If you haven't been paying attention to the University of Arizona's Mars mission, your head must be in Uranus. Sure, there was a bit of a rocky start when baking the soil in the Phoenix Lander's onboard observation oven didn't go quite as planned, but the mission seems to be proceeding smoothly now.

Want the latest updates from Mars? Don't check the papers, Earthling, check your iTunes. The University of Arizona has partnered with the online music retailer to provide podcasts of the Mars mission for absolutely none of your Earth dollars. Up for grabs are weekly mission updates, interviews with NASA scientists and even simulated video of the Phoenix in action. Stay on the case with what's happening in space via all the free aural and video stimulation you can handle. Just search for "Phoenix Mars Mission" under the iTunes Store.

Working in an office sucks. A lot. Between dealing with an ever-problematic copy machine and navigating the always-tricky landscape of office politics, it's no wonder most people dread the 9-to-5 grind. But as bad as the rat race can seem, we assure you it's nowhere near as gruesome as the workplace terrors depicted in the locally produced indie film NetherBeast Incorporated. To wit: As difficult as it is dealing with your annoying co-workers, we bet you never had to put a stake through a colleague's heart. But inside the walls of Berm-Tech Industries (the film's fictional telecommunications company), it's a regular occurrence. Described as a cross between The Office and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the film (produced by local filmmaking brothers Dean and Brian Ronalds) involves a workplace run by vampires and features such actors as Saturday Night Live's Darrell Hammond, Kids in the Hall's Dave Foley, and Mr. John Bender himself, Judd Nelson. It's an uproarious comedy-horror flick shot right here in the Valley and it's been screened at film festivals across the country. It also gives new meaning to the phrase "working stiff."

Best TV Show Hyping the Phoenix Music Scene

Television Noir

Mike Red and Stephen Strange have some lofty goals for their off-the-wall music and comedy variety show Television Noir. Besides a desire to shock and entertain anyone who happens to tune into the beyond-bizarre late-night TV program, the duo are hoping to generate mass interest in Phoenix's creative scene, particularly the musical efforts of Valley bands. To this end, each weekly episode of Television Noir will include a music video from a different local group, as well as integrating their songs throughout the show. So far, Red and Strange are planning on showcasing the work of such local standouts as glam rockers Crash Street Kids, indie foursome Runaway Diamonds, punkers The Complainiacs, and a half-dozen other groups. (They're always on the lookout for music for future episodes, so hit them up at televisionnoir@yahoo.com if you're interested.) "In the past, most bands have been limited to just putting their music videos up on MySpace and YouTube, so we wanted to give them something better," Red says. Who needs MTV when we've got Television Noir?

We refuse to badmouth in Best Of (well, we try, okay?) but we pause for a moment, to dish on Scottsdale, in honor of our new favorite song. Face it: Douchebags and Scottsdale go together like . . . well, cougars and Scottsdale. The concept may be nothing new, but that didn't stop The Blobots (a.k.a. 103.9 DJ Craven Moorehead) from recording over the backing track of the Flobots' hit "Handlebars" to create a hilarious and thoroughly comprehensive song about Scottsdale douchebaggery.

Aside from hosting the ska-punk show on 103.9 The Edge, Moorehead edits radio spots and commercials for the radio station. Initially his parody had but one verse, but audience demands for a downloadable version of the song led Moorehead to write and record the rest of the parody.

"Scottsdale Bars" manages to cram every stereotypical Scottsdale reference there is into about three minutes of audio, including frosted-tip haircuts, persistence in the face of rejection, and claiming you're straight in designer jeans.

"I can tell you I can score some blow. I can tell you I'm a movie director. I spray on Axe 'til my eyes swell up. My skin burns, but I smell much better."

