Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Back to Brack, Travis Audubon, Texas Book Fest and more

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

HEALTH: The costumes come out early. Just a few days before Halloween, folks dressed up as their favorite movie characters for Back in Brack, which benefits University Medical Center Brackenridge-Seton. As the name suggests, there was also a lingering 1980s theme, and guests showed up to Brazos Hall, done up like an upscale lounge with reserved seating areas upstairs and down, in costumes from “Animal House,” “Indiana Jones,” “Star Wars” and so forth. “People with the most stressful jobs tend to blow off the most steam,” observed Chris Attal, who raises money for Brack and looked like Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) from “Pulp Fiction. Despite all the creativity on display, my favorite team — they weren’t the only ones, but they were the most convincing — as the Princess Bride and the Man in Black. Killer ‘stache. (Almost made me want to dress up. Almost.)

NATURE: Bird lovers flock indoors. You don’t often spot so many in one place, much less in one room. Yet the guests at the Travis Audubon luncheon on Saturday paid minute attention to their table-mates, the meal and the speeches. Gushing all the while, I met Victor Emanuel, the veteran birding tour guide who lives in Travis Heights and was profiled painstakingly in Texas Monthly a while back. His name graces the annual event’s honors, which this year went to J. David Bamberger, who restored a big chunk of the Hill Country to a prisitine state. “There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have the opportunity to think about what you’ve don, Bamburger said. “You have an opportunity to change direction, to make a contribution to something bigger than yourself. That’s what happened to me 50 years ago and I began to speak the gospel of Mother Nature.” (What a swell group!)

BOOKS 1: The lure of the festival. The State Capitol grounds felt more like a carnival or a playful picnic. Tents skirted the green expanses. Childrend darted about. Adults retired to the shade, some to read, perhaps books recently purchased at the Texas Book Festival, which hugs the outer grounds. My favorite stop is the cooking tent. There, Scott Roberts from the Salt Lick, who demonstrated a family favorite that unfortunately fell apart. (He explained why. Hey, it happens to me all the time.) One of the cool things about this festival is the ease with which one can wander from panel to speech to demo, at least outside the big building. (Check here for Charles Ealy’s Sunday fest picks.)

BOOKS 2: Taking stock of Texas lit. Reported by Charles Ealy in Sunday’s Statesman: “Southwestern literature is having a breakout year as writers from around the nation gather in Austin this weekend for the 18th annual Texas Book Festival. Philipp Meyer, a former fellow at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, has received critical acclaim for “The Son,” which is widely perceived as the most significant Texas novel since the publication of Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove” and Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian” in 1985. Austin-based New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright is a National Book Award finalist for “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief,” after winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.” http://shar.es/IqpqX(Masterful summary.)

CITY: A short life and a glimpse of heaven. Reported by Nicole Villalpando in Sunday’s Statesman: “Ben Breedlove died three times in December 2011. The last time — on Christmas Day — he did not wake up. The 18-year-old Westlake High School senior could have been another name on an obituary page — a tragedy, yes, that his family had to bury someone so young because of a heart condition. But Ben left a legacy — “This is My Story,” a YouTube video in two parts that has had a combined 13 million views. People in 30 countries have watched Ben hold up a series of white index cards with black letters that explain his story from the time he saw a bright light above him at age 4 to his experience at 18 when he went to heaven and didn’t want to leave.http://shar.es/IqgT7(Beautifully written story.)