The Ball Game Movie

If you’re into campy, lo-fi, highly-improvised home movies from the 90’s then this post is for you.

I have a certain old, analog Hi8 tape and I’ve been meaning to digitize it for a very long time. It’s over two hours of obnoxious teenage me attempting to make short, funny movies with my immediate & extended family. The picture has become a bit corrupt with age and I had to take it to a place to salvage the audio track, which I feared had vanished completely.

Some of the best memories and most fun I’ve ever had happened as a kid and teenager when I would get together with my many cousins. In the latter part of the 90’s it was often me, Mike, Jesse, Danny, Rachel, Adrienne, Nigel, Alex, Marcus, Alan, and Malcolm spending countless hours on Goldeneye or Mario Kart, on the trampoline, and sometimes making movies. Nigel has died, he was part of this group of best friends. I cherish the bond I felt we all had (and have)–it’s something special when you have a group where you not only feel like you can be yourself, but you are yourself when you’re with them. Thank you all, I love you.

Here’s a video that always seemed to stand out more than others, maybe because so many of us were involved. I hope Marcus and the rest of you don’t mind being immortalized in this way.

Amazon Echo Product Comparison

EchoIt’s been over a year since Amazon unveiled the Echo, a voice-recognizing speaker/smart device designed to assist and entertain. Whether you’re considering buying one for yourself, as a gift for someone else, or if you’re just curious, here I’ll provide a comparison between the Echo and another popular smart home addition that has been available since well before the Echo came on the scene: human children.

The Amazon Echo was first released to a limited group of Amazon Prime users for beta testing in late 2014 and then launched to the general public in mid-2015. We bought ours in November 2015 and have been using it daily.

Human children have been widely available to the general public since the dawn of time. My wife and I have three models: a male we got in mid-2010, a mid-2012 female, and another male from the mid-2014 line.

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Let’s dive deeper into some of the main features of each.  

Continue reading

Here’s That Lego Star Wars Video I Made 16 Years Ago

With The Force Awakens releasing this weekend, I thought it was about time to dig up this video and share it with the internet. I uploaded it to YouTube a year ago and now I don’t remember why I hadn’t made it public before now.

 

 

I had the idea that I could tape a ruler to the front of the camcorder and then use that to attach Legos a few inches in front of the lens. Building a story was secondary; it came only out of the necessity for showing off the special effect. And, apparently, building a title sequence was tertiary (feel free to skip the first 30 seconds).

Also featured: killer voice-over work, spot-on sound effects, the sweetest Mos Eisley set, and our sponsor Scotch Tape.

I used my dad’s Sony Hi8 camcorder to shoot it. It was 1999 and I edited it with a VCR and a CD player that had analog audio out. These were the days before digital editing was widely available to the masses; with my setup, any scenes with music had to be shot in sequence.

Over halfway into making the video, I realized that the closer I held the camera to the ground, the cooler it looked. There are a few quick shots toward the end where the speeders are dragging through the grass. I like those.

My dad’s camcorder had a button you could hold down for playback review in reverse, which enabled the Luke-landing-on-the-other-speeder shot. That part looked really smooth on the original final video tape. Sadly, with time or whatever, this version has the bad VCR tracking thing going on. Oh well.

It took a day and a half to shoot. If you were to drive by my house on one of those two days, you’d see a 17-year-old in flip flops, shorts, and a tank top scurrying around his yard as fast as a person can go while hunched over 90 degrees holding a camera just above the ground. My back got a little sore and I remember I didn’t eat anything until 4pm on the longer of those two days–I only ran inside for two huge glasses of water at some point and then ran back out. That’s how you know you’re doing something you enjoy, right? Thanks to anyone who has ever been supportive of me and my fun little hobby.

Science (Super 8, 2004)

Before I began my film major at BYU in 2004, I took Tim Irwin’s Super 8mm film class. We would produce films and watch cool documentaries (anyone else seen The Cruise?). It was a great class.

For one assignment, I rounded up some friends n neighbors and shot this in just a few hours. I had to shoot it in sequence (film editing was a later lesson). I got the idea one day as I was walking toward the law building and thought it could pass as sort of a futuristic setting.

Here:

Isn’t Brad terrific?

I uploaded this to YouTube just a few days after I posted the Apokalypse Klown and The Texas Pop-Tarts Massacre posts last year. I hesitated posting this one for so long because I had hoped to eventually edit together and post an alternate-music version for a comparison. Now here we are months later, and I’m in “screw it, just make it public” mode.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned about making videos is that I can be wrong about things, even in situations where I feel very confident about an idea. By “wrong,” I mean “other people see it differently, whether it’s the opinion of a person I trust or a general consensus of opinion among many.” There’s a much better example of this notion I can illustrate with a different video later, but for now this quick note is about the music here. I was convinced that Geoff Muldar’s Brazil was perfect for this, and maybe it still is. Brad, the star, recommended that I use some 60’s-alien-movie-type theremin instrumental music instead. I entertained the idea but thought Brazil was funnier. Watching it now, I’m not so sure; it’s possible the theremin may have made this funnier, or at least just as funny but with a different–perhaps even more sophisticated?–tone. Maybe the best way to make a parody of a genre is to maintain more elements from the genre itself. And besides, a song about Brazil from the 1985 movie Brazil may not feel like a motivated placement here. Oh well. Who do I think I am, some kind of George Lucas making tweaks to something I already declared finished years ago?

