See Me on Stage — Twice

Summer solstice is coming up, and you know what that means. My band, Half Pagan, will be playing a show on the 21st of June. We’ll take the stage at Banks Street Bar at 7pm sharp. We’ll play a fairly short set, so come early and don’t blink or you’ll miss us entirely.

We’ll be rocking a few new jams and a few old favorites back at the Banks Street Bar. Join us in celebration of the longest day. I’m happy to report that for the first time our duo we’ll be joined onstage by some friends for a fuller sound. No cover for this show!

(Please be advised that Banks Street Bar is under new ownership. There’s a new website, but the old one lingers on, creating confusion. Same double identity problem on Facebook. Aiiee! To clarify, the new true site is, and see @banksbar on the Book of Face. They’re on Instagram too.)

After the solstice, head north to catch me again on the 26th of June, as ROX returns to Bloomington, Indiana, for our Tarnished Silver Anniversary.

Yes, that’s right, this crazy TV show of ours has been in production for over 25 years. In fact, I just finished our 99th episode. But it’s taken us this long to get our second season online. Those are the shows we produced from 1993 to 1994, culminating with our most notorious episode, “J&B Get Baked.” At The Comedy Attic, we’ll be looking back at that second season of stupidity and playing some clips in a live unscripted performance. There will be drink specials and some weird surprises.

It’s a fundraiser for WFHB community radio, and tickets are on sale now!

Two Radio Spots

I recently made a trip to Indiana, as is my wont in the summertime. While I’m up there I always try to stir up some trouble. Some of my attempts are more successful than others. International Flag-Burning Day was a bust, for example.

But there is evidence that some of my other provocations were more successful. Audio evidence. These two pieces aired on WFHB yesterday.

Bart Everson, from Local TV Slacker-Provocateur to Atheist Religion Author  ~ less than ten minutes ~ “This month marks the 25th anniversary of the first episode of Rox, arguably the most controversial show ever to air on public access TV in Bloomington. The program generated outrage and calls for its removal during its heyday in the early and mid 1990s. It has also been one of the most popular programs on Community Access Television Services.WFHB News Director Joe Crawford caught up with one of the producers of Rox, Bart Everson, who recently returned to Bloomington in support of a new book.”

Standing Room Only: Can we derive a secular spirituality from the seasons?  ~ almost an hour ~ “On July 7, Bart Everson spoke about eco-spiritual practices at The Venue in Bloomington. A longtime atheist, Everson emphasized the celebration of living on Earth and the process of becoming better citizens of the planet. Much of Everson’s talk revolved around ideas also found in his book Spinning in Place: A Secular Humanist Embraces the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year.”

And on the Radio

2009 WFMU mini-Marathon
As if breaking into the print medium wasn’t enough, I’m on the radio too. More specifically, the inestimable Brian Turner played some of my stuff on WFMU a couple weeks ago. Check the playlist and see (or listen) for yourself. Yeah, there was a little confusion regarding the name of the artist (Editor B) and the name of the album (A vs. B) but I’m not complaining because he did indeed plug the site. This might be a good time to remind the world that A vs B can still be had free despite its questionable legal status. Get it now before the Man shuts it down!

Photo by John Dalton

Not Forgotten


So I went down to Michael’s house last night to watch Treme. I fully expected to see a commemoration of Dinerral Shavers, and that is how the show began. The funeral scene was moving. Nakita Shavers, playing herself, gave a heartbreaking eulogy for her brother. I read that she had to do that scene four times.

What I did not expect, however, was a scene that came midway through the show. Suddenly we find ourselves at a crime scene in the Bywater. Hey, I recognize that house. I helped pack up those belongings into boxes. I remember finding a card someone had left behind, a professional crime scene cleaning service. But now we’re there before the cleanup. We’re seeing the police investigation. We can see them making a botch of it. (I never thought of it that way, but clearly that’s what it was: a botched investigation. Or so it seems to me, but I only know what I read in the papers and hear on the street.)

I’ve watched every episode of this damn show with a sense of detachment. Yes, it’s all very accurate. It captures some of the spirit of a time and place that I lived through, and that’s a trip. But all the same, it’s just a TV show. It’s just a story, safely trapped inside a frame of the TV set.

