Coming straight out of Palm Beach County, this quintet kicks ass like no other straight-ahead rock group in Florida. They can be loud and fast when they want to, but lead singer Mike Sanchez always remains easy to understand, making their live shows a treat. This is the same group that made it to the finals of Bodog's Battle of the Bands television show last year and canned their former lead singer on national TV. While that drama probably helped draw more attention to the band, it's the group's music that converts new listeners one by one. Their debut album, To Mars From Babylon, has that rare blend of white collar production and blue collar wallop. You can drink to these songs, get laid to these songs, and feel inspired by them. The drums, bass, and guitars are all tight. And you can always dance your troubles away at a Big Bang Radio show.

Caldwell Theatre Company

The Clean House was a play about the importance of getting filthy, and no play in the last year or two has enjoyed a set that so perfectly captured its theme. Beginning as the oppressively clean domicile of a couple of doctors, by the end the stage is an irreparable mess — or so it would appear; since they had to repeat the process several times a week, the irreparability of the cast's wanton destruction was probably an illusion. At one point, the house gave way to a two-story beach bungalow hiding behind it: as one of the doctors and his paramour partied on the bungalow's balcony, they loosed both symbolic and actual detritus on the ever-filthier home below. Later, the house suffered the further indignity of having an uprooted yew tree dragged through the living room. The place was so sparklingly sterile at the beginning that its slow destruction was physically painful to watch, like seeing somebody get deflowered. But it was also liberating. Which was the point.

Norton Museum of Art

Georgia O'Keeffe is one of those artists we think we know oh so well and hence often take for granted. Gigantic close-ups of flowers? Check! Bleached-out cattle skulls? Check! And it was just such assumed familiarity that made the Norton's "Georgia O'Keeffe: Circling Around Abstraction" such a delightful surprise. Working from a deceptively simple common denominator — abstract works making use of more or less circular forms — curator Jonathan Stuhlman (formerly of the Norton) assembled a career overview that let us see O'Keeffe anew. The show, which originated at the Norton and moved on to the museum devoted to the artist in Santa Fe, partook freely from O'Keeffe's many subjects, including those ubiquitous flowers as well as landscapes and still lifes, with some especially inventive takes on the latter among the highlights. The exhibition gave us a well-rounded portrait of a major American artist who was consistently ahead of her time throughout a long, productive career that spanned the better part of a century.

Caldwell Theatre Company

As Father Brendan Flynn in John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning Doubt, Terrell Hardcastle had what looked like the time of his life screwing mercilessly with the heads of his audience. Doubt is a play about, well, "doubt" — specifically, the doubt of a nun considering what to do about a priest whom she suspects is molesting a pupil. She isn't quite sure, of course, and neither are you. There's the rub. But you think you're sure, over and over again: big bad Sister Aloysius comes out, makes her case against the priest, and you're totally sold. You're ready to pull the bastard's eyes out. Then he appears, full of love and light and seeming good sense, and within minutes you can't imagine he's anything but the kind, wise, virtuous man he says he is. Any good actor can make an audience believe in him. Doing this after an audience has already made up its mind not to believe in him — that's not talent, but greatness.

Caldwell Theatre Company

Doubt had the two trickiest supporting roles of the theater season, and in retrospect it's hard to imagine Pat Bowie's part going to anyone else. Bowie played Mrs. Muller, a black mother in the 1960s Bronx, whose young son may or may not have been molested by a parish priest. Bowie's sole scene came when she was summoned to the office of the school's headmistress, the very-stern Sister Aloysius. Aloysius voiced her suspicions, and Mrs. Muller, rather than being shocked or horrified, told the nun to mind her own business. Apparently, Mrs. Muller believed there were worse things than being diddled by a man of the cloth. Aloysius was horrified, and so was anybody who happened to be sitting in the audience. But in the 10 minutes that followed, Mrs. Muller became a genuinely sympathetic character — so convincing was Pat Bowie that you figured plenty of theatergoers must have come around to her side.

Palm Beach Dramaworks is a tiny company in a tiny space that, thanks to its Palm Beach subscription base, has production values to rival most theaters three times its size. And for serious drama, intimacy matters. Watching The Voice of the Prairie at PBD, you get the sense that you're in a cramped, dark studio watching a radio play produced live. When they did The Fourth Wall, you truly felt like you were hidden behind the fourth wall of somebody's living room. PBD often lays hands on some of the best actors in the region, and this closeness lets you see more of their work than is possible at any other venue: the subtle darting of Todd Allen Durkin's eyes; the twitch at the corner of Nanique Gheridian's nervous smile. These are small things, but they add a whole new layer to every good show PBD puts out there. Word is, the company is currently seeking a new home. Let's hope it's not too big.

