J&B on Howard Stern

Yo, big props to Ian Cognito for unearthing this little snippet from Howard Stern’s show of April 19th, 1994.

Believe it or not, I’ve never heard this before. For the complete run-down on all the media hype of those heady days, see J’s Baked Log.

I can’t help but note that Howard and his crew manage the not inconsiderable feat of making us sound even stupider than we really were.


When ROX #85 debuted on the internet, we sent out press releases every which way, and we got quite a bit of coverage, from Time magazine to local media outlets.

I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but Xy and I ended up on a drive-time radio show in St. Louis, live in the studio. That was fourteen years ago today, give or take a week.

I’m sure glad we hung on to the audio from that encounter. I think it’s worth a listen, not because of our lame attempts at humor, but for what it reveals about how people viewed the internet and the web back in 1995. Times sure have changed.

Dear Coby

One of the key tensions in my relationship with Xy has to do with television. To put it bluntly, she’s for it and I’m against it. I long ago gave up the battle to keep television out of our home, but at least we don’t pay for cable or satellite. We get our TV off the air for free. We switched to digital when our old TV got flooded, and we’ve been enjoying high-definition broadcasts ever since.

I use the term “enjoying” advisedly. I’m just enough of a video geek to think the whole technical aspect of getting high definition signals off the air is cool. I can watch a crappy TV show and still marvel at the gorgeousity of the image.

I was mildly horrified when Xy got a portable TV for our kitchen, but that’s another battle I’ve given up on. Her little $16 set will be made obsolete by the impending digital transition. So as a token of my undying love for her and my boundless magnanimity, I decided to get her a portable digital TV for Xmas. Who else can condescend so nicely?

Only problem, as anyone who’s shopped for such a product knows: It’s slim pickings. Portable digital TVs? I could only find three on the market, and they all cost a lot more than $16.

Ultimately I sprang for the Coby TF-TV791 7″. It arrived a couple weeks ago, and since we don’t believe in delayed gratification, it’s been deployed on our kitchen counter ever since.

It works pretty well. The reception is a little funny, as we can get some stations better than with our main TV downstairs, but others are worse. Xy’s just impressed that it’s in color.

There is one major glaring problem.

I’m going to need an illustration to make this clear. Bear with me.

Coby Comparison

A tip of the hat to the talented Jon Rawlinson for sharing this high definition video frame under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

The top image shows a 16:9 high-definition video frame in its proper aspect ratio. This is how HD video should look on a widescreen TV.

The middle image shows how HD video looks on our Coby in 16:9 mode. Note the black bars on top and bottom. As a rule you shouldn’t see bars on top and bottom on a widescreen TV. Note also that the video image is scrunched down, vertically compressed.

The bottom image shows how HD video looks on our Coby in 4:3 mode. Note that the image is no longer scrunched. It is actually displaying in its proper aspect ratio, but it’s not filling the screen as it should. Something is way wrong here.

I’ve written a note to Coby about this:

I recently purchased your TF-TV791 as a Xmas gift for my wife.

It works well except for one technical issue which is frustrating me.

The set displays 4:3 standard definition video quite well. However, it has a problem with 16:9 high-definition video.

I am of course aware of how to switch back and forth between the 4:3 and 16:9 modes using the remote. The problem is that high-definition video is simply not displayed properly. There are black bars at the top and bottom of the screen when viewing a high-definition signal.

As a general rule, there should not be black bars on a widescreen TV when viewing widescreen video. I’ve been able to check the same broadcast on our larger Panasonic television and verify that the signal properly fills the screen without stretching.

Therefore I can only conclude the problem is with the TF-TV791 unit. Is there some way to correct this problem?

I wonder if they’ll get back to me.

FOLC in the Zone

WWL-TV will do a feature on the Lafitte Corridor this Thursday morning at 7:45 AM.

This is part of a series called “In the Zone.” They’re covering a different recovery zone each segment. They’ve done almost all of them, so this is one of the last. If you want to see previous episodes in this series, look online.

I did an interview with them Friday, right on the Lafitte Corridor. The camera operator said he’s shot hundreds of stories about projects around town. He said he’s cynical and skeptical toward just about everything — but THIS project turned him on, big-time. That was pretty inspirational to me.

They’re hoping to shoot interviews with a few other folks. Linda Landesberg and Edgar Chase will also appear in studio. The reporter, Rob Nelson, seemed to have a pretty good handle on the issues, so I expect this to be some great publicity.

