The Austin Chronicle

Page Two

By Louis Black, December 5, 1997, Columns

Ray Benson is not by any means on the road to nowhere, but he can tell you that touring Austin bands rarely receive much in the way of monetary rewards. Benson is on the cover of this issue because he tours constantly and no one knows the rigors and the costs of the road more than he. The staff leaped at the chance to put him on the cover because we love and respect the man and his love of music. The piece, by Andy Langer, details the financial tolls of being on the road. Monday morning, driving to work, I heard former UT football coach John Mackovic on Sammy Allred and Bob Cole's radio show on KVET. It was a class act. Whether or not you believe UT should have dumped Mackovic, there was much to admire about the man, the way he approached his job and treated his team. This was an opportunity for a seemingly endless stream of callers to offer appreciation and condolences to the coach. Talk radio performed beautifully here, the citizens encouraged to engage in public displays and commitments. It must have provided Mackovic solace in this rough period, as it also served its community by allowing listeners, in a more personalized way, to express their thanks and offer regrets.

This was not a protest, though there was some anger. This was an act of public catharsis and this form of radio was the only way it could have happened on such a massive level. The anger and indignation over talk radio has always been amusing. Progressives and liberals are indignant because people are spending much of their day talking and arguing about politics. I don't like most of the ideas I hear on certain shows and disagree with many of the hosts. I despise Rush Limbaugh for his intellectual dishonesty, though I think at one point he was a damn brilliant radio talk show host. But this is what free media is about -- the flow and exchange of ideas, even the ones with which we most violently disagree. Talk radio (or more generally participatory radio, where the audience on some level is invited to drop in), for all the hate spewed forth on some shows, is functional democracy; the people are the radio.

A while ago I wrote that I had stopped listening to Sammy and Bob, but more recently I've started listening again. The show is one of the few places that local Austin politics is regularly talked about. Even if I disagree with the views, in fact because I disagree with the views, it is important to hear them. This isn't about right and wrong, it is about different positions, and the more we understand each others' positions, the more we can work together. I also listen because they are very entertaining; when Allred is on a roll, no one is funnier.

Ironically, Austin radio is at its richest in the morning. In the car, I often switch between Kevin Connor on KGSR, Sammy and Bob on KVET, Howard Stern on KJFK (and whatever you think of Stern, I'm addicted, but that's another story; he is definitely some kind of radio genius), or John Aeilli on KUT when I need to mellow and focus. The radio is tuned constantly, as if it had no set keys....

Driving to work this Monday morning, after the long Thanksgiving weekend, I had the privilege of hearing the people of Austin show their respect for a departing coach. It was an honor to listen, and as a listener, to take part.

Don Howard's Letter from Waco is one of those films that rolls along until it is part of the environment, and you are somehow in Waco and understanding Waco. The film won Best Documentary at SXSW Film '97, and was shown nationally and locally on PBS. Currently, Howard is assembling some high school football footage that was shot in 1982 into a segment for a film. The Texas Documentary Tour will present Game Day, a segment of this work-in-progress, and Letter From Waco on Wednesday, December 10 at the Alamo Drafthouse. Doors open at 6:15pm; showtime is 7pm. Admission is $5 for the general public, $3.50 for Austin Film Society members and UT students. Don Howard will introduce the films and there will be a Q&A session afterward. The Texas Documentary Tour is a co-presentation of the Austin Film Society, the UT RTF Department, The Austin Chronicle, and SXSW Film.

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