|My Summer "Vacation"|
Sep. 4, 2001
Signs of hope spring anew as this discontentful winter of the long, hot summer shudders to a close.1
Announcements for new jobs are actually appearing amid the continuing uncertainty, turmoil and fallout at the micro and macro levels.2 By August's end, I wrangled two interviews with companies representing the war and energy industries, respectively – beneficiaries of the squire of Crawford’s policies.3
A new, immediate job offer (like yesterday) would be a welcome respite from the weeks of penury and want in a world of plenty.4
The upside to this downtime is the Texas tornado of a social whirlwind I enjoyed the last couple of months.5 The cost of my chronicle of calendar events ranged from free to cheap. It was a tolerable recompense for not having revenue.
Jul. 10: I attended the Geek Meet, when it was still called that (the organizers said a similar group in Dallas complained of trademark infringement). I went with the intent of networking, but it was more of a social gathering for singles in the industry than something useful for getting a job.
Anyway, one of the attendees invited us to a release party the same evening. The release in question was the Spring/Summer 2001 issue of Nova Express, a sci-fi fanzine edited and published by local science fiction writer Lawrence Person, who by day works as a mild-mannered tech writer.6 We also have some overlapping political affiliations.
The people at the party weren't as geeky as I expected. On the other hand, they wouldn't be mistaken for anybody breathlessly mentioned by “Suzy” in her column for W magazine.7 Person was definitely the "alpha male" at the small soiree (and also the only one not wearing glasses).8
That made fanzine proofreader Steve Jackson the “beta male.” Jackson is more famous in the world for Steve Jackson Games, which itself is even more famous for a 1990 raid by the Secret Service, which resulted in a humiliating defeat for the SS in federal court on privacy and warrant procedure violations.9 Nevertheless, it took me a while to realize who Jackson was. Jackson didn't seem like someone with the personality to run a company with actual employees.
I figured Person was a potential useful connection, so I handed him my business card and peppered him with questions about some areas of knowledge we have in common.
Person mentioned his next project, a science-fiction novel located in Zanzibar.
"So," I asked, "you're setting your novel in the nightclub sung about by Billy Joel?"10
An awkward pause filled the room. (I had to be a big shot, didn't I? Had to open up my mouth.)11 Person looked shocked. Then he made the mock Moe slapping gesture.12
The fanzine's fonts, type and layout remind me of Liberty, with fewer typos. Inside, the hot new sci-fi writer Ken MacLeod wrote an overview article of his “Fall Revolution” tetralogy. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to shake his youthful infatuation with Marxist economics.13 That's a pretty serious flaw, worse than Brad Linaweaver making a legally underage Murray Rothbard president in "Moon of Ice" or J. Neil Schulman's protagonists establishing anarcho-capitalist society, with little opposition from established interests, at a press conference in "Alongside Night."14
Jul. 14: I went to one of my regular job clubs. I sat in a comfy chair, nibbled chocolate chip cookies, and afterward had an impromptu date with a cute Asian number who paid for my drink in exchange for some advice on how to dress for job interviews.
These job clubs are better for meeting people who can help you find a job than for the formal presentations. Unfortunately, there's way too much of the latter.
Most of the guest speakers give variations on the message of personal transformation and positive attitudes as the first step to succeeding in life. Fine. That message should take no more than five minutes, tops. Instead, the speakers feel compelled to lard their Tony Robbins-esque messages with wafty, feel-good fraudulence redolent of Chautauquas.15
With the Launch Pad Job Club, you have to enter your Social Security number to attend as soon as you walk into the office. Moreover, the employment center minions have the keyboard set up to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.16 This means the rest of us either have to drop to our knees or bow like the subject of an Oriental despot, throwing our backs out in the process. Apparently, being out of work isn't humiliating enough.
