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Striaght to Tape



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Title: Striaght to Tape
Type: production note
Date: June 29th, 2018

If this episode looks even grainier and grungier than the others, there's a reason for that. The master was lost somewhere along the way, and no one even seemed to have a dub. At last superfan W. Owen found an old VHS tape with a recording straight from cable — only the tape had significant mold damage.

After viewing ROX #45, one may well conclude that it should have stayed lost.

The premise is perhaps interesting: the mechanical edit controller at the public access station broke, and so I couldn't do any editing that week. Rather than miss our weekly time slot, we decided to record an entire episode “in camera” — that is, the show was assembled on the fly by judicious application of that little red button which starts and stops the recording. Any graphics or soundtrack would have to be supplied live.

We aimed to build the show in 29 one-minute segments, even though we knew the ever-loquacious J would have trouble restraining himself to such paltry portions. But we actually succeeded on the technical front, more or less. The quality of the content is another question entirely.

I did make a couple edits to get the show ready for cablecast: a thirty-second warning was added at the beginning, and credits at the end, with music by Groverpumper. But other than that, the program was straight from the camera tape.

Here are the 29 segments, roughly:

1. Cold open: Fade up on me in the bathroom mirror wielding the camera. I walk through our Dunn Street house while counting off the first thirty seconds of the show. Note the sheela na gig photocopy on the wall! You can see Xy, J, Worm, Moonboy, and others as I make my way to the TV in the living room. I must have rehearsed this because my timing is impeccable, if I do say so myself. I press play on our VCR at precisely thirty seconds, the cued tape rolls, and we see the series title and hear Carl Orff's familiar chords, a segment which we knew to last exactly thirty seconds. Thus the first minute is completed. When I dubbed the tape off, I displayed the camera info, “burning in” the counter for the first 30 seconds, emphasizing the handheld camcorder aspect of the show, and revealing our acquisition format to be (what else?) Hi8. As if you didn't know.

2. Episode title (hand assembled from old block letters used for home movies) and introduction.

3. Drink: One Minnit Mix→Up, one of J's famous snow-based concoctions.

4. A visit to the public access station to see the broken edit controller. I'm obviously flustered by the time constraint.

5. We explain the concept of 29 one-minute segments.

6. J&B in the snow. Improvised jams.

7. Lunch at the Bloomington Waffle House (RIP 2013). We introduce The Conk, J's hometown buddy from Lexington, Kentucky. Were we using his camera to shoot this episode? There's a silly visual pun on the fact that it's “chili outside.”

8. Moonboy blows his nose and someone uses the urinal. The censors didn't balk at this one.

9. Drink: Whiskey Fastball (mixed in the Waffle House restroom).

10. Fun with elevators; a snowball fight on the roof of a parking garage.

11. Back on the ground floor.

12. The lighter makes its appearance. We actually see J smoking a joint. This is our most explicit depiction of cannabis use yet. There's another improvised jam.

13. A contemplative moment. Someone urinates in the stairwell.

14. A message from God in the Interzone. I'm not entirely sure who this Phil guy is. A friend of The Conk's, I think.

15. Grown men on a kiddie slide.

16. J tries to gauge our temporal progress. He's more than half a minute behind, but we can blame that on the 30 second warning which was appended after the fact. We also get to see Moonboy spinning a rifle. Hey, he's wearing my sweater!

17. Car montage with Public Enemy playing on the stereo.

18. J gets cash at the ATM. We stop by the McDonald's on Kirkwood. It takes about ten seconds before a manager tells The Conk to stop recording.

19. We stop by our post office box. There's a mysterious message waiting for us: “Fuck everything you stand for. Fuck you!” Hmm, that looks like my own handwriting.

20. An actual piece of viewer mail: Llama responds to our call for new gods, issued in ROX #40.

21. Drink: 3 the Fast Way, basically a shot of Laphroiag Scotch chased by a shot of Hot Damn Cinnamon schnapps chased by a shot of Malibu Coconut Rum. Urgh.

22. J downs the three shots in rapid succession, with placards standing in for our usual on-screen title graphics.

23. Another explicit depiction of cannabis use, this time in a hookah. A brief clip from ROX #44 appears for no conceivable reason. Were we taping over our source tapes already? This is followed by a hand-drawn number 29 with narration by the artist.

24. More art narration.

25. More art narration.

26. “Super Woman of Social Graces,” a skit conceived (and starring) Xy. Sorry, babe, I love you, but this is just cringe-worthy. At least it's brief.

27. Presentation of a License from The Conk.

28. We say goodbye at last.

29. Credits roll.

The timecode tells me it was indeed 29 minutes but it feels more like 29 hours. It was, at best, a curious experiment.

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