Austin Dispatches No. 200 Nov. 6, 2017

The National Retail Federation estimated Americans would spend a record $9.1 billion on Halloween ($2.5 million in candy).[1] Yet the dearth of decorations I noted during my evening constitutionals in the Indian Oaks, Wooten, Crestview and Rosedale neighborhoods, the local radio programming I heard, and the calendar listings I perused[2] all suggested that Austinites, at least,[3] strained again to summon the spooktacular of Halloweens past.[4]

Through October, away from stores and offices, the airwaves and front yards hardly acknowledged the holiday until after “The Simpsons”’ annual Halloween episode, and then but wanly.[5] A dance partner uttered astonishment new episodes still air. Halloween proper, a guest DJ on KVRX-FM explained “The Simpsons” to his audience as if some quaint and curious lore.[6] These anecdotes probably don’t bode well for the show’s future. I didn’t even hear “Monster Mash” on the radio, an almost annual aural motif since first grade, at least.[7]

Additionally, our inclement weather again squelched much merrymaking this Hallow’s Eve, as it did Oct. 3 for National Night Out.[8] Though I did espy a deer prancing along the perimeter of a Stonehollow Drive office park.[9]

e200fig2Obviously, even ideal circumstances could scarcely match the magic of my first excursion, at age 3. Recently, my parents confirmed that the concept of Halloween was so well-known and -understood that we skipped discussion for preparation:[10] Under their indulgent smiles, I picked a skeleton costume at the local dime store – when they still existed. I also wanted a plastic jack o’lantern bucket, but Dad explained I could collect more candy in a large grocery bag. Halloween night after dinner, Dad guided me through the finer points of the one calendar date where adults give children candy without the usual lectures or scolding (“You’ll rot your teeth.”). That year was also the last adults dispensed full-size candy bars. The next stagflationary year, they all switched to snack size.[11]

Since contemporary Halloween’s celebrants, at least in its adult version, posit the occasion as the major holidays’ alternative to Christmas, my admittedly limited, subjective perception that they’re giving up the ghost corroborates various bloggers who’ve noted for years a waning of all holidays in America, a symptom of societal decline.[12] Maybe that’s what “triggered” the triggerman dressed as Santa Claus who shot four people and killed one at an Oct. 25-26 costume party in the North Loop hipster enclave.[13]

Earlier, in a slap against Italians, the Austin City Council renamed Columbus Day “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Government bureaucrats still got a paid day off.[14] Meanwhile, Aztec-Americans were teetering on a ladder outside my apartment to replace the gutter section Tropical Storm Harvey dislodged.

Media Indigest

Cox Media Group has put the Austin American-Statesman back on the auction block for the second time. Cox is also selling its Palm Beach, Fla., papers.[15] The Business Journal’s editor speculates Hearst Communications will buy the Statesman and eventually publish the print edition semi-weekly.[16]

The Austin Chronicle, one of our favorite whipping boys, continues to try and make itself a smaller target. A reader griped in the Sep. 29 issue about the cessation of Jim Hightower’s column.[17] Unfortunately, that rag doesn’t suffer a shortage of nincompoops to write for it, though few can match Hightower’s natural ability to embody negative stereotypes about white Southerners.[18]

Nonagenerian Anglophilic skin-mag impresario Hugh M. “Hef” Hefner died Sep. 27 as he lived – with a smirk on his face.[19]

e200fig3Tinseltown Rebellion

Mr. Playboy’s passing was the prelude to powerful players pilloried for predatory, polymorphous perversity.  The denunciations against numerous men ensconced in Hollywood and pinko media cover everything except leaving the toilet seat up.[20] This imbroglio reminds me of speculation by talk show host Dick Cavett in his first autobiography, from the ‘70s, that letting slip a “sizzling revelation” would:

[P]robably set off a chain reaction that would shake the world. The immediate victim would retaliate by revealing something about me that he or she got from, let’s say, Marlon Brando (this is a hypothetical illustration). I would know the source and reveal something about Brando and the wife of a senator (still improvising). The senator’s wife would reveal something about her husband and a supposedly heterosexual psychoanalyst; the psychoanalyst would then reveal everything about his famous patients, including the President, and it would take another Deluge to put the thing out. Might be good for everybody concerned. It would put the professional gossips out of business, because everything would be used up, and the world would get down to business, refreshed from this giant revelation. The FBI’s files would be worthless, since they would be either duplicates or anticlimactic.[21]

