Stimulate This

Austin Dispatches
No. 110
June 1, 2008
I received a stimulus check from the U.S. Treasury, to my surprise. I didn’t really expect one, nor did I expect it to arrive so early. But I did my part: I bought some stuff I needed to replace: a bottle of Kahlúa and Zippo lighter fluid at the Spec’s at the Arbor Walk shopping plaza.1  If my circumstances work out, I may splurge and buy a Lou Rawls CD, just like any right-thinking American.2

Also, I learned recently that five women on the salsa scene I've danced with are looking for boyfriends on Yahoo! personals. But either they have too much baggage or the chemistry isn't there, so I'm getting the best I can out of them. The one who’s been looking the longest also behaves like she’s got an icicle up her ass.

Austin Death Watch

Austin’s starting to feel the economic slowdown. But where was this past robust growth the Statesman writes of?3  Here at Austin Dispatches, we’ve exposed that as largely governmental flim-flammery. For its part, the Travis County ruling elite, particularly at Austin City Hall, has tried to prevent prosperity’s return so it can hang on to power. This elite vexes and burdens ordinary people with higher taxes and more regulations on the one hand, and on the other, gives sweetheart deals to major out-of-town corporations and developers with the right political connections.

Talk about unsustainable. Where are the environmentalists to speak against this? Oh, that’s right. They’re filing for bankruptcy, when they’re not sitting among the ruling elite and plotting how to ruin your lives.4  If they were truly serious about “preserving the environment” (i.e., preserving choice undeveloped real estate that conforms to Romantic esthetics for landscape painting),5  they’d either dig into their own pockets to buy property – and pay excessive property tax rates – or they’d master the considerable insights of libertarians and other market scholars on political economy, so they could talk sense and offer real solutions. But that would mean submitting to our terms and our terminology. They’d rather gorge on foie gras than discard their mental framework.6

For now, we have to depend on the likes of the Austin City Council to betray environmentalist supporters to approve real estate developments and utility projects.7  Eventually, we could look forward to a day when environmentalist rhetoric is unheard in the county, because their damned precious wilderness has been paved over, thereby permanently destroying a big raison d'etre of local environmentalists, and hence their will to fight.8 But that approach means tacitly supporting corporatist economic development.9 Besides, politicians are notoriously unreliable. They might actually do what they said, or deliver on their promises to their supporters.

Why, just since the last issue, the City is planning more rules – and thus more expense to us – on construction of new houses. They’ll all have to have wheelchair ramps instead of stairs.10

e110fig1 The May 16 Chronicle published a profile of the new executive director of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), an unaccountable and often illegally acting government group that seeks to corral people to statist ends through centralized traffic planning and manipulating procedural outcomes, with the usual results. In fact, the Statesman reports that the commute time on State Highway 130 is slower than Interstate 35, all for extra money.11 

Anyway, meet Joe Cantalupo, planner from back East, whom the Chronicle hastens to assure us isn’t the Columbo Family stoolie of the same name. Nice ethnic slur, Chronicle. Still, he poses like a headbreaker in the story photo, with his left hand concealed by the table, like he's holding a weapon. (“Shut the fuck up! You want to fuck wit’ me? You see this baseball bat? I’m gonna use it to split your fucking head open like an eggplant! Now gimme those arterial right of ways.”)  I’ll bet in few years he resigns under a cloud, probably over financial irregularities.12

Speaking of which, the former director of the Austin Convention Center Department pleaded guilty to tampering with government records.13 Austin police have charged a child advocate, and the co-founder of a company that handles court functions for the judiciary, with pedophilia.14

The Austin Fire Department fired a supervising fireman who delayed his crew’s response to a medical emergency because he went to a burger joint next door to order food after they received the call. Naturally, the fireman is scaling the termination appeals ladder. These people never voluntarily give up government jobs.15

Not to be outdone, a Travis County grand jury has indicted a fired Austin police officer on multiple felonies, including drugs, prostitution, and assault.16  In other routine police business, the City is thinking of demolishing police headquarters downtown and moving it north.17 Simultaneously, the police department is resisting giving up its helicopter unit.18 Since this is the same police department that can’t account for nearly $1 million that might be owed it, it’s taken to cracking down on jaywalking and using the newly installed video cameras at various intersections to issue traffic tickets to raise money.19  Under such conditions, law school professor Butler Shaffer has suggested motorists strictly comply with traffic lights to defeat their purpose.20

Along with red-light cameras, the Business Journal reports trendy businesses are “popping up” across “the southwestern quadrant of downtown, creating the beginnings of a seamless retail experience that will, in the future, carry pedestrians from the Austin Convention Center to the Whole Foods-anchored Market District.”21  Because nothing conveys the Austin experience like dodging 15-miles-over-the-speed-limit SUVs with “Free Tibet” bumper stickers and drivers yapping on their cell phones, in between trudging along concrete in 90-degree humidity. Then, when you discover the four-figure, upscale contemporary furniture unit of your dreams (which looks suspiciously like the late ‘70s furniture in UT campus buildings, minus the decades of beverage stains), you’ll learn the store doesn’t deliver.

