There are the jocks and cheerleaders and tight-assed businesspeople and average Joes of this world, and then there are the folks who just don't fit into one of those stifling categories. Some end up burrowing into hidey-holes with LAN games and bags of Cheetos. Others go the academic route and become experts on deciphering dead languages. But the most intriguing club for those on the social fringes is the Dark Ones, the mysterious sponsor behind such events as the Bazaar of the Bizarre and DarkCon. In addition to its major events, the group hosts parties at comic book conventions and regular meet-ups to view fantasy flicks or discuss historical costuming. You don't exactly need to know the secret handshake to be a Dark One, but not everyone is deemed worthy of joining. Noobs have to be sponsored, and you must be a member for five years before becoming a full-fledged Dark One. We don't know exactly what powers come with that privilege, but with any luck, the job at least comes with a horde of minions.
Carly's Bistro
Nerds of the world, unite! Oh, wait, you already did. From Amsterdam to Austin, self-proclaimed nerds are gathering at bars and restaurants to drink and, as they put it, "learn something." And Phoenix is no exception. The new-ish chapter of this oh-so-informal club meets at Carly's Bistro on Roosevelt Row. Topics so far have included "Dialogues between Science and Literature," the story of "audience modeling software," and one we're really sorry we missed — our own Serene Dominic on the virtues of "the best rock band of all time," The Osmonds?!?! We just gotta say it: nerd alert! In a good way, of course.
Five minutes. Twenty slides. One passion. That's the formula for Ignite Phoenix, a local version of the presentation series originally developed by O'Reilly Media. For each edition of Ignite Phoenix, several would-be presenters submit talks based on their greatest passions. Eighteen speakers are chosen and stand in front of 800 or so audience members at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Topics range from "Better Living Through Fast Food" to "Social Media Stole My Kidney!" Just about every Ignite talk is interesting, and if one isn't, another one will be up in only five minutes. Ignite Phoenix has grown a lot since its first incarnation in a tiny conference room at the Jobing.com offices. Tickets sell out quickly. There even are offshoots, such as an ASU-specific Ignite and an Ignite After Hours for topics that are not safe for work. If you need a shot of inspiration, light a fire under your ass and get it to Ignite Phoenix.
Marshall Shore met his obsession with history in a bag of old slides in a downtown Phoenix vintage store.

He bought the bag, thumbed through the transparencies, and projected them in his backyard. Shore says they were more than just old photos — they were forgotten stories, and he was determined to fill in the blanks.

Shore grew up in Odell, Indiana — a town of 25 people, one street, and two stop signs. There were plenty of stories, but not many characters, and at 23, he took a one-way trip to Brooklyn with no plans of going back. He landed a gig in a New York library and has since spent almost two decades soaking up information about cities and culture.

It wasn't until he transferred to Phoenix (and later lost his job to the failing library economy), that he took his research to the street. Our streets.

Meet Shore for a drink, check out his blog, or take a seat at his monthly slideshow series at Metro Retro, and he'll catch you up on the gossip out of Sun City, the latest of his T-shirt creations, screen-printed with historical buildings, or any one of the stories collected during a day trip to Sunnyslope.

The local historian labeled himself early on as an "information curator" who's not afraid of dark basements or dusty corners. Shore says he chooses to ignore the all-too-common claim, "Phoenix has no history," and is, instead, on a mission to connect the community to its current and historic place.

He's got a camera and a notepad he only uses for names and numbers. And he keeps the stories in a hidden, photographic system in his head. Now we just have to get him to write it all down.

