In a world of blogs and instant gratification, there are countless outlets documenting Valley life. Hoozdo, though, is the steady hand slow-roasting our collective experience — provided that hand isn't smarting from a piping-hot steering wheel. With honorable mentions to Your Invisible City and Valley Bird, hoozdo features some of the best writing, photography, and art highlighting the under-appreciated sights, sounds, history, culture, people, and picayune quirks of our desert metropolis with a personal touch. A temporary tattoo bundled in a past issue perfectly captures Phoenicians' heady mix of optimism and anxiety: a regal firebird endlessly encircled by the words "commute, work, commute, sleep."

We searched cyberspace for a blog that covered the local arts scene, but came up empty 'til we clicked upon Hearsight. The blog is straightforward, offering Arizona exhibition and art resource info, as well as smart, even-tempered reviews. Laid out in a clean — but elegant — design, punctuated by photos actually illustrating the work on display, hearsight.com is simply the perfect place to get the quick and dirty on what's going on artwise, both throughout the Valley and regionally as well. What a concept.

Meghan McCain, the fair, Phoenix-bred, sorta-Cindy-esque 20-something daughter of you-know-who, is, like the rest of the world, blogging. And unlike most of us, she's got a truly compelling topic, and a better-than-bird's-eye view of the best stage in the game.

Yet, the most interesting thing we've surmised from her online scrapbook is that it is, in fact, possible to campaign for Dad (sporadically, between vacays) and keep up your pedicure.

We know we're nuts, we know no one will listen, we know the future of the free world is at stake — but really, we wish someone would let the girl loose. Because if she's saying all there is to say (lots of cutlines under photos of Dad with brilliant observations like "on stage" and too-liberal use of the words "awesome" and "incredible") then the Straight Talk Express really is that straight. Yawn.

We do like some of her playlists, but must snark that the first on the list we just pulled up is B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone."

Mmmm. Too bad. It was a great idea.

When it comes to must-read political Web sites — present company excluded, natch — there's simply no question as to which is number one in town. And it's not azcentral.com. Nope, the hottest scoops and best analysis come from a one-man outfit, www.espressopundit.com, which somehow manages to pack more punch than a newspaper with dozens of reporters. Former state Representative Greg Patterson posts his items even while attending law school, working full time as a lobbyist (for the Arizona Competitive Power Alliance) and raising a family. The site has become enormously influential — it was Patterson's criticism of the state's 9/11 memorial that touched off years of controversy, for example — but his regular readers appreciate, more than anything, his thoughtful analysis. Whether or not you agree with him, he's never shrill and always interesting.

Last year, we kept getting phone calls from people who wanted us to look into the Arizona Report. Who was running it? And what did they want? After an extensive five-month investigation, we can tell you this: Damned if we know. But we will admit that we enjoy reading it! The satirical Web site is written by someone who clearly knows a lot about politics in the Grand Canyon State — and who doesn't mind poking fun at just about everyone. Our favorite? A post earlier this year about State Treasurer Dean Martin, titled "Martin calls press conference to remind the media he's still around." "Arizona State Treasurer Dean Martin announced today that he is still living in Arizona despite a noticeable lack of media stories about him," the post began. For those of you used to Chris Rock, sure, this isn't much. But we political junkies are laughing our asses off.

Best Sign That Local Democrats Just Might Have a Sense of Humor

CrAZyspace.org

We weren't sure what to expect when we got an e-mail inviting us to check out www.crazyspace.org, a "social network for the Arizona Republicans who put the AZ in crazy." But in just a few minutes, we were giggling delightedly. The MySpace send-up, put together by the state Democratic Party just in time for April Fool's Day, has profiles of Russell Pearce (he's interested in meeting "natural-born citizens"), Karen Johnson (hobbies include "guns, getting married, and denying global warming") and a whole slate of other GOP loonies. Naturally, the project drew outcry from the humorless types who hang out at www.sonoranalliance.com. It's mean, they said; it's unfair. Maybe it's just us, but we found ourselves wondering what the problem was with that!

It was a sad day in 2006 when Cox Communications pulled the plug on the Valley's long-running public-access channel, Access Phoenix. Having been fans of such wacked-out shows as What's Up with Radical Mike and Samurai Sports, we were particularly bummed out by the move. That is, until we discovered YouTube. Then the online video service satisfied our yen for outrageous programming. Our most recent discovery is Satanic Views, a highly-entertaining "experimental no-budget variety show" created by Valley resident Damon Foster.

A longtime underground filmmaker (whose gonzo oeuvre includes flicks like Hot Dogs on the Run and Martyr X), Foster's created 13 episodes of the fierce-sounding series. Each edition features Foster and a cast of friends discussing the tenets behind worshipping the dark lord, as well as the occult and paganism. But as nefarious as it sounds, the series is filled with humor, high jinks, and Foster's hilarious views on politics and reviews of music and movies (he's a particular fan of cult Asian cinema). The dude also spends a portion of episodes chronicling his love of nature and animals.

Although he hung out a lot with the Anton LeVay crowd while living in San Francisco during his 30s, the 44-year-old admits he never was a real member of the Church of Satan. Instead, he was running with the devil "just to get chicks." And the whole Beelzebub bent of the program is something of a gimmick, as well as a conduit for shocking people and expressing his viewpoints in amusing fashion. "I'm not pro-occult or anything, just anti-religion," says the admitted atheist. "It's just a way of having fun." The devil you say.

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 [email protected] 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?

Best Of Phoenix®

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