Saturday, March 17, 2018

Final Balrog Reveal!

The problem with posting crafts-in-progress is then you guys know how long it takes me to finish and write up each project. Which is a very long time. What can I say, I'm slow. And easily distracted. Heck, I will wander off this second if someone starts pulling a whoopie pie on a string past me. (MINE.)(::pounce::)


I *do* finally have finished Balrog photos for you! Remember that one? Ages back? When John and I started jamming LEDs into poor Boggy's head?

 I've decided to name him Boggy, by the way. I find it helps distract from the fact that - at least at night -  Boggy looks like a Hell Beast Come To Claim Your Soul:


Then again, that's kind of how the Balrog looks in Lord of the Rings, sooo... nailed it?

Since my first update we've finished the base, aged the existing paint job, added a few more lights to Boggy's head, and added some cotton "smoke" wisps from his eyes and mouth.

I did a lot of experimenting with different kinds of cotton for the smoke, as well as with coloring the cotton - dyes, powders, paints. In the end it turned out simple was best, since coloring the cotton blocked too much light and looked more fake, as you can see on the right here:

Of course it's also essential to "joosh" the cotton just right. That... is NOT right. 

This one's better:

I tried to get the cotton smoke to look good both lit and unlit, so there are only tiny shreds of it.

I ended up keeping the existing paint job, but I blacked out any too-bright red and orange areas. Then I aged down the red on his face, whip, and head flames:

For the base we used - get this - cheap kitty litter for stone gravel, followed up by some crushed walnut shells for the smaller crumbly bits. (The walnut shells are used to soak up spilled paint, so we already had some in the garage.) I attached it all with hot glue, then painted everything black.

I built up little piles of the gravel to hide the 3 LEDs embedded in the base - can you tell where they are? 

You can also see my aging better on the whip in that one. I like the black bits near the handle, reminds me of crusted-over magma.

Still loving those teeth; they're just so gross, ha. Again, all I did there was wipe off most of the factory brown paint with acetone, revealing the translucent yellow plastic underneath.

So that's Boggy during the day, with none of his lights on.

And here he is at night in John's room, all wired up:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Want To Watch John Put Together An Antique Record Player?

Here's something new and quirky: John decided to film himself re-assembling an antique record player we've had in the garage the last few years. It's part of our "try different video things and see what works" plan for 2018, ha.

I had nothing to do with this, so it was fun to physically see how record players worked before electricity. John did a good job of editing out the boring bits and explaining as he goes, plus hearing those records in the end is just... well... you'll see. :D (Fun Fact: John sang "Baby Face" for about a week afterward. It's surprisingly catchy.)

Assuming you guys like this kind of thing, John and I are kicking around the idea of an "Epbot Garage" series for more construction-related DIYs. We were professional faux finishers and handymen (handypeople?) in our previous life, so we have a lot of experience to pull from that I don't get to mention much here. Plus, personally, I'd love to get even more comfortable with power tools, and maybe inspire others to do the same.

Based on your requests we could do everything from basic home repair tutorials to fixing more antiques, overviews on equipment, painting Q&As, etc. Thoughts? Requests? Hit me up in the comments! (And if there's a deafening silence, then I'll just get back to my usual programming, no worries. ;))

Monday, March 12, 2018

Let's Have Lunch In Pandora!

Don't mind me, just sliding in here to share a few photos I took in Disney's Pandora last week.

 Fun Fact: Did you know you can use your phone's panorama feature vertically? 
Try it sometime, it's fun!


 Pandora is one of the trickiest areas in Disney to photograph, so keep in mind every decent photo you see of it - including mine - has been edited juuuuust about to death. You don't need a tripod and fancy DSLR, though; I shot and edited everything here on my iPhone.

I can't tell you how much of a difference editing makes... so let me show you!

Here's a photo directly off my phone:

 Looks like a lost cause, right?

But here's the same photo after (extensive) editing:

 Awwww yeeeeeah.

Most of the time my pics aren't QUITE that different, but I hope this shows you how editing can be an art form. It flexes all your creative muscles and lets you make something totally new, right on your phone! Plus it's easy and free, if you use an app like SnapSeed.

Ahh, I love Before & Afters. Let's do another one.


... and After!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Jen's Gems: Dragon Bench, Tentacle Skirt, And Fireworks On The Ceiling!

