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  • Best Urban Legend

    The Tempe Fox

    We'll admit to being influenced by repeated viewings of Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox on Blu-Ray, but still, we swear we've seen the mythic "Tempe Fox" prancing around the Broadmor neighborhood. He's usually spotted just out of the corner of our eye, always leading to the distinct possibility that we're imagining him completely. But forget reason — of all… More >>
  • Best Send-Up of Arizona State University

    Tosh.0's College Campus Invasion

    Know any good jokes about Arizona State University? The folks in Hollywood certainly do, as Tinsel Town has dispensed a few zingers at ASU's expense over the years, all of which have been dead-on and absolutely hilarious. After all, there's plenty about the school to poke fun at, including its oft-ridiculed status as one of America's top party schools and… More >>
  • Best Mention of Arizona in a Pop Song

    Frank Ocean, "Thinking Bout You"

    In 2012, Frank Ocean made waves by coming out on his Tumblr page, gently shattering the glass ceiling in the notoriously homophobic circles of hip-hop and R&B. But he did more than that with the song "Thinking Bout You." He finally let the rest of the country know that it doesn't rain much here. "It usually doesn't rain in Southern… More >>
  • Best Un-Google-able Band Name

    North Dakota

    Coming up with a decent band name has never required particular brilliance. Just ask the "greats" — The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Smashing Pumpkins. But in the Internet age, there seems to be some sort of "WTF band name" arms race, with bands like fun., oOoOO, Snake! Snake! Snakes!, and Friends all competing to cram in enough punctuation and inscrutable… More >>
  • Best Music Festival

    McDowell Mountain Music Festival

    The Compound Grill — the music hall/eatery/bar launched by the people behind the annual The McDowell Mountain Music Festival (and the site of the festival since 2010) — may have closed, but there's good news: Its owners plan to continue the festival, which unites indie rockers, local bands, and some of the granola-crunchiest jam bands this side of Bonnaroo for… More >>
  • Best Culinary Festival

    Devoured Culinary Festival, Phoenix Art Museum

    Local First Arizona, R Entertainment, and the Phoenix Art Museum hit another hit run with this year's perfectly executed Devoured Culinary Classic. More than 40 of the Valley's best chefs and restaurants filled the museum's grassy courtyard with tiny plate after tiny plate of bite-size signature dishes, unique takes on classic morsels, and colorful exotic ingredients. St. Francis introduced us… More >>
  • Best Cultural Festival

    Matsuri

    Whether you're looking for killer sushi, an eyeful of traditional artwork and ikebana floral arrangements, or a cold pint of Kirin, Matsuri has you covered.Matsuri is Japanese for "festival" and universal for a showcase of Japan's cultural traditions and foods. The annual two-day downtown festival in late February celebrates everything Japanese from morning to night and draws thousands of attendees… More >>
  • Best Theater Festival

    Latino Performing Arts Festival

    The fall of 2011 saw an explosion of Latino festivals, dances, dramas, comedies, and improv performances in Phoenix. And at a time when funding for the arts is declining and support for the local Latino community is hardly widespread, hundreds of artists came together to celebrate — and to fight.The result of performances by Teatro Bravo and Israel Jimenez, Ernesto… More >>
  • Best Arts Festival

    Sunnyslope Art Walk

    Each year during the past five years, more than 100 local artists line Sunnyslope's Central Avenue between Dunlap and the canal during a weekend in October and April for a change-of-pace art festival.Here, you're not going to find a collection of "artisan" lawn decorations or tchotchkes made in foreign countries. Instead, the town that's home to the Sunnyslope Rock Garden… More >>
  • Best Craft Festival

    Crafeteria at Medlock Plaza

    More than 45 local crafters let their hands rest and machines cool down long enough to set up booths, talk shop, and sell their goods during the annual Crafeteria. The event, hosted by Frances, plays by one rule: Everything must be 100 percent handmade.Crafeteria's an annual gathering for arts and crafty types and one of our favorite places to do… More >>
  • Best Place to Let Your Maker Flag Fly

    Maker Faire

    In October 2011, Maker Bench Tempe, Roosevelt Row, Make Magazine, and Craft magazine brought science, art, and engineering together on Roosevelt Row. Throughout the day, local and national crafters showcased their creations, demonstrated their skills, and celebrated all things DIY.The event, which started in San Mateo, California, in 2006, is "the family-friendly Burning Man festival," with more than 100 exhibitors,… More >>
  • Best DIY Letterpress

    Letterpress Central

    Cindy and Gary Iverson aren't afraid of a little fresh ink. Cindy's an artist who specializes in mixed media and paper arts. Gary's a chemical engineer. And together, they've owned and operated The Paper Studio, where they've made paper and printed stationery for online sales.This year, the two traded up for a big space in Chandler where, for the first… More >>
  • Best Historic Neighborhood

    Yaple Park

    Yaple Park is one of the smallest historic neighborhoods in Phoenix, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm. One of our favorite things about the area, which is bordered by Third and Seventh avenues to the east and west, and Minneoza and Turney avenues to the north and south, is its proximity to the shopping… More >>
  • Best Home Tour

    Modern Phoenix

    Alison King knows a thing or three (okay, probably more like hundreds — if not thousands — of facts) about the Valley's status as a Midcentury Modern mecca. Apart from compiling binders of info about architects such as Ralph Haver and Al Beadle, whose buildings and influence can be seen all over town, and blogging to serve local mod obsessives… More >>
  • Best New Lease on Life

    The Icehouse

    There's a big reason why a "for sale" sign isn't planted in front of The Icehouse right now — and that reason is Peter Conley. The 50-year-old tirelessly has attempted over the past year to swat away the dark clouds that formed over the iconic downtown Phoenix arts venue, which was in danger of closing because of unpaid property taxes… More >>
  • Best Downtown Building to Poke Your Head Into

    Phoenix Financial Center Rotunda

    Two identical rotundas share a grassy midtown lot with W.A. Sarmiento's 19-story, Googie-style Phoenix Financial Center. Should you ever be offered the chance to peek into either, we have two words for you: Take it.Inside the buildings, which were Mad Men-esque banking offices in their heyday, light floods through floor-to-ceiling windows, and surfboard-shaped stairs lead to a second-floor loft. Cast… More >>
  • Best Tourist Attraction

    Tovrea Castle

    You're bound to spot the cake-like structure just off Interstate 202 and 48th Street if you look carefully around the bend. Sitting on the top of a hill, the house has one of the best views of the Valley — and a colorful backstory to boot. It was built in 1929 by an Italian immigrant and sold in the '30s… More >>
  • Best Fake Landmark

    The Marcos De Niza Inscription

    In 1539, a Franciscan friar named Marcos from Italy led a scouting party from Mexico's interior through Arizona and into New Mexico, where he later claimed to have seen the prosperous land of Cibola. Along the way, he visited what is now the Valley and, the story goes, scratched a short inscription on a rock that, translated into English, says:… More >>
  • Best Oddball Landmark

    Phoenix Trotting Park

    You'll have to do some extreme trespassing to get into the abandoned Phoenix Trotting Park racetrack in Goodyear, but the view is pretty fantastic. The doomsday-looking structure has sat untouched (by contractors and restoration experts) for decades, but there have been plenty of parties and graffiti trips by brave and risky individuals since the doors closed. The track was built… More >>
  • Best Bathroom

    Liberty Market

    It's hard to top downtown Gilbert's charm, and Liberty Market, housed in a circa-1935 grocery store, might be the most charmed building on the block. The breakfast and lunch joint had us at the omelets, but the quaint touches extend to the bathrooms. There are five separate units, each complete with its own vibe, music, and look. Our favorites? There's… More >>
  • Best Mall

    Tempe Square

    Dry cleaners? Check. Grocery run? Done. Mani-pedi? Finished. In a Valley full of meh-tastic strip malls, shopping becomes a boring, forumulaic exercise in driving from place to nondescript place.That's why finding a strip with a unique lineup of shops is so terribly exciting. Hence the allure of Tempe Square. Boasting our favorite indie bookstore Changing Hands as its starring headliner,… More >>
  • Best Shop Dog

    Batman at Alterations and Creations

    That noise you hear when you walk into Alterations and Creations may sound like an elderly man quietly coughing after having fallen to the ground, but look down and you'll come face-to-face with Batman. No, not Christian Bale dressed in a cape and mask, but a pint-size puffball of black and brown fur. Batman is always hanging out in the… More >>
  • Best Place to Save a Life

