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.

[audio:http://b.rox.com/media/nightcap/001.mp3]

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.

Nat’l ROX Day

I’d like to start a campaign to recognize July 7th as National ROX Day, because — Well, I think we all know what happened on this day back in 1992. However, modesty forbids me from launching such a campaign myself, just as I had to wait for someone else to write our Wikipedia entry. Any takers?

In honor of the day, I have re-enabled media downloads on rox.com. (The pop-up viewer has been working, but downloads have been broken since we migrated months ago, because of changes to the hosting environment; it only took a minor code edit, but I didn’t get around to it until now.) Enjoy, and have a virtual drink on me.

Nick’s Passing

Probably my oldest friend that I am still in regular contact with is J, famous to some as the bumbling bartender on ROX. I’m on a first-name basis with his family, though I haven’t seen much of them lately. I almost feel like they are a second set of distant relatives.

So it was particularly upsetting to learn that J’s dad Nick had contracted cancer. I’m not sure what type of cancer. Not the kind that gets better.

In the ninety-odd episodes of ROX that J and I have produced together, we have ranged over every subject that’s caught our interest. Whatever’s going on in our lives has become fodder for the show.

Even though we’ve touched on death in the abstract, we haven’t dealt with the passing of loved ones close to us.

Then Helen was killed, back in January of 2007, and I knew our next episode would have to account for her passing in some way. Frankly I was overwhelmed by that. Frozen. I couldn’t get started on that episode.

Then Nick came down with cancer, but also J & Day had a baby boy. And of course we had a baby too. And I came to see that our next episode would be about not just death but also life. Arrivals and departures.

Progress has been slow. We shot some video but the production been dogged with technical problems.

Meanwhile, J and Day and their infant son are traveling in China, a once-in-a-lifetime journey to cover a cultural exchange trip made by the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre. The timing has been difficult to say the least. Nick took the inevitable turn for the worse and passed away just two days ago, I believe.

I tried leaving comments at J’s blog, but it won’t let me. Somehow that seems appropriate. The technical problems with our video production, the glitchy internet connection via which J saw his father for the last time, my inability to comment on J’s blog, the cancer itself — it all seems of a piece to me.

I know Nick will be missed. What a fine, sweet man. I wish I’d known him better

You can see some frame grabs from his earlier appearances on ROX, or check out the video for ROX #65, “Flow.” Nick appears in a silly wig about three-quarters of the way through. (Of course there are technical problems. Video downloads are broken but the pop-up should work.) Rest in peace, Nick. And to J and Alan and Pat and everyone, my deepest sympathies.

A Great Day in the History of My Life

April 15th is shaping up to be one of my favorite days of the year. Taxes are due, which is a drag, but so what? I always file early.

Thirteen years ago today I was amongst the team that put the first TV show online. I’ve been bragging about it ever since. I have to. ROX fan DBD sent me a note today confirming ““Global Village Idiots” is still the best television I have ever watched and April 15 is indeed a day to celebrate.” High praise from a guy I’ve never even met.

And today, Persephone smiled her first real smile. Now I know what people mean when they say, “enjoy this time.” And here I thought they were referring to the projectile diarrhea.

So, all in all, a great day.

Even as the river rises ever higher.

My Answers to Some Interview Questions

Dear B,

My name is Adam and I have been recently tasked with interviewing a media figure for a journalism class. Since I was unable to contact the Watson’s girl, I am hoping that you can help me out. I have been a long-time and appreciative viewer of J&B on the ROX. The new episodes are excellent. J&B on the ROX was one of the important elements that made Bloomington a great place in the past (it’s kind of sad to watch the old episodes as so much has changed, Bloomington’s just not the same anymore), and I am happy to see you currently working your magic in New Orleans. You guys are living legends, folk heroes, and an inspiration to us all (this ass-kissing will definitely get a response).

Please answer as many of these as you want to. Feel free to elaborate.

1. What first motivated or inspired you to make ROX?

We thought it would be big silly fun to make our own weekly TV show. We had no idea how it would come to shape our lives.

2. What is the current state of ROX? How is it broadcast?

These days most people probably see ROX via Free Speech TV, which is broadcast via satellite on the Dish Network. Of course we’re still on the internet and a few cable access stations (including our first and favorite TV station, BCAT or CATS or whatever they’re calling it in Bloomington now).