I also just realized that it’s way too bad I waited as long as I did to post this–Scientist Brad travelled to 2014 and I missed it. If only I had posted this 34 days ago.

From what I remember, we all had fun making this. These little gems from the past were my babies. Thanks all.

The Texas Pop-Tarts Massacre (1998)

casey running awayUsing half a mattress box, spray paint, and construction paper, I made a giant Pop-Tarts box for my Halloween costume in 1998. We had the day off of school the following Monday. Ty, Casey, and I decided to make a video. For what I assume is the first time on YouTube and the internet in general, here is the result of that group effort. Enjoy.

Special thanks to Ty, Casey, and my brother Alan. All of you still crack me up in this.

We shot everything in just a few hours, in sequence, around Ty’s house, my house, and Parley’s Park Elementary School.

schoolWe submitted it to the high school film festival and won Best Comedy, which was a devastating, outrageous insult because our intention from the beginning was to produce a chilling character study. What could have possibly prompted such a sudden turn to an insatiable thirst for murder? Who is the real monster, the Pop-Tarts Box or the young man who abandoned his friend to be bludgeoned to death in his rocking chair? Why was that boy hanging around the park pulling grass out of the ground, doesn’t he have a TV?

A few months later I tacked on the opening/closing credits & music.

I kept that Pop-Tarts box around for years. I wore it to a college freshman Halloween dance in 1999. It was received with . . . confusion.

Here’s a Halloween photo of Ty and I in 2003:

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Awesome.

killing TyAbout a year later, Ty, Brad, Ryan, and I produced a sequel: The Blair Pop-Tarts project. I’ll post that one someday but not everyone knows this: in late 2003 we began development on another sequel, POP-TARTS: REFROSTED. It was going to be a huge Matrix parody, and it was hilarious. We tentatively recruited people, Ryan created a sweet motion graphics intro, and ideas for gags and jokes were flowing. But after some time, a lame-o party pooper decided not to do it after all. Who was the jerk? Me! struggle 1I started evaluating the cost vs. the outcome: spending a ton of time and some money creating what was turning into a half-hour video based on a relatively inside joke, as a sequel to a video that took only a few hours to make with zero preproduction. On one hand, why should I care what a wider audience thinks as long as a circle of friends and I are enjoying ourselves? On the other hand, it was probably a good call. The essence of the Pop-Tarts we know and love is chasing and subsequently murdering people with a 2×4, and it felt to me like that concept was competing with our ideas for a straight-up Matrix parody. But really, we probably could have just simplified the script and done it anyway!

casey revengeAdditional notes:

At 1:37, during the Pop-Tarts point-of-view shot, you can see the Pop-Tarts box on the ground on the left side of the screen. Was that an accidental production mistake, or was it the filmmakers’ intention to place it there, inviting viewers to contemplate their own outer “boxes” and how we and others perceive them? You decide!

CU2:05: In addition to a ski mask, the embodiment of evil also apparently involves the occasional lapse into saying Scottish things.

I don’t remember whose idea it was for Casey to shed his jacket at 2:15. Was it slowing him down? Did he hope it would somehow slow down his attacker? And why did he take it off if he was just going to put it back on again later?

3:54: That’s right folks, it was all just an AD. I still haven’t seen my check from Kellogg’s though. Should I resubmit my invoice? Yeah, I’ll go ahead and resubmit my invoice.

Click here for Apokalypse Klown

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Apokalypse Klown (1999)

There was a student film festival during my senior year of high school. Casey, Ty, and myself submitted a certain film to this festival, and it won an award, but I’ll save that gem for another post. This post is about Apokalypse Klown, it happened over 15 years ago, and here’s how I remember it:

In the weeks preceding the festival, Brad, Casey, and I wanted to shoot & submit something but we didn’t know what. I think Brad was the one who came up with the original premise. He had found a puffy clown jumpsuit, and we were going to use it somehow.

We didn’t get around to actually doing anything until the day of the festival. Casey’s basement was unfinished at the time, so we decided that would look cool and rushed over there after school.

After banging out the rough plot and some heartfelt expository dialogue, we shot the thing in under 35 minutes. Then Brad and I rushed across town to his house, transferred everything to his computer, and he edited it in Adobe Premiere. At the time, DV cameras were still very new; all I was familiar with was copying analog Hi8 to VHS. Brad picked Toccata and Fugue for the audio track. It was perfect.

