Saturday, December 27, 2003

I want to thank all of you who wrote to tell me you liked my costume. I will be adding more pictures and will also put up a permanent link to the entry on the sidebar so it will be easily accessible. I understand some of the pics weren't opening at first, but they are all fixed now. I appreciate the emails letting me know, but wanted to share this one from Singapore that sent me off my chair with laughter. Name and email address removed.

dear anne,

i can't view lecherous legolas no matter whose computer i use!
is there somewhere else you could put the pictures? i saw could access the rest, except for the bow and quiver, which had the same problem.

i'm all bothered because I WANT TO SEE LECHEROUS LEGOLAS!


Man, I love you people out there in blog land. You kill me.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

So this is Christmas...

And so it is. I spent it with family, including my stepbrother Dan, whom I hadn't seen in at least a couple of years, and my sister and nephew Alec who is six. I get so tired in the winter, and after present opening and breakfast this morning, had to go home and take a nap before dinner. Luckily, I live two blocks from my mom and stepdad, so that was possible without disrupting anyone else's schedule. Plus, there were other people who were in dire need of a daily nap. After two days with my six year old nephew, Dan seemed to be waning in energy and patience as well. Dan has a hotshot job as a executive news producer, and I never cease to be amazed at his driven attitude toward his work.

I wasn't ready for the holidays this year. Last year, it felt like Christmas. This year, it crept up on me like a crafty fox and I just wasn't ready for it. Sure, I bought gifts for everyone, but I wasn't emotionally ready for such intense family contact.

I've never been a fan of New Year's Eve, so I don't fret over that one. But Christmas always harbors so many expectations. Not for me, but I worry if I will meet them for someone else. Those worries come during awkward stances in the hallway as you say goodbye to relatives because all you want to do after the constant activity is go home and sleep. Feeling guilty for not having more energy, but on the walk home realizing that those around you were just as tired and that the conversation that would ensue were you to stay, has already been had.

Alec my nephew, was rambunctious and talkative as always, demanding attention and energy I just didn't have that day. I could do spurts with Alec, but it's always more, more, and I just didn't have more. My energy peaks later, just as most people are winding down, and getting up at 8:00am and enduring a cold walk to their house in the morning had assured me the need for a nap in the afternoon. I bought Alec the Pirates of the Caribbean DVD for Christmas, and we all watched and laughed again. Unfortunately, my mom's DVD player kept freezing, so Dan only got to see half of it before we gave up. Johnny Depp's delivery just can't be appreciated to its fullest when the movie freezes for a few seconds every three minutes. We tried the second DVD of Pirates, that I'd bought for my mom, and it had the same problems. Too bad, because we were all enjoying it.

Speaking of the holidays and family brings me to this past Thanksgiving. I went to visit my grandmother at her assisted living home here in Baltimore. She moved to Baltimore to be closer to my mom and Jack, and to my uncle Robin, her son who lives in Salisbury. It's a nice place with a nice decor, private rooms, and the inhabitants are well taken care of. It should be, as it's one of the pricier ones.

When I entered the lobby, she was sitting in one of the chairs and craned her neck around to see me. She'd been waiting there for awhile, the staff told me, very excited that I was coming to visit. So, when the automatic doors swung open and I walked in, she was so happy that she could hardly contain herself in her chair. Upon seeing her, I realized how my mere presence could mean so much to another person. She's incredibly frail, and can't feel the bottoms of her feet, so she has to walk with a walker and take a minute after she stands up to gain her balance. I'm a teaser, so I tease her and it's funny to see her laugh. This dainty, proper, southern little old lady, gripping my arm as she feels out the floor beneath her and opening up to me with laughter when I dare to go there about her being wobbly.

So, there me and my 87-year-old grandmother were, sitting at our table in the dining room and talking about books, my height, my cats, and occasionally she leaned into me to quietly mention the "bitchy" people that she didn't want to sit with when offered their table.

