Saturday, 15 November 2014

What was your first ink?

This dragonfly on the back of my right hand was my first tattoo. Later I started to use the same dragonfly symbol for Dylon Whyte's Art of Chainmail.

Some have suggested that the following story is about grieving the loss of a loved one, but I've always seen it as more of a metaphorical allegory for melancholy and what it's like to truly discover oneself alone amidst all existence.
The Dragonfly Story

“In the bottom of an old pond lived some grubs who could not understand why none of their group ever came back after crawling up the lily stems to the top of the water. They promised each other that the next one who was called to make the upward climb would return and tell what had happened to him. Soon one of them felt an urgent impulse to seek the surface; he rested himself on the top of a lily pad and went through a glorious transformation which made him a dragonfly with beautiful wings. In vain he tried to keep his promise. Flying back and forth over the pond, he peered down at his friends below. Then he realized that even if they could see him they would not recognize such a radiant creature as one of their number.

The fact that we cannot see our friends or communicate with them after certain transformations is no proof that we or they cease to exist.”

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Evolution of the Pocket Dragon?

Have you ever noticed how certain articles are always in the last place you look for them?

Lighters, pens, tweezers, sunglasses, scissors, knives, keys, chap stick, mitts, wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, etc... We're all had a similar experience; the more useful the innovation, the more likely it is to be missing when you really need it.

I have a pet theory which suggests that this is due to the fact that truly useful items, such as fire-starters, have been around human culture for so long that they have developed a kind of cursory self-awareness. It seems that this type of rudimentary intelligence often leads such objects astray, causing them wander of their own accord.

At least this is what I tell myself as once again I'm stumbling around my apartment in a futile attempt to locate what has become the familiar running gag of my missing pants.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

...but today is Rememberance Day?

This is a custom cut I recreated with chainmail for a good buddy and retired serviceman. I understand that ~IT~ is being worn at a ceremony today in Sudbury.

I know you tried to forget me...

There is an art to perception, so see ~IT~ as you will...

From the museum-of-artifacts: " These First World War period protective face masks (as issued to Tank Corps personnel) were worn in the Battle of Cambrai, 20 November 1917.

Today, mechanized cavalry units still traditionally wear chain epaulettes as part of their dress uniforms. 

See the real thing only at the Old Mill Heritage Centre in Kagawong.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Where Are They Now?

(If you are unfamiliar with G'Narr, please read "A Blast From the Past?" to set the stage for today's interview.)

Today, we have a real treat, as Diary of a Chainman was able to track down G'Narr creator John McFetridge for a classic Q & A interview. Plus, we received permission to post this lost classic on YouTube nearly 20 years after it's inception at a small Toronto airport hotel.

Hi John, thanks again for agreeing to this interview!

Q. Who are you?

A. I'm John McFetridge.

Q. Where are you from?

A. I was born and grew up in Greenfield Park, a suburb of Montreal and now I live in Toronto.

Q. What is your product, service, etc...?

A. I write crime fiction novels.

Q. What makes you laugh?

A. All kinds of things. Lately I really like found comedy, unplanned things caught on video or short video clips online. Slapstick. But I also like a good storyteller.

Q. Who were your influences getting started?

A. I watched a lot of TV growing up and I really liked sitcoms; Welcome Back Kotter, Happy Days, Barney Miller. They were like one-act plays. I liked Mel Brooks movies. I loved the Planet of the Apes movies. I liked Twilight Zone (but that I saw in reruns) and Star Trek. When I moved into writing books I was a big fan of Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy.

Q. What is the biggest challenge for fiction writers today to overcome?

A. We are usually our own worst enemies. Too much second-guessing, too much cutting ourselves off at the knees before getting started. For me, I needed to write a lot of stories that simply weren't very good before I was able to write things that better. But when I started I knew what I was writing wasn't good enough, the same way someone stating to play a musical instrument knows that they aren't any good the first time they pick up the instrument. But we have to work through that stage. I had to write entire short stories to find a scene or even a few sentences that were saying things the way I wanted them said. The temptation to give up can be overwhelming.

Q. What question would you most like to be asked and what is the answer?

A. You received more than a hundred rejection letters before your first acceptance, was it worth it? And the answer is yes.

Q. For an artist who discovers themselves ahead of their time, what is the best thing to do?

A. Keep at it, the world usually catches up. Don't change what you really want to do. When the world does catch up not only will it feel great, you'll have a lot of back catalogue ;).

Q. How did you get there from here? By this I mean, how did you go from G'Narr in 1995 to successful mystery author nearly 20 years later?

A. After G'Narr I got hired to rewrite an action movie and then I wrote a couple more movie scripts that were more drama than comedy. There's some real truth to that old line about dying being easy and comedy being hard. I sold a couple of options but the movies never got made and I couldn't get any productions of my own off the ground. I always felt that the script for G’Narr was good but the production wasn’t… let’s say, ‘what it could have been’ – I’m no director. I was still working on movie crews in Toronto (driver, location scout) and a fellow crew- member, Scott Albert came up with the idea of co-writing a book of short stories about working on a movie crew. The result was Below the Line. I was so happy with the way the book came together that I wrote en entire novel on my own, Dirty Sweet.

Q. Any Easter eggs, inside jokes or behind-the-scene memories that G'Narr fans might get a kick out of?

A. We didn’t really have time for anything like that. Maybe someday we could have a reunion and do an audio commetary, there may things in there I don’t know anything about. My wife is in it about three times. G'Narr is played by cartoonist Randy McIlwaine, the drinking game is take a shot every time a logo had to be digitized out. Almost every crew member ended up playing a part. I got to meet Spider Robinson and tell him how much I loved his story, "God is an Iron."

