Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sic vis pacem parabellum

Although Corey Sosner does make the best-fitting muscle suits and Wolverine claws, that's not his true calling. He's an actor, and a damn fine one at that.

Corey recently completed a short film called "Punisher, First Round" in which he starred, directed and produced. It's a great film, with all the action quality a hero movie must have. It was the first time that you can see the real Punisher on screen. (I had the chance to view this DVD after watching the Tom Jane version, and I can definitely say they miscast THAT movie. Big time.) Corey delivers a gritty realism to the Punisher and truly portrays the depth and breadth of a character driven by revenge and possessing the skills to execute his plans perfectly. At the same time, he brings an excellent sense of dry humor and comic timing to the Frank Castle character in his exchanges with Wolverine. The casting of the short was extremely well done and the dialogue between the Punisher and Wolverine was classic.

Knowing Corey before I saw the movie, I was amazed at how easily and believably he could slip into the Frank Castle/Punisher role. This is his genre and he is unparalleled. One of the things I always notice about someone is the eyes. As I've mentioned, I have dark green eyes. Most of the time. When I get angry, they bleed to gray. And I've been told I look completely different when I'm angry (and no, I don't put on 250 pounds of muscle and turn green - if I did, I wouldn't have needed the muscle suit, would I?). Corey's eyes do the same thing. They are a lighter green than mine, but his gaze goes absolutely flat, almost reptilian, and his eyes get extremely dark.

I believe one of the best indicators of a superb actor is his ability to willingly suspend disbelief in his audience of the "secondary world" of his performance. Corey can do this ... and in spades.

Order the DVD from - you won't be disappointed!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tonight, we dine in HELL !! -- Cipriani's ??

This one feels different. I don't know exactly why, but it does. I'm feeling anxious for some odd reason.

Normally, when I start down a costume development path, there's a lot more research I need to do, a lot more vendors to contact, a lot more effort.

This time, the items just fell into place - Am I getting this good, or is some type of synchronicity afoot?

  • Andrea is doing the cloak - fabric will be a heavy wool and color will be a scarlet red.
  • JJ is doing the brooch, vambraces, greaves, sandals and helmet. I'm now in the queue and the armor should be done in the 3rd or 4th quarter of this year.
  • I purchased the falcata sword from It should ship on May 18th.
  • David is doing the leather Speedo and shoulder harness. The harness will be sent down to Andrea for fitting the cloak.
David? Who's David?

When I got my Faramir pants, Reg cut them too long. Rather than send them back and wait another few months for him to return them, I figured that I could bring them to some leather garment repair place and just get them cut and hemmed. Nope.

I went to about four places and each one wanted to charge about $100 to trim and hem. There was no way I was going to spend that money (plus NYC sales tax!!), so I kept looking. I tried using and looked up "leather clothing". In addition to the places I found in the paper yellow pages, I came across some other leather clothing places. Leather fetish clothing places.

Well, well, well ...

Two of the places I called, The Leather Man and Rubio Leather, just didn't sit right with me. They weren't nasty. Something was just off-putting about them. The best analogy I can give is when you walk into a hair salon/barber shop and just get a bad vibe. It's best to get out of there. And FAST. Then I called David Menkes Custom Leather Wear. David sounded like a really nice guy and I explained what I needed. "Sure, no problem. Would you like to set up an appointment now, or do you need to check your calendar?"

I set up an appointment and went down to 19th Street the next day. I was expecting an actual store, but David works out of a HUGE third-floor apartment with an outside garden. I was really impressed. And David is one of the nicest, most creative people I've met so far - in fact, I was thinking to myself, "I've found the leather equivalent of Andrea!" His work area was neat as a pin, he had a wall of leathers on rolls and a rack of completed and in-process items on the side. As it turned out, David was also a very big LOTR fan, although he felt that Peter Jackson didn't do the books justice. He also picked up right away the Faramir pants were Faramir pants. Damn, he is good! A couple of snips and a run through the sewing machine and we were done. And the price was extremely reasonable - about one-fifth of what was being asked for in the other establishments. I was looking at some of the items he was making, how clean the cuts were and how straight the hems were sewn on everything. No mess anywhere.

When I was planning my vendors for this venture, I immediately thought of David. He's a perfectionist. After all, if you're getting this type of leather clothing, you had better go to an expert. I gave David a call and explained to him what I was looking for, plus I sent him a PDF of some shots of Gerard Butler and Michael Fassbender in costume (or lack thereof). He had already seen the movie. Twice.

