Perhaps it's not fair to call Midlake's Bamnan and Slivercork the best local album of the year. Sure, it's great, but the word "local" might be considered a stretch. First off, the album hasn't yet seen an official launch in the United States, though that hasn't stopped local record shops from importing the album from Britain's Bella Union label in droves. To further complicate things, Midlake hardly sounds like it comes from America, much less Denton--there's really no other group making music like this in the region, as jazzy drumbeats, swirling keyboards and undernourished guitars unite in Pink Flaming Grandaddy Air Floyd Lips fashion. And, honestly, how many Dallas bands have mastered their albums at Abbey Road Studios? Therefore, we understand if a few people scoff at the "local" tag given to Bamnan, but in the end, we're damn proud to claim any local ties to an album this impressive.

Readers' Pick

[DARYL] Ohio

Containing a wealth of do-it-yourself legal information, the Dallas County Law Library is free for all Dallas County residents. Librarian David Wilkinson estimates that of the 250 people who use the library each day, only about half are attorneys. What are all of these non-lawyers doing in a law library? Taking care of routine legal matters without the expense of hiring a lawyer, says librarian Gerald Bynum. Such cases could range from name changes to uncontested divorces and simple wills. Prominent on the library information sheets listing available services is this disclaimer: "It is unlawful for library employees to interpret legal materials or to advise people how the law might apply to their situation." Another available giveaway, sponsored by the Dallas Bar Association, lists 28 legal clinics and counseling services that can provide this kind of information at no or low cost.

Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery

As digital photography gets cheaper and easier to use, Kodak moment by Kodak moment, we fear film will become obsolete. And for most people that's probably true. But for the few, the proud, those who practiced prying open film canisters and rolling film around developing reels in the dark, those whose favorite shirts bear developer and fixer splash stains across the tummy, film will never die, even if we have to hold protests with SLRs, Holgas, Brownies and Dianas in hand. Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery knows a picture is worth a thousand words, and for almost a decade owners Burt and Missy Finger have been feeding them to us, exhibit by exhibit, black and white, color, daguerreotype, digitally altered, historic, up-and-coming, teacher, student. And they've never disappointed. We can't name a gallery more consistent in its quality of shows. Plus we know they'll be on our side when the revolution comes.

When it comes to permanently scarring our body with needles and ink, we require three things: cleanliness, comfort and chemistry. We need to know the equipment is sanitary. We need people who ease our anxiety. And we need to know that the artist will work with us to make us happy. And that's why we keep going back to Pair O' Dice (and so do our friends). Richard Stell's been running this Deep Ellum institution for 11 years, enlisting the help of partner/artist Deb Brody and a succession of "kids" who hone their craft under his steady and heavy hand. Your mama may have said never trust a man with tattoos, but she was wrong.

Readers' Pick

Tigger's Tattoos

2602 Main St.

214-655-2639

Best Way to Satisfy Pretty Much Every Vice at the Same Time

Free poker tournaments at The Lodge

The Lodge

We live in a world of modern convenience where cars have TVs and DVD players in them and even a lowly cigarette lighter can occasionally be outfitted to double as a bottle opener. The same concept of convenience applies to the free Sunday-afternoon no-limit Texas hold 'em tourneys at The Lodge, which, if you didn't know, is one of the area's finer gentlemen's clubs. (Or strip bar. Whatever. We're cool either way.) Where else can you gamble, drink, smoke and ogle nekkid ladies at the same time? Oh, yeah. Vegas. But that's, like, far away and stuff. Besides, we're fairly sure you can't do all of that at the same time, even there. If you're feeling guilty about this, just hit church in the morning.

When you're in a band with, like, 24 other people, you're not going to get rich anytime soon. Probably not ever. You can, however, be famous--sort of--if that band happens to be The Polyphonic Spree. You'll tour with David Bowie, travel around the world for free, see your face in magazines and on TV, hear your voice or flute or French horn or whatever on the radio, maybe even be detained by the FBI from time to time. And as soon as you take off your choir robe, not a single person will know who you are. It's the best of both worlds, getting all the cool stuff with none of the hassle. Only downside: Anyone under the age of 40 who owns a white choir robe and can sway in a rhythmic fashion can pretend to be you. But that's pretty cool, too, right?

Rosewood Center for the Family Arts

This chunk of concrete and steel on Skillman Street near Northwest Highway was a Don Carter's All Star Lanes, with peewee leagues where kids would win tiny trophies and learn the thrill of victory and the agony of an ill-timed gutter ball. Now--nearly $10 million and two and a half years of construction later--you'd barely recognize it. Renamed the Rosewood Center for Family Arts, it's the home of the Dallas Children's Theater, where kids take classes on being tiny Laurence Oliviers and learn the thrill of professionally produced drama starring adult actors, some of whom also teach at the facility, which houses two theaters (one seats 400; the other, 140), classrooms, DCT's offices, a scene shop, a prop studio and a costume warehouse. The fund raising has been mostly grassroots, donated by fans of children's theater--both individual and professional--and the renovations continue as money comes available. Gone are the Oscar Mayer hot dogs. It's time for some Oscar-aspiring performances.

While all the other talk jocks seem to be collapsing into a single personality and voice, Mark Davis gets more distinctive. First of all, he actually knows some stuff and appears to have a life, something beyond skimming the front page and then trying to channel Rush Limbaugh. Some of his tangents are arcane, like his passionate interest in the sport of curling, but at least you know he gets out of the sound booth once in a while. His callers are often an intriguing lot, like the woman who, while calling, was being attacked by a basset hound, a toy poodle and a dachshund/Chihuahua mix but wanted to keep talking to Davis anyway. That's animal magnetism! Generally speaking, Mark Davis provides a uniquely engaging perspective on the city's everyday life.

Readers' Pick

Russ Martin Show

Live 105.3

Overheard at Best Buy last year: "I'm into all kinds of music. I listen to Nelly and Limp Bizkit." Right, buddy. Now, granted, everyone winds up claiming musical impartiality at some point in his life, but there's no way a person can like every single genre in the world. Do your tastes honestly jump from Tejano to punk rock, from mainstream rap to lo-fi folk, from electroclash to country? If so, you must be one of the five fortunate souls in Dallas who can actually hear KTCU 88.7's The Good Show on Sunday nights. Tom Urquhart's wholeheartedly anti-commercial blast of musical variety will test both your claims of musical appreciation and your radio's antenna, but if you can pick up an effin' signal without driving west on Interstate 30, you're in for a sonic range unavailable on any other frequency in town. Watch out for the DJ banter, though, because when Tom, Chris and Tony aren't interviewing local musicians, they're wasting precious minutes on debates as odd as, say, the superiority of Nelly over Limp Bizkit.

Here's yet another reason to feel guilty about not pledging, or not paying your pledge, to public radio. Glenn Mitchell's noon-to-2 p.m. show on Dallas' public radio station, KERA-FM, is not only wildly entertaining, dastardly informative and harpooningly to the point, it's the local intelligentsia's preferred manner of intercourse. It's conveniently scheduled as well, while we're mad-dashing around town at lunchtime trying to find any parking space on Commerce or Elm. Content of the show defies categorization or even adequate description, but Mitchell's first hour is usually programmed for audience call-in or e-mail participation with a celebrity, notable, topical or otherwise interesting guest in the Dallas studio. The second hour is often one-on-one interviews he conducts with authors, poets, politicos, historians and others with something to share. The variety of the guests and topics makes Mitchell's show the best; and we like the soft, Jimmy Stewart-like Everyman quality of his voice, too.

Readers' Pick

Kidd Kraddick

Best Of Dallas®

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