Jul. 31: I participated in the first meeting of the nascent Cuban Folkloric Society, because I didn't have to be at my desk at noon. It's been an opportunity to learn Cuban dances (mambo, rhumba, etc.) for free.17
That evening, the merchants along South Congress Avenue held their regular first of the month extended hours. It was like a hip block party.18 South Congress is one of the funky neighborhoods of Austin authenticity before the rise of the dot-coms.19 Real musicians played surf/bossa nova/rockabilly sets.20 The local clothing resellers got a bunch of women to loiter in storefronts in '40s lingerie and shimmy to the music. They might've been more alluring if I couldn't see their tattoos, branding scars and multiple body piercings.21 I capped the evening at a local coffeehouse with a free outdoor movie, "Shakes the Clown."22 My, what an abrasive little comedy. That's probably why I liked it so much.
Aug. 3: I took the best advantage I could of Texas' temporary suspension of the sales tax on clothes. I hit the local thrift stores -- the same places the welfare moms shop -- and wound up with about $40 worth of '80s Italian silk: high-end ties, solid silk dress shirts.23 Much more rewarding than getting sunstroke and fighting the traffic at the San Marcos outlet stores.24
Aug. 7: On a whim, I attended a libertarian get-together at the La Madelaine on South Lamar Boulevard. La Madelaine is a restaurant chain that's managed the seemingly implausible task of bringing French food to the American masses.25 Who should be visiting but Reason Associate Editor Brian Doherty. Doherty beat me three years running for the Felix Morley Journalism Competition (but I did get a free subscription to Reason out of it).26 I surprised him by praising his work on "Retro Hell."27
"You're the first person I've met who knows about that,” he said.
Later, one of his Austin friends invited me to my first radio appearance, "Liberated Space," a public affairs talk show on KOOP-FM.28 It was a tense gig. I performed as best I could with the broadcasting tips I learned from my maternal grandfather, who worked in Baltimore radio in the '40s and '50s. That way, I sounded polished even though I mangled my message.
Purely Political Stuff
Aug. 19: David Thibodeau, one of the few survivors of the 1993 Davidian massacre in Waco, spoke before a meeting of Travis County Libertarians.29 The general turnout surprised me. Even the libertarian turnout surprised me, since the local libertarians – specifically, the ones I met before I moved to Austin last year – are notable for their lack of empathy. Sure, they appreciate the rhetorical opportunities against jack-booted government tyranny, but I saw many of their jaws twist when Thibodeau began testifying to his salvation through Bible studies with the Davidians.
With those facial contortions, that small, aging faction fit Rothbard’s definition of “luftmenschen": "the sort of people who instinctively alienate the mainstream, bourgeois Americans.”30 Rothbard later ascribed this gestalt as stemming from an
Hence, willfully or not, wittingly or not, these types have served as allies to the managerial-therapeutic side of the managerial-therapeutic, warfare-welfare state, in thrall to what Ronald Dworkin calls the “imperial self,” which can accommodate no worldview outside that of their own exalted egos, just as the managerial state cannot accommodate social organizations, like the Davidians, outside its direct purview.32anxiety never to be connected with or labeled as a conservative or a right-wing movement. And part of that hatred has come from a broader and even more intense hatred of Christianity, some of which was taken over from Ayn Rand.31
Anyway, Thibodeau, notably, is a Northeastern ethnic from a secular background, and as such, can't be socially dismissed as a "Bible-thumping yahoo" by the people who have the clout to make such dismissals.33 Thus it's easier for him to get his message of government malfeasance across to people.
Aug. 25: I met Jeff Daiell of Houston, my “rival” during my short-lived gubernatorial aspirations, at the Liberty Jam Festival, his fund-raiser at Stubb's.34 I advised Daiell on how to double or even triple his percentage of the vote from his 1990 showing.35 Best of all, his main opponents, Gov. Rick Perry, R-Haskell, and millionaire Tony Sanchez, D-Laredo, do most of Daiell’s work for him.
