Thin Material
Austin Dispatches
No. 123
Apr. 22, 2009

Since last issue,  the Obama administration’s been tackling America’s problems in a big way, sort of like a passenger jet going through a skyscraper

Already, Barack Hussein Obama and his underlings, all of whom apparently must have tax problems to qualify for office, have been making every day on the job count to perpetuate policies of debt and death, plus sticking it to whitey on the sly.1 They’ve ramped up the war in Afghanistan, ballooned domestic spending even beyond Dubya’s prolifigacy, and spent money we don’t have to do so. That last part had Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kowtowing to the Chicoms so they’d keep buying U.S. IOUs.2 They must’ve had a good laugh in private, and then wondered aloud in public about American solvency.3

Perhaps coincidentally, demand for guns and ammunition remains at a fever pitch.4 Moreover, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a quintessential empty shell of a politician, even spoke approvingly of secession at the local tea party among the many nationwide that Obama inspired.5

Obama’s accompanied all this with speeches that seemed longer than they actually were, and I only heard excerpts. When he finally got off a good wisecrack on “The Tonight Show,” he had to go around apologizing for it.6 

e123fig1 Just what I’ve mentioned – there’s more – is enough to make Obama start sucking on the cancer sticks again. Except post-election, Obama appeared on “Meet the Press” and got grilled about his cigarette smoking.7 Now he knows what it’s like to be a member of an oppressed minority.8

But I want to tell you about a truly important problem.

Per Madsen Design is no more. It made Scandinavian-chic modular storage units for audio-visual collections for 25 years.9 I patronized the firm for almost as long. Earlier this year, Madsen announced his retirement. By the time I called to order what I thought I’d need in the future, the remaining stock had sold out. Moreover, he told me that no one had offered to buy the designs for revived production. They’re that good, so their commercial unavailability from now on disheartens me. I don’t know of any product line comparable or compatible with the units I have, let alone whether such a line would remain available as my audio collection slowly grows

Dell recently updated its Web site universal resource locators. Because my online resume links to Dell, a representative asked me to update those links, in exchange for a Dell T-shirt. Fair enough. The T-shirt is nice, but the design and color scheme – black, white and gray – looks a bit fascist. This might shock the denizens of the Jewish Community Center of Austin – named after the company’s founder. Though they’d probably be even more shocked that Italian Jews were major intellectual and organizational contributors to Italian Fascism, itself a major influence on the Nazis.10

I’d actually forgotten about the shirt by the time Federal Express notified me. I didn’t recognize the sender name or address on the package. I wondered if I should soak the package in water and open it facing away from me, in case it was some random bomb. Then when I saw the T-shirt, I wondered how Dell could afford it, since its sales are down nearly 50 percent.11 

Neighborhood News

I wore it while grocery shopping. The trend of supermarket clerks to try and sell customers last-minute brand-name items at the checkout aisles reached a new summit of absurdity when the clerk tried to sell me ladies’ depilatories for my legs.

I feigned shock. “You found out.”

“Hey, I don’t judge,” the clerk coquettishly replied. She shrugged in the direction of the depilatories. “They’re supposed to be pretty good.”

“I’ll have to take you word for it. I get enough close shaves with the traffic around here.”

The new light rail made me 10 minutes late for work, because I had to wait for it at a crossing. No, I couldn’t have taken the rail and gotten to work faster, because neither my apartment nor my office is conveniently situated near stations.12 This doesn’t mean rail service has actually started. No, the Capital Metro transit authority had to miss its March 30 start because of technical issues and red tape.13  Already, the agency’s blown $300 million on the project, including $41.9 million for the North Operations Center.14  Moreover, Cap Metro also owes millions to Austin and other municipalities that it can’t pay back.15 Meanwhile, Statesman columnist Ben Wear figured that the commercial hauling of limestone from quarries is a serious obstacle to developing the proposed Austin-San Antonio commuter line.16 

Similarly, Community Impact News reports the state Transportation Department’s $30 million project at Parmer Lane and MoPac Expressway was supposed to be done last August, but the contractors botched it. Then TxDOT thought the project would be done in March. It’s late April at this writing and the intersection is still under construction.17

I saw the enflamed Koreana Grill and Sushi Bar on the way to work March 30. Firefighting efforts stalled southbound traffic on MoPac Expressway and eastbound traffic on Parmer Lane.18

The landscape crews must’ve been in a wool-shirted snit when they trimmed back the riparian vegetation near my section of the apartment complex. The people conducting the annual fire inspection left the extinguisher on the kitchen counter. Would it have killed them to reattach it under the sink? I tidied up so they didn’t cite my apartment as a fire hazard.19 The cost of using the laundry room dryers has gone up from $1 to $1.25. They’re the same ones since I moved in.20 Remember that if someone tells you inflation’s under control.

