A good body is not enough for you. You're also looking for a good soul and a good mind. And so is she. Only those serious about complete body-mind development study the strenuous practice at Prana. She is not doing this for you. But if you are strong and faithful and prove yourself worthy, that Tantric future you are visualizing really might come true.

Or should we say "bus benches" -- because who are we trying to fool? We all know these new contraptions are lucrative mini-billboards disguised by Sarmiento Advertising Group as seating units for the bus-riding masses. And as bus-riders themselves will tell you, the proof is in the scorching heat that radiates from the benches' metal bars after a few hours absorbing solar radiation in 95-degree heat. In some locations Sarmiento didn't even bother with the bench decoy; only the sign. City of Miami planning directors, former Manager Carlos Gimenez, and all five city commissioners fell for the company's crafty sales pitch, in which the billboards were described as "street furniture." Apparently Sarmiento's metallic sofas looked so cool in photos that city officials agreed to let the company place some right next to those old advertising-delivery devices known as "bus shelters," and even alongside the old wooden "bus benches" the new ones were to replace. But they turned out to be so uncool that Sarmiento executives were soon scrambling to apply a heat-repellant coating to protect the tax-paying public's backsides, as well as their own.

This stunning, dreamlike musical was not only the clear champion of the season, it was the best of the past several years. Featuring the gorgeous, complex chromatic harmonies of composer Adam Guettel and Tina Landau's textured, character-driven book, Floyd Collins tracked a simple, true-life tale of a Kentucky man who got stuck in a cave, a misfortune that became a national media obsession. Everything about this production clicked. The cast featured an array of local and New York talent at its best. To this add David Arisco's fluid and inventive staging, a simple but hugely effective set design from Gene Seyffer, great sound design from Nate Rausch, evocative lighting from Stuart Reiter, and Mary Lynne Izzo's carefully detailed costumes. The result was a daring, provocative production that set a new standard for South Florida theatrical excellence.

Local movie lovers erupted in thunderous applause on opening night, February 21, when FIU president Mitch Maidique finally publicly acknowledged former festival director Nat Chediak and his eighteen years at the helm. But if this year's resurgence in attendance is any guide, Miamians seem to be moving on from that nasty internal imbroglio and are supporting the festival for the films and filmmakers it can bring to the city. The 2003 event was not flawless. Some films were genuine stinkers, some great films got lost owing to poor programming times, and new director Nicole Guillemet (formerly of Sundance) and her team were arguably too ambitious with a program of record size plus a third venue to manage. Still, packed screenings for documentaries like José Padilha's intense hijacking drama Ônibus 174 bode well for the future. Onward!

What other clan could blithely carve out a new U.S. Congressional district expressly for an ambitious family member? That ambitious one would be Mario Diaz-Balart, the termed-out state senator and brother of Lincoln Diaz-Balart, self-proclaimed future president of Cuba. The Diaz-Balart boys' addiction to politics stems from a vein that runs deep in the family. Their grandfather and father, both named Rafael Diaz-Balart, were important members of the ruling oligarchy during the fearsome reign of Fulgencio Batista. The younger Rafael was deputy minister for the Cuban amalgam of the FBI and the CIA, as well as Batista's dreaded secret police. Perhaps more significant, the highly cultivated Diaz-Balart hatred of Fidel Castro is thicker than blood. El barbudo's first wife was Mario and Lincoln's aunt, Mirta Diaz-Balart, daughter and sister of the family patriarchs. ¡Esto es de pelicula!

After dutifully plugging away at the Actors' Playhouse's usual lineup of tepid material, Arisco finally found the right vehicle for his considerable talents with the challenging, evocative Floyd Collins. Arisco's careful staging of the claustrophobic, emotionally powerful dialogue was balanced by his masterful handling of the carnival-like crowd scenes in a production that blew the roof off the staid Playhouse. Arisco has long shown his facility with a wide range of material -- from big, old-fashioned musicals to the inspired insanity of Comic Potential. But Floyd Collins reveals him to be a directing talent kept under wraps far too long.

Founder and organizer of the Afro Roots Festival for the past five years, a regular hand at Rhythm Foundation world-music shows, and longstanding member of the traditional Cuban outfit Conjunto Progreso and the jazz group Mantra, Jose Elias just can't get enough of different cultural stuff. As anyone who has heard the ambitious occasional performances by his Afro-Polyphonic Space Orchestra or (later) the Afro-Polyphonic World Orchestra knows, he loves nothing more than fusing wildly diverse musical cultures, however chaotic, cacophonous, or simply beautiful the results. But still he felt that something -- or someone -- was missing. So this year Jose Elias added the Women and Culture Festival to his things-to-do list, putting together a slate of female performers and traditions from Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East. Thanks, Jose, for making sure that everyone has a chance to be heard.

Every day he assaults the senses of the unprepared and quickens the mirth of the accustomed. Trapped in crawling traffic beneath his welcoming gaze, thousands of worker bees trying to make downtown-Miami money without actually having to live there contemplate his message. Is it a commandment? A suggestion? A calling? A joke? "For a Healthy Clean Tush," Mr. Bidet advises. His stick-figure form, painted on the side of a building, is bent into a sitting position, a large triangle symbolizing a spout of water aimed at his derriere. Even now, a pack of teens with a cell phone is calling the advertised telephone number, snickering, hanging up. Taking pictures. Calling back to ask, "Is this for real?" You bet. Mr. Bidet is but one of the faces of Arnold and Donna Cohen, South Florida's bidet barons, whose bathroom devices have been getting the job done since the Seventies. Donna rattles off a long list of loyal customers, including actors, ex-presidents, CEOs, and TV weathermen. Thanks to what Cohen describes as "a little office out in Los Angeles," this includes notables such as Jack Lemmon, Barbra Streisand, John Wayne ("When he was still alive"), Dr. Joyce Brothers, and Jimmy Carter ("It's what keeps him smiling"). "We thought we'd send one to Clinton, but he was in enough trouble," Cohen quips. Beware the lure of the bidet: Once you've soaked, mere paper becomes almost heretical. "It becomes like a little cult," Mrs. Bidet confides.

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

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®