Christopher Sherman’s Flying Camera, Street Cop Ernie Hinkle, Concordia Dressage and more

Shot of Butler Park and Doug Sahm Hill. Photo by Christopher Sherman at OverAustin.com.
Shot of Butler Park and Doug Sahm Hill. Photo by Christopher Sherman at OverAustin.com.

CITY: With drone shots, Christopher Sherman is helping to alter Austin’s self-image. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “The streets of Austin lie empty. A ghostly blue wraps the buildings, bridges and greenery. The horizon blooms yellow-pink. It is as if the city is lit from within. The most unsettling thing about these Austin images, however, is the point of view: Lower than if taken from an airplane, higher than all but the tallest local skyscrapers. Reproduced countless times online, drone-taken photographs, some shot at almost 400 feet above the ground, are changing the way we see the city. Among those pioneering this technique is Christopher Sherman, a technology events planner, licensed pilot and camera enthusiast. In the past few months, he and other photographers have gone a long way to upend the city’s self-image. “I don’t even call it a drone,” Sherman, 48, says. “It’s my flying camera.” http://shar.es/1fL1Hk

LAW: Ernie Hinkle was born to be an Austin street cop. Taken from my story in the Statesman: Lt. Ernie W. Hinkle relished being a street cop. During his 35 years with the Austin Police Department, he fought any attempt to fold his 6-foot 5-inch frame behind a desk. Which meant that, from 1960 to 1995, Hinkle saw a lot. And he kept a record. “I was fortunate to be on the street most of my career,” he says. “I had a clipboard and wrote stories down, then did research to make sure the facts were right. Any case I felt like I was going to court on, I’d copy all the notes so I wouldn’t have to go and look them up.” Luckily, for a time, another officer served as his secretary. “She took everything out of the wastepaper basket,” Hinkle, 82, says. “She said: ‘You’re going to want these someday.’ And I did.” http://shar.es/1fL1A8

SPORTS: To Jenna and Martin Arnold, dressage is ‘yoga on horseback.’ Taken from my story in the Statesman: “To the untrained eye, rider and horse appear to move in fluid harmony. They go from walk to trot to canter like two dancers who have shared the stage for many years. Even at the quickest gait, the equestrian pair’s movements seem slow, dignified and restrained. “In horse racing, they gallop their horses,” says Martin Arnold of Concordia Dressage, located not far from Coupland. “We do not use the gallop.” Arnold and his wife, Jenna Arnold, have been competing in — and training horses and riders for — the ancient sport of dressage for years. They see it as a rigorous athletic, mental and spiritual exercise for all involved. “From the outside looking in, dressage can simply look like ‘prancing ponies,’ but it is more complex than that,” Martin, 34, says. “It is the systematic gymnastic development of a four-legged athlete. To take a horse to the highest level of the sport takes a minimum of five years.” http://shar.es/1fL1Mv

SXSW: People Are There Because People Are There

Revelers at SXSW Interactive. Photo by Rodolfo Gonzales.
Revelers at SXSW Interactive. Photo by Rodolfo Gonzales.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Come to think of it, retelling doesn’t hurt this story.

It starts in New York, but loops back around to Austin and South by Southwest.

It is 1978. I am living in the Chelsea district of Manhattan at Eighth Avenue and West 20th Street. I work in the Jefferson Market area of Greenwich Village, two miles away.

At least twice a day — and often twice a night — I make variations on this pleasant walk. Along the way, I cross 14th Street, a major crosstown thoroughfare and the southern terminus of Manhattan’s strict grid system. It’s like 42nd Street without the 1970s sex industry, or 23th Street without the contemporaneous punk scene.

What freaks me out each weekend night are the crowds on 14th Street’s wide sidewalks. I wonder: Why are they here?

Formerly upscale and the site of a previous theater district — before Broadway and Times Square — what did the street have to offer in 1978? Mostly drab shops and, on its western end, some nightclubs.

I ask a housemate — at one point, five Texans were crammed into a fourth-floor two-bedroom apartment — about the mystery of the masses on 14th.

He is my age, but worldy wise beyond his years.

“People are drawn to social energy,” he says. “It’s as simple as that.”

In other words, people are there because people are there.

This truth is still true. Although many Austinites escape the city during SXSW, an estimated 200,000 people, hosts and guests head out into the streets designed for a town that counted 553 citizens in 1840, the year after its founding.