Furniture store Eurway has closed.21  The Z Gallerie furniture chain, which has a store at The Domain, has declared bankruptcy.22

The March 27 Business Journal carried an article about National Instruments.  The article was noteworthy just because it was about the company. I’ve been cultivating a network of industry professionals for years, and I’ve hardly ever met anyone who works or worked there – not even when I attended an on-campus meeting of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, to hustle for contract work.23

On the Town

Valentine’s Day: I danced with a succession of women in slinky red dresses at the Go Dance studio social.  A good time was had by all.

What, you were expecting caustic comments delving into the uglier range of emotions?24 

March 28: The luminous turquoise water of the frond-framed pool shone through the balcony door of the clubhouse in the southwest hills. Inside, I alternated between two women as two DJs/dance instructors dug into their laptop files for ‘70s salsa, especially if it featured Hector Lavoe.  It’s been a long time since I enjoyed the company of other people quite as much as I did that night. It was an intimate, elite party – which is a fancy way of saying few attended: six maximum, including the two women. Earlier, when the headcount was half that size, I sipped premium rum and listened to the DJs dispense a lot of interesting, useful gossip about the local scene’s haughty hotties.

March 29: Seen at a stoplight: A taupe Jeep Cherokee’s rear sticker read, “Leave before I shed my human form and kill you.” Of course, you had to be close enough to read the sticker in the first place.

April 2: Guitarist John McLaughlin’s style didn’t mesh with everyone else in the band he co-led with Chick Corea at the UT Performing Arts Center.25 McLaughlin used jazz theory, but not jazz phrasing, when he soloed. That’s been the case with him since his late ‘60s recordings, but it always fit the context.26 Not that evening. Then, he indulged in arpeggiated tuplet ostinati, or else sounded like a bad imitation of Allan Holdsworth.27 I overheard the under-capacity audience grumbling at intermission, and witnessed them checking their messages or leaving early during the second set.

McLaughlin’s lucky. His old bandleader Miles Davis once recounted:
If you got up on the bandstand at Minton’s and couldn’t play, you were not only going to get embarrassed by people ignoring you or booing you, you might get your ass kicked. One night this guy who couldn’t play worth shit got up to try and do his thing – bullshit – and style himself off to get some bitches, playing anything. A regular street guy who just loved to listen to all the music was in the audience when this dumb motherfucker got up on the stage to play, so the man just got up quietly from his table and snatched this no-playing cat off the stage, dragged him outside and into the alcove between the Cecil Hotel and Minton’s, and just kicked this motherfucker’s ass. I mean real good. Then he told the dude not to never take his ass up on the bandstand at Minton’s again until he could play something worth listening to.28 

April 18: The operetta “Queenie Pie” performed at the PAC from the files of Duke Ellington was an almost world premiere, for reasons too tangled to delve into here,29 before an audience full of Michelle Obama types, for lack of a better description.30 Many of the songs could become jazz standards or adult contemporary radio hits.

Hard Times on Sesame Street and Elsewhere

The producer of “Sesame Street” laid off 20 percent of its staff.31 Here’s one time sunny days won’t be sweeping the clouds away.32 

The Hollywood trades have reported Sean Penn, Benicio del Toro and Jim Carrey likely to appear in a new Three Stooges movie.33 Reactions on cultural Web sites range from disbelieve to outrage.34 Moe Howard’s real-life son-in-law, Norman Maurer, actually considered doing this in the early ‘80s, with unknowns.  Dad, completely outside Hollywood show business, contacted Maurer and talked with him briefly about auditioning. However, Maurer was already reconsidering, perhaps because he was fielding calls from Dad and every other man of his generation in America – but he also concluded that the classic Stooge lineup was inimitable. Even Shemp Howard tends to be little regarded by Stooge fans – which was the basis for the most multi-layered joke I’ve ever seen, on “Barney Miller.”35 Nevertheless, the creatives involved with this project have a daunting task ahead. There’s so much expectation and preconception that anything short of phenomenally brilliant would be deemed a disaster. And not in the so-bad-it’s-good category, either. An unfunny Stooge film would be excruciating.