A little bit about David - he's a well-built guy with tattoos, a closely cropped beard, bright blue eyes, a septum piercing, and an absolutely wicked sense of humor. He had chuckled when I first told him what I was looking for.

"What are you doing about the CHEST? I hope you've been working out!"

"Of course I have - I'm not going to get confused with David Wenham, but I'm in good shape. Do you think I'd be asking for a leather Speedo if I couldn't carry it off?"

"You should SEE some of the people that come in here!"

We had a good laugh on that one. I've already seen him for the initial measurement session and I've picked out the leather I'd like to use. David, like Andrea, works pretty quickly, so Andrea should have the shoulder harness to fit the cloak in a short time. And, by the way, he was quite pleased with the results of my chest and abs workouts.

Looking at the pictures of the falcata sword I've ordered, I may also ask David to re-do the sword belt and scabbard. He'll have the actual pieces as a pattern and I know he'll have fun making THAT! After all, if I'm wearing a custom leather speedo, I don't want to put on a cheap leather/pleather ill-fitting belt.

I realized that this was the first costume that didn't involve several layers of fabric and/or leather between me and everyone else. This was basically just me. And a cloak. Even with the workouts and staying slim, it hit me that I still had a bit of nasty body-image memory to overcome. Well, I said to myself, you're not the little fat kid any more ... Spartan.

And I don't feel as anxious now ...

Monday, April 9, 2007

... In Blackest Night ...

My Green Lantern mask arrived!

Corey and his sculptor did a great job on the mask. I actually got two!

The first one is made of of urethane foam with a theatrical mesh back. This one is as light as air and feels like an actual part of your face. It's a bit wrinkled when it's not on, but as soon as it warms up on your face, it puffs up and is really smooth! I use spirit gum and spirit gum remover for this one. This moves as your facial expressions move. It's great!

The other is made of theatrical latex. A little thicker, almost, but not quite, as comfortable. ProsAid and regular prosthetic adhesive remover on this one.

By the way, did you know the "proper" way to attach a latex appliance?

  • Put a light coat on the back of the appliance. Let dry for about two minutes
  • Put a similar light coat of the adhesive on your face. Let dry for about a minute
  • Starting at the top edge, "roll" the appliance downwards, patting and stretching gently into place as you go.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Window on the West

The Private Investigator Story!

Bear with me folks - this entry ties together a lot of loose strings from other entries. Particularly the "Weapons and Warfare" entry.

I had decided to also go for an Ithilien Ranger costume, and at that point in time my two principal vendors were Andrea and Reg.

My motivation was some really great pictures on the site of the Ranger's parade in Wellington, plus an extremely detailed breakdown of each costume piece.

Andrea, of course, had no problem with the shirt, the neck cover/mask and the tabard. They were done in about 3 weeks.

Reg, would be doing the underbracers, bracers, tunic, cuirass and gorget. Knowing Reg's inability to get stuff done on time, I made sure I gave him eight months advance notice.

"Reg, do you swear to God you're going to get this stuff done on time, this time? Am I going to have to keep calling you because you'd forget your head if it wasn't attached?"

We set the date of October 1 to have all the pieces in my hands. Not shipped. Not almost ready. Delivered.

The other thing I needed for the outfit was an Ithilien Ranger sword. Why I didn't think of JJ at this point, still escapes me, but I went ahead and contacted Eyal Azerad at Darksword Armory in Quebec for the commission. We discussed the project and Eyal put me in his queue; the expected delivery date was 6 months. So everything would be coming due at the same time. Nice. I also decided at that time, that as a birthday gift, I'd give Andrea my Faramir sword and have Eyal make another one up for me.

With two HUGE exceptions (Garry, Andrea's husband and Corey Sosner) I've been universally disappointed with every single item I've gotten from a Canadian vendor. They're sloppy.

I give Reg a call on September 1 - just to see if we're on track.

"Oh yeah! I've got all the leather cut and I'll have them out to you before I go to the Texas Faire."

"Oh, how long is the faire?"

"About 2-3 months."

DAMN. Here we go again. Deep breath. Relax. Unclench my hands. Look around for someone to beat the living s**t out of.

"When are you going?"

"End of the month."

"So you promise me you'll get the stuff out, RIGHT? You're not going to miss your deadline again?"