There was barely time to copy it out to tape. We arrived at the festival late enough that the faculty advisor in charge didn’t have time to review it, but he let us show it anyway. Success. So here it is, one of a handful of classics, for the first time on YouTube. Three adolescents’ harrowing vision of a subterranean dystopian future nightmare for the ages. Also stick around for the additional notes below.

Additional notes (SPOILERS):

At 0:58, it may appear that we unknowingly crossed the 180-degree axis, but that’s actually how my character interacts with others in moments of great reflection: conversing while gazing thoughtfully into the distance above the horizon, 45 degrees counter-clockwise from the other person.

The laugh at 4:48 is Brad’s, slowed down a few percentage points.

Egotistical scumbag moment: the shot at 4:10 is my baby. We almost didn’t shoot it because we didn’t think there was time to do multiple angles, but I really wanted it and likely didn’t stop whining until the others gave in.

I don’t know what Brad is saying at 5:01. Likely reciting a manifesto.

5:15: yes, the Klown has The Force. Plot twists had just become popular in the late 90’s so of course we went with it.

5:26: rocking chair impalement!

5:31/5:45/5:55: acting! 5:36: Brad did this cool little knife flip-out here, but I didn’t zoom out fast enough to catch it. By the time it’s zoomed out all the way, the knife is already pointing out. I guess we’ll have to try to cover that in our 30th anniversary shot-for-shot remake.

6:00: I take credit for this moment, if my memory serves me . . . Brad, Casey, do I have all this right? And I guess the professional thing to do would have been to email this to them first and THEN publish the post about it, but I didn’t, so, surpriiise, guys. Let me know if there’s anything I got wrong, anything I left out, whatever.

Could I have uploaded it to YouTube without the black border? Yes. But it’s late, it’s almost 1 GB, and it already finished uploading. Let’s just make up something and say it’s motivated because it makes it look like it’s being projected onto an old silent movie theater screen, and Toccata himself is below and to the right of that screen, just whaling on that organ.

This was a group effort–I’m merely the keeper of the footage; the three of us share the blame equally, so you’ll have to write to three different congressmen separately to complain about its existence because we all live in different states now.

You guys, I hadn’t watched this in years. Good times. My current occupation is Video Producer, and I want to take an awkward, quicker-than-it-should-be moment to thank my friends and family members–immediate and extended–who have always been so supportive of my video-related antics. My past and current self really appreciates your support.

Finally, keep your eyes peeled for a cameo appearance by Casey’s Dad, cast as perhaps the most frightening character of all: the apathetic observer who could have saved innocent lives but instead chose to keep his back turned in his computer chair and allow the unspeakable horrors to escalate and continue. And is there not, perhaps, a malleable fragment of this man’s darkness deep inside the rest of us–possibly not as deep as we hope–waiting to be uncovered and kindled? I pray none of us must ever find out the answer, and thanks Leon for letting us use your basement btw. More to come later . . .

UPDATED JULY 6, 2014:

I thought of a few more things:

The dialogue at the beginning just cracks me up every single time, as well as the fact that we both had weapons ready right away.

Did you like Brad’s wardrobe? The puffy clown suit is great, but how bout the hat & sunglasses?

The clown threatens to kill us all but then retreats to the basement. Why didn’t he just kill us right then? Maybe he is only able to exercise his dark, circus-themed arts below ground.

In that same vein, how about this sequence of events: the clown sneaks up on us, silently takes me away with ninja-like skill, quietly and quickly beats me with my own stick (for only a few seconds), runs back to tell Casey “He’s gone!!!”, then runs away, no doubt to beat me some more. Then he waits over by the window until Casey comes to my aid to threaten us yet again. How did he do it? It’s like Kevin Costner’s description of Lee Harvey Oswald’s actions in JFK–did he act alone or was there a second klown? (Or did Casey’s dad help him?) Why didn’t he just stab us both in the back while we were very, very slowly walking down that spooky hallway? Why didn’t he just kill me instead of first beating me senseless, then killing my friend, and THEN killing me? Why didn’t he just stay in the basement the entire time and simply use The Force to send his knife upstairs to kill us? As a wolf may toy with its helpless prey, I suppose such are the games a klown plays.

Yes, he did clearly threaten our lives there in the first act, but he technically had not done us any harm yet. Casey and I are only cast as the text’s protagonists and sympathetic characters because we’re the first introduced (and likely share the audience’s fear of basement clowns); how is the viewer to know that we aren’t just as morally reprehensible as the apokalypse klown? Was Casey perhaps just a little too eager to “go get that clown”? Does this story begin at the tail end of a longer, more complex story of clown-directed harassment that culminates in Casey and I pushing him to the breaking point with an invasion of his home, and I was going to go downstairs and steal his belongings to make them my things? All that may be possibly, but it’s more logical and realistic that this was the same clown that killed my dad and it’s a real bummer that he kills us, too.

