Okay, so it's in Chandler. But Madstone Theaters -- a national chain of 20 cinemas that play predominantly independent and foreign films -- is a godsend in any neighborhood. Until last month, the Valley had gotten by with precious few full-fledged art movie houses, and if it weren't for Harkins Valley Art or Camelview, we'd never see a foreign or indie film at all. But Madstone is here to change all that. The company recently bought an abandoned AMC multiplex and transformed it into this six-screen, upscale cinema that showcases art house and foreign films, as well as documentaries and classic movies. Plush interiors and comfy seating may be a given, but when was the last time you went to a movie house with a concierge, or an art gallery, or a full-service cafe that serves sandwiches, coffee drinks, baked goods, and beer and wine? Madstone features revivals of recent hit indie films, as well as a digital movie screen that will bring live and interactive programming to the Valley.

As if that weren't enough, the company has launched Madstone Films, a new-style studio that funds new works by up-and-coming young filmmakers. Movie fans will want one of Madstone's annual membership kits, which offers discounted tickets and invitations to special screenings and receptions. Let's go to the movies!

As the Valley's arts organizations struggle for economic survival, we hold up associate conductor Robert Moody as a compelling reason to support the Phoenix Symphony. Were his orchestra reduced to a tin whistle and a secondhand set of bongos, we'd wager that Maestro Moody still could conjure an inspired performance to delight the most discerning listener. With eloquence and humor, he amiably explains the pieces he conducts, making classical music accessible -- and interesting -- even to symphonic novices.

And we can't help but notice how dapper he looks in his tuxedo (in fact, we're reasonably sure he never wears anything else). His credentials aren't bad, either: He's conducted at Carnegie Hall and lived in Austria, where he worked at the Landestheater Linz opera house. His current repertoire includes serving as chorus master for the Santa Fe Opera, conductor for the Oklahoma City Symphony's "Discovery" concert series and music director for the Phoenix Symphony Guild Youth Orchestra. Ah, a real Renaissance man.

Rock us, Amadeus.

DJ John Holmberg, along with his sidekicks, Brady Bogen and Beau Duran, have more or less saved KUPD from its longtime creep toward becoming WKRP.

Luckily for listeners, KUPD's management got bored with Dave Pratt too. In early September, they replaced him with the relatively young, inexperienced DJ from the floundering sort-of-alt-rock station The Zone.

The show started slowly thanks to 9/11 and KUPD's mistake of teaming Holmberg with a doormat of a Hooters girl for a sidekick. But as the new team jelled, and as laughing at edgy, dark, gloriously twisted jokes became okay again, the Morning Sickness took off.

Now Holmberg and crew are the second-highest-rated morning show in Phoenix behind Howard Stern. And their numbers have been just as good as, and sometimes better than, Pratt's, who had 20 years to build his audience.

Now Holmberg just needs to overcome Stern. It should happen. Day in, day out, Holmberg puts on a much better show.

Peoria Sports Complex
Not every Valley municipal project is a boondoggle.

In its eight years in existence, the sprawling Peoria Sports Complex has become the northwest Valley's magnet for an incredible array of events. One weekend, you can see the Goo Goo Dolls, the next you can watch Japan's best professional baseball players duking it out on the Complex's numerous state-of-the-art baseball diamonds. Because of all the activity, the Complex, in the last three years, has become a draw for all sorts of hotels and restaurants.

You can watch Little Leaguers bashing it out most any weekend. Old guys can attend fantasy camps in which they get to play with their major league heroes. The facility even hosts an Easter egg hunt, besides numerous other community festivals. And it's home-team ground for the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres for Cactus League play.

More so than anywhere in the Valley, you can show up at the Peoria Sports Complex on any weekend and expect to be entertained.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort
It feels like everyone is cutting their vacation budget. If the kids are bummed because you aren't going to San Diego to escape the heat of summer, take heart. Try the Sonoran Splash plan at the très luxe Scottsdale Princess. The promotion features Dive-In Movies on a 12-foot-by-16-foot screen mounted at the pool, which is filled with inner tubes for wet viewing. Although the movie lineup is aimed at kids of all ages (e.g., Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Shrek, Beethoven's 4th), cocktails are available for adults floating on inner tubes.

Scheduled from June 22 through September 9, 2003, the Sonoran Splash includes lots of extras for parents, such as yoga classes and tennis clinics, and even free breakfasts for kids under 12. And no one of any age should miss the two water slides. At 186 feet and 199 feet, respectively, they are the largest of any resort in the state. Room rates begin at $129, with kids staying free in the parents' accommodation.

