Back on the Block

No. 38
Austin Dispatches
July 7, 2002

DALLAS – The echoing chatter flowed like the wine in the hospitality suite, or the booze at the bar, or the beer at the tables, or the fountain in the lobby of the hotel. Into the lobby strode Dan Eisler, clad in Italian silk and steel resolve.

He surveyed the scene with a practiced eye. He noted the location of friends, nominees, party officials, acquaintances old and new. He moved forward, the soles of his black, cap-toe oxfords keeping time on the tiles to his almost military strut. Women's eyes tracked his procession to the front of the convention banquet.1

Gubernatorial nominee Jeff Daiell, and Gary Johnson, "Live and Let Live" producer, arose from their table.2

Daiell extended his hand. "Gary speaks highly of you."

Eisler arched an eyebrow. Johnson seldom spoke. Besides, they had fought for a year over the party’s direction. The battle had subsided as Eisler increased his influence over the county organization, and it in turn fielded more candidates for municipal office than the miniscule Republican opposition against the decaying “Green Machine.”3

“How’d you like to serve as county coordinator of my campaign?” Daiell asked.

Eisler blinked at this latest development of a bustling day – nay, month. He was again offering his services to the world with the end of his work in San Antonio.4 He'd received much favorable response from his networking efforts amid a social schedule far busier than when he’d been employed; though the next job as yet eluded him.5

That morning, Eisler awoke and turned on the television in his room and Gene Hackman’s mug appeared.6  While Eisler primped, Matthew “Shaggy” Lillard flogged the “Scooby-Doo” movie on a behind-the-scenes program.7  After breakfast, the convention delegates chose state party officials and nominees for statewide office. Several candidates fought hard into the afternoon for the U.S. senator nomination. Eisler had just returned from a mirthful dinner with his friend Bola Ijagbemi, in Richardson, though the food at Pappadeux’s was a bland excuse for New Orleans cooking.

“I’d be honored.” Eisler said. The county chairman last year asked to him to run against Daiell. Eisler considered Daiell’s ability and experience, and declined. Then he met Daiell and knew his decision had been the right one.8

“What’re the requirements of the job?”

Daiell explained that anyone in Travis County who wanted to get information about his campaign could contact Eisler locally. Later in the election season, Eisler would assist with Daiell’s campaign events in the county.

“It’s a job of great responsibility.” Daiell winked. “Not to be taken lightly.”

“OK,” Eisler said. He and Daiell shook hands.

Daiell announced he was retiring. Daiell entered a nearby elevator, and it silently whisked him to his suite for the night.

One Day in the Life of Daniel Mikhailovitch

A gentle sprinkle fell on the courtyard of Chuy's at Highway 183 and Duval Road. A breeze blew about the tables on the unseasonably cool May Wednesday. By a large easel, Meri Aaron Walker squeezed a stress ball and bellowed over the birds chirping and the highway traffic.

His back to her, Dan Eisler grimaced. Today could have been perfectly pleasant, he thought. Sitting at the courtyard sipping drinks and exchanging cards during the semi-monthly Low Tech Happy Hour.

Instead, Walker had launched into a spiel about networking. Eisler was quite familiar with the practices she suggested, all effective. However, she prefaced the practices with theory. Bad theory, and bad economics.

Working from her PowerPoint printout, Walker dismissed the "old industrial economy" as not having worked in 30 years. For example, "If I give you and dollar and you give me a dollar, we both end up where we began."

By contrast, with the New Economy, "if I give you and idea and you give me an idea, we end up with two ideas each -- a 100 percent return on our investment. It's a money machine for the foreseeable future."

The distinction made between the Old Economy and the New Economy, invariably by advocates of the New Economy, weren't so distinct, Eisler thought. Economics is based on human behavior, which seldom changes, if at all, and the basics of exchange remain the same whether money's involved or not.9 And the New Economy hadn't been doing so hot itself lately.10

"Practice making ideas from information and offering them into relationship," Walker said.