Beside us, a family sat around a larger round table. They were an elderly couple who were obviously residents, a married couple in their late forties, early fifties, and their two kids, a boy and a girl who were college age. It reminded me of when I was in college, and how important it was to me that everyone knew that I was on my way to greatness. The holidays were a time for me to assure everyone that I was far exceeding expectations. Not in my studies, but in my social status. Part of my time spent with family was to make sure they knew how great I was so they could tell all their friends, then it was hurry back to get to my life that I felt was so important at the time. I was going to go back and create the artistic masterpiece, or back to American Ballet Theatre and mingle with Baryshnikov, Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, the ABT dancers, Agnes DeMille, (when she was still living), and you name it as far as celebrities and socialites at the parties and galas. I had art galleries to go to and museums to visit. Places to be seen and places to see. Like I said, I was on my way to greatness and time was of the essence. I didn't know then, that I was going about it the wrong way. I was looking toward the company of other's greatness to make me great, casting aside time that should have been spent cultivating and getting to know the gifts that were special to me.

I saw that in these two kids, talking about their college and people in their classes who were yes, like themselves, on their way to greatness. Their tales were different from mine, but looking at them and listening to the way they told it, prompted by parents, reminded me of the same. From what I could tell, they were going to local colleges, but I didn't get the names of the universities. I could tell they were smart kids who wanted to please their parents and like me, let them know that life was "going on" for them. During pauses in my grandmother's and my conversation, I'd listen to them and reflect on myself at that age, going through the college experience where everything seemed so crucial. Like these kids, I was a fountain of information about myself and my goings on, and everything seemed so within grasp. That was because, I was willing to reach out and grab it. However, when it came to trusting myself that I could create it, I was timid.

And now, I'm not timid to create it. And doing so is a much more quiet and personal process. Now, at family gatherings, I don't know what to talk to people about. I can't explain to them what I'm going through, so my life has become about my regression from my career to work in a bookstore, and my battles with depression. People ask, "So, are you okay? Really, are you ok?" and I'm not sure what to tell them. Am I? I ask myself that every morning when I wake up, walking naked into the bathroom and throwing on a robe, pouring cereal into my bowl at a time of day when most people are eating lunch, and taking a shower when most are an hour or two from getting off work. I ask that every night when I go to bed, studying my surroundings and asking how I got here. How this former Victorian mansion in Baltimore came to be my home. An apartment within it that is happy to wrap its arms around me while I try to figure everything out. To house me and my thoughts within its giant rooms and 14-foot-ceilings. I think it's appropriate that the place is so open and loft-like, because right now I take up a lot of "space" and my thoughts and energy need room to swirl. When holidays come around, that happens more, because I'm given a stark reflection in the mirror by those who have known me my whole life and are shown a drastic change. Particularly when my energy fades or I'm not full of stories like I once was. In fact, I'm reluctant to talk about myself. I'm going through something very personal and can't really explain it, so I remain silent for the most part.

Especially when I'm asked if I'm doing okay.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

In honor of the last installment of Lord of the Rings opening this Wednesday, I've picked this time to post the pictures of my Halloween costume.

So, how does a normal looking girl turn... into an elf?

legolas costume

Like I said in my original post, I can't remember the day where I stood up and proclaimed, "That's it! I'll be Legolas for Halloween!" In fact, the first time I saw the movie, I was annoyed by the elf, always the worrier and just kind of a pretty boy type. Not that I mind pretty boys, but I wasn't sure why he was there and that elves were supposed to be fair. The movie had been in theaters for a long time, and I was driving home one night. I figured I might as well see it in the theater and pulled into Westwood where it was playing. It was around 7pm, and I took a chance that the movie was starting about this time. I'd read The Hobbit when I was about twelve, so when the ticket guy told me that the movie was five minutes into the start, I asked if I would understand having missed it. After he assured me I would, I bought a ticket. Luckily, they were still in the description parts about the ring, so I wasn't entirely lost. I was very taken by the incredible story and incredible filmmaking. However, I didn't know a thing about the characters, and when I learned more about Tolkien's elves and that they were not just pretty pushovers, Legolas grew on me. Especially in the second one where he flipped over that horse. Very cool. I have since read the Hobbit again, as well as Fellowship and Two Towers.

