vlog

Feb 12, 2019

New China vlog channel, same China vlog fun

We cyber-moved on YouTube

The giraffe premieres!

Here’s the news: We moved our YouTube channel. I’ll get into why at a later date, but for now, update your bookmarks to Hello Foreigner. It’s the same great China vlogging, without the bias towards Uncles!

Dec 20, 2018

Getting around problems

Who dares interrupt the Cane?!

Sometimes your own two feet need a little extra help. Well, never fear. The Cane is here!

The shoot of our fiction piece was fairly painless this week … because we did a ton of organization pre-production. First pass was some pretty tight blocking of the action, and then second, we made a pretty detailed shot list. We did a run-through a few times the day of, and made sure we were totally happy with how our shots were laid out. And then … ACTION?

In the edit, we had to cut a couple of lines that I loved from an early draft of the script, but they just didn’t fit. It continues to be true that what you leave out of your work can be as important as what you put into it. If you’re curious, the lines were a reference to the fact that astronauts have to run on treadmills to maintain bone density. I am fascinated by this idea, but it didn’t work within the flow of our final script.

Dec 10, 2018

What are you doing?!

And can I have some? Featuring the return of Panda Rat

Our first vlog without a vlog.

Peter’s been composing original soundtracks for Uncle’s Shorts for a while now, but this week is features our first song with vocals! And she is a sassy girl.

The episode is an attempt to provoke the question “What are you doing?!” It’s a question we get a lot, so we figured, why not aim for it. Also, we expand our world of characters a little bit, bringing back Panda Rat, and introducing ceiling rat ghost and thieving wontons. The wontons are from a nearby dumpling place, and they are absolutely delicious: fresh-rolled and the soup is seasoned just-so. Just, watch your knives when you order. They have started going missing …

Watch the video. It’ll make sense.

Dec 3, 2018

Walking around our Chinese neighborhood

Uncle’s Shorts #40

Our fortieth Uncle’s Short!

Tune in for the tour of our favorite neighborhood places, and stick around for friendly interviews about what makes a good hometown. City or countryside? I’m city all the way.

Nov 25, 2018

You’re eating fat birds

Thanksgiving in China, behind-the-scenes

Presenting our very special Thanksgiving episode! Which features very little of the real, traditional American Thanksgiving!

Our friends were so great to help us out filming this. You may not be able to tell from the video, but none of them are professional actors. They’re just our friends ;)

Also, I am notorious for overestimating people’s level of English reading. Back when I was writing lessons for middle schoolers, I’d have to revise them at least three times to make them simpler. The same happened here, but I was able to do some quick rewrites on the fly to find everyone’s level. And, as you can see in “Behind the ‘Facts,’” they practiced like mad to get it perfect!

When working with friends and amateurs, Peter and I try to be as organized as possible, so we’re not wasting anyone’s donated time. We also try to keep an eye on the fun level in the room. Originally in our script, we had a few more sequences to film, but by the time we go all the individual lines filmed, we decided to call it a wrap. Everyone had worked really hard, but they were still enjoying the evening. I felt like we could have pushed it and gotten the extra jokes, but the mood would have turned from “friendship through a difficult challenge!” to “this slog is never-ending and we’re not friends after tonight.”

Something that always impresses our non-filmmaking friends is our slate. It’s such an iconic signifier of the movie business, that people are really impressed to see one in action. The real reasons we use one are two-fold. Firstly, when you’ve got a lot of video files to sort through and upload, it’s helpful to have a literal signpost stating “Scene 1, shot C, take 3.” This way, you don’t have to scrub through the entire file to figure out what’s going on in a given shot. Secondly, the clap gives you a spike in the sound that is incredibly helpful in matching video with the recorded audio. Our software is OK at doing that automatically, but I have had to do it by hand more than a few times.

So another Thanksgiving has come and gone. For the past few years, our actual Thanksgiving celebration has been going to Peter’s Tex Mex for the expat turkey extravaganza, and this year was no different. Except, this year they comped us our meal! Thanks, Peter’s! Luzhou is always welcoming us, all over town.

Nov 18, 2018

Cultivated progress: Making art, individuality & punks behind Chinese walls

Uncle’s Shorts #38

We tackle Art this week, in about 8 minutes. So, you know … it’s pretty thorough.

The ending animation we did with our new Adonit Pixel stylus and this nifty animation app I found for my iPad. Animation, as you may know, is pretty labor intensive, but it’s also a lot of fun, so we’re excited to start expanding our repertoire in that direction.

Dave’s interview takes place outside of Luzhou, actually, in a suburb called Naxi. He brought us to this great little BBQ place, where you cook your own meats right on the table. I love cooking my own meats right on the table!

