Oscar, Oscar, Oscar
Austin Dispatches No. 162 March 30, 2013


To my surprise, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences didn’t award Best Picture to “Lincoln,” a period flick about a Southern California street player who gets jerked around by an Armenian-owned auto shop that’s customizing his Mark IV.[1]


I shouldn’t’ve been. In 85 years, the Academy has nominated 191 movies that I like in one or more of the major categories (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress), and actually awarded 55 in at least one of them.


Clearly, the overlap between my taste and that of Hollywood insiders is slight, though a friend has expressed surprise at how mainstream my televisual choices are.[2] Expense, labor requirements – note the number of people in the closing credits – and the still-dominant distribution models give big Hollywood firms an advantage.[3] Lest we forget, studios must earn profits with entertainment the broad public likes, which skews the product content toward the mainstream.[4] Also, just because entertainment’s mainstream doesn’t inherently mean it’s bad. 


A 2012 release that seems to have sunk like popcorn between theater seat cushions was the film adaptation – decades in development – of “On the Road.”[5] By happenstance, a magazine blurb reminded me of it, and later the same day I found it free on the Internet.[6] Since the movie depicts the characters’ shoplifting and stealing cars as the traits of free spirits, instead of scuzzy criminals, no one associated with the movie can credibly complain about that. The film captures the spirit of the novel: i.e., it’s incoherent, pretentious nonsense.[7] I used to think the beatniks were interesting – until I finally read their work (notable exceptions: William S. Burroughs and, to a much lesser extent, Diane di Prima).[8] Externally, I think the flick suffered from bad timing. Stylistically, it resembled a late ‘80s/early ‘90s non-Hollywood production.[9] It and the content would’ve been better received then. By 1994, the interest in ‘50s culture had shifted to the Rat Pack and tiki esthetics.[10]


Meanwhile, I read with interest that Al Pacino and Brian De Palma are reteaming, for a movie about coach Joe Paterno, whose reputation collapsed like a tackled quarterback’s knees in light of the homosexual rape scandal within the University of Pennsylvania’s football program.[11] That combination means the cinematic sensation won’t stint on sports’ slimy, sordid, sleazy side. It could be the best movie about football since “The Last Boy Scout” and the best movie about sports since “Raging Bull.”[12] Many people still hold the early 19th century English notion that sports, particularly football, are a form of building character – a notion not held prior, and which contemporary times should’ve refuted.[13] Two of the three people I know who played high school football complain of unlocatable pains, incurred in a pagan, vaguely homoerotic display for the gerontocracy. Moreover, the sport’s popularity coincides with the rise of big government.[14] Behind the scenes, the most important contributor to my last high school’s team was the class drug dealer.  After all, we are talking about something that exists for the purpose of gambling.[15] At least it isn’t soccer.


Other Cultural Canapés


Speaking of sports, the International Olympics Committee plans to phase out wrestling from the Olympics as a cost-cutting measure.[16]


Alleged musician Michelle Shocked killed what was left of her career – which I thought had ended 20 years ago – by launching into an anti-homosexual marriage rant in a San Francisco nightclub.[17] Maybe she found out she wouldn’t pick up any wedding gigs and made the mistake of saying what she really thought before a powerful, vindictive group intent on crushing all opposition.


History Channel series “The Bible” raised eyebrows with its March 17 episode, in which Satan was played by a Barack Obama lookalike.[18] It’s only fitting, since he’s running the country like hell.[19]


Hey, Kim, I Got Your Threat Right Here


Earlier this week, Commie dictator Kim Jong Un threated to nuke Austin during the re-escalation of some unfinished business from the ‘50s on the Korean peninsula. [20] But the pygmy Pyongyang punk’s pusillanimous pugnacity provoked pshaws from people commenting on the news stories about it. [21]


Turning to domestic tyranny, a new academic study finds Texas’ occupation licensing


… seemed set up more to protect professions from outside competitors than the public from any real danger. With some occupations, the violations the government overwhelmingly enforces are operating without a license — paperwork infractions created only by making the industry subject to government oversight in the first place.[22] 

These cozy deals between business and government to rip off the public are something that’s been known since at least Lao-tzu,[23] but apparently astounded the Statesman enough to merit an above-the-fold front-page story in its March 24 edition. We’ll see if this helps Rep. Bill Callegari, R-Houston, in his efforts to curtail licensing and overregulation.


