You might not have heard of Denton group Midlake, but Jason Lee has. Then again, you might not have heard of Jason Lee either, but that's a topic for another time. The actor-skater (you may remember him from such films as Chasing Amy, Mumford, Vanilla Sky and, yes, Almost Famous) swears it's one of the only bands he listens to. If you don't believe him, think of it this way: He came to town this summer on his own dime and spent a week shooting a video for their song "Balloon Maker." Before that, in May he hosted a Midlake show in London as part of an art opening sponsored by his skateboard company Stereo. So, if you were wondering, his money is, in fact, where his mouth is.

This is a tough one, because WFAA-Channel 8 still has Byron Harris and Brett Shipp, two of the consistently best investigative reporters in the market. But Channel 11's news team just seems to work harder and dig deeper day in and day out. Politicos and public relations types keep a close eye on Sarah Dodd's City Hall coverage to know what's up and what's coming. Steve Pickett provides smart, sharp coverage of the city's Byzantine public school system. Robert Riggs is a top investigative reporter. J.D. Miles is one of the city's most versatile general assignment reporters. Newcomer Jack Fink has hit homers on the police and terrorism beats. They've taken on top-flight journalists as their behind-the-scenes producers. And Tracy Rowlett, co-anchor and managing editor, always pushes his staff for that extra edge that makes them, we think, the best news show in town.

Readers' Pick

WFAA-Channel 8

Like comic books and graphic novels, customized motorcycle and auto art is underrated. The skill required to paint a flawless pinstripe by hand or to render Elvis' snarl on the body of a Gold Wing calls for the most delicate and gifted touch. Charles Arvin has that touch and is one of the most prolific "customizers" in the area. Sport bike stunters commission his work on their two-wheeled loves. He's created the most hypnotizing collage of American flags one has ever seen on a gas tank. Custom-car collectors call on him to flame the fenders of classics from the 1950s and 1960s. But Arvin's work isn't restricted to vehicles. Arvin also has to his credit a collection of paintings done of World War II fighter planes, and his wildlife paintings have a dynamic play of color and shadow, while every hair is represented and every leaf is crinkled just so. Arvin's portfolio feels like that of a tattoo artist. People entrust him with marking things dear to them, and his commitment to his work seems so much more dire, more serious than a painter of canvas works.

Think pageant and immediately the mind calls up Miss America-like shows with stupid and obvious questions answered by vapid, hair-sprayed women in sparkly gowns. It's different at Buddies II. (Somehow we suspect Adam West won't be hosting the next Ms. Femme/Ms. Butch Buddies pageant at the homey lesbian bar.) Sure, there's a formal dress competition, and there are questions for contestants to answer, but the mood is completely laid-back, fun and supportive. We don't anticipate anyone sabotaging the talent portion of the show, and the congrats given when winners are announced are wholehearted. This fun, girly/not-so-girly version of a pageant is truly entertaining, and the crowd feels like family.

From the warped mind of local photographer Bobby Jack Pack Jr. comes one sick, twisted and absolutely hysterical sketch comedy show. The show, started more than a decade ago, stars a rotating cast and is filmed, well, whenever the hell they feel like it. Same goes for the airing, too, as the BJPSCS randomly shows on public access television or at theaters like the Magnolia, which has aired it in conjunction with other local indie-film projects. Sketches involve anything from a grown man in a green sequined leotard pumping gas on Live Oak Street while on his way to a "dance audition" to a woman finding a severed head in her credenza and simply tossing it out the front door to create a grisly traffic obstacle. It's like Dallas' own Mr. Show. Thankfully, DVDs are available on the Web site since the show's airings are often anyone's guess.

Fancy yourself a comedian, eh? Well, put together a two-minute routine and try to woo the audience at the West End Comedy Theater's open mike every Wednesday at 8 p.m. The forum is open to singer/songwriters and performance artists as well, but we find the real test of humiliating the self comes with an amateur round of comedy. Not to worry--we doubt there's any produce thrown, but give it a shot and judge from your mates' reactions as you bound offstage to see if you were right when you said, "Dude, I could totally work this crowd." If right, you were a shining star. If you were wrong, at least you can add one of the most terrifying and exhilarating experiences to your entertainment résumé.

Oh, you could hand over a collection of old sculptures to the city. The newspapers would lavish praise on you, and the 500 or so people in Texas who actually appreciate bits of cast-off construction material welded into odd shapes would consider you some sort of god. Working for broader goals--the eradication of AIDS, an end to poverty, that sort of thing--rarely nets personal glory. Rich folks typically fight these problems from a safe distance, with a checkbook. No matter how much they donate, however, few can match the efforts of radio personality Action Jaxon. He organized the city's largest AIDS testing drive, participated in 7 UP's Serving Up a Cure dinner three years in a row, hosted the AIDS Arms Life Walk four years in a row, serves as a board member for the AIDS Services of Dallas, rode in eight fund-raising bike rides and so on. In addition, he volunteers at various homeless shelters and spends one week a year living in a shelter as a way to raise awareness. Then there's his work with the Carter BloodCare Blood Drive, Boxing for Life, reading programs...the more people George W. forces into poverty, the harder this guy battles back.

It depends on who tells the story. Either Dallas Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson rudely shoved Nate Wright to the ground as Roger Staubach's desperation heave descended on that fateful day, one game before the Super Bowl, in 1975, or the hapless Viking simply fell victim to incidental contact. When Minnesota fans approach Pearson for an autograph, however, he lets them know precisely where he stands on the issue, signing the ball, paper or family heirloom thusly: "I did not push Nate Wright, he pushed me. Get over it. Hail Mary, 12/28/75."

We've started bragging that we used to be in the local band [DARYL]. With all the lineup changes in the last 15 months, no one would be the wiser, perhaps not even the actual members of [DARYL]. It was hard to keep track--we tried, but it was at a bar, on a napkin. You know how these things go. The starting lineup was Dylan Silvers on guitar and vocals, Jeff Parker on bass and vocals, Michael Lamm on drums and Dave Wilson on guitar, keyboards and backup vocals. Parker left; Silvers switched to bass. Justin Wood was added on guitar, along with Angie Comley on keyboards and vocals. Wilson left. Dave Christensen took over on bass, and Silvers went back to guitar. Christensen moved to guitar when Wood left, and Comley's replacements were dual keyboardists/vocalists Justen Andrews and Beau Wagener. At some point, former keyboardist Chad Ferman filled in, a saxophonist named David Hayes was added, and, we think, Santana did a riff or two (that guy plays with everyone). What we do know is that [DARYL] has kept the same lineup for a dozen shows now and sounds better than it has in more than a year. Gentlemen, keep your seats.

The D-FW theater scene needs a lesson on supply and demand. There is too much of what we don't want. Seriously, could anyone else stage Annie or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat this year? Was there a clearance sale at the costume warehouse? And then there's the matter of too little of what we do want, mainly Our Endeavors Theater Collective, whose schedule includes only Around the World With Blackbrows the Pirate, an original play to tour elementary schools this semester, and another play that has yet to be determined. Both will surely be worth trespassing at DISD or driving to Tyler for, though we won't object to a legal visitation at a theater near downtown. The 7-year-old, dozen-member ensemble founded by couple Scott Osborne and Patti Kirkpatrick is innovative, mesmerizing, compelling, fantastical and about a million other gushy adjectives we could string together, whether they're performing a rare and heady work by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz or pulling out the fishnets and garters for Extreme Acts, a burlesque, sideshow, comedy, musical, dance revue.

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