Backstory

I was headed to Bloomington anyhow. I’d been planning an extended Indiana vacation to visit family this summer. I like having an 800-mile buffer zone, but even I have guilt feelings which must be assuaged at least once a year. Aside from family, the first person I planned to look up in Bloomington was my friend and collaborator Lee. He’d been working for years on a multi-volume DVD set of the first season of ROX. He was very close to getting this monstrous effort wrapped up, and I wanted to give him every bit of encouragement and support I could muster. And maybe, just maybe, I wanted to give him that little nudge that’s so often needed to wrap up a long-term endeavor. I know the value of deadlines. Not that Lee needs nudged.

And so then on March 8, I sent Lee an innocuous little e-mail message.
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A Season on the Drink

Here’s an article I wrote which was published in the July issue of The Ryder magazine. You can also see the article as it was published with photos and layout and stuff. What follows is the slightly longer text I submitted, without editorial cuts, and with a few relevant links. Consider this a rough-draft preview from a forthcoming book, still several years down the road and more of a dream than a reality.
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Somber Reflections

It was five years ago today that I got the terrible news that Helen Hill had been murdered in her home. She will not be forgotten.

A few months ago I had the decidedly bittersweet pleasure of viewing Helen’s final film, The Florestine Collection, which was completed by her husband Paul Gailiunas. A true labor of love, the final product is a really fine piece of cinema. It was a trip to chat briefly with Paul at the screening, as I never thought I’d see him in this city again. I regret I wasn’t able to spend more time catching up with him, but parental responsibilities intervened.

I suppose this would be a fitting time to mention that ROX #96 is finally complete. (Read my production notes if you are not clear on the connection.) We’ve broken the episode into three parts for online viewing. Part 1 touches on Helen’s passing. Watch it now.

Meanwhile, what of the city and the persistence of violent crime? I can’t say it any better than this missive from SilenceIsViolence:

Today begins a month of somber reflection, and of focused rededication, for the community-led movement that has come to be known as SilenceIsViolence. Five years ago on this day, local musician Dinerral Shavers was murdered as he tried to protect his family — and a week of cruel, relentless killing took hold across our city. When another beloved local artist, filmmaker Helen Hill, was shot in her home one week after Dinerral’s death, the Times-Picayune declared that “Killings Bring the City to its Bloodied Knees.” For once, such a headline did not seem overly sensationalistic.

The city banded together after that week in early 2007, marching together by the thousands to City Hall, and demanding that city leadership do more to support victims, to fix a broken criminal justice system, and to partner with a population frankly desperate for a safer, more civil city. City leaders stood, and listened, and vowed to make the homicide crisis their #1 priority.

Five years later, where are we? Sadly, in a city that is, if anything, less safe than before. The homicide rate has climbed steadily over the past year, and for the first time since 2007 we risk losing 200 of our residents to murder this year. Beyond unacceptable, this situation in a city our size is actually insane.

From time to time, city leadership utters the same vows we heard in 2007: that safety is the #1 priority, that proactive services for vulnerable young people, and support for victims and their families, are a city-wide focus. But those vows are starting to sound pretty empty.

Certain families do receive support. They are the families of victims like Dinerral and Helen — victims who, for whatever reason, grip the public’s attention and the media’s concern. But in the five years SilenceIsViolence has spent working with victims outside that spotlight, we have seen hundreds more who never receive material, emotional, or basic logistical support in the aftermath of their loss. Most victim families have a hard time even reaching their own homicide detective or prosecutor by phone. Meanwhile, the first thing we now learn about victims of violence from the police and the media — and often the only thing these families will ever see in print about their loved one — is a prior arrest record. This without consideration of the severity or relevance of these records, or even of whether the arrests were ever tested in a court of law. And without the slightest compassion for the families that must read these postings, and whose sense of betrayal and further eroding trust in the system is eating away at any chance of constructive community/system collaboration.

Last week, many of you answered our call to support these forgotten victim families. You sent contributions that have purchased clothes and food for sisters and brothers of those lost; furniture for witnesses who must independently relocate; and childcare for parents who have lost a partner. Thank you for your unquestioning compassion for those in need. Tragically, this need only increases with each passing day, and we invite the support of every concerned citizen who is able to give something to a traumatized family. We are happy to connect you directly with those families, or you can make a tax-deductible contribution to SilenceIsViolence, and we will distribute 100% of the donation for you. Those who contribute $75 or more will be recognized as “Peace Agents” for 2012, and will be invited to participate in our annual second-line parade, to be held on April 1 of the coming year. You can donate or reach us for family contact information by visiting our website, www.silenceisviolence.org.

