Saturday, June 23, 2012

Steampunk Wizard

As many of you know, I'm a theatrical makeup artist, and I am really blessed to be here in Utah where I have so many opportunities to work in theater, and also... on occasion... to go to see a show that I had no hand in producing.  Which is nice, because then I can just sit and watch the show without scrutinizing every aspect of the makeup.  Well... Ok, I scrutinize anyway, but I'm much easier on other makeup artists than I am on myself.

Last night, my family and I went down to the Scera Shell in Orem to see "The Wizard of Oz."  The Scera is easily one of my favorite theaters because it's an out door amphitheater, that has no seating.  It's just a grassy hill in which you can spread out a blanket and watch the play, or concert in comfort.

A year ago, I had the opportunity to work a production of "Wizard" that was very traditional, there was not a lot of creativity involved.  Everyone and everything looked pretty much like they did in the classic movie, all the way down to sepia tones for the opening and closing scenes.  It was... I don't know... I mean, every production is fun for me, but I really like when directors stretch the creative muscle a bit and throw a new twist into the production, which didn't really happen with the production I worked on.  Which is why I really liked the Scera Shell version.  It was steampunk.  Or at least, had a steampunk vibe to it.

If you don't know what steampunk is, it's a sub-genre of science fiction based primarily on the writings of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne.  It's kind of based on an alternate reality where science does extraordinary things with 19th century tech.  But it's more than that... now.  It has spawned this whole culture that's a blending of Victorian and modern fashions.  That kind of thing. Google it.

The opening scenes of the play were kind of traditional, very 1930's Kansas.  But then after the twister, Dorothy comes out of the farm house sporting a denim corset, the good witch shows up in this pink corseted dress with a bustle, and the wicked witch has this cool metal broom that spouts fire.  The ruby slippers were my favorite, being these shiny red strapy boot things.  But I was really blown away when the flying monkeys showed up wearing jetpacks.  Oh, and one last thing.  The Wizard was a face projected on a screen, that reminded me quite a bit of Max Headroom, right down to the twitch in his voice.  That was a great little shout out to my generation.  And was quite funny.

All in all, it was tremendously enjoyable, right up until my youngest daughter barfed in the gutter... but that's an entirely different story.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Current Middle Ages

I had a request from Morgan over at Redhead Running, to talk about a part of my life that… well, I don’t talk about a whole lot.  To put it succinctly, I’m a Ranger ranked Archer in the Barony of Loch Salann, Kingdom of Artemisia, in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), and I shoot a Welsh Long Bow, made from 72” of Hickory.
Yes, I'm the one in the green.
What other color should a Ranger Wear?

When asked about my archery activities, I usually just tell people that I’m involved with a traditional archery league… which isn’t exactly true, but it saves me from getting “That Look,” you know the one I mean.
So how did all this happen?  How did I, as a 43 year old, father of 4, get involved in all this craziness?  It all started in High School.

When I was younger, I loved playing Dungeons & Dragons (I still do), I used to read a lot of SciFi/Fantasy, but also loved to study the middle ages.  In High School, I read Morte de Arthur, Ivanhoe, and several books on the Black Death, the Crusades, and (believe it or not) Medieval Architecture.
I first heard about the SCA while I was in High School, and I actually started participating… sort of… I thought that the Society was kinda cool and all, but I really just kept going because there was this cute geek-girl there… I think her name was Melissa… but that was 25 years ago… Long story short, in May of 1988 I moved to Los Angeles for a couple of years, and totally lost contact with the SCA and with Melissa.  I never thought of trying to get in touch with anyone from the SCA in LA, I had just a few other things to deal with in my life at that time.

I returned to Utah the summer of 1990, and tried to find the Barony, but could never figure out where they were meeting.  Soon after that I began doing stage makeup, started going to University, and got married.  The SCA was something I figured that I’d eventually find again, but it wasn’t a priority… until about a year ago.
My daughter was reading the “Ranger’s Apprentice” books, and came to me one night and asked if she could learn how to shoot a bow.  At first, I thought, “Ya, this will be easy” because there are several bow hunting groups around us, but then she clarified that she wanted to learn Medieval Long Bow.  “Where the heck do you go for that?”  So, long story short (too late), I got in touch with the SCA and my kids and I were able to learn how to shoot the long bow.