December 2013

[Pssst: there’s a photo of the four of us at the very end of this post. Guess which one of us was picking his/her nose!]

In the “We Are Darlings” department:

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In December we had a photo session with Jocelyn at Pink Lemonade Photography.

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From the moment we got out of the car, Josie was confused beyond reason. See those pants? The only thing standing between her pudgy baby legs and bitter winter temperatures is a super-thin layer of jeggings. She’s not smiling in this next one, her teeth are just chattering:

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But doesn’t she look great? I guess the key to getting good pictures from a baby/toddler is to completely disorient them, it bought us at least 10 solid minutes. Thanks Jos! We love you!

Side note: whenever I type “Jos,” it’s with a long O, like the O in the word “boat.”

Gavin enjoyed sitting on this “poof.”

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(And no, for those of you in the know, he hasn’t seen Arrested Development, he just thinks certain words/phrases are hilarious , like “poof,” “floppy,” and “rule of threes.” I couldn’t think of a third one, but there have been lots of funny words. I’ll ask Rebecca later and put them in the comments. Or I’ll just make her do it, she’ll read this later. Hey honey, think of more and type them in a comment below.)

Look at this kid!

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The above picture looks perfect until you see that Josie’s licking her vest–then, of course, it’s even more perfect.

More pictures:

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Below: a project. I searched for well over a few minutes but I couldn’t find a completely “before” picture, and I don’t feel like photoshopping this, so just imagine the mud room without a horizontal bar on the wall.

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Now to patch up the “screw holes,” as they’re called . . .

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Now apply a “paint” . . .

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Then the “dual-hooky loos” you buy on Amazon . . .
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Add all the things . . .

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BAM it’s done. Rad. Also ask us about our spice racks (not pictured).

Rebecca wanted to find a map and hang it in Gavin’s room. She found this one at a store, we hung it up all perfect-like, and she wanted to take a picture of the new wall:

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. . . did you see it? Look again.

That’s Gavin’s head in the lower right corner. If I remember right, he was probably getting ready for his bath (which apparently involves him removing his clothes and throwing them) and his undies were in mid-flight just as Rebecca was snapping this gem. We should probably get a large canvas print of THIS and hang it on his wall. Ha! Maybe this will become a new phenomenon, like planking–toss a pair of underpants in front of someone’s camera just as they’re taking a picture. Hilarious.

Anyway,

Spider-Man:

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Ready for church:

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And ready to go outside with Daddy:

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And this was at a church Christmas party. Have your guesses ready . . .

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It was Ol’ Jos! Josie was the one picking her nose and we didn’t find out til later. Whoever guessed Rebecca or Gavin: you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Whoever guessed me: I can see how you got that but you should still feel shame.

So . . . Merry Christmas, I guess. Except it’s February now.

November 2013

I recently learned that WordPress started posting ads on blogs that aren’t premium. So, you’ll probably see ads at the bottom of my posts sometimes. Should I switch to blogger? Or should I host a blog on my robyoungberg.com site? Maybe I’ll do that.

We didn’t take many pictures in November. How can you tell? I’m leading off this post with a picture of the worst spider. If I had tons of pictures of us then I’d probably omit this, but for the sake of filling out a blog post and freaking out squeamish people, here:

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Thankfully, this was found OUTSIDE the dining room window. If it was inside the house we would have moved already. Uuugly thing. Any spider aficionados want to identify this? I didn’t do anything about it, don’t want to interfere with nature, you know. I subscribe to frames of mind as it’s convenient for me.

Let’s cleanse the visual palate with a sweet girl:

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Gavin making the letter X:

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Is Josie trying to make a letter too? A lowercase I, maybe? A terrible letter P? I don’t know.

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Josie hiding in the cupboard. Gavin would do the same thing (sometimes still does). Here’s a picture of him from January 2012, I had to dig around a bit for it.

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Really, that’s all I have. When I said we didn’t take many pictures in November, that wasn’t true. We took a ton, but they were of stuff, not people. For example, we almost made an offer on a nice house and took a lot of pictures of that but then literally at the last minute we decided to stay where we are. We felt bad because the sellers were people we know and like, and they were in a hurry to sell, but we knew this was the right decision for us. We started a great project in the mud room in November, so I thought I’d be able to post a before/after picture of that, but I guess we finished that in December. If there’s something readers can’t get enough of, it’s people telling the riveting stories about how they thought they would have more to show & say but don’t. I’d say more but I don’t want to get anyone too worked up–it wouldn’t be fair for me to make this paragraph the high point of your day because then nothing else would be able to compete.

Hey, what about this: