Posts Tagged video

A Poetry Video for Star Wars Day


On Star Wars Day in 2012, all I had seen of Star Wars while fully awake was The Phantom Menace and The Star Wars Holiday Special. I finally had what seemed like the perfect opportunity to lose my Star Wars virginity, with a screening of the original three movies by the CERN CinéClub, and yet, I had doubts. Not many people reached my age without having seen Star Wars. Surely I should do something artistic with my unusual lack of knowledge. Which is not to say that art is the realm of unknowledgeable people, but humour can be, as long as one doesn’t mind being the target of the laughter.

I asked Twitter whether I should watch the movies, or instead write a poem about everything I knew about the movies from songs and internet memes. Twitter said to write poetry, so I did.

I have since recited the poem to an audience of nerds on JoCo Cruise 3, and to my surprise, they did not throw me overboard. One of them has even read my poem at an event at a library. I made a mistake on the cruise, though, so I never had a good video of the poem to share… until now. I have actually seen all seven Star Wars movies in the last year, so made a video with not only the poem, but a run-down of how it differs from the actual movies:

I quote Marian Call’s song, ‘I’ll Still be a Geek After Nobody Thinks it’s Chic (the Nerd Anthem)’ and The Doubleclicks’ song ‘Nothing To Prove‘ at the beginning.

The poem references OSV word orderWil Wheaton’s story, ‘The Trade’, from which I learnt the existence of land speeders, to some extent the sleeping bag from which I learnt about tauntaunsThe Tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo, and the ‘Do not want‘ meme from Star War The Third Gathers: Backstroke of the West.

I used six seconds of Jonathan Coulton’s song ‘Screwed’ in the credits. I’m wearing this shirt; there are two versions of the shirt widely available online, but I got the only one which ships to Europe.

Star Wars is not the only thing I learn about mainly from songs and internet memes. Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire is another, and so, inspired by a song by Paul and Storm about George R. R. Martin’s slow writing, I contributed a picture to a music video for another song by Paul and Storm about the series:

I hope you enjoyed these videos. May the fourth be with you! 🖖😉

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Video: Journey Into the Dishwasher


Dishwashers. They sure seem like they’re on our side. But what are they really after? What do they really do behind those closed doors? I sent my waterproof camera and waterproof torch to find out.

Okay, so maybe I was trying to figure out why my dishwasher didn’t wash very well and the relative positions of the camera and torch didn’t lead to any useful data. But I think the result still looks interesting, up until the torch turns off, and it sounds pretty cool too, from about 1:40 onward. I wonder if it would be pleasing to people who experience ASMR, or supremely annoying for people with certain kinds of misophonia. Or perhaps it’ll just be good ambient sounds for relaxing.

The music at the beginning is part of something I was working on a while ago in order to experiment with weird chords. Eventually I’ll probably turn it into a ‘song’ about space shuttles.

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Logan Awards Finalists (with links)


Recently I had the honour of being a fan juror for the Logan Whitehurst Memorial Awards for Excellence in Comedy Music (Logan Awards for short.) It was great to finally have an important reason to listen to comedy music for several full days, and a response to the eye-rolling of my friends when I mentioned yet another funny song, although deciding which songs to vote for was pretty tough. As a juror I had to listen to or watch all the songs and music videos nominated by the general public, and choose my favourite five nominees in each category. I can’t tell you which ones I voted for, but the finalists (chosen based on the votes of all the jurors, with ties broken by Dr. Demento) have been announced. Since the page on the Logan Awards site doesn’t link to the songs in question, I thought I’d link to them here. In alphabetical order:

Outstanding Parody Song

Out­stand­ing Orig­i­nal Com­edy Song

Out­stand­ing Com­edy Music Video

Here’s a YouTube playlist of the music video finalists:

The winners will be announced at FuMPFest on 5—7 June in Wheeling, Illinois. If you like funny music and are anywhere near there, I recommend going; it sounds like great fun. Many comedy musicians will be there, including guests of honour The Arrogant Worms. I saw some of the same performers and fans at the MarsCon 2014 dementia track, and it was a blast.

I’d like to give the other nominees a bit of publicity, but it’s difficult to do that without people making inferences about my votes, so here is a YouTube playlist of all the videos nominated in open nominations for the ‘Outstanding Comedy Music Video’ category, sorted in ascending order of views because the ones with the fewest views need the publicity more.