“Late Night With Conan O’Brien” ended its run Feb. 20. Seeing the final episode online made me wistful. The show was on for 16 years and I hardly ever watched it, even though I always liked it when I did.36 Yes, one of my minor regrets in life is not having watched more television.

I realized while watching “Adventureland,” a künstlerfilm set in 1987, that many supporting actors playing the parents had lived through that period as teens or very young twentysomethings, portrayed therein by much younger cast mates.37 In other words, we 13ers are now relegated to playing our parents in nostalgic tales about us.38 I felt like I was aging before my very eyes. As soon as the credits rolled, I dashed from the theater into the light to check my hands for liver spots. Also, I preferred my retrospective on the late ‘80s better.

Austin Death Watch

A district judge dismissed charges against an Austin teacher for passing a school bus and injuring a child, because the teacher hadn’t “received a speedy trial.” Presumably, no pun was intended.39 Former Mayor Gus Garcia was unavailable for comment.40

The Chronicle continues to chortle over the slow downsizing and sale of the Statesman.41 Blacks are protesting Highland Mall for shutting down April 4 when they thronged the place during Texas Relay Weekend.42 They seem to be the only ones who want to attend, while the anchor retailers are looking to leave pronto.43

A resident in desirable midtown complains City workers have been tearing up sidewalks and leaving them that way.44 They’re probably too excited by the stimulus bill to finish the job. The local power elite got huffy over the media finding out Obama’s stimulus bill includes $886,000 for a 36-hole Frisbee disc golf course. Maybe the City should cancel the project and foreswear the money if it’s going to be such an emotional issue for these people.45

Likewise, the City’s recycling program has lost nearly $1 million, even though it was supposed to have earned almost $2 million by now.46

In good news, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, an unaccountable and often illegally acting government group that seeks to corral people to statist ends through centralized traffic planning and manipulating procedural outcomes, must scale back its schemes to match the cutbacks in federal funding.47

Austin police finally arrested Critical Mass bicyclists who’d been snarling traffic downtown for running red lights on March 27.48 Police also arrested cancer-riddled Chronicle columnist Stephen MacMillan Moser for torching his boyfriend’s car in City Hall’s underground parking garage.49 Police arrived to find a flaming flivver to match the flaming fashionista.  Afterward, Moser bitched about the unflattering ensemble he was forced to wear in jail.50

Travis County prosecutors dismissed against a case against a Northeast Austin man, who lost a leg in a shootout with Austin police, then spent 13 months in jail, after evidence emerged that the officer fired first.51 The Texas Legislature is pondering a bill to allow concealed weapons on college campuses, so UT students walked out of classes on April 16 to protest the bill.52 Luckily for them, an Arab TV executive,53 a Salvadoran54 or Vietnamese menial worker,55 or a Korean aspiring playwright wasn’t around.  Actually, now that I think about it, the students should be agitating to ban foreigners from campus.

Business Roundup

Speaking of foreigners, a Hindu group is selling Cow Water, a health beverage made from distilled cow urine.56 I hear it can be quite tasty with a dash of lemon.57 Regardless, we Americans already have something like that. It’s called Coors.

The economic meltdown has walloped the recreational vehicle industry.58 My paternal grandfather, who immigrated to America with little more than clothes on his back and managed to avoid gunning down crowds of natives during his residence, used to say that the number of RVs on the road, driven slowly by slow-witted geriatrics and quickly pissing off anybody else trying to get anywhere, were a good indication of how wealthy the country really was. Now look what’s happened

The Associated Press reports that the labor market has a high demand for pharmacists.59  Just like the last depression.60  The Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave faces foreclosure.61

A Democratic officeholder said something I wholeheartedly agree with. Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, expressed skepticism about Twitter. “I’m willing to entertain the possibility that I just don’t get it because I’m old and out-of-touch, but I think that Twitter is one of those things that people think is hip and cool, and then they look back, and it’s this year’s mullet.” Well said, sir.62 

