The Moil 
Austin Dispatches
No. 69
July 28, 2004

I spent months and read dozens of books researching the various aspects of buying a new computer system and upgrading my telecommunications service.  However, even the research didn’t cover the snags I encountered from then to now.1

Miss KT advised me to drop SBC, but because it owns the phone lines inside my apartment complex’s walls, I’m stuck. I’d have to move to a new place where another company owns the lines, before I could do better – if I could do better.2  If I switched ISPs,3  I’d get the runaround if something goes wrong – and something always goes wrong. This actually happened when I moved in.4  Then, the phone lines were owned by a smaller company going out of business. It and Southwestern Bell passed the buck for a month before I resolved matters to my satisfaction.

I was even willing to let SBC host my Web sites, but when I called the Web Hosting Department, I was routed to an answering machine that couldn’t take my message because its voice mail was full. I called another department to get around the problem. The service rep couldn’t reach the Web Hosting Department, either.
Meanwhile, SBC bumped my phone service onto the same line as the Digital Subscriber Line,5  despite the telco’s6 assurances it’d hold off on that. I had to e-mail about 100 people again about my new phone number, about a month before I planned.

You’d think a company that hired a glowering Joe Pesci to hawk its DSL service would know better than to screw around.7            

The hassles didn’t stop with SBC. My trial copy of Microsoft Office expires Sep. 30.8  I tried to register and purchase it to forestall problems. Microsoft’s Web site rejected my registration efforts, even after I checked all the potential Internet security settings on my system that might block the transaction. Finally, I tracked down the Microsoft help desk – which can only be reached by e-mail. That department referred me to Online Transaction Services. Here’s the complete response:

Thanks for contacting online transaction services.
You can also purchase Office at or at a local store.

I replied:

In other words, there's nothing you can do, or will do, and Microsoft will lose $150 in sales because the purchase of an Office 2003 suite can't be completed electronically.

But the really painful loss happened when All Music Guide changed its Web site. Among other things, AMG now requires you to register to look up information from one of the most comprehensive music reference works on the Internet. At least, I think that’s still the case. I can log in, but I can’t actually search for anything, and then I can’t log out. Once again, AMG suggested my Internet security settings were to blame. Once again, AMG was wrong. But I still need a comprehensive music reference site. Any recommendations?9 

I’ll probably be fussing with the system for the rest of the year. The purchases aren’t over, either. I’m surfing price-comparison Web sites to find bargains on various software I need to stay competitive.

Neighborhood News

I had the best time yet at Go Dance studio on July 17, salsa dancing with a succession of exotic lovelies, who thought I looked familiar, but couldn’t quite place me. I’d never met these women before. I get this all the time. I really should make this work for me: "Yeah, I'm the guy you owe money to. Pay up."

I should have quit while I was ahead. One of the lovelies implored me to go to the Sunday evening dance at The Oasis. I drove out there and stood around sweating, swatting away the flies, and watching other people have a good time. The dance floor was as crowded as I remember it from the last time I was there, four years ago. So crowded, that I couldn’t figure a way into the arms of dance partner.

I decided to leave early, to beat the drunken, sun dazed hordes out of the cramped parking lots and down the narrow, winding hillside roads while the postcard-perfect lakeside sunset provided visibility. On my windshield, someone had placed a flyer for Sahara, a new club on East Parmer Lane opening Aug. 13 that will feature salsa on Fridays. Sahara’s almost as close to me as Go Dance. It was my first good experience all day.

A new restaurant opened at the Crossroads shopping plaza. A friend of a friend gave TinTinNio a bad review, but I thought the Italian fusion cuisine was good.10  Of course, we’ve established I have a higher tolerance for pretence and artifice – as long as they don’t get in my way.

Big Lots opened at the Parmer Crossing shopping plaza.11

Cultural Canapés

On June 24, I attended “Cool Struttin’” a gallery showing at Bolm Studios in Southeast Austin. I picked up a flyer somewhere, and the graphic and show title, both borrowing from a jazz album, a veritable synecdoche of ‘50s style,12  made the event seem potentially interesting. Instead, it was the usual tiresome, grubby hipsters drinking cheap beer and looking at grubby oil paintings. The car wreck I saw on the way home was more interesting.

The June/July issue of Brilliant magazine contains a piece on the world premiere of the new version of “The Alamo,” two months after the fact.13  By the time I read the magazine, the movie was already playing at the discount theaters. I saw it during the Independence Day weekend. It was better than I anticipated. Bad pre-release publicity plagued it.14  Regardless, I thought it would be some fluffy, feel-good Hollywood crap – hardly worthy of Texas’ founding myth15  – but it was entertaining enough. The actors visibly enjoyed indulging in 19th Century oratory.

