"Obnoxious"  Angela Keaton, Liberated Space

I, Nielsen


Austin Dispatches

No. 100
Sep. 3, 2007
I turned down an offer to become a TV viewer for the Nielsen Ratings. An older woman with Nielsen Media Research showed up at my front door one evening with the offer. Unless that was just her cover and she was really casing the complex for burglary-worthy apartments.1  

If she was legit, I don’t know how Nielsen picked me. I didn’t bother to ask, either. Coincidentally, I was watching parts of a canceled TV show on YouTube, set during my pre-teen years when my TV viewing peaked. It’s declined considerably since. It declined partly because I became more independent with age and could spend more time away from home, and partly because I grew sick of the numbing stupidity of the programming.

Also, if Nielsen took my input seriously, it could destroy an entire industry. We don’t want that, do we?

Beside, I don’t own a television. That killed my chances with Nielsen.2  Instead I watch TV shows on the Internet or on my computer’s ROM drive. The show I was watching, I couldn’t bring myself to rent on DVD. After seeing these clips, I knew I’d made the right choice.3 

That was just something to do during the late June and early July thunderstorms. They inundated the western parts of Travis County most, but it’s nothing we haven’t dealt with before.4  The real inconvenience comes from the first day of each new rain which stirs up something to which I’m allergic.5

During an intermittent break from the inclement weather, the dealership installed the licenses plates on my new car. Content with the world, I drove at the posted speed limit along the northbound lanes of MoPac Expressway, with a sorbet-hued sunset beyond Camp Mabry. Then another car kicked up a stone. It hit the front windshield just so and cracked it. I hadn’t even started making regular payments

On the Town

e100fig3 Independence Day: During a break in the weather, I finally attended the annual Allandale Fourth of July Parade, which went the grand distance from Bullard and White Rock avenues to Gullett Elementary School. Ironically, the parade lead with government vehicles, leaving the rest of the participants to trudge behind exhaust fumes. At least the animals, including dogs itching to fight each other, were at the end. For once, I was glad I don’t live in that neighborhood, or at least that particular stretch. Community only goes so far. Then it becomes a bunch of cretinous strangers trampling on what’s yours.6

July 7: An older, fatter, balding, clean-shaven Gabe Kaplan returned to Austin to tout his new book at BookPeople. It’s a collection of preposterous e-mails. Based on the audience reaction, he should’ve plugged the book at one of the local comedy clubs and gotten some extra money out of it. He mentioned that:

•    Groucho Marx used to attend tapings of “Welcome Back, Kotter,” and lunched with the cast; and
•    An updated film version of “Kotter” is in the works in Hollywood, with Ice Cube as the teacher.7 

Coincidentally, the show’s first season just appeared on DVD.8

Austin Death Watch

The bankrupt (financially and intellectually) Save Our Springs Alliance is suing the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District for wanting to build its new headquarters in the aquifer recharge zone. Too bad they can’t both lose.9 

Meanwhile, animal-“rights” activists, another group of pests with delusions of moral superiority, have vandalized several local gourmet restaurants for serving veal and foie gras.10

The owners of overrated eatery Las Manitas backed out of the City’s $750,000 loan deal as too restrictive and too complicated. This means a renegotiation for the parties so the City can subsidize Marriott to build a hotel at the same location. Of course, if the City took a laissez-faire attitude and let the private parties make a deal on this private property, much time, expense and aggravation could’ve been avoided.11  If the city government did nothing more often, it wouldn’t face a $27.5 million deficit in its almost $600 million budget plan for next fiscal year.12

Do-godders have been wrecking the city for years. A feature in the July 17 Daily Texan claims that racial integration destroyed the local jazz and blues scene centered in historically black East Austin. No good deed goes unpunished.13

Toby Futrell is resigning as City manager, spurring a spate of stories about how the city is really governed: unelected and nearly unaccountable municipal bureaucrats wielding power that should belong to elected officials.14 Omitted in the press coverage is the question of whether we actually need a city manager. Futrell’s resignation coincided with Chronicle Editor Louis Black tut-tutting dissent from the status quo at all levels of government. Coincidentally – or is it? – the Chronicle is part of the same local ruling elite.15 

