Plenty of unplugged soloists fill rooms with auditory delights. Xela Zaid, for example, can hunch over a guitar and turn your world black as your heart quivers. But this acoustician stands (actually he sits, in the lotus position, when playing) a world apart from the standard electricity-free dude or chick. After decades of study, training, practice, and performance, Stephan Mikés plays sitar at the master level, placing a karmic chapter in the book of cosmic music. Barefoot and ponytailed, gentle but worldly, taught by the best on the planet, Mikés first enters another realm with his giant, stringed gourd-stick instrument across his lap. Then he begins to play tunes from one of his CDs and takes the listener to outer space and beyond. Musical Valium one moment, fire ants in your eyes another, his is both tranquil and stirring music, complex yet smoothly engaging. Playing sitar is extremely challenging. Playing one as well as he does is as rare as a rabbi in the Himalaya mountains.

Attention Internet hermits: Being online will no longer be an acceptable excuse for your antisocial behavior -- at least not in Coral Gables. Following the lead of many businesses in many cities, the Coral Gables Business Improvement District along with ADX Technologies and IDS Telecom have installed a free (really!) wireless Internet connection on the Mile. The motive: Visitors tech out for a while, then maybe hang out and drop some green at area restaurants and shops. Brilliant! To take advantage all you'll need is a Wi-Fi, or "wireless fidelity," compatible adapter card or wireless-ready computer or portable. The cloud (another nickname for a Wi-Fi zone) is at the intersection of Ponce and Miracle Mile. Plans are in the works (Adobe mostly) to extend this cloud the entire length of the district. Fast approaching is the day of one super computer (named Hal) hooked to every person's keyboard and mouse. Instructions are available at www.gableshotspot.com.

In the theater, sometimes everything just falls into place. That was definitely the case with GableStage's masterful presentation of The Goat. Featuring Edward Albee's bitterly funny script, a fine cast, exceptionally effective direction from artistic director Joseph Adler, and an outstanding set design by Rich Simone, this production was a gleeful blend of absurdity, horror, and dry humor that sent audiences' heads spinning.

A founding member of Miami pop music's adventuresome quartet The Avenging Lawnmowers of Justice (www.avenginglawnmowersofjustice.com), singer and bass player Chris DeAngelis takes a fun stand against product rock with songs such as "Female Telly Savalas" and "(In Hell With a) Cell Phone." This band is so great that its in-studio performance on the WLRN-FM (91.3) program Topical Currents once elicited a torrent of angry letters and phone calls from people demanding to know if "some crazy kids" had taken over the station.

It is, however, as an always genteel and exceedingly competent sound guy that DeAngelis melds technology with altruism. A cohort of other local luminaries, including DJ Le Spam of the Spam Allstars, trusts and reveres DeAngelis's way with knob-twiddling and crowd-gauging.

DeAngelis is also a very funny fellow and the driver of a "soccer-mom-style urban assault vehicle."

Best Local Landmark
The Miami Circle

Sure, I know it's not in the news much anymore, but the Miami Circle has been a local landmark for almost two thousand years. It's only been forgotten for the past couple centuries.

Best Month
August

I actually like August, because no one is left in town but the locals.

Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill
A Night On South Beach

A Tourist's Perspective:
1. Go to a trendy restaurant -- have your car valet parked. 2. You are attended to by an imperious homosexual Italian waiter who mocks your menu selection.
3. Your food arrives; it appears to be Fancy Feast Cat Food artfully arranged on a leaf of lettuce.
4. Pay the bill (fifteen percent gratuity automatically included in spite of the poor service).
5. Get your car back from the valet -- tip him out.
6. The public garage is full, so you take your chances parking in the "residential permit only" back streets six blocks from Washington Avenue.
7. Stand in line in front of a dance club until the big shave-headed guy in the black T-shirt lets you in when you slip him a twenty.
8. Max out your credit card on drinks and dance the night away with a statuesque blond woman until you determine that she's a drag queen.
9. Psychologically shaken, you return to where you parked the car -- it's been towed.
10. You can't get your car out of the tow yard because you spent your last bit of cash on the bag of bogus coke you bought from the drag queen at the dance club.
11. Catch the sunrise while walking across the Rickenbacker Causeway back to your hotel.
COST -- When you tell your friends back in Bean Blossom, Indiana, that you spent last night partying on South Beach: PRICELESS.

Best Reason to Live in Miami
Bragging rights

We’re number one! The blatant corruption of elected officials (and the election process in general), the sexy Latinas, the overblown reputation the city has for crime (which isn’t so bad unless you compare it to a place like, say, Peoria), the availability of a good cup of Cuban coffee or a good plate of Haitian lambi, the “it’s okay to take a left on a red light” traffic rule which only exists here, the famous folks who move here when their careers have gone in the Dumpster. All this has cemented our reputation to the rest of the nation as a place where no one wants to be, but everyone secretly wants to go.