Amid the decennial retrospectives of the Iraq Attaq, I haven’t encountered commentary on the dramatic tone of the allied invasion coverage in print and on NPR that I noted then.[24] Especially with the latter it was odd to hear the announcers drop the smarmy yuppie attitude.


On the Town


Mar. 16: The DJ cued a track beginning with Eddie Palmieri’s moody, minor-key rubato intro to a salsa dura.[25] With this background accompaniment I greeted “Melanie Ordones Welker” at the social. “Of all the dance studios and all the salsa socials in this crazy world, why’d you have to come here?” I said a la Bogie.[26]


She laughed, and proceeded to tell me about her latest injuries.


Mar. 27: On the way back to my car from Pedro’s Place, I passed a hotel. A man impeccably attired sat and flagrantly picked his nose for all the world to see through the lobby windows.


Business Roundup


The business press is circling around the troubled JCPenny after a 25 percent decline in sales last year.[27] When I was a child, the company was a source for the Christmas catalog trinity, along with Sears and the now deceased Montgomery Ward.[28] Later, ironically, the years I maintained a JCPenny charge card, as a way to increase my credit line, the stores never carried anything I wanted to buy.[29] Only now, when it’s declining, has JCPenny carried clothes I consider worthwhile.


Chronicle columnist Michael Ventura rhapsodizes about the prospect of digital fabrication wiping out capitalism, the nation-state, and even the concept of ownership.[30] As usual, Ventura should’ve thought more about the columns he submitted. If 3-D printing can give us everything we want, why would we ever listen to the Michael Venturas of the world? This was always the base appeal of collectivist theories – socialist, communist, and variants thereof. The rest of it is a twisted religious vision whereby they justify pestering the rest of us.[31]


Kiplinger’s Personal Finance reports American companies are returning their operations to America.[32]


Commercial virtual reality is attempting a comeback.[33] Some dope I knew once insisted that the Internet eclipsing VR in the mid-‘90s was some establishment conspiracy, but I suspect VR declined because dopes like him were its biggest proponents.[34] Anyway, we’ve already had virtual reality for decades. It’s called television.


Austin Death Watch


A chick I knew slightly on the salsa scene turns out to be a relative newcomer and teacher at UT who stirred up controversy with a recent article in Texas Monthly about how Austinites are slobby, segregated and clueless – compared to places like Houston.[35] At times her article covers some of the same content as Austin Dispatches, but we had better things to do than discuss how and why Austin has its head up its ass. Still, as an academic who strongly self-identifies as a Tejana, she doubtless operates under some professional, social and personal constraints that don’t apply at this Web site.


For example, neatly encapsulating many recurring themes, a Democratic Mexican woman state representative drunkenly plowed her BMW into another car and a bicyclist downtown during South by Southwest.[36] Maybe she thought she was back in El Paso. However, police failed to find weaponry, light bulbs with mercury, or disposable shopping bags in her car.[37]


The Statesman buried its lede in a March 24 feature on police efforts to clean out crime in the neighborhoods around Rundberg Lane, probably for fear of offending racial grievance groups. Nevertheless, the reporter was professional enough to mention that these neighborhoods are full of Section 8 housing, foreign trespassers, and the backwash of the U.S. government’s meddling abroad.[38] In short, a multiracial stew that requires government intrusion to keep a lid on criminal behavior. However, city leaders would rather try to disarm citizens than round up illegals, so don’t hold your breath on those places getting any better.[39]


To hear Austin’s power elite, you think they’d favor a company that created a social networking application for finding rides in town as a progressive, creative way to reduce auto traffic, “carbon footprints,” etc. In November city government issued a cease-and-desist order against that company for cutting into establish taxi services’ business. Taxis, apparently, can only operate by government license. So despite what the power elite says, they’re about as sclerotic and smothering toward Austin’s “youthful innovation” and “free-spirited culture” as the North Korean government – no surprise, since what Chronicalista Michael King calls “progressive politics” – a euphemism for the corporatist state – is close enough to communism from them to be mistaken for each other – except the latter wasn’t so puritanical about smoking.[40] Now the app’s maker is suing the city government, which will spend taxpayer money it can ill afford to defend a policy that’s incompatible with Austin’s self-image, attempts to encourage business, good sense, and historic laissez-faire approach to the commonweal.[41]


