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February 20th: This Day In ROX
Programs - 1993: Fifteen Seconds of Fame

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

YOUTH TV

What Next?

WHAT NEXT?: T. Black (left) and Joe Nickell tape a segment for Rox, a cable access program made in Bloomington.
Star Photo / Sam Richie

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
STAR TELEVISION EDITOR

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.

National attention

"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.

An Idea

Star Photo / Sam Richie AN IDEA: Joe Nickell is one of the originators of Rox.

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."

Televisual

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

Cashiers du Cinemart 11

Zines of the Airwaves:

ROX: TV Show of the Millenium

By

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?
Bart: It started as a goof. We had no idea that it would take over our lives. The show was born when Joe Nickell and I were sitting around one summer evening and we said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we made a weekly TV show?” Originally we called it “J&B on the ROX.” The idea was to make a show hosted by Joe and Bart (J&B). It began as a show about mixed drinks-kind of an alcoholic cooking show. Every week we said, “This is a show that glorifies the responsible use of alcohol by teaching you, the home viewer, to mix a variety of mixed drinks.” It was more of a pun than anything else was. We weren’t really into mixed drinks in a big way. Both Joe and I had artistic and political motives. The whole series continued to focus on alcohol as an ostensible theme, but the show really came to be about our lives: us, the people we knew, the world around us-anything and everything. (Incidentally, this proved to be a good strategy for many of our episodes. They would seem to be about one subject, but really be about another. Great fun!) Later on, after producing sixty-odd episodes, we shortened the name of the show to “ROX”. We took “J&B” out of the title because the show had become much broader in scope. It wasn’t just about us anymore.

TG: Did you have any prior experience in film or video production?
B: Yeah, a little bit. At that point I’d made two half-hour compilations of short art videos. I’d also made one longer piece with my friend Brian Jones; a 40-minute documentary called “Indiana Urinalysis.” It was about the urinals of Indiana University-kind of a folklore perspective.

TG: Was “J&B Get Baked” something of a breakthrough episode? Did the show change after that?
B: Ah, yes. That was our 59th episode. We smoked a lot of pot on TV and said “See? This ain’t so bad.” We’d gotten some local press, but this story went up on the AP wire and became a national item. Suddenly, we were doing a lot of radio talk shows all across the country. Clips from this episode found their way onto the Howard Stern Show and, eventually, into a documentary, which still airs on MTV called “The Straight Dope.” We got so much mileage out of this single episode, we felt sure we could continue milking the issue and get more and more publicity. We made a conscious decision not to do this. We didn’t want to be branded as “the marijuana guys.” We felt like “ROX” was about a lot more than just that. So, although it could have had a profound effect on the direction of the series, I don’t think it did. The whole experience did motivate us to do one thing. We wanted to prove to the world and ourselves that we could get the same kind of media attention without resorting to controversy. So, in May of 1995,we put “ROX” on-line and became the first TV series on the Internet. That got us write-ups in Time, Wired, and a bunch of other magazines!

TG: I haven’t seen the article but didn’t Wired magazine call “ROX” the best TV show in America?
B: Sure did. Let me tell you, as superficial as it might seem, that recognition was a real shot in the arm for me. Even though it’s not what we got into this whole TV gig for in the first place. That article appeared after we had finally stopped production on the show, and I was feeling pretty down. Since then I’ve realized that Wired has to be the most hyperbolic publication in the entire history of human civilization.

TG: Why did you decide to get married on “ROX”?
B: It seemed like a natural thing. I had a TV show. She had a TV show. So our marriage was televised. It was quite an event, too: a puppet show in two acts, written almost entirely in rhymed couplets. Taped in front of a live audience, natch.

