Austin Dispatches No. 207

These Little Town Blues

Austin Dispatches No. 207 July 9, 2018

Austin’s power elite remains consistent, even in the face of disaster.

The attempt at a comprehensive revision of the City’s zoning rules has achieved a state of perfection: Everyone’s dissatisfied with the CodeNEXT draft – even its supporters.

A mounting statist debacle pitting statists against each other should prompt the power elite’s members to reconsider their efforts, and even the wisdom of land-use planning, but that’s not who they are.

Instead, they could still impose zoning rules worse than what we endure now. As it is citywide, so is it in my neighborhood.

The Gracywoods Neighborhood Association has declared against the proposed soccer stadium at McKalla Place, joining many opposed or skeptical of the project. I can’t decide whether the widespread opposition will kill the stadium or not. If I had to bet, the power elite will still impose it, complete with all the problems and objections identified so far. In particular, the surrounding traffic will become even worse. Highway 183 is already a parking lot during standard commuting hours, and the off-ramp drivers trying to cross the northbound frontage road to enter Metric Boulevard make that intersection increasingly hazardous.

Just navigating the neighborhood takes at least a third of my commute time. The prospect of being further inconvenienced – by soccer fans – makes me regret renewing my apartment lease.

Such problems continue to afflict Austin because there’s no countervailing political force to represent the rest of us.

Meanwhile, the June 18 Statesman reports the top people at Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority got stuck in the traffic jams caused by their agency’s changes to MoPac Expressway in Tarrytown.

A recent Texas Supreme Court ruling jeopardizes Austin’s ban on plastic bags. Good. It’s been nothing but an excuse for grocery stores not to provide customers with bags, plastic or paper, which in turn has meant I’ve bought fewer groceries to fit the reusable bags I had to bring with me. The usual advocates are decrying the court decision as some sort of regression. What they deserve is to have opaque plastic bags tied tightly around their necks, be pummeled by those they’ve inconvenienced across a supermarket parking lot, and pushed into oncoming traffic. Is this wrong?

July 2 fisticuffs in the Crossroads Shopping Center parking lot resulted in one man charged with manslaughter.

I witnessed the aftermath of a collision at Burnet and the 183 frontage road on June 2. I witnessed the aftermath of a multicar collision at Burnet and Gracy Farms Lane on June 12. On June 6, KHFI-FM reported a collision at MoPac and Parmer Lane. The Statesman’s traffic Web page reported collisions at southbound MoPac and Braker Lane on May 29, at Braker and Metric on May 30 and June 25, at Renfert Way and Cedar Bend Drive on May 30, at Parmer and Lamplight Village Avenue on May 31; two each at Lamplight Village and Alderbrook Drive and at Parmer and Scofield Farms Drive on June 1; at MoPac and Parmer on June 25, at MoPac and Loop 360 on June 27 and 29, at Parmer and Metric on June 28, at Metric and Running Bird Lane on June 29, at Parmer and Tomanet Trail on July 2, at Gracy Farms and Hobby Horse Court on July 3, and at Burnet and Longhorn Boulevard on July 6.

A clothing store has opened at The Domain.

On the Town

June 14: On an above-average day of reckless driving and radio reports of collision-caused traffic snarls, I witnessed a tipped-over 18-wheeler blocking the Highway 290 underpass connecting Johnny Morris Road and Giles Lane.

Cultural Canapés

The June 22 Chronicle sniffily dismissed the remake of blaxploitation cult classic “Superfly” for misogyny. This pan would seem part of an ongoing nationwide trend of distaff enragés still in a snit because powerful pinko men treat them like disposable meat. Nevertheless, the Chronicle’s June 8 film listings included Brian De Palma’s “Body Double” with nothing more than a perfunctory description. As I recall, the controversy surpassed and obscured the movie itself in 1984. The feminists would’ve burned De Palma at the stake if they could, over the content. Granted, De Palma intentionally set out to provoke and offend feminists and Hollywood types both, and appears to have succeeded. Not until years later, when I actually watched it, did I realize “Body Double” is a luridly stylish meta-comedy about thriller tropes. As such, it’s perfect fare for Halloween. Anyway, what matters – for once – is the reaction of feminists. Here was an ideal opportunity for the new local generation to pitch a fit over the flick. But they didn’t. Maybe they’ve burned out on outrage. The rest of us can enjoy the peace and quiet.

Establishment media critics whacked “Gotti” in the theaters this spring. Now it’s online for free, and I must admit the critics have a point. While “Gotti” avoids being the worst Mob movie, it also lacks the qualities to be admitted into the small family of films worthy of respect. Turns out the subgenre’s a tricky one for filmmakers to get right. The cinematic turkey tetrazzini also labors under the problem of four previous made-for-television or dumped-onto-video treatments of the same characters. Stitch the five together and you’d have a masterpiece.

After seeing “Chappaquiddick,” I conceived a new drinking game:

1.     Drink every time Ted Kennedy does something slimy or cowardly.

2.     The winner survives alcohol poisoning.

Business Roundup

On June 20, commenters on local black radio station KAZI-FM complained at length about smelly bums loitering in Starbucks. Three years on, the formerly cheesy and pretentious yet profitable and growing national chain has become an even bigger joke.

More successfully, IHOP has generated buzz promoting its steakburgers. It intrigued me enough to eat there for perhaps the sixth time in my life. The burgers are good. The potential downside for IHOP is that its burgers are comparable to a lot of second-tier burger chains – second-tier in terms of name recognition and corporate earnings, not quality – solo burger joints, and even other eateries that don’t necessarily specialize in burgers. Also, IHOP has brand-name recognition among national chains for pancakes, perhaps uniquely, whereas anyone if prompted can name numerous burger franchises. Then again, IHOP did get my money, so perhaps my contrary thinking, a test to improve my investor’s mindset, is flawed.

In recent months, I’ve noticed the neighborhood H-E-B plays hard rock as its background music. Not Top 40 oldies, not power pop, not soft rock, but the same sounds you’d hear on the “home of the classic rock” station in your broadcast market. Doubtless, this happens at other locations. I find it incongruous to hear Led Zeppelin blaring on the sound system as I mull the selection of enchilada sauces. Furthermore, that I’m noticing the background music undermines its supposed effectiveness. It’s supposed to make me buy more, not turn into an observational comedian.

Media Indigest

As a sign of its insignificance, I never heard of the Annapolis (Md.) Capital Gazette until a scruffy government employee killed five in a newsroom rampage. Not only did the staff lack guns to defend themselves, they didn’t even have empty liquor bottles to thwart the spic’s spree.

Homeland Security plans to create a database and monitor media outlets, including bloggers. This Webzine is about five social media trends behind the curve. Nevertheless, when government agents wearing black outfits and masks burst into your home and shoot your dog, you’ll know why.

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