Belfries in Bat City

In the Sep. 14 La Prensa, an Eastside Chicana activist denounces Austin’s history of zoning and land development rules for screwing over blacks and Mexicans before driving them out of town with higher property taxes resulting from rezoning. Then she advocates for “a land development code that is fair and just,” as if she’d forgotten her preceding paragraphs. Thinking like hers probably explains why her base has been driven out.[22] Even the Chronicle is opening fretting in its Oct. 6 and Oct. 13 issues that the City’s attempted zoning code rewrite is botched and publicly failing.[23] Meanwhile, a neighborhood association in the tony West Hills is fighting a proposed sports complex.[24]

This year’s Austin City Limits festivalgoers braved excessive pollen, according to The Daily Texan.[25] The Chronicle is giddy over the possibility of a professional sports team moving to town, even though it’s just the prole pseudo-sport known as soccer, beloved by Euro-affectatious, social climbing fops who would’ve been mucking out stalls in the Old Country.[26]

The cancerous Democratic Socialists of America’s Austin chapter is in remission. The sanctimonious socialists objected to a co-chairman’s work as a police union organizer, so he resigned and began criticizing the DSA.[27] Lucky for us. A nightstick to the noggin is the only connection those reds should have with the police.[28] Bad enough the statist agenda the cops already enforce.[29] Speaking of cops, the Austin Police Department fired one who’s under federal indictment.[30] Prosecutors seek the death penalty for one ex-officer accused of murder.[31] The District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute another ex-officer who faked his own death.[32] A sheriff’s captain warns against paying for gas at the pump in Travis County because of credit card skimmers.[33]

Speaking of scams, an audit of the Public Works Department revealed that almost a third of the City’s projects cost 50 percent more than originally estimated.[34] The MoPac Expressway toll lanes finally opened, behind schedule and over budget, but the southbound changes created new snarls that inconvenience Tarrytown commuters.[35] When I’ve driven MoPac lately I see about as few cars using the toll lanes as passengers in MetroRail trains. Nov. 5, I tried to visit the new central library branch, but the location, traffic flow and lack of parking – all inferior to the old location – made that impossible.[36] The new branch could do what steady employment and an active social life couldn’t: crimp my reading. However, the bums downtown should appreciate the new building. The Nov. 2 Statesman reports plans for a new downtown MetroRail station is two years behind schedule and cost 80 percent more than the original $22 million estimate.[37]

In the Main, the Reign of Spain Crumbles Like Plantain

As of this writing, Catalan secessionist leaders face the Spanish imposition, either in jail or dodging arrest warrants in a mostly peaceful political crisis with stereotypically Hispanic yet not-ready-for-telenovela-time histrionics.[38] Catalonia’s declaration of independence may mark the end of Spain’s stability since the Communists and anarchists lost the Fifth Spanish Civil War.[39]

The Last Roundup

After seven years, I’ve finished reading Louis L’Amour’s vast oeuvre. He might be an underappreciated author despite his best-selling status. His style has a modernist edge, probably inspired by his admiration for Joseph Conrad’s writing.[40] Moreover, L’Amour’s collection of crime stories, many based on his experience of the Western boxing circuit, suggest he’d be regarded as one of the genre’s masters had he stayed with it.[41]

I’ve read encomia to the late Fats Domino from surprising sources.[42] I had the pleasure of seeing him and his band for free in 1990.[43]

Notes in the Margin

According to the Oct. 11 New York Times, Russian spies used Kaspersky antivirus software to filch classified files on American computers.[44] Reading the story, true or not, I felt prescient. Sony preinstalled my current computer with Kaspersky, but I was wary of activating it by giving my credit card number to a company in Moscow.[45] However, I have witnessed that app in use and it wipes out malware like a Russian army operation in the Caucasus.[46]

Bevo and Butt-Heads

The Oct. 27 Daily Texan reports students have been stealing bricks from the Speedway Mall project.[47]

Neighborhood News

The Statesman’s Traffic Web page reported collisions near or at MoPac and Duval Road on Sep. 26, Oct. 3, 5, and 26; near southbound MoPac and Highway 183 on Sep. 28, at Lamplight Village Avenue and Pipers Field Drive on Oct. 12, at 183 near Burnet Road on Oct. 16, and at 183 and Metric Boulevard on Oct. 27.

Nine more businesses have opened in the neighborhood.[48] The state Transportation Department finished resurfacing Parmer Lane between Interstate 35 and MoPac on Nov. 1.[49]

Home Archives


[1] “Keep Your Teeth Healthy This Halloween.” USA Today Magazine Oct. 2017: 1-2; Schifman, Gerald. “Boo-Biz Boom.” Crain’s New York Business 23 Oct. 2017: 27.

[2] “Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos.” AC 27 Oct. 2017: 37.

[3] Day, Jim. “The Last Halloween.” GT 30 Oct. 2017: B1.

