Published this year by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, quite pricey at $89.95, this book is it, the authority, the comprehensive catalog of anything and everything that grows in this part of Texas. Years in the making, one of a series of books that will one day cover the entire state, this book is written so that lay people can understand it. But it is also a serious scientific resource, replete with beautiful illustrations. If you own this book, you are the ultimate authority, until somebody else you know gets it. The editors are George M. Diggs Jr., Barney L. Lipscomb and Robert J. O'Kennon. You can order it from Yonie Hudson, Publications Assistant, Botanical Research Institute of Texas, 509 Pecan St., [email protected].

WaterTower Theatre

This theater space, like a good actor, never does it the same way twice. For every play, the 32,000-square-foot interior of this glass and concrete space is reconfigured. Sometimes it's arena-style, sometimes thrust. For Book of Days, the Lanford Wilson drama performed this summer, actors trod a long runway that ran nearly the full length of the theater. For Always...Patsy Cline, the 200 seats and stage were shifted into an intimate, clublike setting. But aside from the aesthetic aspects of the space itself, what WaterTower offers is a remarkably high-quality approach to its productions. Artistic director Terry L. Martin mixes it up with the choices of plays each season, with even the tried-and-true titles getting a fresh twist. This year offered theatergoers the classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but with a new emphasis on the men in the play instead of the bitchy gal in the slip. Wilson's serious Book of Days was a modern, dour take on Our Town, followed by the unapologetically sentimental twang of Always... Patsy Cline. Their 2002-'03 season begins in October with the old standard You Can't Take It With You, followed in January by the area premiere of The Laramie Project, Moises Kaufman's portrait of America inspired by the murder of Matthew Shepard. And forget the Dickens-style Christmas show. Out in Addison, you'll get David Sedaris' bitterly funny account of life in Macy's elf hell in The Santaland Diaries again this year. With other local theaters struggling to stay afloat, WaterTower has seen attendance increase more than 50 percent over the 2001 season. Good actors, good directing, good plays, good time. Simple as that. Oh, and let's not forget the cushy new theater seats they've recently installed. Audience appreciation is always appreciated.

Best Local Singer Who's So Good She May Have to Move

N'Dambi

We're going to take credit for her success, so deal; we've been singing this gal's praises for years and years...a couple, at least. We'll just say this: Erykah Badu's longtime backup singer should never have to stand in the shadows again. N'Dambi's second album, last year's Tunin Up & Cosignin, contains two dozen of the groovinest and moovinest tracks ever cut by someone from the 214; she's Nina by way of Dinah, Aretha by way of Dusty, whoever by way of whatever. That she ain't yet a star may have less to do with ambition and talent, however, than our town's nasty habit of letting its best and brightest burn out or move out; hell, it took a Florida station to make stars of the Toadies, and look what happened there. Word is she's contemplating a move up north, where they appreciate ladies of soul. So, Dallas, have a heart: Make yours N'Dambi. Damb it.

Arthur Eisenberg took a lot of crap, literally, from some of his neighbors when he built this house in 2000, but it is an excellent example of tasteful contemporary design. The home, built on a stout but eloquent stucco and steel frame, consists of two "cottages" that are separate and accessible by their own stairwells. On the outside, the house steps back onto the lot so it doesn't overpower its neighbors. On the inside, the design has the opposite effect: The main living area, built around a massive exposed fireplace, offers 30 feet of head room and is overlooked by two indoor balconies--one for each of the cottages. In order to bring warmth to the home's otherwise steel feel, Eisenberg and local artist Otis Jones collaborated on a soothing color scheme of muted greens and a blue accent. "This is the house I'll probably die in," Eisenberg says. "So I didn't do a lot of compromising."

Since we have trashed most of The Dallas Morning News columnists at some time or another during the year, it would be damn inconsistent, if not bordering on hypocritical, to celebrate them now. But what the heck. Crow is an acquired taste and one that we don't mind indulging, particularly when we see talent within the otherwise banal and gutless op-ed pages of the News. Unlike many of his colleagues, columnist Ruben Navarrette is not afraid to take on the establishment, be it business or political. He chastises the Bush Administration for using the war as an excuse to deprive individuals of their civil rights. He chastises Republican senatorial candidate John Cornyn for playing politics by demanding a too-little-too-late investigation into the Tulia, Texas, mass drug arrests. He chastises the school board for denying Hispanics representation consistent with their demographics. Yet make no mistake: His politics are often conservative, though witnessed through the refreshing lens of cultural diversity. His voice is clear, his opinions clearer, and unlike many at the DMN, you don't come away from his writing questioning where he is coming from and which interest group he is trying not to offend.

