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A recent survey in Men’s Health ranks Plano as the third best city for men based on “health,” “life” and “fitness.” Here’s the deal: it’s really hard to decipher how it is that the periodical came to this conclusion, other than they claim to have measured 37 categories.  And, I can’t tell you what those 37 categories are, because after perusing the article for a good 15-20 minutes, I gave up trying to figure out the math that went into this oh, so scientific survey. What I can tell you is that Plano finished first in weight training, based on a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, according to the Men’s Health article. So, there’s that cause for celebration, too!

However, according to The Business Journals, Plano does top all other Texas cities in ‘brainpower.’ This ranking came from educational statistics compiled from U.S. Census data. This stat might also come from the Men’s Health determination that Plano is considered the “most tech-friendly” city in America. Interestingly enough, this was determined by counting the number of Apple and Best Buy stores per capita, as well as the percentage of households that own tablets, notebooks, or laptops. Way to go, Amex warriors of Plano! I won’t mention that there is also an article stating that viewing nude women can boost your brainpower too (oops, I just mentioned it). Now we have a guess as to what’s being bookmarked on those laptops and tablets, I suppose? 

Plano sure seems to be the “tops” of its fair share of categories. They did miss out one one crown, however. Turns out, Plano did not top the list of “Cavity Capitals”. Alas, Dallas took home that most anti-dentite of titles.

A couple of months ago, we happily shared the news with you that our fearless leader, Carrie Layne, was honored as one of the brightest young business brains in Texas. Well, now, she’s going to be one of the folks helping those who are interested gain a greater understanding for how Social Media can help companies of all sorts get the word out about their products and events.

Carrie will be one of the presenters at this year’s Social Media Club of Dallas Social Media Showcase. In its first year, the line-up looks to be great, and with the event being held at the Angelika Theatre in Dallas (with an after-party at Central 214), it seems to be on the right track in terms of knowing how to get the ball rolling on a quality, annual event.

Please note, the folks presenting ideas throughout the showcase aren’t a random bunch of techies. These are leaders that Club says “were selected for case studies that highlighted social media successes and innovations.”

Want more information? Here’s a few key details that the Social media Club of Dallas sent our way…

The Social Media Showcase is ideal for professionals who want to better understand how social media can benefit a business or organization. The event will provide real-world insights for those at an agency or in a corporate marketing role to improve their knowledge of what works in social media and how to apply best practices.

The Social Media Showcase will take place at Angelika Movie Theatre from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 22, 2011 with a post-event celebration at Central 214 inside the Palomar Hotel. Early registration is available through September 21, 2011 and is $25. Late registration on September 22, 2011 is $35. To register for the event, visit http://smcdallas25.eventbrite.com/.

I love cars. I love driving, racing, and traveling by car. I’m that guy who gets up early on a Sunday to wash a car by hand. I love gadgets and gizmos and sensual design, so there are no words that can strike fear as deep into my heart as: “Your minivan is here.”

The Minivan: An anonymous, emasculating, cheerio-encrusted,suburban assault vehicle. Typically, they burst with the soul-destroying songs of Sponge Bob, and Dora the Explorer for the pre-Beiber set. It seems as though the car seat-mounted children stare as blankly at their mobile entertainment units as the sleep deprived parents do from the driver’s seat.

Do you get the notion that driving a minivan is not on my “must do” list? Checking any sort of residual masculinity at the door, Toyota dropped off a 2011 Sienna for Any Driven Sunday to test out, recently. In my front window, my neutered Yellow Labrador Retriever, Carlin, smiled, “Now, you will know how I felt!”

As much as I don’t want to admit it, the Sienna is about the only minivan I’ve driven that might rate as kind of cool. It’s a good-looking vehicle, and with optional, high-end aerodynamic front bumper fascia, and all the bells and whistles jammed into the “Limited” it wasn’t as bad as my preconceived notions warned.

The price starts at $24,000 and steps up to $25,600 for LE trim, $30,000 for the SE, $32,500 for the XLE and $38,800 for the fully loaded-up Limited. Even at the entry point, the Sienna is pretty well put together. The Limited had leather-covered everything, dual DVD, navigation, and pretty much every option available on a car or truck.

Both rear side doors were power and remote-operated from the key-fob, as was the rear hatch. Such an attribute is pretty cool, and for the I-have-to-carry-everything-in-one-trip set, it’s very convenient, indeed.

