We'll admit that we've been a little too hard on all the festivals that have come and gone in the past few weeks, though we stick by our opinion that it is hard to tell them apart. If there is one festival to blame, it could be Taste of Dallas, the annual event that takes over the West End every year for three days. Taste of Dallas is Dallas' largest free outdoor festival, and it has spawned a host of imitators. This year, it features booths from restaurants throughout Dallas, a children's area, and music by bands such as the Grand Street Cryers, Mr. Pink, Flaco Jimenez, Ian Moore, and Sara Hickman. Taste of Dallas happens in the West End on Friday, Saturday (11 a.m.-midnight both days), and Sunday (noon-9 p.m.). Free. Call (214) 741-7185.
Halloween is still more than a month away, but several haunted houses in the area have already started scaring the hell out of people. These aren't exactly brains-made-out-of-Jell-O haunted houses, either. They're more of the Linda-Blair-spitting-split-pea-soup-at-you variety, capable of scaring even people who can sit through entire Dallas Mavericks games. We're not sure which to recommend, because they all have their moments, from Thrillvania's "Voodoo Bayou" to Screams' rotating "Black Hole" to the smoke and mirrors (literally) of The Phantom's Haunted House, and more are on the way. Choose one or all, but be warned: There aren't any friendly ghosts out there. Thrillvania begins its season on September 25 and continues through November 1. Call (214) 559-5779. Screams holds a sneak preview on Friday and Saturday, and will be open October 1-31. Call (972) 938-3247. The Phantom's Haunted House is open September 25 through November 1. Call (214) 816-5480.
The Dallas Theater Center is staging a fine production of Moliere's comic magnum opus, Tartuffe, a witty examination of hypocrisy and hollow holiness. In conjunction with the play, the DTC will host a presentation by Dr. Jonathan Marks, a renowned expert on the French playwright, as part of its Deloitte & Touche In Perspective Series. Marks is former chief dramaturg with Yale Repertory Theatre and American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University. He will relate Moliere's Paris to events in America today, analyzing the play's strikingly modern resonance. Afterward, everyone in attendance will be packed into a shiny, spherical time machine and rocket back in time to see exactly what Marks is talking about. (Just checking to see if you're paying attention.) Marks will speak after the Sunday matinee performance of Tartuffe, beginning his discussion at 4:30 p.m. in the Arts District Theater, located at 2401 Flora St. The lecture is free. Call (214) 522-8499.
It seems like only yesterday that we were making fun of director James Cameron's acceptance speech after Titanic won the final of its countless Oscars. Well, it was yesterday, but apparently the race for next year's batch of golden statuettes has already reached the halfway point. On Monday, Channel 8 film critic Gary Cogill will wrap up this summer's blank slate of films and preview some of the year's forthcoming Oscar-worthy releases at Borders Books & Music. Unless Titanic II hits screens in the next couple of months, it looks as if Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan is a lock to sweep many of the major awards. For a change, we're interested to see what Cogill has to say. Almost. Cogill's Oscar watch happens at Borders, 5500 Greenville Avenue, at 7 p.m. Admission is free. Call (214) 739-1166.
That giant sucking sound you hear is Hootie & The Blowfish's tour bus making its way to Dallas. A couple of years ago, Hootie & The Blowfish were big stars, performing at tributes to Frank Sinatra, piling up awards, and making the world a little blander each day. The band's debut disc, Cracked Rear View, sold 9 million copies, and the band was the hero of every frat boy who'd ever learned to play one chord on a guitar. Now, the band will be lucky to pack half the house when it plays at Deep Ellum Live on Tuesday. Although we tried, we were unable to muster any sympathy for the boys. We're glad that everyone has wised up to this no-trick pony. We only wish it would happen to more bands. Matchbox 20, we're looking in your direction. Hootie & The Blowfish perform at Deep Ellum Live on Tuesday. Call (214) 373-8000.