15 June 2017

The Past Tense of "Feel"

Mimey
It's weird how you can go into something with all the best intentions, and the whole thing just ... fizzles.

I've had this experience enough times now to know it's a part of life. Part of the cycle of life, I should say. We're born, a lot of stuff happens, we die. It's kind of important to remember that we're not the stuff that happens, lest our errant identification and projection lead to pointless, wheel-spinning suffering.

In other words, I am not The Felties. And I'm really not that baffled or upset that I couldn't pull it off.

Looking back over past posts on this blog, I see some insightful reaching and charming naivete. I had just turned 30 when I started it, and was just beginning to feel that "Oh shit I better do something with my life" desperation that has since become as ubiquitous as a persistent ringing in the ears.
Between shows at Playhouse Disney - Live On Stage!
I left Disneyland earlier that year, and was casting about for something resembling a career as a puppeteer with very little success. I shot a couple of pilots, worked with some incredible people, but could not find my footing.
Performing Mi-Ka, one of the Teenie Tones
I tried to make my own thing happen. That was The Felties. Working with some of those incredible people, I made pretty significant strides. But--and this is very important--I had no idea what I was doing.

The Felties had become way to precious to me, so rather than going the rough-and-tumble route with the precious, I tried to teach myself everything there is to know about producing a webseries with a little thing called Disembodied Animal Head Theatre. I made six episodes of the show a decade ago, and not one of them has been viewed more than a few hundred times.
Tex, the host of Disembodied Animal Head Theatre
Inexplicably hosted by a rubber chicken with a bad English accent, a variety of animal head "snapper puppets" acted out bits and pieces of Shakespeare. The animal heads are in storage today; the rubber chicken has disintegrated into nothing.
Maybe not quite "nothing," but the rubber has degraded beyond repair.
I learned a lot with DAHT. Mostly, I learned that--in the internet parlance of that long-gone era--the cake is a lie. If you build it, they most certainly will not come. I also learned that one person acting alone can only do so much.
Cheese Pizza, aka "Cesare Piazza," one of the stars of DAHT.
So what to do about The Felties?
The evolution of Mimey, from the first puppet to the last.
One of the folks I worked with post-Disneyland saw my video tests of Mimey and Clownie and proposed we do a show with just the two of them. Again, my high esteem for the characters trumped any effort to bring them to the screen that wasn't exactly what I had envisioned in my most fervent daydreams. I'm the first to say I'm a dummy. This was a talented collaborating actively expressing an interest in making something happen, and I backed away from the table.
I actually did storyboards for the first "Mimey & Clownie Show" episode.
I returned the Stan puppet to the brilliant puppet builder who built him, fulfilling a nine year-old request he made back when it became obvious I had no idea what I was doing, and The Felties wasn't going to happen. This was me turning a corner, I think.
Stan, a screengrab from his camera test.
But I still have Mimey, Clownie, Dully, and a secret desire to see this long-dead project spring to life.

Stuff happens, so who knows?

28 July 2014

Housecleaning

Mission creep set in around these parts, and since I'm sure most of the people checking out the puppet stuff don't give two shakes about my opinions on religion and politics, I'm moving all that stuff to impolitetopics.wordpress.com.

The Felties will continue to me about pop-culture related stuff, personal happenings, and maybe even that puppet series that I all but gave up on a few years back. Considering the emergence of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sources, perhaps I can whip together a budget and finally make something more than crappy video tests with the AMAZING puppets Russ built.

Also, it would be nice, at long last, to pay Russ back for the work he did. If he's still speaking to me.

13 October 2013

Project Corner: Snapper Rods

This is my little contribution to the ever present problem of "HOW THE HECK DO I PUT ARMRODS IN THIS DARN THING?!" My wife and I have been using this technique in Project Puppet puppets over the past few years, including puppets we've used in our burlesque lives (hence "Snapper Rods.")

It's not a perfect solution -- a perfect solution costs more. Instead, this is a relatively quick and easy solution that won't bust the bank. It is so quick and easy in fact, you will must likely figure it out when you read the materials list. Let's get started!

MATERIALS:
   

  • Unfinished wooden finials. At JoAnn's they call these "candle cups," they come four to a pack, and cost a couple of bucks. These accommodate a quarter-inch dowl rod.
  • A quarter-inch dowel rod. (Bet you didn't see that coming!)
  • Black hockey tape.
  • Paint. (Black spray paint and acrylic paint to match your puppet.)
  • Thread. (I recommend Silamide or some similar 2-ply waxed nylon thread. )
   
THE STEPS:

1. Dry fit the dowel rod into the finials. You may have to sand down the end of the dowel rod just a bit so it will fit well.

