But Seriously, Folks...

Austin Dispatches No. 50 May 14, 2003

I'm already dissatisfied with my new ISP, GoDaddy.com. I was gonna announce new, multiple e-mail addresses, but I can't receive messages at NeoMail. In fact, I sent some of you a message from there a few weeks ago, but I can't tell whether you replied to that address or not. So for now, my e-mail is the same one I’ve used since May 2000.


Some anonymous moron put a dent – a new dent – in my car, knocking the rear bumper loose. I’m out $800 to get it fixed.


My rental was a Pontiac Grand Prix. If you were thinking Detroit models have improved, guess again. Now it’s customary to decry the assembly work on these vehicles.[1] As the notorious Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom put it, “those jalopies Detroit puts out are slapped together by jigaboos wearing headphones pumping music into their ears and so zonked on drugs they don’t know a slothead screw from a lug nut ….”[2]


My beef is with the designers. How does Detroit still get away with the clunky handling and ridiculous bubble-toy design year after year? The best thing I could say about the Grand Prix is the front windshield is angled so that the dashboard top doesn’t reflect upon the windshield in the sunlight, a problem I’ve encountered with all other American rentals.


During this ordeal, I finally read “Kitchen Confidential,” chef Anthony Bourdain’s expose of the restaurant business.[3] It amused me, because much of it rang true from my short stint in the food trade, admittedly at a lower level than three-star restaurants in New York.[4]


Speaking of food, while I was contracting at Dell in Round Rock, a nearby Indian restaurant advertised the addition of American barbecue. No, Apu,[5] tossing a pan of dry turkey breast mixed with onion slices on the buffet line – without sauce – doesn’t count as barbecue brisket. That’s probably a hanging offense in these parts. [6]


On the Town


My transportation travail didn’t prevent a spate of social excursions during a peak time of year for area happenings.


In between jobs, I saw Paul Ray and The Cobras at The Continental Club.[7] I’ve heard Ray for years on local radio. He’s an engaging personality and the guy’s got great taste. Plus, The Cobras are supposed to be one of Austin’s legendary groups.[8] That night, they sounded like just another local band. Also, Ray just doesn’t sound good singing. In fairness, a sandstorm wrecked his vocal chords years ago.[9]


Later, I caught Thievery Corporation at Stubb’s[10] and flirted with the eye candy in the audience. If the crowd was anything to go by, Austin’s new smoking ban is going to be a colossal failure.[11] The group needed more Brazilian music in the set, like the music it played on the sound system before the show.


            I suspect Thievery Corporation’s honchos, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, timed their performance to coincide with the Austin Record Convention that weekend.[12] I didn’t buy anything, but it was worth the admission to delve into 80 years’ worth of pop culture in one concentrated location and meet people I transact with through the Internet. The Whiskey Rebel was there, too, manning a booth.[13] He’s written about his annoyance at dealing with record collectors. Sure enough, I saw him looking irked on his way out of the Crockett Center.


I finally attended the O. Henry Pun-Off.[14] The contestants underlined and telegraphed every joke. I don’t think Groucho has to worry about his ranking.[15] When he tossed off puns, he spoke so fast the audience didn’t have time to groan.  A former co-worker from the Waco Tribune-Herald attended. He confirmed a rumor that our ex-boss, Douglas F. Wong, who is complicit in the 1993 Davidian massacre, is now living in Austin.[16]


The pun-off occurred the same time downtown as the Old Pecan Street Festival, Cinco de Mayo,[17] the city elections, and, oh yeah, a prom.[18] However, I noticed the District Bar & Grill was closed. Another place gone before I could try it.


After observing the election returns, Dennis Lucey and I sipped a couple of mojitos.[19] I introduced him to the salsa scene at Miguel’s La Bodega.[20]  I’ve begun attending frequently, where I dance with a lot of attractive women.


The May 2003 issue of Tribeza contains breathless rundowns of all the social events I didn’t attend, and photos of people I don’t recognize.[21]


Cultural Canapés


I was at Blockbuster recently and a clerk wheeled up a cart with soda and candy to promote some store special. Then he showed me the upcoming video releases I could rent as part of this deal.