If you’re a Paul and Storm fan, you might be wondering why no songs from their 2014 album Ball Pit are in the finals. Some of their songs were nominated in the open nominations, but they became ineligible for the award when Paul Sabourin joined the jury. In honour of Paul’s noble sacrifice, I present to you a nominated video of this song of theirs which would have made the judging harder for me, if only because of all the freeze-framing to see the details:

If you’d like to hear more comedy music, consider subscribing to The FuMP podcasts, where you can get several comedy songs a week for free. You can find even more funny music on the Mad Music Archive, the Dr. Demento Show, or Songs About Science & Math. Also, check out the Logan Whitehurst website to find out about the awards’ namesake and buy his music.

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Video: Christmastime is Wunnerful (Robot Protectors cover)


I felt a bit bad about having to truncate the full-length instrumental that Colleen and Joseph made for JoCo Day is Wunnerful, so, having already taught my robot choir the main melody, I decided to record my own cover of Christmastime is Wunnerful. I was toying with the idea of making it a mashup with Jonathan Coulton’s other Christmas classic, Chiron Beta Prime (since the source tracks for that are available), when I realised that even without modification, Christmastime is Wunnerful is quite amusing to listen to while watching Tom Ellsworth‘s music video for Chiron Beta Prime. So I decided to edit that video (with Tom’s permission) to match my cover. Here is the result:

For comparison, here’s the original Chiron Beta Prime video. I didn’t have to change very much, really:

I had to pretty much abandon the ‘daily’ part of Holidailies because ended up flyng to New Zealand, which in itself takes more than a day without internet. But here’s some more holiday for you.

The voices I used were, in order of appearance:

Adult human male: Alex

Standard robots: Zarvox

Festive holiday figure robots for the purposes of augmenting human morale and productivity: Trinoids

Adult human female: Victoria

Human male emulation for the purposes of undetectable redaction: Ralph

Juvenile human: Junior

I also used the bells and ‘Message redacted’ tracks from Chiron Beta Prime, and the ‘Machines’ track from The Future Soon.

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I signed up for Holidailies knowing full well I’d miss the first day. The reason why will probably not amaze you.


A couple of my friends (or was it the same friend twice?) mentioned this Holidailies thing, and although I have too many things to do already, I reasoned that I did get through half of National(?) Poetry Writing Month relatively unscathed, so maybe I should do it. I signed up for it on December 1, knowing full well I probably wouldn’t be able to post anything that day. You see, I was busy working on something that had to be finished by the end of December 1 in Brooklyn, but would be unlikely to be done before midnight in my own time zone. I did finish it in time, so I’m posting it here as either my December 1 or December 2 post, depending on whether I get around to making something else worth posting today.

I did the video editing for this collaborative birthday video for Jonathan Coulton from his fans, the sixth one so far. Tradition dictates that no matter how early somebody starts suggesting we make something, nobody actually does anything until December 1 is almost upon us, and this year it was really down to the wire; the first contributions were sent in on November 29, and although many people had previously expressed an interest in participating, in the last few days we could only gather four people, some robots, and a cat. It’s a good thing I’d already learnt the basics of Final Cut Pro while making the Paul and Storm karaoke video, so I could do a lot of things fairly quickly, even if I probably went overboard on the things Final Cut can do that iMovie couldn’t, and there are many other things that I’d have liked to spend more time getting right.

The song is based on ‘Christmastime is Wunnerful’ from Jonathan Coulton’s and John Roderick’s Christmas album, One Christmas at a Time.

Everyone did a lot; the two most musical of us each sent in many amazing instrumental tracks that it would probably take me months to figure out and years to learn to play. Meanwhile, as a software developer who’s only recently started learning about music, I simply made some robot voices sing in ways that perhaps amaze people who don’t know how that works. That was done using my robot choir, a program I wrote to sing using the built-in Mac speech synthesis, which I intend to rewrite with a decent interface and release on the app store one of these days. Maybe next year some time, if I don’t end up finding a new day job after my current one ends. I’ve released several mediocre songs using the robot choir.

Later this month I’ll be going to Norway for the first time, to celebrate Christmas with some friends, and I don’t know how much time I’ll have for blogging. But I’ll do my best. Perhaps I’ll write a sonnet on a mundane topic each day; sonnets are structured enough that they’re fairly easy to write when you have nothing to say. Leave topic suggestions in the comments and I’ll try to get to them. If your topics can only be expressed in dactyls, I reserve the right to write a sonnet about how you are a poopy-head.

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Video: Come Sail Away With Paul and Storm on JoCo Cruise Crazy


On JoCo Cruise Crazy 2, Paul from Paul and Storm sang Storm’s signature karaoke song, Come Sail Away by Styx. On JoCo Cruise Crazy 3, Storm sang it. I edited my videos of the two performances together to show Paul and Storm both singing the song at once, because Paul and Storm are so good together.

JoCo Cruise Crazy 5 is coming up, and if you want to sign up for it, it’s best to do so before the end of the month, while the full range of stateroom types is still available.

