Not just a building, it's a work of art. Maybe. Perhaps someday before we all die. In the meantime, the signs along the perimeter of this taxpayer-funded mess might read: "It's not just an ill-conceived albatross rife with multimillion-dollar cost overruns and design blunders, it's also a mangled mass of girders and construction guts spilling out onto Biscayne Boulevard, Fourteenth Street, and NE Second Avenue, mucking up the skyline and tying up traffic for years."

While most stateside bands balk at making the drive all the way down to our southern tip of the Florida peninsula, the Rhythm Foundation for more than ten years has been bringing in top international acts from every part of the globe. Last year the foundation's TransAtlantic Festival introduced locals to some of the best and hottest World Music acts on the planet. From the Gotan Project (Argentina via Paris) to UK/Colombia's Sidestepper, Brazil's DJ Dolores, and Brooklyn's Yerba Buena, the bands just kept rolling through all summer long. For those of us fortunate to stick around for the heat and humidity, TransAtlantic was a cool relief.

More than 1200 people showed up on a blustery winter day (January 17) to form a giant replica of Picasso's painting Amnistia on the sand of Miami Beach. The event was organized by the environmental group Greenpeace to protest the federal prosecution of activists who boarded a freighter ship off the coast of South Florida containing an illegal shipment of mahogany from Brazil. Participants assembled to form the image of a dove being freed from tyranny and the words "Endangered Freedoms" as DJ Le Spam and the Spam Allstars mixed African funk beats with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and other civil rights heroes. The protest showed that Miamians are actually concerned about the Bush administration's infringement on civil liberties with the Patriot Act -- at least concerned enough to spend a day at the beach.

"Life is a carnival," Celia Cruz sang famously in her 1998 hit "La Vida es un Carnaval." Turns out that for the Salsa Queen, death was a carnival too. On July 19, 2003, three days after the 78-year-old singer's death, more than 70,000 bereft fans showed up to pay their last respects during her nine-hour public wake at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami. Local officials and music-industry honchos put the wake together in an astonishing display of civic unity. Mourners from around the world held signs proclaiming their love in a line that stretched from Biscayne Boulevard and Sixth Street to Miami Avenue and Thirteenth Street. Inside her casket, the Queen looked resplendent in a blond wig, white evening gown, and shimmering jewels. As the mourners filed by her coffin, her hits echoed from a sound system beneath the Freedom Tower's vaulted ceilings. When "Rie y Llora" played, the last hit the star recorded, her voice seemed to come from heaven. She comforted her faithful with the chorus: "Laugh. Cry. Everyone's hour arrives."

"Life is a carnival," Celia Cruz sang famously in her 1998 hit "La Vida es un Carnaval." Turns out that for the Salsa Queen, death was a carnival too. On July 19, 2003, three days after the 78-year-old singer's death, more than 70,000 bereft fans showed up to pay their last respects during her nine-hour public wake at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami. Local officials and music-industry honchos put the wake together in an astonishing display of civic unity. Mourners from around the world held signs proclaiming their love in a line that stretched from Biscayne Boulevard and Sixth Street to Miami Avenue and Thirteenth Street. Inside her casket, the Queen looked resplendent in a blond wig, white evening gown, and shimmering jewels. As the mourners filed by her coffin, her hits echoed from a sound system beneath the Freedom Tower's vaulted ceilings. When "Rie y Llora" played, the last hit the star recorded, her voice seemed to come from heaven. She comforted her faithful with the chorus: "Laugh. Cry. Everyone's hour arrives."

With a 40-9-2 record, Johnson would not, at first blush, be regarded as the favorite when he steps into a ring. But he danced around a spell of hard luck and bad decisions right into a victory over Clinton Woods to garner the International Boxing Federation's light-heavyweight championship. Johnson is regarded by fight fans as a hard worker who, though age 35, is now hitting his groove. He was born in Jamaica and moved to Miami in the Eighties. With a title, he is trying to foster a steady following. "I'm trying to be a million-dollar fighter," he writes on www.glencoffe.8k.com. "I can't do that without an audience." Johnson will need all the help he can get. Though he may be in top form at the moment, he's fighting in the same weight division as the legendary Roy Jones, Jr. Help homey by supporting his effort and his attempt to catch a glimmer of the boxing world's spotlight for Miami.

Hurricane Irene in 1999 and the no-name storm of 2000 produced severe flooding in West Miami-Dade, trapping thousands of residents in their homes and causing widespread damage. The inundations underscored the need for a major upgrade of the drainage systems in that part of the county, which is lower in elevation than other areas and which relies on the Tamiami Canal to carry away storm water. When the canal becomes overloaded during heavy rains, Sweetwater becomes floodwater. This past January the first of two 450-acre retention basins was inaugurated with much pomp and backslapping among the local, state, and federal bureaucrats who will spend some $50 million on the project. Located northeast of the intersection of Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail, the new basin consists of flat forest land now surrounded by a manmade embankment, sort of a vast play pool. In a flood emergency, huge pumps will fill the basin with storm water up to four feet deep. It may not be glamorous, and most people will never even see it, but it's great news to nearly half a million county residents who are sick and tired of resorting to canoes every time it rains.

Hurricane Irene in 1999 and the no-name storm of 2000 produced severe flooding in West Miami-Dade, trapping thousands of residents in their homes and causing widespread damage. The inundations underscored the need for a major upgrade of the drainage systems in that part of the county, which is lower in elevation than other areas and which relies on the Tamiami Canal to carry away storm water. When the canal becomes overloaded during heavy rains, Sweetwater becomes floodwater. This past January the first of two 450-acre retention basins was inaugurated with much pomp and backslapping among the local, state, and federal bureaucrats who will spend some $50 million on the project. Located northeast of the intersection of Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail, the new basin consists of flat forest land now surrounded by a manmade embankment, sort of a vast play pool. In a flood emergency, huge pumps will fill the basin with storm water up to four feet deep. It may not be glamorous, and most people will never even see it, but it's great news to nearly half a million county residents who are sick and tired of resorting to canoes every time it rains.

The ideal gadfly is an equal-opportunity abuser, which makes A.C. Weinstein, political columnist for the Miami Beach weekly Sun Post, somewhat less than ideal. Example: He is slavishly devoted to Beach Mayor David Dermer and obsessed with undermining Dermer's political enemies. But that aside, his columns are as enjoyable to readers as they are vexing to the targets of his busy pen. As persistent as a hungry mosquito, Weinstein is quick to pull the rug out from under blustering politicians and haughty publications. He's also not above giving credit where it's due, even if it's the same person he skewered the previous week. Example: Miami Beach city manager Jorge Gonzalez. When he wants to, Weinstein can offer his readers provocative analysis of projects and policies that could have a real impact on their lives. But he seems happiest when he's the irritating gadfly relentlessly buzzing his victims.

The ideal gadfly is an equal-opportunity abuser, which makes A.C. Weinstein, political columnist for the Miami Beach weekly Sun Post, somewhat less than ideal. Example: He is slavishly devoted to Beach Mayor David Dermer and obsessed with undermining Dermer's political enemies. But that aside, his columns are as enjoyable to readers as they are vexing to the targets of his busy pen. As persistent as a hungry mosquito, Weinstein is quick to pull the rug out from under blustering politicians and haughty publications. He's also not above giving credit where it's due, even if it's the same person he skewered the previous week. Example: Miami Beach city manager Jorge Gonzalez. When he wants to, Weinstein can offer his readers provocative analysis of projects and policies that could have a real impact on their lives. But he seems happiest when he's the irritating gadfly relentlessly buzzing his victims.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®