Posts Tagged ‘opera’

Short bits for today

  • 09:37 While sitting in the kitchen seems to be a good strategy to get Maggie to eat, I’m getting a wee bit bored of being in here all day. #
  • 10:18 On the other hand, every time she eats something it is exciting, so at least there’s drama and suspense in here. #
  • 13:01 I am deeply aggravated that Firefox now crashes every time I try to insert a photo in WP. #
  • 18:41 I have finally realized that the opera singer in the building next door must be a teacher. This is why the sound changes in skill level. #

Mostly quiet

I spent most of the day tending to SFWA matters, including getting my platform for re-election turned in.  Yes, I’m running for Secretary again. Why? Because contrary to popular belief, it’s really not so bad. It helps that the board is active, engaged and generally gets along.  We’re also doing good work and it’s exciting to be a part of that.

Other than that, it was a fairly quiet day. Rob ironed and listened to opera, which was his Saturday routine back when we were courting.  I know. The boy likes ironing, what can I say.

Anything else exciting?  I cut his hair?  Yeah, when I’m between shows life is pretty dull.

Verdi Square Festival of the Arts

Tonight we took advantage of the Verdi Square Festival of the Arts to enjoy some free opera in the park. Fabulous girl joined Rob and me for the short concert of arias. Though the voices were uneven, there were some really enjoyable performances. Amy Orsulak’s (soprano) “L’altra notte in fondo al mare” had wonderful clarity and strong emotion.

Stephen Gaertner, baritone, did two pieces, both of which were so powerful that I wondered if he really needed the microphones, even though we were standing on top of the subway.

Afterwards, we went out for tapas and conversation. We’ve known Fabulous Girl for years, but most of that time she’s lived in a different town. I think being out, taking advantage of NYC with an old friend made me feel more like I lived here than anything else. At the same time, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that we had both gotten the same tour package at the travel agency. It’s still hard to believe that I really live here.

Doggone it all

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.

Prepping the headWhile 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.

The coping saw inserted

I then inserted a coping saw blade into one of the holes to cut out my opening.

The slot cutOnce 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.

Cables inside the dog's headSorry 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.

Closeup on trigger
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.

The triggersUnfortunately 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.

Opera length kid gloves

I am cleaning house.

I have two pairs of beautiful kid gloves, that actually fit, with tiny pearl buttons at the wrists. More amazing, I have worn both pairs for an event. The expression “fit like a glove” comes from gloves like these, which must be carefully eased onto the hand and are so snug that they are, quite literally, a second skin. The kid is so fine that my sense of touch is almost unencumbered by the glove. My only hesitation comes from the fear that I will get them dirty. This, I think, is why men started opening doors for women, to protect our gloves.

Weta Holics: Weta Originals Rayguns –

RaygunLook at these shiny, shiny Rayguns.

The Rayguns: Dr. Grordborts Infallible Aether Oscillators, are a line of immensely dangerous yet simple to operate wave oscillation weapons.

Meticulously built to the exacting standards and plans of Dr. Grordbort, these weapons, bespangled in fine detail and with various (most likely quite dangerous) moving parts are the perfect addition to a gentleman’s study or a deterring centerpiece for a lady’s powder room or chiffonier.

Is anyone else having an intense session of coveting right now?

Happy Fourth of July!

Alberta Cooperative GroceryTo celebrate, I thought I would share some pictures of my neighborhood back home. A friend took these a few days ago and sent them to me, I think as a way to tempt me back to Portland, OR. This is the cooperative organic grocery store that is three doors from our house. I miss being able to walk down, in the middle of cooking, to get whatever ingredient I had forgotten. I miss the Reed’s Ginger Ice Cream that they have and the beautiful seasonal produce.

My Front Porch
Here is our front porch, looking south. We never spent much time on the porch, because our street is on a bus line and faces west. In the evenings, after the sunset and I wanted to cool off, I would sometimes sit on the porch and write. I do miss walking out the door and seeing our roses. We could hear the fireworks downtown from the porch on the fourth, but not see them. But, upstairs, on the landing, we could see the fireworks in Vancouver. There was just space between the big cedar tree and our neighbor’s house.

Purple Smoke Bush And here is the view that I would see on my way home in the summer. Eve convinced me to buy the purple smoke bush, knowing that it would go beautifully with the roses that were already in the yard. You can’t see it, but over to the right are some wine barrels from Bethel Heights which we planted strawberries in. There are few things better than fresh strawberries, picked and eaten in the warm sun.

Willamette Radio fully operational again

I finally have WRW back up fully. I’ll still need to put some of the modifications back on the board, but since those only affect me as administrator, I’m counting my work as “done enough.”

This evening we had Don and Wayne over for wine and a light meal. For Rob’s birthday, Don had given him a bottle of wine from 1965. Recently it developed a very small leak, so Rob wanted to open it. Don brought two other bottles from the same producer, BV, so we had a nice little vertical flight.

Dad’s London Adventure

As a change, I thought I’d share a letter from my dad about my folks recent trip to London to visit my brother, Steve.

London May-June 2005 highlights.

