I grew up in a household where Sunday church attendance was assumed, the Bible was memorized, and converting others was encouraged. I was better off than some, because I was never told that having faith meant checking my critical thinking at the door, but there were certain things, like the absolute infallibility of the Bible, that I was told never to question.
This is the lens through which I watched another movie that is on my “must see” list: Religulous. It is a travel-style documentary that follows commentator Bill Maher as he visits with the faithful of many religions, pointing out the obvious inconsistencies and hypocrisies of their worldviews.
There is the standard cadre of usual suspects: The idiots at the Creation Museum in Kentucky who have an exhibit featuring a triceratops with a saddle, the Prosperity Gospel minister who insists that Jesus was wealthy and fashionable and the Orthodox Jew who has devoted his life to finding loopholes in Sabbath observance. There were also sincere believers who, foolish as their actions may be, were kind and loving. My favorite scene featured a group of burly truckers whom Maher described as being Christ-like. He made the insightful observation in their trucker’s chapel service that he understands why people who feel like they have nothing else — like those in prison or on a battlefield — cling to faith, but is befuddled by people living safe, secure, normal lives who feel the need to seek out a higher authority to explain how the world works.
While the narrator and lead character, Bill Maher, appears to be the chief instigator, Religulous has director Larry Charles’ fingerprints all over it. Maher’s personal and political perspective is essential to the film, but Charles’ penchant for ambushing people who may not even realize that they have ridiculous beliefs is what makes the picture worthwhile. Charles also brilliantly injects vintage footage into the film, reminding us that religion has been around for a while, and will continue to be around for a while longer.
The one part of the film in which we see Maher take over, a lengthy diatribe that blames religion for virtually every evil ever to occur on earth, ends up a mess. As Maher’s polemic blares, we see clips of wars, pestilence and famine, all presumably brought about by man’s pursuit of God.
Maher’s impeccable timing and demeanor paid off in what was probably the most poignant moment of the film. While interviewing Sen. Mark Pryor, Maher asked whether the American people could trust a lawmaker who believed in things like talking snakes. When Pryor responded with “well, you don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate” Maher was able to maintain complete composure, nonplussed as Pryor awkwardly tried to chuckle his way out of his obvious misstatement.
Was Religulous a bit condescending and snarky? Of course. It certainly wasn’t intended to change anyone’s mind about the world, so in that sense it was, well, preaching to the choir. But, it was an interesting trip with some brilliant minds.
Well, what better way to reflect on Religulous than our very own holy-sounding St. Francis, Aaron Chamberlin’s creation on Camelback Road just east of Central. I visited with a friend and barely made it into the packed parking lot that it shares with Red Modern Furniture, one of my favorite furniture browsing galleries. The parking lot was so crowded, in fact, that the valet ended up parking my car in the neighboring AutoZone lot.
It took a moment to figure out how to get in the restaurant, but once we determined that the front door was, indeed, in the front, we were promptly seated. The decor is clever, contemporary and meticulously executed — lots of exposed wood, steel, concrete, etc. The kitchen isn’t open as much as it is the center and hub of activity of the space.
We started out with a baked goat cheese appetizer, which consists of a tomato sauce topped with goat cheese, garnished with a walnut pesto baked in a small crock. Served with crostini, it is one of the best starters I have had in Phoenix in a long time. The cheese was just the right balance, and the walnut pesto was perfectly conceived and executed. Of the vegetarian options (one of which appears to be a mishmash of veggies designed to quiet an outspoken activist that you accidentally bring on a date), I chose the flatbread with black mission figs and goat cheese, topped with arugula. The light, crispy flatbread was divine and the figs balanced the goat cheese perfectly. A nutty arugula was the perfect crown for this brick oven masterpiece, and I was sad that I could only finish half of the dish in one sitting.
Downsides? Everything in the kitchen seems to be right on track, although the price points seem just slightly on the high side. Dinner for two with one glass of wine worked out to $52 plus gratuity. The service and ambiance were worth it, though… Oh, and you have to check out the bathroom sinks — they are clever.
Three unique businesses, two historic buildings, one street corner.
Bunky Boutique, which opened in September 2007, carries clothing for men, women and children. Featuring brands such as Brixton, Ropeadope and Cadenza Clothing, Bunky strives to provide a classically modern style rather than trendy clothing. “You buy it, you have it forever, yet it still looks current,” says Rachel Malloy, co-owner and co-founder of the boutique.
Bunky occupies 950 square feet of a house that was built in the early 1900s. Malloy said she chose the building because of its uniqueness and character. “It’s hard to find somewhere in Phoenix that isn’t cookie-cutter or a strip mall,” she says.
