This place is smashingly good fun in addition to bringing out the artist in folks of all ages. Using bits of broken glass, ceramics and tile (all tumbled to remove sharp edges), patrons turn frames, candleholders, coasters and vases into colorful works of art. Actually, the place has a threefold purpose: It's an art studio, a showplace for commissioning pieces and an art gallery. Owners Robin Franklin and Tracy Graivier are ready to help with ideas. If you prefer doing your smashing and gluing at home, they have take-home kits to get you started. Graivier has even written a book, Crazy Mosaic, which is filled with ideas and hints. So, if you happen to break a piece of Granny's china or knock over her favorite lamp, just scoop up the pieces and head on down. There's art in such disasters.

If you like your reading fast and gritty, with lots of bad-guy chasing and a liberal sprinkling of sex with the scams and body count, Dallas' A.W. Gray is your man. He's been spinning best-selling mystery tales for years, beginning with his popular series about local private eye Bino Phillips (Bino, Bino's Blues, etc.). And here's a little secret: When you think you've read his complete body of work, there's plenty more. The prolific writer has several pen names. Want horror? Try Crossland Brown's Tombley's Walk. Jeffrey Ames (Lethal City, etc.) is a Gray crime fiction nom de plume. For his legal thrillers, look for the name Sarah Gregory (In Self Defense, etc.). He/she can be found in better bookstores everywhere.

Like Riverdance performed underwater by fat people, clogging has its own strange appeal...or not. If you just can't get your fill of mature ladies in sensible shoes making their skirts fly up over their panties, you could see a psychiatrist, or you could call the number above for the Texas Clogging Council and get specifics on next year's Texas Clogger's Rally, to be held March 5 and March 6. There's always a big audience. Maybe you know why.

Say you're a lonely Howard Dean supporter, a witch, a native speaker of French or a pagan (same thing), a John Kerry supporter, Web logger or Goth, and you want to meet others of your tribe. Meetups is the place to go. Operating by Web and all over the world, Meetups arranges get-togethers in local venues for people seeking their ilk, whatever that may be. Plans are still in flux, for example, for the next Dallas-area meet-up of people who are Elvis. But there are already 53 of him signed up. Hey, even if you're not Elvis, how could you miss? There's a movie in here somewhere.

If we were up for drinking games at 8 a.m., this would be the quickest way to get shit-faced. The rules would be as follows: One drink every time Scott Sams mispronounces and/or gives the incorrect name for a local charity, council member or day of the week. Two drinks every time he makes a blatant pass at the eternally uncomfortable Grecian Goddess of Mixmaster Traffic, Alexa Conomos. One drink every time weatherman Greg Field's voice cracks, and another swig any time any one of them tries unsuccessfully to create "colorful banter" after underestimating how much time they have left on the air before the signal mercifully switches back to Good Morning America. We've formed an addiction to Daybreak and watch it religiously before heading off to work. It's funny and gets us going. Don't believe us? Just watch. It's like Laugh-In with extended forecasts.

Before anti-abortion senators helped pass legislation that mandated a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions so they could have a period of reflection and read literature about abortion's possible hazards, pro-choice senators made a fevered pitch to exempt those women who want abortions because of rape, incest or their own health. Senator Robert Deuell, who lives in Greenville and plays a doctor in real life, rose to speak against these exemptions. "There are many hundreds, if not thousands, of women who have been raped and carried that pregnancy and had the baby and have been very happy that they have done that...I still feel strongly that even as tragic as some of those circumstances are, they have been a blessing to many, many people." Rape as a blessing bestowed upon the victim? What's next? Armed robbery as an expression of God's will?

Over the years, Emma Rodgers' store has become a full-fledged cultural force in the community, sponsoring literary and political discussions, promoting local authors, bringing African and African-American books to Dallas that otherwise would never get here. But it's still at its core a great independent bookstore, where you can expect surprises and delights every time you browse--all the stuff that never gets into the mega-stores. If you took this store away, Dallas would be a different city.

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.

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