Clang, Clang, Clang Went the Folly

Austin Dispatches
No. 134
July 10, 2010

On May 13, I witnessed a passing MetroRail train that was completely empty. Already the yuppies who clamored for it were bored with it, like a child losing interest in the toy he nagged for.1  Even the Chronicle acknowledges that ridership is down.2  Capital Metro also has a new boss, who doesn’t use mass transit herself.3  Then a freight train derailed July 7 and shut down MetroRail service.4  

Down the line, the Austin transportation director told the City Council its fantasy of an urban rail system – not the same as MetroRail – will cost more than a billion dollars, so the City Council OK'd spending $100,000 for a consultant to tell them what they're probably going to do anyway: ask voters to approve more debt to build the system.5  

In a related vein, the City is planning a “state-of-the-art” skate park at Shoal Creek Boulevard and 12th Street. Cost: $1.5 million. I was on the outmost fringes of the skate punk scene around 20 years ago, and back then the skate punks didn’t wait around for authorities to build something for them – they did it themselves. Either that or they just used existing structures such as handrails and kidney-shaped swimming pools without permission, which was probably half the fun. But I’ve been under the impression that skating isn’t as popular as it used to be (though I could be wrong). Naturally, Austin, straining too hard to be hip, when it should be paying attention to the bottom line, is doing this now.6

Also, the City Council is thinking of asking Austin voters to approve $84.8 million in IOUs in November for “transportation” projects, such as a boardwalk across Lady Bird Lake so yuppies can fall off their bikes into the water.7 And the City’s Waller Creek Tunnel Project is expected to wipe out the nightclubs in the Red River District.8 However, the recent decline in property values jeopardizes support for bond issues.9  

Austin also wants to create a program to train the long-term unemployed, according to the Business Journal.10 I thought that was called getting a degree from the University of Texas, but the program’s proponents say graduates need to learn the finer points, such as sleeping in, dressing like a hobo, and eating brand-name children’s breakfast cereals in an ironic fashion.11  

Longtime Libertarian activist Vince May laments that “Austin should have some kind of organized group to oppose” these boondoggles.12 The Travis County Libertarian Party might have exploited this years ago,13 but under the "leadership" of Rock Howard, a man who's head and thumb vie for space up his ass, the once-promising affiliate has decayed into a phony opposition.14  

Similarly, Texans for Accountable Government bungled their first real test. They were merely negotiating with the police to prevent abuses of the new fusion center, where police agencies will share databases on … you. The best way to prevent the fusion center from being abused is to prevent its creation in the first place.15 To give you some idea of how effective TAG will be in preventing police abuses, the police are moving ahead with plans to install surveillance cameras around the city.16

That bugaboo of pinko statists, private security, waxes in Austin. Unfortunately, the ranks of the rent-a-cops include those who picked up bad habits as official headbreakers for government.17 Further up the law enforcement chain, a state district judge has found Travis County prosecutor Stephanie McFarland engaged in prosecutorial misconduct for the second time in three years – withholding evidence during an aggravated assault trial.18  

So much for the City’s future. Let’s consider some of the City’s past efforts that’ve been appearing in the papers lately.  Throughout Travis County, the power elite that runs it has been competing with the TCLP and TAG as to which group can fail worst.

After flushing away a lot of money, the City canceled its toilet-replacement rebate program as cost-ineffective.19

Other civic programs are going down the toilet, too. The Business Journal reports the Austin Convention Center is strapped for cash.20 Why must the City even have a Convention Center Department? This is the same Convention Center that stole a man’s nearby property for a parking garage, spent a lot of money on lawyers, lost the case and is appealing rather than pay damages.21

This is also the same Convention Center whose subsidiary, Austin Convention Enterprises, faces multiple lawsuits from condo owners at the downtown Hilton over persistent water leaks from the upstairs hotel kitchen. The local power elite wanted to encourage tourism, so it subsidized the new hotel through complicated means and set up ACE to run it.22  Despite this latest, convoluted problem, the City also wants to spend five times the appraised value of some more downtown property for the Convention Center.23

