This North Miami company devoted to African-American playwrights and culture has managed to survive a looong time, through thick and thin (mostly thin). Past work has been all over the map in terms of quality, but this season it all came together for the Ensemble. Jerry Maple, Jr., and John Pryor's resourceful directing and an increasingly assured team of talents are backed by solid production and technical support in the company's newly renovated studio space. Each show of the season -- The Piano Lesson, Strands, and now Flyin' West -- has been a significant step up in quality and power. What the "M" stands for must remain a mystery, but we do know what it should stand for: More!

While the powers that be in this town have pinned all their most delirious PR pipe dreams (and taxpayer dollars) on ill-conceived money pits such as the Performing Arts Center and more arenas than we have teams, it's the small art spaces and their starving inhabitants that are building the real-deal cultural infrastructure of temporal Miami. This Little Havana space, run by Artemis's lovely Susan Caraballo, is one of the city's sensory treasures. Surreal Saturdays, in particular, tend to mix different genres of art, from passive forms like sculpture and photography to performance art such as plays, interactive dance troupes, music, and intriguing social experiments presented as art. PS 742 has also played host to much of the Subtropics Experimental Music Festival, which, rest assured, will never be booked into the PAC.

In shops along Calle Ocho and Hialeah's Palm Avenue rest bundles of Libre, a Spanish-language newspaper published by disgraced politician Demetrio Perez, Jr. In 2002 the former school board member was removed from office for defrauding two women out of $18,000. The same year, the Miami Herald also exposed how Perez pocketed more than a million dollars in rent payments from public-school funds while he was on the board. Public disgrace is becoming common among journalists, so the sanctimonious Perez naturally launched a newspaper. His weekly publication is a testament to the man's enormous ego and conservative political ideology. Every Wednesday Libre readers are bombarded with communist-bashing propaganda from Perez and decrepit Castro antagonizers such as Armando Perez-Roura and Agustin Tamargo. Perez shamelessly promotes his other business ventures: An advertisement touting Perez's for-profit Lincoln-Martí schools and excerpts from his Citizens Training Handbook are examples. If you buy his worldview, you'll love Libre. If not, read it for laughs, really hearty laughs. You can't lose, even if you're just some illiterate sexist: Thalía or Shakira or some other bodacious Latin bombshell adorns Libre's front page on a weekly basis.

Urban America is part community newspaper, part local-music rag. A recent issue transitioned from an op-ed piece encouraging pay raises for teachers to profiles of Orlando MC Swamburger and SoFla R&B act atripthroughthemind. The writing: ambitious and workmanlike, sparked by an unabashed belief in the power of hip-hop culture. The enthusiasm has proved infectious. Since 2000 the monthly, run by publisher Brother Tony Muhammad and editor-in-chief Aisha Medina, has developed a 50,000-plus readership of mostly young urbanites drawn to topics and personalities rarely found in mainstream media.

Suicidal bicyclists are nothing new to downtown, South Beach, the Grove, and other auto-clogged communities, but lately there's been a number of them who have tossed out the delightfully revealing bike shorts and tight shirts for three-piece suits and Italian leather shoes. This development might be nothing more than fallout from the metrosexual trend that somehow made it okay for guys to pluck their eyebrows (bleccch). Who cares? It's hot, hot, hot. Now some gearshifting Einstein needs to figure out the mechanics of pedaling around glamorously in evening gowns and cocktail dresses.

Much competition hangs when it comes to this award. We're happy about that. Upstart gallery Rocket Projects in Wynwood comes to mind, with its community art activism and edgy programming. Then there's Fredric Snitzer Gallery, the darling of Art Basel with the strongest collection in town. And who can forget the Moore Space's stellar exhibitions by artists like Jim Lambie. Meanwhile, lost in the fanfare of big parties and large art crowds elsewhere, Casas Riegner has slowly established itself as a gallery willing to take risks while representing consistently strong and compelling work. From abstract artists like Eugenio Espinoza and Danilo Dueñas to installation pieces with slim commercial hope, the gallery also offers video, photography, and mixed media pieces that, like all the work here, never fail to challenge.

The Tom Hanks megahit movie Big connected with audiences thanks to the actor's uncannily guileless portrayal of youthful joy. Listening to Boog Sciambi broadcast Florida Marlins games on WQAM-AM (560), including the team's unlikely ascent to a World Series championship this past season, brought that same feeling to mind. Sciambi, an old-school announcer with an eager-to-please voice, sounded so damn glad to be there it was impossible not to be infected with his enthusiasm. The opportunity for Sciambi to broadcast high-profile games must have been a big chance for career enhancement, but what made listening to him such a joy was that, underneath the announcer, you could hear the kid whose dreams were coming true.

It was supposed to change the way people felt about urban transportation. A personal hovercraft destined to spearhead the brave new world of tomorrow? Maybe not. When the Segway Human Transporter was revealed to the public, the collective disappointment put a damper on the lofty dreams of creator Dean Kamen. To which he answered at Segway's first public demo, "So sue me." No. The world's first "self-balancing personal transportation device" did find a niche on the less grand avenue of carting tourists around urban centers. Add to that folks who don't mind looking like dorky computer geeks in public. The machine is a tempting joy ride into the world of advanced robotics. Indeed, the smooth ride and maneuverability in tight spots is big fun despite the dirty looks from pedestrians and bicyclists. In fact those dirty looks are the best advertisement for SHTs and their promise of a new and better tomorrow.

Faux sculpture (manatee, porpoise, et cetera) mailboxes have become a trend, but this is not that. The owners of this nice house have created an oceanic panorama of a mailbox, a swirl of fish and covellite, teal, aquamarine background that rises above trendiness and achieves the status of art. The mailbox-mural alone has probably increased property values 25 percent in this quiet backstreet neighborhood, where it tastefully provides an inanimate vista as wondrous and beautiful as those seen when actually diving or snorkeling. The artistic endeavor deserves applause, but please don't screw up what should be an example for all homeowners by bothering the residents. When in the South Miami area, drive by slowly, take in the view, ponder the wonders of the sea, and quietly move on. Just like a snook feeding along the shoals.

In late winter/early spring, South Florida is blessed with a flowering tree so magnificent that residents and tourists alike stand in awe of its beauty. Then why is it that almost no one knows what it's called? Is it because for most of the year, this quiet tree's most distinguishing features are a deeply furrowed trunk and asymmetrical crown? Or could it be that the "oohs" and "aahs" from residents and tourists alike drown out the name whenever it's uttered? Yeah, that must be it. If you can hear this, look for the tree that appears to be covered in a cloud of bright yellow butterflies. By then the Tabebuia caraiba's long, oval, grayish-green leaves will have fallen off to reveal yellow clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers. Be careful of these beautiful blossoms: Once they are on the ground, they are as slippery as the banana peels they resemble.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®