Surely, all of them can’t squeeze into the convention center, hotel meeting rooms, movie theaters, nightclubs and pop-up spaces that constitute the heart of the 10-day conference and festival.

Music fans on Sixth Street during SXSW. Photo by Tina Phan.
Music fans on Sixth Street during SXSW. Photo by Tina Phan.

For the first few days of SXSW 2015, I wandered from South Congress Avenue to East Sixth Street, down into the Rainey Street District and back over to the Second Street District. I spent some time in the Austin Convention Center, including a twirl through the always overwhelming trade show.

My strategy was to “InstaView” people. I would take a picture and then conduct a short interview via Instagram (@outandaboutatx).

I have learned over the years that people don’t like to be stopped when in motion. It interrupts their walking rhythm. And you, the stopper, might be the sort to ask for something they are unwilling to give, like a signature to save someone or something in jeopardy.

So I look for folks already at rest. Then I ask myself: Are they interesting? Does their body language suggest they might be open to a few questions from the local media?

This technique worked OK for a while. Since I was often waylaid by outdoor music or other legitimate distractions, I didn’t land that many interviews.

But I was left with that old question: Why are these people here?

It wasn’t just the spring break crowd this time. It was families with strollers and dogs. It was folks, like myself, who look way too old to be interested in the latest app or musical act. (Luckily, I never sense ageism among hosts or guests at SXSW.)

In the end, you can’t get around it: People are at SXSW because people are there.

Why wasn’t I more engaged this time out? Why, when it came time to spend a few days editing the fine reporting of my colleagues, did I feel relief?

It finally dawned on me: My interactions during SXSW were brief and without much substance. Every person earned my interest, but by now I have become accustomed, on this beat, to spending at least an hour over coffee or lunch or dinner with a conversation partner. That gives me plenty of time to discover who they are and what they might know that I don’t.

Years ago, I realized that red carpets are for cameras, not interviewers. You can sometimes catch celebrities off guard as they glide past the scrum of journalists, but that is exceedingly rare. And the results are usually not very print-friendly.

That was how I felt the first few days of SXSW. As if I were spinning my social wheels, hoping for a lighting bolt of insight but settling for a damp mist.

But I don’t stay discouraged for long. To the consternation of my editors, I am always thinking ahead to next year’s coverage of any annual event. I settled on this notion for SXSW 2016: Act like a tourist in my own town.

Go to the movies. Catch the bands. Hear the speakers. Attend the parties. Novel, right?

That will mean a lot of standing in line, but hey, maybe there I can engage folks in more than surface dialogue. After all, I am still curious: What brought them here? Why Austin? Why this event?

Might as well get to know them, too. Like it or not, some of those 200,000 will be moving here some day.

SXSW Stories 4: Quek Siu Rui and Marla Camp

Quek Siu Rui at SXSW Trade Show.
Quek Siu Rui at SXSW Trade Show.

Quek Siu Rui is from Singapore. He represented his company, Carousell, at the SXSW Trade Show. “We have a whole delegation and some companies — Carousell, Viddsee, Visenze. I think we have some plans to launch our product in the US, having had some success in Asia. We’ve found a lot of tech and like-minded people here. What do we ? We are Craig’s List for the smart phone. You’ve got a old couch or a laptop to sell, you just snap a picture. It’s that simple. We’re here for a week in Austin. I think we’ve got lots of interested people and we’ve received encouraging feedback.”

Marla Camp heading home after a long, exhausting day at SXSW.
Marla Camp heading home after a long, exhausting day at SXSW.

Marla Camp, who publishes Edible Austin, will speak 3:30 p.m. Monday at the Driskill Hotel as part of SouthBites, one of 30 new food and innovation sessions. Her panel: “Preserving Local Food Artisans by Going Global.” Two local food artisans, Stephanie McClenny of Confituras, and Sam Addison of Pogue Mahone Pickles, plus Anna Smith Clark, founder Get Gone Traveler, will join Camp. Her SXSW so far: “Both stimulating and exhausting. So many innovators, so many ideas, and so many start-ups. The theme this year is all about more traditional, experienced people using new technology, not the technology itself. That’s the biggest take-away so far.”

SXSW Stories 3: Rodrigo Allen, Shannon Donaldson, Michelle Rodriguez, Joane Zoleta and Gabrielle Alonzo

Rodrigo Allen guarding the parking lot at Allens Boots. He likes it better than being a bouncer on Sixth Street.
Rodrigo Allen guarding the parking lot at Allens Boots. He likes it better than being a bouncer on Sixth Street.

