To Get Smart

Ever notice how many of our resolutions involve negative things? Stop smoking, stop pigging out, stop snapping at the significant other. This year, why not add something positive to the list? Start with a pledge to make yourself smarter. Chances are, you'll regain the weight and start smoking and snapping again. (You'll definitely start snapping again if you attempt to starve yourself without the aid of some sweet nicotine.) Chances are you'll blow off the smart stuff, too, but as Oliver Wendell Holmes put it, "A mind once expanded never shrinks to its original size." Following are half a dozen ways to expand.

Performance Preludes at The Dallas Symphony Orchestra (214-692-0203, None of us knows a lick about classical music--that's why it's a good idea to show up for Performance Preludes. Starting an hour before the concert (Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 1:30 p.m.), they offer concertgoers an introduction to the works, the composers and the artists. These lectures are accessible enough for the neophyte but still offer insight for the seasoned musicologist. For example: From January 22 through January 25, the DSO will perform Mozart's "Clarinet Concerto" as well as works by Berlioz and Franck. The who with the what now? Don't worry. Lester Brothers--professor and chair of music history, theory and ethnomusicology at the University of North Texas--will share his wisdom for those willing to sit through the recitation of his title. Same goes for January 20 through February 1, when Yefim Bronfman performs Brahms' "Piano Concerto No. 2" with the orchestra, which will also play works by Mozart and Liebermann. This time, Timothy Jackson, associate professor of music theory at UNT, offers preceding commentary. The lectures are free, they're inside the gorgeous Meyerson and, hey, you don't have to stay for the concert. Though that's the point, right?

Bibliopola Bookseller (214-370-4646) One of the first things you're going to love about this tiny box of books is its neighbor, The Garden Café. Hidden away on an East Dallas block so quiet that it's almost a secret, this delightful breakfast and lunch place boasts some of the freshest, most delicious food in town and a delightful patio surrounded by flower, herb and vegetable gardens. You'll feel that you've traveled back to a time and place when food tasted better and time moved slower. (Like 1986.) That feeling continues when you enter Bibliopola (Latin for bookseller) two doors down. This place smells like a bookstore, a pleasant mustiness of leather bindings and old furniture, inspiring the feeling that a bottle of sherry must surely be open somewhere nearby. It feels like a bookstore, too, comfortably untidy and completely unhurried. Proprietor Lee Musselwhite fits the role of bookseller perfectly--mild and slight, with a quick wit and almost palpable intelligence. He inspires the feeling that he not only knows where every book is but what's on every page. "We concentrate on quality here," Musselwhite says, "not only quality of subject matter and writing but of the condition of our books. The only thing we have in common with Half Price Books is our prices." Bibliopola specializes in hard-to-find art books and mysteries, especially medieval mysteries, along with reasonably priced leather-bound editions and sets and out-of-print titles. There are also some antiques for sale, including unique vintage clothing. And once a month, Musselwhite hosts a group of six to eight artists who show and discuss their work. Any artist interested in participating should contact him.

KERA-FM 90.1 (214-871-9010, This is the gateway to public radio in Dallas, bringing you Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as extraordinary weekday talk shows hosted by Diane Rehm and Terry Gross. On the weekends, you can listen to Car Talk, A Prairie Home Companion, This American Life and a host of other shows from National Public Radio and Public Radio International. The station is also the home of The Glenn Mitchell Show, the best local talk show in this market, and Abby Goldstein's superb Texas music show Lone Star Saturday Night. The programming on KERA is always thought-provoking and--even better--free. There is no easier way to get smarter. Except for maybe TiVo-ing Jeopardy. But it's not as cheap as this.

Meadows School of the Arts and The Meadows Museum at SMU (214-768-2000, and Two of Dallas' relatively undiscovered treasures, these fine-arts centers offer theater, dance and music, and visual art, much of it free. The Meadows Museum, besides having one of the world's great collections of Spanish art, has already begun an ambitious plan of expansion under new director Edmund Pillsbury and senior curator Richard Bretell. Space precludes a listing, but go to the Web sites for a listing of the free events scheduled for the arts school and the museum.

Video Association of Dallas (214-428-8700, Now in its 17th year--and comfortably ensconced in its new/old home, the art-deco Magnolia Lounge at Fair Park--this organization has grown from a dream of its founder Bart Weiss into a Dallas cultural institution, hosting the annual Dallas Video Festival, among other events. VAD's 2004 lineup includes the 24-Hour Video Race in May and the Summer Film & Video Institute in July and August. Two monthly screening and lecture programs kick off in January at the Magnolia Lounge. On January 17, Sci Fi Saturdays screens The Day the Earth Stood Still at 3 p.m. And on January 20, American Verite screens Robert Drew's award-winning documentary about John F. Kennedy's campaign, Primary, at 7:30 p.m.

Jacquielynn Floyd A twice-a-week bright spot amid the deaths, crime, fires and assorted mayhem of The Dallas Morning News, Metro section columnist Jacquie Floyd writes with wit and clarity. With her down-to-earth approach and humanity, Floyd has an earthy intelligence missing from most journalism today. (Except--ahem--here in the Dallas Observer, of course.) In her relatively brief time in the Metro section, she has shown a real love for our city and the colorful people who define it. So, clearly, she's smart. You could learn a thing or two.

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Spencer Michlin

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