The political activists I've met generally distrust Perry, a former Democratic officeholder and state campaign chairman for Al Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign.36 As governor, Perry has approved the record $300 billion state budget, a hate-crimes law undermining equality under the law ("equal rights") and pork-barrelling efforts in the Rio Grande Valley to buy off the Mexican vote locked up by Sanchez.37 That Perry looks like a dark-haired version of Gary Condit – with his blow-dried coif and wary eyes, doesn't help him either.38
In short, Perry has betrayed what the Republican Party has worked so hard to achieve in Texas, and represents the failed policies that led Bill Clements and thousands of other Texans to switch their lifelong political loyalties away from the Democrats.39
Sanchez, a conservative businessman and former “Dubya” supporter, would actually be an improvement over Perry in a two-way race.40 The trouble with Sanchez isn't Sanchez. It's his executive appointments, which would consist of busybodies and zealots from the “Ma” Richards administration.41 Texas doesn't deserve to be ruled by people ashamed of this land's folkways, whom Florence King called “Strungleurs”: “Thin-skinned psuedo-intellectuals who make their living second-guessing people completely different from themselves.”42
Meanwhile, the Austin Chronicle already reports tensions are already surfacing in the "black-brown" alliance the Democrats rely upon for victory.43 In his comments, Daiell showed a good understanding of how government intervention hurts minorities. In practical political terms, this gives him a chance to cut into the Democrats' ostensible base. Since 16 percent of blacks openly identify themselves as libertarian, according to a recent survey, and since black activists mistrust the Mexicans as competitors for government spoils, Daiell can seek votes among blacks without competition from Perry while vexing Sanchez.44
Fry's Electronics opened Labor Day weekend at MoPac Expressway and Parmer Lane.45 Fry's has been immortalized in Douglas Coupland's novel "Microserfs," about a group of Microsoft programmers who move to Silicon Valley to form their own start-up. A character describes the store thusly:
The Fry's chain completely taps into MSE: Male Shopping Energy. This is to say that most guys have about 73 caloriesThat also explains why the refrigerators are available in stainless steel or ninja black.47
of shopping energy, and once these calories are gone, they're gone for the day -- if not the week -- and can't be
regenerated simply by having an Orange Julius at the Food Fair. Therefore, to get guys to shop, a store has to eat up all
of the MSE calories in one crack-like burst. Thus, Fry's concentrates only on male-specific consumables inside their
cavernous shopping arena, aisles replete with dandruff, bad outfits, and nerdacious mutterings full of buried Hobbit
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, bankrupt Agillion, at MoPac and Duval Road, auctioned off its software and office furniture.48 XeTel reported lower earnings. Tivoli laid off another 90 Austin employees. At this rate, the company will have no one to occupy its new headquarters.49
And The Austin Business Journal reports IBM's “rustbucket” building on the west side of Burnet Road may be the site of a new shopping mall.50
XLent, the Austin American-Statesman’s entertainment supplement, has relaunched itself to “take the pulse of this new Austin.”51 To do so, XLent has conspicuously borrowed design elements from the Austin Chronicle, INSight Austin Magazine, and The Met, Dallas’ entertainment weekly. As for Austin’s pulse, 3rd Coast Music announced it's moved to San Antonio, which has a superior music scene to “atrophied” Austin.52
For proof, one can listen via various e-commerce sites to samples of Doyle Bramhall II’s new CD, “Welcome.” The Austin Chronicle wrote a glowing feature about it, but the “songs” wouldn't pass muster in a garage band.53 Sadly, Bramhall’s playing is representative of the local bands on Sixth Street, the center of the “Live Music Capital of the World.”54 I remember being distinctly unimpressed as a whole by the musicianship I encountered on my first visit to Austin in 1994, though I liked most everything else about the place. Ultimately, the work opportunities brought me to Austin, ‘cause I can't afford a “slacker” lifestyle.55
Meanwhile, the Village Cinema on Anderson Lane has reopened as the Alamo Drafthouse North. This means I can still watch art films, closer to my apartment, and even drink beer while doing so. Better still, I don't have to contend with the lack of parking at the downtown location.56
The Aug. 23 Nokoa has an article questioning the wisdom of eating out due
to the frequency of food poisoning.57
In other words, Christopher Walken, who seldom eats out, is a vindicated visionary.58
Michael. “The Winter of the Long Hot Summer.” The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.
Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury. 4th & Broadway 162-444043-2,
1992; Shakespeare, William. R3, Act I, Sc. 1.
2 Barnett, Erica C. “No Commitment Necessary.” AC 9 Mar. 2001: 28+; Brosen, Carol. “Dot-Bombers.” AC 2 Mar. 2001: 30-31; Clark-Madison, Mike. “E-tail This!” AC 2 Mar. 2001: 26+; Clark-Madison. “360 Degrees of Separation.” AC 18 Jan. 2001: 32; Fullerton, Kevin. “Technical Difficulties.” AC 2 Mar. 2001: 22+; Hawkins, Lori. “Exodus of the Idea People.” AAS 3 Sep. 2001: D1+; Howard, Jon. “You’ve Been Laid Off. Now What?” ComputerUser Mar. 2001: 21; Martin, Ken. “Austin Rides the High-Tech Roller Coaster Hoping for Big Thrill and No Spills.” TGL Jan. 2001: 20-27; Martin. “How’s the Economy?” TGL June 2001: 4; Pounds, Alicia. “FundsXpress Lays Off 39 in Effort to be Profitable.” ABJ 6 Aug. 2001: 6; Smith, Amy. “No More Waterloo.” AC 31 Aug. 2001: 18; “Waterloo’s Waterloo.” ABJ 31 Aug. 2001: 1.
3 Flynn, John T. Country Squire in the White House. New York City: Doubleday, Doran and Co., 1940; Hight, Bruce. “Convenience May Have Dictated Speech Locale.” AAS 10 Aug. 2001: A13; Hightower, Jim. “The Hightower Lowdown.” AC 24 Aug. 2001: 34.
4 Banks, Carolyn. “Austin Originals: Waterloo Records.” TGL Jan. 2001: 35; Simon, Julian L. The Ultimate Resource II. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1996.
5 AD No. 20 (Aug. 27, 2000); Gillespie, Spike. “Broke.com.” AC 2 Mar. 2001: 32; Messer, Kate X. “Back to the Garden.” AC 2 Mar. 2001: 14.
6 “Zines.” alt.culture, 280-281.
7 Schoeneman, Deborah; Deborah Netburn, and Tom McGeveran. “Ike’s Restless Kin Puts Down New Roots in $3 Million Co-op.” NYO 2 Jul. 2001: 25.
8 Tiger, Lionel. Men in Groups. New York City: Random House, 1969.
9 “Illuminati: 300,000, Secret Service: 0.” Computer Gaming World Jul. 1994: 16.
10 Joel, Billy. “Zanzibar.” 52nd Street. Columbia CK 35609, 1978.
11 Joel. “Big Shot.” Idem, op. cit.
12 Kurson, Robert. The Official Three Stooges Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Knucklehead’s Guide to Stoogedom, From Amalgamated Morons to Ziller, Zeller, and Zoller. Lincolnwood, Ill.: Contemporary Books, 1998.
13 MacLeod, Ken. “The Falling Rate of Profit, Red Hordes and Green Slime: What the Fall Revolution Books are About.” NOVA Express Spring/Summer 2001: 19-21.
14 Linaweaver, Brad. Moon of Ice. New York City: Arbor House, 1988; Raimondo, Justin. An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2000; Schulman, J. Neil. Alongside Night. 1979. Rpt. New York City: Ace, 1982.