My oldest daughter is in the blue and gray,
collecting her arrows

Since then, I’ve learned how to make my own arrows, my own garb (medieval clothing), and how shoot a long bow with the best of them.  Note that I said WITH the best of them, not that I’m actually one of the best of them.  Eh… I do alright, but our archery captain feels like I could do better.
This is my youngest... looting a fallen warrior... *Evil Laugh*

My kids have lost a lot of their enthusiasm for the weekly archery practices, but they do like going to events.  Their absolute favorite activity happens at an event called Melee Madness.  The activity is called “Looting the Dead.”  I know… it sounds horrible, but it is so much fun to watch.  What happens is that before a battle, the heavy fighters tie a small yellow bag to their belts.  They then go out into the field and fight.  When everyone is “dead,” the marshals call an all clear, and then the kids are allowed to run out into the field to retrieve these little yellow bags.  The bags have coins in them that they can then trade for stuff at the children’s pavilion.  It’s so much fun!  What’s neat is that since one of the goals of the SCA is to teach courtly grace, and chivalry, the kids tend (not always, but most of the time) to make sure that everyone has a chance to get a bag, and will share the spoils.

In essence… It’s a lot of fun for us as a family, and the kids are so stinking cute in their garb.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Race Recap

Ragnar Wasatch Back, 2012

I’ve seen quite a few running blogs that do these Race Recaps, and even though my Blog isn’t really a “running blog” but more of a blog written by a guy who is a runner of sorts, I thought I’d give it a try.

This year, since my office wasn’t sponsoring a team, I found my way onto a team put together by one of my neighbors, so I really knew only a couple of people in Team number 319 “Still Chafing Tail.” Since we’re a pretty slow team, our start time was 5:45 in the morning, and since Logan is about two hours away, our Van (Van 1) went up there Thursday night and we all piled into a room at the Super8.

Sleepless night number 1, the alarm went off at 4am and we went to check in. There are a lot of teams that check in that early in the morning, and even though Ragnar is pretty efficient at checking in, doing safety briefings and such, we were scrambling to get the bib on our first runner and getting him to the starting line before they yelled “Go!”

Leg 6, 6.5 miles - Hard (Total elevation loss: -1396 feet)

I was runner 6 and so my first leg was at the top of a mountain pass called “Avon Pass.” The dustiest and dirtiest of dirt roads made up the first 3.6 miles of this 6.5 mile leg. In northern Utah, we have this dirt… that isn’t really dirt. It’s more like baby powder, and so by the time I hit the paved road my shoes were full of it, rubbing my toes raw. And so the last two miles could not have come fast enough, but I ran into the small town of Liberty, Utah, passed the slap bracelet onto Melanie in Van 2, and we headed off to Snow Basin Mountain Resort to eat and maybe sleep.
Stats from the Garmin
Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes. 10:24 pace

Leg 18, 8.2 miles - Very Hard (Total elevation gain: 944 feet)

This leg starts in the very little town of Portsville, Utah and ends at East Canyon Reservoir. I began running at about 9:30 that night, It was a little breezy and so I put on a long sleeve tec shirt under one of my older Ragnar shirts, but I misjudged my time, because while I was walking over to the exchange, I hear my name being yelled, because Kelly (runner 5) was standing in the exchange. “Crap!” so I run into the exchange, apologize while getting the bracelet, and set my GPS watch on the run. So my stats for this run are not entirely correct, but close enough. The beginning of the run was beautiful rolling hills though farm country. There isn’t a lot to do in Portsville, so the residents there come out onto their porches, or sit on lawn chairs in their driveways to cheer on the runners, little kids will stand on the side of the road to high five you as you run past. It’s kind of fun, and I clicked off 3 miles in about 33 minutes without even knowing I did. Then the route leaves the town, enters East Canyon, and the hills begin and it isn’t as much fun. In the next 3 miles, the hills come more rapidly, but are broken up by some down hill sections that give you a little break. The last two miles are a shotgun (I’m guessing) 6% to 8% grade, straight up. There were times I looked at my watch and my pace, on a run, was a 16 minute mile. That section was seven kinds of Suck… on a stick. It was also during those last two miles, that I noticed a pain in a couple of toenails on my right foot, I’m guessing that the downhill dirt of leg 6 took a bigger toll on my feet than I thought.
Stats from the Garmin
Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. 12:46 pace