Rodrigo Allen is from Elgin, raised on a farm. “I’m doing parking lot security these days. Used to do security at bars on Sixth Street. It was a headache, especially during SXSW. The drama that went on! The second week of SX is much worse. You have celebrities, music from all over the world, a lot traffic, a lot of attitude, a lot of egos. I’ll plug my current employer: Allens Boots. I’ve met people from Turkey, from Switzerland. I met Willie Nelson coming in and out of here twice; I’m surprised he is still alive and looks the way he did in the 1980s.”

Shannon Donaldson owns the Cutest Little Succulent Cart in Austin. SXSW is not a great sales time, because people are traveling, but you gotta do it.
Shannon Donaldson owns the Cutest Little Succulent Cart in Austin. SXSW is not a great sales time, because people are traveling, but you gotta do it.

Shannon Donaldson owns the Cutest Little Succulent Cart in Austin. She was parked in front of Gueros Taco Bar during SX. Donaldson is an Austin native. “I’m a unicorn. I started selling flowers, then summer came, it was a million degrees outside and nobody wanted flowers, so I started doing succulents. All I do is shop around and find unique containers at reasonable prices. I try thrift stores and flea markets, antique places. A guy in Del Valle, he grows them. I call him my succulent gold mine. I don’t do as well during SX because it’s travelers. So I bring out terrariums and DYI  kits. You have to go out for SX, however, because you want to be seen.”

Gabrielle Alonzo, Joane Zoleta and Michelle Rodriguez are visiting from Houston. They accidentally came during SXSW.
Gabrielle Alonzo, Joane Zoleta and Michelle Rodriguez are visiting from Houston. They accidentally came during SXSW.

Michelle Rodriguez, Joane Zoleta and Gabrielle Alonzo, from Houston, were seated at a picnic table at at Ms. P’s Electric Cock, the one with the big “CHICKEN” sign. They are not here for SXSW, but rather are celebrating Michelle’s birthday. Michelle: “Just so happens there’s a festival.” Gabrielle: “Almost had to cancel it. We stayed at Lake Travis yesterday. Everything else was fully booked. Tonight we found a room 20 miles from downtown.” Joane: “We are going to shop now. This is our first time in Austin for all of us. We hear a lot of good things about the shops here. Now we are waiting for our food.”

SXSW Stories 2: Brad McCollum, Jeffrey Weinthal and Lance Bradley

Brad McCollum playing for SXSW crowds along South Congress Avenue.
Brad McCollum playing for SXSW crowds along South Congress Avenue.

Brad McCollum has lived all over Austin. He gets out on the street to play by 11:30 a.m. Stays until 6-ish. “I’ve been doing it for three years. I love to play music and getting people’s feedback. It’s a good environment. Worst is when it’s extremely hot or cold. Your fingers get all numb and your throat is frozen so you can’t sing so well. I write my own stuff, but I do  a lot of covers out here, because people like to hear something they know. My band, Juggernaut Kingdom, just played a gig at the Carousel Lounge. During SXSW, we’ve got an extra 200,000 rolling through here. I play on Sixth, but prefer it here. On Sixth, they act like idiots, steal my money. It’s more family oriented here.”

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Jeffrey Weinthal is out on South Congress during SXSW promoting Stanthor Castle

Jeffrey Weinthal is out on South Congress during SXSW promoting Sfanthor Castle in this bizarre Frankenstein contraption. “At the castle, we sell comic books, T-shirts, collectibles up front. In the back is a wax museum dedicated to the movie monsters and horror. We’ve been working on that for months. My boss could tell you more. I work for tips, but you can take a picture anyway.”

Lance Bradley has been selling breakfast tacos like mad during SXSW.
Lance Bradley has been selling breakfast tacos like mad during SXSW.

Lance Bradley is originally from Houston. Working during SXSW at Farm to Market on South Congress. Also helping out at Yard Dog. “People started flowing in at 8 a.m. We were selling breakfast tacos like mad. Like 50 in an hour. This is our busiest time of year for sure. I like the constant party buzz. Cate Blanchett came in recently, before SX. I wasn’t here. She had four boys and a baby with her and was staying in the neighborhood. You don’t get much A-Lister than that. It’s like royalty.”

SXSW Stories 1: Brittany Martin and Molly Christie Benson

Brittany Martin of AbleThrive at SXSW 2015.
Brittany Martin of AbleThrive at SXSW 2015.

Brittany Martin is from Singapore by way of Philadelphia. Her @AbleThrive program helps families with disabilities to connect to resources online and in their communities. Her dad was paralyzed in a car accident. “We didn’t know anything at first. But we had access to good resources and mentors. My dad lives independently, works as an engineer, lives a fulfilling life. Years later, I realized how many people with disabilities had low qualities of life and underestimated what they are capable of.” She wondered: What would have happened if I wasn’t from Philly? I’m not sure I would have gotten my Dad back. It’s unacceptable that people live that way.” A former teacher, she does AbleThrive full-time. Her fiancee’s job moved them to Singapore. “Disability is not geographic,” she says. “And it cuts through anything that separates people. The Internet is the only way to reach that community.” Martin won a SXSW Community Service Award.

Producer Molly Christie Benson brought 'Seven Chinese Brothers' to SXSW 2015.
Producer Molly Christie Benson brought ‘Seven Chinese Brothers’ to SXSW 2015.

Molly Christie Benson, filmmaker from Venice, Ca. First SX: 1987. “Our movie, ‘Seven Chinese Brothers’ started because we all knew each other at Telluride. That included Bob Byington. He reached out to me and Nancy Schafer. Shot the whole thing in Austin. Got to be here and work with Jason Schwartzman and Arrow, his dog. Wrapped a year ago. Premiering on Sunday at the Topfer Theatre. Changes? SXSW offerings are so great now, it’s neat be able to do film and advertising in one fell swoop.”

Texas Film Awards

Laura Beth Garza  Aissa Widle at Texas Film Awards.
Laura Beth Garza and Aissa Widle at Texas Film Awards.

Nobody does it better. Glamour. Culture. Laughter. Tears.

Months in advance, Austinites anticipate the Texas Film Awards, staged by the Austin Film Society. Guests are rarely disappointed by this pre-South by Southwest bellringer.

First, you get a peek at the most recent changes at the Austin Studios, the physical and spiritual home of the Texas TV and movie industry. Thanks to party captains Bobbi Topfer and Armando Zambrano, the tall, raw spaces turned into elegant, candlelit retreat. Because it was catered by the Four Seasons Hotel, food, drinks and service were top shelf.

Cristal Glangchai, Jakub Felkl and Aruni Gunasegaram at Texas Film Awards.
Cristal Glangchai, Jakub Felkl and Aruni Gunasegaram at Texas Film Awards.

For years, the Society has rolled out the hottest red carpet in town. That hasn’t changed much. Good for photos and video. Not so much for actual news, which is why we hung back and interviewed guests in the welcome tent. The requested cocktail attire took on infinite forms, with just a hint of Western flair a common theme.

The live auction by Heath Hale and associates helped boost the gross take for the party over $800,000, according to a quick tally. Nobody at our table bid. Since many of my table mates work for the Four Seasons, they had, however, arranged for some of the desirable vacation stays on the block.

All heads turned to the stage for the awards, emceed this year by Mike Judge in sardonic mode. I suspect the Film Society’s Rebecca Campbell encourages her emcees to stir the pot a bit. While Judge pushed the boundaries of taste at times — bravo! — at least he didn’t call the governor a “gay robot,” as Thomas Haden Church did a few years back. (Different governor, different times.)

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Katherine McLane, Zach Watkins and Allison Watkins at Texas Film Awards.

Accepting the first award was, not Luke Wilson, who was stuck on a New Mexico movie set, but his buddy and music impresario Charles Attal, courageous in the breach. Judge gave posthumous honors to Christopher Evan Welch, a gloriously eccentric actor who appeared in Judge’s series “Silicon Valley.” As usual, the clips were astonishing.

Robert Rodriguez lavished praise on fellow director Guillermo Del Toro, who lived in Austin briefly 15 years ago, but bonded deeply with the local film community and was a natural choice for the Honorary Texan honors. Del Toro was joined by Austin Chronicle editor Louis Black lionizing L.M. Kit Carson, the deceased promoter of Texas film in many guises.

Loved the stories shared by actor Jess Weixler about super-producer Bonnie Curtis — backed in a video tribute by Steven Spielberg — a Texan who apparently can’t take “no” for an answer. (Curtis goes way back with the divine Victoria Corcoran from Dallas days.)

