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How to make a paper mache skeleton

Crow - A BrigandYou’ll need a stick, a skull, and a case of Mountain Dew.

“Crow” is the consequence of a dangerous experiment in paper construction. He exhibits certain scarecrow characteristics, but his kind requires a unique definition.

Brigand: Outlaw, robber, thief, member of a roving band practicing “brigandage”. Perfect.

Brigand Construction ZoneCrow’s build project is now available in our Halloween Projects section.

This over sized stick monster took about a week to build. He’s mostly newspaper with a few other odds and ends thrown in. I think there’s even a pool noodle crammed in there somewhere.

Hide some free time in a sock and bury it in the backyard before starting this project, or it’ll mostly get brigandaged away.

Build your own inscrutable paper mache skeleton. On a stick.

Review of “Knowing” – Nicolas Cage Owes Me Big-time

Knowing - Too many gravy stainsSpoilers ahead…

Alex Proyas, director of “The Crow”, and “Dark City”, had to have been swigging cold medicine from a jug while making his latest film “Knowing”.

John Koestler, widowed professor of astro-fizzy-mo-something, is played by Nicolas Cage. Or Marvin the depressed robot from “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. I could never really tell which. Cage (It really is him, according to the credits) struggles with the meaning of life since the passing of his wife, drinks a lot, and is preoccupied with telling his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) to do his homework and go to bed.

Caleb swipes an artifact from a time capsule that was buried in 1959 because “it might mean something”. On it are scribbled apparently random numbers. Apparently random, that is, to everyone except Cage’s character who almost immediately deciphers the list which contains the dates of every major disaster for the last 50 years.

The audience is led laboriously along a meandering, but well rehearsed, path populated by dreary throw-away characters you care less about than the rubber-masked background extras in later “Planet of the Apes” movies. It’s an hour or more into the story and we’re in the home of the crazy woman who, as a child, wrote out all those numbers that were “whispered” to her. What does she use for wallpaper? Hundreds of newspaper articles about past disasters. Closeup of a date. And another. Another. Another. We get it already!

The final scene: After everyone you didn’t care about on earth gets vaporized by a super solar flare, extraterrestrial ice sculptures deposit the children they’ve saved on an obviously alien world (Make sure we see the extra moons in the sky, the alien wavy-worm grass, those extra moons again. Got it.) Who are they? Why, the “whisperers”.

But that’s not really my biggest complaint. Forget the odd but increasingly predictable mixture of UFOlogy and Christian iconography. I can even forgive the last minute introduction of Koestler’s parents so he can confess that he finally believes in an afterlife (I guess), and will have someone to die with.

Here’s my gripe. “Knowing” is like watching a biathlon. The athlete’s goal is to shoot as many targets as possible in the shortest time. Aim. Fire. Next target. In one scene, Cage’s character slogs through the fiery wreckage of a crashed airliner. 1) Man on fire stumbles by. 2) Look shocked. 3) Make bee-line for the blanket lying beside a second man on fire. 4) Douse flames. 5) Watch people engulfed in explosion. 6) Pull corpse from a shattered window.

Hit your mark, say your line, display emotion R7C4. Every action is programmatic, a method.

Proyas focuses on his characters more than action to move the plot, and I suppose that I’m being overly harsh. But, like the interviewer who is fixated by a gravy stain on the interviewee’s shirt, I’m distracted from the resume. I like sci-fi-end-of-the-world stories. I also respect a director who doesn’t rely on CGI to carry the band (cough .. George Lucas .. cough). Two of the three big “disaster” CGI scenes are brutally violent, and the final vaporization of earth’s surface is very well done. They add to the story without becoming characters themselves.

A few tears shed by Koestler as he hugs his son for the last time would have gone a long way toward washing away some of the gravy stains, but they weren’t in the script, weren’t rehearsed, so they didn’t make it into the final program. “Knowing” is a weekend rental at best, but follow it up with “Deep Impact”, or “When Worlds Collide”.

Grumble Sightings

Cherrylene Perry - Perfect Grumble LightsA lot of mail passes through the Snug Harbor dead letter office, and I always enjoy reading these letters. Sure, there have been a few exceptions. Like the guy who wanted me to find a police scanner frequency for him. He didn’t introduce himself, never asked me a question, just wrote, “New Albany, Indiana”. I’m sure it was actually typed “nalbnnn”. I took a good thirty minutes composing my reply. It was informative, eloquent, and sans frequencies. Probably more interesting than this so I’ll shut up about it.