A founding member of Miami pop music's adventuresome quartet The Avenging Lawnmowers of Justice (www.avenginglawnmowersofjustice.com), singer and bass player Chris DeAngelis takes a fun stand against product rock with songs such as "Female Telly Savalas" and "(In Hell With a) Cell Phone." This band is so great that its in-studio performance on the WLRN-FM (91.3) program Topical Currents once elicited a torrent of angry letters and phone calls from people demanding to know if "some crazy kids" had taken over the station.

It is, however, as an always genteel and exceedingly competent sound guy that DeAngelis melds technology with altruism. A cohort of other local luminaries, including DJ Le Spam of the Spam Allstars, trusts and reveres DeAngelis's way with knob-twiddling and crowd-gauging.

DeAngelis is also a very funny fellow and the driver of a "soccer-mom-style urban assault vehicle."

Best Local Landmark
The Miami Circle

Sure, I know it's not in the news much anymore, but the Miami Circle has been a local landmark for almost two thousand years. It's only been forgotten for the past couple centuries.

Best Month
August

I actually like August, because no one is left in town but the locals.

Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill
A Night On South Beach

A Tourist's Perspective:
1. Go to a trendy restaurant -- have your car valet parked. 2. You are attended to by an imperious homosexual Italian waiter who mocks your menu selection.
3. Your food arrives; it appears to be Fancy Feast Cat Food artfully arranged on a leaf of lettuce.
4. Pay the bill (fifteen percent gratuity automatically included in spite of the poor service).
5. Get your car back from the valet -- tip him out.
6. The public garage is full, so you take your chances parking in the "residential permit only" back streets six blocks from Washington Avenue.
7. Stand in line in front of a dance club until the big shave-headed guy in the black T-shirt lets you in when you slip him a twenty.
8. Max out your credit card on drinks and dance the night away with a statuesque blond woman until you determine that she's a drag queen.
9. Psychologically shaken, you return to where you parked the car -- it's been towed.
10. You can't get your car out of the tow yard because you spent your last bit of cash on the bag of bogus coke you bought from the drag queen at the dance club.
11. Catch the sunrise while walking across the Rickenbacker Causeway back to your hotel.
COST -- When you tell your friends back in Bean Blossom, Indiana, that you spent last night partying on South Beach: PRICELESS.

Best Reason to Live in Miami
Bragging rights

We’re number one! The blatant corruption of elected officials (and the election process in general), the sexy Latinas, the overblown reputation the city has for crime (which isn’t so bad unless you compare it to a place like, say, Peoria), the availability of a good cup of Cuban coffee or a good plate of Haitian lambi, the “it’s okay to take a left on a red light” traffic rule which only exists here, the famous folks who move here when their careers have gone in the Dumpster. All this has cemented our reputation to the rest of the nation as a place where no one wants to be, but everyone secretly wants to go.

Mario Diament's tale of five characters in search of one another proved to be a fascinating exploration of chance, fate, irrational obsession, and love at first sight. Delighting audiences at the New Theatre in Coral Gables, the tale involved a seemingly simple string of impromptu encounters and quiet conversations but was really a complex interweaving of characters and ideas that made for intriguing, intellectually challenging theater.

The ebullient, outspoken Adler might seem a complete mismatch with tart, taciturn Edward Albee (author of The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?). Nonetheless Adler's masterful staging of Albee's provocative tragicomedy at GableStage was a perfect meeting of master minds. Adler is well known for his gutsy, go-for-broke style, but his work with The Goat was particularly risky and insightful, put together with such skill that many of his roll-the-dice choices looked as if he were using loaded bones to make point every toss.

He's big, strong, a double-double rock of muscle and hustle in the center of the Miami Heat's tenacious defense. He has a soft touch on his jumper and adds a dimension of assets that can't be measured by stats. The iron man (with the forgivable iron hands) can even fish fairly well, his favorite off-season hobby. But it's those natty dreads (with a Bob Marley tattoo for emphasis) which remind all that the NBA presses on with a Quaker's sense of individuality. His hairstyle grabs attention the way he grabs rebounds, to the point that the Heat sells Brian Grant dreadlock headbands so that everyone who's six-nine, built like a mountain, and one of the most reliable players in the NBA can be just like him. Sort of.

Clearwood's performance in Stop Kiss as a restless New Yorker who finds herself falling in love with another woman was a significant creative achievement and a highlight not just of the Sol Theatre Project's offerings but of the entire theater season. Clearwood delivered a grounded, honest performance, and had to do so within a mind-boggling, nonlinear narrative, alternating scenes before and after a horrible crime. In so doing, she managed to reveal a fully human heroine -- dazed, confused, hilarious, and heartbreaking.

The multitalented Moreland has long been a South Florida favorite, but her performance as the boozy, deliciously nasty Miss Hannigan in the Actors' Playhouse version of Annie was a revelation. Moreland's comedic skills are tops, but she also discovered the character's dark, desperate side with disturbing clarity. Moreland didn't just re-create the role, she redefined it.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®