I think I was also going through a time where I wanted to transform myself into something larger than life, fierce, but elegant. I thought of being one of the girl elves, but I was drawn more to the challenge of transforming myself into a male character and lets face it, they are a lot more fun than just wearing frilly dresses. I also wanted to be something that was recognizable and well, cool. And it paid off, because I had a hell of a good time.

But first, MAJOR props to these people who so carefully documented their own creations for the rest of us to benefit from. I'd have been lost without their careful documentation of their own creations. You guys rock. Please visit their sites and see for yourself.

Alleycatscratch The end all be all to LOTR costume research. Painstaking documentation and great tips for construction.
Jedi Elf Queen. Incredible artist, her tips were extremely helpful in building the bow.
Megan Helped immensely with breaking down the elements of the top. Great documentation and a very talented woman.

Okay, now that the proper people have been credited, I can go on.

One day I just started building the bow, thinking that the rest of costume would be a pretty easy one. I must have been insane. I won't lie and say it was a breeze. It wasn't, but because I started early, I was able to prioritize. A few things I didn't get to finish, like the leg things, some of the detail work on the costume, and the vambraces (arm guards) but I was able to throw them together to look pretty good.

legolas costume
I took this picture at 3:00AM and had to digitally remove some splatter (made when I was applying the costume before work) from the mirror. However, it gives a good idea of the costume. I used my real hairline by flipping my hair over the wig, spraying white hair effect on it, then blonde effect which also helped hold it in place. I DID have to chemically lighten it substantially to work, but it was only the front under parts and it's just hair. I braided the side braids by using my own lightened hair and working it into the wig hair, to give it a seamless natural look. The rest stayed my natural dark brown. The blue eyes and dark eyebrows are all mine. ;) Click the image to see a larger version.

Heavy metal meets Middle Earth. This picture was taken at work in our music department on Halloween night. Roger, on the left, and his brother Eric on the right dressed up as AC/DC. Don't they look great? I'm in the center as Legolas. When I asked my grandmother (whose eyesight isn't the best) to pick me out of the group, she picked Eric. Okay, I know I�m dressed up as a dude, but c'mon grandma. Click the image to see a larger version.

This is me and my coworker Rebecca in the music department in a really funny shot. She is dressed as a fairy, also with pointy ears, and looked absolutely adorable. When we were posing, I was in the middle of saying something and Roger saw the photo opportunity and went click! The result, a photo where it looks like I'm looking right at Rebecca's chest and exclaiming something like, "You fairy chicks are HOT!" I call this the Lecherous Legolas photo, and yes, I know that will send me some weird Google referrals. Rebecca and I lost it when we saw this, and it was just too good not to post.

I didn't bother digitally removing the splatter here. Too much work on the first one where I removed the lovely mirror crack as well. This is the back of the costume, showing how the quiver hung. It is a mirror shot, so it is reversed from how it really was. The arrows and quiver tilted toward my right shoulder whereas this one looks like they go to the left. I made the arrows and quiver from scratch, and drew the design on the back. Click the image to see a larger version.

This is the bow and quiver from above taken in my apartment. Like the moody setting I set up? And yes, that's an original Victorian marble fireplace behind it. Thought that made it a little more authentic. As you can see, I still have detailing to do on the bow and work inside the quiver to finish it off. The arrows stay in there through Velcro attached to the inside of the quiver, so as not to fall out when I move around or bend down. I ran a belt through the quiver that goes over my shoulder and connects in front.

This is the quiver from the side, showing how thin it is.

lothlorien bow detailThis is a close up of the Lothlorien bow detailing. I used a wood epoxy putty and sculpting tools to get this look. Once I painted the bow I started with this detail work that I have yet to finish. Tricky, because it dries fast but great because it is an epoxy that sticks to the surface and is moldable, then dries hard as a rock. Great effect for that wood carved look.

This is the detail of the middle of the bow, with lots more work to be done. This is the most detailed part of the bow and I was only able to make a dent in the design application.

Sometimes you say YES to WIRE HANGERS. This is the humble beginning of the bow. Wire hangers taped together and bent into shape using pliers. I cut the hook part of the hangers off. After that, I wrapped the hangers in tin foil to give it depth, then and shaped it. If you've ever eaten at a restaurant that gives your to go food in the shape of tin foil animals, you know that tin foil is great for sculpting. After that, a couple of layers of masking tape to hold everything in place and finish off the shape. Then, the next step.

