The other day, Rob and I went to see part of the Silent City series at the Film Forum. The evening started off with NYC Treasures from the Library of Congress, which was a collection of short subject from 1898 to 1906. They had a live pianist providing accompaniment. Seeing the city bustling around in some ways made me feel as if only the fashions have changed. Granted, they’ve changed a lot, but watching these people in unguarded moments of laughter or frustration made me really aware of how little human nature changes. The fashions though…people definitely dressed better then. One put on a suit and tie to go to Coney Island.
After that collection, we watched Lonsome. Again, set at Coney Island, this film from 1929 is your standard boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl and they live happily ever after. The male lead, Glenn Tryon, was out of the same mold as Stefan Karl, quite delightfully so. One of the things that fascinated me was how modern the text cards appeared. I’m so used to faux silents with their old timey text, that I’d forgotten how recent these films actually were.
At one point, Our Hero followed the Girl to the beach. He tried to gain her approval by feats of acrobatics and then finally settled down next to her and said, “Hello.”
I tell you, the entire audience gasped. It was as if we had never heard a talkie before in our life. This film, which I had thought was a standard silent film, had three minutes of dialogs in it. The moment when he opened his mouth and sound came out was electrifying. I can only imagine how much more it must have been for people who didn’t even know that such things were possible.
So, that thing I said about only the fashions changing isn’t completely true. Technology has given us a lot more possibilities. But it’s awfully nice to know that the sense of wonder can be regained in the right context.
Gah. I’ve started the build of the real Coralines and the first one I put together had that same gap under the chin. I set it aside and started another–same gap developed. So, the problem is in the pattern. I finished that one and then cut it apart to make a clean pattern. The new heads are going much smoother now.
Retreating to a bar at the Imperial Palace, we talked about a different mystery he had been pondering: the role words play inside the brain. Learn a bit of wine speak â€” â€œripe black plums with an accent of earthy leatherâ€ â€” and you are suddenly equipped with anchors to pin down your fleeting gustatory impressions. Words, he suggested, are â€œlike sheepdogs herding ideas.â€
That is one of the best definitions I’ve ever heard.
Finally, we got our futon. Whew. We also picked up a gorgeous bookcase from the early 1900s. The folks that sold us the futon said, “Need anything else?” And we said, “Bookcases?”
Behold, for reasons that are unclear to me, they wanted to get rid of this glassfront bookcase which had belonged to the husband’s grandparents. It’s beautiful! I am baffled but was very, very happy to buy it from them. Naturally, it was not a dimension that we had planned on having in the apartment, but so pretty that we went into make-it-fit mode. Actually, I think this will be better all around. So, what we are doing is using it as a divider in the living room and giving Rob a micro-office there.
Clearly, painting is still happening, but I hated the color I put up on the wall behind the lamp. It’s a purple that does not play well with anything else in the room. It is not at all the color that the photo makes it appear.
I am taking over the entire room that we had set aside as an office. Though my workbench was supposed to be temporary, it’s becoming pretty clear that I will always need something like it. I made this floorplan when we were moving out, to figure out what furniture would fit. It’s been very handy so far. Like when we were trying to decide if we could, in fact, make the bookcase fit. So far, we only have one piece that we don’t have a good home for. It’s a Japanese kimono rack, which is normally a lovely piece, but the right spot hasn’t presented itself yet.
I need to reorganize the office, which we are already starting to call the “workshop” but that will probably wait until Coraline is finished.
My business and creative partner, Jodi Eichelberger, has been doing some podcasts. Here’s the description of his latest:
From August of 1994 through the spring of 1997 Mary and I toured a production of â€œPied Piperâ€ with Tears of Joy Theatre. We were particularly close to this show because Mary designed it and I wrote the book, music, and lyrics. We had lots of adventures during this tour: towing a truck through a blizzard on the Bear Mountains, being taken from a hotel room in the middle of the night by Officer Monty, losing my big toenail during a performance…but be careful when dealing with the Piper; you never know what might get charmed away. On the morning of April 16, 1996 the â€œPied Piperâ€ disappeared, along with our van and all its contents.
When I do a bid on a puppet, mechanisms are the most expensive part. They are fiddly things and no matter how many times you’ve built something similar, each puppet is radically different. This dog puppet, which I’m creating ears for, technically has four mechs in it since each ear is capable of two movements. The ears pull back for angry dog, and droop for sad dog.
As I was explaining to someone, I always quadruple the amount of time I think it will take to do a mech because it never goes right the first time. I’ve installed ear mechanisms on masks before. This was a thing I was familiar with. And yet…
I did a rough draft of the ears on Tuesday. On Thursday, I came back to install the final ears, but we weren’t sure where the puppeteer’s hand needed to be for the control. Saturday, I went in at three o’clock to install the triggers. I left at three a.m. Here’s what I did during those twelve hours.