Meanwhile, Community Impact Newspaper reports that more downtown development is poised to fuel higher population density, despite the City’s efforts. Are we supporting a municipal urban planning department just so some bureaucrats can justify their college degrees?24  

The Chronicle reports the Austin Water Utility is plagued with incompetence, bungling, and reverse racial discrimination.25  Diversity, eh?26  The Chronicle also laments the multiple problems inside the Fleet Services, which manages and maintains thousands of municipal vehicles.27 Simultaneously, City Hall is blocking a permit for a downtown taxi operator who wants to use an electric cart.28  

Everybody involved with recent changes to the City’s historic landmark zoning tax breaks is unhappy with the results. They should’ve done the smart thing and eliminated the program altogether.29 Queer groups, auxilliaries of the power elite against countervailing social arrangements,30 engaged in a bout of fag-slapping over their June 5 pride parade.31  

Similarly, after predictable delays and cost overruns, Travis County and the builder of its new jail are conducting damage control.32

The state has $25 million available to entice Formula One racing to Austin.33 We can see people speed recklessly on local roads for free. The only justification for spending taxpayer money on this frippery is the anguish it causes environmentalists – sweet music to our ears.34  

Gov. Rick Perry is under some rare scrutiny for spending $10,000 of taxpayer’s money on a fancy rental while the torched Governor’s Mansion is under repair.35 He shoulda used Habitat Hunters.36  

On the Town

Two recent dances doubled as salseras’ birthday celebrations. Both times, the women ignored the men in favor of scarfing cake – mediocre supermarket bakery cake at that. Good to know where we rank in their affections.

June 17: For the first time in my life, professional sports was actually of use to me. An ugly woman finally trapped me at Dallas Nite Club and asked me to dance, after I’d successfully avoided her for the evening. But while we were dancing – bachata, no less – I watched the professional basketball championship final on the big screen television over her shoulder, rather than her unappealing porcine puss.37  

“Are you a big basketball fan? You seem to be pretty engrossed in the game,” she queried.

Candor wasn’t the best option. I’ve stopped dancing with ugly women to meet my amortization quotas, because I’ve earned my pick of partners. I only was dancing with her to be polite, because she seemed to be on good terms with women I did want to dance with. I didn’t need her badmouthing me to them.


“It is the season final, and one featuring the longstanding rivalry between the Celtics and the Lakers,” I said.38  “It takes me back to my youth.” I was in L.A. the day after the 1985 championship game and noted all the jeeringly triumphant messages soaped and written on the locals’ car windows (e.g., “Fuck you, Boston.” Well, Stephen J. Cannell it ain’t.).39  My friends from L.A. vividly remember that day’s detail, too.

Her expression indicated she thought I might be full of shit but she wasn’t confident she could call me on it without risk of being the dumb bitch in our little interpersonal dynamic. Then the song ended and I resumed the prowl for attractive women. Fortunately, that night I didn’t have to compete with pastry.

July 8: My brother, on an impromptu road trip, visited Austin.  I took him to Dallas Nite Club for a couple of hours, where he watched me dance with a succession of attractive women.

Cultural Canapés

The Chronicle reviewer denounced the British vigilante film “Harry Brown” as “exploitative and crass.”40 Did she not understand she was watching a vigilante movie, by definition exploitative and crass? If anything, “Harry Brown” (or, “’Arry Brown,” to put it in proper Cockney so as not to confuse it with a biopic about the financial adviser turned presidential candidate),  errs on the side of tastefulness, especially given the problems and squalid conditions of that rinky-dink little island, which go a lot deeper and a lot higher up than just some human garbage loitering about the projects.41 The best American counterparts of “Harry Brown” didn’t flinch from offering solutions to these problems.42 Also, many of them had better soundtracks.43  

Speaking of which, the estimable Herbie Hancock’s “Imagine Project” is a failure.44  Hancock wanted to promote global peace through understanding and cooperation between different cultures, but the concept meant he co-created a mostly wussy, tepid hodgepodge release of the sort played on NPR affiliates, and that turd-polishes tunes by Rolling Stone magazine favorites that’ve marred jazz albums since the mid-‘60s. If he’d called it the “Selfish Asshole Project,” the world’s best musicians would’ve lined up to flaunt their egos through intense soloing over challenging musical structures.45  