The two last honors put the guests through the emotional ringer. Author Bill Wittliff brought out Tommy Lee Jones, who spoke softly, slowly and, in some cases, elliptically about the luck of “being from a place.” Finally, the director, cast and crew of “Boyhood” stormed the stage. Patricia Arquette declared: “I came to Austin 13 years ago and fell in love.”

Rightly, various speakers pegged “Boyhood” as the culmination of making films the Austin way. It might not have taken the highest honors at the recent Academy Awards, but it showed the world just what Austin, Austin filmmakers and the Austin Film Society can do. I expect it get even better.

I Am Waters Foundation Party and Luncheon

Supermodels from the 1980s pose with guests at I Am Waters Luncheon.
Supermodels from the 1980s pose with guests at I Am Waters Luncheon. Photo: Nancy Scanlan.

Elena Davis‘ story can’t be beat. She grew up in a transient family. Left the family to work at a pizza joint in order to have something eat. Spotted by an agent, she was shuttled off to Europe at age 14 to model. Davis became a supermodel. Along the way, she educated herself by reading everything she could put her hands on. She met her future husband, a Houston oilman, at a dinner for British royalty.

Elena Davis, founder and president of I Am Waters Foundation, with party host John Hogg.
Elena Davis, founder and president of I Am Waters Foundation, with party host John Hogg.

She happily retired from the profession to raise a family. Then, one day, when she stopped at a Houston intersection, she reached for money to give to a homeless woman. Instead, the woman wanted water. Davis handed her a fresh bottle. She got an idea.

Amanda Huras and Matt Randall at I Am Waters Foundation Party.
Amanda Huras and Matt Randall at I Am Waters Foundation Party.

Davis founded the I Am Waters Foundation, which, in a few short years, has delivered 2.1 million bottles of water to hydrate the homeless. A subsidiary sells the plastic bottles of water — adorned with words such as “Hope,” “Dream” and “Peace” — through Whole Foods to help foot the costs.

Alexis Jones and Cindy Yates at I Am Waters Foundation Luncheon.
Alexis Jones and Cindy Yates at I Am Waters Foundation Luncheon.

For several years, I Am Waters events in Houston have included her supermodel pals from the 1980s — Cheryl Tiegs, Kim Charlton, Kelley Emberg and Julie Anderson, for instance — who pose with charity guests and answer questions. This year, they took the show on the road to Austin for the first time. At two events, they were joined by Ruby Stewart, model, musician and daughter of Emberg and Rod Stewart.

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Margaret and David Bettner at I Am Waters Foundation Party.

The first party took place at the hillside palace of John Hogg and David Garza. Guests mixed on the main floor, while photographer Richard Reens, who helped make their careers, staged a shoot with the supermodels downstairs. I talked at length with David and Margaret Bettner, mostly about Austin’s history of flooding, easily illustrated from the windows of the Hogg-Garza jewel box. I was very engaged by Joel Oppenheim, who now runs a Houston commercial real estate company, but formerly owned signature restaurants in that city.

The luncheon the next day pulled in about 300 guests to the Four Seasons Hotel. For the first hour, they posed with the supermodels for group shots taken by Reens. This event honored humble philanthropist Charmaine McGill who thank her friends who made it all possible.

Seton Breast Cancer Center Luncheon and S.C. Gwynne at the Austin History Center

Donna Stockton Hicks and Nina Seely at Seton Breast Cancer Center Luncheon.
Donna Stockton Hicks and Nina Seely at Seton Breast Cancer Center Luncheon.

HEALTH: The best line came from Melissa Jones during the Neiman Marcus fashion show, which revived 1970s looks like fringe, sandals and jewel tones. Me: “Everything comes back.” Jones: “Except our figures.” Although quick-witted Jones made an ideal table-mate for the Seton Breast Cancer Center luncheon at the JW Marriott, I could have chosen from 600 others.  The list of powerful women there just kept growing: Lynn Meredith, Andrea McWilliams, Marcia Levy, Diane Land, Susan Lubin, Cecilia Abbott, Mary Herr Tally, Kathy Blackwell, Donna Stockton Hicks, Nina Seely, Patty Hoffpauir, Sofia Avila, Victoria Avila, Ana Ruelas, Carla McDonald, the list goes on. Andra Liemont, Terri Gucca and Kendra Scott gave powerful speeches. “I think we needed tissue boxes on each table,” Blackwell smartly suggested afterwards on social media. The elaborate fashion show was a first for the new Center, which provides comprehensive breast care in a spa-like setting. Half their patients qualify for charity assistance. A grand new tradition has been added to our social calendar.