This is the bow and quiver in progress. The bow is still bendable in this stage. The strips of newspaper are applied using decoupage (a fancier papier mache technique). I added a layer, let dry, added another layer, let dry. After that, I used wood filler, NOT the epoxy putty, but filler to give it that wood look. Then, I sanded it down using a medium grade sand paper, then finishing touches with a fine sand paper. Again, a several step several application process. After I was happy with the shape, I painted it, then applied decoupage glue to seal it. You can see here that I used the tape measure to make sure the bow was even throughout.

The beginning of the Fellowship Brooch. I sculpted this from sculpty clay and didn't have the sense to place it on a more suitable surface to photograph it. This is on a baking sheet, just before putting it in the oven. At the time of the costume deadline, I didn't have time to paint it, so did a very rudimentary job.

This is the painted Fellowship Brooch. It could use some glaze and fine tuning, but I'm happy with it for now. I bought a strong clasp and glued it to the back of the brooch. Strong, so it could withstand the weight of my cape.

I will update this post later, but wanted to post these pics for now. Stay tuned for more pictures, as I'll be adding them over time.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

I've found myself in a writing frenzy lately.

I kept hearing about this National Novel Writing Month that took place in November, and of course never being one to follow the crowd, I am taking the philosophy of it into December. Okay, I just didn't hear about it until it was well underway, so I started in December. Plus, reading Francesa's success with the method got me inspired. Based on their goals, it bases your progress by a set goal of words written per day in order to reach the 50,000 mark by the end of the month. I did the math for December, and I think that puts me at around 1800 words per day. Sometimes I make it, other times I pass it, and sometimes I don't. I always have the number in mind of where I'm supposed to be.

Surprisingly, this method sets you free in a way, as you're concentrating on that goal of so many words. As a result, your writing really loosens up and gets wonderfully creative. And that's when it happens, the words on your screen blur because you are not beating your head against your desk to think of a story, but watching it unfold in front of you. The hole in your screen appears into the world of your story, and your fingers work like mad to type down what you see. From people's smiles, needs, past, their hair color, cadence, fears, houses, conversations, and most importantly, the story in which they participate. The story that's been floating around in your head as you drive to work, shower, shelve books, walk around naked in your apartment, ring up customers, walk to your mother's to watch Queer Eye, sip your mocha inside starbucks. The story that has you reciting the conversations of your characters just inaudible enough to not be accused at the grocery store of talking to yourself as you grab the sheep's milk feta cheese off the shelve in the refrigerated section. That story. The one that won't leave you alone and taps your shoulder every now and then because like Glenn Close in the movie Fatal Attraction, it will not be ignored.

I used to concentrate on pages as goals, and that always left me frustrated. For some reason, a word goal gets to the heart of the matter. After all, writing is about words and getting them down on the paper. Or in my case, the screen. Anne Lamott has a book about writing called Bird by Bird, and has a chapter called Shitty First Draft. So this is my shitty first draft, meaning that this time it's about the words, and letting them fill the pages without the worry of the criticizing editor standing over my shoulder.

I've let my characters show me the way this time. I type, because I'm following their lead. Yes, it's all coming from my head, but what's amazing is that it doesn't feel that way. All of a sudden, I've let go of all restraints, and have let my story walk 1800 steps a day while I tag along with it. And suddenly, writing feels so light and easy. I don't care if I'm the only one who ever reads it or if the story just plain sucks. It's my creation, and the important thing is that I'm letting it happen in its pure, untainted beauty. I'm letting it out of my head to explore, and like building my Halloween costume, even though I'm wandering into unfamiliar territory with some of the subject matter, I know exactly what I'm doing.

I guess I've stumbled upon that next project that I was needing.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

I had a nightmare last night.