The members of this elite, created by decades of unconstitutional federal largesse, and which usurped power in Austin in the early '70s, to everyone else's detriment, function as the loyal representatives of a top-down globalist agenda, as opposed to purely representing the interests of local residents, as the older, displaced local ruling elite once did.16  This globalist agenda is an administrative-therapeutic regime that interferes with every aspect of life, while becoming inaccessible to popular recall. It requires the downplaying of genuine political differences. Predictably, its actors and defenders have ascribed unwelcome dissent to psychic abnormality or to scientific imprecision. In any case, those who rule have not abandoned the practice of restricting disagreeable speech but are carrying it forward in the name of openness and combating discrimination. Simultaneously, this regime denies that it exercises power.17

In practice, this elite is why you’re stewing in traffic blocked by wasteful transportation boondoggles, why local housing is increasingly unaffordable, why local businesses are taxed to subsidize their bigger, out-of-town competition, why local entertainment venues are being driven under – and why people in power "can’t seem to do anything about it." Its members not only do nothing to conserve what most of us regard as our way of life but actually seek its destruction or are indifferent to its survival.

To keep Austin Austin, we need to dethrone, displace, and delegitimize the dominant authorities that threaten it.18  Fortunately, their dominance is fragile, because the core supporters are prone to squabbling over spoils.

In other words, it's them or us.19 

 “El Cantante,” o un Vistazo Hacia Abajo del Pico de la Tendencia

“Melanie Ordones Welker” was more accurate than most of the critics. “El Cantante,” based on the career of soñero Hector Lavoe, was better than they made it out to be.20  However, the trailers were fairly accurate as to the movie being close to dominated by Jennifer Lopez, instead of the character the movie's supposed to be about ("Jennifer Lopez is Rosie Perez in ... 'The Jennifer Lopez Story.' Produced by Jennifer Lopez. Also starring Jennifer Lopez's latest husband.")21  Of course, a realistic movie about a musician would show him fussing in the studio or at rehearsal for two hours.22  Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed “El Cantante,” but I think it’s one of those movies where the soundtrack will have a longer shelf life, despite Lopez’s treacly pop ballad tacked on at the end (“Soundtrack by Jennifer Lopez”).23

Beyond the multiplex, I wonder whether the movie represents the peak of the salsa revival.24  Now that the salsa scene has its own high-profile cinematic depiction, it may be facing a downhill slide, which tends to happen with social and entertainment trends. The New York Times claims that’s happening already, and blames it on the hardcore dancers. For once, the Times is accurate about something. Locally, the really good dancers can create an intimidating atmosphere, or else front too much attitude, which limits the appeal of the salsa scene to newcomers. Also, adhering to the dance regimen cuts into alcohol sales at the clubs.25 

Cultural Canapés

Actress Parker Posey stars in “Broken English,” one of only five worthwhile 2007 releases I’ve seen this year. In this indie movie, she plays a moody, high-strung bitch for the umpteenth time in her career.26 

I recently learned about a bluegrass CD covering Van Halen tunes. Former frontman “Diamond” – er, “Rhinestone” David Lee Roth contributes vocals.27

The mayor of St. Louis snubbed Ike Turner by refusing to declare Sep. 2 “Ike Turner Day,” because of his disreputable past.28  The incident was a throwback to my youth. I remember when rock critics used to beat on him in print and radio the way he beat on Tina. Now he’s regarded as an OK guy. What happened? My guess is that after Tina made her comeback, the people who dealt with her in celebrity mode began to harbor ugly suspicions that maybe Ike had the right idea. Either that or the free ride President Clinton got from the bien-pensants, including most rock critics, in the face of credible rape accusations, benefited Ike’s reputation.29

Elsewhere in the aftermath of rock ‘n’ roll, Reese’s has introduced a peanut butter-and-banana cup.30 Eat enough of those and you too can die like the King: plotzing face forward from the toilet, pants around the ankles while straining to extrude a stool. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much the state of rock music these days. (How and why is perhaps another tale for another time.)31 

For the 70th anniversary, Random House has published the original draft of Dr. Seuss’ debut book, with the original title, “Mulberry Street? … I Didn’t See Nuttin.’ ”32 

Don Rickles’ autobiography has just been published. This sounds like the premise for an old Mad magazine article (e.g., “Celebrity Biographies We’d Like to See”), but the book is for real.33 Rickles – an influence on this august, long-running publication (more later) – wanted to be a serious actor.34  But if you watch his old movies, as with Leslie Nielsen’s,35  you keep anticipating a punch line:


Camera lifts slowly to indicate downward movement of submarine.