We love a good lecture series. No, really. Have you been to Ignite? Heard about TED? Infomercial meets stand-up — it's all the rage, and we love to sit back and learn something we didn't already know.Add Four Peaks beer and we'll be the first in line.That's what the smart folks at Audubon Arizona did. They know their subject matter can be, well, a hard sell. Do you really want to sit in an auditorium while someone lectures to you about birds? Okay, what if it's the mating patterns of birds, and they serve beer?Throw in a frog or two, and we're there. At the monthly "series of lighthearted lectures showcasing the behavior of native animals . . . geared toward environmentally conscious adults," Four Peaks pours the beer while "environmental professionals" give 20-minute talks about, um, animal sex, complete with visual aids. The material is PG, but you'll still want to leave the kids at home unless you want them swilling ale and learning the mating call of the barn owl.
Bradley Whicker never met a beer can he didn't like. Take a gander inside the garage of his Scottsdale home and you'll see proof of that, as it's filled from floor to ceiling with his ever-growing collection of ale cans and beer memorabilia. It's more than just aluminum castoffs, however. Dozens of bookshelves hold a suds-soaked treasure trove of more than 300 different cans and a wealth of beer-related products, accessories, and memorabilia. Large glass growlers from Arizona breweries like Four Peaks in Tempe and Gentle Ben's in Tucson sit next to mini-kegs, neon signs, old-school advertisements, and even a virtual altar to Pabst Blue Ribbon (Whicker's favorite beer). His collection of cans includes those that held domestic swill such as Coors and Mickey's, imports like Sapporo from Japan and Królewskie from Poland, and regional beers such as Pittsburgh's Iron City. He also has plenty of vintage beers, including Hamm's, Olympia, and Lowenbrau. The tipsy time machine goes back even further with rusty antique cone-top cans made by Frankenmuth and Grain Belt, two Midwestern brands. Sadly, the Beer Museum is open only to Whicker's friends and family, so be sure to buy him a round and get chummy next time you see him drinking at a pub.
We ruined a pair of shoes at this year's Strong Beer Festival. Naturally, on the February day that Phoenicians had the opportunity to enjoy dozens of heavily fortified brews, the gods saw fit to make it rain in the desert. And what a torrential downpour. Mud was everywhere. Beer was sucked down like a shot before Mother Nature could dilute it. Freezing winds kept drinkers huddled together under tents, where we had no recourse but to talk about beer and drink even more. In short, it was one of the best Saturdays of our life . . . we think. After the 12 tasting mugs full of Imperial stout, things got a little fuzzy around the edges. While our memory isn't 100 percent, our resolve to go back next year — on Saturday, February 18 — definitely is.
Phoenix Art Museum
Run by Local First AZ and presented in the lush courtyard of the Phoenix Art Museum, Devoured manages to hit all the right notes: tons of food, upscale offerings (like Modern Steak's Kobe beef and lobster slider with caviar aioli), copious amounts of local wine, such comfort foods as chili and corn dogs, and cozy seating areas to enjoy it all. This year, lines were shorter, and most booths still had grub available at the end of the day. And though veg-heads might have been disappointed by the lack of meatless fare, everyone else seemed pleased with the juicy pork dished up by Kai and Barrio Café. Local First Arizona also broke a lot of news at the festival, unveiling Cycle's pop-up concept and Payton Curry's Guerrilla Gourmet before the buzz had circulated (though Curry's sausage-making demo wasn't quite as stunning as last year's pig butchering). At $49 and up, Devoured isn't the cheapest foodie fest around — but once you're in the door, it's like the best all-you-can-eat buffet you'll ever visit.
Duck and Decanter
Lauren Cusimano
Even though all the delicious eats are free, gluttony takes a backseat to community at the annual Certified Local Fall Festival. Created in 2004 by Local First Arizona, the festival boasts a ton of food from independent eateries Green, Spinato's Pizzeria, Postino Winecafe, and more, plus a rock wall, face painting, and booths from local vendors such as Smeeks and SeeSaw Designs. We appreciate that the vibe here is always chill, with tons of locals meeting and greeting each other with smiles of recognition. If Phoenix is a small world, the Certified Local Fall Festival is an even smaller, tighter-knit community. The raffle prizes are always killer, ranging from local artwork and theater tickets to two-night stays at a boutique hotel. And even if you don't win something super-special, the free massages and candy offered by local vendors are worth a trip to the festival.
Tempe Beach Park
The annual Arizona Aloha Festival goes beyond big, burly Samoans slapping their chests and sexy hula dancers swinging their hips — though we certainly don't mind either of those attractions. The event has grown in popularity and size since moving to Tempe in 2009 and now boasts a marketplace filled with coconut shell purses, hand-carved mother-of-pearl necklaces, and replicas of the carved wood and shark's tooth clubs used by ancient Polynesian tribes. We dug this year's focus on dance and education, which brought new treats, including a seminar on Maori bone carving and the return of master dance teacher Kehau Chrisman. Chrisman's hula group, Halau Hula Napuaokalei'ilima, paid homage to a Verde Valley resident who helped build a two-hulled canoe to prove that the ancient Hawaiians could navigate open waters without sophisticated instruments. We'll stick with club dancing and speedboats, thank you very much, but it was impressive nonetheless.

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