Chaos on a Plate
Austin Dispatches
No. 104
Dec.  22, 2007

Its reputation is true. Year’s end finds me on a short contract with a previous client, a major corporation that for the purpose of continued employment I’ll call ____.

I never even interviewed for the job or meet my supervisors or co-workers until the day I started. I haven’t met any of the people at the agency, either. Nevertheless, the paychecks have arrived on time.

That’s the good part. But I can verify my colleagues’ stories from the four years since I last worked there. Since I started Nov. 8, I’ve contended with management reorganization shuffles, crucial experts on vacation, multiple contradictory source documents on a file-management system that’s gotten out of control, and administrative and equipment hindrances. My supervisor’s supervisor actually apologized for the delays on establishing my e-mail and intranet access with the company, both of which I obtained only last week. So you know things are badly managed at ____. Half-assed would an improvement.

(Getting a badge to enter the buildings without having to wait in the lobby for somebody to verify me also took weeks. Finally, to get that, I had to get a safety badge, which meant attending a safety course, which meant driving through morning rush-hour traffic on a drizzly day to an office in Southeast Austin with wet leaves strewn all over the steps and walkways. Then I sat inches away from a flickering video screen.)

I’m still pleading for a phone from these bastards. It’s like they can’t be bothered to give me the tools to do my job since they’re paying me a record rate. Moreover, the contract was supposed to end yesterday, but I wheedled an extension through the end of January.  

Naturally, after I mentioned the good news, people started asking me for money.1  Except for close relatives, nobody gets nothing. I’m not even spending money on myself. Those paychecks are for living expenses when I’m out of work in five weeks, and the final wisdom teeth extraction sometime next year. I want to use the same surgeon as before, but without the auspices of medical research, it’ll cost me about $1,200.  

On the Town

I have to keep hustling work, which meant attending Geek Austin’s first monthly social at Joe DiMaggio’s Italian Chophouse at The Domain on Nov. 13. I adjudged it a success. I put the make on an Italian lawyer with Northeastern mannerisms who looked good in a dress – and I don’t mean Rudy Giuliani.2  Just being myself at that juncture – tired, bored, and undergroomed – I got better results than the guy using the newest generation of pick-up strategy.  I got to kiss her, which is more than he did. Not that I paid him much mind. Actually, I wish more men copied his approach. Who needs effective competition?3

Dec. 10: At the annual Society for Technical Communication Christmas party, I met a guy who said he was a film producer. He asked me a question, and before I could get to the crux of my answer, glanced at his cell phone, told me he had another appointment, and left. Then I believed he really was a film producer.  

Dec. 16: Ron Paul supporters held an Austin Tea Party. Several friends also attended. We marched down Congress Avenue from the Capitol to Auditorium Shores, where the organizers tepidly pretended to dump tea in Lady Bird Johnson Lake.4 It was nothing like the original Boston Tea Party.5 Here, the organizers yanked the empty boxes out practically as soon as they hit the water. If they hadn't, they might've confronted Austin police in nearby patrol boats. To think people were worried about polluting the lake. Tea is biodegradable. And the lake isn't the pristine body of water environmental shills think it is. The contours don't even resemble a lake. It’s just a stretch of the Colorado River. Up close, it's a greasy looking wet spot in the middle of town. Add lemon juice and turbinado sugar, and it might be tolerable.

Austin Death Watch

Elsewhere in water, Austin’s planning to turn Waller Creek into a copy of San Antonio’s Riverwalk.6  Since a current co-worker from San Antonio dismissed the latter as “fucking recycled water that people dump shopping carts into,” and since Waller Creek’s where you go to get mugged by a homeless drug addict, the city fathers’ concept isn’t much of a stretch. The real shocker is that they’re thinking of taking their cues from San Antonio. There’s long been a social chill between the two cities.

