Art as stupidity. Stupidity as art.
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July 21st, 2017:
ROX on WFHB
April 5th, 2017:
Season Two Online
I'm happy to report that the entirety of ROX Season Two is now available for online viewing! Some episodes are online for the first time ever; the rest are available in full resolution for the first time ever. Anyway you slice it, it's a big step forward. It only took us twenty-something years. (Actually, though, it's not quite the entirety of our second season... as previously mentioned, we are seeking these missing episodes: ROX #42, ROX #45, and ROX #51.)
March 27th, 2017:
The ROX troupe collectively mourns the passing of J's mother, aka Dr. Pat. But we are happy to report that thanks to CATS we've now been able to upload ROX #38, “My Mother, the Doctor.” This is the first time the full program has ever been made available online. One of our better programs from Season Two and a fitting tribute to an extraordinary woman!
March 4th, 2017:
Desperately Seeking Dubs
January 4th, 2017:
Clearly a creek, not a river
When is a river not a river? When the mighty Jordan trickles through Indiana University's Bloomington campus. It's known as Clear Creek in the rest of Monroe County. You'd think with all those high-powered geologists and geographers on campus they could get this right.
The “river” leaves campus and flows beneath downtown Bloomington in subterranean pipes and emerges on the south side as a “creek.”
It's those underground conduits that are featured so memorably in “Searching for Ratboy.”
December 30th, 2016:
In the realm of the uncensored
The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis, Indiana) · Sat, May 20, 1995 · Page 44-45
WHAT NEXT?: T. Black (left) and Joe Nickell tape a segment for Rox, a cable access program made in Bloomington.
IN THE REALM OF THE UNCENSORED
The hosts of the cable access show Rox push the envelope of irreverence, then lick the gummy flap, seal it and deliver it to the world.
By Steve Hall
Bloomington, Ind. — "That's the guy who smoked pot on TV!"
The stage whisper of the Indiana University student passing by didn't distract Joe Nickell — known as "J, your bartender" on Rox to Bloomington and American Cablevision viewers and Internet surfers from Seymour to Singapore.
After all, Nickell was making a segment for the weekly cable access series, reportedly the world's first on-demand show on the Internet. Rox is equal parts slacker diary, societal satire and improvisational theater.
Imagine Wayne's World with smarter, more bohemian hosts in their 20s, and style and sophisticated editing unusual for most cable access shows.
Back to the stage whisper: Nickell could have grabbed the guy and patiently explained how the infamous getting-stoned-on-camera incident last year was an artistic statement about actual reality, as opposed to the typical synthesized make-believe reality that TV foists on people every day. But he didn't. Instead, the tawny-haired, bespectacled 26-year-old stood among bright flowers under a blooming dogwood tree on the IU campus, mixing a homemade antihistamine out of sage, honey, pepper, Tavist-D, and an ounce of blackberry brandy. ("This is simulated alcohol, because we're on campus, and we would never break the dry campus policy.")
Meanwhile, "anarchist clown" T. Black — feral stare, clown makeup, a toothpick through his nose — seemingly tried to shove a cam-corder up Nickell's nose.
Obviously, reality is where one finds it.
Rox has looked at subjects as diverse as brewing beer, interning at MTV, having an epileptic seizure in front of an unsuspecting girl-friend, and questioning Thomson Consumer Electronics spending $10 million to change the name of the Hoosier Dome after cutting some workers' benefits.
"It's really a show made by and about young people, just out of college, searching for that life path that many viewers have probably already traveled down," says co-founder/editor Bart Everson, a genial, serious 28-year-old stringbean with glasses and a near-shaved head, at Daisy Brain Media.
Everson — known to Rox fans as "B" — spends more than 40 hours a week editing the show in a small room at the Bloomington art gallery.
"Rox is really about a sense of community," says co-founder/co-producer Nickell, the more laid-back of the two. "Where I come from — Lexington, Ky. — people just stay in their houses and watch TV. What we're trying to demonstrate with Rox is what life can be like if you just get out and meet your neighbors."
A great many more neighbors can now meet Rox. In January, American Cablevision began airing highlights from the show's first three seasons on its community access channel (98 or 99, depending on one's set) at 11 p.m. Tuesdays, with repeats at 11 p.m. Thursdays.
