Archive for March, 2012

A wee tutorial on how to make fish scales out of packing tape.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

As promised, here is the tutorial. I hope it helps you out. My camera is not the greatest, just trust me that these things look really cool in person.

Before I start, I wanted to show you my inspiration. I was trying to make a combination of the jacket Emma Watson was wearing for the Vogue shoot, as well as the famous 1949 Dior dress with scales on it. Miley Cyrus wore a copy of it to the 2009 Oscars.

I made the images in the tutorial full-size so you can just scroll down.

Things you will need:

- A template of your scale mounted on foamcore
- Pins
- Clear packing tape
- A small paintbrush
- Big sequins, medium sequins and small sequins
- Scissors
- Transparent tape
- Clear sequins, preferably square but round is fine too
- An ink pen

1. Make a template and attach it to a piece of foamcore.

2. Cut some of the large sequins in half.

2. Cut off a piece of clear packing tape and pin it down to the template sticky-side up, aligning the top of the tape with the flat part of the scale. Pin it in place.

4. Dampen the paintbrush with a little bit of spit or water and pick up the sequin halfsies, placing them with the flat edge against the round part of the scale. Don’t soak the brush, you just want it tacky enough that the sequins will stick until they hit the packing tape. I wanted them to have a scattered look so I made them uneven, but you can make them even if you want, no problem.

5. Fill in some of the gaps with full-size large sequins. Again, I’m doing a random pattern.

6. Now fill in further with the medium and small sequins, creating a rough crescent shape (thicker in the middle, thinner at the edges).

7. Using only the small sequins, place a few in the interior area, giving a bit of a “fade” effect.

8. When I bought the sequins, they came in a bag with a lot of the center punched-out bits still included. You know when they punch out a sequin, the little hole in the middle? Those pieces was in the bag as well. I inserted them here and there between the sequins to fill in and then to smooth the transition of the fade effect. Waste not want not, my Grammy said, so that’s what I’m doing.

9. Snip off another piece of packing tape and, starting at the center of the scale, gently mash it down on top of all this, smoothing outward as you go, effectively encapsulating the sequins in a plastic cage for eternity. It’s okay if there are bubbles, but if they are very large and bother you, take a pin and pop them gently on one side, then use your fingernail to coax the air out.

10. Use the ink pen to trace the outer edge of the scale.

11. Remove the pins and you should be left with this.

Trim it with the scissors and voila! You have a scale. I, however, was concerned with the scales ripping when I sewed through them, so I did an additional reinforcing measure. I recommend it. If you’re spending all this time on making these freakin’ things you don’t want them coming off and causing you sadness.

12. Rip off a piece of transparent tape. Not Magic Tape, transparent tape. Lay it down sticky-side up at the top of the scale template. Stick two pins in it so it doesn’t shift.

13. Here’s where the clear sequins and those two black marks come in. Since the sequins are clear and therefore hard to see, I took a photo of one on the back of my remote control which was conveniently sitting next to me (as it always is, I love TV).

Using the damp-paintbrush technique, put two sequins at the toppy-top-top of the tape, aligning the center holes with the black lines.

14. Press the scale down on top of the transparent tape, remove the pins and trim the excess. Now repeat over and over and over (in my case, 140 times). Here’s one side of my corset with the scales sewed on.

I think this was a good idea. They’re lightweight and very flexible. Hopefully it will all look good together.

Random whatnot and such.

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Nothing exceptionally interesting has been going in the World of Jessica (I went to a farmer’s market and bought horseradish pickles, but they didn’t really taste like horseradish and I was disappoizzzzzzzzzzzz) so here are a few things that have been floating around that you might enjoy.

1. I was checking out on Amazon the other day and there was this:

For some reason I felt a bit violated. Hey Amazon, I don’t know what you think of my prudent caves but I would appreciate you keeping your thoughts to yourself thankssomuch.

2. There’s a wonderful website called KnockingOff.com, with pictures of – you guessed it – knockoffs. Here are a few of my favorites.

