Dan normally strolls Lincoln Road, but he can also be seen on Collins up around 21st Street. He claims this award because of his attitude and his sad story. He has no problem discussing his life. Mainly the subject is what happened to his left hand. All that's left is a nub resembling a potato. He says he lost it in a meat-grinder accident working at his father's old factory. But the hand tragedy isn't all there is to Dan. He's undoubtedly the most polite bum on South Beach. Though he is smallish, and weathered in that distinctly homeless way, his stature is a sight to see when he's panhandling. He stands ramrod straight, looking positively confident. When he asks for spare change, his tone is quiet, almost meek. And if the answer is No, it's "Thank you, have a nice day," and that's the end of it. He never asks twice.

Some of América TeVe's shows are the boobiest in boob-tube history. Thanks to Tania, Rocio, Isis, Taymi, and Kathy's. Wrapped in shimmering, colorful, skin-tight outfits, they make even the dumbest variety shows exciting. Well, how else are you supposed to get people's attention? Fights about politics is another way. Let's get to the punch: Maria Elvira Confronta, the show with two impacting boxing gloves as a logo. The debate show, hosted by Maria Elvira Salazar, is the contact point between many real issues of the day and the viewing audience. The discussion (always in Spanish) often devolves into the talk-show equivalent of white noise because all four guests and Salazar herself are shouting at once. But at least it's relevant white noise. Is El Nuevo Herald a serious newspaper? Is the U.S. embargo against Cuba a failure? Is plastic surgery a necessity or vanity? Are beauty pageants exploitation or promotion? These are the kinds of questions that can provoke heavyweight bouts of rhetoric any given weeknight from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. Salazar has also drawn crowds with her solo interrogations of Varela Project organizer Oswaldo Payá and chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation Jorge Mas Santos. The station's programmers give viewers a one-two punch at night. After Salazar, Gilberto Reyes and Miguel Gonzalez (a.k.a. Los Fonomemecos) enter the ring to lower the blood pressure with El Mikimbin de Miami. This live studio show mixes serious talk with comedy, reality with make-believe. To wit: A guest like FIU president Mitch Maidique can suddenly end up face to face with Alejo Campuzano, a silly, tacky, and impertinent character performed by Gonzalez (when he isn't doing one of the best Fidel impressions in la yuma).

Readers Choice: WPLG-TV (Channel 10)

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.

Every day from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. everybody eats. No sermons. No complicated rules like the Salvation Army and some church soup kitchens hit you with. Donny Esmond is a man you can talk to: "If a guy makes a real effort, we see he's trying, we can help him get back on his feet. But if you're just hungry? Come on over anyway." We can unequivocally recommend the chicken noodle and organic vegetable soup. And the fried-chicken dinner? Delicious.

Ahh, the impersonal nature of banking. Sure, that ATM perennially spouting cash is convenient, and that check card can be pretty handy too (even though your account's been drained three times by retail-sector thieves). And yes, online banking means you can monitor funds and pay bills right at your desk -- just like your boss does when he isn't watching his stocks! But admit it, you yearn for the days when banks would dole out toasters and clock radios as a reward for opening a new account, when lots of smiling tellers would utter their names and mean it when they said: "May I help you," and when the darned places were open on Saturday. Because who has the time to sneak away from the job and deal with money matters during the week? Well, a number of banks have begun throwing their doors open on Saturdays. But only Beach Bank can boast Sunday hours. The official day of rest for many is a day of work for them. Located in mid-Miami Beach, home to a heavily Orthodox Jewish population, the financial institution caters to those who don't do squat on Saturdays -- by religious mandate or not. But come Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. to noon, anybody can take care of his financial business.

Deep in the heart of Little Havana, on many a Saturday night, you'll see a strange scene for Miami: people paying to see performance art in this black-box space. Call it a small sign of our growing maturity -- paying for experimental theater, and not just on one Saturday. The surrealness can include lots of things, and in fact it will. Each event is multimedia. A DJ perhaps, with a photography exhibit on the walls, and two short dance works? Maybe a "band" of electronic musicians and a one-woman performance? The thing is, it's not predictable. It can't be. It's surreal, and it makes Miami proud.

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

Anyone who thought Nat Chediak's career was over when he and the Miami International Film Festival parted ways hadn't been following his career closely enough. An historian of Latin jazz and a music producer (and film producer, with associate-producer credits on Fernando Trueba's homage to Latin jazz musicians, Calle 54), Chediak won a Latin Grammy last fall for producing the Bebo Valdes Trio's CD El arte del sabor. That album went on to win Chediak his second regular Grammy in February. And just weeks before the big Grammy awards show, he returned to the stage at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, this time to present Spanish singer Martirio to a wildly enthusiastic crowd. While we wish him well in the studio, the fruits of which anyone anywhere can enjoy, we are selfishly hoping to see more live performances courtesy of Nat Chediak, presenter.

Much of the success for this year's smash Floyd Collins lies with its solid-gold ensemble that produced one memorable performance after another. Besides Tally Sessions's work in the leading role, the show featured Blythe Gruda as the ethereal, off-kilter sister Nellie, Brian Charles Rooney as their moviestruck brother, Jerry Gulledge as their haunted father, and Lourelene Snedeker as their warm-hearted, long-suffering stepmother. The cast also featured terrific work from Michael Turner as a guilt-ridden reporter, Brian M. Golub as a wannabe folk singer with a bell-clear voice, and Ken Clement as a blustering, officious engineer. To that add Wayne Steadman, Mark Filosa, Terry M. Cain, Oscar Cheda, and Barry Tarallo and what you've got is a dream of a cast.

Miami is poor, poor, poor. Miami is so poor it's not even funny. Almost one-third of city residents live in poverty, according to the 2000 Census. More than eleven percent are unemployed, and per capita income overall is less than the cost of an economy car. Almost half our residents never graduated from high school. Don't even get us started on the lack of home-ownership. The reasons for all this are many and varied and stretch back in time for decades. But in 2002 a glimmer of hope shined through when Miami Mayor Manny Diaz (pressured by the good folks at the Human Services Coalition of Miami-Dade County, among others) announced his intention to make fighting poverty a priority of his administration. To this end the mayor said he would funnel city funds into existing anti-poverty initiatives, encourage residents to take advantage of tax credits and save money, promote small businesses, and attempt to adopt a living-wage ordinance. Not overly ambitious, but certainly a refreshing change from the city's usual strategy of frittering away federal funds for years while the inner cities rot. The mettle of Mayor Diaz has yet to be tested, and the results of this initiative (coordinated by HSC, the United Way, and others) measured, but at least now our people's pain is out in the open. That's something of a victory.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®