Nobody wants their tech support guy to be evil. It's emasculating enough that you can't make that 279-Error window go away, but does the guy really have to act like it's just so freaking easy? Dr. Emilio Bombay, the Star-Telegram's computer columnist, would likely answer a hearty "Yes!" to that question, followed by a long tirade about how you are, in fact, a blithering idiot. Yikes. Honing sarcasm down to a fine, fine art not seen in most major-market newspapers, Bombay manages to be both helpful and truly vile at the same time, as he responds to reader questions about tech problems, Internet privacy issues and the odd hardware bug. If you're like us, you'll always like the guy so long as you don't get any big ideas and write in. After one of his sharp skewerings, you'll tremble so hard at the sight of a Startle Gram you won't even be able to pick the thing up.
The first time we walked into Rogers Wildlife, Kathy Rogers was slicing up frozen baby mice. Their oozing red guts made us pause for a moment, forgetting why we were there. Then she showed us what the mice were for--barn owls that someone had rescued from a deer blind, barely downy and obviously helpless. Rogers seemed surprised that we wanted to walk around the place, but she welcomed us. The large property is home to an avian rehabilitation facility that treats songbirds and raptors plus a score of other animals Rogers has taken in as part of her USDA-licensed farm sanctuary. Rogers and her staff are always looking for volunteers to help care for the animals and the center. Not saying that any of our dear readers would ever be ordered by a court to perform community service, but if perchance you were, the wildlife center would be glad for your help.
An insightful writer in spite of--or perhaps because of--his reflective hatred of everything suburban, Dallas Morning News architecture critic David Dillon was a must-read in a city that is rapidly redefining how it looks. As new high-rises sprang up overnight, Dillon deftly cataloged the good, the bad and the sprawling, often making you wish planners had bothered to consult him personally before breaking ground. His reporting and commentary on Victory Park was fascinating, illustrating how the project emphasizes "streets, blocks and squares" unlike most of the city's flashy throw-'em-ups, which only look terrific from far away. Also memorable, his dressing-down of the horrific new shopping center at McKinney and Pearl. Dillon could be pretentious. His coverage of "Forward Dallas" was confused. But like all good critics, his value system was transparent. With Dallas battling futilely against suburban sprawl and urban blight, Dillon, yet another fine columnist lost to readers by the DMN's recent get-out/buyouts, pointed the way to what a real city could look like.
Maybe the first date is not the time to try to impress a woman with tales of your extensive gun collection (unless you're in East Texas, in which case it may win you a lot of points). Of course, you could just skip the small talk and take your date right to the Bullet Trap, where she'll whisper sweet nothings to you while you unload magazine after magazine from your Glock into a silhouette target. Or if you're not comfortable, uh, shooting on the first date, you can peruse their impressive selection of new and used firearms and accessories. (Tell her that if she's lucky, maybe she'll find a derringer in her stocking next Christmas.) If your lady's a safety girl, they offer classes for the novice and classes to qualify for a concealed-handgun permit. If you're packin', you want to make sure your woman knows how to handle your gun.
Some people wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on weekend mornings, ready to start their day with a jog 'round the lake or a trip to Whole Foods for some 40-grain, organic, free-range granola. Other people have to peel themselves off a drool-covered pillow and throw back three or four ibuprofen with a quart of steaming Colombian brew before anybody gets any big ideas about grocery shopping. Lament not, members of the second group; Gachet Coffee Lounge feels your pain. On Saturday mornings, a steady flow of hangover sufferers stumble into Gachet smelling of eau-de-last-night's-party. The baristas are gracious enough not to overdo the cheer--no morning with a hangover is a "good" morning, after all--and the custom brews are sure to brighten your eyes even if they don't bush up your tail. Not so bad when you consider you may run into Friday night's piece of tail at the milk-and-sugar stand. Awkward.
Although he would hate to be referred to as the conscience of southern Dallas, Michael Davis has claimed the holy ground between the unethical and hapless political leadership of the southern sector and their bigoted and hypocritical detractors. A smart blogger whose reporting on city events is often a step or two ahead of the lumbering Dallas Morning News, Davis is more than just a critic. He's been active campaigning against southern Dallas' tired political guard, arguing in favor of new, reform-minded leadership. He's also helped wage a successful fight to close down a notorious hot sheet motel in Fair Park. His blog, Dallasprogress.blogspot.com, gives readers a snapshot into his progressive world view. He loathes the smarmy leadership of city council member Leo Chaney while being equally dismissive of the Dallas Police Department's recent assertion that a hip-hop song led to a shooting death. Davis pays attention to the minutiae of city affairs, while turning his sharp gaze north of the Trinity.
Although the formula for pop culture blogs is relatively simple--a mix of embarrassing photos, a little gossip and quick, bitchy put-downs--few people know how to do it really well. Some try to make their pop culture blog a scholarly treatise on entertainment, while others try to reinvent themselves as the next Janet Maslin (the New York Times' notoriously picky culture critic). But the local co-authors of Pope-rahsays.blogspot.com realize just what you want to read at work: quick-to-read-gems of pop culture silliness, including photos of Paris Hilton with funny one-liners about her huge, manly feet--who knew?--and embarrassing party pics of Lindsay Lohan with catty comments about how rapidly she's aging (think bad dude in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). This is not a blog that's going to change the world, the city or even your mind, but for the times at work when you need a brain break, this blog is mental Club Med.
Sometimes, you just want to take off all your clothes and have someone rub lotion all over your body--in the middle of a workday. Before Massage Envy came along, the only way of fulfilling this basic human need was to deal with some unsavory characters over on Northwest Highway. But now, every respectable achy back with $39 can call upon a certified massage therapist for aid at a moment's notice. The Massage Envy mantra is this: Everyone deserves a professional, affordable massage. Walk-ins are welcome, and members even more so, though the $39 is only for first-timers. After you join, a $49 monthly fee gets you one hour-long massage and discounts on subsequent massages. Tell your boss you're taking a long lunch today. You've got to go lie around in your underwear for an hour.
Dallas supports a strange and wonderful little industry of professional book reviewers. Not the ones who read a new best-seller and type 500 words of yay or nay. These folks perform the books. At churches, country clubs and women's luncheon groups, the book reviewers bring their tomes alive. More than 75 times this year Dr. Lurline Morrow, currently one of the most in-demand and most entertaining among the area's 40 to 50 professional reviewers, has been booked to do her one-woman/one-book act. She's packed the house at Highland Park United Methodist's popular speakers' series and now is busy all over Dallas (and as far away as Wyoming) presenting her new take on the biography Chanel: A Woman of Her Own (in the past she's done books on the scandal-ridden Gucci and Vanderbilt families). Her audience isn't expected to read the book or discuss it. Morrow admits that what she does is "purely for entertainment." But along with relating juicy facts about her subject, she's known to delve into the psychological profiles of the rich and famous. Part lecturer, part literary stand-up comic, Morrow's a star on the tea-sandwich circuit.
Backdoor Comedy
Nothing incites more painful cringing than watching someone really go out on a limb, make four times the required effort and fail miserably. This is simultaneously one of the best and worst things about live stand-up comedy, depending on your propensity for schadenfreude. Comics and comedy venues alike are prone to the sad fate of trying too hard to cater to everyone, which is why the Backdoor Comedy Club is such a relief from the same old shtick. Intimate and unassuming, Backdoor is run by two of the funniest women in town, Linda Stogner and Jan Norton. Each weekend, eight or more comics are featured per night, from local favorites to new faces trying out material in the tiny theater. The crowd's always appreciative and manageable for the waitstaff, which means prompt service and less of a chance you'll want to pummel the heckler in the front row. For a city prone to taking itself far too seriously, Dallas is lucky to have had Stogner and Norton's weekly doses of funny for 15 years running.

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