Thanks for Nothing

Austin Dispatches No. 179 Nov. 26, 2014


As if I don’t have enough problems, while I slept in the early morning of Nov. 16, another tenant hit my parked car.[1] This is my second consecutive car that’s been damaged that way. I didn’t find out until 3 p.m., when I finally ventured out of my apartment to mail some bills. Not only did that woman driver wreck my car while attempting to park, she also destroyed my theory that one’s vehicle is safer around more expensive models.


“In my experience, people who drive BMWs are not very nice,” said the auto body shop technician as he assessed the damage to the left rear quarter panel and bumper (total cost for repairs: $972.51).


“You don’t have to be nice to be careful,” I said.[2]


While my Honda was under repair, I drove a Nissan Altima rental covered by the responsible party’s insurance. That model’s ergonomic design has some flaws. The height of the driver’s seat plus the placement of the steering wheel makes it difficult to see some of the dashboard indicators at a glance. 


I drove the rental to a meeting with an insurance provider, where I learned my mandatory health insurance policy premium is going up, same as everyone else’s.[3] So much for savings. We tried to switch insurers to minimize the increase but the Obamacare Web site continued to malfunction.[4]


The head of the Business Success Center re-e-mailed a proposal to move Thanksgiving.[5] Not only does this proposal eschew tradition, it’s also derivative of something advocated years ago by Andy Rooney.[6]


Bevo and Butt-Heads


In its Nov. 19 edition, the Daily Texan interviewed the president of the company that started Total Frat Move, the media company I learned about last year from reading the eponymous picaresque. Surprisingly, Madison Wickham claims the entertainment world consistently depicts an inaccurate, because “watered-down,” portrayal of Greek life.[7] Surprising, because I personally observed a frat life that was watered down compared to the Hollywood depiction.


Admittedly, my observations were limited, and a long time ago, but they were first-hand, on-site looks at an exclusive social setting outsiders aren’t supposed to see. I garnered entrée for about five years at two different colleges, from my senior year in high school, when I’d charmed several sorority sisters I met by chance who then took me to several house parties that evening – it’s a long story – to my college years, because my freshman dorm mates who pledged thought it was a honor for me to attend their frat parties without my ever having joined, rushed or even paid a cover charge. That went on for four years, in blatant violation of house rules. Too bad it was all so boring. Hollywood budget-level debauchery would’ve been an improvement.


Media Indigest


The Statesman redesigned its print and online editions. The editor proclaims the latter “more visual, more social and more mobile.”[8] I was thinking more frivolous and more infantile, and still sluggish from the Javascript code.[9] It’s like the executives don’t want anybody to read the paper. 


Edible Austin has added pinko-green hectoring to its heretofore apolitical, yet insufferably pretentious tone that suffuses its writing about food. It’s a recipe that serves itself.[10]


The Society Diaries’ November/December issue accomplished the art of making me feel as bored as I likely would be attending the South Texas rich’s holiday soirees, only without the trouble of wrangling an invitation, dressing up, minding my manners, and making small talk while my stomach growled from the insufficient spread  (“That’s so interesting. Is there any real food around here?”).


Cultural Canapés


A recent e-mail from an Italian menswear outfit may herald the return of interesting necktie patterns, or “art ties” as the e-mail succinctly proclaims them, after a long stretch of dullness beginning in the early ‘90s.[11]


The Nov. 17 Daily Texan ran a feature on a local yoga instructor who uses black metal music and décor to entice people repelled by the “ ‘hippie’ parts of yoga.”[12]


A private equity firm that invests in the marijuana business is negotiating with Bob Marley’s family to use his image in selling a cannabis brand, Marley Natural, internationally.[13] This is exactly the sort of thing many of us have imagined for laughs all the years marijuana was a seedy, criminal activity.[14]


Austin Death Watch


The Nov. 4 mayoral election resulted in a pending December runoff between attorney Steve Adler and councilman Mike Martinez.[15] From what I can tell, both candidates share a worldview closer to each other’s than to mine.[16] Still, the Martinez campaign called me Veterans Day with push polling questions about Adler having ties to the Tea Party and other “right-wing extremists.”[17] Now, I am a “right-wing extremist,” in the colloquial American political sense, and I don’t recall Adler showing up at any such meetings I attended and ranting against occupational licensing, eminent domain or municipal debt, to list three pertinent topics. I had to tell the questioner that if the accusations the Martinez campaign made about Adler were true, I’d be more inclined to vote for him. She laughed. Our conversation gave me the notion to run for mayor next election on the slogan, “Finally, a real extremist.”


Meanwhile, siblings vie for the District 3 Council seat.[18] That should make for a toxic Thanksgiving: intrafamily strife and endless political arguments.