Elsewhere, the Business Journal reports that local businesses have decided the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” is counterproductive to business, even in South Austin.22  It’s about time. Those people really need to get over the incense-and-peppermints mentality that’s retarded American life for the last 40-odd years.23 

Meanwhile, along South Congress Avenue, a California developer plans to build a multistory, mixed-use apartment complex on the site of the dilapidated Don-Mar Motor Court,24 or what my family would’ve called the Don Martin Apartments. Manager Clyde Fonebone was unavailable for comment.  

Neigborhood News

Closer to home, the Stoneleigh at Gracy Farms apartment complex is being converted to condominiums. It’s always seemed underpopulated, but I don’t know if this is a viable option for the complex in the current market, or what the implications are for my living situation.25  

Oakville Grocery at The Domain already has gone out of business in less than a year.  The Domain and the Second Street District have been goosed by the City, yet it seems they have higher-than-average failure rates for retailers.

Organizers held the 2008 Austin Wine Festival at The Domain over Memorial Day weekend. I drove by the specific locale before the festival, and it looked to be a case of reality not matching the hype. In reality, attendees paid up to $55 to drink alcohol outdoors in the humid mid-90s, plus the occasional rain shower, under some skimpy tents close enough to MoPac to inhale the exhaust fumes but far enough away from any parking to require walking over uneven terrain in said heat, while dodging The Domain’s denizens, most of whom drive worse than the Arab who almost backed into my car earlier that week.26  The smart thing would’ve been to hold it indoors, so it wasn’t subject to the vagaries of late spring Texas weather.  (On May 21, a heavy storm with a “dangling tornado” knocked out power to much of Austin – though not my neighborhood– and damaged City Hall and other properties.)27  How come I understand this, and I’m not even an event planner?

On May 17, I witnessed the aftermath of a smash-up along the 11900 block of Stonehollow Drive.

On the Town

May 19:  I thought U.S. Rep. Ron Paul would speak at BookPeople, but he just signed copies of his new book.28 It was the biggest turnout I’ve seen there, bigger than James Ellroy.  Me and some friends, including some I hadn’t seen in years, hung around afterward. It was almost like the old days

May 29: The third lineup of Return to Forever kicked off its reunion world tour at the Paramount Theatre. The band displayed much virtuosity. It impressed the audience. The show was the first event in a while that merited the media publicity it received.29 

Political Follies

Occupants of Capitol Hill shed tears for the cancer-riddled Ted Kennedy.30 Mary Jo Kopechne was unavailable for comment.31 

Cultural Canapés

The New York Times reports production has begun on a revived version of “The Electric Company,” to be broadcast in January.32 I suspect those of us who saw the original will consider it unsatisfactory, but the ultimate arbiters are people like my sister's kids.33

Two separate hypertension studies have concluded that listening to music reduces blood pressure.34 The doctors obviously didn’t conduct these studies with intense music aficionados, who fume at music they don’t like. When I hear mellow music created for broad acceptance, I become irritated at the thought that somebody’s trying to put something over on me. In related news, a federal court sentenced Lou Pearlman, impresario of two chart-topping ‘90s boy bands, to 25 years in prison for swindling $300 million in a Ponzi scheme. A different swindle – not the boy bands. If Pearlman had been on trial for that, he’d’ve gotten the death penalty.35

The movie version of “Hex and the Shitter” opened the last weekend in May.36 I saw two or three of the last episodes when I was contracting in Midland and was too sated from dinner at a four-star restaurant on someone else's expense account to change the channel. I didn't get it then, either. I mean, what do women see in this, out of the hundreds of other TV shows about well-to-do urbanite women who get together and talk about their sex lives?