I'm gathering ideas this week to redo three new kids' rooms for some friends, and let me tell you, Lyle Coram is setting the bar REALLY HIGH with his daughter's Princess room:


Ahh, but that's just a small snippet of Coram's original video, which of course I hunted down for you guys. The ceiling can also show lightning storms, snow flurries, and floating lanterns! And best of all, Coram shows us how he did it:

(It gets much louder around 1:45, watch your volume.)

John and I were faux finishers in a previous life, and we worked with fiber optics even back then. I've wanted a fiber optic ceiling of our own since, but you need a clear attic access and a lot of patience to install them. So... SOMEDAY.


Oooh, did you hear Labyrinth is coming back to theaters April 29th through May 2nd?

According to Entertainment Weekly:

"The screenings will also feature bonus content, including introductions by Connelly and Brian Henson (son of Jim), as well as an excerpt from the Jim Henson fantasy series The Storyteller. Brian Henson will discuss the “Soldier and Death” episode of the show, as well as more broadly the special effects techniques crucial to both Labyrinth and The Storyteller."

And the best part?

"Fans are encouraged to attend in costume."


You can buy tickets online here. Who's going? Who's dressing up? And most importantly, do you think Agnes will fit in the theater?



Speaking of costumes that are hard to sit down in, this skirt made me scream a little:

 It's so creepy, AND I LOVE IT.  

Plus you're all thinking what I'm thinking, right? URSULA!

(They were shooting a promo for a science festival, but I don't have any more info on the skirt yet. I'll update here when I do!)


Check out this drool-worthy dragon bench by Igor Loskutow! I think he carves everything with a chainsaw:

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Thank You, Charles

The last few days I've been wrestling with that most difficult-to-explain kind of grief that I know you all understand. I tried to think of something to make - some little craft or tribute - to tangibly purge it out of my system, but dang it all, I've got nothing. So instead, I think I'll just write this one out.

David Ogden Stiers passed away on Saturday, and silly as this sounds, it hurts. I never met him, never knew him, never so much as stood in the same building as him, but I loved a character he brought to life more than most, and now I will always wish I could have told him that, face-to-face.

My fellow Dizgeeks mostly know Stiers as the voice of Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast, though he did plenty of other acting and voice work. I, however, will always know him as Major Charles Emerson Winchester the third, of M*A*S*H .

I'll admit MASH isn't my geekiest fandom, nor is it my most defensible. I'll be the first to tell you newbies that some of the writing - particularly of Margaret at times - is problematic. Still, there are real gems hidden throughout those 11 seasons, and of them all, to me, that irascible snob Charles shines the brightest.

I love Charles' wit, his stubbornness, his refusal to bow to the horror of his surroundings. He was the perfect straight man to Hawkeyes' antics, always annoyed, always quick to criticize and complain. Still, below that crusty exterior hid a fierce kindness and loyalty. His stories often made me cry - even back before I started crying at everything - and some of his scenes and expressions will remain with me always.

The moment that sealed the deal on my Winchester fandom is the last scene in Death Takes A Holiday. Charles spends the whole episode sneaking around so he can anonymously donate some candy to a local orphanage. Meanwhile the rest of the camp thinks he's being selfish, and hurl all kinds of abuse his way.

Eventually Klinger learns the truth, and takes a tray of food to the shunned Major's tent. That moment, when Klinger gives him a knowing look, and Charles realizes he's been found out, is my favorite in the whole series. Two long-time adversaries, finally seeing each other in a new light, with a new respect. Then Charles says, "Thank you, Max," which I believe is the first (and maybe only?) time he uses Klinger's first name. SO SWEET.

I wish I could embed that episode here, but the one or two places I've found it online may not be completely on the up and up, ha. So I'll leave that bit of googling to you guys.

Instead, here's a short story arc from Run For The Money. It's better if you see it within the whole episode, but if you've only got 5 minutes, this is another good example of Charles stepping up when no one else is watching. Plus he admits to reading comic books, which is fun:

Aaaand cue the sudden indoor dust storm.

Mr. Stiers, as Charles Winchester you made me laugh, cry, think, and grow to love the most arrogant surgeon to come out of Boston General. You brought to life a character who was flawed and human in the best possible ways, fun to hate one moment, selfless and strong the next. I don't know why Charles has struck such a chord with me over the years, but I'll always think of him fondly, and when I re-watch MASH from start to finish yet again, I'll look forward to his episodes the most. 