Similarly, that same elite deplores the lack of affordable housing while seemingly blind to the policies and regulations that create the lack.[42] Yet only on March 28 did the City Council, grumbling, vote to ease development rules after the city’s legal staff realized some – some? – of the environmental restrictions were legally dubious and could’ve put the city on the losing side of lawsuits. It’s about time.[43] Moreover, Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, has filed a series of bills to further overcome these restrictions that are responsible for exacerbating the cost of housing and thus making it unaffordable here for all but the Austin power elite. In turn, the local press will treat Workman as an arch villain.[44] To hell with the Austinites who need affordable housing.


The City Council is wrangling over a zoning variance downtown for Hotel ZaZa – named, of course, for the slain Joe Mantegna character in “The Godfather Part III.” Fittingly, the wrangling involves “contract zoning,” quid pro quos. In this case, Mayor Lee Leffingwell worries it’s a legal gray area, or even outright illegal. How this differs from the regular practice of zoning, the Chronicle article doesn’t say. Whatever you do, City Council, don’t check under the building foundations.[45]


Science News


A new study concludes that a Pacific Northwest earthquake could wipe out Eugene, Ore. There’s also a down side.[46]


Neighborhood News


From March 23-24, the promenade at The Domain sported a fine-arts festival.[47] In other words, organizers blocked off one of the mixed-used development’s streets that high-strung SUV drivers speed along for some tents with paintings and pottery in the style and tone of what you can buy at garage sales for a lot less.


Speaking of high-strung drivers, some king cab pickup-driving dickhead had the effrontery to honk at me from behind while I was slowly maneuvering through the parking lot in search of a space without running over pedestrians or being struck by another vehicle backing out. In response, I drove slower. Cletus sped around me, gunning the engine, while I flipped him off. Unfortunately, he didn’t crash, but one way or another, that country-fried motherfucker will get his.


On March 25, I witnessed the aftermath of a multicar pileup on the northbound lanes of MoPac Expressway near The Domain exit. No pickups, though. The same evening, the Statesman’s traffic Web page reported serious accidents in both directions at the MoPac/U.S. Highway 183 interchange.


Three developers are vying for a shot at the old MCC site at MoPac and Braker Lane.[48] An interior design business, a physical therapy service, and an energy conservation business have opened.[49]


Home Archives


[1] AD No. 56n12 (Oct. 1, 2003); Douthat, Ross. “Hollywood’s Divided Heart.” NR 25 Mar. 2013: 50; Goines, Donald. Street Players. Los Angeles: Holloway House Publishing Co., 1973; Lincoln. DreamWorks SKG/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp./Reliance Entertainment/Participant Media/Dune Entertainment/Amblin Entertainment/The Kennedy/Marshall Co., 2012; “Rattlers’ Class of ’63.” The Rockford Files. NBC-TV, 26 Nov. 1976.

[2] AD No. 107 (April 12, 2008); AD No. 121 (Jan. 5, 2009); AD No. 132 (April 25, 2010); AD No. 148 (Jan. 1, 2012).

[3] Renovitch, James. “Straight to (Digital)Video.” AC 29 Mar. 2013: 43.

[4] Epstein, Edward Jay. The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood, rev. ed. New York City: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2006.

[5] On the Road. MK2 Productions/American Zoetrope/Jerry Leider Co./Vanguard Films/Film4/France 2 Cinéma/France Télévisions/Canal+/Ciné+/VideoFilmes/Nomadic Pictures/SPAD Films, 2012.

[6] Marche, Stephen. “The Golden Age for Writers.” Esquire Dec. 2012: 90-92.

[7] Kerouac, Jack. Road Novels: 1957-1960. Ed. Douglas Brinkley. New York City: Library of America, 2007: 1-278.