    Arizona Animal Welfare League

    Every time you see one of those TV commercials with the hungry kittens and sad, neglected puppies, you want to throw yourself into traffic. Right? Well, don't. Instead, do something to help those unhappy animals by volunteering at the Arizona Animal Welfare League. There, you'll be involved in virtually all aspects of helping four-legged friends to find a home —… More >>
  • Best Attempted Foursome

    Shane and Sarah Walker, Robert Aucker, and a golden shepherd mix

    A trio on Craigslist looking for a dog to have sex with found a match earlier this year, with a guy offering up his male golden shepherd mix to complete the foursome. Unfortunately, for the three humans in the deal — Shane Walker, Sarah Walker, and Robert Aucker — the guy offering up the dog was an undercover detective with… More >>
  • Best Local News Coverage of Cats

    KPHO-TV

    Channel 5, KPHO, has a history chasing the mythical creature known as the chupacabra, but there seems to be another animal obsession going on at the TV news station — cats. KPHO's the only news outlet where you can find stories such as "Does cat behavior change with the seasons?" or "Hidden household cat poison." Then there was the time… More >>
  • Best Comic Book Inspired by a Band

    Unite and Take Over: Stories Inspired by Songs of The Smiths

    With themes of self-loathing, loneliness, and longing, the music of Manchester's gloomiest, The Smiths, is already comic (in an absurdist, depressing way), but it took the good folks at SpazDog Press to gather up a slew of indie comics' finest, like Foo!, Sam Laggren, Kayla Cagan, Tara Abbamondi, and New Times' own Brad Dwyer, to put pen to page and… More >>
  • Best Zine

    Ziindi

    Michelle Ponce and Damian Jim are local artists who have a long history of collaboration on small works and projects. And when the two connected over the concept of a stapled art zine, they knew they'd started something that could last a while. This year, they launched Ziindi, a full-color quarterly zine dedicated to showcasing work by contemporary indigenous artists and… More >>
  • Best Locals to Follow on Twitter

    @poolboymagazine

    The group of ladies responsible for PoolBoy Magazine — a local hipster porn rag — joined forces as "cuntributors" in 2009 to create "an independent adult lifestyle magazine for badass women," and though they haven't printed an edition in a year or so, they've kept us plenty satisfied through their blog and Twitter feed. Here, in twitpics, dirty puns, and… More >>
  • Best Local to Follow on Instagram

    @neweragone

    Thanks to the photo-sharing application Instragram, we can see through the lens of Phoenix photographer Alyssa Aragon. The 24-year-old has an endless stream of local images — late-night parties and concerts, street art, architecture, and portraits of this city's well-known creatives — that keeps us busily scrolling through her everyday routine. Aragon started taking photos a few years ago for… More >>
  • Best Blog About the End of the World

    Kevin Patterson's How to Get Ready for the Apocalypse

    If you happen to be someone who buys into the oft-mentioned crackpot prediction that the end of civilization as we know it is less than three months hence, December 21 will be a dark day indeed. Although most experts have dismissed the notion that the impending end of the Mayans' Long Count calendar means the end of days, you're likely… More >>
  • Best Phoenix Neighborhood Blog

    The Joan D'Arc Crusader

    Pretty much every historic neighborhood has some kind of website or newsletter (or both), detailing the history of the 'hood and notifying denizens about upcoming yard sales and kiddy parades. But The Joan D'Arc Crusader is about a west-side street that is neither historic nor likely to play host to any home tours — and yet we can't stop reading… More >>
  • Best Style Blog

    Style Tutor

    Sure, a hefty chunk of our desert population gets by on board shorts and flip-flops. But fashion in Phoenix is much more than that. Case in point: Style Tutor. At the helm of the burgeoning fashion blog are Kristy Roschke and Jennifer Woolsey — teachers by day and a two-person fashion authority by night.What sets them apart from the rest… More >>
  • Best Music Blog

    Club Fonograma

    Calling it "a Latin Pitchfork" (as some have done) doesn't really convey exactly what makes Club Fonograma, a Phoenix-based Ibero-American pop culture site, so special. Carlos Reyes, an occasional contributor to New Times' music section, mans a staff of volunteer bloggers and critics to shine on a light on the vibrant, pulsing sounds of Spanish-language pop, indie rock, and electro.… More >>
  • Best Food Blog

    Skillet Doux

    Dominic Armato may be the kind of person who writes his personal blog's "about" page in the third person, but we can forgive him this minor atrocity because the rest of his blog is just that good. He checks all the boxes of a quality food blog: terrific photos, insightful commentary, and a nose for seeking out dishes and restaurants… More >>
  • Best Facebook Debate Over Fried Rice

    Pavle Milic

    We suppose it's not entirely fair to single out Pavle Milic — frontman at most every local foodie's favorite restaurant, FnB — for this award. But it is true that he's the one who asked the question. It was such a simple question. Or so it seemed. Then again, here at Best of Phoenix, we know better than anyone that… More >>
  • Best YouTube-Based Ad Campaign

    Lovey & Lou Borenstein, Chompie's

    Even Wes Anderson couldn't make this stuff up. But if he made commercials, we'd like to think they would be exactly like Chompie's founders Lovey & Lou Borenstein's heartwarmingly odd videos. The four-part series features the charming pair in their '70s-era Phoenix home talking about how they have made their marriage work, their journey from New York to the Valley… More >>
  • Best Billboard Ad Campaign

    Oregano's

    When the Old Town Scottsdale Oregano's bailed on its original home and moved into the long-abandoned building that once housed an extravagant bar called Sugar Daddy's, we were a little shocked. But not as shocked as we were when we opened the paper and saw the ad campaign for their new location — which just happened to be a stone's… More >>
  • Best Gadabout with a Facebook Page

    Dapper Gatsby

    In F. Scott Fitzgerald's influential novel The Great Gatsby, the titular gentleman is a stylish bon vivant with a mysterious nature and penchant for partying. Sounds a lot like another Gatsby we happen to know, specifically this 42-year-old photographer and scenester who fittingly drew his nickname from the book's most infamous character. Case in point: Dapper is shy about revealing… More >>
  • Best Facebook Page About the Phoenix Art Scene

    The Phoenix Remodernists

    Most of the Facebook pages devoted to the Phoenix arts scene are given over to promotions of upcoming events and a whole ton of inner-circle schmoozing. But the Phoenix Remodernists page is somehow different. Interesting discussion actually takes place here, among a varied crowd of artists, art fans, and collectors. Sure, there are the usual plugs for an exhibit or… More >>
  • Best New Gallery

    Por Vida Gallery

    The Phoenix arts district, often noted for its growing mural project, saw a fresh coat of paint on the corner of 16th Street and Windsor Avenue in late December. Painter El Mac came back to town to lend an anonymous portrait and his signature to the street's newest gallery, Por Vida.The gallery's owners and curators include local artists Pablo Luna,… More >>
  • Best Gallery

    Lisa Sette Gallery

    More than 25 years ago, Lisa Sette opened the doors of her contemporary art gallery in Scottsdale. She had just finished studying art history and photography at ASU and says she wanted to find a way to be surrounded by art while providing a space and service for artists to showcase their work. Today, she represents 36 artists from around… More >>
  • Best Museum

    Heard Museum

    Since it opened in 1929, the Heard Museum has been a wealth of Native American history, stories, and artwork that have shaped this city and community. Here, you can find century-old Katsina dolls and archives of traditional baskets, as well as small- and large-scale paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and clothing created by members of Native tribes throughout the country. If your… More >>
  • Best Thinking Outside the (Museum) Box

    SMoCA Lounge

    A couple of years back, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art hosted a lecture. That's not unusual — museums do that kind of thing all the time. But this was a particularly inspiring speech, one we've remembered. Adam Lerner, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, came to town to talk about his unconventional approach to audience development.… More >>
  • Best Place to Write Your Name

    Phoenix Graffiti Tunnels

    If you're lucky enough to catch a ride with one of the artists who frequent the graffiti tunnels in Phoenix, you'll want to pack a few extra cans of paint. In the tunnels (often dried-out drainage tunnels), you'll find years of graffiti history by names such as MAC, SUCH, KAPER, SWIFT, and FICE. These are their practice grounds, their history… More >>
  • Best Street Art

    Stuck on the Streets in Tempe

    Behind just about every stop sign in Tempe is a sticky collection of hellos, goodbyes, and markings of "So and so was here." This is no slapdash affair. Sticker art has been around for decades, but many trace slap sticking, sticker tagging, or creating art on stickers, name tags, and post office labels and sticking them around town to the… More >>
  • Best Public Art

