Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Squid Hat!

Halloween is approaching and at my house, we are getting ready for our annual costume party. My wife and Rob tend to get really passionate about these things and every year, our garage accumulates more and more decorations. It’s pretty fun. Every year the family picks a theme. One year we did The Prisoner, mainly because it is Frank’s favorite TV show. So Liz dressed up like a villager, complete with stripped blouse and groovy white tennis shoes. Frank was Number 6 of course. I started the night as Number 2, but like every episode of The Prisoner, as the night wore on, Rob, who started as like Number 16, moved up until he took over as Number 2. Fun times but if you don’t like The Prisoner, you probably have no idea what I am talking about.

The next year we did the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (The comic not the movie) Liz was Mina Harker, Rob was Dr. Jekyll, and I was Captain Nemo. I think Frank dressed like Malcolm McDowell from A Clockwork Orange that year. Fun Fun Fun.

Back in the day I came up with an idea for a High Priest of Cthulhu costume. I was telling my LCS friend Dave about this so I thought you might enjoy a long ramble about Renaissance Faire Politics and the Squid Hat.

My family and I used to be part of the Renaissance Fair Circuit here in California. In California, there are two kinds of Renaissance Fairs. The first is the professional or commercial fairs which are run for profit. These shows have paid performers, auditions, producers, the whole bit. If you ever see Robin Williams at a Ren Fair, he is probably at one of these because they tend to be huge week long events. Then there is the"small" faire circuit. These are smaller fairs put on by municipalities or non profit groups. Most of the performers are not paid. They do it for the fun. The circuit runs up and down the state all summer long.

We used to do about six faires a year with our group. Places like San Luis Obispo, Hanford, Modesto, Sacramento, Tulare and Fresno. When you are young this is a fun hobby. Basically you set up camp, interact with the crowds in your costume, and then have fun with your buddies when the faire closes. We stopped doing this because the lifestyle was getting too much for our older selves. We sort of retired about 5 years ago.

During my time doing fair, I was a member of the planning committee for the Hanford Ren Fair. If you think your average committee meeting is dull and boring, wait till you attend a Ren Fair Committee meeting. When you put “actors” in charge of a production, you are basically giving control freaks something to control and discuss at length. Never a good idea but you need volunteers since most local fairs don’t pay anyone to do this stuff. These meetings were just H. E. Double Hockey Sticks! Man, just try listening to a puffed up wanna be actor discuss what NEEDS to happen to make the show a success. So it was during one of these meetings that I started doodling on my pad and I came up with something.

Squid Hat! No idea where that came from. But I showed it to my friend who was also trying not to sleep and he thought it was funny. So I went home and decided to make my squid hat into a Halloween costume. The first squid hat was fun. I took it to Ren Faires. It was like a member of the family. It ended up getting a little ratty so I had to throw it away. This year I decided to make another one and a more elaborate costume to go along with it. This might make for an amusing Blog entry so I took pictures during the process.

Besides a sewing machine and scissors, here’s all you need.

About a yard and a half of squid colored felt. A square of Black and a square of White felt. A half a yard of clear plastic. Two big sheets of craft plastic (stiff). All this stuff can be bought at a good fabric store for under 10 dollars total.

You need a pattern so grab a piece of paper and take some measurements of your skull like this.

The fabric will need to be cut to a width equal to half of your measurement plus one inch. Here is a pattern you can copy.

So basically you want to fold your squid fabric in half and then trace the pattern. Freehand patterns rock! You want the fins to extend about three inches, and the total length should be about 14 inches. Cut out the pattern. You should have two squid shaped pieces of felt.

Next up is the eye. First cut a round circle out of the white felt square about 6 or 7 inches across. Next you want to cut an eye slit out of the black fabric. I think real squids have human type eyes but cat’s eyes are funnier. Cut a slightly smaller hole in one of the squid pieces.

Next up comes the crucial part of the design. The hat gets all of its charm from the bored expression in the eye. It’s as though the squid is tired of sucking your brains. So first you need to cut the clear plastic so it is large enough to completely cover the white disc. Finally you need to make the eyelid. Freehand draw a crescent piece of the squid fabric large enough to make an eyelid.