Speaking of turd polishing, President Obama presented the decaying Sir Paul McCartney with the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.46 A limey receiving an American award? After what our ancestors went through to throw off the British yoke? The one time Obama could snub them in worthy fashion, and he cringes servilely like some colonial Kenyan goatherder.47 As for McCartney, when the Japs busted him for drug possession 30 years ago they should’ve locked him up, thrown away the key, and forced him to listen to his own Muzak.48

Regular episodes of “Daria,” a witty and often realistic cartoon series that inexplicably aired on MTV, are finally available on DVD.49  

Media Indigest

Chronicle wretches Louis Black and Michael Ventura have been talking past each other in that rag’s pages for the last several months on the issue of political power and who wields it in our country – sometimes known as conspiracy theory. My previous sentence by itself is more succinct and substantial than anything those two have managed. Black offers his usual slapdash incoherence in defense of complacency, since he’s part of the Travis County power elite: of course it’s the best of all possible worlds.50 Even Ventura is squandering a lot of ink just to wind up with an inferior, unfocused essay version of Paul Fussell’s “Class”;51 Ventura’s written better before, which suggests he doesn’t know enough about the topic to foist it on the readership without a lot more research and hard thinking.52 That, or the Chronicle needs to sell more ad space instead of publishing these dribblings to fill the news hole.
Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

On June 29, a thunderstorm knocked out power in the neighborhood for at least an hour. I changed my plans for the evening and drove to Cool River Café for dinner and flirting with the women customers.53  But the women were engaged in intense conversations mutually fueling their dissatisfactions with their respective lives. At least, that’s what I gathered under the club tracks. It’s the sort of conversation that puts women in worse moods than when they started, partly because they’re talking to other women. Flirting would’ve been a waste of time.

In May, Joe DiMaggio’s Italian Chophouse in The Domain closed, as have three neighborhood dry cleaners.54 A dine-in movie theater and another business have opened at The Domain.55  Two businesses have opened at the strip mall at Burnet Road and Kramer Lane.56 A software company is swelling inside the Magma building.57

On May 10, the Statesman’s Traffic Web site reported a collision at Metric Boulevard and Cedar Bend Drive. On June 17, I witnessed the aftermath of a collision along the westbound lane of Duval Road between MoPac Expressway and Amherst Drive that backed up westbound traffic to the Burnet feeder road. On July 6, I witnessed the aftermath of a two-car pile-up at Stonehollow Drive and Gracy Farms Lane that made me late for work.