    IN FLUX:Scottsdale and Tempe Public Art

    Tempe's Mill Avenue and Scottsdale's Marshall Way are college kid hangouts, late-night watering holes, and shopping meccas for anyone in the market for ASU apparel or a collection of cowboy art. But this year, the two main drags became canvases for artists, thanks to Kirstin Van Cleef and Maja Aurora of Scottsdale and Tempe's public art programs. In 2010, Van… More >>
  • Best Mural

    DOSE's Right to Remain on the Seed & Feed Warehouse

    If you catch an elevator ride to the top of any building in downtown Phoenix, look toward South Mountain. There, you might be able to make out three words in bold, chunky letters: Right to Remain.The message and overall design, says local artist DOSE, are the result of a collaboration with Seed & Feed Warehouse owner Michael Levine, with help… More >>
  • Best Wallace and Ladmo Mural

    First Studio Building

    It's located on the north side of First Studio, the former KPHO TV-5 studios, and it's a big, arty hunk of nostalgia for those of us who grew up here. The Wallace and Ladmo Show mural depicts Wall-boy mugging alongside his longtime sidekick Ladmo, who's wearing his signature T-shirt tie and pulling a classic Ladmo face. They're flanking local legend… More >>
  • Best Graffiti Artist

    KAPER

    KAPER's a household name in the local graffiti scene. If you pay any attention to light poles, alley walls, underground tunnels or train cars around Phoenix (or spend a few minutes on Flickr), you're guaranteed to see his signature, loose-styled typography.The 40-something has a long local history. He was born in Phoenix, grew up writing with a number of crews,… More >>
  • Best Coffee Shop Curator

    Ted Decker

    We are grateful to both coffee and Ted Decker — they allow us to appreciate good artwork in the morning. Decker's an independent art consultant, and when he's not planning the next exhibition of the Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art, helping an emerging artist fund his or her show with the help of a grant, or scouting artwork for a… More >>
  • Best Place to See Photography

    Art Intersection

    Art Intersection is home to countless local "pherds" (photography nerds, as they call themselves) who don't mind the drive to Gilbert to see quality work. The 7,000-square-foot space is dedicated to photography and photography education under executive director Alan Fitzgerald and local photographer/art instructor Carol Panaro-Smith.Here you'll find work by the founding fathers of alternative process photography alongside daguerreotypes, platinum/palladium… More >>
  • Best Stop on Art Detour

    Legend City Studios

    If you missed this year's Art Detour, there's no need to lament the missed opportunity to people-watch while riding one of the rented London-style double-decker buses that carted around local art fans (complete with a portrait or two of the Queen herself). But you should be giving yourself a swift kick in the shins for missing out on this year's… More >>
  • Best Bit of Art Detour Irony That Almost No One Witnessed

    Bob Booker at eye lounge

    The local art scene was abuzz last March when Robert Booker, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, defaced a piece of art at a gallery in downtown Phoenix during Art Detour weekend.Booker didn't like a piece of art that photographer Tony Zeh displayed at eye lounge at the gallery's fundraiser for Art Detour. Zeh had created a… More >>
  • Best First Friday Hangout

    First Studio

    Between the well-jogged paths of Roosevelt and Grand is Arizona's first television station — and one of the coolest galleries in town. First Studio was built in 1949, but long after its days as a studio, the building on First Avenue is now home to a number of artists and monthly exhibitions. In the past year, the space has seen… More >>
  • Best Way to See Art You Missed on First Friday

    Third Friday

    So you stayed in to avoid the bongos, fire-breathers, and curfew-cutters on First Friday. No judgment here. But there's a well-known local secret to catching up on what you missed: Third Friday.Skip a week, check out art openings in Scottsdale on Thursdays, or visit a museum almost any day of the week. And after you've made a few notes, get… More >>
  • Best Ephemeral Art Show

    The BoneYard Project

    In January, three DC Super 3 planes were given contemporary facelifts by How & Nosm, Nunca, and Retna, a C45 was stenciled and painted by Faile, a Lockheed VC 140 Jetstar was given a shiny political treatment by Andrew Schoultz, a C97 cockpit was covered with work by Saner, and more than 30 nose cones were painted by international artists… More >>
  • Best Motorcycle Museum

    Buddy Stubbs Arizona Harley-Davidson

    Buddy Stubbs isn't your ordinary hawg lover. Unlike your average weekend warrior, the local motorcycle aficionado has been sucking down exhaust fumes and riding steel steeds pretty much since reportedly being born in the back room of his parents' Harley Davidson shop. The septugenarian chopper fiend was raised around two-wheelers, began riding one at only 10 years of age, and… More >>
  • Best Museum for Veterans

    Arizona Military Museum

    Pop quiz, hot shot: What's the only major Civil War battle ever to be fought in Arizona? If you're drawing a blank on the answer (it was the Battle of Picacho Peak, by the way), consider spending an afternoon boning up on your history at the Arizona Military Museum.Inside this 1930s-era adobe building located on an Arizona National Guard base… More >>
  • Best Museum for Geeks

    Arizona Popular Culture Experience

    John W. Edwards has never met an action figure he didn't like. Or didn't want to immediately buy, for that matter. The 54-year-old's sprawling collection of more than 13,000 figures and toys, all of which are housed in a cavernous location at Desert Ridge Marketplace, is evidence of this. Edwards, who grew up wanting to be an astronaut, has been… More >>
  • Best Geekfest

    Phoenix Comicon

    For most locals, Memorial Day weekend is a time to bust out bikinis and board shorts, fire up the grill, and dive into the nearest pool. For geeks of the Valley, however, it's a time to dust off costumes inspired by superheroes and dive headfirst into the pop culture extravaganza known as Phoenix Comicon. For four days, the Phoenix Convention… More >>
  • Best Urban Oddity

    Space-Alien Donald

    Phoenix's downtown art scene is alive with unique and colorful characters, whether it's a homeless artist adorned in aluminum pull-tab chain mail or some punker sporting a multicolored Mohawk. None of these freaky folk, however, is as memorable as Don Roth. After all, it's hard to forget an encounter with a septuagenarian spoken-word artist who's known to many as Space-Alien… More >>
  • Best Girl Gamer

    Mel the Office Gamer Girl

    Video-gaming isn't just an ordinary hobby for Melissa Kaylor. In fact, it's a ginormous obsession for the 25-year-old Tempe resident, who spends practically all her waking hours either wielding a control pad or engaging in gaming-related pursuits in many different forms. As her alter ego, Mel the Office Gamer girl, Kaylor produces a YouTube series profiling obscure old-school titles, crafts… More >>
  • Best Star Trek Tribute

    Atwood European's Klingon-inspired signage

    Hardcore Star Trek geeks can be an obsessive lot, to say the least. Fanatic followers of the final frontier regularly spend thousands of dollars collecting Trek-related merchandise, devote hours to creating screen-accurate costuming, or exhaustively translate great works of Earthen literature into Klingon. Valley resident — and lifelong Trekker — Andrew Atwood, on the other hand, chose another route for… More >>
  • Best Costumed Mischiefmakers

    Arizona Cacophony Society

    Whenever the members of the Arizona Cacophony Society don crazy costumes and stage one of their events, three things are guaranteed to ensue: drinking, hilarity, and mass amounts of chaos (pretty much in that order). These masters of madcap mischief organize four outrageous outings throughout the year that are open to the public and boast hundreds of participants. Each essentially… More >>
  • Best Local Fantasy Author

    Kevin Hearne

    Local pub Rúla Búla is a stomping ground for all manner of colorful characters, including beer-swilling frat cats, devotees of Irish culture, and the usual Mill Avenue party crowd. And according to local author Kevin Hearne, it's also the preferred hangout of a 2,100-year-old druid named Atticus O'Sullivan, or at least it is in the pages of his bestselling urban… More >>
  • Best Local Porn Star

    Priya Rai

    By anyone's measure, Priya Anjali Rai is in the midst of a successful acting career. The 34-year-old East Indian starlet has been featured in dozens of movies, had her picture splashed across the pages of glossy magazines, won a major award for her talents, and has countless fans across the globe. Not bad for an ASU dropout.There's one small difference… More >>
  • Best Tutu

    Bob Carey

    Longtime Valley residents have loved homegrown photographer Bob Carey for years, but in 2012, the rest of the world met him — and fell in love, too. Carey first donned a tutu for a self-portrait in 2002 at the behest of Ballet Arizona, but sometime after his wife Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer, The Tutu Project took on a… More >>
  • Best Ballet Under the Desert Stars