Yes, yes, we know Norah Jones used to play piano at an Italian restaurant in North Dallas before she moved to NYC and sold a million or so copies of her debut album, Come Away With Me. But you did not see her there. No, really, you didn't.

WaterTower Theatre

Addison? Theater mecca? Whodathunk that a few years ago? Then along came an Alabama grad named Terry Martin, determined to turn a small but well-loved community theater company into a major force in Dallas-area arts. He's done that by consistently raising the bar in the choices of plays, casting the best-trained professional actors and overseeing the redesign of the interior of the WaterTower space in a compelling way for every new production. As a director, Martin, 45, recently reinterpreted Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as a battle royal between nouveau riche Southern social climbers, with the usually cantankerous Big Daddy (perfectly cast with actor R Bruce Elliott) almost welcoming the "outing" of gay son Brick as a way of reclaiming their relationship. Martin has spent 10 years at WaterTower. Only problem with all the directing is it leaves him little time to get onstage himself. His performance in Neil LaBute's Bash during the WaterTower's spring "Out of the Loop" festival was one of the best by an actor on any Dallas stage this year.

Since 9-11, most right-thinking Amurkins have had lumps in their throats when it comes to the sacrifices made by dutiful police and firefighters. But the throat bone doesn't connect to the wallet bone, and sentimentality will only get you so far (not very) when you ask Dallas taxpayers for a 17 percent raise, especially when times are hard for everyone's budget, particularly the city's. What were Dallas' police and firefighters thinking, putting this issue on the ballot now? Oh, that's right; they thought all that "honoring our heroes in blue" stuff was sincere. Suckers.

Best Thing D Magazine Ever Wrote That Wasn't Advertorial

Tom Hicks is Going Broke

We'll admit it: We wish we had that damned story, not Wick Allison's Park Cities Greensheet. So, when D ran that cover with Hicks, or a Photoshopped Tommy, flashing empty pockets, we pretended it was so much tabloid hogwash, Allison's way of proving to his moneyed pals he couldn't be bought by this town's richest fellers. Turns out that story was dead on the money, no matter how hard Hicks tries to deny it; after all, if he really wanted to stick with a winner, he would have held onto his Dallas Stars, our most recent champs in any major sporting league. Instead, he's selling off his NHL team (worth about $200 mil) and his stake in the American Airlines Center (estimated value: $400 mil). Why he's dumping the AAC is beyond us; yeah, we hate the place, but it's gotta be the rich man's ATM, unlike the Arlington-owned Ballpark, which will soon enough start to look like it smells. (Ya know, now that we think about it, that place always was a hokey hodgepodge.) Maybe Hicks just couldn't get over his man crush on Mike Modano, who's gone from underrated to overrated in three seasons' time; maybe he just likes the drive to Arlington. Or maybe he's got a thing for guys in tight pants who grab their crotches and spit. Dunno. All we know is this Texas Ex is dumping the one team he owns that's respectable in order to keep the one that's reprehensible. Does that make any damned sense, or cents, to you?

Judging by how often he's cast in local productions, Bill Jenkins appears to be a director's darling. In the three leading roles he's had at three theaters here this year, he's proven versatile, likable and dependable as a performer, expertly tackling a wide range of accents and acting styles. For Addison's WaterTower Theatre, he roared as the ghost of John Barrymore in the high-spirited I Hate Hamlet. At Theatre Three (where he was voted "Patrons' Favorite") he raised the roof as an ambitious young Baptist minister in God's Man in Texas. For Theatre Britain at the Trinity River Arts Center, he oozed cockney charm as The Mysterious Mr. Love. He's also performed major comedic and dramatic roles at Kitchen Dog, Stage West, Casa Maana and Circle Theatre. Watching Jenkins onstage is a lesson in acting technique. His diction is crisp, his physicality well-tuned. His handsome face, with its deeply dimpled smile, can shift from utterly beguiling one moment to dangerously brooding the next. There's something old-fashioned about Jenkins' approach to stage work. He doesn't just say the words and strike the poses; he inhabits the characters and disappears into the roles. When his name is in the program, you know you're in for something good. Applause, applause.

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