I considered calling Diane Holloway at the Statesman for advice. "Hello, Diane? This is Margaret Moser from the Chronicle. Um, Margaret... Moser... No, that's The Daily Texan... Yes! That's us! Uh, no, I stopped writing that column about 12 years ago. Ha ha -- yeah, that story's true except Iggy was wearing the garters and stockings, not John Cale. Anyway, I had a question for you: How did TV columnists get their information before the Internet?"
Actually, I know the answer. In the olden days -- two, three years ago -- columnists depended on information provided by the national networks and local stations. Legit TV columnists still get their schedules and such that way, but that requires dealing with publicists. Fortunately, I have been operating out of the line of vision of most TV publicists and flacks since "TV Eye" first blinked, so I have yet to be inundated with glossy packages about 20 new must-see shows for fall, 18 of which will likely be gone by January. I also miss out on the promotional swag and those thrilling junkets to the West Coast, where a dozen journalists sit at a roundtable and ask one question each to Thomas Haden-Church or Lisa Kudrow, but that's the sacrifice for art. I think.
Most of my friends will agree that I spend a lot of time on the Net. "Pathological use," one described it. Huh? I say, while cursing our still-inoperable server. Rats. No Net. That means I couldn't get to that letter posted in several Austin newsgroups calling for the elimination of the Austin Music Network; the letter cited the network in the recent rape-murder that happened close to the police station and the writer places "...the blame for this horrific atrocity squarely on the shoulders of irresponsible city leaders who, for some insane reason, consider the means for beer-swilling, dope-smoking, guitar-grubbing losers to attain some paltry degree of local celebrity, more important than putting enough police on our streets to create an intimidating presence for scumfuck criminals." (The Usenet writer had previously attacked an "aging Chronicle scenester hack plugging `gigs' for talentless, futureless alleged `musicians.'" In his defense, I would like to point out that Andy Langer is in his mid-twenties and is only rarely seen on AMN.)
All kidding aside, this line of thinking is appalling (though not as appalling as the vision of an Austin with police officers lining the streets to create an "intimidating presence." I bet even the cops think that's ludicrous.). It's not that AMN is above criticism -- they've taken it on the chin from me more than once here, and the Chron's cover story on them earlier this year was less than impressed with its behind-the-scenes goings-on (which sort of makes the Usenet writer's other assertion of AMN as a "subsidized mouthpiece for The Austin Chronicle" somewhat specious). It just misses the point.
The Austin Music Network is a result of the city finally having put its money where its mouth is, an effort to support the "Live Music Capital of the World" slogan it adopted so blithely and supported with little more than a bumpersticker campaign. As with all government-funded projects, the reality is much different from the dream. And with limited resources, AMN's tiny crew of dedicated workers have worked virtually round the clock since it went on the air to present a staggeringly diverse palette of music to Austin viewers 24-7. The Usenet post-man is perfectly entitled to trash Stevie Ray Vaughan if he wants; heroes are for that too, but he then dismisses the entire music scene as "culturally and artistically irrelevant." When he goes on to cite 81/2 Souvenirs as being just that, I have to wonder, does this also include the Bells of Joy, Martin Banks, and Ruben Ramos? Is Starfish any less relevant than Willie Nelson? Pam Hart over Nanci Griffith over Tish Hinojosa? Chris Wall or the Ugly Americans or the Butthole Surfers? Is La Diferenzia "artistically irrelevant," or just bands like Vallejo?
AMN has never acted as or pretended to be an arbiter of popular taste; they simply use what they can and make do with what they have. To dismiss the astonishingly diverse ethnic musical styles seen on such a unique medium is both ignorant and frightening. Unfortunately for the Network, it has no champion on the city council. Despite the number of candidates' "benefits" utilizing local bands to rally voter support from the much-vaunted music community, the councilmembers seem to be busy shoe-gazing as the one thing ever done to live up to the commitment to the "Live Music Capital of the World" may be beginning its death rattle. And that, oh rabid Usenet post-man, is the problem -- the failure to follow through responsibly after dumping money into it. Sadly, that may be the oldest story in politics.
Ha. Thought you might get away from a couple of TV picks this week because my Net is down? Naw. On KLRU this week, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band is being repeated on Austin City Limits (7/25; 11pm) in what rates as one of ACL's all-time best segments. Lovett's incomparable songwriting and charming presence is beautifully framed here, as much a triumph for him as for ACL's producer and film crew (attention Usenet Post-man: don't watch! It's Austin music and you might enjoy it!)... AMC has been showing director Gordon Parks' Leadbelly this month with Roger Moseley portraying convict/songwriter Huddie Ledbetter (who, legend has it, was let out of prison because the governor of Louisiana loved his composition "Good Night Irene"). Parks' thoughtful, underrated 1976 film (shot around the Bastrop area, I believe) has three more showings this month (7/25, 3:30am, 9:15am; 7/31, 9:45pm) and genuinely deserves viewing.
P.S. to Diane Holloway: I have read and enjoyed your column for far too long not to recognize and appreciate the hard work you've put into it -- thanks! But watch out for that Corky. He's been sneaking many TV references in of late, and considering the way we aging rock critics are insinuating ourselves in other departments these days, I'd watch my back if I were you. Ha ha. Just kidding.