We’re sinking!


No, you hockey puck, the captain just had another piece of strudel.36 

Media Indigest

The July 13 Chronicle denounced the Statesman’s latest editorial, on the opposition to Wal-Mart building at Northcross Mall, as a “god-awful … overflowing drool-cup of know-nothing, pseudo-centrist dribble…”37  But that describes most every editorial by the Statesman’s editorial committee. For that matter, it describes most every editorial in every daily.38  Come to think of it, most weeklies editorialize the same sort of dribble, too.39

Speaking of extrusions, as of Aug. 10, Louis Black has finally become his parents. He deplores darkness in art.40  What’s next, a column about the joys of golf and voting Republican? However, he neglects to mention all the years he and his flunkies have been extolling such art, right up to the same Aug. 10 issue, where Black pens a paean to the “hellish Hollywood visions” of Robert Thom, exploitation filmmaker and screenwriter.41 It’s a trait a letter-writer to Phoenix New Times called them on years ago: their fondness for “perversion and blasphemy.”

Neighborhood News

Heavily armed cops arrested a man at a construction site near the North Austin Medical Center on Aug. 16. The man allegedly attacked another man with a gun in a local apartment complex.  The standoff ended in time for the evening rush hour.42 

The University of Texas plans to run the world’s fastest supercomputer at the Pickle Research Center. It’ll calculate UT’s tuition increases above the rate of inflation for each term.43

Bantam Electronics continues to expand.44  A Daily Grill location has opened at The Domain.45  Meanwhile, Statesman food critic Dale Rice panned nearby Kona Grill.46 

On Aug. 22, I witnessed the aftermath of a multicar pileup on the southbound lanes of MoPac, south of the Parmer Lane overpass, that backed up morning rush-hour traffic from the toll road extension. On June 30 and Aug. 8, I witnessed the aftermaths of collisions at Metric Boulevard and Braker Lane. On Aug. 16, I witnessed the aftermath of a collision at Duval Road and the southbound frontage road of MoPac. Previously, on July 16, KGSR-FM reported a wreck at the same intersection. On June 28 and Aug. 17, KUT-FM reported auto collisions at Parmer and MoPac. Yahoo!’s new live traffic map registered minor collisions at Kramer Lane and Parkfield Drive, at Sun Hill Drive and Aspen Street, and at the northbound lane of Highway 183 (Research), on June 29; a hit-and-run collision at Gracy Farms Lane and Burnet Road, on Aug. 1; and a collision at Rutland Drive and Burnet, on Aug. 14.

In recent months, branches of Auto Zone, Taco Bell, and First National Bank have opened on the block bound by Parmer, Metric, and Lamplight Village Avenue. David Weekly Homes is building detached, single-family houses on Gracy Lane and Gorham Street. A Starbucks has opened at The Market at Parmer Lane shopping plaza.

A Dining Guide to Phoenix

Capistrano's Italian Deli
31 W. Southern Ave., Tempe 85282
(480) 968-0712

Cheba Hut II
960 W. University Dr. #108, Tempe 85281-7809
(480) 446-0088

Chicago Hamburger Co.
3749 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix
(602) 955-4137

