Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Seedling Foundation, Parenting Parents, Parade of Homes and more

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

CHARITY: Of mentors and mentoring. Sometimes it takes a little nudge. Dan Rourke, who serves on the board of the Seedling Foundation, invited me to the group’s Fab Five luncheon at the Austin Country Club. I didn’t know much about Seedling, other than it was involved in mentoring. Turns out it mentors kids with incarcerated parents. Over a large, delicious lunch, I met financial planner Nathan Serven, executive director Sari Waxler, African Leadership Bridge’s Suresh Sundarabab and healthcare newsman Jeremy Bergeron. The Fab Five spoke at length about mentoring from the stage: Animated TV news anchor Jason Hill, HomeAway tech Ross Buhrdorf, Citizen Generation’s Alex Winkelman, Spring condos’ Diana Zuniga and Longhorn great Donnie Little. (I think a profile of Waxler is in order.)

FAMILY: Parenting your parents. I met writer Jim Comer because of Clara Driscoll. She’s the lady best known for saving the Alamo, building Laguna Gloria and founding the group that would become the Contemporary Austin. In 1999 or so, Comer wrote a playlet about Driscoll for late diva Karen Kuykendall. It was performed once in an Enfield-area home, but people rememembered it fondly and introduced me to Comer. Almost immediately, I realized the real story was Comer, who pursued a creative life in New York and Los Angeles before getting “the call.” His father had a stroke in Dallas. His mother already battled dementia. After caring for them with the help of cousins, Comer became an expert writer and speaker on the subject of “parenting parents.” (Expect a profile later this year that puts emphasis on planning.)

STYLE: Homes of the future, 60 years later. In 1953, Austin builders competed to display the most foward-thinking model homes on one block of Westfield Drive in the Highland Park neighborhood. The experiment was meticulously documented in the newspaper and, 50 years later, Pam LeBlanc wrote a brilliant piece about what actually happened to those homes. Tuesday, current residents, along with two original owers, toured the block again with the help of the imaginative literature from the day. Thanks to architectural historian Kim McKnight, I was invited along. Each of the houses was given a nickname, such as “Rainbow Ledgestone,” that reflects the style, feel, materials or sometimes just the companies involved. Resident Charles Riou made an outstanding guide and let us into his meticulously restored midcentury home. Original resident Lois Martin showed me snapshots of her children playing on the street during the 1950s — two of them joined us on the tour. (What must their memories of this land before MoPac sliced through be like?)

BOOKS: Attending the rise and fall of language communities. Just finished Nicholas Olster’s “Empires of the Word.” The author poses questions such as: Why did Dutch and German disappear from their long-held colonies, but English, Spanish, French and Portuguese prospered in some, but not all former holdings? What was so compelling about Greek after Alexander or Latin after Ceasar? How did Aramaic become the lingua franca of West Asia? How are Egyptian and Chinese alike? Olster’s answers are fresh and often unexpected. For instance, he does not count Arabic among the top spoken languages today because it is not mutually intelligable from Syria to Morocco. The characteristic that he finds most often counts when a language spreads or persists is prestige. He looks at the global rise in prestige of English, but repeatedly stresses that there is no guarantee that it will continue to prevail. (Fascinating stuff.)

FOOD: Food for Black Thought speaker celebrates cultural roots of Southern food. Reported by Andrea Weigl in the Raleigh News and Observer. “Michael Twitty was cutting up cooked racks of ribs. Chef Hugh Acheson, known for his appearances as a judge on “Top Chef,” was on Twitty’s right, slicing pork shoulders. Chapel Hill, N.C., cookbook author Nancie McDermott was on Twitty’s left, sorting cut ribs onto platters to take to a waiting buffet table. Meanwhile, a half dozen video cameramen and photographers circled the table, swooping in for close-ups. Michael Twitty is a culinary historian and living-history interpreter who will be speaking in Austin on Friday as part of the Food for Black Thought Symposium. Clearly, the star of the night was Twitty. A culinary historian and living-history interpreter from Rockville, Md., the 36-year-old Twitty was virtually unknown outside a small circle of food writers, historians and academics before he composed a blog post in late June responding to revelations that Food Network star Paula Deen had previously used the “n” word and made other racially insensitive remarks. http://shar.es/KIXzV (Thanks to Addie Broyles for landing this timely wire story.)