Leg 30, 2.5 miles - Easy (Total elevation change: 31 feet)

Following leg 18, we drove to the town of Coalville, Utah where we could sleep at North Summit High School. There they had the wrestling room set up for us to sleep. So, we found a corner, layed out our sleeping bags and, surprisingly, I slept for a good 3 hours (with about 200 of my closest friends.  Ragnarians are a strange bunch, aren't we).  I woke up at about 4am when a text came in from Van 2 telling us that they were about an hour away from Oakly, Utah, where the next exchange would be. So, we quickly… but stiffly, packed and headed out.

Leg 30 was supposed to be my easy leg, it was almost more of a challenge than leg 18. When I left the exchange, I could tell that my body was done. So I slowed down my pace and ran the best I could, but in the end, my pace was not what I wanted.
Stats from the Garmin
Time: 27 minutes 50 seconds. 11:25 pace

This year was a fun one, and I hope to run with this team again, because they were a fun group of people. I don’t know the final stats on the team because Ragnar hasn’t posted them yet, but when we were crossing the finish line I looked up at the time board and saw that we were a little over 34 hours.

Monday, June 11, 2012

God's Speed, My Friend

While listening to the Summer Book Show on Radio West this morning, I was informed that Ray Bradbury passed away last week.  It was a shock to me.  I almost cried... truly... and I still may.
I didn't know the man personally, but I knew him through his books, and his passing will be a great loss to us.
I first read him without knowing that I was reading him in high school English.  There, I read the short story "Usher II" and found it fascinating.  Later, in college, I read the "Martian Chronicles" and was pleasantly surprised to find out that "Usher II" was a chapter of that wonderful book.  "The Illustrated Man," "The October Country," "Fahrenheit 451," "Something Wicked This Way Comes," "R is for Rocket," "Dandelion Wine," anything and everything written by that wonderful man found it's way to my bookshelf.
I never knew Ray Bradbury as a person, but I have grown to know, and love him, through his words.
God's Speed, My friend.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Finding my Chi

Last week was a crazy one for me.  My oldest daughter graduated from High School and will be leaving for college in the fall.  So we had her graduation and an open house for her, on top of some design meetings for a play I'm working on, and trying to find time to run... I had to get myself centered again.  Fortunately, I had an archery tournament on Saturday.  And since archery has this fantastic centering effect on me, I went.
The tourney is held at this great location in Provo: "The Castle."  It's up on the mountain, and for a group of medieval folk like us... it just adds to the feeling of the event.

We had two shoots that day.  The first is an elite shoot called the Loch Salann Arrow.  The entire event consists of 12 arrows, one at each target, and it is so hard that it's not uncommon for half the archers to score a zero.  I think that the winner this year shot a total score of 3 out of a possible 12.  I went into this shoot with so many nerves that I forgot about my form and ended up with a triple wrist slap from my string.
My bruise the way it looks today.
It was swollen, and all kinds of purple on Saturday.

We had about an hour between the Loch Salann Arrow and the Baronial Championship, so I went back to my pavilion, had some lunch, and recenter myself for the Championship shoot.
When I got back to the range, I found the most evil of the evil shoot's.  12 targets, that must be shot in order.  A limit of 3 arrows per target and only one arrow counts for score.  There were obstacles to shoot around (or through).  One target had to be shot in a sitting position.  I shoot a 72" long Welsh Longbow, which is not easy to shoot while sitting 24" off the ground.
Still, with all that I shot better that I have ever shot before.  I tied for 3rd place and was only 3 points behind the winner when all was said and done.
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