“Wait a second,” I said. “Sylvester Stallone’s got a new movie, but it’s gone straight to video?”[22]


The clerk and I shared a chuckle over that. Sorry, Sly. At least you’re not Janeane Garofalo. Her whiny shtick wore thin a long time ago, and she’s been pushing to lose her entertainment career for years by crapping in her rice bowl.[26] For a finale, her nitwitted foreign policy comments got the public laughing at her, not her jokes.[23] Don’t let the door hit you, honey, and say hello to Tom Berenger when you leave.[24]


HBO has licensed a line of “Sopranos” menswear.[25] Fuhgeddaboudit! The prices for this line are a rip-off compared to shopping at discount and thrift stores for chiaroscuro neckties and other clothes that don’t mimic a WASP esthetic.[26]


Maybe those prices sent James Gandolfini back to the show.[27] I haven't seen the fourth season yet, but avid fans complained of the slow pace and lack of resolution of plot lines. Maybe Gandolfini has a better sense of when it's time to get off the stage (or airwaves). If David Chase and HBO wanted to wring out one more season, they could’ve continued their practice of breaking convention and produce it without Tony Soprano, dead, in prison or in the witness protection program, leaving the remaining cast to sort through the pieces in a series that deliberately ends with a whimper -- OK, maybe a few bang-bangs along the way.[28] It's been done before with "Chico and the Man," which lasted a full season after Freddie "Chico" Prinze Sr. killed himself; and "Welcome Back, Kotter," which had diminished appearances by Gabe "Kotter" Kaplan and John "Barbarino" Travolta in the last season.[29]


Even a bad “Sopranos” season would be an improvement over the foreign films I saw for free at UT. The Center for Middle Eastern Studies brought over Israeli director Yehuda “Judd” Ne’eman, a pretentious hack.[30] He described “Paratroopers”[31] as the Israeli “Full Metal Jacket.”[32] No, it’s just a very long episode of “M*A*S*H.”[33] The next night’s film, “Streets of Yesterday,” was a late ‘80s thriller set in Berlin, and it showed.[34] The props, clothing, filters and soundtrack could’ve been castoffs from a Duran Duran video.[35] But as bad as these films were, they were still better than “Chronically Unfeasible,” a heavy-handed Brazilian political satire from 2000 whose color film stock looked like it dated from the ‘60s.[36] At least these films were free – and you get what you pay for.


For whatever reason, Pottery Barn mailed an unsolicited catalog. The back page touts the “PB Teen” line: “hip, exclusive designs.” The photo shows a shag-carpeted room with a young couple in what looks like modified ‘70s fashions.[37] In the scene, I imagined they’d just discussed ordering Gass shoes[38] while listening to Pablo Cruise[39] and Gino Vannelli.[40]


Which reminds me, my brother released his debut CD, “Stages.”[41] He’s credibly extending a rock style rooted in L.A. and developed from the ‘70s into the mid-‘90s,[42] before grunge flared.[43]


Neighborhood News


While distributing literature in Precinct 269 for Wes Benedict’s campaign for City Council, I learned 150 of 186 units in the Stoneleigh at Gracy Farms apartment complex are empty. Meanwhile, the Mayor’s Task Force on the Economy issued a preliminary report to do something – anything – about the economy.[44] Apparently, this includes the Council considering a $25 million tax break to develop The Domain, “a mixed-use urban village project” between Burnet Road and MoPac Expressway.[45]


XeTel Corp. is still lying on its deathbed in U.S. bankruptcy court.[46] A new storage rental building, Braker Storage, has opened next to the RaceTrac gas station.[47]


Bank of America plans to add eight new branches to the area, including one at Interstate 35 and Parmer Lane.[48] You’ll still have to scrutinize your statements to ensure BOA isn’t costing you money with balance discrepancies, misapplied fees to wrong accounts, and omitted transactions. No, there aren’t any better competitors, at least as long as bankers are cozy with the government (and vice versa).[49]


To the east, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. plans to upgrade its semiconductor plant.[50] By all accounts, this plan isn’t just the Samsung and dance.[51]


Political Rants


As near as I can tell from his haphazard Mar. 24 lecture, UT grad student Bryan Register wants to make libertarianism safe for John Rawls, or at least make his academic career safe for tenure. Now, I’ve been encountering Rawls’ theories for about 15 years. Rawls and his explicators still don’t make sense – Register came closest -- but I understand the gist. Rawls is the Big Name to cite among people who want to take from other people but don’t have the guts to do it by direct force, and don’t want to feel guilty about their villainy.


