Europeans may build great cathedrals, but Americans have a genius for bathrooms. At Prague, the WC marries old-world elegance with Yankee utilitarianism. When nature's irrepressible call rises above the club's techno beat, you can drift down to this swank unisex chamber of flickering candles, period furniture and a full-service bar to answer. The style might be described as bathroom baroque. A dripping chandelier throws just enough light to reveal the glinting accessories of nubile fashionistas and their well-groomed mates. The music keeps a respectful distance, allowing one to clear one's mind and bladder in one of 12 stalls set tastefully behind black doors. Roughly the size of a confessional, these immaculate stalls seem designed for a religious experience of one sort or another.
Armed with full scholarships to Andover, Exeter, Miss Porter's and other elite schools, graduates of KIPP Academy (a middle school, soon to be K-12) know firsthand that "Knowledge Is Power." Even Kinkaid and St. John's fight over KIPP graduates. KIPP takes kids from Houston's most under-resourced, drug- and gang-ridden neighborhoods and, through high expectations and challenging academic requirements, produces stellar students. New KIPPsters have to sign contracts promising to go to school ten hours a day during the week, on Saturdays and through much of the summer. Why not volunteer to teach an extracurricular class some Saturday to bright, motivated kids? In turn, they'll teach you that knowledge is power indeed.

Performance artist Dr. Alkebu Motapa, legal name Carl Austin, is a dreadlocked dervish who paints, chants and talks up a storm at City Council and anywhere else people will listen. His rhetoric, a mixture of Rastafarian theology and civil rights-era jargon, is not always welcome. When Motapa took to calling a staffer at the Cultural Arts Council to complain about not getting an arts grant, CACCH officials called HPD. Although the investigation was quickly closed, it gave Motapa another subject for his speechmaking: police persecution.

Best Place to Wait for Traffic to Die Down

Solero

Just around the corner, human temperatures and internal-combustion exhaust rise to a rush-hour crescendo. Travis teems with idling autos, igniting road-rage fuses at the pace of a few feet per minute. Solero, however, is the place that has known how to tame the savage commuter since the antebellum era. It's easy to see why. Chef Arturo Boada's exotic tapas are just the appetizers to sooth any predinner rumblings. And co-owner Bill Sadler, the veteran from the earlier days of the River Café, Café Noche, the Blue Agave and Moose Cafe, has added precisely the delicate expertise to create a most comfortable place to hang. The drinks are reasonable, the service is excellent, and the conversation and cuisine are both fulfilling in this restaurant-bar that radiates with character. Let the motorists all go mad. When the freeways flash with their fury, Solero is the place to find peace. Sanctuary!
Tropical Storm Allison annihilated the county's justice system, crippling the criminal courts building for months and mauling the Family Courts Center as well. In the ensuing mayhem, even judges sometimes didn't know where their temporary courts, salvaged files or trial settings would turn up. But the news media had to know. And that's where public information officer Fred King proved invaluable. King was perhaps the only media relations person to rush to press, publishing a special flood edition of the district clerk's Hearsay newsletter, giving the office's 500-plus employees updates. He aided District Clerk Charles Bacarisse on the contingency plans and fielded blizzards of questions from baffled reporters. Even in the best of times, the clerk's office -- it processes roughly 100,000 cases annually, ranging from civil suits to felony and misdemeanor charges -- looms as a mysterious labyrinth. King is a master translator into understandable terms. Local public entities regularly insulate themselves with PR people, and more and more seem to be the alter egos of the glib Ken-and-Barbie glamour types that first invaded local television. They may ooze with charm and offer ample sound bites, but know nothing about the real information within their own agencies. Credit Bacarisse (himself a former White House communications staffer) for landing a media pro with proven credibility.
As you watch Jennifer Garner kick a guy square in the jaw while wearing thigh-high vinyl boots with that peach of a heinie wrapped in a rubber cocktail dress, do you think to yourself, 'That girl is doing Houston proud'? Probably not, but as the second season of the baffling yet exciting superspy show Alias gets under way, you can be sure that the star of the show is a born-and-bred Houstonian. Yes, she moved to Charleston, West Virginia, when she was a kid, but she's 100 percent bayou stock, and that's what matters, dammit! At a time when a lot of famous natives aren't giving outside folk the impression that this town can send some talented people out into the world, we can be happy that at least one gal -- a Golden Globe-winning gal, mind you -- can leave Houstonians beaming with pride every time she whups up on a guy's ass.
The name alone will bring merriment to grade schoolers and socially stunted adults worldwide. But this miniature mutated antelope's god-awful territorial habits ensure its place in the Kick-Ass Mammal Hall of Fame. Not much larger than a hare, the male of this African species has a scat fetish so bizarre, it'd make G.G. Allin spin in his grave. Like other critters, this antelope aberration marks its territory with heaping piles of dung, but with a twist: The male dik-dik will paw through the female's feces, then add his own on top, urinating at the same time -- just so outsiders get the point. By the way, they actually say "dik-dik" when they're startled. Yes!
The architect's architect, Carlos Jimenez is a local lad -- graduated from the University of Houston, tenured at Rice -- of Puerto Rican extraction, who unfortunately is better known outside of Houston. With a slew of awards, visiting professor positions, competitions to which he has been invited, exhibitions and published articles, this young designer should be doing a lot more work right here in Texas. There are a lucky few, in River Oaks and Montrose, who live in houses he designed. For the rest of us, his work is best seen at the spacious yet functional Museum of Fine Arts Administration Building, arguably his best work outside the Spencer Studio Art Building at Massachusetts' Williams College.

Mayor Lee Brown chief of staff Jordy Tollett got his start under mayor Jim McConn and has been accumulating titles and turf ever since. He's head of the city convention center and entertainment facility complex, the president of the convention and visitors bureau, and currently the little drummer boy who sets the pace for Brown's staff. Tollett was once a lightning rod for controversy when he took city clients on the public dime to savor the heady atmosphere of the topless Rick's Cabaret. He survived that episode, and the only misstep he's made recently occurred when he slipped at a pool party and cracked several ribs. Tollett, a nightlife aficionado, can now be found on many evenings schmoozing at Downing Street with buddy Dave Walden, this year's best lobbyist.
Anyone who lives in the Woodland Heights has probably already seen them, the enormous purple and green dinosaurs tromping across the back wall of Travis Elementary. Thanks to artist and parent extraordinaire Dale Barton, the wild mural, a cartoon dreamscape of prehistoric proportions, is the sort of colorful image that kids and grown-ups can ogle for days. In one corner is a Guitarasaurus Tex, an orange, 15-foot-tall, ax-playing dinosaur. Across a blue sky flies a pterosaur, and in between are frogs, butterflies and all sorts of other critters, some real and some conjured by Barton's kooky imagination. Ediface Rex is available for viewing most anytime but when school is in session.

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