We'll admit it: We're talk-radio junkies (and totally open to it all, regardless of political perspective or tone). Really. We love the crazies that call into Coast to Coast on 550-AM. Sometimes we think Michael Savage has a point. And we really wish Garrison Keillor were our grandpa. When it comes to locals, the selection is just as good, and narrowing down this category to one "best" host was tough. After all, daily heavy-hitters like Darrell Ankarlo and Larry Gaydos are immensely popular, but their long-winded rants, as well as their callers, verge on unlistenable. And we've got a great Spanish-speaking radio community here, and hosts like Alfredo Gutierrez certainly deserve a little recognition. But in the end, we have to go back to our old favorite: the guy we tune in to every Wednesday, without fail, when we want informed, interesting discussion on local issues. Steve Goldstein of KJZZ's Here and Now wins the prize for consistently bringing us researched, factual, rhetoric-free discussion. (His producer, Paul Atkinson, deserves a shout-out, as well.) From Goldstein's coverage of illegal immigration to his talks with the governor, we know we can count on him not to give us a headache.

News is a pretty loosely defined term these days. Sad, but true. Even CNN isn't above covering Britney's custody battle and mental breakdown. And on the radio, we're pretty much constantly subjected to opinions — shouted, poorly researched opinions — rather than hard news reporting. Which is why we are thankful for the news team at 91.5-FM KJZZ every time we're trapped in our cars — which is every day. Yeah, the local reporting is sandwiched between national broadcasts (though we're not complaining — we love us some Terry Gross around here), but we're updated steadily on stories that are developing around the state as well. What we love most is the levelheaded, competent approach to reporting that the KJZZ team takes. And in this new media world, we have to give their Web site props for being aesthetically pleasing, functional, and easy to use.

How does that Stealers Wheel ditty go? "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right/Here I am, stuck in the middle with you." Well, if you wanna hear clowns on the left, look no further on the radio dial than left-wing nutty 1480 KPHX, "the Valley's progressive talk," where you can listen to 9/11 troofers taken seriously, E.T.-look-alike and ultra-liberal Congressman Dennis Kucinich praised as the second coming, and President George W. Bush bashed all day long as the Antichrist. Hey, everyone knows Dubya ain't the Antichrist. Dick Cheney's the Antichrist. Dubya's just his willing, demonic slave. But, seriously, if you ever require validation that the loony left is alive and well in America despite rumors of its demise, tune into, say, Mike Malloy, and hear him tell his audience, "They're not human; they're Republicans." Or catch callers-in who think everything that's going wrong in their lives is because of a conspiracy perpetrated by the Bushies. Listen spellbound as these same callers demand Dubya be tried for war crimes just like the Nazis at Nuremberg, even though that's about as likely to happen as Rush Limbaugh running a marathon. Ever wonder why left-wing talk radio sucks Democrat donkey? Er, because it's boring to listen to someone tell you "Bush bites" 24-7. No wonder KPHX's ratings are continually in the toilet.

Should you forget the grotesque, arrogant a-holeness of the extreme right in this country and hanker after a dose of gross reality, park your dial at KFYI 550-AM, and get an ear-load. KFYI features not only radio's bloviator-in-chief, OxyContin enthusiast Rush Limbaugh, and reactionary, moonhowler Michael Savage, there are plenty of local wing-nuts on there too. Like Bruce "One Note Johnny" Jacobs, whose raison d'etre is bashing Muslims, or the decrepit Barry Young, who's so old he thinks canned applause is cool, and who hasn't found a national leader he's liked since Jefferson Davis.

Worst of all is former Congressman J.D. Hayworth, mainly because the loser Republican sounds like his mouth is stuffed full of cotton, and like he got hit on the head one too many times with a shovel as a teen (And . . . so . . . he. . . taaalks . . . real . . . slooow . . . liiike . . . this.) Listening to Hayworth, you've got to wonder whether the guy is really that dumb. With a lineup like this one, how did KFYI get to be the number one talk-radio station in the Valley? Because Sand Land is overrun with right-wing loons, people, and they lap up everything these idgits spew. Sca-ry! Great listening, though.

