Best State Legislator 2003 | Senator Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
It's rare that we stray from our Dallas best, but the political courage of Senator William Ratliff is so exemplary that it deserves being celebrated, even though he hails from Mount Pleasant. With conservative Republican Governor Rick Perry so partisan he can make David Dewhurst look like a statesman, it's damn refreshing to find a moderate Republican who has the political huevos to do the right thing rather than the thing that is right. He is honest (chastised his brethren for not raising taxes), brilliant, savvy, and if not for his refusal to bend to big-time Republican money, he might still be lieutenant governor today. During the regular session, he smoothed out the extreme edges of a tort reform bill and made its passage possible. But his most impressive act of defiance came during the special session when he refused to roll over and play dead for the redistricting designs of the Republican guard. Siding with 10 Democrats, this lone Republican derailed at least one map that would have "Perrymandered" the state in a manner that he felt would have diluted the voting strength of rural Texans. We can only hope they appreciate it--and him--as much as we do.

You wouldn't think that a former assistant district attorney who was named "Prosecutor of the Year" by law enforcement boosters for her zealous pursuit of child abuse cases that had grown old and cold would make the most impartial judge. It might prove too difficult to keep an open mind so that both sides--prosecution and defense--get a fair and unbiased hearing. But the book on newly elected Susan Hawk, who at 32 was the youngest candidate running for a felony bench, is that she has acquitted herself in a fine fashion. Although she has yet to preside over the kind of high-profile case that might really try her sense of justice, she is a good listener, a good learner and someone who strives to do the right thing. What more could you want from a new judge?

This election cycle was supposed to be the year of the Democrat (remember the Dream Team?), particularly in Dallas County, where 24 Democratic judicial candidates tried to bust up the Republican monopoly over the courthouse. But the lone Democratic candidate to win a bench had a long history as a Republican. Sally Montgomery had switched parties and turned Democrat after Republican voters sent her packing in a bitter primary defeat in 2000. Yet with the help of her old contacts within the Republican women's club circuit, she managed to pull out an upset victory over her Republican challenger. If her election represents the sea change that Democrats were hoping for, they had better find more Republicans to run on their ticket.

Although he's busy as an instructor at the University of Texas at Dallas, Greg Metz is still a master in the world of sculpture and installation. His art carries energy and a bit of controversy. To Deep Ellum regulars, his most public work is the set of faces that adorns the Club Dada building. To activists, his work is familiar and includes "Diner" (an Airstream trailer with the atrocities of the meatpacking industry on one side and a "last supper" incorporating famous vegetarians instead of disciples), a mobile exhibit that recently toured Europe, receiving praise most of the way. He's been arrested for his work (a sculpture downtown protesting the Silver Springs monkey testing), participates in Houston's Art Car Parade every year and often exhibits in gallery shows (including at UTD). Dedication to his art seems to be as much a part of him as his skin. And politics are a large part of his work. His latest statements include having two obviously foreign men dressed as guards frisk people as they entered the Touchy Feely show at Sydney Patrick Gallery. And the inaugural show for the Sallad performance series at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary was called "State of the Loonion," which Metz says is "a confrontational revision of this administration's new patriotic agenda." Greg Metz, we salute you.@choice:

Some people run for their health. Some run for charity. And others would run only if someone were chasing them. But some (God bless 'em) will run for beer. They're the Dallas-Fort Worth Hash House Harriers, or hashers for short, and every week they gather to embark on a common mission: booze. This self-proclaimed "drinking group with a running problem" meets at various places throughout the Dallas area to begin a three- to five-mile trek through fields, streams, woods, streets or wherever the trail is set. When the journey is complete, the party begins. Now we're not runners ourselves. And, in fact, we're getting a pain in our side and a potential shin splint just thinking about it. But this hashing stuff? This is a reason to run...and just so you know, walking and jogging are acceptable on the hash trails as well. Call the hotline for specifics on run times and dates.