And this one is my favorite, specifically because a friend of mine, JR, went to Taiwan in 1998 or 1999 and when he returned he regaled me with tales of Engrish littering the streets. One was adidas, but spelled with an lower-case L instead of an I. To this day I still call it adldas. The other was the brand Puma, but with the letters rearranged to spell Pmua. I also still call them Pmua. And lo, a photo of it, bringing back warm college memories:

PMUA!!

3. If you are unfamiliar with InBread Cats, you should familiarize yourself, because it is delightful.

4. In keeping with the cat theme, I really enjoy this Gatonovela.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXCSvq1htfg&

Burning Man Costume 3.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

OMG OMG OMG. I got tickets to Burning Man. I’m either going to go with Neenernator or Cricket, but I’m going for sure. That’s not why I’m so excited, though. Look at this comment I got:

The Snail-Maker said hi! In case anyone forgot, the photo that made me want to go to Burning Man is this one:

Seriously, look at that thing. It’s phenomenal. You pull the reins and fire shoots out its eyes. And now I’ve been to the Snail-Maker’s site (oilpunk.com), I saw the making of my beloved Snailmobile as well as it in different places. I love it so much.

I don’t have any new costume updates, I wanted to share the fact that I got tickets and the Snail-Maker contacted me (eeeeee!). However, since many people have expressed interest on how I made the packing-tape scales, I will be making a wee tutorial on that shortly. Soon you all can make scales of your very own!

Charts, Winston and Work.

Friday, March 16th, 2012

1. Would you like to see some charts? I bet you would.

2. Have you guys heard of the website FourFour? It’s a blog I’ve been reading for a few years, written by a guy named Rich. He is most famous for his America’s Next Top Model reviews, his music reviews, his deep love of all things tacky and campy, and Winston. Winston is Rich’s cat. He is a smoosh-faced gray-colored little fella, and he is weird. Perhaps a bit simple. But, asides from looking perpetually grumpled and have a fierce need to protect the banana bowl in Rich’s kitchen, he is quite amenable to getting costumes put on him, so Rich dresses him every Halloween. And I look forward to it every Halloween because it is glorious. Here’s Winston as a baby.

Here’s Winston being Winston.

Here is Winston in various costumes for various holidays.

And here is what I consider to be possibly the greatest photo of anything ever. It’s Winston as the giant worm from Dune.

THE BEST PHOTO EVER. Every time I see it I laugh until I tinkle a little bit.

He has his own Twitter thingie, so you can follow him @winstonbananas.

3. Recently we had a pitch where we were appealing to a young-adult clothing manufacturer and I made our typical response to questions (normally a book) as an iPad app, which was daunting but really fun. I got complete free reign on how to design it, and I really think it turned out great. Here are a bunch of pages. I blurred out stuff that I don’t think should be circulating on the internet, please don’t be thinking there’s just smudgy info on pages.

Burning Man Costume 2.

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Because of the Burning Man ticket poopstorm (you can read about it here and here if you haven’t been made aware of it) I may not get to go this year, which is a bit of a bummer. However, I chose the theme of my costume with the intent of wearing it to a bunch of different events. For example, it’s an ocean theme, so I could march in the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island next June. And the Halloween Parade in New York in October. And maybe I can go to Burning Man next year if I don’t make it in this year. It’s all good. This costume’s gonna get worn.

In the meantime, I’ve been making more components. I took one of my father’s old crappity herringbone jackets and cut it all up to hell, then painted it. It now looks like this.

I painted it various shades of brown, then did some sponging of gold on the shoulders to give it some texture. I’m attempting to mimic the crusty complicated ocean floor. Why gold you ask? Well, I’m using gold throughout this costume because I read somewhere that there are nine pounds of dissolved gold in the ocean for every man, woman and child on Earth, which I thought was a neat scientific fact. I then added the magenta dots to increase the visual…stuff. I bet you think I splattered the magenta paint, but no, I painted each and every dot because I am a control freak and splatter-painting is too chaotic for me. I went and bought nearly identical herringbone material to make the skirt so it will look like a set. Here’s a shoulder for more detail.