The best emails, my favorites, are stories about projects. How a particular build is going, how the kids are getting involved, how the neighbors went crazy over the weekend and built 5 new zombies which set off a friendly competition to see who would have the most by Halloween.

And sometimes I get a picture. I always save them, usually add some note to them, and almost always lose them. Almost.

Morlocks Live In Our Pond

Morlock FishBrittle boards pop like firecrackers under my bare feet as I step gingerly across the icy porch. “Sau-aul!” I call out. My breath becomes a million tiny ice crystals reflecting the meager light that spills from the open kitchen door behind me. Beyond the porch railing, the back yard is a broad semicircle of nothingness. Stygian black, completely silent, vastly cold. And roaming around out there is a Stygian-black collie.

It’s my own fault. Never ask a dog if he wants to go out right before bedtime unless you’re reasonably sure the answer is no. It’s really more of a courtesy anyway and puts you on the moral high ground if he does wake you up later, legs crossed, meaningfully eying the door.

I can’t see anything, and my calves are beginning to ache because I’m standing on tiptoe. Unlike calves, tongues and toes must have great personalities because we subject them to a lot and they rarely complain. (What the brain tells the tongue to say doesn’t count.) That jalapeno popper searing your fingerprints off? Pop it in your mouth! And toes? They regularly sacrifice themselves on cold tile floors, hot asphalt, and at this moment a frozen deck that the just-arrived sheepdog relishes as a large, flat snow cone.

“Saul!” I call out, beginning to get annoyed. It’s after midnight, 8 degrees, and I’m standing outside in shorts, for Pete’s sake! I grumble back into the house for a flashlight. Correction: The flashlight; the 4lb, 16″ black aluminum Maglite torch with knurled grip. This is the kind of flashlight that cuts through fog and thunderstorm like a lance, and will lay out cold a burglar with one whack. Carry one of these, and the only guy who won’t envy you is the state trooper who is trained to use his own state-issued Maglite to take down wildebeest. He’ll politely tip his hat and ask you to help direct traffic.

A light saber hums in my mind as I sweep the light across the yard. Movement along the fence grabs my attention. Narrowing the beam, I zoom in on twin points of light close to the ground. A pair of eyes gaze back at me for a moment, then turn back to surveying the stump that the intelligence behind them is contemplating peeing on.

“Saul, come on!” I waggle the light back and forth, he snorts something in collie under his breath and starts back toward the house. Past experience teaches that collies are easily detoured on their way to and from places. So, I wait, slowly scanning the woods for any results to add to the log of my periodic contributions to the search for Bigfoot. Nothing.

Checking the pond to make sure Saul hasn’t waded in for a drink, I glimpse a tiny underwater flashbulb. What in the world? Another flicker answers a few feet away. Those flashes look like …

Fish! Our fish are back! The pterodactyl didn’t eat everyone after all! I quickly count 11, but it’s hard to see from here, so I bound down the frozen steps to the “promenade” and lean out over the water. Telltale pairs and triples of orange, gold, and silver speckle the pond bottom like Dejah Thoris’ costume jewelry. Where’d they come from? Where’ve they been?

His muzzle dripping from an unnoticed but satisfying drink, Saul saunters up the stairs unconcerned, as if to say, “Yeah, so? They’ve been here all along. They come out every night. You just never come out to drink at the right time.”

Saul was correct. The bizarre truth is that every morning now, the pond appears to be completely empty of fish. They’ve bugged out to their secret subterranean redoubt. Only after the sun disappears do our little Morlock friends come out to play.

Their numbers are greatly reduced, but 11 smart Rambo fish are better than no fish. Whether this is a normal display of a heretofore unobserved survival skill or just a trick that Snug Harbor fish have learned, I’m happy to know that they’re out there. I’m guessing that we’ll see more of them in daylight as things begin to warm up a bit. All the more reason for us to let fly the barrage balloons and post ack-ack around the perimeter.

What that state trooper doesn’t know is that it’s your wife’s Maglite; a fact she enjoys reminding you of. Never mind that it came to her via the same “Dirty Santa” game a few years back that you walked away from with a copy of Steel Magnolias and a basket of bath soap.