[8] Di Prima, Diane. Memoirs of a Beatnik, rev. ed. San Francisco: The Last Gasp of San Francisco, 1988; Eisler, Dan. “It Takes a Village.” E-mail to Frank Rossi, 28 Feb. 2002; Morgan, Ted [Sanche Armand Gabriel de Gramont]. Literary Outlaw: The Life & Times of William S. Burroughs. New York City: Henry Holt, 1988.

[9] Lyons, Donald. Independent Visions: A Critical Introduction to Recent Independent American Film. New York City: Ballentine Books, 1994; Pierson, John. Spike Mike Reloaded: A Guided Tour Across a Decade of American Independent Cinema. New York City: Miramax Books, 2004.

[10] AD No. 58n8 (Nov. 2, 2003); AD No. 138n13 (Jan. 13, 2011); Hochswender, Woody. "Flash from Europe." Esquire. Oct. 1994: 140; "7th Avenue." GQ. Jan. 1995: 63. Omelianuk, Scott. "The Year of the Suit." GQ. Jan. 1995: 78.

[11] Dittrich, Luke. “In the Ruins of a Blue and White Empire.” Esquire Jun./Jul. 2012: 186-194+; “Pacino and Scarface Director to Reunite.” The (London) Sun 18 Jan. 2013: 21.

[12] The Last Boy Scout. Geffen Pictures/Silver Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures, 1991; Raging Bull. United Artists/Chartoff-Winkler Productions, 1980.

[13] Johnson, Paul. The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830. New York City: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991: 704-708.

[14] Smith, Donald G. “Sports: The Great American Surrogate.” The Freeman Mar. 1992: 122-123.

[15] Moldea, Dan E. Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football. New York City: William Morrow and Co., 1989.

[16] Longman, Jer. “Olympic Fixture Since 708 B.C. Will Be Dropped.” NYT 13 Feb. 2013: B10-11.

[17] Garchik, Leah. “Shocked’s Rant Shocks Yoshi’s Crowd.” San Francisco Chronicle 19 Mar. 2013: E6; Garchick. “The Shocked Waves Flow and Ebb.” 21 Mar. 2013: E6.

[18] Oldenburg, Ann. “History Channel Opens the Gates of Hell.” USAT 19 Mar. 2013: 3D.

[19] AD No. 122 (Feb. 8, 2009); AD No. 123 (April 22, 2009); AD No. 125 (June 20, 2009); AD No. 128 (Nov. 7, 2009); AD No. 134 (July 10, 2010); AD No. 135 (July 21, 2010); AD No. 136 (Aug. 10, 2010); AD No. 141 (May 17, 2011); AD No. 147 (Dec. 16, 2011); AD No. 150n19 (April 16, 2012); AD No. 156 (Sep. 22, 2012); De Bartolo, Dick, and Harry North. “The Omenous.” Mad Mar. 1977: 10.

[20] Choe, Sang-Hun, and David E. Sanger. “In Pyongyang, Bluster, Fakery and Real Risks.” NYT 30 Mar. 2013, late ed.: A1+.

[21] O’Rourke, Ciaran. “Austinites Unfazed by ‘Threat’ to Hometown.” AAS 30 Mar. 2013: A5.

[22] Dexheimer, Eric. “Industries Fight to Keep State Oversight.” AAS 24 Mar. 2013: A1+.

[23] Rothbard, Murray N. An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, Vol. I: Economic Thought Before Adam Smith. 1995. Rpt. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2006: Pt. 1, Ch. 10.

[24] King, Michael. “Ten Years of War.” AC 22 Mar. 2013: 12+; Woodward, Bob, and Mark Malseed. “Attack Was 48 Hours Old When It ‘Began.’ ” WP 23 Mar. 2003: A1.

[25] Waxer, Lise A. The City of Musical Memory: Salsa, Record Grooves, and Popular Culture in Cali, Colombia. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan UP, 2002: 144-146.

[26] Casablanca. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1942.

[27] Hill, Richard. “Poor JCPenny Earnings Spark Fears of Retail CMBS Pinch.” Real Estate Finance & Investment 25 Feb. 2013: 34.

