Monday, April 30, 2012

Mirrors in the Rain

One of the favorite things I made in my video making history was the Mirrors In The Rain series. It started out rather innocuously. I had made an acquaintance in the owner of my local music store. Back in 2007, I bought my first ukulele from this guy. We talked about making music, life and all kinds of things. One thing about his guy, Sam Bartelle is his name, is that he had achieved his life goal. He had written, produced and published his own Opera. It’s called “Mirrors in the Rain”, and I got a free copy of the CD with my second purchase at the Countrywood Music Store. One lunchtime, I challenged myself to record, edit and upload a new YouTube video during my hour away work. I lip synced one of the tracks from Mirrors in the Rain. After this innocent fun, I made one of my very first videos with this new thing I had discovered, the greenscreen and chromokeying. Mirrors in the Rain - Part Two! Five years ago tonight, I was looking for my next epic video project. I sent out an e-mail to everyone in my office. I worked as a mortgage loan officer at the time. I had one simple question: Who are your favorite singers? See, at the time on YouTube, lip syncing was very popular. Unknown people “sang” the songs of famous musicians. Why not turn it around? Let’s have famous singers, as represented by the favorites sent to me in the office, sing the work of an unknown, the Walnut Creek Opera, Mirrors in the Rain. This video was SO epic, it required TWO “Making of” videos. I think these are better than any if the actual vids, Enjoy!

Unite Against the War on Women

Why have the Conservatives launched a war on women this year? I won’t bother to list to you all of the recent legislative actions the states and US Congress have taken that target the rights and interests of women, some of which we thought were long decided matters in our political culture. Suffice to say that much of the right wing has seem determined to pursue an anti-female agenda that goes beyond any quasi-religious pro-life zealotry can explain.

  See, I think the “conservative” side of our current political spectrum is not accurately named. “Conservative” as opposed to “progressive” means that that side is interested in conserving the status quo, keeping things the same as they are now. That’s wrong. Today’s conservatives are more accurately labeled “reactionaries“. See, reactionaries want to turn back the clock. Reactionaries want to roll back the tide of progress in human rights, religious freedoms and formal compassionate social policies that have been an unstoppable trend in western society for 300 years.  

Paralleled by the gains earned by ethnic minorities, the rights and status of women have undeniable progressed in the last 120 years… Perhaps more than any other group… Consequently, as your advances have been so far reaching, perhaps it’s why the REACTIONARY elements of our political spectrum are willing and wanting to attack. To call what they’re doing as an overreach is an understatement. Even conservative women use birth control. “Welfare moms” were a convenient and easy target for attack in the 90’s, but fundamentally, the Republicans are skating on thin ice by trying to pay for tax cuts to the rich by stripping programs that help the poorest women with reproductive health and food for their children. The REACTIONARIES want to turn back the advances of our society 120 years.

 Although this is a really bad strategy on their part in the short term, and so as a progressive, I’m pleased on one level, on the larger level, I’m disturbed at where the boundaries of the debate are being laid. 

We can’t propose single-payer healthcare because its too radical, but conservatives can propose turning Medicare into a voucher system and allowing employers to deny coverage for birth control? If American politics were a marketplace and we were haggling over a price of produce, the Republicans are asking to pay 25 cents to buy a dozen avocados. Or they’re asking $100 to sell them. Whichever. Although this is far less of a case than in previous times, politics is about negotiation. Each side comes to a negotiation from a starting point. The Reactionary starting point has gotten to be SO FAR way over to one side, that I worry about where the reconciliation point is going to end up.

 Maybe we progressives should start proposing anarcho-syndicalist solutions to our nation’s ills; not because we believe in them, but to set a starting point that matches the anachronism of the reactionaries’ 19th Century positions…  
WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!! DESTROY CAPITALISM IN THE NAME OF PROLETARIOT! (Short of that, we might accept universal health coverage). 

Now, I talk about the War on Women in the context of a video I made today. An acquaintance of mine, well, maybe after today, I can call her a friend, is an active member of various Occupy and other progressive movements. She called out on her Facebook page for anyone out there whose a videographer and is an owner of a truck or van for help. I happen to be both. I ended up being the videographer for today’s rally Against the War on Women… One of dozens of such rallies that were held nationwide today. 

Here's the video.  One of few on my YouTube page without me in it.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Exploring an Urban Oasis

Last night, on Nova, I watched a nature documentary about a couple who went and spent a year in the Idaho wilderness. They lived in a tent most of the time, and the husband was a professional zoologist who studies and films wolves. Great film. 