TG: Do you have any particular favorite episodes?
B: Hmm. That’s hard. It’s kind of like picking a favorite child. I’m fond of them all, but there are a few of which I’m particularly proud. Our interview with Noam Chomsky is one example. The perverse side of me likes an episode called “Raw Footage”-the name says it all. There are a lot of favorite moments here and there, too, like when J mixed a “Maggot De Menthe” with crème de menthe and maggots. “Six Six Six” is another favorite episode which was about being on a talk show called “Studio Six” on the local PBS affiliate. We took our camcorder on the set with us and videotaped the whole thing from our perspective. In between her stand-up intro and the actual talk segment, while the title sequence was rolling, the host turned to us and said, “This is real television.” I’m sure she didn’t mean it to sound the way it came off, but it was priceless, especially when I played it again-and again-and again, throughout “Six Six Six.”

TG: Were there any other episodes that caused a media controversy?
B: Oh yes. We got into controversy starting with episode #5, I think, and it was pretty much non-stop after that. We discussed the topic of coprophagia [eating shit—ed.] and showed a picture of it that had been downloaded from the Internet. Mind you, this was in 1992-some groundbreaking journalism! The picture would definitely have been ruled obscene by almost any judge in the country, if it had come to court. And it probably would have gone to court if it had ever aired, but the station director held it back. Eventually it was shown with the picture blocked out (but the graphic audio description of the picture remained intact). After that there were a couple more incidents of similar nature, mostly involving penises. Each time, we didn’t think what we were doing was problematic. That may sound hard to believe, but it’s true. After all, the show did have occasional nudity and lots of swearing and all manner of things you don’t see on regular TV. We did this stuff naively, and were always surprised when the shit hit the fan. Then the local paper ran a story about controversial programming on the access channel, and we sounded like very sick individuals indeed. Naturally, we just made a TV show about it. Another controversial segment was the one that taught the viewer how to make a red box for phreaking pay phones. One of the network affiliates in Indy came down to cover it.

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?
B: From the get, we planned what we would talk about. Shows sometimes had a theme or a subject. When we moved away from the sit-down talk format and starting getting around more, we often planned episodes in terms of activities, like, “let’s go visit that train trestle out in Solsberry.” But we never scripted the episodes. Everything was improvised. Of course, we weren’t really acting, because we were playing ourselves, so maybe ‘extemporaneous’ is a better word. The importance of editing was undeniable, though. I was the editor, and I spent 40 hrs/wk editing “ROX” in its third season. It was a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday job for me. We often shot 6 hours of footage for a 30-minute show, and sometimes I had to be pretty creative to fit all that stuff together in a way that made sense.

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?
B: The theme music is “O Fortuna” which is the first movement of Carmina Burana by Carl Orff. It probably sounds familiar because it’s used in a lot of different films and TV shows. We chose it because it seemed so completely inappropriate for what we were doing when we started-two guys in sitting in front of a camera in a basement with this totally bombastic classical music playing-it just seemed funny. The composition is public domain, I believe, but the recording and performance we used were not. When we licensed episodes to FreeSpeechTV, we inserted a new version of the theme music, which was graciously recorded for us by a great Bloomington band, Salaam. As for the other music on the show, it is all by unsigned musicians. Most are from Bloomington, Indiana, but some are from Indianapolis, Lexington and San Francisco. Some of the music is from my own (defunct) band, The Submersibles. Some music was written specifically for the show, and a few tunes were inspired by the show and submitted to us by people we didn’t even know. It’s a great way to share the glory and I recommend it to anyone who is producing his or her own TV. Help promote local musicians and get a great original soundtrack for your show at the same time!