I need to put weights on the two points in the front because with the rest of the jacket cut away the points stick straight out ahead. Also, I’m perfectly aware that I am the worst seamstress in the entire world, but remember two things – one, I sewed this whole thing by hand so shush; and two, trim will be going on most of the raw edges and that will cover up the shreddy bits. There’s going to be dangly bits of seaweed on the sleeves and barnacles and seastars all over, no one’s going to be looking at my awful sewing technique.

In addition to the jacket, I bought polytubing, and with assistance from Snorth (God bless you Snorth, with your bodkins and whatnot) we constructed a hoop skirt base. I need a hoop skirt because if I have lights all over this thing there needs to be a place for the battery packs to go, and I am going to hide them under the skirt. See? See what I’m doing? Very smart.

So for the hat I have made a sea anemone (or, as I call it, a sea menemenem). It’s basic structure are two cheap Indian gold bracelets, a manipulated coat hanger and a ivory-colored knee-high stocking. I used a stocking because, once again, if I can light it up it needs to be translucent. Then there are the ribbons and the wire and the plastic beads and layers and layers and layers of Mod Podge.

And finally, the scales that go on the corset. They are made out clear packing tape and sequins. That’s it. I’ve made about 120 of them, and it takes ten minutes to make one, but it’s worth it because I sewed one half of the corset and it looks super-rad. Seriously. I’m very proud of myself.

Next is sewing the skirt and painting it, and after that is making a crab, two more seastars (bigger! pinker! sparklier!), some coral, some worms, maybe a nudibranch or two, a face mask with tentacles (or maybe it will look like a wee manta ray, I haven’t decided), seaweed for my sleeves, and an umbrella/jelly.

Television I’ve been taking in.

Friday, March 9th, 2012

1. Snorth and I were having a discussion about the show Hoarders which we both watch. Snorth insisted that the “winner” of Hoarders were the people who didn’t know a homeless woman was living in their basement for a year (the husband casually named her Scary Mary) and I swore the woman where half her house was missing, just not there, open to the breezes and whatnot, was the farthest gone into the abyss of the “No, I don’t smell that” that is Hoarders. Then there was the episode recently with Jan. This woman had the standard predicament – sad, depressed, unknown number of cats, the water’s been shut off. However, and here’s where it’s no longer okay, Jan continued to go number two in the toilet and now in her bathroom resides… Poop Mountain. I won’t show you a picture because NOPE but I will help you visualize it. Imagine a white toilet, okay? Now imagine an enormous mound on top of it that looks like coils of twisted tormented lava. There ya go. Poop Mountain. It was horrifying. I had to watch through my fingers. This next part I am not making up. When the biohazard team removed the whole situation, a cat ran out from behind the toilet into the street, where he proceeded to lay down and die. Just like that. So Jan came out into the street, picked up the cat and stroked it for a really long time, too long I think, while the therapy people tried to explain that the cat is like a giant canary and her house is full of toxins. Jan then said one of the greatest phrases ever uttered.

“The ammonia that got released when they cleaned the poop mountain…killed him.”

Oh my God, Jan, NO, that’s not why the cat died. The jostling of Poop Mountain didn’t cause the cat to get a rattle in his throat and then bite it in the middle of the road. Your perpetually gross house for the last five years killed him. Maybe the stove completely covered in cat dingleberries finished him off, it would certainly finish me off. You know, my parents, being perpetually optimistic, wanted me to consider becoming a therapist when I was younger and I was like, No. I have no compassion. If I was in a situation like this with Jan I would be all screamy in her face about the nasty-ass living conditions she was rockin’.

2. I finished Battlestar Galactica today! What a weird ending. It’s about a war and the race of humans getting decimated, so it’s not really upbeat, but around the middle of Season 3 it gets REALLY dark. Like, everybody dies. It reminded me of Les Miserables the musical. That’s my go-to for depressing, everyone-dies media. Practically all the characters in that damn show kick the bucket and they make you watch each and every one. We got one with consumption, a bunch of people getting shot with muskets, one throwing himself off a bridge, anything you want. There’s a whole song devoted to stealing trinkets off bodies littering the battlefield, for God’s sake. It’s a grim show. Here’s a picture of the closing number.