15 Mencken, H.L. “Diagnosis of Our Cultural Malaise.” Smart Set Feb. 1919. Rpt. H.L. Mencken’s Smart Set Criticism. Ed. William H. Nolte. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP, 1968: 2-9; Robbins, Tony. Unlimited Power. 1986. Rpt. New York City: Fawcett Columbine, 1987.
16 Doherty, Brian. “Unreasonable Accomodation.” Reason Aug./Sep. 1995: 18-26.
17 Pekar, Harvey. “Cubana Be Cubana Bop.” AC 12 Jan. 2001: 72.
18 "Community: Events" AC 2 Aug. 2001: 58.
19 Salamon, Jeff et. al. “South Congress: Avenue of Dreams.” XL 22 June 2000: 28-35.
20 Filo, Kevin. "Spacetruck: The More Moogs the Merrier." INSight Austin Magazine: 24.
21 Wice and Daly, op. cit., 28-29, 182-183, 218, 247-248.
22Shakes the Clown. Dir. Bobcat Goldthwait. IRS Media, 1991.
23 Caille, François. The Book of Ties. Trans. John Goodman. Paris: Flammarion, 1994: 11; Fussman, Cal. “Silk Stalking.” GQ Nov. 1996: 125.
24 Levy, Jaime, and Amy Schatz. “Tax Holiday Brings Out Bargain Hunters.” AAS 4 Aug. 2001: A1; Zelade, Richard. Austin, rev. 4th ed. Houston: Gulf Coast Pub. Co, 1996: 217.
25 Eisler, Dan. E-mail to Linda Weber. 1 Feb. 2001.
26 Liggio, Leonard P. "Felix Morley and the Commonwealth Tradition: The Country-Party, Centralization, and the American Empire." JLS Fall 1978: 279-286; MacKenzie, Glen. “Medical Student Wins Prize for Book.” Winnipeg Free Press 4 May 2000: A8.
27 Doherty, Brian, Retro Hell, passim.
28 Nichols, Lee. “Meatier Media Moments.” AC 8 Jan. 1999: 24-25.
29 “Community: Events.” AC 17 Aug. 2001: 70.
30 Rothbard, Murray N. “Life or Death in Seattle.” Liberty Aug. 1987: 39-42.
31 Rothbard. "Big Government Libertarians." Rothbard-Rockwell Report Nov. 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. 16.
32 Bergland, David. Libertarianism in One Lesson, rev. 8th ed. Costa Mesa, Calif.: Orpheus Publications, 1993: 100-101; Bergland. “Running Third.” Reason Nov. 1984: 33-36; Dworkin, Ronald William. The Rise of the Imperial Self: America’s Culture Wars in Augustinian Perspective. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1996; Gottfried, Paul. “The Religious Foundations of the Managerial Therapeutic State.” Telos Summer 1999: 3-28; “Russell Means on the Siege of Wounded Knee.” Rolling Stone: The Seventies. Ed. Ashley Kahn, Holly George-Warren, and Shawn Dahl. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1998: 98-101; Piccone, Paul. “The Obsolescence of Utopia.” Telos Spring 1999: 161-176; Polsky, Andrew J. The Rise of the Therapeutic State. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1991.
33 Brooks, David. Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 2000; Casey, Douglas. “Class Is in Session – Will They Learn?” Liberty Apr. 1993: 23-26+; Fussell, Paul. Class: A Guide Through the American Status System. New York City: Summit Books, 1983; Rolling Stone, op. cit.; Piccone, op. cit.; Seabrook, John. Nob®ow: The Culture of Marketing, the Marketing of Culture, rev. ed. New York City: Vintage Books, 2001; Thibodeau, David, and Leon Whiteson. A Place Called Waco: A Survivor's Story. New York City: Public Affairs, 1999: Ch. 1.
34 AD No. 28 (Jul. 10, 2001); XL Dinning Guide 2000 10 Nov. 2000: 30.
35America Votes 19: A Handbook of Contemporary Election Statistics. Ed. Richard M. Scammon and Alice V. McGillivray. Washington, D.C.: Elections Research Center/Congressional Quarterly, 1991: 434; Congressional Quarterly Almanac (101st Congress, 2nd Session … 1990), Vol. XLVI. Ed. Kenneth Jost. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1991: 941.