Three locations
Jewish delicatessen also endorsed by Pat Dixon and a current supervisor who lived in Phoenix.
2611 N. Central Ave., Phoenix 85004
(602) 264-5967
The menu and decor harken back to the early '60s. I dined there once on a date  not The Barnburner. At the time, it was the most expensive meal I'd ever paid for, but the whole affair was so swanky and enjoyable, the cost was worth it.
Greasy Tony's
921 E. University Dr., Tempe 85281-4205
(480) 894-6100
Reputedly run by the numbers boss of Phoenix. A great late-night location to get a slice of pizza or fries in gravy.
Honey Bear's Bar-B-Q
Two locations
The Van Buren Avenue location is the first restaurant I ate at after I moved into the nearby apartment complex. Also endorsed by The Burnburner.
La Fontanella Italian Restaurant
4231 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix 85018
(602) 955-1213
The house walnut-gorganzola salad is absolutely the best salad I've ever eaten.
Marco Polo Supper Club
2616 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix 85016
(602) 468-0100
The Barnburner lived in San Francisco for several years and was something of a conisseur of Asian food. This was one of her favorite restaurants. One day she was in an minor auto collision and in need of cheering up. I took her to Marco Polo. So what happens? We get the world's most flamingly gay waiter. And he's rude to The Barnburner. In retaliation, I didn't tip on a $50 restaurant bill. We didn't go back there after that. But the food's good.
Oregano's Pizza Bistro
Six metro locations

Phoenix House of Pizza &Subs
326 N. 48th St., Phoenix 85008
(602) 275-5181
A neighborhood eatery I patronized.
Riazzi's Italian Garden
2700 S. Mill Ave., Tempe 85282
(480) 731-9464
This is the sit-down restaurant I patronized most when I lived in Phoenix.
Two locations

Veneto Trattoria Italiana
6137 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale 85250
(480) 948-9928

Political Follies

A grand jury has indicted former Sen. Drew Nixon, R-Carthage, on two counts of abuse of office in trying to rig a water board election. This is the same Nixon who, as senator, served six months in prison for soliciting an undercover cop for sex.47  Between him, the disgraced ex-president, and Walter L. Nixon, a federal judge impeached and thrown out of office by Congress, you’d think anybody with the surname “Nixon” would try to stay out of government.48 

Tentacles of Empire

The Austin Business Journal’s July 13 issue has a glowing feature on the relocation of a company that makes radio-frequency identification devices “used to track everything.”49

Notes in the Margins

This is Austin Dispatches’ 100th issue. I’ve enjoyed writing most of these issues.50  We’ll continue to churn out issues at random, full of extremist political rants, arcane cultural references, social excursions and wisecracks, for the foreseeable future.