    Topia by Ballet Arizona

    Ballet Arizona has had a "ballet under the stars" program for years. We've been, and it's lovely.But last spring, our resident ballet company and its artistic director, Ib Andersen, teamed up with the Desert Botanical Garden to spoil us rotten — and now we're not sure any ballet will ever live up to Topia. Set on a stage custom-built for… More >>
  • Best Contemporary Dance Collective

    Scorpius Dance

    Before you try a few new moves, you'll want to take some notes from the pros. And while the footwork choreographed by Lisa Starry for her Scorpius Dance Theatre might be a little much to take to the club, every step, bend, lift, and stretch performed by her dancers would be guaranteed to get you a double take — given… More >>
  • Best Classical Avant-Garde Performances

    Downtown Chamber Series

    Anyone convinced that classical music is all stuffy musicians in starched white collars needs to investigate the Downtown Chamber Series, a concert series that features highly skilled musicians of all ages interpreting the music of composers like minimalist Steve Reich and Beethoven in unexpected places, like downtown art space The Icehouse, restaurant/multi-purpose venue The Duce, and the Phoenix Art Museum.… More >>
  • Best Independent Movie Theater

    FilmBar

    Sometimes sipping a stiff drink and taking in a movie is the best way to unwind. Lucky for cinephiles and cocktail enthusiasts (and those who fall into both categories) FilmBar lives up to its compound moniker.With near-daily screenings of indie and foreign films, a stocked bar, and club-style nights with DJs, comedians, and other performers, it offers up a moviegoing… More >>
  • Best Luxury Movie Theater

    AMC Esplanade 14

    Reclining seats. Swing-over tray. Waitstaff that comes when you push a button. Going out to a movie has never seemed so civilized. AMC renovated and re-opened this theater in August 2011, and the experience is now first-class. Each time at the Dine-In Theater, we felt almost giddy for the first few minutes in our ultra-cushy recliner, and when we got… More >>
  • Best Budget Movie Theater

    Pollack Tempe Cinemas

     The last time we took the kids to a movie, we had to take out a second mortgage on the house first. Next time, we figure, it'll be time to sell the second car. Just getting in the door of a first-run theater is a ridiculous prospect — let alone the situation at the snack bar. Which is why we… More >>
  • Best Actress

    Susan Claassen in A Conversation with Edith Head

    Susan Claassen's performance in A Conversation with Edith Head, Actors Theatre's one-woman show about the world's most famous Hollywood costume designer, was the one to beat last season. In this pleasant, quietly entertaining homage to Head, which Claassen co-wrote with Head's biographer, Paddy Calisto, Claassen-as-Head dished about Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn ("She was awful, with that long, skinny neck!"), Hedy… More >>
  • Best Actor

    Mike Traylor in Race

    iTheatre Collaborative's production of Race was a stunner, thanks in good part to a striking and memorable lead performance by Mike Traylor. Race, a triptych of short acts about lawyers who consider taking on a controversial rape case involving a billionaire, offers a typically Mametian setup. But Traylor's performance was anything but typical. As an embittered black man and a… More >>
  • Best Director

    Damon Dering in Shakespeare's R & J

    Shakespeare's R & J offers the bare bones of Romeo and Juliet (interspersed with other Shakespearean verse) in Joe Calarco's passionate play about four Catholic school boys who read aloud from a banned copy of the bard's most famous tragedy. In a chilly attic that doubles as Verona, these repressed, rep-tie-wearing lads honor an old Shakespearean tradition of males playing… More >>
  • Best Risk-Taking Artistic Director

    Matthew Wiener, Actors Theatre

    Last season, he (and his Actors Theatre) brought us Geoffrey Nauffts's Tony-nominated and controversial paean to atheism, Next Fall. He brought Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's Hunter Gatherers (about a dinner party at which an animal sacrifice kicks off the evening, followed by sex, violence, wrestling, and dancing). And while so many other theaters were dusting off Gypsy and West Side Story… More >>
  • Best Ethnic Theater

    Teatro Bravo

    Having completed a successful 12th season (which included a beyond-the-grave visit from Federico García Lorca and a play about Frida Kahlo, culminating in a New Works series of staged readings), Teatro Bravo is going strong. The company, co-founded by playwright Guillermo Reyes, has produced plays in English or Spanish for more than a decade — plays that offer a complex… More >>
  • Best Improv Collective

    Torch Theatre

    Local performers Bill Binder, Jose Gonzalez, Jacque Arend, Sam Haldiman, Nina Miller, Mack Duncan, Shane Shannon, and Tommy Schaeffer own and operate a theater collective they insist isn't theirs.There's no one leader or decision-maker in Torch Theatre, which formed in 2007 when local performance troupes Apollo 12, Galapagos, Remainders, Mail Order Bride, Light Rail Pirates, Phoenix Neutrino Project, and Dangerville… More >>
  • Best Community Theater

    Black Theatre Troupe

    Mere days before this venerable company throws open the doors on its brand-new downtown theater facility, we're happy to remind them and you that Black Theatre Troupe has been pleasing and enlightening local audiences for years.This last season, we needed no reminding. A stunning production of Pearl Cleage's A Song for Coretta was followed by Bill Harris' Stories About the… More >>
  • Best Black Box

    iTheatre Collaborative

    As if it weren't enough that this thought-provoking and well-tuned community troupe brought us a stunner in David Mamet's Race last winter, Christopher Haines and company also launched a unique series of drama workshops aimed at boosting the self-esteem of Arizona teenagers at a local homeless shelter. The iPlay curriculum, developed by Haines himself, since has taught dozens of at-risk… More >>
  • Best Equity House

    Actors Theatre

    We almost lost them last year, and that would have been a shrieking nightmare from Hell. Because Actors Theatre has brought us decades of consistently high-quality professional theater from Stage West at the Herberger Theater Center. Just this past season, artistic director Matthew Weiner and company brought us Susan Claassen's dead-on impersonation of the famous Hollywood costume designer in A… More >>
  • Best Alternative Theater

    Nearly Naked Theater

    It's entirely possible that Damon Dering and David Weiss could have wound up somewhere other than Phoenix, in which case our city would be a lot less colorful, theater-wise. This trio of thespian talents has, for more than 10 years now, brought us a long list of avant-garde theater — camp musicals like Batboy! and top-shelf dramas like Spring Awakening.… More >>
  • Best Educational Theater

    Childsplay

    If we love to take kids — ours and other people's — to Childsplay, it's not just because we know that Little Johnny and Little Janey will leave with a nice, tidy morals lesson, but because we'll have a good time there, as well. This 36-year-old professional theater company has long offered history and even math and grammar lessons (Schoolhouse… More >>
  • Best Puppet Theater

    Great Arizona Puppet Theater

    So, you're looking for a place to hold your kid's birthday party that won't also make you want to slit your own wrists before you get to the cake-cutting part. Ta-da! Time to consider Great Arizona Puppet Theater. Once you do, you'll discover why the word "great" appears in their title, because this neat nonprofit (in business since 1983!) thrills… More >>
  • Best Culture on Your Lunch Hour

    Lunch Time Theater at the Herberger Theater Center

    In the chilly, dark room at the back of this wonderful downtown building, in a space normally reserved for play rehearsals for Herberger residents Arizona Theater Company and Actors Theater, daytime magic sometimes happens. Lunch Time Theater is a going thing at 12:10 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in the recently renamed Kax Stage. Showcasing the work of young,… More >>
  • Best Original Play by a Local Playwright

    Dwayne Hartford's The Color of Stars

    With his new play, The Color of Stars, Dwayne Hartford gave kids and grownups alike some fulfilling, provocative entertainment. With this emotional and vibrant drama, set in rural America during World War II, Hartford, the playwright in residence for Tempe's Childsplay theater, commented on our contemporary attitudes about wartime America with literate dialogue and sad, sometimes confused characters. Characters spoke… More >>
  • Best Actorly Homecoming

    Kathy Fitzgerald in Gypsy

    She used to be "ours," but then actress Kathy Fitzgerald left the Valley for New York and the Great White Way, and became — thanks to a long string of major successes including Wicked, 9 to 5, and the original company of a little thing called The Producers — "Broadway's Kathy Fitzgerald." Still, we were briefly able, earlier this year,… More >>
  • Best Didn't-See-That-Coming Performance

    D. Scott Withers in Gypsy

    This year, D. Scott Withers did the near-impossible: He gave some real depth to one of musical theater's most famously underwritten roles. Herbie, the love interest of Mama Rose in Arthur Laurents' Gypsy, is as one-dimensional as supporting roles get — perhaps because he's an apocryphal character who replaces the real-life Rose's many lesbian lovers. Whatever the reason, Herbie is… More >>
  • Best Performance by an Actor Depicting a Differently Abled Person with Compassion