Obviously, this isn’t compatible with libertarian theory, no matter how many noble but vague slogans Rawlsians use.[52] Register’s also fooling himself if he thinks a libertarian, even as compromising as his lecture suggests he is, is going to be accepted in academia.[53] Statists have the good jobs locked up, and they’ll let go when Register pries them from their greasy, dead fingers.[54] As a friend of a friend put it, we’d be better off investigating the work of Lou Rawls. (Suggested study topic for grad school myrmidons: “Your Good Thing is About to End.”)[55]


The municipal election results rattled the local power elite. The Austin Chronicle attempted to minimize sizeable Libertarian and quasi-libertarian inroads against the status quo.[56] But Place 6 councilman Danny Thomas told the Chronicle he was “surprised” by the high returns for Wes Benedict.[57]


Carl Tepper, a registered Libertarian and a candidate for Austin City Council in 2003, told the Austin Chronicle that “probably 40 percent of this community” are unrepresented at City Hall.[58] Tepper’s assessment is supported by the tallies for TCLP activists Benedict and Steve Adams, who each garnered 35 percent of the vote in their council races;[59] and for the major mayoral challengers – Max Nofziger, Marc Katz, and Brad Meltzer, who cumulatively garnered about 32 percent against victor Will Wynn.[60] (Tepper himself received about 6 percent of the vote, but the consensus on his showing is that the large number of candidates for the Place 5 seat cut into his totals.)[61]


In fact, Tepper may underestimate the potential support for a political change in Austin, where the TCLP has operated as a de facto second party for many years.[62]


The fact that the power elite can’t get its story straight is a typical indication that it’s losing control. That’s good. We don’t need a mere change of faces among local leaders. We need regime change.[63]


The Badnarik presidential campaign gets a mention in the May 2003 issue of Liberty magazine. The bad news is R.W. Bradford mentions "Badnerik" [sic.] as "a guy who's run a couple of low-level races and garnered an embarrassingly small vote share ...."[64]


Keep in mind this is the same magazine that described our present national chairman as a "pompous … Tim Robbins look-alike."[65] That's a worse insult, but at least Liberty spelled Geoff's name right.


Bradford indulges these casual swipes on the way to promoting the candidacies of James Gray, Orange County, Calif., Superior Court judge;[66] and -- L. Neil Smith???? While Smith postures as some sort of libertarian Che Guevara, his speeches and articles suggest that in real life, he couldn't sell bottled water in the Sahara.[67]


And as long as we're all laying it on the line here, let me just add that Liberty publishes twice as frequently and is half as good -- and just as typo-ridden -- as it used to be. The Web site hasn't even been updated in three years. I might've canceled my subscription years ago, but the monkeys in the subscription department never bothered to process my renewals in the first place. So there.


This is a long issue. Maybe I should switch to writing a blog.[68]
Home Archives

[1] Hamper, Ben. Rivethead: Tales From the Assembly Line. New York City: Warner Books, 1991.

[2] Updike, John. Rabbit is Rich. 1981. Rpt. Rabbit Angstrom: A Tetralogy. New York City: Everyman's Library, 1995: 937.

[3] Bourdain, Anthony. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, rev. ed. New York City: The Ecco Press, 2000.

[4] Eisler, Dan. “The Rush.” Unpublished mss., 1992.

[5] Groening, Matt. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. Ed. Ray Richmond and Antonia Coffman. New York City: HarperPerennial, 1997: 26 and passim.