AD No. 51n7 (June 24, 2003).
2 Nielsen Media Research. What TV Ratings Really Mean: How They Are Obtained, Why They Are Needed. New York City: Nielsen Media Research, 1993.
3 Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Scripts. New York City: Newmarket Press, 2004.
4 Humphrey, Katie. “Waters Keep Boaters Off Lakes, Including Travis.” AAS 30 June 2007: E1+; Petroski, Katie. “ ‘It Sounded Like a Wall of Water.’ DT 28 June 2007: 1+; Posner, Zachary. “Come Hella High Water.” DT 29 June 2007: 1+; Richtmyer, Richard, and Nina Coolidge. “Many Business Owners Lament Wet Weather.” ABJ 3 Aug. 2007: A3+; Terrell, Jim C. “It’s Hard to Complain About All the Rain.” NAB 18 July 2007: 4; “Tropical Storm Eric Brings Rain, Cooler Temperatures.” Idem., 15 Aug. 2007: 1+; Urbanski, Jake. “An Apocalyptic Austin?” DT 26 July 2007: 4.
5 Eisler, Dan. “Re: Got Rain?” E-mail to Arik Hesseldahl, 29 June 2007.
6 “Fourth of July.” AC 29 June 2007: 67.
7 AD No. 70 (Aug. 26, 2004); BookPeople. Advertisement. AC 6 July 2007: 11; Kaplan, Gabe. Kotter’s Back: E-Mails From a Faded Celebrity to a Bewildered World. New York City: Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2007.
8 Rabin, Nathan. “Old School.” The Onion 5 July 2007: 23.
9 AD No. 98n39 (June 11, 2007); Reeves, Kimberly. “Another Springs/Aquifer Development Fight.” AC 6 July 2007: 19; Sciolino, Elaine. Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran. New York City: Touchstone, 2000: 347.
10 Rice, Dale. “Jeffrey’s Is Latest Target of Restaurant Vandalism.” AAS 14 July 2007: B1+; Smith, Amy. “Foie Gras Fracas.” AC 13 July 2007: 20.
11 Coppola, Sarah. “Critical Analysis of Loan Unheard.” AAS 4 Aug. 2007: A1+; Coppola. “Las Manitas Backs Out of City Loan.” Idem., 17 Aug. 2007: A1+; King, Michael. “Bad Loan.” AC 24 Aug. 2007: 15-16.
12 Dunbar, Wells. “Budget Revelations.” AC 3 Aug. 2007: 15-16.
13 Stafford, Lindsay. “Taking a Look Back at the East Austin Scene.” DT 17 July 2007: 5.
14 Dunbar. “Call Her Irreplaceable.” AC 20 July 2007: 16; King. “Futrell’s Farewell.” Idem., 15-16; Mullikin, Lindsey. “City Manager Announces Retirement.” DT 17 July 2007: 1-2.
15 Black, Louis. “City Slights.” AC 20 July 2007: 6+.
16 Eisler. “Kremlin on the Colorado.” E-mail to TCLPActive, 4 June 2005; Orum, Anthony M. Power, Money and the People: The Making of Modern Austin, 1st ed. Austin, Texas: Texas Monthly Press, 1987; No Apologies: Texas Radicals Celebrate the ‘60s. Ed. Daryl Janes. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press, 1992; Richards, David. Once Upon a Time in Texas: A Liberal in the Lone Star State. Austin, Texas: U of Texas P, 2002: Ch. 15
17 Gottfried, Paul Edward. After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1999: 140-141; Gottfried. “Reconfiguring the Political Landscape.” The Paleoconservatives: New Voices of the Old Right. Ed. Joseph Scotchie. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1999: 168.
18 Francis, Samuel. “Culture and Power: Winning the Culture War.” Address to the American Cause Foundation, Washington, D.C. 15 May 1993. Rpt. Revolution from the Middle. Raleigh, N.C.: Middle American Press, 1997: 174-175.
19 AD No. 80n9 (June 21, 2005).
20 AD No. 89 (March 29, 2006); AD No. 91 (July 2, 2006); Legg, Fawn. “Re: Copa Bar & Grill This Week.” 2 Aug. 2007 Austin Salsa eGroup <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/austinsalsa/message/5252>.
21 AD No. 57 (Oct. 25, 1999); EAD No. 9n30 (Oct. 23, 1999); Rabin. “Cinema.” The Onion 2 Aug. 2007: 16.
22 Eisler. “Re: I am officially bringing back the Bola Ban of Utter Doom and Finality.” E-mail to Abimbola Ijagbemi, 8 July 2007.
23 Marc Anthony [Marco Antonio Muniz]. El Cantante. Norte/Sony International 711824, 2007.
24 Corsello, Andrew. “Butt Man Puts on His Dancing Shoes.” GQ June 1996: 180.
25 Bloom, Julie. “Salsa Spins Beyond Its Roots.” NYT 29 July 2007, late ed.: AR1.
26 Baumgarten, Marjorie. “New Reviews.” AC 13 July 2007: 76; Murray, Noel. “Broken English.” The Onion 12 July 2007: 18.
    Releases of a given year are determined by dates available at The Internet Movie Database <http://www.imdb.com/>. The author sees many foreign and off-Hollywood domestic releases in Austin theaters some one to two years after their initial release dates.