The Daily Texan reports that local crime increases during college football season home games. Officials will simply have to ban this deplorable practice for the sake of civic order, or else the criminals will have won.7 The City Council approved a police consolidation plan that will cost about $2.5 million and take about four years.8  However, Austin police finally did something useful Nov. 15 and arrested the city’s top FBI agent for drunk driving in the 10600 block of Highway 183 (Research Boulevard).9  It’s a start.10

Meanwhile, the attempt at an anti-street bum ordinance has failed.11 A municipal ban on plastic bags, however, seems likely to succeed.12  Paradoxically, it seems the use of plastic bags at grocery stores has increased lately, Whole Foods’ new policy notwithstanding.13  Of course, with Austin, officials are likelier to rid the city of plastic bags than street bums. The Austin Business Journal recently reported an increase in aggressive bums panhandling downtown.14 Guess which action would lead to a real quality-of-life improvement in the city?  I thought the “caring, progressive” elite of Austin was going to warehouse them all in South Austin.  Apparently that didn’t work. Maybe they could combine the issues and rid Austin of the bums by tying plastic bags around their heads.

During the post-Thanksgiving weekend, the new Mueller Regional Retail Center under the slate gray sky put me in mind of the urban landscapes limned in the fiction of Joyce Carol Oates. That’s not the association shoppers ought to make, especially during the holiday shopping season.  Instead, the mall should’ve evoked a Frederick Barthelmian mise en scène.15  

Elsewhere in the derivations of literature, BookWoman, purveyor of unreadable screeds by dykes consumed by the Marxist notion of women as an “oppressed class,” is threatened by rising rent on the west side that high-end clothing boutiques are able to pay. Boutiques, of course, are patronized almost exclusively by women.

Perhaps the scourge of feminism, which included feminists treating Mom like dog shit back in the ‘70s, could’ve been stopped by a few strategically timed shoe sales.16   

And speaking of scourges, The Associated Press reports former Gov. Ann Richards’ grave lacks a gravestone. The story presumes this is just procrastination. Unless everyone just wants the grave left unmarked, to discourage gravediggers from noting the lead lining and the wooden stake.17  

Mayor Will Wynn lost his temper after being stuck in downtown traffic because of the residential construction he’s promoted. Nice to see him suffer like the rest of us for once. The Statesman reported he used a “fog of profanity.” That’s nothing. People like him have been in a fog their whole motherfucking lives.18  

On Dec. 6, my regular salsa dancing at Ruta Maya was pre-empted by a fundraiser for the Green Party.19 Who’s at the door but hirsute Tom Davis the Pagan (“Hi, I’m Tom Davis and I’m a pagan. Notice the pentagram medallion dangling prominently from my neck? Have I mentioned I’m a pagan?”). I used to see this guy at Libertarian Party functions – well, back when there was a Libertarian Party.  We never spoke. I should’ve been outraged to see him consorting with the Greens. Instead, I was delighted. He belongs with them – Nazis without the charm.  Let him fuck things up in that party. Even without him, the Greens can’t stay on the ballot because their only solid support is in Austin and to a lesser extent, San Marcos. Besides, his presence confirmed there are no “left-libertarians.” Just dummies, pinkos, and liars. They’re only fooling themselves.

In fact, in all the years I’ve been in the libertarian movement, I’ve never met a self-described “left-libertarian” who expressed any view on anything that could plausibly be described as “left-libertarian.” One person who does, to great effect, is Ron Paul, nobody’s idea of a “left-libertarian.” Rather, he’s a sophisticated thinker with a knack for combining lines of argument that typically remain separate.  

Moreover, I’ve never met a self-described “left-libertarian” from the post-Boomer generations. It’s just another mental tic from people of a certain age prone to them. The rest of us are young enough to know better.

Incidentally, Davis teaches in government schools. Your tax money at work.

Green policy plans at the city level include making housing even more expensive with plans to impose environmental and energy-efficiency requirements on existing houses, and to cripple homeowners’ rights to their own property by designating neighborhoods historic.20

Neighborhood News

Libertarians protested at The Domain on Nov. 17 against subsidies.21  Unfortunately, they did so under the auspices of a local Lyndon LaRouche-esque good-government pest.22  In fact, the original directions were off in the advance announcement. The protest was scheduled for MoPac Expressway and Parmer Lane, an intersection at least a mile from The Domain, visible to traffic flowing away from the mall, and frequently patronized by bums.23  

Subway has opened its umpteenth franchise, at the new Lone Star Center strip mall.