[28] Boys’ Toys of the Seventies and Eighties: Toy Pages From the Legendary Sears Christmas Wishbooks, 1970-1989. Ed. Thomas W. Holland. Calabasas, Calif.: Windmill Group, 2002; More Boys’ Toys of the Seventies and Eighties: Toy Pages From the Great Montgomery Ward Christmas Catalogs, 1970-1985. Ed. Thomas W. Holland. Calabasas, Calif.: Windmill Group, 2002.

[29] French, Scott R. Credit: The Cutting Edge, rev. ed. Fort Lee, N.J.: Barricade Books, 1993.

[30] Ventura, Michael. “The Future Loose Amongst Us.” 22 Feb. 2013: 26-27; Ventura. “The Revolution Will Be Printed.” AC 8 Feb. 2013: 26; Ventura. “What Are Human Beings For?” AC 25 Jan. 2013: 20.

[31] Evans, M. Stanton. The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics and the American Tradition. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Pub., 1994: 17-18, 55-56, 66-73, 105-107, 113-131, 313-317; “The Menace of the Religious Left.” 1994. Rpt. The Irrepressible Rothbard: The Rothbard-Rockwell Report Essays of Murray N. Rothbard. Ed. Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2000: Ch. 51; Shafarevich, Igor Rostislavovich. Sotsializm Kak Iavlenie Mirovoi Istorii. Paris: YMCA-Press. Trans. William Tjalsma. The Socialist Phenomenon. New York City: Harper & Row Publishers, 1980; Sowell, Thomas. The Vision of the Anointed: Self-congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. New York City: Basic Books, 1995.

[32] AD No. 147, op. cit.; Smith, Anne Kates. “Foreign Factories Come Back Home.” Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Mar. 2013: 11-12.

[33] Wingfield, Nick. “A Matter of Perception.” NYT 18 Feb. 2013: B1+.

[34] alt.culture, 263-265.

[35] Ballí, Cecilia. “What Nobody Says About Austin.” TM Feb. 2013: 64+.

[36] Grisales, Claudia, and Ciara O’Rourke. “House Member Accused of DWI.” AAS 15 Mar. 2013: A1+; Whittaker, Richard. “Lege Lines.” AC 22 Mar. 2013: 20.

[37] AD No. 105n8 (Feb. 27, 2008).

[38] Harmon,  Dave. “Restoring Rundberg.” AAS 24 Mar. 2013: A1+.

[39] Chang, Julie. “Police Chief, Mayor Urge Checks for Firearm Sales.” AAS 29 Mar. 2013: B2; Eaton, Tim. “Driver’s License Law Seen as Issue.” AAS 25 Mar. 2013: A1+.

[40] Hayward, Steven F. The Age of Reagan, Vol. I: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order, 1964-1980. Roseville, Calif.: Forum, 2001: Ch. 3; King, Michael. “Explaining Austin.” AC 15 Mar. 2013: 12+.

[41] Orum, Anthony M. Power, Money and the People: The Making of Modern Austin. Austin, Texas: Texas Monthly Press, 1987; Whittaker, Richard. “SideCar to City: Have App, Will Travel … to Court.” AC 15 Mar. 2013: 18.

[42] Pagano, Elizabeth. “Wrangling Over Housing Tax Credits.” AC 29 Mar. 2013: 16.

[43] Smith, Amy. “Fight or Flight.” AC 29 Mar. 2013: 14; Toohey, Marty. “Council Repeals Land Use Rules.” AAS 29 Mar. 2013: A1+.

[44] A. Smith, op. cit.; Toohey. “Workman Sets Sites on Austin Land Laws.” AAS 28 Mar. 2013: A1+.

[45] AD No. 133n13 (May 4, 2010); The Godfather: Part III. Paramount Pictures/Zoetrope Studios, 1990; Kanin, Mike. “Zone Defense.” AC 22 Mar. 2013: 16.

[46] Morton, Brian. “Monster Quake Would Devastate Pacific Northwest.” Vancouver (B.C.) Sun 16 Mar. 2013: A21.

[47] “Visual Arts.” AC 22 Mar. 2012: 54.

[48] Buchholz, Jan. “Old MCC Site to Be Redone.” ABJ 29 Mar. 2013: A1+.

[49] “Impacts.” CIN Mar. 2013, Northwest Austin ed.: 6-7.