Strange Interlude

Austin Dispatches
No. 86
Nov. 13, 2005
This issue comes to you in what’s typically the dead season for my line of work.

For its part, the Statesman asserts that Austin is slowly rebounding from the dot-com bust, with “signs of growing prosperity (that) are widespread, but are subtle and hard to recognize.”1  Yeah, as in hard to find, verging on nonexistent.

Yet, amid the lengthening shadows that rebuke the autumn sunlight, I pace my apartment, muttering, and talk to myself in the mirrors, rehearsing for the in-person interviews for potential jobs that haven’t vanished into the ether. This even includes encounters with that hitherto chimerical beast, the full-time permanent job.2

I visited Parmer South  to apply for a technical editor position. One of the agency’s personality profile questions asked whether I think modern art even qualifies as art, or words to that effect, in five easy-to-categorize choices, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” I’d love to know the rationale for this question.

The trade-off to this flurry of interest from companies: It impinges on the time I have available to stroll through the Crestview and Shoal Creek neighborhoods in the sere sunshine hours. The mature suburban scenery and ambience silently plead to be transmuted into a literary narrative’s descriptive passages.

Austin Death Watch

My problems extend beyond my immediate job status. Dell laid off more workers,3 in the largest number since the last recession.  On Nov. 8, county voters OK’d more than $150 million in additional debt for things we can’t afford.4

The Chronicle reports that the zoning ordinances the city imposed to “protect” East Austin have made it easier for upscale developments to drive out blacks and browns. So much for protection.5  At the same time, local officials finally broke ground on the Mexican American Cultural Center, after multiple delays over the years.6

A woman who broke her neck crowd surfing at a concert at Stubb’s is suing the venue.7  A state district court sentenced a former Austin police officer to three months in jail for groping suspects.8 

City officials held a public meeting Nov. 9 to address a coyote problem in West Austin.9  That’s easy enough to solve. Just give the coyotes Acme equipment.10

Meanwhile, “worm-grubbing armadillos” are wrecking the greens at the Golf Club at Circle C.11 

Political Follies

Statewide, Texas voters approved Proposition 2, to ban “marriage” between abnormals, by 3 to 1. However, Travis County residents voted against it by nearly 60 percent. In fact, Travis is the only county not to approve the constitutional amendment.12  No wonder I can’t get a date around here.13 

Scarier, the Chronicle’s editorial board somehow managed to agree with my positions, and even my reasoning, on this election’s amendments.14 What’s next, a plague of locusts?15

In California, voters terminated Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ballot measures. In the movies, the Aryan muscleman played a relentless tough guy; in real life, the state’s political players, notably the Democrat-dominated Assembly, have jerked the statist sympathizer around since he took office.16 Let’s all aspire to say hasta la vista to his political career.17

Predictably, Mike Bloomberg, incumbent and multimillionaire, beat main challenger Fernando Ferrer for New York City mayor.18  Nevertheless, Ferrer had the catchiest campaign jingle. Al Sharpton, however, really could’ve used some dance lessons.19 

TCLP Treasurer Art DiBianca told me the Texas Green Party has been turned over to the Texas attorney general's office for collection of debts. He’s behind the curve. I already bought it at a resale shop on North Loop Boulevard during that neighborhood’s Oct. 22 block party. It was sitting between ‘50s-esque20 nightstands  and a pile of used T-shirts, and had already been marked down.

As the new boss, I’m reorganizing the party and shifting the Greens’ efforts back to that of their predecessors; namely: a) restoring the Byzantine Empire,21 with the throne in Constantinople to be occupied by pretender Franz Josef Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renudwig Gaetano Pius Ignazius von Habsburg-Lotharingen22  (“…also known as the rat”);23  and b) chariot racing.24 

Dubya has nominated economist Ben Bernanke to be the new chairman of the Federal Reserve System.25  If the Senate confirms Bernanke, he’ll replace Alan Greenspan, who, sadly, is the best we can ever hope for as Fed chairman.26  Anyone better would push to abolish the organization, which was established in 1913, ostensibly to eliminate monetary boom-bust whipsaws in the economy.27 

