She whines. She carps. She's half-wrong. Sometimes she's almost impossible to read. But at least she gives a small hoot about what's going on downtown, and with a little publicity blast this year, she's even being noticed for it. Boyd, whose hit-counter reads more than 52,000 lately, is not the force she aspires to be in Dallas. She's just not electable, and she's too doctrinaire to make enough friends to attain any sort of power, but she is almost a perfect match for the Internet, that great democratizer and spreader of faint voices and long-shot causes.

Whether it's vengeance on his former colleagues at WFAA Channel 8 or just being free of them, Channel 11 News anchor Tracy Rowlett has helped give his fellow teammates an edge the other locals sorely lack. Covering the school district, the cops, the controversy over sexually oriented businesses, the folks at KTVT clearly don't have to worry about all the sacred cows and family-unfriendly troubles that keep News 8 in a constant state of flinch. They've come up with a heads-up, straight-on format that's worth watching.

You say you believe in the Democratic process, in the right of an informed electorate selecting the most viable judicial candidates from the marketplace of lawyers who have distinguished themselves in their careers. You say voters are intelligent enough to make good choices, to select the most qualified candidate, unswayed by the politics of the moment or popular sentiment. Then you look at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, gasp, and decide to rethink the whole thing. Yes, we are a law-and-order state that doesn't cotton to coddling criminals. But our current crop of judges who man (and woman) the state's highest court of criminal jurisdiction have little regard for legal precedent; they seem to be making up the law as they go along. They have little intellectual candlepower since they are notorious for affirming guilty verdicts even in cases where DNA evidence suggests innocence. Some of them even have questionable integrity: Witness new presiding Judge Sharon Keller, who rails against pornography at the same time she is the landlord of a titty bar in Dallas. These guys are the state's court of last resort for our booming death penalty business. Even George W. deserves a better backstop.

Preston Lane

We had no idea how much difference a name makes until Check changed its moniker to Union Camp. To be honest, we probably wouldn't have given Check another chance, after 1998's All Time Low proved to be a tease, featuring guest appearances by Slobberbone's Brent Best, Legendary Crystal Chandelier's Peter Schmidt, and Centro-matic's Will Johnson, and, well, that's about it. But as Union Camp, the band got another shot to win us over, and this year's Fever and Pain (as well as its contribution to the Band-kits compilation) did just that, sounding like Brian Wilson sitting in with Creedence Clearwater Revival, or something like that. Southern rock that's not embarrassing or offensive? That's gotta be worth something.

A secret, a jewel, a hidden paradise: Around Lakeland and Ferguson Road in East Dallas, downhill from the grand manses of Forest Hills, Little Forest Hills is a quirky, delightful architectural mlange that looks as if it were spun of Berkeley, Seaside, Charlevoix, and an all-cousin East Texas trailer park. Built long ago as summer cottages for city dwellers, the idiosyncratic little hand-built houses were all throwaways 15 years ago. Now hip people are coming in and giving many of them a very cool flair to be found nowhere else in the city. Two shady creeks and even a little-known summer camp hidden in the bottom of a hollow make this a refuge where you can forget you even know about the rest of the city.

Best proof that Texas Monthly might be right

The Nixons, Hellafied Funk Crew, Pimpadelic, and every band that plays at The Rock. Unfortunately, there's even more where these came from.

The compact-disc manufacturing outfit run by former Leaning House Records honcho Mark Elliott and The New Year's Bubba Kadane out of a storefront in Exposition Park will one day pry loose Sam Paulos and Crystal Clear Sound's stranglehold on the local music scene. Count on it: Everyone involved with the company is too smart and talented for that not to happen. The only question is when. Already, the company has handled projects for the late, great Trance Syndicate Records, Two Ohm Hop, Quality Park Records, Last Beat Records, and the Butthole Surfers, as well as putting together CD-ROMs for numerous corporate and government clients. That sound you hear is Crystal Clear trying to come up with a counterattack. It might be too late.

A place where bands can rehearse and record, combined with a fully functioning record label, the Last Beat compound on Commerce Street has undergone major changes in the past few years, with outstanding results. The Toadies, Legendary Crystal Chandelier, The Deathray Davies, Chomsky, Captain Audio, Pinkston, and others all use the rehearsal facilities, and Baboon, The Polyphonic Spree, and many more have recorded in the studio, designed by renowned producer (Pink Floyd, etc.) Nick Griffiths. The label is one of the few in town that thinks like a major, with a roster (Pleasant Grove and Baboon, for starters) to match. You can bet Sam Paulos has driven by the Last Beat complex a few nights with Molotov cocktail in hand, just itching to put an end to it.

The Balcony Club
courtesy Lorena Davey

"Big" Al Dupree sings and plays the piano. Very well. From his low perch in front of a piano, Dupree's soft jazz and gentle blues captivate the crowd at The Balcony Club an average of five nights a week, joined by eager Dallas musicians who want to play with the great one. Their eagerness is understandable--in his time, Dupree played with the likes of "T-Bone" Walker, Pee Wee Crayton, and Ike Turner. Dupree is a true Dallas native, born in 1923 and playing in clubs here off and on since he was 14. To hear his gentle, rasping voice and talented ivory ministrations is heaven for jazz fans and an eye-opener to how good the medium can be for the uninitiated. The comfortably small Balcony Club is an ideal place to see the man in action, a showcase not only for the music but a catch basin for the ambience stoked by Dupree's appearances. Band members sip drinks and flirt at the bar until their solos. Regulars greet each other warmly, chat up Al and his band during break, and bask in the live soundtrack of their evening. Dates cuddle and speak softly, the music at a perfect ever-present but soft volume. Long live Al Dupree and his talented cohorts.

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