Local animator Deanna Molinaro writes and illustrates storybooks that would traumatize most children but that, in truth, aren't any scarier than Grimm's fairy tales. With a few exceptions (she's marked innocuous, all-ages books "OK for children"), the stories explore that sort of nightmarish what-if world that smart kids tend to imagine early on. Molinaro says she writes the books "for fun, and without a single thought of the audience for them or what's right, wrong, appropriate." The often-wide-eyed hand-drawn characters are both lovable and haunting, and her black humor is reminiscent of the great Charles Addams. Her most recent release, this year's A Boy and His Sheep, is the story of a spoiled boy who is so cruel to his doting mother that she finally — well, we don't want to ruin the specifics for you, but let's just say it doesn't work out for everyone. Molinaro sells her books on her website (along with signed prints) but also offers them for viewing entirely online. "It's always surprising to find out anyone likes them," Molinaro says. "I guess as long as I continue to have crippling self-doubt they will all be free online to read." With seven strong offerings in print, she really shouldn't doubt anymore.
G'Nosh
Luckily for the artistically challenged, there's a whole crop of art studios that tout their abilities to turn finger-painters into pseudo-Van Goghs. And they encourage you to bring your own booze to swig while you make your own "Starry Nights." Some of the teachers at these classes have made us wish we just went straight to happy hour, but not the talented staff at G'Nosh, home of our favorite teacher, Margo. Margo doesn't roll her eyes when you decide to go another direction with that skyline painting and add the unfinished Museum Tower. No, she doesn't judge. She encourages creativity and fun, which is what a painting class that involves booze and cheese plates is all about.
You can find Sober in the club — or at a bar spinning to the post-brunch crowd, or in a retail spot entertaining the shoppers, or at a corporate event educating the cubicle-dwelling masses — but you'll never, ever find him with a bottle of bub. Will Rhoten's DJ name isn't a gimmick; the dude straight-up doesn't drink, which may or may not be at least part of the reason that he's the best spinner in town. It helps that he's never even buzzed — it means he's never sloppy. He's professional to a T, and, better yet, the guy has taste. He can spin whatever — classic hip-hop, indie electronica, R&B and funk, you name it — and he often does. Trick is, when he switches things up, he does so smartly: He knows more than just how to build a vibe, but also how to keep it, and, more important maybe, how to alter it slightly without killing it. There's a reason his free-to-attend Beauty Bar residency, Big Bang!, which hosts nationally touring guest DJ appearances and live performances from even the likes of Spank Rock, is so popular — and it's not just those names-in-bold. At one point a key member of the super-popular area DJ collective The Party, Sober, now solo, still knows where it's at. Oh, and he's an illustrator and clothing designer, too.
They say one bad apple can ruin the bunch, but let's hope that's not the case with Los Angeles promotion company Insomniac Events' Electric Daisy Carnival, which back in June returned to the city-owned Fair Park complex for the second year in a row. The electronic music festival, which since coming to Dallas has brought in the celebrated likes of Moby, Diplo, Benny Benassi, Kaskade and Rusko to play for tens of thousands, is a true sensory overload. In addition to the music, there's visual art, decked-out masses and an open-arms vibe from the crowds. It's a great time, even if some of the negative effects of rave culture are present too; at this year's event, dozens were hospitalized after overheating, and a 19-year-old Argyle resident died after his friends saw him take ecstasy. Thing is, you really don't need any drugs to enjoy EDC's offerings — you just need the wherewithal to grasp that Dallas could use this kind of all-are-welcome entertainment. Maybe some earplugs. And some good sense, too — which, we hope, the city showcases next year when the time comes for the festival to return, realizing that, in EDC's case, the good really does outweigh the bad.
