This is Reviewing Man

Austin Dispatches
No. 77
Mar. 3, 2005

My work continues at ERCOT. Yes, that ERCOT. There was much clucking of tongue in the office the day the agency announced the state indictments of former top managers, one of them a former FBI agent, for bilking ERCOT of $2 million with phony employees.1  

Turns out that's why my start date was delayed   –  the client had to sweat extra diligently to confirm I really exist (hold the philosophy jokes).2  Afterward, though, the matter has had no impact on the nature of my work, or my contract, other than having an excuse to banter with my officemates on and off the job. Some regular employees invited me to join their group of golfers, which is really a pretext to gab, gamble and gulp at courses between Taylor and Round Rock. I may take them up on their offer.

I have to go through five electronic checkpoints just to get to my desk, but ERCOT also let me wander around unsupervised through the new building at the Taylor Operations Center, dribbling cookie crumbs on the new carpet.

Overshadowing all this is the IRS raping me out of thousands on last year’s earnings. I knew then I’d take a hit, but I didn’t think it would be this severe. I didn’t have any good options then to shield myself, either. I needed the money immediately,3  and spurned the quarterly withholding on Form 1040 Schedule C income.  Also, the job agency reimbursed my expenses for the Midland contract, which was a good thing at the time, because again, I didn’t need ballooning credit card payments. But my new tax bill undercuts my long-term plans for the next 18 months.4  Once again, the Midland contract has managed to screw me.5

One-Man Cocktail Party, and Other Excursions

Jan. 16: The American Big Band Museum presented a dance at Skate World in Northwest Austin.6  The older hot blonde from New York was there. She was one of the few people there who didn’t look like they belonged in a museum. We did more cheek-to-cheek dancing.  Afterward, we and a friend of hers went to dinner. I turned on the charm. We seemed to click.

I saw her again Feb. 4 at Go Dance. I might’ve danced with her, but she came in late and was hanging on some guy. Looked like a retarded faggot.

I said hello to be polite. The faggot asked where I was going. “Going? I’m going home, to bed. I’m tired. I’ve been up since 6 a.m.”

“Dude, you gotta be more proactive. I was up at four, working out.” I was wrong. This guy was worse than a retarded faggot.

He glanced sideways, then lowered his voice. “What you wanna do, is find some girls to dance with.”

I figured he might be trying to send me a subtle, coded message. For all the good it did. “Right,” I said.

I flashed him a “crawl off and die” smile. Then I sauntered out of the studio, drove home, and went to bed, like I intended.

Jan. 22: Go Dance held a salsa social that turned into a who’s who of local dancing masters crowding the floor. Meanwhile, those who weren’t at the studio attended a private party – conveniently chronicled by Queen of Sky.7

Feb. 10: I was pretty much the only customer at a Valentine party at Therapy, sipping a free martini and wandering around the store, noting the merchandise, and making awkward small talk with the clerks. Why do I keep going out, only to encounter stark loneliness? I don’t need anyone. I can be miserable on my own.8

Feb. 20: Some Puertorequeñas down from Killeen praised my dancing at Pedro’s Place.9  That was worth about $10,000 in lessons. Salseras aren’t prone to praise just to be nice.10 It was a perfect evening, except for the odiferous curry breath of my partners, who’d eaten at the Clay Pit Indian restaurant downstairs

Cultural Canapés

I finally read Brian Doherty’s book, “This is Burning Man.”11  It’s solid coverage of a phenomenon I’ve decided I don’t care anything about. I’m at the point in my life where I’m too old, too tired, maybe even too rich to bother with sweating in the wastelands of Northern Nevada.12  And he’s way more intrigued than me with alternative subcultures. In my experience, they’re usually propagated by narrow-minded assholes who strain to prove just how radically different they are from regular people, while positioning themselves atop rigid social hierarchies that surpass WASP country clubs or the Roman Catholic Church.13  Burning Man enthusiasts will probably hate this, but while reading about the event, I realized that it’s just a dweeby, antibourgeois version of the annual bonfire at Texas A&M.14 

Stuff magazine, which I’m inexplicably receiving free in my mail every month, named The Continental Club to the “Dive Bars Hall of Fame.”15  I’ve been there several times in the last seven years, and it’s no dive.16