Empire Summer COVER.jpgHISTORY: What a treat to hear S.C. Gwynne in person. Author of “Empire of the Summer Moon” and, more recently, “Rebel Yell,” is a spellbinding storyteller. At an Austin History Center gathering — with seating blessedly reoriented — Gwynne was interviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Kerr, author of “Seat of Empire,” “The Republic of Austin” and “Austin – Then and Now.” He wisely gave the floor to fast-talking Gwynne by asking just the right questions. Truth is, most of what Gwynne shared in his masterpiece about the Comanches had already been told by other historians. None of them, however, made such a forceful case for the tribe’s impact on North American history. Gwynne’s version is unforgettable and, for good reason, a national bestseller.

Nature Conservancy Luncheon, Lake Travis Education Foundation Gala, Austin Shakespeare and NTEN Conference

Michael Dabney, Trey Low and Cooper Drenner at Nature Conservancy of Texas Luncheon.
Michael Dabney, Trey Low
and Cooper Drenner at Nature Conservancy of Texas Luncheon.

NATURE: This luncheon is irresistible. Every year, the Nature Conservancy of Texas welcomes a huge assembly to the Hilton Austin. Last week, the program started right away, as guests munched on a wonderfully fresh salad. Leading the persuasive panel discuss was magnetic TNC leader Laura Huffman, who doubles as the international group’s North American captain for sustainable cities. She was joined by Global Managing Director of Lands Justin Adams and prolific scientist Peter Kareiva. They talked about comprehensive solutions to the water crisis and to the Gulf of Mexico’s health, including “whole system” conservation at Powderhorn Ranch. They optimistically discussed SNAP programs that crowdsource tough scientific problems and how the collaborative effort to save the Edwards Aquifer is studied and copied around the globe. At all times, they respected the private sector as part of the solution, never vilifying oil, gas, cattle or crop producers in Texas, but rather finding ways to include them in resource management. Heady stuff.

Alex Salazar and Jewell Kibling at Lake Travis Education Foundation Gala.
Alex Salazar and Jewell Kibling at Lake Travis Education Foundation Gala.

SCHOOL: The advantages of a suburban school district are many. The Lake Travis district throws benefits for its championship sports teams, but also to support academic programs. Its smoothly stage-managed Education Foundation Gala attracted legions to the Renaissance Austin Hotel. But I was there to chat with Chris Tyson, a regular at such charity events. His company, Tyson Fundraising, started by supplying autographed sports memorabilia for benefits, you know, signed jerseys, balls, photos and so forth. Then Tyson branched out into vacation packages and jewelry, all auctioned live or otherwise. I plan to interview him at length soon. He’s very straightforward about the cut his company gets and how he acquires the valued objects. Should be fascinating.

ARTS: So, what kind of crowd would show up for a three-hour play about scholar and poet A.E. Housman? An older crowd, to be sure, and one that pays careful attention to words. And to good purpose, because Austin Shakespeare‘s staging of Tom Stoppard‘s “The Invention of Love” at the Long Center demanded close consideration. I’d seen the play in New York and Houston, but it had been a while, and at no time did my guest, teacher Lawrence Morgan, or I lose connection to the story that weaves together ancient, Victorian and more modern concepts of love. At intermission, we mingled with other gay men, for whom the play remains a literary touchstone. Good on Austin Shakespeare, which made a hit of Stoppard’s “Arcadia” not long ago.

TECH: It’s like catching the wind in a sieve. Every week, it seems, another group of smart people gather in Austin to share ideas. Last week, one group of several hundred attended the Nonprofit Technology Conference at the Austin Convention Center. Development expert Carolyn Appleton was my social guide at a causal after-conference dinner at Second Bar + Kitchen. Jeff Gordy of Chicago explained his web-based Z2 Systems that provide lower-cost membership and fundraising tools for nonprofits. Two Austin members — Ritu Sharma from Social Media for Nonprofits and Stacy Dyer of Trianon Coffee — talked not only about their professional efforts, but our share social spheres. Everyone seemed keen on NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network and its suppleness compared to larger professional fundraising groups. And, oh, the basil-heavy pizza was delish.