Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Horsing Around

One of the things that I still want to do is to learn to ride a horse.

It's also one of the things that scare the living crap out of me.

It's not that I'm afraid of horses. Far from it. There's usually several Mounted officers outside of Madison Square Garden, and the horses are used to being patted and talked to by strangers. In my neighborhood, too, we sometimes have Mounted officers patrolling, and I am definitely not spooked by their size. When you look at horses (and some dogs) in the eye, you can actually see someone looking back at you (forget about cats!).

What scares me is falling off and badly hurting myself. I guess as one gets older, the consequences of doing something stupid become more apparent and that instills a certain sense of caution that isn't there at a younger, more innocent age.

One concern is damaging my teeth. I would not want to go through another root canal, or possible reattachment, or a possible dental implant. Along the same lines, I worry about eye damage during a fall. As Andrea can attest, I've been through enough eye infections, corneal ulcers, chalazions and whatnot to do a remote consult on someone else, determine meds and dosing schedule and have it 100% verified by a "real" ophthalmologist.

Oddly enough, breaking an arm or leg (or rib) doesn't seem to be as plausible or probable to me. As I've mentioned before, I have very dense bones and they don't break easily. When I was nine or ten, I was sitting on my bicycle looking down into my neighbors back yard from my back yard. (The houses in my area are terraced, so "ground level" in my yard is actually about 20-30 feet above the neighbor's "ground level"). There was no fence, I lost my footing, and
down the slope I went - I wound up flying off my bike, having it land on top of me and having the wind knocked out of me. Thinking back, it was terrifying to not be able to breathe for about 10 seconds. Many, many, many years later, when I had to take a chest x-ray, the technician remarked that I had a very faint mark on one rib, probably from a slight crack. He asked me if I had ever had an accident - at that point I was well aware what it was from but was too embarrassed to admit it.

No, what really upsets me is thinking about Christopher Reeve. Spinal or cervical injuries from a horseback incident is the thing that is always holding me back. Depending on how you look at it, I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to actually meet him after his accident during a black-tie charity dinner at Windows on the World. It's one thing to read about his being strapped into his wheelchair and having his respirator pump air in and out for him and another thing to actually see and hear it. It really made a lasting impression - and this has always stopped me from even trying horseback riding. And yet, when I watch the rodeo, I see these people getting thrown from bulls and walking away from it.

I know it's an unreasonable fear. I also know that I'm not going to be in an equestrian competition like he was. I also know I'm not going to be in a rodeo. As with any fear, I guess I'm going to have to desensitize myself little by little. Maybe start with a pony. Then move up to a swayback. Then an regular older horse. Then a normal, placid horse. Eventually, I would like to be able to do this:

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Worse than the DMV ...

Just waiting for everything to get done can be a painful experience. If you've ever heard the term, "it's like watching paint dry" you know exactly how I'm feeling at this point.

Andrea has everything she needs (from me) to get started on both the Han Solo and Spartiate costumes. It's only a matter of moving up into the starting line of the queue. JJ needs to send her some pin back measurements for the cloak brooch. This will determine how and where the cloak will be fastened. There's no rush, and I know my patience will be richly rewarded when I get the pieces.

Andrea just sent me some "in progress" pictures of the cloak with the shoulder harness I sent down to her. I have to say, it looks simple, elegant and impressive. JJ should have the pin for the cloak done this month. If you've noticed, there were two different styles of the the shoulder harness on the Spartans in the movie - the "over the shoulder" version worn by Leonidas, and the "cross chest" version worn by everyone else. I had David do the "over the shoulders" version.

I'm also moving (slowly) up in JJ's commission queue for the Ithilien sword, the Spartiate armor and the sandals. I've also decided to have him do the Spartiate shield, the Boromir shield and a Faramir sword. He expects everything will be done this year.

The spear is on pre-order from strongblade.com.

The falcata sword is expected now expected "sometime" in June. The swords are coming in from Hong Kong and haven't quite made it into the distribution channels yet.

I've started doing some additional ab exercises. Slowly. I do these in conjunction with some protective lower back exercises. I've pulled my lower back out a couple of times, and it's not pleasant. I'm going for a trim middle with some definition, not a ripped, granite-hard 6-pack. The only way that is going to happen is with liposuction and abdominal etching. And it's not.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Turning the corner in hyperspace ....

As an update to the original post, here's some late breaking news...

The Pants Belt

I received the belt from Zemsky's and this is THE belt from the costume. For about $12, this was one of the easiest and least expensive costume parts to date.

The Blaster Belt

I also received Matt's blaster belt. Beautifully dyed, great leather, nicely milled parts, no sharp edges and so comfortable! The blaster itself fits like a glove in the holster! I'm nearly over kicking myself for not going to Matt in the first place.

And speaking of gloves, I also picked up a pair of chestnut-colored Damascus D302s from Amazon! Yes, Amazon! I had seen on one of the costume sites that Han also wore a pair of short leather gloves. Here's the link.

The Shirt, Pants and Jacket

Andrea had made me an additional shirt, tunic and cloak for the second Ranger outfit; this time in varying shades of brown. She was also sweet enough to add some theatrical-quality mudstains to the bottom of the cloak using a concoction of acrylic paint and other secret ingredients. I put the entire costume on last night and it's so comfortable!

I'm near the top of the queue now for the Han Solo items. We're going for the Empire Strikes Back outfit of light black jacket, white shirt and brown pants with gold bloodstripes, as opposed to the Star Wars version of black vest, white shirt and blue pants with red bloodstripes.

