The Tone Remains the Same

Austin Dispatches No. 164 May 29, 2013


Austin enters the era of ten-digit dialing, since a second area code becomes operational June 1.[1] The city needs the extra code because it’s acquired the 11th-largest U.S. municipal population, according to the Census Bureau.[2]


Just when I was beginning to relax with confidence about my future again, the landlord’s office called my cell phone to notify me I was going to pay month-to-month rent on my apartment because I hadn’t renewed my lease. Only I had renewed, and had a signed copy dated April 9 to prove it. But because I didn’t discover this call on my cell phone, which I use mostly as backup, until after the office had closed, the office’s incompetence put me in a bad mood until I could satisfactorily resolve the matter the next morning. I pointed out I’d renewed early “so I could avoid the conversation that I’m having now.”


Cultural Canapés


Admittedly, my problem wasn’t as serious or dramatic as what “Mad Men”’s cast endures this season. In upcoming episodes, the main protagonist changes his identity to Don Draper Rickles: “Can’t you hockey pucks create a winning ad campaign for mayonnaise?”


NBC’s planned personnel changes for its late-night programming will make producer Lorne Michaels the behind-the-scenes king of late night: “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night,” and “Saturday Night Live.” Personally, I’ve been cool to “Tonight Show” host-designate Jimmy Kimmel in the past and will probably cease watching once he takes over from Jay Leno next year.[3]


Nearly 40 years after the last attempt to make an unwatchable movie from an overrated, nearly unreadable book (one, naturally, taught in government schools), Hollywood has foisted another version of “The Great Gatsby” on the screens.[4] To my dismay, the premise of “The Purge” is not about an effective solution to the Libertarian “Reform” Caucus.[5]


The University of Texas and the video game industry have teamed up to creating a gaming academy. Prospective students for the first class in fall 2014 must score at least 200,000 points on a first-person shooter game.[6]


A pan-Latin music format replaced the all-comedy radio station at 102.7 FM after 18 months.[7] I’m surprised the comedy format lasted that long in town, since the stand-up routines mocked and undercut the social views of the local power elite.


On the Town


May 19: For a local troupe, the dance contest at Dallas Nite Club doubled as a fundraiser to attend a salsa event in Europe. Normally, this kind of night would mean I’d paid to stand around and watch other people have a good time. But because of the women’s heightened emotional mood, probably enhanced by the end of spring term at UT, and because the troupers seemed to be frazzled with each other, even the usually unapproachable ones were receptive to my silver-tongued flattery.


“You didn’t enter the contest? Maybe next time?”


“Getting to dance with women like you is the real prize.”


“Aw, you’re so sweet.”


May 24: I dressed up to attend a tech writers’ meeting for the first time in a long while, because I attended Dallas afterward. There, a new woman beckoned to me and praised my tie, some chiaroscuro geometric number I bought online. I asked her to dance.


“I’m with someone,” she said with a hint of knowing seductiveness as we headed to the floor.


“We’ll stay within sight,” I replied, equally knowing. Then I taught her the basics.


Business Roundup


Now that marijuana is almost legitimate, its producers face the same problems as other businessmen. If bungling government regulation and taxes don’t kill the marijuana industry, the MBAs who want to run it will.[8] Thus they’ll inadvertently prove Lenny Bruce right, 50 years after: No one will use it when it’s legal.[9]


The Statesman’s May 19 issue contains a feature attempting to a) positively spin the state of the Austin tech industry, down from its glorious height in early 2001, without b) placing the blame where it belongs.[10] Back when I worked in newspapers, a staff story this badly researched – or badly edited – wouldn’t’ve appeared in the pages, let alone as the Sunday edition front page lead. Austin’s tech sector has experienced a net loss of 7,700 jobs since then because a) the local power elite since the crash has regarded the tech industry as a threat to its power – best exemplified by Dellionaire Ben Bentzin challenging then-incumbent Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos for his seat – and has pursued anti-business policies to maintain its power, poverty and joblessness be damned. The local power elite has serendipitously benefited in these efforts by b) the renewed growth of the corporatist managerial-therapeutic warfare-welfare state since 9/11, which has burdened the overall economy.[11]


