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May 23rd, 2018:
Well and Truly Moshed
We'd accumulated quite a backlog of footage going back over a year, so I hit the edit booth with a stack of tapes and assembled ROX #37. We didn't shoot a single minute of new video for this episode. It was constructed entirely in post-production, a trick I wouldn't repeat until ROX #89.
I'm still quite happy with the results. The nonlinear, free-association style holds up better than a lot of our more conventional episodes from this period.
Here are the segments for ease of reference.
1. Obligatory warning message
2. Mug smash
3. Intro montage
4. B's Pet Peeves #1
5. J&B at the M.A.C. (including Bloomington's Most Well-Lit Urinals)
6. Moshtage (fast in-camera edits; look sharp and you'll see MKM writing a letter in our apartment at 504 E. Cottage Grove #1; music by John Cage and mnortham)
7. Smiling Dog
9. Tea party — Age of Aquarius/Cage & Aquarium (from ROX #6)
10. Thinking Man's Bolus
11. Funky Young Media Icons at VITAL Quiz Bowl
12. Chair toss
13. Chocolate tasting
14. High school girls doing exercises — how much trouble would this cause today?
15. Christian Moerlien non-alcoholic beer
16. You're watching television
17. Post-tea-party silliness
18. Red velvet cake
19. Kinko's cabbages, Michael White, turtle/cantaloupe
20. You're still watching television
21. Viewer mail: from D.T.
22. Vocab: D.T.
23. Keleigh's joint query
24. Outro montage, credits roll over police confrontation on Kirkwood
That last segment is, perhaps, of special interest today in light of our nation's increased awareness of police harassment toward African-American men. This video shows that concern is not new; we trained our camera on these cops with the specific thought of deterring any possible brutality. And how refreshing to hear the officer say: “I don't care if you film us, but could you step back please?”
May 11th, 2018:
Ascending to the Peak
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when filling station attendants pumped gas, and we didn't have GPS for navigation or easy internet access for quick fact-checking. Hard to believe, but that's how things were in 1993, for us anyhow, as demonstrated in ROX #44.
For the record, Tulip Trestle is 2,307 feet long and 157 feet tall. It's one of the longest steel-girded railroad viaducts in the world. When it was built in 1905, it was almost certainly the longest in the country, but it has been surpassed since then. It's located in Grenne County somewhat to the east of Bloomfield and to the west of Solsberry.
We drove out there and shot some video on the 23rd of October, 1993. We discovered it was difficult to capture the immensity of the structure on camera. Don't look here for stunning cinematography, but it was a nice little adventure. I'm especially happy with the montage of our trip out there, with a blistering soundtrack by The Submersibles. Those are my vocals! Why didn't I use our music more often?
It's interesting to see how J, Worm, and Xy all contributed varying levels of artifice to the production. Xy especially tended to think in terms of characters and skits. I was not above some spontaneous tomfoolery myself (as witness our “faith healing” sequence with Mr. G) but generally I pushed for a documentary approach.
The railway trestle may be the ostensible topic of this program, but the actual topic is faith, and we bring a critical perspective. I remember getting some commendations from my peers for my attempt to redefine the word “faith” in the vocabulary segment. The first set of points are adapted from the Encyclopedia of Religion, but the reformulation is my own work. 25 years later, I stand by it.
The relative brevity of this episode show my editing was getting tighter. I like how the viewer mail segment is appended after the credits, and yet the idea of a new polytheism is very much in keeping with the “faith” theme of the episode. Big props to W. Owen (credited here as W.P.), our first and probably only intern. We dispatched him to get b-roll of the new pantheon, and he did well. The segment would drag without those visuals. I can't help wonder how much easier this would be today. A few clicks in a web browser and one can find virtually any image imaginable. Kids today don't know how easy they've got it.
May 10th, 2018:
The Story Behind Falling Behind
We shot ROX #43 just outside Bloomington, near Lake Monroe, at the residence of one Ted Bowie. I don't think I ever met Mr. Bowie, and I believe he passed away just a couple years later. Our friend was housesitting for him.
We chose the location because we thought it would give a good view of the fall foliage, and so it did. Our humble video camera was hardly able to capture the glory beauty of the scene, however; the visuals are less than spectacular. I'm surprised by the backlighting on our main camera angle. It's amateur hour folks! Nevertheless we persisted, and this episode is (very) loosely constructed around a series of autumnal puns.
That brings us to the “falling sickness” and my seizure. As an epileptic, I was denied insurance because of my pre-existing condition, a fact which has always clarified my thoughts regarding the necessity of universal healthcare. What I don't mention is that this particular seizure came just days after my wedding to Xy. I woke up in the hospital feeling extremely disoriented, and for a while I'd even forgotten that we'd gotten married. Fortunately my memories soon returned.
Regarding the discussion of IU's drug and alcohol policies, can you believe I typed all that text by hand? I can hardly believe it myself. How tedious!
