The credo here is that it is never too soon to encourage a child's artistic interests and abilities. Professionally taught, once-a-week classes are available for ages 2 to 15 in everything from pottery and watercolor to pastels, charcoal and acrylics--all in an atmosphere of fun. There are pizza parties, birthday celebrations and summer camps available. Still, this isn't vacation Bible school stuff. The instructors are serious about their jobs. Twelve sessions (three months) run $225, six months cost $450 and a year's worth of instruction is $835. Says instructor Nora Raggio, "We want the kids to learn and have fun." If classes are full at the Plano studio, which has been operating for seven years, try the newly opened art-a-rama in Frisco, 7158 Main St., 972-377-9900.

We're not as down on the new breed of talk-jocks as one might think. Howard Stern is always worth a listen, but we prefer seeing his freak show on E! rather than listening to it. Russ Martin on KLLI-FM (105.3) is indeed talented, but his supporting cast drives us nuts. And some of the new folks at KLIF-AM (570) at least have a pulse. But in the same way we don't mind reading Maxim but feel better about ourselves after reading The New Yorker, we love turning off the squawkers for a two-hour shot of Glenn Mitchell when possible. Mitchell is not only laid-back and erudite (two must-have qualities on public radio), he also can be whimsical and fun. His guests are usually interesting, and when they're not, Mitchell somehow makes them seem so. His show is a lunchtime treat.
The obvious joke is that you feel at home on The Range, but it's true. While other stations dip their toes in roots, rockabilly and Texas music, The Range has taken the full plunge from Day One. They play novelty country, swing, new traditionalists and old sentimentalists. They play Conway and Merle, Max Stallings and Jim Lauderdale and everything in between. Bottom line: They play stuff you can't hear anywhere else.
As you can tell, we don't have the utmost respect for anchors. They are newsreaders, as the Brits call them. It is a skill, sure, but it ain't journalism. That said, we've always respected Tracy Rowlett. Not just because he has hard-news chops, not because he's overly humble, but also because he's been anchoring and leading TV newsrooms in Dallas since 1975, building up a reservoir of respect that few are accorded. Channel 11 will probably never do as well in the ratings as Channel 8 or Channel 5, and some people continue to suggest this had something to do with Rowlett's worth as lead TV news figure for his station. That's ridiculous. You don't confuse quality with popularity, unless you think that Mike Snyder is the be-all, end-all of Dallas journalism.

We're not dissing the mayor, who, back in the day, could get us all excited with a string of seven curse words. There was something about the dichotomy of her impeccable taste in clothing, her well-mannered air and her filthy mouth that set us tinglin'. Now that she's "mayoral" all the time, eh, not so much. No, the powerful female of the moment for us is Dr. Elba Garcia, the stunning councilwoman who would be totally and completely offended at this objectification, and rightly so. At least, we hope she is. We love it when she's angry.

Skip Cheatham is one of those guys women want to be around and men want to be, a smooth-talking, slang-dropping fella with his finger on the pulse and his foot on the beat. While it's a 24/7 party at K104, it only hits its peak when Skip's behind the mike, whether he's spinning records or spinning yarns, which is one of the main reasons K104 absolutely destroys all comers in the ratings. Here's two more: He's also the station's program and music director, a true radio triple-threat. K104 has a deep bench, but Cheatham is undoubtedly the team's all-star.

This spot on the radio dial is beginning to look like that stretch of real estate where nothing ever catches on, that place in Deep Ellum where one bar after another comes and goes, rarely sticking around for more than a few months. The Zone didn't work. Neither did The Merge. The Bone looked like it might, darting up the Arbitron ratings for a few books running. And then the bottom fell out. Turn off the lights on your way out, gentlemen. Maybe it's time to stop trying.

If you can make it here, well, you can probably do better elsewhere. Say, NYC, for instance. Ask Ben Kweller, Todd Deatherage, Corn Mo, the Secret Machines, Oceanographer (formerly Panda), N'Dambi and a handful of others, almost all of whom went on to bigger and brighter things once they ditched D-FW. Even Norah Jones cut bait before selling 10 million and counting.

Yeah, yeah, we know: the fake-drug scandal, the snit over salaries, turmoil at the top, demoralized troops, the crime rate. Why on earth would we name the Dallas Police Department the best government agency? Well, we haven't been shot, stabbed or otherwise assaulted in the past year, so that's a big plus. Then there's this: Somehow, through the enormous shit storm of the past two years, hundreds of loyal, honest officers have gotten out of bed each day, strapped on pistols and simply showed up to do a very tough job. That's gotta be worth something.
What, was there another contender? Of course, Terrell Bolton's firing was the political moment. Shoot, if we had a category for best shoddy melodrama, we'd give Bolton's dismissal that one, too. (No, wait. That would be redundant.) So, what was your favorite part of the show? Bolton breaking down weeping at a news conference? The wholly inappropriate comparisons to a public lynching? The hypocritical claims of racism coming from people carrying "wetback" signs and demanding that the next chief be black? Or simply Bolton's bewildering poleaxed smile as he contended that he didn't see the pink slip coming? This one had it all.

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