    Tie: Will Hightower in Body Image and Travis Russell in The Pillowman

    Martin McDonagh's notorious The Pillowman, about a writer of fables whose stories typically involve the sadistic murder of children, is a tough play to sell. The story, about the ways in which art informs our lives, focuses on a pair of brothers, one of them demented because he was tortured by his parents as a child. Listening to Michal recount… More >>
  • Best Surprise from a Local Troupe

    Phoenix Theatre's co-production with Nearly Naked Theatre

    No one was surprised when Nearly Naked Theatre, arguably our most radical company, announced a production of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's Spring Awakening this time last year. But the fact that they were collaborating with Phoenix Theatre, inarguably the Valley's most conventional Equity house, was something of a shocker. This Tony-winning rock musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind's controversial 19th-century… More >>
  • Best Holiday Show We Didn't See Last Year

    iTheatre's Christmas Cabaret with Jeff Kennedy

    It just didn't seem entirely like Christmas last year, because iTheatre's holiday cabaret went missing. For the first time in many years, we didn't have musical theater maestro Jeff Kennedy (that's Dr. Jeff Kennedy, for anyone who cares about his Ph.D.) and his band of merry Xmas elves to look forward to. Let's hope that Kennedy and company's hiatus is… More >>
  • Best Record Label

    Acetic House

    You won't find a website or Hello Merch profile for Acetic House, the Tempe-based imprint responsible for releases by Otro Mundo, Marshstepper, Avon Ladies, and more, as well as a swelling library of chap books, poetry, and private press collections of literary ephemera. It's hard to keep up with Acetic House, especially given the subversive, stubborn reluctance of its proprietors… More >>
  • Best Place to Become a Recording Engineer

    Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences

    If the quality of any institution of higher learning is measured by the achievements of its alumni, then the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences arguably is the best sound school in Arizona, and probably the entire United States, for that matter. Since first opening in Tempe more than 25 years ago, this high-fidelity Hogwarts has produced audio wizards and… More >>
  • Best Place to Become a DJ

    The DJ Program at Scottsdale Community College - CLOSED

    Rob Wegner has spent a good chunk of his life perched behind the mixers at dance clubs. So much so that the 48-year-old says that DJ booths have practically become his second home. ("I've even slept in a few of 'em," he jokes.) Wegner's a 30-year veteran of the local nightlife circuit who's gigged at infamous clubs both past (Sanctuary,… More >>
  • Best R&B/Hip-Hop Radio Station

    Power 98.3

    The predictability of FM hip-hop stations is much bemoaned (yeah, we need to hear that Rihanna/Drake collab one more time), but the staff at Power 98.3 have achieved a delicate balance: blasting out the hits that Top 40 listeners want to hear along with daring programming like Magic City Radio in the mornings (featuring Latino rap superstar MC Magic, minus… More >>
  • Best Place to Learn About Hip-Hop Culture

    Cyphers: The Center for Urban Arts

    Hip-hop culture is nothing if not chameleonic, having constantly evolved and reinvented itself over the past 40 years. But no matter how much it's changed, hip-hop essentially boils down to four basic elements: MCing, b-boy dancing, turntablism, and graffiti artistry. And at Cyphers, you can get schooled in each and every one of 'em. Since opening in January, proprietors Danny… More >>
  • Best Country Station

    KNIX 102.5

    Who needs Tim and Willy? (Well, neither of the Valley's big country radio stations, apparently.) KNIX 102.5 FM's morning guys, Ben Campbell and Matt McAllister, have been holding down the fort for several years now, while KMLE 108 FM continues to shift through hosts for its morning show. In a time-slot that's been the basis of competition between the two… More >>
  • Best Alternative/Rock Radio Station

    KWSS 106.7 FM

    Simply put, KWSS is the last man standing. When X103.9 (formerly and still colloquially referred to as "The Edge") evacuated the FM dial, it left many listeners wondering where to turn for alternative rock programming. More than a few found their way over to KWSS, a low-power free-for-all station. You can hear the station pretty much anywhere within Loop 101… More >>
  • Best Classic Rock Station

    KCDX 103.1 FM

    The Valley's radio dial is cluttered with a glut of megawatt stations broadcasting timeless rock 'n' roll hits and AOR chart-toppers from yesteryear. Here's the rub: None of these stations can hold a candle to KCDX. Despite boasting million-dollar promotion budgets, superstar jocks like Alice Cooper, and bumper stickers on half the cars in the Valley, classic-rock powerhouses like KDKB… More >>
  • Best Oldies Radio Station

    KAZG 1440 AM

    Make all the jokes you want about old folks going to bed early, but Arizona Gold KAZG 1440 AM does stop transmitting at sundown, handing over the reins to Korean gospel radio. But the daytimer station comes back with the morning sun, cranking out doo-wop, soul, pop, surf, and rock hits from the '50s and '60s. There's just something about… More >>
  • Best Blues/Jazz Radio Station

    KJZZ 91.5 FM

    Let's make it official: There's a high-water mark for good radio in Phoenix, and that's when a song is so good you turn the key in the car and sit there waiting for it to finish. It's rare — it's hot here, after all — but that's the kind of music KJZZ plays at night in between the NPR market… More >>
  • Best Online Radio Station

    KUKQ Phoenix

    Longtime Phoenicians may raise an eyebrow when you tell them you're jamming the new Black Keys single on KUKQ, but forgive them their suspicion. The old KUKQ — which spent time on the AM and FM dial — went off the air in 1996, but this year former and current staffers of the dearly departed X103.9 and Sandusky Radio banded… More >>
  • Best Internet Radio Personality

    Craven Moorehead on www.kukq.com

    When X103.9 morphed into the adult contemporary My Phoenix Music, the question on everyone's mind was what would happen to Craven Moorehead — the longtime punk jock who made The SkaPunk Show (in all its time slots and incarnations) a standard on the station since taking over the show's reins from Larry Mac in 1997. Moorehead took to the Net,… More >>
  • Best Radio Personality

    Jonathan L on KWSS 106.7 FM

    The name Jonathan L is a familiar one to anyone who's paid attention to the history of the Arizona FM dial. A longtime radio presenter, writer, and promoter of all things cool, L. is most famous for his stints at KUPD, KUKQ, and KMFA. L. broadcasts from Berlin these days, but it was a high priority for him to get… More >>
  • Best Radio Morning Show

    Holmberg's Morning Madness on 98 KUPD

    With morning radio shows dropping like flies, it's nice to know that we still have the antics of 98 KUPD's Holmberg's Morning Sickness to get us through our weekday mornings. The Morning Sickness crew has been going strong and keeping Valley folks tuned in for more than a decade by bashing everyone from politicians, local mattress spokeswomen, Olympic athletes, and… More >>
  • Best Weekly Radio Program

    Totally Jazzed with Johnny D.

    We love John "Johnny D." Dixon's other program, the Sunday night free-form excursion Mostly Vinyl, but his Monday night show, Totally Jazzed, takes the cake, as Dixon digs deep into his trove of Blue Note, Impulse, and rarities from Arizona's own jazzy past. Dixon's not afraid to get far out, balancing the smooth sounds with some of the farthest-out stuff… More >>
  • Best Sports Radio Talk Show

    Bickley & MJ

    In 2008, Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley had the dubious honor of getting his ass handed to him by Phoenix Mercury captain Diana Taurasi in a lopsided game of HORSE. While the acerbic sports scribe might be wanting when it comes to athletic prowess, we're willing to wager that he would've wiped the floor with the WNBA star had it… More >>
  • Best News Radio Station

    KJZZ, 91.5 FM

    Easy call here, and we're not just talking about the National Public Radio component of this top-drawer outfit. Steve Goldstein, who hosts the locally produced Here and Now for an hour on weekdays starting at 11 a.m., does a heck of a job, bringing on topical guests from all walks of life (disbarred ex-County Attorney Andrew Thomas one day, a… More >>
  • Best TV Newscaster

    Kari Lake at Fox 10 News

    We previously honored this veteran Phoenix journalist's longtime 9 p.m. co-anchor, John Hook, and now it's Lake's turn in our spotlight for three simple reasons: consistency, a natural curiosity, and a direct and concise way of explaining things. And she's on Fox News, no less, a network known to squishy liberal types for slanting the news to fits its preordained… More >>
  • Best TV Journalist

    Gilbert Zermeno at KPHO, Channel 5

    The true stars of the TV news biz often are those whose faces we rarely see on-screen — the camera people, editors, and, yes, folks who produce what passes locally for "investigative" journalism. Our winner, who universally is known in media circles as "Z," is outstanding at what he does, which is to identify, organize, and execute some pretty in-depth… More >>
  • Best Public Information Officers