The new version was definitely better than the one I saw the next week in my motel room in Midland, some cheapo ‘80s made-for-TV movie with Alec Baldwin as William Travis.16  As in Travis County.17  Baldwin didn’t even bother trying a Texan accent. Instead, he exhorted a group of oh-so-‘80s-looking models inside the Alamo like he was auditioning for “Glengarry Glen Ross.”18  On the Mexican side, Raul Julia as Santa Anna, and David Ogden Stiers as his top subordinate, looked like they were struggling mightily not to laugh aloud in their scenes.

Similarly, I saw the touring production of “Cats.”19  The road-show cast is mostly aspiring New York method actors, but instead of chewing the scenery, they just clawed it.20  Then I halted the show halfway through by tossing some yarn and toy mice from my balcony seat onto the stage.

The July 8 USA Today reports the emergence of commercially viable ‘90s nostalgia.21

Yesterday, I finally figured out why Plan b's been so tardy with its payments.22  It’s still waiting for the profits from "Troy."23  I could’ve told them to keep the title and turn the story into rival companies vying for a township’s snow-removal contract in Upstate New York. Much cheaper to produce.24

Business Roundup

The July 19 Austin American-Statesman reports that “Phoenix has yet to recover from dot-com bust.”25  Funny, I lived in Phoenix in 1999, and I don’t remember anything resembling a dot-com boom at the time.  Otherwise, I might still be there.  Instead, real estate dominated the local business mentality.26

Media Indigest

Louis Black declares the July 23 Austin Chronicle “kicks off the gradual introduction of a redesign….”27  Maybe that’s why page 50 starts midway through a schedule of San Antonio clubs. Keep up the good work, Chronicle.

Downtown Planet, a new community paper for central Austin, has survived to its second issue. Publisher Will Atkins plans to go weekly in September. 28


1 AD No. 60 (Dec. 20, 2003).
2 AD No. 65 (May 22, 2004).
3 Kobler, 177.
4 AD No. 17 (June 10, 2000).
5 Kobler, 126.
6 Clayton, Jade. “Telco.” McGraw-Hill Illustrated Telecom Dictionary, 3rd ed. New York City, 2001: 649.
7 “larphillips.” “Joe Pesci.” <> 19 Feb. 2004.
8 Online Training Solutions. Microsoft Office 2003 Step by Step. Redmond, Wash.: Microsoft Press, 2004.
9 All Music Guide: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Recordings From Thousands of Artists in All Types of Music. Ed. Michael Erlewine et. Al. San Francisco: Miller Freeman, 1997.
10 Melvin, Mary Kay. “Fusion Cuisine Next Big Trend? Officials Tell What’s Hot & What’s Not in Food.” AB 30 Dec. 1996: 16.
11 AD No. 65.
12 Clark, Sonny. Cool Struttin’. Blue Note 81588, 1958; Horn, Richard. Fifties Style: Then and Now. New York City: Beech Tree Books, 1985.
13 Morgan, Lance Avery. “Remember the Alamo.” Brilliant June/July 2004: 23.
14 Romero, Simon. “A Marketing Effort Falls Flat in Both Spanish and English.” NYT 19 Apr. 2004: C9.
15 Fehrenbach, T.R. Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans, rev. ed. New York City: Da Capo Press, 2000: Ch. 11-14.
16 The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory. The Finnegan-Pinchuk Co., 1987.
17 Smyrl, Vivian Elizabeth. “Travis County.” New Handbook of Texas. Austin: Texas State Historical Society, 1996: VI, 553.
18 Glengarry Glen Ross. GGR/New Line Cinema/Zupnik Cinema Group II, 1992.
19 Steyn, Mark. Broadway Babies Say Goodnight: Musicals Then and Now. 1997. Rpt. New York City: Routledge, 1999: 31-32, and passim.
20 Method Acting Reconsidered: Theory, Practice, Future. Ed. David Krassner. New York City: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.
21 Barker, Olivia. “Are You Ready for ‘90s Nostalgia? Whatever!” USAT 8 July 2004: D1.
22 AD No. 62 (Mar. 18, 2004).
23 Troy. Plan B Productions/Radiant Productions/Warner Bros., 2004.
24 AD No. 30 (Sep. 11, 2002); AD No. 38 (Jul. 7, 2002); AD No. 54 (Aug. 22, 2003).
25 Keefe, Bob. “Trying to Rise From the Ashes.” AAS 19 July 2004: D1.
26 White, Richard. "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own": A New History of the American West. Norman, Okla. U of Oklahoma P, 1991: 545.
27 Black, Louis. “Page Two.” AC 23 July 2004: 6.
28 Atkins, Will. “Take Two: What are We Doing?” Downtown Planet 13 July 2004: 2.