On Nov. 27, KKMJ-FM reported an auto collision at Parmer and Metric Boulevard. Later that same day, I witnessed the aftermath of an incident along the northbound frontage road of MoPac that backed up traffic at least to Braker Lane.


I caught up with the final season of “The Sopranos.” Apparently, it took HBO eight years to make essentially the same point that “Goodfellas” did in about three hours.24  Don’t get me wrong. The show was a lot of fun, if only just to see mannerisms of my relatives depicted. However, the series also became tedious, spotty and self-indulgent in later seasons. You’d think a New Jersey mob boss with a contentious household and the panorama of contemporary American life, ripe for satire, would keep the scriptwriters focused for a few years. Instead, we got arty dream sequences.25  On balance, a good show, rather than great.

In another crime drama, most of the actors appearing in “American Gangster” are positively gleeful: “Hey, check it out: I’m playing an undercover cop/drug dealer/mafioso in a gritty ‘70s crime drama. Well, not a crime drama from the ‘70s, but it’s set in the ‘70s.” Watching it made me wonder if a director let his actors indulge themselves to their hearts’ content onscreen, without any restraint on scenery chewing and melodramatic posturing, would it really be any worse than the usual theatrical fare?26

The movie has its narrative weaknesses, but it perfectly captures how I imagined a retrospective blaxploitation crime drama set in the ‘70s would look.27  In fact, I took a stab at writing a blaxploitation film script some years ago, based on the exploits of Nicky Barnes, a real-life supporting character from “American Gangster.”28  Midway through, the movie has a scene set at a nightclub much the same way I imagined the opening. Here’s my entire script:


(Music: An early '70s soul number with an insistant rhythm, highlighted by wah-wah guitar and congero, and quaverring male vocal)

Open on: A neon sign halfway between drab and vivid reads: Dupree's, a Harlem nightclub with lots of activity on the sidewalk and on the street by extras. At its core, the scene is reminiscent of the cover for the Miles Davis album "On the Corner." It should convey the gritty, squalid look of New York familiar to viewers of films and TV series like "Kojak" made during and about that time; and also how it actually was for people who were there. A big-ass early '70s Motown "pimpmobile" double-parks in front. The energy level of the crowd outside Dupree's palpably rises. Several people emerge from the pimpmobile, greated with the likes of "Hey, baby, what's hap'n?" The pimpmobile pulls away.


(A busy nightspot for Harlem's players, decked in styles ranging from slick-but-conservative to fashionably pimpish. Nicky Barnes, crime boss of Harlem, and his entourage make their grand entrance. Barnes, a heavyset, mustachioed black in flashy business attire, basks in the attention from the club's patrons.)29

I haven’t decided whether this means I have what it takes to succeed in Hollywood, or whether I’m just a talentless hack. Not that there’s always a clear distinction between two.30

In other ‘70s stuff, daredevil Evel Knievel, 69, died after stubbing his toe in the bathroom.31  Excuse me. That’s wrong. He actually died after the movie he did with Leslie Nielsen.32  All quips aside, he was one of the first living famous people to impinge on my young consciousness, along with Mr. Rogers,33 Groucho Marx and President Ford.34  But Knievel had something over the others: A neat toy line. I had the basic action figure and motorcycle with the turbomatic energizer to rev up Knievel’s bike and send him skittering across the floor until he hit a wall, crashed, and lay there waiting for assistance. It was the most realistic toy I ever owned.

The new novel “Still Life With Husband” generated a small buzz among my peers because one of the main supporting characters, the husband to the narrator, is a tech writer.35  When he’s not depicted as dull and obsessed by his work, he’s almost an afterthought in the tale – much like tech writers are typically afterthoughts to projects on which we work. The novel’s main premise is the “Madame Bovary” story – bored wife cheats on husband, ruins life – updated to contemporary America. It’s also ironic, funny and well-written.36

A weightier read is Alan Greenspan’s new memoir, “The Age of Flatulence.” The former Federal Reserve chairman discusses for the first time his freakish association with famous people prone to letting rip at inappropriate moments. Thus, Ford spent a lot of time on the golf course, and Ayn Rand chain smoked as an attempt to cover up her rancid farts. The conventional account of Rand cutting people out of her life because of philosophical differences was just a story everybody used to mask the fact it was her cutting the cheese that drove others away.37