TG: What caused the death of “ROX”?
B: Mismanagement, fiscal and otherwise. And since we managed ourselves, we have to shoulder the blame for that. We had some money coming in from various sponsors-essentially donations from businesses and individuals who liked what we did. That money helped offset the expense of making the show. It also enabled me to work on the show full time. Still, we accumulated a lot of debt. We thought it was important to own our own equipment. When you use the facilities of an access station, the station typically holds the copyright on your work. Getting our own facilities meant we held our own copyright. Which means I can license, sell, and otherwise distribute those programs to my heart’s content. That equipment is expensive! Most of the stuff we used actually belonged to a friend who was starting a video production business. Even so, we spent thousands of dollars on equipment alone. One day, we simply ran out of money. Whoops! And I still had to pay rent. So we went out of production until we could get our financial affairs in order. We gave ourselves a year to come up with a viable business plan. And some great ideas were floated. We talked with people in L.A. and N.Y.C. We had an agent. Etc. Etc. But ultimately we couldn’t do it. So we gave up. You’ll notice that we were no longer in it for the sheer fun of it at this point, which is how we’d started. (To tell the truth, it stopped being sheer fun for me pretty early on-It was a lot of hard work, but it was very satisfying.) Somewhere along the way we were seduced by the idea that we could make a living doing this thing we loved to do. Sometimes I think that was our biggest mistake. I really don’t know.

TG: Are you still in touch with Joe or any of the other players from “ROX”?
B: Sure. I married Christy Paxson, and we’re still together. T Black, the anarchist clown, just called us today. Joe (J) and I are still in frequent contact via e-mail, especially on the “ROX” list, which is a discussion list we’ve been running for four or five years now (available via the website: www.rox.com).

TG: What did you study at Indiana University?
B: As an undergrad-everything. I got a Bachelor of General Studies. Seven years later I came back and got a master degree in “Immersive Mediated Environments,” if you can believe it. Honest, that’s the name of the program. It’s in the telecommunications department, and it’s basically about multimedia or new media or whatever you like to call it.

TG: Did you design the “ROX” website?
B: Yes, but don’t hold it against me. That front page really needs an overhaul. Actually our original website was put together by Mike Bone, our first cyberfriend, back in 1995. Later on we had a guy named Tao Craig as webmaster. Both of these guys worked on the site for nothing but love. God bless ’em. Now I design websites (and CD-ROMs) for a living. I probably wouldn’t be doing this today if it weren’t for access television.

TG: Any advice for someone thinking of doing his or her own public access show?
B: Make deadlines for yourself and strive to keep them: crank that shit out. Think a lot about what you want out of the experience, and keep talking to your partners to make sure you’re all on the same page. Don’t neglect money issues or they will bite you in the ass later. Have fun. I think that’s it.

Where to go when Sundance goes Disney

Low Res

From Bikini magazine, May 15, 1996, p. 8
The Low Res Film Festival

[...] 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

Pioneers: The First and Weirdest Online TV

Pioneers: The First and Weirdest Online TV

from the September/October 1995 issue of Shift magazine

Pioneers: The First and Weirdest Online TV
Who would have thought that some drugged-out wackos would make TV history? As ROX says, "Welcome to the Stoned Age of Television."

You might have thought that the first publicly available TV program to play on the Internet would be funded by some visionary media mogul. It's not.

In fact, it's a community-access program called ROX, "broadcast" out of Bloomington, Indiana. Since 1991, the show has been freely produced and distributed though the World Wide Web site dubbed the "ROX Quarry" by two energetic and eccentric guys called Bart Everson and Joe Nickell. On ROX, they're known as J&B.

With various intoxicants coursing through their veins, J&B spend their time gallivanting around Bloomington with a hand-held camera documenting their hedonistic lives. Characters regularly appear smoking a joint or downing a cold one.

It's surprising that ROX darted across the historic finish line first, for there is no new technology at work here. Scenes from ROX come hacked apart into numerous QuickTime videos that, when strung together, form nearly a half-hour of quirky, original humour.

The technology to mount such an undertaking has existed the day the Web was born. However, accessing cyber-ROX reveals a major glitch: it takes an enormous amount of time to download video. Two minutes of programming takes two hours to download with a 14.4 Kbps modem, and it takes around 24 hours to cue up the whole show. Which is why no one else has entered the market.

J&B's 85th episode entitled "Global Village Idiots" is currently pulsing through cyberspace. Is making online TV worth it? No one knows. Certainly better funded program will hit the Net, and the bandwidth problem will be solved. But it 20 years — maybe only in two — J&B will be able to say that they were the first.

