Thursday, September 18, 2014


Best Out-of-Work Pol
Jerry Lewis
A ìJon Huntsmanî Republican in the truest sense ñ he even did his Mormon mission in China, just like the former Utah governor ñ Lewis used his solid record of public service and socially-moderate politics to oust former State Senator Russell Pearce from office in the 2011 recall election. Alas, Lewisí Republicaness proved a liability the following year in Democrat-dominated Tempe, where he lost the Senate seat to fellow LDS politico Ed Ableser. Today, Lewis is running a charter school in the Valley, but we wouldnít be surprised to see him run for office ñ say, mayor of Mesa? ñ in the coming years.


Best Food Blog
Justin Eats
Any hack with an iPad can follow the crowd to the Valleyís latest celebrity-chef-fronted gastropub and excrete 1,000 words on seared pork belly fondue ñ but it takes a real food wonk to, say, drive up to Lakeside-Pinetop and spend a weekend investigating the mountain townís emerging dining scene. Thatís why we love Justin Eats, the online foodie news-rag of Valley marketing professional Justin Lee. With genuinely fine writing chops, Lee approaches food with the objectivity and studiously cloaked enthusiasm of a top-notch art critic. The dude should go pro.


Best Pundit
Mike OíNeil
Need an insightful, well-informed quote for your pre-election coverage of the U.S. Senate race? Looking for some deep background on GOP dominance in the Arizona statehouse? OíNeil is your man. The founder of Tempe-based opinion-research firm OíNeil and Associates knows Arizona politics from the PTA to the Beltway, and he isnít stingy with his insights. Go to his website, sign up for his bi-weekly e-blast, and be the first kid on your block to knowledgeably handicap the 2014 race for governor.


Best Lefty Blog
Rum, Romanism and Rebellion
Coined by a conservative, anti-Catholic clergyman to describe the Democratic party during the Presidential campaign of 1884, the phrase ìRum, Romanism and Rebellionî has been fittingly co-opted by this left-leaning, always-entertaining Arizona political blog. Though based in Tucson, RRR frequently wanders out of the Old Pueblo to cover statewide ñ and worldwide ñ issues. Itís the one place you can go to find opinions about Spanish foreign policy and Arizona civil rights on the same scroll.


Best Righty Blog
Freedomís Phoenix
Conservative blogging nationwide has taken an intriguing turn over the past six years, from straightforward politics to an end-times salmagundi of survivalism, ìnaturalî food mania and staunch government watch-doggery. Publisher Ernest Hancock embraces all of it, faithfully conveying every talking point in the right-wing echo-chamber (e.g. Syria intervention = World War III) with smarts and style. Itís a damn fun read.


Most Intriguing Pro Athlete
Rashard Mendenhall
The list of American athletes who can quote Robert Frost  and, perhaps, spout a 9/11 conspiracy theory or two while plowing over an inside linebacker is a short one. In fact, it might be this guy alone. After a productive but injury-plagued run with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 26-year-old University of Illinois product signed with the Arizona Cardinals last off-season as a potential long-term solution to the teamís tailback woes. Hereís hoping the muscular iconoclast (5í10î, 220 pounds of pure, poetry-writing muscle) will ultimately be remembered as much for his touchdowns as his Tweets.


Best Valley-bred Professional Wrestling Tandem
The Bella Twins
Born Brianna and Nicole Garcia-Colace, these WWE womb-mates have made a brilliant success of themselves since graduating from Chaparral High School in 2002. Two years ago, the identical, olive-skinned stunners ñ who perform as Brie and Nikki Bella, respectively ñ staged a successful coup of World Wrestling Entertainmentís Divas Championship, vanquishing the likes of Eve Torres and Kelly Kelly with an arsenal of spicy floor moves. Look for them on reality TV show Total Divas and in the occasional indie movie.


Most Buttery Local Radio Voice
Steve Goldstein
The KJZZ personality is a public-radio reporter with commercial-radio pipes. Providing the Valley-news bumper segments on NPRís All Things Considered current events program, Goldstein makes ìcongestion on the I-10î sound like the sweetest of lullabies, with a warm, dulcet delivery that never fails to soothe. Physicians should rent this guy out for bad post-operative news and such. 3-6 p.m. weekdays on 91.5 FM.


Best TV Reporter
David Biscobing of ABC15
Winner of three Rocky Mountain Emmy awards in 2012, including one for his exposÈ of the abuse-ridden East Coast boarding school run by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu from 1999 to 2001, the ASU grad and former East Valley Tribune reporter escaped the galley benches of newspaper journalism to become one of the Valleyís premier investigative TV reporters. Runner-up: former ABC15 colleague Lori Jane Gliha, now a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America.


Most Inspirational Artist
Kirk OíHara
Art is a tactile medium, and hands are prized as the greatest tools for artists to express themselves. Painter Kirk OíHara was born with arthrogryposis, a disabling condition that restricts the use of his arms and legs. Instead of using his hands, he uses his mouth. Clenching a brush between his teeth, he dips and flicks his head and neck to create beautiful brush strokes that become sensitive and inspiring portraits of Native Americans, children and animals.


