Meet 5 Austin Women of Distinction, 2 Young Masters

Each year, the Girls Scouts of Central Texas judiciously selects a small group of leaders to honor as Women of Distinction. They are saluted at a brisk, dignified luncheon, this year set for noon on April 26 at the AT&T Center. I always learn a lot at this event.

RELATED: Two dozen Austin parties you don’t want to miss.

Alexis Jones, founder of I Am That Girl. Contributed by Oprah.com

Alexis Jones (Rising Star Award) is the founder of nationally recognized organizations I Am That Girl and ProtectHer. She’s an author and motivational speaker for Generation Y, and named one of AOL’s Makers alongside Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton.

Nora Comstock, Ph.D., is an entrepreneur and business leader, founder of Comstock Connections and national and international founder of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, current member of Austin Community College District Board of Trustees, and member of the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.

Denise Davis, J.D, is the founding partner of Davis Kaufmann PLLC, lobbyist and former Texas House of Representatives deputy parliamentarian, advisor and attorney to two Texas Lt. Governors, and chief of staff for Texas House of Representative Speaker Joe Straus.

Laura Wolf, J.D, is executive director for CASA of Travis County Inc. She developed merger between Austin Rape Crisis Center and Center for Battered Women to create SafePlace, served as former President of the Austin Junior League, and is recipient of two national awards from CASA Inc.

Amy Shaw Thomas, J.D, is vice chancellor of academic and health affairs and an executive Oofficer at the University of Texas System, board member of Downtown Austin Alliance and Texas Methodist Foundation, active member of Austin Area Research Organization, and advocate for inclusion, diversity and meritocracy.

Young Masters

Described as a rock star of the classical violin (which might explain this rather wacky publicity pose), Austinite Charles Yang was a 2004 recipient of the Young Master award from Texas Cultural Trust. Contributed

Texas Cultural Trust, an arts advocacy group, has chosen 15 students for the 2018 class of Young Masters. Each of the promising artists receive a $10,000 scholarship over the course of two years to enhance their studies.

RELATED: Heidi Marquez Smith takes over at Texas Cultural Trust

Two are from our fair city: Ian Stripling Jenson, an 11th grader at McCallum Fine Arts Academy, has been selected in the music category for violin, and Leif Tilton, a ninthe grader at Bowie High School, has been selected in the music category for classical guitar.

Some of the past Young Masters recipients have gone on to glory, including Austinite Charles Yang, a 2004 honoree. The Boston Globe judged that this rising soloist “plays classical violin with the charisma of a rock star.” He also happens to play guitar.

Taking social flight with Travis Audubon, Waller Creek Conservancy, American Gateways

It was like drifting from one waking dream to another.

Heading to the Waller Creek Conservancy benefit. Contributed by © David Brendan Hall / http://www.davidhallphotog.com

I first encountered that certain fantastical aspect of the Waller Creek Conservancy, which plans a series of high-design parks along a neglected stretch of downtown waterway, at a large dinner party in the Four Seasons penthouse of Tom and Lynn Meredith. All sorts of important and influential Austinites were present on that fateful and whimsical night. Despite the mammoth scale of the proposed project, I sensed that those gathered in the room high above the creek, which included fellow Conservancy visionaries, Melanie Barnes and Melba Whatley, could get it done.

Two of the biggest guns: Gary Farmer and State Sen. Kirk Watson. Contributed by © David Brendan Hall / http://www.davidhallphotog.com

Over the next few years, a series of magical benefit parties and concerts were staged with the help of Lonesome Dove chef Tim Love and C3 partner Charles Attal at the Stubb’s complex right on the banks of the creek. This time, there was something tangible to celebrate: The group had broken ground on its Waterloo Park segment with the generous help of a $15 million grant from Ross Moody and the Moody Foundation.

The Tim Love dinner was served family style. Contributed by © David Brendan Hall / http://www.davidhallphotog.com

BACKGROUND: Grant to fund Waterlook Park makeover.