Malloy, who started the business with her husband, Jim Malloy, named the boutique after her accessory-loving grandmother. “She’s very fashion forward, even at 73,” she says.
Although Malloy uses the Internet and social media to promote the boutique, she says it is really a word-of-mouth place. Bunky and the nearby Spoken Boutique refer customers to each other rather than compete for them.
Sharing the historic house with Bunky Boutique is the brightly colored, one-of-a-kind Red Dog Gallery.
In its fifth year, the gallery occupies the remaining 1,000 square feet of the building. Red Dog Gallery features art mostly related to, well, dogs, of course. The reason behind the canine creations is pretty simple: Owner Randy Kinkel just loves dogs. “They’re just near and dear to my heart,” he says.
So, why Red Dog? “I wanted a colorful, vibrant, fun place, and red seemed to personify that,” Kinkel says.
Kinkel, who has lived in Phoenix for 16 years, hoped the gallery would provide a “stable and predictable place” for local and regional artists to display their art when he opened it in the fall of 2004. The gallery also includes art from Kinkel himself, who has been interested in it since he was a kid.
Although dog-related art is the main theme of the gallery, Kinkel has expanded his gallery to include more of a variety. Paintings of monkeys and giraffes hang on one wall, while another wall is dedicated to abstract paintings. The gallery also displays photography, drawings on records and bottle caps, and sculptures made out of a variety of materials. Kinkel is open to featuring all kinds of art, especially anything that is colorful and unique, and tries to rotate the artwork often.
Across the street from Red Dog Gallery and Bunky Boutique is a place that combines both art and fashion: Phoenicia Association.
Phoenicia, which opened in August, is a men’s clothing store/art gallery combo, displaying works from many local artists.
The name comes from the ancient Phoenicia culture, whose alphabet influenced the logo. “They were actually known to not have any significant cultural identification, meaning they basically took from all the cultures around them and called it their own, which I thought was fairly fitting for Phoenix,” says Kyle Simone, co-owner and co-founder of the business. “We like the idea of being an association — as in, you can be an associate of ours.”
Simone said that Phoenicia Association is modeled after similar places in other big cities, including San Francisco, Chicago and New York City. “In my travels, I’ve found that a lot of my favorite boutiques are also art galleries,” he says. Simone said he and business partner Jeff Mann believe that art and fashion are “one in the same.” “The garments we present are not only high-functionality everyday garments you can wear, but they’re engineered in a manner that presents them as art,” Simone says.
Phoenicia tries to bring in handmade, detailed international brands with that are much different from any other found in the Phoenix area. “We want to bring in these things that are going on in other places and give them a place in Phoenix,” Mann says. Some of the brands include Wrath Arcane, April 77 Records, Hixsept, 3Sixteen, Beta Unit, Naked & Famous Denim, Dearly Departed and Continental Clothing.
In September, Phoenicia displayed artwork from nearly 25 artists, about half from Arizona and half from California. This month, they plan to bring in three Phoenix-based photographers. “For the most part, we have been working with local artists, but we’re working towards bringing in some more names that show in other places also,” Mann says.
Mann and Simone say the historic building they spent three-and-a-half months renovating was a good choice for their business. “We put a lot of work into this place, and we feel like it really is a good location for what we want to do,” Mann said. “We really feel like in the future this area is going to see the most growth in Phoenix.”
While many other businesses were getting ready to close their doors during the economic downturn, Phoenicia Association was preparing to open theirs. “We believe that we’re catching this on the upswing,” Simone says. “We believe this is the start of the regrowth of our economy, as well as specifically the Downtown Phoenix area.”
Simone said the recession actually provided them with opportunities they may not have had any other time. “In the scheme of things, this afforded us the availability to get into a good location and into a part of the town that might not have monetarily been available to us a couple of years ago,” he says. Simone adds that he hopes that opening the business will give people “confidence in their dollar.”
Simone and Mann say they feel their business has been successful so far. “For the point we’re at right now, I think we’re right on pace for where we had basically set our goals,” Mann says. “It was a success just opening the store. It was a lot of hard work.”
Bunky Boutique, 812 N. 3rd St., is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Red Dog Gallery, 812 N. 3rd St., is open on First Fridays from 6 to 11 p.m., and every Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. Phoenicia Association, 821 N. 3rd St., is open Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m.
All photos by Christina O’Haver
DPJ is proud to bring you the best Yelp reviews of your favorite Downtown restaurants, boutiques, venues and everything in between. Every Tuesday, visit DPJ for a finely crafted, tell-all account of a Downtown spot straight from the experts: the people!