3. What goes into the production/editing of an episode? How much time does it take?

Editing is by far the most time-consuming part of our production process. Back during our third season it took about 40 hours to edit a single show. Now that we’re fully digital I think it may take longer but I no longer clock my editing time so carefully so I’m not sure. It certainly feels longer because I’m generally not able to sit down and edit for eight hours straight, so I’m grabbing an hour here, an hour there.

4. In ’95, ROX was heralded as the first TV show in cyberspace by TIME magazine. What are some of the pros and cons of broadcasting independent media on the internet?

There was no YouTube in 1995, so one of the big challenges was that we were wrestling with the technology every step of the way. Video clips had to be massively compressed, and computing power was in short supply. We had to set a computer to crunch files overnight. And since we didn’t have a computer that could do that, we had to beg, borrow and steal from others.

5. What is your opinion of the current state of professional/commercial television and mass media in general?

Despite amazing technical advances, commercial television remains a vast wasteland. Cinematography is vastly improved, the writing is more sophisticated, yet television remains a morally bankrupt medium. I’m particularly troubled by the popularity of “crime fantasy” shows like CSI. I think they’re symptomatic of some very deep issues in our society. Of course the trend of media consolidation continues at an alarming rate. Here’s the latest. [Hat tip to the American Zombie.]

6. What are some of the challenges involved in making ROX?

One of our biggest challenges today is the 2000-odd miles between J and I. We don’t see each other every day or even talk every week any more, and that makes it a little more difficult for ideas to just well up spontaneously. Also, we’re both very busy these days. We both have full-time jobs now. J and Day have a little boy, and Xy and I are expecting a child in the spring. Add in the challenges of living in post-Katrina New Orleans and renovating our flooded home, and it doesn’t leave a lot of time for television production.

7. What are some of the rewards?

The primary reward is the satisfaction of seeing a narrative you’ve constructed unfold, and sharing that with others.

8. What are the future plans for ROX?

Right now we’re just struggling to complete this season (our fourth). Actually we’re struggling to get started on the next episode. A friend of mine, filmmaker Helen Hill, was murdered in January just after we finished our last episode of ROX. I knew our next episode would have to account for Helen in some way, and frankly that’s just been overwhelming.

I would like to thank you in advance for reading this e-mail. If you decide not to respond, I would like to NOT thank you as I will be scrambling to contact some Clear Channel radio jerk. Either way, thanks for your time and thanks also for all of the years of ROX. I really appreciate it, seriously.

RCA Dome

In anticipation of tonite’s massively hyped match between the Saints and the Colts, I’d like to draw your attention to ROX #82: The RCA State.

In this episode, we visit the famed RCA Dome, scene of tonight’s action. Note that this was shot back in 1995. But it’s still relevant, dammit. Watch it if you don’t believe me.

Tune in here. (A lower-quality version is also available for those who don’t have the latest version of Quicktime.)

Could someone pass this on to Dave Zirin? I think he’d enjoy it.

Julian

What do you say to an old friend who lives on the other side of the country when he reports some good news? In the old days I’d send him a bottle of J&B Scotch. But that doesn’t seem like the most appropriate gift for such an event.

Yes, my partner in crime, J of J&B on the ROX, is now a father.

I can’t send him a bottle of that crap.

His son, Julian, deserves better.

Julian’s mom, Day, deserves better.

Definitely something single malt. Not that I can afford much.

Maybe The Dalmore?

Fourteen Years

Today is the fourteenth anniversary of the premiere of the very first episode of ROX.

In honor of this august yet shameful occasion, I’m posting a song by Scott Evans, fortuitously titled “Fourteen Years” (mp3, 1.5 MB) — although to be honest the title is a sheer coincidence. This was recorded live at the Neutral Ground here in New Orleans just a couple week ago by yours truly.

Now who wants to start a campaign for a National ROX Day every July 11th? I’d do it myself, but I’m far too shy for such self-aggrandizement. Not to mention humble.

From New Orleans to the Midwest

A few months ago I helped some students at Indiana University who were working on a short documentary titled “From New Orleans to the Midwest.” They got in touch with me through my video mentor and teacher Ron Osgood and asked if I could shoot some footage of New Orleans. So I shot some scenes of the things they needed: Superdome repairs, vacant houses around Mid-City, newspaper headlines about crime.

