RANDOM PIC OF THE WEEK
While dialing around on the satellite music channels the other night one of the channels played Jimi’s “All Along the Watchtower.” I had forgotten how much I love this song. The production on this is truly amazing. Listen to it in stereo!
Monday the 16th – LOCKDOWN: DAY 1! – Since we’ve essentially been locked down, and added to the fact that it was raining, I slept until mid-afternoon. I got up, realizing there’s no reason to go anywhere, fed the kids, and slept again. Later I did a few auditions (ad agencies who do commercials are now asking for Voice Over people with their own home studios), made a few phone calls and sat around. I’m thinking that people are probably going to give this lockdown about two weeks before they start to rebel. We’ll have to see how it plays out, but I’m sensing a lot of pushback with this lockdown thing. Luckily, I’m fully stocked with pretty much everything I need so there’s really no reason to go anywhere anyway. Upon review of the first of my 13 kid’s stories I wrote that there was a “tense” issue – it went between past and present tenses – so I fixed those things in the text, and then recorded the new pieces for the audio book narration. I edited them all together and it fit together pretty seamlessly. I’m going to talk to a composer my accountant recommended about scoring the first story to see how it sounds with an original soundtrack. I’m anxious to see how it sounds when the music actually follows the action in the story, as opposed to just putting some random music behind the Voice Over narration. A few places that I DO need to go to have been closing early, so I think I need to get up early on Tuesday to get those handled, otherwise they may close up for a few weeks to save on overhead expenses, and I’ll have missed my chance. But during the lockdown, which they’re saying could last for 3 months, I’d like to work on some puppet projects. And I need supplies to do that. Later in the evening I napped briefly on the couch, and then got up later to work on Wally’s Week. I slept a LOT today (and I have a feeling I’ll be sleeping a lot in the coming weeks!). I walked and fed Roxy on our late-night stroll through the neighborhood, and it was REALLY COLD! I wish I could go into hyper-sleep and wake up three months down the road, for several reasons. I had some cereal and laid back down on the couch. I slept until around 9:30am.
Tuesday the 17th – LAST MINUTE ERRANDS! – One of the places I really had to go to was Plastic Depot. I needed to get some vaccuform “pulls” done from the eye “bucks” I made for my “Beautiful Day” puppet (did that sound like code to you?). Since the studios have all shut down production, Kyle at Plastic Depot saw a slowdown in business. He’ll be closing his store around noon because of the lockdown, keeping the mornings open for his other customers. Luckily, he was able to vaccuform my eye pieces right then and there, which is a good thing because in a few days I might not be able to go out and get them. As I was leaving three more customers came in, much to Kyle’s surprise. I sped off to Del Taco to get lunch at the drive-thru (you can’t sit inside any more for the present), and then I went to get some grocery items. Since it was still early in the day some of the stuff I needed was still there. But no dice on the paper towels. So, in order to conserve on the few rolls I have left at home, I’m going to do what we used to do when I was a kid. My mom always had a cloth towel hanging in the kitchen that we could dry our hands on. As I was checking out I noticed that the 24 hour store had changed their hours of operation to 4am to 10pm. Since I’m always up late, I may try to hit the store at 4am and get some stuff before the rush. Note to self. I got my mail at my mailbox, and then sped over to Kit Kraft. Their back door was open for deliveries, but it said they were closed. I walked in anyway because I know the owner very well. Only a few employees were there and they said if I needed a few things I could get them. I just needed some felt pieces for a puppet mouth. We were chatting about how things were changing in the world almost by the minute. I went over to CVS to get a prescription filled and all of the pharmacy techs were wearing masks and gloves. Scary sight! I went back home and saw a cute squirrel darting around in the trees behind my house. I took some time to feed him some nuts and he seemed very grateful. He kept looking at Roxy with a skeptical eye, but while she was interested in him, she didn’t bark or go crazy. Interacting with nature was a nice distraction from the strange morning I had. I went inside to stash my groceries in the kitchen. Then I set about cutting out my vaccuformed eye pieces. Because the eye pieces are so deep they kind of got “locked” into the plastic. So I had to devise a way to get the plaster “bucks” freed from the plastic pieces. I took a roll of packing tape and started banging the individual eye pieces on that until the bucks finally dropped out into the middle of the tape roll. Kyle had suggested doing something like that and it worked pretty well. I went inside to check e-mails and discovered I had a session for an anime cartoon on Wednesday. It’s a project that can’t be delayed or moved back, as they’re up against a deadline. So I’m happy to go out and do it. After a long, interesting day – I fed the pets, showered and went to bed. I got up later to do some auditions, and a little work around the house.
