Saboten-Con is entering just its third year, but this annual anime convention has already outdone its primary local competition, AniZona, which was canceled this year because of budgetary woes. From the looks and size of Saboten-Con, it's not suffering similar problems. This year's event drew about 300 people to the Hilton Phoenix East for a plethora of anime programming, including a Japanese fashion show, a costuming masquerade, and a "Maid Cafe" hosted by cute female cosplayers. Saboten-Con also hosts guests from the world of anime, including most recently voice actor Steve Blum (Spike in Cowboy Bebop and dozens of characters from Digimon) and artist Maura Aum, who's worked on such Tokyopop titles as Dark Moon Diaries and Silky Pink. But one of the best things about Saboten-Con is the people-watching — we just love to see ninjas with hot pink hair dancing with fuzzy bunnies.
The Citadel
In some ways, The Citadel is like any other live-action role-playing game (LARP) — players pretend to be certain characters and enact scenes within a story (à la Vampire: The Masquerade), and they are often prone to paranoia (à la Assassin). But The Citadel is unique in that players are given a mystery to solve, and game play takes place at various locations throughout Central Phoenix. The premise is that players are agents for The Citadel, a fictional international spy organization. Each game is a chapter in an ongoing story, and game play begins with the story that a double agent has infiltrated The Citadel. Over the course of three or four hours, players try to find out who the intruder is by visiting places around the Valley, examining clues, and interacting with actors who've been planted at different places. It's incredibly immersive (and slightly creepy), which makes it the perfect game to play in downtown Phoenix at night.
MADE Art Boutique
This isn't your grandma's book club. Rather, the Downtown Phoenix Book Club is a lively group of bookworms that meets the fourth Wednesday of each month to drink and discuss handpicked tomes. The small group meets at MADE art boutique and then makes the short jaunt to eye lounge (which is connected to MADE), where Jewish News of Greater Phoenix associate editor Deborah Sussman Susser leads a discussion amongst beautiful works inside the contemporary art gallery. DPBC alternates between fiction and non-fiction — recent examples include Little Bee by Chris Cleave and Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi — and the books are always available in paperback (pick up a copy at MADE at a 10 percent discount). It's a BYOBB (bring your own book and bottle) format, and the crew and is always open to new literary nerds, meets at 6:30 p.m. sharp to 7:30.
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Wanted: Young women 18 to 30 years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent. Let's face it: In the 1880s, American ladies didn't have a lot of choices. What was an adventurous girl to do? Many headed to the Southwest. The Harvey Girls were single women who answered newspaper advertisements in the Midwest and the East to go into the Arizona and New Mexico territories to work as waitresses for Fred Harvey and his hotel/restaurant chain. Between 1883 and 1950, nearly 100,000 women came west to work. They could serve a four-course meal in less than 30 minutes. In the process, they became part of the first significant female workforce in the United States. Check out this exhibit about the Harvey Girls' contribution to Arizona's growth.

Best Place to Learn How to Rescue a Raptor

Liberty Wildlife

Liberty Wildlife
With a great horned owl, it's the talons — with a blue heron, the beak. Understanding the pain-avoiding principles of raptor capture is just part of the training as a volunteer of the Rescue and Transport Team at Liberty Wildlife, an organization promoting wildlife rehabilitation, environmental education, and conservation. Following an orientation and a training class that puts you up close and personal with an actual raptor, brave-hearted bird buffs will be given gloves, a box, and a buddy to shadow before graduating to the front line of feathered field work, awaiting the call to save an injured or helpless bird of prey in hopes it will one day fly free again.
Arizona Humane Society
For homeless pets too young, sick, or injured to make it out onto the adoption floor, the foster care program at the Arizona Humane Society allows animal lovers to temporarily take home a four-legged friend in need. Following a three-hour orientation session, fosters bring a pet home that day, providing basic care, socialization, trips to the Second Chance Animal Hospital, and lots of scratches and tummy rubs. With the average length of care anywhere from three weeks to three months, your short-term hospitality can put Socks and Spots alike on the furry fast track to a permanent new home.
Casey Moore's Oyster House
Tom Carlson
We've never talked with Thomas the cat at Casey Moore's (he's a cat, so conversations are out of the question), but we have occasionally given him a pat or meowed at him. Judging from his character and preferred location, we've deduced that he's one of the smarter felines in town. What cat wouldn't want to live at an oyster house? It's clear to us that this cat knows how to party. He's also not shy about rubbing up against the female clientele at Casey's. If you feel like buying him a drink, we hear Thomas prefers Bass.

Best Happy Hour Resource for Cougar Hunters

www.cougarsandco.com

Happy hours are all pretty much the same. But a Scottsdale woman organizes a series of, among other things, happy hours for "cougars" to meet "cubs." We're talking, of course, about hot older women and the younger men who want to sleep with them. Cougar Shelli Netko started the group and does her best to help fellow cougars hunt their prey during happy hour events with themes like Sex and the City 2. The cougar hunt doesn't stop when happy hour ends — Netko organizes cougar/cub vacations through her website, too.
Jacki O. is definitely not stuck in a creative rut. Years ago, the local performance/visual artist, writer, and 'zine maker published the more traditional Your Invisible City and Desert City Death Distro. Good publications, indeed, but PoolBoy is anything but conventional. You see, the lifestyle mag showcases photos. Portraits, mainly. Of naked dudes. Not beefcakes or anything like that, but rather the scholarly, the nerdy, the hipster-y. PoolBoy, which was an online-only endeavor for years, finally churned out a physical product this past summer. The glossy spreads (and the articles, of course) definitely look better on paper. Just sayin'.
Tempe Marketplace
Seriously. If you have not been to Tempe Marketplace, you might think we are making this up. But it's true. We've been there; we've seen it. We've even enjoyed it. Year-round — like, even on a day when the temperature hits 115 degrees — the super-size mall on the edge of Tempe keeps a gas fire roaring. And get this: It's actually comfortable. It's pleasant, sitting outside on an overstuffed couch in the heat of the Phoenix summer, by a fire. The misters are always blasting, which we know contributes to the lower temp, but we have a theory that Tempe Marketplace also pumps air conditioning into the outdoor mall area. We've considered calling to ask, but if it's true, even we — as pale a shade of green as we are — won't be able to enjoy a nice August evening by the fire any more. So selfishly, we'll stay ignorant. And blissful. It's just one of those bizarre things about living in Phoenix that we have to admit we love. Anyone want to meet by the fire for a Mojo fro-yo?

Best Of Phoenix®

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