No. 41
Austin Dispatches
Sep. 21, 2002

Sunny Days,  Neon Nights

    The clatter of ice cubes into a freezer tray punctuated the distant hum of mowers and blowers. Dan Eisler sipped a fresh glass of tea as he surfed the Net for further work. He rattled the ice cubes in his glass in self-conscious emulation of hundreds of short stories by famous writers that referred in passing to that minor motif. Since Eisler's life often resembled life imitating art imitating life, he thought it fitting to juice up the mise en scène.

    The cool, moist apartment air created the effect of a living in a perfect martini. Eisler played some contemporary Brazilian music on his computer.1  He briefly closed his eyes. With imagination, and with the right décor and furnishings, the ambiance could extend beyond the atmospheric, to transform his monkish dwelling into something out of an advertising spread in the print edition of Wired at the peak of the dotcom boom.2

    First, however, Eisler had to obtain work, sufficiently remunerative to indulge in the fripperies and baubles of The Good Life. In reality, Eisler felt constrained, enduring so many hardships amid the parched mood of Austin. Its denizens alternately exuded shock and glumness. Eisler, however, was defiant. So far, his hardships had been in the nature of lacking $200 to see Tony Bennett perform.3  Not exactly a rough week on the chain gang, but such evanescent opportunities didn’t necessarily repeat in life.4 With time, the might’ve beens accumulated, like empty bottles in a frat house.

    Even beyond the haze of purple prose that wafted through Eisler’s synapses and through the rooms of his apartment, like radon or light molecules from a monitor, in the realm of reality, Eisler remained defiant.5  The Texas government was running out of money for unemployment benefits.6  However, Texas Technology reported the dotcom shakeout might nearly be over.7  Regardless, he had a visceral feeling he would beat the odds.

    On any given sultry summer day, Eisler would consult his weekly planner, print a new batch of business cards, and attend a job networking event to schmooze and cajole his way back into the work force. He handed out business cards like pretzels at the ballpark at the Low Tech, High Tech, and Austin XL happy hours; the Society for Technical Communication meetings; and sundry other events that peppered the calendar. In the evening, sysadmins and quality testers thronged the dance floors at trendy nightspots, and did the hustle of another kind.8 These locales were ensconced among other hulking remnants of prosperity, the pinks, oranges, limes and frambesias of the neon signage a vivid promise to Eisler of better times ahead.9

Neighborhood News

    As Travis County Libertarian Party chairman of Precinct 269, I’ve designated The Canary Roost bar as the precinct headquarters. It’s a relatively nondescript joint in a strip mall located along Metric Boulevard, at the north edge of the beige and light gray commercial buildings of my generic neighborhood. There, Issy Araiza of Digital Media Austin personally delivered his submissions for the TCLP 2002 advertising campaign, and we had drinks and some pleasant conversation. The approach emulates the Democrats of earlier times, when political matters were conducted at the neighborhood saloon.10

    Apple Computer Inc. has renewed a lease for its call center at Braker Center III-B, 11701 Stonehollow Dr. XeTel Corp. is experiencing multiple difficulties, including hassles with Travis County over property value assessment.11  Also, the company lost its NASDAQ listing.12  Trilogy and National Instruments – who both jerked me around early in my career – are jerking each other around over Trilogy’s lease at the National Instruments building at 11500 N. MoPac Blvd. (Loop 1).13  Metrowerks is moving from Metric Boulevard to Parmer Lane sometime next year.14  The Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites has opened at 11201 N. MoPac Expressway.

Boo Hoo for Woo

    Finally saw “Windtalkers” at the local discount theater.15  Even at $1 I still felt like I overpaid. I never believed for a second that I was watching anything but a bunch of wussy actors run around a Hollywood soundstage in a poorly rehashed version of a World War II flick. On the one hand, “Windtalkers” lacked the gusto of the old silver screen renditions; on the other, it lacked the distinctive style and attitude of John Woo’s previous work. Woo used to direct great films when he was in Hong Kong. Then he moved to Hollywood and began churning out laughable big-budget action films, starting with “Hard Target.”16  A friend and I saw “Hard Target” at the theater. It was the best comedy of 1993.

    More recently, Robert DeNiro’s latest, “City by the Sea,” didn’t quite work as the gritty crime drama its makers intended. The audience laughed during exposition, and when DeNiro finally launched into “full New York mode” (“Take that Friar Tuck act and shove it up your ass.”).17  The preview for the sequel to “Analyze This” probably didn’t help. DeNiro’s presence also encouraged most of the young actors to chew scenery far beyond what I thought them capable of (“Hey, I’m in a scene with DeNiro, I gotta juice up my performance.”). Oh yeah, character actor William Forsythe plays yet another thug.18

    Elsewhere at the movies, the effectively unsettling “One Hour Photo” features Robin Williams as an annoying creep. I mean, a dangerous annoying creep, to distinguish his role in this film from others.19

The Nooks and Crannies of a World Stranger Than Fiction

    The recurring recruit-o-ramas offer me the small compensation of more time to read.  Recently, I explored the oeuvre of New York columnist Murray Kempton, whom I knew by name but not work. Among a collection of 30-odd years of columns, Kempton describes a visit to Syracuse, Sicily, where he attends a concert by the Romano Mussolini Quartet, a multiracial, multinational jazz group fronted by the pianist and youngest son of the Italian dictator.20

    Voters in Buda and Dripping Springs liberalized their liquor laws.21  The Whiskey Rebel must be pleased.22

    Bruce Springsteen's coming to town and the usual sources are heaping praise on his latest recording.24 I hear it in snippets on my car radio, before I switch channels.  He still sounds constipated. And just what the hell does he know about what darkness on the edge of town is really like?25

1 Gilberto, Bebel. Tanto Tempo. Six Degrees 1026, 2000; Suba [Mitar Subotic]. São Paulo Confessions. Six Degrees 1019, 2000.
2 Wolff, Michael. Burn Rate: How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1998: 44-46.
3 Bennett, Tony [Anthony Benedetto], and Will Friedwald. The Good Life. New York City: Pocket Books, 1998.
4 Azerrad, Michael. Our Band Could be Your Life: Scenes From the American Indie Underground 1981-1991. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 2001: 43.
5 Hendrix, Jimi. “Purple Haze.” Are You Experienced? MCA 11602, 1997.
6 Susswein, Gary. “Jobless Fund Running Out; State Seeks Federal Loan.” AAS 5 Sep. 2002: A1.
7 Browne, Phillip W. “DotCalm.” TT Sep. 2002: 44.
8 Vincent, Rickey. Funk: The Music, the People and the Rhythm of the One. New York City: St. Martin's Griffin, 1996: 206.
9 Supertramp. “Better Days.” Brother Where You Bound. A&M 5014, 1984.
10 Rothbard, Murray N. "Origins of the Welfare State in America." JLS Fall 1996: 195; Zelade, Richard. Austin, rev. 4th ed. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co., 1996: 368, 374.
11 Copelin, Laylan. “Firms Not Reporting Taxable Property.” AAS 11 Aug. 2002: A1.
12 “XeTel Considers Sale of Company.” AAS 21 Aug. 2002: D2.
13 Anna, Cara. “Trilogy, National Instruments Haggling Over Lease.” AAS 14 Aug. 2002: C1.
14 Higginbotham, Stacey. “Motorola Subsidy Moving.” ABJ 6 Sep. 2002: 1+.
15 Windtalkers. Lion Rock/MGM, 2002.
16 Wice, Nathaniel. “Woo-ing Hollywood.” Esquire Jan. 1993: 24.
17 City by the Sea. Brillstein-Grey Entertainment/Franchise Pictures/Sea Breeze Productions Inc., 2002.
18 Analyze This. Baltimore Pictures/Face Productions/NPV Entertainment/Spring Creek Productions/Tribeca Productions/ Village Roadshow Productions, 1999.
19 One Hour Photo. Catch 23 Entertainment/Killer Films/Laughlin Park Pictures/Madjak Films, 2002.
20 Kempton, Murray. Rebellions, Perversities, and Main Events. New York City: Times Books/Random House, 1994: 329-333.
21 Schwartz, Jeremy, and Dick Stanley. “Voters Prefer Suds With Their Grub.” AAS 15 Sep. 2002: B1.
22 AD No. 34 (Jan. 14, 2002).
23 “Arts & Entertainment.” New Texas Oct. 2002: 5.
24 Springsteen, Bruce. The Rising. Sony 86600, 2002.
25 Springsteen. Darkness on the Edge of Town. Columbia 35318, 1978.