Over the coming month, as we approach the annual Strike Again Crime (January 23-28), SilenceIsViolence will seek to re-engage our city in remembrances and efforts on behalf of these who are victims of, or vulnerable to, violence. Each week, we will tell you individual stories about the families we serve, and the victims they mourn. These stories are compiled in a Victim Allies Project report to be released at the end of January, including data detailing our findings over the past year with respect to law enforcement, criminal justice, and other official civic interactions with these families.

Details about Strike Against Crime week activities will be forthcoming over the coming weeks, as well. Meanwhile, thank you once again for your support during a year that has been very difficult for all of those who desire a more respectful and safer New Orleans.

Please join me in supporting SilenceIsViolence.

Work in Progress

My girls are enjoying a week at an undisclosed location in central Louisiana this week. So I am playing the bachelor. Not very exciting, really. Mainly I’m doing a lot of post-production work. My goal is to finish up ROX #96.

Here’s a clip.

This project has been in limbo for over three years now. Everything’s in the proverbial can. It just needs editing. It is time to get it done.

Goals

I’m not much for resolutions but I do have some goals for this year.

  • Finish ROX #96. Really need to wrap this one up. It’s been four years since our last episode. Where has the time gone?
  • Prepare a presentation on “The Role of Blogs in the Rebuilding of New Orleans” for the AERA 2011 SIG IT. I mentioned this a couple months ago and I will be sharing my research as it progresses. Stay tuned.
  • Complete the Wheel of the Year. I don’t mean just surviving the calendar year, though I aim to do that as well. Rather I’m talking about completing a series of celebrations which began last year at Lammas or maybe Beltane. I’m not really sure. I don’t remember what, if anything, we did for Midsummer. Anyway, I want to complete the cycle and see where that gets me.

Is that all? I’m sure there should be some other stuff listed here, like our annual hike of the Lafitte Corridor. But I like a short list.

Two Videos

Here are two cool videos that have bounced into my life over the last 24 hours.

Hola, B!

This comes from someone I’ve never met, a guy in Philadelphia. Sometimes with all this “cultural production” I do — not sure what else to call it — I feel like I’m whispering down a well. Why do I bother? Feedback like this reminds me.

Drypoint Printmaking

Drypoint Printmaking from XULAneXUS on Vimeo.

This is a basic introduction to drypoint printmaking. I shot this video, but all the rest — script, voiceover, editing — was done by Nile Lang who is also the star. I did a little advising but Nile did the work, and I believe it’s the first video he’s ever edited. Well done, Nile. I’m happy with the result and glad to have been a part of it. This is a project for XULAneXUS.

I should stop here but because I’m a firm believer in the “Rule of Three” I’ll throw in one more, which doesn’t have any connection to the above or to me, except I find it amusing.

Got Satanists?

Domain Games

There’s a certain domain name of which I am part owner, the other owner being my friend in Missoula. This domain is a three-letter dot-com and as we all know there are a limited number of those, therefore they have a certain value. I’m not naming the domain here, but I think the perceptive reader can figure it out.

A friend helped us register this domain back in the early nineties, when it was free. Since then, we have used it for a legitimate purpose; we are not cybersquatters.

Over the years, as the registered owner, I have gotten frequent inquiries about selling the domain. Most of these inquiries are not credible. They most often in the form of a one-liner e-mail, “Hey, you wanna sell that?” They rarely offer a price; it’s more common for them to ask me, “How much you want for that?” I find that sort of approach annoying and unprofessional.

Three years ago, my partner and I talked about actively seeking to sell the domain. We share a sentimental attachment to the domain, and I use it daily, but it’s the content that matters more than the address. We could move that content to another domain. We are not making money off the domain, and if someone else has a plan to do that, why not sell it and reap a little profit?

So we discussed it and came up with a price that we both found acceptable. My partner did most of the work in terms of research and arranging for an auction. But for some reason which eludes me now, we never went through with it.

Fast-forward to the present. Monday morning I got a voicemail and an e-mail from a broker looking to buy the domain, and they actually named a price — $10,000. I responded politely that the domain was not for sale. Soon I got a follow-up offer which was five times the original. I still said no. The broker made a third offer of $60K and asked “what price it would take” for us to part with the domain. I named the price my partner and I had cooked up three years ago. Now the broker wanted to know why our price was so high. She revealed their “dedicated pricing team” had appraised the domain. I won’t mention the figure here but it was substantially higher than her best offer but also much lower than our asking price.

$60K may sound like a lot of money, but keep in mind the broker would take a cut, and then my partner and I would split it, and then we’d have to pay taxes on it. I’d be lucky to see $20K. That’s still a good chunk of change, I suppose, but a dollar is definitely not what it used to be. As a matter of comparison, a couple years ago I pissed away $10K on the stock market, our tax refund this year was $9K, and Xy recently took a $20K pay cut. More money is always welcome, but I know we could absorb $20K into our annual living expenses and not even really notice.