Sam Horodezky

http://www.ROX.com/quarry/

Requires: QuickTime viewer, Macintosh or Windows platforms.

Life is on the 'Rox' at I.U.

Review from Indianapolis News by Marion Garmel. January 25, 1995.

THIS IS TO recommend a little alternative television series from Bloomington called “Rox.”

It made its Indianapolis debut at 4 p.m. today on American Cablevision's community access channel (the number varies on your cable dial according to the kind of television set you have). If you missed the episode, you can catch a repeat at 5 p.m. Thursday.

This is the kind of show you could imagine the founders of “Mad Magazine” making if television had been the communications medium of their day. “Rox” was called “J & B at the Rox” during the 2 1/2 years it ran on the Bloomington's cable access channel, after its co-creators and hosts.

J is Joe Nickel. 25, a freelance writer, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Indiana University in 1991 and a bartender by trade.

B is Bart Everson, 26-year-old telemarketer from Greenwood who also graduated from I.U. and, like his bartender friend, became a hanger-on around the university.

This is a show that will appeal mainly to people who plan to attend, are attending or have attended I.U. But it also shouldn't offend anyone who appreciates the iconoclastic atmosphere of a university town.

The first show begins with a warning: The following program depicts real life (end of apology).

It then proceeds to follow the hosts, their friends, wives and assorted hangers-on, as they vacate the house they've been sharing and move to other quarters.

That's it. That's the show. But then I haven't mentioned the garage sale where everything is “$1 or free,” or the “sorting through our valuable possessions” routine that includes close examination of a rubber band and an unopened Funnel Cake Box that has been traveling with g.1 the Bartender for six years.

You sort of get the idea. As J explains in a future episode: “You think we're hosts of a TV show. We're just living our lives and carrying a video camera around with us while we complete the various and sundry tasks that make up our lives.”

But these are no dummies. There's a fabulous tribute to the glories of radio in an episode saluting a group of J and B's former dormmates at Collins Living and Learning Center who have become national radio heroes as the creators of a Gothic horror series called “Hayward Sanitarium.”

And there's a wonderful salute to “meaningful” jobs in an episode in which J discusses his former job in marketing services at the I.U. Memorial Union “working for the university, living off the fat of the brains of the land, so to speak,” he explains.

Yes, there's occasional nudity, but not nearly as much in the Indianapolis shows as previously was seen in the Bloomington ones, we are assured. And, no, they don't push marijuana, drugs or alcohol, although there is a drink-mixing segment in each episode. And, of course, the language is contemporary - which means a lot of it would be censored off a mainstream television show. But it's nothing you haven't heard on MTV or HBO. And “Beavis & Butt-head” are dumber.

Regulars on the series include Everson's wife, Christy Paxon [sic], a TV personality in her own right; Jenny Beasley; T. Black; a girl who goes by the name of Worm; and sundry others.

This is more than a hit or miss kind of series, though. It's obvious there are brains at work here. And no, it's not an age thing, either. After all, I'm 58, and I found it intelligent and clever.

Rumor has it that the guys are short of money, and they can use all the contributions they can get. Which is why they run their address at the end of each show.

Cable access offers 'ROX,' an excess of irreverence

Review from Indianapolis Star by Steve Hall. January 24, 1995.

 ***
Stars: J, B, Christy Paxson, Jenny B. and T. Black.
Broadcast time: 4 p.m. Wednesdays, with rebroadcasts at 5 p.m. Thursdays.
Channel: American Cablevision Channel 98 or 99, depending on your set. Show contains nudity, profanity and occasional illegal activities. Parental discretion is advised.
Star ratings: 4 excellent, 3 good, 2 fair, 1 poor.


Most cable access shows are as exciting as watching lint.