I dreamed that I'd gone back into time and found myself on the morning of September 11th, 2001. It was early in the morning before the planes hit and I was in New York. I looked up at the two towers and realized where I was and what was about to happen. I ran into the lobby of one of the towers and told the person at the information desk that he had to evacuate the building and why. He asked me how I knew this was going to happen, and I certainly wasn't going to tell him it was because I'd traveled back in time. It was New York, and to him I'd just be another nut off the street. I said because I'd heard it through someone who had warned me, and he said that he wasn't going to evacuate the entire World Trade Center just because a friend had told me that someone was going to crash planes into the buildings. "Never will happen," he said, "No one is going to fly a plane into this building, and they surely aren't going to collapse."

"But they will," I said, "you have to warn these people to get out." I thought of all the lives I could save, the families that I'd keep intact. The ones that wouldn't have to jump. I pleaded with him to at least get the top floors out, but he refused. Being a dream, I found myself holding a bullhorn and started yelling at people in the lobby to evacuate the building and to tell the people on the top floors to come down. Some looked at me like I was crazy, while others pondered what I was saying, that "a plane was going to crash into the building."

The dream was spent running up the stairs and telling people to get out, having them either look at me and shut their doors in annoyance, or take heed, but too slowly. They weren't sure if I was with security and whether they should follow my directions.

Then, the building shook as the first plane hit, and I knew everyone inside had only an hour. Some of the people that I encountered reasoned with me that they couldn't leave their desks because their bosses would object, and I said, "Don't you understand? There is going to be nothing left. This is all going to collapse and turn to dust!"

Again, they said, "It will never happen. These buildings will be here forever. Besides, it's safer inside than out there." Out there, the bodies had started to fall, and more debris. They then smiled at me apologetically and politely shut the doors to their glass enclosed offices in my face.

So, I ran into the other building among a mob of people who were fleeing the lobby, shouting at them to look up and not get hit by the falling bodies. "Spot," I yelled at people blindly running out, "spot them to see where they are going to land, then run!"

When I reached the lobby of the other building, I warned them that another plane was coming. The desk attendant refused to evacuate because of the debris that was falling down outside. "They're safer in here, and no way is another plane going to hit."

I tried to convince him it wasn't an accident, that he needed to save the tenants in the building. Again, he refused, so up I went again with my bullhorn yelling at people to get out. As I trounced up the stairs, knowing that I was putting myself in danger, I thought of all the people that I could save, and that I could change the results of this day. My own safety was the furthest thing from my mind.

The second plane hit, and I was running back and forth between buildings, screaming at people not to get hit by the falling bodies and hearing the horrible sounds they made as they hit the pavement.

I jerked awake in the middle of it sweating so heavily that my sheets were soaked. Sweat was dripping down my sides and in every nook and cranny of my body. I remember thinking that I needed to get back to that dream and tell those people running not to get hit by the bodies, and to run as far away from the buildings as they could.

And then I realized I had to get to work. First to shower, then feed the cats who were meowing at me impatiently. After that, to try and salvage something to wear as I stumbled around in a stupor somewhere between reality and the dream from which I'd just woken up. I think when the cold air hit me as I walked out the door it helped place me firmly in the present, but when I arrived to work I found the crowds, colorful merchandise, and noise too much for me to bear at times. I fought off a headache, maneuvered around people, worked at the cash register with a pleasant demeanor and helped people find the books they were looking for. But inside, I just wanted to be somewhere quiet.

I'm trying to figure out that dream. I have a good idea what it was trying to tell me, but I'm going to let it sink in for awhile. I've been thinking of a lot of things lately, as my mind never stops racing and analyzing. Like this morning, I'm stuck somewhere between two places and don't know which one is more true to me. Not physical places, but psychological ones. I'm revisiting a lot of things and dealing with them up close and personally. Things that I thought were long put away and folded neatly in a closed drawer. However, when I opened that drawer, I saw that there were a lot of creases and that those things had not been put away as neatly as I thought. And now, I'm not sure who that makes me and if I like it or not. Was I better before realizing this, or better off now even though it makes me feel like not as nice of a person? But, a much stronger person. Am I better prepared to push myself further or am I more fragile than I've ever been? It's been an intricate, frustrating dance.

However, I feel more real than I have in a long time.

And at least I'm dancing.