[6] Eckert, Travis, and Carol Eckert. Real Texas Bar-B-Que: A Beginner’s Guide. Austin, Texas: Sport-Teck, 1987.

[7] “Club Listings.” AC 18 Apr. 2003: 102; Zelade, Richard. Austin, rev. 4th ed. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co., 1996: 251.

[8] Shank, Barry. Dissonant Identities: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Scene in Austin, Texas. Hanover, N.H.: UP of New England, 1994: 67, 71, 83, 85-86.

[9] Gray, Christopher. “Blues for Life.” AC 6 Nov. 1998: 70.

[10] Savlov, Marc. “Thievery Corporation.” AC 18 Apr. 2003: 84.

[11] Scheibal, Stephen. “Smoking Restriction Gets Initial Council OK.” AAS 9 May 2003: A1+.

[12] “Convention Listings.” Record Convention News Apr./May 2003: 32-35.

[13] AD No. 34n24-25 (Jan. 14, 2002).

[14] Zelade, op. cit., 37.

[15] Arce, Hector. Groucho. New York City: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1979.

[16] Reavis, Dick J. The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1995: 39-43.

[17] Zelade, op. cit., 38.

[18] Chisholm, Barbara. “Community: Events.” AC 2 May 2003: 66.

[19] “Caipirinha and Mojito.” Bon Appetit Jan. 2002: 80.

[20] Hardwig, Jay. "Rhythm is King." AC 25 Jun. 1999: 54+; Morgan, Lance Avery. “Bodies in Motion.” AM Apr. 2003: 46-50; Wimer, Sarah. “Hot Salsa.” TGL Nov. 2001: 22-24.

[21] Hudson, Phil. “Noteworthy.” Tribeza May 2003: 21-24.

[22] Avenging Angelo. Cinema Holdings/Dante Entertainment/Franchise Pictures/Lionweed/Quinta Communications/Warner Bros., 2002.

[26] Vinciguerra, Thomas. “That Garofalo Woman.” TAS Sep. 1999: 62; Wagner, Bruce, and Wayne Stambler. “Janeane Garofalo.” Premiere Dec. 1997: 120.

[23] “The High Cost of Bush-bashing.” NYPO 10 Apr. 2003: 18.

[24] Garcia, Chris. “One Tough Aggie: Tom Berenger Talks About a Bear of a Role.” AAS 29 Nov. 2002: E1.

[25] Cassidy, Tina. “Men’s Fashion Line Has Mob Ties to HBO’s ‘Sopranos.’ ” Boston Globe 10 Apr. 2003, 3rd ed.: D3.

[26] AD No. 29n23 (Sep. 4, 2001); Kahn, Gwynne, and Lorraine Mahru. “Thrift Shops.” Retro Hell, 224; Marriott, Michel. “The Soul of Black Elegance.” Esquire Gentleman Spring 1993: 117.

[27] Weiner, Allison Hope. “The Bold Soprano.” EW 28 Mar. 2003: 6+.

[28] Daly, Steve. “Bright Lights, Baked Ziti.” EW 7 Jan. 2000: 20-27.

[29] McNeil, Alex. Total Television: The Comprehensive Guide to Programming From 1948 to the Present, 4th ed. New York City: Penguin Books, 1996: 147-148, 822.

[30] Garcia, Chris. “Apropos Look at Israeli Film.” AAS 4 Apr. 2003: E4.

[31] Paratroopers (Masa Alunkot). 1977.

[32] Full Metal Jacket. Natant/Warner Bros., 1987.

[33] Elliott, Bruce et. al. “M*A*S*H.” Retro Hell, 122.

[34] Streets of Yesterday (Rehovot Ha’Etmol). 1989.

[35] Gruner, Jessica. “Duran Duran.” Retro Hell, 61-62.

[36] Chronically Unfeasible (Cronicamente Inviável). Agravo Producoes Cinematografica, 2000.

[37] Pottery Barn Late Spring 2003 catalog: 68.

[38] Elliott. “Gass Shoes.” Retro Hell, 79.

[39] NRSE, 741.

[40] AD No. 9n45 (Oct. 23, 1999).

[41] Eisler, Rob. Stages. Freaktone Records, 2003.

[42] Hoskyns, Barney. Waiting for the Sun: Strange Days, Weird Scenes and the Sounds of Los Angeles. New York City: St. Martin's Press, 1996: 240-244, 247-250, 253-259, 268-281, 292-297, 300-303, 325-330.

[43] alt.culture, 96-97; Hoskyns, op. cit., 337.

[44] Clark-Madison, Mike. “Don’t Just Sit There.” AC 18 Apr. 2003: 18.

[45] Apple, Lauri. “Domain Gives Slusher Pain.” AC 9 May 2003: 19+; Apple. “Smart Growth is Dead, Long Live Smart Growth.” AC 2 May 2003: 22.

[46] Pope, Colin. “Xetel [sic.] in Last Gasps.” ABJ 25 Apr. 2003: A3.

[47] “RaceTrace: A ‘Fast-follower,’ Not Leader.” Oil Express 30 Apr. 2001: 1.

[48] Higginbotham, Stacy. “Bank of America Growing.” ABJ 25 Apr. 2003: 1+.

[49] Rothbard, Murray. The Mystery of Banking. New York City: Richardson & Snyder, 1983: Ch. 8-11.

[50] AD No. 21 (Oct. 1, 2000); Ladendorf, Kirk, and Chuck Lindell. “Samsung to Upgrade Austin Chip Plant.” AAS 25 Apr. 2003: A1.

[51] Aerosmith. “Same Old Song and Dance.” Get Your Wings. Columbia KCQ-32847, 1974.

[52] Gottfried, Paul Edward. After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1999: 21-24; Rothenberg, Randall. “Philosopher Robert Nozick vs. Philosopher John Rawls.” Esquire Mar. 1983: 201.

[53] Cox, Stephen. “Assumptions of Power.” Reason Mar. 1993: 34; Fernandez-Morera, Dario. American Academia and the Survival of Marxist Ideas. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1996.

[54] Kostelanetz, Richard. “Exposing the ‘College Teaching’ Scam.” Liberty Nov. 1989: 64-66; Sowell, Thomas. Inside American Education: The Decline, the Deception, the Dogmas. New York City: The Free Press, 1993.

[55] Rawls, Lou. “Your Good Thing (Is About to End).” Your Good Thing. Capitol 325, 1969.

[56] Apple, Lauri. “Place 2, 6: White or Right?” AC 9 May 2003: 24; Black, Louis. “Page Two.” Idem., 8+; Clark-Madison, Mike. “Election 2003: By the Numbers.” Idem., 28.

[57] Apple, op. cit.

[58] “Running in Place (5).” Austin Chronicle 18 Apr. 2003: 26.

[59] Clark-Madison, op. cit.

[60] Apple, and Clark-Madison. “Mayor: When Wynn Won.” Austin Chronicle 9 May 2003: 24; Clark-Madison. “Election 2003: By the Numbers,” op. cit.; Clark-Madison. “How Can Wynn Lose.” Austin Chronicle 25 Apr. 2003: 26+; Martin, Ken. “The Men Who Would be Mayor.” The Good Life. Mar. 2003: 16-21.

[61] Clark-Madison. “Election 2003: By the Numbers,” op. cit.

[62] Eisler, Dan. Regime Change: A Strategy for Libertarian Victory and Dominance in Travis County, 2002: 3.

[63] AD No. 46n19 (Feb. 10, 2003).

[64] Bradford, R.W. “Hope for Libertarians?” Liberty May 2003: 13-14.

[65] Barnett, James. "Crossroads in Indianapolis." Liberty Sep. 2002: 37-41.

[66] “Anti-drug War Judge Joins LP.” LPN Apr. 2003: 1+.

[67] AD No. 21; Buckley, William F. Jr. See You Later Alligator. Garden City, N.Y.: Doublday & Co., 1985.

[68] McIntosh, Deanne. “We Blog.” Australian PC World Feb. 2003: 161.