MUSIC: I am profoundly impressed by the idea behind Black Fret. A spin-off of the Austin Music Foundation, this group intends to incubate the careers of area musical artists. During a burbly party at the Gibson Guitar Showroom, founders Colin Kendrick and Matt Ott explained their preliminary goal of attracting 100 members who each pay $1,500 in dues. Along with corporate matches, that should fund 10 sets of artists at $10,000 apiece, along with intense business mentoring. The pair would ultimately like 1,300 members who feed a $2 million annual fund. Kendrick and Ott have tried to adopt best practices from the nonprofit world (i.e. symphony, opera, ballet, theater) and the business sphere (think Impact Austin). To the cool sounds of Graham Wilkinson, the first 75 Black Fret members and other guests — many of them Austin newcomers — fairly levitated with ferver for the Big Idea. (Sign me up, too.)

ARTS: Folks were no less optimistic about Austin Lyric Opera’s future at a ‘Tosca’ party. Granted that most of the crowd represented a generation older than the Black Fret gang at Jon and Madeline Nash’s lovely Pemberton home. (The Nashes lowered the median age significantly. Playful Jon, who knows how to turn around businesses, is the opera board president.) The indoor-outdoor party gave me the opportunity to congratulate music director Richard Buckley on a magnificent-sounding "Don Carlo" and general director Joseph Spector on two seasons operating in the black. Didn’t meet any of the cast members, but I’ll see them onstage during the run of "Tosca," one of my favorite operas. (Years ago, in a tribute to Wayne Koestenbaum’s outrageous "The Queen’s Throat," I committed 40 days and 40 nights of Tosca-themed acts. No apologies)

HISTORY: The changing faces of the Tonkawa tribe. From my story in the Statesman: "Among Native Americans in Texas, Comanches get all the ink. And no wonder. For more than two centuries, the Comanches ruled a vast horseback realm that included much of Texas. They held off the Spanish, Mexicans, Anglos and competing tribes, shaping the slow settlement of the state. Austinite S.C. Gwynne’s "Empire of the Summer Moon" is proof that they still make riveting reading, more than 140 years after Quanah Parker, the last great Comanche chief, was defeated. Yet for early Austinites, the Tonkawas, not the Comanches, were the regular fact of life. While the Comanches raided far and wide, these hunter-gatherers lived in comparative peace with their neighbors along the Balcones Escarpment. During the mid-19th-century, the buffalo-hunting Tonkawas were never far from daily life in the capital city and, at one point, they were reported to camp in what is now Republic Square Park." http://shar.es/UvNAe(Stumble on some surprises during the research.)

BOOKS: Satirizing a top writing program. From Charles Ealy’s magnificent story in the Statesman: "James Magnuson likes to follow a routine. He gets up most mornings, even on weekends, and sits down at his desk to write around 9 a.m. The words don’t always flow. He hits blocks. But he keeps at it. He sits there till 1 p.m., hoping for inspiration while methodically tackling his writing, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. In the afternoons, he’s usually at his other job — as the director of the James A. Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, the famous and highly competitive writing program for graduate students. And while there, he reads other writers. He discusses their work. He teaches. And those afternoons often bleed into the evenings, with various university-related events. It’s not a glamorous life. In fact, it can be rather humbling, Magnuson says. But after eight previous novels, which have been respectable and critically well-received but hardly financial windfalls, Magnuson, at 72, may finally be ready for his moment. His new novel, "Famous Writers I Have Known," shows that his doggedly routine pursuit masks what has been a risky, invigorating high-wire act in his mind for almost a decade. He’s satirizing the world in which he lives — the writers workshop." http://shar.es/UvNLt(Well worth the full read. Do it.)

LAW: Texas gay marriage ban might be in jeopardy. From Chuck Lindell’s story in the Statesman: "Taking advantage of a newly favorable legal climate, gay-marriage advocates have taken their fight to federal courts in Texas and at least 16 other states, winning recent rulings in Oklahoma and Utah that could spell trouble for the Lone Star State’s ban on same-sex spouses. Gay couples have filed three federal lawsuits in Austin and San Antonio asking judges to void the Texas law and constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.Making the same arguments that prevailed in courtrooms in Republican-dominated Oklahoma and Utah, the lawsuits claim the ban on same-sex marriage subjects gay couples to unequal treatment in violation of the U.S. Constitution." http://shar.es/UvLpb(Inevitable at this point, guys.)