Not Rox — a nutty bohemian blast of irreverence and imagination. The 2 1/2-year-old Bloomington public access show is finally coming to Indianapolis. American Cablevision subscribers can see the weekly series twice honored for its innovative approach by the Indiana Film Society and twice voted best TV program by Bloomington Voice readers.

What are they raving about? A group of Bloomington slackers armed with a video camera, a satiric outlook and a penchant for creating controversy. Their funny, intelligent and opinionated show contains scenes of nudity, alcohol, blue language and, in the most famous instance, marijuana.

Last summer, they attracted national attention with an episode In which "J, your bartender" (Joe Nickell, 26, a Louisville, Ky., native) and "B" (Bart Everson, 27, originally of Greenwood) got stoned and lost in the woods.

After viewing the episode, Joseph E. Mills Ill, director of the Governor's Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana, complained that they were involved "in the overt promotion of anarchy."

They only play them an TV

J & B responded with an episode titled — what else? — The Overt Promotion of Anarchy, to air in Indianapolis on Feb. 15-16.

It shows Bloomington police roughly arresting bike riders during a Critical Mass protest (bikes take over the streets), and contains instructions on how to build one's own "Red Box" to make illegal long-distance telephone calls.

The episode carries a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer: "You should never, ever, do anything illegal. So don't try it."

Counterculture politics aside, Rox at times plays like an oddball slacker sitcom — what NBC's Friends might be like if the producers actually knew interesting, authority-challenged folks like these. (They'd have been called "hippies" in the '60s.)

For instance: Wednesday's show, Moving On Down, finds this motley crew moving out of a shared house into low-income housing, a boarding house and, literally, the streets. The camera roams through their cluttered closets, Christy Paxson (Everson's real-life wife) explains the importance of ramen noodles in a funny segment, and a yard sale features a guy eating a pickled pig's foot for $1.

Scenes of their former digs being cleaned include this observation: "You'll be amazed what people will watch on TV."

Not when it's Rox.

J&B: Life on the ROX

NUVO

J&B: LIFE ON THE ROX
BLOOMINGTON DUO LOOKS FOR SUCCESS IN INDIANAPOLIS
BY STEVE HAMMER & JIM POYSER

NUVO NEWSWEEKLY
JANUARY 18-25, 1995

For 70 episodes — that's two-and-a-half years of material — J & B on the Rox has aired on Channel 3, Bloomington's Cable Access Television Station. At once a revealing slacker diary and satiric tour de farce of the Bohemian lifestyle, Rox has captured viewers' attention across the subcultural spectrum in greater Monroe County.

The creators of Rox have also captivated the news media by smoking pot on their weekly show. This is not the only peccadillo Rox has portrayed. J (Joe Nickell) and B (Bart Everson), both Bloomington residents, frequently climb out on a First Amendment limb, presenting the viewer with scenes of alcohol, marijuana, foul language, and nudity.

J and B's mission is to connect with the audience, make a few political digs, and have some fun along the way. With their homeboy home movies, they hold their own lives up for scrutiny: the dirty dishes, the cracking plaster walls, the roaches, more roaches, and the rest of their raucous, sometimes squalorous, lives. As B says, "Rox is not a time slot, it's a way of life."

It's a way of life that's coming to Indy, beginning this month. Rox premieres at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, on American Cablevision's Indianapolis Community Access Network. Each episode will then rebroadcast the next day at 5 p.m. A premiere party will be held Tuesday, Jan. 24, at the Patio nightclub. You're invited, if you've got a buck to get in.

J and B's "way of life" involves a number of other cast members. Among the regulars are Christy Paxson, B's wife, and Jenny Beasley, J's fiancée. This family values aspect characterizes each installment. J and/or B have a bone to pick, an event to celebrate, a political point to make, but it's the people around them, the roommates, passersby, and local authorities, who give these episodes shape. Be careful: you, too, may get sucked into the Rox vortex — as on-air talent, or perhaps behind-the-camera technical help.