Wednesday the 18th – LOCKDOWN? WHAT LOCKDOWN?! – Even though I didn’t need to be awake until much later, I woke up several hours too early. I tossed and turned, meditated, tossed and turned some more, and got a little more sleep before I had to get up at 10:30 to start the day. I did a two hour session at a studio for an anime film. They had just freshly sanitized it before I came in, and then the engineer (who engineered the entire session in gloves and a mask) wiped everything down again after I left. Strange times we’re living in. But maybe these policies will be SOP from here on out. Wouldn’t THAT be nice?! Since the studio was a stone’s throw from Foam Mart, I headed over there to pick up a few foam rubber supplies for any puppet projects I may want to tackle over the next few weeks. From what I could see it looked like business as usual. I drove over to Burger King’s drive-thru to get some lunch, and then went to Hobby Lobby to look around. It was packed! Then I did a very brave thing. I headed to the area Walmart to pick up a few things. This could have been a very bad idea, but everything was pretty orderly. And I even found four Tombstone pizzas! I picked up a lot of other “comfort foods” while I was there. Then I drove over to Alex in Wonderland, an effects studio in Burbank who has been working on my Oscar the Grouch replica Muppet. Today was the day I was going to pick up the finished fake fur covering for the puppet head! It turned our really well and I couldn’t wait to start working on it! I stopped by my seamstress Shelley’s house to drop off the nose form for the Animal Muppet cap I’m making. She needs to cover it with fleece to be stitched to the cap. It looked like plenty of people were out and about enjoying life. I don’t think people are taking the lockdown very seriously. I guess because L.A. is so spread out we haven’t had the same kind of infection numbers that cities like San Francisco and New York have had. It was a gorgeous day out, and people were walking dogs, jogging, riding bikes, and enjoying the day. I went home and unloaded the groceries, did some work around the house, showered and napped. I got up later and did my nightly auditions. I wasted some time around the house until it was time to hit the grocery store at 4am for my late-night grocery run. The sign at the counter said they opened at 4am, so I was going to make the most of it. I fed and walked Roxy and then headed out around 3:30 am. I dropped off some mail at the post office and went to the store. I walked up to their door at 3:50am and the sign in their window said they were open from 7am to 10pm. I guess they made a change in their hours and decided not to open at 4am anymore. Rats! I stopped by a 7-11 and they were just closing up for a few hours. I went to another store and they opened at 8, but the first few hours were reserved for seniors only. I went to another store and they weren’t opening until 7. It’s not that I need a lot of stuff, but I would like to stock up on a few things. This is really aggravating. Especially since I normally used to do all of my grocery shopping during the late-night hours to avoid the crowds. I came home and napped on the couch briefly, then got up at 6 and went to bed. I have to be up for a session at 2.