1 Wear, Ben. "In Second Month, MetroRail Going the Wrong Way." AAS 28 Jun. 2010: B1+.
2 Nichols, Lee. “MetroRail Ridership Down.” AC 28 May 2010: 20.
3 Idem. “Watson to Take Cap Metro Wheel.” 25 Jun. 2010: 16; Idem. “Welcome to Capital Metro.” AC 18 Jun. 2010: 26+; Wear. “Cap Metro Chooses Chief.” AAS 18 Jun. 2010, final ed.: A1+.
4 Idem. "Freight Trail Mishap Chokes Rails, Traffic." 8 Jul. 2010, final ed.: A1+.
5 Idem. "City Asks for Ways to Finance Urban Rail." 25 Jun. 2010: A1+.
6 Dunbar, Wells. “Hitting the Budget Barbells.” AC 25 Jun. 2010: 24+; Elliott, Bruce, Jeff Charreaux, and Darby Romeo. “Skateboards.” Retro Hell, 201-202; “Skateboarding.” alt.culture, 225-226; Whittaker, Richard. “New ‘Action’ Park Rolls Closer to Reality.” AC 25 Jun. 2010: 20.
7 Gregor, Katherine. “City Announces ‘Multimodal’ Bond Package.” AC 25 Jun. 2010: 18; Wear, and Sarah Coppola. "City Bond Proposal Tops $84 Million." AAS 15 Jun. 2010, final ed.: A1+.
8 Powell, Austin. “Tunnel Vision.” AC 7 May 2010: 53.
9 Dirr, Jacob. “Decline in Property Values Puts Support for Bond in Jeopardy.” ABJ 7 May 2010: 8.
10 Idem. “City Seeking to Create Program to Train Long-Term Unemployed.” 25 Jun. 2010: 5.
11 Eaton, Collin. “Group Looks Into Value of a Bachelor’s Degree at UT.” DT 2 Jul. 2010: 1-2.
12 “Metro Rail Ridership Disappoints. Duh.” AL 4 Jul. 2010: 3.
13 AD No. 43n8 (Nov. 23, 2002).
14 AD No. 88 (Dec. 23, 2005); AD No. 93 (Oct. 15, 2006); AD No. 99n2 (Aug. 10, 2007).
15 Dunbar, Wells. “Confusion Center.” AC 21 May 2010: 14.
16 Sherfield, Michael. “APD to Install Cameras Around City.” DT 8 Jun. 2010: 1-2.
17 Plohetski, Tony. "Local Security Guards' Work Draws Praise and Censure." AAS 17 May 2010: A1+.
18 Smith, Jordan. “Conduct Unbecoming: Prosecutor Dealt Another Slap.” AC 11 Jun. 2010: 20.
19 Toohey, Marty. "City Cancels Toilet Rebates, Says Program Isn't Cost-Effective." AAS 30 Jun. 2010: B1+.
20 Dirr. “Austin Convention Center Strapped for Cash.” ABJ 7 May 2010: 1+.
21 AD No. 131n46 (Mar. 24, 2010); Dirr. “Austin Eminent Domain Case Attracting Statewide Interest.” ABJ 18 Jun. 2010: A6; Smith, Amy. “Naked City.” 14 May 2010: 16.
22 Dirr. “City Entity Moves to Arbitrate Hilton Condo Residents’ Lawsuits.” ABJ 11 Jun. 2010: A5; Toohey. "City Moving Hotel Kitchen." AAS 27 May 2010: A1+; Idem. "Condos, Lawsuits, and the 'Weeping Wall.' " 11 May 2010: A1+.
23 Idem. "Cost of Land Spurs Debate." 18 May 2010: A1+.
24 Brendel, Patrick. “Downtown Stakeholders Plan Future of Central Business District.” CIN 25 Jun. 2010: 1+.
25 Dunbar. “Pressure Rising at the Water Utility.” AC 7 May 2010: 28-30.
26 Putnam, Robert. “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century -- The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize.” Scandanavian Political Studies June 2007: 137-174.
27 King, Michael. “Something Must Be Done.” AC 2 Jul. 2010: 15; J. Smith. “Kicking the Tires at Fleet.” Idem., 22+.
28 Dirr. “ ‘Taxi’ Operator at Odds With Austin City Hall.” ABJ 25 Jun. 2010: 3+.
29 AD No. 131n45.
30 Lively, Scott Eric, and Kevin Abrams. The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, 3rd rev. ed. Sacramento, Calif.: Veritas Aeterna Press, 2002.
31 Whittaker. “The Pride Divide’s Aftermath.” AC 18 Jun. 2010: 20.
32 Dirr. “County, Faulkner Tie Up Loose Ends for Jail.” ABJ 28 May 2010: A3+.
33 Dexheimer, Eric. "Texas Taxpayers Would Foot 1st F1 Bill." AAS 2 June 2010: A1+; Idem. “More Public Money Used to Attract Big Events.” 22 Jun. 2010, final ed.: A1+.
34 Dirr. “Will F1 Track Be Good for Business.” ABJ 4 Jun. 2010: A1+; King. “The Sporting Scene.” AC 18 Jun. 2010: 15+; Novak, Shonda. “Is Formula One Track on This Area’s Horizon?” AAS 26 Jun. 2010: A1+; Tillman, Jane. “Don’t Let F1 Race Track Destroy East Austin Ecosystem.” ABJ 4 Jun. 2010: A35; Truong, Michelle. “Formula One Proposal Brings International Racing to Austin.” DT 8 June 2010: 1-2; Whittaker. “Austin at Very High Speed.” AC 9 Jul. 2010: 20+; Idem. “Austin Hits the Fast Lane.” 28 May 2010: 20.
35 AD No. 122n44 (Feb. 8, 2009); Root, Jay. AP. "Despite Budget Woes, State Pays Big Bucks for Perry Home." AAS 18 May 2010: B3.
36 AD No. 97n2 (Mar. 13, 2007).
37 Morales, Ed. The Latin Beat: The Rhythms and Roots of Latin Music From Bossa Nova to Salsa and Beyond. New York City: Da Capo Press, 2003: 244.
38 Bartholomew, Dana. “City’s Fans Celebrate – in Good Ways and Bad.” (Torrance, Calif.) Daily Breeze 18 Jun. 2010: A1+.
39 La Franco, Robert. "Hollywood's idea moguls." Forbes 21 Sep. 1998: 208; Marc, David and Robert J. Thompson. Prime Time Prime Movers. Toronto: Little, Brown & Co., 1992: 205-215.
40 Baugarten, Marjorie. ”Harry Brown.” Review. AC 14 May 2010: 68.
41 EAD No. 9n3 (Oct. 23, 1999); Gabb, Sean. Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back. London: The Hampden Press, 2007; O’Neal, Sean. “Michael Caine.” The Onion 13 May 2010, Austin ed.: 15.
42 Death Wish. Dino De Laurentiis Co./Paramount Pictures, 1974; Death Wish II. Cannon Films/City Films/Golan-Globus Productions/Landers-Roberts Productions, 1982; Death Wish 4: The Crackdown. Cannon Group, 1987; Taxi Driver. Columbia Pictures/Bil/Phillips/Italo/Judeo Productions, 1976; Vigilante. Magnum Motion Pictures, 1983.
43 Colón, Willie, and Héctor Lavoe [Héctor Perez]. Vigilante. Fania 610, 1983; Hancock, Herbie. Death Wish. Columbia PC 33199, 1974; Herrmann, Bernard. Taxi Driver, expanded ed. Arista 0782219005, 1998; Page, Jimmy. Death Wish II. Swan Song SS 59415, 1982.
44 Hancock, Herbie. The Imagine Project. Hancock Records HR0001, 2010.
45 AD No. 132n38 (Apr. 25, 2010).
46 Pareles, Jon. “McCartney Is Honored at White House.” NYT 3 Jun. 2010, New York ed.: A25.
47 Mencken, H.L. "The National Letters." Prejudices: Second Series. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 1920: 91-96; Sailer, Steve. America's Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama's Story of Race and Inheritance. Washington, Conn.: VDARE Foundation, 2008: Ch. 3.
48 Saturday Night Live. NBC-TV, 26 Jan. 1980; Idem., 17 May 1980; Sirius, R.U. [Ken Goffman]. Everybody Must Get Stoned: Rock Stars on Drugs. New York City: Citadel Press, 2009: 64-65.
49 Gillette, Amelie. “The Tolerability Index.” The Onion 13 May 2010, Austin ed.: 14.
50 Black, Louis. “Abandoned Ship.” AC 28 May 2010: 6; Idem. “Getting Our Bearings.” 7 May 2010: 6; Idem. “Kool-Aid for the Sheeple!” 4 Jun. 2010: 6; Idem. “Mutiny: A Ballet in Several Parts.” 14 May 2010: 6+; Idem. “Throw Down Your Hatred.” 18 Jun. 2010: 6+.
51 Fussell, Paul. Class: A Guide Through the American Status System. New York City: Simon and Schuster, 1983.
52 Ventura, Michael. “In the Margins of Oligarchy.” AC 4 Jun. 2010: 30; Idem. “Of Tiers and Tears.” 7 May 2010: 32; Idem. “A Paradox of Oligarchy.” 21 May 2010: 28.
53 AD No. 65n10 (May 22, 2004).
54 “Community Impacts: Northwest Austin.” CIN May 2010: 5
55 AD No. 104 (Dec. 22, 2007); Vara-Orta, Francisco. “Upscale Dining at the Movies Premieres at The Domain.” ABJ 7 May 2010: 7.
56 “Community Impacts: Northwest Austin.” CIN June 2010: 4-5.
57 Ibid., 5.