Best Place to Make a Fool Out of Yourself on Live TV
Outside of the Channel 12 EVB Live studio
Ever wonder what possesses otherwise well-adjusted people to stand in front of a live TV shot and flap their arms wildly at the home audience? Us, too. Which isnít to say weíre immune from said theatrics, particularly if we happen to walk by Channel 12ís EVB Live streetside studio in Phoenix. For extra nerd-points: Brandish a ìHi Momî sign or one professing your eternal love for comely EVB Live anchor Caribe Devine. That will get you noticed. 200 E. Van Buren Street, 602-441-1212,


Best Local Band
The Sugar Thieves
The pseudo-science of alchemy, and its fabled goal of turning lead into gold, is believed to have spawned the real science of chemistry, which has proved remarkably useful over the centuries, gold or no. Same goes for the Valley music scene, where chemistry ñ specifically, the chemistry of four incredibly individually talented multi-instrumentalists ñ enables The Sugar Thieves to alchemize blues, jazz, country, folk and other roots music traditions into a single foot-stompiní, hand-clappiní, meat-shakiní bowl of soul. The bandís co-founders, singer Meridith Moore and vocalist/guitarist Mikel Lander, cite a range of influences from Billie Holliday to Tom Waits, and they bring a bit of everything to their spirited live shows, which include a recent gig at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, where they won the Peopleís Choice Award. So maybe chemistry solved the alchemy riddle, after all. These cats sound like gold to us.


Most Provocative Illustration
Jack Hunterís July 2013 New Yorker cover
While gay rights activists were celebrating the U.S. Supreme Courtís decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8 this past June, Valley-based artist Jack Hunter created an illustration titled ìMoment of Joy,î depicting Sesame Street characters Bert & Ernie cuddling on a couch in front of a TV bearing the image of the Supreme Court justices. Hunter submitted the image to The New Yorker unsolicted via Tumblr, and its publication set off a firestorm of praise and criticism. The Daily Beast lauded Hunterís illo as ìfantastic,î and Huffington Post called the cover ìamazingî and one of the magazine's ìmost awesome covers of all time.î But Boston magazine contributing editor David S. Bernstein took to Twitter to announce there was ìnothing clever, witty, or fresh about it,î and Slate stated the cover was ìa terrible way to commemorate a major civil rights victory.î Childrenís Television Workshop has disavowed Bert and Ernie gay rumors for years, pointing out in 1993 that ìthey are puppets, not humans.î But Hunterís cuddling buddy puppets still had a hot minute in the spotlight this summer.


Most Charmingly Irreverent Artist/Designer
Sebastien Millon
One of Sebastien Millonís most popular T-shirt designs reads, ìMy dream is that one day we will all live in a world where baby pandas are handed out like free candy. The unintended consequences of this will probably be disastrous. But I donít care, I just want my free panda.î Most of Millonís colorful creations make an impression not unlike reaching to pet a cute, baby-faced kitten on its head ñ and having it suddenly leap up and claw the living crap out of your wrist. Along the way, his cartoonish renderings of demented animals attack your funny bone. Exhibit A: titles for prints and T-shirts like ìPharmacalogically Enhanced Penguin,î ìMeth Hampstersî and ìSuper Magical Unicorn Nutkick,î and adorable depictions of tiny bunnies piloting bomber jets, gangster baby bears wearing gold chains and packing pistols, and jetpack-wearing baby ducks. Itís definitely not Disney, but the PG-13 nature of Millonís work is precisely what makes it so much fun.


Best Celebrity Pet
Tardar Sauce aka "Grumpy Cat"
Born in Morristown, Arizona, Tardar Sauce ñ better known as ìGrumpy Catî ñ became an Internet meme sensation for her permafrown (which owner Tabatha Bundesen says is due to feline dwarfism and an underbite). When it comes to celebrity, thereís no fatter cat around: Grumpy has been featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, in a best-selling book, on TV programs including Today and Good Morning America, and was the undisputed star of the 2013 South by Southwest festival, where more than 600 fans waited in line for hours to get a photo with the famous feline. A line of Grumpy Cat merch is for sale at Hot Topic stores, no doubt adding to the six-figures her owners say sheís already earned.


Best Reason to Catch the Weather Report on a Cloudless Day
3TV Meteorologist April Warnecke
Valley TV news stations dutifully report the weather 365 days a year ñ which is impressive, considering we have no weather on roughly 350 of them. Still, weíll gladly feign interest in yet another five-day forecast of dry heat if the Good Morning Arizona personality is delivering it. With her homecoming queen looks and dependable good cheer, the Gilbert High grad and mother of two is like a dose of Arizona sunshine every morning, only without the melanoma-causing UV rays. And if we do have a haboob or graupel storm in our future, Warnecke will calmly tell us to stay off the roads and wrap our lemon trees. We could hardly ask for more. 4-10 a.m. weekdays.


Best Place to Outfit a Weather Queen
Saks Fifth Avenue
Warnecke is wearing a bronze and gold ombre sequin gown with godet skirt by Alberto Makali ($1,100). 2446 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-955-8000,