In their J & B Get Baked (airing Feb. 1 and 2), J and B and their high-as-kites crew get lost in the woods. They don't try to hide this foible. Obviously, they can be quite self-revealing — even at the expense of credibility. So much for trying to convince a skeptical society that pot-smoking is a responsible activity. J, in this episode, offers up a succinct and telling remark, revealing the core of the Rox agenda: "It's not planned activity, it's just experience." There are no scripts for Rox, just a loose sense of agenda.

One agenda leads to another. After watching the Get Baked episode, Joseph E. Mills III, director of the Governor's Commission for Drug-Free America, wrote a letter stating that the show was trafficking in the "overt promotion of anarchy." Rox's response was an episode called The Overt Promotion of Anarchy (airing Feb. 15 and 16). Mills' letter appears in this episode, along with the T-shirts J and B have made quoting Mills.

Contacted recently, Mills reiterated that he is "not going to do anything to censor them," but he "objected to the blatant disregard of the existing law." He does respect civil disobedience, he contends, but doesn't think that J and B "have the guts to do direct civil disobedience." Like, for example, going "into the police station, smoking a joint." (Mills didn't mention the Indiana Supreme Court Justice who took a pro-pot position before leaving office.)

It's not, however, the Rox style to walk into a police station, brandishing pot. At one point in the Anarchy episode, J laments that Bloomington's daily newspaper, The Herald-Times, has a pro-police bias when it comes to covering the Critical Mass bicycle protest. Rarely does Rox traffic in overt statements or actions. Their language is satire, subterfuge, subjectivity, and a refreshing dose of self-deprecation.

In their Indy premiere episode, Moving On Down (airing Jan. 25 and 26), J and B chronicle their downwardly-mobile status with deliberate directness. They literally open their closets to the camera. There's a yard sale segment which makes stars of numerous passersby, which displays items selling for "$1 or Free."

A brief foray into the national media scene (501 Jeans, MTV, Howard Stern) in the past year left both men feeling drained by bigwigs. They realize they don't really want big exposure, or the money it brings. Just last week, J began delivering pizzas. B still edits the show full-time at present, but J and B lament that their present predicament can't continue much longer.

It's a critical juncture for Rox. J and B have grown artistically and technologically since their first episodes. They are no longer tied to a strict editing schedule at Channel 3 and, with their co-op editing equipment, B's prodigious talents as an editor are beginning to transform the show. Rox episodes now run "29 minutes and 30 seconds," according to J. They are tighter thematically, too — a result of having nearly six dozen episodes under their belts. J and B are more savvy about pacing; rarely does their storyline sag. Fortunately, a feeling of spontaneity still drives their work.

They hope that a wider viewership can help them continue to produce high-quality, high-frivolity, and sometimes deeply moving work. J and B know they're walking an unmarked path into Indianapolis.

Unlike in Bloomington, the show probably won't feature full-frontal nudity on occasion; American Cablevision; standards for content are a bit more puritanical.

Censorship is a possibility; controversy is a certainty; financial ruin looks probable. But as B told Channel 6 last year: "We're poor. We've got nothing to lose."

Nothing to lose, that is, but their way in the woods.

• The producers of Rox can be reached via Internet E-mail at cpaxson@indiana.edu. A World Wide Web page on the program can be accessed at: http://ezinfo.ucs.indiana.edu/-cpaxson/rox.htmI


A QUICK COURSE ON J&B AND ROX

"J" is Joe Nickell, a 25-year-old freelance writer who moved to Bloomington from Lexington, Ky. Joe graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Indiana University in 1991, in Anthropology and English. Joe is the Bartender and co-producer of Rox.

"B" is Bart Everson, a 26-year-old telemarketer who hails from Greenwood, Indiana — mall capital of the state. Bart graduated from Indiana University in 1990, with a degree in General Studies. Bart is the Editor and co-producer of Rox.