Late in the show, there's a brief shot of a lighter igniting some herb in a one-hitter. I think this may be the first actual depiction of smoking cannabis in the series, fully 16 episodes before we did it big in ROX #59. No one made any fuss about this segment. It's actually a clip from my proto-ROX art video “Do Not Become Confused,” and it's followed by a rapid-cut series of images from the same program, a favorite sequence of mine. Those single-frame edits were extremely difficult to execute on a tape-to-tape VHS editor. Again, how tedious, but I love the resulting effect.
May 9th, 2018:
What Goes Around
What if we just made the same drink, over and over again?
Perhaps that simple conceit was the seed for ROX #40. A quarter century later, I can only puzzle over the evidence.
We'd all been living together in that big house on Dunn for a couple months, but ROX #40 is the first episode that shows us hanging at the crib. J mixes a drink on the back porch, and then we circle through the neighborhood, eventually coming back for another round, again and again. J mixes the “Apple B.J.” five times in all.
It's kind of like an impromptu dance. The themes of circularity and cyclicity just keep coming back up, with variations. There's a structural elegance to this episode that I still find compelling, with form and content producing an overall unity of effect. The spinning camerawork might eventually induce nausea, but that only reinforces the sense of becoming inebriated. J certainly does a good impression of getting drunker as the show progresses. In this case, at least, it's an act. We'd have been well and truly sloshed if we were drinking real booze, but for once our claim of “simulated alcohol” was true.
The true mind-altering ingredient was of course cannabis. The herbal infusion was administered midway through the show, resulting in a boisterous improvised jam session. If the cigarette lighter motif doesn't tip you off, note that we're sitting around a hookah in the middle of our living room. Kelley commandeers the camera at Andrew's apartment for a meditation on shapes that feels downright trippy. (Note the formative nomenclature: Kelley and Andrew would become known as Worm and Mr. G, respectively, in just a couple episodes.)
Again our interest in the sheer ugliness of modern life is on display, but this time it finds a surprising counterpoint as we stumble into Wylie House — built in 1835, it's now a historic house museum just steps from our rental. We're given a guided tour by the curator, quite by random accident. As a journalist noted later, this segment has an “almost reverent” tone, a distinct shift from our usual mode of operation. I'll wager this is also one of the few times Cypress Hill and Joni Mitchell are juxtaposed in the same soundtrack.
Despite touching on some serious and even dark topics toward the end, this show has a light and airy feel. It seems so casual and offhand, an effortless trifle. Nevertheless it did generate some ripple effects.
1) Our call for new gods was answered. See ROX #44.
2) Our neighbor Chance made a “chance” appearance, and this came back up in ROX #46.
3) We sang the name of a local photographer to the tune of “Ride of the Valkyries.” It was a moment of pure silliness, but the woman in question tracked me down and confronted me while I was editing at BCAT. She hadn't seen the show herself, but her journalism students had — a lot of them, apparently. She associated Wagner with Nazism and thought we were trying to smear her name. I apologized and explained we were actually ardent anti-facists, and so we shook hands and parted on good terms.
Footnotes: A remark from Xy indicates this program was shot on 19 September 1993, the Sunday before our wedding. The third installment of Anarchy Diary is the only segment that was (possibly) not taped on the same day. Terry's musings on credit cards and bankruptcy foreshadow my own bankruptcy five years later. This segment would not appear again until our third season, though ROX #55 (when he finally took on the alias of TBlack) should probably have been presented as a fourth installment.
May 8th, 2018:
A trashy holiday in the sun
My fascination with the seamy side of American culture is on full display in ROX #36. I made a trip with my fiancé to a timeshare condo in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with a couple friends, and I pointed the camera at every grotesque, kitschy, offensive, crass, excessive, or downright ugly display I could find. We visited Brookgreen Gardens, but that's barely a blip in this 36 minute ramble. The video is preoccupied with roadside kiosks, shotglass slogans, and dirty toilets. The overall effect is not unlike a descent into hell, a swirling vortex of chaos, a place where capitalism runs amok, as Xy aptly observes.
It all plays out to one of the most bizarre soundtracks imaginable. Thank mnortham for that.
Other musical moments are strewn throughout. We meet some buskers on the strip, just three guys with three guitars “kicking back on the grass like dumbasses,” who perform a little impromptu blues number for the camera. Later, we catch a Rod Stewart impersonator at a poolside party, one Mick Mako by name. If you listen carefully, you can hear him call out to “security!” between verses. It's not clear what was going on there, but it cracks me up every time. You can also hear Xy singing “Country Roads” on the car ride back home. Hang around for the very end, after all the credits have rolled, and you'll encounter some freak singing an operatic ode to the vending machines at a rest stop in Kentucky. He's a complete random stranger, and our paths will probably never cross again, but it's one of my favorite moments.
