Mid-City Market

There is an unfortunate pattern which sometimes emerges in local reportage, wherein community groups are incorrectly depicted as opposed to economic development. In reality, most community groups merely want to be engaged in the development process to ensure the highest quality outcome. I’ve seen it happen before, and so I get a little nervous sometimes.

Happily in this morning’s paper we have a different scenario. It feels like we got out ahead of the story for once. Rather than being framed as obstructionist we are actually taking credit for generating investment. The reality is of course more nuanced than a single newspaper article will convey. I can’t say more without undermining the win, so I’ll shut up. You can read the story, in which I am quoted, and decide for yourself.

And don’t forget to read between the lines.
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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


I was recently thrilled, honored, flattered and otherwise gratified to learn that I’ve been nominated for an Ashley Morris Award. I’m not worthy to actually win — besides which, the competition is far too stiff. But merely to be considered makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

Rising Tide V Poster by Greg Peters

The award is of course presented at the Rising Tide conference, of which I am a big fan. The upcoming Rising Tide V will mark the fifth anniversary of Katrina. I’ve been at each one since the first, and it’s gotten bigger and better each year. I’m sure this one will be the greatest yet. It may in fact be the pinnacle. It remains to be seen whether the spirit behind Rising Tide and other such post-Katrina endeavors will sustain past the five-year mark. Hopefully it will continue onward and upward in perpetuity, but only time will tell.

Most if not all of the people organizing Rising Tide are bloggers, but I wouldn’t describe it as a “blogger conference” per se. To think of it as such would miss the point. After all, anyone and everyone’s got a blog these days. What brings these people together, and what makes this special, is their passion for the city of New Orleans. That’s why the Ashley Morris award is given to someone who “embodies Ashley’s fierce passionate defense of New Orleans, its people and its culture.” Moreover, these are smart and engaged people, and that shows through in the quality of the programming.

Rising Tide is far from a dry, academic affair, but it does have a high level of intellectual vigor. I’d really hoped we could host this event here at the University, and I’d nearly managed to get it approved, but a scheduling conflict proved irresolvable. No matter. The Howlin’ Wolf will be a fine venue. If you are interested in the future of New Orleans, I hope to see you there.

Register now.

Dr. Francis and Me

Dr. Francis and Me

Here I am just hanging out with my favorite college president, Dr. Norman Francis.

Actually this photo was taken by Irving Johnson at a banquet where I was recognized for ten years of service here at the University.

I first realized Dr. Francis would be an inspirational figure to work for back in 1999, when I tuned into a national NPR story and he was quoted as an authority on the struggle for racial equality in America.

We don’t really interact much on campus, since he has much bigger fish to fry. I was honored to have my photo taken with him, and excited to receive it today. Definitely a keeper. Thanks Irving!

Fan Mail

We got a letter from a lawyer in Metairie. It included a clipping of Stephanie Bruno’s story from Saturday’s paper, and the following handwritten note:

I have so enjoyed reading about your journey back home.

I was in exile for 11 months.

You are the backbone of New Orleans society. Mid-City does have a future. You see the future in the eyes of your child.

And yet I’m still astonishingly humble.

Christopher Elliott Writes About My Case

Thanks to Carol G for getting me in touch with the very helpful Christopher Elliott. He’s the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Today he published my case. I found it in the Arizona Daily Star, though not, strangely enough, in our Times-Picayune which usually carries his column in the Sunday Travel section. I can tell you that $83 was very helpful. Orbitz actually refunded our tax paid as well so we came out ahead on this deal.
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Story #28

Wow. Check out the cover of the today’s Inside Out, the Times-Picayune’s weekly home and garden supplement. There’s a picture of Kilowatt Rising rocking our house party, and sure enough there’s Michael Homan (with unbroken clavicle) continuing his sinister project of confusing himself with me. Open it up and we’re in the center spread with pictures and a timeline of our whole renovation. This is the final story in the series, ostensibly, #28 by my count. This can’t be reproduced online easily, but head over to nola.com to for a reasonable approximation with some cool pictures. I’ll include the text here for future reference just because you never know how long nola.com plans to keep their content online.

And of course I must note that although Stephanie gives my wife credit, that’s actually my jambalaya.
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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.


At lunch today Frank said that I was part of the reason he and his wife decided to stay in New Orleans. Whoa, I thought. That’s heavy. But how could it be? By deliberate choice, I’ve never encouraged anyone to stay here. He said it was not because of any one specific thing, just the choices I’ve made, the way that I’ve lived. I reminded Frank that we’re only staying here for now. He said no matter what we decided he was grateful. I was speechless.

Down with the Virus

I was just feeling overwhelmed by how many, many New Orleans blogs have appeared since Katrina. Then I got bitten by this viral linking campaign from Link Think New Orleans. So I suppose I should say a thing or two about myself.

I started this blog a couple years ago, and then filled in some posts back to when I first moved to New Orleans, so it actually looks like I’ve been blogging since 1999, but I haven’t.

Yet, in another sense I have been blogging for even longer. I just didn’t know the word “blog” back then. I’ve always had an impulse to keep journals, and I’ve always had an exhibitionistic streak, and I’ve been a fan of the web ever since I first surfed it. Check out, for example, Stone Cold 97, a collaborative journal I kept with my dad.

Good lord, that was ten years ago.

Then there’s ROX which is kind of like a blog, except it’s a television show with mixed drinks. I’ve been producing it (with my friend and compatriot J) since 1992, and we just finished our 93rd episode.

Other things you should know about me: I have been married to Xy for a dozen years and we still don’t have any kids, which is kind of amazing. We have three cats. I live in Mid-City. Our house was flooded but it’s a raised basement style so we’ve been living there since November. I work at a university here in town. It’s historically black and also Catholic. If that doesn’t narrow it down, you must not be from around here. I gave up alcohol for Lent but I’m not actually religious.

But back to the explosion in the local blogsphere. How am I supposed to keep up? How can I read all these blogs? It’s impossible. I can’t do it. So you will have to do it for me. I’m linking to two New Orleans Bloggers and hoping they will do the same.

Let’s see:

And there are so many more, but I’m going to limit myself to two as suggested by Link Think New Orleans. Pass it on, y’all…

Blog Posts Via E-mail

If you’d like to be apprised of new posts to this weblog, you can now subscribe (through a plugin I’ve installed) and you’ll get an e-mail whenever I post something new.

Alternatively, you can subscribe via FeedBlitz. The difference is that with FeedBlitz you’ll get an e-mail sometime within 24 hours after a new post. You can also get more fancy formatting, but they are a third party and I know virtually nothing about them, so proceed at your own risk.

Of course, it’s probably better to use a news aggregator, but if you know what that is you probably don’t need any help from me. Then again: If you use MyYahoo, you can add headlines from this blog to your custom start page just by following this link.