Jimmy Smith died. He invented jazz organ as we know it in the ‘50s.17  More recently, he recorded “Dot-Com Blues,” intended as a trendy title, which became an ironic theme to the end of the tech boom.18 To promote this CD, Smith performed at a now-defunct club on Sixth Street in late September 2001. His music was background to the hipsters’ mini-dramas and posturing with cigarettes. In fact, I saw every known pose one can strike with a cigarette that night.19 

So much for real musicians. On Feb. 6, “American Roots” on KUT-FM played an attempt by Bob Dylan to sing jazz. I’ve already dismissed Dylan, so I won’t belabor his talentlessness.20  Rather, I was amused to note that his voice was drowned out by his accompanists, and not just because he can’t carry a tune in a bucket. It’s an old musicians’ trick to keep the bad performer from making the rest of them sound bad. Without Dylan’s voice, I would’ve heard a nice, swinging tune. Apparently, everyone else at the recording shared my opinion. In other words, Dylan can’t get respect from professionals on his own session.

In cinema, “The Assassination of Richard Nixon” misfired.21  Before, Sean Penn managed to combine the mannerisms of Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel in “Mystic River,” but I didn’t care anything about the schmuck he played in this new movie.22  Maybe being the butt of laughs in “Team America” threw him off his game.23 

Fact is, the real-life protagonist was just another deluded dope in an era filled with them. (Had he succeeded, he’d’ve been acclaimed a national hero.)24 And, unlike now, fewer adults then – certainly fewer adults responsible for anything important, like your loan application – had drilled holes in their brains with toot, weed, and prescription psychotropics. (We're actually witnessesing a reversion to the horrors of the '70s under Boomer management, but that deserves fuller treatment in some future issue.) The filmmakers missed the chance to make a nasty social satire.

Meanwhile, The Daily Texan reports De Niro says he and Martin Scorsese have been discussing a sequel to “Taxi Driver.”25

Speaking of Method actors, Al Pacino surprisingly neither chewed scenery, nor behaved as prime prosciutto,26  nor even deployed Robert Klein’s “palsy shake”27  as Shylock in the new “Merchant of Venice.”28 

It’s like when De Niro appeared in the remake of "Frankenstein" about 10 years ago. Nobody wanted to see him play it straight. Instead, they wanted to see …


FRANKENSTEIN’s MONSTER (Robert De Niro) lurches along a path, grunting.


It’s the monster!

FRANKENSTEIN’s MONSTER turns to face the PEASANT and grunts quizzically.

You talkin’ to me?29

In like manner, Austin Dispatches herewith doth present:



A sumptuously decorated High Renaissance building interior. At the podium, the chairman pounds a gavel.


For our next agenda item, we shall hear a presentation on how to revive the fortunes of our fair city from Signore Pasquale Shylock of … er? 

SHYLOCK (Al Pacino):
(Moves to podium and speaks in an anachronistic New York accent)

… Shylock, Luzzato & Associates. Here’s my card again.

(Turns to audience)

Friends, Venetians, fellow merchants, lend me your ears.
30  We’ve got trouble, right here in water city.31  Even since that Genoese pazzo splashed around for the spics, our revenues have dropped.32

(Audience murmurs assent)

But we’ve still got a world-class city,
33 and now’s the time to capitalize on it. Therefore, I propose some week in the year where the temperature’s just right – not too cold, not too hot – we entice all Christendom – nay the world – to come to us for high-quality goods at discounted prices. I call it …

(Assistants emerge from wings, carrying large framed canvas with campaign slogan)

… the Merchant Days of Venice.

(Audience noise increasingly louder now, this time in outrage)


That sounds like a cheap play upon that base English poetaster who besmirched the repute of our city!

(Louder, over crowd noise)

Precisely. Why shouldn’t we score some points off his work?


This Chamber shall ne’er agree to such self-mockery!

(Even louder)

Well, you didn’t like the “I Love Venice” campaign from Machiavelli Consulting, either.


What about gondolier rates?

(Returns to podium and bangs gavel)

Order! Order! That’s out of order.


That’s right! YOU’RE out of order! YOU’RE out of order! This WHOLE FUCKING MEETING’S out of order!

(Crowd quiets)

Where was I? Oh yes – transportation for visitors is free. We’ll negotiation a rate with the gondoliers – make ‘em an offer they can’t refuse.
36  All these visiting customers will need food and lodging while they’re here. And – hoo-ah – happy days are here again.37 

That’s not all. There’s room for another variation that takes into account the success in recent years of small-budget art movies centered around food.38  Such as…




Good tidings, my liege. I come posthaste from the Senate, which entreats you to perform your culinary magic upon a forthcoming event of high import.

(Intently stirring something in a pot)

All right. Get your toffee-colored nose outta my ASS and get to the FUCKIN’ POINT.


The Senate wants you to cater the opening dinner for a big diplomatic conference. Shall we resurrect the tetrazzini recipe for a score of four and twenty?


No, no. Something different. Let me think.


Ah, yes. Mmmm, I can smell it now. Rosemary- and garlic-infused venison chops, over a bed of polenta, and an olive garnish.
39  Or perhaps a cerf daube au vin rouge for an earlier course.40 


Verily, a repast of chops would sate even a king, were kings to be found in our republic.

Chops it is then.


I shall gather the victuals from our most august suppliers.


Where are you getting the olives?


From the finest in Italy.


No. For this, we need an exotic touch. A foreign supplier.




Think Peloponnesian! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA!41


I am off.



(Gestures to a table)

Leave the sword. Take some cannolis.42

Show Business for Ugly People

Kinky Friedman announced his independent candidacy for governor. He says he’s running against the “wussification” of Texas, yet he supports the establishment of a Texas Peace Corps, and opposes the death penalty, euthanizing unwanted animals, and the declawing of cats.43  The Texas LP hasn’t decided what to do with him – or to him.44

Down ballot, hottie businesswoman Jennifer Kim threw a campaign kickoff for City Council at El Soy y La Luna. I braved the traffic in search of free food. But the table, undersupplied to begin with, was blocked off by her supporters, the usual yuppie Democrats, and Koreans. So I was forced to listen to Kim’s campaign kickoff comments. About a third of the time, she sounded like Steve Adams, a Libertarian running for another council seat.45  Lowering property taxes a nd reducing red tape and tax credits for businesses, to preserve the city’s character, sounds good to me. Then she sounded like a Clintonista, with her notion of public-private partnerships on health care and housing.46  Since she’s turned over her campaign to local Democratic apparatchiks, and has received the endorsement of the firefighters’ union, guess which side of Kim will win out if she wins office?47 

Neighborhood News

The developers behind The Domain project are bandying about really upscale retail brand names that will populate the mall.48  Bantam Electronics plans to expand.49

The nearest H-E-B has begun stocking items from its yuppie subsidiary, Central Market.50  I wonder whether my traceable shopping at Central Market helped contribute to this decision. Regrettably, the retail price of store brand fat-free milk has risen, from $1.09/qt. to $1.14.

On Feb. 1, I witnessed the aftermath of a collision at Braker Lane and Metric Boulevard during the morning rush-hour. (The same thing happened on Feb. 7, between Grand Avenue Parkway and Mile 249 on the northbound lane of I-35. This one involved a multi-vehicle pileup, including an 18-wheeler gravel truck.) On Jan. 31, KBPA-FM reported a collision at Parmer Lane and Metric.51 On Feb. 22, KGSR-FM reported a collision at MoPac Expressway and Waters Park Road. On Feb. 25, KAMX-FM reported a collision at Parmer and Lamplight Village Avenue.

Business Roundup

A hot new club, Molotov, opened on Sixth Street. I tried to get in but I’d been purged from the guest list.52

Carl Icahn, ‘80s corporate raider extraordinaire, is mounting a takeover attempt of Temple-Inland.53  I interviewed with that company for a job in 1998, and it may be the one time I fumbled an opportunity by taking Mom’s advice.

I was living in Waco, and routinely driving to Austin for job interviews. Mom thought I wasn’t getting hired through a combination of road rage and hunger. I tried to eat light before the interviews, mostly to feel alert and look presentable. A few months earlier, after an interview about a job at Dell, on the first really hot day of spring, I lunched at a restaurant at 35th and Jefferson streets that featured Frenchified Southwestern cuisine. I ordered a bowl of tortilla soup while wearing a white shirt and a black-and-white tie. You can guess the rest. When I returned to Waco, I looked like a stabbing victim, and my confidence was as wilted as my appearance.

Anyway, before my Temple-Inland meeting, I took Mom’s advice, had lunch … and about halfway through my interview, I began experiencing a headache, which I recognized as the onset of food poisoning. Now, I’ve never see this matter covered in employment guides, but I’m pretty sure the consensus is against vomiting on the interviewer’s desk, and probably against interrupting the interview to leave, vomit, and come back to finish. My heart sank while my guts rose. I rushed the interview along, knowing I was scuttling my chances at the job as I did so. We finished, I strode purposely into a company restroom stall, puked, flushed, washed up, and left hurriedly, lest someone to make a hiring decision recognize me.54

Since then, I haven’t had the nerve to apply at Temple-Inland when new openings appear. Come to think of it, it’s also been many years since I listened to Mom’s advice about much of anything.

Media Indigest

I’ve encountered a new free weekly broadsheet distributed locally, The Epoch Times, which is broader than the standard broadsheet by about 1½ inches.55  Otherwise, it’s just another dull paper. “Fresh Look at Our Changing World”? Hah!

E-mail: Home    Archives   

1 Gott, Natalie. “Six are Indicted in Grid Operator Fraud Case.” HC 29 Jan. 2005: 1; Reddy, Sudeep. “Official Steps Down at ERCOT.” DMN 19 Jan. 2005: 2D.
2 Hospers, John. “Conversations With Ayn Rand, Part 2.” Liberty Sep. 1990: 50.
3 AD No. 60 (Dec. 20, 2003)
4 Mises, Ludwig von. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, 3rd rev. ed. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1966: 484-486.
5 AD No. 62 (Mar. 18, 2004); AD No. 68 (June 21, 2004).
6 Welch, Diana. “Calendar: This Week: Sunday.” AC 14 Jan. 2005: 72.
7 “Queen of Sky” [Ellen Simonetti]. 24 Jan. 2005. Diary of a Fired Flight Attendant. <>.
8 McGuire, Judy. “Unhappy Monday.” NYPR 8 Feb. 2005: 19.
9 Dye, Dale. Platoon. New York City: Charter Books, 1986: 111; Hardwig, Jay. "Rhythm is King." AC 25 Jun. 1999: 54+.
10 AD No. 75n19 (Dec. 5, 2004).
11 Doherty, Brian. This Is Burning Man. Boston: Little, Brown, 2004.
12 Woodward, Bob. Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1984: 276.
13 Frauenfelder, Mark, et al. Happy Mutant Handbook. Ed. Frauenfelder et al. New York City: Riverhead Books, 1995: 14-15.
14 Heinaur, Laura. “A&M Bonfire: 5 Years Later.” AAS 15 Nov. 2004: A1+.
15 Sheftell, Jason. “Dive Bars Hall of Fame.” Stuff March 2005: 113.
16 Kelso, John. “Continental Club, Sir, is No Dive.” AAS 20 Feb. 2005: B1.
17 Ratliff, Ben. “Jimmy Smith, Jazz Organist and Pioneer, is Dead at 76.” NYT 10 Feb. 2005, late ed.: C17.
18 AD No. 26 (Apr. 27, 2001); Cassidy, John. Dot.con: How America Lost Its Mind and Money in the Internet Era, rev. ed. New York City: Harper Perennial, 2003; Gottlieb, Lori, and Jesse Jacobs, Inside the Cult of Kibu and Other Tales of the Millennial Gold Rush. Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Publishing, 2002; Smith, Jimmy. dot com blues. Blue Thumb 314 543 978-2, 2000.
19 Eisler, Dan. “The Chomskyites.” E-mail to Angela Keaton, 13 Jan. 2002.
20 AD No. 70n38 (Aug. 26, 2004).
21 McGonigle, Josh. “ ‘Assassination’ Satisfies History, Film Buffs.” DT 21 Jan. 2005: 8B.
22 AD No. 48n1 (Mar. 10, 2003); Dougan, Andy. Untouchable: A Biography of Robert DeNiro. New York City: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1996; Eisler. “A One-Man Mean Streets.” E-mail to Frank Rossi, 21 Apr. 2004; Mystic River. Warner Bros./Village Roadshow Pictures/NPV Entertainment/Malpaso Productions, 2003.