Other notable incidents include a mishap with an unbalanced table (resulting in several broken bottles of booze), a certain someone peeing in the elevator at the Jamaican Motor Inn, and of course the infamous frozen jellyfish. Just keep in mind, the jellyfish was already dead. No jellyfish were harmed in the production of this program.
This is one of two “vacation” episodes which were produced over the summer of 1993, and which were only televised after we'd kicked off our second season. (The other vacation episode was ROX #35, in which J journeyed to North Carolina. It's strange we never made the double Carolina connection.) All the video for this episode was shot before we moved in together to that big house on Dunn Street, and it was probably the first program I edited that summer, so in a way it almost seems to me like a leftover remnant of our first season.
We shot the framing sequence in the basement of 701 S Lincoln, where Xy lived with Geraldine for a year. As is perhaps evidenced by the glistening sheen of perspiration on J's dome-like brow, it was a sweltering hot day. (It may have been the 4th of July if memory serves, which is usually a scorcher in Bloomington.) That may account for our general torpor. We sought the basement in a desperate bid to beat the heat, but to no avail. The only relief comes toward the end of the program when Geraldine dispenses frozen treats, her only appearance in the series.
May 3rd, 2018:
Big props to superfan K. Harding who turned up a copy of our “lost” episode, ROX #51, in his home video library. We first posted about this missing show back in 2004, so that only took fourteen years. Hooray, huzzah, hallelujah. All that is broken shall be mended; all that is lost shall be found! Although once you experience the ROX Video Troupe's rendition of “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” you will realize this is a mixed blessing at best.
We shot this one on the second day of 1994, and it mostly consists of running around Bloomington asking people their predictions for the new year. As such, it's ephemeral stuff, for the most part, but it was quick to produce.
This was the first episode to list “Underwear Writers” at the end. These were people who kindly gave us financial support. In return we gave them a “hand‑xeroxed official UNDERWEAR*WRITER certificate, suitable for framing and proud display. ”
April 29th, 2018:
The summer vacation to Burnsville, North Carolina, with me (“Slinky”), J, his cousin Matt, and Matt’s friend, Mark, happened in the summer of 1993, shortly before I left for a year-abroad program.
We took in the beautiful mountains and scenic drives. We hiked and went whitewater rafting, J fished, and then I ate some of the most delicious fresh-caught trout I’ve ever eaten (at the Troxell’s Restaurant).
I remember that we made a few stops, and took some pictures, on the way from Indiana to North Carolina. Mercifully, I do not remember wagging a payphone on front of my face. I can tell you that I found the pressure relentless — the pressure to be entertaining, for the camera. This was before the era of sharing on social media and there was a self-consciousness about being on camera that seems quaint and embarrassing now. I basically think that any locals who saw us out and about with cameras that day would have quickly decided that we were assholes.
In the scene in which J describes part of a Kool-Aid drink recipe as requiring a person to “get a big hocker,” it could only be my 21-year old self that responded, in part, with: “I’m gonna take off my shirt for that one.” Footage was made of me partially making good on that threat. I can’t really explain the thought process on that one. Let’s just chalk it up to a youthful exhibitionist streak.
Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves in our interactions with our lovely hosts, Nancy and Randy Raskin, the owners (then and now) of the Celo Inn, a charming, European-style bed and breakfast. We enjoyed staying up late to play scrabble and talk with them. Everyone who reads this should plan to visit the Celo Inn someday. I’d like to return to it, myself.
March 5th, 2018:
ROX Season Two Release & Tarnished Silver Anniversary Party
Yes, it's true. We're having a party and you're invited.
It's the official ROX Season Two Release AND Tarnished Silver Anniversary Party.
This momentous event will take place Tuesday June 26, 2018, 8pm, at the Comedy Attic in Bloomington, Indiana.
We're celebrating our silver anniversary AND the long-dreaded digital release of our second season of stupidity.
Remember back in 2012 when we did that live show with clips from our even more egregious first season?
This will be like that but totally different. It's a live performance with specialty cocktails and weird surprises. Only this time, we'll have a better set of video clips, because Season Two is slightly closer to watchable.
Over the course of this season we interviewed Noam Chomsky and explored how to “load” fruit with alcohol. One of us got his septum pierced. Two of us got married (to each other!) in a crazy puppet show ceremony. We braved the backwoods of Indiana to visit the longest train trestle in the United States. We learned to ice skate. We interviewed a guy who claimed to be an exorcist for the vatican as well as an operative for the CIA. (Is he crazy? We report, you decide.) We made fools of ourselves on PBS. We made roadtrips to North and South Carolina, where we confronted late-stage global capitalism. The season ended with a bang and a puff of smoke, as we burned a joint in front of the Monroe County Courthouse, a stunt that landed us on MTV and the Howard Stern Show. Marijuana was still illegal back then.
Please save the date — tickets available early April!
#64: The Overt Promotion of Anarchy
Now in production::
#99: Go Viral or Die Trying
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