Until last night. That crime scene, and some of the follow-up, stripped away my detachment and made me feel grief anew. I shed a few tears. Hell, after Katrina I cried most every day for a year or three, but these days my composure is not so easily shaken. The scene showing the tributes of flowers and other offerings, piling up around the bicycle, was also fairly heartrending.

It was all so damnably accurate. It stirs painful memories. But at the same time I’m glad that Helen is not forgotten.

The scenes in which I was an extra, depicting the March for Survival, were very brief but inspiring. The message of unity was clear. It was fascinating to me to see how much went into the production to yield so little screen time. I was able to pick myself out in a crowd scene for one fraction of a second, but you’d have to know exactly where to look and I doubt anyone could recognize me.

I was prepared to hear Nakita’s speech at the rally, since I’d heard they were going to use archival footage of her alone. Then, a strange technical glitch occurred. We think it was due to the DVR kicking in to record another program. Anyway, I didn’t see the last 60-90 seconds of the program. That was highly ironic, because I’ve since heard that I got the last word.

In a way, it seems appropriate. Yes, I would have gotten a little thrill out of seeing myself on TV again, a little egotistical headrush. I’ve been on TV a lot, over the years, and I’m kind of addicted to it. But it’s a highly ambivalent feeling, too, considering the circumstances. Whatever narcissistic gratification I might derive is quickly blunted when I remember how we got here. I’d gladly trade this small fame to have my friends back whole again. I guess that goes without saying. Anyway, the ironic truncation of the episode seems almost just.

I still haven’t seen it, but a friend sent me a screenshot.

TV in Bar

Life sure is a strange and sad affair.

I know opinions differ about the value of such storytelling. My friend Nevitate, a New Orleanian transplanted to Los Angeles, watched this episode, his first, and texted me.

Yeah, i was on the verge of tears. Strange to watch the show. So many personal events presented as ‘material’. Seems almost violative.

I was put in mind of the scene from last season, where a busload of tourists gawk at a Mardi Gras Indian ceremony. I never had a problem with the “disaster tours.” I welcomed them. I figured they would help get the word out, about what happened here. That scene made me see the other side of the argument, the objection to the objectification of our sorrow. And it was so much more than an intellectual exercise. I felt that one in my gut.

Ironically, Treme itself is something of a tourist bus, transforming New Orleans into a spectacle to be consumed. I understand all that, and I understand why people find it objectionable. And yet still, at the end of the day, I’m a fan. All I can say in defense of that is that we’re already well inside the spectacle economy, regardless, and that this show’s writing and (relatively) sophisticated viewership mean the essential humanity of the subject still has a chance to get communicated.

That was abundantly obvious to me when I gave a greenway tour to a bunch of out-of-town conventioneers. We walked past the old Winn-Dixie, still vacant but re-blazoned “Robideaux’s Market.”


I explained they may have seen this on HBO a few weeks ago. (Walking in the Tremé, talking about Treme.) Turned out there were several loyal viewers in my group, and as we talked it was clear their interest and curiosity about New Orleans was stoked by the show. I think that’s good for the city.

Moreover I think good art is good for us all, and I think Treme rises to that description.

Ultimately it’s still just a TV show, of course. It’s up to us to make our city vibrant and viable. That should go without saying. A TV show is no replacement for a decent economy, good educational opportunities and public safety. These three things are intimately connected, and it seems to me the writers of Treme clearly see that, and so again I think it’s all for the best. I feel they are telling our story and telling it well.

Beyond all those issues, there’s the question of representing details from lives we’ve lost. Real people, not fictional characters. This is sensitive stuff, and I’m sure different people will see it differently. If Nakita’s performance was any indication, it would seem Dinerral’s family has made their peace with his story being told in this venue. I hope Helen’s family feels the same way.

Post Scriptum: When I got home I found five or six loaves of really good bread in our refrigerator. I guess DJ came by and dropped them off while I was watching the show. I posted up a tweet about it. Then I started getting a barrage of marginally coherent expletive-laced mini-rants attacking Treme from a local blogger I’m not sure I’ve ever even met. I don’t have room for that kind of mess in my life, so I blocked him, or her, or whatever.

Update: I was remiss not to include a link to, where you can learn the latest about The Florestine Collection, Helen’s last film, now finished by her husband Paul.