    Vincent Funari and Karen Arra, Maricopa County Superior Court

    We miss J.W. Brown, a fine longtime journalist turned PIO who ably represented the county judicial system as its spokesman before (sadly) getting on the wrong side of certain powers that be at the courthouse. But the pair left behind, Funari and Arra, also are top-notch and accessible. Funari is an exceptionally pleasant gent who would rather chat about his… More >>
  • Best Power Couple

    Kurt and Brenda Warner

    Though it seems long ago, it's been just a few years since the great Arizona Cardinals quarterback came within one play of leading the formerly pathetic local franchise to a Super Bowl win. One year (and another concussion or two) later, he finally retired from the game that brought him fame and fortune. With Kurt's departure, it seemed we'd seen… More >>
  • Best Powerless Couple

    Sheriff Paul Babeu and Jose Orozco

    Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and, well, gay sheriffs. Paul Babeu seemed well on his way to a seat in the U.S. Congress earlier this year when a story in these very pages about his purported threats against his Mexican-born lover derailed that dream, most likely forever. It was one of those stories that really was better than fiction.… More >>
  • Best Politician(s)

    Team Awesome

    They're known as Team Awesome: a crew of young people from different walks of life, brought together by a burning motivation to end an ongoing campaign in Arizona to criminalize their existence.This army of activists pushed Latinos in a West Phoenix community to increase their voter turnout by nearly 500 percent, successfully electing a second Latino to the Phoenix City… More >>
  • Best Endorsement

    Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Endorses President Barack Obama

    Anyone who remembers (and really, how could anyone forget?) Jan Brewer's brain fart heard 'round the world during a live televised debate during the 2010 Arizona gubernatorial race must have been impressed with how surefooted our governor was during a TV interview in August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Why, she didn't hesitate for a moment in offering… More >>
  • Best Activist

    Randy Parraz

    Randy Parraz pulled off what most political pundits in the Valley believed was impossible: leading a successful recall against Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, one of the most powerful — and feared — politicians in Arizona.A longtime community organizer, Parraz was raised in Sacramento and got a law degree from the University of California-Berkeley and a master's in public administration… More >>
  • Best Delusional Crybaby

    Andrew Thomas

    It takes a big man to admit when he's wrong. Suffice it to say that disbarred former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is not that man. Or a man at all, unless you wanna call him a "baby-man." After he was stripped of his law license by a three-person disciplinary panel of the Arizona Supreme Court, did Thomas cowboy up,… More >>
  • Best Morality Cop

    Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery

    No matter how old you get, some people still want to treat you like a child for your entire life. Take Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, for example, who's still preaching the evils of the marihuana. He presses for parents to drug-test their children — especially around the stoner holiday of "4/20" — and asked the county to "opt out"… More >>
  • Best Private Practice Lawyer Who Should Be County Attorney

    Tom Ryan

    Save for when rock-ribbed Republican Rick Romley's been Maricopa County Attorney, those in charge of the county attorney's office have been either political hacks, ideologues, weenies, or all three. In any case, there's one man we'd like to see in the catbird seat, fightin' Irishman Tom Ryan, the Chandler attorney best known for exposing the plot to run Olivia Cortes… More >>
  • Best Collection of Alter Kocker Wingnuts

    Mesa's Red Mountain Tea Party

    If you're a wackjob surrounded by other wackjobs, are you still a wackjob? The answer is "yes," but in the case of Mesa's Red Mountain Tea Party, there's also strength in collective insanity. Indeed, this noxious collection of geriatric birthers, right-wing extremists, and bigots has become the place in the East Valley for Republican candidates and officeholders to peddle their… More >>
  • Best Raving Loon

    Former State Senator Sylvia Allen

    We're gonna miss Sylvia Allen, the state senator from Snowflake who has never been shy about sharing the fact that she's as dumb as a bag of hammers and as bigoted as her disgraced mentor, recalled ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce. Whether it was inviting an anti-Mexican bigot like Glenn Spencer to speak before the Senate Border Security Committee she… More >>
  • Best Stooge

    Olivia Cortes

    We still don't feel sorry for Olivia Cortes, the hapless Mesa retiree who allowed her name and face to be used in a sinister plot to split the vote in last year's recall in Legislative District 18. That plot was foiled due to the efforts of Chandler attorney Tom Ryan and others who worked tirelessly to expose her as a… More >>
  • Best Example of a Worthless Federal Agency Operating in Arizona

    Tie: The FBI and the DOJ

    If you need a reason not to pay your taxes, look no further than the Federal Bureau of Incompetence, um, we mean, Investigation, and its parent agency, the U.S. Department of Justice. The most recent manifestation of federal laziness followed the Gilbert massacre, committed by neo-Nazi J.T. Ready. Ready killed four innocents and himself on May 2, after which the… More >>
  • Best Pathological Liar

    Russell Pearce

    Former state Senate President Russell Pearce wouldn't know the truth if it got down on all fours and French-kissed his big toe. Pearce lied about why he was fired as head of the Arizona Motor Vehicles Division in the '90s (he claims he did nothing wrong, which is wrong), lied about Senate Bill 1070 — saying it's the reason crime… More >>
  • Best Antediluvian Politico

    State Representative Debbie Lesko for her anti-birth control bill

    Remember when women in politics fought for the rights of their fellow females, birth control rights, abortion rights, equal pay, and all the rest? These days, there seem to be more and more of the pre-Bella Abzug types around, determined to put their sisters back in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. One of these throwbacks locally is state Representative Debbie… More >>
  • Best Example of Political Courage

    State Senator Jerry Lewis, for voting against Lesko's anti-birth control bill, twice

    For those cynical Democrats who've argued that the recall of ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce only resulted in a Republican replacing a Republican, check out the way state Senator Jerry Lewis, the GOPer who beat Pearce in that contest, voted when it came to state Representative Debbie Lesko's anti-contraception bill, which allowed religious employers to deny their employees insurance that… More >>
  • Best Example of Political Cowardice

    Congressman Ben Quayle

    First-term GOP Congressman "Baby Ben" Quayle looks like a punk and acts like a punk. What else can you say about a onetime writer for the R-rated Dirty Scottsdale website who opts to jump districts and run against a fellow R because that's easier than running against a Democrat in a competitive district? That's what happened earlier this year when… More >>
  • Best Public Servant Payday

    Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox's $1 million lawsuit settlement

    Does Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox deserve a massive $1 million payday for being targeted by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and disgraced, disbarred Maricopa County Attorney Andy Thomas? True, Wilcox was wrongly charged by the pair, though she escaped the handcuffs and the perp walk endured by her colleague, Supervisor Don Stapley. But all the charges were dropped and, other… More >>
  • Best Public Servant Payday That Almost Was

    Russell Pearce's attempt to gouge the state Legislature out of $260,000

    The world knows no crassness like disgraced ex-state Senator Russell Pearce, with his three pensions, his Fiesta Bowl freebies, and the sham candidacy of Olivia Cortes. His buddies in the state Legislature aren't much better, truth be told. This year, Pearce cronies state Senators Andy Biggs, Steve Smith, and others conspired to have the state of Arizona reimburse Pearce for… More >>
  • Best Slimer

    Michael Monti

    The mud was a-slinging in this year's mayoral election in Tempe, in one of the dirtiest — and closest — municipal elections in recent years. In one corner, there was Mark Mitchell, a Tempe councilman and son of former Congressman and Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell. In the other corner, there was Michael Monti, whose father founded Monti's La Casa Vieja… More >>
  • Best Escape

    Jairo Contreras, in a laundry cart

    In February, burglary suspect Jairo Contreras escaped from a jail run by the self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff" in America, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Contreras must have thought about this one for weeks — he hopped in a laundry cart and got wheeled out. Contreras was just about to be released from the jail on work furlough, but decided to be… More >>
  • Best Reason to Abandon Maricopa County

    Sheriff Joe Arpaio (if he wins)

    America's most corrupt sheriff is now 80 years old, has been in power for two decades, and is telling the same lame pink underwear jokes that he's been telling since Bill Clinton was president. What the hell is the matter with Sand Land, and particularly with this county? Two words: snow birds. Though it's highly likely many of them are… More >>
  • Best Place to Brush Up on Your Chemistry

    Noble Science and Engineering Library at ASU

    It was Shakespeare's tragic Hamlet who wondered whether it was nobler to suffer quietly or better to take up arms. But when it comes to being dignified on ASU's main campus, the brainiest of the student body — instead of gawking at the scantily clad bodies of coeds — take to the quiet confines of the Noble Science and Engineering… More >>
  • Best Shock Value