2. Paint the finials to match your puppet. You don't have to paint the entire thing, just the surface with the hole and over the ridge. I use double-sided tape to hold those little suckers in place while I paint them.


3. Take a seam ripper to the bottom of the puppet's hand, opposite the thumb. You want to open up a space just big enough to allow you to squeeze in the bottom of the finials. (I suppose you could just not sew this part when you make the arms.)


4. Pop in a finial on each hand!



5. Stitch that sucker in. Start on one side, get as close as you can to the finial, wrap the thread around the indented part, and continue the stitch on the other side. Make it tight. Try to turn the finial -- it shouldn't spin freely.

6. Cut the dowel rod down. They usually come 36" long, which is ridiculously long for a Project Puppet puppet. I usually cut one in half, making two reasonably long armrods. Your mileage may vary.

7. Spray paint your armrods black.

8. Wrap the handle end with hockey stick tape. Wrap about two and a half-three inches. I get all fancy and add a ridge by twisting a length of the tape, wrapping that around the stick, and covering it with more tape. It looks like this when I'm done:


9. Insert the armrod into the finial. Make sure you grasp the bulb end of the finial with one hand as you insert the dowel rod with your other hand. Ta-da! You're done.

   
FINAL NOTES:

You may note that the hand is a little floppy on the dowel rod. If you want to get super fancy, you could build a wire armature for the hand, tying the finial into it so that you have more control over the hand itself. I've experimented with this, but I haven't figured out the perfect (or "close enough") solution. If you figure something out, let me know!

29 January 2013

Blue Man Group

Red and I went to Vegas over the weekend to teach ("Props 101" for me, "Down and Dirty" for her) and perform at Cha Cha Velour's Live Burlesque in Las Vegas show.  The classes went great, and the show was awesome -- packed house, very receptive audience, and we got a wonderful compliment after the show from burlesque legend Dusty Summers.  That was Saturday.

The Friday night before, we went to see Blue Man Group.

My thoughts and impressions, in no particular order:
  • The show has bits that date back to the very first BMG performances.  Catching marshmallows thrown across the stage with the mouth, "fancy dinner party" with Twinkies, etc.  This are the "radio hits," the stuff the audience is expecting to see.  And they still work.
  • They do this new thing with steam and smoke rings.  It's visually arresting, but they haven't quite found the story yet.
  • If you go, (and you should) you MUST be there for the preshow procession.  The energy is incredible.
  • During the "fancy dinner party" bit, one of the Men cracked up.  It was slight, and he hid it well, but I saw the unmistakable smile form on his blue face.  The audience member did something unexpected, and he reacted. It was a beautiful moment to witness.  That a performer can do show after show, day after day, and still be surprised by an audience volunteer tells you how awesome this show and these performers are.
  • There were many times I felt like a kid.  The orgasmic dance party at the end was overwhelming.  We were second row, dead center, so we were right in the middle of the flashing lights, streaming paper, and large bouncing balls. I felt eight years-old.
  • The subtext behind the bits -- the "message," if you will -- sneaks up on you.  There is a point behind all the mania; a commentary on how connected yet isolated we all are.
  • Their explanation of synapses in the brain blew my freaking mind.
We did the dinner and a show option through the Monte Carlo, and our tickets were fantastic.  There is not a bad seat in the house, so if you can't afford the pricier seats, worry not.

24 January 2013

Just a thought ...

If doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity, what do you call doing different things each time and expecting the same results?

21 November 2012

Radi-Aid

This is pure genius:


Not only is it hilarious -- and it is possibly the funniest intentionally funny thing I've seen on YouTube in a long time -- it serves a far deeper purpose.  From the Africa for Norway website:
Why Africa for Norway? 
Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway” video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway? 
If we say Africa, what do you think about? Hunger, poverty, crime or AIDS? No wonder, because in fundraising campaigns and media that’s mainly what you hear about. 
The pictures we usually see in fundraisers are of poor African children. Hunger and poverty is ugly, and it calls for action. But while these images can engage people in the short term, we are concerned that many people simply give up because it seems like nothing is getting better. Africa should not just be something that people either give to, or give up on. 
The truth is that there are many positive developments in African countries, and we want these to become known. We need to change the simplistic explanations of problems in Africa. We need to educate ourselves on the complex issues and get more focus on how western countries have a negative impact on Africa’s development. If we want to address the problems the world is facing we need to do it based on knowledge and respect.
Nothing makes a point better than comedy!