Their subject was New Orleanians who’d evacuated to Bloomington, Indiana. Since most of the people they interviewed in Bloomington seem to be staying there for the foreseeable future, they also asked me to shoot an interview to provide a little balance. After all, we evacuated to Bloomington but have returned to New Orleans.

Xy Evacuee

So I shot an interview with Xy in our kitchen, and for good measure I shot an interview with myself as well. That was kind of funny. To make it fit with the style of the documentary, I had to pretend I was talking to someone just to the right of the camera, even though I was in the room alone.

B Evacuee

This documentary also use of footage from ROX #93.

With gracious permission of the producers, I’ve uploaded the video as a QuickTime Movie [29MB] and as a higher-quality MPEG 4 Movie [54MB]. I’m pretty sure you’ll need QuickTime 7 (which is free) to view either one. It’s about 14 minutes long.

Hats off to Valerie Lisa Bartelt and Sang-Jin Kim for a job well done.

Burned Again

I finally got to see “This House Must Go,” the special that aired on The Learning Channel last week, thanks to the efforts of a friend who recorded it and rushed me a DVD.

The program itself was somewhat interesting, but of course I’m preoccupied with the segment featuring Xy and myself. I’m happy to report that we don’t look like idiots. Our story is presented with some sympathy and respect. They didn’t get into the termite damage we discovered when I gutted our house, which is funny considering that was their initial interest. But I think we come off as resourceful, creative people who are coping with disaster pretty well. We represented New Orleans in a positive light, and I’m glad of that.

B & Xy Shooting

If it was just a matter of coming into our home and interviewing us, that would be the end of my critique. But it’s more complicated. I let them use our creative work, namely, snippets from ROX #93, depicting our evacuation and my return to our flooded home. It’s gripping stuff, if I do say so myself, and I think it adds to the interest of the program. I didn’t ask for financial compensation in return. All I wanted was a little publicity for our show and/or our website. I said back in April that if I didn’t get that, I’d feel burned.

Well, guess what?

OX Episode 93

The ROX title does appear on-screen for almost three seconds. However, the editor chose a portion of the title sequence where only the letters “OX” are visible. The “R” never makes a full appearence. The web address rox.com does appear in the end credits for one-third of a second. The title of our series is never mentioned in the voiceover. The closest they get is to note that Xy and I met “while making a show for cable access television.” While that’s true, it makes it sound like we’re a strictly local proposition. And note what they didn’t say. They didn’t mention that we’re now on the internet and on satellite.

The upshot is that I’m certain virtually no one viewing this program will be aware of the name of our television series or the fact that it’s on the web or that it can be seen on satellite. In other words, this has no real publicity value for us at all. They got value from our work. What did we get in return? Nothing that I wanted. And yes, I feel burned. It’s Time Magazine all over again. I mean, really — would it have hurt so much to put a graphic on the screen that said “footage courtesy of rox.com”?

No, I’m not angry. I’ve got Katrina perspective, so I know this is not a big deal in the scheme of things. I am disappointed, but only a bit. Maybe I’m a little wiser, and that’s surely worth something. Thank you, Beyond International, for reminding me to stick by my guns next time. From now on, we won’t license ROX for any commercial production without a clear contractual stipulation of attribution that I’m happy with.

If you have cable, you still have a chance to watch a repeat of “This House Must Go” and judge for yourself. It’s airing on TLC June 17th at 11:00 PM and June 25th at 02:00 PM (times are Eastern, I think).

ROX in HT

If you’re a paid subscriber, you can read about us in today’s Bloomington Herald-Times. If you’re not paid up, you can’t access the article, because the newspaper has adopted an overly restrictive policy, and I would never, ever do anything to violate that policy. So I’ll just tell you that it’s a very nice write-up by Mike Leonard about ROX #93. Bloomingtonians with cable TV take note: “it will air Friday and May 16 at 10 p.m. on community access station CATS, channel 3 on Bloomington’s cable lineup.”

Rough Hangovers

If you wanna get a flavor of what ROX #94 might be like, check out these segments I’ve posted. These man-on-the-street interviews were conducted in the French Quarter one month before Katrina. They are just rough cuts, so they’ll be subject to further editing.

Special thanx to Erik Brewer for running camera, to Scott Brown for wrangling drinks, and most especially to Erica Kendrick with the mad interview skillz. Sadly, none of these folks are returning to post-Katrina New Orleans. I miss them every day.