Media Indigest

InSite magazine reports on a factory-set flaw in high-definition televisions that prevent you from getting good color. The solution? Rabbit ears. Just like an old ‘50s set.38

Tentacles of Empire

KPRC-TV reports the Houston Police Department is testing flying drones for surveillance.39

E-mail: austin dispatches - at - swbell net

1 Daiell, Jeff. “Re: Happy Holidays!” E-mail to Dan Eisler, 7 Dec. 2007.
2 Boyd, Helen. My Husband Betty: Love, Sex, and Life With a Crossdresser. New York City: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003: 28; Goldstein, Richard. The Attack Queers: Liberal Media and the Gay Right. London: Verso, 2002: 98.
3 Ailes, Roger, and Jon Kraushar. You Are the Message: Getting What You Want by Being Who You Are. 1988. Rpt. New York City: Currency/Doubleday, 1989; Burns, Kevin. “The Ladies’ Man.” XL 8 Nov. 2007: 34-36; Strauss, Neil. The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. New York City: ReganBooks, 2005.
4 George, Patrick. "Ron Paul Supporters Gather for a Modern Austin Tea Party." AAS 17 Dec. 2007: B2.
5 Brown, Richard Maxwell. Strain of Violence: Historical Studies of American Violence and Vigilantism. New York City: Oxford UP, 1975: 48; Rothbard, Murray N. Conceived in Liberty, Vol. III: Advance to Revolution, 1760-1775. 1976. Rpt. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999: Ch. 56.
6 Mistretta, A.J. “City Seeks Lead Planner for Waller Creek.” ABJ 9 Nov. 2007: 3; "Waller Creek Workshop." AAS 15 Nov. 2007: B2.
7 Jankowski, Philip. "Crime Increases During Football Games, UTPD Records Indicate." DT 26 Oct. 2007: 1-2A.
8 Plohetski, Tony. "Council May Back Proposal to Put All Police, Marshals on Same Footing." 6 Dec. 2007: B1.
9 "Austin FBI Agent Charged With Drunken Driving." Austin American-Statesman 15 Nov. 2007 <>.
10 Donner, Frank J. The Age of Surveillance: The Aims and Methods of America’s Political Intelligence System, rev. ed. New York City: Vintage Books, 1981; Kessler, Ronald. The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, rev. ed. New York City: St. Martin's Paperbacks, 2003
11 Cabanero, David. “Councilwoman Kim Withdraws Support for Ban on Panhandling.” DT 23 Oct. 2007: 7A; Dille, Ian. “Hey, Brother, Can You Spare a Buck?” TGL Oct. 2007: 50-55; Dunbar, Wells. “Will Pander for Votes.” AC 14 Dec. 2007: 18; “McDougleton, Fletcher. “No Homeless Man, You’re the Asshole.” Texas Travesty Oct. 2007: 20.
12 Coppola, Sarah. "Ban Plastic and Brown Bag It, Group Says." AAS 25 Sep. 2007: B1; Osborn, Claire. "Austin May Restrict Use of Plastic Shopping Bags." AAS 17 Apr. 2007: A1; Kwon, Jean. “Forget Plastic … Paper or Canvas?” ABJ 16 Nov. 2007: 1+.
13 Crider, Kitty. “Whole Foods’ New Rule: No More Disposable Bags.” AAS 19 Dec. 2007: A1.
14 Mistretta, and Sandra Zaragoza. “Begging for an Answer.” ABJ 23 Nov. 2007: 1+.
15 alt.culture, 18; Jeffers, Mike. “Black Friday Brings Usual Holiday Rush, Despite Cold Fronts.” DT 26 Nov. 2007: 1-2A.
16 Nawotka, Edward. "BookWoman Fights to Keep Site as Similar Stgores in U.S. Close." AAS 26 Nov. 2007: E1; O’Connell, Joe. “Female Trouble.” AC 30 Nov. 2007: 42; O'Rourke, P.J. Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People, rev. ed. New York City: Morgan Entrekin/The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989: 234.
17 Shannon, Kelley. AP. "Ann Richards' Grave Still Has Only Temporary Marker." Austin American-Statesman 28 Nov. 2007 <>.