It's official: The Information Overload Age is upon us. With so many choices, who can you trust (other than New Times, natch)? We always breathe a sigh of relief when our channel surfing takes us to Mike Watkiss, the best TV reporter in town. Watkiss has a résumé as long as the channel list, and his reporting makes that clear, whether he's covering breaking news or a national event. The guy is ubiquitous. One day he's up on the Arizona/Utah border tracking his archenemy, polygamist Warren Jeffs. The next, he's interviewing the grieving widow of a father of five who died after a tree fell on him. This earnest old-school storyteller is head and shoulders (and sideburns!) above his peers in this market, and we're very happy to have him around.

We adore Ted Simons, and not just because, once upon a time, he wrote about music and some other stuff for us. Fact is, the guy's worked just about every place in this town (and several other towns), and always done well for himself. He fills an age-old void at Horizon, the local public-affairs show produced out of Arizona State University by public television, by providing a refreshing change to long-long-longtime host Michael Grant, a nice guy with a rather flaccid style and a big, huge conflict of interest in the form of a law practice.

But Simons is a humble journalist, not a lawyer, and it shows in his candor and refreshing style. The boy definitely does his homework. And we especially appreciate his ability to toss in a pithy one-liner or two when things start to get overly turgid — ah, the curse of Horizon. Tune us in!

There's not much on local TV around 2 a.m. (at least not anything worth watching sober). It's an utter wasteland of insipid sitcom reruns, infomercials for lap-band surgeries, and other Z-grade programming. Some entertainment can be found, amidst all the dreck, in the form of the over-the-top and somewhat peculiar commercials for ambulance chas . . . er, personal injury lawyer Glen Lerner. The stock-looking barrister hawks his legal services in amusing ways. One classic advert, set in 1972, features the childhood version of Lerner standing up for a buddy who was harshly tackled during a football game, demanding the ruffian give up his bicycle and clothing in return. Another spot sees the slickster attorney (usually clad in a shiny suit and a wide, sharktooth grin) starring as a miniature angel, standing on one shoulder of his injured client and beseeching him to ignore settlement offers from a devil-like claims adjuster perched on the other shoulder. Visit Lerner's Web site for ads more kooky ads.

Last fall, a Glendale-based business embarked on a mission to get attention for its cause. Hovering over the juncture of the I-17 and the I-10 stood a billboard's query in simple but gigantic script: "Are you as backed up as this traffic?" For PoopDoc.com's founder, Scott Olsen, it was an important question that required that clever directness. Olsen believes that eradicating constipation and cleansing the colon is the key to good health and disease prevention. Fair enough. Also, gross. What's grosser than gross, though? The unfortunate motorists whose only answer could be a miserable, "Yes!"

So, we're toodling along on Van Buren, not obsessing about sex for a change, when we pass a truck sporting a Statewide Erectors logo on the side and a large, green phallic erection in the bed. A double take showed the mechanical boner to be some sort of hefting device, but that didn't stop us from yukking up our Starbucks. Now, we all know that the good folks at this Phoenix sheet-metal-installation company couldn't have meant it, well, that way, right? What sort of entrepreneur, plotting the future of his new business, jumps out of his seat and shouts, "Eureka! I'll call it Statewide Erectors and install large, green phallic erections in the truck beds"? We have no idea, but we salute his unwitting humor. However, he owes us a Starbucks.

Long before clips of the Verne Troyer sex tape hit Internet gossip sites, the PHX's own version of Mini-Me, Chuey the Rock and Roll Midget, was presenting a sexual performance of his own for the camera, albeit a solo one. See, Phoenix photographer Giulio Sciorio has a series he calls "Faces of Ecstasy: Real People, Real Orgasms." They're close-up, PG-rated portraits of men and women making sweet love to themselves, capturing for all eternity the model's flippin' "O" face. Some folks look like they're in pain, some like they're on the crapper, still others look as wanton and hot as you'd want them to look. But nothing beats the look of closed-eyed concentration that Chuey exhibits while polishing his bishop. In fact, if one of Chuey's shoulders was not lower than the other (Sciorio's portraits never reveal the activities going on below the waist), you might reckon him to be dead. What is it the French call the orgasm, la petite mort? The phrase seems apropos here. Thankfully, Chuey himself is still alive, and rocking the mic at the Scottsdale bar Giligins, where he emcees all kinds of insanity and even has his own, fully stocked "midget bar," where patrons have to sit at eye level with the great and wee man.

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