Nov 10, 2018

True electric power

Uncle’s Shorts #37: Visiting a Chinese temple

Luzhou autumn starts cold and rainy and ends colder and rainier, but there’s always a brief window of weather that’s just, like, the Platonic ideal of a beautiful fall day. This year, my friend Michael invited me out for a hike during that time, and even though I was incubating a cold, there was no way I could say no. If the sun is out, you must go.

We took a trip out to Fawang Temple, about an hour outside Luzhou. Peter and I had been out to the temple on Fangshan Mountain a few times, but Fangshan is for tourists, Michael told me. He said that Fawang was much better. And he was right. It was gorgeous and peaceful, and a really nice day outside of the city.

This week’s Uncle’s Shorts episode also features an interview with a young man English-named Curly. He was Peter’s student back at Tianfu Middle School, and for many years now has been living in Singapore pursuing his higher education. This interview takes place before he shipped out; at the time he told us that he got travel sick on the trip from his nearby hometown to Luzhou, but it seems like he made it to Singapore OK.

Nov 2, 2018

Yield when we die: Chinese traffic comes to a stand-still

Uncle’s Shorts #36

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The road to where we’re going is long, and fraught with peril. Sometimes literally. But Luzhou is doing it’s part to make traffic more “civilized.”

Our opener this week features footage from Lijiang; our drive from where we worked to the “Old Town” that was the center tourist attraction for the city. If you watch very closely, you can see the Jade Dragon Mountain in the background.

As a small city, Lijiang public transport wasn’t quite sufficient for everyday living, and taxis were infuriatingly expensive. What should have been a 6 kuai ride, according to the meter, was regularly a 20 kuai bill or more. That’s life in a tourist town for ya.

So while we lived in Lijiang, I drove Peter and I around on a little e-bike. It was … an adventure.

On the open road, driving the bike was exhilarating! The roads were flat and the distance was full of scenery. But in town, the traffic was AGGRESSIVE. And so was I. You can see in the video, we almost get hit two separate times. This was unremarkable enough to me that I didn’t even notice it until Peter pointed it out.

Here in Luzhou, I’m back to being a full-time pedestrian. Occasionally, I wish that we had a car, for inter-city trips. But most of the time, vehicle-free is the way to be. It helps that I live one block away from work.

This week, we also unveil another new feature: the Dialogues. “Wear more clothes” is our first attempt together at crafting a fictionalized piece, and we learned a lot in this first go-round. From a writing perspective, it’s an interesting challenge to relate my thoughts to an actual location; writing essays and vlogs, those are much more in my head. Even if I’m interacting with an environment while I say them, the words are just really one train of thought. Whereas an actual dialogue, of course you have two people talking with (or talking past) each other, but you’ve also got to localize the characters in the space. Otherwise, all you’ve got is a Kevin Smith movie. So the writing goal with these pieces is to incorporate the physicality of the players, and locate them in time and space. No big deal. I’ll have it perfected by next week.

Anyway, we had a lot of fun putting together this week’s episode. So, we hope you like it … although, as always, we’re not terribly concerned if you don’t.

Oct 27, 2018

An absentee vote for the future

Uncle’s Shorts #35

In this week’s Short, several of us are looking to the future: babies, high school students, teachers and voters. Also, there are goats. Remember, we can’t go backwards, yet.

One of my favorite theories of time travel is that, it is possible, but we will not be able to travel back in time before the mechanism for time travel was invented. This neatly dispenses with the argument that, “Well, if we invent time travel in the future, where are all the time travelers? Wouldn’t they be all over? Possibly making their past, and our present, some kind of terrible tourist exhibition?” This argument posits, “They will do that! But not yet to us.”

But, anyway … We’re so excited to continue expanding our repertoire beyond vlogging. Really, through the next few weeks — and maybe until the end of time — we will be introducing all kinds of new segments that aim to examine Luzhou — and through that, the world — more closely, and via different points of view. I’m very pleased that my friend Angel was able to join us to share a little bit of her life with us. You’ll be seeing more of her — and of Jessi — in future videos.

Oct 19, 2018

Under the Jade Dragon Mountain: No murders today

Uncle’s Shorts #34

We’re upping our game this week; For the past month, we’ve been working behind-the-scenes on some new features for the Uncle’s Shorts. This week, we’re super excited to be rolling out some of those new bits: interviews and city shots … with much more to come in the future! It’s a way to move my face out of the spotlight, and put the focus more on Luzhou, and the cool and interesting people we know here. Both personally and creatively, it’s already been very fulfilling. We hope you like it, too.

But we don’t really mind if you don’t.

As for this episode: A massage and a supermarket cause and relieve anxiety for Emily this week, but not in that order. And, we talk to our old friend Jessi about her life.

The Kung Fu Boys were filmed in Black Dragon River Park, Lijiang in 2015. They wrote this movie for our English class. Filming was never completed due to attendance issues.