Well, this year’s dinner was like walking on a cloud. Everybody, including Conservancy CEO Peter Mullan and his gracious wife, Melanie Mullan, a strategic advisor, fairly glowed with felicity. Melanie led a group of her lively friends in a conversation at our table that could, from my perspective, have gone on all night. But then there was a concert by alt-pop duo Oh Wonder waiting just outside the door of the events room.

Isn’t it great when the photography, including this shot of Oh Wonder, is done by a pro such as © David Brendan Hall / http://www.davidhallphotog.com

Victor Emanuel Conservation Awards

Mickey Burleson wanted to set the record straight. She did not plant Blackland Prairie seeds by moonlight at her ranch with her late husband, Bob Burleson, because of some nebulous spiritual reasons. The pair, credited with restoring some of the last remnants of a critical and highly endangered ecosystem, simply broadcast the carefully collected grains after the end of long days because the seeds would have turned too hot if stored with other remnants from their old-fashioned grass seed harvester.

The ideal swag at Travis Audubon event. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

In probably the most thoughtful charity swag ever, guests at the Victor Emanuel Conservation Award luncheon, which benefits Travis Audubon, each received a small “Ecosystem in a Bag” of more than 1,000 grains from Native American Seed company. Some of the seeds in the Blackland Prairie Mix were descendants of those collected by the Burlesons. Heaven on Earth.

Nandini Chaturvedula and Brandi Clark Burton at Victor Emanuel Conservation Awards for Travis Audubon. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Mickey Burleson accepted this year’s award from titular award from Valerie Bristol, the chief warrior on the Balcones Canyonlands preservation. She was last year’s honoree. I’ve doted on everyone who has received this prize, including its namesake, Victor Emanuel, the nature guide who set next to me during the luncheon. Consider the rest of the honor roll: Bob AyresGeorgean KylePaul KyleJ. David BambergerCarter Smith and Andy Sansom.

To borrow a phrase from frequent emcee Evan Smith at an earlier benefit, they all could be my spirit animals.

Gateway Awards

You’d need a heart of stone to turn away from the stories generated by American Gateways, the group that provides legal services to immigrants who can’t afford them. The staff in Austin, San Antonio and Waco, along with an army of pro bono attorneys, deal with heartbreaking cases every day. They don’t need to be told that our immigration system is broken. They are on the front lines.

Tiffany Carlson and Keenan Wilson at Gateway Awards for American Gateways. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

The second annual Gateway Awards were distributed during a taco dinner at the new AFS event room at its complex in the Linc. (I saw the bedazzling movie musical, “Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” there on my birthday last week.) The entertainment at the banquet was pretty amazing, too, starting with the New Generation Children’s Choir, made up of African refugees, and ending with San Antonio-based, all-female Mariachi Las Coronelas, who know how to get an audience going.

Mariachi Las Coronelas at the Gateway Awards. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Juan Belman, a dreamer and the University of Texas graduate who famously confronted President Barack Obama at the Paramount Theatre, picked up the Social Justice Award. Lawyer Valerie Barker of Baker Botts, LLP, was named Pro Bono Attorney of the Year. Charismatic Jae Kim from Chi’Lantro Korean barbecue acclaim, won the Immigrant of Achievement Award.

New Generation Children’s Choir at the Gateway Awards. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Makes me proud that American Gateways is based right here in Austin.

Alternative Austin social options during ACL

The second week of  ACL Music Festival doesn’t stand in the way of these other scintillating Austin social offerings.

Oct. 11: Waller Creek Conservancy Dinner and Concert featuring Oh Wonder with Jaymes Young. Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater.

Oct. 11: 4 x 4 for Nobelity Project. Gibson Guitar Austin Showroom.

Oct. 12: Gateway Awards for American Gateways. AFS Cinema.

Oct. 12: Touch the Stars Gala for Imagine a Way.
Stephen F. Austin Hotel.

Oct. 14: Victor Emanuel Conservation Award Luncheon for Travis Audubon. Austin Country Club.

Oct. 14: 60th Anniversary Celebration of Montopolis Friendship Community Center. 403 Vargas Road.