    Taser International

    Many times a day in this country (and many more times worldwide), someone feels the sting of two needles pierce his or her skin, followed by a hair-raising, five-second jolt of electricity. Taser weapons are in use by more than 16,000 police departments in more than 100 countries, and they've changed the business of policing at a fundamental level. Cops… More >>
  • Best Bug Collection

    The Hasbrouck Insect Collection

    There are more than 700,000 insect specimens, representing at least 25 orders, 390 families, 4,000 genera, 10,000 species, and 1,240 subspecies on the Arizona State University campus. And if your skin's not already crawling, curators Dr. Nico Franz and Dr. Sangmi Lee and their students gladly will give you a tour.The collection began under Drs. Frank Hasbrouck, Gordon Castle, and… More >>
  • Best Sci-Fi Conference

    International UFO Congress

    The truth is out there. And those in pursuit of answers need search no further than the annual International UFO Congress. No longer are its sci-fi topics of convo confined to Fox, Mulder, and your crackpot uncle who totally saw the Phoenix Lights. These days, skeptics and scientists gather to learn about ancient civilizations, archeology, UFOlogy, and paranormal phenomena from… More >>
  • Best Science Lecture Series

    Adult's Night Out at Arizona Science Center

    Although Ms. Frizzle and her school bus of inquisitive students would fit right in roaming through the Arizona Science Center on a field trip, grownups should note that the museum features much more than basic kid-size bites of knowledge. And every First Friday, they can leave the little ones with the sitter, as the museum's doors open for Adult's Night… More >>
  • Best Way to Prepare for a Zombie Invasion

    Zombie Research Society, Phoenix Chapter

    Up until earlier this year, zombies were nothing more than a popular — if overused — thematic device in movies like 28 Days Later and such television shows as The Walking Dead. Then all these freakazoid drug addicts began turning into insane, flesh-biting cannibals after sniffing bath salts, which caused us to wonder if somehow the undead could actually stagger… More >>
  • Best Use of Technology in a Museum

    The Musical Instrument Museum

    If there's one thing all generations agree on, it's that the best education happens when you're having a wonderful time, completely unaware that you're learning stuff. Each display in the Musical Instrument Museum magically senses when you and your headphones approach and plays the appropriate video and audio. You don't have to do anything, and a brilliant floor plan keeps… More >>
  • Best Performance by a Robot in a Supporting Role

    Aunt Julie-Bot in Heddatron Stray Cat Theatre

    Whenever Elizabeth Meriwether's Heddatron is produced, the biggest of the play's challenges is coming up with five robots that, among other things, perform the opening scene of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. As well as finessing time and budget constraints, Stray Cat Theatre had to reach out from their own weird little community to the weird little robotics community. Designers Tim… More >>
  • Best Musical Paleontology

    Singing Hadrosaur

    ASU Ph.D. candidate Courtney Brown's re-creation (thanks to fossils, CT scans, and 3D printing) of a Corythosaurus dinosaur skull and nasal passages, with a mechanical larynx that performers blow into to approximate the sound the animal made, is pretty cool just to think about. Once you've pulled up the video and listened to the prehistoric-style cries, though, your mind will… More >>
  • Best A/V Club

    Orange Theatre Group

    Performance art per se has enjoyed isolated heydays on the Phoenix culture scene, and a new wave is cresting thanks to some genuinely experimental organizations, including Matthew Watkins' Orange Theatre Group. With cameras, microphones, and computers getting smaller and more affordable all the time, technology plays a vital role in sucking Orange's audiences in and then disturbing and disorienting them,… More >>
  • Best Rock Collection

    Meteorite Vault at ASU

    The researchers and scholars involved with the Meteorite Vault at Arizona State University have a Chicken Little complex. Sure, we've all claimed the sky's falling on our worst days and when we've had a little too much doomsday punch, but these academics have the rocks to prove it. In 1960, ASU purchased more than 700 meteorite samples from amateur meteorite… More >>
  • Best Neon Art

    Sue Meyers at Bend a Light Neon Studio

    Phoenix-based neon artist is not a career for the faint of anything. In the summertime, it's more than 120 degrees in Sue Meyers' studio. She's not running the A/C and she says a swamp cooler won't cut it because during the day, she's using 1,800-degree flames to mold, craft, and twist glass tubes that she'll fit and light to create… More >>
  • Best Bee (Secret) Keeper

    Dr. Gro Amdam, associate professor at ASU's School of Life Sciences

    There's a buzz in the science community these days. Led by Dr. Gro Amdam, a team of scientists based mostly at Arizona State University recently published its cool findings — that older bees actually can reverse brain aging when they do work normally done by their younger comrades. The team also discovered a physical change in proteins in the bees'… More >>
  • Best Robot Art

    Aaron Voigt

    Aaron Voigt is a cat with a penchant for the past — specifically the 1950s. He occasionally styles his black hair into a pompadour worthy of Buddy Holly himself and bombs around on a vintage beach cruiser, and his workshop is adorned with tiki heads and filled with the distortion-filled strains of surf rock. Voigt's fondness for the Eisenhower era… More >>
  • Best Place to Watch Sci-Fi Movies in Arizona

    International Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival at Harkins Scottsdale 101

    First-year psych students love spouting off about that dusty old Jungian theory concerning mankind's penchant for duality. (You know, that whole thing about our supposed yin-yang nature or potential for both good and evil.) Well, they'd probably have an effin' field day analyzing some of the disparate flicks featured every year at the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival. Imaginative… More >>
  • Best Science Fiction Movie Filmed in Arizona

    Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

    As any local cinema buff can tell you, Arizona has been a popular destination for film crews since the 1930s. It's due in part to our state's abundance of harsh desert terrain, which has proved an ideal setting for hundreds of Westerns. Ditto for science fiction flicks, particularly post-apocalyptic yarns like Planet of the Apes — both the original and… More >>
  • Best Sci-Fi Convention

    LepreCon

    Robert F. Kennedy once famously waxed: "Some men see things as they are and say, 'Why?' I dream of things that never were and say, 'Why not?'" The optimistic sentiment, paraphrased from George Bernard Shaw, is something likely shared by the slew of speculative-fiction scribes who attend and appear at LepreCon each year. While most of the geekazoid gatherings and… More >>
  • Best Use of an Old Chemistry Lab

    OP-Tic

    When artist David Therrien first purchased this 9,000-square-foot warehouse south of downtown Phoenix in 1999, it was in disarray. Formerly the home of Arizona Testing Labs — which examined and analyzed crime evidence for the Phoenix Police Department, as well as water and soil samples — the building contained broken equipment, trash, and a few homeless folks. "Back then, the… More >>
  • Best Scientific Boondoggle

    Biosphere 2

    It was pitched to the world as one of the grandest scientific ventures of all time, but ultimately wound up being nothing more than a titanic joke mired in scandal. In 1991, the much-ballyhooed biological experiment known as Biosphere 2 was launched outside Tucson, sealing eight people inside a $200 million self-contained, glass-enclosed airtight habitat that essentially was a 7.2-million-cubic-foot… More >>
  • Best Rocket Scientists

    Orbital Sciences Corporation

    Security is phenomenally tight at both of the sprawling high-tech facilities owned by Orbital Sciences Corporation in the East Valley. It's so tight that even Tom Cruise in full-on Mission: Impossible mode couldn't penetrate either of its buildings. Given the sort of top-secret stuff being designed and built inside, such security is to be expected. As the company's name portends,… More >>
  • Best Place to See a Rocket

    Titan Missile Museum

    It's hard not to feel awestruck when gazing up at the 103-foot Titan II missile that's housed underground at this submerged former nuclear silo in southern Arizona. Truth be told, had things gone differentially during the Cold War, neither we nor the rocket (nor many like it) would be around right now. Thankfully, World War III never happened and the… More >>
  • Best Place for a Ride to Outer Space

    Challenger Space Center

    As each year passes, British billionaire Richard Branson seems to be inching closer to making his dreams of providing jaunts beyond the stratosphere a full-fledged reality. According to the website for his space tourism company Virgin Galactic, however, booking a ticket aboard a sub-orbital vehicle like the VSS Enterprise is expected to cost a hefty $200,000 per person. In other… More >>
  • Best Arizona Astronomer

    Percival Lowell

    When members of the International Astronomical Union downgraded Pluto to dwarf planet status in 2006, we practically heard Percival Lowell spinning in his grave all the way up in Flagstaff. That's because the mathematician and astronomer dedicated the last decade of his life to helping lay the groundwork for the discovery of Pluto, which took place in 1930 at the… More >>
  • Best Place to See Other Worlds