While I had installed the ears on the exterior of the head, I wasn’t sure until I went in on Saturday where I would need to run the cables to control them. (Normally, you figure all of this out in advance, but there were some staging issues that needed to be resolved first, in this case.) The cable for the ears needed to move three inches in order to trigger the angry dog pullback. Unfortunately, where we needed to put the trigger, there wasn’t enough room for a lever to move that far. So, I needed to reduce the amount of distance that the cable had to move.
It’s sort of like a reverse block and tackle, because I was willing to increase the amount of resistance, to decrease the distance moved. But to do that, I needed to allow a length of line pass through the skull in a “v.” Another line would attach to that and pull it. So, I needed to cut a slot in the skull. I started by drilling four holes.
I then inserted a coping saw blade into one of the holes to cut out my opening.
Once the slot was cut, I tested the ear. Which resolutely failed to work.
After a bit of cursing, some internet time and a conversation with my dad, who is a very clever man, I realized that I had attached the pull line with a fixed point, and it needed to be a fluid point. Such a silly thing to do. After that, it worked exactly as it was supposed to. Whew.
Sorry this is a blurry photo. All the cables have to come together to a fairly tight point where they run down the length of the dog’s spine. I’m using goldenrod cable (a flexible push-pull cable for model airplanes) to get from the head down to the handle where the trigger will be. That’s the thin yellowish cable, with the brass fittings on it. I have to use cable in a housing, otherwise the movement of the dog’s head would trigger the ears as the distance between the head and the trigger changed. A housing keeps that distance fairly consistent.
For the trigger, I opted to go with a wheel rather than a lever. The cable exits the housing and wraps around the wheel as it rotates. Rather than centering it, I put the pivot point off-center to give the puppeteer some mechanical advantage. We tested it and it worked well. Happiness.
I installed the other mechanism, which was comparatively simple. Again, running it back to a wheel. Suddenly the first mech acquired a lot of friction. I couldn’t figure out where it had come from since the new one didn’t touch it. In desperation, I pulled the second one out, thinking that its mounting might be binding the first one somehow. Nothing. I tried activating the mech from within the head without using the cable. It seemed like it was within normal limits there, which meant that the friction was occurring somewhere along the length back to the trigger. I undid the mounting on the first one, checked it for crimps and reinstalled it. Still, it had that awful friction. It was unworkable. I was baffled.
I pulled the trigger from the other mech completely off the handle and–the first mech got easier again. It was still tight, but it wasn’t unworkable. What we were facing turned out to be a combination of factors. The trigger for second mechanism put the puppeteer’s hand in a weaker position. It also activated a mechanism that naturally had less resistance, so the first mech’s trigger hadn’t actually acquired more friction, but it felt significantly harder compared to the second one. At the same time, the monofilament that I’d used had stretched out. I normally avoid the stuff, but because the dog was so pale I used that instead of the braided dacron (which is black) that I prefer. It was a bad combo all around.
Unfortunately there wasn’t anywhere else to install a trigger. It was also two o’clock in the morning. Emily had to get on a plane with the puppet later on Sunday, to Ireland. I was tearing my hair out in frustration.
What you see here is a mockup of what I wanted to install. I used the connector on the end of the cable and a ziptie to create a thumbgrip. Elastic held it in place. One slides the thumbgrip back and the ears droop. You can still hold the dog’s handle and operate the trigger for the first mech in a reasonably comfortable position. It is far, far from ideal, but it works.
Here’s the proof.
This should have been a five or six hour job. My quadruple estimate was closer to being accurate. When Emily comes back with the dog, we’ll be able to fix it for the NYC shows in January.
Our friend, Fabulous Girl, came up to our neck of the woods so we could go out for brunch. After we finished a tour of the apartment, we decided to stay in. I’m generally happier cooking than going out, so that worked well for me.
The closest coffeeshop to the Puppet Kitchen is the The Bagel Zone. The guys there are totally nice. I needed to research some ways to decrease the distance of a cable pull, and they were starting to close down shop. Not only did he let me hang out while he cleaned, he gave me a big bag of pastries to take home.
It was great to have Fabulous Girl here. She is a fine reminder of the many reasons that moving to NYC was a good idea.
Today I took my bike out for the first time in the city. First of all, I have to say, that my timing was amazingly stupid, because today was genuinely hot. A high of 92. For the most part I was in shade by the river, but still. It was hot. Hot. Hot, I tell you.