AD No. 119n17 (Dec. 7, 2008); Freddoso, David. The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media’s Favorite Candidate. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2008: Ch. 6, 8; Sailer, Steve. America's Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama's Story of Race and Inheritance. Washington, Conn.: VDARE Foundation, 2008: Ch. 7-8.
2 Walsh, Jim. “Obama: The Hollow Man.” Liberty May 2009: 25.
3 Bradsher, Keith. “China Slows Purchase of U.S. and Other Bonds.” NYT 13 Apr. 2009: B1; Ventura, Michael. “Stimulus, Stimuli, Stimul-la-la.” AC 10 Apr. 2009: 30.
4 Calnan, Christopher. “Gun Retailers, Makers Overwhelmed.” ABJ 27 Mar. 2009: 3.
5 AD No. 28 (July 10, 2001); AD No. 43 (Nov. 23, 2002); Deavin, Samantha. “On Tax Day, Calls for Independence.” DT 16 Apr. 2009: 1-2A; Embry, Jason. “States’ Rights Stand Revives Perry’s Profile.” AAS 16 Apr. 2009: B1+; Yadron, Danny. “ ‘Tea Parties’ Stir Crowds.” AAS 16 Apr. 2009: A1+.
6 Stout, David. “Obama Apologizes for Quip About Disabled People.” NYT 21 Mar. 2009: 10.
7 Meet the Press. NBC-TV, 8 Dec. 2008.
8 Sailer, op. cit., Ch. 4.
9 Elliot, Bruce, and Darby Romeo. “Furniture of the ‘80s.” Retro Hell, 77.
10 Johnson, Paul. A History of the Jews. New York City: Harper & Row, 1987: 501; Johnson. Modern Times: The World From the Twenties to the Nineties, rev. ed. New York City: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991: 319.
11 Zehr, Dan. “Dell Cuts Costs as Profits Fall.” AAS 27 Feb. 2009: B7.
12 “Capital MetroRail.” CIM Mar. 2009: 22-23.
13 Plohetski, Tony, and Ben Wear. “Glitches, Investigations Will Delay Commuter Rail, Agency Says.” AAS 15 March 2009: A1; Wear. “Technical Issues Could Delay Start of Rail Service.” AAS 27 Feb. 2009: A1; Nichols, Lee. “Any Way to Run a Railroad?” AC 3 Apr. 2009: 24.
14 AD No. 105n64 (Feb. 27, 2008); Wear. “Cap Metro Battles Debt Load.” AAS 15 March 2009: A1.
15 Nichols. “Cap Metro: The Wheels Come Off.” AC 27 Mar. 2009: 18.
16 Wear. “Talk of Commuter Rail to San Antonio May Hit Rock Wall.” AAS 23 Feb. 2009: B1.
17 Birkelbach, Candace. “Transporation Report.” CIN Feb 2009: 10-11.
18 Brazziell, Ricardo B. “Restaurant Damaged by Fire.” AAS 31 Mar. 2009: B2.
19 AMLI at Stonehollow. Letter to residents, 5 Mar. 2009.
20 AD No. 17n1 (June 10, 2000).
21“Community Impact: Northwest Austin.” CIM Mar. 2009: 5.
22 Novak, Shonda. “Economic Troubles Hit Austin Retailers.” AAS 15 Apr. 2009: B7.
23 Azevedo, Mary Ann. “National Instruments Helping Startups Grow Into Customers.” ABJ 27 Mar. 2009: 5.
24 AD No. 45 (Jan. 5, 2003); AD No. 46 (Feb. 10, 2003); AD No. 48 (Mar. 10, 2003); AD No. 53 (July 30, 2003); AD No. 60 (Dec. 20, 2003); AD No. 89 (Mar. 29, 2006); AD No. 91 (July 2, 2006); AD No. 105 (Feb. 27, 2008); AD No. 115 (Aug. 22, 2008).
25 Chick Corea & John McLaughlin Five Peace Band. Advertisement. XL 19 Mar. 2009: 25.
26 Berendt, Joachim E., and Gunther Huesmann. The Jazz Book : From Ragtime to Fusion and Beyond, 5th rev. ed. Trans. H. Bredigkeit et. al. New York City: Lawrence Hill Books, 1992: 128-135, 149-151; McLaughlin, John. Extrapolation. Polydor PD 5510, 1972.
27 AD No. 119n39 (Dec. 7, 2008).
28 Davis, Miles, and Quincy Troupe. Miles: The Autobiography. New York City: Simon and Schuster, 1989: 54.