Thursday the 19th – FEELS NORMAL TO WORK! – It’s a great feeling to be working! It’s an even better feeling to be working with a good friend I’ve had for decades. When I went to Studiopolis to finish the Voice Over sessions for an animated film I was working on (the first session was last week before all the craziness hit) I realized that I would be working under the direction of the great Jamie Simone! I’ve known Jamie for about 20+ years, and he was one of the first guys to hire me for Voice Over work back in the late 90s. He’s got a great ear/eye for talent, as many of the people he started in the business went on to very big careers. We worked for 3 hours on the film and for those 3 hours, it seemed like the outside world (and all its problems) didn’t even exist. It was magical, and I think Jamie and the engineer all enjoyed the distraction. I picked up some Taco Bell on the way home, and noticed that there was a long line at the gun store. Their line of thinking is probably – if this continues much longer and food shortages get worse (because of all the damned hoarders) then the crime rate will rise, and desperate people will start robbing from others. It’s certainly not an immediate solution given the fact that there’s a 10 day waiting period in California before you can even get a gun. I think it’s the same for ammo now too. Again it was a gorgeous day out, and not many people were abiding by the quarantine restrictions. I got home and fed the pets, and napped until around 10:30pm. When I woke up and checked the news I found out that the lockdown just got more serious. The entire state of California and its 40 million people has been locked down. I guess since nobody was doing it voluntarily during the “suggested” lockdown, it’s now official. No one in California can leave their homes except for essential services or errands. The rules are fairly ambiguous and seem to change by the minute. My maids are due to come clean Friday afternoon so I hope that falls under the essential services guideline. After all, isn’t cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing essential? I worked through the night doing auditions, and I started work on my Animal Muppet cap! I made a Sloppy Joe, did some more work, and then hit the hay. This reminds me of those “snow days” we had in South Dakota. Nobody was supposed to go anywhere because you’d either get stuck in the snow, or the temps were so cold you could possibly die. But it’s a lot easier to stay in when it’s blizzarding outside. Looking outside and seeing a gorgeous 70 degree day is not incentive to stay cooped up. This is going to really suck.
Friday the 20th – MARVEOUS MAIDS! – Just before 1pm I got up to let the maids in. I was afraid I would see a message on my phone that they wouldn’t be able to come, given the new restrictions. But right around 2:30 they arrived! I’m thinking that these new restrictions are going to be very hard to enforce. They can’t arrest and incarcerate 40 million Californians. But we do need to be smart about it. I spent some time working out some measurements for a Robin the Frog replica Muppet I want to make, and later I’m going to set up to do a Cameo greeting for someone who purchased one. I took a short nap, and then got up to begin shooting the Cameo greeting. Cameo is a company that acts as an intermediary for people who want to have celebrities record video messages to them. This particular customer was a huge Riddler fan, so since I wasn’t doing anything anyway, I made sure it was extra special for him. I had a lot of fun shooting it and editing it together. I did a few auditions, and started working on my Oscar the Grouch replica Muppet. The first step was to glue the eyelid fur to the eyelid pieces, so when I manipulated the eyebrow mechanism the fur would travel with it. Since that area of the fur will be traveling a lot, I made sure to let it dry really well before messing with it again. I made some Buffalo mac and finished season 2 of “The Mod Squad.” I can see why this show went for 5 seasons. It’s terrific!