A Bit Player in Scenes from My Own Life

Shooting on St. Charles

As I said back in February:

I suppose that being an extra in a big film or television production is always kind of weird. But it’s a truly bizarre thing to reenact events that one has experienced firsthand.

I haven’t written anything more about my experiences as an extra for HBO’s Treme because I thought it might be bad form to disclose anything from a production so far in advance. But as Ray points out, we’re almost there now. I expect this episode may air either tomorrow night or next Sunday.

I don’t have any plot points to reveal, no spoilers, nothing like that. By now, those watching the show may have noticed Dinerral Shavers in the last couple episodes. Anyone who’s read this blog, anyone familiar with recent New Orleans history, will know where that’s headed: a senseless act of violence, and the March for Survival.

As for me, despite my extra work, I don’t really know much more than that.

Being an extra is weird because you’re participating in a simulation of reality, and typically you don’t really know much about the bigger picture. You don’t know how the final production will look. In that, it’s kind of like real life. We act our little part, and we don’t know how history will judge us. I suppose I knew more than most of the extras about the reality we were simulating, but I’m still in the dark with regard to the finished program. Yes, I spent a day riding buses all over New Orleans for various re-enactments of the 2007 march. But these scenes will probably amount to only a few minutes of screen time at most. I wasn’t privy to much of anything beyond that.

I felt like I was a bit player in scenes from my own life.

When HBO first contacted me, I’d hoped that I would end up talking to some of the writers, but that never happened. I thought I could provide some insight into the march and the surrounding events, the precipitating events and the aftermath. But with something of this magnitude, they could certainly get good information elsewhere. I hope they did.

My initial contact was with a woman named Kaia. I did share some details, which she dutifully noted, like the fact that we marched with a snare drum in honor of Dinerral, or the fact that we wore white. But that information was available through other sources, so I suspect it was redundant. Kaia worked in casting, I think, and seemed primarily interested in connecting with the neighborhood to recruit extras. She invited me to participate too.

So, instead of informing the story on background, I got a street-level view of the production of some big scenes. I spent the day rubbing elbows with people who were doing it for the paycheck, or for a lark. Some of the people on my bus had participated in the 2007 march but most had not. There were also volunteers who showed up for a few scenes; I don’t think they were paid at all.

I left the house around 6:30 AM and was back by 5:30 PM. They fed us twice, and the food was neither awful nor good. The coffee was excellent, which was a surprise. A few weeks later I got a check for just under a hundred bucks, after taxes.

One of the first things I saw that morning was a wardrobe item, a jacket memorializing Helen Hill. There was a printout of a video frame pinned to it, showing the original jacket that a friend of Helen’s had made and worn to the 2007 March for Survival. I remember seeing that jacket. (Or at least I think I do. Maybe my mind is starting to play tricks on me. I believe this is called creeping surrealism, and it must be an occupational hazard for those in the biz.) I found this attention to detail impressive. But strangely enough I didn’t feel anything when I saw this. I didn’t feel a chill run down my spine. I didn’t feel a renewed sense of loss. I didn’t feel anything. I just felt numb.

First we recreated the Mid-City march. In reality, the Mid-City marchers rallied in front of Helen and Paul’s old flooded house on Cleveland Avenue. In the recreation, we convened at a table set up behind Fisk Howard Elementary School, a few blocks away. Later, the “Hasty Ray” scene was shot on Banks Street. In reality, we marched on Canal Street, and we did not chant anything. The first is a minor detail. As for the latter, I’m not sure. I think the solemnity of our wordless march with a snare drum (in tribute to Dinerral Shavers) was more indicative of the mood of marchers on that day than jaunty protest chants. But we’ll see how it come out in the edit.

Next we were in the CBD re-enacting the convergence of marchers from the Bywater, Central City and Mid-City. The street geography was a little off, but the spirit of unity that this was clearly intended to represent was very true to my experience of the day. If anything, the directors had to caution the extras not to act too jubilant. “This isn’t about winning the Superbowl!” We’re used to second lines and parades around here; I think it’s hard for a bunch of New Orleanians to walk in the street together and not get happy.

Later I found myself uptown, and then down in the Tremé under the “bridge.” I wondered about the wisdom of using extras in multiple neighborhood scenes like that. Doesn’t it hurt continuity? How about my face in multiple scenes around town? I really was in Mid-City and the CBD on that day in 2007, and I wasn’t anywhere else, and I’d like to think that detail matters. Hey, I may not be Meryl Streep, but a few people might recognize me. Then again, I may not even appear on screen, so we’ll just have to see.

