For some folks, Phoenix is more than a pit stop on their way to whatever city their company transfers them to next. Some people care about the Valley of the Sun — its history, its topography, its architecture. And no one, it seems, cares about Phoenix as much as Tazmine "Taz" Khatri Loomans, a first-generation immigrant born in Mozambique who attended high school in Mesa, then went to ASU for a master's in architecture. Loomans moved away from the Valley and then, like so many others, came back. Unlike others, she launched a blog that celebrates what there is to love about our city — and candidly criticizes what's wrong with it, too. In cannily written essays about wasted infills, the value of historic preservation, and the peculiar visions of Mayor Phil Gordon, Taz sets out to positively impact the city she loves. Even Phoenix haters (and they're legion, right?) might well be swayed by Taz's clear-headed, well-wrought prose about light rail and dust storms and "the urban forest." It's a heroic feat, sticking up for Phoenix — here's to Taz!
We have long loved The Willows Home and Garden shop — we've followed Beverly Burch around Phoenix, from location to location over the years (her current spot is at 3734 East Indian School Road) — and now we love The Willows even more, for its blog. Burch shares news about her family and friends, and shows off pictures of her gorgeous remodeled kitchen and her not-yet-organized craft room. It's never TMI, in her hands, just lovely musings and even lovelier, drool-worthy photos, interspersed with must-have items for sale at The Willows and blurbs about other local businesses. It's just what a shopping blog should be.
So your boyfriend popped the question, and now he's your fiancé. That means you're a fiancée, and you've been saddled with the 10-ton burden of planning your own wedding. Don't bother going to Mom (or, worse, his mom) for advice. What's a bride-to-be to do? First, have a meltdown. Then, wipe up your smudged mascara and rush to the magazine section of your local grocery store for the latest issue of Arizona Weddings magazine. This 500-page annual publication will stop that anxiety attack in its tracks with complete, updated lists of local ceremony and reception locations (with, OMG, yes, contact information), a how-to guide to getting your marriage license, and a wedding planner checklist. Not to mention that all the ads are from local companies. Get the magazine, visit the website, calm down, and feel great again about the man you're about to marry.
You may be surprised to hear that the best resource for finding out what's cool in and around the light rail is not associated with Metro light rail at all. Raillife.com is a site maintained by local folks who care about how light rail is changing our city. Perhaps you're looking for a home near the route. You're covered. Hungry? Raillife.com has tons of listings for local eateries just steps away from the tracks. You can even receive the Twitter updates to find out if stations are temporarily closed or other pertinent infobits to make your rail life an easy one.
The call went out on Twitter, on iPhones, and in e-mail blasts. Meet at the light rail and prepare to take your pants off. In conjunction with the national improv organization known as Improv Everywhere, local boys Improv AZ hosted their second no-pants light-rail ride on January 10. The results were liberating. Pantsless participants stormed a downtown Starbucks to keep their energy up. It turns out you burn a lot of calories laughing very hard at the perplexed faces of the people you walk by. This momentary lapse of reason couldn't have worked without smart phones and various forms of Internet communication. Ah, technology! Where would we be without it?
Daniel m. Davis needed a way to pass the time during his wicked work commute. He let his imagination loose and daydreamed the daily distraction we know and love as Monster Commute. Davis describes the comic as 1984 meets The Wizard of Oz. Chronicling the misadventures of Beastio (a small demon), Chadworth (a machine with a skull head floating in fluid), and Kip (a Halloween goblin) through the vector-art world of Monstru, Monster Commute's childlike creativity and beautiful illustrations keep us coming back to see how the commute is progressing.
Local cinematographer Webb Pickersgill takes a full-on pro approach to the Probed Signals web series, using state-of-the-art filming equipment and a professional crew and cast that includes actors Leslie Wall (the short film Appetite for Justice and Hale Centre Theatre's production of Lend Me a Tenor) and Hanna Leister (ASU productions of Frame by Frame and Autobahn). But the real hook of this short sci-fi series is screenwriter (and star) Kevin Herrmann's storyline: A mysterious, possibly extraterrestrial signal begins following a Phoenician named Carter Fox (Herrmann) everywhere — on his cell phone, on the radio, on TV — and he becomes convinced he's being singled out and watched by somebody or something. Of course, he is, and it all goes back to a paranormal event that happened in his past. Things get freakier as Fox and his friends begin to unravel the mystery. There's a detailed story behind the series, which is impressive, considering there are eight episodes, and each is three to five minutes long.
Unabashed downtown boosterism can be grating to the large majority of Valley residents who don't live within walking distance of Roosevelt Row. Not when Dave Brookhouser and Jacqui Johnson do it. The pair hosts a now long-running (by Internet standards, anyway) weekly vidcast highlighting the best things happening in Central Phoenix. We love their enthusiasm and their willingness to take shots when they're deserved — like, for example, cracking on mispronounced words on the announcements blared over the light-rail train's speakers. It's a mid-fi broadcast with just enough production flair to feel semi-professional, and the upbeat pair are funny and never overbearing. Dave and Jacqui embody the very best sense of community building among the representatives of widely disparate socioeconomic classes present in Central Phoenix, and they manage to make us truly interested in their agenda, wherever we live.
It's not often that someone's tweet brings attention to a U.S. Senate candidate's fear of vampires. That is, unless you're former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods. Woods' tweets can be as poetic as they can be hilariously offensive. Take this one, for example: "Fat woman asking for extra cream cheese on her bagel. Really?" Our favorite of Woods' many hilarious tweets comes at the expense of former Congressman J.D. Hayworth. Hayworth interpreted comments by Woods (who said that a stake needed to be driven through the Senate candidate's heart) as a Dracula-inspired death threat and publicly demanded an apology. What he got was far from it. Here's what Woods tweeted in response: "OK. Enough with JD Hayworth and his Dracula wooden stake paranoia. I think we can put a fork in him. Oh no, did I do it again?"

Best Hangout for Anarchists, Revolutionaries, and Dreamers

Conspire

Aside of Heart (formerly Conspire)
Conspire's the kind of java joint where you might overhear funky, patchouli-oil-smellin', dreadlocked dudes discussing the abolition of money, see some fella reading 19th-century Russian revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin, or find the latest anarchist pamphlet circulating. But don't let that scare you. The cooperatively owned establishment also makes a mean cup of cafe Americano and offers an array of boutique-style handmade gifts that're perfect for the last-minute, apolitical shopper: earrings from Sticker Club Girl, apparel by Arte Puro, insane buttons from Jason Davis, and art, jewelry, and fashions from all over Phoenix. All reasonably priced. And if you don't want to buy anything, they've got an anarchist library in the back, full of books that tell you how you can give the single-finger salute to the man. Whoever said anarchy and capitalism don't mix never paid a visit to Conspire.

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