[4] AD No. 58 (Nov. 2, 2003); AD No. 73 (Nov. 8, 2004); AD No. 94 (Nov. 25, 2006); AD No. 102 (Nov. 12, 2007); AD No. 118 (Oct. 27, 2008); AD No. 129 (Nov. 7, 2009); No. 157 (Nov. 3, 2012).

[5] “Treehouse of Horror XXVIII.” The Simpsons. Fox, 22 Oct. 2017.

[6] Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Raven.” Poetry and Tales. Ed. Patrick F. Quinn. New York City: Library of America, 1984: 81.

[7] Bobby “Boris” Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers. The Original Monster Mash. Garpax GPX-57001, 1962.

[8] AD No. 185 (Nov. 17, 2015); “Five Things to Know Before You Head to Sixth Street for Halloween Festivities.” AAS 28 Oct. 2017: B1; Schleede, Sara. “A Bewitching Night of Tricks & Treats.” DT 1 Nov. 2017: 3; “Season’s First Freeze to Come During Halloween Weekend.” AAS 27 Oct. 2017: B1.

[9] AD No. 196n1 (July 13, 2017).

[10] Eisler, Dan. “Halloween Question.” E-mail to Mike Eisler, 29 Sep. 2017. M. Eisler. “Re: Halloween Question.” E-mail to D. Eisler, 30 Sep. 2017.

[11] Bryan, Wendy, and Bruce Elliot. “Halloween Candies.” Retro Hell, 86; Nocera, Joseph. A Piece of the Action: How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1994: 183.

[12] Brenner, Gail.  Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook. Indianapolis: Wiley, 2003: 54; Skal, David J. Halloween: The History of America’s Darkest Holiday, rev. ed. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2016: 57-58.

[13] Hernandez, Nina. “Halloween Shooter in Custody.” AC 3 Nov. 2017: 14.

[14] Karacostas, Chase. “City Council Renames Columbus Day.” DT 6 Oct. 2017: 1+; King, Michael. “Contested Columbian Territory.” AC 13 Oct. 2017: 18.

[15] Novak, Shonda, and Gary Dinges. “Statesman’s Parent Company Puts Paper Up for Sale.” AAS 1 Nov. 2017: A1+.

[16] Pope, Colin. “Austin Likely Won’t Have a Daily Newspaper in the Future – and That Could Be OK.” ABJ 3 Nov. 2017: A19.

[17] Wise, Brian. “All Downhill From Here.” Letter to Editor. AC 29 Sep. 2017: 6.

[18] Mencken, H.L. Prejudices: A Selection. Ed. James T. Farrell. 1996. Rpt. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2006: Ch. 8.

[19] Hefner, Hugh M. That Toddlin’ Town: A Rowdy Burlesque of Chicago Manners and Morals. Chicago: Chi Publishers, 1951; Kogan, Rick. “Playboy Was His Magazine – and How He Lived His Life.” Chicago Tribune 28 Sep. 2017: 1+; Talese, Gay. Thy Neighbor’s Wife, 2nd rev. ed. New York City: Ecco, 2009: Ch. 5; Watts, Steven. Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2008.

[20] Coyle, Jake. AP. “As Veil of Silence Falls, Weinstein Effect Keeps Growing.” The Daily (Elizabeth City, N.C.) Advance 3 Nov. 2017: 5; Deng, Boer. “Dustin Hoffman Groped Me, Former Intern Claims.” The Times  2 Nov. 2017: 7; “15 Days of Claims From Hollywood to Westminster….” The Sunday Times 5 Nov. 2017: 5; “Harassment Fallout.” Variety 31 Oct. 2017: 16; Hibberd, James. “ ‘Enough, Enough, Enough!’ ” EW 3 Nov. 2017: 24-29; Lynch, Jason. “Media Mayhem.” Adweek 16 Oct. 2017: 3.

[21] Cavett, Dick, and Christopher Porterfield. Cavett. New York City: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974: 295.

[22] “Destruction, Displacement & CodeNEXT: Views From the Eastside by Susana Alamanza.” La Prensa 14 Sep. 2017: 7.

[23] Barbaro, Nick. “Deadline? Whose Deadline?” AC 13 Oct. 2017: 14; Barbaro. “Deciphering the Code.” AC 6 Oct. 2017: 14; King. “Postponing the Code.” AC 13 Oct. 2017: 12+; Marloff, Sarah. “ ‘Help Us Get This Right.’ ” Idem., 16.

[24] Caterine, Joseph. “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” AC 6 Oct. 2017: 18.

[25] Zhao, Albert. “Airborne Allergens Prove a Silent Threat This ACL Season.” DT 3 Oct. 2017: 5.

[26] Barbaro. “Let’s Hope….” AC 20 Oct. 2017: 12.