Dear Mary,
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp We arrived on Saturday morning and Steve was visiting with Josh out at the airport so we just hung out at Steve’s place and did some housecleaning and took a nap.
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Steve came home around 10 or 11 pm and I was watching a cricket match on TV and he got all upset that I would do something so un-American in his house.
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Sunday we just went pub hopping and looked for an Irish session that I had found out about on the internet. We found it at the Porterhouse pub and it was wonderful indeed. They told me of another one (with roughly the same people) that was happening on Thursday at a pub named the “Narrowboat.� The days run together even while they are happening, so to look back at them is a mess. One evening Marilyn found a police line and a lot of well dressed people (tux and fancy gowns) arriving at the Royal Opera House so she staked herself out there to see who might show up that was famous. It turned out that it was the Centennial celebration for the Chelsea football club and these were old timers showing up.
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp I think Tuesday night we went to see “The Producers� and it was a hoot. The accountant’s voice got tired in the last scene or two, but other than that it was fabulous.
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Tuesday we took a day tour of Oxford, Stratford and Warwick. The tour guide was wonderful and talked a blue streak the whole way to Oxford and then had the gall to say that the tour guide we would pick up in Oxford would be really talkative. She was certainly that, but just couldn’t hold a candle to him if there were a contest for being talkative. Oxford had lots of places where Harry Potter was filmed.
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp We also visited some other Harry Potter locations on Wednesday. Stratford on the Avon was a quaint town, and Shakespeare’s birthplace was restored and made into a museum. It is not where he wrote his plays as it was really his father’s house. He lived somewhere else in town but since he was a contemporary, nobody thought it worth saving apparently.
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Then we went to Warwick castle, the best preserved medieval castle in all of England. This is the place to take children (like me). There were walls and towers and dungeons and torture chambers and a power plant where they installed their own electric generator in 1900 keeping up with the times. It is owned by some entertainment company that has a famous wax museum in London so the state rooms had appropriate wax figures in them.
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp On Wednesday we went to Bath and some little town I can’t remember the name of, but which is owned by the historic trust. It is something like Williamsburg, except older. You are only allowed to move into the town if you had a grandparent that lived there. This is where some Harry Potter scenes were shot. We finished up the day by going to Stonehenge. The tour guide for this trip was not nearly as good as the one on the day previous, but he was still good enough. Bath was the highlight of this day trip.
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp On Thursday, Steve had to work so instead of going out to see the sights of London, we cleaned house again. Thursday night we went out to find the Narrowboat and the session. We found it and except for it being so far from Steve’s place, it was my favorite pub of them all. Of course the experience was enhanced for me because the fiddler let me play her fiddle for several tunes.
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp The Narrowboat was the 101st pub that Steve has visited since he has been in London. He is not counting a second visit to a pub in his count.
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp That doesn’t look like we did as much as it felt like we did so I’ve probably left out something really important. Ask your mother and Steve to fill in the missing parts.
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Love,
&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Dad

Carp and Diva

I am building a giant carp for a new opera called Carp and Diva. I haven’t heard it yet, but the libretto is as silly as the title sounds. Since some people have asked what it is that I do, exactly, for a living, I thought I would show a bit of process. I start by meeting with the director, in this case the composer,and talking about the project. Then I do a drawing for their approval.

Once that is approved, I do a technical drawing, usually at full scale. This one is not very complicated since there are no mechanisms and the puppet is essentially a tube with decorations.

Next I make a pattern from the technical drawing and assemble the pieces. I’m using two types of foam here. The blue stuff is a polyethelyne foam and is fairly stiff, but still flexible. The white stuff is a reticulated foam called Dri-fast. I’m using it for the outer layer of the fish because it has some stretch to it. The pieces are held together with either hotglue, a contact cement called Barge (strong but toxic) or, ironically, fishing line.

After I get the shape built then I begin the process of covering the puppet with fabric. Most of the work is hand-stitched. At this point in the process of the fish I’ve done about seven hours of work. You’ll notice a small figure on the fish’s dorsal fin.

That’s a Flat Stanley that a friend has sent to visit me. I thought I’d take Stanley to work before sending him back to New York.

So there you go. That’s what I do for a living. I’ll post a picture of the fish when it’s finished.

A giant fish

I went to Lewis and Clark College today to meet with Jonathan Gibson, who has written an opera called Carp and Diva. I will be building the carp. Afterwards, I biked over to meet Rob and Wayne at the tennis courts and then we came home.

I had a couple of funny moments on the bike. I bought new clips for the pedals, which hold my feet firmly in place for improved efficiency. I haven’t used them before, and there’s a special way you have to remove your feet or you stay firmly afixed to the pedals. It’s very, very easy to take your feet off, you just twist your heel out. But if you aren’t used to it, you can fall over when you come to a stop. Which I did. I didn’t hurt myself, since I was warned that it would happen. I just pitched over on the ground and laughed. It confused the pedestrians I think.

Wandering about.

Steve and I spent today wandering around town. We did some prep work for the party tomorrow, but most of the daylight hours were spent in downtown Reykjavik. We stopped at the Parliament building.

And then went to the lake behind it. That’s town hall behind Steve. Strangely, he only asked for his picture in front of government related structures…covert operations?

We ran into Sarah and Andrew downtown and had tea with them. I say tea, when I mean hot chocolate, but it was teatime–those crazy Brits. After we went home, Steve helped me move furniture for the party on Sunday, and then we went out with Sarah, Andrew, Ingver and John for dinner.