If the diminishing interest in radio stations, the fallow state of the recording industry, and the death of CD emporiums both big (Tower Records, Sam Goody) and small (Eastside Records) aren't enough indication that the music biz has forever changed thanks to the web, take a gander at the ever-growing prominence of the audio blogosphere. This online taste-making brigade, particularly dance-music bloggers, also has the habit of plucking relative unknowns from obscurity and crowning them the next big thing. On the local level, one of the more prominent EDM anointers is the duo of Chad Birt and Andrew Hood, better known as The Get Downnn. Rabid fans of all things electronica, the 20-something hipster DJs regularly dole out embedded MP3s, streaming audio, and YouTube clips of unknown and outstanding dance music artists from around Phoenix and throughout the world. On any given day, Birt and Hood will pimp out choice tracks from French electro acts like Yelle and Justice, fierce-sounding dubstep from such Valley talents as Liquid Stranger and Sluggo, or killer cuts by hipster act At Dawn We Rage. Their mission is simple: "If you can dance to it, we'll cover it, man. We want to post your music. We want to jam with you." Word.
Don't get us wrong — local blogs like Electric Mustache and So Much Silence kill it, but in terms of pure bonkers passion, Dave Murrow, the brains behind Waved Rumor and garage-pop band Dfactor, blows everyone else away. He covers it all — punk, garage, classic rock — with a zealous glee, riffing on everything from Paul McCartney setlists to blatant Bob Pollard worship to Phoenix venue openings and closings. Murrow's blog isn't the prettiest-looking thing (though those American Apparel banner ads don't hurt), but Murrow's overwhelming enthusiasm for rock 'n' roll is contagious, and his earnestness is a truly inspiring thing.
It's not hard to believe that Pen & Fork editor Gwen Ashley Walters is a professionally trained chef, given the nonchalant way in which she tosses around words like "quenelles" and "aperitif," and her knowledge of what happens when you crossbreed a Fortunella margarita with a citrus aurantifolia (you get a limequat, as it turns out). Her food blog is always ripe with juicy descriptions of local grub, penned by Walters or such notable foodie contributors as James Beard Award-winning editor Linda Avery. But we have to admit that it's Walters' eye for food porn that makes the site so easy to digest. Whether a contributor is waxing visually poetic with a Gruyère-smothered burger or Walters is making Chinese pig's ear look as appetizing as a pile of perfectly crisped bacon, the photos on Pen & Fork never fail to make our mouths water.
Burton Barr Central Library
Pssst. There's secret treasure at the library. And you don't even have to leave your house to find some of it.

No, really. You can, thanks to the nice folks at the Phoenix Public Library, take an online class from the comfort and convenience of your own home. You can choose from aromatherapy, digital photography, book publishing, Buddhism, freshwater fishing, criminal profiling, yoga, and more than 500 other classroom topics. Classes are self-paced with real instructors who offer video-based lessons, graded tests, and certificates of achievement. Library customers can enroll in up to five courses at one time, and take six months to finish each course. All you need is a library card and the ability to click on "Learning and Research" at www.phoenixpubliclibrary.org. And just like that, you're on your way to an accredited course in something you care about.

For those of us less likely to traffic in the ether, there's the distinguished permanent collection of art at Burton Barr Central Library. Displayed in public locations throughout the building's five stories, the collection includes such big-name artists as Fritz Scholder, Ed Mell, Shonto Begay, John Waddell, Merrill Mahaffey, and Paolo Soleri.

A separate collection in the Central Library's Center for Children's Literature (a hidden treasure in itself, with more than 3,800 pieces of classic literature and an extensive collection of folk and fairy tales) features a collection of original works by award-winning local artist/illustrators Ron Himler, Sylvia Long, Lynne Avril, Amanda Shepherd, and Michael Lacapa.

For folks who aren't into art but do love Arizona, the Arizona Room at Central Library is, in honor of the approaching centennial, pumping up its collection of non-circulating materials about all aspects of our state: archeology, architecture, history, geography, geology, famous Arizonans, current events, and more. Who knew that there were so many files in the Arizona room devoted expressly to all the movies that have been shot here over the years? Or that the collection of oral histories of Arizona-based Holocaust survivors was so extensive?

We didn't, but we do now — and it's a secret we don't plan to keep, either.