My partner’s financial situation may be different, of course, and I need to be sensitive to that. Still, I don’t regret saying no yesterday. When I told Xy I’d turned down an offer of $60K for the domain, her response was “One million dollars, and not a penny less! Tell ‘em your crazy wife said so!” I think if we sell the domain it should be on our terms, as a result of proactively seeking to sell it, rather than waiting for a deal to fall into our laps. That would seem the best way to assure we get a good price. But what do I know? I’m simply not motivated at this point to do the work necessary. And if we are unable to sell it for the price we desire, I am willing to accept that.

Coincidentally, as I was responding to these inquiries, I was also trying to untangle a confusing and messy situation regarding a domain name that belongs to a local civic organization. My head was abuzz with domain names and other contingencies and by the end of the day I was experiencing a bit of cognitive overload. But at least I got a good night’s sleep.

How Marxist Are You?

I was recently contacted by a college student at a certain large Midwestern state-sponsored university. It seems he was enrolled in a revolutionary film studies class, and was working on an assignment to give a Marxist reading of a radical media text, and he chose ROX.

His task: to compare us on a scale of most-to-least Marxist between Vertov, Eisenstein, Alvarez and Gutierrez Alea. He thought we were, perhaps, second to Eisenstein. His friend however, though that we weren’t Marxist at all; she said we were certainly socialist sympathizers, but not explicitly Marxist.

So he wrote to ask me the question: Just how Marxist are you, anyhow?

Never one to disappoint a seeker, I of course wrote back. Here is my reply.

Wow that is a really great question. I think Marx is absolutely correct in his theory of labor-value, and that perspective is essential to my understanding of how the world works. However, I don’t generally describe myself as a Marxist for several reasons. For one thing, Marx has a bad rap amongst a lot of Americans, and if you start quoting him you’re just going to turn people off. Another thing is the intellectual heritage of the left. I feel Proudhon’s analysis of property is just as fundamental as Marx, yet Proudhon doesn’t get nearly the credit. In fact, the rift between Marx and Proudhon is emblematic of a deep division between the authoritarians and anti-authoritarians, and I locate myself firmly with the latter. I hope that’s evident in my work, and in fact it’s made explicit in ROX #91 & #92.

This response caused the intrepid student to revise his estimate of my relative Marxianism downward several notches. He quoted me and got a B+ on the paper. I’ve always dreamed of being cited as “transgressive” in an academic paper, and now my dream has come true.

A ROX Sonnet

My old friend Erik B. wrote this fabulous sonnet about ROX and stuff.

In Blooming Town a young man cast his fate
A TV show he’d wring from force of will
For lighting rigs and soundboards he’d not wait
His friends and he demanded not a frill

The substance of the thing, aye there’s the rub
And substances and larks they’d oversee
But then one went toward mounts, one toward the hub
Of Cath’lic tweaks, and gaslit warm-night sprees

One day this gas and warmth plied atmosphere
The land was smote, its people were made sick
A man, impelled, returned to help rebuild
And try his hand at civic rhetoric

Another one he’s brought into the show
She’ll walk in footsteps, wander, learn, and grow

radio.rox

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 last.fm. 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.

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.

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.

ROX on KSD FM

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.

nightcap.rox

Against my better judgment, I’ve set up a new site for the podcast known as J&B’s Nightcap. It’s at nightcap.rox and the second installment is now available.

In answer to Mr. Konrath’s query, yes, there is a magical way you can add these to your iPod. Just go to nightcap.rox and look for the iTunes link. If iTunes isn’t your bag, use the generic link (marked “subscribe in a reader”) to choose your poison.

A Nightcap with J&B

The podcasting mania continues. This is rough, raw, intimate, easy, and definitely low-fidelity — kind of like us. No, it’s not ROX, it’s J&B’s Nightcap.

Nightcap #1: The Old Fashioned

On the 75th anniversary of Prohibition’s repeal, your hosts J&B launch a new enterprise: this podcast, J&B’s Nightcap. We begin with that classic cocktail, the Old Fashioned. Our conversation diverges also to the joys of fatherhood, vomiting and marijuana.

Links for this episode:

I suppose I should really set up a blog specially for this. Maybe.

The Boboli Video

And now here comes a video from the unfathomable T Bill featuring Xy and yours truly at the Kroger grocery in Bloomington, Indiana, circa mid ’90s. I guess I gave this raw footage to T Bill when he visited years ago and then forgot about it. I never expected to see it again. But, lo and behold, he edited it together with some other appropriated video and posted it to YouTube yesterday. This was stuff we shot for ROX but never used. Never before seen! Enjoy.