In mid-April, Rox went on the Internet, with computer users around the world able to retrieve the show 24 hours a day from the World Wide Web (http://www.rox.com/quarry/) for repeated viewings. That delights some observers.
"Of the hundreds of people who have passed through here, (Nickell and Everson) have the best chance of making it" to main-stream success, says Michael White, director of Bloomington Cable Access Television. Rox and Greenwood attorney Linda Thompson's videotapes alleging a government conspiracy in the destruction of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco are its most popular shows.
"Quite a few" complaints came in about Rox in the beginning, White says, but the protests eventually died down when administrators of the Monroe County Library, which runs the community access channel, stuck by the show as protected free speech.
Critics are disturbed by Rox's pushing the envelope with scenes of full frontal nudity, foul language and the recreational use of alcohol and marijuana. A year ago, the episode J&B Get Baked with its scenes of a stoned Everson, Nickell and crew getting lost in the woods, received national attention via MTV's drug documentary, The Straight Dope; Howard Stern's radio show; and news media across Indiana.
At the time, Joseph E. Mills III, executive director of the Governor's Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana, wrote a protest letter stating that the show was trafficking in the "overt promotion of anarchy."
Rox's response: An episode titled The Overt Promotion of Anarchy, complete with Mills' letter and instructions on how to cheat the telephone company with illegal long-distance calls.
"Any time that people are teaching ways to get high and take advantage of legal situations is not productive," Mills says a year later. "Just because something happens doesn't make it something that should be shown on TV."
Everson argues that the pot-smoking episode is "completely in this project's context — the continued documentation of real life. If the televisual medium more accurately reflected life instead of showing an artificial reality, then what we did wouldn't attract any attention."
That idea of documenting their lives as a weekly TV show came over beers one summer evening in 1992 to Everson, a Greenwood native with a 1990 degree in general studies from IU, and Nickell, a 1991 Phi Beta Kappa IU graduate with degrees in anthropology and English.
Nickell had the camcorder, a graduation present from his parents. Everson had the editing training from doing community service at the community access channel while on probation for streaking across campus. (The streaking was captured on videotape and later featured on Rox.)
Then known as J&B on the Rox, the early shows were primitive, shot in friends' attics and basements, often lit by a bare lightbulb. Remembers White, "They would sit and pontificate about what p - - - ed them off, and occasionally drop their pants."
Friends on the show
Their friends soon became part of the show as well, with two continuing today as regulars: T. Black, 31, who graduated from Connersville High School and IU, and Rox "tour guide" Christy Paxson, 26, an Ellettsville native and an IU grad with degrees in political science and history.
Paxson, currently working on her master's thesis in education, is also Everson's real-life wife. (Their wedding included a puppet show depicting scenes from their courtship.)
Black's the only member of the video troupe with formal improvisational training and, as such, is excited about Rox as a sort of democratic theater.
"Scenes and skits are developed off-the-cuff, and there's a lot of energy and participation," says the producer of a segment called Anarchist Diary. "I look at this show as a performance outlet for myself."
Rox's principles have a price — its cast is near poverty. Only Everson receives a paycheck from the show. Nickell works part time as — what else? — a bartender, Black works part time at a local kennel. Paxson is interviewing for jobs.
They view placing Rox on community access in Indianapolis as the first step in taking the show regional — and perhaps finding companies and individuals that would contribute financially to the show without interfering.
"We look at it as seeking patrons of creativity rather than becoming an advertiser-supported show," Nickell says carefully. "We want this to be a lifelong project. I'd like to still be making this show when I'm 65.
"Michael Moore and his (NBC show) TV Nation were very similar to what we're doing in terms of a sense of irreverence about large corporations and the government. I think there is a place for us in the mainstream media — but we haven't found it yet."
December 27th, 2016:
ROX: TV Show of the Millenium
Zines of the Airwaves:
ROX: TV Show of the MilleniumBy Terry Gilmer
Zines and public access TV both serve as an outlet for the public to express themselves when they may not otherwise have the opportunity to do so. Since a small group or a single person often makes them they both have a very personal feel. They can be focused on a very small audience and don’t have to pander to a broad demographic. Zines and public access only have to satisfy the people who make them. Neither resembles a corporate-owned magazine or network TV show. Where’s the love in something like Newsweek or “Veronica’s Closet?”