I came across some interesting "history" on the Corellian bloodstripes:

Bloodstripes were a Corellian award represented by a 3cm-wide broken stripe of piping that was sewn along the outer seams of a pair of trousers. There were two levels of bloodstripes that could be awarded, each distinguished by its color. The Second-level bloodstripe was gold and, although rarely given out, was the more common of the two awards. The First-level bloodstripe was red, and was usually awarded posthumously because of the exceptionally heroic and often fatal deeds required to earn it. Most bloodstripes were earned for courage under fire, and the recipient was often recognized for simply being a human in the right place at the right time, enduring unusual hardships. The wearer was by no means a superhero. Han Solo was one of the few examples of a living Corellian who earned First-level bloodstripes. He earned his Second-level bloodstripes for rescuing Chewbacca, but he never revealed the deed for which he was awarded the First-level bloodstripes. He preferred to wear the yellow stripes, so as not to receive inquiries on them.

During the exploration era on Corellia, several bands of pirates were known to attack sailing ships carrying precious cargo from exotic countries. Many sailors perished by the swords of these pirates who would board cargo ships by the hundreds. Over time, the pirates made it a habit to clean their swords on the sides of their trousers to boast the number of men they had killed. The longer the row of red stripes on a pirate's pant leg, the more dangerous and experienced he was. Years later,it became a custom to sew in these "blood stripes" to help classify the rank of each pirate.

In more modern times, as Corellia became inter-galactically known for it's history of swashbucklers, these "blood stripes" were carried on as a tradition in the Navy. During the dark times, when the Empire took charge over Corellia, ranks were removed from the standard military uniform and were only used at Naval Academies. Over time, a new generation of pirates emerged, attacking Imperial supply ships of all sorts. Following in the tradition of their predecessors, they donned the classic "blood stripes" on their trousers.

I'm so glad I decided to cut my losses with Kathy Pillsbury and have Andrea do the outfit. By the way, I'm planning on having an attorney friend of mine produce a "demand letter" to get my deposit back and I will be filing a police report with the LAPD.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Dining in HELL - the second course

As an update to the original post, here's some new and additional news:


David completed the "speedo" and damn, it's comfortable. When I went for the second fitting, everything was absolutely perfect. David suggested that I wear it the rest of the day (under my suit - get your mind out of the gutter!) to make sure. He did forget about the shoulder harness ("Oh... so that's why I drew the figure-8 there...") but I'll be getting that in a short time - he was working on some leather coats for a new Steven Seagal movie and had some pretty tight deadlines for delivery.

David gave me a call today and the harness was finished! The leather is the same stuff he used on the Seagal coat - dark brown with a hint of scarlet to it. I went down and tried it on - again, a few adjustments here and there, a couple of hole punches and it was complete. I'm following his advice again and wearing it (under my shirt) for the day - I don't anticipate any problems since this really soft leather and fitted to me. Although I have very good posture (8 years in parochial elementary school with nuns and 4 years Catholic high school with brothers will beat that into you), the harness is also having a nice side-effect of pulling my shoulders back a bit and squaring them off more. I just have to be careful moving around work today and hearing the leather creak a bit!

Armor and Sandals

No real new news from JJ ... He was able to find some dished steel shield blanks, so I bit the bullet and decided to go for the shield also - in for penny, in for a pound! I've learned from rather painful and nasty experience if I scrimp on something, I always wind up paying more for it (in more ways than one) in the long run. I put out a query to one of the costume groups on Yahoo! and got the name of a Greek sandalmaker, but he never returned any emails and I'm not in the mood to call Greece and follow up.

I came across a Greek re-enactors group here in NYC - thegreekwarriors.com. These people take their reenactments seriously. They build their own shields from scratch! They are more of the historical Spartan/Greek Hoplite soldiers rather than the Frank Miller versions. I contacted Peter - their designated Spartiate officer - and a got a great lead on sandals. I got them today and they are extremely comfortable. I'll see which version looks better with the outfit - these or JJ's. The only issue I had with the sandals was that the foot bed was a lighter color than the straps - and again, my good ole' standby - Fiebing Leather Dye (chocolate brown) came to the rescue. Swabbed everything down with a coat of the dye and let it dry overnight - perfect!

By the way, did you know that the proper term for the Spartan shield is not a hoplon (as the Greek foot soldiers were called Hoplites) but an aspis?


There are a lot of crappy looking knockoffs going around right now. I did find a place that has a beauty though. Strongblade.com. Not an official replica, but a beauty all the same. This has a battle-used look to it that will fit right in with JJ's shield and it also separates into two pieces for easy storage!


The date has been moved again, so it should ship by end of May or early June. The falcatas are coming in from Hong Kong and they are not in the country yet. Like I said, I may have David re-do the scabbard so it looks better with the speedo.


Andrea's queue is semi-full right now, but my Han Solo outfit will be ready soon and I'll be sending the shoulder harness down to her this weekend. JJ will send the cloak pin directly to her when he finishes it.

"Wolf's Tooth" Medallion

I'm not doing a wolf's tooth, but Russ and I are working on a cast bronze item. The design is in the "scribble on a napkin" phase right now, but I can promise you this - it will be striking, original and somewhat disturbing. Just what you need to freak out a Mede or Persian at close quarters !!! Russ was doodling some ideas during a thunderstorm and managed to creep himself out a bit - which is EXACTLY the response I'm aiming for!

Now, I can't draw worth a tinker's dam, but I can put together some superb photoshop collages. This is something along the lines that we're looking to do: