Best Family Court Judge 2010 | Tena Callahan,302nd District Court | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

It's no small thing being branded an activist judge in Texas, particularly because judges are elected and the state is so conservative and activist judges raise the ire of heavily financed tort reformers. Add to this the fact that the judge is in family court where the law is rarely challenged or changed, and you can sense how much courage it would take to grant a divorce to a gay couple in Texas, when there's a state constitutional amendment forbidding that same gay couple from ever getting married here in the first place. Yet in October, two men who were legally married in Massachusetts and had moved to Dallas presented themselves before the 302nd District Judge Tena Callahan and requested a divorce. Not so fast, said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who tried to intervene in the case, representing the state's interest in defending the constitutional ban. But Callahan refused to let him join the party and then ruled that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. She later amended her ruling and based it on the Texas Family Code, but what the heck, the line was drawn. Although the conservative 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas reversed her ruling, Callahan's decision might have sparked an Austin judge to rule in the same manner. With this ruling also on appeal, before the more liberal 3rd Court of Appeals, the case may be in the courts for quite some time. We can only hope that Judge Callahan will be too.

You really have to hand it to KKXT-91.7 FM. Even if its playlists are pretty random, the station, with its tag line "music to the core," is a refreshing entity amid the national corporate-helmed options cluttering your FM dial. Never is the KERA sister station and NPR affiliate's free-form nature more evident than for two hours on Sunday nights when Paul Slavens takes over the airwaves. Slavens knows no format. He'll play whatever he wants—and, more often than not, whatever you want—so long as it's original and different from what you'll hear elsewhere. He'll play old, forgotten AM classics, oddball pop tunes and, perhaps most endearingly, plenty of local tunes. A musician himself—a genius behind the keys and in improvised lyrics—Slavens knows firsthand that not everyone wants to hear the same Rihanna song over and over. Or, in KKXT's case, even the same Wilco one. Slavens takes us on a sonic adventure that's perfect, calming listening to end your weekend and start your week. His cool-as-ice on-air vocal delivery doesn't hurt either.

Pardon Me, Jonathan Tyler And the Northern Lights
John McCaa, WFAA

Yes, AMC NorthPark 15 is part of a major chain. But, hold up, naysayers. It's also got ample leg space (good for shopping bags and tired legs), great sound and a burly concession stand. The theater provides both 3D and non-3D options for films available in both formats, and offers a killer blend of mainstream big-budget flicks and indie/art house films. If you're playing hooky, there's really no better place to rock out a double (or triple) feature thanks to the well-staggered viewing schedule and numerous distractions to fill gaps between shows. And, really, who are we to bitch about AMC MovieWatcher rewards and line-avoiding ticket kiosks? The Inwood, Magnolia and Angelika are fine destination theaters, but when you're strolling through the merchandised masses and need an escape, AMC NorthPark is a silver-screened heaven.

If only because you can only shoot so many portraits in front of brick walls and murals, the Traveling Man has been a welcome addition to the Dallas cityscape. But after a year of keeping watch over Deep Ellum's western front, the hulking guitar-headed robot man, towering public art installation and friend to all giant metal birds, has finally shed his novelty. A year ago as we watched the Traveling Man come together, artists Brad Oldham and Brandon Oldenburg said the design was all about nodding to Deep Ellum's history—from the Traveling Man's pants of steel to a creation myth about an elm tree and a bottle of gin—while haters complained it was too corporate, too whimsical or even too reflective. A year on, though, the argument's died down and this three-piece sculpture series has become something else entirely: a familiar welcome home into the city's best-loved neighborhood.

If you attended any musical theater productions in or around Dallas over the past 12 months, you probably saw 21-year-old SMU theater major Katharine Gentsch singing and dancing somewhere just behind the lead actors. Since September 2009, she has appeared in a remarkable string of shows: as a "Hot Box Girl" in Guys and Dolls at WaterTower Theatre, in the chorus of Breathe at Uptown Players, playing the little sister in Sanders Family Christmas at the Bath House Cultural Center (a role she'll reprise this fall), singing and dancing in Lyric Stage's Showboat, in Bye Bye Birdie at Richland College and in a different, professional production of the same show at Lyric, hoofing it in Uptown's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and in Garland Summer Musicals' 42nd Street, and most recently in Lyric's big-budget My Fair Lady. When she's not onstage, Gentsch is tweeting about how much she loves musicals. One day soon she'll get that starring role, but until then save a little applause for the pretty redhead just out of the spotlight.

Presented last fall by The City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs in conjunction with Theatre Communications Group, the Free Night of Theater launched a national program to bring new audiences to live theater performances. Thousands took up the offers of free tickets from Kitchen Dog Theater, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, the Eisemann Center, Rover Dramawerks, Teatro Dallas, Dallas Children's Theater, Dallas Theater Center and Shakespeare Dallas, plus a dozen others. The generous cooperation of these arts organizations raised awareness of this city's great theater companies and allowed many new audience members to experience the excitement of professional live theater for the first time.

His biggest career accomplishment? Saving the governor's kidnapped son all the way back in 1985. And, OK, maybe he's been riding that train about 25 years too long at this point. But the fact remains: Dan Stark is a goddamn hero, folks. And it's not just his mustache, his always-present aviator shades, his sweet 1979 Trans Am or the fact that he lives in a trailer in the shadow of the Fair Park Ferris wheel that does the trick. No, it's that somehow, against all odds, Stark and his straight-laced partner Jack Bailey, despite being pinned with petty crime investigation after petty crime investigation, manage to bust big-time punk after big-time punk—and at a clip of about once a week, no less! It's impressive to say the least. Add in the fact that he does this while bedding female witnesses left and right—while drinking on the job—and, really, that's a man worth decorating. The guy's already had one TV movie made in his honor. At this point, he deserves a ridiculously highly rated TV series. Maybe on Fox?

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