Vista Del Camino Community Center
For those of us forbidden to run through the sprinkler when we were children (for fear that -- heaven help us -- we'd smush up the lawn), this small playground on Scottsdale's greenbelt, just northwest of the Hayden-Roosevelt intersection, is the stuff of wet dreams.

Sundry streams shoot from the trunk of a plastic palm tree and from a fish tail sticking straight up into the sky. Kids small and tall can jump through two squirting hoops, dodge half a dozen geysers rising from the concrete and get face-to-face with a bulbous pirate's head, whose nostril nozzles are more than a little creepy.

One consideration: Before you turn your Sunday stroll into a Warrant video remake, please, think of the children. The park's only open during daylight hours, after all.

Sculling calls to mind images of dear old Oxford across the pond, or even rowing upon the Charles River in Boston. Now you can join the sport of English gentry and New England Brahmins right here in the desert. Don't let the artificial lake distract you.

The City of Tempe offers classes in team rowing or individual sculling (providing you've mastered the basics). All levels, from master to novice, are taught on Town Lake under the historic Mill Avenue bridge.

Best Place To Relive Your Brooklyn Childhood

Beyond Bagels

Beyond Bagels has all the stuff you expect to find these days at a deli that claims New York roots: an American flag prominently displayed; a giant photo of the now eerie-seeming Old New York skyline; cartoons by the cash register about kicking bin Laden's ass. And bags of Wise potato chips. But where this place really turns the corner from New York sentimentality into full-on nostalgia is in the check-out line. That's where you'll be enticed by a host of candies and toys -- and not just the stuff you're used to seeing in supermarkets; these are the candies and toys that anyone who grew up back East would recognize, but would probably be amazed to find.

Feast your eyes on the packet of Candy Buttons. Remember those? Small, bright-colored dots of sugar stuck on sheets of paper? How about Pixy Stix? Still as potent as ever. And believe it or not, they even have bubblegum cigars, in all three colors: yellow, pink and green. (Richard, the proprietor, admits to having entertained the idea of also offering bubblegum cigarettes -- the kind you used to blow through to generate puffs of sugar "smoke" -- but he rightly feared that they'd be frowned upon. Most of these vintage goodies, he adds, are available only over the Internet.)

And just to jolt your humid childhood memories into overdrive, there are also the toys. Favorites include the plastic army-man Parachute Jumpers and Stick Ball balls and bats. You'se guys up for a game in the sandlot?

In any local music scene, a band announcing a new album with a CD release party is like somebody celebrating a bowel movement. Everybody does it, some several times a week. However, when the band known as Haggis wanted to draw attention to its latest CD, Karma Suits Ya, it did so with a stylish sense of the occasional that made the CD release parties thrown by established indie labels seem like empty gestures.

Not only did Haggis play two back-to-back CD release party blasts at Hollywood Alley, the Tartan Four held a not-so-secret listening party at a local British pub. Haggis fans were spared bagpipe music this time around and were treated to goodie bags, raffled tee shirts, free drinks and food provided by the British Open Pub and Guinness. It was a Bacchanalian blast that made you swear it was 1975 and the Faces were launching a tour.

The Haggis name was reinforced at the buffet table; what people thought were Swedish meatballs was actually the national dish of Scotland. Yup, boiled sheep's intestines, although the delicacy has been known to include sheep's lung, stomach, heart and liver in casings, depending on their availability in the U.S. and how many transplanted Scots are in line ahead of you, waiting for baa-baa's innards. The move was sheer genius. Years from now, the band's fans will remember which Karma Suits Ya song was playing the first time they ate haggis.

Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving
Living under the watchful eye of the Valley's radar-patrolled freeways and red-light cameras has our inner speed demons so pent up that we could get a Hyundai-manufactured golf cart with two flat tires to exceed 50 mph. Seems it's high time we took a day off from traffic school to spend a day at Bobby B.'s school adjacent to Firebird International Raceway.

This so-called "school" features a 1.6-mile road course, an eight-acre paddock and more than 200 race-prepared vehicles. Classes range from the -- yawn! -- necessary and practical (i.e., Teenage Defensive Driving) to the -- gulp! -- downright intimidating. Unless you're James Bond or David Letterman, we imagine that the four-day, $4,000 "Executive Protection/Anti-Kidnapping" course of "intense driver training for high-risk individuals" is, well, not meant for you.

Fortunately, even mild-mannered AAA members can get fast and furious. If you can't swing $4,850 for the three-day Advanced Road Racing course, cough up 350 bucks (equivalent to about 10 parking tickets) and the boys'll let you lap Phoenix International Raceway's one-mile oval in an F-1 Style Formula Ford for 150 precious minutes.

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