Please tune in, and if anybody has a means to conveniently capture the broadcast as a digital file, please let me know.


I wish I could take comfort in the unity of our City Council today, as they closed ranks and voted for the redevelopment of our public housing projects. I wish I could believe that the planned redevelopment will truly lead to a more just and humane society, with greater opportunity for all.

But I can’t.

So I find myself wishing that I could embrace the mindset of the protesters: outraged, indignant, furious, sad. I wish I could share their conviction that this is a ruse to further disenfranchise the poor and powerless. At least I could be secure in my righteousness.

But again: I can’t quite share that view.

I’m confused and uncertain and nervous about the whole thing. I have more questions than answers.

It seems ironic that I’m going to be on National Public Radio tomorrow morning talking about this. The show is the Bryant Park Project. I tried to tell Alison, “I’m not sure I’m the best person to speak on this issue. I’m deeply conflicted about all this. I don’t know what to think.” Unfortunately, she ate that up.

Based on a recent blog post, I’m guessing they lean more toward the opposition. I suppose that means I’ll lean slightly toward the establishment… and I hate that.

Maybe if the conversation veers the other way I can keep my anarchist street cred intact.

Update: Well, the conversation did veer the other way, a little. You can listen here. Also I should mention that I got my names confused; I spoke on the phone not to Alison (the host) but to Angela — the same Angela who put a slideshow of my photos online with Village Voice back in the summer of last year.

Celebrating Helen on PBS

Please take a moment to contact your local PBS affiliate and ask them to air the film Helen Hill: Celebrating a Life in Film. You can get further information about how to do this here.

48 Hours

48 Hours Mystery will be running a show this weekend about Helen Hill and Dinerral Shavers and the general topic of violence in New Orleans.

I spoke to the producers a couple of times. One producer told me he was disappointed by the seeming resignation of most of the people they’d interviewed. He was hoping I might bring the rage. I must not have sounded angry enough, though, because in the end they never interviewed me.

Here’s their press release:
Continue reading “48 Hours”

Information Loss Creates Illusion of Slowness

So, I was listening to Kenny G’s Intelligent Design show on WFMU yesterday, and he starts playing a piece by Steve McLaughlin called “Run for Your Life.” The piece consists of all of the Beatles albums, from Please Please Me to Let It Be, played at eight times normal speed. The whole thing is just over an hour long.

About the time it got to the White Album, I decided to hijack a little of the audio and see what it sounded like if it was slowed back down. I used Peak DV to slow it down 800%. Hmm, that’s odd, I thought, it sounds too slow. I concluded that the 8x figure must have been (at least slightly) inaccurate. But when I tried other speeds, I realized my ears were playing tricks on me. After having been sped up and then slowed back down, the music just sounds slower. A lot of information has been discarded in that process, and the result seems to be a psychoacoustic illusion of slowness.

For your listening “enjoyment,” and I use the term loosely, here are three tracks:

  • Revolution 1 – If you’re familiar with the original, I think you’ll agree this sounds as if it’s slowed down. But it’s not. It’s four minutes and fifteen seconds long, just like the original.
  • I Will – Which has the advantage of being shorter.
  • Julia – I think the effect is actually kind of beautiful on this song.

Kenny G said he’s going to play these on his show next week. I am going to be famous at last.

Update: Kenny G posted on the WFMU blog, and here’s one more mp3: Happiness Is a Warm Gun. The great thing about this one is that each part of the song gives a markedly different effect.

Obligatory K-Ville Post

My expectations for K-Ville were extremely low. (I get exposed to more than my fair share of bad police dramas because of Xy’s execrable taste in televiewing.) I was pleasantly surprised that K-Ville wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined it would be.


There will be a segment about Helen Hill‘s unsolved murder case on America’s Most Wanted tomorrow night. I believe they’ll be using some video I shot of her jazz funeral.

Also, Helen’s brother, Jake Hill, is in New Orleans to hold a meeting and press conference at the Sound Café (2700 Chartres) this afternoon (Sept. 14th, 2:00pm). He will announce an increase in the Crime Stoppers reward related to the case. I understand he will be distributing informational packets and asking for volunteers to help put up reward posters. Please come by.

Note that if you’re in San Francisco or Ottawa you have a chance to see Helen’s animated films at local festivals.