[27] Tuma, Mary. “Too Close for Comfort.” AC 13 Oct. 2017: 26+.

[28] Donner, Frank J. The Age of Surveillance: The Aims and Methods of America’s Political Intelligence System, rev. ed. New York City: Vintage Books, 1981.

[29] Balko, Radley. Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 2006; “Boston T. Party” [Kenneth W. Royce]. You & the Police!, rev. ed. Ignacio, Colo.: Javelin Press, 2005; Miller, Richard Lawrence. Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1996.

[30] “Headlines.” AC 20 Oct. 2017: 10.

[31] Huber, Mary, and Tony Plohetski. “State to Seek Death Penalty Against Former Officer.” AAS 2 Nov. 2017: A1+.

[32] AD No. 199n13 (Sep. 24, 2017); Hoffberger, Chase. “Coleman Martin’s Charges Dropped.” AC 20 Oct. 2017: 13.

[33] Wilson, Mark. “Drivers Warned Not to Pay at Pump.” AAS 31 Oct. 2017: B1.

[34] Jankowski, Philip. “Audit Shows City Estimates Often Too Low.” AAS 2 Oct. 2017, final ed.: A1.

[35] D. Eisler. “Re: Cos Answers Allegations.” E-mail to Frank Rossi, 2 Feb. 2015; Grumet, Bridget. “MoPac’s Toll Lanes Now Go Both Ways.” AAS 28 Oct. 2017: A1; Wear, Ben. “MoPac Change Slows Flow From Downtown.” AAS 27 Oct. 2017: A1.

[36] Goldenstein, Taylor. “ ‘We’re Kind of in Awe.’ ” AAS 29 Oct. 2017: B1.

[37] Wear, Ben. “Moving Rail Station to Cost $17M More.” AAS 2 Nov. 2017: A1+.

[38] Campbell, Matthew. “Catalans Get Rival Presidents.” The Sunday Times 29 Oct. 2017: 1; Couzens, Gerard. “Catalan Ministers Face Insults As They Fly in Without Leader.” Evening Standard 1 Nov. 2017: 18; Howie, Michael. “Crunch Day for Catalonia Crisis As Senate Decides on Direct Rule.” Evening Standard 27 Oct. 2017: 27; Keely, Graham. “Court Issues Arrest Warrant for Sacked Catalan Leadership.” The Times 4 Nov. 2017: 45; Keely, and Dave Keating. “Thousands Protest After Catalan Leaders Locked Up.” The Times 3 Nov. 2017, Eire ed.: 26-27; Miller, James Andrew, and Tom Shales. Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live As Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests, 2nd rev. ed. New York City: Little, Brown & Co., 2014: xv; Quinones, Sam. True Tales From Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino, and the Bronx. Albuquerque, N.M.: U of New Mexico P, 2001: Ch. 3; “The Spanish Inquisition.” Monty Python’s Flying Circus. BBC1 22 Sep. 1970.

[39] Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939, rev. ed. New York City: Penguin Books, 2006: Ch. 34; Johnson, Paul. Modern Times: The World From the Twenties to the Nineties, rev. ed. New York City: HarperPerennial, 1992: 608-610.

[40] L’Amour, Louis [Louis LaMoore]. Education of a Wandering Man. New York City: Bantam Books, 1989: 90.

[41] The Collected Short Stories of Louis L’Amour, Vol. VI: The Crime Stories. New York City: Bantam Books, 2008; The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany. Ed. Levi Stahl. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2014: Ch. 3.

[42] Browne, David. “Fats Domino, 1928-2017.” RS 16 Nov. 2017: 22-23; North, Gary. “Fats Domino, RIP.” LewRockwell.com 27 Oct. 2017 <https://www.lewrockwell.com/2017/10/gary-north/fats-domino-rip/>.

[43] AD No. 105n69 (Feb. 27, 2008).

[44] Perlroth, Nicole, and Scott Shane. “How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring for American Secrets.” NYT 11 Oct. 2017, New York ed.: A9.

[45] AD No. 154n31 (Aug. 11, 2012).

[46] EAD No. 11n7 (Jan. 11, 2000).

[47] Gibson, London. “Students Stealing New Speedway Bricks Cause Construction Problems.” DT 27 Oct. 2017: 1+.

[48] Barr, Greg. “A ‘Pop-Up’ Retail Strategy.” ABJ 29 Sep. 2017: A14; “Now Open.” CIN Sep. 2017, Northwest Austin ed.: 4; “Now Open.” CIN Oct. 2017, Northwest Austin ed.: 4-5.

[49] “Ongoing Projects.” CIN Oct. 2017, Northwest Austin ed.: 11.