich building, which was purchased by the city in 2012 and will soon be demolished. There will also be a large monument with a nod to Oldsmar's history....

    Last month,Oldsmar City Council members approved the plan put together by Tampa architect Francisco Semsch and Oldsmar developer John Bews. The plans include a boutique hotel, an office building, a standalone restaurant and a park. Plus there will be a mixed-use building on the site of the long-vacant Goodrich building, which was purchased by the city in 2012 and will soon be demolished. There will also be a large monument with a nod to Oldsmar's history. [Photo from video]
  6. What's Jack Latvala reading?



    Jack Latvala

    When we caught up with Latvala on Feb. 24, he was heading into his weekend. The state senator, who will end his legislative career due to term limits next year, did not discuss his potential run for governor. Instead, in a quick flurry of texts, Latvala, 65, admitted he is attracted to crime — at least when it comes to his reading. Latvala is a native of Oxford, Miss., whose time in the Legislature goes back more than 20 years. He is currently the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee....

    State Sen. Jack Latvala will end his legislative career due to term limits next year. 
Times file (2012)
  7. Oldsmar forms task force to attract Rays

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — The City Council has decided to create a task force to represent Oldsmar in the effort to bring the Tampa Bay Rays to Oldsmar. At a recent council meeting, members agreed that the official group will be headed by Mayor Doug Bevis, who began promoting the idea of building a stadium last year.

    Council member Eric Seidel proposed the idea of the formalized effort.

    "I think it kind of starts at Ground Zero,'' said Seidel. "I think we should look to mirror other committees currently being executed by other cities that are in the mix.''...

  8. What's Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse reading?



    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

    Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse told us the idea for his new book, Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy, stems from his time in politics from a variety of vantage points. He believes people have misplaced frustration and are "condemning government itself, when actually a lot of the dissatisfaction goes back to the corporate influence in the government.'' A staunch advocate of dealing with climate change who has served in the U.S. Senate since 2006, Whitehouse, 61, spoke to us by phone a day before traveling to the Munich Security Conference with a bipartisan delegation led by Sen. John McCain, where he participated in the panel discussion "Climate Security: Good COP, Bad Cops." ...

    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s new book is “Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy.”
  9. New history exhibit holds memories for Palm Harbor resident

    Human Interest

    PALM HARBOR — JoAnn Tilley, 84, climbed the steps, one hand on the rail and one hand on her cane. Once inside the tiny house, she showed other visitors where she had slept as a toddler.

    "I don't remember a lot because I was very, very young, but I do remember where my bed was,'' she said. "Another thing. There was (a swing) on the porch. It was my very favorite.''

    Tilley, a longtime Pinellas County math teacher who retired from Countryside High in 1985, is a descendent of one of the area's pioneer families, the Suttons. Recently, she paid a visit to the Palm Harbor Museum to see the renovated, 550-square-foot Depression-era grove house, where she lived for a time with her mother and father. ...

    Jo Ann Tilley, 84, of Dunedin, lived in this grove house as a child. The house was moved to the Palm Harbor Museum's grounds by the Palm Harbor Historical Society.
  10. What's Kim Sullivan reading?



    Kim Sullivan

    Sullivan concedes that he'd be pleased if Sunday night's Oscars reward the movie version of the late August Wilson's Fences. (It has four nominations, including best picture.) However, he is excited most for all the African-American artists involved this year. "I'm for what everyone is doing, so whether it's Moonlight, Hidden Figures or Fences, or whoever gets a nod, I'm for it,'' he said. We had a phone conversation with Sullivan a few days before his final performance as Seth Holly in American Stage's production of Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. The St. Petersburg theater is one of only a handful of theater companies to achieve the feat of producing all 10 of Wilson's Century Cycle plays, and Sullivan has performed in each one....

    Kim Sullivan has performed in all 10 of August Wilson’s Century Cycle plays.
  11. Oldsmar adopts marijuana moratorium

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — The City Council gave final approval for an ordinance calling for a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensing organizations and medical marijuana treatment centers. The ordinance is designed to help city officials move forward on how to handle the new state law concerning medical use of cannabis.

  12. What's Eddy L. Harris reading?



    Eddy L. Harris

    Harris, a graduate of St. Louis Priory School and Stanford University, has embarked on many journeys over the years for his work, including a one-man canoe trip down the Mississippi River for Mississippi Solo (1988), extensive travel in Africa for Native Stranger (1992), a motorcycle trek through the South for South of Haunted Dreams (1993) and a return to New York, where he spent his early years, for Still Life in Harlem (1996). His most recent project is River to the Heart, a documentary about a second trip Harris made down the Mississippi in 2014. "The focus of the movie is the journey, and the focus of the journey is partly river, partly me personally as well as the people who touch me as I go downriver," said Harris, 61. "I'm using the Mississippi as metaphor for who we are and where we are."...

    Eddy L. Harris will be a featured speaker at the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs.
Courtesy of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg
  13. A new chapter: Five questions with retiring Clearwater library director Barbara Pickell

    Local Government


    Times Staff Writer

    CLEARWATER — Barbara Pickell, 67, has been the director of the Clearwater library system for 11 years, where she has juggled a $6 million annual budget and five branch locations. During her tenure, she led the library through the Great Recession, helped orchestrate the relocation of the Countryside branch (now next to the Countryside Recreation Center) as well as the installation of Clearwater Library's Maker Space (a multi-floor project for techies, crafters, history buffs and artists). However, this month, she is closing the book. Pickell, who came to Clearwater in 2005 from the Fairfield County District Library System in Ohio, is retiring....

    Barbara Pickell is retiring as Clearwater's director of library services.
  14. What's Susan Wolf Johnson reading?



    Susan Wolf Johnson

    Wolf Johnson, 62, first watched the Gasparilla festivities as a new resident of Tampa more than 20 years ago. "Gasparilla was held on a Monday back then, and since all the schools were closed, we took the kids to see it. I was so fascinated with the pageantry of the entire event," she said. A few years later, as she worked on her master's in creative writing at Vermont College, she said, "The character, King Daniel, just showed up in my narrative. He pulled up a chair and started telling me his story." ...

    Susan Wolf Johnson, author of “King Daniel: Gasparilla King of the Pirates.”
  15. Largo business conducts presidential cookie poll: The treats have Hillary by 180 cookies


       Frida Alipour's presidential cookie poll has successfully predicted the outcome of the election ever since Alipour started it at Frida's, her bakery in Largo, back in  2004. She conducts the poll by keeping track of the number of cookies sold with either Trump or Clinton decorated on top, When we checked in about two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were neck and neck....