It’s hot – the kids are wired – there is really only one solution…..the Children’s museum!!! This place is great for kids under 6 years old – over six, they are probably going to like each exhibit for about two minutes. Under six, you can spend a long long time here. Start downstairs by throwing colorful scarves into vacuum pipes that climb the walls, and pop out over your heads. Watch your young ones climb thru tunnels and tents, and then cruise around on scooters for awhile. On the second floor, there’s the coolest art room ever! I wish this place existed when I was little! Everyday, they paint this little playhouse a different color. It is so so cool! And there are two different art projects to try out. The facility provides aprons, and paper towels, but I would still recommend wearing something you don’t mind getting a little paint or glue on. There’s a kid’s kitchen where they can make you pretend pizzas, and a grocery store where you can shop and ring up the food. My favorite room has walls of mazes for a ball to go thru that makes a ton of different noises. So much fun! The third floor has the funnest thing ever!! A huge room full of hanging noodles (swimming pool noodles) – and you can run thru full speed playing tag with your little ones – just keep eyes open for other little ones. I am leaving a lot out (like the toddler room), but just check this place out! It is so so nice! I think one of the coolest things is that the rooms are extremely clean – you never feel like you are picking up a book or toy covered in goobies, which I greatly appreciate. Also, don’t go here if you plan to be one of those non-interactive parents. This place requires participation from both parent and child.
Children’s Museum of Phoenix is located at 215 N. 7th St. (602) 253.0501
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Yelp is a social networking and local search engine that provides the reviews of places and things that matter to you. Simply log in, pick a place and queue up your inner critic. You can write a beaming review of your favorite gelato spot, or a scathing portrayal of that rental car facility you had to use after that curb came out of nowhere. Yelp’s reviews are at once honest, uncensored, wildly hilarious and true. Heck, the site must be doing something right — it had 25 million viewers just last month!
The living dead are invading First Friday, but fear not, they won’t be there looking for brains. No, instead of brains, these reanimated corpses will be on the hunt for random items in the Second Annual First Friday Zombie Scavenger Hunt. Presented by the upcoming International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival, the event will be kicking off with a zombie walk starting at the Arizona Ghostbusters (exactly what it sounds like) booth located a 501 E. Roosevelt St. The walk will end at the film festival’s booth, and from there the scavenger hunt will take place with teams of four trying to find as many items on their list as they can. Their hunt will end at the Alwun House, where all contestants will receive free entry to the premiere of Blood Bath of the Bat Beast that night. More details and entry forms can be found at the International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival site.
After a week of mild (well, for September in Phoenix) temperatures, the mercury soared yet again just in time for the Grand Avenue Festival. Phoenix’s notoriously anti-conformist diagonal roadway, however, proved to be a worthy draw for thousands who braved the heat. From the Trunk Space all the way down Jordre Studio, the day was a scorching success. The lure of free snowcones probably helped, too.
As a group of about 25 people congregated on the grounds of the Tilt Gallery at 9:30 a.m., it was already 102º, but that didn’t stop them from crisscrossing Grand Avenue for an hour-and-a-half, learning about adaptive reuse processes in several key buildings that line the avenue.
The leisurely adaptive reuse tours slowly snaked northwest along Grand, popping in and out of buildings erected from the early 1900s to the 1950s — structures that were once groceries and mechanic garages that now house artists, office spaces and cafés. Three separate tours throughout the morning hours accommodated a total of 80-some people, each learning a bit about Grand’s storied past. At Jordre Studio, painter Kyle Jordre openly told attendees to head into his living quarters in back of his studio to see his “cute ruby red” (his words, not ours) bathroom. Up the street at Paisley Town, listeners heard tales of the colorful cottages moving from Papago Park to 17th Avenue to their final spot in the quaint courtyard.
As the morning rolled into the afternoon, most galleries and eateries were reporting strong foot traffic, often first-time Grand Avenue visitors. By late afternoon, side streets along Grand were lined with cars and bikes chained to fence posts. More than a few houses nearby were enjoying raucous parties, clearly welcoming the attention on the normally quiet avenues.
Music could be heard rounding nearly every corner. On the rooftop of the Loft, bands such as Bolt and Haunted Cologne rocked patrons sitting outside Sapna Café (which, by the way, had long wait times the entire evening). The PHiX hosted two stages: raucous indie bands inside the cavernous space, and the more subdued River Jones PRESENTS! stage just to the north of the building. A makeshift stage popped up in a lot next to Jordre Studio, while the Paisley Violin hosted tunes for 12 hours straight.
At the Bragg’s Pie building, a packed house came to see “trashy” art on display, and stayed into the evening hours for the recycled wearables and local boutique fashion shows.
It’s tough to say just how many people were on Lower Grand throughout the day, but the first Grand Avenue Festival was an undoubted success. We have something to build on for next fall’s festivities — Grand has once again proven that it is a relevant, important and constantly budding cultural landscape in Phoenix.