Battlestar Galactica reminded me of that. There’s getting shot, shooting oneself, dying of cancer, explosions, poisoning, getting sucked into outer space (which apparently will kill you), and general ennui and tears and excessive drinking and lashing out from just about everyone. Then, you get to the last episode and poof! semi-happiness. It was a bit of a shock to the system. I can understand why people didn’t care for the end (see here and here). Here’s a bit of a spoiler, so head’s up: If you tidily wrap up a four-season show and all its convoluted loose ends with the concept “Because God says so,” you suck. Did we learn nothing from Lost, people*?

3. I listen to the podcast The Nerdist and they mentioned the show Damages and how good it is, so I started watching it. I’ve only seen the pilot but woo boy, is that good television. First of all, Glenn Close is the bomb, that goes without saying. I’ve loved her since Dangerous Liaisons. And the writing is nice and tense. It’s like Law and Order with balls. It’s streaming on Netflix, so get on that.

* I didn’t watch Lost, but I do work with many people who did and when the show ended with everyone in the cast going to heaven or whatever, I had to listen to so, so very much bitching the next day at the office. Angry, angry viewers.

Costa Rica 2012, Part 9 and finished.

Monday, March 5th, 2012

On our last day in Costa Rica we were on the Pacific Ocean. I hadn’t ever been in the Pacific Ocean, so I insisted the night we arrived that we put on our bathing suits and trek out into the waters. So Cricket, being a trooper, hoisted up his swim trunks and we headed off. We watched the sunset:

And a romantic couple having a fancy dinner to the right of us:

And when it was dark we went in. Here are some fun facts about the Pacific Ocean. It has a killer tow when the waves go in and out and the sand has rocks that pop out all over. They recommend that you do not go in it for fear you will step on a rock, fall down and get sucked away forever. So Cricket and I are in the water, me up to my ribs and Cricket his bellybutton (he’s very tall) and he was holding my hand because he was concerned I would drown. I was leaping from one foot to another taunting the waves, and when one would come I would jump up, immediately get pulled seven feet backward, then hop forward like a deranged lemur yelling at the ocean, “Is that all you got? Your waves are pathetic! I own you! You are nothing! Poseidon can kiss my (posterior component)! etc.” The look on Cricket’s face was priceless. It was a combination of affection for me and sad acceptance that the life partner he has chosen is a complete idiot. So now I can say I have been in the Pacific Ocean.

The next day we decided to go on a booze cruise, primarily because they had snorkeling which I wanted to do. We met down at the cove, took a small boat out to the catamaran and hung out on it for five hours. It was delightful. Even if you don’t drink, you could sit on the front of the catamaran, look at the scenery and enjoy the weather. However, we got very lucky. We saw some humpback whales:

But even cooler were the rays. While we were in Costa Rica it was ray mating season, so the rays were trying to impress the ladies. They did this thing where they went right up to the surface and flapped their floopers, making the water look like it was boiling. I got some video footage of that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CYjEM7kPDg

But they did this other thing that was totally hypnotic to watch. The males, in an attempt to attract a mate, would fling themselves out of the water, look like they were flying and then fall back into the water with a big splash. It looked like anthropomorphic teabags trying to escape. I didn’t get any footage, but I found some that totally shows what it was like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2QTOz8kDZg

I could have watched that all day. (I pretty much did.) Then I went snorkeling which was pretty lame due to the amount of sandy debris that had been stirred up the night before by winds or currents or whatever. It made the visibility really low. However, on the way back to the boat, one of the boatmen who had been swimming with us climbed back on with an angry super-puffed pufferfish. He was perfectly round and all his little spiky bits were all poking out, the boat man said he had a lot of practice holding them, otherwise it would hurt. He put the pufferfish in a five-gallon bucket and when Mr. Puffy calmed down, I pet him. He felt exactly like small plastic barbs covered with a thin layer of slime. I, not surprisingly, adored him and wanted to keep him forever, but a few minutes later the boatman returned him to the sea.