15 November 2012

It's All Happening

"The real question is: if it is liberty we seek, should most of the emphasis be placed on government reform or trying to understand what 'a virtuous and moral people' means and how to promote it." - Ron Paul
The revolution is happening, whether you like it or not.  It's happening on the internet.  It's happening in crowd-sourcing and mutual aid; it's happening with Occupy Sandy and Kickstarter, with Bitcoin and the Creative Commons.

Rush is Wrong

After dropping my lovely and talented wife off at LAX this morning, I indulged in one of my guilty pleasures:  talk radio.  The wife hates talk radio because she is intelligent.  I can only tune in when I'm tooling around by myself.  I flip around -- KPCC, KPFK -- and then off to the dark recesses of the AM dial with KFI, KABC, and The Answer.  This morning, I landed on Rush Limbaugh, and boy howdy ...

Limbaugh played a couple of clips from Ron Paul's farewell address, and managed to completely miss the point in a fashion so spectacular, it was as if he were simultaneously channeling Ed Anger and Emily Litella.

Ron Paul clip #1:
I thought a lot about why those of us who believe in liberty as a solution have done so poorly in convincing others of its benefits.  If liberty is what we claim it is, the principle that protects all personal, social, and economic decisions necessary for maximum prosperity and the best chance for peace, it should be an easy sell.  Yet history has shown that the masses have been quite receptive to the promises of authoritarians which are rarely, if ever, fulfilled.
Rush's response:  "We are the party of liberty.  We are the essence of liberty and freedom.  That's what it's all about."  Then why did your party play dirty pool at the convention, Rush?  Why did you guys dick around the brightest burning torch for liberty the Republican Party has seen since Barry Goldwater? Why did the "party of liberty" show a complete lack of respect for the man and his delegates?  Hell, you prefaced your remarks on this clip with "I know a lot of you think we're listening to kookville here, but ..."

Rush went on to prove the Republican party's dedication to liberty by pointing out their stance on abortion and gay rights.  

Wha--huh?!?

"We are not looked at as people who believe in freedom.  They see us as thwarting their freedom," says Rush.  "Figure that."  Your party is against reproductive freedom and treating everyone equally.  Figure that?  Seriously?

Rush's rationale is that "along with freedom, there are natural limits to it that we call morality."  Fair enough. "[C]ulturally, freedom in pop culture means no obstacles on the road to what we call depravity and decadence.  They call it enlightenment, emancipation."  Understand what Rush is saying here:  Extending the same legal coverage to same-sex couples that heterosexual couples currently enjoy is depravity and decadence.  Unbelievable.

Ron Paul clip #2:
If authoritarianism leads to poverty and war and less freedom for all individuals and is controlled by rich special interests, the people should be begging for liberty.  There certainly was a strong enough sentiment for more freedom at the time of our founding that motivated those who were willing to fight in the revolution against the powerful British government.  During my time in Congress, the appetite for liberty has been quite weak, the understanding of it's significance negligible. 

And Rush goes on to talk about how leftists define freedom as life under authoritarianism.

Of course, Rush also believes in freedom as life under authoritarianism, so I don't see what his problem is.  Sure, he prefers his particular brand of moral authoritarianism over the Democrat brand, but Democrat, Republican -- it's all about more state.  The only question is, in which area do you want the state to interfere?

Ron Paul's point is ... well, let's let him speak for himself, in a clip Rush didn't play:

Everyone claims support for freedom.  But too often it’s for one’s own freedom and not for others.  Too many believe that there must be limits on freedom. They argue that freedom must be directed and managed to achieve fairness and equality thus making it acceptable to curtail, through force, certain liberties. 
Some decide what and whose freedoms are to be limited.  These are the politicians whose goal in life is power. Their success depends on gaining support from special interests. 
The great news is the answer is not to be found in more “isms.” The answers are to be found in more liberty ..."
Rush tried to co-opt Ron Paul's Farewell Address today, and failed.  Sadly, Rush and his party continue to fail at grasping Ron Paul's message, which has been consistently and clearly enunciated for the past 30 some odd years.
A full transcript of Ron Paul's address may be found here.  Video of the speech may be watched here.