Rox is a reality-based program which endeavors to hold up a mirror to the community of Bloomington. — From the official Rox bio


B: Most people think of this as a fact-based, news-type program, instead of what it is, which is a couple of guys jerking around with a video camera. Why do we spend most of our waking hours putting together a TV show, when we could be getting jobs and buying yachts and rubbing elbows with the cultural elite? Simple. We hate what we see on TV. Most of the time, anyway. Yet TV is perhaps the most powerful medium of human communication in our time. Everything from political affiliation to fashion to environmental awareness is shaped by the cathode ray tube (and connected speaker). Ours is a TV culture, and we might as well live with it.

SCENE: SETTING TEDDY ABLAZE
J&B's backyard. It is the day everyone's moving out of the house where the nucleus of the troupe lived, the site of innumerable scenes of the show J, B, Christy and Worm are moving to smaller, cheaper, shabbier places. It a depressing day, a day in which they realize they're moving down the economic ladder. In rooting through his stuff Bart finds his childhood teddy bear.

B: I have this teddy bear, and as a symbol of this transition, I'm going to burn it. Douses Teddy with lighter fluid. This is Zippo lighter fluid that I'm applying. As you can see, this is a bear which has been well-loved, and I burn him now not out of contempt, but in order to give him a fitting burial. Sets bear on concrete block. Bye-bye, Teddy. Sets bear ablaze; it torches. Holy shit! Bye-bye, baby teddy bear! Bye-bye, childhood! The bear, no doubt made of some highly flammable 1960s polymer, blazes away fiercely. This is a highly symbolic and profound thing that is happening here ... Good thing I didn't smoke in bed as a child, huh?

AFTER THE ON-THE-AIR POT EPISODE
J: Right after J&B Get Baked aired, I kind of hit the wall, so to speak, with my marijuana use. Up until then I was smoking marijuana every day for almost a year. That week, I stopped enjoying it all of a sudden. I'm not sure what it was; maybe it was all the excitement and confusion going on.

B: We don't want people to peg us as the marijuana guys. The pot on that show was for display purposes only.

J&B: ON MONEY & SELLING OUT
SCENE: On campus.
J: I used to work there, in the Indiana Memorial Union. I used to write ads for this fine university, for the IU buses and stuff. I was actually going through my stuff the other day and I found a scribble pad I'd been working on. It was just different slogans for the bus system, and one of them I came up with was: Our buses are dirty They cost too much, And we hate you! Fuck you!

B: Do not look for Rox to be around much longer into the future without some kind of sponsorship. I don't have enough money in my account to pay anything more than the grocery bill this month.

J: I got a job delivering pizzas out of bare-bones necessity. We don't yet have an Indianapolis sponsor. We can't even afford to mail the tapes of the show to Indianapolis.

B: When I first came to I.U., I attended a lecture in there [pointing to the Whittenberger Auditorium in the stu-dent Union Building]. This guy got up on stage and said, "What you need to do here at Indiana University is find out what you like doing, and then find a way to get paid for doing it." He said, "I'm into frogs, myself, and I go down to South America and hunt frogs in the Amazonian Rain Forest, and you, the taxpayer, pay me."

J: Do what you want and the money will come.

B: And we're waiting. Believe me, we're waiting.

AN ANONYMOUS LETTER TO J&B
Dear J&B, The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place....
FACT: You graduated from Indiana University and you still live in Bloomington. FACT: Your dress and hairstyles parody or challenge mainstream society. FACT: You are either unemployed or are working at the fringes of the economy. FACT: You associate with, or are yourselves, musicians. FACT: You live in beat-up, student ghetto housing, with an ever-growing list of house-mates in an almost communal atmosphere. FACT: You openly flaunt your sexuality. FACT: You use simulated recreational drugs and alcohol and care not a whit what people think. FACT: You often rant openly about "The Man." FACT: You have been seen in the company of known hippies. FACT: You have society-challenging names such as Moonboy and Worm. FACT: You spend a lot of time sitting on the floor giggling at each other. Sirs, I can come to only one conclusion. I contend that you are HIPPIES! Hippies! That's right, hippies!