I was expecting to be frightened and tense while biking–I mean, it’s New York. I’m used to Portland, where the cyclists are plentiful and respected. We all know how crazy traffic in NYC is, right? Yeah. Here’s the interesting thing. Traffic in the city is slow.
I didn’t think about that until I was on the bike. Even obeying all the traffic laws, I was always moving faster than vehicular traffic. Why? Well, first of all, I planned my route so I was on bike lanes almost the whole way. So, when there was an obstruction, I just sailed past it. Second, cabs stop all the time to let people out.
By the end of the ride, I wound up being more aggressive about merging into traffic when someone was stopped in the bike lane. Again, I expected that would be scary, but really, I’m going the same speed as traffic. I’d look. Signal. Change into their lane. Not once–and this is NYC–not once did anyone honk at me. I even had a cabbie, a cabbie mind you, wave me ahead.
I think because I was behaving like a vehicle and they’d seen me stopping at traffic lights (there was a long stretch where I was next to the same three cabs) they were inclined to not hate me for making their lives difficult.
I, on the other hand, began to loathe the other cyclists and pedestrians who just wander out into the street as if no one is going to run them down.
Last night I went down to Spiegelworld to see the production of La Vie. Billed as a burlesque circus in purgatory, it features extremely skilled circus performers who are trying to sort out if they go to heaven or hell after death.
At least, that’s the premise. There were only one or two acts that really followed through on that idea. It’s a solid show, but only in places does it go beyond spectacle. Those places, I have to say, were worth seeing.
In particular, Isabelle Chasse, a contortionist aerialist, who plays a 15-year old crazy girl. Her first number is performed on a hospital gurney while wearing a straitjacket. It is witty, breathtaking work that totally works at conveying her character.
Later, she does an astonishing routine in the air, representing her attempt to escape from an asylum with sheets. It is angular, intense and unlike anything I have seen. This girl uses the twisting of her body to represent the landscape of her mind and she can act. Really, astonishing work. I was mesmerized.
The three covers in the poll were presented in chronological order and represent a sampling of our favorites. During the 24 hour period prior to the poll, there was a lot of discussion about color, framing, fonts, and such. I have to admit to being a bit of a troublemaker. As reflected in the poll, there was a lot of support for cover #1. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the portal-effect the framing had on the art I had selected, so we pressed onward.
I picked up our set of bookshelves today. Compared to the kitchen cart, this was a piece of cake. It was only a three-story walkup and a eleven block stroll with the shelves on a hand truck. Every man I passed offered to help me. The shelves weren’t heavy, but they were very awkward. I was tempted to say, “Yes, if you will just push it a block to give me a breather,” but I knew I was going to need to save my karma for when I got back to our building.
There are three short steps up into the building. At the apartment where I picked up the shelves, they helped me get it down. Here, I was going to be on my own. I passed one of my neighbors as she was on her way to church. She turned around and followed me back to the building so she could hold the doors for me. Another neighbor, Manny, arrived at right that moment and helped me get it all the way up into the apartment.
Whew. Now. Note the gap between the shelf and the doorframe. Remember when I said that our floors sloped and that it was hard to make pictures look straight? This is why. I did level the shelf after taking the photo, but it took a one-inch block of wood under the left side to do it. Crazy.
Remember me showing you that article about my nephew’s friend? We just got word that he’s had a successful lung transplant. He’s still not out of the woods, but at least he’s got a path to get there now.
Today I went to pick up a kitchen island we’d found on Craig’s List. The kitchen desperately needed a workstation next to the stove, and this was the perfect size. Since it was on wheels, I figured it’d be easy to get back to our place–even though I was picking it up at 71st and we live at 107th.
Of course, today was rainy. The folks I was getting it from were moving and today was the only day I could pick it up. But hey, I just moved from Oregon; I’ve got a rain coat. How bad can it be?
First, let me introduce you to the discovery of wind and how wind can push rain through a coat that is merely water-resistant instead of water-repellent.
Next, allow me to demonstrate what happens to screws which are vibrated for thirty blocks. They loosen and then, they come out. Taking with them, at 90th street, one of the wheels of the kitchen island. At this point, I suggest calling your husband and asking him to come meet you with the handtruck–yes, I should have taken it in the first place. Leave a message for your husband. After waiting, discover that it is possible to balance the cart on three wheels and still continue on your journey.
Call your husband again at 92nd, 94th and 97th by which point he will have returned from his outing. Wait under the awning of a restaurant until he arrives.
By the time the cart arrives in your home, the draw will have fallen in, the sides will be collapsing and the top will no longer be attached to the frame.
Fortunately, we did pass a hardware store on the way home and I purchased replacement bolts and screws. The cart reassembled very quickly at home and is once more the solid piece of furniture I purchased.
(Tor Books — August 21, 2018) Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, […]