"I promise! I promise!"

Well, you can guess exactly what happened. Not only did Reg not get the stuff out by the end of the month, he was off gallivanting in Texas. The term "volcanic fury" does not even begin to describe my feelings at that moment. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. I figured that I needed to find another vendor. Luckily, I hadn't given Reg a deposit. (Unluckily, if I had, I wouldn't have been so eager to find someone else).

Introducing ....

With some help, I found Greg Podgorny of Podgorny Designs and I give him a call. He's an MFA and had done a full set of Gimli armor, does plate armor and forges swords. We exchange emails and he responded promptly. He picked up his phone. He returned voicemails. I get a written contract that states he will be done by end of January 2007. The only thing I'm not too thrilled about at this point is the fact that he wants to be paid 100% up front. (This should have set off warning bells, but I was too pissed off at Reg to listen to that little voice.)

I send Greg a bank check ... we still talk to each other on the phone and email. Even better. I even get progress photos!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...

Eyal has emailed me and has backed out of the Ithilien Ranger sword. Damn. Damn. Damn. He can't get the casting on the pommel to his satisfaction. He sends me the new Faramir sword. It's beautiful - except for three items:

  1. All the leather is black, instead of green. We had specifically agreed to faded green leather in all the email correspondence
  2. There's no etched ravens on the pommel - according to him, the material he used is too hard to etch.
  3. The scabbard doesn't fit properly and it is not the "Faramir" scabbard. The metal aglet is also slightly rusted.
Since I'm on a roll with Greg, I ask him if he can do another scabbard and do the Ithilien sword. Again - not a problem, except the 100% up-front thing. I agree. I send him the Faramir sword from Eyal for the etching and the replacement scabbard.

As the deadline looms closer ...

I give Greg a call on January 10. He's actually finished everything and is just waiting for some nice weather to "age" the leather. He's all set to ship on January 16. By the end of the week, I don't get the items and I call ... I get his voicemail, but I figure Greg's off-site - he often does movie work and is not in the office/forge for a few days.

Two weeks ... three weeks. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

I call his neighbor (he's next to a woodworking place) - he hasn't seen him. I send registered mail. Nothing.


So now I'm out over $2000, I still don't have my Ithilien Ranger sword PLUS I no longer have a Faramir sword.

Well, back to the drawing board ...

So I give Reg a call. I had told him previously that because he couldn't meet the deadline I had to use someone else. Of course, both he and Larkin were extremely apologetic when I blew them off. So my excuse was I wanted a second Ithilien ranger outfit. He actually got it done and the stuff was, as usual, visually stunning - just very, very late. And nearly free since Reg felt so bad about disappointing me in the first place. The only problem was the boot toppers - they were this bright palomino gold color - a nice color, if you like your eyes to bleed. Another pair, this time in a darker brown was completed and was being shipped out on April 5. These are in a weathered milk-chocolate brown and look perfect with the outfit.

This was also around the same time as I was having such a hassle with that witch Kathy Pillsbury with the Han Solo costume. At this point, I was so damn angry I decided I'd hire a private investigator to track Greg down and either get my money back, or get my costume and swords (or have his kneecaps broken, depending on who I'd hire).

So I look for private investigators in the Los Angeles area (Greg was in Pacoima, which is a suburb of Los Angeles) and shell out $275 for a "basic locate". I was hoping to get either a cell phone number, residence address or something to speak with Greg and rip him a new one. Greg is definitely one tough person to locate, because as of this writing, the PI still can't find him and I'm getting a refund.

... Then back from the dead ...

All of a sudden, I get a package from Greg - now this is the end of February 2007. He's 30 days late on his written contract, so he's technically in breach. I can sue the jerk if I want to. In the box is my Ithilien Ranger outfit and it fits great. This one is deliberately scratched and worn - which is the way I wanted it - so I really do wind up with two usable Ranger outfits. And - wonders of wonders - there's another 818 phone number. I call it and I actually speak to the idiot.

And I hear a tale of woe. I really don't give a rat's ass at this point, but hearing how bad he sounded and what actually happened, I did feel a little sorry for the guy.