Baroque, Going for Broke


For example, the City Council pared its May 9 agenda, but not because the councilors or staff read Austin Dispatches, realized the errors of their ways, and resolved to reduce the size and scope of government involvement in municipal affairs. Instead, President Obama, back again, requested the Council’s presence at his speech, touting Austin’s success.[12] It’s the difference between genuine change and procrastination. What Obama really means by Austin’s success is that the local power elite has done to the city what he’d like to do to the United States at large.


Supposedly, Obama was trying to refurbish his image on economic matters, only to prove he still hasn’t learned anything by advocating more government involvement in manufacturing. Any more involvement and we’ll live like our ancestors before the Industrial Revolution. Moreover, he said this at Applied Materials, which a former coworker said has a paranoid, backstabbing work environment, which has hired at least one idiot, and which has laid off about half its workforce from its ‘90s peak because Intel beats it regularly.[13]


And once again, Obama snarled traffic wherever he went.[14] Austin’s power elite is so smitten with the idea of mass transit that the City Council is considering leasing the airport to a private operation to raise money to pay for the idea. Even more shocking, Chronicalista Michael King supports it. Good thing I was sitting down when I read that. Of course, the local power elite and the Chronicle being who they are, they didn’t address the implicit questions raised by King’s column: If privatizing the municipal airport is such a good idea, why does government have to involve itself in other aspects of mass transit? Couldn’t it be, in fact, that we don’t have the mass transit choices they think we should because of the regulations and misincentives they also support?[15]


Meanwhile, the Council voted to imposing mandatory composting requirements on Austin restaurants. The May 10 Chronicle has a feature on the East Side Compost Pedallers – people who pick up food scraps from restaurants and transport them in drums on their bicycles to local organic farms. So in the future, you won’t be stuck in traffic behind a slow-moving, diesel-belching garbage truck – you’ll be stuck behind a slower-moving bicycle powered by a weedy looking guy in dreadlocks.[16]


Road crews are back to closing MoPac Expressway lanes for the next 28 months to add toll lanes.[17]


On May 11, voters rejected half the Austin school district bond proposals. Unfortunately, this also means they approved the other half, about $490 million in debt to be paid for with an extra "$38.40 to the property tax bill for a $200,000 home."[18] A new think tank study reports that poverty is growing in Austin’s suburbs.[19]


A commissioned-and-buried study of City Hall employees finds many of them think city government is unethical and poorly run.[20] In a related story, police are investigating a city building permit bureaucrat for taking bribes to approve certain applications from the permit backlog.[21]


Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo deleted a tweet supporting citizen disarmament and denouncing his opposing recipient as an “extremist,” but not before everyone found out.[22] You’d think a refugee from Communist Cuba would know better, but I guess Acevedo values his government career more than the traditions and principles of his adopted country.[23] Artie, you got some ‘splaining to do.


Neighborhood News


A cocktail lounge and a golf range/restaurant/bar have opened.[24] The service at the latter is good, but the food is bland and the cost of practicing my swing is more than another place south of Braker Lane and Interstate 35.


An e-commerce company has relocated to Kramer Lane and been featured in the Statesman.[25] The Metric 7 building on Burnet Road is under new ownership.[26] McCormick & Schmuck’s has remodeled.[27]

Home Archives


[1] Herman, Ken. “512 Area Code Hits Point of No Return.” AAS 22 May 2013: B1+.

[2] Castillo, Juan. “Austin Fifth in Population Growth, Becoming 11th-Largest City in U.S.” AAS 23 May 2013: A1.

[3] AD No. 130n45 (Feb. 17, 2010); Poniewozik, James. “Break Up the Desk Set.” Time 22 Apr. 2013: 57.

[4] Dyess-Nuget, Phillip et al. “Hip-Hop Gatsby & a Weaponized Hat.” The Onion 9 May 2013, Austin ed.: 17; Roe, Dale. “Is Gatsby Great?” AAS 10 May 2013: D1+.