While editing this, I came to the conclusion that Styx missed an opportunity to rhyme ‘virgin sea’ with ’emergency’. ‘Emergency’ doesn’t have that many single-word polysyllabic rhymes, and it probably gets rhymed with ‘urgency’ far too often and ‘insurgency’ far too rarely, so if you’re going to go to the trouble of making a strange combination of words such as ‘virgin sea’ sound natural, you could at least give ’emergency’ the interesting rhyme it deserves.

This is only my second video made in Final Cut Pro X rather than iMovie. The first was a video of the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at Kennedy Space Center, which only had some of the fancy transitions and titles. In this video, however, there is almost nothing that I could have done in iMovie. I learnt a lot. Here are the main things I learnt, in case anyone else needs to know:

  • Final Cut Pro can do a lot. All the things I wished I could do in iMovie, and more. Consequently, there’s a lot to learn.
  • Using Final Cut Pro, gonna need a lot of keyframes (to the tune of ‘Peaches‘.)
  • If you want to change the position of a clip at a constant speed, which you need to do if you want to move it in sync with changing the cropping of it (which I did to pan over the video of Paul; normally something like this could be done using the Ken Burns effect, but as far as I know that only works when the aspect ratio is the same as for the whole video) all the transform keyframes have to be set to Linear, even when the previous keyframe has the same position. They are Smooth by default. To change them to Linear you have to right-click (okay, two-finger tap; do people still use mouses?) on them in the viewer, and if there are multiple keyframes on the same point, you can only change the topmost one this way, which is the latest one in the timeline. So it’s best to create keyframes in order and set them to Linear as soon as you make them; otherwise you may need to temporarily change the position of a keyframe so that you can right-click on it to change it to Linear.
  • If weird green frames or other green bits appear in your video in Final Cut Pro X 10.1.3, you need to delete the render files for that project and then wait for it to render again. Going by the solutions I found on the internet, in older versions of Final Cut Pro X you had to do this manually in the Finder.

I’d like to thank Cayenne for not only supplying the karaoke library used on the cruises, but also helping me figure out which of the two videos had the most accurate length for the song — they were shot with two different cameras at different frame rates, amounting to a four second difference in song length and a lot of trouble synching them up. Also, thanks to Tyler for the second pair of ears when I had trouble captioning a few parts.

In other news, I also put up video of the presentation of the Launch Pad 39 complex from a tour I went on at Kennedy Space Center in 2013, and the Jurassic Park ride at Universal from the same year. These are the kinds of things you can see if stop by Orlando on your way to or from JoCo Cruise Crazy.

I’ve also been reciting a lot of my poetry at Open Phil and Open Mic 2.0. Some day I’ll know enough of it well enough to put on some kind of show of my own. There will probably be an Open Phil on JoCo Cruise Crazy 5 too, because awesome things attract.

On the subject of things with ‘Phil’ in their names, the comet lander Philae did a lot of science, and is now not only probably in a coma, but also comatose. You did well, little lander.

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‘They might not be giants’ Poster


A while ago I wrote a poem called ‘They might not be giants‘, about the famous phrase, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ A while later, that poem was published in Offshoots 12, the 2013 anthology of the Geneva Writers’ Group.

Ever since writing it, I’ve been thinking about how great it would be to see a picture of the tower of dwarves described. I’ve also been thinking about which plural of ‘dwarf’ is best, and a couple of grammatical and typographical decisions I made regarding the poem, but mostly I’ve been thinking about the picture. Well, I finally commissioned Len Peralta to draw that picture for me! It is gorgeous.

It is also the real reason I set up a Zazzle store; you can buy it as an 11×17 poster featuring the poem. I’ll have some printed locally as well, so if anyone near Vienna wants one they can buy one directly from me. Maybe you’d like one for yourself, or an aspiring scientist, or an inspiring teacher, or a Len Peralta fan, or an Angela Brett fan (do they exist? Edit: there is one) or even a They Might Be Giants fan who wants their poster collection to cover all possibilities. I think it’s suitable for anyone who has walls. If you know anyone who doesn’t have walls who would like some, see if you can help them find a home.

I’ve always been fascinated by Len’s videos of himself drawing, so I paid a little extra to get this mesmerising speedpaint video, which doubles as a great way to get an idea of what the poster looks like close-up. Note that the final poster has the title of the poem on it, and a few other small changes to the text.

I still can’t watch it without squeeing. It took him 2 hours, 36 minutes, which is about how long it would take me to draw a stick figure version indistinguishable from a Christmas tree.

