What would happen if all alternative radio stations were suddenly issued a directive not to play any more records by members of the Record Industry Association of America? That's the standard operating procedure of this Internet radio station located in Tempe, manned mostly by volunteers and college kids. Every broadcast day, it extends a big middle finger to the Library of Congress, which insists that Internet radio stations pay 70 cents per 1,000 listeners per RIAA song, as well as the 7.5 cents that regular commercial radio stations are charged -- and mandates that these fees be retroactive to 1998.

Knot Radio was started by Chris Richardson as an adjunct to his Knot Known Records label. In one stroke, he has given Tempe the credible college rock station it's been lacking for ages; it provides an outlet for local rock groups who've all been shunted off the commercial airwaves and gives them global exposure. Specialty shows range from Chris Horak's Punk, Ska, Oi, Surf, and Hardcore Show to the Blimey! It's BritPop! Show by some cat named Eddie to DJ John's Heathen World, which gives us a history of indie music of the past, present and future. Factor in other eclectic shows that feature jazz, exotica and bootlegs that somehow fall outside the RIAA's regulation, and you have alternatives that no other alternative radio station can provide because it has to play Third Eye Blind for the kajillionth time.

Knot Radio averages about 1,500 listeners a day. Lord knows how many of them are local, but one thing's for certain: They're getting freeform radio at its finest with a click of the mouse.

Pop historians say that Top 40 died years ago, when everyone went fleeing to different formats. And while that's true, it's the hip-hop stations that inherited all the energy. There's not a millisecond of dead airtime on Power 92, recently named by the Arbitrons as number-one for hip-hop and R&B in the Valley. It's a fact that couldn't possibly escape Power 92 listeners, since station IDs proudly trumpet the fact every 10 minutes.

So what's there to miss about Top 40 anyway? Hearing new music? You hear chart heat-seekers regularly; even songs in rapid repeat rotation, like Nelly's "Hot in Here," get a face-lift every go-round, especially when turntable wizards like DJ Shy are live in the mix for the "Powerworkout" from noon to 2 p.m. You want countdowns? JX3 rattles off the "Power 7 at 7." You miss crazed on-air personalities with funny nicknames? You've got MG, Mad Dog, Danielle and Gringo Suave manning the Morning Madhouse in the a.m., naughty Da Nutz carrying on in afternoon drive time, and Melissa the Midnite Mamacita playing slow jams into the dawn. And how about a station that has guest host Nuff Ced (NBA Superstar Cedric Ceballos) holding court whenever the mood strikes him? Long-distance dedications? Call 602-260-6923, and they are "Down 4 U."

BEST GOLF COURSE

tie: Troon North Golf Club
10320 East Dynamite, Scottsdale
480-502-5360

and

Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale
17020 North Hayden, Scottsdale
480-585-3428

BEST CITY HIKING TRAIL

Camelback Mountain

BEST CITY PARK

Encanto Park and Recreation Area
2605 North 15th Avenue
602-261-8994

BEST KIDS' FREE FUN SPOT

Tempe Town Lake

BEST KIDS' FUN-FOR-A-PRICE SPOT

Castles-n-Coasters
9445 North Metro Parkway East
602-997-7575

BEST PLACE TO SPEND THE DAY WITH YOUR DOG

Any dog park

If you're the sort of parent who blows your budget on your kids' parties, consider introducing your children and all their friends to T-Bo, the rhinoceros iguana. T-Bo is one of 500 creatures kept by Rich Ihle's Reptile Adventures. For $150, Ihle will cart a truck full of snakes and lizards to your home guaranteed to drop every jaw in the joint. This is a very hands-on experience that involves lots of touching and education with a cast that includes an Argentinean Red Tegu, a four-foot-long carnivorous lizard. Other big hits include water monitors that can hit seven feet in length, 19-foot-long pythons and hulking anacondas. A walking infomercial on all things reptile, Ihle is hoping to construct a public museum in the near future.

Tilt Studio
Yeah, yeah, there's more to do at GameWorks than simulate genocide. But inspired killing is the foundation of any inspiring arcade. And with several dozen of the world's most realistically hyperviolent video games, GameWorks is just about as inspiring as it gets, killing-wise.

If you tire of killing, if that's possible, GameWorks offers all sorts of other entertaining cyber realms. And yes, there are numerous nonviolent games for children if you're some sort of daisy-pickin' pacifist.

After a hard day of killing, you can retire to GameWorks' full bar and a menu of mostly excellent food. The upstairs restaurant and pub makes a nice place to hide from children asking for more money.

To stem the high cost of killing, GameWorks offers daily specials as well as reduced pricing for bulk-killing. Now, if they could only pipe in the smell of napalm in the morning.

