There is nothing more satisfying after a hard day's work than saddling up the ol' mechanical bull and letting it toss your troubles away. While this pleasure lasts only a few seconds, the 108th Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show in Fort Worth allows you to celebrate the timelessness of the American cowboy. Join the truck-drivin', beer-guzzlin', boot-wearin' crowd and experience the vibrant heritage of Texas and one of America's oldest sports. Bull riding, steer wrestling and calf roping were performed daily as part of the cowboy way of life and now have been perfected as an art form and learning tool. Contests and high-stakes auctions will feature more than 20,000 head of exhibited livestock. Maximize your rodeo experience with a 10-gallon hat and some funnel cake. Bring the whole family to witness one of the 30 performances running January 17 through February 8. If anything, it's a great excuse to stick a piece of straw in your mouth and spit. Tickets are $16 to $18 on sale at the Will Rogers Box Office located at 3401 W. Lancaster Ave. Group tickets are available. The whole thing kicks off with the Stock Show's All Western Parade through downtown Fort Worth at 11 a.m. Saturday and the Best of West Ranch Rodeo on Saturday and Sunday, which is also Ranching Heritage Weekend. Other specialty nights include Best of Mexico (Sunday and Monday), Bull's Night Out (Tuesday) and the World's Original Indoor Rodeo (January 23 through the end of the Stock Show). Visit www.fwssr.com or call 817-877-2420. --Danna Berger
Fit for a Frenchman
We thought briefly about computing the purchasing power of a franc in 1870, but it was so mind-numbing that we passed out mid-conversion. Suffice to say, 10,000 francs, even today, is a bit more than what you would drop on a Royale with Cheese. So when the maid spends 10,000 francs to prepare a banquet in the film Babette's Feast, that's some fabulous chow. Good thing Central Market Cooking School will help you prepare the same sumptuous 19th-century spread for only $150. The morning of January 17 you'll prep six dishes featured in Babette's Feast to share with a special guest who will return with you to dine in the evening. Limited enrollment is available. Contact Central Market, Lovers Lane at Greenville Avenue, at 214-361-5754. --Michelle Martinez
Hong Kong Phooey
Although Publishers Weekly panned his first Far East adventure novel as "amateurish" and "undermined by manifest literary shortcoming and artistic naíveté," Dallas author John Hamilton Lewis has soldiered on with the publication of Samsara, which is set in post-World War II Hong Kong and features the improbable adventures of Nick Ridley, an orphan raised in California who joins the Royal Air Force, is captured in battle, survives barbarous treatment at the hands of a nasty Japanese camp commandant, survives, builds a major Far East Airline, etc. It is currently the 1,637,722nd most popular book on Amazon. Lewis will be at the Barnes & Noble at Creekwalk Village, 801 W. 15th St. in Plano, at 7 p.m. to sign copies. Be there. He'll need the company. Call 972-422-3372. --Thomas Korosec
Taste the Bavarian cream
of the crop
Do you think wine tastings are for sissies? Are you put off by fancy connotations associated with rich yups gathering to taste vintage ports? Would you rather drink alcohol in a steel cage while battling fellow chain saw-wielding drunks to the death? OK, we're going too far there, but you see what we're getting at. In the not-so-stuffy spirit, we present to you the Bier & Brats Seminar on Thursday night at Plano's Bavarian Grill, 221 W. Parker. The Oktoberfest style of the shindig alone should be enough for you to loosen your collar and strap on your old lederhosen, but we figure the additional sausage and beer samples, three varieties of each, should make this seminar on Bavarian beers that much more enjoyable. Be sure to show up by 7 p.m., as there's room for only 40 people in the steel ca--er, we mean seminar. Admission is $10 a head. Call 972-881-0705. --Sam Machkovech
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MLK parade and the peace center march to different drummers
We love a parade as much as the next person--unless, of course, that person is a member of the Dallas Peace Center and that parade is the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade held on January 17. Each year the peaceniks make the point that Dr. King's legacy of nonviolence should not be tarnished by allowing ROTC students with dummy rifles to participate, and each year the ROTC marches anyway. If this issue causes you no concern and you just seek to celebrate the memory of one of the greatest leaders of civil rights and social justice this country has ever produced, join the pomp and pageantry of the parade with floats, bands, grand marshals and, yes, students dressed in ROTC uniforms. The masses can line a parade route that begins at City Hall at 10 a.m. and ends at Fair Park. The masses, of course, are encouraged to leave their weapons at home. Call 214-670-8355. --Mark Donald