Founded in summer 2006, this Phoenix-based label has distribution through megalith Epic Records, which makes it the perfect home for local bands who're ready to break out nationally. The label's five artists are among the cream of Valley musicians. In addition to punk band Chronic Future, the roster also includes new-New Wave wizard Back Ted N-Ted, electro-dance outfit the Medic Droid, hard rockers The Cover Up, and indie rockers Miniature Tigers. With an eye for supreme talent, national distribution, and public relations by Press Here Publicity (the same company that does PR for Arctic Monkeys, Bright Eyes, Def Leppard, Lenny Kravitz, and White Stripes), Modern Art Records has all the elements of a "major indie" label.

Arizona hip-hop legend Roca Dolla (formerly known as I-Roq) runs a smooth operation at 5fith Coast Records. With his partner and co-producer RTZ, Roca Dolla's churned out some serious beats and solid records for the MCs on his label, which include Valley rappers like Tray Gutter, Zig Zag (formerly of NB Ridaz), Ocean, and Tha Formula. National acts have enlisted the services of 5fith Coast for everything from music production to Internet promotion, too, including G-Unit artist Young Buck, Che Vicious from Aftermath Records, and Tupac's Outlawz. The studio itself is professionally insulated for acoustic perfection, and features more mixing boards, equipment, and speakers than a mid-career Rolling Stones tour.

Many great local records have been recorded at Full Well — everybody from Phoenix punk bands like NunZilla and Dephinger and glam rockers The New Romantics to indie rockers The January Taxi and The Walnuts have laid down albums there. The studio's equipped with a Tangent 3216 analog recording console, countless amplifiers, and 128-track ProTools HD3 system, so bands can capture their sound any way they like, be it live or overdubbed to perfection. In addition to having a good ear and knob-twisting skills, engineer Mike Bolenbach offers a wide array of post-production services, as well, including editing and mastering.

ASU's radio station plays more songs by local artists — from the experimental sounds of Yourchestra to the electro-pop of Peachcake to the hard rock of the Necronauts — than any other radio station in the Valley. The station's annual "Guest DJ Week," during the last week of March, boasts hosts from the hippest parts of the local music scene (previous guest DJs have included William Fucking Reed, Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World, Jared Bell of Lymbyc Systym, Treasure Mammal, and former New Times music editor Niki D'Andrea). When it comes to playing hot new local bands, The Blaze seems to have a knack for finding who's about to start a fire, whether it's putting local funk-rock jammers Black Carl on heavy rotation, or breaking in a new song by buzz kings What Laura Says Thinks and Feels. The only downside is the station's weak signal — if you're not within a 10-mile radius of the ASU campus, you're not going to get The Blaze on your dial. Luckily, the station streams live on the Internet, so anyone in the world can catch the best new music coming out of Phoenix.

We've found that one of the secrets in life is to make sure we know a few geeks and nerds. Not only are they adorable in their own way but outspoken eggheads tend to know everything and are good for imparting advice when our computer crashes or we need to pick out a plasma television. Whenever we're looking for the latest skinny on video games, we turn to Alon Waisman and Ara Shirinian, the hosts of Chatterbox Video Game Radio. Why? Because these joystick Jedi (and their sidekick, Richard Crawford) know their shit, that's why. Trying to decide whether you should get the latest hit game? Wondering why your Xbox 360 has the "red ring of death"? They will answer those questions, as well as dissect the latest news from the gaming world, and discuss nerdish topics du jour during their hour-long show on Tuesday evenings. It definitely beats getting advice from those dorks at Fry's Electronics, at any rate.

We'll admit it: Arizona's DUI crackdown has us depressed. Seems you can get arrested just for thinking about booze these days — for daring to actually drink a glass of beer, we've heard, you can face the death penalty. And it's not just the thousands of drivers who've gotten popped who are talking about the issue; it's the restaurants and bars, the cops, the lawyers. But leave it to Ken Sharp to bring everybody together to have that conversation on the air. Sharp, who used to facilitate court-ordered group discussions for drunk drivers, got the idea to build a radio show around the DUI topic, and after a Friday-night launch, was soon airing his show each weekday during the lunch hour on KFNX 1100-AM. The discussion has been fascinating and intensely real. This fall, Sharp intends to launch the show on a different station, so stay tuned for details. With the way things are going in this state, you really can't afford not to listen.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of