Just as the stand-up comedy boom of the 1980s was fizzling out, comedian Rob Becker began his research into the oddities of human behavior. Do women carry a shopping gene? Do men have a territorial imperative when it comes to the remote? Becker took what he learned and wrote Defending the Caveman, an insightful, enlightening and hilarious two-hour monologue explaining the anthropological reasons for the quirks that occur in the male-female dynamic. He tried out the show on the road in the early '90s, including a long stint at the Addison Improv, and ended up taking Caveman to Broadway. He's now performed it for more than 2 million people in the United States and Canada, and there are offshoot productions on the boards in Iceland and South Africa. Clearly, he's on to something with a universal message. With every syllable polished, Becker's show returned to Dallas this spring for a double run at the Majestic, where it played to sold-out houses of couples (mostly) who laughed till they cried and repeatedly jabbed each other in the rib cage, whispering, "He's talking about yewwwww!"

African American Museum

Besides the free parking and free admission, the African American Museum in Fair Park contains some really cool stuff about African American history in Dallas that you are unlikely to find elsewhere. One of the current displays contains artifacts from Freedman's Town, a black enclave in old Dallas that was buried under a freeway until some local black-history buffs banded together to keep the memory and the history alive. Artifacts include parts of caskets and children's toys. Besides that exhibit, which is ongoing, the nearly 30-year-old museum claims to have "one of the largest African-American folk art collections in the United States." The Fair Park building has four galleries, a research library and a theater.

It doesn't matter where you are, Sekt has been there. Street corners, drains, rain gutters and brick walls. Our very own building has been graced with the tag of the elusive being. We have to wonder, is that a name, a statement, some sort of slang or just a favorite word-cum-identity? We counted 100 "Sekts" in a quarter-mile walk to lunch and back. When does the tagging happen? Late nights we endured here and no sign of a person, yet in the morning new tags appear. One person we mentioned the urban phenomenon to saw a tag on an overpass coming from Fort Worth--now that's dedication, not to mention spare time. Dallas begs to know who is behind Sekt, group or person, fish or fowl. For the love of Mike, who the hell are you?! Even if we never know, we acknowledge Sekt for the stamina and misspelling that drove the short tag to conversation status.

Talk about commitment to one's art. For the title role in Barbette, a new biographical play by Bill Lengfelder and David Goodwin performed at Kitchen Dog Theater in June, Joey Steakley spent nearly a year learning the art of the trapeze and perfecting the moves of the "Spanish web," a balletic circus act on a rope 30 feet in the air. His performance as the Texas-born transvestite circus star involved not just perfecting aerial stunts but delicately depicting the young "Barbette" (real name Vander Clyde) as a dreamy farm boy in Round Rock, Texas, and his subsequent journey to musical hall stardom in drag and his stormy affair with a great poet in Paris in the 1920s. Steakley's fine, subtle acting in the physically demanding role--he did that rope ballet wearing little more than satin shorts, pasties and a blond wig--made the stuntwork even more breathtaking and affecting. For a young actor (he earned his degree in drama in May), fearlessness is as important as talent. Steakley has more of both than most actors of any age.

Best Place to See the Famous Wilson Brothers Eating Mexican Food with Their Parents

Javier's

Javier's Gourmet Mexicano

Owen and Luke Wilson, this year's Hollywood It-Boys, make it back home to Dallas pretty often, and when they do, they inevitably drop in (with their handsome 'rents) at this pricey but delish Park Cities Mexican spot. The country-club crowd this restaurant attracts (need the valet parkers for the Rollses, doncha know) generally ignores the Wilson clan and lets them eat their Barra de Navidad and Filete Cantinflas (two Javier's specialties) in peace. Some of us just enjoy feasting on the sight of the Wilsons in the flesh.

Unlike its crosstown cousin, not much of Dallas resembles the days of cattle drives or cowboys, and maybe that was the idea behind this popular public sculpture. The large herd of longhorns and cowboys, which promoters say is the "biggest outdoor sculpture of longhorns and cowboys in the world," is a most impressive sight. Plopped down in the middle of a bustling city near the convention center, the longhorns are gaudy and cool, like the city they represent.

Let's admit something to each other. For the most part, they're all the same. Sure, there's a difference in the personnel, in the tone, of each station. Channel 8 has a bunch of vets and an air of superiority, which works if you don't watch 'em every night. Channel 5 HAS THIS LATE-BREAKING NEWS DA DA DA DAAAAA. Channel 4 tries hard and actually does a better job than most think with limited resources. And WB33 has Friends reruns following it, which is nice. But, you know, try what we do some nights and flip between all five at 10 p.m. For the most part, on most nights, they're all doing the same stuff, often in the same order. Which means it comes down to a question of which tone you prefer. We like Channel 11. They keep the happy talk to a minimum, which is no small thing. They put the big stories first--national news, international news, then local everyday stuff. They have Kristine Kahanek delivering the weather forecast, which is nice for obvious reasons. And Babe Laufenberg has grown into a fun-to-watch sportscaster. All in all, as solid as TV news can be.

For their first theatrical production, an update of Rick Najera's comic collection of sketches about Latino life, this group of young theater tyros had to hold opening night in a cramped conference room at the Ice House Cultural Center off Swiss Avenue. With only a tiny platform, minimal lighting and a sweaty audience sitting an arm's length away, actors Otis Gray and Marco Rodriguez turned in firecracker performances, playing dozens of characters in a wild array of wigs and costumes. For the level of energy and skill they exhibited, they could just as well have been onstage at Carnegie Hall. It was the kind of show that left theatergoers looking at their programs going, "Who are these guys?" They are that good. Under executive producer Miranda Martinez, by day a worker bee in the corporate world, this company of talented Hispanic actors, designers and writers is looking ahead to ambitious theatrical events. Early next year they'll mount the world premiere of a new Najera play, Buford Gomez: Tales of a Rightwing Border Patrol Officer. Watch for this creative bunch to make their mark on the Dallas theater scene in years to come.

It is hard to miss the eye-catching work of famed sculptor Hans Van de Bovenkamp as you make the walk through the pedestrian tunnel connecting the transit center and the light-rail station. The 8-foot red aluminum free-form structure in the shape of an "O" appears to be alive, undulating, seeming to change shapes as the sun hits it from different angles during the day. The sculpture is a variation on a theme called "Gateway" that was erected in Oklahoma City's Myriad Gardens in 1993. Just because it is in the hellhole that is Oklahoma City, don't hold that against ol' Hans.

Much to the joy of most Dallas-area media, the former Dallas city councilman took off the electronic shackles 27 months into his 41-month sentence of house arrest (watching television). Just about everybody seemed downright giddy at the announcement that an appeals court overturned his sentence, not because Lipscomb was wrongly convicted but because of a legal technicality. Dallas Morning News columnist James Ragland gleefully fawned over Lipscomb and defended him, actually going so far as to say, "He was charming and charismatic. He was circumspect. More important, he was contrite, acknowledging that he erred by not reporting he was taking money from a cab company owner doing business with the city." Guess Ragland could overlook the fact that Lipscomb started pushing the cab company's agenda after monthly cash payments started. Maybe the voters could forget it, too. Welcome back, Al!

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