Oh man. Last week's dinner with the relatives didn't go so well, eh? You had to open a can of worms with that asinine comment about Iraq, and now your WWII-vet grandfather has labeled half the family unpatriotic. Perhaps your extended family should attend today's poetry reading by Therèse Tappouni and Lance Ware at the Southern Breeze Café on the South Campus of Broward Community College (7200 Pines Blvd., Building 68, Pembroke Pines). Tappouni (once nominated for a Grammy in the spoken-word category) is an expert at the whole communication-process thing, especially as it relates to the touchy subject of war. You might want to chat with her after the 7:30 p.m. reading. It's not unpatriotic to feel bad that we killed thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of our own, only to have the world think even less of us. Call 954-961-7126.
As our collective attention span is further sucked into a black hole of gaudy commercials for beer, cars, and "natural male enhancement" pills, the necessity of the short film becomes all the more evident. To help offset the mind-erasure techniques of modern programming, it'd be healthy to watch film shorts that require some semblance of an IQ. The several mini-movies at Cine al Fresco's "Night of Shorts: Art, Science, Process" are just that. Check out the special effects and stop-frame animation in the British film Extn. 21 or the locally produced The Big Space Boo-Boo, a comedic tale of astronauts and aliens. Don't let the word science scare you. Brains are every bit as cool as brawn (outside the locker room, anyway). The free screenings begin at 8:30 p.m. at the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art (601 Lake Ave., Lake Worth). Call 561-582-0006, ext. 1019.
Today is June 5, or 6/5 -- just one number off from 6/6. That is the day on which most metalheads would like to have been born because of its nearness to the number of the beast. But today is the birthday of Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain, which earns more metal points for all who share it. Though McBrain joined Maiden a year after it released The Number of the Beast, he remained with the band through its glory years. So tonight McBrain is honored at Maiden Madness, and he does a little honoring himself. After opening sets by Ornjav, Failsafe, Threeface, and Deepset, McBrain gets behind the kit with Black Sabbath's Dave Spitz on bass and Deepset members to form Wrath Child, an Iron Maiden tribute band. The party starts at 7 p.m. at the Kelsey Club (700 Park Ave., Lake Park). Tickets cost $10. Call 561-296-1407.
Predicting future fashion trends is like trying to guess who will win American Idol. While clothing designs are created and kicked into gear by a few in the know, the results are determined by the public, via the mass media. But before the latest looks make it onto the cover of Vogue, they're carefully drawn up by schooled designers, such as those from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Fashion is a passion for the young designers, and each year, their creations are flaunted at the "Divas and Dolls" student and alumni fashion show. Find out what you'll be wearing a year from now, 7 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 (2301 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale). The cost is $20 in advance and $30 at the door. If you want to make it but lack the proper threads to leave home, the event will later be broadcast live at www.aifl.edu/fashion. Call 800-275-7603.
If you're a fan of sharp objects, you could go to the local dive and throw darts tonight, or you could participate in something a little more hardcore: fencing. Instructor Miguel DeDiego will teach you how to slip into the protective uniform, play the sport (in foil fencing, you get a point only when you tag the trunk of your opponent's body, not his arms or legs), and get all medieval on your foe. Bonus: You get to yell "en garde!" and mean it. Classes run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. every Monday at Tree Tops Park (3900 SW 100th Ave., Davie) and cost $35 per month. Call 954-370-3750.
Say what you will about Christina Ricci: She might look too prepubescent to ever be taken seriously as a sexy lead actress. She may have lost some indie cred when she did that Gap commercial with Dennis Hopper (as did the Coen brothers, who directed it). She may have a forehead so disturbingly gigantic that you fear it is going to eat you (unless Mena Suvari's gets you first). But one thing the girl is not: lazy. Sometime between filming Pumpkin in 2002 and Monster in 2003, she found time to star in a little British film called Miranda. Short on plot but long on style, the movie is about a lonely librarian who falls in love with the mysterious Miranda (Ricci). As he becomes more intrigued, he follows her to London and finds that she leads a dangerous life with multiple identities -- dominatrix, dancer, con woman. The film -- part thriller, part romance, part comedy -- also features Kyle McLachlan as a millionaire degenerate, and a lot of cigarette smoking. It shows at 5 and 7:30 p.m. today at Cinema Paradiso (503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale) and costs $6. Call 954-525-FILM.
Miami. In fiction, it's the scene of Scarface, Miami Vice, and CSI:Miami. In real life, it's ground zero for drug crimes and murders, for all things beautiful and seedy. No one knows the city's dirty underbelly better than Edna Buchanan, crime writer extraordinaire. The Pulitzer Prize winner, a former police reporter for the Miami Herald, now writes fiction exclusively. Today, she talks and signs copies of her new book, Cold Case Squad, at Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore (273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach). About her work, she has said: "Nobody loves a police reporter. The job can be lonely and arduous. I have been threatened with arrest, threatened physically, had rocks thrown at me. I've gotten threatening letters, subpoenas, and obscene phone calls, some of them from my editors. It is tiring, haunting, and truly wonderful." The event is free. Call 561-279-7790.