27 Strummin’ With the Devil: The Southern Side of Van Halen. CMH 9090, 2006.
28 Christian, Margena A. “Despite City’s Rejection, Ike Turner Keeps Rolling Along.” Jet 20 Aug. 2007: 40.
29 Barr, Bob. The Meaning of Is: The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton. Atlanta: Stroud & Hall Publishers, 2004: 98; Collis, John. Ike Turner: King of Rhythm. London: The Do-Not Press, 2003; Hitchens, Christopher. No One Left to Lie to: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton. London: Verso, 1999; Marcus, Greil. Double Trouble: Bill Clinton and Elvis Presley in a Land of No Alternatives. New York City: Henry Holt, 2000.
30 Thompson, Stephanie. “Elvis Spotted … in Campaign for Reese’s Rollout.” Advertising Age 27 Nov. 2006: 29.
31 AD No. 45n25 (Jan. 5, 2003); AD No. 71n42 (Sep. 15, 2004); AD No. 98, op. cit.; Campos, Paul. The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession With Weight Is Hazardous to Your Health. New York City: Gotham Books, 2004: Ch. 5; Elliott, Bruce. “Elvis Dies.” Retro Hell, 65; Tannenbaum, Rob. "The Meaning of Elvis." GQ. Jan. 1995: 49-50.
32 Anastasia, George. The Last Gangster: From Cop to Wiseguy to FBI Informant: Big Ron Previte and the Fall of the American Mob. New York City: Regan Books, 2004: 192; "Black, Joey," and David Fisher. Joey the Hitman: The Autobiography of a Mafia Killer, rev. ed. New York City: Adrenaline Classics, 2002: 65; Breslin, Jimmy. The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. New York City: Viking Press, 1969: 99; Capeci, Jerry. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Mafia, rev. ed. Indianapolis: Alpha, 2004: 252; Dr. Seuss [Theodore Geisel]. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. New York City: The Vanguard Press, 1937; Freeh, Louis J. My FBI: Bringing Down the Mafia, Investigating Bill Clinton, and Fighting the War on Terror. New York City: St. Martin's Press, 2005: 102; Konigsberg , Eric. Blood Relation. New York City: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005: 245; Pistone, Joseph D. The Way of the Wiseguy: The FBI's Most Famous Undercover Agent Cracks the Mob Mind. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2004: 80; Rooney, Andrew A. Word for Word. New York City : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1986: 183.
33 Doud, Earle. “If Everyone Talked Like Don Rickles.” Mad Dec. 1969: 27-31.
34 Rickles, Don, and David Ritz. Rickles’ Book: A Memoir. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 2007: 29-31, and passim.
35 Nielsen, Leslie, and David Fisher. Leslie Nielsen: The Naked Truth. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1993.
36 Run Silent, Run Deep. Jeffrey Pictures Corp., 1958.
37 Dunbar. “Naked City.” AC 13 July 2007: 17.
38 Flippo, Chet. “Tom Wolfe: Weekend Hipsters.” 1980. Rpt. Everybody Was King-Fu Dancing: Chronicles of the Lionzed and the Notorious. New York City: St. Martin’s Press, 1991: 101.
39 Black. “Looney Tunes.” AC 13 July 2007: 6.
40 Black. “Downward Spiral.” Idem., 10 Aug. 2007: 6.
41 Black. “Down We Go.” Ibid., 50+.
42 “Man Surrenders After Nearly Two-Hour Standoff.” AAS 17 Aug. 2007: B2.
43 Olivier, Nicholas. “University Set to Launch Machine That Could Be World’s Fastest.” DT 3 July 2007: 1; Posner. “World’s Fastest Supercomputer Powers Up UT.” Idem., 27 June 2007: 1+.
44 AD No. 77n49 (Mar. 3, 2005); Richtmyer. “Bantam Finds Strength in Low Numbers.” ABJ 13 July 2007: 3.
45 Mistretta, A.J. “Austin’s New Domain for Power Lunches.” ABJ 3 Aug. 2007: A1+.
46 Rice, Dale. “Poor Service Overshadows Tasty Kona Food.” XL 16 June 2007: 6+.
47 Whittaker, Richard. “Beyond City Limits.” AC 13 July 2007: 17.
48 Buchwald, Art. "I Am Not a Crook." New York City: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1974; Nixon v. United States. 506 U.S. 224. 1993; Woodward, Bob, and Carl Bernstein. The Final Days, corr. ed. 1977. Rpt. New York City: Touchstone, 1987.
49 Richtmyer. “RFID Firm Making Tracks to Texas.” ABJ 13 July 2007: 1+.
50 Bonnoyer, Robert. “Joe and Sam Interview With a Vampire.” AD No. 66 (May 28, 2004); Hernandez, KT. “KT Replies (The Printable Part, That Is).” AD No. 23 (Dec. 2003).