That and trading information for control and money both belonged to catallactics,  Eisler thought.11

Walker said her theory derived from "New Rules for the New Economy" by Kevin Kelly, a former Wired contributor.12  Figures, Eisler thought. Earlier, he detected a Tofflerian influence.13

Walker really should have read some Austrian economists, or even David Friedman's "Hidden Order,” Eisler thought.  At best, she came close to their insights, but close wasn't good enough.14

Neighborhood News

Texas Technology reports my landlord signed a contract for wireless online maintenance management to track service requests from tenants and repair status reports.15  The overall local economy favors renters for now.16

IBM has laid off employees – again.17  XeTel reports financial difficulty.18  The University of Texas is considering turning the J.J. Pickle Research Campus into a complete college campus for West Austin.19

Business Roundup

Forbes reports the “smug” Michael Dell plans to move his company into new markets like storage networks and server arrays – components used to operate computer networks – something that’ll require hiring a lot of people.20  And the village of Bee Cave approved a $250 million upscale shopping mall, like the Galleria in Houston or Dallas.21

In a Multiplex Far, Far Away …

My current work situation allows me to see movies in the theater for as little as $1. Consequently, I get to watch Hollywood brain candy at the price at which I deem it worth watching, after it leaves first-run movie theaters but before the video release date. Anyway, one step up from the discount theater is a small movie house in Round Rock that has matinee shows for – shhh – only $2.75. That's where I saw "Spider-Man" and the surprisingly funny "Undercover Brother."22

Even more surprising, the Round Rock 8 is where I was able to see the new Star Wars flick the day it opened.23  “Attack of the Clones” was an acceptable movie for $2.75. It’s better than “The Phantom Menace” (what isn’t), though the aspects of “Attack of the Clones” I liked weren’t enough to support the movie as a whole. “Clones” also suffered from me seeing a better film the same week, “Piñero,” an independent film about a New York Puerto Rican ex-con turned actor and playwright in the ‘70s and ‘80s.24  Similarly, "Phantom Menace" paled in comparison to the other movie I saw the same week, "Black Mask."25  In both cases, George Lucas' productions were surpassed by vitality beyond his ken.26

In fact, except for "Undercover Brother," the best movies I've seen in two months have been "small releases": "Piñero," the Argentine caper "Nine Queens,"27  the New York drama “13 Conversations About One Thing,”28  and Woody Allen's latest, "Hollywood Ending."29

Of course, if the Hollywood studios had consulted me, I could’ve produced their blockbuster releases cheap and quick.30  For example:

Attack of the Clones: Upstart manufacturers using the same hardware specs and operating systems undercut IBM’s personal computer sales.31

Spider-Man: Arachnid specialist develops a small business as an exterminator. Then he faces routine persecution at the hands of the EPA, OSHA and the IRS.

The Fear of All Sums: Ben Affleck plays an Arthur Andersen accountant who develops paralyzing "math anxiety."32

[1] Hoppe, Christy. “Third Parties Hope to be Heard.” DMN 9 Jun. 2002: A49; “Weekend for Winners.” Lone Star Liberty Apr. 2002: 1+.
[2] America Votes: A Handbook of Contemporary American Election Statistics, Vol. XIX. Ed. Richard M. Scammon and Alice V. McGillivray. Washington, D.C.: Elections Research Center/Congressional Quarterly, 1991: 434; Angell, Marie. Letter to editor. Gulf Coast Liberty Jun. 2002: 2.
[3] Black, Louis. “Page Two.” AC 10 May 2002: 6; Clark-Madison, Mike. “Angry on the Inside?” AC 10 May 2002: 14; “Governing Post-Boom Austin.” AC 12 Apr. 2002: 20+; Idem., “Sending Out an SOS.” AC 5 Jul. 2002: 16; Levin, Marc. “Austin’s New Aristocracy.” AUSR Apr. 2002: 1+; Levy, Michael R. Open letter to Austin voters. 26 Apr. 2002; Scheibal, Stephen. “Environmental Split Heats Up Election.” AAS 2 May 2002: A1.
[4] AD No. 28 (July 10, 2001).
[5] AD No. 34 (Jan. 14, 2002).
[6] “Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) Employment (Non-Seasonally Adjusted).” Texas Labor Market Review May 2002: 1.
[7] Geronimo: An American Legend. Columbia Pictures Corp., 1993.
[8] Scooby-Doo. Atlas Entertainment/Hanna-Barbera Productions/Meespierson Film CV/Mosaic Media Group/Village Roadshow Productions, 2002.
[9] Mises, Ludwig von. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, 3rd rev. ed. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1966: 11-19, 143-145.
[10] “Assessing the Damage: 5 Lessons From the New Economy.” Cincinnati Business Courier 16 Nov. 2001: S3.
[11] Mises, op. cit., 232-234.
[12] Kelly, Kevin. New Rules for the New Economy: 10 Radical Strategies for a Connected World. New York City: Viking, 1998.
[13] Toffler, Alvin. The Third Wave. New York City: William Morrow, 1980.
[14] Friedman, David D. Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life. New York City: HarperBusiness, 1996; Nucgaek, Orwisem. “To Liberty Via America.” NR 24 Feb. 1997: 30.
[15] Price, Carly L. “AMLI Maintenance Goes Paperless and Wireless.” TT Apr. 2002: 12.
[16] Novak, Shonda. “Apartment Deals Still Good, But Maybe Not for Long.” AAS 29 Jun. 2002: F1.
[17] Pletz, John. “Latest IBM Cuts Hit About 30 in Austin.” AAS 30 May 2002: C1.
[18] Ladendorf, Kirk. “XeTel Accounting Report Will Reveal ‘Mighty Struggle.’ ” AAS 28 Jun. 2002: C1.
[19] Clark-Madison. “Naked City.” AC 5 Jul. 2002: 17; Jayson, Sharon. “UT Sees Pickle as Place to Grow.” AAS 29 Jun. 2002: A1.
[20] Fisher, Daniel. “Pulled in a New Direction.” Forbes 10 Jun. 2002: 102.
[21] Novak. “Bee Cave Approves Mall Zoning.” AAS 26 Jun. 2002: B1.
[22] Spider-Man. Columbia Pictures/Marvel Entertainment/Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2002; Undercover Brother. Imagine Entertainment/Universal Pictures/Urban Media, 2002.
[23] Garcia, Chris. “ ‘Star Wars’ Fans: Do or Do Not, There is No Line.” AAS 16 May 2002: B1.
[24] Piñero. GreeneStreet Films Inc./Lower East Side Films, 2001.
[25] Black Mask (Hak Hap). Distant Horizons/Film Workshop Ltd., 1996; EAD No. 5n11 (June 1999).
[26] Gross, Joe. “Stop the Universe (We Want to Get Off).” XL 16 May 2002: 18-21.
[27] Nine Queens (Nueve Reinas). FX Sound/Industrias Audiovisuales Argentinas S.A./J.Z. & Associados/Kodak Argentina S.A./Naya Films S.A./Patagonik Film Group, 2000.
[28] Levy, Piet. “Happy Trails to You.” AC 5 Jul. 2002: 50.
[29] Hollywood Ending. DreamWorks SKG/Gravier Productions/Perdido Productions, 2002.
[30] AD No. 30 (Sep. 11, 2002).
[31] Cringely, Robert X. [Mark Stephens] Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date, rev. ed. New York City: HarperBusiness, 1996: Ch. 9.
[32] Arem, Cynthia A. Conquering Math Anxiety: A Self-Help Workbook. Pacific Grove, Calif.: Brooks/Cole Pub. Co., 1993; Weber, Joseph. “The Lingering Lessons of Andersen’s Fall.” Business Week 1 Jul. 2002: 39.