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 banksstreetbarnola.com, 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!

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.

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?

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.

Helen Hill Birthday Fundraiser

Helen & Rosie

Of course I will be hiking Saturday morning, and I encourage all to come with us, but there’s another event that deserves your attention. The aim is to raise the funds necessary to finish Helen Hill’s final film. The hike may preclude my attendance, but I’ll be showing a video there featuring Helen — the vegan lunch segment from ROX #90.

Read on for event details.

DATE: Saturday May 8th
HOURS:  Two shows:  3pm and 9:30 pm
LOCATION: Zeitgeist Multidisciplinary Arts Center
ADDRESS:    1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd
Cost of Event:  by donation

Zeitgeist is pleased to present the Helen Hill Birthday Fundraiser, featuring a special short preview of the newly completed The Florestine Collection, Helen’s last film.  This one-day only event will be Saturday, May 8th, at Zeitgeist Multi-disciplinary Arts Center. There will be two screenings, at 3:00 pm and at 9:30 pm. The event is by donation.  Funds raised go towards finishing The Florestine Collection, to create sound and master prints in 16mm film, Helen’s preferred screening format.

Animator Helen Hill received a prestigious Media Arts Grant from the Rockefeller Foundation for The Florestine Collection in 2004.  The film was inspired by a huge collection of handmade dresses that Helen found in a garbage pile.  Helen was murdered during a home invasion in New Orleans in early January 2007, and her widower Paul Gailunias has been working to finish the film in accordance with Helen’s intentions. Sunday, May 9th (Mother’s Day) would have been Helen’s 40th Birthday.

Currently Helen’s films are archived in the Harvard Film Archive, and her film Scratch and Crow, made in 1995 and which will be screened at the Helen Hill Birthday Fundraiser, was named to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 2009.

Also featured at the Helen Hill Birthday Fundraiser will be the band The New Dopey Singers (3:00 pm), a Fresh Fashion Flash by Howl Pop (3:00 pm); and Cheryl Wagner, author and contributor to public radio’s This American Life, will read a short excerpt about Helen and her animations from her book Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around (9:30).  Helen’s DVD The House of Sweet Magic will be available for sale, and specially made viewfinders from The Florestine Collection will be given away in a drawing during both shows.

For more information, call Courtney Egan at (205) 393-5588 or Rene Broussard at (504) 352-1150. Information is also available at Zeitgeist’s website, www.zeitgeistinc.net

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

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.

[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.

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.

Problem Solving

Here’s a short video I shot and edited featuring three sixth graders at the school where Xy teaches.



Problem Solving on Vimeo

The girls are Kamaria, Tekiesaine & Destiny. They’re singing lyrics of their own, inspired by Xy’s “life skills” lesson, to the tune of “Show Stopper” by Danity Kane.

We’re also sending this video to Children for Children. They sent Xy’s class a bunch of messages in bottles from kids in New York. The New Orleans kids wanted to send something back, so we made this video.

Footnote: This is just an excerpt from a six-minute piece which I’m framing as a “Fifteen Months Post-Katrina” update. For the hardcore, I’ve uploaded this longer video. It’s 24 MB and requires the absolute latest version of QuickTime, so download it if you dare. And, what the hell, here’s an audio-only (1 MB mp3) version.

Bartender B

Last night I tended bar at a party for about 20 minutes, having been conscripted by the host. I thought that was noteworthy since I’ve produced a television series, ostensibly about mixed drinks, for over a dozen years now, but I’ve never tended bar before.

It was fun. And not nearly as hard as Bartender J makes it look.

The party was a blast. The Endymio-Rama, it was called. Rotary Downs rocked, food and drink was in generous supply, and the people were beautiful. Especially the guy from New York in the homemade spacesuit.