Oct. 14: The Mask of Limits for ME3LJ Center. Hyatt Regency Austin Hotel.

Oct. 15: Butcher’s Ball for Urban Harvest and Foodways Austin. Rockin’ Star Ranch.

Oct. 15: Fashion and Art Palooza 3.0. Lucas Event Center.

 

Services announced for political trailblazer John Treviño

Lonnie Limón posted on Facebook the latest information about services for his cousin John Treviño, Jr., the first Mexican-American to serve on Austin City Council and a longtime leader in the community.

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Lonnie Limón and John Treviño, Jr. at the UT Community Leadership Awards in 2016.

RELATED: John Treviño, Jr., 78, was 1st Mexican-American on Austin’s City Council

From Limón: “For my friends/family who have asked about services for cousin John Treviño, the visitation is at Mission Serenity Chapel, 6204 South First Street, this Sunday at 4:00 p.m. The rosary follows at that location at 6:00 p.m. The funeral Mass will be on Monday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Louis King of France Catholic Church, 7601 Burnet Road. Internment will follow at Assumption Cemetery.”

Go on a Nature Conservancy adventure during lunch

The Nature Conservancy Lunch is one midday repast that I rarely miss.

Folks from worlds of business, government and conservation gather in a big room each year to hear about measurable results around the state from this nonpartisan, science-based advocacy group.

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Drew Brown and Patricia Young Brown at the Nature Conservancy Lunch. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

The Conservancy’s ace in the hole is its leader, Laura Huffman, one of the city’s best public speakers. This day at the JW Marriott, she talked about how the preservation of Hill Country land is now a model for as far away as Africa; how the future of water in the state depends on conservation, not just new supplies; how the Columbia Bottomlands on the Brazos River are faring; how the Conservancy is building a pair of oyster reefs on the coast; and how the group pieced together land through purchase and, more importantly, conservation easements in the Davis Mountains.

RELATED: Natural leader Laura Huffman nurtures the Nature Conservancy.

During lunch, I sat between Deb Hastings, natural resources advisor to Texas Lt Gov. Dan Patrick, and Kristin Vassallo, director of philanthropy and operations for the Conservancy. You can bet that our chat was noteworthy on many levels.

The marquee act, however, was National Geographic photographer and adventurer Pete McBride. My newsroom neighbor Pam LeBlanc interviewed him later that afternoon — I look forward to that article — but I can report on McBride’s spellbinding public presentation, which began with his work documenting the adventures of others — such as walking the length of the Amazon River, not a comfortable assignment for a man from the arid West.

Then he moved on to his passion project, documented in his book “The Colorado River: Flowing through Conflict.” McBride had gone back to his childhood home near the source of the western Colorado and followed it by boat, atop a paddle board, on foot and in the air. The images, of course, are breathtaking, but more important are the ideas, including a long segment on the river’s dry delta. He was able to document the area in Mexico before, during and after a “pulse,” when water was briefly released from the upstream dams.

As readers of this column know, a buddy and I recently finished tracing 50 Texas rivers from their sources to their mouths. Nothing compared to the scale or stamina of McBride’s project, but as a friend texted me during lunch: “You must be in  heaven.” How right he was.

RELATED: How to trace the Medina River.

Dan Jenkins at the Stark Center

Last week, author and dear friend Michael MacCambridge invited me to an early evening event at the Stark Center Physical Culture & Sport, located inside Royal-Memorial Stadium. He told me that news would be broken at this museum and archives, which I very much want to explore more thoroughly.

I walked in to find a couple hundred people milling around a tasty spread. A good two dozen of them turned out to be coworkers from the American-Statesman. So no scoops for me. Other than firing off a few tweets, I could relax and enjoy the company.

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Mark Phillip and Rebecca Feferman at Dan Jenkins Medal event at the UT Stark Center. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

In fact, my colleague from the sports department, Kirk Bohls, quickly and elegantly wrote up the event, including a good number of the laugh lines as well as this two-part news: That the University of Texas has established two awards for sportswriters in the name of the legendary Dan Jenkins, also that the TCU graduate’s archives would land at the Stark Center.

Golf greats Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw were among those who spoke tenderly about Jenkins, but no one was funnier or more timely than the man of the hour. I count myself lucky to have heard him speak just this once.

When I joked to Jim Ritts, former commissioner of the LPGA and current director of the Paramount Theatre, that would I walk out without a scoop, he gave me a hot tip that I immediately took to our managing editorJohn Bridges, who stood nearby.

As luck would have it, Ritts’ well-meaning tip was premature. The next day, our paper reported that Manchester United and Manchester City would most definitely not be playing an exhibition match at Royal-Memorial this summer. Good try.

American Medical Association hails Sen. Kirk Watson

Locally, State Sen. Kirk Watson has received well-deserved acclaim for his hand in transforming the region’s medical ecology, which now includes the Dell Medical School, soon-to-open Dell Medical Center, area-wide Central Health and a host of other collaborative projects.

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State Sen. Kirk Watson. American-Statesman

But on Tuesday, a high-fallutin’ national group noticed, too. Nominated by the Travis County Medical Society, Watson was one of 10 recipients of the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service from the American Medical Association. 

RELATED: How Kirk Watson wants to transform the aging Austin State Hospital.

Winners that night included a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Representative — both medical doctors — and others chosen as “government officials who go above and beyond the call of duty to improve public health,” said AMA Board Chairman Dr. Patrice A. Harris.

Mark Updegrove to step down as LBJ Presidential Library director

Mark Updegrove, only the fourth director of the LBJ Presidential Library, announced that he will leave his position as of March 1.

An author and former media executive, Updegrove will become the CEO of the newly minted National Medal of Honor Museum planned for the Charleston harbor in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

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Mark Updegrove will step down as director of the LBJ Presidential Library in March 2017. Contributed by Jay Godwin.

RELATED: Harry Middleton, longtime head of the LBJ Presidential Library, dies at 95.

Updegrove oversaw the $11 million redesign of the library’s core exhibits, which has increased visibility and visits. He planned two major symposiums at the library, the closely watched Civil Rights Summit in 2014 and the more modest Vietnam War Summit in 2016.

The former event, tied to the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which President Lyndon Baines Johnson championed and signed, attracted Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, as well as first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush.

A consummate diplomat and spokesman, who understood the Johnson family’s unbreakable link to Central Texas history and culture, Updegrove also engaged speakers such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Sandra Day O’Connor, John Glenn, John Lewis, Hank Aaron, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

During his time in Austin, Updegrove penned “Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency.” He is working on his fifth book: “The Last Republicans: George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush — a Father, a Son, and the End of an Era,” due out in 2017.

He earlier served as publisher of Newsweek in New York and manager of Time in Los Angeles and president of TimeCanada.

“Mark Updegrove is a rare leader possessed with vision, creativity, and organizational skills,” said Larry Temple, chairman, LBJ Foundation. “He is an entrepreneurial guy both with great ideas and the skills to implement them. The programming at the LBJ Library over the last eight years has brought national and even international acclaim to the library and The University of Texas. Credit that to Mark Updegrove. I won’t try to put a happy face on our disappointment on his leaving. While we will always be indebted to him for the rich legacy of accomplishment that he leaves at the Library, I just say: Darn it. We hate to see him go and we will miss him.”

 

Service for LBJ Library leader Harry Middleton set

Salute Harry Middleton’s life at a memorial service on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 4:30 p.m. in the LBJ Auditorium. A reception will follow in the Great Hall of the library. RSVP for the service: http://bit.ly/HM-feb1

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RELATED: Harry Middleton, longtime head of LBJ Presidential Library, dies at 95.

Looking for an Austin party? Look no further

Right on time: The Austin social scene blows up.

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Jan. 25: March on the Kitchen Dinner for SAFE. L’Oca D’Oro.

Jan. 25: “The Great Society” previews. Zach Theatre.

RELATED: Zach Theatre grapples with LBJ play “The Great Society.

Jan. 26: Doty Award Dinner for UT College of Fine ArtsAT&T Center.

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Jan. 26: “The Bowie Project: A Rock & Roll Sound Painting” from Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre opens. Ironwood Hall.

Jan. 27: “Mamma Mia” opens. Bass Concert Hall.

Jan 28: Dell Children’s Believe Gala. Austin Convention Center.

Jan. 28: Human Rights Campaign Austin Gala. JW Marriott.

Jan. 28: Edible Austin’s Bacon and Beer Festival. Brazos Hall.

Jan. 28: Drop the Mic, the ReMix for LEEF. Hilton Austin.

Jan. 28: Austin Opera’s “Daughter of the Regiment.” Long Center.

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Jan. 28: Golden Hornet String Quartet Smackdown III featuring Mother Falcon String Quartet opens. Alamo Drafthouse South.

Jan. 29: KMFA 50th Birthday Block Party. Fair Market.

Jan. 29: Revel Unclassified: The Magic String. 4th Tap Brewing Co-Op.

Jan. 29: Concert pianist Anton Nel. Long Center.

Feb. 2: Blue Lapis Light Luncheon. Chez Zee.

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Feb. 3: Salvage Vanguard’s “Thr3e Zisters.” Off Center.

Feb. 3: “Kaleidoscope” opens. Ransom Center.

Feb. 4. CASAblanca for CASA of Travis County. JW Marriott.

Feb. 4: Corazón Awards for Con Mi Madre. Brazos Hall.

Feb. 4: Comedian Kathy Griffin. Long Center.

Feb. 4: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner for Project Transitions. Various locations.

Feb. 4: Rodeo Austin Gala with Randy Houser. Palmer Events Center.

Feb. 4: “Voices of Mercy” from Chorus Austin opens. St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Feb. 6: “Stories to Tell” opens. Ransom Center.

Feb. 7: Dancing with the Stars.” Bass Concert Hall.

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Feb. 7: Forklift Danceworks Launch Party. Private home.

Feb. 8: Feel the Love for Austin Music Foundation. Emo’s.

Feb. 9: Malpaso Dance CompanyBass Concert Hall.

Feb. 10: Ballet Austin’s “Belle Redux”opens. Long Center.

Feb. 10: Mix ‘n’ Match Party, Exhibition & Art Sale. Mexic-Arte Museum.

Feb. 11: Blanton Gala + Reinstalled Permanent Collection. Blanton Museum of Art.

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Feb. 11: Mardi Gras Magic for Town Lake Links. Hyatt Regency Austin.

Feb. 12: Nobelity Austin’s Feed the Peace Awards. Four Seasons Austin.

Feb. 14: “The World According to Snoopy.” Texas State University.

Feb. 14: Esquina Valentine’s Dinner and Show. 209 Pedernales St.

Feb. 15: UT Dance’s “Momentum.” Brockett Theatre.

Feb 15: Philanthropy Day Luncheon. JW Marriott Austin.

Feb. 16: “Farrah Fawcett: Seductress and Sculptress” opens. Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum.

Feb. 16: Penfold Theatre Co’s “An Iliad” opens. Scottish Rite Theater.

Feb. 16: “Pride and Prejudice” opens. Mary Moody Northen Theatre.

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Feb. 17: Physical Plant Theater’s “Sister of the Shattering Glass” opens. Digital.

Feb. 17: “West Side Story” opens. Georgetown Palace Theatre.

Feb.17: Austin Symphony’s “Pixar in Concert.” Long Center.

Feb. 18: Opera Austin’s Serenata Wine Dinner & Auction. Four Seasons Hotel Austin.

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Feb. 21: Finding Refuge in Austin, 1848-1980opening reception. Austin History Center.

Feb. 21-22: Texas Medal of the Arts. Bass Concert Hall.

Feb. 22: Literacy First’s Bright Futures Ahead Party. South Congress Hotel.

Feb. 24: Wonders and Worries Unmasked. JW Marriott Austin.