It not only offers a step back into a kinder, more communal time but a complete inventory of fabrics, patterns and books for the beginner as well as the expert quilter. In the back of the store, a variety of classes are offered by Alice and Dave Cooksey, who purchased the store from quilting icon Betsy Chutchian. But Betsy's not gone. She's still teaching classes. Lone Star also is the meeting place of several quilting clubs. There's the Loose Threads and 19th Century Patchwork Divas, who gather to quilt and socialize. "We've got a good mix of those who have been quilting forever and those just learning," Alice Cooksey says.

Each fall and spring, budding Cassatts and Renoirs have the opportunity to participate in the DMA's Art Exploration Classes. Small groups of kids 3 to 5 years old, each with a parent or guardian, spend an hour on a single artistic element such as color, patterns or texture. And because the classes explore the DMA as well as create there, they provide the perfect demystifying opportunity for kids to learn to feel comfortable in a museum. "We begin by pretending that we're detectives as we search the galleries for examples of the topic that we're studying that day," says Catherine Norman of the DMA. "Then we go back to the studio and do exercises centered on that topic, and they leave with a piece of art." Norman says both kids and adults "behave really well" during the classes, and the artwork is particularly treasured because two generations are involved. And it's a bargain: The classes cost $5 for DMA members and $15 for non-members. This fall, classes will be October 4 and October 25.

Portraiture isn't exactly a lost art, although fewer painters choose it as their area of specialty now than they did in the time of Renoir. The demand has changed a bit since the camera was invented. Even well-intentioned, sentimental people who ache to capture the charm of their 6-year-olds, or their moms, dads and grandmothers, spend great wads of cash at some high-priced photography studio, only to be slightly disappointed in the great, glossy, hyper-realistic, frozen midsmile images that they dutifully hang over the fireplace. There is, of course, an alternative. Dallas boasts one of the most innovative, creative and recognized portrait artists in the Southwest. Known for her expressive nature and wide-open personality, Connie Connally paints unique and personal portraits that reveal little nuances and details about her subjects that surprise and delight the people who commission her work. She has a nontraditional approach to portrait "sitting," preferring to visit her subjects in their homes, making animated sketches and taking photographs while she talks with them. Connally takes her research into the studio and comes out with dramatic, detailed faces with exaggerated cheekbones, poignant and expressive eyes and determined chins. Connally's instant affinity with the people she paints is her secret, although years of study and work have honed her technique. In 2000, she crafted 90 portraits into a piece of fine art called "People I Know," which debuted at Craighead-Green Gallery and was selected for exhibitions through 2003 at galleries throughout the Southwest and California.

The piercing blue eyes of executive assistant P.J. Vitruk stare from a page of Paul McKay's sample book. The crimson of the regal chair in which she poses seems to infuse her silver hair, as one elegant index finger rests lightly on the rim of the object she holds, the focus of the portrait: her martini glass. You want to have a drink with this woman. "I don't paint photographs," says longtime Dallas artist McKay. "I try to bring the subject's personality to life by letting the colors collide and bounce off each other." He thumbs through the book of faces, famous and otherwise, and you begin to see what he means. One of the most striking of the images is a self-portrait done almost in pointillist style. Rendered and surrounded by surprising color choices, the amazingly youthful, nearly unlined face of the 73-year-old artist invites you to look beneath the surface at the creative mischief within his heart. Many portrait subjects seek to be flattered by the removal of pounds or years. McKay flatters through a revelation of the soul. Prices start at $3,500.

Until 2001, University Park had the peculiar distinction of being the nation's largest city without its own public library. Until then, residents had been able to use the Highland Park Library without charge. When that changed, an energetic group of volunteers called Friends of the University Park Public Library held book sales and other fund-raisers, allowing the new library to open in a bank building. Last year, librarian Lee Schuey, a veteran of 30 years with the Dallas Public Library, was hired. Now, according to Friends President Carol Ann Luby, the library boasts more than 50,000 books, videos, CDs and audio books. "We offer evening lecture programs in the fall and spring and have just completed a kids summer reading program," Luby says. "And our catalog is going online at" Best of all, there is no University Park residency requirement, so all are welcome. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

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