Okay, here are all the remaining photos I have.

Dead moth. He was huge, like an easy six inches across, and other bugs were eating him. The Cycle of Life – it’s gross.

This is one of my pride-n-joy photos. We saw a river otter swimming down the river in the rainforest. I anticipated where he was going by his bubble trail, so my camera was approximately in the right spot when he popped out. He clambered up onto the log, took a couple deep sniffs of the air, and then slithered back in the water – and I got a shot of him during the sniffing! I was thrilled.

A lizard and a heron. Together and yet so far apart.

Tortuguero National Park. Here’s the view outside of the cabins we stayed in. Amazeballs.

Here’s the village of Tortuguero. Originally is was created during the time of the logging, but now it just caters to tourists and helps with the annual green turtle hatching – checking the labels of returning green turtles, making sure the babies go into the ocean, that kind of thing.

The second place we stayed at the base of the Arenal Volcano. One of the most photogenic places on earth. This is where I went on the night frog walk and I saw the hummingbirds.

Bathroom signs we saw all over the place. I guess the plumbing is old, so you can’t put anything in the toilets like paper products. There’s a little garbage can off to the side of the toilet for you to deposit used paper. It took some getting used to, but by the end of the trip I was a pro.

The graveyards in Costa Rica were really interesting. First of all, they’re all above ground, not unlike New Orleans, because the twelvetyteen feet of rain they get. Also, we’re accustomed to graves made of stone, but the people in Costa Rica are pretty poor, so the mausoleums are made of the same stuff their houses are made of, cement blocks and bathroom tile.

The hanging bridges. This is where I saw the hummingbird in a nest and the tarantula in a hole. It was kind of scary because the bridges were really high off the ground, really long and really swingy, but The Moomins and I sucked it up and crossed six of them like the brave soldiers we are. Ain’t gonna let nothin’ stand in our way, oh no.

The stickers on the side of the bus we traveled with. I stared at this from time to time. While the first four stickers seemed accurate, I never noticed a casino on board. Not once.

A moody and dramatic photo of a telephone booth. Very artsy.

The third hotel we stayed in, the one on the Pacific Ocean where I performed my one-man show Old Man and the Sea: The Dumbass Chronicles. This is where the dove had made a nest in a hedge.

And this is a photo of a lamp I liked at this last hotel. I liked the way only the bulb part had a shade on it.

While in Arenal, we went to some natural springs. The water was varying degrees of hot, and while there were quite a few young ‘uns milling around, it was mostly elderly people walking very slowly through the pools of water with no expressions on their faces like totally non-threatening zombies. The foliage around the pools was phenomenal. Mad props to their landscape artist.

No mad props to the sign maker. I like how he managed to screw up both the English and Spanish on this sign.

That’s it. That’s my whole trip to Costa Rica. If you have any questions or anything, feel free to email me. Also, the tour I went on, in case you’re interested, is this one:

http://www.caravan.com/tour/costa-rica

And now, back to TV recaps and pictures of crafty-crafts.

Costa Rica 2012, Part 8.

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Soft animals with fur and lactating parts! But first, hairy things that do not lactate. And have a lot of limbs. And sometimes eat their kinfolk. For example, this furry-butted spider with angry eyes. Cricket took this picture and is very proud of it.

Then, this beautiful golden orb spider. Love the coloring.

When I was on the hanging bridges (where I saw the hummingbird in the nest), the guide pointed out a wee hole on the side of the mountain and I was face-to-face with a smootchy little tarantula. Not often an animal most might think is cute, but this little feller was. Look at his sweet little toes.

Dotted all over the countryside were cows. Aaron explained that Jerseys and Holsteins didn’t do well in their climate because it was too warm, so the farmers cultivated “hot cows”, predominantly the Brahman cows from India. I think Brahman cows are terrific and Susan got some good shots of them. Look at them and their magical neck-humps.

The oxen are a critical part of Costa Rican society. Before cars, people used oxcarts to bring their wares and possessions where they needed to go. There’s a town in Costa Rica that is known for their exquisite oxcart painting. We didn’t go there, but we did see a few beautiful oxcarts around and about.