    East Valley Astronomy Club

    The planets and extraterrestrial phenomena of outer space don't seem as far away anymore, thanks to the wonders of technology and the speed of the Internet. These days, wanna-be astronomers or those interested in seeing what's out there in the cosmos can easily log on to the Slooh Space Camera or similar online skywatching sites and watch both lunar and… More >>
  • Sci-Fi Author

    Michael Stackpole

    Author and Valley resident Michael Stackpole is a hero to nerds nationwide, likely because he's amassed a slew of achievements that some geeks only wish they could accomplish in their lifetimes. Over the past 35 years, he's designed critically acclaimed tabletop RPGs (Storm Haven, City Book I) and PC games (Star Trek: 25th Anniversary Edition), written popular novels in the… More >>
  • Best Mad Scientist

    Lance Greathouse

    Upon first glance, Lance Greathouse looks like a fairly straitlaced guy. He's got a wife, two kids, a suburban home, and a sedate day job as a dental laser technician. Brewing inside the 52-year-old's head, however, are visions of twisted creatures, lethal-looking contraptions, and frightening fire-breathing monsters. Mind you, Greathouse isn't insane but is instead an imaginative cat, and such… More >>
  • Best Place to See Antique Medical Equipment

    Phoenix Baptist Hospital Medical Museum

    Without a doubt, modern medicine has come a long way since the long-forgotten era when doctors routinely gave bloodlettings or used such fantastically useless devices as electro-magnetic machines to treat ailments. For an illustration of this fact, look no further than the lobby of Phoenix Baptist Hospital, which features a unique and unusual museum of medical history. A pair of… More >>
  • Best Hope for Surviving a Nerve Gas Attack

    Bioscavenger Project, Mor Lab at ASU Biodesign Institute

    Today, if you are exposed to nerve gas — like the sarin used in the notorious 1995 Tokyo subway attacks — the best that anyone can do for you is administer a cocktail of drugs that may keep your heart beating long enough for the gas to wear off on its own. The drugs themselves are dangerous, and they do… More >>
  • Best Use of Dirty Pool Water to Save Humanity

    ASU's Laboratory for Algae Research and Biotechnology

    Arizona has more pools per capita than anywhere in America. Given our weather, that's not really a shocker. What might be shocking is that some of the stuff that grows in your pool if you don't clean it might actually end up saving humanity.The Laboratory for Algae Research and Biotechnology at ASU is conducting a whole raft of research centered… More >>
  • Best Place to Test Drive a Space Rover

    Arizona -- NASA's Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) and NASA's Desert Research and Technology Studies (D-RATS) team

    While Arizona's frequent haboobs, blazing summers, and year-round dryness can be a challenge for residents, it's also the perfect weather for testing equipment we one day hope to send into space. NASA's Desert Research and Technology Studies (D-RATS) team descends on the Arizona desert every summer to put new space-exploration technology and principles through the torture of an Arizona summer.… More >>
  • Best Use of a Camera on Mars

    Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) at Mars Space Flight Facility

    Researchers at ASU helped throw the Mars Odyssey orbiter into space way back in 2001. One of the major pieces of equipment they are responsible for was the THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System). The THEMIS is much more than a super-expensive digital camera. It's a super-expensive digital camera that can take pictures of the infrared spectrum.Looking into the infrared means… More >>
  • Best Local Indiana Jones

    Todd Bostwick, PaleoWest Solutions in Archaeology

    For those who say Arizona has no history, Todd Bostwick would like a word with you. The senior research archeologist at PaleoWest Archaeology and executive director of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center in Camp Verde, Bostwick has been working in the field for more than 40 years. So he's got some history — including multiple degrees and a résumé that… More >>
  • Best Brain Surgeon

    Dr. Robert F. Spetzler at Barrow Neurological Institute

    We hope to never suffer any cerebral damage in our lifetime, but we do know the right guy for the job, if the worst happens. (Come to think of it, we should probably write down his name and tape it to the fridge in case of said damage.) Dr. Robert Spetzler is director of the Barrow Neurological Institute at St.… More >>
  • Best Way to Learn How to Make Your Garden Really Grow

    Maricopa County Master Gardener Program

    If you've ever tried to plant something in Phoenix, you've probably realized it takes a little more than "just add water" to get something to grow (or, harder yet, survive). Luckily, there are teaching professionals like Carol Stuttard to help you contrary Marys get your gardens up and growing. Among her credentials (which include certified desert landscape garderer at the… More >>
  • Best School for a Mad Scientist in Training

    Bioscience High School

    Finding a good public school can be a challenge, but it can be especially challenging if your child stays up late watching reruns of Bill Nye the Science Guy and Dexter's Laboratory. If your child has been bitten by the science bug, it might be prudent to enroll him or her in a high school that has science in the… More >>
  • Best Use of Technology to Make Being Lazy Even Easier

    AdSkip

    TiVo and other DVR technology has been a boon for couch potatoes. Gone are the days when humanity was actually forced to watch commercials or plan their lives around watching specific shows at specific times. But DVRs have one serious drawback: If you are watching something live and it goes to commercials, what do you do while you wait for… More >>
  • Best Animal Testing in the Name of Animals

    Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)

    Animal testing is generally a concept that raises the hackles of animal lovers everywhere. However, some testing doesn't just help people; it also helps our canine friends. Researchers at TGen are busy collecting thousands of samples from dogs who have developed cancer in the hopes of figuring out exactly which genetic factors lead to cancer.Research to date indicates that the… More >>
  • Best (Creative) Use of Natural Light

    James Turrell

    Internationally acclaimed artist James Turrell isn't easy to find. He's often completing commissions for his sky spaces for private collectors, museums, and public establishments around the country. But Turrell, who's based in Arizona, recently spent a long time on the Arizona State University Campus in Tempe envisioning his latest project. Off of Rural Road, just behind the light-rail stop, is… More >>
  • Best Fire Man

    Dr. Stephen Pyne

    This year, the Gladiator, Bull Flat, Elwood, and Sunflower fires burned more than 3,000 acres throughout Arizona, and no one was watching more closely than Dr. Stephen Pyne. Pyne's spent 15 years as a wildland firefighter and now is an expert on the history and management of fire, which he teaches at Arizona State University. He also recognizes the irony… More >>
  • Best Meteorologist

    Ken Waters, National Weather Service

    We aren't giving this guy the nod for best weather guy simply because he's got the most awesome name we've heard for a weatherman in the desert. Ken Waters has a cool title, too: warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Phoenix. He collects and interprets data from satellites and radar that allows him to predict when the… More >>
  • Best Way to Brush Up on Your Anthropology

    "Digging Arizona"

    We've been a state for a full 100 years now, which means it's high time we stop to take a look back at our roots. This fall and winter, the Arizona State Museum of Anthropology will host "Digging Arizona," an exhibit that will give a glimpse into the anthropological research and history of the state over the past 140 years,… More >>
  • Best Earth-Shaking Science

    "Seismicity Within Arizona During the Deployment of the EarthScope USArray Transportable Array"

    Here in Phoenix, we may live with extreme heat and monsoon storms — but since pretty much forever, Arizonans have been able to cling to the fact that at least we don't live in a place that has earthquakes. That is, until now. A study conducted by ASU researchers at the School of Earth and Space Exploration using EarthScope data… More >>
  • Best Place to Play Doctor

    University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix

    Students at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine-Phoenix get hands-on training with state-of-the-art, computer-controlled mannequins. These mannequins are programmed to behave like real people and give students the chance to learn within a stressful scenario. IVs can be started, drugs administered, and vitals checked all without actually needing to stick a needle in a real person. All this training… More >>
  • Best Science Fiction (Or Is It?) About Phoenix

    The 33rd Parallel

    You don't have to be a believer, a Freemason, or even well-versed in ancient cultures to get swept up in the multi-layered history and archeo-astronomy surrounding the 33rd parallel north latitude. According to legend, Phoenix, which sits at a latitude of 33 degrees and 43 minutes, lies within the influence of the "dragon energy" of this imaginary line around the… More >>
  • Best Second Chance

    ALCOR Life Extension Foundation

    Within the walls of a building near the Scottsdale Air Park, Max More, CEO of ALCOR Life Extension Foundation, keeps a watchful eye over his "patients." Here, about 100 bodies or body parts (namely, heads) sit in liquid nitrogen and wait for the time when they're brought back to life.ALCOR (which stands for Allopathic Cryogenic Rescue) specializes in cryonics, the… More >>

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