It hurts that I'll never get to see your face when I tell you that, but I know many, many others have said it for me, and that helps. You knew. And that helps. 

So thank you, David Ogden Stiers. 

Thank you, Charles. 

That will be all.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Epcot Flower & Garden 2018: New Merch, Pretties, & FOOD

John and I just checked out the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot, so I thought you fellow Dizgeeks might like to see! I took way too many photos, so I'll show you a little of everything: the new merchandise, pretty topiaries, and of course, THE FOOD. (Which, let's be honest, is the real priority of any Festival goer.)

Right off the bat I'm loving the new guide map covers. Disney literally put an orange on a teal background, you guys. IT'S LIKE THEY KNOW ME.

Everyone's favorite Figment topiary is back a ways behind Spaceship Earth now:
I wish they'd added something more flower-y ON him - maybe had him holding a bouquet? Or flowers around his neck? - but really I'm just glad he's out again!

As always, the real WOW moment of Flower & Garden is when you get to this lake view on the way to World Showcase:

I had to edit my photos to death to compensate for the harsh sunlight, but the flowers really ARE this bright IRL. Hard to tell here, but there are patterns of giant butterflies and flowers in the beds.

Here's the other side, facing towards Test Track.

There's a new scavenger hunt - they seem to have one every Festival now - and the prizes are these cute little iron-on patches:

It costs about $5 for the scavenger hunt map (sorry I didn't take a pic of that!), and then you get your choice of one of these 4 packs as a prize.

And here's what you're scavenging for: Spike the bee!
There's one hidden in every country around the showcase - and they're not too hard to find.

I ended up using my phone's panorama feature a lot; all the flower beds are so BIG:

Friday, March 2, 2018

I Think I'm Finally Ready To Talk About Black Panther

I know I usually do spoiler-free reviews, gang, but there are THINGS about Black Panther that NEED DISCUSSING. So I'll start with some general thoughts, but after that, it's getting spoilery all up in here. I'll also be encouraging more discussion in the comments, so... you have been warned. 

  First things first:

- Yes, you should see it.

- The costuming is easily some of the best of any superhero movie. STUNNING.

- The women in Black Panther make the movie. Hands down. In my mind Black Panther himself was really just the glue holding together all these fierce, brilliant women warriors around him - and I AM SO OK WITH THAT.

- The 2 hours and 15 minutes does drag a bit. A few scenes are repetitive (same fights, different fighters) so to me it actually felt longer.

- Black Panther is unlike any superhero movie I've seen, and required the most post-processing. (I saw it two weeks ago, if that gives you any idea.) This is not a popcorn flick where you check your brain at the door; there are deeper issues addressed, as the Wakandans wrestle with the politics of things like immigration, isolationism, and coming to the aid of other countries. (Any of those issues sound familiar, fellow Americans? Yeeeeah.) So if you go in expecting just another superhero story like everything before, with 'SPLOSIONS and wisecracks and all the other familiar tropes, then you might be disappointed. More on that in a sec.


I went in knowing nothing about Black Panther, so from the trailer I expected a variation on Wonder Woman's origin story: a hero emerges from a powerful, hidden society, enters the "real" world, and proceeds to bang some heads in the name of justice. Instead, Black Panther never leaves his hidden society - or at least not for long. And instead of fighting for the entire world against alien foes, T'Challa fights to keep his own throne, in his own country, against his own people. It's a very insular story, and compared to movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, has seemingly small stakes.

Like I said, wasn't expecting that.

However, the women in Black Panther... oooh, you guys, THE WOMEN. Let me put it this way: Black Panther is a love letter to fierce femininity. There are so many fantastic role models here, I hardly know where to start. There's Shuri, T'Challas' brilliant, sarcastic sister who invents all the new tech - including his suit:

There's Nakia, T'Challa's ex who left Wakanda to go free truckloads of human-trafficking victims - by herself. And then there's Okoye, general of the Dora Milaje, the king's personal guard, and my personal favorite.

There's a fight scene in a casino - sometime around the halfway mark, maybe? -  that was the highlight of the whole film for me. Watching Okoye rip the wig from her head so she can fight better, then later leap onto the roof of a moving car with her spear to go take down the baddies literally brought a tear to my eye. It was so dang beautiful, you guys: