some thoughts about interchange between technical and New Age interests. Like Davidson, he heard about the interviews through a friend. “I sort of take the platonic view I know nothing,” he says. “But people seem to think that I do, partly because I’ve done a lot of research into the Internet, technology, and what that means for society.” At the time of his interview, Somerville was trying to start a self-sustaining farming community, and is disappointed by the book’s failure to “truly translate” what he had told Claire. “I think they put together the message they wanted.” He would have liked Street Trends to mention Humanure, a treatise on how to successfully and safely compost human waste, which significantly influenced his communitarian plans. Unfortunately, he says, he was never able to realize his vision because of Health Department permit requirements for small parcels of land and other regulations. \(“If you get too close to any city then the Given that holistic health, the relationship between technology and spirituality, and communal farming don’t seem to have expanded their presence in “mainstream markets” during the two years since Street Trends was published, maybe it’s no surprise that Sputnik seems to have gone the way of the Russian space program. Left Field’s Internet and directory searches turned up only a few old book reviews. This mysterious disappearance is promising: maybe it was a big joke after all. + Travis Somerville of Peace & Autonomy from Street Trends LEFT FIELD Sputnik Crashes Two years ago a couple of ballsy young marketers published Street Trends: How Today’s Alternative Youth Cultures Are Creating Tomorrow’s Mainstream Markets. As founders of a market research firm called Sputnik, authors Joanne De Luca and Janine Lopiano-Misdom gathered interviews with supposedly avant-garde young people from around the country, in order to explain and dissect “street trends” for the benefit of the less-than-hip. Their book divided the newest generation of shoppers into a variety of “microcultures” with names like the “Soldiers for Culture.” Despite their different drug habits, tastes in music, and so forth, members of the various microcultures are all generally upbeat, and all of them seem to devote all their time to cultural and recreational pursuits. They have no solid politics or beliefs, because they’re too busy surfing the web and flipping through ‘zines, searching for “newfound ideologies and perceptions.” The text of Street Trends is in places so ridiculous that the reader starts to hope that the whole thing was actually an enormous hoax foisted on large corporations. \(Sputnik’s clients included Reebok, Pepsi, managed to contact three Austinites who’d been interviewed by the “Claire, twentyeight, of Austin, Texas” referred to in Street Trends, and confirm that they are real people. Two Andy Glickman and Drew Davidson are graduate students in the department of Speech Communication at U.T., while a third, Travis Somerville, is a computer programmer. Austin was characterized by Street Trends as “perhaps the heartland of the technorganic movement,” though the term technorganic is never defined. “I’d heard there was this girl looking for people to talk about the term `technorganic,'” says Davidson, who believes Sputnik came up with the word to describe people who like both computers and Barton Springs. He told Claire he is “looking for fluidity.” “I don’t really remember what I said. I’m just happy that it wasn’t embarrassing.” Glickman responded to, “Explain the relationship between technology and spirituality that people are talking about,” with The Busch Beat In the summer of 1998, thousands of downtown Austin office workers received a cheerful flyer advising them not to give money to panhandlers. The pamphleteer was the “Down town Austin Alliance” the neighborhood association of the city’s downtown real estate barons. The Alliance spends about a third of its million-dollar annual budget \(raised by a special “public improvement district” tax on major property holders maintaining “security” in downtown Austin. Most of the cash goes to fund the Alliance’s own private militia: the Down town Rangers, who patrol a 200-block area, thirteen hours a day, six days a week. On a rainy afternoon in January, Left Field accompanied ranger Eric Mercado, twenty-five, on his daily patrol down the mean streets of Austin. In his blue walking shorts and red windbreaker, the short, stocky Mercado could pass for one of the young valets he nods to as we pass the entrance of a downtown hotel. But Mercado takes the security business seriously. “I’m planning to go federal, hopefully N.S.A. [National Security Agency] ,” after gaining some experience with the Rangers, he explains. The chief security problems in his current assign ment are panhandling, open containers of alcohol, and “camping,” the urban euphemism for what homeless people do at night. Since their inception in 1994, the Rangers have waged low-intensity warfare against Austin’s small but persistent army of transients. Like many of his fellow Rangers \(and, for that matter, most of See “Busch Beat,” page 6 FEBRUARY 19, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5
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