This is actually not the first time I’ve commissioned Len to draw something for me; he also drew the picture of Jonathan Coulton transforming into an internet superstar at the beginning of a video I made to celebrate Jonathan’s Thing A Week by summarising each song in the form of a ‘roses are red’ poem. He drew most of the rest of the art in the video, too, but that was done already as part of his Visual Thing A Week project, which is the reason I know he exists.

That’s all from me. Go have fun, and tune in tomorrow for the next exciting installment of Forms and Formulae.

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Ace of Hearts: She Went to Pick Flowers (Mara Levi music video)


For the Ace of Spades I posted a music video incorporating some footage shot on JoCo Cruise Crazy 2, so for the Ace of Hearts, here is a music video I made with the help of a lot of sea monkeys for Mara Levi‘s song ‘She Went to Pick Flowers‘ during JoCo Cruise Crazy 3.

Aces of hearts with flowers on them

It was filmed on Coco Cay, St. Maarten, and the conference center (game room, for us) on board the Freedom of the Seas. While it’s a little ironic to film a video for this song during a luxury cruise, we had all the appropriate scenery available and I really wanted to share the song and hopefully get Mara some more fans. If you like the song and think Mara should have a few flowers, please buy it or other Mara Levi music, and maybe also support Mara’s band The Pushovers in making their first album together. And if you really like her, I certainly wouldn’t complain if you requested her for JoCo Cruise Crazy 4.

I got a lot of help from other Sea Monkeys (JoCo Cruise Crazy attendees) to make this, some of whom showed up and rescued the project right when I thought I’d never find the time or people or locations to pull it off. I didn’t even get everyone’s full names, so if you’re in it and would like a proper credit, let me know. I hope my amateur video editing does you justice.

My star Cass (‘she’) for example, showed up out of nowhere right when I thought there’d be no time to do it, with a rental car to get us to the beach, and agreed to be in the video with no prior knowledge of the song or of me. And when I was held up on Coco Cay because (having been Half Moon Cay where everything is paid using the ship’s room card) I didn’t realise I’d need cash to get my hair braided, another Mara Levi fan let me into the cabana area to film there instead of on the beach where I’d have made ‘old houses’ out of sand. The drawing and origami are by cartoonist Lar DeSouza, and I bought the flowers from flauxers, which is run by another sea monkey who also happened to end up in the video as a tenant. I had been confident from the beginning that some sea monkey would have a top hat they could lend me (there’s a whole ‘monocled monkeys’ group) but it would have actually been difficult to locate one had Robert not been wearing one from the beginning. A few more names are listed in the video description. I’m also grateful to the people who wanted to help but didn’t manage to meet me at the right places or times because I’m not very good at organising things and I didn’t get to the beach for long on Coco Cay.

Mara Levi says she loves it, in capital letters with three exclamation marks, so I’m calling it a success.

Flowers for everyone!

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Five of Clubs: Marmites


This weekend Geneva celebrates the Fête de l’Escalade, so I made a video of the piece I wrote about various things called marmites, their nutritional value, use in soup cooking, and effectiveness against invading Savoyards. It’s been adapted slightly to work on video, and includes some destruction, a dangerous stunt, and a slight tilt I didn’t have time to correct.

Chocolate cannon for shooting marmites

I read this at the Geneva Writers’ Group on Saturday, using all the same props, and the Marmite was smashed in a way probably closer to the tradition than all the other Marmite-smashings I’ve induced. It’s the last one in the video. I am not sure how many people tried the various yeast spreads, but several told me of their preexisting preferences.

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Four of Clubs: On Hospitals and Reality


I felt like reading this one aloud. In retrospect, I should have taken the trouble to memorise it and set up a proper camera rather than recording it with a webcam while reading it from a screen. The story I refer to, which I did not actually reread before writing this, is after the break.

A card with pictograms for disability and toilets and food

When I was a teenager I wrote a story about my experience staying in Starship Children’s hospital for a while, and presented it to a writing class. I mentioned that I was somewhat glad, after several weeks there, to get back to the real world.

“But surely you can’t get much more real than a hospital,” a middle-aged woman in the class responded.

This puzzled me at the time, but I think I understand now. Reality is pain, and sickness, and IV drips, and wheelchairs, and bed pans, and rarely going outside, and machines that beep all night, and parades of doctors taking turns prodding and asking if it hurts, and teenagers who know they will not live to adulthood, and healing, and nurses at your beck and call, and surprisingly good food delivered to you in bed, and visitors that bring better food to overcompensate, and a play specialist who comes by regularly to play with you, and a games cart that comes by less often with new games, and glass lifts facing the atrium that have a view of the playground and all seven different-coloured storeys, and an in-house movie channel that shows mostly The Lion King, by request, and an in-house radio station that plays mostly Mysterious Girl and Wonderwall, also by request.

Anything else you think you experience is merely the product of your deranged imagination.

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