Four Peaks Brewing Company
New Times Archives
Many have gone in search of the secret bathroom at Four Peaks in Tempe. Most have failed. Worry not, though; they were really drunk. Should you find yourself adventurous (and needing to release the floodgates), the entrance to the secret bathroom might be yours. Look first for the beaded curtain leading seemingly to nowhere. Behind this tacky cover is the entrance to an immaculate bathroom complete with a row of urinals and a sink. Such a pristine example of a brew house outhouse is this secret bathroom that you'll never want to piss anywhere else again. A word of caution for the ladies, though: This secret bathroom is only for the gentlemen.
In 2009, little Miss Tiffany Egbert started Kitten Paws Vintage as a mere Etsy store. Thankfully, it has evolved into an online store and fashion blog. Mama cat Egbert's website and blog is effortlessly charming and impeccably put together, reading more like a Southwest-themed Anthropologie catalog than a hipster-tastic fashion blog. We love that Egbert embraces her unique Phoenix style with her lookbooks — her gorgeous photos make the desert look downright chic! Kitten Paws Vintage uses its budding notoriety for good causes, supporting ethically motivated companies such as 31 Bits, which employs Ugandan women who hand-make jewelry using 100 percent recycled paper and local materials, giving this trendy blog a little more class and definite cat style.
For many suburbanites, they're as close as the Valley gets to a natural water feature. But Salt River Project's canal system isn't a series of lushly planted swimming holes; it's a man-made network of several connected bodies of water that run in an underground network through much of the southern half of the Phoenix metropolitan area, helping to distribute water from the Salt River system.

The system of canals SRP operates today was developed by the Hohokam Indians, American pioneers, and the federal government. The precise locations of the original Hohokam canals remain a mystery, in part because most of them have been destroyed by land development. Redeveloped over the past 100 years, each canal — with unglamorous names like Arizona, Crosscut, and Consolidated — has a unique history. The Grand Canal, constructed in 1878, is the oldest remaining pioneer canal on the north side of the Salt River, and the site of at least one annual (and quite secret) pioneer re-enactment game, complete with covered wagon. (Shhh!) And while portions of the old crosscut canal have been turned over to the city of Phoenix to carry away messy storm drainage from the northeast side of town, it hasn't discouraged neighborhood teens from making this canal their after-school hangout.

For some desert dwellers, though, the canal system is an open invitation to play. An unofficial society of canal dwellers can be found most weekend mornings, hunkering around the Tempe Canal or the South Canal over by the old Val Vista Water Treatment Plant. Summertime swimmers are forever being fished out of the canals and sent home with citations, since the canals aren't a resort feature, but a functional means of moving agua from here to there — with sometimes dangerously fast currents. And speaking of fish, trolling for trout is a pastime among many canal fans. While the thought of eating anything caught in a canal makes us go "Ack!," we can't really blame people for wanting to throw out a line or jump in and splash around a little — some of the canals are beautifully seated in lovely areas.

The New Crosscut Canal in Papago Park is surrounded by lush plant life and offers a stunning view of the Papago Buttes. And the Arizona Canal, located about a half-mile below Granite Reef Dam, affords visitors a perfect view of the Four Peaks mountain formation and a man-made mini waterfall that's nice to look at.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
You have to know to look for it. Enter the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art — and you can walk straight ahead to the current exhibits, or turn right into the gift shop. Both wise options. Or, if it's close to sunset (hint: the museum is open late on Thursdays — and admission is free), take an immediate sharp left. Down a hallway you'll find a small, oval-shaped room, all concrete. It feels monastic, but settle yourself onto the hard gray bench and look up. From dusk to dark, the change through that ivory-framed hole is remarkable, as the pale sky takes a tour through the blue-hued section of your 64-pack of Crayolas. End your time in the small space with a dark velvet blue sky and a feeling that this is a day — and night — to remember.
Phoenix Art Museum
In this year's Best of Phoenix we are taking you underground, but here's a hidden treasure you'll find on the top floor of the Phoenix Art Museum. We admit we're guilty of neglecting our city museum's permanent collections — we're more likely to hit PAM or the Heard Museum to see a blockbuster show. But this year we had occasion to take a stroll through the contemporary collection upstairs at the Phoenix Art Museum, and we were so glad we did. A friendly museum guard told us to be sure and check out the fireflies — and after some hunting we came upon a funny-looking closet-like exhibit lit with hundreds of teeny colored lights, with mirrored ceiling, floor and walls. The effect (once you get over a bit of claustrophobia) is, true to the exhibit's name, like finding yourself in a swarm of fireflies. Best of all, the fireflies are part of the museum's permanent collection, so you can take your time getting over to see them.
Bateman Physical Sciences Center
You don't have to know the difference between a comet and a meteor to climb up to the rooftop of the Bateman Physical Sciences wing for a killer show. Each month (during the school year), graduate students at ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration open their laboratory doors to the public for planetarium shows, informational sessions, and, our favorite, a view of the stars through their telescopes. The open house runs from 8 to 10 p.m. and is free to the public. No reservations are required.

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