Q. What's next for John McFetridge?

A. I'm going to write a few more books in the "Eddie Dougherty" series, a cop in Montreal in the 1970s. And I am co-editing, with Kevin J. Anderson, a book of short stories inspired by songs by the band RUSH. Kevin's contribution will be a novella called 2113. Last year Kevin wrote the novel CLOCKWORK ANGELS based on the RUSH album of the same name.

Thanks again John, that was amazing! Be sure to let us know if there is ever a G'Narr cast reunion!

For interested fans I have created a separate page with YouTube links for the entirety of the G'Narr saga!

A Blast From The Past?

In the early nineties I constructed the"Barbarian Buff" asymmetrical armour iteration, stitching together several moose hides with about 20,000 stainless lock washers. The design was inspired by "buff coats" from the English Civil War. The majority of the work was done whilst I was employed as an autumnal curator for our local museum.

This coat, along with some other components and heavy bone mask formed the base of a costume I called "The Collector."
 In 1994 I spent my second season with the Gore Bay Summer Theatre as lights, sound, backstage Foley and stage manager for a production called Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii by Allan Stratton.

One of the cast members was a high school teacher and one day during play practice we got talking about Star Trek. Next Gen was just ending around this time and DS9 just starting. He was particularly curious about how warp drives functioned. I wasn't sure about the technical details, so I did a little BBS research. This was long before the Internet and 99.8% of computer communication time was spent connected to long distance Bulletin Board Services.

I managed to dig up a technical description of a warp drive which I passed on in 9-pin tractor feed print at the next rehearsal.

That's when this particular cast member told me that I should meet their friend from Southern Ontario who was involved with something mysterious called "conventions."

My curiosity was piqued, but I didn't think any more of it until one evening I received an invitation to meet said friend at the cast member's home. I was pretty shy at the time, but my curiosity won out.

That evening I was introduced to all sorts of concepts I'd never come across before in terms of stories and videos of live convention events from Toronto. Such as Jason Taniguchi and his infamous Wrath of Khan in 10 Minutes. A character whom I'd later hear on the CBC being interviewed about Toronto's Serial Dinner's Club.

Even after everyone else had gone to bed we stayed up talking about all things sci-fi and fantasy. This was the first time I had ever met another person who knew who Doctor Who was. I don't think I got home until after 4 in the morning and I'm sure that her family wondered what we could possibly be talking about.

She introduced me to the concept of conventions or cons as they are known by participants and also "filk music." Which, much like Weird Al Yankovic, is when you hijack popular folk tune with your own sci-fi lyrics.

I was hooked and later than year had the privilege of attending my first Primedia convention, which I think was out near Brampton.

At that time Tek War and Forever Knight were popular series, so it was thrilling to attend panels with actors such as Natalie Radford and Nigel Bennett. This may have been the first time I saw actual TV stars interviewed in person.

Completely hooked, I spent the next year planning my first full weekend Con attendance for Primedia 1995. I was particularly exited about the Masquerade, as I was totally into costuming.

This is the version of The Collector I wore for the Primedia 95 Masquerade. Somewhere I may have the 1 minute audio presentation I created for this costume which was a combination of "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred and "Intergalactic Fashion File" on audio cassette.

Much to my surprise I won two top awards for my costume including best overall and best construction.

The early 90's was also when the X-files first started to gain polarity. In 1995 we had just gotten cable television on the north side of Gore Bay, which meant more than the 3 usual channels. But it would still be another year or so before we got Global and I finally got to see what all the X-fuss was about.

Despite my nativity, Chris Carter was actually present as one of the main attraction for Primedia 1995. Although I enjoyed the opportunity to meet Rick Green and Spider Robinson more. Especially when Spider sang a filk version of "A Boy Named Spider." I also recall that he was found of defying non-smoking by-laws by utilizing a portable ashtray with filtration s stem.

Primedia 1995 was also the first time I danced with a girl. We never kissed, but did attend the late night "flirting panel." I was too shy to do more.

Another extraordinary aspect of Primedia 1995 was that it was the location for the filming of the cult classic "The Marriage of the Maid Shonda and G'narr the Victor" which is generally known to fans as  G'Narr.

G'Narr contains a little bit of everything including time travel, the X-files and a uniquely rare slice of early 1990's convention life. This may not sound like much, but in today's world where the word "cosplay" has been part of the regular geek vocabulary, G'Narr is a unique peek into this now burgeoning hobby.

I made friends with one of the actors and actually appear in G'Narr four times. Three in costume and one completely embarrassing bare-faced outtake where I forget the couple's names. At one point I was  invited to one of the cast parties and to this day regret my shyness for not attending. Who knows, I could have become part of the Toronto acting/costume scene if I'd been more bold. But this was well before I knew that I loved the stage and acting.

After the convention I was sure to stay in touch with the creators of G'Narr long enough to score an original VHS copy.


(Addendum: I also just remembered that Primedia '95 was the first time I was ever exposed to "anime" in it's proper context. I was hooked.)

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Fava beans?

Hallowe'en 2014 - Cannibal Clown

And wife!

Fruits of my labour for the past week, all pure copper. From top to bottom the weaves are : Centipede, Link-in-link Cable with Beads, Double Spiral, Weeping Willow, Jen's P.I.T.A., Trompe L'oeil and Beaded Cable.