Then I thought about my own Tour d’Joko films and the one I had just completed that day. Mind you, I’m not comparing as apples to apples something I, an amateur with consumer equipment, make in a couple of hours with an hour-long documentary that took a year to make. That said, there were imitable qualities to his film that I, with a little more patience than I normally have, maybe some better equipment and a firmer commitment to making something TV-worthy could replicate. Take inspiration from, at the very least, and that I have done.

 Next month, I’m going to spend a week at Yellowstone National Park. I want to turn that time into the best Tour d’Joko film I have yet made. It will require planning. It will require some kind of mission or narrative beyond just me going on vacation. I need to think on these things. Come up with a story that will hold the viewers’ attention beyond the five-minute limit that most people who watch YouTube videos will tolerate. 

 Joko goes… what? 
In search of bear cubs?
 Finding the wolves of Yellowstone? 
Discover which kind of ukulele song bison enjoy most? 

 Like I said, I got some planning to do. In the meantime, please enjoy my latest marching-through-the-woods video, Tour d’Joko, Carkeek Park Edition. 

 My thanks to Momma Bear for my new fancy walking stick. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsors

TV commercials have inspired me to cover songs on my ukulele. TV commercials they make me wonder. Really bad ones make me wonder who let these things onto the tube. Really good ones can make me cry.

I’m an observer and critic of TV commercials. Perhaps it’s because of my combination of a creative spirit with a natural ability to sell stuff that I always thought I could have been a Madison Avenue guy, and therefore am just a frustrated ad man.

Let’s take a look at three ads that caught my eye in the last week.

First, from the weekend, a short term TV ad from Burger King advertising a weekend-only promotion of Chicken Wraps for $1 each. First off, I’ll admit, this ad accomplished it’s primary purpose: if I had not seen this ad late, after dinner, on a Sunday night, I would have run right out to Burger King and bought a Chicken Wrap.. But not for the reasons the admakers might have thought… or… sinisterly, maybe they did.

Do you think I’m talking about the recent controversy involving Mary J Blige as a black woman selling chicken? No…


I didn’t even know there were SEVEN kinds of lettuce!! Lemmethink.. Iceburg, romaine, leaf, red leaf, butter, umm… umm… that’s five… Arugula? Chard? SEVEN KINDS OF FREEKIN LETTUCE?!?! Okay, maybe there are seven different kinds of lettuce, but how could you fit all seven in a single, small, chicken wrap? One leaf of each kind? `



Next, from the inappropriate combinations of children and hardcore drug references, this ad for a the Honda Pilot featuring a classic Ozzy Ozbourne song.

Once again, great ad. Very well done. It makes the “crossover” seem cool and long road trips with children seem exciting. Well, the vehicle needs it. The “crossover” is a 21st Century term for what we used to call a Station Wagon.

Here’s my problem. The song “Crazy Train” is all about cocaine addiction. Going after rails… umm.. Yeah… “rails” are lines of coke. That drug does make you crazy. Believe me. I remember. That doesn’t make it a bad song; just not one you should be singing with kids in your freekin station wagon!!!

* * *

Lastly, again, perhaps this has something to do with my past history of substance abuse, but there is a particular line in this “Miller 64” commercial that makes me want to point out one thing… The selling line is “Beer with less regret”

“Less regret” means it still has some regret inherent in the very product!! Why should we be buying something that admits it comes with REGRET?!?

What’s next? Whiskey with less chance of you abusing your spouse? Slightly less liver-destroying vodka?

Sunday, April 01, 2012


As usual, things weren’t going all that smoothly on the Tour d’Joko. I had gotten lost whilst in search of a gas station in the Mirkwood….err…the Kirkwood… make that Kirkland. This put me behind schedule, and even after saving time when I discovered to the Visitor‘s Center at Saruman’s Lair (Microsoft’s HQ) to be closed for a private event, I still ended up 20 minutes late for the gathering of the Elves at the Al-Ano fortress…

What kind of claw?!?


I swear, there really is such a place as the “Hobbit Forest” here in Washington State. It started out with someone placing a garden gnome along a trail at the Federation Forest State Park, and it just kind of grew from there! It’s supposed to be quite impressive. Here’s the link to article where I learned about it in the first place.


Watch below in the third and final episode, where I also reach the Flaming Geyser of Emunclaw!!!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of the Tour d’Joko! Make every day an adventure!