The more I drove the Sienna, the more I realized that if one is ever forced into this market segment – and no one ever wakes up saying they WANT a minivan unless they need one – the Sienna is easily one of the better choices out there.

As I was setting up next to a suburban soccer field to take some pictures of the van, I couldn’t help become hyper-aware that I didn’t belong there. As a 45 year old, single dude with a pretty expensive camera in tow, driving a minivan, I figured that someone would have called Chris Hansen, and that any second, the “To Catch a Predator” staff was going to jump out from behind a bush. So, I took the pictures and got out of there as quickly as I could.

Really, the minivan just isn’t a vehicle I would ever get for myself, unless there was a very significant shift in my world. The funny thing is: The market whose parents owned the first generation minivans in the 80’s are now old enough to be the target consumer. For the most part, those former back seat passengers of minivans have run away from this product at break-neck speed. They’re the folks who have created the SUV and Crossover segment as one of the biggest parts of the automobile market.

They seek out the functionality but, in their minds, they also avoid the stigma attached to the minivan.

As the generation before them created the minivan market because they swore they would never drive a station wagon like their Mom’s, the Minivan has created its own anti-market. For those who do not have that particular bias in their heads, and don’t mind the look of defeat that seems to come with piloting one of these very functional vehicles, the Sienna is the high-water mark for drivability and livability.

When Toyota came back to pick up the Sienna, they left me with a Scion TC, equipped with a six-speed manual. As a result, my manhood was restored faster than a spike of Viagra. For the week of Suburban Amnesia and for all my whining about driving a minivan, the Toyota option proved its worth. Hauling all sorts of stuff without any problem and finding its way around town very comfortably was quite the treat.

It is most definitely not for me, but for those looking at Chrysler’s Grand Caravan, or the other benchmarks of the market, the Sienna should be considered seriously. I don’t love it, but I have learned to respect it for what it is.

 

Very exciting stuff for us, here at The Squawker: We will be all up in this year’s Dallas International Film Festival! I mean ALL up in it.

Hosted by the Dallas Film Society, and presented by Cadillac, this year’s festival, will take place on screens inside of the Magnolia Theatre, Angelika Dallas, the Texas Theater, and at the North Park AMC. Beginning tonight, Thursday the 31st, and rolling through Sunday, April 10th, this is no mere weekend at the matinee.

Films are split into several categories (See the video above for trailers from a few of the films), including: Documentary Showcase, Narrative Feature Competition, Premiere Series, Midnight Specials, Latino Showcase, India Spotlight, World Cinema – and yes, even a Texas Competition – among other divisions.

Of course, the Texas Competition is of special interest to us here. OK Buckaroos, a documentary profiling the lengthy and influential life and career of Texas legend Jerry Jeff Walker, is a prime offering,  and Traveling, a story of life on the road for three folks who find themselves bonding in Texas seems like it could be worth making time for, as well.

The Nolan's from The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan

There are a couple of films that aren’t a part of the Texas Competition, yet have Lone Star connections, none the less. They also happen to look as though penciling them in on our schedule would be a wise choice. The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan is a documentary that looks to piece together the puzzle surrounding the nature of why Nolan – a Texan who was fighting in Vietnam – went missing all of a sudden and how he may have recently been spotted alive. Was he captured? Did he go AWOL? Did he go crazy?

Also, as a part of the Shorts Program, 8, is a product of filmmakers with ties to Dallas and Austin. This docu-short tells the touching story of how a daughter spends the anniversary of her father’s death with her mother (See trailer below). Adding to the Texas flavor of 8, Austin’s David Graza handled musical duties for the film.

Of course, big names that have little to do with our state will be present, as well. New features from Morgan Spurlock (The Greatest Movie Ever Sold), Maria Bello (Beautiful Boy), Colin Hanks (Lucky), Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt (Soul Surfer) and even the New York Times (Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times) are among the titles that will surely generate a fair amount of word-of-mouth over the course of the 10 day extravaganza.

As was stated earlier, we’ll be there! Follow Kelly on Twitter for live-updates, and also look for cool notes to pop-up, here on The Squawker, as well. Of course, we’ll also offer all kinds of recapping and reviews towards the end of the shindig.

“8″ Trailer from Daniel Laabs on Vimeo.

Best of Texas is excited to launch our new social, local, mobile (SoLoMo) app called BestBuzz, so to celebrate, we’ll be doing “Appy Hour” parties around town all month.  Please join us and ‘buzz-in’ to receive great deals at our events and have some fun for a couple hours!  To get on the guest list for all of our upcoming parties, please visit www.BestBuzz.bz to register.

Using the BestBuzz app, users can scan unique QR codes on door stickers and get real-time special deals from several of the best places in Dallas!  Our motto is, “If you love it, Buzz about it,” so share what you like best at places and add photos using the BestBuzz app.

The BestBuzz app is free and available for iPhone and Android users (Blackberry version is coming soon), so make sure to download the app and join our “Appy Hour” party at Hacienda on Henderson this Thursday, March 3rd from 5pm-7pm . Our team of “social buzzerflies” will be on the patio and the first margarita is on us, and then you can stay and enjoy $3 margaritas and 20% OFF food when you buzz-in and show your waiter!

PLUS! BestBuzz is throwing the Official SXSW Interactive “Appy Hour” bash in Austin next Friday. Come and enjoy free food, free cocktails, and we even have special Grammy-winning artists showing up for some entertainment from 5pm-8pm!

RSVP- www.BestBuzz.bz/sxsw

Be sure to check out some of these other great places for BestBuzz special offers around Dallas:

Patriarchs Humidor
Patriarch’s Sanctuary Bar
Sugar Queen Cupcakes
The Salad Stop
Bounce U
Love, Peace & Popcorn
Salon & Spa at Eaton Court
Addison Improv
Café Malaga
Bounce for Fun
Rene’s Lagniappe Hair
Fortuna Grill Pizzaria
Papa Murphy’s Richardson
Adriatica Day Spa
Hacienda on Henderson
Quesa-D-Ya’s
Primo’s Uptown
The Spice & Tea Exchange of Dallas
Roni Deutch Tax Center
Locked Out Comedy
Fox Sports Grill
The Alcove Uptown
Rock N Taco
Planet Beach Contempo Spa
Chito’s Mexican Restaurant
State & Allen Lounge
The Nodding Donkey
Christie’s Sports Bar
Vino 100
Aura Lounge
McKinney Adventure Boot Camp
Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka
Jasper’s Plano
ZEA Woodfire Grill
Abacus
Tiff’s Treats
Rathburn’s Blue Plate Kitchen

It’s no secret that from time to time we dip our toes into all things comics ’round these parts. Funny thing is, I never thought I’d find myself sucked into the world of all things drawn, but when you marry someone who damn near has an addiction, you wake one day to discover that you, too, have been sucked in.

My husband knew I’d never be compelled enough to read anything less than a half inch thick – smart man – so my gateway drugs were all graphic novels: David Boring, by Daniel Clowes, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, by Chris Ware. Now, thanks to Richard at Zeus Comics in Dallas, I’ve become consumed with a variety of authors and illustrators. And I have to take a moment to shout out to my pal and local David Hopkins –( WE LOVE YOU DAVID) – creator and mastermind behind We’ve Never Met, Astronaut Dad, Antigone, Emily Edison and Karma Incorporated.

As for webcomics, I have two that I visit daily: Scott Kurtzwho I interviewed last year – and his Player vs. Player webcomic and Jeph JacquesQuestionable Content.

Now word comes this morning, thanks to Jeph Jacques, that both he  will be in Austin this weekend for Webcomics Rampage at the Dragon’s Lair. The two meet and greets start at noon Dec 11-12th and will also feature webcomic author Danielle Corsetto of Girls With Slingshots – a favorite of Kurtz’s – and others.

Deets below:

For those of you feeling the need…the need for MEAD…your wait is near over.

The good folks that bring you the boobage, kissing wenches, jousting and any excuse to carry a broad sword, the Texas Renaissance Festival, will be kicking off their merriment and more come 9th October 2010.

This year will also boast some themed weekend events, games and rides, and enough music and fun times and food and spirits to blow even the most demure of Scotsman’s skirts up.

As in every other year, the enchanted 53-acre New Market Village will come to life as all European Courts come to pay homage to Queen Katherine.

Each of the eight weekends has a unique, wonderful theme with the different courts vying for the Queen’s favor by bestowing lavish amusements and gifts upon her.  Hundreds of costumed performers will lead you into continuous laughter on 22 stages, holding over 200 performances daily.

So prepare to meander along shaded cobblestone walkways and visit over 400 shoppes overflowing with unique arts and crafts or offering delicious foods and beverages and don’t forget to revel in the sights, sounds and smells of the authentically recreated 16th Century British village with lush landscaped grounds covered with beautiful gardens and vines while entranced by the masked spirit of the bells and the haunting music coming from the Cloister Stage, home of Cast in Bronze.

And, truth be told, your perfect day will end as you behold the burst of Royal Fireworks held at dusk above the festival’s lake.

Texas Renaissance Festival
Saturdays and Sundays
October 9th thru November 28th

Last year, Plano-based JC Penney decided to deck a store out in Christmas decorations in September, now they look like they’re trying to aim for the Star Wars set with their latest color, Chewbacca Pink.

No word on whether or not this blouse will ever be available in Stormtrooper White, Jaba Beige, Verdant Yoda, Padme Purple or Vader Black.

Most, okay, some, of you know that my hubster and Best of Texas’ Geek Speak expert, Joshua, joined the Air Force. He completed Basic Military Training a couple of weeks ago at Lackland Air Force Base and then was immediately shipped to San Antonio Internation Airport at Oh-Three Hundred Hours. There he sat for a while, looking dapper in his ABUs, with American Idol Chris Allen and Allen’s band before beling flung through the air, courtesy of United Air and your tax dollars, towards San Francisco for training at the Defense Language Institute. After making the bus ride from San Francisco to Monterey – including a stop at In-n-Out Burger for his very first burger, Animal Style, natch- he’s finally settled in his dorm.

One of the things Josh misses most, after me of course, is his ongoing love affair with Zeus Comics on Lemmon in Dallas. So when the backpack Josh asked me to order for him arrived in the mail yesterday, I knew I couldn’t just send it to my Airman empty. This called for comic books…

I called Richard, owner of Zeus, yesterday and explained that since Josh has been unable to buy comics since March, could he pretty please put together everything to date Josh has missed out on since he’s been in the arms of the Air Force… Richard gladly obliged me and put together a package of comic book and graphic novel goodness that would make my Josh squee with appreciation and ‘My Wife is Awesome-ness’.

While talking with Richard I learned that he has quite the collection of other servicemen that are customers of Zeus Comics, which I totally give him mad props for. And, for the record, if your guy or gal is into to comics and you are afflicted with the opposite disorder – like I am – , not only will Richard and his staff totally make you look like a badass to your loved one, he’ll even bring you over to the dark side. Case in point: Since meeting Richard for the first time last year, he’s hooked me on the likes of Alan Moore, Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes.

Richard, thanks for being there for me and, more importantly, thanks for being there for our troops, including mine…

Here’s a friendly reminder that come this Saturday Dallas Comic Con will be your one stop shop for all things geek speak.

Featured guests will include:

The very first US autograph appearance of Twilight New Moon’s biggest baddie, 6’ 8” tall Daniel Cudmore

TV’s Batman star and Mayor of Quahog Adam West

Actor Alan Harris, aka Bossk the bounty hunter, who had roles in all three original trilogy Star Wars movies

Tickets are available starting at $10 for daily, individual general admission to full all access weekend passes at $75 -  children 5 and under are free with an adult paid admission.

 

Gratuitous Molotov Cocktease Photo

Gratuitous Molotov Cocktease Photo

Comic guests include, but are so NOT limited to:

Our pal and local David HopkinsWE LOVE YOU DAVID – creator and mastermind behind We’ve Never Met, Astronaut Dad, Antigone, Emily Edison and Karma Incorporated.

Pflugerville, Texan, Matt Sturges, the scribe behind House Of Mystery, Jack of Fables, Fables, Blue Beetle and more.

And people, if you insist on dressing up, dress up as something blatantly pop culturish or better yet, if you’re a gal and totally, smokin’ hawt, dress up as Venture Bros. Doctor Girlfriend, ‘scuse me, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch or Molotov Cocktease. I’m tired of seeing these wild-west/sci-fi/steampunk costumes people are wearing  just because they know they can get away with it.

Find the full schedule of 2010 Dallas Comic Con events here!