Helen will not be forgotten. I wonder how she’d feel about all this attention? Probably slightly embarrassed. I’m sure she’d rather we focused our energies on solving broad societal problems rather than solving the mystery of her murder. I don’t have much hope that we’ll ever know what really happened. Still, I know that solving that mystery is important for her family, her friends (including me) and the community.

Update: I attended the press conference. The reward for information on Helen’s murder is now $15,000. Drawing forth an informer is surely the only chance of any progress in the investigation.

I took some pictures:

The Media



I also split a grilled cheese sandwich with Antoinette K-Doe. Thanks, Antoinette. Talking to you really lifted my spirits.

Update: The piece on America’s Most Wanted didn’t use my footage of Helen’s jazz funeral after all. But they did make prominent use of a snippet from the vegan lunch segment of ROX #90. The highly pixelated image made it clear they’d snagged the video from the web. As for the segment, it really got me choked up, especially hearing Dave Cash performing the song he wrote in Helen’s honor. But for some reason they didn’t even mention the reward.

Update: Another (very moving) story of the press conference and a picture of the flyer at Humid City.

Update: Download the flyer from CrimeStoppers. Print and post in your neighborhood.

New Home Movies from the Lower 9th Ward

I got a call a couple weeks ago from Tavis Smiley’s people. They wanted me to promote a television show on my blog. I’ve heard about this as the latest marketing trend, and I’m not sure what to think of it. On the one hand, I like to preserve this space as a place to write whatever’s on my mind, and I don’t want to serve as a tool for someone else’s marketing strategy. On the other hand, this television series is something I’d like to promote. So, at least this once, I’m playing along.

Here’s the e-mail follow-up they sent me. This sounds like good television, and I’d encourage my friends around the country to check it out tonight, and each night this week.

My name is Brian Steffen. I am currently working for KCET in Los Angeles and the television show “Tavis Smiley” that airs nationally every week night on Public Television. Currently in production is a five part series in which Tavis Smiley is joining forces with director Jonathan Demme to present series of short films on post-Katrina New Orleans called “Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower 9th Ward.” The five films examine the efforts of a group of New Orleanians who braved unimaginable adversity after the floods and in an attempt to reclaim their lives-primarily in the Lower 9th Ward. The residents presented in the documentary include teachers, ministers, a retired chef, volunteer workers, the owner of the legendary “Mother-In-Law Lounge,” librarians and other workers from all walks of life. “Right to Return” will air nightly for a week, beginning Monday, May 28th on the “Tavis Smiley” late-night program on over 200 PBS affiliates nationwide.

“This American story of lives lost, souls shattered and uncommon courage must be told, even though the waters have subsided,” stated Tavis Smiley. “I’m pleased and honored to have the opportunity alongside an iconic director like Jonathan Demme to tell that story.”

“This is an extremely personal project for me,” stated Jonathan Demme. “We started filming four months after the floods. I felt drawn, as an American film maker, to contribute somehow to the audio-visual record of what these people were going through in their heroic efforts to jump start their lives in the face of this epic, tragic event. I wanted to be a part of getting these stories out, and I am so thrilled and proud to be doing so with Tavis Smiley.” Jonathan Demme added, “It’s really wonderful that Tavis Smiley is providing a window into the lives of these amazing people — the spirituality, courage, imagination, tenacity, and humor that fuels their commitment to restore their homes is truly inspiring and moving to me.”

Each night, Jonathan Demme will join Tavis Smiley on location to introduce the people featured in each episode. The main individuals profiled will have the opportunity to talk about their current situation at the end of each program.

Everyone here at KCET and “Tavis Smiley” would appreciate your help in letting people know that the program is going to be aired. We would like to have a post on your blog about the program. We believe with your help more people will be able to see and hear these amazing individuals.

Read the full copy of the press release.

Celebrity Smackdown

Jimmy Pardo just read my list of annoying people on his weekly podcast. Er, pardon me, it’s a “Pardcast.” Check out Episode 33 — the fun begins about 27 minutes into the program. They rake me over the coals pretty well, and I gotta admit I have it coming. “All the insight of bad stand-up comedy without any of the punch lines.” Ouch.

The kicker, of course, is the final person on my list, who is none other than Mr. Pardo himself. Ahem. The mystery of that weird e-mail I got from the “Jimmy Pardo Fan Club” is revealed at last. I may be the only person who finds this hilarious. I don’t know.