29 Faires, Robert. “God Save the Queenie.” AC 17 Apr. 2009: 34.
30 Sailer, op. cit., Ch. 10.
31 Johnson, Andrew Edgecliffe. “ ‘Sesame Street’ Hit as Gloom Comes to Toytown.” FT 12 Mar. 2009, London ed.: 29.
32 Raposo, Joe et al. “Sesame Street.” The Sesame Street Book & Record. Columbia CS 1069, 1970.
33 Fleming, Michael. “Nyuk Pluck.” Daily Variety 26 Mar. 2009: 1-6.
34 Fleming. The Three Stooges: An Illustrated History, From Amalgamated Morons to American Icons. New York City: Doubleday, 1999: 101.
35 AD No. 48n40 (Mar. 10, 2003).
36 Late Night With Conan O’Brien. NBC-TV, 20 Feb. 2009; Zulkey, Claire. “Andy Richter.” The Onion Mar. 26, 2009, Austin ed.: 16.
37 Adventureland. Sidney Kimmel Entertainment/This Is That Productions, 2009; Hixon, Michael J. “Rock & Roller Coasters.” Envy Apr. 2009: 42-43; Jones, Kimberley. “Lucky Starr.” AC 3 Apr. 2009: 55; Rabin, Nathan. “Kristen Wiig.” The Onion Apr. 2, 2009, Austin ed.: 16.
38 Howe, Neil, Bill Strauss, and Ian Williams. 13th Fen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail? New York City: Vintage Books, 1993: 47.
39 Obsorn, Claire. “Case Against Teacher Dropped.” AAS 28 Feb. 2009: B1+.
40 AD No. 121n23 (Jan. 5, 2009).
41 Brass, Kevin. “Eye of the Media Storm.” AC 6 Mar. 2009: 30+; Brass. “Local News.” AC 20 Feb. 2009: 22.
42 Evans, Akwasi. “Hundreds Protest Mall Closing.” Nokoa 16 Apr. 2009: 1; Wyatt, T.L. “Austin Citizens Protest the Closing of Highland Mall During Texas Relay Weekend.” The Villager 17 Apr. 2009: 1.
43 Phillips, Alberta. “Don’t Blame the Businesses.” AAS 19 Apr. 2009: F3; Novak. “Dillard’s Sues Highland Mall.” AAS 11 Apr. 2009: B1.
44 Lisheron, Mark. “Damaged Sidewalks Near Park Are City Crews’ Fault, Neighbor Says.” AAS 4 Mar. 2009: B1; Lisheron. “Resident Seeks Answers After Same Part of Street Is Torn Up for Fourth Time.” AAS 25 March 2009: B1.
45 Dunbar, Wells. “City Counseling.” AC 13 Feb. 2009: 20.
46 Whittaker, Richard. “Single-Stream Recycling: Now Good Deed Goes Unpunished.” AC 17 Apr. 2009: 18.
47 Kwon, Jean. “Feds Force CAMPO to Pare Long-Term Plan.” ABJ 27 Mar. 2009: 3.
48 Mottola, Daniel. “Critical Mass Arrests: Pride or Policy?” AC 10 Apr. 2009: 22.
49 George, Patrick. “Columnist Faces Charges in Vehicle Fire.” AAS 25 Mar. 2009: B1.
50 Moser, Stephen MacMillan. “After a Fashion.” AC 3 Apr. 2009: 44.
51 Kreytak, Steven. “Case Halted Against Man in Shootout With Officer.” AAS 28 Mar. 2009: A1+.
52 Bingham, Amy. “Students Protest Gun Bill With Walkout.” DT 17 Apr. 2009: 1-2A.
53 Robbins, Liz, and Michael D. Regan. “Upstate Man Charged With Beheading His Estranged Wife.” NYT 18 Feb. 2009: 23.
54 Horwitz, Sari, and Scott Higham. “D.C. Police Believed Close to Arrest in Levy Case.” WP 22 Feb. 2009: A1.
55 Rivera, Ray et al. “Before Killings, Hints of Plans and Grievance.” NYT 5 Apr. 2009: 1.
56 “Milk Isn’t the Only Bovine Health Drink.” Maclean’s 2 Mar. 2009: 38.
57 My Beautiful Laundrette. Channel Four Films/SAF Productions/Working Title Films, 1985.
58 Yu, Roger. “An SOS Call for Sputtering RV Industry.” USAT 20 Mar. 2009: 6D.
59 AP. “What Jobs Are in Demand?” Grand Rapids Press 11 Mar. 2009: A13.
60 Pardon My Scotch. Columbia Pictures, 1935.
61 Novak. “Mall Faces Forceclosure.” AAS 16 Apr. 2009: A1+.
62 Whittaker. “TechnoLegeBacklash: Strama Slags Twitter.” AC 10 Apr. 2009: 20.