I’m hipster-positive, as a rule, but nevertheless there was this one guy, a fellow extra, who really annoyed me. We were on St. Charles Avenue, and the directors were orchestrating the convergence of a white marching contingent and a black marching contingent. This hipster dude didn’t like how they were segregating the extras racially, and I have to admit he had a point. Crowds of any size here are usually mixed in my experience; making the crowd all-white was overkill. But the hipster dude started sounding off about how race is not an issue in New Orleans. He seemed to have a mental image of a city with no racial tension, no harsh disparities, no animosities, no ugliness. It was a wonderfully naïve vision. Maybe I saw things that way myself once. I tired explaining how anxiety over race relations played a major role in the politics of the moment that we were reenacting, but he didn’t want to hear it. Of course he only moved here a year ago. What a mook.

It’s my sense that the march will be depicted as a moment of unity for the city of New Orleans. But a moment of unity implies an underlying division.

I kept wondering when we would finish with the marching and get around to the rally. We never did. Finally I got word that the rally would be recreated from archival footage. I believe Dinerral’s sister, Nikita Shavers, will be the only speaker featured. But who knows? I’ll have to tune in to watch just like everybody else. Maybe I’ll see myself. Maybe I won’t. That doesn’t matter to me. I wasn’t in this for glory.

Until then, you can check out this set of photos I took throughout the course of the day. Be sure to read the captions as they expand upon the matters I’ve touched on here.

In the end, I’m glad I did it. I’m a fan of Treme. It’s the only TV show I follow, actually. Yesterday I gave a tour of the Lafitte Corridor to people from all over the country, who are here in town for the Fit Nation New Orleans conference. As I talked to my group, I found we touched on Treme repeatedly. At the very least, it’s a mechanism for accessing the city’s complex culture, which is a powerful thing. And, perhaps, it’s much more. History will be the judge.

Extra Money

Got my check for working as an extra for HBO’s Treme. It seems the going rate for this kind of work around here is $7.25/hour for a non-union extra like me. Eight hours of that plus four hours at time and a half equals $101.50; after taxes, I got $95.77.

Hasty Ray, You’re Much Too Late

Treme films rallly against crime_Bart

Today was one of the strangest days of my admittedly strange career. I suppose that being an extra in a big film or television production is always kind of weird. But it’s a truly bizarre thing to reenact events that one has experienced firsthand.

So it was for me today as I did my bit as an extra for HBO’s Treme. I expect I’ll have more thoughts on this later, and maybe even some photos. For now, I’ll just offer this one tidbit.

When reenacting the march in Mid-City, we were instructed to chant:

1 – 2 – 3 – 4
Jordan Riley out the door
5 – 6 – 7 – 8
hey C Ray you’re much too late

Only the guy imparting these directions to my segment was obviously not familiar with the New Orleans brand. He told us to say, “Hasty Ray you’re much too late.”

We corrected him, hastily. But I thought it was funny.

To make this weird day even weirder, there was a rally in solidarity with the people of Egypt this afternoon. A real rally, here in New Orleans. I wanted to participate, but I couldn’t, because I was busy with this fake rally. And at the real rally they were chanting: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 get Mubarak out the door….

Photo by Derek Bridges


I’ve gotta give some props to Eric Spears for continuing to excavate such gems from his personal video collection. Here’s Christy Paxson Behind the Scenes at the Making of the Latest John “Cougar” Mellencamp Video.

Eric sez: “Between episodes of her access TV series, The Christy Paxson Show, Christy made several video shorts, and this is one of them. I sent a copy to MTV, but they never responded.”

This particular video cracks me up so much I can only watch about three minutes at a time before I’m racked with convulsive hysterical sobbing.

Recreating a Moment

As previously mentioned, HBO’s Treme is recreating the 2007 March for Survival. I’m trying to “drum up” some support for recreating the Mid-City contingent. In particular I’m hoping someone with a snare drum turns out. As you can see in the photo below, the Mid-City contingent included a snare drum in honor of Dinerral Shavers.

Marching Down Canal Street

I wish I knew who the guy with the drum was. I remember Ashley had a snare too…

Note also people were wearing white. I hope we can recreate little historical details like that.