Now, Greg's old place of business in Pacoima was zoned for industrial use only. Given the rents in that area, Greg decided to also reside there. And conveniently forgot to tell his landlord. His neighbor - his supposed friend who ran the woodworking store - wanted to expand his business and so he decided to tell the landlord about Greg's living arrangements. The landlord got angry and gave Greg five days to vacate the premises. He packed what he could in his pickup truck, gave as much equipment he could to friends and still left a lot of stuff there when the L.A. County sheriffs came to padlock the place. Greg drove cross-country and is living with/near his parents in North Carolina and is fixing up his grandfather's apartment that hadn't been lived in for about 15 years. One of his friends gave him a cell phone - which was the number on the package label - and this same friend had mailed out the Ithilien Ranger package. The Eyal/Faramir sword was still with either this friend or another in California and he/she would send that out to him when he was ready to make the scabbard. The swordwork was supposed to be finished by March 30, 2007.

Greg was going to be doing some lectures/classes at the college he graduated from and swore up and down that he would forge the sword and make the scabbard for the classes. I could call him any time on the new number.

... And out for the count ...

So, I talked to Greg twice on the new number, and after that - I'm just getting his voicemail - just like the last time. Then the message switched to "This number is temporarily out of service". Now someone else has the number with a different message. I don't even have a mailing address. So I'm out the money I gave him for doing the Ithilien sword and I'm out the money I spent with Eyal on making another Faramir sword. About $1800 in total.

And the almost-happy ending ...

  • Reg has another Faramir sword, which he is going to send me - when - is the big question since he's off to a faire in Escondido in two weeks.
  • JJ is doing the Ithilien sword (for about $900)
At least I'm getting my stuff done by reputable vendors. I just had to blow a large chunk of change to do it.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Pep talk

I mentioned to Andrea that I was half heartedly thinking of a Spartiate outfit from the movie "300" but dismissed it since I lack the washboard abs that most (if not all) of the Spartans were sporting.

God bless her, this was her response:

Dude, you are in Spartan enough shape after all that training! I'm just crossing my fingers that everyone who orders one of these has a body to go with it, or at least be mostly in shape. Mostly is all I ask for.

After all, if my job description included strutting around half naked like this guy or I had abs like him, I wouldn't have even given it a second thought:

As a child, I was somewhat heavy. No, make that fat. I was humiliated when I had to go to the department store and have to go to the "husky" rack. I recently came across a picture of myself at 8 years old when I went to the rodeo at Madison Square Garden. I weighed more then than I do now. I had heard all of the common and uncommon excuses - from "That's just baby fat" to "You've got heavy bones" (I actually have extremely dense bones, but that's beside the point and no, I'm not part-Kryptonian!)

The high point in my (then young) life was the first time I could fit into "regular" clothes. That was sophomore year in high school.

And I make damn sure that I stay that way. I wear 30" waist Levi 501s and have for the past 20+ years.

I also keep one old pair of Levis. If I try them on and they're tight, I cut down on my intake and increase my workouts until they feel comfortable again.

There's been a lot of controversy going on about low-fat vs. low-carb diets. I do my own low-fat and low processed carb diet.

Anything that has hydrogenated, coconut or palm oil I skip.

Any stuff with a lot of sugar (store bought cake, cookies, etc.) I skip.

Delicatessen meats or salads I skip.

The "Mediterranean" diet staple of olive oil actually raises my bad LDL and lowers my good HDL, so I skip that too. Go figure.

Lots of fresh fruit, fresh or frozen veggies, grains, cereals (Honey Nut Cheerios and Vanilla Almond Special K for the most part, plus Kashi Go-Lean) and I'm set!

This sort of eliminates the "fun" foods like pizza, chinese or ribs from regular consumption, but then again, they shouldn't be regular consumption. I can treat these as "very special occasion" items and not feel deprived. And I limit the amount even when I do splurge.

I've decided to go ahead with the Spartiate outfit. The definite pieces are the cloak, brooch, leather speedo (hehehehe), greaves, vambraces, sandals and xiphos+scabbard. I also learned my lesson from before - Andrea is doing the cloak and JJ the armor. I'll describe the whole process in another post.

Now, I'm just deciding on which optional pieces I really want. Helmet? Shield? Spear?

And find time to do more abdominal exercises.

Maybe if I start taking Ambien, I can get in some sleep-crunches ...


After a considerably long time, I am finally sporting a fairly nice-looking six-pack. The rifts and valleys are coming along, due to being extremely faithful to versions of the '300 workout' as posted on YouTube. I'm also down to a 29" waist.

While most of my contemporaries are expanding around the waistline, I'm shrinking!