Public access TV began back in the ’70s when cable companies first began setting up shop in American cities. Local governments argued that if they were to award exclusive franchises to these cable companies, they had to give something back to the community in return. I still find it amazing that city leaders once had the balls to demand business monopolies give something back to its residents. This would be like demanding that Microsoft give free web tutorials and free websites (without ads) to its users.
Sure, there’s lots of dreck on your public access channels. Local residents can be as brain dead as any network TV executive. In order to find the occasional gem on your local origination channel, you’ll have to wade through dozens of religious shows, school productions, talk shows and lots of other “talking heads” types of programs. But, amongst them are programs so original, so entertaining, so thought provoking that they never could have been aired on network TV. If there is a perfect blend between zines and public access then it is a TV show called “ROX.”
“ROX” isn’t a TV show in the conventional sense. It’s not a sitcom or a talk show or anything that can be easily sorted into a category. It’s basically the real-life exploits of a group of twenty-somethings in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana. “ROX” first aired between 1992 and 1995 but still pops up occasionally at film festivals and on other access channels. The closest thing you could compare it to is MTV’s The Real World except “ROX” isn’t contrived and doesn’t suck.
The cast grows and changes from week to week with the two constants being the show’s co-hosts Joe Nickell and Bart Everson. Joe and Bart armed with a Hi8 video camera film themselves along with their friends and loved ones and sound off about anything on their minds. It sounds simple enough but as anyone who’s familiar with zines will tell you, it’s all in the presentation and “ROX” presents itself well.
It’s a page out of collegiate, off-campus living where the typical meal consists of coffee, cigarettes and cheesy macaroni. The show makes you feel as if the gang from “ROX” were your actual friends, or better than your real friends, and that they made the show just for you. It’s hip in an early ’90s, grunge aesthetic kind of way. “ROX” is sexy like Winona Ryder, cool like Eddie Vedder and smart like Janeane Garofalo.
The show’s main claim-to-fame is an episode titled “J&B Get Baked” dealing with marijuana legalization. But don’t get the wrong idea, “ROX” isn’t a show where a bunch of dopey guys sit around and get stoned while listening to Pink Floyd and discussing why the castaways couldn’t get off the island. It’s more of a show that speaks out against corporate greed, mindless conformity and middle-American hypocrisy.
You may be saying to yourself, “Well, this sounds cool and all, but how am I going to see a five-year-old public access show from Indiana?” Well, thanks to modern technology you can see complete episodes on the Internet. “ROX” became the very first TV show on the web way back in 1995 (visit it at www.rox.com). Yes, the “ROX” gang blends together elements of zines, television and the Internet to make “ROX” a full-fledged, multi-media experience.
Like DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, the show’s co-hosts each have their own specific duties. Joe (J) is the bartender who shows you how to make that perfect mixed drink every episode. Bart (B) is the editor who takes care of business in front of and behind the camera. Editing any film or video project is often the most important and the most under-appreciated task. Talking with Bart gave me an understanding of how through hard work you can take your home movies and turn it into the best show on TV.
Terry Gilmer: How did “ROX” get started?
TG: Did you have any prior experience in film or video production?
TG: Was “J&B Get Baked” something of a breakthrough episode? Did the show change after that?
TG: I haven’t seen the article but didn’t Wired magazine call “ROX” the best TV show in America?
TG: Why did you decide to get married on “ROX”?
TG: Do you have any particular favorite episodes?
TG: Were there any other episodes that caused a media controversy?
TG: “ROX” seems to be both improvisational and very calculating. Was there a lot of planning involved in the making of the show or was it all in the editing?
TG: Where did you get the music used on the show? I think I recognize the piece of classical music you run over your opening credits. And is the rest by local musicians?
TG: What caused the death of “ROX”?
TG: Are you still in touch with Joe or any of the other players from “ROX”?
TG: What did you study at Indiana University?
TG: Did you design the “ROX” website?
TG: Any advice for someone thinking of doing his or her own public access show?
Where to go when Sundance goes Disney
From Bikini magazine, May 15, 1996, p. 8
[...] Program highlights include: Undertaker, and Then I Woke Up and a piece by a group out of Bloomington, Indiana called ROX. The hysterical piece they showed proved that you do not have to be armed with million dollar production tools to produce impressive, entertaining work. [...]
by Jay Chandras
#64: The Overt Promotion of Anarchy
Now in production::
#99: Go Viral or Die Trying
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