The Chronicle finally displayed some journalistic gumption: Publisher Nick Barbaro admits the staff has “been largely looking forward to the new story lines promised by the incoming 10-1 City Council: new faces, radical agendas, clashing egos, screaming matches on the dais if we get lucky ….” In other words, what my colleagues and I used to call “good copy.”[19]


Meanwhile, the Chronicle think it’s just fabulous that the Austin police ranks now include its first openly transgender officer. In other words, another agent of the State who can maim and kill with near impunity while in potential life-or-death situations on patrol is taking hormone-altering chemicals to aid in changing sexes. What could possibly go wrong?[20] In a related story, various parties are engaged in bout of fag slapping over a proposal to paint rainbow colored crosswalks on Bettie Naylor Street at the Lavaca and Colorado intersections.[21] Nobody pro or con appears to have considered how long the crosswalks will stay rainbow bright under daily administrations of hawked phlegm, boozy vomit, masticated chewing gum and sundry automotive fluids. 


The Austin power elite cares more about wild animals. On Nov. 20, the City Council imposed restrictions on killing coyotes within city limits.[22]


Tentacles of Empire


On Nov. 21, a federal judge sentenced the former Jarrell police chief to prison for taking bribes from illegal immigrants to help themselves to welfare benefits. Predictably, the Statesman buried the story in its back pages.[23]


Neighborhood News


One person died “in a crash involving an 18-wheeler that caught fire in the northbound lanes of U.S. 183 near MoPac Expressway on Nov. 11.[24] A California company bought SolarBridge Technologies.[25]


Home Archives


[1] AD No. 168 (Oct. 23, 2013); AD No. 169 (Nov. 22, 2013); EAD No. 2 (Jan. 1999).

[2] Schulberg, Budd. What Makes Sammy Run?, 2nd rev. ed. New York City: Random House, 1990: 57.

[3] Kamp, Amy. “Obamacare, Take Two.” AC 14 Nov. 2014: 22; Lankford, Kimberly. “Health Insurance Do-Over.” Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Dec. 2014: 66-70; Pear, Robert. “Health Care Law Recasts Insurers as Obama Allies.” NYT 18 Nov. 2014: A1.

[4] Black, Diane. “ObamaCare Security: Still on Life Support.” WSJ 15 Nov. 2014, Eastern ed.: A11.

[5] Triplett, Jan and The Business Success Center. “15 Good Reasons to Move Thanksgiving.” E-mail to Dan Eisler et al., 22 Nov. 2014.

[6] Rooney, Andrew A. “Calendars.” A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney. New York City: Atheneum, 1981: 193.

[7] Bolen, W.R. Total Frat Move. New York City: Grand Central Publishing, 2013; Willis, Josh. “Total Frat Move CEO Reflects on Startup.” DT 19 Nov. 2014: 1-2.

[8] Hiott, Debbie. “Changes Today in Print and Online.” AAS 13 Nov. 2014: A1.

[9] Rand-Hendriksen, Morten. Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft Expression Web 4 in 24 Hours, rev. ed. Indianapolis: Sams, 2012: 111, 258-259, 272.

[10] Camp, Marla. “Take Comfort in Radical Change.” Edible Austin Nov./Dec. 2014: 6.

[11] AD No. 138n97 (Jan. 13, 2011); Vavra’s Made in Italy. “VINCI SUITS: Take $75 OFF + FREE SHIPPING - Get code.” E-mail to Dan Eisler et al., 11 Nov. 2014.

[12] Wang, Jackie. “Instructor Mixes Heavy Metal Music With Yoga.” DT 17 Nov. 2014: 8.

[13] Tadeo, Maria. “Marley Family Aims for High Life With Cannabis Brand.” The Independent 19 Nov. 2014: 39.

[14] Herer, Jack et al. The Emperor Wears No Clothes, 8th rev. ed. Austin, Texas: Ah Ha Publishing, 2007; Lee, Martin A. Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana: Medical, Recreational, and Scientific. New York City: Scribner, 2012; Williams, Fred V., William C. Hassler, and John J. O'Meara. The Hop-Heads: Personal Experiences Among the Users of "Dope" in the San Francisco Underworld. San Francisco: Walter N. Brunt, 1920.

[15] Wang. “Mayor Candidates Prepare for Runoff.” DT 12 Nov. 2014: 1-2.

[16] AD No. 178n35 (Nov. 6, 2014); Wang. “Remaining Mayoral Candidates Debate.” DT 24 Nov. 2014: 1-2.

[17] King, Michael. “Thoughts Between Elections.” AC 14 Nov. 2014: 10+.

[18] “Chronicle Endorsements.” AC 28 Nov. 2014: 2.

[19] Barbaro, Nick. “Who Needs 10-1?” AC 28 Nov. 2014: 18.

[20] Kamp. “The Right Man for the Job.” AC 21 Nov. 2014: 26+.

[21] Tuma, Mary. “Pushback on Crosswalks.” AC 14 Nov. 2014: 18.

[22] AD No. 86n9 (Nov. 13, 2005); Rockwell, Lily. “Nonlethal Approaches to Coyotes Are Approved.” AAS 22 Nov. 2014: B1+.

[23] McLemore, Andrew. “Former Police Chief Gets 4 Years in Prison.” AAS 22 Nov. 2014: B3.

[24] Haurwitz, Ralph K.M. “Fatal Accidents Plague Area Roads.” AAS 12 Nov. 2014: B1+.

[25] “SolarBridge Sells to SunPower.” ABJ 21 Nov. 2014: 9.