Sunday, March 01, 2015



Take Two

In the midst of a messy public breakup, Alejandra Amarilla – the former Mrs. Steve Nash – orchestrates a new career as a filmmaker.

On an already-sizzling weekday morning in Paradise
Valley, the only thing Alejandra Amarilla wants to talk about is the children. All 20 or so of them back in the tiny, rubbish-strewn Paraguayan shantytown of Cateura.


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The Fish Whisperer

Chef Shinji Kurita’s combination of traditional and cutting-edge Japanese cuisine earns him industry respect and two James Beard nods.

The first course arrives, a sea of paper-thin raw halibut marinated in grapeseed oil and ponzu. Behind the wood counter, an apprentice slices plump pink tuna in a steady heartbeat rhythm as Chef Shinji Kurita tends a vat of steamed rice, his dark hair hidden underneath his signature blue cap. Kurita is a slight man with a delicate silver-tinged goatee and clear dark eyes that reflect an almost superhuman level of self-control. Shoulders arched back like a sentry on watch, Kurita doesn’t even blink when a server’s tray of glassware crashes to the floor. A sliver of fish is placed atop a small rice ball. As the chopstick of abura tsukuri glides closer, the pungent aroma of garlic, scallion and ginger causes my nostrils to flare in anticipation. The taste of the fish is exquisite.  


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House Master

A new reality show spotlights the Valley real estate scene and a local foreclosure kingpin.

Doug Hopkins, self-styled “King of the East Valley” for his 20-year reign over the Valley real estate market, has yet another jewel to add to his crown: reality TV stardom.


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His Own Devices

Valley inventor Jack McNamara quietly perfects medical gizmos in his two-story barn

If necessity truly is the mother of invention, then Jack McNamara is one of her most prolific baby-daddies.



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Copper State Katzenbergs

The Valley’s homegrown film industry relies on the kindness of strangers. Preferably, rich ones.

Where money is concerned, Arizona is no different than Tinseltown – it’s the thing that talks when you-know-what walks. Financing is the most elusive element of any movie project – except maybe a good script – and therefore the greenbacked flickfunder, more commonly known as the executive producer, is one of the rarest birds in Arizona, and one of the shyest.


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The Bunsen Burner Bieber

An industrious West Valley teen positions himself to be the next Bill Nye-style pop science guru.

Alec Owens cannot recall his very first question about the scientific mysteries of the universe. “Something like, ‘Where do rocks come from?’” the spiky-haired 13-year-old says. “What I do remember is going to an adult for an answer, getting an answer that wasn’t right, and the feeling you get when you’re like, ‘This is not a good answer.’”


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Palate to Palette

Born with a condition that limits use of his arms and legs, “mouth painter” Kirk O’Hara has to be creative both on and off the canvas.

Artist Kirk O’Hara leans forward, adding the finishing touches to a painting of a blond boy wearing leg braces and gripping crutches. Next to the boy is a brown dog, tongue out and tail wagging. The dog is in a wheelchair. As O’Hara makes a stroke through the boy’s hair, his face hovers so close to the canvas he’s almost cheek-to-cheek with his subject. For a second, it looks like he’s going to crawl head-first into the painting. In a sense, he’s already there: Like the boy and his dog, O’Hara is disabled. This painting is the first in a series of handicapped subjects titled Empathy.


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