Dallas Aquarium
In December 2010 what was once the Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park officially reopened as The Children's Aquarium at Fair Park, and the changes made were certainly for the better. The venue now features interactive exhibits at eye level for the target demographic. Some of the rays in Stingray Bay are touchable for certain tots, but even babies can sit alongside the feature and bond with the graceful creatures through the glass. Other exhibit zones are organized by type of water or the area in which creatures are found (freshwater, intertidal, near shore, etc.). For kiddos who have seen or can visualize a beach, the set-up is easy to navigate and accessible. And, ultimately, that's the biggest draw of the aquarium: While some of the creatures might be considered intimidating or scary (octopus, piranha, eel), the surrounding displays and structure of the museum are anything but.
You've seen chickens before, but have you ever seen a white crested black Polish chicken? Think in terms of the Muppet Big Bird, shrunk down to chicken size but twice as strange. Maybe three times. Another chicken that might set you back apace if you haven't seen one before is the mottled houdan. We can't really describe it, but you can see these and a wonderful variety of regular old chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks and game birds just by walking through the Fur & Feather Building on the weekend of the big Pan Am Poultry Show at the Texas State Fair. Fur & Feather is where the contestants all bed down between appearances. It's open to the public. Be prepared for random loud outbursts of gobbling.
Galaxy Drive In Theatre
A previous Best of Dallas winner, the Galaxy Drive-In is an incredibly fun and affordable night out, starting with the well-worn miniature golf course and ending with the kindly attendants who can jump-start your car in a jiffy if your battery drains in the course of a double feature. But your trip to Ennis just isn't complete if you don't grab a hot dog, burger, funnel cake or bag of cotton candy. Not because you're hungry, necessarily, but because the place would turn into a desolate wasteland without that extra revenue, just as all too many drive-in theaters have before it. That's what the public service announcements playing before screenings suggest, at least, complete with footage of sun-bleached, wind-damaged screens and sad music. There are much cheerier vintage theater commercials advertising concessions as well, but nonetheless, the theater has pulled off an unlikely emotional coup. Usually we feel guilty when we do snack, not when we don't.
Texas Theatre
Barak Epstein
It's hard to walk into Oak Cliff's Texas Theatre and not feel the history thick in the air. The stucco walls on the interior cover up the theater's original architecture that was in place the day Lee Harvey Oswald ducked in without paying, shortly after the death of President John F. Kennedy. Since then, the theater has changed hands several times, and in 2010 was reopened under the management of Aviation Cinemas Inc., which screens an impressive mix of award-winning indie flicks and cult classics. But you don't need to be a film buff to enjoy The Texas Theatre; the bar in the lobby offers craft beers and pre-Prohibition-style cocktails inspired by the 1920s, when the theater first opened.
Who knows how these things happen? An outwardly respectable neighborhood in Old East Dallas has for six consecutive years puts on an increasingly and wonderfully bizarre Easter Bunny parade. Some of the bunnies, especially the ones with coconut brassieres, don't look like Easter Bunnies at all. They look more like Tim Burton scary-cute monsters. On one float a Viking lady with coconuts throws rubber snakes to the crowd from pastel toilets. Yup. You read it here. The thing is run by the "Newellian Bunny Board," whose web page shows them all wearing bunny suits and smoking cigars with guns in their hands. They're a tad short on corporate communications, this bunny board, so you'll have to Google them as the time approaches. But we can tell you one thing: You're never going to see an Easter parade like this in Southlake.
Forget the women up around Northwest Highway — the ones "working their way through college" or whatever. The best stripping act we've seen for years in Dallas came last year when Erykah Badu strolled up to Dealey Plaza and stripped with a purpose at the spot where John F. Kennedy was killed. Oh yeah, then she died (metaphorically, on film). The act was shot as the music video for "Window Seat," the lead single off of Badu's brilliant New Amerykah Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh, and the message was a simple stab at the world we live in: If we let society look through us, if we let others dictate our actions, if we're too scared to show our true selves to the world, then we're killing the best parts about us. The Dallas Police Department didn't think it was a very powerful statement: They slapped Badu with a $500 fine for disorderly conduct after a single complainant, after the video was released (and months after it was filmed), came forward. Our stance? Dallas could use more daring and provocative types like Badu. Progress shouldn't draw a fine.

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