Since then, the Fed’s presided over recessions or depressions in 1918-19, 1920-21,28 1923-24, 1926-27,29  1929-42,30  1945, 1948-49, 1953-54, 1957-58, 1960-61,31 1969-70,32  1973-75,33 1980,34 1981-82,35  1990-91, and 2001.  Those are just the official dates from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Sometimes the malaise lingers after.  In between these contractions, the Fed’s given us inflation, most notoriously from the early 1960s to the early 1980s.36  Sometimes we get both, as in the stagflation of the 1930s 37 and the 1970s through the early ‘80s.38  Today each basic Federal Reserve Note, a.k.a., “a dollar,” buys about 4 cents worth of goods or services.39 

Greenspan actually knows better.40  To be charitable, he may have been constrained as chairman from making necessary but radical changes for the better, because doing so entailed more clout than he possessed, or because he couldn’t impose changes without creating adverse effects elsewhere. Bernanke, however, is on record that fiat currency can create prosperity, and that the Fed won’t permit deflation.41 

On the Town

Oct. 15: Seen downtown: a Mercedes C230 sedan with vanity license plates: I-SU-4-U. Wanna guess what the driver does for a living?

Oct. 23: I attended the grand opening of The Diamond Ballroom, at 2410 E. Riverside Dr. It’s the successor to Pedro’s Place, which was the successor to Miguel’s.42  I recognized about three dozen people, most of whom jostled me in the narrow pathways between tables on the way to the dance floor.

Oct. 29: In the meshes of the afternoon,43  I saw cineaste Harry Knowles44 at the Fall Austin Record Convention.45

That night, after the crepuscule firmament ceased resembling a chocolate-stripped shortbread cookie, with coconut flakes, I attended the Go Dance costume party as Frank Zappa from the ‘80s, when he started wearing wavo-width neckwear and Italian suits, “like an upscale nuovo cucina restaurateur.”46  However, applying the prosthetic imperial took at least an hour, and I looked more like Michael Imperioli47  playing Peter Erskine.48  Or maybe vice versa. Anyway, I don’t have the prominent proboscis49  to physically imitate the latter-day composer.50  Regardless, only one partier asked who I was supposed to be. I was unique at the studio,51 for sure.52  If I had a grand for every woman dressed like a cat, I could pay off the balance on my car. That’s what happened to one woman. She dressed like a pumpkin and at midnight she turned into an SUV, thereby interrupting the Jack and Jill dance competitions.53

Sulu the Bufu, and Other Cultural Atrocities

George “Mr. Sulu” Takei just came out of the closet (insert multitude of obvious jokes here).54  That’s because in Hollywood, a homo is still more respectable than a Trekkie.55  In the real world, I coincidentally witnessed an art movie audience audibly dismissively guffaw at the trailer for “Brokeback Mountain,” about same-sex love between cowboys.56 

The Chronicle reports on the local programming shifts planned when Howard Stern departs from broadcast radio in mid-December.57  I’d heard Stern a few times before, scanning station frequencies in my car, and I’ve been aware of his existence for more than two decades,58  but I was indifferent to his shtick until Angela Keaton bitched about him on her old radio show.59  Afterward, for some reason, he seemed a lot funnier, so I kept the dial on Stern’s local affiliate, if the scanner found it and his show was on, while driving to my Vignette and ERCOT contracts. 

Neighborhood News

Original Pancake House off West Parmer Lane merited mention in the Chronicle’s “Best of ‘05” issue. I’ve eaten there. It’s just OK.60 

Chef Masaharu Morimoto, star of the Food Network’s “Iron Chef,” has teamed up with restaurateurs Paul Ardaji Sr. and Paul Ardaji Jr. (friend of Tucker Max), to create a chain restaurant, Pauli Moto’s Asian Bistro. One is scheduled to open at The Domain in summer 2007.61

Nearby, Home Depot will anchor The Shops at Arbor Walk mall project.62

Encore moved from the Crossroads shopping plaza to 1745 W. Anderson Lane the first week of November. Now I’ll have to use Blockbuster as my default neighborhood video store again. 