36 Stutz, Terrence. “Years of Political Experience Culminate in Governorship.” DMN 22 Dec. 2000: 26A.
37 King, Michael. “The State of Whose State?” AC 2 Feb. 2001: 30; Smith, Amy. “Does Compassion Pay?” AC 18 May 2001: 22.
38 Smolowe, Jill et. al. “Breaking the Silence.” People 3 Sep. 2001: 54-59.
39 Barta, Carolyn. Bill Clements: Texian to His Toenails. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press, 1996; Fehrenbach, T.R. Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans, rev. ed. New York City: Da Capo Press, 2000: Ch. 23.
40 Smith, A. “Looking for Tony.” AC 8 Dec. 2000: 34+; Herman, Ken. “A Little Irony: Bush Backer is Top Dog for Some Democrats.” AAS 3 Sep. 2001: A1+.
41 Fehrenbach, op. cit.
42 King, Florence. “The High-Strung Class.” NR 16 Mar. 1992. Rpt. The Florence King Reader. New York City: St. Martin’s Press, 1995: 308-310.
43 King, M. “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” AC 31 Aug. 2001: 22-23.
44 AD No. 22n26 (Nov. 16, 2000).
45 Cringely, Robert X. [Mark Stephens] Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date, rev. ed. New York City: HarperBusiness, 1996: 33, 240.
46 Coupland, Douglas. Microserfs. New York City: Regan Books, 1995: 185.
This novel was Coupland’s happiest and most pro-market in content. I suspect in response, and to maintain a certain social credibility among his fellow scribes and his fellow Canadians, he followed Microserfs with the fashionably pessimistic, disappointing (and disjointed) Girlfriend in a Coma. New York City: Regan Books, 1998.
47 Kron, Joan. Home-Psych: The Social Psychology of Home and Decoration. New York City: Potter, 1983: 134-137.
48 AD No. 26n6; “Naked City.” AC 31 Aug. 2001: 18.
49 AD No. 26 (Apr. 27, 2001).
50 Hudgins, Matt. “Austin May Get Another Mall.” ABJ 27 Jul. 2001: 1+.
51 Salamon. “Because a Great City Deserves a Great Magazine.” XL 30 Aug. 2001: 6.
52 AD No. 25n2 (Jan. 4, 2001); Conquest, John. “Drivin’ South.” 3rd Coast Music Aug. 2001: 3; Corcoran, Michael. “Live-Music Capital: That Ain’t Tip-Jar Money.” XL 30 Aug. 2001: 38; Nichols, Lee. “We Are the World (Not)” AC 24 Aug. 2001: 20.
53 Langer, Andy. “Welcome Wagon.” AC 25 May 2001: 70+.
54 Riemenschneider, Chris. “Sixth Street.” XL 22 Feb. 2001: 14-17; Smith, Jordan. “Who Owns Sixth Street?” AC 4 May 2001: 24+; Zelade, 247.
55 Baumgarten, Marjorie. “Slack Where We Started.” AC 29 Jun. 2001: 52+; Savlov, Marc, and Jason Stout. “Slacker, the Map.” AC 26 Jan. 2001: 74-75.
56 AD No. 26; Black, Louis. “Page Two.” AC 9 Feb. 2001: 4+; League, Tim, and Karie League. “We Are Opening on July 13.” Austin Daze July 2001: 17; Savlov. “It’s the Village, Idiot!” AC 9 2001: 64.
57 English, Maishah. Washington Afro-American. Rpt. Nokoa 23 Aug. 2001: 4.
58 Goldman, Andrew. “Who’s in Chris Walken’s Kitchen? He is! And He Wants to Feed You.” NYO 18 Sep. 2000: 1.