Lost in the Amazon.com

A thoroughly unscientific look at what your friends and neighbors read, watch, and hear -- or not

Friends don't let friends read and drive. That might explain why so many of Miami-Dade's municipalities come up empty when clicked on the city-by-city breakdown of best-selling books, music, and movies generated by Amazon.com. Kind of hard to turn the page when your eyes are glued to the bumper in front of you on I-95. Still there's a lot that can be learned about a place through the Internet merchant's survey of local tastes. It's just that when it comes to South Florida, we can learn even more from what's not there.

Take Aventura, for example. It's not there. Click the name on Amazon's Purchase Circles Web page and all you'll get is an invitation to check back next week. You see, for a purchase circle to work, at least 200 people in that area have to have ordered something from Amazon during the past month. Aventura doesn't meet the criteria. How about a bigger city, like Miami Beach? Nothing. North Miami Beach? North Miami? Opa-locka???? No. No. No. Surely Coral Gables, with all those undergraduates and university eggheads, must place enough orders to qualify. Alas, not even the City Beautiful registers online.

Oddly enough, the only municipalities that do meet Amazon's criteria are two of the most culturally maligned: Miami proper and -- no, you did not guess it -- Hialeah. Who knew that the City that Progresses would turn out to be our electronic center of erudition?

Since so few of Dade's hamlets have Amazon stats, we took a peek north of the border at Broward and West Palm Beach and south at Key West. There are a few more Internet culture vultures up there, it's true, but most of those cities' tastes tend toward what you might find in Madison or Dubuque. Actually, when you look close, so does Hialeah's. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Even though Internet shoppers in Hialeah, the most Cuban city in the United States, evince a strong taste for wizards and hobbits and American top 40, there is a trace of Mayor-for-Life Raul Martinez on the best-selling books list: edging in at number six, Dale Carnegie's classic How to Win Friends and Influence People.

What else stands out as uniquely South Florida? Check out Miami's music selection: There's no Anglo artist in a top ten filled with Cuban troubadours, Argentine rockers, Guatemalan balladeers, and Brazilian divas. In fact the only Anglo artist in the top twenty comes in at number eighteen: former Yes guitar god Steve Howe. Norah who?

When it comes to Miami's DVDs, Latin concert videos beat out Hollywood blockbusters every time -- and somewhere out there in our high-rise condo jungle there's a huge fan club for Spanish bad boy Miguel Bosè. Go figure.

If you thought South Beach was the center of South Florida's gay scene, take a look at music, books, and movies in Fort Lauderdale. Move over, Harry Potter: We're here, we're queer, and we just ordered a history of gay Hollywood and the original cast album for Aida (Elton John and Broadway!).

And if you thought The South Beach Diet would shoot right to the top of the list, think again. At number six, our namesake meal plan is less popular here than in the rest of the country -- proving once again that no man is a diet in his hometown. Or something.

Maybe you'd better just look at the list yourself.

FORT LAUDERDALE

BOOKS

1. Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall, Richard Barrios

2. The Blue Edge of Midnight, Jonathon King

3. The Stingray Shuffle, Tim Dorsey

4. Suspicion of Madness, Barbara Parker

5. Interaction Design, Jennifer Preece

MUSIC

1. Aida, 2000 Original Broadway Cast

2. Simply the Best, Tina Turner

3. Flower Drum Song, 2002 Broadway Revival Cast

4. Duets, Barbra Streisand

5. American Life, Madonna

DVDs

1. Sordid Lives

2. My Big Fat Greek Wedding

3. Sweet Charity

4. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

5. Dora the Explorer -- Map Adventures

HIALEAH

BOOKS

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling

2. The King of Torts, John Grisham

3. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

4. Harry Potter Boxed Set 1-4

5. The Hobbit, Leatherette Collector's Edition, J.R.R. Tolkien

6. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie

MUSIC

1. Come Away with Me, Norah Jones

2. Fallen, Evanescence

3. Josh Groban, Josh Groban

4. One Heart, Celine Dion

5. Chicago, soundtrack

DVDs

1. Signs

2. The Day the Earth Stood Still

3. Beauty and the Beast, Disney soundtrack

4. My Big Fat Greek Wedding

5. Minority Report

KEY WEST

BOOKS

1. Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean, Les Standiford and Henry Morrison Flagler

2. By the Light of the Moon, Dean R. Koontz

3. The King of Torts, John Grisham

4. Four Blind Mice, James Patterson

5. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold

MUSIC

1. Mambo Sinuendo, Ry Cooder

2. 100th Window, Massive Attack

3. World Without Tears, Lucinda Williams

4. A Wonderful World, Tony Bennett

5. Come Away with Me, Norah Jones

DVDs

1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

2. The Lord of the Rings -- Fellowship of the Ring

3. My Big Fat Greek Wedding

4. Spider-Man

5. Queer as Folk -- second season

MIAMI

BOOKS

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling

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