Saturday the 21st – SLEEPY SATURDAY! – Though I really didn’t end up getting to bed until noon, I slept until 6pm on Saturday night. This whole experience has somehow seemed to make my sleep patterns even more strange than they were before. I walked Roxy and chatted a bit with a neighbor (at a safe distance, of course!) I went back inside and goofed around a bit. Then…a nap. I got up later in the evening to continue work on Oscar. Now that the eyelid fur was glued to the eyelid pieces, the next step was to glue the rest of the fur covering to the foam rubber understructure of the puppet head. I pinned everything in place and made markings on the underside of the fur where it should be cut in order to fit snugly under the eye pieces. This is very tricky, because if it’s wrong, it won’t fit properly and look odd. Once I trimmed the fur to fit (Alex had already done a great job of cutting the covering to fit pretty well) I gingerly glued the front piece under his eyes. There are two dangers to this. First, the fur has to go right up against the bottom of the eye pieces and fit snugly. Secondly, if any of the Barge glue gets on the eye pieces it will ruin the paint. There’s a component in Barge glue which melts paint. The first part of the attachment went very well. I let that dry for a bit, and then started gluing the fur down around his mouth place on the top of his head. I also glued the fur down to the base of the head in the back. Alex pointed out that it’s not necessary to glue the entire fur covering to the head, as it’s really only necessary to glue down the tension points. It was going well until I started gluing the fur to the bottom jaw. I should have Bobby pinned all of the fur out of the way. Because the pile length on the fur is so long, sometimes it would curl up into the glued areas and get stuck as I manipulated the fur to put it into place. After a lot of cursing and pulling the fur out of the glue with an Exacto knife, I finally got it attached to the lower jaw in perfect position. Note to self: when working with long fur, Bobby pins are my friend! After that sets overnight I’ll begin working on the overlap portion of the mouth. It’s where the fur goes up over the edge of the mouth into the outer edges of the mouth plate’s interior. I really need to paint the inside of the eyelid pieces, because the white color of the plastic from which they’re made is still visible when viewed from a lower angle. Rats! I should have done that before I installed them on to the eyeball pieces. Another “lesson learned.” I plan to take plastic sheets cut from a Ziplok bag, pin them into place over the eyeballs, and take a long, small paintbrush and paint the eyelid interiors. After that and the mouth overlaps, I need to work on the unibrow and get that secured, and he’ll be ready for his body. When I get his body finished the head will get attached, and I’ll glue in the foam tongue and glue on the black velvet pupils! Then we need to start working on his trash can home! The long fur on his face needs to be trimmed shorter to show off his features better, but I’ve decided against doing that myself. I’m going to wait until we’re on the other side of this crisis to have my friend Sergio Lopez come over to do the trimming, as he’s a master at that! He did an amazing job trimming the fur on my Rowlf puppet, and he’s done all the wigs on every mannequin in Planet Wallywood! But I doubt that trimming a puppet’s facial fur qualifies as an “essential errand” under the current guidelines. I decided to treat myself to a Chef Boyardee pizza and start on the DVD set of the show “Bronk.” It’s a detective show from 1974 starring Jack Palance. I loved it so much as a kid I wrote Jack a fan letter. The show was created by Carroll O’Connor and Warner was selling on-demand DVDs through their website. That means instead of making 100,000 copies and releasing them to stores, they make them only as the orders come in. For a fan of obscure TV shows like me, that on-demand thing is GENIUS! I was all set but unfortunately when I came down to get the pizza out of the oven after my shower, the pizza was REALLY overdone. I won’t say it was burned, exactly. But was way more “done” than it should have been. Rats again! Lots of “lessons learned” this week. Luckily it was still edible, so I took it upstairs and enjoyed some time with the pets, pizza and Palance.
Sunday the 22nd – RAIN & REST! – Normally when I wake up late on a Sunday I get ready for evening church, hit the service with Roxy, and take my ‘adopted grandma’ Shirley to dinner after. But no more church, and no more going out to dinner for a while. This is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me during my 59 years on this planet. I fed the kids and it started to rain outside; fairly heavily too. So I did a few things around the house for a while, and decided to go back to bed to enjoy the sound of the rain. I got up later to do an audition and feed the kids. I started working on Oscar’s mouth overlaps and it went very well. I’m really happy with how this is turning out! Because some of the weave of the fur fabric is visible on the edges where I’ve cut, I’m going to use an old technique I used to use when I was making puppets as a kid. I’m going to take a toothpick and draw a fine line of glue along the edge of the fabric’s weave. Then as it starts to get tacky, I’ll take the end of a paintbrush and “bend” the outer edge of the fur over on to the glue and flatten it down. That way it will disguise the weave of the fabric. After all that work, I turned in for the night.
And how was YOUR (strange) week??!!
PIX FROM THE WEEK
Raining outside, staying inside eating cold pizza, making puppets, and listening to Electric Light Orchestra on an AM radio. I felt like I was 13 again!
Here’s a progress video of the work being done on my Oscar the Grouch replica.