[5] AD No. 93 (Oct. 15, 2006); AD No. 98 (June 11, 2007); AD No. 99 (Aug. 10, 2007); AD No. 111 (June 12, 2008); AD No. 113 (July 12, 2008; AD No. 116 (Sep. 7, 2008); The Purge. Blumhouse Productions/Platinum Dunes/Universal International Pictures (UI)/Universal Pictures/Why Not Productions , 2013.

[6] Caar, Bryan. “UT to Start Creative Academy.” AAS 14 May 2013: B5-6.

[7] AD No. 151n51 (May 22, 2012); Dinges, Gary. “Austin Radio Stations Shuffle.” AAS 24 May 2013: B7.

[8] Campoy, Ana. “First Laws Passed for Colorado Pot Market.” WSJ 9 May 2013, Eastern ed.: A8; Colao, J.J. “Meet the Yale MBAs Trying to Tame the Marijuana Industry.” Forbes 26 Mar. 2013 <> ; Frosch, Dan. “States Push to Get the Most Out of Marijuana Taxes.” NYT 25 Apr. 2013: A16; Johnson, Paul. “The War on Drugs: A Defining Moment.” Forbes 25 Mar. 2013: 34; Koppel, Nathan. “State’s Pot Oversight Under Fire.” WSJ 28 Mar. 2013, Eastern ed.: A4.

[9] The Essential Lenny Bruce. Ed. John Cohen. New York City: Ballentine Books, 1967: 112.

[10] Zehr, Dan. “Tech Scene Smaller, Healthier.” AAS 19 May 2013: A1+.

[11] Copelin, Laylan. “Barrientos Facing a Serious Challenge Faces Off Against Dellionaire.” AAS 17 May 2002: A1.

[12] AD No. 163n15 (May 5, 2013); Smith, Amy. “City Council: Austin Energy (Again) and the President’s Visit.” AC 10 May 2013: 16; Tilove, Jonathan. “Tilove, Jonathan. “Obama to Tout Austin’s Success.” AAS 9 May 2013: A1+.

[13] Zehr, Dan, and Kirk Ladendorf. “President Touts Manufacturing.” AAS 10 May 2013: A1+.

[14] Herman, Ken. “Downtown Drive a Snap – Just Ask the President.” Idem., A7.

[15] King, Michael. “The Reading Railroad.” AC 10 May 2013: 12+.

[16] Cape, Jessi. “(Apple) Core Values.” Idem., 40.

[17] Wear, Ben. “MoPac Lanes Closing at Night to Prepare for Adding Toll Lanes.” AAS 21 May 2013: B2.

[18] Taboada, Melissa B., and Asher Price. “2 of 4 Bonds Approved.” AAS 12 May 2013: A1+; Whittaker, Richard. “Bonds: ‘Death by a Thousand Cuts.’ ” AC 17 May 2013: 22-24.

[19] Castillo, Juan, and Melissa B. Taboada. “Poverty Grows Fast in Suburbs.” AAS 20 May 2013: A1+.

[20] Kanin, Mike. “Did Ott Hide Ethics Study From Council?” AC 17 May 2013: 14.

[21] Toohey, Marty. “Inquiry Focuses on City Permits.” AAS 24 May 2013: A1+.

[22] “Quote of the Week.” AC 24 May 2013: 10; Woods, Mohawk-John et al. “You Say: Views From” 27 May 2013: A15.

[23] Swiatecki, Chad. “Person of Interest: Art Acevedo.” ATX Man Winter 2012: 45.

[24] “Now Open.” CIN May 2013, Northwest Austin ed.: 6.

[25] Novak, Shonda. “Volusion Puts Money Where Its Perks Are.” 14 Apr. 2013: E1.

[26] “New Ownership.” CIN May 2013, Northwest Austin ed.: 7.

[27] “Remodels.” CIN May 2013, Northwest Austin ed.: 7.