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1 Morton, Kate Miller. “Austin Rewiring for Economic Rebound.” AAS 30 Oct. 2005: A1+.
2 Van Wicklen, Janet. The Tech Writer’s Survival Guide: A Comprehensive Handbook for Aspiring Technical Writers, rev. ed. New York City: Facts on File, 2001: 207-215.
3 Zehr, Dan. “Hundreds of Dell Workers Laid Off.” AAS 29 Oct. 2005: G1+.
4 King, Michael. “County Gets Bonded: Roads and Parks and Jail, Oh My!” AC 11 Nov. 2005: 20; Toohey, Marty. “Voters OK Money for Parks, Roads, Jail.” AAS 9 Nov. 2005: A1+.
5 Dunbar, Wells. “How Not to Gentrify: HRC Asks for Eastside Moratorium.” AC 4 Nov. 2005: 22.
6 Dunbar. “Council Notes.” AC 21 Oct. 2005: 20.
7 Osborn, Claire. “Woman Who Broke Neck Sues Stubb’s.” AAS 29 Oct. 2005: B5.
8 Kreytak, Steven. “Groping Officer Gets 3 Months.” AAS 9 Nov. 2005: B1+.
9 “Public Meeting on Coyotes Tonight.” AAS 9 Nov. 2005: B2.
10 Beck, Jerry, and Will Friedwald. Warner Bros. Animation Art: The Characters, the Creators, the Limited Editions. New York City: Warner Bros. Worldwide Publishing/Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, 1997: 141-145.
11 May, Rachel Proctor. “Who’s the Hog in This Circle C Water Fight?” AC 21 Oct. 2005: 22.
12 Shelby, W. Gardner. “Gay Marriage Ban Affirmed.” AAS 9 Nov. 2005: A1+.
13 AD No. 48 (Mar. 10, 2003); AD No. 53 (July 30, 2003); AD No. 76n14 (Jan. 17, 2005).
14 “Constitutional Amendments.” AC 21 Oct. 2005: 8.
15 Rev. 9:3 NRSV.
16 AD No. 54 (Aug. 22, 2003); AD No. 55 (Sep. 3., 2003); Marinucci, Carla, and John Wildermuth. “Californians Say No to Schwarzenegger.” San Francisco Chronicle 9 Nov. 2005, final ed.: A1.
17 Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Carolco Pictures Inc./Le Studio Canal+/Lightstorm Entertainment/Pacific Western, 1991.
18 “Party Hearty, Mike.” NYPO 9 Nov. 2005, late city final ed.: 36.
19 “Rev.Al an Ol Roller in Ferrer Salsa Spot.” NYPO 1 Nov. 2005: 10.
20 Horn, Richard. Fifties Style: Then and Now. New York City: Beech Tree Books, 1985.
21 Norwich, John Julius. A Short History of Byzantium. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
22 Brook-Shephard, Gordon. The Uncrowned Emperor: The Life and Times of Otto von Hapsburg. London: Hambledon and London, 2003.
23 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo). Arturo González Producciones Cinematográficas, S.A/Constantin Film Produktion GmbH/Produzioni Europee Associati (PEA), 1966. Dir. Sergio Leone.
24 Cameron, Alan. Circus Factions: Blues and Greens at Rome and Byzantium. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1976: 318-333.
25 Andrews, Edmund L. et al. “At the Fed, an Unknown Became a Safe Choice.” NYT 26 Oct. 2005: A1+.
26 Mayer, Martin. The Fed: The Inside Story of How the World’s Most Powerful Financial Institution Drives Markets. New York City: The Free Press, 2001; Woodward, Bob. Maestro: Alan Greenspan and the American Economy. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 2001.
27 Greider, William. Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country. New York City, 1987: 268-284; Rothbard, Murray N. A History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World War II. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2002: Pt. 2.
28 Greider, op. cit., 289-291; Rothbard, History of Money and Banking, op. cit., 272-273.
29 Greider, op. cit., 293.
30 Greider, idem., Ch. 10; Rothbard. America's Great Depression, 5th ed., Auburn, Ala.: Mises Institute, 2000: Ch. 8-12.
31 Greider, op. cit., 329.
32 Ibid., 334.
33 Ibid., 344-346.
34 Greider, op. cit., 206-207; Schulman, Bruce J. The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics. New York City: The Free Press, 2001: 142.
35 Greider, op. cit., Ch. 12-13; Schulman, op. cit., 218-219.
36 Frum, David. How We Got Here: The 70's – The Decade that Brought You Modern Life – For Better or Worse. New York City: Basic Books, 2000: 293-294, 296; Greider, op. cit., Ch. 1, 3, 6; Nocera, Joseph. A Piece of the Action: How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1994: 76-83, 167-190; Rothbard. What Has Government Done to Our Money? 4th ed. Auburn, Ala. The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1990: 51, 54.
37 Rothbard. The Mystery of Banking. New York City: Richardson & Snyder, 1983: 251.
38 Nocera, op. cit., 183; Schulman, op. cit., 129-143, 210.
39 Thornton, Mark. “The Continuing Bull Market in Gold: How High Can It Go?” Speech. Mises Institute conference, Austrian Economics and Financial Markets. Las Vegas, 19 Feb. 2005.
40 Greenspan, Alan. “Gold and Economic Freedom.” 1966. Rpt. Rand, Ayn et al. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. New American Library, 1967: 96-101.
41 Bernanke, Ben. “Deflation: Making Sure ‘It’ Doesn’t Happen Here.” Speech. National Economists Club. Washington, D.C. 21 Nov. 2002; Bernanke. Essays on the Great Depression. Princenton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 2000: Ch. 1.
42 AD No. 70n13 (Aug. 26, 2004).
43 Meshes of the Afternoon. 1943.
44 AD No. 48n33 (Mar. 10, 2003).
45 Corcoran, Michael. “Inside Music.” XL 27 Oct. 2005: 20.
46 Lennon, Nigey. Being Frank: My Time With Frank Zappa. Los Angeles: California Classics Books, 1995: 138; Zappa, Frank, and Peter Occhiogrosso. The Real Frank Zappa Book. New York City: Poseidon Press, 1989: dust jacket photo.
47 “I Want THAT Guy’s Job.” Esquire Jan. 2005: 94-103.
48 Peter Erskine. Contemporary 14010, 1982.
49 Zappa. Video From Hell. Honker Video, 1985.
50 Slaven, Neil. Electric Don Quixote: The Definitive Story of Frank Zappa. 1996. Rpt. London: Omnibus Press, 2003: 19.
51 Zappa. Studio Tan. Barking Pumpkin 74237, 1991.
52 Zappa. “Valley Girl.” Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. Barking Pumpkin 38066, 1982.
53 Oates, Joyce Carol. “ ‘In Olden Times, When Wishing Was Having…’: Classic and Contemporary Fairy Tales.” Where I’ve Been, and Where I’m Going: Essays, Reviews, and Prose. New York City: Plume, 1999: 11.
54 “Mr. Sulu Comes Boldly Out.” The Sunday Mail 30 Oct. 2005: 29.
55 Anger, Kenneth. Hollywood Babylon, rev. ed. 1975. Rpt. London: Arrow, 1991; Francis, Samuel. “Beam Us Out.” Chronicles Apr. 1994: 11-13; Okuda, Michael; and Denise Okuda. Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future, rev. ed. New York City: Pocket Books, 1997.
56 “New Releases.” Stuff Dec. 2005: 66.
57 Brass, Kevin. “The Beat Goes on Without Stern.” AC 4 Nov. 2005: 24.
58 Kunen, James S. "Howard Stern: New York's Mad-Dog Deejay May Be the Mouth of the '80s." People Weekly 22 Oct. 1984: 110+.
59 AD No. 34 (Jan. 14, 2002).
60 “Return of a Franchise.” AC 14 Oct. 2005: 64.
61 AD 46n36 (Feb. 10, 2003); AD No. 50n45 (May 14, 2003); AD No. 68n24 (June 21, 2004); AD No. 77n48 (Mar. 3, 2005); AD No. 81 (July 7, 2005); Outon, Chantal. “ ‘Iron Chef’ Television Star Cooking Up New Restaurant for Central Texas.” ABJ 14 Oct. 2005: 4.
62 AD No. 70n39.