Before he became a Valley Popsicle, Ted Williams said famously that hitting a baseball was the hardest thing to do in all of sports. Keep that in mind the next time your Little Leaguer whiffs. If you'd like to do something constructive to help your budding all-star, take the kid over to Big League Dugout, where former major league ballplayers offer individually tailored half-hour instruction for $40. Tutoring in both hitting and pitching is available. Hummmm, baby!
What legions of us still have childhood memories of time spent in the game room, sitting cross-legged (back then we called it "Indian style") in front of a loop of plastic track, jockeying tiny magnetic cars to race our siblings for superlative titles -- the winner was "the coolest person on the planet," say, and the loser was "actually adopted but Mom and Dad don't want you to know"?

You can practically hear the whiff of your plaid corduroy trousers just thinking about it.

But now you can relive those easy times at Terry's Performance Raceways, where slot-car racing is way more than a nostalgia trip. It's pretty much a lifestyle. Terry's features (for now) two modes for mini-scale enthusiasts, beginning with the so-called "H.O." racers, those Hot Wheels-style cars that are authentic enough to induce a flashback in almost anyone. And it only costs $6 an hour: $3 for track time, $2 for a car, and $1 for a controller.

Then there's the drag-racing track, where speed is the only thing that matters. Even with cars that are 1/24th scale, Terry himself claims, cars have been clocked on the 55-foot-long track going as fast as 50 miles per hour, real time. He's currently building a 1/32nd-scale road course, but for now the main event is on Friday and Saturday evenings, when diehard slot jockeys compete in earnest. For a $5 entry fee you can compete if you make the qualifiers; and winners can receive up to 30 percent of the pooled money in store credit, which the proprietor says can sometimes be enough to buy you your own new car -- Terry's, you see, also sells a full line of cars, tracks and slot-car accessories.

"Racing cars to win more cars," Terry says. "That's just gotta be the best thing on Earth."

Best Place To Contribute To The (Alleged) Delinquency Of A Minor

The Original Hamburger Works

The Music Man is a fine musical, but that Meredith Willson lyric "trouble starts with T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool" has cast a dark pall on the upstanding game of billiards. We beg to differ, because words like "tenacity," "temperance," "tolerance" and "tertiary" don't exactly start with the letter J.

Indeed, "pockets mark the difference between a gentleman and a bum," and a young man's idle hours are better spent learning a game of skill and coordination that's not a carpal-tunnel-syndrome-inducing video game.

Most billiard palaces won't even allow minors a peek inside, but we've found a pool table that's easily accessible to kids at the Original Hamburger Works, located on the outdoor patio away from secondhand smoke, beer and guys named Fats, Philly and Moe. There's also a Ping-Pong table and horseshoes for those times when you've got to wait for the pool table to free up. The official eatery of the Phoenix Outlaws is a safe bet your kids won't grow up to be juvenile delinquents learning how to line up a bank shot.

On this ranch, they have some chickens, E-I-E-I-O. With a donkey here and a billy goat there, you name the domesticated farm animal, you can pet it and make it your friend. After communing with farm life, go on a hayride, have a cookout, or take in the wildlife (like Arizona's "first bird," the cactus wren). The ranch is located in the slightly cooler stretch of the Sonoran Desert, so it's one of the few places that you can be outdoors when the weather is hot. Or stay in the A/C and take a scenic driving tour. If you do some digging, you'll even learn about the little-known mystery of the Mormon Girl Mine. But what makes MacDonald's Ranch special isn't what it has, it's what it doesn't have. You won't find any mechanical farm equipment here, because the ranch still operates with true "horsepower." That's just cool.
Fiddlesticks Family Fun Park
Sure, there are plenty of places that can boast "Fun" as their middle name. But Fiddlesticks in Scottsdale can claim it as its first and last name as well. The main draw of this seven-acre family fun park is the 4,000 square feet devoted to Atlantis Laser Odyssey, a state-of-the-art laser tag adventure game that becomes a matter of familial pride when another brood gets it in their heads to make you and your kids their quarry.

While the lure of bumper boats, batting cages and go-carts you need a license to drive makes this park a top draw for preteen parties, it's also ideal for toddlers. The park's Kiddie Land offers six flagship rides including Flying Dumbo Elephants, the Miner Mike Roller Coaster and rookie go-carts. Value Packages are $16 for guests 60 inches and taller, $12 for guests 36 to 59 inches tall, with an additional $3.50 for the laser tag. You could probably make a case for the Value Package 2 if you're a short dad, but then they might not waive the height requirement for the go-carts.

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