OK, herewith is the official call from Jeniffer Farwell, president of the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization.

Honor Dinerral Shavers, Helen Hill, and all the other loved ones lost to violence this Saturday (Feb. 5) as an extra for the show, Treme.

This march will be filmed for the show, but it also gives you a chance to express continued outrage with violence problems that persist in our beautiful city and the failures in education, recreation, and other programs that perpetuate a culture of violence among the youth of the city.

Furthermore, it gives Mid-City and its surroundings national coverage, especially when we carry our Mid-City yard signs and/or wear Mid-City t-shirts.

Wednesday morning I will have the details on where and when to meet (early Saturday morning; somewhere in Mid-City).

If you want to participate, please email as soon as possible, and send this to all your friends. Treme MUST have everyone’s names and contact info before the event – preferably by Thursday.

If we get 50 or more people, Treme will make a $500 donation that will be used for a neighborhood get-together later this year.

I plan on being there.

I guess this would be a good place to recount my Treme experience thus far. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t actually get to speak to the writers after all. It seems that by the time I got into the loop, things were already pretty far along. That’s too bad, because I flatter myself to think I might have had some insights that could have informed the creative process — but oh well. I did get to speak to Karen-kaia Livers who’s doing specialty casting and helping assemble extras for the recreation. Maybe she passed some of my pearls of wisdom on to others. As for what’s in the works, I really don’t know much, except that I understand Dinerral Shaver’s sister Nikita will be the only speaker depicted at the rally. I don’t know if she’ll play herself or if it will be some other actress or if maybe they’ll use archival footage. Also, I understand the overarching aim will be to portray a moment of unity, which I applaud.

Perhaps you’ve been inspired by seeing the people of Egypt unite in mass protests this past week. The 2007 March for Survival is the closest thing to that I’ve seen here in New Orleans, or anywhere in the United States. Though it was born of pain and outrage, in some ways it represents our city at its best. Here’s your chance to reenact it.

The Foolishness of Man

I’m not quite in my right mind today, thanks to some cold medicine I took this morning. So this might be the perfect time to revisit The Good News Bible Hour #14.

The always-amazing Eric Spears (nee White) just excavated this video from his personal collection a few days ago, digitized it and posted it online. I believe this was produced in 1993, and I probably haven’t seen it for at least fifteen years.

Got a few minutes? Let’s watch this together.

I suppose it pretty much speaks for itself, but I can’t resist adding a few editorial comments.

The video consists entirely of an improvised performance by yours truly. However, Eric ran the camera and edited the program; he can also be heard lending a voice off-camera. Xy makes a brief appearance here in her “Mary Perkins” character.

Perceptive viewers will note that I borrow a few lines from Flip Wilson via Uptown Saturday Night.

The program aired on CATS (nee BCAT) and supposedly has garnered more complaints than any other video. I suspect that’s because people might think it’s a real televangelist sermon at first, though after watching for a few seconds it’s rapidly apparent that this is satire. That might make a viewer angry enough to call the station.

Of course, it’s also possible that some viewers simply couldn’t view this satire as anything other than an attack on Christianity itself. I can’t speculate on my frame of mind 18 years ago, but as I view this now I see it as a mockery of fundamentalism, which of course is a tendency that can emerge in any religion. I don’t see it as a mockery of Christianity or even religion in general.

Your mileage may vary.

By the way, you should definitely check out Eric’s Daisybrain blog.

Confessions of a Media Whore

The producers of HBO’s Treme have said that they are creating historical fiction of extremely recent vintage. Thus, while watching the first season of Treme last year, we were reliving the events of late 2005 and early 2006.

And I couldn’t help thinking of what the second season might bring. The focus would shift forward to late 2006 and early 2007. Violence returned to the city with a vengeance. Dinerral Shavers was killed just before the new year, Helen Hill just after, leading to the organization of what I believe was the largest public demonstration in the history of the city. It was, perhaps, a seminal moment in the history of our community, and certainly a key piece of the post-Katrina tale.

So, as I watched the first season of Treme, I wondered if the producers would soon be looking at video of that massive rally at City Hall. Of course, I spoke at that rally, and lots of people were listening.

Nagin Listens to Editor B

I was not the best speaker there by a long shot, but I may have gotten the most attention. My words were literally sent round the world, and on the local news a soundbite of me was played ad nauseum for the next few years anytime a story dwelt with the political aspects of our criminal justice system.

And so I had to wonder if the producers of Treme would in fact be looking at video of me. It was kind of an eerie feeling.

Thus it was not a complete shock when my coworker Edwin B. walked into my office yesterday and said he was working with some people who were working with HBO. Could he pass my name along? I said yes, and that evening I got a call from someone a little closer to the creative team, confirming that my contact info will in fact be passed on to the writers.

As soon as I mentioned this development, a number of friends have had an immediate reaction that boils down to “Cool!” or “Awesome!” but with all due respect I don’t think it’s an unqualified “Cool!” We’re talking about a story of violence, murder, pain, grief, loss, outrage, injustice and many other things that are not exactly happy memories.

And yet, as anyone who knows me can attest, I am something of a media whore. I must be. Sometimes it seems like I’ve been featured in every print and broadcast medium known to man. So the notion of talking to these folks is greatly intriguing to me. I can’t deny that. But my glee is dampened quite quickly when I remember how this all got started. This is sad and serious stuff.

Many friends seemed to jump immediately to the conclusion that this means there will be a character in Treme based on yours truly. Slow down, folks. We don’t even know if the march and rally will be depicted directly. I assume the writers want to talk on background. Deep, deep background.

So now I’m very curious to see where this goes. I hope they do get in touch, because I’ve got a lot to say about what that whole event — that whole series of events — meant to the city and the recovery. I can point them to plenty of other people if they want to do further research. I could talk about how that speech changed my life. I don’t know if they are interested in the particular murderous acts that led to the march, or the political aftermath, or what they’re after really. This could go a lot of different directions.

Photo credit: Nagin Listens to Editor B by Derek Bridges, licensed under Creative Commons

Obligatory Treme Post

Treme_3rd & Danneel as Urquhart & Annette_1

Expanding on a comment I left back o’ town:

Finally saw it Thursday night. Absolutely blown-ass-away. All my expectations were exceeded. I’m so impressed by the execution of the pilot and the potential of this series.

I think it is going to give The Wire a run for its money. That’s high praise; I loved The Wire.

You know who turned me on to The Wire? Ashley Morris, that’s who. For those who don’t know, the character played by John Goodman in Treme is based (more or less) on the late, great Ashley Morris, one of the most colorful and passionate of our local bloggers, a man I barely knew in truth. But I read him. And it was his writing in praise of The Wire that led me to check it out on DVD. We watched the first three seasons in rapid succession, just after our daughter was born. Eventually we watched them all, and I do think it’s just about the best TV I’ve seen.

I think The Wire and all the other work David Simon and his team have accomplished have set the stage for this. I think we may be seeing an artist reaching his peak. I think this could, just maybe, be the beginning of a masterwork, which is a rare thing in any medium — but especially television.

Having produced roughly a hundred television programs myself, having taught production at the university level, I feel I have some minor inkling of just how difficult a feat that is.

Watching this show Thursday night I feel like a bunch of things are coming full circle. Seeing Ashley dramatized was part of it. Most of all it’s given me pause to reflect on the fact that, in spite of everything, in spite of all the challenges and hardships along the way, I’m glad we came back after the storm. I’m glad we made that decision. Proud, even. This show may just illustrate why I feel that way, to a national audience.

A recurrent anxiety I hear from fans has been the question of how well Treme will relate to a national audience. I’m not worried about that. If the pilot is any indication, the series would seems to strike just the right balance between authenticity and accessibility. I think it will mystify and intrigue and ultimately seduce a national audience.

There are some things it would be cool to see in this season.

  • In December 2005, Eyehategod played at Juan’s Flying Burrito in Mid-City. The building was freshly gutted. They used a generator to power the amps because there was no electricity.
  • Speaking of electricity, when we had our juice restored just before Xmas ’05 it was the only light for blocks in any direction. A magical moment to be sure.
  • The re-opening of the universities (on my birthday) in January ’06 remains the single most hopeful day in the city’s recovery, I think, with only the Super Bowl giving it a run for the money.

I don’t expect to see these things, nor will I be disappointed if they don’t materialize. These are just some random thoughts inspired by the possibility.

(Perhaps a few more words about the first item: I was in Mid-City but I missed the show, to my everlasting chagrin. In fact, I’ve never seen Eyehategod live. As their name might suggest, they are an extreme metal band, and are in fact consider progenitors of a distinctive style known as sludge. It is dark, heavy, brutal stuff. Since music plays such a big role in Treme, wouldn’t it be a trip to see (and hear) something like that, something that runs so contrary to the sound of brass bands and dixieland jazz? It would also allude to the “dark” underground subcultures that seem to thrive here, which add to the general mystique of the city.)

Word’s already come down from on high that HBO has green-lighted a second season. Apparently they are going to try to cover a year of recovery in each season, which would mean the wave of violence that took Dinerral and Helen and the March for Survival would fall in that second season. I wonder if they will tackle those? It would only make sense. But I have no idea how closely they intend to cleave to actual events. I wonder if David Simon and crew have been watching tapes of me speaking at that rally at City Hall. That’s a bizarre thought. And if they did stage that event, does that mean they’d have to cast someone as the mayor? Maybe he could play himself, like Kermit Ruffins.

This is a hell of a lot more than I ever wrote about K-Ville but that’s as it should be. Still, I doubt that I’ll have much more to say as the season rolls on. I’ll be watching but I doubt that I will be commenting. I have too many other topics that preoccupy me.

So, for good local perspective on the series as it unfolds, be sure to check out Back of Town on a regular basis. I know I will.

Books vs. TV

I am pretty excited about HBO’s new series, Tremé. I still haven’t actually seen it yet, but I feel like I have, almost.

It premiered Friday night, and I had a couple invites to see it in some venues that would have been fun. (Like the Charbonnet Funeral Home in Tremé. That would have been a trip.) But the time-slot was late, and there’s no way I was going to keep my girl up past her bedtime. So that meant either Xy or I could see it while the other person stayed home and played the responsible adult.

I got stuck being the responsible one.

Since we don’t subscribe to cable television, I couldn’t watch the show, but I did “tune in” to Twitter where I watched a veritable deluge of commentary pouring forth — thousands of tweets, far too many to read in real time. I’d say comments were 90% positive, but it is hardly a scientific sample.

In the other 10%, one remark in particular caught my eye, from local author and luminary Poppy Z. Brite:

Read a Book

As noted, I don’t quite share her perspective — but I respect it. And in fact I think it provides the perfect springboard for a workshop I’m doing next week on Goodreads.

Different media have different affordances. Despite the convergence exemplified by technologies like the World Wide Web, there are still some relevant distinctions to be made. You can’t beat television for live coverage of a sporting event, for example; I’d argue that’s the ultimate application of that medium. You just can’t watch the game on a book.

As for dramatic narrative? That’s one reason Tremé is interesting to me, as it seems to be a best-case scenario. It’s not an adaptation of a book but a dramatic narrative straight-up written for television, involving lots of very talented people who have a great track record. If it’s anywhere near as good as The Wire I’m sure I’ll love it.

However, I still think theater and cinema and books are better venues for dramatic narrative. Television can aspire to the same level of quality as the best of those, but can it do anything unique? Is there anything a TV series can do that a film or a book can’t do? I don’t think so — beyond perhaps a heightened sense of social immediacy.

And that’s where Goodreads comes in. It adds that dimension of social immediacy to the reading of books. Or you can just use it to keep track of what you’ve read and what you want to read. I think it’s fairly handy, and of course, I’m on there so feel free to add me as a friend.

I’m curious to know what others think about dramatic narrative on the small screen. Is there anything a TV series can do that a film or a book can’t do better?

Some Changes to Our Broadcast Schedule

Radio FM Broadcast TX - Rack

I’ve made a few changes to radio.rox. It’s no longer 24/7 as a rule. Too much hassle to program overnight when no one’s listening anyway. Instead the broadcast schedule will more closely reflect the rhythm of our lives. The typical weekday schedule looks like this for now:

  • Broadcast day begins 5:45 AM (Central Time, natch). Music starts mellow and gradually works its way up from there.
  • From approximately 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM it’s an eclectic mix of all genres and variable quality. The mix may lose coherence as the day goes on, if it ever has any coherence to lose. Longer pieces of questionable listenability may creep in occasionally, like the odd sermon or extended power electronics exploration. Sorry about that.
  • Around dinner time you are likely to hear some mellow jazz.
  • After dinner you may hear some mellow laid-back tracks. This may eventually devolve into Gothic Darkness or hours of ambient or something else entirely. If I were to play an album in its entirety it would probably be in the evening.
  • Broadcast day usually ends sometime between 8:00 PM and midnight.