South Florida has its bevy of tribute artists, but to be the best you can't just sound like the real deal. You can't just look like the fella either. You have to have that special something the artist doesn't have. In the case of Hot Rod, our own local Rod Stewart tributist, that special something comes out most prevalently after a few glasses of chardonnay. Anything can happen at a Hot Rod show: He might perform one-handed push-ups, do a little freestyle jazz fluting, or even flirt simultaneously with every woman in the room — you simply never know what to expect. Antics aside, Hot Rod has tapped into a musical treasure trove with Rod Stewart songs like "Maggie May," "Have I Told You Lately," and "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" — jukebox gems that are the perfect tunes to unite any crowd, anywhere.

Let's face it, South Florida does not have a great stand-up scene. It's not that people here don't want to laugh — have you seen the Dolphins recently? (Bu-dum-bum!) But seriously, folks... even comic aficionados are hard-pressed to name a great, nationally-known comedian who cut his or her teeth on the South Florida circuit. Still, we do not reside in a comedic wasteland; anyone who reads the New Times calendar section will see a fair share of recognizable names. And although the Improv isn't the World Famous Comedy Store, Dangerfield's, Caroline's, or even the original Improv in New York, it's the best we've got. Over time you'll see most of the Comedy Central regulars there along with solid mid-level professionals and some entertaining up-and-comers. And if you feel like it's time this area had a hometown hero make it big, Improv offers classes that will give you all the basics of being funny on stage. Bu-dum-bum jokes are not included.

With an artist whose community connections are as far-ranging as those of Francie Bishop Good, the instructive question to ask is not "What is she involved with?" but rather "What is she not involved with?" Good, who holds a master's in art from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, is about as plugged-in as you can be and not be a household appliance. We'll touch on just a few things. She has served on the boards of the Museum of Art/Fort Lauderdale, Young at Art Children's Museum, and North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art, where she's currently a member of the executive committee and where one of the galleries is named after her. In 1993 she was chosen to provide a work for Broward County's Public Art and Design Program and came back with a nine-panel mixed-media piece that was installed in the lobby of the South Regional Family Success Center. In 2000 she was one of a handful of artists to receive a fellowship from the South Florida Cultural Consortium of Visual and Media Artists. In 2003 she co-founded Funding Arts Broward, an organization she's still affiliated with, and a year later was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the county's Arts for the Future initiative. Just last year she launched Girls' Club, an alternative gallery space in Fort Lauderdale where she curates shows and displays her own work. Yes, this tireless arts advocate (and, with husband David Horvitz, major art collector) continues to create, most recently providing the inaugural exhibition for the City of Hollywood's Visual Arts Pavilion at ArtsPark, a small mixed-media show that included some of her strongest work in years. Where does she find the time?

You can see Santiago Rubino's work on the hot, muggy streets of Miami or in an air-conditioned gallery. A native of Argentina, self-taught, he honed his craft under threat of arrest. He depicts melancholy waifs in attitudes stately and prim, their clothing often of the Renaissance era. Others are sultry, voluptuous, and sexual. All have raven hair coiffed in impossible geometric rigor. Anyone who has ever seen a Tim Burton film will notice the surrealist influence. It was Burton's dark dreamscapes that fueled Rubino's imagination, along with the works of Salvador Dali and, to some extent, H.R. Geiger, whose grotesquely beautiful horrors led to the design of the creature in the Alien movies. Another source of inspiration for Rubino: the highly stylized films of Quentin Tarantino, himself shaped by B movies.

NT: Which Tim Burton movies inspired you and how?

Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, even the Batmans. I had never seen anything like it. Those are just inspirations. When I try to make art... I guess when I see it... Let me see how I can explain... The emotional impact, the way I see it in my mind... I see it as if it was another world.

Are there other films and directors in whose movies you see artistic merit?

Terror Planet. I'm sure its main inspiration was from B movies. It's supposed to be cheesy terror, horror, but it's almost funny at the same time.(Rubino turns on a clip of Tarantino's Terror Planet. It's the opening, where Rose McGowan's character is writhing on a pole in a strip club lit in all manner of gauche discothèque colors.)

Any crappy B movies from the '80s you recall?

Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

Could an artist draw any kind of inspiration from schlock like that?

Subliminally, yeah. When I'm drawing, a lot of ideas pop into my head. If I was going to draw something with ruffles, I'd think of the clowns.

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