18 Plohetski. "Wynn Loses His Cool Over Blocked Traffic." AAS 27 Nov. 2007: B1.
19 Kaldis, Megan. “Candidate for Green Party Strives to Defeat Two-Party Nomination.” DT 6 Dec. 2007: 3A; Whittaker, Richard. “Cynthia McKinney Greens Up Ruta Maya.” AC 14 Dec. 2007: 26.
20 Kwon. “City May Up Ante on Green Building.” ABJ 14 Dec. 2007: 1+; Kwon. “City Ready to Designate Some Neighborhoods Historic Districts.” Idem., 12.
21 Benedict, Wes. “Libertarians Participate in Domain Tax Subsidy Protest.” AL 18 Nov. 2007: 1; Melançon, Rebecca. “Should Domain Developers Get Your Tax Dollars?” TGL Nov. 2007: 9.
22 AD No. 22n45; Benedict, op. cit.; Smith, Susan. "Petition Queen Needs to Check Inconsistencies." AAS 30 Mar. 2002: B1.
23 Eisler, Dan. “Are You Sure About That Location?” E-mail to Benedict, 11 Nov. 2007.
24 Goodfellas. Warner Bros., 1990.
25 Living in Oblivion. JDI Productions/Lemon Sky Productions, 1995.
26 Carson, Tom. “Do You Feel Lucky?” GQ Nov. 2007: 153-154+; Robinson, Tasha. “American Gangster.” The Onion 1 Nov. 2007, Austin ed.: 18.
27 AD No. 56n11 (Oct. 1, 2003).
28 Barnes, Leroy “Nicky” and Tom Folsom. Mr. Untouchable: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of Heroin’s Teflon Don. New York City: Rugged Land, 2007.
29 Eisler, Dan. The Prince of Uptown. Unpublished mss., 1998.
30 Bruck, Connie. When Hollywood Had a King: The Reign of Lew Wasserman, Who Leveraged Talent Into Power and Influence. New York City: Random House, 2003; Carter, Bill. The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night, rev. ed. New York City: Hyperion, 1995; Evans, Robert [Robert Shapera][and Charles Michener]. The Kid Stays in the Picture. Ed. Marinka Peschmann. 1994. Rpt. London: Faber & Faber, 2003;  Eszterhas, Joe. Hollywood Animal: A Memoir. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004; Greenfield, Josh. The Return of Mr. Hollywood. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1984; Leonard, Elmore. Get Shorty. New York City: Delacorte Press, 1994; McDougal, Dennis. The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA and the Hidden History of Hollywood. New York City: Crown Publishers, 1998; Schulberg, Budd. What Makes Sammy Run?, 2nd rev. ed. New York City: Random House, 1990; Young, Toby. The Sound of No Hands Clapping: A Memoir. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2006.
31 Malnic, Eric. “Evel Knievel, 1938-2007.” LAT 1 Dec. 2007: A1.
32 AD No. 100n35 (Sep. 3, 2007); Viva Knievel!. Metropolitan (MTA), 1977.
33 AD No. 24n12 (Dec. 24, 2000).
34 AD No. 96n31 (Feb. 6, 2007).
35 McMurrey, David A. “Another Novel About Technical Writers.” E-mail to STC Austin Discussion List, 16 Nov. 2007.
36Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary: Moeurs de Province. 1857. Rpt. Paris: Gallimard, 2004; Fox, Lauren. Still Life With Husband. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.
37 Doherty, Brian. Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. New York City: PublicAffairs, 2007: passim.; Eszterhas, Joe. American Rhapsody. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000: 31, 71; Greenspan, Alan. The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. New York City: Penguin, 2007.
38 Pera, Radames. “Kill Your Oompa-Loompa-Vision.” ISM Nov. 2007: 3.
39 Dean, Stephen. “Local 2 Investigates Police Secrecy Behind Unmanned Aircraft Test.” KPRC-TV, Houston. 21 Nov. 2007.