Weekends are a whole ‘nother story. See if you can figure it out.

It’s rare for me to have more than one listener at any given time (and mostly that’s me listening from work) but there has been a fairly steady trickle of listeners. Mostly I see hits coming from Indiana (Indianapolis and Bloomington) and New Orleans, but what’s most intriguing are the repeated hits from Beijing and other places where I have no idea who might be on the other end of the wire. Two nights ago we had a listener in Manchester UK for a couple hours.

I’ve been trying to figure our some sorta channel for communication about what’s playing in the mix, though I’m not sure anyone really wants to talk about that. I’ve added a simple chat box to the side of the radio.rox page and I’ve created a twitter account @roxradio, but I haven’t posted anything to it yet. I don’t really have anything to say but I’d like to at least be able to answer questions. I really need something that would push to me via e-mail otherwise I just won’t see them, but creating a full-fledged discussion group seems like overkill. I’m not really sure what’s best, so I’m open to suggestions. Basically I’d like all listeners to be able to textually chat with one another and me, with a push to my e-mail. Seems like it should be simple.


WWOZ will be airing a “Street Talk” segment on the Lafitte Corridor greenway project today (Tues 1/12/10) at 2pm sharp. Listen on 90.7 FM in New Orleans or on the web at or just use the handy player on the FOLC website.


Radio Daze

I’ve made a few changes to the streaming audio station as I continue the constant pursuit of perfection. Finally came up with a name: radio.rox — blindingly obvious but thanks to Charlotte for prodding me in the right direction. The name suggests the new web address:

…which is where you’ll find it.

It now features a listing of the last ten tracks played, which updates every four minutes and links to the appropriate pages on So if you hear something you like, you can follow the link and learn more about that artist.

Technical ruminations: There are still only two options for listening: a link that should launch the stream in your media player, and a Quicktime player embedded in the web page. I’d like to add another option, like maybe a Flash player, because not everyone has Quicktime. If anyone knows of a Flash player that can accept audio streams I’d appreciate suggestions.

More technical ruminations: The audio is still streaming over port 8000 which may run afoul of strict firewalls. I’d like to stream it over port 80 which is usually open to allow plain old web traffic, but I haven’t manged to figure that out yet. I have discovered that the embedded player seems to function even when a firewall is blocking the stream in a media player — I don’t know why. Maybe Quicktime somehow converts the stream to port 80? Is that even possible?

Oh, but what about the content? You’ll hear some stuff you absolutely can’t hear elsewhere — audio from my personal collection, some of which I was involved in creating myself, some of which is not commercially available, and of course there’s a wealth of ROX-related stuff in there. But that’s interlarded with a massively aggressively perhaps even obnoxiously eclectic mix of music and other audio from diverse sources. If you don’t like what you hear, wait a bit and you’ll probably hear something very different. You may still not like it, but at least it will be different.

Right now there’s also a lot of Xmas music in the mix. Not necessarily good music… but Xmas nonetheless.

As always, I’m interested to know what you think.

Saints Metaphor

I was listening to WWL and WBOK yesterday. These two talk-radio stations could not be more different in so many ways. And yet the theme was the same on both — the Saints as a metaphor for this city. Not a metaphor for what we actually are, but a metaphor for what we could be. A parable, an example, a model. And the message is so simple and basic. If we work together as a team we can succeed. We can achieve excellence. It’s like we’ve been beaten down so hard and for so long that very idea of success seems like a novel concept that can move grown folks to tears of joy.

Unfortunately the follow-up talk pretty much demonstrated that we have a long way to go. I could expand on that but I’m not in the mood.

J on 1370

I’ve been converting old cassettes to digital when I get a spare moment. Is that still called “ripping” as with a CD? Anyway, here’s the latest.

April 13, 1994, Bloomington, Indiana — Tom Gulley hosts Afternoon Edition on AM-1370. The topic of discussion was “J&B Get Baked” and the issue of marijuana legalization. J phoned in and eventually came into the studio. It was a two-hour show, but we caught only part of it on tape, and after removing commercials and news updates, it’s about an hour’s worth of audio.