Feb. 25: Rockin’ Round Up for Any Baby Can. Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Feb. 25: Toast and Roast for Wine & Food Foundation of Texas. Stonehouse Villa.

Feb. 25. Meet the artists of Performa/Dance. Private home.

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Feb. 25: Carnaval Brasileiro. Palmer Events Center.

Feb. 27: Comedian Billy Crystal. Long Center.

Feb. 28. Firefly Fund Inaugural Event. ACL Live.

UPDATES: Opening date for the Salvage Vanguard show is Feb. 3 and the Firefly Fund event venue has changed.

Best Texas books: Rev up with ‘Miles and Miles of Texas’

This week in “Texas Titles,” we take a very long road trip, scan murals at Texas post offices, seek solutions for the Yogurt Shop Murders, take in more football and dive into a museum’s loaned artifacts.

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“Miles and Miles of Texas: 100 Years of the Texas Highway Department.” Carol Dawson with Roger Allen Polson. Texas A&M University Press.

What a great and necessary book! So much of Texana focuses on the state’s pre-industrial past. Yet Texas is a place of cities and suburbs connected to vast expanses by an intricate modern network of interstates, federal highways, state highways, farm and ranch roads, as well as county roads and city streets. Austin-based writer Carol Dawson and former TxDOT thought leader Roger Polson put together this 100-year history relying partly on the agency’s priceless photo collection, edited by Geoff Appold. We promise to dig deeper into this fine volume to produce a feature story in early 2017. Meanwhile, it makes a terrific coffee table book with as much to read as to see.

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“The Texas Post Office Murals: Art for the People.” Philip Parisi. Texas A&M University Press.

If ever a regional book demanded a second printing in paperback, this is one. The New Deal sparked an unprecedented outbreak of public art in styles readily accessible to the general public. And where else to place them during the 1930s than at government gathering places that every community patronized? Parisi, formerly of the Texas Historical Commission, first produced this marvelous guide in 2004. It provides 127 images from the 106 artworks — some gone — commissioned for 69 post offices in the state. The images celebrate Texas life and history, with an emphasis on everyday labors. On a side note, Parisi does not mention contemporaneous artist Paul Cadmus, but several of the images are rendered in his unmistakable homophile style.

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“Who Killed These Girls? Cold Case: The Yogurt Shop Murders.” Beverly Lowry. Knopf.

Here’s something to contemplate: The Austin Police Department is still working on the Yogurt Shop Murders case. Yes, still. The four girls were found naked, bound and gagged on Dec. 6, 1991. The late Corey Mitchell’s 2005 “Murdered Innocents” raked up all those terrible memories. Now, distinguished Austin journalist and fiction writer Lowry tells the ongoing tale crime, punishment, reversal and frustration. We’d love to interview the author on the subject, but we’ll have to read it more thoroughly first. That will happen.

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“Pigskin Rapture: Four Days in the Life of Texas Football.” Mac Engel and Ron Jenkins. Lone Star Books.

Recently, we wrote about Nick Eatman’s “Friday, Saturday, Sunday in Texas: A Year in the Life of Lone Star Football from High School to College to the Cowboys.” Seems like an idea that’s going around. Engel, a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and Ron Jenkins, a DFW-based contract photographer, teamed up on this chronicle of a four-day period in autumn 2015. Again, the granddaddy of this form was H.G. Bissinger’s groundbreaking “Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream,” later morphed into a movie and one of the best TV series ever. This volume maintains a playful tone to go along with the lively photographs, which often capture what’s happening off field as well as before and after the games.

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“Seeing Texas History: The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.” Edited by Victoria Ramirez. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda.” Steven Luckert and Susan Bachrach. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

What a matched pair: Two handsome books tied to the state’s history museum. The first lays out the artifacts borrowed by and displayed by the Bullock. The texts are minimal but essential and exacting. All is organized by periods such as “Empires,” “Struggle for Independence” and “Modern Texas.” The second books goes with an extremely powerful exhibit that includes local contributions from Austin’s Phillipson family collection. You can read more about the first book here, and more about the second book here.