BEST LEISURE ACTIVITY OTHER THAN CLUBS OR MOVIES

The beach

With winter 2003 one of the coldest and snowiest on record (tee hee!), one should not take for granted the ability to dip one's tootsies in the ocean or bay, with impunity, in the middle of February. Florida natives or long-time residents whose blood has thinned may well shun the sands until midyear, though the height of summer is our least favorite time to go -- scorching sun and bath-water temps are not so refreshing. Still we are blessed with weather that accommodates a beach excursion most any day (barring hurricanes). We recommend you stay through sunset, the better to appreciate the shifting shades of water and sky as day turns to night.

The master. Those familiar black forms and silhouettes that help us travel through Bedia's artistic journeys -- into exile, across seas, to the African motherland, into the spirit world -- returned better and yes, bigger this year, reminding us that the master of Cuban contemporary art lives right here. We saw his recognizable yet singular pieces at Art Basel, the Miami Art Museum, and especially the Fredric Snitzer Gallery. There in an exhibit of new works his black forms took literal shape, the spectral sculptures towering over his other creations, which included painting and installations that thematically meshed at the intersection of the spiritual and material worlds. His pieces are now held by museums across the globe, and he was recently spotlighted in two big shows in New York City and at Stanford University. But Bedia is still our best.

Even with an injured hand, Lamar Murphy, native son of Overtown, continues to win professional lightweight bouts. At a recent Miami Fight Night, the 30-year-old brawler dominated Colombian rival Isidro Tejedor, landing vicious left jabs and uppercuts. Despite an injured right, his fleet feet and stubborn resolve scored the points he needed. With a 29-6 record, the 135-pound Murphy is ranked top contender in his weight division by the U.S. Boxing Association and number twelve by the International Boxing Federation. Twice he's fought for championship belts, narrowly losing one decision in 1996. Now he's clawing his way to the top again, angling for a chance at another title match. When that right hand fully heals, watch out.

The fact that "Patty" is so easy to chant is not the reason 107-pound junior flyweight champion Patricia Martinez wins fans at her bouts. This 32-year-old Chicana, who works as a legal interpreter, is a scrappy, fast, and fearless slugger. She won the U.S. National Amateur Championships in 1997. As a pro she's been unstoppable, amassing a 10-1 record and garnering the number-one junior flyweight ranking from the Women's International Boxing Association. Though her record may win her fighting credibility, it's her skill that has earned her ringside respect. This past March 13, for example, she pummeled number-five-ranked contender Wendy Rodriguez in a six-round match. Rodriguez was ineffective against Martinez's reach, and ended up bloodied. Meanwhile the champ emerged unscathed and worked the crowd. Martinez, in January, knocked out challenger Nancy Bonilla with a fierce flurry of punches in the first round. The fight lasted just one minute, twenty seconds before the ref stopped it.

It's more than a Website. It's an Internet broadcast station with a worldwide audience and a studio three stories above the Miami Beach intersection of Lincoln Road and Washington Avenue. The Womb has nurtured a growing collective of local electronic-music artists and DJs since 1997, when it lit the airwaves as a pirate radio station. Today the site broadcasts live streaming sounds 24/7, with segments spotlighting a variety of dance genres. If listening isn't enough, a video feed called WombTV offers a peek inside the studio as DJ antics ensue. Turntable tricks are the usual treat but keep your eyes peeled -- you might get flashed by a daredevil DJ during a wee-hours set. User-friendliness is key for most cyber surfers, and everything here is easy to navigate. Plus the site's format spares the clutter of pop-ups and banners. Everything you'll need to listen and view the Womb can be downloaded from the site, no charge. About the only thing that does cost any dinero are the digital downloads on sale at the site's music store. This is the only place you can find MP3s of original productions by local underground faves like the Spam Allstars, trance master Ariel Baund, or the Womb's founder Duncan Ross. The coolest thing about the Womb, though, has to be the welcoming little mascot on the home page -- a floating fetus.

Readers Choice: www.the305.com

Standiford made his reputation as the unofficial godfather of the South Florida crime thriller by way of an intrepid building contractor named John Deal. Deal is a world-weary average-guy protagonist with a knack for getting in and out of bad situations. While the credit for this popular character (appearing in six novels) goes to Standiford's tightly woven, literate prose, the success of the series itself rests at least in part on the setting -- ever-mysterious and unlikely South Florida. But Standiford's yen to pitch the Everyman against the nearly insurmountable forces of this absurd place was turned around on itself when he attempted an ambitious nonfiction book, published last year, about an ambitious man who proved even less tractable than the strange land he conquered. The man: railroad baron Henry Flagler. The book: Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean, in which Flagler extended his railway from the mainland south of Miami to Key West, more than 150 miles away, thereby turning mosquito-infested islands into margarita-sodden tourist traps begging for the next hurricane to wipe their stain from Florida Bay. Standiford pays the bills as an English professor and director of the creative writing program at Florida International University.

Okay, Closer isn't really a 'zine, and it really isn't from Miami (nightclub owner -- Blue, Respectable Street -- Rodney Mayo publishes it out of West Palm Beach), but there's definitely a freewheeling, anything-goes attitude typical of 'zines running through its pages. A recent issue offered the requisite fashion spread, poetry, a story about Miami Beach's Aquabooty club, a reprint of a Salon interview with Camille Paglia, a profile on breakbeat producers Jackyl and Hyde, features on visual artists Jiae Hwang and Alex Barrera, and contributions from long-time New Times scribe Marli Guzzetta. In other words, Closer is all over the place, just like South Florida.

Readers Choice: Ocean Drive

Castillo, a Dominican who's been on the team since 1996, grabbed national attention last year with a 35-game hitting streak and so many stolen bases that state troopers were looking to send him to Starke. He's risen from a kind of low-confidence junior to a second baseman with remarkably few errors and a batting average that climbed from .240 in 1997 to a .304 average over the last three seasons. He can handle outspeed stuff down the zone but tends to struggle a little with fast balls up. Castillo won his second NL stolen-base crown last year, barely holding off Juan Pierre. This year Luis and Juan are expected to make the most exciting base-stealing pair in baseball, and thus help the injury-prone pitching staff once they make it to first.

Readers Choice: Mike Lowell

Now the lone moviehouse in all the beaches, the Regal South Beach undoubtedly benefits from having a captive audience at its disposal. Weekend evenings can be disconcertingly chaotic at times, but its location at the corner of Lincoln and Alton roads makes it unbeatable for the perennially favorite combo: dinner and a movie. With summer upon us, beat the heat and the crowds by slipping in for an afternoon matinee (especially midweek, all the better to feel superior to the 9-to-5 wage slaves). Emerge from the cool darkness into the gentler rays of late afternoon, and amble down to an outdoor table at one of the many local establishments for a libation over which to debate whether the plot of The Matrix: Reloaded makes more sense than that of the original.

Readers Choice: Sunset Place 24

Last year MoCA featured a large exhibit of works by Jack Pierson, a midcareer American conceptualist in his early forties. While certainly grateful for the attention, Pierson expressed surprise, even embarrassment, at having a museum retrospective so early in his life. But that is exactly the sort of thing we've come to expect from MoCA. Museum director Bonnie Clearwater has made a commitment to show and acquire works by emerging artists such as Pierson, and in doing so has become a national trend-setter, not to mention creating the most dynamic art museum in South Florida. MoCA also has made a commitment to our local community of young artists, and has provided them with exposure and experience they couldn't hope to find in most large metropolitan areas. Not every MoCA venture has met with universal praise, but we applaud the willingness to take risks.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®