So all that’s left is assembly. Lay the white disc down on the table, arrange the eye slit in the center, and lay the clear plastic on top of it. Arrange the hole in the squid fabric over the eye. The hard part is sewing it all together. The plastic makes it all slippery but you can always rip out the stitches until you get it. Use pins to hold it in place.

When you finally have that bit done, lay the two halves face to face and sew a seam around the edge. Cut the stiff plastic to fit inside the hat. Turn it inside out and there you go! Squid hat!

You can add tentacles made from the left over fabric or wear it as is. Find some robes to compliment the hat and your Halloween is ready to rock!

Next time we make another visit to the Longbox of love.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Rock On!

I saw this in the window of the theatre by my work and it made me smile.

Last night Black Sabbath rolled into Fresno. I am not ashamed to admit that I am a head banger from way back. Yes during the 80’s I was a heavy metal fool. Of course you can only go so far with the head banging in Fresno. Not too many tours come this way. Fresno is just not a big event town. That’s why we don’t have any pro sports teams and most headliners don’t schedule us though lately that has been changing.

Back in the day, THE place to see shows was Selland Arena.

I remember seeing Iron Maiden there. What a great time. Of course the pickings were slim so I also had to see Def Leppard there. Surprisingly I enjoyed the Def Lep show even though I was never into the pop metal bands. I also saw YES and INXS at the arena. Of course this was about 20 years ago.

These days, I am almost 40 and the last concert I went to was about six years ago at the much smaller Warnor’s Theatre. The band was Tesla.

So it was with great pleasure that I found out that Black Sabbath was coming to town. Well a version of Black Sabbath anyway. Technically the band is called Heaven and Hell and features the classic line up from the Mob Rules era of Black Sabbath. Something about Black Sabbath being associated with Ozzy Osbourne in the line up as opposed to Ronnie James Dio. I didn’t care because I love me some Sabbath and I did not want to miss the chance to see Tony Iommi live.

I also took the chance to get some bonding time with son number two, Frank. I talked about Rob earlier. Frank is younger and while Rob shares a lot of tastes with his Mom, Frank likes some of the music of my youth and he tagged along with me. Yay!

Actually the first thing we noticed when we got to the arena was that a LOT of us old guys were dragging their kids along to the show. Check this out.

This guy brought his wife and three little kids along. How cool is that? Especially when the little kids were wearing their tiny Black Sabbath T-Shirts. As we entered the arena, the theme was repeated over and over. A lot of times, whenever we saw a young boy walking past us, close behind would inevitably be an older version of the boy in the form of his dad. I guess a lot of guys my age had the same idea I did. We get to see some Sabbath and include the younger generation.

The show was good. There were three bands on the bill and the first was Queensryche. There was a time when Queensryche was my favorite band but they kind of went the Metalica route and started slowing done and getting tamer after the Empire Album. I had seen them once before and they put on a good show again playing sings from most of their albums. Next up was Alice Cooper. Gawd I hate Alice Cooper but his show started off very strong with three rockers, including No More Mr. Nice Guy and 18. Then the crap started with Alice and his theatrics. So Lame! In this phase of the show, Alice witnesses a satanic baby being born so he takes it upon himself to kill the baby. For killing the baby he is hung by a rope mid-stage. Looked just so silly. Bad acting and worse effects. How exactly did he manage to get by doing this for 30 years?

Heaven and Hell took the stage at last and Frank and I were in Sabbath ecstasy. It was exactly what you want mood-wise from a Sabbath concert. Long heavy songs with cool lighting effects. Totally rocked. Of course the big downside was that they only played songs from the three Black Sabbath albums that they recorded with Ronnie James Dio. No “Iron Man’, no “Paranoid”, no “War Pigs” and especially, no “Black Sabbath”. Oh well. Maybe when they pull thorough California with Ozzy.

This was easily the tamest concert I ever went to. The first time I saw Iron Maiden (with opening act The Vinnie Vincent Invasion no less) we almost got into a knife fight with some stoners on the arena floor. For this concert, the worst behavior I saw was a guy openly smoking a joint in the restroom filled with about 30 men.

Next up:It's Halloween so I show you how to make a squid hat.