His co-hosts confirm what we’ve feared all along: that the guy on “Movies at Our House” is pretty close to the real Jimmy Pardo. I shudder to think of it, but I guess I should be grateful. After watching Jimmy Pardo, my wife thinks she didn’t marry so poorly after all. So thanks, Jimmy, for setting the bar lower.

And big props to Mr. Wesley for the heads-up.

ABC 26 News

I was on the local news last night — top of the ten o’clock hour.

Bart Everson Mid-City Resident

They pegged it to Nagin’s 100+3 day press conference, citing his quip about commercial blight, and then segueing to our rodent-infested grocery.

They shot the interview with me yesterday afternoon. The camera operator (who bravely ventured into the grocery) turns out to be a blog-reader. He was even at Rising Tide. Unfortunately I didn’t get his name. The reporter was Cyndi Nguyen. After talking to me they interviewed Ryan and Zion, Lydia’s sons who live next door to the grocery.

That night they came back, and Cyndi did a live stand-up in front of the grocery. She even brandished a printout from this blog.

Cyndi Live

I was very happy with the way they handled the story. Twelve-year-old Zion giving a tour, showing where the rats come through, really brought it home.


I don’t have any way to record TV at home, but I took some pictures of the screen. You can watch the video on the WGNO website, but unfortunately you’ll need the RealOne Player (free) and I can’t figure how to actually save the file. I hate that file format. Why would a TV station want to make it difficult for people to share their content? They’ve got their brand plastered on the screen. They would only stand to benefit if it was easier to share.

I’ve also been contacted by some city officials who read my op-ed piece. There are some hopeful developments, but nothing substantive yet.

ABC Tonite, NBC Tomorrow?

I think I’ll be on the local news tonight (ABC 26 at 9 and 10) with some other Mid-City residents, talking about that corner grocery. Yeah, you know the one.

It looks like I will also be on NBC Nightly News (national) but I’m not sure when. The producer, a guy named Steve Majors who moved here in June, told me that they sometimes hold a story for weeks or months. In any event, NBC is the one station that hasn’t resurrected its digital broadcast signal since Katrina, and as a consequence our reception is terrible. So if you see it, let me know.

It Got Worse

A few days after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, I wrote a short essay titled “I Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse.”

Sadly, it seems it has gotten worse. A lot worse. We’re now embroiled in a war that has nothing to do with those attacks, yet those attacks are used to justify this war.

In the dark days after the planes hit the buildings, two things were immediately clear to me, probable to the point of certainty: 1) that the point of the terrorist attacks could only be to provoke war between Islam and the West, and 2) that we would fall for it.

Man, it really sucks to be right sometimes.

September 11th used to be the Day Everything Changed. In New Orleans it no longer feels that way. We’ve got a new day on the calendar for that, sadly enough.

Meanwhile, in the United States, September 11th seems to have turned into National Hate-Mongering Day. I just turned on the radio and got an earful:

They say we can’t stop another attack? I can stop it. Let me unroll the barbed wire. And the very first people going in there are the ACLU lawyers.

I’m not making this up. This wasn’t a caller — this was the host. He wasn’t joking, either. He literally wants concentration camps here in America, with the ACLU as prisoners, in the name of stopping terrorism.

You and I might dismiss such talk as the ranting of an idiot. But you and I don’t have nationally syndicated talk shows.

To the families of the victims, I want to say, “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry we as a nation have perverted the memory of your loss to serve such hateful political ends.

The Hester Report

I just got a call from Sandra “18 Wheeler” Hester!

Many New Orleanians have wondered about Sandra’s whereabouts since Katrina. For those outside Orleans Parish, I should explain that Sandra has been one of our most public gadflies, an outspoken critic of the public school system and a star of her own over-the-top public access television show. She ran for School Board back in 2004, but she lost to the incumbent. Beloved by some, reviled by others, she’s been a controversial figure, but she’s always thought-provoking. Not to mention she has a killer sense of humor.

I’m happy to report that Sandra Hester is alive and well and living in Glasgow, Missouri. She is contemplating a “triumphant return” to New Orleans in the second week of October for the New Orleans Film Festival. She wants to be here for the premiere of Vince Morelli’s documentary about the public schools in New Orleans, in which she appears. I probably have the details wrong.

Sandra says she’s been following the situation in New Orleans very closely from afar. It will come as no surprise that she has some ideas about what we should do to rebuild the city. She looks forward to talking with residents.

She also said she’s contemplating a web-based television show to address the Katrina Diaspora.