THE ROX CAST: FRIENDS, WIVES AND HANGERS-ON
DYNAMO CHRISTY PAXSON HEADS VIDEO TROUPE

Literally dozens of friends, acquaintances and hangers-on have drifted in and out of the cast of Rox in the three years it's aired in Bloomington, but no one has captured the attention of the show's audience like Christy Paxson.

Paxson, a 4-foot-11 dynamo of energy, has been responsible for many of the program's most memorable moments, including a tour of the choicest dumpsters in town; a guide to off-campus living ("Get used to ramen, because you'll be eating a lot of it"); and dozens of others.

But Paxson, who also hosts her own Bloomington public-access show, is more than just a Rox cast member; she's also the real-life bride of editor Bart Everson. Their wedding, which included a puppet show depicting their courtship, was the slacker social event of 1994 in Bloomington as well as the basis for an episode of Rox.

Paxson's mastery of timing and character voices and her sense of the absurd have made her popular, but she still feels some pressure as the main female character in the show.

"I think a lot of things that may be controversial that I do, like I show my gut, or burp, are things that if any man did them would be standard fare," Paxson says. "But because I do it, and I'm a woman, it's a problem. It's the double standard that exists on TV."

Growing up watching The Flintstones and The Bionic Woman in nearby Ellettsville, Paxson was media-conscious from an early age.

"I used to think that everything was a skit or a movie. This was way before Generation X had taken off and all the dialogue about shared media experiences and the regurgitated culture," she says.

In college, she discovered public-access TV in Bloomington and, with a friend, began producing The Christy Paxson Show. "We found out that through BCAT we could get a camera for free, we for free and, best of all, get it on TV."

As a star on Rox, she's been documenting her life on camera for three years. It gives her strange ideas, she says. "Why should anyone care about me? What is it about our lives that makes us so interesting? That's not our point. Our point is, everybody's life is interesting. 1 think some people are content to sit back in life and just watch TV and think that they can't really be a player in life, that they can't enjoy life because it just wasn't meant for them. But they are doing interesting things. We all are. I think it's a noble tradition to start."

"It's a show about these people and their lives," Bart adds.

"If we could only edit our own lives..."

One of the more artistically complex moments for the couple came in the episode Head Jobz, scheduled to air May 3 in Indianapolis, when the two re-enacted one of Bart's recent epileptic seizures with comedic narration by Paxson.

"It was interesting when he said he wanted to do this seizure thing on the show," Paxson said. "I said, 'Bart, I don't see the comedy in it.' Bart said, 'Not every-thing has to be funny.' Oh yeah, I forgot."

"But it was funny, because you were telling it," Bart said.

"The first time we went out, he told me he had epilepsy, but I had never seen grand mal seizures before. The way I've been brought up, you just don't talk about something that personal. Humor is my way of dealing with a very strong condition. Humor is a functional outlet. Some people were really freaked out by the spot.

"The first time it happened, when we were dating, and he had a seizure, I thought he was [laughs] masturbating. I looked at the clock, and it was 5:30 a.m. I thought, 'Isn't it a little early?"

Other regular cast members on Rox, besides Jenny B., Nickell's fiancee, include Mr. G; sisters Rachel and Angela Whang; and T. Black, a self-described "anarchist clown" who produces a segment called Anarchy Diary.

In a phone interview, punctuated by the sounds of the illegal "phreak box" that he uses to make free payphone calls, Black says the free-spirited, grassroots nature of Rox appeals to him. "We're just citizens in Bloomington, Indiana, but now we have access to television. It's grassroots TV. They have an open door philosophy about the show."

Andy Warhol's Factory of the 1960s was another artistic enclave of improvisation, but the difference between J&B and the Factory is, according to Angela Wong, "There's no one Andy Warhol here. We're all Andy Warhols. We're all filming and taping and acting at the same time. There are no bosses, just us creating."

Photos: RACHEL WHANG

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