1 AD No. 94n39 (Nov. 25, 2006); Eisler, Dan. “Re: You Sure You Can’t Throw in a 401(k) With This?” E-mail to Steve Adams, 21 May 2008; Hightower, Jim. “Spending Your Stimulus Check.” AC 16 May 2008: 23.
2 AD No. 89n20 (Mar. 29, 2006).
3 Taboada, M.B., and Lori Hawkins. “After Years of Robust Growth, Austin Begins to Feel Effects of U.S. Slowdown.” AAS 24 May 2008: G1-2.
4 AD No. 98n36 (June 11, 2007).
5 Johnson, Paul. The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830. New York City: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991: 111-112, 600-626.
6 AD No. 100n10; Lakoff, George. Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives, rev. ed. White River Junction, Vt.: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004.
7 Singleton, Robert. “All Your City Council Candidates Won? Prepare to Be Disappointed.” TGL June 2008: 44-45.
8 Eisler. “Re: New Business, April Monthly Business Meeting.” E-mail to TCLPActive, 3 Apr. 2006.
9 Locke, Robert. “Conservatism Under Corporatism.” Front Page Magazine 2 Oct. 2002 <{5042F08D-29FC-47CB-8433-EA108A15C519}>.
10 Kwon, Jean. “City Proposes More Rules for Homebuilding.” ABJ 19 May 2008: 1+.
11 Wear, Ben. “I-35 Wins Out Over Texas 130 in Our Road Test.” AAS 19 May 2008: B1.
12 Gregor, Katherine. “The New Guy at CAMPO.”AC 16 May 2008: 20.
13 Humphrey, Katie. “Ex-Convention Center Chief Enters Guilty Plea.” AAS 24 May 2008: A1+.
14 Plohetski, Tony. “Child Helper Held in Assault.” Idem., 28 May 2008: A1+.
15 Plohetski. “Firefighter Fired After Food Run Delays Response.” Idem., 28 May 2008: A1+.
16 George, Patrick, and Plohetski. “Fired Police Officer Indicted.” Idem., 22 May 2008: B1+.
17 Plohetski. “Police Station Moving North?” Idem., 17 May 2008: A1+.
18 Plohetski. “Helicopter Unit Is Under Scrutiny.” Idem., 6 May 2008: A1+.
19 AD No. 108n23 (Apr. 28, 2008); Bannerjee, Sue. “Police Begin Cracking Down on Jaywalkers.” AAS 29 May 2008: B1+; Plohetski. “Red-Light Cameras’ Debut Set.” Idem., 13 May 2008: B1+.
20 Shaffer, Butler. “Obedience as a Radical Act.” 16 Apr. 2008 <>.
21 Mistretta, A.J. “Matrix of Downtown Retail Taking Shape Amid Development.” ABJ 16 May 2008: 5.
22 Kwon. “Does ‘Weird’ Work for Business?” Idem.,  9 May 2008: 1+.
23 Kreps, Karen. “Overcome Complacency, Revolutionize Your Sexual Outlook.” TGL June 2008: 26; O’Neal, Sean. “Return Trip: The Second Wave of Austin Psychedelia.” The Onion 29 May 2008, Austin ed.: 23.
24 Taboada. “Latest Plans for Don-Mar Motel Call for 6-Story Rental Complex.” AAS 21 May 2008: B7.
25 Mistretta. “Reports: Too Many Apartments.” ABJ 9 May 2008: 1+.
26 Price, Asher. “After the Hot Holiday, Get Ready for a Scorching Summer.” AAS 27 May 2008: B1; Rice, Dale. “Hill Country Wines Dominate Austin Festival.” Idem., 21 May 2008: D3.
27 Coppola, Sarah. “Storm Response, Cleanup and Damage Add Up to $2 Million for City of Austin.” Idem., 24 May 2008: B1+; Dunbar, Wells. “The Calm After the ….” AC 23 May 2008: 17.
28 “Litera.” Idem., 16 May 2008: 84.
29 Gettleman, Parry. “Return to Now.” AAS 24 May 2008: F1+; Powell, Austin. “Infinity and Beyond.” AC 23 May 2008: 60+.
30 Johnson, Glen. “Grim News for Kennedy: Cancer.” AAS 21 May 2008: A1+.
31 AD No. 22n12 (Nov. 16, 2000).
32 Davis, Michael. “PBS Revives a Show That Shines a Light on Reading.” NYT 12 May 2008, late ed.: E2.
33 AD No. 101n4.
34 “Hearts Like the Beat of Music.” The Daily Mail 11 Mar. 2008: 52; Hitti, Miranda. “Relax to Music, Ease Blood Pressure.” 15 May 2008 <>.
35 “Boy Band-It Gets 25 Yrs. for Gulping Up $300M.” NYPO 22 May 2008: 29.
36 “Massawyrm Has SEX AND THE CITY And Leaves It Bleeding And Crying On The Mattress!!” Ain’t It Cool News 28 May 2008 <>.