Monkeys! There are four types of monkey in Costa Rica and we saw three of them: Capuchin, Howler and Spider. The Squirrel Monkey lives on the Pacific Coast and I didn’t get a chance to go to into the forests on that side, but I saw all the Caribbean monkeys and I feel pretty great about that. The Capuchin Monkey everyone is pretty familiar with – they are used in a ton of movies and as helpers to quadriplegics because they are as smart as a seven-year-old human.

Sometimes you gotta chew on a branch.

And eat some fruit.

Then take a nap.

Needless to say, Capuchin Monkeys = a whole lotta cuteness. Cricket got some video footage of them with the palm fruit. It gets more interesting around the 1:00 mark.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hkYA8VM21k

But, despite what you might think, Capuchins were not my favorite type of monkey (although they were marvelous and I love them very much). Spider Monkeys are. They also have a prehensile tail and they go up in the tippety-toppety branches, hang there and use all four of their hands to delicately pick tasty leaf-bits. It looks like they’re playing the harp with all four limbs. I could watch them all day.

If you go to Costa Rica, you will hear a really weird noise, something between a bark and a grunt, but very loud. Those are howler monkeys and their calls can be heard over two miles away. We encountered Howler Monkeys several times on this trip. There were mixed opinions on the call of the Howler – some people hated it, I liked it. It’s really basic and it sounds like it comes from the gut. Here’s a example I found on good old YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ihWw_4aOBY

And here are some pictures of Howler Monkeys. Let me preface by saying they are brown and black, but we came across a famous one called Blondie, who is not an albino but she is lacking pigment in her skin and fur. So the orange-y one is not a typical Howler Monkey.

OMG Howler Monkey baby!

When I was on the hanging bridges I was very excited to see coatis. Coatis are in the same family as raccoons and they are adorable, with the sweetest little markings on their faces. They spend their days shnuffling around in the underbrush looking for delicious things like worms and fruit. I was photographing this one…

… and I had started to videotape him when one of his cohorts popped out next to my foot and commenced foraging, which surprised me to say the least. I’m sorry the footage is so Blair-Witchy, it’s very dark in the rainforest and I was startled.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJIxBrrDbtA

And then he ran away.

Later that day, we saw a group of females and babies snacking out by the side of the road. The males are solitary and are called “Coatimundi” which I believe means “Lonely One”, so if you ever see a group of them, it’s always ladies and their wee ones.

Sloths! I saw both the two-toed and three-toed variety. First, the two-toed. It was raining. He was climbing from one tree to another and he was very soggy. Here he is in all his soggitude.

And here’s a snippet of footage I took of him. They move pretty quickly considering their name.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tvqJnSGQb8

But the ultimate thing on this trip was the three-toed sloth. One day, everyone came to breakfast saying that there was a three-toed sloth in the tree, but by the time I got there it had magically disappeared. They’re hard to see anyway because they do their best to resemble a rotting bathmat. Later we saw one in a tree far away, but honestly if they hadn’t told me it was a sloth I would have mistaken it for a pile of leaf-debris. The only slothlike defining feature was the three loooooong claws.

I was coming to grips with the lackluster sloth sightings, you know, accepting my plight, when one day we were at a rest stop Aaron came over to me and said, “Would you like to see a sloth with a baby?” I was like YES NOW PLEASE and started craning my neck to look in the trees, but Aaron said, “No, it’s over here.” He took me to a bush, pulled aside some branches and there it was, a sloth with a baby maybe two feet from my face. I calmly asked Aaron if I could touch it (translation: can I steal it and hold it close to me for eternity) but Aaron said no because it is a bacteria-and-algae-encrusted creature and it will get us sick. Here are pictures. You might want to hold on to a chair or something to brace yourself.

Wait, it gets better: video footage.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5tUYEgX5mk

My favorite part is when all the women on the tour come over and immediately start ovulating in unison at about the :42 mark.

Coming up in the next entry: All the pictures that are left. And then we return to our regularly scheduled programming.