23 Team America: World Police. Paramount Pictures/Scott Rudin Productions, 2004.
24 Sondheim, Stephen. Assassins. RCA 60737, 1991.
25 Luciani, Curtis. “Nobody Backs ‘Baby’ Into a Corner.” DT 4 Feb. 2005: 7B.
26 Daly, Steven. "Mr. Saturday Night." GQ May 1996: 156.
27 Saturday Night Live. NBC-TV, 28 Jan. 1978.
28 AD No. 63n15 (Apr. 15, 2004).
29 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. American Zoetrope/Indieprod Films/Japan Satellite Broadcasting Inc. (JBS)/TriStar Pictures, 1994; Taxi Driver. Bill/Phillps/Columbia Pictures Corp./Italo Judeo Productions, 1976.
30 JC Act 3, Sc. 2.
31 The Music Man. Warner Bros., 1962.
32 Davis, John A. "Venice." World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book Inc., 2002: XX, 308; "Pazzo." Cassell's Italian Dictionary, rev. 7th ed. Ed. Piero Rebora, Francis M. Guercio, and Arthur L. Hayward. New York City: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1967: 365.
33 Loyd, Chris. “Re: The Return to Houston.” E-mail to Eisler, 31 Jan. 2003.
34 “Sodom Chamber of Commerce.” Saturday Night Live. NBC-TV, 20 May 1978.
35 …And Justice for All. Columbia Pictures Corp., 1979.
36 AD No. 64n9 (May 1, 2004).
37 Scent of a Woman. City Lights Films/Universal Pictures, 1992; Yellen, Jack, and Milton Ager. “Happy Days are Here Again.” 1929.
38 Big Night. Rhysher Entertainment/Timpano Production, 1996; Dinner Rush. Access Motion Picture Group/Giraldi-Suarez-DiGiaimo Productions, 2000; Sideways. Fox Searchlight Pictures/Michael London Productions/Sidways Productions Inc., 2004; Soul Food. Edmonds Entertainment/Fox 2000 Pictures, 1997; Vatel. Gaumont/Le Studio Canal+/Légende Enterprises/Nomad Films/TF1 Films Productions/Timothy Burrill Productions Ltd., 2000.
39 Sarlin, Janeen A., and Diane Porter. The New Meat Lover’s Cookbook. New York City: Macmillan USA, 1996: 170.
40 Lobel, Leon, Stanley Lobel, and Jan Messmann. The Lobel Brothers’ Meat Cookbook. New York City: Cornerstone Library, 1980: 139-140.
41 Dog Day Afternoon. Artists Entertainment Complex, 1975.
42 The Godfather. Paramount Pictures, 1972.
43 Pratt, Hallie. “Texas Officially About to Get a Lot Kinkier.” DT 4 Feb. 2005: 2A.
44 Eisler. “RE: ‘Kinky’ Runs for Governor.’ ” E-mail to TCLPActive, 5 Feb. 2005.
45 AD No. 50n59 (May 14, 2003).
46 Bovard, James. "Feeling Your Pain": The Explosion and Abuse of Government Power in the Clinton-Gore Years, rev. ed. New York City: Palgrave, 2001.
47 Liao, Ruth, and Pratt. “Endorsements Announced for Austin City Council Elections.” DT 16 Feb. 2005: 1A+.
48 Novak, Shonda. “Retail All Stars May Sign Up for Domain Shopping Center.” AAS 25 Feb. 2005: C1+.
49 Greenwood, Giselle. “Bantam Ready to Spread Its Wings.” ABJ 11 Feb. 2005: 1+.
50 “Central Market Products in Your Basic H-E-B.” AAS 2 Mar. 2005: E3.
51 Gross, Joe. “Say Goodbye to the Oldies, Hello to ‘Bob’ ” XL 26 Aug. 2004: 4.
52 Anderson, Raymond H. “Vyacheslav M. Molotov is Dead; Close Associate of Stalin was 96.” NYT 11 Nov. 1986: A1
53 Rayasam, Renuka. “Icahn Poised to Battle for Temple-Inland.” AAS 18 Feb. 2005: C1.
54 Eisler. “Re: Austin Dispatches No. 54.” E-mail to Loyd, 24 Aug. 2003.
55 Harrower, Tim. The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook, 2nd ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1992: 56.